Nothing is more convenient than prepackaged food. Single-serving portions of cheese, yogurt and even chicken breasts make life easier to live (especially for the single person living alone).
But is this sacrificing responsibility for convenience? Is this sort of lifestyle choice sustainable? According to the EPA, packaging waste accounts for nearly 1/3 of all waste. This means that for every 30 pounds of garbage (roughly the amount every American produces per week), 10 pounds come from packaging.
This is an alarming figure. Why? Ten pounds may not seem like much. However, what is alarming isn’t the amount – it’s the fact that this kind of waste can be drastically reduced. The following tips can help reduce the amount of convenience-food waste created.
1) Buy With an Eye On Packaging – the Rule of Three. If a product contains more than three pieces of packaging, refuse to purchase it. Instead opt for a low-packaging alternative. For example, instead of buying meat that is wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam, go to the butcher’s counter where meat is cut for the customer and usually wrapped in paper.
2) Buy dried goods in bulk. Favor large containers over single-servings. Instead, use reusable food storage containers to make single-servings at home. Some grocery stores and food co-ops have a dry goods aisle, filled with large containers of cereals, rice, flour, beans and dried fruits. Purchase goods from these places and cut out even more packaging. This is also usually cheaper than buying prepackaged foods. Also, many of these stores allow customers to bring containers from home, which makes this is a zero-waste purchase.
3) Use reusable food storage containers. Glass or stainless steel is the safest, but BPA free plastic is also acceptable. These containers can be used to cook and store food. These containers can be used to store meals for the week, allowing for low-waste convenient food.
4) Share with friends. Buying in bulk means large quantities of food. Buy in bulk with a friend and reap the rewards. For example, families aside, most people have trouble using an entire chicken. One way to remedy this is to buy and split a whole fryer with a friend.
5) Be aware. People who are aware of and observe their daily patterns are more likely to change them. The most eco-friendly consumers are the ones who observe their daily activities and cut out those activities that produce large amounts of waste. For example, many Americans buy coffee from a coffee shop every morning. Instead of using a disposable container every time, less waste would be produced if people used reusable coffee containers. Additionally, many coffee shops offer a discount for customers who bring in their own cup.
It is possible to live a sustainable lifestyle in this modern, convenience-obsessed world and in the long run, the sacrifice is worth it.