/Food

Don't break out the grill without these non-toxic finds!

Summer BBQ Essentials

Food

Summer isn't complete without at least one BBQ! They're the ultimate excuse to get together with friends, enjoy the nice weather, and cook delicious food (even if you're doing meat-free Monday). If you're new to the BBQ scene, then you might not realize that an outdoor get-together can require some specialized gear. Standard BBQ gear can be made from harmful materials like melamine, plastic, and PFAS, which is why we wanted to find alternative products that were safer for our health. Our summer BBQ essentials roundup has everything you need and more to throw the best party ever! And don't forget to check out our tips for a non-toxic BBQ!


Stainless Steel Popsicle Mold

Stainless Steel Grill Basket

Glass Beverage Dispenser

Cast Iron Griddle Pan

Carbon Steel Grill Frying Pan

Moscow Mule Mugs

Enamelware with seafood pattern

Grill tools

Stainless steel Citrus Press Juicer

Roundups

9 Stainless Steel & Glass Tumblers

For iced coffee, iced tea, and smoothies on the go

Getting iced coffee in a plastic cup with a plastic straw is a lot harder to do after watching that video of a plastic straw being removed from a turtle's nose. Plus there is also that pesky condensation that creates a pool of water at the bottle of your cupholder or on your desk. So we found the 9 best reviewed stainless steel and glass tumblers, so that you can have your iced beverages in style this summer. Many of the brands have different sizes ranging from 20oz to 30oz and variety of colors. We prefer stainless steel or glass because many of the acrylic or plastic tumblers may have chemicals similar to BPA. We also link to some stainless steel straws because not all of these tumblers come with straws. And if you're like us, drinking iced coffee through a straw is just synonymous with summer.

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Food

Treat Yourself (and the Earth) to a Meat Besides Beef!

This little change can make a surprisingly big impact on climate change

For many, meat is not just a centerpiece at meals, but also integrated in cultural practices and dishes. As much as we love meat, we also know that it can have a huge impact on the environment and climate change.If you're looking to help the environment out, and are not quite ready to give up meat entirely, try making the switch from beef to any other meat! While beef, chicken, and pork are all meats, their environmental impacts are surprisingly different. Check it out as we break down how the meats stack up when it comes to helping fight climate change.

What's climate change got to do with meat?

If you're wondering about why scientists are bringing meat into the conversation about climate change, we've got you covered. Climate change is, well, exactly what it sounds like- the climate on Earth is changing. Climate is the long-term weather trend that we see on Earth (7). For instance, scientists can take a look at the five or 10 year temperature trend of a location and can see if the temperature is slowly rising or falling over time (7). For most places on earth, these long-term trends show that the temperature on Earth is rising slowly, which is not good (7)! .

Many things contribute to climate change, but the main contributor is what we call the greenhouse effect from different greenhouse gases (7). If you've ever stood in a greenhouse or a glass building when the sun was shining and noticed that it was way hotter inside the greenhouse than outside, you already understand how greenhouse gases work! Greenhouse gases act just like the glass in a greenhouse and trap heat on Earth, when normally it would go back into space (7). Of all the greenhouse gases produced from food, 56% is from our meat-producing systems because of the energy lost transforming plant energy (think animal feed) to animal energy (the actual chicken, pig or cattle) (2, 5). Some of the greenhouse gases produced from livestock like pig, chicken and cattle include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (5).

Let's cut to the chase, why focus on beef?

Maybe you're wondering just how much of an environmental impact beef has compared to other meats. In a recent study, researchers found that for dairy, chicken, pork and eggs the environmental costs are pretty similar, but much lower than the environmental impacts of beef (3). Cattle systems actually produce many different greenhouse gases, including a lot of the strongest greenhouse gas, methane, which they belch out (5). Cattle produce a large amount of methane when they digest their food because they have four stomachs (4,5). On the other hand, pigs and chickens with just a simple digestive system produce very little methane (8). Scientists found that from beginning to end, making beef takes 28 times the amount of land, 11 times the amount of water, 5 times the amount of greenhouse gases, and 6 times the amount of nitrogen than any other meat because of how much energy they must consume to grow to a decent size (3). And even though beef is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and the least efficient type of meat to produce, it's the most popular meat in America (3, 6). Over the last 50 years, with the rise of the popularity of beef, we've seen greenhouse gas emissions from cattle rise by 59% (6).

