This is a follow-up from last weekend’s post, Plastic-Free Living: Let’s Talk. Thanks for all the input while I was away last weekend. Now, it’s my turn to join the discussion and ask a few questions of my own.
But first! I must share with you the cutest video EVER about going green. Fake Plastic Fish reader Amanda created this video starring Puglet, a dog with a green conscience. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKoLBSK8SSE)
The video received so many hits on Youtube, it lead to an interview on the Today Show. Amanda is currently working with Puglet on a new video covering a topic that is near and dear to my heart. You will have to watch to the end of this Today Show interview to find out what that is…
Okay, and now back to the plastic-free living discussion…
1) Plastic-free sunscreen. It’s a great question, and I don’t have a perfect answer. I wrote about my sunscreen dilemma back in September of 2008, and got quite a few tips from Fake Plastic Fish readers. Some readers had non-sunscreen suggestions: Avoid being out in the sun from 11am – 2pm. Wear a hat, longer sleeves, and stick to the shade. (I did actually buy a crocheted organic cotton sun hat last year, but I have yet to wear it.) One reader suggested carrying a parasol. Cute. But not exactly practical for everyday getting around town. Tracey TieF had suggestions for making your own sunscreen. Check out the full sunscreen discussion. You might find some ideas that work for you.
The following year, after I gave up and bought a plastic tube of Alba Botanica fragrance-free mineral sunscreen (which is 7% titanium dioxide and free of parabens and nanoparticles), Allie from The Greenists recommended Vivesana sunscreen, which comes in a metal tube but does have a plastic cap. I haven’t tried it because I still have the other stuff left. So that’s another idea.
Anyone else have a suggestion?
2) How to get newspapers delivered without the plastic sleeve. The only way this will ever change is if enough of us speak up. Call and say you don’t want the plastic and that if they refuse to deliver it any other way, you will cancel your subscription and read the paper online instead. Get your friends to call. Get your neighbors to call. Take a petition around the neighborhood and get people to sign it. Write a letter to the editor about how wasteful the plastic bags are. Finally, ask yourself if you really need to have the paper delivered in the first place. Maybe you do. But maybe it’s just one more unnecessary habit.
Has anyone had success getting the plastic newspaper bag problem solved?
3) How to interact with people who don’t support your plastic-free lifestyle. Suzy Q said she is having a hard time with her mother who insists that Suzy cannot be plastic-free around her. Personally, unless someone has me tied up and is shoving plastic into my mouth, I don’t see how they can force me to do anything I don’t want to do.
Let me be clear. I don’t preach to my friends, family, or co-workers about how they should live. I’m not shy with my opinions, that’s for sure. But I make clear that they are my opinions and that I’m not here to judge other people. After that, they can agree or disagree, but I’m not interested in getting into an argument about my choices. And most of the people I love actually have made big changes, which I don’t think they would have made if I had been nagging at them to change.
4) Plastic-free dog poop solutions. That is the million dollar question. Reader ChokingPlanet considers using old newspapers. That might be a good option. Or, if your life is not completely plastic-free, how about other types of bags like old bread bags, chip bags, cereal bags, stuff like that. (You could even ask your dog-free neighbors to donate theirs via Freecycle.) It’s true that if the dog poop is just going into the landfill, there really isn’t any point in investing in compostable poop bags. In a landfill, those bags will just generate methane gas. Whatever you do, please avoid taking brand new plastic bags for the purpose of picking up poop.
For those who are able, there is a system for composting dog poop in your backyard. I haven’t tried this myself (because we don’t have a dog) but I’d be interested to hear from someone who has. Here are instructions for making your own dog waste composter. And here is a dog waste composter you can buy.
There is a flushable dog poop bag, but I have to say I’m skeptical. It’s touted as a fully biodegradable plastic, and yet it is made from a synthetic polymer derived from polyvinyl acetate. And I wonder what effect it could have on our plumbing. Michael and I do flush our cat poop and litter (the poop is toxo-free and the litter is made from wheat), but they are not wrapped up in a bag, and we let the litter and poop sit in the toilet and break down for at least 20 minutes before flushing. The poop bags, on the other hand, will get soft in the toilet but will not actually fall apart until after they are flushed. What would happen if the bag got caught on something in the pipes in the mean time? Same reason I don’t recommend flushable diapers, but that’s a rant for another day.
5) What to do about plastic buttons on clothes. I confess that I did have that mini melt down that one time about the plastic beads and plastic buttons on my clothes. But then I snapped out of it. (ba dum dum) Let’s focus our energy where it can do the most good the quickest. Until we’ve gotten the big sources of disposable plastics out of our homes and lives, I think we can stop worrying about buttons. Just make sure they’re sewn on well enough not to fall off.
6) Scrubbing the tub. I use baking soda, a scrub brush or a loofah, and some muscle grease. But I have to admit that I am not the most diligent house cleaner in the world. (Okay Michael, you can stop laughing because you aren’t either.) Sari, who asked this question, said she has a fiber glass tub, which is harder to clean. Ours is… um… whatever old tubs are made out of. What ARE old tubs made out of? Anyway, it’s definitely not plastic. So, plastic tubs are hard to clean, I gather. One more vote against plastic. Anyone have ideas for a good way to clean a fiber glass tub?
7) Plastic-Free berries. Sometimes we can’t find berries without a plastic container. Since we shop at the farmers market, we just ask the vendor if we can empty the berries into our own bag or container and if they will reuse their plastic container instead of throwing it away. Many of them will! Our strawberry vendor is always happy to have the green plastic basket back again to reuse. You can’t do this in the grocery store, but it works great at the farmers market.
8) Storing emergency supplies. This is a really good question from a reader in hurricane country. And as someone who lives in earthquake country, I have to admit that I have been very, very remiss in this area. If we had an earthquake right now and no drinkable water for a week, we would be screwed. So what to do? Storing water in plastic is not healthy. And yet dying of thirst is even less healthy. Eating food from BPA-lined cans is not healthy. But starving is worse.
You can store water in big opaque polypropylene drums, which is better than clear PET bottles or hard polycarbonate jugs (like those on a water cooler) which can leach chemicals. Polypropylene (#5 plastic) is considered to be the safest for food. Recently, we have learned that it too can leach chemicals, but I think that in an emergency situation, water in a PP container is better than no water at all.
I have often wondered if there were stainless steel containers for storing large amounts of water. I mean, if you can store beer in a stainless steel keg, why not water? But I’ve never really looked into it. Anyone want to take on that project and report back? I’ll love you forever for it!
And speaking of beer containers…
9) Beverage containers at wild college parties. What does a party monster do when she wants to throw a bash but doesn’t have enough glasses for everyone and worries they’d get broken anyway? My idea is just to pick up a whole bunch of cheap glasses and mugs from Goodwill. Does anyone else have anything better? Besides not drinking? I’m guessing that’s not an option in this case. ;-)
Okay, there were a lot more questions, but these are all I have the time and energy to tackle today. Please chime in with your ideas, and I’ll address the second half of last weekend’s questions maybe next weekend. This is kinda fun.