Author Archives: Beth Terry

January 13, 2016

Why Buy It New When I Can Make It Myself?

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There are a lot of things I make myself to avoid products in plastic packaging.  I make my own chocolate syrup, for example, to avoid the kind in the squeeze bottle.  And I’ve made my own cleaning and personal care products for years.  But when it comes to durable goods, I’ve often opted to let someone else make it, relying on the handiwork of artisans on Etsy, for example.  And while it’s great to support small business owners, my Buy Nothing New challenge is not going to allow that, which is cool because all of a sudden, I’ve rediscovered the joy of knitting and the feeling of pride that comes from making things with my own two hands again.

My First Scarf in Years

I used to knit all the time.  In fact, I went through a period of compulsively knitting things for every person I knew.  Why then, did I find myself on Etsy, this past November, searching for the perfect handmade scarf?  I don’t know, but luckily,… Read the rest

January 11, 2016

Buying Nothing New in 2016

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I’m not going to buy anything new this year.  Except food.  And soap.  And toilet paper.  Recycled toilet paper.  Okay, let me start over.  I’m not going to buy any new, non-consumable things.  Except I already have.  Yesterday.  So, what’s all this about?

After spending the last eight years of my life avoiding new plastic (plastic products and plastic packaging), I suddenly found myself in 2015 obsessed with not only avoiding new plastic but also replacing the minute amount of existing plastic in my house with brand new, mostly expensive, plastic-free products, which is exactly what I had decided NOT to do when I started this project.  Off the top of my head, these are some things I replaced this year:

Plastic drain board replaced with this heavy, Amish-made stainless steel drain board. Garlic press with plastic-coated grips replaced with an all stainless Rosle garlic press. Vegetable… Read the rest
December 10, 2015

Brush with Bamboo Introduces Partially Plant-Based Bristles

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 Yesterday, I wrote about toothbrush companies incorrectly claiming that their toothbrush bristles were biodegradable, and I mentioned that I personally use a Brush with Bamboo toothbrush.  It’s not perfect, and the bristles are not biodegradable, but the difference is that the company isn’t claiming that they are.  And, after much research, they have come out with an upgraded toothbrush with bristles made from plant-based plastic instead of petroleum-based plastic.  Yes, they are still plastic.  But the company is striving to get away from fossil fuels, and I think this new bristle could be a step in the right direction.

Watch this video about the Kumar family and all of the steps they have taken not only to develop the most sustainable toothbrush, but also to create an urban educational organic farm in their neighborhood.

What I Like About Brush with Bamboo

The polyamide bristles are made from 62% castor bean… Read the rest
December 8, 2015

The Truth About Your Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush

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There’s no perfect toothbrush, but some toothbrushes are less perfect than others, and sadly, a few of them aren’t even what they claim to be.  Here are a few disappointing facts I have learned recently about other companies’ toothbrushes.

Fully Compostable = Animal-Based

Right now, the only completely compostable toothbrush has a handle made from sustainably harvested wood and  bristles made from pig hair.  The pig hair is a by-product of the Chinese meat industry.  It would normally have been thrown away.  If you eat meat, perhaps this toothbrush would be the right decision for you.  I personally have chosen not to use it because the only meat I eat comes from humanely raised animals from local farms in Sonoma or Marin Counties.  Since I don’t know how the Chinese pigs are treated, I don’t feel comfortable using their bristles for a toothbrush.  Perhaps one of the local pig farms out here… Read the rest

November 25, 2015

Homemade Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. Goodbye Campbell’s!

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via Lotherington on Flickr

Happy almost Thanksgiving, Americans.  For those of you for whom Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be right without green bean casserole, I present: DIY organic condensed cream of mushroom soup that honestly tastes better than Campbell’s.  It’s so good, I was eating it straight out of the pan with a spoon last night.  I hope I still have enough tomorrow to make my casserole.  (Only sort of kidding.  This recipe makes a lot!)