What's the difference if I make the switch from beef to other meat?

The answer is - actually a big difference! If we compare the numbers, cattle make up 54% of total livestock greenhouse gas emissions, while pork only makes up 5% and chickens only make up 1% of greenhouse gas emissions (6). Just eating a little over 2 pounds of beef (or the equivalent of about 3 steaks), is the same as using a car to drive 100 miles (1). And if you swap out beef for pork in a meal, your carbon footprint is cut by a third (1). And if you swap out beef for chicken, your carbon footprint for that meal is 7 times smaller!

So, if you're looking to make a big impact on the environment with a smaller change than going entirely vegetarian or vegan, give eating a little less beef a go. You can add in more vegetables if you're making a stir-fry, or make pork, chicken, or sustainable fish the star of the show instead of beef. The culinary possibilities are endless! In fact, we've put together a starter list to help you get a jump start on eating less beef below.

Try out these tasty ways to eat less beef!

  • Think outside the box for burgers: Next time your hamburger hankering strikes, why not try out a tasty alternative like a chicken teriyaki or Hawaiian pork burger? Check out our article on beef burger alternatives that aren't plant based!
  • Keep beef for a special treat: Try not to cook beef at home or order it from your normal take-out spots. Instead, treat yourself to beef on special occasions like a birthday or when you go to a fancy restaurant.
  • Mix and match the meats: Instead of making spaghetti bolognese or meatloaf with just beef, substitute half for turkey or pork. You still get the flavor of beef, but it's better for the environment. Chopped vegetables or lentils also make for an awesome substitution for recipes that call for ground beef.
  • Make beef a side dish: Look to other meats or even vegetables to be the centerpiece of your meal. Our personal favorite is loading up on the vegetables, which make for surprisingly delicious centerpieces when grilled.
  • Don't forget the marinade: Worried that your meat might get dry? Marinating chicken and pork is the key to juicy, tender meat. So, amp up that flavor and your creative juices with some marinades. Plus, marinating is a top tip for a non-toxic BBQ!


References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/5/1704S/4596965?login=true
  2. http://css.umich.edu/factsheets/carbon-footprint-factsheet
  3. https://www.pnas.org/content/111/33/11996
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02409-7
  5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00005/full?source=post_page---------------------------
  6. https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/266680/
  7. https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/
https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201382_4.PDF
Food

Our 3 Favorite Tasty Meaty Burger Recipes Without Any Beef

Take action against climate change by replacing beef with pork, chicken, or turkey

We love burgers! The bun, the juicy meat, the sauces, and the toppings. We can barely go through a week without one. But realizing how big of an impact beef has on climate change is making us rethink our dinner plans. How do we get our burger fix while also making more environmentally friendly choices? Turns out that switching from beef to another meat is one of the easiest things you can do to make a big impact. Yes that's right! No need to go with a veggie burger (although more power to you if that's what you choose!) If you swap out beef for pork in a meal, your carbon footprint is cut by a third (1). And if you swap out beef for chicken, your carbon footprint for that meal is 7 times smaller! That's why we love these three easy no-beef burger recipes. They're so flavorful and delicious that all meat loving eaters will enjoy them!

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Food

Label Education: Meat

decoding all those stickers that come on your package of burgers

We know looking at labels can be tough. The meat aisle is always one that is a little confusing. Some cuts of meat have like 15 stickers and certifications on them, others have basically nothing. Do all of those little badges really make a difference for what you are bringing home? We went through FDA definitions (not the most fun job, but someone's gotta do it!) to figure out what each label really means and break it down for you.

You might have to prioritize which labels are most important to you, but now you know what each one means and they are all written down in one place. When we are looking at meat in terms of how what we eat can impact our health, we personally think no nitrates/nitrites and organic or no hormones and no antibiotics top the list.

