The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
December 5, 2008

Ticked off Women with Bones to Pick

Ever since I started the Take Back The Filter Campaign, and especially since it’s ended, I’ve been getting emails from folks with ideas for additional campaigns for me to start. And what I say to them is, “Hey, that’s a great idea! Go for it!” I’m just one person who had a bone to pick with my water filter company. You guys may find other issues that particularly stick in your craw. (Okay, what’s all this picking and sticking? I don’t even know what these expressions mean.)

Don’t wait for someone else to start a movement. Start one yourselves. The Internet makes it possible for regular folks like you and me to reach the world and get heard. At some point, I plan to write a book report on “What I learned from starting a campaign.” But not tonight. It’s late, and I’ve got to get up early and carol tomorrow with a bunch of pre-schoolers at a senior center. (Part of my intention to enjoy the season this year rather than avoiding it.)

Instead, I want to talk up a couple of campaigns begun by some other regular women who saw something that ticked them off and decided to do something about it.

1) Disposable Timing Chips: Robbie from Going Green Mama is irritated that the 2009 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis, Indiana will be switching from reusable timing chips to disposable ones. For anyone who has no idea what any of those words meant, I will explain.

Participants in running races wear little devices on their shoes which are encoded with their racer ID number and record what time they step on special mats placed at the starting line, finish line, and sometimes other spots along the route. This allows the runners to receive an accurate running time and finishing place and also ensures that they run the specified route and don’t take short cuts. I know this because I used to run races. Ah, maybe someday I will again…

Anyway, in the past, the timing chips have been little hard plastic thingies that you pick up before the race, attach to your shoe laces, wear during the race, and then return to the race organizers at the end. Yes, they are plastic, but they are used over and over again.

But now, some organizations are switching to disposable chips in order to avoid the hassle of having to collect the reusables. And this move has Robbie up in arms. It doesn’t take that long to collect the reusable chips. And disposables will just add more waste to an event that’s already full of waste to begin with (disposable water cups, energy bar wrappers, etc.) So she’s started a campaign and would like you to join her.

Please read Robbie’s post and then send an email to the race organizers letting them know what you think about disposable plastic. And while you’re at it, let them know Aquafina bottled water is also not eco-friendly, no matter how many recycling stations they set up. (You can read about that issue in Robbie’s post, too.)

2) Plastic at Costco: Last holiday season, I wrote a post about all the unnecessary plastic at Costco. A few days ago, I received an email from Ursula Myers who was also ticked off by it and wanted to know if she could use my image of apples encased in plastic for a petition she was creating in response.

My reply, “Of course you can!” I can’t think of a better use for it.

Ursula’s Costco petition is hosted on the Care2 web site here. Please sign it and pass it on. (E-mail, blog, tweet, you know.) And while you’re at it, how about calling or writing Costco and letting them know what you think directly?

Are there any plastic issues that are particularly maddening to you? Anything you’ve been wishing someone would do something about? Why not jump in and start your own ruckous this holiday season? It’s good clean fun for kids of all ages!
 

31 comments
Mens jewellery
Mens jewellery

Hey Beth, Nice post. I give importance to the bags which are reusable.

Brandy in LA
Brandy in LA

Trader Joes produce. Everything comes in a plastic container, drives me nuts! I recycle them all but still, I'd rather them not be there in the first place. I let everything from apples to oranges to mushrooms roam free in my bad, I don't care! Just don't want those stupid plastic and styrofoam wrappings, containers, and bags forced on me.

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hi Jasmine. I store meat in stainless steel containers. In fact, I bring my own stainless steel container to the butcher counter and have my meat placed directly into it.

Jasmine
Jasmine

I don't like my meat to touch my cloth bags, even if it's in a package. I usually end up wrapping it in a plastic bag. What do you recommend? I hate doing it but I can't think of an alternative. :(

Rosa
Rosa

I've been making my own bread and bagels, so I'm actually running out of bread bags (also, my bf wears bread bags under his boots to bike to work in the winter, so his woolly socks don't get wet. But he reuses them til they wear out from that, too.)I was kind of shocked when I went fishing around in my bag 'o bags for a bread bag, and there were none, this weekend.

