February 2, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Jen C, Week 1

Jen's plastic waste

Name: Jen C.

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I am a working mother with a husband and 2 kids. I work full-time and travel for work about once a month. Our community does have limited recycling but is not exactly progressive.

Total items: 35

Total weight: 1 pound, 5 oz

Items: Recyclable
2 milk jugs (1)
bottle of dishwashing detergent (1)
water bottle (1)
These all get picked up by our curbside recycling.

milk caps – not sure the number on these, but my daughter’s school is collecting them to be recycled

Items: Nonrecyclable
Facial tissue box w/ plastic on it
Whey protein powder bag (appears to be plastic-coated aluminum)
Almond milk top
Plastic bags – held:
1/2 lemon that my husband put up
box of cornstarch (had for years)
pasta
a newspaper we don’t order
bedroom slippers at the hotel
the sandwich I bought on the plane (also wrapped in plastic wrap)
loaf of San Francisco sourdough bread
light bulbs
bar of soap
Birth control pill case
plastic-coated card explaining what sourdough bread is
lid to container of soy protein powder
plastic wrap around metal tin of solid lotion bar (sigh!)
wrap around lid of salad dressing
bag of cranberry trail mix
lip balm that went bad
tube of mascara that broke in my suitcase
packet the hotel shower cap came in
gum wrappers
genisoy bar wrapper
styrofoam peanuts the shampoo in aluminum bottles I ordered online came packed in
broken coat hanger
yeast packet
plastic food container
total of 5 plastic cups from my flights (unpictured)

What items can I replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Milk – usually I buy in glass bottles, but the store was out of it b/c of the weather
Water – I always take a refillable bottle with me, but my husband took the kids to a math meet and this returned with them
Mascara – suggestions on brands?
Genisoy bar – I do make homemade protein bars, but my daughter likes these
Styrofoam peanuts – try asking about packing materials
Coat hanger – will buy metal or wood in the future, haven’t bought plastic coat hangers in about 15 years
Yeast packet – ordered yeast in bulk from King Arthur Flour
Plastic food container – switching to glass containers
Soap – will purchase unpackaged soap or soap packaged in paper
Trail mix – buy in bulk
lip balm – buy in metal container
slippers/shower cap – don’t use or bring my own
plastic cups – bring my own cup on the plane
ziplock bags – use reusable containers instead
almond milk – make my own

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Gum – switching to mints in metal tins after I found out there is plastic IN gum!

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
The sourdough bread from San Francisco was a special treat for my husband, & I go there once a year tops. Usually I bake my own bread.
Dishwashing detergent
Protein powder (although I have reduced the amount of plastic by no longer buying it in large plastic containers)
Pasta – I can’t find it packaged without some amount of plastic. Will check one other place in town
Light bulbs
Birth control pill packet
Facial tissues

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Make homemade almond milk
Take a cup with me when I travel
Pack more food when I travel & look for food not packaged in plastic before I board the plane (might not be realistic)
Switch to handkerchiefs? Not sure on this one because of the germ factor.
Educate my family (further) on reducing plastic waste

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Gum

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
Although I felt that I was already doing a lot to reduce my plastic consumption (bringing my own bags and containers to the store, using a refillable water bottle, buying milk in glass bottles), I still have a long way to go.

I especially need suggestions on plastic-free makeup and where to buy a good non-breakable travel cup.

8 comments
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[...] recently is a plastic tally.  Please check out my week one report on Beth Terry’s blog, My Plastic-Free Life. It was very disturbing to realize how much disposable plastic we are still using in our [...]

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Jen, just contact the seller and ask them not to package with plastic. In fact cloth hankies could just be mailed in a plain cardboard letter-sized mailer without any other packaging or tape. But you'll have to let the seller know or they might put them in a plastic bag to protect them.

Glad you found the dishwashing soap! Let me know how it works for you. I haven't tried it.

Jen C.
Jen C.

Well, I went ahead and bid on some hankies on e-bay. The other nice thing about getting them from e-bay is that I have a fighting chance of them not being encased in plastic!

EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)
EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)

I'm a hankie convert too. I find that it's nice to have a selection of sizes and thicknesses to choose from. I bought some on eBay years ago, and then decided that they couldn't be too hard to make, so I've made most of mine from old clothing. I also dug up some old bandanas that I had laying around and use them at home (they're too big to comfortably shove in a pocket.)

I thought there would be a huge ick factor at first, but have been pleasantly surprised. Most of the time when you need a hankie it's just to wipe a runny nose... no gunk involved. Plus, it seems like my allergies have improved (I think I was bothered by the dust from the paper tissues) and come to think of it, I have hardly been sick at all since I switched. Probably just a coincidence, but who knows...

You might as well give it a try, you don't have much to lose!

Pheas
Pheas

Ooh, Jen, you may be right about the bread. I was so excited about the paper bag that I suppressed finding the plastic bag later.

I like antique stores for handkerchiefs. Sometimes you can get a good deal if you look through a stack. eBay might be another option I switched to handkerchiefs probably a decade ago, and I love them. They're not only environmental, but they are easy on the nose and elegant at the same time.

Jen C.
Jen C.

Thanks! I found and ordered the solid dishwashing soap. The bread I bought appeared to be in a paper bag, but when I got it home I found that the bread was in a plastic bag inside the paper bag. Very disappointing.

I don't even know where to buy handkerchiefs any more! Will have to look into that. My youngest daughter is requesting softer tissues for her poor torn up nose, and I think a cloth hanky would be a relief for her.

Pheas
Pheas

I was thrilled to find sourdough in paper bags at the SF airport during a recent visit. And it was delicious!

I have been using handkerchiefs for years with no ill effects. In fact, I can't stand using flimsy paper tissue anymore. As long as you launder regularly and do not share used handkerchiefs, germs should not be a problem. I will cave and use paper tissue when I'm really sick, just because I don't have the volume of handkerchiefs! But I get the kind that don't have plastic in the box.

Travel is really challenging. I'm glad Beth posted on this.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Jen. Thanks for taking the challenge!

One thing -- you can get great sourdough bread in SF not in a plastic bag. Of course, you'd have to figure out a way to get it back to Alabama without drying out. At home I use a breadbox.

Traveling can be hard. I just wrote a post today about plastic-free travel.

I wash my dishes with baking soda. Really. There's also an Etsy seller that makes a great dishwashing bar. I'll find the link for you...

Facial tissues -- maybe consider using a hankie instead?

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  1. […] recently is a plastic tally.  Please check out my week one report on Beth Terry’s blog, My Plastic-Free Life. It was very disturbing to realize how much disposable plastic we are still using in our […]