Summertime and the Living’s Easy without Plastic


By Jess Barger, ZWH Projects Manager

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You may be familiar with the statistic that about 10% of plastic waste generated in the U.S. every year is recycled. One type of plastic waste that continues to grow is plastic packaging. This includes items like plastic bags, drink bottles and clamshells. The EPA reported in 2018 that over 10 million tons of just plastic packaging ended up in the landfill.

One of the conveniences of plastic is that it’s lightweight, making it easy to carry when you are, for example, hiking out to the beach or river this summer. It’s hard enough juggling the dogs, the kids and your bags, let alone a bunch of glass containers! So when you are packing a picnic lunch and want it to be as waste-free as possible, consider these ideas! 

For short term food storage, wrap sandwiches in a clean towel or handkerchief. This can also double as a napkin! If you don’t have reusable bags you can also use fabric to carry snacks by tying the corners together. Keep it classic without plastic by making some lemonade from scratch, and freeze it a little to avoid picking up a plastic bag of ice. This may be a good time to invest in a large stainless steel insulated bottle and some small cups. You can also find metal and reusable plastic cups at many of our local thrift shops! 

If you are serious about plastic waste, you’ll have to forgo your bag of potato chips and replace them with some bulk pretzels or nuts for a salty snack. However, this is easier said than done. If you remember your geometry lessons, you may know that bigger objects have a higher volume to surface area ratio. So if you are going to purchase a bag of chips, family sized bags will save you some plastic compared to multiple smaller bags. When we can’t reduce our plastic, the next best thing is to reuse it. Chip bags that have been opened carefully can be flipped inside out, washed and used as gift bags! 

A fun upcycling project: Chip bags that have been opened carefully can be flipped inside out, washed and used as gift bags. Photo source:

When you meet up with your friends for a day at the beach or a river camping trip, encourage each other to be plastic-free. Wow your family with your homemade dips and a fruit salad made from the delicious local produce we are able to pick up at the farmer’s market. If you use plastic, make sure it’s durable and washable for use many times. For more plastic-free living suggestions, contact . Most importantly, enjoy our beautiful Redwood Coast while the weather is still cooperating, and leave no trace.