The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

May 1, 2008

I can has floor?

So, with Beth away, I have the floor. Actually, the cats have the floor. They have pretty much the whole apartment. But I should vacuum the floor to protect them from nasty chemicals.

OK, so I’m digressing already. Unlike my previous filling-in-for-Beth posts, this one won’t have a big, unifying theme, like polar bears or general forgiveness. Instead, it will be a bunch of short notes on various plastic- and sustainability-related matters as I’ve been dealing with them. There won’t be a lot of links or pictures, either, because they take a long time to insert, and unlike Beth, I don’t like to, and can’t, stay up all night to write the post. If it were totally up to me, I would just make my supper, make my lunch for tomorrow, and then sit down on the couch with the newspapers and, I would hope, the cats. But Beth has committed me with today’s post. Alternatively, I’d write the post over the weekend, but Beth says no one reads then. So here I am, in basic prose.

(Also, my pictures are on my desktop computer in the front room, where don’t let the cats go, even when I’m trying to be “good cop”, and curry favor with them. Instead, I’m using Beth’s laptop, in the kitchen, in the hopes that the cats will come by and rub against me and even sit on my lap.)

So, I’ve actually been keeping track of my plastic use, too. Well, not the way Beth does. I’ve just been accumulating the plastic I use since about mid-March. I guess I’ll weigh it at some point. Right now, I’m just forcing myself to look at it and see how much I’m using. Most of my use consists of wrappers for energy and granola bars. The former I get pretty cheap at the Grocery Outlet (aka the Used Food Store, the “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” Store, and the GrossOut), and the latter I get free at work. I’ve cut way down on my GrossOut purchases, pretty much all of which are wrapped in plastic. I used to get a lot of lunch meat until Beth really scared me about the nitrates. Or I would make a lot of impulse purchases of snacks, until I realized how much wrapping they had. But energy bars are just so convenient. And yummy, like candy bars or cookies. But better than cookies, I like to think, when I have the munchies. Marginally? And they make me feel like an athlete, renutrifying myself after my morning workout. (See below.)

What I should do, I know, is just bring a (stainless steel) bottle of milk (with chocolate syrup! yum!) to drink first thing in the morning.

ok, that was Soots, walking on the keyboard.

And I don’t have to eat my firm’s granola bars, just because they’re free. I could bring my own. I mean, the firm has free coffee, and soda, and peanuts, and I don’t feel compelled to consume those. Soors-=, you are making this difficult. Terracycle has a cool program with Clif Bar under which they take back energy and granola bar wrappers, make them into something useful, and give a few cents apiece to a charity. But participation is limited to a paltry 500 companies, and they have their full complement already. That’s lame. If you’ve already signed the Take Back the Filter petition, which you better have, or I shall lay my terribleness upon thee, maybe you can bother Terracycle and Clif about expanding the program.

I’ve also been thinking about my exercise program and its footprint. Literally. Well, not quite. I run about 70 miles a month. Which means three or four new pairs of running shoes a year. Yes, running shoes can be recycled into surfaces for playgrounds (Nike has such a program), and I drop my used (and by the time I drop them, quite smelly) trainers off at a local store that recycles them, but still, each pair probably uses a barrel of oil to make the foam rubber insole and imitation leather and mesh upper and faux rubber outsole and nylon laces. I wonder if there are any shoes made out of canvas or other natural materials that would give me the support I need. I mean, I can’t run the 12K Bay to Breakers in Chuck Taylors.

I swim twice a week, generally. I ride my bike over to the pool. I wear plastic goggles, but I’ve had the same pair for years. I made a new strap out of a bit of bicycle inner tube. But is the chlorine in pools bad for the environment? Are pools a waste of water?

I also go to the gym twice a week. There I use a stair climbing machine. I have to light on my feet and agile, like Fred Astair. Ha ha. OK. I shudder to think how much energy it takes to run the machine, to move those big heavy steps in an inclined oval. I could stop going to the gym, and run and swim more, but the stairs don’t jar my knees as much as running. But at least while I’m there, I drink out of my Klean Kanteen. I used to use plastic bottles – reuse them, in fact. Ugh. I suppose I could stop going to the gym, but Beth got us a great deal on membership a few years ago, and I feel I have to make use of it. Recover my sunk costs. The way we’re doing in Iraq. Ugh.

