September 30, 2010

Jessica Connolly, Week 1

Jessica Connolly's plastic waste

Name: Jessica Connolly

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I have been living in San Francisco, CA since August 2007, originally from Los Angeles, CA *sigh*.

I live in a flat with 3 other women whom I go to college with at SFSU, and have a boyfriend who does not live with us. I am a Recycling/Educational Intern at Recology San Francisco and have been with the company since September 2009. Since I began learning about garbage, recycling, composting, reduction, etc, I have been dedicated to changing my consumer habits and make better decisions for the betterment of our planet. However, it is extremely difficult to live a totally plastic-free life; though I am committed to making it happen!

Total items: 30* different items, or 50 individual items

Total weight: 12 ¼ ounces

Items: Recyclable

List of Hard Plastics:
(1) 27-oz organic yogurt container, #5 PP, and lid #2 HDPE
(2) 6-oz single-serving organic yogurt container, #5 PP
(7) Individual Dentek floss/toothpicks, #6 PS
(1) 8-oz cream cheese container, #5 PP, and lid, #2 HDPE
(2) 14-oz Extra Firm Tofu container, #2 HDPE
(1) Gable top seal for half-n-half, #5 PP
(2) Plastic Straws, don’t know the resin
(1) Lid for Icee Cup, #1 PET?
(3) 8-oz Ensure “Nutritional” Drinks, #5 PP, and Lids, probably #2 HDPE

Soft Plastics that will be taken to Safeway:
(1) Tapioca Bread Bag (external bag), yes, there is an internal bag too… #4LDPE
(5) Coverings of National Geographic Magazine, #4LDPE
(1) Organic Cotton Ball Bag, #4 LDPE
(1) Frozen Tamale Bag, #4 LDPE
(1) Deli Bag for cheese, #4 LDPE
(1) Shrink wrap covering a CD case, #4 LDPE
(2) Sandwich-sized baggies to store cheese in the fridge, #4 LDPE
(1) 10-pack of corn tortillas, #4 LDPE

Items: Nonrecyclable

(1) Raisin Bag, #4 LDPE
(1) Set of Earplugs, what are these made from anyway?
(1) 8-oz cream shave container
(1) Film plastic for deli cheese
(1) 2-oz Kiss My Face Sunscreen
(1) Dried Cranberry Bag
(1) Tempe Bag
(1) internal Tapioca Bread bag
(1) Packet of powder of cheese Inside Mac ‘n’ Cheese Box
(1) Envelope Window
(3) Packets of Fruit Snacks
(1) Seal around pint of ice cream
(1) Tab for bread bag
(3) Produce Stickers

What items can I replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I can buy yogurt in glass deposit jars, or learn to make it when I have some free time.

The Ensure drinks are a temporary item in my life because I had surgery about 6 weeks ago and have been trying to maintain my weight. However, they come with a heavy burden of plastic, and I don’t think they are all too good for me anyway. If it’s the calories that I’m after, I’ll just buy some avocados!

Strauss Milk makes dairy products in glass deposit bottles, so I could replace my gable-top issue with Strauss. However, I don’t believe that the cap of the Strauss milk is reused with the bottle part, and that would leave me with a plastic cap. Any suggestions?

The individual floss/toothpicks are another temporary problem associated with my surgery. Normally I use regular floss from a spool, but because I had shoulder surgery, I either had to take a temporary switch to the individual ones, or have my boyfriend floss my teeth for me. The latter I don’t think would have worked well, and I enjoy being independent, so I invested in these stupid plastic picks.

I love eating cheese, but I don’t love eating cheese that comes in plastic. Say Cheese, in Cole Valley has cheese that I can have hand cut and opt to not have it come in wrap. However, are there any suggestions on how to store cheese in the fridge?

I could replace my sunscreen with a bottle made from metal. However, most of the bottles I see that come in metal have isobutane and other harmful ingredients. Any suggestions of what i can do? I am a fair, freckled person who really cannot give up protecting my skin.

I plan to write to National Geographic about sending my magazines without it wrapped in plastic.

I could replace plastic straws with glass straws, though I’m not much of a straw user.

