A Less Wasteful Existence

Ziploc bags are not considered a bare essential for most, but finding these babies are like pure gold on my island. The Ziploc brand simply doesn’t exist here. There is only this cheap local brand whose zippers stick and don’t seal properly. Flimsy and quick to tear, they are a major disappointment when you’re used to the real thing. After making the mistake the first time, I no longer bother buying the local brand. Whenever I return from the States, my suitcases are always filled with boxes and boxes of various sizes of Ziploc baggies. Who would have ever thought a box of Ziploc gallon-sized bags would make the best gift for my mother-in-law?

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Ziploc bags symbolize all that is totally right and, at the same time, totally wrong with the US. In the US, Ziplocs are so so cheap, right? A box of 12 gallon-sized runs you under $2. You can find them everywhere – Walmart, Target, Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, heck – I think I may even be able to find them at The Dollar Store or Dollar Tree! Because they are so plentiful and relatively inexpensive, people tend to use and toss these ridiculously durable, inorganic little baggies after only one use. Forget about biodegradability. That’s the point of them, right? To not degrade and keep sauces/foods from slipping out. Ziploc bags are a perfect fit with the Western mentality – they are easily found, inexpensive, tough, and replaceable.

But not on the rock. In Cyprus, as on most other remote islands I’ve ever been to, we islanders save our bags. And not just bags, we save nearly everything because we know the replacement cost is not as easy as it is in the US. It’s not even the exact cost on the box that we respect. Beyond the fact that we tend to live closer to the earth on an island and thus tend to be (hopefully) a bit more eco-minded, it’s availability of goods here that really sticks with us. Some days Ziploc bags (or their very cheap equivalent) will line the shelves at the local grocer. Other days, they will have simply run out. And no one quite knows when they will return. If ever.

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So I save my American Ziploc bags. I use them, and unless they are holding raw meat/chicken/fish (in which case, I will gladly throw them out), I wash them, flip them inside out, hang them to dry, and reuse. I know it sounds ridiculously cheap, but I love these transparent WWII-era bags with their famous blue zipper. It’s the little things like Ziplocs that make me realize how much I miss America, aka the Land of Plenty. But in my years on the rock, they also have given me a newfound appreciation for all that I once considered “replaceable”. And I think I’m definitely better for it.

Has island life made you less wasteful too? What do you hoard on your rock (besides Ziplocs, of course)?

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Claudia Hanna

About Claudia Hanna

Born a typical Type A stress-basket, Claudia followed all the rules until she spent her final college summer internship working at an import-export firm in Cyprus, which she dutifully quit after a couple of weeks and took up a job as a barmaid at a kick-ass bar in a yacht harbor. It was during that fateful summer (more years ago than she likes to admit) she met her future husband. A dozen years and a couple kids later, the dimpled Adonis convinced Claudia to quit her grueling corporate America finance job and head for the Med. Ah hell, who was she kidding? With fanciful thoughts of being bohemian and breastfeeding naked on the beach, the diaper bags were already packed.

After realizing her two options for a social life on the rock were either drunk tourists and retired expats (looking for a quick lay, endless sunshine, and cheap beer) OR the local Cypriot community (with their shiny cars dotting dusty dirt roads and perfectly manicured brows), Claudia followed the eyebrows and stilettos. And she has never looked back. With their warm culture and pop-in-anytime policy, Claudia finally relaxed and learned to live like an island girl.

If she's not stepping over lizards and tarantulas in her home, scuba diving with sea turtles, or teaching drama to kids, Claudia loves catching up with friends over multiple glasses of large, chilled wine on her balcony. She spends her days writing her blog www.livelikeagoddess.com and broadcasting her radio show "The Morning Show with Claudia."

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16 thoughts on “A Less Wasteful Existence

  1. Much easier to deal with a washed plastic bag if you put it on your fridge, upside down, with the magnet on the INSIDE. Pull the outer side out a bit more, and it will dry easily. And yes, save everything. Even if you don’t need it right how, or if it won’t work for its original purpose, you can “repurpose” – which I learned from my parents, long ago.

    • I *love* this idea. Really smart and will try it out. I must admit, the concept of “repurposing” didn’t hit home until I moved to Cyprus. I had no idea how wasteful I was before then!

  2. Scott, Charmin, Cottonelle, Quilted Northern, …..soft, luxurious, thick two ply toilet paper. TP that you can not see through, TP that only requires a one sheet to ten ratio! Once in a blue moon a barrel full of 12 pack Charmins arrives and disappears off the market shelf in a day…thank you Tanty, who has a Costco card, in the states!
    Oh, life in Paradise!

  3. We hoard good Yorkshire tea when people bring it for us from the U K and Tim Hortons coffee when they bring it from Canada. And my favourite hair colour. I have been known to look like a skunk with my grey roots until the next batch comes in! And zip locks are about $9 per box or nearly 75cents each here!! Can’t throw that type of money out. Definitely reserve them only for good – like good China! LOL.

  4. We can buy the easily here but still wash and reuse. Word to the wise. Always check to make sure that there are no holes before returning to the ‘re use’ pile. Have had a few freezing chicken stock disasters teach me that lesson.

  5. Well, I have fallen in love with “Snap-Tite” boxes …..pack of six for $13.00 at Walmart (who would have known my Walmart list would have been longer than any other list!) They are bulky to pack but can be stuffed with all sorts of other things in my luggage (ONE bag!)

    I have used my boxes for three months now, all the time, and have not used one single box of ziplocs. They keep cheese really fresh, left over salads, etc.

    There are Ziplocs here on Long Island (Bahamas), but they are at least three times the cost of those in the states.

    Fun post and comments as we share our zip-loc drying techniques….

    • I haven’t heard of the “Snap Tite” boxes. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for them. I wonder how they are different from regular tubberware (which, by the way, I have gotten kind of out of using. I *much* prefer glass containers for storing leftovers in my fridge. Easier to see, easier to reheat, cleaner to wash, and an organic material. Another “island discovery”)

      Thanks, Susan!

  6. Great Story. Back here in Kentucky (hey neighbor) Grandmomma used to wash those zip-loc bags, too. She used that cabinet mounted three armed dish towel rack to dry them. The kind that stuck straight out like a train crossing arm. Slid one of the metal arms into the bag. And a small square of paper towel inside (even in plastic ware) to be sure it stays fresh. Btw it’s spittin snow.

    • Back at ya, neighbor! Don’t leave the ziploc drying fun to your grandma! Reuse before recycle, chica. Enjoy the snow 🙂

      Love your vivid writing –
      Claudia

  7. We live in Nevis, and we do get some decent brands recently. We do re-wash them, saving the planet and all that stuff. It may be a bit of a chore, but I tell myself I’m doing something good, especially when I am putting water in a big bucket for donkey’s/cow’s/sheep and more, and imagining what it could be.

    Am currently in Florida and just saw a bird with an unknown object in it’s mouth, not what it should have, so this is a good thing

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