The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

September 23, 2008

Guest Post – Allie’s Plastic Confessions

The following is a guest post by Allie of The Greenists (formerly Allie’s Answers).

While I’m certainly not in the Fake Plastic Fish tier of plastic reduction, I do a pretty decent job limiting the amount of plastic that comes into our home. But on our recent vacation in Washington State, I realized that it’s a lot harder to keep the plastic under control away from home.

I hadn’t flown in about 4 years, and the regulations for carry-on items have changed since the last time I’d been in the air. I knew bringing beverages through the security checkpoint wasn’t allowed, so I figured I couldn’t bring my Kleen Kanteen. I thought about packing it, but worried that a big metal object in my bag might call it out for inspection. I feel a little stupid for leaving it at home, especially since our bags got pulled for inspection anyway, and a friend in Seattle told me she brings her empty Sigg with her through security all the time.

We had a 4 hour layover in Chicago, so for the first time in at least 2 years, I did the unthinkable — I bought bottled water. I am ashamed to admit it, but I felt desperate. I was without a container, didn’t have any plastic-free water options, and felt really dried out. Also, when our campground had an e. coli scare and there wasn’t any potable water, we bought 3 gallon jugs of water. I feel a little less guilty about this because it was a necessity.

At home, we almost never eat out. When we do, we tend to frequent the same couple of restaurants. They don’t serve food on disposables, and we’re aware of that. When we ate at a sit-down restaurant at Pike Place Market on our first night in Seattle, I was appalled when our drinks came in the kind of translucent plastic cups reminiscent of keggers in college. In the two weeks we were gone, I will also cop to two coffee lids, a plastic cup lid & straw, and a couple of cups for beverages on our flights.

Even though I usually don’t use the little plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner in hotels, I indulged when our hotel in Seattle had Aveda products in the room. My shampoo exploded in my suitcase on the flight over, and I was pretty sure there wasn’t enough left for me to make it through the entire trip, so it was probably necessary. Later, when we got bumped from our flight and spent the night in Cincinnati while our bags took a red-eye home, I used the amenities in the hotel the airline put us up in for the night (and they made me itchy, which was my punishment, right?)

So now that I’ve confessed my plastic travel sins, let me tell you what we did well, plastic-wise:

    • The bottle from the water I purchased in the airport became my water bottle for the week. Even though I know reusing single use plastic isn’t the best thing for my health, I figured it probably wouldn’t kill me.
    • I packed a reusable grocery bag and used it instead of taking plastic bags when we made purchases.
    • We made coffee in our Jet Boil at the campground instead of going out for coffee every morning, avoiding a lot of plastic coffee lids.
    • We used our titanium sporks instead of taking plastic utensils when we got takeout.
    • I packed the plastic amenities bottles and brought them home. I’ll reuse them the next time we travel.
  • We collected our plastic waste and stowed it in the backseat of our rental car. When we stopped at a friend’s house at the end of our trip, we dropped the plastic in their recycle bin.

Next time we travel, I’ll bring my Kleen Kanteen, pack my toiletries in a more cushioned area of my suitcase to avoid explosions (I was kind of careless about that), pack a reusable coffee mug, and pass on the airplane courtesy beverages. I’ll also try to be more brave, and ask how food is served before we commit to a restaurant.

Thanks, Allie! If any of you have plastic confessions or experiences to share and would like to guest post, please let me know. I’m happy to have you guys do the work for a change!

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14 years ago

I also traveled by plane this summer, and I was just getting into Beth’s blog.
I already had bar shampoo and conditioner, so that was OK.
my deodorant was a crystal, and I carried a couple glass bottles (plastic tops) of scent oil.
I carried my Sigg, and I learned that carrying it upside down and empty as you put it in the bin worked wonders.

Alex Ion
14 years ago

The reasons why we should fight plastic pollution are obvious. This article will sure get people thinking to what they need to do from now on and that is to use less plastic.

14 years ago

I am utterly impressed by your commitment to avoid plastic, and your passion for doing so. It’s a worthy cause, and your writing helps me by illuminating ideas on the subject and getting me thinking, so thank you for that.

I do think, though, that you need to be a little gentle with yourself. This process will only “stick” if it ends up rewarding you, not making you feel guilty. I think it’s wise to listen to your feelings, of course, and hopefully you get a big high from reflecting on all of the positive non-plastic changes that you have made. On the flip side, though, I just don’t think that self-flagellation is necessary. Guilt, in my opinion, is highly overrated.

Learn from your experiences. Great! Now you know that you can bring empty containers on planes, etc. Wonderful! And coffee mugs can be excellent travel partners. Fantastic! But I hope that you ENJOYED your coffee. I hope that you appreciated that the hotel provided something that you otherwise would have missed. I hope that when you said, “Next time I’ll check out the glassware” you also thought, “but I’m still going to enjoy my meal.”

Life is to be lived, to enjoy. YES, make changes. YES, be aware. But guilt? NO!

This green stuff isn’t always easy, I agree with that, and I too get frustrated when I’m trying but fail in some way. I just hope that you can be gentle with yourself in the process, without giving up your ideals and pursuits.

14 years ago

Allie, it is good to see your struggles and your triumphs in the fight against plastic!

allie – 1 plastic – .3

14 years ago

Allie – great post! But I have to ask, where does one get a titanium spork?!

And I’m glad you mentioned that you can bring a reusable water bottle on the plane. Being a person of some color (just a little yellow), I’m generally looked at with a suspicious eye (she has tan skin! black hair! oh no!) so I try to avoid taking anything that looks crazy with me.

But I feel better knowing I can take the aluminum bottle and perhaps pass security.

Oh and great suggestion about bringing reusable bags! Some of your suggestions were so obvious and yet I never seem to do any of them.

14 years ago

Hi Allie-

Great guest post. I can identify with your tribulations. I just got back from London and it was asstounding how much plastic consumption took place on the plane but being held captive on an 11 hour flight, didn’t have that many alternatives.

14 years ago

I forgive you, Allie.

I try to forego the plastic when I can, but sometimes there’s just no choice (aside from doing without whatever is in the plastic.) I haven’t been on a plane since they started restricting all liquids, and I guess that really does make it tough.

14 years ago

I’ve recently done some traveling, and brought my travel mug in my carry-on empty. I made sure to dump the water out before Security, and then I filled it right back up after I got through! That’s another thing, there are plenty of water bubblers (fountains) in airports, you could easily have just taken free sips from one of them!

Will Johnston
14 years ago

This is a great blog post. Really heightens awareness about how inundate we are with choices when we travel. Great stuff.

If there is a chance we could post this on our blog and credit you, that would be great.