Earth Day: Simple changes at home can help the planet

Consumer Reports checks out silicone bags, composting systems

On this Earth Day, there are some simple things you can do at home that can benefit the planet and help reduce food waste.

SAN ANTONIO – On this Earth Day, there are some simple things you can do at home that can benefit the planet and help reduce food waste.

Worldwide, an estimated five trillion plastic bags are used each year. If you would like to reduce the number you use, reusable silicone bags are an option. Consumer Reports tried some out.

“The bags are meant to replace your plastic sandwich and snack bags. They’re made from silica, a natural and abundant element found in sand and rock,” said Consumer Reports’ Perry Santanachote.

The bags cost more up front, but you’ll be reusing them by tossing them in the dishwasher or washing them by hand.

Consumer Reports’ top-pick W&P 34-ounce bag for $12 is easy to open and close, leak- and stain-resistant, and great for freezer storage. It can also be used for sous-vide.

Before you go out and buy more, Consumer Reports says see what you can reuse, such as take-out or grocery plastic containers or Mason jars.

Another way to reduce food waste is to compost the inedible parts. Consumer Reports checked out several indoor composters, helpful if you’re short on outdoor space.

“Many of these require worms and microbes that help break down the foods you’re scrapping,” Santanachote said. “There is also the ick factor. They smell and can attract pests.”

The Vitamix Food Cycler for $400 skips the worms and just grinds and breaks down your food in about three to eight hours. After that, the food will break down faster in landfills.

“But for the most high-quality compost, the kind of stuff that you want to use for your plants and your garden, you want to go with worms,” she said.

Consumer Reports says the Urban Worm Bag Version 2 from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm for $140 is convenient and easy to use, and can handle 6 pounds of food scraps.

But before you spend money on a composting system, Consumer Reports says you should aim to reduce your overall food waste. That’s because composting doesn’t eliminate the much bigger upstream environmental impact associated with growing food.

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About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.