The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Category Archives: electronics

August 13, 2010

I’d marry my thinksound PVC-free headphones if I weren’t already married to Michael

Last month, after I blogged about how my cat destroyed my headphones, FPF reader Andrea suggested I check out thinksound headphones. She wrote, “They’re ridiculously expensive, but maybe they would send you a pair to review on your blog.” So I contacted the company, and they did just that.

PVC-free wooden headphones

Now, no headphones are plastic-free. But some plastics are worse than others. And most electrical cables are insulated with PVC, one of the most toxic plastics. thinksound headphones are unique. The cables are PVC-free, and the housing is made from wood (the company is working on getting FSC certified) and aluminum instead of plastic. In fact, these headphones probably contain the least amount of plastic on the market. Even the ear inserts are made from silicone instead of petroleum-based plastic.

Least Plastic Packaging

But what about the packaging? You know I’m all about waste-free plastic-free packaging.… Read the rest

June 21, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Plastic-Free Blogger

Ever wonder what it would be like to be Beth Terry for a day? Or any one of a number of other green bloggers? Well, now’s your opportunity to find out because a bunch of us have all decided to write about one day in our lives. Could be fascinating. Could be as tedious as watching pants dry on a wooden drying rack. My contribution is a rundown of last Thursday, which I chose because Thursdays are typical work days, and I knew I’d have 8 hours at my accounting job wherein I would not have to detail every action.

Feeding Kitties

I wake up at 9am with Soots standing on my chest, staring at me expectantly. It’s funny. I wait as long as I can, until he starts batting my face and nibbling my chin, to get up. This is our daily ritual. Soots and Arya expect to be fed as soon as I get out of bed. Any deviation is a betrayal. Unfortunately, they find themselves betrayed almost every morning as I putter around, putting my tea kettle on or maybe checking to see if any… Read the rest

March 22, 2010

Cheap Plastic Scale: No Serviceable Parts

“No Serviceable Parts.” That’s what is says on the back of my digital scale. The one I use to measure ingredients for my homemade cat food. The one I use to measure the weight of my collected plastic each month. So, when it broke, it wasn’t like I could just do without it. And I didn’t really want to find a used scale because I wasn’t sure a used one would measure precisely enough. Plus, I couldn’t find one on Craigslist or Freecycle.

But first, I did everything I could to figure out how to get it repaired instead of running out and automatically buying a new one. First I called the company from which I bought the scale. I won’t tell you which company it was, because it’s a small business that doesn’t even sell scales anymore. When I called, I got the actual owner who said something like, “These freaking environmentalists have really done a snow job on you. There is absolutely no problem… Read the rest

February 24, 2010

Knitted iPod Cover

Brought to you by String Caddies-R-Us & Procrastination Station

This post falls into the category of Things To Do To Procrastinate On Writing The Fake Plastic Fish Book. It also falls into the category of Too Much Time On My Hands. And also Why Sleep?

1) Clean out drawers (because book writing cannot possibly be done when drawers are messy) and find an old iPod Nano that I never use anymore because the cheap plastic cover came apart and I never replaced it.

2) Think about all the AudioBooks I could listen to with this iPod and wonder if anyone is making a plastic-free iPod cover.

3) Browse and Google for several hours searching for the right iPod cover. Find plenty of options online but none that meet all my criteria. Cover has to be plastic-free. Has to provide access to click wheel and screen without removing iPod from cover. Has to have openings for head phones and USB connection, also without removing from cover. Has to close to protect the … Read the rest

December 15, 2009

Recycle vs. Refill: Conversations with HP, Cartridge World, & Silo Ink

Ah, plastic ink jet cartridges. It’s an ongoing dilemma for someone trying to live with less plastic. My strategy: keep printing to a minimum to save ink and make the cartridges last longer. But after that… I used to have to buy new ones. New plastic. At $40 a pop. (I bought a monster of an HP printer 5 years ago requiring very expensive cartridges. My fault for not doing the research.)

Back then, when I attempted to take my empties to Cartridge World for refilling, I was told that my particular units could not be refilled due to a proprietary chip embedded in the cartridge itself. I would have to continue paying full price for new plastic cartridges and send my old ones back to HP for recycling.

