January 20, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Suzanne in Davis, Week 1

Suzanne's plastic waste

Suzanne's plastic waste

Name: Suzanne in Davis, CA

Week: 1

Personal Info:
I work full-time and travel for work occasionally; my husband also works full-time and we have two kids under 6. [Suzanne divided her plastic into 2 photos: food and non-food.]

Total items: about 85 individual pieces

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
RECYCLABLE – Food
1. In & Out water cup – recyclable (#6)
2. Chocolate milk mix lid (#4)
3. Kids ibuprofen (#5 and #6)
4. Roast chicken container (not pictures) #5

RECYCLABLE – Non-food
1. 4 Bleach and bleach-based cleaning product containers (all #2)

Items: Nonrecyclable
NON-RECYCLABLE – Food
1. Bags (non-recyclable) (CSA, resused bread bags, puffed rice bags) – note that I reuse these bags until I don’t feel comfortable I can adequately clean them.
2. Chick broth container (asceptic carton – nonrecyclable in Davis)
3. Straw
4. “fearless frank” hot dog and neiman ranch sausage wrappings
5. Ecover dishwasher tablet covers
6. Wrapping from leftover Halloween candy
7. Tea bag packaging
8. Yogurt cover (St. Benoit in glass)
9. Cheese wrapping cling film
10. Olive oil bottle wrapping
11. Baby bel wrapping
12. Mexican chocolate wrapping
13. Annie’s organic mac/cheese packets and Near East rice packet
14. Milk bottle wraps
15. Tangerine bags
16. Frozen Fish stick bags (can’t find box but pretty sure that’s nonrecyclable)
17. Plate/cling film from muffin purchase @ work cafeteria (couldn’t stop the gal in time from wrapping a poor muffin in plastic 3x over)
18. Restaurant leftover take-home box

NON-RECYCLABE – Non-food
1. Misc packaging (greeting cards and hose, not sure what the other packages are from)
2. Tape from packaging from online purchase
3. Plastic lining over address spot on envelopes
4. Girl scout badge backing
5. Netflix strips
6. Rocknasium giveaway
7. Last season’s ski lift pass
8. Packaging from new light bulb
9. Packaging from ill-conceived rubber stamp project
10. Used pens
11. Candyland game piece

What items can I replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
1. Rcover dishwasher tablets.
2. We’ve switched to bulk tea; this is from stash we’re finishing
3. Chocolate milk – I can come up with a mix from items available in bulk (wrapping is from a pantry re-org project where I ground up all the mexican chocolate to make it easier to use).
4. I can get sausage from butcher in my own packaging
5. Rotisserie chicken – not hard to get fresh chicken at butcher and poach or roast.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
- Baby bel cheese (that’s for the kids, anyway)
- bleach and bleach-based cleaners (I cleaned out our cleaning supplies this week and won’t be replacing these)
- straws (reminder to bring water bottle when getting food to go)
- take-out containers (reminder to bring containers to restaurant)

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
1. Kids ibuprofin and tylenol
2. chicken broth – this is a tough one. Only organic chicken broth available to me is in asceptic containers. Inorganic is in cans (which is lined with BPA-leaching stuff). Making my own chicken broth has a very high PITA (pain-in-the-ass) factor for me.
3. Sliced sandwich bread – another tough one. I tried making bread and buying sliced sandwich bread directly from baker and (a) it falls apart in kids lunches, (b) goes stale and (c) options have very high PITA factor.
4. Puffed rice and puffed kamut cereal bags. Another tough one! The only cereal in bulk has too much sugar and fat, homemade granola has similar problems (plus PITA factor) and kids hate meuslix. I’ve called several stores trying to find puffed rice in bulk.
4. When I travel my husband cooks and he uses packaged food (fish sticks, mak/cheese) – alternative is eating out so prefer use of some packaged food in this case.
5. We buy milk and yogurt in glass and am comfortable with wrapping associated with it.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
This is the biggest change I plan on making: refuse, refuse, refuse!
1. CSA bags (i.e., ask for no bags)
2. When I buy online, ask for no plastic (just started doing this)
3. Refuse giveaways (like the rocknasium sticker)

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
This week – find dishwasher soap with no plastic packaging or make my own.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
Next area of improvement may be to find
“plastic-free” recipes to help form new cooking habits that don’t rely on canned or packaged food.

