April 3, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Daniella in BC, Week 1

Daniella's plastic waste

Name: Daniella

Week: 1

Personal Info:
I live with my husband and 3 year old daughter in Surrey BC.

Total items: 34

Total weight: 4.9 oz

Items: Recyclable
Apple juice bottle #1
Tofu container #2

Items: Nonrecyclable
Daughter’s Pile:
3 plastic pieces from a McDonalds toy
5 fruit stickers
2 plastic pieces from book with stamps
3 pieces of tape from same book
Apple juice lid
Green bag from present given to daughter – In the wrong picture

My Pile:
Top of tofu container
Plastic bag from mini oranges my mom bought
Unknown piece of plastic
2 garlic nets
2 garlic net tags
4 fruit stickers
2 envelope windows
Steel cut oats bag
Carrot bag
White bag – babysitter used to store wet/dirty clothes
Reese mini peanut butter cups

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Apple Juice container #1 (and lid)– I think my husband bought this for K. She always has a water bottle, with water in it. I have a big problem with eating out/convenience foods so it’s not something I would have even thought about or considered and it drives me crazy that my husband doesn’t think twice to waste our money on something like this. Plastic free alternative would be her water bottle (that I know they took with them).

3 plastic pieces from a McDonalds toy – could have looked for other toys with less plastic/packaging.

2 plastic pieces from book with stamps and 3 pieces of tape – could have looked for other toys with less plastic/packaging.

Green bag from present given to daughter – This is one of the hard ones since it was a gift to K, our only option is to be vocal about plastic and I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet as this was from an extended family member that doesn’t usually give K a lot of gifts.

Plastic bag from mini oranges my mom bought – could have easily bought oranges that were not packaged, I didn’t think to say anything to my mom. She asked me yesterday if she could pick anything up for us from the vegetable store, I stuck with bananas (no plastic to worry about) and strawberries (K loves them and there is no plastic free alternative until the farmers’ market opens).

2 garlic nets and 2 garlic net tags – could have easily been bought garlic that was not pre-packaged. This is one that I feel really silly about. I never use plastic bags at the grocery store, including vegetable bags and bulk bags; I always bring my own re-useable bags. Why then, would I buy garlic in plastic when I can get it without??

Steel cut oats bag – Just last weekend I found a store that carries bulk steel cut oats, I don’t go that way very often but I will make a point every once in a while to stock up on bulk items that I can’t get at my regular store.

Carrot bag – Like the garlic, I feel really silly about this one.

White bag (babysitter used to store wet/dirty clothes) There is an easy alternative… the wet bag (used when K was in (cloth) diapers) that I always keep in K’s backpack in case she has wet/dirty clothes and needs to be changed. The babysitter does “know” about the wetbag from when K was in diapers so it’s not like she didn’t know what the funny looking bag in there was for. Back when K was in diapers we still occasionally had them sent home in a plastic bag while the wetbag sat in the bottom.

2 plastic pieces from book with stamps and 3 pieces of tape from same book – My husband took K to look for a toy because we promised her that she could get one if she did well in her swimming class. We don’t normally buy her toys because she gets enough from our family. It was completely not necessary and we could have taken her to find a used toy.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Apple juice bottle #1 (and lid) – %100
Tofu container #2 (and top) – I don’t buy tofu often, I don’t know that I would be willing to completely give it up but I can definitely buy it even less then I do now.
3 plastic pieces from a McDonalds toy – %100
Reese mini peanut butter cups – %100

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
9 total fruit stickers – I would not be willing to give up fruit and vegetables. I can grab the odd ones without stickers but that is not really helping anything. In the summer I grow some vegetables on my small patio and we shop the farmers’ market when we can, but overall I would not stop buying fruit or vegetables because of the stickers.
2 envelope windows – One was from the government for taxes and one was from a yearly RESP statement from the bank. They aren’t essential by any means, but they are not something that I have any options with.

I didn’t have this on my list because I had cut them up before starting this… Cauliflower is very hard to find not individually wrapped in plastic, I’m not willing to give it up completely, but I can reduce and replace cauliflower with other vegetables. Maybe I will only buy ONE cauliflower this week instead of 4.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
In order to limit my plastic consumption I have to continue working hard to limit buying and also to look hard for alternatives. I know I have some bread in the freezer that is in a plastic bag and stuff like that. I always re-use those bags for garbage but I’ll have to make a choice to decide if I should buy more bread and if so, can I do it plastic free? I will need to talk with my husband and mom…

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Juice for my daughter, if I can get it through to my husband.
Tofu, for this week, and probably for a couple months.
McDonalds toys, although I don’t actually know where she got it from.
Peanut butter cups – that was a rare treat.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I think I might be able to get through to my daughter a little easier then my husband. She knows that we don’t use toilet paper (hubby does) because it hurts the trees, we don’t flush each time or run the water when brushing our teeth because then Ariel and Flounder won’t have any water to swim in, and that we didn’t use any disposables at her birthday because it would make all the animals sad, etc. etc. I think I’ll have a talk with both of them… I don’t think my husband fully understands it either.

