When I was a child, there was no Styrofoam, and plastic milk jugs were just appearing on grocery shelves. At some point, shoppers received a small rebate if they returned their plastic milk jugs to the grocery store. And heavens, glass soft-drink bottles were returned, washed out, and reused at the Coca-Cola bottling plant near me. Doggie bags from restaurants (where portions used to be much smaller, usually negating the need for a doggie bag to begin with) were artfully twisted pieces of foil (reusable) instead of the Styrofoam to-go boxes that are used now.
Straws (the bendy kind) were for treat-level use by children and also for adults who might be sick in bed—and of course, they were paper!
My mother washed aluminum foil, and when plastic storage bags came on the scene, she washed those out too (unless they had contained something like raw chicken).
The above is only a small sample of the kinds of reduce-reuse-recycle efforts my mother practiced. Lest anyone say that housewives had more time back then, my mother worked full-time outside the home for 40 years.
My friends tease me about how heavy my knapsack is. Apart from books, I carry with me a set of silverware made for camping, at least three fabric shopping bags, and some nice lined paper bags that come with loose-leaf tea. When I buy tea, I bring the empty bag to the store and just say, “Fill ’er up!” but somehow end up with more bags than I need, so I use the latter for taking home leftovers from restaurants, picking up interesting rocks and such, and for small purchases. Depending on what went in the bag, I can use the plastic-lined paper bag again or, alas, finally throw it out. I try to never take a plastic bag, but it’s not easy.
I have also begun, despite living in an apartment, to buy the largest size I can of vinegar, Windex, laundry detergent, and such—or to buy in glass whenever I can. I can then use the big containers to fill up little ones to use when I’m doing the laundry, etc. It’s the same amount of detergent, or Windex, or whatever, but it’s often only one big bottle a year, instead of three or four small ones. Less plastic for the recycling bin.
The good news is that more and more friends say, “I should do that,” and often they will take one of my fabric bags to carry home stuff they’ve bought when we are together.
It ain’t much, but it’s something.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I’ve made plastic my thing, writing letters to the editor of my small town paper begging folks to use reusable bags when they shop. Every time I see those plastic wrapped cases of bottled water I want to scream or cry. As a nation we’re so short sighted. I carry a rubber cased glass bottle and never drink from a plastic one. Well, occasionally I pick up a liter of seltzer, but I cringe when I’m that weak.