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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.
Cool, thanks for asking them, Beth! How good of an alternative to plastic is silicone? I mean, it's good that it's not made from oil, but is its production (and disposal) that much more environmentally friendly?Thanks for the Marcal tip-off! I'll check it out. :)Tea and coffee w/o milk?? NOOO!!! ;-) Actually, I tried Earl Grey with lemon juice since I'd run out of milk and that's supposedly the "proper" way to drink it anyway, and I must say, it was quite good.
You brought up the question, and I found the answer about the Netflix seal. I wrote to Netflix, and here is the response that came today:Beth,Good to hear from you. The pull off tab on the Netflix mailer is paper coated with silicone.If you’d like more information about Netflix, please check the Media Center at www.netflix.com or shoot me an email. Thanks.Steve Swasey | Vice President, Corporate Communications | Netflix | 100 Winchester Circle | Los Gatos, CA 95032 | Office: 408/540-3947 | Cell: 925/899-8108 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Marcal rolls are wrapped in paper but the multi-paks have an exterior plastic wrap. However, a 20pk of Marcal on lossleader sale is less than half the cost per roll of the larger 7th Generation on Amazon. Just saying.
Also, on the TP -- the Marcal and CVS brands of recycled TP compare favorably with the Seventh Generation stuff, are paper wrapped, and, in the US anyway, can usually be found locally. But the Amazon shipment gives a huge amount -- I bought it that way once and I swear I didn't have to buy TP for over a year. So the one-time shipping may make it worth it. (But finding a place to store it in a small apartment not so much.)
Coffee and tea are quite good without milk. No really! (Actually, I seriously dislike milk in my coffee, but I know many disagree.) I also second Beth's recommendation to look for bread not wrapped in anything. I also find making bread by hand to be quite satisfying; you might find you like it. (And you can make a bunch of dough at once and freeze it for future use.)
I probably could find a bakery... All right, throwing that on the to-do list--to replace the bread maker. Someone on my blog (where I also posted this) made a similar suggestion, i.e. to just make my own bread by hand (and included this link to a no-knead-bread recipe: http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2008/12/the_noknead_bre.html), to which I responded:"Actually, I was thinking of doing exactly that! Coincidentally, I've made bread recently (it's an Easter tradition for my family), and yeah, it really wasn't that hard. So yes, I will try that first--if anything, just to see if I even continue eating bread before investing in a machine."Although if I do start eating loaves of bread by the dozen, then of course I'll get a used bread machine. :)Hm, yeah, I don't know for sure if the Netflix thing is plastic--I just assumed it was.Aha, plastic-free toilet paper, thanks! But isn't it better to buy at a local store than online? Although I suppose if not even my hippie store carries them (!), then I might just end up resorting to Amazon.Thanks!!
Wow, Carrick. Your list is so detailed! Way to go. I do have a few comments/questions...1) Instead of buying a bread machine, can you find bread from a bakery without packaging or artisan bread that comes in a paper bag instead? We have some great plastic-free bread alternatives here in the Bay Area. And if you do buy a bread machine, I would encourage you to look to Craigslist, thrift stores, etc. to find one used instead of new. It would be nice to know just how much bread one would have to make to make up for all the plastic, metal, and other materials in the bread machine itself.2) I've never included that little Netflix strip because I assumed it was wax paper. Perhaps I'll check with them to get the full story.3) You can get plastic-free toilet paper by the case from Amazon.com. Here's the info:http://www.amazon.com/Seventh-Generation-Bathroom-Tissue-500-Sheet/dp/B000C7OHFK/ref=pd_sbs_gro_1 Don't know if you've looked into this option.Kudos for your hard, detailed work! I look forward to future posts from you.