April 11, 2013

Plastic Challenge: Natalie, Week 1

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When sharing food/other essentials with other people who don’t share your enthousiasm for living without waste, what do you do? Do you buy your salad separately if they buy it in a plastic container, so as not to waste? I think there’s a delicate balance between doing what you believe is right and alienating people around you.
Also, looking at what I have, any ideas? And did I get anything wrong about what’s recyclable?

Location:, New Jersey, United States

Name: Natalie

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I’m a student on a gap year while figuring out my path, and I’ve been getting more active about my passion for health and the environment this year while I’m home. In terms of plastic, it’s mostly packaging and bags here, and since foods that are heavily packaged are generally more expensive and less healthy, I’m heading that way anyway. I have always cared about the environment and animals, but have been pretty cynical about what impact I could have. Definitely I am still learning how to make things work. I admit that I love shopping – being sold a product and then enjoying it – it feels like I’m part of something. But I’d rather be part of something good than something bad.

Natalie’s personal blog:

List of plastic items REFUSED this week. (Yay!)
15 plastic bags at 2 grocery shopping trips
2 containers for takeout (the first time my family has acted on this years(!)-long intention)
2 plastic straws
3 coffee cups, lids
4 plastic-lined teabags

Total items collected: 52

Total weight: 26 grams 

Items: Recyclable
5 zip-lock bags (we always keep them to reuse, but one person in our house likes new ones so some will most definitely get thrown out or recycled eventually – or maybe I will keep them for when I move out?)
salad container
small clear bag (will re-use)
4 produce bags (we will re-use them)
produce bag w/plastic tape (ripped)
2 newspaper bags (the guilt! I just subscribed and am so excited to have it delivered on weekends)
2 Frozen food bags (we will re-use or recycle)
Quinoa bag (not sure)
plastic cup (not lid)
plastic envelope windows (recycle because they separate the paper off – but the plastic is garbage)
plastic straw (unused -forgot to tell waiter not to bring w/my water – someone will use it)
broth container
soy milk container (not photo’d)

Items: Nonrecyclable
3 plastic-lined teabag packages
seran wrap
2 (prob. more) produce stickers
plastic-lined paper cup
2 plastic lids
quinoa bag (not sure)
onion bag and label
clothes tag holder
probiotic punch out
2 bags from serving spoons
goat cheese wrapper
produce twisty (forgot to photograph)
trash bags (3?) (not photo’d)
grocery/trash bags (?10+) (not photo’d)
2 zip lock bags from meat (not photo’d)
toiletries
broken hair tie
soymilk pull tab
2 plastic pull-through seals

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Coffee cups! – I’ve been bringing my reusable with me, except for the last 2 days
bags – all of these (that I brought out, not necessarily w/others) were re-used
stock container – I make my own stock, only my grandma uses the storebought
produce bags, salad containers, cheese, grains – buy loose, bulk – still have stickers and twisties though unless from the farmers market
probiotic punch out – get recyclable in bottles instead.
envelope windows – attempting to go paperless w/bills, get on no-junk mail lists
frozen food – make my own and freeze in reusable containers.
soymilk (less frequent and diy)

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
packaged tea
crappy chain coffee
frozen food
coffee/tea when I don’t have a cup w/me
soymilk

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
toiletries – at least in part, since I want to try lunapads but can’t see it working all the time
envelope windows
produce stickers,
jar lids for things like kim chee
bottled water when I don’t have an alternative -and there are no drinking fountains
trash bags (maybe for myself, but not my family)

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
planning food choices ahead
bringing containers/cups/bags/water bottles with me
researching a lot

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I am making an effort on all of these fronts and trying to be very conscious, but I can’t say that there aren’t times when I slip up. Esp. when someone else is doing the shopping/cooking.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
things that surprised me: probiotic packaging, goat cheese packaging, teabags

It’s hard for me to really count this since I save bags, and might recycle them as I go along, other things this week I’m throwing out from before this week.

5 comments
Natalie
Natalie

PS Ericka, thank you!  And I saw that you were asking about shampoo bars.  I have used two that I really liked from Lush.  They worked well on my hair and I got a LOT of uses out of them.  So I actually think it's more economical.  But I found out (by looking at their website) that Lush uses synthetic perfume, and sometimes other synthetic ingredients -  a lot less than most brands, but I'd prefer none.  I would like something similar without chemicals, but I'm really nervous about buying a whole natural bar because my hair gets greasy really quickly and can also dry out if I do too much at once.  How did your vinegar trick work for you?

Natalie
Natalie

I always try to get bulk, but that quinoa was on sale.  Since watching the documentary Plastic Planet I am much more conscious of the problems and well may not have bought it.  We have some great places to buy bulk for most items, including shampoo and dish soap.

Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator
Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator

Welcome Natalie! Bringing your own reusable coffee cup is not only preventing the use of plastic in that one instance, it is providing an example to others. These types of actions can leave a lasting impression and an impetus of change.

BethTerry
BethTerry

@Natalie I've been enjoying the natural henna shampoo bar from Chagrin Valley lately.  For dry hair, I find that using more vinegar rinse really helps.

Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator
Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator

@Natalie   You are very welcome! I've also tried Lush and usually their products smell too strongly for me so they aren't my favorite. Vinegar and baking soda works great! My only issue is I have to supplement this with some traditional conditioner a few times a month and or a leave in conditioner. I have curly/wavy hair so I deal with dryness. But sounds like the vinegar and baking soda approach would work great for your hair type. Try it and tell me what you think. I definitely like how much money this method saves me.