Ice Cream Cones Are Eco-Friendly (and Other Thoughts on Precycling)

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ice cream cone 2

Think before you spend. I’ve heard it before, a thousand times over, and I bet you have, too: this concept of pausing before making a purchase in order to avoid buyer’s remorse.

A couple of weeks ago, while flipping through an issue of TIME, I came across a word that puts a new spin on this old adage. Have you heard of precycling?

Simply put, precycling is a way of reducing waste by limiting consumption. But it’s not just a way of saying, “Hey, don’t buy that.” Rather, precycling encourages you to consider the packaging whenever possible and make the most environmentally responsible choice. Let’s take ice cream as an example:

You’re next in line at your favorite ice cream shop and have your heart set on some cool, creamy hazelnut. “Cup or cone?” the guy behind the counter asks you. Assuming the temperature is not in the triple digits and you’re not going to be walking along cobblestone streets in high heels, you go with the cone for its edible receptacle. No paper or (gasp!) Styrofoam cup, no spoon, no straw, no lid. Just a little, biodegradable paper wrapper.

There are countless (easy!) ways to bring a precycling mindset into your daily life:

  • Bring a travel mug with you to the coffee shop (or take a seat and enjoy your java in a ceramic mug)
  • Buy the whole head of romaine lettuce rather than a cellophane sack of pre-cut leaves
  • Squeeze your own orange juice (so much better than the stuff in a carton)
  • Use the reverse side of your print-outs as scrap paper rather than buy a new notebook
  • Say no to paper napkins, plastic forks, and wooden chopsticks with your take-out (You do have your own travel utensils, right?)
  • Choose bar soap over a plastic bottle of shower gel

Maybe, like me, you’re already an avid precycler and didn’t even realize it. Just having a name to put to it makes it even easier to think of all the ways you can reduce excess waste or increase the return on your original investment. Really, the opportunities are endless.

What environmentally minded, economical changes have you made in your own life recently? Please, do tell. It’s the little things, I believe, that really add up!

P.S. Speaking of little changes, I highly recommend Vanessa Farquharson’s blog, Green as a Thistle,  for oodles of inspiring eco-minded things you can do to greenify your life–including sleeping naked. Check it out.

© 2009 Good Karma Housekeeping. Because less really is more. (Image courtesy of mollypop via Creative Commons.)

Travel Utensils: Not Just for Weirdos

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While in college, I briefly dated this guy who carried his own set of chopsticks. I can still remember diving into our take-out containers, my girlfriends and I all watching as he unceremoniously removed those glossy red sticks from his messenger bag. The most outspoken of the bunch asked him why, point blank, did he carry his own chopsticks. The tone of her inquiry rang out weirdo alert, weirdo alert. Admittedly, I agreed. (Forgive me; it was the mid-1990s and I was just a wee twentysomething.)

“Because I never know when I’ll need them,” he replied in earnest.

Fast-forward a dozen-plus years . . . to today. I’m sitting in the Upper Crust, taking a little time out of my busy day to keep the staycacation vibe going by treating myself to lunch outside of the office. (I had a buy one slice, get one free coupon, so this was a budget friendly splurge. Plus, a girl needs to eat.) I had forgotten how big and floppy their by-the-slice pizza could be. The type of pie where you’re wise to fork-and-knife it at least halfway up. Especially when you’re wearing a white jacket and a light-colored blouse.

Reluctantly, I picked up a plastic fork and knife along with my paper napkins. And because I was really thirsty–and forgot my water bottle back at the office–I poured myself some water in a plastic cup. Other than wishing I hadn’t forgotten my water bottle, my first thought was, I sure wish I had some travel utensils so I didn’t have to rely on the disposable stuff.

Pot? Kettle? Yes, indeed.

Truth be told, my handbag is heavy enough without adding a fork, knife, and spoon to the mix. But it just seems so wasteful to pitch the plastic. Perhaps if it were recyclable, I’d feel a little bit better. Fortunately, I’m not often faced with a need for plastic utensils. I have my own set of stainless at work (along with my mug, plate, and bowl). But for those rare occasions, I think this would be a pretty easy switch. It’s the type of thing I could even just stash in the glove compartment. I’m much more likely to use a fork than I am that tire pressure gauge.

A few days ago, Simple Savvy posted a cool tutorial on how to make your own utensil set. How neat, I thought–until I saw how much sewing was involved. But there’s nothing keeping me from rolling a fork, knife, and spoon in a cloth napkin, tying it up, and carrying it with me next time I find myself faced with a big, floppy slice of pie.

N.B. I brought the plastic utensils home for washing and reuse, and the cup for recycling; only used three paper napkins; and managed not to get a drop on my clothes. Go me.

© 2009 Good Karma Housekeeping. Because less really is more.