Published on October 19th, 2018 | by TerraCycle
Cleaning Up Clean Eating
In a way, fall can feel like the “New Year.” A marker for new beginnings carried over from our schooldays, it is a time to reevaluate our habits, schedule and routine as they relate to learning to live better. One aspect of this is striving to eat more of what our minds and bodies need.
Eating clean and living well can seem like luxuries in a fast-paced world. Thus, the “convenience” market has evolved to deliver healthier foods with the ease that the modern consumer demands. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables, grocery delivery services, and healthy pre-made meals, for example, offer solutions when carving out time to shop for premium ingredients and cook nutritious meals is a challenge.
Other food and beverage packaging innovations extend the life of natural foods and make these items more accessible. Think shelf-stable cartons and pouches of juices, soups, and nut milks, and resealable bags of granola or quinoa and disposable packets of vitamins or supplement mixes. All of these convenient on-the-go containers make it easier to consume things that are good for us.
But the problem with these convenient heath foods that no one talks about is the fact that many of the innovations that make healthy foods and lifestyle supplements easier to buy and use have packaging that is unrecyclable, which isn’t very good for the planet.
Meal delivery and snack subscriptions send our foods of choice directly to us, wrapped in shiny plastic. These contain pre-portioned foods wrapped in films and plastic containers that are not recyclable curbside because of their small size. Additionally, the extra packaging material associated with ecommerce purchases is excessive and unrecyclable (and are often not that healthy!).
Aseptic cartons and pouches (i.e. the resealable, standup ones that house nuts, protein powders, sugar and nutritional yeast) are largely unrecyclable because they are made of different combos of plastic, foil, and/or paper. The thin, multi-layer materials of snack bags and energy bar wrappers, the add-ons that give these items high function (i.e., spouts, caps, zippers, etc.) and sachets, the small, thin pouch-like items that package vitamin cocktails, drink mixes and condiments, are difficult to capture.
You can offset the waste created by health and wellness products that do not yet fit into the current recycling system by choosing brands committed to taking responsibility for their packaging. For example, NOW works with TerraCycle to make sure its pouches and packaging are 100 percent nationally recyclable, also offering a solution for its line of natural toothpastes.
The recycling company’s line of Zero Waste Boxes has solutions for nearly every waste stream, so you can make sure the other mixed plastics associated with healthy eating, such as the plastic cups from smoothies or berry boxes (which some municipalities don’t accept for recycling), don’t go to landfill.
Of course, the cleanest way to eat clean is to buy only what you need, and striving to buy direct from farmers. This cuts down on packaging waste, impacts from transportation, and overconsumption at the supermarket or big box store. CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscriptions offer fresh, better-than-good produce, dairy and bakery items at lower prices (and a smaller footprint) than the supermarket. KnowWhereYourFoodComesFrom is a resource to help you find your nearest one.
What’s good for the body isn’t always good for the planet, but what’s good for the planet is almost always good for the body. Keep an eye out for sustainable brands, and slow down a bit to exercise mindfulness, the key ingredient of making good decisions for your health and the environment.