August 21, 2012

Plastic Challenge: Cedar, Week 1

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Home-made toothpaste, ways to get toilet paper not in plastic bags, how to make tofu and miso paste.

Location:, Ontario, Canada

Name: Cedar

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I’m a student living in 1 storey house with 5 other students. I have no children and am living 20 hours away from my parents.

List of plastic items REFUSED this week. (Yay!)
Not much :(

I started this week after returning from a vacation at my parents’. This means that I was loaded up with plastic-covered food in my suitcase, and resigned to take-out food until I got groceries…but still! Refused free water in plastic cups, straws, plenty of plastic bags at grocery stores, restaurants, and the farmer’s market. All in all, this would be a pretty representative amount of plastic for a normal week.

Total items collected: 21

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
Soymilk containers, produce package, fork, spaghetti package, cup, plastic container, styrofoam tray, tofu package, toilet paper package (not shown).

Items: Nonrecyclable
Hotel-style (i.e. individually wrapped…) chocolates and their bag, plastic window from a kleenex box, straw, plastic tabs from soymilk/bottled milk, cling film x3, chocolate wrapper.

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Well, take-out packaging and utensils seem the easiest to me. I can easily have shopping bags and containers ready to bring to restaurants (as I remembered to bring once this week), and avoid the temptation to buy ready-packaged meals, instead bringing containers to a deli or making my own. Produce can be bought in bulk and placed in a cloth bag for weighing, pasta can be made at home or bought in cardboard, chocolate can be purchased from bulk bins or avoided altogether.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I think everything above has an alternative, it’s just a matter of how difficult that alternative is to find/make/afford/tolerate. My strategy is to eliminate easy things first ,therefore taking it step by step. If people have tips to keep from getting overwhelmed or frustrated, I’d appreciate advice. I get the feeling their are low points in eliminating some items!

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Toilet paper. I’ve emailed the companies that specifically market themselves as ‘green’ in my community and asked whether they could wrap in brown paper instead of plastic, but they said that ‘plastic seemed to be their best option,’ etc. I also asked the local environmental shop if they knew of a plastic-free brand, and they didn’t. At this stage in my life, I’m unwilling to use a non-disposable alternative…so I buy in as big a quantity as I can to minimize the packaging.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
As above, buying in bulk and thinking ahead. I’ve made a few changes before learning of this challenge, such as refilling soap/detergent bottles (and with non-petroleum soaps, no less!), have a travel utensil set, bring re-usble shopping bags and containers when I go out, etc. Also being careful to buy local foods, as it seems only factory or foreign products are packaged anyways.

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

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I produce less than I expected, yet more than I hoped (if that makes any sense). Also, thanks so much for doing this and creating such a movement! Your TEDx talk was wonderful, and watching it directed me here.

1 comments
Eve Stavros
Eve Stavros

Welcome and good luck!  As for the toilet paper, I've found a few solutions.  Last year I ordered tp online from Restockit (96 rolls, yup, shoulda seen my linen closets!) made from 100% recycled paper, wrapped in paper, shipped w/only one strip of plastic (on the shipping label).   It was cost comparable to local purchasing.  The other option, since now I've moved I don't have room to stock up that many, is to look for individually wrapped rolls in paper.  Walgreens and Rite-Aid both carry those in my neck of the woods. For the most environmentally friendly (ie no BPA used during the paper recycling manufacturing process), check out Bumboosa, made from bamboo, also packaged plastic-free. 

I understand tofu is really hard & time-consuming to make. Check into if any local Asian markets  or health-food stores have it in bulk; I've found two in my town, and bring my own container.