Last month, the City of Berkeley, CA, unanimously passed the nation’s most ambitious, comprehensive ordinance on disposable plastic foodware to date. The new law requires that:
Disposable items like utensils, straws, lids, and sleeves may only be provided upon request or at a self-serve station, not automatically.
Food vendors must provide compost bins for customers.
All disposable takeout foodware must be 100% BPI certified compostable
by January 1, 2020.
All vendors must charge $0.25 cents for hot and cold takeout cups by January 1, 2020.
All eat-in customers must be served foods in reusable foodware by July 1, 2020.
This ordinance is a big win for the plastic-free, zero-waste movement, and it will require big changes for some Berkeley restaurants. But there are restaurants, whether in or outside Berkeley, that are already ahead of the game. Last year, I hung out with Heather Clapp of Jules Thin Crust pizza restaurant just… Read the rest
Using our own containers to buy foods from bulk bins is one of the primary ways to avoid plastic packaging while grocery shopping. But it’s not always easy, especially when you’re just beginning your plastic-free journey. First, you have to find shops in your area that offer foods from bulk bins, and then you need to find out how they handle customers’ containers. You only want to pay for what’s inside, so the store needs to have a way to deduct the weight of the container. Some shops prefer customers to weigh their own containers, while other stores like Whole Foods require customers to visit the customer service desk to have their containers weighed by a staff member.
The Solution to Plastic-Free Bulk Shopping
San Francisco plastic pollution activists Eva Holman and Carolyn Box got tired of having to weigh their containers every time they went shopping (yes, you can put a sticker on the jar, but eventually, the sticker washes… Read the rest
The following is a guest post from Balaka B. Ghosal who contacted me last year to share her zero waste, plastic-free journey. Enjoy!
Most big journeys in our lives start with a story. Mine does, too.
Right after coming from India to Houston, Texas, with a six-year-old in tow, I was excited about the amazing systems and processes that worked like a well-oiled machine (or at least so it felt to me, as a new immigrant).
Interstate highways intersecting this megacity’s inner loop freeways without signals or snarling vehicles, disciplined queuing up at any checkout counters, kids’ activities planned days or weeks in advance, office supplies to organize the messiest studies, tools for all kinds of creativity and problem-solving impresses me even to this day, in spite of their carbon and water footprints. I could see why America is ahead of the pack in the industrial revolution.
Serving-size packaging for every snack, fancy party supplies, and Styrofoam… Read the rest
A few months ago, Sreenivasulu.M.R, a software professional in Bangalore, India, emailed me out of the blue to let me know about his project building intricate miniatures of world-renowned architecture out of used plastic pen refills. These days, a lot of my emails go unanswered and even unread because my time is consumed with caring for my dad. But for some reason, this one intrigued me enough to click the links in it. And wow, was I glad I did! Sreenivasulu’s pieces are amazing. And he’s using them to educate students about plastic reduction and recycling.… Read the rest
Ever since Western Australian Rebecca Prince Ruiz started Plastic-Free July with a small group of locals back in 2011, the movement has gone global over 2 million people in 159 different countries working to reduce their use of plastic products for an entire month, and, hopefully, learning new habits they can continue during the rest of the year.
I learned about Plastic-Free July in 2013 and in 2014 brought Plastic-Free July to the Ecology Center in Berkeley, where it has become a regular part of that organization’s annual programming. (See the Ecology Center’s schedule of Plastic-Free July 2018 events here.)
In 2016, Rebecca won a Churchill Fellowship to travel the world learning about solutions to the plastic pollution problem. I was thrilled to meet up with her in California and co-present a workshop on alternatives to plastic to an International group of kids at the POPS (Plastic Ocean Pollution Solutions) Summit that year.… Read the rest
Last month, I received an email from Carmen Drahl, senior correspondent for Chemical & Engineering News, wanting to know if I had heard about the new solid body wash products from Lush and Bomb Cosmetics, and if so, what I thought about them. To be honest, I thought she was just talking about bars of soap. What’s so new about that? But no. Actually, just as I learned that liquid soap and solid soap have different chemistries, so too do soap and shower gel. And as Carmen explained to me the difference between soap and shower gel, I started to get excited… Not for myself, but for my sister and others of her ilk.
A Plastic-Free Solution for the Soap Haters?
… Read the rest
A few days ago, I received a shocking email from my dear friend Burning Man campmate, art teacher Ann Clark.
You may remember Annie from the Plastic Footprint Project that she organized with her students to bring awareness to the problems of plastic pollution through art. After retiring from teaching, Annie made several trips to Haiti, first to help build a school and next, to do art therapy with abused/neglected children. During her stay, she became aware of the huge problem of plastic waste in that country.
This month, she returned to Haiti to continue her art therapy work and also help solve the plastic pollution problem. We had a great Skype chat all about her plans, and she sent me lots of pictures to share on this blog from previous trips. But life intervened, and I hadn’t had time to post those pictures and tell you about her latest project. Then, a few nights ago, I received some very sad news. After arriving in Haiti earlier this month,… Read the rest
When I left my home in California last month to care for my dad in Maryland, I struggled to figure out how to do it plastic-free. Moving across the country can involve a lot of disposable plastic if you’re not careful: plastic bubble wrap inside your boxes, plastic tape to close the boxes, and plastic stretch wrap around everything. Apparently, stretch wrap is now a moving company’s best friend. In fact, I had the following phone conversation with one of the many moving company reps I spoke to:
Me: I don’t want my items covered in plastic wrap. Can you just use reusable moving blankets?
Rep: We do use blankets. But we have to use plastic wrap over the blankets to protect your furniture. No reputable company would move your possessions without plastic wrap.
Me: How did they do it in the old days?
Rep: If they were a good company, they used plastic wrap.
Me: I mean, in the days before plastic stretch wrap.
Rep: Good moving companies… Read the rest
A few weeks ago, my friend Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse reached out to me about an investigation for a new class-action lawsuit that is just getting underway against companies that are promoting their baby wipes as “earth-friendly” or “biodegradable.” If you know me, you know I hate greenwashing and have railed against the claims of companies marketing toothbrushes, produce bags, and so-called biodegradable plastics. So I was very interested to hear more about the baby wipes issue and specifically about how and why a lawsuit could be an effective means of combatting these claims.
Disclosure: Gutride Safier has retained me to help spread the word about this issue and direct you to more information; however, the opinions provided here are absolutely my own.
“Earth-Friendly” “Biodegradable” Baby Wipes Greenwashing Claims
While companies are required to list many of the ingredients… Read the rest
13-year-old Cambria Bartlett contacted me last year to do a phone interview about living plastic-free. She and a group of other homeschoolers, calling themselves Heirs to Our Oceans, were creating a video about caring for our oceans, and Cambria’s personal focus was on plastic.
Since then, I’ve met Cambria in person and learned what exceptional kids she and her friends are: committed, passionate, and dedicated to preserving the planet for future generations. I asked her to write a guest post to describe what they are doing and how you can help. Please read and enjoy!
Beth Terry is such an inspiration! In being aware of the changes she made to better our planet, I have come to care too and have made changes in my own behavior. Seeing Beth live her life with only one bag of plastic waste in a year made me realize that making change is possible. She is such a great role model! Beth’s blog and book have helped me so much in the last year. I have… Read the rest