and now for something completely different

Yesterday morning I went into the city before 10am, which is the equivalent of 6am anywhere else when it comes to NYC on a weekend. I got out of the house early because I had to capitalize on my morning energy to accomplish my mission: replacing the worn out 10+ year-old items in my closet.

I’ve been buying cheap clothes for a long time – not just cheap, but the cheapest of cheap. Not like…decent brands on sale, but the $4 shirts you get at TJ Maxx. I think it works well when you’re a teen and playing with your style for the first time (and also growing!) but I carried the habit into adulthood mostly because I was never making enough money to even consider buying clothes that were over $10-$15 per item. If I found something cheap, I tried it on – if it fit, I bought it. It didn’t really matter how the clothes made me feel, or if they offered any potential to last more than a year before falling apart.

I’m already off on a tangent. Essentially, I’m trying to execute the whole “have fewer things but of higher quality” idea, particularly when it comes to buying clothes I want to wear. I went shopping with that in mind and was pretty successful! I caught myself holding several shirts for $4.99 at one point in TJ Maxx (yes I went shopping on 5th Ave and still ended up at TJ Maxx) but I checked myself and put them back. I know you too well, $4.99 TJ Maxx shirts.

I shopped with intention yesterday and felt very satisfied, which is my segway into this post’s real topic: becoming the homemade toothpaste lady, but not overnight.

Right? Okay.

My dad stayed with Sean and I for a few days around Christmas, and brought up (multiple times) that there’s no point in recycling anymore. Of course he doesn’t mean that, he’s just fed up with the way the world works, as we all darn well should be.

This is embarrassing to admit, but I really didn’t know until he told me a few weeks ago that China is no longer buying our recycles because we can’t be bothered to 1) clean them or 2) recycle the right things. This has been going on for close to two years, according to this NYT article from 2018. Was this big in the news a while ago and I just didn’t notice?? Again, embarrassing.

Anyhow. Upon learning this information, I decided to recommit myself to something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never got very far with: no longer purchasing products that are sold in single-use packaging.

If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen the gals with the pantries entirely comprised of fancy dry goods in mason jars, living off of their own gardens, either buying top shelf organic/recyclable/chemical-free/etc skincare products or alternatively, spending their days making products for themselves from scratch. I’m inspired and intimidated, and I feel like I’m not alone. I know that “we all have the same amount of hours in the day” and “no one is too busy to make a difference” but I am definitely too busy to go that freaking hard, Penelope and your homemade charcoal toothpaste.

So I let that be my excuse – if I don’t think it’s realistic that I could ever be on that level and I already do a little more than the minimum when it comes to living a sustainable life…why take it any further?

Admittedly…not a great attitude. If we’re all thinking that, that’s a collective HUGE difference not being made.

Going into the new year, I decided that it’s worth trying to change one thing at a time. Y’know, rather than trying to overhaul my entire life, going into panic mode and abandoning ship. I figured it wouldn’t be hard to come up with one thing that we buy/throw away (the packaging obviously) on a very regular basis. And it wasn’t! Because we are both addicted to…

Coffee!

We go through at least one coffee bag per week, and would definitely go through more if I didn’t have a cafĂ© at work. Sean does the grocery shopping and is very loyal to Trader Joe’s. We usually end up with the coffee from TJ’s that comes in the classic shiny, not-really-paper bags like this:

I’m not a giant, that’s just a really small coffee bag that came as part of a sampler.

Staring at the coffee in our kitchen, I asked the internet a question to which I already knew the answer: are coffee bags recycleable? No, of course they’re not, unless they’re paper. This wasn’t too upsetting of an answer, for surely we could just start buying coffee in paper bags. Trader Joe’s must have this option.

I asked Sean to check the coffee situation on his next trip, and we both forgot. For three weeks. I was in Trader Joe’s yesterday and I still forgot to check.

I did step out of my comfort zone and go to Whole Foods on New Year’s Day where I saw a few options…one being that you can fill your own paper bag, but it’s mostly with the beans, not ground coffee. They do have a grinder there, but of course I’m too intimidated to use it.

Option two is to buy normal plastic-y bag coffee.

Option three is do what I did – spend $13 on prepackaged coffee in a paper bag.

Sustainable with regard to the earth? Yes. Sustainable with regard to my wallet? Obviously not.

I finally found my (temporary) solution last week, when I noticed that Sean brought home coffee in a can. Ah yes, cans. Do you ever just forget that things exist and spend too long trying to solve a problem? After Google confirmed that I could recycle my coffee can, I looked up at the sky (ceiling) and sighed. At last.

On a not entirely coffee-related note, I definitely want to toughen up and be less weird about doing things outside of my normal grocery store experience, like grind some coffee in that Whole Foods grinder – a seemingly not too difficult task. I think that the price per pound would still be insane, but it’s more about the task itself and my apparent grocery store anxiety.

Something else that I never noticed because the Whole Foods near our house is still pretty new (and I avoid the ones in Manhattan as much as possible) is that they have a pantry at the front where you can fill bags with rice, beans, nuts, and other dry goods from large jars. As far as I could tell, you can’t bring your own container to fill, but it’s possible that the produce bags they offer are biodegradable or something like that. This is something I will have to find out. My fear, again: the prices will be insane, and i’ll somehow spend $17 on a tiny bag of almonds.

It’s crazy how standing in the store the other day, assessing everything as questions ran through my mind, I reached a place of “f*ck this i’m getting the stuff already in bags.” Over something that’s really not tricky – just different. And to top it off, I’ve placed this assumption on this method of shopping that it’s going to cost way too much money. I mean, it’s Whole Foods, so I feel like I’m probably right…but still. I’m definitely an example of how people end up staying in their routines, longing for change.

…but I have coffee in a can now, so I’m pretty much just waiting for Ellen to bring me on her show as an eco-hero.

I realize I don’t get a lot of comment engagement, which is still cool with me, but if anyone wants to talk about a change they’d like to make to help out our toasty planet, I’d love to hear about it! My next small goal is to sort out our cleaning products – with a larger goal of setting up a compost. Ambitious and possibly illegal where I live. Because of all the skunks.

On that note, I’ll see myself out.