In spite of the several Northeasters we’ve recently had here in New England, I noticed when I was out for walks between storms; tree buds were beginning to swell. I’m pretty sure I saw a pregnant doe. Out in my backyard, birds are showing signs of being twitter-pated. All signs of newness, prosperity, and hope.

Getting out regularly with Mother Nature as my walking partner nearly always brings to mind how tremendously fortunate we are to have so much natural abundance in Maine. I also consider that it’s all fragile. In the blink of an eye, it can be gone with a forest fire, a flood, or the extreme of drought. With all of that, Nature seems to persevere. That would be because those are somewhat natural occurrences that with time can be replenished. Yet, also on my walks, I am discouraged to see litter strewn on the side of the road and plastic bags waving in surrender from tree limbs.

I am increasingly frustrated when seeing people’s reckless abandonment of their food adventures in the form of plastic refuse. I’ve seen plastic straws, paper or plastic cups with their plastic lids, food wrappers, abandoned plastic carrying bags, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. There’s nothing decorative about someone else’s trash. From time to time I’ll pick it up and dispose of it all at home, but that’s what too many people count on, isn’t it? Someone else will pick up after them.

Today I’m sharing a few tips for replacing plastic utensils and straws, drink bottles, produce and bakery bags, and carrying bags. 

Non-degradable straws – Can we talk about plastic straws, please? When my kids were little and we would order out, I’d tell them they didn’t need straws and explained why. Today, I would carry straws with me, because really, straws are fun. Nationwide, about 500 million plastic straws are thrown away – that’s enough to fill 46, 400 full-size school buses. At least use compostable or recyclable versions if you must use straws, with the ultimate goal being to prevent non-degradable straws from polluting waterways, oceans, roadsides, and beaches. Steel straws can be used indefinitely when kept clean using specially made brushes. Students! Get your campus to ban straws in the cafeteria!

Non-degradable Fast Food utensils – Sure they can be re-used for a few times, but will we? Probably not. Tell the food server you don’t want plastic utensils you won’t use. For instance, I’ve been given a fork, spoon, and a knife when ordering a pastry. I generally eat it with my hands, but if not, isn’t a fork enough? In my car, I carry a cooler for my cold foods, and in the side pocket, I keep an extra set of eating utensils.

Reusable shopping bags – I have a tote bag in my car to keep my shopping bags altogether and organized. As often as possible, I utilize these bags in all stores and for produce. I have linen bags from Madder Root, a company started by a young Maine woman and her best friend fo produce selections. Plastic produce bags encourage faster decay leading to greater food waste. These have to be kept clean as to avoid contamination, but this is a simple way to reduce plastic usage and help a Maine company. Note how much they weigh. Have the grocery store reduce the weight from the total cost of your food purchase – I do this at Hannaford, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. Hannaford is more difficult to work with, but if more people insisted it would help create change.  Start a movement to ban plastic bags from the stores in your town!

Some stores offer paper bags for produce and baked goods. There’s no reason we can’t use them for other items, as well.

Plastic drink bottles – This one is challenging, as when we’re thirsty, we don’t always have alternatives to plastic available. Keep glass and steel alternatives handy. I use glass drink bottles encased in a silicone sleeve. I keep a steel coffee cup in my car. Some bottles are hard to clean, but I am seeing a new design for steel bottles which come in three parts, including the cover. The top piece screws off so the bottle can be more easily cleaned.

Food storage – save the planet and food budgets by using glass or steel resealable and reusable containers for storage and transporting food.

I bet you have inspired ideas to help us all cut back on food plastic. Share them with us in the comments below!

Together, we can make our planet cleaner by decreasing our use of plastics for transport, storage, and consumption of food.