I will focus on buying produce that come with no stickers or with paper stickers.

Is there a place for me to get corn tortillas that come bag-free?

Many of my other food and food related items can be bought in bulk, and I plan to take a trip to Rainbow grocery once I work my way through the food items I currently have at home.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?

I would be willing to give up fruit snacks if a plastic-free version doesn’t exist. They were an impulse buy anyway!

Also, I already use “sandwich bags” made by the company for lunches away from my home, but I still use plastic baggies to store stuff in my fridge. I’m hoping there is a better, plastic-free way of storing food well. Any suggestions?

Also, I like buying pints of ice cream, but if there isn’t a way to buy a pint without the plastic seal around the rim, then I won’t purchase them anymore. Instead, I’ll support my local Joe’s Ice Cream, for a hand-packed pint, in my own container.

I would be willing to give up rice and tapioca bread since they come in two plastic bags–both an external and an internal bag. While I am gluten intolerant and enjoy eating the fake bread products, I care more about making a positive contribution to the environment and would be willing to not eat my double-bagged bread to do that. However, if there is a way to get gluten free bread without the plastic, please let me know!

I would be willing to give up my Mac ‘n’ Cheese if there are no plastic-free alternatives for the inside cheese packet. After all, there are non-lazy ways to make Mac ‘n; Cheese.

Lastly, I would be willing to give up ear plugs if there aren’t any plastic-free ones out there. Does anyone know what they are made from anyway? The package I have says they are foam, but that isn’t descriptive enough. I wear ear plugs at concerts and also when my roommates are up early in the morning so knowing if there is an alternative would be great!

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?

I think the only thing on my list that I don’t think has a plastic-free alternative is Tofu. But please correct me if I’m wrong, and point me in the direction of buying tofu without the plastic! I’m also a vegetarian and love tofu!

Maybe some other things will come up in the future, but this week was mostly food-related plastics, and I think it’ll be easiest to minimize these.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?

I think a lot of changes have to be made. I thought that I was using less disposable plastic than I am, so minimizing this will be crucial.

I think I need to be more attentive to my choices as a consumer. I also think I should be more proactive about writing to companies whose products I enjoy to let them know how I feel about them using plastics and if there are any plastic-free alternatives they are willing to try.

I think planning ahead will allow me to wean myself of plastics, as many of my plastic purchases are impulsive. I plan to manage my inventories of food/personal care/etc much more efficiently so that when I begin to run low on X,Y,Z that I can search for plastic-free options before succumbing to the ease of buying in plastic.

I think making these changes require a huge willingness to learn, as well as being open-minded to adapt and accept omitting certain products if it is detrimental to our planet. Also, being able to say “no” and strengthening my willpower will need to be enforced.

Finally, I am going to begin researching ways to implement plastic-free options in my life, and consult with people who have already made these implementations.

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

Cheese that comes wrapped in plastic (though I still have a little left in the fridge).

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?

I think that the usage of disposable plastics are becoming more and more complicated and prevalent in our daily lives. My hope is that the sooner we begin to be plastic-free, the sooner we can help repair our sick oceans, our poisoned soils, our damaged waterways and well being of peoples manufacturing plastics as well as the consumers of plastics.

7 Responses to “Jessica Connolly, Week 1”

  1. Jessica says:

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you so much for your comments! I’d like to address everyone’s suggests, so bear with me!

    1. This week I didn’t have any frozen food except the tamales…the 4-pack of tamales were made from a local company, and came in a basic plastic bag, where I removed each tamale before I ate it and microwaved it plastic-free. I received those as a “gift” after having surgery.

    2. I know the ice cream and Icee cup are lined in plastic, but didn’t count them because they can be composted in San Francisco. However, I don’t plan on having either of those items anymore, and began getting my ice cream hand-packed in a metal tin can.

    3. Cheese I get from a local cheese store and will bring my own container next time.

    4. I bought bulk tofu from rainbow and it was delicious.

    5. Bread is still tricky. I plan to buy the packaged rice bread until I find an affordable, gluten-free option.

    6. I found handmade corn tortillas at Rainbow and they were so good. However, they got moldy fast, even in the fridge. I don’t have time right now to make them, so if I buy them again, I still do the paper route.