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Roundups

Plastic-Free (and Melamine-Free!) Outdoor Tableware

They won't break, look great, and are sure to be perfect for you outdoor gatherings

Updated for Summer 2021!

Getting ready for some outdoor parties and dining this summer? We sure are! If you're looking to spruce up your outdoor dining scene, you'll quickly see that most options are made of melamine. Even though melamine dishware doesn't look like plastic, melamine can leach into food after dishes are repeatedly microwaved or used to hold both hot and acidic foods (read this to learn why you might want to skip the melamine). So if melamine is out, and easy to break options like ceramic just don't work for you (children being children, slippery surfaces, clumsy grownups!), check out these stainless steel, enamelware, and tempered glass options. We also included one pick for disposable plates that are truly compostable! These are our top picks for non-toxic outdoor dishware, serving bowls and platters, tumblers, and more. They are all light weight, hard to break, and will make your outdoor entertaining photos look on point. So pick up some of these plastic-free and melamine-free outdoor dishes and enjoy dining al fresco!

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Food

Why Starting a Community Garden is Worth It

And a step by step guide on how to start one

Have you ever been walking in a neighborhood and seen a beautiful community garden growing lots of vegetables, fresh herbs, and brightly colored flowers? Are you jealous that your neighborhood doesn't have a garden like that? Luckily for you, we have created a guide on how to start a community garden in your own neighborhood! There can be some tricky aspects to building a community garden like knowing how to get permits or what kind of fencing or soil to use, but with the right team, determination, and this step by step guide, you can make it happen!

What is a community garden?

Community gardens come in a variety of forms and choosing which type of community garden you will be starting is the first step. The different types of community gardens are plot gardens, cooperative gardens, youth gardens, entrepreneurial gardens, and therapeutic gardens. Plot gardens subdivide different plots within the garden and rent the plots out to families who may not have the space in their own yard. Cooperative gardens are where the entire garden is managed as one large garden by many community members. Often these gardens donate their food to local shelters or food banks, but they can also provide food for the community members running the garden. Youth gardens, often used by schools, are where kids get to learn all about the environment and nutrition through the process of growing and sometimes cooking their own food (8). Entrepreneurial gardens are where the gardeners, young or old, learn business principles and gardening, by growing and selling the produce to farmers markets and restaurants. Lastly, therapeutic gardens use gardening and the plants to improve the physical, mental, and spiritual well being of the gardeners (9).

Any group or organization can start and run a community garden. Many schools, churches, non-profits, local governments, and even individual people have started community gardens for different reasons, meaning you have the ability to develop one too!

What are the benefits of a community garden?

Community gardens have been implemented all around the world for the different benefits they provide. They are famous for improving the health of communities, improving mental health, regenerating land, educating individuals on the environment, and bringing communities closer together.

Health Benefits- The lack of access to fresh produce can lead to numerous illnesses and chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer (10). In order to combat these health concerns, many communities have implemented community gardens to increase the availability of nutritious fresh produce as well as offer it to the community at a more affordable price. Many studies have shown that community gardens have the ability to increase fruit and vegetable intake as well as reduce an individual's BMI (11).

Many studies have also highlighted the beneficial mental health effects of green spaces and gardening with others. Working in a garden for a period of a few weeks has been shown to drastically reduce individuals perceived stress levels as well as an actual reduction in their stress hormone levels (13). Using nature and gardening as therapy allowed for patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and stress to recuperate and improve their mental health and wellbeing (12). We all know that getting outside makes you feel better, but it's actually been scientifically proven!

Community Benefits- Don't worry the benefits don't stop there! Community gardens are a great way to improve health, but they are also great for bringing people and the community together. People can meet their neighbors, make friends, and learn how to garden together, allowing the community to bond over growing food or bettering their neighborhood. These gardens can give people a social outlet outside of their home and work that so many people desire, letting them connect over nature, food, and their neighborhood (13). Developing and working in a community garden can also increase people's sense of pride for their community and neighborhood and it can push them to get more involved with other aspects and institutions in the community making a positive impact (14).