Another area of improvement may be bread, tortilla and crackers. These are difficult to replace and they are very helpful for kids’ lunches.

6 comments
Lis
Lis

Ooh, I second the Better Than Bouillon suggestion-- that stuff is delicious. Thanks to Amy for opening my eyes to that product. It isn't organic... but let's not be too picky. Suzanne, you might be suggestioned-out, but I'm so inspired by your post here (and your naked sharing of the plastic-truth), that I'm going to offer up one of my weirdo techniques for kid medicine: just give them what you take. I literally break ibuprofren tablets in two, to get a 100 mg dose or what have you. The kid even kinda chews it. It works, and that is one less bottle I have to buy. Plus, I can buy those absurdly large bottles of pills... etc. etc. I just skip the tylenol altogether. Of course, this is not that satisfying of a solution, especially when it comes to antibiotics and other stuff... I wonder if we could order ibu. and other stuff "in bulk"-of-sorts from the Compound Pharmacist in Davis? xox

Suzanne from Davis
Suzanne from Davis

Beth, thanks for posting my challenge (with its enormous stack of plastic!) and thanks for the gracious comments and suggestions.

[Danielle, I like the "plastic-free cooking" section on your blog and it's nice to read about living plastic-free with kids, as that has it's own special challenges.]

I just bought "Better than Bouillon" and will try it - thanks for the tip! I will also try making the chocolate syrup from scratch, that's something I can do.

Thanks for the inspiration to take some action on the bread front. I will investigate some options and see if we can do something that will meet our kid-lunch needs and is plastic free.

Similarly on the puffed rice. My kids love oatmeal. The puffed rice is for variety (they also eat it with the yogurt in glass jars we buy, which is a nice nutritional boost for breakfast). But again... we can do better. I will mull our options.

Rebecca
Rebecca

Don't know how this would go over with the kids, but have you tried plain old oatmeal? I've become a total addict, especially on cold winter mornings.

Danielle
Danielle

Hey! Love the PITA acronym!! I said that I was going to make bread for nearly 2 years before I actually committed to it.... I picked up The Bread Bible (old one out of print) at the library and finally figured out how to make bread that my kids LOVE... and since I throw it in my bread machine... it's not quite the PITA ;) Or, like Beth said...when I forget to make bread, I purchase whole unsliced loafs and slice myself. It works really well. If the end of the loaf gets stale, I just make bread crumbs with it.

I also use Better Than Bouillon. It's my back up to making fresh. When I ate chicken and would roast a whole chicken I would save the carcass (you can freeze it or use it right away) and made stock with that. I'd make a batch.. use what I needed and then freeze it. (I do this now with veg stock as well). It's super easy... if you need a recipe... I'd be happy to send you one. :)

Cereal: When we did our plastic-free food week back in Sept/Oct... I stopped buying cereal. My kids whine sometimes, but then we go to the bulk section and I let my kids pick out granolas. My kids now eat a better breakfast than they used to... granola, fruit, an egg, oatmeal, muffins or smoothies are now are go-to breakfasts. And they're all plastic-free :D

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Suzanne. Thanks for taking the challenge. I have some thoughts for you.

First, that Netflix strip is actually coated with silicone, not plastic. I know because I checked with them a while back. :-)

For broth, I use organic "Better than Bouillon" which comes in a glass jar. http://www.superiortouch.com/retail/products/better-than-bouillon/organic-bases

For chocolate milk, have you considered making your own "Hershey's syrup"? It's very easy to make and plastic-free if you have access to bulk cocoa. Here's the recipe. It's sooo good. http://myplasticfreelife.com/2008/12/homemade-chocolate-syrup-delicious/

Regarding bread: it stays fresher longer if you don't buy it presliced. It doesn't take long to slice-as-you-go. Also, a bread box works really, really well for keeping it fresh. I found a stainless steel one at Target which works better than the popcorn tin I had been using. Of course, it's made in China. But I intend to have it until I die. http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/182-5462563-1769231?asin=B0014ZR0W6&AFID

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Lis. Actually Better than Bouillon does have an organic version. That's the one I get, although it might not be available everywhere.