Sunday, February 21, 2021

Betsy's Plastic-Free February

This week, our beloved Executive Director Betsy Cushman tells us all about her approach to Plastic-Free February. There are a lot of great nuggets in here - read on and consider taking notes! :)   

Methow Recycles: How many people are in your family, and what are their ages?

Betsy: I'm 62, Barb is about to turn 64.

Methow Recycles: Do you have any pets?

Betsy: Our polydactyl cat, Willow, is 5 or 6. Four hens named Loretta and Amelia.

Methow Recycles: What was the most difficult part of this challenge for your family?

Betsy: Snacks and yogurt. True confessions, we've been enjoying mini-sized Snickers and Payday candy bars. Plastic in plastic. Clif Bars, plastic. One of us is a daily yogurt-eater with a strong preference for vanilla Greek-style yogurt.

Methow Recycles:  What was the easiest part for you and your family?

Betsy: We've been at this a long time (I've been bringing my own shopping bag for 40+ years), and are equally committed, so as a household, we don't find it that difficult. We don't purchase single-use plastic items as a matter of habit, like someone with a peanut allergy not seeing a peanut butter sandwich as food. Where we have choices, those are easily made. What's become clearer to me over the years of doing plastic-free February are the places we don't have good choices, and how often the result is not recyclable. I've recently replaced printer cartridges in 2 printers, and have collected the unrecyclable plastic bits in which they are packaged.

We also recognize that our circumstances make this easier for us than for some. We have the time and ability to put a little extra effort into avoiding plastic. We know that for many the convenience and economics made possible by plastic is hard to argue with because of the conditions of their lives.

Methow Recycles: Overall, has it been harder or easier than you imagined? How does that change among the different people in your household?

Betsy: Even though we avoid plastic pretty well as a way of life, plastic-free February serves as an annual wake-up call for us. During this time, we pause, notice, and question every single encounter with plastic - like a recent purchase of plastic zip ties sold in a plastic bag.

Methow Recycles: Are there any products that have made staying away from plastic easier?

Betsy: We have a set of silicone bowl-covers purchased from the Mazama Store that replace use of plastic wrap. They work best on straight-sided bowls. Silicone is a very durable product, and not made of plastic.

We also use mesh produce bags and re-closable bulk dry goods bags. We're so happy that our community's Covid-19 response has allowed these back into the mix. As a result, very few plastic bags come home from the grocery store.

Last but not least, we use a Soda Stream - we like fizzy water and make our own constantly. I can't remember the last time I bought something like this at the store.

Methow Recycles: Did you find a plastic-free hack in the valley we should know about?


  • The words, "no thank you."
  • Reuse: we wash, dry (see drying rack below) and reuse every plastic bag - ziplock or produce - and yogurt container that enters our lives and use it until it's no longer usable.

  • Buying meat and produce from local producers whenever possible. The packaging situation is completely different. We are fortunate to have a large freezer, and every couple of years buy a quarter-share of locally-raised beef. We've been doing this for many years.
  • When plastic is unavoidable - like dry catfood - buy the largest practical size to reduce the overall amount of plastic. I wish we could buy Greek yogurt by the gallon instead of by the quart.
Big thanks to Betsy for sharing all of her thoughts and helpful hints!


  1. Making your own yogurt might be a possibility, I do it weekly easily with the Instant Pot. My impetus was to cut down on all the packaging, all the yogurt containers. But you have to buy mile in cartons which I'm assuming might have plastic, and the little plastic tops. Plus, I'm not sure how the flavoring would work. I just make regular plain yogurt and mix it with homemade granola and frozen fruit. Yum, that's our desert every night!