I first ran across Orta plastic-free self-watering seed pots last Spring at the Temescal Farmers Market in Oakland, CA. I wanted to review it back then, but what with buying a new home in Maryland, caring for my dad, and then the extreme heat of the Maryland summer, it never happened. So, here I am in Spring 2019 trying again.
Anne Fletcher from Orta sent me a plastic-free, zero-waste seed starting kit to review. The kit came with two sizes of self-watering terracotta seed pots (handmade in Oakland, CA), seed starting mix in a paper sack, a and a few packets of seeds.
If the wrapper around the planters looks like plastic, it’s not. It’s actually a type of naturally-translucent vellum paper.
The kit came surrounded by 100% recyclable cardboard “honeycomb pads,” which protected the terracotta pots just fine.
And the seed starting mix came in plain paper without plastic.
I love that Orta explains its plastic-free packaging … Read the rest
Ever since Lush reverted to packaging its Toothy Tabs toothpaste tablets in plastic containers instead of compostable cardboard boxes, I’ve been brushing my teeth with plain baking soda mixed with essential oils. (I pour a bit in the palm of my hand and run my wet toothbrush through it.) This method is fine, and cheap, but I missed the convenience of the tablets, especially while traveling.
Finally — well, okay, I may be a few months late to this party — finally for me, there’s a replacement for Lush Toothy Tabs that doesn’t come in a plastic container and is actually BETTER than the Lush product I used to love! (Bite sent me two bottles to review.)
What are toothpaste bits?
Bite toothpaste bits are little vegan tablets stored in a glass bottle that foam up and quickly become toothpaste when you chew them. Right now, there are only two varieties: Naturally Whitening Mint and Fresh Mint with Activated Charcoal. So, yeah,… Read the rest
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
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
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
The Problem: Finding 100% recycled or tree-free toilet paper that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. Since 2007, my toilet paper of choice has been cardboard cases of Seventh Generation recycled rolls that come individually-wrapped in thin paper wrappers. I ordered it from Amazon and even had a subscription at one time. But over the years, I’ve received comments from readers that they would order a case and it would sometimes come with plastic inside. Or that the plastic-free cases were not always available on Amazon.
A New Solution: A few months ago, I started seeing Facebook posts about a new brand of toilet paper called Who Gives a Crap. Funny name. But it sounded interesting. The company donates 50% of its profits to provide toilets and sanitation in the developing world. The toilet paper comes in two versions, bamboo or recycled paper, and is shipped in… Read the rest
In March, I wrote about microfiber laundry pollution from synthetic clothing and mentioned that soon there would be a special bag available called Guppy Friend to catch those microfibers before they are rinsed down the drain. Well, the bag is now available and the company sent me one to test out.
Guppy Friend is a product developed by the campaign STOP! MICRO WASTE, a German non-profit founded by a group of surfers and nature lovers to find solutions to the microfiber pollution problem. Guppy Friend is just one of their projects, as they recognize that it is only one small part of the solution to a huge problem that will require systemic change on a massive scale, not just a few people conscientiously washing their polyester fleece in a special bag. But for those of you conscientious folk out there who do wear synthetic clothing and want to prevent the fibers from escaping into our waterways, here is one small solution.
Guppy Friend is a synthetic … Read the rest