January 29, 2011

Denise Yribarren, Weeks 1-4

Name: Denise Yribarren

Weeks: 1 – 4

Personal Info:
I am a homemaker with one daughter still living at home. I live in Gilbert Az where the only things I seem to be able to grow are zukes, swiss chard , and lettuce. I do day care in my home for a couple of sweet ones.

I am 60 years old and for whatever reason, I am slow to learn my way around computers…For the life of me, I don’t know how to include pictures in my email. Thus I will give a brief narrative of 4 weeks of examining our trash.

Week one: One-third of our trash can was filled with lots of styrofoam packages including egg cartons, taco chips wrapper, and molded plastic containers from the day old bakery section of the market. In terms of composting, each week I took between 5-6 lbs of beet greens, little bits of lettuce etc. I kept all of this in the freezer for the week and then delivered the bag to the local grammar school for their school garden. (perhaps the bag weighed so much since it was frozen). The regular recycling bin was about half full–detergent bottles, shampoo bottles and cardboard. The first week was the most telling…

By week 4, we had trimmed down the trash considerably. I really made an effort to cook and bake more from scratch. Products we really enjoy (like bags of pretzels) prompted me to email several companies and asked what their plans were for more eco friendly packaging. We got the recycling bin down to 1/4 of the bin. For the whole month, the composting increased just slightly.

I am embarrassed to post this without pictures but I put my pride aside and decided to post my observations. My family agreed the main lesson we learned was that we took each item separately and considered was this trash avoidable and what behavior might be more responsible. I speculate that we will continue this project and try to try with earnest to avoid excess packaging and keep cooking from scratch!

[Note: Denise collected all her trash, not just the plastic.]

Total items: 122

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
2 detergent bottles
1 2liter soda bottle (no one is perfect)
12 small yogurt containers
1 wine bottle
1 shampoo bottle
2 cardboard carton of eggs, 4 milk plastic bottles
2 beer cans
3 shoe boxes
25 sheets of paper used on both sides
2 medium size cardboard boxes

Items: Nonrecyclable
4 cellophane meat wrappers, styrofoam meat trays (3), at least 12 cellophane wrappers (chips, bread, 5 cans (?) and a dozen used tissues (family cold). I am sure I neglected to record a few items).

What items can I replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Some cellophane and molded plastic could be avoided with more scratch cooking. I have now replaced my tupperware with glass containers.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
It might kill me but I am willing to give up my occasional soda…

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
I wish my milk would come in glass bottles. They are not available in my area.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I have begun to use our solar oven more and we are also challenging ourselves to try to make cheese.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Plastic containers from day old bakery. I will make that coffee cake myself!

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
To avoid using so much plastic, one must pay attention to what you are doing. No multi-tasking!
Be aware with every decision regarding plastics and trash, you really are affecting your environment!

3 comments
Molly de Vries
Molly de Vries

Denise,

That's so cool that you are in progress. I feel so slow sometimes making so many mistakes. I have to say progress not perfection is the key for me. other wise I would not attempt any of this. So cheers to you for going for it. thank you

EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)
EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)

Hmmm... maybe you could bring your own mug or container or whatever to a take out restaurant and have them fill it with soda for you to get an occasional soda "fix". I actually pretty much gave up soda alltogether after I worked in the kitchen in college and watched the cook use the carbonated water to eat through all of the grease on the grill. If it can do that to the grill, what on earth does it do to our insides?!? That being said, I very occasionally will indulge in a soda (like once every few years) at a restaurant so there's no packaging waste.

I'd also love to hear more about your solar cooker. Did you build yours or buy it? It took me 3 tries to build a solar oven that actually worked, but I finally got there. It has one tiny design flaw though that I haven't figured out how to deal with. The only way I could get the temperature to go high enough was to seal every nook and cranney so that no air could get out. But.... once it gets hot enough to boil water, the cooking food creates steam on the glass which blocks the sun. It's not a huge problem because by that time it's usually time to check the food anyhow, so if it's not done I just wipe the glass off and set it back to cook more, but I wonder how other people have dealt with this problem. Do you have any thoughts?

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Denise, I'm glad you took the challenge even without being able to post a picture. I'd love to hear more about the solar cooker.