The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Category Archives: DIY

March 16, 2012

Dear CREDO Mobile, I like your packaging, but please fix my phone — or let me do it.

It’s frustrating when electronic gadgets break, and not just because you have to go through the hassle of fixing or replacing them but because in doing so, a lot of waste is created. So when the headphone jack on my phone stopped working intermittently, I put off doing anything about it for several months. But finally, it got so bad that I could no longer use my headset, which meant an extra dose of radiation from putting my phone right against my head to talk (and of course, also not being able to listen to music and podcasts, but that’s a personal problem), so I decided it was time to do something about it.

I called CREDO Mobile, my phone provider, and was told I’d have to send it back to them for a replacement phone. I wondered if I should scout around for someone to open it up and try to fix it for me (as I did with my hair dryer, rice cooker, kitchen scale, and other appliances, with varying degrees of success), but when CREDO told me that opening… Read the rest

January 3, 2012

The Trouble With Homemade Tater Tots

On New Years Day, I decided I needed some fried potatoes to go with the homemade ketchup my friend Mark and I had made the previous week. And not just any fried potatoes. No siree. I wanted the king of fried potato junk food goodness: greasy, crispy Tater Tots. But authentic Tater Tots come in a plastic bag, so I’d have to see if I could make them myself. As always, Google was right there with the answer. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats had reverse engineered the tater tot and provided an easy-to-follow recipe, one that looked like it would win the Napoleon Dynamite stamp of approval.

But making homemade Tater Tots turned out not to be the plastic-free, waste-free process I had hoped for. I’ll explain what I mean further in this post. First, the recipe:

Homemade Tater Tots: Step by Step

Ingredients

2 pounds russet potatoes (I actually used 2 large potatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds) 2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil (I actually used a… Read the rest
December 27, 2011

Mark P’s Plastic-free Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Making my own ketchup has been on my “To Do” list since my last bottle ran out over a year ago.  (Clearly, ketchup is not much of a priority in the Terry-Stoler household.) Still, it’s a good condiment to have on hand, and I planned to consult with bloggers Danielle or RobJ who had already started making their own. What I didn’t realize was that just across the San Francisco Bay, my good friend Mark Peters had been making his own ketchup for ages, along with homemade mayo, homemade bread — sans bread machine — and much more. Sometimes I’m so quick to jump online for information I forget about the real life flesh and blood friends who are part of my life. SORRY GUYS! One of my New Years Resolutions is to spend more quality face time with the people I love. And this weekend, I started with Mark.

Yesterday afternoon, I went over to Mark’s house with a bag of tomatoes, an onion, and a willingness to learn. He’d… Read the rest

August 10, 2011

Natural Plastic-Free Toothpaste, Tooth Powder, Tooth Soap Ideas…

Since Tom’s of Maine switched from recyclable aluminum toothpaste tubes to plastic laminate a few months ago, I’ve been getting tons of emails asking what less plastic option to use instead. I looked at the change as a challenge to finally figure out a better toothpaste alternative. Aluminum was good (you could send the tubes back to the company to be recycled) but not perfect because of a) the plastic cap and threads, and b) the resin lining inside the tube which possibly contained BPA.

So, after much research and some harrowing moments, here are the Plastic-Free or Less Plastic tooth cleaner solutions I’ve discovered.  There are many, many more out there.  Your suggestions and input are welcome!

Make Your Own Tooth Powder

Google is full of recipes for making your own tooth powder. Here are two ideas.

1) Baking Soda and Salt Tooth Powder. When I first started my plastic-free project, I tried making my own tooth… Read the rest

August 4, 2011

Remove Hair with DIY Homemade Sugar Wax: Cheap, Plastic-free, and Dangerous in the Wrong Hands

The BlogHer conference is this weekend. Time for my annual eyebrow wax and pedicure. You know the saying that women dress for each other? When it comes to BlogHer, that saying couldn’t be more true. All other days of the year, I’m a pretty low maintenance gal. I mean, how often do I write about cosmetics on this blog? Almost never.  But when the BlogHer Estrogen Fest rolls around, I get all self-conscious about my neglected feet and crazy eyebrows.

