Monthly Archives: January 2010

Plastic-Free Birthday

It’s my birthday! So how will I celebrate?

Mixt Greens RestaurantWell, first with a birthday lunch at work. Group lunches at the office are always challenging because of the packaging associated with take-out food. But fortunately, there’s a new lunch place in San Francisco I’ve been dying to try: Mixt Greens.

Mixt Greens is certified green under the Bay Area Green Business program. Their food is organic. Their packaging is compostable. And even the restaurant itself is constructed to green standards.

Next? We’ll see . Karaoke this weekend? A movie? A walk on the beach? I haven’t decided yet. Hoping to get together with Ruchi, aka Arduous, and hang out some.

I think I probably won’t blog again until next week. So cheers. Thanks for all your support. And keep away from plastic this weekend. :-)

2009 Plastic Waste: 3.7 pounds! New 2010 Resolutions

2009 is over, and I’m thrilled to report that my new collected plastic for the year comes in at 3.7 pounds, roughly 4% of the U.S. per capita average. Geeks out there can check my calculations at the bottom of this post.

Beth Terry's 2009 Plastic Waste Collection

I created a little video for you guys showing me dumping out my plastic (complete with music and special effects!) describing what I generated and explaining how I got away with so little and why it (hopefully) will be even less next year. For those who can’t hear it, I’ve got a summary below.  And for those reading this post via email or reader, here is the link:

Breakdown of Beth’s Plastic Waste for 2009

Note: My plastic waste (as well as that of the nation) was calculated BEFORE recycling. In other words, anything recyclable is still included in the tally. But note: I don’t include waste for which the company practices Extended Producer Responsibility and takes back their own products for recycling. (Like HP print cartridges or Preserve toothbrushes.) The recyclable waste I add to my collection is the stuff that goes in my curbside bin because I have no way of knowing what’s actually happening to it.

Also note that this is only waste generated after I began this project.  Anything I already had before June 2007 is not included.

1) Cat-related items (cat litter bags, BalanceIT supplement for homemade cat food, Frontline flea treatments) came in at 2 pounds, which means my own personal plastic waste was only 1.7 pounds.

Goal for 2010: Mix our World’s Best Cat Litter with SweatScoop, which comes in a paper bag, to cut down on cat litter bag waste.

2) Electronics-related packaging: Battery charger and rechargeable batteries to avoid disposables; camera packaging and battery when my own camera was stolen; cell phone & memory card packaging when I switched to Credo Mobile I could continue using my old phone.

Goal for 2010: No new electronics.  None.  Hoping nothing breaks and that if anything does, I can replace it with an already used version.

3) Expired credit and gift cards

Goal for 2010: Not much I can do about these.

4) Medical Waste: Prescription and OTC bottles & a few bandaids

Goal for 2010: Cut down on medicines.  Try making my own versions of cough syrups and other OTC meds.

5) Dental: toothpaste tube & caps from recyclable aluminum tubes. Note: This waste doesn’t include Preserve toothbrushes, which I send back to Preserve.

Goal for 2010: Stick to Tom’s in aluminum tubes until someone comes up with biodegradable packaging.  (Organic Essence’s tube?)

6) Food-related waste: Plastic caps from glass milk bottles and other glass bottles, as well as plastic bottle neck seals;  two plastic wine corks; a couple of wrappers; a few condiment containers and one straw from a take-out place; and seals from pints of ice cream that I couldn’t resist.

Goal for 2010: Continue learning ways to make my own foods to avoid waste.  Be even more diligent in restaurants.  Cut down on milk and ice cream, which I have a feeling are contributing to my health problems.

7) Laundry-related waste: One detergent scoop when we made the mistake of trying a brand we don’t normally use.

Goal for 2010: Just stick to the plastic-free laundry products I’m using.

8) Exercise-related waste: Tyvek race tag & related plastic from Bay to Breakers

Goal for 2010: Get more of these.  Seriously.  I need to start running again.  Get out of my head and away from the computer.  Races are awesome.  And race tags seem to be inevitable.

9) Shipping and mail-related plastic: Packing tape; envelope windows; plastic envelopes from finance company.

Goal for 2010: This is a BIG one.  Be firmer with shippers about switching to paper tape, and cut down on the amount of stuff I’m buying in the first place.  If a company wants to send me a free review sample, they must commit to no plastic packaging in order to send it to me.  Also, continue getting off mailing lists.

10) Clothing: a few tag hangers that you can’t even see because they are so small.

Goal for 2010: Buy fewer clothes and stick to second hand stores as much as possible.  (Although honestly I didn’t buy that much throughout 2009.)


(Drum roll please)

The Fake Plastic Fish BOOK! I’ve been wanting to write this book and scared witless of it for the past year.  I created an introduction that turned out really sucky and scrapped it.  Every time I think about it, I want to throw up or pass out.  I’m getting nervous even writing these words right now.  But maybe, just maybe, by putting it out there publicly like this, I have to do it.