Once a week, generally Sundays, I ride my wind trainer, which is a bicycle set up on frame with a flywheel that creates resistance and allows me to exercise without going anywhere. I’ve had this for twenty years now, and generally used it only when nasty weather prevented me from going out on the road. But then I crashed my road bike two years ago, and broke my collarbone, and though I had healed within a few months, I just have not felt like taking the risk again. But I still pretend that I’m going to ride again, and so I need to keep in practice. On the trainer, I’m not using electricity, unlike on the stair climber, except to run the fan that I need to keep me cool (since there’s no actual wind to do that, since I’m not going anywhere.) But what I really should do is figure out a way to hook up the bike to a generator, and make electricity, instead of just friction dissipated as heat. There must be something online somewhere about how to do this. Or I’ll ask my friend the engineer for PG&E.

But back to running: the Bay to Breakers, a seven-and-a-half mile run across San Francisco, is in two weeks. Last year, my first time running it seriously, I did much better than I expected; this year, I have a goal, but I’m not sure I’ll reach it. But what I am sure of about the B2B is that there will be huge numbers of plastic bottles of water given out during and after the race, most of which will end up lying on the ground or tossed in the trash. True, people — heroes of mine, actually, more power to them — will go along, gathering up the bottles for the deposits. But I really think that in a city whose mayor banned bottled water from government offices, and has taken other measures to switch back to the excellent local tap water, it’s terrible that a race which is such a public event (the mayor and about a hundred thousand others will run it) is going to generate such a Calvary of waste. We should bother Mayor Newsom to pressure the B2B organizers and sponsors, or pressure the sponsors to bother the organizers, or something. It’s probably too late for this year, but there’s always next year.

Which brings me to the subject of collecting bottles. I generally pick up bottles and cans off the street. Yeah, like a homeless person. I wash my hands when I get home. See, there’s a recycling center not far away, and it’s free money. Well, considering how long it takes to carry them over, etc., it’s not such a good deal. The question is, if I left them on the street, would they 9 — come on, Soots, I’m almost done — be picked up by someone who needs the money more than I? Or should I pick them up, but then leave them out on the street in my recycling bin, where a collector will take them at night, as my contribution to help the homeless?

OK, on that note, I’m going to make some lunch and give my attention to the kittens so they don’t rip me to shreds with their claws. Let’s all send positive vibes out to Beth as she meditates, hoping her retreat doesn’t turn into a rout. I always worry about that term — it makes me think of Napoleon from Moscow. As opposed to Napoleon from Preston, Idaho. (Huh?) To all of you, as always, it’s been an honor and a pleasure, and until next time, I remain,

Yr ob’t,

terrible person

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15 years ago

LOL LOL beth couldn’t have found a better sub – guess it helps you livin in the same house- you made coffee come out my nose when you called Grocery Outlet “The Used Food store”. Now our Grocery outlet has a new nickname.

15 years ago

Hi, liked your post. The gym is always a good thing, and maybe they will get greener over the next several years. Green seems to be getting blessedly hip, so maybe they will change with the times. I did a couple of workouts on the On Demand feature of my cable today (one was Carmen Electra dancing, tres cool). Also, I like to do good old squats, tricep dips, lunges, pushups & crunches for free and without using gas or energy! Baby steps! Trying to get plasticless in Huntington Bch, CA

terrible person
15 years ago

Soots and Arya, my dear sleek friends, the reason I didn’t let you write the post is that I didn’t want to subject the loyal readers of FPF to multiple paragraphs of your cute, but ultimately cloying and annoying LOLspeak. Your brother Robb can write coherently. Why can’t you? Hmm. Since you have the same genetic heritage, it must be nurture. I guess your caretakers must provide you a more intellectually stimulating environment, more full of books and music.

OK, yes, I got it wrong about sunk costs. It’s not as if I’ve invested anything in the gym so that I have to keep using it to make good my investment, or that I have to keep investing in the hopes of getting that big payoff someday, like a gambler who keeps doubling or nothing. That’s basically what we’re doing in Iraq, otherwise known as pouring good money after bad, refusing to cut our losses and stop. What I’m doing with the gym and granola bars is thinking, they’re free, or cheap, so I must take advantage of them, whether they are really the best thing for me or not. However, the gym membership does convey some benefits besides the use of the energy-wasting stairclimber: places to change, rest, or use a hot tub or sauna all over the area. So I could argue either that I might as well continue my membership, or that I’m getting my money’s worth just from those factors and thus, don’t need to use the stairmaster to justify my monthly dues payment.

