Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lessons Learned About Packaging

Being a green shopper these days means more than buying organic food or biodegradable household products. You also need to take account the type of packaging the item comes in. With landfills overflowing, and many materials not easily recycable, it's important to buy items with the least amount of packaging possible.

Take these three differently packaged versions of Philadelphia brand Cream Cheese. My boys suddenly love bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, so I wanted to buy it in bulk at Costco.
I would have loved to buy the convienent, single-serve pouches--I wouldn't have to dirty up a knife every morning--but look at all that plastic and foil that will be thrown in my garbage. Pictures of overflowing landfills would haunt me every morning if I bought that.Then I considered the 3-lb plastic tub and the 3-lb slab of cream cheese packaged in foil and cardboard. I weighed the pros and cons of the tub--the cream cheese will stay fresher in the tub than in the foil. After a few uses, the foil gets all mucky with dried out cream cheese. But plastic tub isn't easy to recycle--you may be able to recycle the bottom part of the tub, but not the lid. Plus I no longer want to keep plastic containers for food storage, since it degrades over time in the dish washer.

So after standing in front of the cream cheese display for at least five minutes, it hit me. I'll get the cardboard packaged cream cheese, and divide it up into pint-size mason jars. That way I can put two of the jars in the freezer and pull them out when needed. I have to say, the system has worked well. Freezing the cream cheese makes it a little crumbly once it's defrosted, but it tastes fine. The only packaging I'm throwing away is a piece of metal foil, since the card board can be recycled.

So my Thrifty Green Thursday tip is to try to buy items that have as little packaging as possible. For more tips, click here.


StatMom said...

It's nice to see people caring about the environment. I do everything I can to limit my negative impact. However, the images of my plastic water bottles overflowing landfills haunt me on a regular basis, but our tap water is wretched. I'm working on the husband to get one of those water filters installed to we can be "greener".

Lilacspecs said...

Ooh, great idea.

Rebecca said...

I think you made the best choice! I am surprised you can freeze cream cheese. I thought I tried that once, but it didn't work. Next time I have extra cream cheese, I'll toss it in the freezer.

Here in Portland you can recycle foil. Can you not do that where you live? You'd have to wash it, though.

Oh, I thought of another idea for cream cheese. I wonder if you can buy it at the deli and bring your own container? You can do that with many other cheeses.

Thanks for the ideas, and thanks for joining us for Thrifty Green Thursday!

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

I love that you too keep this sort of thing in mind when buying from the store......another great tip.

I really do need to feature your green tips sometime.....I love it!

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

I so do this too!

I love your TGT!

suzannah said...

this is such a thorough, thoughful post. i recently started storing things in mason and other glass jars, too.

way to show that it is possible to swim upstream and favor what best cares for the earth over what is most convenient.

Tiffany said...

I am getting better at not creating waste in general. We recently bought a yogurt maker and it uses glass bottles so no more yogurt cups in the garbage and we eat a TON of yogurt.

Memarie Lane said...

after you defrost it, try bringing it to room temperature and then whipping it with a mixer or food processor, then put it in the fridge. might help with the texture.

Kathleen said...

great idea, it is so easy to be wasteful without even thinking about it.