Before moving to Costa Rica from the Texas, I had moment where I felt I “hit bottom” as an American consumer. It happened at HEB Plus, the massive superstore where I had been doing most of my shopping for 8 years. I went to get a pack of paper towels and was met by an onslaught of choices. The paper towels covered an entire aisle of the store! I was so disgusted by the commercial debauchery that I could not wait to get out.
You can find paper and plastic products in Costa Rica but they are expensive and not easily available in bulk, at least not in our small town of Monteverde. I did not find it difficult to wean ourselves from the paper and plastic products. So when I have had friends over for dinner, we use our regular plates. I don’t use paper napkins or paper towels. We use cloth towels and wash them as needed. When friends come over for dinner, we ask them to share the cloth towels if there is not enough to go around. I also do not use ziplock bags anymore. I reuse the plastic bags I get with my bread, tortillas, and other goodies.
I don’t pack my children’s lunches in a paper or plastic bag or even a lunch box. I have them pack their lunch in their school backpack. I did invest in a few reusable plastic containers for their sandwiches, homemade bread, and other treats so that their lunch does not produce any trash or waste.
I have reusable bags that I take to the grocery store and Feria in efforts to reduce the number of plastic bags that I use. I will take a couple of plastic bags from Feria which I then use to line our little bathroom trashcans. I do buy plastic bags to line my kitchen trash, but they are degradable. I use the degradable kitchen trash bags to haul out our weekly trash, so it serves dual purpose.
The real test will come this December when my family visits. I will need to feed 12 people three times per day for 2 weeks. That is a lot of dishes to be washed, and I know the temptation to just get paper plates will be great. My plan at this time is to not use paper products and continue with the same eco-friendly practices we have used so far, even though it will mean more work. We can all have fun cleaning the kitchen together! At least I hope I can convince everyone of that….
How have you weaned yourself off the paper and plastic products? Let me know in the comments below.