I’ve heard about the shoeless movement. If I could run just on dirt or grass, which I try to do anyway to reduce shock, I would try it. But on pavement — especially considering some of the things that end up on the pavement — I’m not sure it would work. Although the interviewee in this NPR piece thinks differently.

As for swimming, I’m not worried so much about the effects of chlorine on my body, though I guess I should be (though one of the places I swim uses a system that permits very low chlorination, so that the water tastes almost salty), but rather the effects on the environment of having big tubs of chlorinated water standing around. There must be a certain amount of offgassing from the water and the chlorination systems. I mean, they used chlorine as a poison gas in WWI (and in Iraq today); it can’t be good for anyone.

Finally, I remember that in some places, they are attempting to harness the energy generated at gyms — see this article about a gym in Hong Kong. It’s actually owned by a subsidiary of 24-Hour Fitness, which is where I go. Maybe they’ll expand the program to other gyms. If we bother them. Eventually, we’ll probably be so starved for energy that we’ll just put everyone on treadmill generators, sort of like in “The Matrix”. Well, it will do something about the obesity problem. I guess people who get into debt will be sentenced to the treadmills to work it off. They’ll receive a steady IV of high-fructose corn syrup. If that sounds like an inefficient way to get energy out of corn, it’s probably no worse than biofuels.

15 years ago

Geez, I never thought about the gym… I do feel like I get a better workout outside (i.e. running vs. the treadmill) but I love the classes at my gym and sometimes I like to watch T.V. while I work out… It would be v. cool to see your workout efforts turned into energy though…

You sound v. fit! I admire your dedication! You could always take up open water swimming. :) Not that I think the Bay is much less toxic than the pool!

15 years ago

I started running in an old pair of Chinese slippers this week after reading a bunch of articles on barefoot running. My muscles got quite the work out, but I didn’t get shin splints like I always do. Of course, I ran on Monday, and my muscles are just back to where I can run again today. But once you get used to running like that, it’s supposed to be fantastic.

15 years ago

Re swimming — I’m a lapswimmer and pretty resigned to it not being a sustainable, green sport, but it’s pretty good for my personal (read mental) ecology so there it is. The chemicals are a problem though even just looking at it as a swimmer. To minimize the badness, you should avoid the pool when the water is cloudy, try and swim when there are fewer people in the pool, and shower BEFORE swimming and encourage everyone else to do so. It turns out that not just the stuff we put on our skins (sunscreen, lotion, etc) but even sweat reacts with the pool chemicals to produce evil bad for you stuff.
And thanks for the bike tube/goggle strap idea — I broke the strap on my favorite 20 year old goggles.

15 years ago

Hay big klumzy guy we cud rite way better post den dis. dat wuz wut Soots trying 2 do but u no pusht him off keebord. y u no letz us rite post wen mommy away?

Also u lousy ekonomist. Sunk costs not same as feling u haz to take advantij uv free stuf.

15 years ago

It would be great if the gym used equipment that generated electricity, instead of using it. It seems like that ought to be possible, right? How many people on treadmills would it take to run the TV?

But really, i feel like the gym is a part of the greater good. This may be influenced by our six months of winter. But our YWCA is a great community center. They run kids programs. They do antiracist work. And even though the machines and the big barnlike track building (also used by the neighboring elementary school!) and the TVs and the weird synthetic carpet all use a lot of energy, we are sharing them, which is much more efficient and fosters connections with our neighbors.

Anyway, that’s my justification for our gym membership. That and the sheer joy of sitting in a sauna until my core is completely warm before going back out into the -10 weather in January.

15 years ago

Can I come over and play? They have a new kitten and have forgotten about me. Robb

15 years ago

You can run without shoes. It’s supposed to be better for you. Here’s a somewhat recent article: Okay, I’m lazy and don’t feel like linking, so you’ll have to copy/paste. Sorry. Oh, the article isn’t specifically about running, but does talk about why barefoot is good.