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In my smug hubris, after weeks of trimming away plastic in my life, I was sure that my pile of plastic after the end of the week would at least somewhat resemble Beth’s—-i.e. a few plastic windows from envelopes, maybe a random plastic bottle from pre-uber-green days—but I was shocked to find that I was compiling tons of random things.
But, of course, this is the whole point of this exercise: to realize what areas in particular we have left to improve on.
3 of those tiny coffee creamer things
I usually keep milk (that comes in a glass bottle) at work for my coffee—for environmental reasons but also because it tastes so much better—but I had run out the day before and gave into a craving.
“Inspected by” sticker
I just bought a Kleen Kanteen-type water bottle (which has a plastic lid and rubber padding on the bottom, btw), and this sticker was on the underside. At least the tag on it was made out of recycled paper, I guess.
Toilet paper wrapping
My roommate insists on getting this particular type of toilet paper—which isn’t made of recycled content—and which comes in a large wrapping of plastic, and within that huge thing of plastic, every 4 rolls are packaged in their own individual plastic wrappings. Sigh. When I went to get a new roll, I took the last of a set of four, and thus was left with the remaining plastic.
I suppose I could buy my own recycled, non-plastic toilet paper, and add that to the list of items we have two sets of around the house because of my green endeavors (e.g. she has liquid soap, I have bar soap).
Not depicted: straw
The old story, one which I had not yet encountered as my anti-plastic self, as I hardly ever go out on the town: I ordered a soda and totally didn’t see the bartender throw in the straw. I thought about returning it, but I was like, she’s probably gonna throw it out anyway, so I may as well take it. And then I forgot to take the straw for my stash. I’m clearly new at this saving plastic thing.
So, I drink a LOT of milk, due to my addictions to tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and cereal. I buy the kind that comes in a returnable glass bottle (the dairy reuses them!!), but they come with (of course) a plastic cap. I wonder, really, if the amount of plastic in that rather large cap is the same amount of plastic used for coating on a carton and the plastic tops cartons use these days.
I would drink homemade soymilk, almond milk or hemp milk instead—and actually, each of these is lovely in cereal—but they’re just wretched in tea and coffee. So until I get a cow, I suppose I could cut down on the amount of tea, coffee, and hot chocolate I drink, which aren’t very localtarian anyway. (No coffee plantations in Southern California? Oh.) That, however, is going to take a LOT more willpower than I needed for switching from paper towels to cloth. I wouldn’t mind, however, getting a hemp milk maker for cereal (if hemp seeds don’t come in plastic, rrr).
I’d gone without bread for a long time because I’d been on a more paleo-type diet for fitness reasons, but now that I’m going to swing more vegan for ecological reasons, I figure I should probably get back into bread, or else my diet may lack sufficient variety.
But with bread comes plastic—unless you make your own, of course. But I didn’t want to go through the trouble of getting a bread maker and making bread until I proved to myself that I was actually going to eat it. But I did (every day, actually), so I think I will get a bread-maker after all. So we can check this one off the list for the future.
5 Brush Picks
My dentist suggested these as an alternative to flossing, which I hate, and they work just as well. I’m using them until I run out and then switching to a metal, rubber-tipped gum stimulator, which works just as well.
Kashi cereal bag
I’ve started buying cereal in bulk at my local co-op (the “hippie store” as my brother calls it, haha), but late one night I was starving with nothing to eat. The hippie store is all the way across town, not to mention closed by that time, so I walked a block to the local Ralphs and bought my favorite cereal. I gotta stock up on the non-plastic hippie store stuff for such”emergencies”.
Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash
Geez, this list keeps getting bigger and bigger!!! I bought this at the hippie store as a more natural alternative to regular mouthwash, but notice that it’s ALL plastic. I think I read somewhere that it’s impossible to find hydrogen peroxide that comes in anything else.
I don’t even think I really need mouthwash, but hydrogen peroxide is also a more environmentally friendly alternative to bleach and antiseptics. So… should I count this as an excusable use of plastic?