Benefits for the environment

Other than the tremendous benefits community gardens provide to people, they also have a positive effect on the environment. First off, gardening is a great way to teach people more about the environment and what it takes to have healthy plants and soil. For individuals with limited gardening experience and nature access, participating in a community garden could give them a new perspective on the food growing process (13). Plus it's also a great outdoor activity for kids to teach them all about growing their own food! When more people learn about the environment, the more people there are to protect it.

The other benefit to the environment is land regeneration. A lot of urban land is heavily polluted with chemicals and heavy metals from car exhaust, construction debris, trash, and air pollution. These chemicals reduce the fertility of the soil rendering it useless and toxic to organisms, wasting soil that is a precious finite resource. Instead of just letting the land degrade further or allowing more harmful development, community gardens can be placed on that land and add nature back into it. By adding native plants you don't plan to eat in the soil you are improving the soil quality, but also increasing the amount of carbon dioxide the soil can capture, reducing the amount in our atmosphere (15). So instead of just waiting for another chain store or unhealthy restaurant to be built on that empty plot, use that space for your garden, adding nature and ecosystem services to your neighborhood (1).

Steps to starting your garden

1. Build a team

Building a team is one of the most important steps in starting a community garden because you are going to need people to help you advocate for the project as well as design and build the garden. You want to assemble a diverse group of people that have an array of talents that can assist you through all of the steps. Gardeners, landscapers, construction workers, doctors, and really anyone in your community that wants to join will be of service. Use apps like Facebook or Nextdoor, along with flyers and letters to help spread the word about your project and that you are looking for people to help.

2. Pick a location

Picking the right location for your garden can be tricky but it's very important! You want to pick a spot that gets at least 6 hours of full sunlight, doesn't have too much traffic nearby, has good drainage, and has an available water source you can use for watering and washing your plants. Another thing to consider is how the land was used prior to your garden because it may indicate if there are any heavy metals or other contaminants in the soil. Consider buying a soil test at your local hardware store and checking for soil contaminants like lead, arsenic, and mercury. If you find that your soil is contaminated, you will have to bring in fresh soil in raised beds so your fruits and vegetables don't become contaminated as well. Once you have found a spot, you want to track down the owner and see if they will lease it to you, but don't forget to check the zoning laws prior to leasing! If you are having trouble finding the owner or getting in contact with them, call your local government and see if they can help. Your local government can also help you find a specific location to use if you are having trouble and they may even be willing to partner with you and donate the land or provide some maintenance.

3. Getting funding

Starting a community garden is very rewarding, but it is not without expenses. Some of the costs include leasing the land, getting materials like garden beds, fencing, gardening tools, irrigation, soil, compost, and seeds, and then there are costs for insurance, and maintenance. There are a lot of estimates out there on how much starting a community garden can cost with the lower estimate being at about $2,000 and the higher estimate at around $10,000 (6,7). The overall cost really depends on how much of the work you and your team do by yourselves versus hiring outside contractors and gardeners, which will drastically increase the cost.

The best ways to obtain initial funding is through sponsors, donations, and grants. Churches, schools, citizens groups, private businesses, local parks and recreation departments are all great potential sponsors and donors! Another great option is being funded by foundation grants. The American Public Gardens Association has a great resource page of the different grant programs that are available. And if you end up having trouble obtaining funding from sponsors or grants, you could try different fundraising events in your community or ask for donations from your planning team to help you get started.

During this stage you should also determine if you are going to charge fees to use and work in the garden. For most community garden types fees are definitely not necessary but if you are worried about finances and maintenance later on it may be something to consider.

4. Prep and develop the site

Once your lease starts, first things first, you need to clean your site of any litter or debris from the previous uses. Once it is all clean and you have a blank canvas, work with your team to design a layout for the garden, keeping in mind sun and shade patterns for optimal growing. In your design make sure to include where you are getting your water from and how it will reach all of the different areas. You also want to set aside a few sections for a composting area, a storage area for tools, and if you have the space maybe a few tables for people to sit at and take breaks. After the layout is set, it's time to start building! If you need extra volunteers at the beginning stages of the building and developing phase check with local schools, universities, churches, and youth organizations to see if anyone is willing to help out!

