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April 3, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Rebecca Jackson, Week 1

 

Name: Rebecca Jackson

Week: 1

Personal Info:
I live in the city of Springfield, MA, I’m female, I live with two cats, I work full time.

Total items: 39

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
1 Bag from grapes
2 Feta package
3 Bottle from body lotion
4 Bottle from facial moisturizer
5 Bottle from conditioner
6-9 Bottle from orange juice x4

I’m not sure what to say about about “how it gets recycled in my community”. We have curbside pickup for glass of all colors, steel and aluminum, office paper and newsprint as long as it hasn’t touched food, and most plastics (but not styrofoam or caps and lids).
I learned because of this challenge that I CAN recycle paper milk cartons, which I’d been throwing away because I thought coated papers couldn’t be separated back out to recycle!

Items: Nonrecyclable
10-11 Used up white board marker x2
12 Used up ball point pen
13 Bag from cat food
14 Lid from body lotion
15 Pump lid from facial moisturizer
16 Lid from conditioner
17-20 Lid from orange juice x4
21 Liner from a box of breakfast cereal
22 Seal from a container of feta
23-24 Plastic wrap over and styrofoam tray under sugar snap peas
26-26 Plastic bag from spinach x2
27 Plastic wrap over package of brussels sprouts
28 Plastic wrap around a block of cheddar cheese
29 Gave a package of almonds to a friend – it was in a clear polystyrene container that CAN be recycled locally, but I don’t know how she disposed of it, and it left my house, so I’m counting it.
30-37 And finally the stuff I’m embarrassed to list: plastic cup, lid and straw from a milkshake; plastic plate, cover, fork, wrap the fork came in, salad dressing packet from a McDonald’s salad.
38 Broken compact disc
39 Toothbrush
40 Plastic part of the toothbrush package
I didn’t track envelope windows, or the little stickers on pieces of fruit, although I’m sure some of those passed through my hands this week.
I also didn’t track the rather large collection of trash, some plastic some not, that I picked out of my yard and threw away yesterday, now that the last of the snow has melted away and all the crap trapped in it is visible. There were a couple recyclable bottles and an aluminum can, but mostly it was little bits of wrappers and film that went into the trash.

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
The orange juice bottles I could easily give up if I took the time to finish eating breakfast before I leave home – they are just a convenience to take a sandwich and drink out the door with me. I can buy the whole fruit without packaging, drink tap water, or buy juice concentrate in recyclable aluminum cans to mix up at home.

The almonds I could easily buy in shell and shell them myself and then they would come without packaging.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I’m more than willing to give up the McDonald’s – I don’t even like their food and it’s bad for me and costs way too much. But I never seem to cook enough on the weekend to get me through the work week, so it was between buying food and not eating, and I don’t do so well when I skip meals.

I rarely buy cold cereal – I can eat fruit or dried fruit and hot cereal and the hot cereal comes packaged just in cardboard. The dried fruit, of course, comes in plastic bags or tubs…

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Some foods at my grocery store are ONLY sold packaged in plastic, including the grapes, feta, cat food, breakfast cereal (the liner), sugar snap peas, spinach, brussels sprouts, and cheddar. Sometimes they have whole stalks of brussels sprouts with no packaging, and when they do, I’ll buy it in that form. It is just the start of the growing season and my spinach and peas are in the ground or going in today, but for now my veggies come from the store.

The skin lotions and conditioner aren’t available in other packaging, and while I’m not willinjg to call these things “essential,” I’m also not willing to go without them.

The whiteboard markers and pens are only available in plastic and I don’t know how I’d do my job (teacher) without them.

My elderly cats eat a prescription food that only comes in a plastic bag.

The CD was a stupid mistake, and I have to replace it because it belonged to the public library.

The toothbrush and its packaging I don’t know how to get around – I don’t think I’d be willing to buy a toothbrush that wasn’t packaged in something.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Turns out I didn’t use up the green beans I bought this week, but I packaged them in a plastic bag myself. I can recycle that plastic bag, but it would be more efficient to buy a few of those net produce bags to take to the store with me.

Taking more time to prep and eat at home would get rid of things like the almond container and the orange juice bottles.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I commit to no disposably packaged take-out foods this week. That is, I’m NOT committing not to buy fruits and vegetables that I can only get in plastic packages, but I’m committing to not need that McDonalds lunch or the carry out juice for this week. I’ve made a big pot of curry and a tofu quiche and packed it up for lunches, and I have fruit and am going to bake a mess of cookies tonight for snacks.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I throw away more plastic than I realized, and a lot of it is really hard to replace without entirely giving up the product that comes in it.

Read all posts by: Rebecca Jackson

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2 comments
Rebecca Jackson
Rebecca Jackson

I can't believe you take the time to respond to all these posts! Thank you so much for your feedback! Juice v. fruit: I love fresh fruit, but the thing juice gives me that fruit doesn't is clean hands. It's a bad habit to work through my meals, I know, but I can't peel an orange while entering grades, and I CAN sip a bottle of juice. Once again, I'm noticing that lowering my dependence on plastic will require that I slow my life down a bit. I love Etsy and will check out the conditioner bars - I had no idea that existed. In the meantime, you'll still be seeing me report the disposal of conditioner bottles, not because I'm not open to change, but because I tend to buy a lot in bulk, and I'm sure I have more than a six month supply in my closet. The refillable whiteboard markers are quite a coup! If the sales pitch is right about how they compare in writing life to conventional whiteboard markers is right, they'll end up costing only half as much, reduce my landfill impact, and best of all (from my point of view) will allow me to stop making my students sick and/or high from the awful fumes markers make. I will buy a set of these with my next paycheck. Thank you very much for the idea!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Rebecca. Thanks for taking the challenge! There was a discussion on this blog a while back about fruit juice vs. eating whole fruit that you might find interesting. Check out the comments on this post: http://myplasticfreelife.com/showyourplastic/2011/01/yaga-and-trev-week-1/ As for conditioners and lotions, here are a few plastic-free suggestions: Organic Essence lotion in a compostable cardboard container: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/12/plastic-free-organic-essence-lip-balm-body-cream-give-away/ Lush makes shampoo and conditioner bars. Here's the conditioner: http://www.lushusa.com/shop/products/hair/conditioners/jungle Basin also makes solid shampoo and conditioner. Here's the conditioner: http://www.basinwhite.com/index.php?p=catalog&parent=48&pg=1 There are quite a few sellers on Etsy that make shampoo and conditioner bars. Just follow this searchfor conditioner bars: http://www.etsy.com/search/handmade?q=%26quot%3Bconditioner+bar%26quot%3B With all of the conditioner bar sellers, it's a good idea to ask for no plastic packaging when placing an order. And check to see if they've used shrink wrap on them. There are several toothbrush options. Preserve is made from recycled plastic, and it comes in a prepaid mailer so you can send it back to the company for further recycling: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2010/04/plastic-free-dental-floss-not-quite/ Soon I'm going to be reviewing a few other toothbrush options, including one made from bamboo and one made with boar bristles (NOT for vegans!). I have seen some refillable white board markers, which I haven't tried. The kit is full of plastic, but the markers are non-toxic, and it seems like it would save plastic in the long run. http://shrsl.com/?~syg (In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a BuyGreen.com affiliate, so if you follow that link and order something from the site, My Plastic-free Life gets credit for it.)