Ironically, I bought this so that I could make my own yogurt so I could eat yogurt without plastic. I guess you have to break a few eggs… Anyway, I should never have to buy a container of yogurt again… unless I’m unsuccessful in making yogurt that doesn’t suck….
Sunkist orange sticker
I did not buy this orange. My mom bought this orange, and it had a little sticker on it, as conventional oranges are wont to have.
While I returned the rest of my junk mail, this contained my absentee ballot for the California “special” election, and I couldn’t very well return that.
Not depicted: Plastic spoon
This came from a similar situation to that of the straw. I am hardly ever in this position: there was ice cream passed out at work at a birthday party, and before I realized what I was doing, I had reached for a plastic spoon.
Jam screw top
This was for the pb&j’s I made with the bread mentioned above. Most of this is metal, but I assume that there’s plastic under that there top. I know canning is the answer to this one, but that would only save some glass—not plastic, as even in canning, you’re supposed to toss the small circle tops (which have a ring of rubber on them) when you’re done with them.
However, reusing glass is always good, so I intend to getting into canning as soon as I can find a used canning machine…
I didn’t buy this myself, but I drank a lot of milk at my mom’s house, so I figured I was partially reponsible for it (I guess I should have taken the whole carton…). I would urge her to do some non-plastic alternative, but see the above milk dilemma…
Not depicted: Netflix seal cover thing and extra tyvek flap
If I were in any other industry but the entertainment industry, I’d be fine with canceling my Netflix subscription. But since I am, it’s like a duty to my career to watch as much as possible.
I will try to watch things more often on the internet or rent from the library or Blockbuster (although I think someone calculated that Netflix is actually more environmentally friendly than Blockbuster, in spite of the Tyvek), but sometimes Netflix is the literally only place you can find something.
I used this when I scratched a scab open. Is there such thing as non-plastic bandaids? Is the only alternative gauze wrappings? Will investigate.
Not depicted: Liter bottle of Squirt
I almost completely forgot this and did completely forget to save it for my pile o’ plastic (how convenient). My brother got it for me as a surprise, since I’d mentioned the week before that I loved Squirt. Yes, I drank the whole thing myself. Within an hour. :D
I’m not sure what the total weight of all this is, but I think it’s probably around 6oz. (I was only able to weigh my pile three-fourths into the week, which at the time clocked in at 3.5oz.) But I figure that even if I were a complete saint, I still would have had at least 1 or 2 ounces.
Here’s a useful breakdown for me, in order to figure out why these things happened:
Number of items used in the pursuit of cutting out plastic: 2
Things to change: 5
(Seemingly) unavoidable: 5
Using up from pre-anti-plastic days: 1
As I mentioned, I sucked at this way more than I thought I would (no guilt, Beth! Just the truth!)—and I am now in awe of Beth’s weekly tallies, which typically weigh like 0.5 oz, but let’s look at how much plastic I WOULD have had—PER DAY!!—had I not gone through my my anti-plastic efforts:
-2 plastic wrappers from Balance bars
-plastic-coated hot chocolate packet (let’s not comment on my diet at the time, shall we…)
-plastic packet of coffee grounds
-plastic to-go container
-1 or 2 soda cans (Jesus, my diet was crap)
And this is just the stuff I remember. So I know for sure that I’ve greatly improved in the last couple months.
But as I am not yet at saintly status, I have my new to-do list cut out for me:
1. Try to find paper-wrapped recycled toilet paper
2. Remember to ask not to get a straw
3. Get a bread maker
4. See if I can get hemp seeds in anything other than plastic
5. Cut down on coffee, tea, and hot chocolate (ha!)
6. Stock up on non-perishable food from hippie store
7. Use the library more often for film rentals
8. Check out bandaid alternatives
I think it’d be really interesting to do this exercise again after having made all these changes to compare the difference…
Read all posts by: Carrick in L.A.