May 31, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Ellen Simpson, Week 3


Is it possible to buy canola oil in glass jars? I only found it in plastic at my grocery store. I needed it right away for a recipe, so I purchased it in plastic, but I’m thinking it should be available somewhere in glass.

I was able to find olive oil in glass no problem, as well as vegetable oil, but not canola oil. I guess another question might be, can I substitute vegetable oil for canola oil?

Location:Salem, Massachusetts, United States

Name: Ellen Simpson

Week: 40

Personal Info:

See week 1.

Ellen Simpson’s personal blog:

Total items: 40

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
Canola oil bottle (#1)
Yogurt container (#5)
Cookie tray (#1)
Meat tray (#7)
Egg carton (#1)
Ice cream cup w/lid (#1)
2 beer cans
3 soda cans
Can of chick peas
Two cat food cans and lids

Items: Nonrecyclable
Milk carton
12 broken CD containers and CD
3 bottle caps
Pair of flip flops, chewed by dog
Ramen noodle package, plus spice envelope from inside this package
Plastic from frozen juice container (I composted the cardboard part, so this is just a portion of the package)
Plastic from super glue packaging
Plastic torn off from gummy Life Savers package
Plastic that holds the tag on a new item of clothes
Die (I mistakenly put this in the photo – it was put back into use!)
A couple of plastic fruit stickers
Not shown – dental floss

On Sunday afternoon and Monday, we visited Paul’s family and used lots of plastic (plastic plates, bowls, utensils, etc.) in the process. It was a situation where I didn’t want to bring up the fact that we’re trying to cut back on plastic. Maybe someday I’ll feel differently about this, but for now, I’m going to continue as is. We didn’t save this plastic, so it’s not in the tally.

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
The meat tray held marrow bones for the dog to chew while we’re away from home. Clearly this is only somewhat effective because he also chewed my flip-flops this week! At the store I go to, the marrow bones come pre-packaged in plastic containers (they arrive at the store already packaged), but I think I should be able to bring my own container to a different store and get marrow bones placed directly in there. It’s just a matter of finding a store that will do that, but I recently noticed a butcher shop in the next town over, so maybe I can give that a try.

I have already bought cage-free eggs in a cardboard carton. This plastic carton was left over from before I found the new source of eggs.

The ice cream cup! We went to get ice cream and I thought I’d be getting a cup or cone, and instead I wanted a frappe, and I didn’t resist! This is one thing this week that makes me feel pretty disappointed in myself — I could have put in a little more effort and I would have avoided this chunk of plastic.

Chick peas – I could get dried chick peas at the co-op.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Gummy Life Savers! These were given to my son as a prize at school – I don’t buy them. You will also see some princess gummy treats in future tallies – these were given to my son by my mother, and I don’t buy them.

CD containers. These belonged to my son, and had CDs in them. I tossed the broken containers and put the CDs in a little box that makes it easier for him to access them. We have IPods, etc. and should have no reason to buy more CDs.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
The flip flops. I have a dog-chewed item in this tally frequently enough that you might say, put your stuff away so it won’t get chewed! It just seems that I can’t predict what he’ll chew, and some things do belong on the floor (like flip-flops, which stay in a particular spot near the front door). He’s just 1-1/2 years old, so hopefully he will outgrow this behavior given more time.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I have to be more assertive about saying no to plastic. At the ice cream store where I got the frappe in the plastic cup, I had originally planned to get an ice cream in a cup or cone. I had my spoon in my purse, but I could feel myself wimping out about saying no spoon, because the young woman serving me seemed so sweet and I didn’t feel like being a little bit weird and different. I need to realize, first of all, it’s not a big deal, and second of all, it may make her think (or maybe she is already aware and would be receptive to my request!).

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
This is a busy week and we won’t be around this weekend, so I am going to try to maintain what we’ve already started doing, and next week I will be back to finding something new to eliminate! Hint: I think it will be the meat trays.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I am so happy at how much less plastic we have this week, compared to last week! Last week it filled the kitchen table and flowed over onto a chair, whereas this week it only took up half the table! I’m seeing that as I set up new systems, the plastic reduction comes a little easier (for instance, as I buy items in bulk, the plastic I would have purchased with those items is eliminated). This upcoming weekend we are going to New York for two days and one night, for a little fun trip. I am determined to use very little plastic on that trip. I can’t wait to see how we do!

Leave a Reply

6 Comments on "Plastic Challenge: Ellen Simpson, Week 3"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest
4 years 11 months ago

Cool, I will give coconut oil a try! Thank you!

4 years 11 months ago
Not a silly question at all :) Coconut oil is used more for baking. It is a matter of taste, but some say it does have more of a flavor (sweet) while some say it is the best to make fried potatoes in. It is not coconuty tasting though in my opinion, just smells coconuty. I use lard or butter for frying or cooking veggies or meat and oil for salads – as oil will oxidize (go bad, causing harmful chemical reactions) in heat, so I think it is best to play it safe :) Just say if you have… Read more »
4 years 11 months ago
Fonda, that books sounds interesting, and I will definitely check it out. I don’t know a lot about cooking, so this may be a silly question, but would coconut oil give a coconut taste to things? So, if I wanted to use it for something like pancakes, would it make them coconut-flavored? Beth, I had no idea that you can sometimes get bulk oil at co-ops…maybe they have it at the one I go to, and I don’t even know it! If I can find the Spectrum Organics ones, that would be great too. Thanks for the ideas!
4 years 11 months ago

Hi Ellen. The Spectrum brand includes all kinds of oils in glass bottles. However, they do have plastic caps.

You can usually find it at natural foods stores. Also, some coops/natural foods stores sell oils in bulk and let you fill your own container. Don’t know if that’s available near you.

4 years 11 months ago

oh! here is her book link if you are interested…

4 years 11 months ago
Hi Ellen, I am going abit off the plastic free road here.. to the food side.. For the oil.. You could always use coconut oil or just butter. I know there is alot of controversy over using fatty fats, but they are natural and traditional. If you have the time and like to read, I suggest ‘Real Food: What to eat and Why’ by Nina Planck. It is one of my favorite books. She explains how the modern oils are processed and how they are linked to many problems of disease and obesity. For example, canola or sunflower oils.. when… Read more »