So you can imagine how irritated I was last month to discover that not only were the cartridges not refillable, but the chips contain an expiration date, after which the cartridges will not work whether they still have ink in them or not.  After my diatribe… Read the rest

November 11, 2009

HP Ink Cartridge Hack: Save plastic and ink

This will be a short post. More of a rant, actually. And hopefully useful to at least one person out there.

Last night I discovered Hewlett Packard’s scheme to get printer owners to spend more money on ink cartridges: cartridge expiration dates.

I have an HP Officejet 9110 that uses ink cartridges with expiration dates actually programmed into them, causing them to stop working whether they still have ink in them or not. And when that happens, the printer itself stops working too — whether I need to use that color or not.

I don’t know if HP’s newer printers use the same kind of cartridges, but this deal irks me for multiple reasons. First, it’s a total waste of plastic and perfectly good ink to program the cartridge to expire before it’s used up. I don’t care if the cartridges can be returned to be recycled. Recycling uses more energy and resources than actually using up what we already have. And second, this… Read the rest

July 1, 2009

Guest Post – No Technology is Truly Green

Before you invest in that new “green” computer or purchase those fun solar deck lights, read this insider’s perspective from Fake Plastic Fish reader Alyssa J. Pasquale and consider whether buying new technology is ever truly green. If you have an idea for a guest post, please contact me and let me know. I’d love to feature more of your ideas here!

I would first like to thank Beth for allowing me to write this guest post. My name is Alyssa and I am a PhD candidate at a very large university in Boston. I work in electrical engineering and have a focus on photonic devices. These are generally nanometer-scale devices that use light to do something cool. Some people in my department work on biological sensors, some on solar cells, some on lasers, and some on LEDs.

I’ve been doing research for a long time (I started as an undergrad) and one thing that’s prevalent in my work is lots and lots of waste. As I told Beth, I find it awfully… Read the rest

November 14, 2008

Beth Geeks Out – Reformatting hard drives and installing Windows Upgrades

I’m tired. I was up very late last night doing a job I love: working on the computers at my office. And as an added bonus, I was doing something great for the environment and saving plastic.

We had five old computers running Windows 2000. We bought a new Filemaker Pro upgrade which will not install on Windows 2000. And even Microsoft will not support that version of Windows anymore. In the past, the company would have tossed the old computers and bought new ones. But this is a new, fierce economy, baby. People can’t afford to be wasteful, and I’m freakin’ glad.

So instead of tossing perfectly good machines, we bought 5 Windows XP Pro licenses (actually, they are Windows VISTA licenses that allow us to downgrade to XP because we don’t really want VISTA at this time) and the only plastic involved was the one CD-Rom I used to burn the downloaded software. I needed a bootable disk, otherwise I wouldn’t have burned a CD at … Read the rest

March 4, 2008 wants your dead gadget stories!

Remember this picture of my plastic waste from Week 35? Remember my rant about the HP monitor that couldn’t be fixed and how HP makes products that have to be replaced rather than repaired? I ranted here. I ranted on the Californians Against Waste site. I ranted in emails to HP. And then I found out about The Electronics Take Back Coalition (

The Electronics Take Back Coalition is a national coalition of environmental and consumer groups who promote green design and responsible recycling in the consumer electronics industry. They have several strategies, including:

Promoting legislation to require manufacturers to take back and recycle our old electronics Using direct public pressure on manufacturers to offer responsible recycling programs to their customers, and to adopt green design principles. Working with institutional purchasers to amplify the demand for green products. Promoting recyclers… Read the rest
January 24, 2008

Learning To Fix Stuff, Part 2

On January 2, I reported about my broken plastic hairdryer and how I was hoping to fix it during my visit to my electronics technician (not “electrician,” there’s a difference I’m told) dad in Hawaii. Well, I’m happy to report that it’s fixed. He was able to figure out what part was bad and knew just where to go to get a replacement. Then, he also knew how to attach the replacement part once we found it. He’s my hero.

After using a screwdriver to take it apart (which I’d already done in the end of December), you need an ohmmeter or multimeter to test the circuitry. As I was attempting to write this post last night, I realized I didn’t know how to explain how my dad used his multimeter to test the wires. So I asked him to send me an explanation, and this is what he wrote:

Switch the multimeter to measure ohms. (Ω)

Two leads (a ‘hot’ and a ‘common’) attach to the plug, the common… Read the rest