Avoiding packaging overload
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Fall and winter seem to be the worst seasons for packaging overload, especially with food. This is somewhat understandable considering the cooler months are when people tend to cook more—I mean, who wants to deal with a stove or an oven when it’s August? Though being conscious of the amount of landfill garbage you are producing probably won’t save you any money, it also won’t cost you anything besides a few fewer trips to the dumpster. Being aware of packaging when you grocery shop is an easy way for anyone to begin their conservation journey without the risk of becoming that one friend who won’t shut up about organics and saving the whales—which you should totally do by the way. Whales are awesome. But putting that aside, how can you tell good packaging from bad packaging?
Starting with the most basic, look at the amount of packaging there is. Is there a separate bag for each element in the bag or box? Single servings and individual portions are notorious for doing this, so try and avoid them. A good example to consider is to look at Pop-Tarts versus Toaster Strudels. Pop-Tarts are wrapped two at a time in foil, which are then placed in a box containing about three of the foil packages. Toaster Strudels, on the other hand, are all packaged together inside a plastic bag in the box. You have the same amount of food, just less packaging because there are two fewer bags to throw out. I am aware that the foil packages are smaller than the Toaster Strudel bag; however, end-to-end the foil packages cover more surface area than the plastic bag.
Next, look at the material the packaging is made of. Try and find things with cardboard packaging or packaging which advertises that it’s biodegradable. Avoid anything that isn’t recyclable if you can. Hard plastics are generally good because you can reuse the containers, but Styrofoam can never serve another purpose, and it won’t break down in a landfill.
Finally, make sure you dispose of your trash properly. Not only should you take the time to sort recyclables—some districts have some pretty hefty fines for people who don’t—but also ensure that what you do end up throwing out is safe. What I mean by this is that it won’t pose any harm to the environment. For example, we all saw the Sesame Street and Barney episodes where the kids learn to cut up the plastic rings that come around pop cans, but you might be surprised by the number of people who forget about it. I know it might seem tedious, but birds, fish, turtles, and squirrels—all sorts of animals—can get caught in those things, and die as a result. The same goes for boxes and cans. Crushing or flattening them ensures that they take up less space and that no animals can get stuck in them.
I’m not saying you need to give up on packaging entirely. I mean, come on, that’s a little impractical considering just how much of it surrounds us. But making an effort to reduce the amount of stuff you need to throw away later is an easy option that will help out the environment—not to mention you won’t have to take out the trash as often.