May 24, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Ellen Simpson, Week 2

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Location:Salem, Massachusetts, United States

Name: Ellen Simpson

Week: 2

Personal Info:

See week 1.

Ellen Simpson’s personal blog: http://www.housebehindtheotherhouses.blogspot.com

Total items: 81

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
3 Coke/Diet Coke cans — metal recycling

4 cat food cans and lid — metal recycling

Plastic cup (#6) — someone gave our dog water in this cup when he was waiting outside a green/renewable energy fair for us!

Plastic cup (#5) and lid (#1)

2 Nantucket cookie trays (#1)

Grape jelly container (#1)

2 egg containers (#1) — I can only get cage-free eggs in plastic at the supermarket, but I went to the co-op this week and found them in cardboard!

2 plastic containers that held new speakers we got this week (#4)

In my city we can recycle plastics as long as they have a recycling number.

Items: Nonrecyclable
2 cookie trays

potato bag

romaine lettuce bag

cat food bag

Hershey Kisses bag (left over from Easter “egg” hunt)

2 inner cereal bags

Shortbread cookie bag

Keebler Fudge cookie bag (who is putting all of these cookies in my cabinets?)

Many little plastic bags and plastic wrappers that held parts to the speakers we got this week

Bread bag

Bagel bag

Cheese bag

Cheese label

2 styrofoam containers with lids — someone at work ordered sushi for lunch, and it came with miso soup, which he didn’t want and offered to me.

2 inner cracker wrappers

Granola bar type wrapper

Rice Krispies bar wrapper

Princess fruit snack wrapper

Bowl and spoon — Paul ordered ice cream and thought it would come in a paper cup

Plastic candy box and ribbon — shower favor at work

Honey jar lid

Wii game case — ordered this secondhand online, so avoided some packaging, but not all.

2 single-serve butter containers

Bread bag tab

3 flower label tags

Chewed-up button from my pajamas (dog chewed it)

Pig timer (it broke)

Orange juice container

Milk container

Straw

Shoelace package

Toothpaste tube

2 plastic bags — we ate at a counter-service restaurant, and they thought we were taking out, when we were actually eating in.

2 bags from potting soil

3 nonpareil bags (success — I found a place where I can buy these in bulk, so I did, and these should be the last nonpareil bags in my tally!)

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
We have SO MUCH plastic this week! I don’t know why we did so much worse than last week. Most of the items are things we already had (not new purchases), so hopefully it won’t be too hard to reduce it by a lot.

The plastic cup and lid are from an iced mocha I bought in an unprepared moment of weakness. I had brought my water bottle to this garden tour, but didn’t think to bring my travel mug. I could and should have just stuck with water.

Cookie trays, Nantucket and otherwise — I bought ingredients to make chocolate chip blondies (no plastic involved — the chips will be chopped bittersweet chocolate from a bar), and we can eat these this coming week. It shouldn’t be much of a problem to make cookies regularly.

Grape jelly — I can easily get this in a glass jar.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I’m not going to buy orange juice regularly anymore. Only one of my kids drinks it, and he doesn’t drink much of it, and I don’t think he’ll miss it much if we don’t have it. I have two more containers (frozen concentrate rather than cartons), but once those are gone, I won’t buy more.

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

Pajama buttons! I won’t leave my pajamas lying on my bed anymore!

Mistake items, like the plastic bags the restaurant gave us, thinking we were taking out. We could have given them back, but I feel like they would have gone right into the trash.

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

I sometimes just need to think ahead! Quite a few items could have been avoided with pre-planning.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Cookies from the store. I can bake cookies easily. I do have a couple (or more!) cookie packages in the cabinet, so those packages will show up in future tallies, but I will try hard not to buy any more.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I have to work harder this week! I want to reduce this hideously large number of plastic items!

2 comments
Ellen
Ellen

Beth, that idea about using the travel mug exclusively makes so much sense! I don't like lugging around a full water bottle anyway, so I can carry the travel mug empty, and fill it with iced mocha, water, or whatever, when the need arises! I think that tip is going to be so helpful!

You are right that giving things back and explaining why I'm doing it is worthwhile in itself, even if the item doesn't get reused. I'll just have to gather up my courage a little bit to do that! Thanks for the comments!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Ellen. You know, I have a water bottle but I never carry it anymore. I just find the travel mug to be so much more versatile. I can put anything in it. And I definitely know the feeling of craving and iced coffee.

When it comes to giving things back (like that plastic bag) you might start explaining to the wait staff why you don't want it and ask them to reuse it. Even if they throw it in the trash, at least you've planted the idea in their heads that perhaps it's better to ask first if people want a bag rather than just handing them out.

It can feel a little daunting at first to speak up to people, but the more you do it, the easier it comes. But even I sometimes don't have the energy for it. Definitely pick your battles.