May 10, 2010

Barbara Watts, Week 1

Barbara Watts's plastic waste

Name: Barbara Watts

Personal Info:
My boyfriend and I live together in St. Petersburg, Florida. When he heard I was going to do this, he said he wanted to participate also. We are both in our 50’s. Bob is going to school in the morning and work in the afternoon. I am working from home right now. I watch my 5 month old grandson 5 days a week, but I did not include his diapers.

Total items: 40

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
3 gatorade bottles
1 water bottle
1 chinese food tray #5
1 brita filter – goes to gimme 5
5 shopping bags – get reused or go back to store
1 bread bag – get reused or go back to store
1 bagel bag – get reused or go back to store
1 styrofoam egg carton goes back to store

Items: Nonrecyclable
4 styrofoam meat trays and plastic
4 styrofoam coffe cups with tops
1 chip bag
2 veggie wrappers
1 grape bag
1 coffee bag
1 spice container
1 milk container not recyclable in our area
1 ice cream carton
1 oatmeal top
4 emergenC packets
1 frozen dog food bag
3 baggies
The trash bag at the top was our trash for the week. That includes all the babies diapers. 1 trash bag

What items can I replace with plastic free or less plastic?
The shopping bags are something I am trying to help Bob with. He has a hard time remembering to take cloth bags. I have one in my purse, so I usually don’t need plastic. We did find coffee in a paper bag. Bob needs a good alternative to the styrofoam coffee cups. I have invested in glass storage containers to get away from baggies. I am also looking for a good way to carry take out food.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
All of Bob’s stuff (haha jk)
That’s hard because I have already done a lot of giving up and switching.

What Items are essential and do not have a plastic alternative?
We live in the city and don’t have easy access to a farmers market or farms. The essentials would be:
egg cartons
meat trays
ice cream carton – yep essential
frozen dog food
bags that fruit and veggies are packaged in.
milk or half and half cartons
bags for bread products
corn chips

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I did just switch from liquid shower soap to bar soap. Easy change I had not thought of before. I tried to go no-poo for two weeks but could not get it right. My hair was a mess. I am now using a high priced shampoo from the health food store and wish I could get the no-poo thing to work. I am planning on making cloth bags for the fruits and veggies we can get unpackaged. There is a new bar-b-que place that just opened up and I asked the owner if I could bring my own container for take out. Little things like that.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
no more baggies for me. I am going to ask Bob to keep a couple of cloth bags in his truck.

Are there any other conclusions I can draw?
The exercise was a big help for us. I didn’t realize how fast it would pile up. Now I can see more clearly where we need to cut down. We didn’t save our plastics this week, but will start again on Saturday.


Barbara, the shampoo thing is hard but I believe you can purchase bar shampoo. This is something I am trying myself.


If you are interested in trying to make it to some farmer's markets, I just found this great site for Florida: It lists all the markets in each county (including Pinellas), so that may help you find one close to you.

Also, a local-food store here in Gainesville, FL has begun selling cloth produce bags. They are mesh drawstring bags that are washable and roughly the same size as the plastic ones. The only drawback to using them so far has been that the baggers at the major grocery stores do not understand what they are.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Good to see Florida represented.

I'm so glad taking the challenge was helpful to you and that you plan to do it again. I really believe that we can't know where to begin until we see what our personal impact is in the first place.

I have a few suggestions if you'd like them.

1) Gatorade -- if this is a necessity, would you consider buying large bottles instead of individual bottles? That would at least save plastic. Another suggestion is to buy the powdered mix and add the water yourself. That's what my husband does. It comes in a plastic container, but you will use a lot less plastic than buying Gatorade with the water already in it. Just a thought.

2) Styrofoam coffee cups -- would Bob take and use a travel mug? I love my stainless steel mug. I don't know about where you live, but here some coffee places actually give discounts for bringing your own mug. And it's not just coffee shops. I've even used my own mug at 7-Eleven in several different states. Yeah, the clerk will look a little confused at first, but if you know how many ounces your mug is, they can figure out what size to charge you for.

3) A good way to carry take-out food: there are some great stainless steel containers you can check out. Some that I like are LunchBots (, To-Go Ware ( or many of the containers from Live Without Plastic. ( The tricky thing is remembering to bring them with you. LunchBots are fairly flat, so they can fit in a purse. Unfortunately, they are not airtight, so if you put anything wet in them, you have to carry it in your hands so it doesn't leak. Life Without Plastic sells some airtight containers. Or you might find other brands that you like. Camping stores like REI can also be a course of stainless steel containers.


.-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Plastic-Free Living Discussion, Part 2 =-.