February 20, 2011

Benne’ Rockett, Week 2

(Don’t miss Benne’s rant at the end of this post.)

Name: Benne’ Rockett

Week: 2

Personal Info:
After 27 years of raising children, I am now living alone in my home in Austin, TX.

Read Benne’s Week 1 Post here.

Total items: 8

Total weight: 221g

Items: Recyclable
1 Laundry detergent bottle : #2
1 Bottle of Olive Oil : #1
1 coffee lid : #6
1 coffee can lid : #2
1 zip lock bag for Turbinado Sugar
1 insert bag for boxed cereal
1 plastic bag for produce
1 plastic cover for medication

Items: Nonrecyclable
1 zip lock bag for Turbinado Sugar
1 insert bag for boxed cereal
1 plastic bag for produce
1 plastic cover for medication

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I began a Notes section on my Facebook page last week, after making my first tally. Yesterday, I posted a photo of my alternative to the plastic laundry detergent, namely, I selected a box of Borax. I can buy my sugar, coffee and cereal in bulk, thus eliminating the containment plastic they are generally packed in. I have already changed to a Chico bag for my produce.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Of the items, the only one I would have some resistance toward would be the medication. I am not adverse to finding something more suitable packaged, or at least recyclable.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
None so far. I haven’t searched for the medication replacement at this time.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
So many changes have already taken place! The response from friends and their suggestions has been tremendous. Each one is grateful for the attention I am bringing to the topic. I know that the contest is ending soon, but I can’t see this ending my efforts. I have long been attending the terrible situation of the Pacific Gyre. Many of my friends live on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, and see the issues first hand on the beach. One of these same friends has put me in contact with an ecologist that seeks my help toward lessening the plastic waste in several of the fishing communities. I’m so excited by this prospect as I have been teaching about these issues to children for many years. Now, with her help, I can work with families.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I am determined to find alternatives. If I can’t I am not going to take in anymore plastics of any level.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
Spreading the word to friends! I am so amazed by how receptive everyone has been. They appreciate the reminder and those who have been more conscientious, are feeling well supported. One woman in particular, a crafty seamstress that lives in the Mexico beach area, has decided that instead of using the beautiful oil clothes available for her projects, she is going to hunt for used cotton items, an up-cycled advantage!

RANT
[After sending the above information, Benne’ continued with the following rant about the difficulties of plastic-free shopping.]

I just want to say that I went shopping today and realized that it is much more difficult than I had anticipated. Just finding the type of raw sugar I like in something other than a fancy ziplock bag (by a company called Organics) was nearly impossible. Shopping took twice as long – well, worth the effort as I brought home ZERO plastic. It will get easier as I learn where new items are located…and suspect that I will be going to multiple sources. I still haven’t bought toilet paper because every package was wrapped in plastic.

The biggest one is that I will have to ask my local market to consider carrying alternative products. I will also have to write to the companies I normally support and request changes on their part. I’m really just so surprised by the waste that they are creating. I know I’m just one person but I really do believe that a single voice can become a choir. So many companies profess their products to be “green” yet none of the packaging supports this…I just feel I’ve been walking around in the dark (and I’m suppose to be on the side that reduces waste) HA!

I wanted to purchase a lemon zester but it had a plastic handle. The other choice was wood but it was covered in plastic. Off the the thrift store or vintage shop to find my zester!

I spoke in haste, arrogance and ignorance when I said I would have no issues! LOL!

9 comments
Benne'
Benne'

HELLO WORLD!

I hate to say this, but all the difficulties you are having make me feel less alone. BORAX - one of those perfect product choices that lead to a whole series of other difficult decisions. Not in plastic but causes other environmental problems. Just this weekend I was sharing my crazed concern over plastics with some friends. I am about to run out of shampoo, and so far hadn't found a replacement product not in plastic. Two things came out of this dialogue: 1.) The products needed to make your own shampoo come in plastic containers! 2.) Austin has a store called EcoWise that has large vats of products. I can bring my smaller containers there for a refill! Austin considers its' self to be eco-friendly and progressive. I hope I can take advantage of that false belief! What really happened during this conversation with girlfriends was the raising of questions. When asked, what can I really do to change things, I said, "Your own behavior. Stop using plastic grocery bags and stop buying water in plastic bottles." Two more converts.

