The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Monthly Archives: November 2007

November 30, 2007

Quest for Questions

I got an e-mail today from a new reader who wanted the answers to some basic questions: What’s the goal of Fake Plastic Fish? Why am I doing this? When does the project end? What’s been the most difficult lifestyle change I’ve had to make so far?

I realize that unlike EnviroWoman’s plastic-free blog, Fake Plastic Fish’s goals have been less clearly defined, mainly because as I stated at the outset, this is a place for me to learn and to share what I learn with others. In the beginning, I really had no idea how much plastic I was consuming or how much I’d be able or willing to give up.

Anyway, it just so happens that I was thinking of writing up a FAQ for people who are new to this blog, so the reader’s questions came at a perfect time. As I mentioned a few days ago, Blogger’s capabilities don’t allow me to make the site as easy to navigate as I’d like, so I think a page answering basic questions would … Read the rest

November 29, 2007

Holiday gifts and Mindfulness at the Movies

I’m being inundated with articles about “greening” your holidays. Smugly, I thought I had my holiday gift-giving plans all figured out. The season is fairly simple in our house since we don’t have children (although we may have kitties by Christmas!) and both of us are non-religious. That said, we do have families and friends with whom we exchange some gifts, nieces and nephews. And they are spread out across the country, so there’s a lot of transportation involved in sending gifts.

Perusing the multitude of green gift guides I’ve received so far (The Green Life Holiday Gift Guide from the Sierra Club is a great summary!), I kept coming across the idea of sending gift certificates for events rather than tangible presents that have to be wrapped and will eventually end up as waste, not to mention the fuel used for shipping them. Gift certificates sounded like a great idea to me. Specifically, movie tickets.… Read the rest

November 27, 2007

Store Report: The Thing About Costco…

In last week’s post about tips for shopping at Safeway and other mainstream chain grocery stores, I mentioned that one way to save plastic is to buy large-sized containers. Sunny commented that for that reason, maybe shopping at Costco is not so bad. So tonight, I visited Costco with my camera to see if we really could save plastic by buying large containers there.

What I found is that yes, if you don’t have access to a store with bulk bins, you can buy large bags of rice or beans or large containers of laundry detergent or ibuprofen and save some plastic. But the thing about Costco is that most of the merchandise is not packaged in large single containers. In fact, if you’re not careful, you could end up with way more plastic from Costco than you would otherwise. For one thing, most “bulk” purchases are actually plastic-wrapped bundles of smaller items:

It doesn’t help to buy products in plastic containers that are… Read the rest
November 24, 2007

What’s wrong with this picture?

Out for a nice stroll, buying nothing yesterday, Michael and I were dismayed to see Telegraph Avenue lined with plastic bags full of brown leaves. What’s wrong with that? Everything!

Our city councilwoman, Jane Brunner, has been working on getting more trees planted along our streets. Do more trees mean more garbage for the landfill? This beautiful compostable material gets sealed up in a plastic bag to mummify with the rest of the garbage instead of being returned to the soil to nourish new trees? If that’s the case, someone’s not using their noggin.

I’m going to call the city on Monday and get to the bottom of this. Oakland ought to be handing out compostable leaf bags and hauling them to our commercial composter. Well, I rescued one bagful for my personal compost. Any other Oaklanders could do the same. Even if you don’t have your own composter, you could free the leaves from the plastic and empty them into your green… Read the rest

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! Buy local, buy handmade, or buy nothing!

Yes, I can criticize Safeway, but I’m still sucked in by their advertising. This billboard has been all over town in the past couple of weeks, so I decided I just had to try making pumpkin soup in a pumpkin shell to bring for Thanksgiving this year.

I waited until the last minute, and then couldn’t find a big enough pumpkin last night at Berkeley Bowl or Whole Foods. So I thought, “Hmm… Safeway’s the one advertising the soup in the pumpkin. They must have the right sized pumpkin.” Turns out, Safeway didn’t have any pumpkins at all. And when I asked a clerk where the pumpkins were, he gave me a really funny face and said, “Lady, Halloween’s been over!”

“I know Halloween’s over,” I protested, “but tomorrow’s Thanksgiving! You don’t have pumpkins for pumpkin pie?”

“Oh! You want the pumpkin in the can!” he exclaimed.