Please help…
I’ll take any suggestions on how to talk to family members.

6 comments
Benne'
Benne'

You know, I just ask every store I shop to skip the plastic wrapper for things like meats and cheese. At one store, I have to get paper from the butcher because the deli department only has zip lock style packaging. I reuse the plastic containers my olives come in and you have given me an idea for bulk as well. I've been taking paper sacks, the size for lunches, in for rolls but I bet I could use them for bulk as well. I don't care if it weighs a smidgen more than a plastic bag and I bet the cashier won't care either. All shopping is made more difficult but it is so worth the effort. Everyone knows I'm crazy when it comes to plastic. I simply don't push the point while I'm living the life I want. Hell, I've got chickens and a veggie garden in my no fenced backyard! You would be surprised how many people want to have conversations with me when I request no lid or straw for a drink. Being able to "blame" it on a contest has really lowered the crazy factor.....Thanks a bunch Beth! I'm glad to be the crazy plastic lady. Oh, and on your father, let him know that the Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch can't be fully photographed because it is twice the size of the United States. Just sayin'

Daniella
Daniella

Thanks Beth, I'll have to check it out when I'm not at work!

Olena, we are practically neighbours, we live just on the Surrey side of Scott Road! It is hard to find good stores in the area, I'm pretty well stuck with the going to the usual grocery store and sticking to the bulk isle. I certainly have not found any stores that would weigh a container for me. I sure know all about people thinking I'm nuts, my mom doesn't say much but my dad thinks I'm crazy.

Benne, your ideas are hilarious! I love it!

Sarah, I like your part about the birthday gifts. Last year we did a no-disposables birthday but I didn't know how to mention the gift thing to everyone.

Sarah
Sarah

I put this paragraph on my kids birthday invitations.

"While your presence is what we desire at this party we know some may want to bring presents for the birthday girl. We are most grateful for this. Because we are very concerned about the safety of toys and their impact on the environment, we ask that gifts for Marcella are made of safe, natural, and sustainable materials (wood, fabric, paper, metal) and do not require batteries to run."

I am also pretty vocal about trying to reduce plastic in my home--especially around my kids. USUALLY when someone gets it they also get it with regards to the package they put the gift in (maybe not all the way if they see something that fits my paragraph but is wrapped in plastic. When it comes to gifts it is a hard line to ride and I think we have to accept some level of plastic from well meaning relatives. Some people got it right off, the rest are coming around and my oldest is only 2.5 so I'm doing pretty well so far. You might also find ways to mention in conversation you are tallying your plastic trash to reduce it to folks who are "repeat offenders". This takes time but it does make a difference.

Benne'
Benne'

This is a really great time of year to have a "Green Day" party, and with Earth Day just a few days away, why not combine. Okay, this is going to sound awful, and I'm only half serious. Why not keep saving your plastic trash for the next few weeks instead of recycling. Fill a pinata with all your waste. Hang the pinata over a plastic (LOL!!) kiddie pool. Have adult guest swing the bat/broom. Make sure all kids involved know the secret. BAM! When it cracks open, have the kids scream!

Sorry, I know this was a bit wicked. However, I think it would be effective. If you need something more mild, start two rows in your garden. Plant one row with plastic waste. In the second row, have guest/family/friends, plant seed packets. Have a second party mid harvest and a third by the end of season when you turn the spent plants into compost. All your plastic will have remained in a beautiful perfect row.

Being smug won't really help change anyone's habits. I just think it brings more happiness to be crazy!

Olena
Olena

I am so thrilled to read this post! I am in Delta BC (live on the boarder with Surrey) and just recently started moving our family of 5 towards less plastic (not ready for the challenge yet). I found it difficult to find substitutes and stores I can buy in bulk.

I have been vocal to friends about our choices but so far they think I am "nuts" and I do not seem to get the support.

We made gifts for one of the friend's birthday which gave an opportunity to tell about our goals. We often entertain friends and have food, treats and drinks made from scratch so that is another opportunity to emphasize your values.

We already start telling people (so they get used to the idea) that for next Birthdays we would like to receive previously loved gifts.

I am also planning to make some sandwich/snack bags to give to friends with a cute note about "helping environment".

Look forward to reading about your next challenge Daniella.