Three years ago, I confessed to my weakness for casseroles that contain Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.  Now, there’s all sorts of badness associated with that product:  from the BPA and/or other mystery plastic lining the can to the non-organic, factory farmed ingredients.  Still, I couldn’t imagine living without it…

…until now.  My recipe is a modified version of this one I found at Deep South Dish.  Warning:  … Read the rest

November 23, 2015

New (and Old) Tools to Eliminate Plastic Straws

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By now, many or most of you have seen the shocking viral video of a sea turtle with a plastic drinking straw stuck up its nose and the team of ocean researchers attempting to pull it out.  I don’t normally like to begin posts with gruesome images, but in this case, I’m hoping this video will not simply horrify you but also fill your heart with compassion and spur you to action.  It’s 8 minutes long, and if you have the patience to watch the entire thing, it’s worth it.… Read the rest

October 26, 2015

Lovely Naked Lettuce (and Other Pretty Plastic-Free Produce)

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Lettuce wraps are my new best friend.  I don’t love salad, but I’ve discovered (very late to the party) that nice fat lettuce leaves can substitute for any bread-type product.  In fact, I can’t think of a single type of sandwich, be it on bread, bagels, tortillas, or any other grain-based leavened baked good, that can’t be made even better (and of course healthier) by using lettuce instead.   (Okay, grilled cheese.  But I’ll figure out a way.)

The thing is, I can’t buy lettuce just anywhere.  Why?  Because, in the immortal words of Jeb Berrier in the film, Bag It, “I like my lettuce loose, like my ladies.” Or something like that.  It’s 1am, and I don’t feel like looking it up.  But most lettuce, even if it’s not wrapped in plastic, has either a plastic band or a big fat twist tie around it.

And while some of those twist ties are wire and paper instead of plastic, I’d… Read the rest

August 24, 2015

My Favorite Plastic-Free Sandwich and Snack Baggies and Containers

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Are you still relying on plastic baggies, bags, or containers to pack lunches for school or work? Are you concerned about the chemicals that can leach out of plastics into the foods you or your kids eat? A lot of plastic food containers are touted as BPA-free. But BPA-free does not necessarily mean safe because the chemicals used in place of BPA can have the same harmful effects. And plastics like polypropylene may contain antibacterial chemicals like Triclosan, which have been found to leach.

Here are a few of my favorite reusable cloth and stainless steel sandwich/snack baggies or containers.  My criteria for selecting them as my favorites are that 1) they contain the least amount of plastic or other synthetic polymer, and 2) I know and respect the owners of the companies that make them.  This is by no means an exhaustive list of the offerings out there.  And yes, two of these companies are advertisers on this site: I chose them as sponsors … Read the rest

August 2, 2015

One Week Without Plastic Trash in Germany

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The following is a guest post by two German students, Laura and Sophie, who tried an experiment to live one week without plastic trash.  Click here to check out their blog and read this story in the original German.  These posts reveal their successes, frustrations, and attempts at trying new things (like black coffee!)  Please enjoy, and if you know of good resources in Germany, please be sure and leave a comment for them.

Sophie:

The first plastic-free shopping

The first plastic free shopping was not that easy. Once you enter the supermarket, you notice that there is almost nothing you can buy as you would normally do. Usually I am going to the supermarket and buy the things I like the most and which are affordable. But now there is a restriction: no plastic package. Here in Germany, they do not offer the vegetables I am always buying without plastic package. So I have to take another salad and different apples and put them into my reusable bag. Somehow… Read the rest

August 2, 2015

Homemade Tooth Powder and Facial Scrub Recipes, Sans Plastic Microbeads

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Neutrogena Deep Clean gentle scrub still contains microbeads as of 08/02/2105. Photo from Drugstore.com website.

Are you still rubbing plastic all over your face?

Since I first reported on microbeads–those tiny bits of plastic added to facial scrubs, toothpaste, and other personal care products–in 2007 and then again in 2013, the NY Times has reported on them, several U.S. states have passed legislation to ban them,  Canada is on the verge of banning them, and the Story of Stuff Project has created a video and campaign to get other states and countries to follow suit.  (Please follow that link, if you haven’t already, to take action and ask your representatives to ban microbeads where you live.)

But the trouble with some of  the proposed legislation is that it allows companies to switch to “biodegradable” plastic microbeads.  That’s a problem because most “biodegradable”… Read the rest