What really does happen to our recycling after it’s picked up from the curb? Much of it is shipped overseas when it could be better used to provide jobs and source materials here at home. Using Oakland, Northern California, and the Pacific Rim as a case study, this short film is worth the eye-opening 17 minutes!
Also, if you get the chance, see Manufactured Landscapes, a film screening in theaters right now, which shows, among other things, what actually happens to the recycling (much of it hazardous e-waste) after we ship it to China. Michael and I saw it with some friends last weekend and were blown away by both the beauty and horror of the images.… Read the rest
So, we’re supposed to eat locally, right? To save transportation fuel, to support our local farmers, and to limit our pesticide exposure. And I’m very lucky to have a weekly farmer’s market just down the street within walking distance. The irony is that at our small Temescal Farmer’s Market, at least half of the vendors are selling prepared foods in plastic wrap or plastic containers. And the other half, the folks selling actual produce, offer only plastic bags to shoppers.
Now, I do bring my own bags with me so that I don’t have to use a new one. And I’ve also been bringing back my green plastic strawberry basket each week and returning it to the strawberry vendor who sells his strawberries al fresco (as opposed to the other strawberry vendor who encases his in clear plastic containers.) But many customers don’t come with their own bags and must use the new plastic bags that are offered. And it’s disheartening… Read the rest
Why avoid plastic? I originally wrote this post in July 2007, just one month into my plastic-free experiment. It’s now May 2015, and in the past 8 years, I have learned a lot more about plastic — where it comes from and what problems are associated with it. Here, then, is an updated summary of why I am still living plastic-free after all these years.
1) Plastic from fossil fuels
According to the U.S. Energy Energy Information Administration, “plastics are made from liquid petroleum gases (LPG), natural gas liquids (NGL), and natural gas. LPG are by-products of petroleum refining, and NGL are removed from natural gas before it enters transmission pipelines.” In 2010, about 191 million barrels of LPG and NGL and 412 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas were used in the United States to make plastic products.
And as we know, oil and gas are non-renewable resources, which means that if we don’t find alternatives… Read the rest
Do you all know about your local Freecycle™ group? Freecycle™ is a great way to save plastic, and other items, from the landfill. If you have an item that you no longer need, list it on Freecycle™. There is probably someone else out there who could use it. Need an item and don’t want to purchase a brand new one? Post a WANTED ad on Freecycle™. Maybe someone else has it for you.
Freecycle™ is actually a huge organization of groups that operate pretty independently in each city or area. Each group must follow some basic Freecycle™ rules, but then they can make their own rules regarding things like the number of Wanted postings allowed per month (some groups limit Wanted postings; others do not), whether or not pets can be exchanged, and the format of posts.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am a member of 4 different Freecycle™ groups:
Berkeley: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Berkeley_CA_Freecycle/… Read the rest
06/10/2013 Update: Several organizations have waged a campaign to get companies to eliminate polyethylene micro-beads from their facial scrubs. Please read my updated post to take action and learn about what other kinds of products contain microplastics.
Here is the text of my original article from July of 2007, which was updated in December 2011:
Say what? The little grains in exfoliating scrubs more often than not are made of plastic these days! Plastic that is meant to be rinsed down the drain, where it enters our waterways and the bodies of aquatic creatures. I almost didn’t believe it when I read it in this article: Polymers Are Forever. So I did a Google search, and this is what I found…
MD Formulations Face & Body Scrub contains polyethylene granules.
Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Face & Body Polish contains micro-fine polyethylene beads.
SkinCeuticals Body Polish contains polyethylene beads.
Helen Pensanti Exfoliating… Read the rest
For weeks, I’ve been choosing frozen entrees in pressboard trays over those in plastic trays, thinking that the only plastic waste was the film overwrap. Now, I find out that the cardboard tray itself is coated with a layer of PET plastic. I found this out through a very nice e-mail exchange and telephone interview with Stephen Moore, CEO of Helen’s Foods.
Before I continue with the plastic talk, I do want to say that Helen’s Kitchen farfalle & basil pesto with tofu steaks is hands down the best tasting frozen meal I have ever eaten. It’s certified organic, GMO-free, vegetarian, and just plain delicious. It would take me a day to prepare something this good from scratch. So it’s with a heavy heart that I continue my report on the product’s plastic content.
According to Moore, and from research I’ve done online, there is basically no way these days to create a frozen entree without plastic if it must … Read the rest
Send a short note to Wildwood! Read on to find out more!
Well, it’s looking like the only way to buy ready-to-drink refrigerated soy milk without plastic is to spring for the 1-quart carton of Wildwood soy milk. It’s more expensive that way. But the half gallon contains the same plastic spout and cap as the other brands. We’re also buying more packaging when we buy the smaller sizes.
So naturally, I wrote to Wildwood to ask why they feel the need to use a spout and cap on the half gallon cartons, and this is their response on 07/16/07:
The plastic fitment (spout) is mainly used to ensure that bacteria does not enter into the soymilk and cause spoilage. Cartons without the fitment are much more likely to spoil with the folded top once opened. Most consumers also find it more convenient.
“Hmm…” I thought to myself. “Hmm… is there some difference in the spoilage rate between cow’s milk and soy milk?… Read the rest
For weeks I’ve been staying up all night researching plastic, what it does in the environment, alternative products, alternative packaging, etc. etc. etc. I wonder how much having my computer on all night contributes to global warming? Of course, if it weren’t for this project, I’d probably be sitting in front of it watching recorded TV shows all night and playing Spider Solitaire, so I guess this is the lesser of the evils.
But this morning, as I was grabbing yet another plastic-laden frozen entree as I ran out the door because I hadn’t given myself time to prepare anything else, I paused to think about the irony of the situation. And I realized that I don’t have to solve every plastic problem that arises this week or this month. I can slow down and spend some time in my garden. Or get some exercise and start running again. Or just sit and follow my breath.
I’m tired. And I think a lot of other people are tired. So many… Read the rest
Last week, I went to bed and found this newspaper clipping on my pillow. Michael had left it there for me. Then, a few days later, my friend Sharon e-mailed me the same article. So I knew I had to make a visit to the new Panhandle Band Shell in San Francisco between Oak and Fell near Clayton and see for myself this creation made from plastic water bottles, old car hoods, and computer parts. Here are the photos I took today, as well as one taken of me by some nice guy. Click images to see larger.
I don’t know if the band shell will be there after September. I should have taken my ukulele and made music. Or sung. Well, I sang all the way home from BART today even without a band shell to amplify my sound. The cats in Rockridge are very forgiving.… Read the rest
RCA plans to save 450 tons of plastic in the next two years by making smaller, environmentally-friendly paper gift box containers to replace the older clamshell packages in an initiative called “Smart Packing,” which they say has already saved over 81 tons of extra plastic.
I applaud this move on RCA’s part, and if I ever need to buy another electronic gadget, I’ll check out RCA-brand first, as well as any other brands that may be switching to similar packaging.
But we can’t forget that the electronics themselves are made of plastic and other non-renewable materials, and we need to ask ourselves before purchasing new electronics if we really need them and if they will really make us happy.
On Friday, June 29, I was walking along Shattuck Ave in downtown Berkeley when I came upon a huge line of people wrapping around the block. It was the kind of line you see at a box office when some mega-star is coming to town or at a bookstore… Read the rest