Condo Blues
Condo Blues

Well, I think that when life gives me plastic, that it's my job to be clever and find a way to recycle/reuse it. That goes for the nylon/recycled plastic swag bags I get for free at events (totally kitted out both of our cars with free reusable shopping bags) as well as the few plastic bags (produce, frozen veg, etc.) that enter my house. Generally I use those for backup doggie pickup bags when I run out/low on the compostable ones - which PFP taught me that neither are environmentally wonderful but I think that sometimes you have to choose the least bad situation for you, which may not be the least bad for someone else due location, city/state rules, etc.Where I live you can buy either local (seasonally we have snow), or organic. Generally these items are almost always shrink wrapped in plastic that I can't reuse or recycle into one of my many projects. At least if they packaged the organic produce in a clear plastic bag, I could find a reuse for that. In fact, my husband opened a new box of organic chai tea bags, held one up and said,"what's wrong w/ this teabag?" It was in a plastic envelope. The Aldi brand of not local teabags sitting next to them in the pantry were in paper envelopes = compost fodder. Interesting how the not so environmentally friendly item at frist glance becomes the more responsible choice.

Hayley
Hayley

Tanya-Thanks for your thoughts! (I couldn't think of a better phrase...)I did just yesterday, actually, and his company uses re-grind (recycled) plastic in dark colored bottles, and always re-grinds their excess. However, there isn't that much he could change in terms of materials even if he wanted, as the companies will specifically ask for all the materials.I also found out he uses very little PVC due to the general bad rap it has, so I'm feeling a little better.Energy sources aren't so great though...x)He doesn't like alternative energy much, for the simple fact that it is too much of a hassle.On the topic of people asking about your personal choices, I recently finished crocheting a bracelet out of plastic bags from Jewel my mom brought home, and am wearing it, and have been asked where I got it and what it is made out of many times. They all got lectured ^^

Tanya Seaman
Tanya Seaman

Hayley: I've been thinking about this a lot, and I'm really pleased that this issue concerns you so much. I think Cousin Yellowstone's ideas are great.I'm wondering if talking to your dad about the energy sources used in his manufacturing process might be a safe topic? Or how/if they use or could incorporate recycled plastic in their formulas? You wouldn't be attacking his product, but presenting ideas that might be practical to implement, and may not cause too much drama.Ideally, these could get him thinking about plastic at some point.I do believe it's important to do what you can in your own life, even if those things seem small to you. Hopefully you can find a good way to talk about them with the people who ask -- when you reject a ride, refill your bottle, etc. -- so that you engage them.Best wishes!

Kelsie
Kelsie

Kel,Let me know which companies you will be writing, and I will add my two cents worth, as well. I buy boxed pasta so that I can avoid the plastic bags, but there's still plastic involved, and it's frustrating come recycling time. I think by now we should know what we're getting if we buy rotini, angel hair, fettucini, etc. A photo on the box would do just as good of a job. After all, we don't have plastic windows on cereal boxes, and people seem to buy that in good faith!!-Kelsie

A Slice of the Pie
A Slice of the Pie

I had a similar experience at Sears as Correne. I was buying vacuum cleaner bags, and I was told I had to have a bag for them. Ugh!Anyway, my latest peeve is the plastic windows in boxed pasta. Once we are through the craziness of this month, I will be writing letters to the manufacturers asking them to do away with the window.Kel

Hayley
Hayley

Kelsie&Correne---I know! I ran into a similar situation just this morning, I was at sunset foods with plastic bags from their store to re-use because my dad hates paper ones, and I gave them to the bagger-person, who proceeded to use them, but DOUBLE BAG every single bag with a brand new bag!I wanted to scream or something, I mean really what on earth is the use of reusing a bag so you can put another new one around it?

