What I ABSOLUTELY HATE about what we do...
I LOVE that what we do reduces food waste in our community- this is one of the main reasons I get up in the morning!
I LOVE the community that is fostered constantly around the mission we have to provide healthy, tasty, food to people we care about.
I LOVE working with animals on a daily basis. It challenges me physically and mentally and engages every skill I have and allows me the opportunity to learn new skills all the time.
But you know what I ABSOLUTELY HATE!?
A lot of the food-waste we retrieve is packaged in plastic, probably close to a third of it.
That's around an average of 100lbs per day of food that is being thrown away that has plastic bags, plastic boxes, rubber bands, plastic silverware, cellophane wrap, and/or twist ties on it.
We pull all of this plastic off of the food product before we feed it to our livestock... but ...
I have been experimenting with some ideas:
-Rugs: I have been weaving some of the plastic we deal with into large rugs for the porches and front doors of our neighboring ranches, friends, and family.
-Re-usable shopping bags: Have you heard of "plarn"? It is yarn that you create using plastic bags. I have been working on my plarn technique. This method does use up a lot of plastic bags, which is nice. Weaving them into a reusable grocery bag prevents the creation of more plastic bags too!
-Jewlery: I am experimenting with some different types of jewelry making and some of these experiments may surface at this summer's TOTW farmers' market booth. Time will tell on this.
All these things take A LOT of time and finding uses for existing one-time-use plastic is really just a bandaid for a HUGE issue that exists globally.
There is only one real solution to this problem for the future:
Stop Buying Products that are wrapped in plastic!
Flour usually comes in a paper sack- which is great to use as fire starter, compost material, coloring paper, or your next shopping list. Baking powder and soda also come in paper tubes or biodegradable/burnable carboard boxes if you buy certain brands. Eggs come in cardboard cartons and you can use the shells in your next broth (like we talked about in the bone-broth and lard post a couple weeks ago) or you can grind up the shells and use them as a calcium supplement in a smoothie!
I have been working on making my own bread- it is actually pretty darn easy, doesn't have the preservatives or weird ingredients, and is not nearly as time consuming as weaving the plastic into rugs and bags...and it tastes great!
I am prepping a How-to-Make-Your-Own-Bread Blog post for the near future if you want to try your hand at this worthwhile and tasty craft.
If you don't want to make your own bread, however, you can buy some from the Golden Prairie Bakery on 26 B W J Rd in Larami. She just re-opened from her holiday break. You can also purchase bread Solstice Acre Breads at the Thursday Farmer's Market and any of their pop-ups in town (you can follow them on Facebook to find out when they are hosting a pop-up). Even grocery stores have bakery sections where you can select freshly baked breads to take home in your own re-usable bags rather than the sometimes double-packaged breads that are on the shelves.
Another one that we see a lot is salads.
Things like LETTUCE and APPLES don't need to be wrapped in PLASTIC!!!!!
I absolutely despise those pre-packaged salads that have plastic silverware, plastic-wrapped toppings, and dressing encased in, you guessed it, more plastic.
What's more is these packages salads spoil faster than a regular head of lettuce. There are also a lot more possible points of bacterial contamination as these prepped salads have to be washed, cut, and bagged in facilities, not to mention all of the extra electricity and water this probably wastes in the process.
When you go to the store, you probably bring your re-usable shopping bags (that are hopefully made out of materials other than plastic), but do you find yourself still using the plastic roll bags for your onions, garlic, peppers, broccoli etc?
Why not bring some bags for your produce as well?
Here is a video explaining how to make a produce bags out of an old t-shirt.
There are several ways to do this- some of them you don't even have to sew anything!
Once you get your produce home you can wrap these items in a damp cheesecloth to better hold in moisture.
These are the main two waste-products that we see a lot of plastic on. Keep in mind that all the plastic we see is just the products that did not sell at the store, which means there is a lot more food and plastic waste heading to the dump from purchasers' homes after they purchased and eaten.
We feel that reducing foodwaste is a noble cause that we appreciate and applaud your participation in, but what if we all could eliminate this problem completely?
What if we didn't have any unclaimed food to find homes for?
Wouldn't that be amazing!?
What we are doing has no effect on the supply chain of food. Sure, we are cleaning up some of the mess, but the real power is in the hands of the consumer- people like YOU.
We have to vote with our forks my friends! When we allocate our food budgets towards certain products and certain companies at the grocery store, we are influencing what will be available at that store in the future.
Do you shop with this realization in mind? If not, I encourage you to give it a try.
Food is political, there is no way around this. A lot of food available at the grocery store is made cheaper by government subsidies that come out of our tax money. When we select our food by cheapest price alone we are allowing the producers of this cheap food and the system that goes along with that to prosper and continue to sell food in the same way. We may not have any control over what the government subsidizes and tries to get us to buy, but we CAN choose whether or not to purchase the products that are subsidized. We are still free to make our own choices when it comes to buying and eating food- thankfully!
Try going to the grocery store with the mindset that you are going to change the world in doing so. Products with the least amount of packaging conveniently tend to be the best combination of healthiest and most cost-effective too!
Try shopping based on the least amount of packaging, the least number of preservatives, the least amount of ingredients that you can't seem to pronounce. -I dare you.
Take an extra step even and look up the companies that produce the food you are buying. where do these companies get their grain, or produce, or meat from? How do they treat their suppliers- their farmers?
Then, let me know how it goes!
Let me know if you find some cool product that sports less, or no plastic packaging at all. I LOVE to hear about companies that are kicking butt at selling their products and making the world a better place while they are at it.
Oh, and let me know if you ever want to join me for a fireside plarn knitting session too. ;)
-Happy Plastic-Free Eating!