On bulk-bin food and cold coffee

by clav2014

Last year, having delved more deeply into the frugal-homemaking-DIY-waste-reduction movement, this blog post (about a Cambodian priest who encouraged his area’s local churches to promote a plastic-free Lent) inspired me to adopt a plastic-and-waste reduction strategy as my own personal Lenten project. It seemed to me a good way to integrate the practical and the spiritual. I am forever working on cultivating an “attitude of gratitude,” and not taking disposables and modern conveniences for granted is, in my opinion, a good way to be a bit more thoughtful about the way I live my life.

How’d I do? Nowhere near perfection. Giving up plastic waste in the modern age is incredibly difficult. That said, with Lent here again, it’s a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned, the long-term changes I’ve implemented, and the ways in which I may be able to improve. I’m going to adopt this same Lenten project again this year, but, as Walt Disney would say, “Plus” it–step out of my comfort zone and go beyond what I think I can do.

Yesterday I went to the Red Hook Fairway for the first time since it reopened after Hurricane Sandy. I was glad to see that the store was in great shape–comfortingly familiar, but with some minor arrangement tweaks. I’m not sure whether it’s new, or whether I only noticed it because I’m now cognizant of such things, but the organic area has a great bulk bin section. Bulk-bin shopping is one of the cornerstones of the waste-reduction movement, and also something that’s traditionally very difficult for a New Yorker to utilize. Without massive supermarkets and automobiles to get you there, it’s 1) hard to find a store with bulk offerings, and 2) hard to bring your own containers in which to place the bulk items, which is necessary in order to reduce one’s use of plastic bags. I hadn’t prepared for the Fairway outing at all, having only stopped there as a post-Ikea afterthought, and so it was necessary for me to use the plastic bags for my bulk items. I had tremendous fun picking out rolled oats, popcorn, pistachios, and dried cherries and using the weighing-and-label-printing machine. I’m going to try to stock up on these relatively non-perishable items in great quantities when I make it to Fairway, and I’m going to try to implement a bulk-container system for when I do so and bring said containers from home.

One of the long-term changes I made last year that has been surprisingly easy to stick to is using my own reusable insulated coffee container. The container is double-walled and does a superior job of keeping the coffee hot, and I haven’t noticed any ill effects from cleaning the container in the dishwasher in spite of the recommendation to hand-wash (which just is never going to happen). I usually brew my own coffee at home in the morning, time permitting, and then refill from local purveyors as my BCC (blood caffeine content) drops throughout the day. No local merchant has ever given me a hard time, or even so much as rolled an eye, upon being asked to fill my container instead of a disposable cup. (Not so inside a Starbucks at Disney World, where I recently vacationed. The barista explained that she wasn’t permitted to fill my personal container for “health reasons,” but that she could give me the coffee in a disposable cup and that I could fill my container myself, which of course defeats the purpose. I asked her if that was a Florida regulation or simply a policy, and she didn’t know. Someday, when I have an iota of free time, I will look into this and write the appropriate letter requesting a change in law/policy. If anyone is reading this and has such time, please feel free to take up this cause as your own.) This morning, I reheated some leftover coffee-box coffee from a family gathering we had on Sunday. In the rush of the morning, I must have underprogrammed the microwave time, as I am now drinking cold coffee in spite of my container’s superior heat-retention abilities. Leave it to me to devise a complicated bulk-food-refilling system and mess up the simple reheating of coffee. Oh well. Two steps forward, one step back.