So, please understand if I don’t post here as often.  Or tweet.  Or update my Facebook status.  Or answer emails.   Or do any of the other things that I like to do instead of writing my book.  It’s all in my head, actually.  But unfortunately, you guys can’t read my mind.

Or can you?

So, what are your goals for 2010?

How I arrived at the 4% average:

1) According to the EPA, the total trash generated in the U.S. in 2008 came out to 4.5 pounds per person per DAY!

2) But of this, only 55 – 65% was residential, which is basically what I’m interested. Of course, the residential trash doesn’t count the stuff generated from restaurants and tossed by us before we get home. So my figure of 4% could actually be higher than it should be.

3)  Also, of the total waste generated in 2008, the EPA estimates that 12% of it was plastic.  ( The California Integrated Waste Management Board goes further, and estimates that at least in California, the 2003 residential plastic waste was 9.4% of the total for residences. (

4)  Here are the upper and lower calculations:

4.5 lbs/day x 365 days x 55% x 9.4% = 84.9 pounds of plastic waste per person per year

4.5 lbs/day x 365 days x 65% x 12% = 128.1 pounds of plastic waste per person per year

5) 3.7 pounds of my own waste / 84.9 pounds national = 4.4%

3.7 pounds of my own waste / 128.1 pounds national = 2.9 %

So, I just chose a figure towards the high end so as not to over estimate my own percentage.  If you would have done it differently, please let me know.

This post is included in the New Years Resolutions Green Moms Carnival hosted by Katy at Non-Toxic Kids.

Reducing Plastic Waste: Dec 15 – 31 2009 Collection Results

7.4oz of Plastic Waste

Beth's plastic waste - Year 3 Month 6.5

2009 is over. Another year of collecting and tallying my own plastic waste. Turns out, my total 2009 plastic collection  adds up to roughly 4% of the national average. Really. But I’ll have much more on that in a special post on Monday. This post represents the last bit of plastic waste generated in 2009. It will be short because today finds me in this condition:

Beth hunched over pot of steaming eucalyptus water trying to clear her sinuses

Just trying to clear my sinuses with eucalyptus steam and get rid of the blinding headache I’ve been carrying around for the last four days.  Are you tired of hearing me kvetch yet?

Alright, here’s the plastic tally from 12/16 to 12/31/09:

Plastic purchased before June 15 2007 and used up in the last half month:

  • One bottle of Nyquil plus cap. One of the cough medications I wrote about this week, and for which I have found several homemade alternatives.  (See link at bottom of this post.)
  • Duct tape. Removed from under the sink during bathroom plumbing surgery.
  • Plastic wrapper from The Hours DVD. Purchased long before the project began and finally opened this year. All those other DVDs and CDs I wrote about last week? Sold, baby! Sold to Amoeba Music. I got rid of so many, I was also able to sell my CD tower via Craigslist. And the culling has just begun!

New plastic waste:

  • Scotch tape from a Christmas gift received. Mostly, I didn’t receive presents this year (as requested), or givers were conscientious about skipping the plastic for me, or I regifted the rest.
  • One plastic seal from around a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Um… I know I said last time that I wouldn’t succumb to this stuff anymore.  I guess I lied.  I went a little nutty on Christmas.  I guess it was one little way to celebrate.
  • One plastic seal and plastic ring from a carton of Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche. Another Christmas Day indulgence.
  • Bottle of Prometh Cough Syrup with codeine, plus cap and plastic cup. The other cough medicine I wrote about this week.  See below.
  • Bottle of Rolaids plus cap. Once again, see link below.
  • Two prescription bottles & caps. Prescription bottles are not refillable by pharmacies where we live. But #5 Rx bottles can be dropped off to Preserve through their Gimme 5 program.
  • Plastic window from Greenlite CFL light bulb package. Replaced a burned out incandescent light bulb.
  • One plastic Straus milk cap. Straus milk comes in returnable glass bottles, but the caps are still plastic. Read about Straus milk below.
  • One plastic-lined Yogi tea packet. From a friend’s house.  It looked like paper on the outside.  You can’t tell until you open these things.
  • Three plastic envelope windows. Two from Safeco Insurance and one from Sierra Club.  See post about envelope windows below. (Our local Sierra Club uses glassine, but this one came from the national org.)
  • One plastic bag World’s Best Cat Litter. While I’m not ready to completely give up this brand of cat litter, I am planning to cut down in 2010 by combining it with Swheat Scoop wheat litter, which comes in a paper bag.  Swheat Scoop is not as effective at odor control or clumping as World’s Best, but mixing them together seems to work okay.  See post about cat litter saga below.

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