In last month’s article I wrote about the environmental crisis fueled by our dependence on one-use disposable plastic items. With the help of Chris Kimple, Rep. Dan Moul’s representative in Gettysburg, I was able to identify and describe several pieces of legislation that are pending in Harrisburg and which address the issue of plastics.

I was heartened to learn of the “Zero Waste PA” package of bills which are described by PennEnvironment Director David Masur as a path to “move us away from the throwaway society and encourages recycling and reuse” It occurred to me that if our elected officials are taking steps to produce environmentally responsible legislation, I should suggest some steps that we as individual citizens could take to be equally productive in addressing the problem.

I’ll try to ignore the obvious, like the now-ubiquitous fabric shopping tote bags, and focus on some ideas and suggestions that are not so widely used. Joseph Darius Jaafari writes in the publication NationSwell that there are “pain-free ways to ply plastic from your life, both at the grocery store and at home”. He suggests that we go beyond the “bring your own reusable water bottle” and adds bring your own washable thermos coffee cup for your. morning brew. The beverage will stay hot longer and there is one less plastic cup in the landfill. He also suggests avoiding items packaged in plastic and saying no to plastic straws. In EcoWatch, Sherri Brooks Vinton urges us to reuse freebies. She writes, “My grandmother used to say, “Every loaf of sliced bread comes with a free bag.” She would rinse her bread bags, turn them inside out to dry and use them multiple times instead of buying boxes of plastic bags. Likewise, any container that comes your way — a yogurt pot, take-out dish, tub or tray — is one more you can use and reuse for food storage in the fridge and freezer.”

She also suggests that if you do use sealable bags, use them more than once. The bag that was used can easily be rinsed, turned inside out to dry and used again. Do it just one time for each bag and you have reduced your landfill contribution by half.

She points out that the easiest and most cost-effective food storage solution is to use your dishes as covers. Slip a plate or saucer over a bowl to cover its contents. Soup bowls or even mixing bowls can be set over everything from a plate of leftovers to the better part of a roast that needs protection from the dry air of the fridge. You can use any that you have on hand, but you get bonus points if you have a collection of clear bowls that make identifying fridge treasure even easier.

Some additional ideas aimed at minimizing plastic use are to shop for products in non-plastic packaging in bulk. Everything from large-item containers of cereal, hand soap, detergent, and pet food can be decanted into smaller, reusable, washable containers.

Avoid items such as individually-wrapped snack items. Repackage at home using single-serve, reusable containers. Carry your own non-plastic eating utensils and perhaps a collapsible camp cup that you fill with tap water. And don’t forget your reusable sandwich containers to avoid “one use and toss” lunch experiences.

Every small reduction of plastic use helps the environment. Try to live plastic-free. Judie Butterfield is chairman of Gettysburg’s Recycling Committee. 717-337-0724.

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