Kelsie
Kelsie

Correnne,I rant into a similar situation at a Walmart (please, no comments about how Walmart is evil) I stopped at on the way back home for Thanksgiving. At the Walmart in my hometown, the request for "no bag" has never been a problem for me. At this particular Walmart, however, they told me I HAD to take a bag--HAD TO--and that it was a matter of security. So, I took the bag and, as I was leaving the store, removed my merchandise from it and dropped it into the bag recycling box, saying to my boyfriend, "See! See how completely pointless it was to make me take a bag I didn't want to carry for more than 10 feet!" At this proclamation, a woman who was arranging the carts looked up and glared at me, then swept her eyes all over my merchandise. I really think she thought I was trying to get away with something vile.At the Walmart in my hometown, we have a person who stands at the door, takes your receipt, glances at it, and puts a black X on it as you leave the store. Not only does this support bagless AND secure shopping, it also provides a much-needed job for someone (in this case, a disabled veteran). There are just so many things wrong with a place that FORCES the customer to take a plastic bag if they don't want it. We can't get angry with the cashiers, though. They're simply taking orders from a higher-up, and probably afraid of retribution. Writing letters and/or seeking audience with the managers would probably be a good idea.-Kelsie

ciboulette
ciboulette

One small step: Remember when they used to sell ipods in Costco by displaying a huge, empty, plastic package with the SKU? The other day I was in Costco and saw that these are now just big pieces of cardboard. Still a waste -- but it's not plastic.

Correne
Correne

How funny that you're discussing things that bug you. I came to this blog, just to vent about something that only people here would truly understand. I was just at Sears, getting my daughter some winter boots, and a birthday present for my Mom. I said, "no bags, please" like I do everywhere. The woman actually looked at me funny. She said she would have to put some tape on my stuff. I asked why. She said it was because of the security cameras. If I didn't have a bag, they would need to see the special tape. I said I was trying to avoid plastic, and her tape was plastic tape. She said "oh, a little bit like this won't matter." AAAAGH! Of course it matters. I was so frustrated, because she could not articulate a reason for me having to have tape on my stuff. I told her that if there was a problem with security, that I could produce my receipt. She said but the cameras wouldn't pick up the receipt. Huh????My son was so tired that he was literally lying sprawled out on the floor in the middle of the aisle, so I eventually gave up and left. I was so irritated, however, that I peeled the tape off my stuff, and stuck it to the glass doors on my way out. Childish, I know, but it made me feel a little better. So does venting here.

Bridget
Bridget

Right now, I am particularly annoyed with plastic bags filled with air in packaging. Really? This happened with Pyrex, and believe you me, I gave them quite the talking to, especially because, even with all these precious bags of air, several of the glass bowls I ordered arrived broken. What a pain.

Hayley
Hayley

Thanks "cousin yellowstone"!Yeah, I guess it is pretty hard to make a plastic company green other than having them just used recycled stuff...I'll talk to him, thanks again!

John Costigane
John Costigane

Hi Beth,From the UK view, you are the anti-plastickest blogger, bar none. The fabric bag label nonsense can be simply stopped by inverting the bag to produce a cool retro look. If they want to advertise they should pay the consumer.As for using plastic bags in fabric bags. Alternative or unpackaged are available. The simple thing is to stop using plastic bags altogether.

Anarres Natural Health
Anarres Natural Health

Dear Beth,First of all, you are one of the most inspiring, effective people I've ever never met! So you go girl! Second of all, I have good news to report. I believe that the paradigm has shifted now from disposable to durable. Since I started my End of The World of Plastics Campaign, which you inspired along with the Plastic Oceans article, I have only met with support in refusing to take new plastic bags. Here are some changes I've seen in the world:Andrew, the owner of my local health food store, sells bread unbagged in a lovely basket, and sells bio grocery bags if required by the customer. My local Brazillian deli always praises me for bringing my own bag and refusing theirs. "There's too much plastic in the world" the working class man says in his broken English "They are going to ban it, soon!" They serve everything in genuinely recyclable containers.Canada is in the process of reviewing hundreds of suspected toxins in our body products, is banning BPA plastics aimed at babies and is requiring full ingredients disclosure in cosmetics by 2011.Everyone I meet at fairs and events wants to get away from plastic! 20% of people took the plunge to seek alternatives before these were widely available, and I do believe that the majority of people choose durable containers when these are available.All in all, I feel that it's been a brilliant year.Thanks you Beth and thank you, Universe.Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

