plastic use santa cruz
February 2019

Taking the Plastic Free Challenge: Green Living February 2019

By Suki Wessling

When my kids were young home- schoolers, we spent a lot of time with a group of families that did activities together. One of the families that immediately caught my attention was the Panttaja family of Santa Cruz—mom Melody, dad Jonathan, and kids Gloria and Corey. Not only were Melody and the kids doing car-free homeschooling (quite a challenge in our spread-out county), but the family had taken a challenge to live life as free of disposable plastic as possible. In this age of and triple-wrapped everything, that’s quite a challenge.

plastic use santa cruz

What follows is a conversation I had with Melody recently about how they reduce plastic use then and now.

Suki: How did this start?

Melody: Several years ago we got excited about trying to reduce plastic, or maybe I did and I just dragged the kids through it!

S: What are some of the simplest things you did that any family could do?

M: We had water bottles that we re-filled rather than buying bottled. We bought cloth bags we could use at the bulk bin—we got granola, oats, cornmeal, rice, popcorn, chocolate chips. We used to get whole wheat macaroni noodles until they rearranged and got rid of them! If you plan ahead a little more and bring a jar, there’s honey and fresh ground peanut butter and other butters like cashew and almond.

S: I’d also advise people to put a sticker with the tare weight on their jars! What are some items that you tried to do in bulk but changed your mind?

M: Staff of Life has a small bulk section for things like shampoo and liquid soap. For a while we were bringing bottles and refilling there. We discovered it was a nuisance to stand there and refill so we order the gallon size there and bring it home. I think it still saves a little plastic and we’re saving the mess of trying to refill in the store.

S: You started this when your kids are little. What has changed?

M: As I get busier working on my business, I’ve had to modify. One of the things I figured out is that some of the things when I was a stay-at-home mom with small children seemed so easy— why shouldn’t you do this? But if you’re working full-time, it is extra work to have to make your own tortillas. It is so convenient just to be able to open a package.

S: But every bit helps, right? So now that you have busy teens, what’s an example of something anyone can do?

M: The kids and I each have bamboo silverware that we carry with us. In those situations where you’re out somewhere, you can just use those rather than picking up plastic.

S: Right, and I’ve found that most cafes have non-disposable cups for drinks if you ask to have it “for here.”

Thanks to Melody for her input! Check out her new educational apps store,

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