February 11, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Sabrina L, Week 4

Just this week’s new garbage:
Sabrina's plastic waste

This is plastic already in use in our home:
Sabrina's plastic waste

Name: Sabrina Lutes and family, 2 adults and 1 2-year old

Week: 4

Personal Info:

See full description in all of Sabrina’s posts.

Total items: 48

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
4- envelopes
1-handful packing beans
1-cup, we asked the server twice to NOT bring this, only to have it handed directly to my two year old (6)
1-milk carton (2)
1-takeout topper, again told the man no plastic, no topper, still got the topper with half my food stuck to it. (2)
1- marinate cup (5)
1-food container
1-toilet bowl cleaning solution (2)
1-applesauce container (2)
2- milk lids

Items: Nonrecyclable
1-diaper. We use cloth, but apparently ran out of clean ones and my husband grabbed the plastic
2- Lara bar wrappers, given to my son
2- meat wrappers
2- cheese wrappers
1- bubble wrap, some tape. These were sent with our water filters, which as you can see were not perfect but amazingly minimal, my husband asked for no plastic
3- cutlery, my husband swears he will wash and reuse, one was my bad because I asked for an ice-cream sample before I realized what I was doing!
3- glass jar labels
2- cereal wrappers
5- razors. Help on this one! My husband has shaky hands, feels like a life hazard with a straight edge, any thoughts to reduce. This waste?
3- emergen c wrappers, bought before, it’s cold and flu season so will go ahead and use em up
1- chocolate chip bag. So praying these come in bulk…:). These were the last of em
1- bubble wand
4- jar lids
3- straws, I don’t use them but some how they just appeared in drinks before we could refuse them or the drinks
1-fig newton wrapper, I tried to avoid this, but my dad left them and it got the best of me!
1- veggie tie, got to get better about seeing these things!
1-toy crayon
1-wrapper for paper towels, haven’t used them in years, had a roll in the closet, somehow they escaped, and now the plastic made it into my stash. Going to send it to 7th generation with a note, perhaps.

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Diaper
Paper towel wrapper
Restaurant stuff, although we tried, I don’t know how to keep the discussion going after my request has been totally ignored?!

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Toilet bowl cleaner
Takeout/ restaurant food

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

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
More planning, all this waste that was new was because I didn’t plan things, we had company, ran out of town, I had a class all day….very unusual week. Even though I worked so hard and had so many gains, it was a total backslide and wash. I made muslin bags, took an hour to figure out my small grocers backward bulk system if you bring your own bags, I found someone to fill my containers with fresh meat, got funny looks and blank stares at every request I made to not end up with plastic. We’ve even dropped our trash can size! So lifestyle change will have to be planning, and adding more sizzle to my requests!

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I’ll make my kid Lara bars so he’ll stop pilfering them from other people!
We won’t eat out until I can get my lines down and am armed with suggestions on how to keep plastic out.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
All my happy dance last week got stepped on this week! Plastic reduction is tough, especially when you talk to people. I got so many “it’s JUST one plastic bag, straw…” responses. I wanted to cry! I’m ready to wear my monkey wrench tee shirt when I go shopping. Must find my happy place! :). It’s worrisome that knowing what we know, we still make a lot of trash. That most people aren’t even aware how quickly it adds up, we weren’t. Luckily my husband reminds me that we are doing it, change takes time. The items and size are falling, I can see it because I photograph on my tile floor. It’s taking a lot less space across those tiles. Thank you for hearing my rant! I’ll stop now.

My Question:
The razors
How do you educate people when they say I can pour your food into your reusable container from our plastic bag? Yes, he was serious! He wasn’t trying to be smoggy, just didn’t get it.

8 comments
Michelle
Michelle

If you can´t rant here where can you?? Sometimes we need to rant! It is tough. But it´s great reading through these posts, knowing we´re not alone. Shame your all the other side of the pond, but good to know your out there!

I always ask for tap water in resturants. Great. Until the other day I went up to the counter & see they fill it from a bottle into a jug.... & twice they have said " it´s free " Trying to get this across in another language is hard. But now I say, really say. TAP water please. They think I mad... Oh well!

Plastic Manners had a card you could print out. Check her out. She also does a "Rethink Refuse" project taking photos of what you haven´t collected... There been some snaps there!

Dana
Dana

My roomie saw me snapping pics of recycles the other day and said, "I won't even ask. . ." Looking forward to being able to fit it all in one shot. Went to a restaurant recently with my own pre-used foil to bring home my leftovers. :-)

Sabrina
Sabrina

Thanks so much!! I'm continuing, although this week feels like I just had to slow down a bit and just be easy on myself, which meant totally not sticking with the not eating out. Plastics have snuck in as a I'm so new at making yogurt and bread that I've skipped out of it. I did make it to the store today with cloth bags. We didn't tare them, as they swear they can't do it, I just paid for it. Rip stop nylon may be my answer even though it's nylon, and I'd have to purchase it. I'm still talking to folks, and I'll use your suggestions from now on. I need a card...this is what you say when:...:). I'm gonna look at those razors! Btw anyone use the toothbrushes on that site? For their kids? Do they seem soft enough? I worry about enamel as we have those issues with my son.

