The Quest for Reusables

Perhaps finding a sustainable solution for soda is going to be easier than my quest for a sustainable bread solution.

Yesterday, I went to one of my favorite grocery stores (The Village Market) to see what soda’s they sold in bottles. There were about nine different brands with a variety of flavors on their shelves. Having written down these brand names, I’ve started researching to see if any of them use reusable bottles. Many of these brands weren’t on the list at www.glassbottlesoda.org, and there were a few on that list that indicate they do not use reusables, but I was still able to get several good leads.

One of the brands, Frostie, is bottled at three different bottling plants. And one of those bottling plants does use reusables. I’ve emailed them, as well as several other brands that looked promising but weren’t on the glass bottles list to see how to go about returning reusables.

Stay tuned!

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Thirsting for Change

More than 20 years ago, I went on a mission trip to Roatan, Honduras. One of my favorite memories from that trip was stopping at a little corner shack and asking for a “Fresco de Banana.” Mmm…In all the years since then I have not tasted anything that can compare to the refreshing sweetness of that banana soda. We would stand there in front of the store, savoring each sip. Then when we were done, we’d return the empty bottle to the store owner, and with a joyful “gracias” return to work.

Passing by a stack of empties at the airport on my return trip home, I found myself wondering two things. 1. Why don’t we have banana soda in the United States? (I keep looking but still haven’t found any.) and 2. Why don’t we reuse bottles anymore.

As I’m moving down to item #2 on my list of most commonly used packaged goods, I’m finding myself asking these questions again. First of all, writing the above paragraphs has had me craving a fresco de banana so much that I can taste it. (I understand that soda tastes much better in a glass bottle, so that might have been part of the reason this soda captured my heart so strongly.) But more importantly, I’m wondering about the habit of reusing bottles. 

In the early days of soda, it was enjoyed in a glass at the soda fountain. When consumers started voicing that they wanted to take the drinks home, reusable glass bottles were created. But in recent years, glass bottles have been mostly replaced with plastic, and bottling factories that reuse glass soda bottles seem to be limited to a handful of local companies. 

Though none of these companies are local to where I live, I am still hopeful that I can become a part of the culture of reusing sanitized soda bottles. 

Related links:
Story of a man who goes to great lengths to acquire glass-bottled soda.
GlassBottleSoda.org
Avery’s Soda

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Our Christmas Gift for Mother Earth

ImageMerry Christmas, Mother Earth. For the past six months, we’ve been working on a little present for you, and it’s finally ready! From now until at least the end of January, our family will not be disposing of any sort of bread wrapper.

We started working on this gift this summer by making some cloth bread bags that allowed us to purchase homemade bread without wrappers. Our problem, though, was storing it without the bread drying out or getting that freezer taste. We looked at several products that were too expensive and tried several ideas that didn’t quite work—but we hope this one will.

A little Christmas shopping at Target led us to a sturdy looking container that is just the right size for holding seven to eight loaves while still fitting in our freezer. That container turned out to be a plastic box intended for wrapping up and storing lights. (So, for us, this was two purchases in one. We’ll use the plastic inserts to wrap our lights and the container to store our bread.) Since this container isn’t marketed for freezer use, we’re wrapping the bread in our homemade bread bags.

So, Mother Earth, we hope you’ll enjoy the extra space this will save you. Of course, the space saved by seven or eight bread wrappers won’t be overly noticeable, but our hope is that others will be inspired by our efforts. And since they won’t have to go through six months of trial-and-error research like we did, it should be fairly simple for them to reproduce what we’ve done. And since bread is the most commonly purchased packaged item, the end result could really give you some nice elbow room.

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The Best Christmas Stockings Ever

Last year, with my husband’s job coming to an end just before the holiday season, we told our kids we would be having a “Little House” Christmas. It was the most positive way we could think of telling them not to expect much. 