Cousin Yellowstone
Cousin Yellowstone

This comment is for Hayley.Hayley, it's great that you're thinking about how your father's company could be made more environmental. I have a few suggestions for you.First, recognize that your father has worked hard to earn money to provide for your family, and will probably react badly if you criticize his business decisions. You need to proceed gently and positively. For example, you could go to him and say, "Dad, I've been thinking about all the plastic bottles we throw in our recycling bin, and I was wondering, does your company recycle bottles and use the recycled plastic in the products you sell?" This will go over much better than saying, "Dad! PVC is bad for the environment! You need to stop manufacturing it!" If your father isn't interested in making his company more eco-friendly, don't badger him about it. He will just become annoyed and won't be as likely to listen to other suggestions you make in the future. Most of us who are trying to become more "green" and eliminate plastic from our lives were not always this committed to the environment. We changed slowly, after years of exposure to green ideas. You may be able to influence your father slowly by learning more about green living and implementing small changes in your life. For example, if you are currently driven to school by your parents and it would be practical for you to walk to school instead, you could ask if it would be okay for you to walk to school regularly (at least during nice weather) to cut down on pollution from the car. This type of change may not seem to have anything to do with your father's company, but seeing you behaving environmentally may, over time, make your father think about how he can green his own life.One thing it's important to realize is that companies sell whatever types of products consumers want. Although companies should operate in ways that are less harmful to the environment, ultimately, the responsibility for companies' business practices often lies with us, the people who buy and use those products. Therefore, one of the most important things you can do is to be an eco-conscious consumer. Drink tap water instead of bottled water or soda. When you need to buy paper for school, buy paper that has recycled content. Encourage your friends to do the same. This will influence the conduct of many companies, not just your father's.Try to be patient, because you're likely to find that you can't change your father or his company overnight, and may never be able to change them. The most you can do is gently nudge your father in the right direction, and work on greening your own life.

Juli
Juli

I hope more people in NYC will pay attention to this issue, and SOON: Unless Gov. Paterson acts by Dec. 11, the State law will take effect and nullify NYC's current bag recycling law. If you know anyone who lives in New York, please let them know-- and urge the governor to veto or exempt NYC from the (oxymoronic) "Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act" (S8643A, A11725).

organicneedle
organicneedle

Thanks Juli for the link. I just sent my letter.

Juli
Juli

I hope more people in NYC will pay attention to this issue, and SOON: http://council.nyc.gov/html/action_center/no_to_plastic_bag_bill.shtmlUnless Gov. Paterson acts by Dec. 11, the State law will take effect and nullify NYC's current bag recycling law. If you know anyone who lives in New York, please let them know-- and urge the governor to veto or exempt NYC from the (oxymoronic) "Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act" (S8643A, A11725).

monkeyjen
monkeyjen

(in keeping with organicneedle) Hey Beth - remember when we went Rainbow and that girl in front of us had her reusable shopping bags - and a conveyor belt OVERFLOWING with plastic produce bags? It actually was so conspicuous it was embarrassing. And remember the Vulva Cream tester? Good times.

Hayley
Hayley

Alright, I think I have an obligation to realize the potential changes I could make in the plastic bottle industry.Check this site, per-lease:Those of you who didn't, these are a few quotes from the site:"Pretium Packaging is a leading plastic container and closure manufacturer with production locations across North America. Pretium acquired plants in strategic locations with unique process capabilities in order to create the premier plastic packaging company in the industry, serving the healthcare/pharmaceutical, personal care, food and beverage, household/industrial/automotive chemical and agricultural chemical markets.""Pretium Packaging really is reshaping the plastic packaging industry."------------Okay, seems like a big bad plastic company that would be really hard to get to go eco-friendly, right? And it would take alot of petitions or whatever, and why would some thirteen year old be able to do it any better than someone else?? Im just being stupid, right?Well, wrong in some ways. You see, my father owns it. He is in private equity and that is one of his companies.Oh dear. Now do you see why I feel a responsibility to do something?According to the site"Some of the materials we use frequently include: PET HDPE LDPE PP PVC PS PETG Polycarbonate Other Resins"-----------------------Aren't some of those like PVC really, really bad?And does anyone have an ideas as to how one could make the company greener (other than shutting it down)?I haven't mentioned any of this to my father, he is in private equity so he wants to make money of the company...but I really can't just sit here and watch this! I'm shadowing a highschool class right now (its spanish, not something I would ever consider taking) and I am practically sick to my stomach after reading what some of the income that generated my movie theater or heated bathroom floor is coming from.Does anyone have any ideas at all?Please, I'd like some help. I also don't want to get grounded, so I won't open up my father's address for flame mailing, sorry x)