    7. I plan to only buy sunscreen in a recyclable bottle from now on, rather than the non-recyclable version. I looked into glass jars, and companies that use natural ingredients, but you’re right, they are expensive. I think there is only so much I am willing to do when it comes to my skin. And seeing that I am a freckled, red-head, I need to keep using sunscreen.

    8. The dental floss is temporary and I did look into the compostable version…but it still comes in a plastic bag. I can floss again with 2 hands, but I have 100+ picks left and no rolls of floss. Once I use the last one up, I plan to buy the floss featured on this site.

    9. I’m not much of a straw user, but really like the idea of owning the glass straws. It’s not at the top of my priority list because I would rather replace items I use more frequently with plastic-free alternatives. However, I haven’t used a single straw since I posted my week one…except when I got a drink at a bar, but that was unknowing, and I’ll ask for no straw next time.

    10. I have only been buying milk in the deposit jars since I posted my week 1.

    11. Mac n cheese- I think I have one box left and then I’ll learn how to make it from scratch.

    12. Earplugs- I think I am going to use up the rest of my plugs, which will take a while. I already use them several times before parting with them, however, I try not to use them too long because bacteria can build up in them, causing infections and whatnot in the ear. Once I finish up the plugs, I’ll look into longer lasting ones. If I’m really motivated, I could get custom-made earplugs, I think made of porcelain, which last forever.

    13. I love owning CDs, and I think it’s a great idea to suggest to the smaller bands I enjoy to use cardboard and/or cellulose-based wrap for their CDs. Maybe I’ll also try to stick to buying used CDs/DVDs, since they already don’t come wrapped in plastic wrap.

    14. Soft plastic bags in CA need to be clean and dry, and either #2 or #4 plastic. You’re right, some of them are unmarked, but I think that most of the film plastic bags are #2 and #4.

    Thank you so much for all of your comments and concerns. My following weeks have shown that I have been using a lot less plastic, and hopefully soon you will see my week 2-5 post.

    1.I have been buying yogurt in a glass deposit jar. It still has a plastic seal, but for now I think that’s the best I can do. I plan to teach myself how to make yogurt once I finish up this semester.

    2. I began buying tofu in bulk at Rainbow grocery, and it’s great!

    1. When I began this challenge, I already had these unfriendly items in my fridge. Basically I have been using up the leftovers of plastic, and will hopefully be completely free of the food items in a month or so. I already began buying cheese in paper from a cheese store and it is so fresh and yummy!

    2. I don’t really use baggies. I use fresh snack pack baggies for sandwiches and snacks, but used baggies for food storage in the fridge. I’ve stopped using the baggies now since food stays pretty fresh without being wrapped in plastic.

    3. For shave cream, I still have a metal tin, I think it’s by Skintimate…it’s mostly metal, but has a plastic lid and pump. When that becomes empty, I plan to use my shampoo, or regular soap. I have very sensitive skin, so I need to be careful about what I use.

    Don’t worry about not responding. The other comments addressed everything!

    Thank you again for responding, and I look forward to hearing about any other suggestions/comments you may have!

  2. Beth Terry says:

    Hi Jessica. I was going to leave you a comprehensive response, but others have done it for me! Claire, thanks for all the links to articles on Fake Plastic Fish, so I didn’t have to look them up. :-) BTW, it took so long for your comment to go up because WordPress thought it was spam because of all the links. But fortunately, I found it tonight and rescued it from Spam Quarantine limbo.r

  3. Danielle says:

    Forgot to mention 2 things!! Ditch the plastic baggies…just say “I’m not going to use these anymore” and then when you don’t have them you get super creative on how to store foods. Depending on what you’re using the baggies for you could use glass jars or glass food storage containers. I could definitely help you figure out something as I haven’t bought plastic baggies (ziplocks) in…wow…over 6 years!! (And I have 3 kids!).
    The other thing that I wanted to mention was the shave cream because I wasn’t sure if you found a replacement. We just use bar soap…we’re big fans of Dr Bronners bar soaps because of how sudsy they get. Hmmm…I think that’s it! ;)

