Monday, July 22, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

Ways to go plastic-free in the 413 this holiday season (and throughout the new year)

Since April, Hinda Bodinger has become synonymous with raising awareness about the detriments of plastic through her Facebook page, Plastic Free 413.

Great Barrington — When I was a kid, holidays often left me making coupon books as gifts to give to my loved ones; I made vouchers redeemable for vacuuming and dusting, free babysitting, and batches of homemade cookies. I inevitably felt a bit embarrassed, knowing each gift’s genesis had sprung from an absence of cash and a means to go shopping, but the recipients were always delighted — like over the moon. This year, I’m sensing a comeback. In fact, the whole consumer-season (and world) in which we live has me rethinking my approach to what I buy and why —important considerations when choosing gifts for others.

Just this month, I made several changes at home: I swapped my make-up remover wipes with a trio of reusable terry cloth rounds; I reverted to soap dishes and bars of soap for handwashing in the bathroom; and I invested in a set of wool dryer balls in lieu of fabric softener sheets (which not only cut down on waste but also diminish drying time, which saves energy). Each of these swaps sparked a bit of excitement in me that I am eager to share, but none of the items makes a particularly great gift, so I went searching for further inspiration from like-minded individuals. My first contact? Hinda Pollock Bodinger of Egremont. Since April, Bodinger has become synonymous with raising awareness about the detriments of plastic through her Facebook page, Plastic Free 413. The page, intended to be a forum to exchange ideas and share local resources, has taken off in the past eight months with more than 200 local residents having joined the group.

Image courtesy

“There are so many alternatives,” Bodinger said in a recent phone interview. “All of a sudden, there was a shift; once that awareness happened, I couldn’t turn back,” she added of the myriad swaps she has made in her own life to cut back on plastic and generally reduce excess waste. This holiday season, members of Plastic Free 413 have been tossing around ideas that harness creativity while seeking to reduce excess. Bodinger recently posted “52 Clutter-Free Gifts” that hone in on experiences and time spent together as opposed to buying more stuff. “There’s just too much plastic everywhere,” she said, adding, “kids don’t remember the things, but they remember who they spent time with [during the holidays].” Her repost encourages the gifting of experiences (think movie tickets or bowling) and classes (think cooking, dance or art) to memberships (at a museum or trampoline park). And if you still enjoy gifting tangible items, creative ideas abound. Marj Wexler of Egremont likes Green Toys. “Their battery-less vehicles are made from recycled plastic and packaged in cardboard,” she added, noting that the products (which can be found locally at the Gifted Child and Tom’s Toys) have been around for several years, “before the present bandwagon.”

To-go cutlery sets, perfect for picnics and/or take-out, will be Hinda Bodinger’s go-to gift this season; her FB page, Plastic-Free 413, is a treasure trove for like-minded individuals looking to make small changes in hopes of eliciting a big impact. Image courtesy Plastic Free 413

Bodinger’s go-to gift this holiday season is a utensil set — which, in addition to a knife, fork and spoon, contains chopsticks, two reusable straws and a cleaning tool. It comes in a canvas bag, and she chose to “wrap” each gift in a cotton tea towel — eradicating the need for further superfluous disposables. The sets are perfect for a picnic in your car and come in handy if you rely on take-out or the drive through. Bodinger likes to think of her gifts as both raising awareness and educating others, especially “if you do it in a fun, friendly way,” she emphasized. She also shared a cool fact: “Historically, it used to be a status symbol to bring your own silverware with you,” she said, especially in a time when people were worried about the spread of germs. It’s one of the many things she has learned from the book “Zero Waste: Simple Life Hacks to Drastically Reduce Your Trash” by Shia Su.

Susan Bachelder is gifting reusable straws this season. She found a matching set of four metal straws and a cleaner by Orrefors — a well-known Swedish glass company — for $20 a set. “I bought about a dozen [sets as] gifts for family and friends,” the Egremont resident shared. “They look great, and have a certain ECO-CHIC [quality about them].” Not to mention that Bachelder’s choice will keep plastic straws out of the ocean.

Elle Mentary prefers to turn trash into treasure. “We have a secret goldmine in Pittsfield,” she said of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. There, she found a few nice pieces of wood from which she is making two Eames-inspired [designers Charles and Ray] plant stands; five cheese boards; and a teardrop-shaped hanging shelf. “Using a little creative thought and a bit of elbow grease, I have produced personalized gifts for a fraction of the holiday bill I usually [face] come January,” she said, adding that the money spent at Re-Store goes to a worthy cause.

As for me, I’m seriously considering resuscitating the coupon books of my youth. I’d rather spend time with people than money on things, and who knows? Perhaps the idea will catch on. At the very least, I’ve decided not to purchase wrapping paper this year. I might use the Sunday comics to wrap the stocking stuffers, or perhaps my kids and I will make our own out of brown paper bags and rubber stamps. Regardless, it’s a step in the right direction. “[Each change] becomes an opportunity to teach others without proselytizing,” Bodinger said.  “And then it becomes a habit.”


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