Food Safety

Published on February 14th, 2011 | by Heather Carr


Plastic-Free February, Days 6-8

Ah, the weekend. The plastic-filled weekend.

Weekends are jam-packed with stuff to do. Especially now that the weather is improving and we can get outside. Today I even ventured outside in my bare feet. It was nice.

The weekend looked like this – breakfast, soccer, Girl Scout cookie sales, light lunch, soccer, small dinner (it’s hard to eat after a game), sleep, housecleaning (standard stuff), grocery shopping, then an entire afternoon whiled away in a bookstore. Ah, the weekend.

Girl Scout Cookies

I’m almost uncomfortable criticizing such an American icon. Every year we sell these cookies so that the troop has money for activities. They sell easily because everyone is so familiar with them.

Every cardboard box of Girl Scout cookies contains a plastic tray of cookies and the tray is also wrapped in plastic. This year, the Thanks-a-Lots don’t have the cardboard box around them, just the plastic tray and plastic exterior. It removes 150 tons of paperboard from the waste stream, according to the plastic bag, which is a good thing, but it doesn’t help my plastic-free February efforts.

We sold dozens of these cookies Saturday, helping to spread plastic far and wide. While sitting at the table supervising the girls, I had plenty of time to wonder how it could be done differently.

Once upon a time, I’m pretty sure food came in cardboard boxes without layers of plastic. I think the plastic is there to keep the food fresh, but Girl Scout cookies are baked as the sale progresses. They haven’t been sitting in a warehouse somewhere for several months. Why couldn’t they skip the plastic?

I think the same could go for a lot of things. Cereal comes in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box. I suspect we could just do without the plastic for many things and just use the cardboard box. Or better yet, a reusable container we refill at the bulk aisle.

Silicone, Revisited

On Friday, I was fretting over whether silicone is a plastic. Becky googled it and, yes, silicone is a plastic. I don’t know why I thought it would belong to a hitherto unknown category of man-made materials.

She also brought up an excellent point. Silicone is often used in medical applications. Saving lives and improving health is something I’m quite willing to give an industry a pass on.

But since silicone is also billed as a green alternative to ordinary food-grade plastics, I’ll have to do some research and come back to it later.

Plastic Baggies

I’m not fond of plastic baggies, but I know a lot of people are, so I thought I’d link to this page that reviews several reusable cloth sandwich snack bags.  The site is a treasure trove of plastic-free ideas.  Cloth baggies can be a bit pricey, but they last a long time and they look so much prettier than plastic baggies.

Plastic is convenient, but it’s rarely beautiful.

Image by Stephen Cummings, used with Creative Commons license.

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About the Author

Heather Carr loves food, politics, and innovative ways to make the world a better place. She counts Jacques Pepin and Speed Racer among her inspirations. You can find her on Facebook or .

2 Responses to Plastic-Free February, Days 6-8

  1. Christine says:

    It’s a really interesting article (I clicked on the link “reusable cloth sandwich bags…)
    But I’d love to know the collateral effects – there would be extra laundry in my house, to keep these cotton bags clean. I can’t really see a bag getting more than 1 use per washing. Whereas a plastic bag would just need a good wipe over and airing. So if I’m not going to use the plastic option – what’s the score re the extra laundry and all its downsides for green living?

    • Heather Carr says:

      That’s a good point. Some of those bags in the article are treated with beeswax. Those might not need more than a wipedown and airing.

      I haven’t used any of the bags in the article, so I don’t know how much extra laundry there would be. Maybe someone who has used these can offer some tips.

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