The biggest achievement has been finding a way to link this project to the work I do with young activist who help me in my fight against teen dating violence. I've walked the line between artist and activist, especially on the topic of the Pacific Gyre, but until the mindfulness component of this exercise came into my life, I had never linked the two issues. This summer I will be working with 20 youth activist in training. The Issue: We become desinsatized to behaviors, as we do to smells. The house stinks but after a few minutes, we no longer distinguish it as "bad". In violence, the low level forms become common in a students life. Like the stink, they can no longer identify it as a signal that something is wrong. The Link: One plastic bag = one inappropriate word; two plastic bags = a punch in the arm, until the continuum of violence reaches rape. In other words, violence isn't recognized until it reaches its' peak. This it the same with the plastic waste swirling around in the Pacific Gyre. My kids will create a work on violence using images of the plastic waste they photograph on a daily basis. My the end of week 5, and all the education they receive on both topics, we will have a dynamic piece of art, highlighting mindfulness as an active bystander strategy for both topics! I'm so excited and am so grateful that I found this site!

EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)
EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)

I'm joining the group whine about how hard it is to make "good" choices. It's like we're swimming in an ocean of evils, always trying to pick the "lesser" of them... Of course we don't always have all of the information, and trying to sort out which evil is worse than the other often feels like choosing between arsenic and cyanide!

That being said, I was happily using homemade laundry detergent (soap and washing soda) until my 1968 Kenmore finally gave up the ghost and I bit the bullet and bought a fancy schmancy high efficiency washer. At that point I got totally freaked out about using my homemade concoctions because the manual makes it sound like the thing will suffer an untimely and horrible death if you use the wrong detergent. Does anybody know about the safety of various laundry alternatives in HE machines?

Katie M
Katie M

hi benne',

your rant really hit home for me too. i originally thought, "this can't be that hard" and every week hit a new wall. mostly, this has been a giant eye-opener. i give everyone here kudos for going that extra mile, which seems to be one of my biggest challenges. i love your choir analogy, and right now i am just trying the one "step at a time" approach or else i get very overwhelmed and frustrated, especially with the same multiple issues mentioned.

the support of your friends and this group is essential, there is no way i could do this alone.

as for laundry soap: sad to hear there is a mining issue with borax, one of my favorite laundry/cleaning items. i have looked a little into soap nuts but haven't tried them yet. i was looking for a dish soap substitute and have found you can use soap nuts for this which is good since all i found here was beth's funny story about making liquid soap.

Corinne W
Corinne W

Benne and others,

I hear ya! It's getting to the point where grocery shopping is becoming a stressful event for me -- I used to enjoy it. But, it does seem that more and more things are coming wrapped in plastic. My "health food" store and "organic" store are amongst the worst offenders. My latest "rant" is that I bought a box of "organic green tea" in a paper box, opened it at home to discover that EACH teabag was individually wrapped in PLASTIC! Argrgrgr. (yes, letter went out to the manufacturer)

Last, but not least, Beth, you're really an inspiration!

marie
marie

here's something that I'm struggling with. In order to cut cost & reduce plastic waste, I looked into making my own laundry detergent. Borax comes in a box, but is *heavily* mined. While living in London 5 years ago, I bought some kind of reusable laundry pellets that were contained in a plastic (argh) ball that looked like a cat toy. I know that there are some kind of soap nuts out there that I need to invest in. They get points for being renewable & have less shipping weight. My point here is that it's not always just plastic; it's a whole series of decisions - sustainability of production, cost (due to weight) & length of transportation, longevity of product, can I get it used, can I borrow/loan it, cost is a big one, is there an alternative package (bulk sugar), and many others like fair trade. Bottom line is - the more simple I eat and live, the less impact I have. Oh, and the toilet paper issue can be addressed buy purchasing expensive ingividually paper wrapped rolls or by using reusable cloths (search "family wipes" on etsy for ideas on how to make your own. They're just like reusable baby wipes.)

Lisa
Lisa

Yes, why does the packaging seem to get worse and worse? After years, my organic olive oil from Costco just went from a dark glass bottle and mostly tin lid to all plastic. Also I am becoming more aware of those reusable graphic bags from China with a high lead content. The hypocrisy!!! Huge thanks to My Plastic Free Life for getting the work of the brave out there for inspiration. I did not realize this was a contest! The challenge should stay! Do we need a contest?

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Benne', your rant makes me smile because I too get really frustrated sometimes. As a blogger, I get tons of pitches from PR reps to promote their "green" products, and despite the topic of this blog, most of those products comes packaged in plastic. How is it that companies don't think about the total impact of their products, including packaging? Keep writing those letters and speaking up. It's the only way to get the changes we want.