5. Create community garden guidelines

Creating community guidelines allows you to make sure everyone who works in the garden is on the same page about how to run the garden, take care of the plants, and general do's and don'ts. This is also a great time to decide whether or not the garden will be organic. It's important to make this known to every volunteer so no one sprays any of the plants or uses any materials that do not qualify as organic.

Some guidelines could include: putting all of the tools and materials away before leaving, being respectful to everyone working, don't take food without permission, don't plant personal plants without permission, a list of things to not add to the compost, and anything else you want to add to make your garden a successful and welcoming environment. Check out this link for some more examples!

6. Final steps

The bulk of the planning is done and now all that's left is to start planting and recruit more members to the garden. To really kick off the opening of the garden, have a celebration like a barbeque or potluck to highlight all of the hard work you and your team have put in and show off your beautiful garden!


Starting and organizing a community garden is going to be a lot of hard work, but it will also be very rewarding and allow you to connect with your community on a deeper level. You have the opportunity to bring fresh fruits and vegetables into your community, teach others how to garden, and create a beautiful space for others to admire and use. Instead of letting another chain store come into your community, take that space back and use it for good!


Sources

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353829200000137?casa_token=4JIdEvYYuYkAAAAA:uWNmgSXLTu7tweuBoDQNWoXpwP_5B_j9RtamlE4knf17boviz07WUKlNaxLkkfjo4OWLa-c
  2. https://www.seewhatgrows.org/start-community-garden-neighborhood/
  3. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/kindergarden/CHILD/COM/COMMUN.HTM
  4. https://www.brunswickcompanies.com/commercial-insurance/community-garden-insurance/
  5. https://blog.ioby.org/how-to-turn-a-vacant-lot-into-a-community-garden-a-primer/
  6. https://howtostartanllc.com/business-ideas/community-garden#:~:text=A%20community%20garden's%20startup%20costs,cost%20as%20much%20as%20%2430%2C000.
  7. https://www.seewhatgrows.org/3607-2/
  8. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/how-to-organize-a-community-garden
  9. https://www.urbanharvest.org/gardens/types-of-community-gardens/
  10. Ver Ploeg, M., Breneman, V., Farrigan, T., Hamrick, K., Hopkins, D., Kaufman, P., Lin, B.-H., Nord, M., Smith, T. A., Williams, R., Kinnison, K., Olander, C., Singh, A., & Tuckermanty, E. (2009). Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences: Report to Congress (No. 2238-2019–2924). AgEcon Search. https://doi.org/10.22004/ag.econ.292130.
  11. Kunpeuk, W., Spence, W., Phulkerd, S., Suphanchaimat, R., & Pitayarangsarit, S. (2020). The impact of gardening on nutrition and physical health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Promotion International, 35(2), 397–408. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daz027.
  12. Vujcic, M., Tomicevic-Dubljevic, J., Grbic, M., Lecic-Tosevski, D., Vukovic, O., & Toskovic, O. (2017). Nature based solution for improving mental health and well-being in urban areas. Environmental Research, 158, 385–392. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.06.030
  13. Alaimo, K., Beavers, A., Crawford, C., Snyder, E., & Litt, J. (2016). Amplifying Health Through Community Gardens: A Framework for Advancing Multicomponent, Behaviorally Based Neighborhood Interventions. Current Environmental Health Reports, 3. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-016-0105-0
  14. Firth, C., Maye, D., & Pearson, D. (2011). Developing "community" in community gardens. Local Environment, 16(6), 555–568. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2011.586025
  15. Li, G., Sun, G.-X., Ren, Y., Luo, X.-S., & Zhu, Y.-G. (2018). Urban soil and human health: A review. European Journal of Soil Science, 69(1), 196–215. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejss.12518
Food

Why Reusable Takeout Packaging is the Future

Better for the Planet, Our Health, and the Economy

As a long-time plastic and waste reduction advocate, I've had a hard time ordering take-out or delivery. It's not just the waste that bothers me when I see single-use food packaging, it's knowing that things used for a matter of minutes and then thrown away represents all kinds of threats not only to the environment, but also to our health and businesses' bottom line.

