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Never Too Late For A New Year Resolution

2010 February 18

Part of my morning routine consists of packing my youngest daughter’s lunch. Although her school encourages waste-free lunches, I have found that lately I haven’t been observing green practices. Let me explain. Even though I had purchased several sets of reusable plasticware, these reusable containers remained in the cabinet untouched. On the other hand, I was using, on average, two disposable sandwich bags daily for her lunch. Those disposable bags add up. When you come to think of it, these bags just end up as trash in our landfills.

I must confess that being green can take extra work. Call it laziness or simply a bad habit, but you can easily fall into the trap of not minimizing waste, not saving energy, or not saving water. So, I decided that even though it’s February, I was going to set a new green New Year resolution for myself. I am committing to using reusable containers when preparing lunches for my daughter and myself. By abiding by this pledge on a daily basis, I will prevent more than 500 disposable plastic sandwich bags from reaching our landfills in one year.

So, even though many of our traditional resolutions may have not survived the first week in January, it would be nice to recommit our efforts to going green. I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue. How have you been able to minimizing packaging and waste at lunch time? Remember, we cannot promote any commercial brands or products, but tips are definitely welcomed because it’s never too late to go make a new green resolution any day of the year.

For more suggestions on how to reduce wastes and recycle, visit our consumer tips. [ ] I’m sure that you will find something green that you can do today.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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29 Responses leave one →
  1. sea permalink
    February 18, 2010

    Hint. Move your sandwich bag next to the plastic containers in the cupboard. That will help you change your habit.
    Sometimes the waste is not enough of a motivator, so think about the expense of having to buy the bags over and over again. $3 for a box of 50 sandwich bags vs. $1for 3 reusable contains ( I got 3 sandwhich size containers for $1 at the dollar store. They have lasted for 1.5 years).
    For me it was much easier to make the conversion once all three children were in school. I was tossing about 5-10 plastic bags a day. Now I use reusable containers for most everything.

  2. Brian Holter permalink
    February 18, 2010

    I to have been trying to cut back on things put in the trash . One thing is by reusing plastic jugs , the gallon size we buy with juice in them . Cutting ahole in the top off to the side they can be used as a berry picking bucket . You can also cut the top all the way off and use it for a number of things , such as a planter , nail bucket , well you get the idea it is never ending what they can be used for. Those reusable plastic containers that are not being used , I fill them with left overs in singel serving size portions . You will surprized how the left overs get eaten,those containers get used .They also make it easy to grab a home cooked meal for lunch .

  3. lai huu hiep permalink
    February 18, 2010

    Put has be a planet green and clean first everyone must sense get moment of fact be protect and milieu bad things perhaps happen on our planet,want be such have a lot problems need do as necessary we must limit and reduce to maximum recycle can not tidy up together must defend water source and plant a lot green tree and forest put resist and reduce wastes,yet person must early action put save earth and our the life

  4. Al Bannet permalink
    February 18, 2010

    I understand what you’re trying to say and I agree, but unless the human race decides to peacefully and carefully reduce its population, the biosphere will soon be overwhelmed by pollution. The Earth canno support 7, 8, 9, 10 billion people.

  5. Al Bannet permalink
    February 18, 2010

    Lina Younes,

    Unless the governments of the World agree on a policy of 100% recycling of all waste and garbage and peaceful family planning to reduce the human population, there will be a series of environmental disasters after which our human species will be hard pressed to survive. That should be our year-round resolution.

  6. Tim Stevens permalink
    February 18, 2010

    Excellent item. It might seem small to some, but is the kind of grass roots activity that we can all practice. And when we explain these kinds of “small” steps to our friends and relatives, it might just influence a few of them to join the bandwagon.

  7. Scott Rublee permalink
    February 18, 2010

    I’ve just recently subscribed and find this item encouraging. I haven’t bought a reuseable container in 15 years. I buy margerine in assorted size tubs and can re-use them from 2-4 yrs. Buying anything resealable such as many food stuffs can simply be washed and re-used. any sandwich size bag or bigger I again wash out. My friends buy cigs in plastic bags and i ask them to give me. I wash them out and use them as freezer bags. One more thing, those margerine bowls can be used in the microwave, which take less time to heat soups etc… than porcelin bowls. Your 2L dink bottles can be used as water etc… containers

  8. armansyahardanis permalink
    February 18, 2010

    If I’m a woman, nice to follow you. To arrange home, children, love husband and busy in the office. I’m a man but I’m not “strong” like the women, standard of hypocrite of the men maybe. In fact, the women more environmental responsibility than the men. Btw,I must hidden, because the men angry to me. I’m sorry, man…….

  9. Florence permalink
    February 18, 2010

    I agreed that we have to save our Earth. Actually I’m from Myanmar; agricultural country. We didn’t use disposable plastic bags 20 years ago. At that time, if you want to buy tea you had to bring your own box that made by steel. If you go to market, you will never find plastic bags. Everyone use different kind of leaves for packing. If you buy fried noodle from shop, you will find something that we packed with newspaper and tie by bamboo string. We used plastic bag for special purposes only. Later on everything has been changed, we use plastic bag for all the purposes. You dont need to bring anything from your home when you go to tea shop. Yes, it is good. It is clean, easy, save time but the problem is we dont know how to throw it properbly. So you can find colourful plastic bags everywhere. Most of the people are not knowledgeable, so they just throw it whatever the way they want. They don’t know the result of small plastic bag that can kill the earth. Now we are trying to reduce using plastic items and try to reuse it. Like we use steel box for lunch box instead of using plastic bag. We use plastic bottle as a planter. We use straw as a curtain. If you use straw everyday, don’t throw it. Clean it and keep it at home then make it simple triangle shape or star shape and link with string. So you will get a curtains, you can decorate your home. Also we cut the straw according to the shape and then we made manger and other christmas items. You can use the hot needle to link the straw each other. You can make variety of designs with used straw. Lets try to save the world and try to educate the undeveloped countries; how to use the plastic bags and how to throw it properly.