Hayley
Hayley

Alright, I think I have an obligation to realize the potential changes I could make in the plastic bottle industry.Check this site, per-lease:http://www.pretiumpkg.com/index.htmlThose of you who didn't, these are a few quotes from the site:"Pretium Packaging is a leading plastic container and closure manufacturer with production locations across North America. Pretium acquired plants in strategic locations with unique process capabilities in order to create the premier plastic packaging company in the industry, serving the healthcare/pharmaceutical, personal care, food and beverage, household/industrial/automotive chemical and agricultural chemical markets.""Pretium Packaging really is reshaping the plastic packaging industry."------------Okay, seems like a big bad plastic company that would be really hard to get to go eco-friendly, right? And it would take alot of petitions or whatever, and why would some thirteen year old be able to do it any better than someone else?? Im just being stupid, right?Well, wrong in some ways. You see, my father owns it. He is in private equity and that is one of his companies.Oh dear. Now do you see why I feel a responsibility to do something?According to the site"Some of the materials we use frequently include: PET HDPE LDPE PP PVC PS PETG Polycarbonate Other Resins"-----------------------Aren't some of those like PVC really, really bad?And does anyone have an ideas as to how one could make the company greener (other than shutting it down)?I haven't mentioned any of this to my father, he is in private equity so he wants to make money of the company...but I really can't just sit here and watch this! I'm shadowing a highschool class right now (its spanish, not something I would ever consider taking) and I am practically sick to my stomach after reading what some of the income that generated my movie theater or heated bathroom floor is coming from.Does anyone have any ideas at all?Please, I'd like some help. I also don't want to get grounded, so I won't open up my father's address for flame mailing, sorry x)

Susy
Susy

Mr Chiots and I just ran a Thanksgiving day race and I was horrified that I couldn't use my chip that I purchased several years ago. Our local race here in NE Ohio used disposeable racing chips.

Tanya Seaman
Tanya Seaman

@OrganicNeedle: I was so thrilled when I came across your produce bags as I'd never seen anyone else even talk about them. (Actually, I use mine more for bulk goods.) I made a few for myself years ago and wanted to make some as gifts this year. If I wimp out, expect a visit...

Robbie @ Going Green Mama
Robbie @ Going Green Mama

Carla,Yes, it's true. We are willingly paying $1, $10 or more for Kroger, Target, Wal-mart and just about any other retailer to advertise for them in the name of being green.Is my organization guilty of buying into the trendiness of reusable grocery bags? Sure. But we use them as giveaways at community events, at least we don't charge for them. They go like crazy, which I hope is a positive sign.

Carla
Carla

Along the lines of organicneedle, I have to say that the reuseable PLASTIC (non-biodegradable) shopping bags are a farce. Methinks it will produce the same shocking after alarm as the plastic water bottles. "Oh, we thought we were doing something good, but, then, oops, look at all these fancy, decorative and trendy, yet PLASTIC, reuasable bags overflowing from the trunk of my car."All I can say is use only cloth or otherwise biodegradable reusable shopping bags and pass the word!Is it me or is EVERYONE selling branded reuaseable bags now? Trendy, but really they see the advertising potential. Pssst...don't tell them I narked!Be well, Carla aka OneHealthyGirl.com

organicneedle
organicneedle

Produce Bags!!!!!! Here in the city it is pretty common place to see people bringing the cloth shopping bags and most stores offer cheap ones for sale if you run short or forget, but reusable produce bags were nowhere to be seen. You would see someone with their cotton shopping bag filled with smaller plastic bags. It seemed so wasteful because there really isn't any great use for the bags when you are done with them. What a waste of plastic. Bagless was one option, but where some things can roam free in the cart unharmed and unbruised others things need a little more protection and organization. So...I made my own out of organic cotton lightweight fabric. I got so many comments on them in the markets that I started making them to sell and created Organicneedle. That tiny bit of annoyance took me on a whole new path in life, from grading exams to sewing. Now I spend my days actively seeking out ways to create products that replace the disposable with the reusable. You, Bethikins, have been a huge source of inspiration!