Then COVID-19 happened – and caused a dramatic increase in the consumption of single-use plastics from PPEs and food packaging. Since the pandemic began, U.S. online shopping and take-out orders have increased 78% – the highest reported increase in the world. However, oddly enough, the number of reusable and returnable cup and container options has – luckily! – been growing.

This growth in reuse systems is evident in cities across the U.S.. For example, in my hometown of San Francisco, in the last year it became possible for me to order take-out in reusable containers from several of my favorite Bay Area restaurants through Dispatch Goods, either directly from the restaurant or through Doordash. When visiting family in NYC, I can get lovely salads to go from Just Salad – and Deliver Zero is partnering with a number of restaurants in Brooklyn and Greenwich Village. And while my family in Durham N.C. are divided by the Tar Heels and Blue Devils rivalry, they all agree that ordering take-out in reusable containers from restaurants that partner with Durham Green to Go is much better than the throw-away option. And thankfully, I can now get a coffee to-go in a reusable mug in many cities, like when I visit my brother in Boston, where Usefull recently launched.

At UPSTREAM, we are tracking the growth of reuse in cities all across the country. It's possible to borrow a reusable cup or container in a variety of on deposit or lending programs. Even groceries and consumer products are being offered in returnable/refillable containers thanks to many emerging reuse companies. The concomitant growth in reusable and refillable return systems gives me hope that the throw away culture is changing.

Why Single-use Packaging is Not Good for the Environment

Since the birth of the throw-away culture in the 1960s, single-use food packaging has largely replaced reusable and refillable packaging in the U.S., and it is rapidly increasing across the globe. Taking another first place, the U.S. is also the biggest generator of packaging waste – 82.2 million metric tons (mt) in 2018- equivalent to 514 billion cars. Efforts to find "sustainable packaging" materials to feed the throw away economy are challenging since each comes with regrettable consequences.

Paper products, like napkins, plates, and food containers are filling overflowing garbage cans. These products come from oxygen-producing, carbon-capturing trees – our first defense in the climate crisis. Cutting them down means habitat loss and increasing species extinction, increasing water pollution, and worse air quality.

Aluminum is quickly becoming the material of choice because it is highly recyclable. But with the average recycled content of a can at 73% a fair amount of virgin material is still being used. The mining and transformation of raw bauxite into aluminum is energy intensive and releases perfluorocarbons that are 9,200 times more harmful than CO2 in global warming impacts.

Plastic is not a great choice, either. It's highly littered and hardly recyclable. One truckload per minute of plastic enters the ocean. Throughout its lifecycle, from the extraction of hydrocarbons through the processing to ultimate disposal, plastics are energy intensive, polluting, health-harming, and contribute to climate change. Roughly two-thirds of all plastic produced has been released to the environment and remains there causing harm. And it turns out that the U.S. is the biggest plastic waste generator and polluter in the world.

For years, communities have struggled to find alternatives to plastic that are better for the environment, but this quest has proven elusive. They are learning the hard way that "recyclable" foodware doesn't really get recycled. We've paid for recycling for years while our dirty paper and plastic got exported to become pollution in other countries – or it gets collected in the recycling bin only to end up in local landfills or incinerators where it pollutes our communities.

Compostable packaging some believe to be the sustainable panacea. But compostables are not really working well in the waste stream. Bioplastic compostable products, like cups and bags, get mixed up with and contaminate recycling. Only products certified to be compostable (bearing 3rd party labeling) are designed to degrade in commercial compost although many people mistake plant-based products with those designed for compost. Commercial composters largely don't want plastics made from plants, even the ones that are certified to meet lab standards for compostability, because they don't degrade quickly enough outside the lab and contaminate the compost. So too does paper and fiberware that is coated with forever-polluting PFAS chemicals. All packaging, even if it degrades in compost, dilutes the quality of the compost because it adds no nutrient value. Composters mostly want food and yard waste. Some accept technically compostable food packaging due to pressure from cities that are looking to divert waste from landfill. But they end up with piles of less valuable, dirty compost.