  4. Danielle says:

    Hi! I just wanted to (hopefully) answer a few questions for you since we did a plastic-free food week last week…we used no foods in plastic. For our cheese we had it wrapped in paper…it stored fine (just have to make sure the cheese is wrapped good)…also I shredded a bunch and put it in a glass jar. For plastic free tortillas, you could easily make them. I posted a whole wheat tortilla recipe…but you could easily search and find lots of recipes for different tortillas. My advice would be to make and freeze some so that you are never tempted to purchase the tortillas in a plastic bag. Ok…mac and cheese is SO easy to make plastic free!! Buy noodles in bulk. Cheese wrapped in paper. I always make my mac and cheese starting with a bechamel sauce (butter, flour, salt and pepper) and then adding the cheese (use what you like)…you will seriously question why you ever purchased boxed mac and cheese!! I just think it’s awesome how many questions you asked and I can’t wait to see your week 2!!!

  5. Kiyomi says:

    Hi Jessica,
    This is not bad at all for week 1.

    Yogurt –
    I started making my own yogurt and wanted to tell you that it is really easy. The bonus is that it tastes a LOT better than any brand of yogurt I’ve ever tried. It tastes so fresh! (oh, it does because it IS fresh…. !)
    Basically, you just have to heat the milk to first Kill bacteria(good and bad bacterias) and add only good back in, keep warm long enough for the good bacteria to grow sufficiently. There are many methods, but the easiest (easier than using Yogurt maker, in my opinion, so try this first before you invest in a machine.) My method is to boil milk at 170F for 10 minutes, then cool it down to 110-115F, add a left over yogurt (for first time, make sure you use good organic one from store. after that, you can just save some from your batch and use it for the subsequent batch.), stir it up and pour it in a thermos and leave it over night on the counter. In the morning, you will have fresh tasty yogurt. You can dress it up with jelly or fruit, honey, anything you want. yum. If you don’t have a thermos, then you can just wrap the pot with news papers and blanket or quilt to keep warm.

    Tofu –
    Check around to see if there is a Tofu factory in SF and ask if they will sell some directly to consumers. We have Aloha Tofu here in Honolulu, and they sell to anyone who comes to their door. The trick is that they will not sell you unless you have your own container with you (I love it! they should win a prize for this business model)Of course they wholesale packaged in plastics to super markets, but if you come to their door, they will not sell those. You get the freshiest (still hot!!) tofu and/or soy milk (it’s still hot enough to burn yourself if you are not careful) right off their vats. I am lucky that I have a friend who drives over just for Tofu weekly for her husband’s health reason, so she just brings some for me. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a factory in SF and had a similar practice. Check it out.
    Good luck!

  6. claire says:

    after reading this blog for a while now I can help with a few of these things. I want to mention that your ice cream container in all likelihood contains a plastic lining as well and should probably be in your tally. same thing with a lot of frozen food boxes because it’s a moisture/oil barrier. you mentioned an icee cup, that would be plastic lined as well. buying from a bulk container like you mentioned would obviously be a better choice in this scenario, or you could always try an ice cream maker (or you can make due with a coffee can: speaking of cans, I don’t know if you know that most metal food packaging is plastic lined as well, this is to keep the liquids from oxidizing the metal. I believe that rolls of aluminum foil don’t have any lining, but any aluminum food container would (I think things like the foil on yogurt lids and around cream cheese are likely to be coated, but I’m not sure, I know the foil on the little individual cheese wedges is coated). read about can linings and BPA here:

    it’s great that you can get cheese without plastic, but getting it from a deli with your own container is the next best thing, this is sort of like buying in bulk since there’s less plastic packaging, but with the benefit of not having to figure out what to do with all that extra food. here’s a post about storing it in the fridge: she talks about a hard cheese that’s covered with beeswax, and rubbing the exposed face with olive oil. I don’t know if this would work with a soft cheese, but you can always use fridge storage containers in an appropriate size, whether they’re plastic, silicone, glass, ceramic or steel. pyrex makes some nice glass storage containers that have a silicone seal to keep the glass lid from slipping off, as opposed to the anchor hocking ones which are only glass. depends on your clutz-factor I guess.

