Thanks to many of you in the Elmwood Stock Farm community who offered feedback about our packaging update! As promised, here’s a follow up with some ideas on how you can give packaging its best next life when it comes to your door.
“I reuse or recycle all my Elmwood Stock Farm bags. The CSA bags are very thick, so they can be used over and over again or for something more heavy-duty, like a trash can liner,” says Betsy, who handles many of your customer service needs.
Following are some of our ideas—things we actually do at home, plus a few ideas we’ve considered but have not yet attempted—for reusing packaging. A bit about recycling comes later.
Simplify your food storage with your perforated produce bags.
- Bag your home-garden harvest with your produce bags.
- Bring these bags with you when you go to the grocery store for produce you can’t source from Elmwood Stock Farm. Apples, avocados and citrus fruits come to mind.
- Portion out your salad greens when you get them home. If you need three salads this week—our salad mix bags make about three hearty salad portions—chop and wash your greens when you get them home. Then portion each into their own bag so it’s easy to grab and assemble your salad.
Organize your life with microgreens clamshells.
- Store loose-leaf teas and other dried herbs.
- Contain all those nuts, bolts, screws, nails, paper clips, safety pins, hair ties, rubber bands, batteries and other small but useful items that inevitably collect in your home, office and garage (or, in our case, barn).
- Share food with others in clamshell containers. At the farm, we think these clamshells are highly valuable, but in your home, you may have glass and tupperware-type food containers that you value. Use the microgreens clamshells to give away, such as when you make soup for a friend. Just be sure the soup is cool before you put it in the container!
Let your CSA bags do heavy lifting.
- CSA bags are made with a more durable plastic, because they have to hold 10 or more pounds of produce some weeks. They’re great candidates for lining small trash cans and disposing of kitty litter.
- Cut open the bag so it lays flat, and use it as a placemat/tablecloth for messy projects, such as anything involving paint, glue or clay. Easy cleanup!
- Crumple up these stiff plastic bags, and stuff several of them into your tall boots so the boots keep their shape.
- If you have a chest freezer and put by food throughout the summer or stock up on meat in bulk, use CSA bags to keep the freezer organized: frozen veggies in one bag, pestos and sauces in another, chicken over there, frozen meals over here … and you get the idea.
Use your packaging to improve your home gardening.
- Poke holes in the bottom of a microgreens clamshell, fill it with soil, and you have a place to start seeds. Better yet, fill it only halfway with soil and place the lid on top (don’t seal it), and you have a tiny greenhouse that will keep moisture inside.
- Fill the heavy-plastic CSA bags with sand or soil, and use these to weight down your row cover, insect netting and bird netting. (We do that here on the farm!)
- Put the bags to work in your late spring and early fall garden as cloches. When a late spring frost or early fall frost is forecast, sometimes a plant just needs a tiny layer of protection to see it through. Pop a plastic bag overtop for the night, and weight down the edge with a few rocks so the bag stays in place. Be sure to remove the bag in the morning so the plant can get fresh air.
Think about other ways this packaging can make life easier.
- “If you have a creative mind, there are other ways to reuse plastic bags. I recently gave my stash to a friend who wove them into an outdoor yoga mat,” Betsy says. If you have the inclination to make nearly anything from plastic bags—yoga mat, handbag, rug, jump rope, slippers—YouTube has the instructions.
- Use the bags as packing materials for delicate items.
- Clamshells make great paint containers for small and touch-up painting and staining jobs.
And recycle the bags you can’t reuse.
It is true that our recycling stream leaves some to be desired. With a little extra effort, you can recycle the plastic bags. “All of our bags, including the ones for greens, can be recycled at numerous locations: Kroger, Walmart, Lowes, Meijers, and Target,” Betsy points out.
Whatever your packaging’s next use, keep them all together (in a bag!) to make their population manageable.
We know this list of plastic packaging reuse is not comprehensive, and we want to know what else you do with your bags and clamshells! We will continue to add to this list for reference.