My Moth Mismanagement

This past weekend my roommates and I made an unfortunate discovery.

Scattered on the corners of our high, white kitchen ceilings were little. ugly. MOTHS. How they found their way into what I thought was our clean and beautiful kitchen, I can’t be too sure, but one of my roommates consulted the wise and all-knowing home experts – her parents. According to our source, the best first step to getting rid of moths is to properly store all food in cabinets and pantries. We were told this meant putting everything in plastic zip bags –  tubber ware containers were not secure enough to keep out the moths.

plastic plastic plastic

So despite our better judgments and for the sake of returning to our happy moth-less way of life, we started bagging. One hour and possibly more than 50 gallon and sandwich sized bags later, we had a cabinet of plastics and protected food. Or so we thought. Feeling a little curious (a little late) about our tactic, I did some research online. Low and behold, the ancient tradition of parents always being right had failed us. Plastic bags would in fact NOT keep out moths who would be able to eat through the bag. Tubber ware and glass ware – but of course – would be the best option for food storage.

Most of us now intuitively know or have heard rumor about plastic bags not being very sustainable products. Staring at the sea of plastic bags that now covered my crackers and pastas, I decided to look a little more closely at the unnecessary damage we’d done.

According to an article in Scientific American, a recent study shows that the chemicals now applied to plastics can easily be absorbed by the human body and can alter hormones, in addition to creating other health hazards. Those same chemicals can also cause damage to wildlife and the environment when it’s time for us to dispose of them. Additionally, around four percent of world oil production is used as feedstock to make plastics, and a similar amount is consumed as energy in the process. And we’ve been told about the immense amount of time it takes plastics to biodegrade…

Now, I realize plastics come in all shapes and sizes, so these facts may differ slightly depending on the type of plastic we’re talking about and the way it was made. But after just a little bit of researching and using some intuition, it’s obvious that there are more sustainable and healthier alternatives to using plastic bags.

However, we are making an effort to rectify our moth mismangement. We’ve agreed to wash and reuse the plastic bags as many times as possible. After all, what CAN’T you do with 50+ plastic bags of various sizes?

Well, no one said living more sustainably doesn’t require a bit of creativity.

For the record, we are proud to say we have gone back to living moth free.

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My Post-Holiday Crash

A small portion of what I was left with after the holiday season did its damage.

The end of the holiday season can mean many different things: sadness, relief, exhaustion… For me, January brought with it a huge mess for me to clean up.

As my holiday spirit started to fade away, the leftover wrapping paper, food, holiday cards and Christmas decorations scattered across my apartment became uncomfortably clear. Looking back with a sober, post Starbucks-red-Christmas-cup mind, I think I blame my excess consumerism on an overdose of holiday spirit – an affliction I am unfortunately prone to. Come January though, I was left to deal with the excess, and I wanted to do it in a responsible way. (I soon realized, it was a little late for responsibility).

So here are some scary facts about the waste we all accumulate during the holiday season:

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, holiday waste increases by more than 25%, which adds up to an additional 1 million tons of STUFF a week to our landfills.

Remember those Christmas cards of mine I mentioned? I’m sad to say I contributed to the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the United States – that amount of cards could fill a football field 10 stories high.

In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons.

Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S., 30 million of which end up in landfills.

So with all this in mind, I assessed my own consumption during the holiday season. The results were not good. But the self-critique did make me think about what I can do to be more efficient and less wasteful next holiday season.

Let me start with the wrapping paper. And please try to understand. I just NEEDED to have the shiny emerald green with sparkle plaid stripes. The smiling Santas on the probably recycled wrapping paper just paled in comparison. On the bright side, my gifts complimented our Christmas tree amazingly well. But on the negative – and it’s a really bad negative – I later discovered I couldn’t recycle the wrapping paper because of the chemicals that were used to make that sparkle.

So, next year, I’m opting for the recycled paper, Santas and all. It might not be a bad idea to see if I have any used paper around the house already that I can use to make my own wrapping paper – and add my own sparkle.

Christmas cards. It’s 2011. I’m going digital. Snail mail is nice to get, I’ll admit. But e cards can be made personal too. And they can also be done last minute – a major plus for me.

I could go on with more of the wasteful decisions I made, but hey, it’s a new year and I’m going to start fresh and look ahead. The main lesson I took from my experience is to think before I shop about what I’m going to do with all that stuff after I’m done with it. Because by the time you’re thinking about what to do with the waste, you’ve probably already made some not-so-sustainable decisions.

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Filed under Holidays, Life, Sustainable, Waste