While planning for some creative shopping and homemade gifts, I was stumped as to what to do about stockings. Some of the gifts we were putting under the tree were about the size of what we would normally put in a stocking, and we certainly didn’t want to dip into our severely limited Christmas budget to get them items that would be quickly discarded. Going without a stocking wasn’t an option either as family tradition dictated that stockings would be opened on Christmas Eve (with the under-the-tree gifts waiting until Christmas Eve.) Granted, family tradition also dictated that cookies would be in the stockings, but what else? We knew our kids wouldn’t get as excited about an orange as Laura did.

Suddenly, I had an idea. “Kids,” I announced. “For our stockings this year, we are going to write each other notes.” I almost expected a groan, but instead I sensed a bit of excitement. 

Christmas eve came and we sat in a circle taking turns to pull out one item from our stocking and reading the notes out loud. There was quite a variety: lengthy sentimental letters (those were from me), poems, meaningful pictures, and cards with short notes. Tucked in beneath the notes were a couple surprise toys. It was less than we had ever had in our stockings before–and yet it was more. Our hearts were full of joy as we read the words of love family members. Yet, I didn’t realize what a success this was until my teenage son declared, “This was the best Christmas Eve ever!”

So now we have a new Christmas Eve tradition: stockings stuffed with love letters. As we have found, there is no more meaningful gift than letting your family know how much you love them.

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Gluten-Free Homemade Bread

This Thanksgiving, I’m coordinating a gluten-free meal, since two of our guests adhere to a gluten-free diet. 

I would say that of all the dietary restrictions, gluten-free can be one of the hardest to shop for. Gluten can be hidden in so many things that you wouldn’t even think of! Fortunately, because of the increased number of people eating a gluten-free diet, there are many products labeled as such. Unfortunately, those products usually come with a larger price tag.

That got me to wondering, would someone on a gluten-free diet be able to join me on my quest to reduce bread wrapper waste by baking or buying homemade bread? It seems that for someone on such a diet, this would make sense. Not only for environmental reasons, but also to save money.

Sure enough, a quick Internet search brought me to a nice sampling of gluten-free bread recipes. As I read through the ingredients, however, it seemed that these might be hard to find. Most of the recipes xanthem gum. Other ingredients called for include: almond meal or flour, brown rice flour, millet flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, or tapioca starch or flour. Many of the recipes called for several of these specialty ingredients. A few recipes suggested using a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix.

So here’s a question for my readers. If you’ve ever made gluten-free bread, what tips do you have for finding these specialty ingredients?

 

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Medical Payments in the 1800s

Today, after spending a couple hours researching which Medicare plan I want to enroll in for 2014, I started wondering how doctors were paid in the 1800s.

That’s actually a question I’ve always wondered as whenever I see a movie or read a story set in the 1800s, even poor people are quick to call for the doctor when someone is ill without any discussion of if they could afford it. Obviously this was before insurance programs had been set up, so how was it that even poor people could afford medical care? 

The answer to my question is that doctors of the 1800s were usually paid in-kind. The patient’s family would trade goods or services for the medical care he provided. 

I’m still mulling this over, but I’m curious what you think. Could this kind of system work in today’s society?

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Not Alone in My Bread Wrapperless Quest!

I have found another blogger who shares my interest in finding alternate ways to store bread! (Actually, my husband pointed this blog out to me.) Check out her post at http://myplasticfreelife.com/2010/02/bread-buy-it-store-it-keep-it-fresh-without-plastic/.

Several things that I found interesting in this blog:

1. There are more reasons than avoiding waste to refrain from disposable bags, one of which is not chocking on bread bag closures!

2. Apparently at least some local bakeries will let you purchase naked bread and put it in your own bag. That is something I have been wanting to try (once I get the storage situation nailed down). I wonder if bakeries in the South will be as accommodating? I also wonder about chain stores like Panera.

3. She shared the idea of wrapping her bread in a cloth bread bag and putting it in a tin. I did spend an awful long time looking at tins during our school’s annual rummage sale last summer wondering if these would work. In the end, we decided against them because they would take up so much space in our small freezer, but now that we have a large freezer, I think this might be the perfect solution for us, and as the author mentions, they should be pretty easy to find at a thrift shop. 

 

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