Kay Pere
Kay Pere

About restaurant plastic: Over the past year, I've been trying to make it a habit to say "no straw" when ordering a beverage and "no disposable plastic" when ordering a meal with varying success.

Servers have a lot to remember. Some are better than others at special requests. If enough of us continue with the "no plastic" requests, restaurants and they're staff will eventually learn that this is the new normal.

I have, on occasion, asked to speak with a manager about plastic items that appeared with my meal after my request was forgotten or ignored. It was when someone other than the server who'd taken our order brought out the food. I did this in a way that was understanding of their workload, with an understanding that they really are interested in knowing how best to serve the needs of their customers.

Many restaurant managers and servers are acutely aware of the amount of waste that goes on in they're business, and they hate it. Many chain restaurants are eager to cash in on the perception that they're trying to be more green. By talking with a manager, he or she then has an opportunity to make suggestions up the corporate food chain that can reduce wastefulness while making things better environmentally.

It also makes it more likely that they'll remember you the next time you come in.

To the person who says, "but it's just one plastic bag" etc, I would say, "Yes, but how many is that when multiplied by how many customers each day, every day, all year long?"

Keep going! It matters! And it does get easier!

Marissa
Marissa

I'm with Danielle on all of this.

There are many times that I just have to be patient and explain to those questioning what I'm doing. I even ask, "Do you know how much plastic you use in a week?" Then I follow it up with, "I do and it doesn't make me happy to know I'm contributing to this..." Then I pull out a cut out picture I found in a magazine of a sea bird with nothing but plastic in his belly! Lol! Yes, this may seem extreme but it's worked many times. People never forget me either. And I once had a server tell me, weeks later after I should him my picture, that he is starting a "Plastic Free" Student Club at the local University....and he decided after 3 years of being undecided that he wants to study marine biology after researching the plastic in our oceans!!! It was the happiest day ever, next to getting married of course!!!

I do other things too that are less guilt ridden but wow does guilt work! So many people are walking around feeling guilty for things they could let go of, this switches the focus...just a bit. ;)

So many of my friends are on board now too. And while I still get the, "Woah she's a weirdo to go through so much trouble not to use the bulk bags and ties." look, I mostly get people asking me how I do it. I find it to be super fun now. I can fulfill my teaching desire with not so much babysitting involved. I do have to plan an extra half hour at the grocery store but it's so worth it. When we're out I make it clear several times that I do not want plastic at all and have made notes on the places we frequent so I know their routines. It can sometimes be a challenge when things are so cut and dry (plastic straws on the table before you arrive that they may throw away just because they were on the table) but writing a nice, yes actually nice, little letter to the owner and not going back can be very fulfilling.

Keep it up! It'll rub off over time if enough of us stick to it. We can change things and you are doing an awesome job!

Danielle
Danielle

Ahhh... servers. Here's the thing... they're programmed. (much like those who bag groceries... paper or plastic? they always grab plastic.. even having my own bags I have to say, "No plastic.".).

Having 3 kids we've had to work at NOT getting those stupid kid cups and straws. When our kids were younger we would just bring their reusable water bottle. Now what we do is when we order our drinks we start off with the statement, "All regular glasses. No kids cups. No disposable cups. No straws, please." Then when the last person has ordered their drink we reiterate "No kids cups. No straws." Whenever we get weird looks about our kids having regular glasses, we explain to our server that "we don't use kids cups or straws at home... they'll be fine... thank you" :) I love when we get servers that say, "AWESOME" because then I know they get it :) AND... in the event that we get a server who just doesn't listen and brings our kids drinks in kids cups (this doesn't happen anymore)... we send the drinks back. If they have to make drinks 2x... they'll learn to get it right. (gosh, that sounds so mean. haha)

Take out containers: I think that it's best to put your leftovers in the container yourself. Last week, I took my kids out to dinner and ordered my husband food to take home to him (he was sick). I let the server bring me the food (like I was going to eat it at the restaurant) and then put it in my own container. Did I get a strange look? Absolutely. But I don't care :)

Also, as you do this more... you'll find that it becomes easier. People will start to recognize you and know your requests. (When we went to dinner the other night, the manager of the restaurant told his staff "No plastic on their table." haha... loved it!!)

Oh... and I second the safety razor!!! Love it!! Just read up on how to properly use it before you actually use it :)

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Sabrina, I can help with the razor! I use a metal safety razor. It may seem scary at first, but it's really not. Not scary like a straight edge (which I won't let my husband use either.)

Here's everything you need to know, including where I get my blades in boxes of 100:

http://myplasticfreelife.com/2007/08/plastic-free-shaving-part-1/

I'll post your question on Facebook about getting servers to comply with your requests. Sounds like you had a frustrating week.

But hey, congratulations on making it a whole month! I'm just so impressed with how much of an activist you've become.