09 June 2011


The Guardian has an article this week on reducing one's garbage by "precycling" -- making choices about purchases based on the volume of packaging they come with.

Cutting back on packaging, and in particular packaging that can't be recycled -- is partly about different choices at the supermarket -- some manufacturers use more layers than others, and it's usually possible to buy some of the fruits and vegetables without adding any packaging at all. (You don't actually need to put loose apples or oranges into individual plastic bags for the convenience of the check-out clerks, unless maybe you're buying dozens of each at a time.)

But any serious reduction of waste requires lifestyle change: changes in decisions about what to eat and where to shop. Buying ingredients and cooking at home, rather than buying prepared food, limits packaging. It also extends beyond food: purchases of clothing, kitchen gadgets, home decorations and anything else need to be treated as permanent acquisitions.

The reality is that stuff wears out and has to be replaced. But what's needed is a shift from buying with the idea that things will be discarded soon, to buying with the idea that any given item -- a frying pan, a pair of pants, a candle holder -- is likely to last for a long time, and then caring for stuff to maximize its useful life.

Lifestyle change doesn't have to -- and in fact shouldn't -- be sudden and drastic. The only way to make stuff stick? Change one thing at a time, stick with it until it becomes habit, and then move on to another thing.

Me? I'm still working on reducing plastic packaging. Anybody out there know ... can you buy hair conditioner, or dish soap, in bar rather than liquid form?

Update: Some surfing when I should be working led me to a post over at Life Less Plastic about using Dr. Bronner's bar soap to wash dishes, and to the website of Lush, where you can buy bar conditioner. The Offspring's blond locks need conditioner, so we'll be giving that a try soon. And why didn't I think of good old Dr. Bronner? I've used it for everything while backpacking.