Living sustainably isn't tough

This is produce from the writer's organic buying club.
This is produce from the writer's organic buying club.

How hard is it to live a sustainably guided life? I strive to live such a life but haven't always been that way.

When I moved to the U.S. from England many years ago, I discovered Ziploc bags and couldn't get enough of them. They sealed, came in different sizes and they were so convenient. Then I succumbed to the paper towel.

At first, I thought it was wasteful and felt a dish towel was perfectly adequate. Over time, that changed and I became a big user of paper towels. Picnics and trips to the beach were made easy with plastic forks, plates and cups and plastic bottled water. In the supermarket, I was entranced by the cheap prices of steak. In England, the meat prices were much higher and the portions smaller.

Then over time I realized there was a price for all this convenience and cheap food.

Oil used to make plastic products is a nonrenewable resource in limited supply and the demand for it is a continuing cause of conflict. Aluminum is expensive to mine and also in limited supply. Producing large quantities of food and agriculture to sell at low prices requires vast quantities of chemicals and environmentally questionable farming techniques to meet the demand.

The single-use product -- a straw, plastic bag, bottle, plate, fork -- started to seem so unsustainable and wasteful. Seeing plastic bottles and cans littering beaches, bushes, mangroves and floating in canals was upsetting. I read about the potential health hazards of BPA in plastic containers.

I became more aware of the cycle of consumption and the consequences of that. So I started changing a few habits.

As a big recycler, I came full circle by purchasing recycled paper products for the kitchen and bathroom. In the kitchen, I have paper towels but my husband and I use dish towels to dry hands and dishes and old T-shirts for bigger cleaning jobs.

Shirley Gun is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education. She can be reached at

I have replaced most of my plastic containers with glass and use them as much as possible in place of Ziploc bags for the fridge, freezer and packed lunches. I haven't eliminated Ziploc bags but I use them sparingly and reuse if possible. We use our stainless-steel water bottles for road trips or boat outings. But sometimes this isn't an option when we are not at home.

At the store, I use my reusable bags. I recently invested in a reusable insulated bag with zipper top that has become my favorite shopping bag. Flowers Construction gave me a very handy bag that folds into itself to the size of a large golf ball to put in my purse. Elena Muratori, a reader from Key Largo, takes her reusable plate, cup, silverware, linen napkin and to-go containers to pot-luck dinners and picnics. I was very impressed.

As for our food, I have subscribed to this coming season's CSA from Redland Organics. I will try my hand again at growing greens, tomatoes and peppers and will dive into a new batch of recipes using more vegetables and less meat and, whenever possible, organic and hormone-free. My husband and I have certainly seen a connection between what we eat and how we feel.

I doubt I can eliminate single-use products but strive to reduce my use of them. When I can, I will choose the sustainably produced product instead of the one from non-renewable resources.

It's not perfect but each change is a step toward a sustainably guided life.