    about tofu, according to this post: whole foods in berkeley sells bulk unpackaged tofu which you can buy in your own container. you can also make tofu if you’re kitchen inclined, which you make from soy milk– so you’d have to make that too, here are some instructions for making the tofu:

    for bread you can go to a bakery, usually bakeries won’t package their bread until you buy it (with the exception of the “day old bread” which you can usually get at a discount), so you can ask for a paper bag, no bag at all, or bring your own washable cotton bag, which you can store inside a tin to keep fresh (read about it here: a vegan bakery might be likely to have gluten-free bread.

    for tortillas, the only thing I can think is try to find a restaurant that makes their own, or someone who sells them locally so you could ask them to make you some without a plastic bag. you could of course make these yourself too. keep them fresh by keeping them inside a tin like the bread or a locking storage canister, or keep them in the fridge, it’s like a giant dehumidifier. you can also put them in the oven to crisp them up when they get soft.

    sunblock is one of those things I struggle with, I’ve thought about mixing up my own, but finding a basic cream base and the active ingredients without plastic is just as hard as finding sunblock. I want to say there’s some out there in jars, but it’s expensive.

    have you read the post about dental floss? it’s here: there’s no easy answer. since you seem to need a one-handed option right now, there is the bryton pick, and there are compostable floss picks (but the floss itself is not). but I assume you’re going to use up your whole bag before buying new ones.

    for straws, you can also get stainless steel straws, bamboo straws, and reusable acrylic straws (yes, I know, we’re trying to avoid plastic here). the biggest thing with straws at restaurants is to specify “no straw” when ordering your drink, because often they will put it in the drink automatically.

    the glass milk bottles are sort of the only option short of having a cow or having a neighbor with a cow. as soon as someone sells milk in this country, they have to abide by the mandated processing and packaging regulations, the cap is one of these things. I don’t know if it’s by design or if people who tally their plastic just do it so there are fewer separate pieces, but you can leave the pull tab attached to the cap. there are people you can send your plastic trash to who make art, and those colorful little caps would be a great contender for that. you can also save the bottle and keep the cap on it for things like making your own nutmilks or juice, but I know Strauss does allow you to return their milk bottles. someone once mentioned powdered milk but I haven’t been able to find any without plastic lined paper around it, and it’s really only useful in baking and cooking, since it doesn’t taste very good straight.

    for mac and cheese you can use dry cheese powder in a jar (I don’t know if you can get one with a metal lid or not) like this one: and you can make a mac and cheese mix with it, then buy macaroni/elbow noodles (which are themselves hard enough to find without a plastic window). here’s a recipe for cheese mix: but this uses powdered milk, so maybe you could just substitute real milk for it. maybe you could find a cheese mix in a jar instead and skip this extra step.

    as far as earplugs go, I usually just reuse the ones I have (I have the foam kind). There are solid/reusable silicone ones (as opposed to the silicone putty ones) but they’ll surely come in plastic packaging (you’d only have to buy them once though). just make sure you get ones made for sound reduction and not just for swimming.

    for the cd shrinkwrap, obviously you can buy digital, but another thing you can do is, if you listen to smaller musicians who actually communicate with their fans, you can suggest to them that they get their next cds printed without shrink wrap, or in a cellulose based cellophane wrapper. you can also suggest that they use cardboard cd cases that have either less (just the cd tray) or no plastic (cases that contain cardboard sleeves). this may not actually happen, but it’s something you could do to spread awareness and to let people know there’s a demand for this kind of thing.

    I have a question for you, what’s your determination for whether or not a #2 or #4 bag is considered recyclable? is it whether it has “food residue” on it? I don’t know what CA accepts, but this is what NY accepts: and it says that #2 & #4 bags and shrink/stretch wrap can be accepted as long as “all food residue [is] removed.” I just know that #7 bags aren’t accepted, which can be difficult since plastic bags aren’t always labelled.

    hope this helps! sorry for being so long-winded.