Reusable packaging: a win for the planet

Life cycle analysis – the footprint of a product through its lifetime, from production to disposal – generally views environmental impacts through as many as 14 categories, like raw materials extraction, manufacturing and transportation impacts, greenhouse gas and climate impacts, water and energy consumption, aquatic toxicity, and disposal related impacts. Through any of these measures, reusable products ultimately out-perform the disposable options.

Based on UPSTREAM's review of the life cycle analysis of reusable versus disposable take-out foodware, reusables are better for the environment after just a minimal number of uses:

  • Cups, plates and bowls: after 10-50 uses
  • Clamshells: after 15-20 uses
  • Utensils: after 2-4 uses

Reuse is Better for our Health – Especially Without Plastic

Many people want to eliminate plastic because of the impacts to our oceans and upsetting scenes of plastics' harm to turtles and whales. But a more personal impact comes from the health threats associated with plastics and chemicals in food packaging. The harm, including lowered fertility rates for men and women, developmental and neurological impairment, and elevated cancers and other chronic diseases, is harder to see and much widely recognized. That's why UPSTREAM is collaborating with Zero Waste Europe and GAIA in the UNWRAPPED project to share a Call to Action about the risks of plastics and chemicals in food packaging:

Non-plastic reusables are not only better for the environment, they are also safer for human health. When made from glass, stainless steel, and ceramic, the main package is inert. The threat of chemicals or microplastics migrating into the food or beverages we consume is far lower with non-plastic reusables.

Reusables Are Also Better for the Economy

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that a 20% shift to reusables presents a $10 billion dollar business savings. On the ground, programs like ReThink Disposable are providing this case. The program had over 160 food service businesses participate, and they found that every single one saved money by switching to some reusables in their operations – on average between $3,000- $22,000 per year.

Switching to reuse for take-out also reduces litter which will in turn save taxpayer dollars. More than $11.5 billion is spent every year in the U.S. to clean up litter on the streets, in storm drains and in rivers, and the most common objects found during beach and street litter clean-ups are food and beverage packaging.

Reuse also creates good local jobs. According to EcoCycle, there are 30 times more job opportunities with reuse than in landfilling and incinerating our waste.

Reduce is Also a Win

At UPSTREAM, we're working to get laws enacted that pave the way both for reducing and reusing. To reduce single-use in food service, we've launched the Skip the Stuff campaign which would require restaurants and online ordering apps to ask first before including the straws, utensils, condiment packets, and napkins that most of us already have at home or at the office.

So when you choose to Skip the Stuff, or you participate in a reusable cup or container program for your next take-out meal or beverage, you can feel good knowing that choosing to reduce and reuse is safer for our health, better for the planet, and saves business money. That's a real win!

How to Become a Reuse Solutioneer

People can spend their entire days and weeks trying to live a plastic-free lifestyle, but most of us don't have that kind of time. The problem is that we don't have a lot of choices in how the things we want to buy and use are packaged. The real solutions come from driving systems change by putting pressure on companies to offer us the products we want without the throw-away packaging.

You can drive change by supporting businesses that are doing things right. Here are some ways to support reuse businesses:

  • Call on restaurants to Reopen with Reuse: add your name to the statement asking our beloved restaurants to reopen with nontoxic reuse.
  • Find reuse businesses in your area and support them.
  • Support restaurants that serve on real plates, cups, and dishes.
  • Opt out of unnecessary accessories like disposable silverware and straws when you order take-out - #SkiptheStuff.

You can also take action now to get policies enacted that require packaging to be less toxic and more reusable.


Resources

1. Parashar, N, Hait, S. (2021, Plastics in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Protector or polluter? Sci of the Total Env 759/144274.

2. Containers and Packaging: Product-Specific Data

3. The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the future of plastics

4. THE HIDDEN COSTS OF A PLASTIC PLANET

5. The United States' contribution of plastic waste to land and ocean

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