How could … Read the rest

November 21, 2007

Store Report: Struggling with plastic at Safeway

I am really fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area with stores like Rainbow Grocery and Berkeley Bowl that sell so many foods in bulk bins without any packaging at all. It would be much harder to live plastic-free without these kinds of stores. So I thought I’d take an aisle-by-aisle tour of my local Safeway to see how I’d minimize my plastic consumption if I had no other place to shop. The exercise was enlightening.

I planned to write this post in the same way, as an aisle-by-aisle assessment of Safeway’s offerings and how to shop there while consuming the least plastic possible. But writing the post that way became so tedious tonight, I just had to stop. You don’t need me to tell you what products are on the shelves of Safeway. Anyone who shops there can see for themselves. But there are some important principals to keep in mind when shopping at any mainstream grocery store, so I’ll list those, as well as a few other… Read the rest

November 20, 2007

Recycling part 5: Only in San Francisco

Continuing my visits to SF bay area waste facilities, I took a tour yesterday of the San Francisco MRF (material recovery facility, aka recycling center) and San Francisco “dump.” What I saw looked pretty much the same as at Davis Street and CWS, so I won’t bore you with more photos of sorting machines and baled materials. Instead, I’ll sum up the experience with this little video I put together showing both operations, the clean and the stinky. This video is more detailed than the one I made of the CWS operation:

What you don’t see in this video, what San Francisco has that other recycling and garbage facilities lack (besides being a whole lot bigger) is an artist in residence! Yep, you heard me. San Francisco Dump has an Artist in Residence program. Artists get space at the dump and access to whatever materials they want to use for three-month periods.

Friday night, Michael and I attended a presentation of the SF Dump … Read the rest

November 16, 2007

The Vodka Variations

Vodka’s not just for drinking anymore.

Spicy Sweet Homemade Mouthwash

On November 4, I wrote that I had finished up my last bottle of Act fluoride rinse and had decided not to replace it. Several dentists told me they didn’t think I needed it. However, I wasn’t just using the rinse for the fluoride; it had also served as my mouthwash for the last couple of years, leaving my breath minty fresh. Without it, I needed to find a plastic-free alternative, and since there are apparently no mouthwashes sold plastic-free these days, I decided to make my own.

I found the following recipe on Mother Earth Living and tried it:

Spicy Sweet Mouthwash

This mouthwash requires a couple of weeks for the spices to steep in the alcohol.

1 cup vodka 1 tablespoon whole cloves 1 tablespoon cinnamon chips (I used ground cinnamon) 1 teaspoon fennel seed (ommited because I didn’t have) 1 teaspoon anise seed 1 teaspoon licorice root (also ommitted —… Read the rest

November 14, 2007

Obsessing over cutting boards

In a comment a few days ago, Mazzajo wondered, “Perhaps I’m going OTT about this? If I intend to use a (new) item responsibly, then does it matter what the company does?? What do you think?” We can get a bit over the top sometimes in our quest to be as ecologically sensitive as possible. For example, we might drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out the “greenest” cutting board to buy to replace the skanky plastic mess of a cutting board we’re ready to relinquish. On the other hand, research can be fun. Maybe I obsessed a little too much over this decision or maybe obsessing is just part of what makes me me. In any case, here are the thoughts that led to this week’s cutting board decision:

Choice 1: A brand new Epicurean Cutting Surface like the professionals use. Pros: According to the company, “Epicurean Cutting Surfaces® are made with eco select paper from trees harvested under guidelines of the North… Read the rest

November 14, 2007

Multi-Pure, my Cupboards, and the Perils of PVC

This past week, I panicked when I discovered that the tubing used in my new Multi-Pure counter top water filter system, which I bought in place of the Brita we had been using, is made from virgin PVC.

As I wrote on October 29, I was already somewhat disenchanted with Multi-Pure because of the volume of plastic bubble wrap in which the unit and filter cartridge were wrapped. But it wasn’t until the unit was installed and working that I actually read the fine print and discovered the more serious problem of PVC used in the product itself.

When I called Multi-Pure to address this issue, I was told that the tubing had been tested by NSF and found not to leach anything harmful into the water. However, the rep was unable to confirm whether phthalates such as DEHP, the chemicals that are the biggest worry, were included in the list of possible contaminants for which to be tested. But regardless of whether or not this particular tubing is leaching anything harmful… Read the rest