  10. wade harter permalink
    February 19, 2010

    Being a farmer as well as an engineer, I have high hopes for plenty of green this year. The rains have been good. Maybe I can afford a little fertilizer, but at $800/ton and cows at $0.58/# not much. Anyway I hope to have enough CO2 in the air to keep the grass and trees producing 02 for us to breathe. I just need to figure out how to change the lake from a muddy red to a good clear blue/green color that you see in magazines and on TV. I still like to ski behind my gasoline powered boat.

  11. Al Bannet permalink
    February 19, 2010

    China is producing millions of sturdy plastic shopping bags that we can keep and use for all our local purchases. That way we need not throw them away at all. I have begun a collection of such bags that each has a different logo imprinted. I will never throw these bags away. So, perhaps the oceans will not actually die and turn to sewers and life on Earth can go on, I dare to hope. But we must recycle 100% of all our waste and garbage and peacefully reduce our human population, otherwise we will end up like Mars and become a dead planet.

  12. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 19, 2010

    Those are great tips. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, when it comes to the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle), I’m pretty good with two out of the three–reusing and recycling is not a problem. Reducing waste from the outset takes real effort in my family. That’s why I decided on these new resolution for starters. I’ve been pretty good so far.

  13. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 19, 2010

    Lai huu,
    You’re right. We all have to make an effort to protect our planet. We all have to take action because environmental protection is everyone’s resposibility.

  14. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 19, 2010

    I’ve noticed that in many of your comments you mention the serious environmental risks of uncontrolled population growth. I’m not sure that that many more people are being born, in fact, in many developed countries you have near zero population growth bordering on the negative. I think that “boom” is related more to the fact that we are healthier and living longer. I was listening to the radio the other day and heard that in the next decade or so, people could easily surpass the 125 years or more. Now that is mindboggling. What is your response to that?

  15. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 19, 2010

    I agree that is should be a year-round resolution for all. Manufacturers also have to reduce packaging considerably or make it in materials that will be biodegradable. Technology might be the solution.

  16. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 19, 2010

    I think this is an example where every little bit counts and everyone should do their share to protect the Earth.

  17. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 19, 2010

    Yes, Scott
    We should all observe the 3Rs–Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

    Kudos for having made it a true art form to be replicated.

  18. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 19, 2010

    Thank you for your comments. You’re right. Several decades ago we definitely relied on reusable materials like glass and metal for almost everything. Now, with plastics, we’ve entered the disposable mindset. While it’s practical it has only helped to generate tons of garbage. That’s what I was highlightin in one of my earlier blogs:

    We definitely need to improve environmental awareness among all. Keep up the good work.

  19. Al Bannet permalink
    February 20, 2010

    Family planning clinics in every neighborhood around the World and eachl woman guaranteed the legal right to decide if and when to birth her children. If developed nations are better at giving women that right, then that is probably the reason their populations are not growing (good news for the environment) But in nations where macho male supremacy is dominant, the populations are growing, because those men are grabbing for greater political power by deliberately exploding their populations. This is one of the primary causes of war.

  20. David Mc permalink
    February 20, 2010

    Lets try to save the world and try to LEARN FROM the undeveloped countries. I love hearing from Florence and armansyahardanis and others who are so close to the earth. We need your wisdom very on what is truly important much. By the way, I’ve been wearing my clothes longer between washes, other than socks and briefs that is.

  21. David Mc permalink
    February 20, 2010

    You’re a real card wade. Hope your grandchildren forgive if you’re wrong

  22. Al Bannet permalink
    February 21, 2010

    Funny, and not so funny. Thanks.

  23. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    February 21, 2010

    The reducing of waste is the hard part. Here, the City of Mission Viejo is working hard to do that. We have distributed 3 reusable large shopping bags to every city employee and it is nice to see them being used in local grocery stores and other places. We have established household battery recycling collection points at all city buildings including city hall, the library, the senior center, the recreation and fitness centers and the animal services center. Once every four months there is an electronic waste roundup at the city hall parking lot or at one of the city facilities. We also do most of our records keeping and employee communications by computer email instead of hard copy. We have just started programs to recycle food waste, and medical waste. I also am a member of the Board of Directors of a condo association here and with the help of the city and the city’s waste hauler we set up our first recycling program at the complex which includes special recycling dumpsters at each dumpster pad and the distribution to each unit of a strong reusable bag to take recyclables from the units to the recycle dumpsters. Mission Viejo has been ranked number 7 among cities in the country for its environmental programs and level of continuing and growing public participation in them. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  24. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 22, 2010

    Glad to see Mission Viejo leading the way. I commend you for your efforts. Kudos.

  25. Linda permalink
    February 24, 2010

    Lina, if you need an added incentive to keep using the re-usable containers for lunch, put the money you save by not buying plastic bags in a piggy bank and save it up for a year. At the end of the year, take that “free” money and spend it on something special. I like to use windfalls like that for some of my favorite charities … recycling in one of my favorite ways!

  26. lyounes permalink*
    February 25, 2010

    that’s a great suggestion. It’s nice to have a “tangible” incentive.

  27. Fighter Costumes permalink
    May 27, 2011

    Great tips! You really know how to recycle what might have been useless stuffs to great use! :)

  28. jack-abdomenplano permalink
    August 31, 2011

    My new year resolution is that first of all i will change my attitude first because the world will not change if we will not change first our attitudes.

  29. tote bags permalink
    October 7, 2011

    I like your blog very much.

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