Witness the crazy eyebrows for yourself.  Don’t see what I’m talking about?  That’s okay.  I see the crazy, and that’s what matters.

This time, instead of paying $15 for someone to slather paraffin wax (a petroleum product) on my face and rip it off with half my skin, I decided to save my money and inflict the pain on myself.  I found some ancient wax strips and a sugar waxing kit in the bathroom cabinet.  I can’t remember buying them, so I’d guess they… Read the rest

August 1, 2011

How to Make Liquid Soap from a Solid Soap Bar, Take 2

Three years ago, trying to find a way to have liquid soap without the plastic bottle, I discovered that you can’t actually make real liquid soap from a solid soap bar. What I ended up with was a slimy green failure. And the reason is that liquid and solid soaps have different chemistries. The lye used to make solid soap is sodium hydroxide; whereas, the lye used to make liquid soap is potassium hydroxide. According to Wikipedia:

The saponification of fats with KOH [potassium hydroxide] is used to prepare the corresponding “potassium soaps”, which are softer than the more common sodium hydroxide-derived soaps. Because of their softness and greater solubility, potassium soaps require less water to liquefy, and can thus contain more cleaning agent than liquefied sodium soaps

So for the past 4 years, I’ve been doing without any kind of liquid soap. But recently, attempting to deal with some fungus problems in my garden, I’ve… Read the rest

July 28, 2011

How I Fixed My Broken Rice Cooker: The Complete Illustrated Instructions

Another day, another broken gadget.  Plastic-free rule #1 when something breaks is to try and fix it instead of replacing it. But that’s not always easy since so many appliances are built to be tossed instead of repaired.   Well Easy Schmeasy.  Fixing things is fun.  Saves money.  Makes you feel like a Super Hero instead of a victim.   A few weeks ago, I got to don my cape again after Michael plugged in the rice cooker and nothing happened.  The light didn’t come on.  The element didn’t heat up.   The rice did not get cooked.  But the wheels in my brain started turning.

(And before any of you leave comments about how we don’t need a rice cooker and could easily cook rice on the stove and here are the instructions how to do it etc etc… yeah, I know.  But we have a rice cooker.  And we like it.  And this one broke, so this is how we fixed it.)

See, back in 2008, the same thing happened to my hair dryer, and my dad helped me out… Read the rest

July 20, 2011

How to Make Your Own Mint Julep Masque without Plastic or Toxic Chemicals

Queen Helene’s hugely popular mint julep masque is widely considered to be a safe product. I mean, it’s found in all the health food stores, so it must be okay, right? Or is it? And is there any actual mint in it?

I’ve had this same plastic tube of the stuff sitting in my bathroom cabinet for years and had pretty much forgotten about it until a few weeks ago when I noticed my face was getting dirty from all the work in the garden. (For those who don’t know, mud masks are used to suck out the oil and dirt clogging your pores and leave your face baby soft.) Following my resolution to use up the plastic-packaged stuff I already have before looking for alternatives, I dug out the Queen Helene and got ready to slather it on my face… until I read the ingredients.

Not only does this “natural” product come packaged in plastic, but it contains enough questionable ingredients to rate a 5 on Environmental Working Group’sRead the rest

May 11, 2011

Gardening Without Plastic, Part 1: Raised Beds and Plastic-Free Soil

Last Fall, Rodale.com’s Dana Blinder contacted me about plastic-free gardening. What she didn’t know was that I had already failed miserably in the gardening department several times and wasn’t sure gardening was my thing. That’s when we came up with a brilliant idea. Rodale would teach me how to grow an organic garden, and I would figure out how to do it with the minimum plastic possible.

My guru for this project is Rodale’s Eric Hurlock, Associate Online Editor for “Organic Gardening.” First, I sent him photos of my postage stamp front yard, the only space available for a garden. (My neighborhood in Oakland, CA, is in Zone 8B, according to the USDA Hardiness Zone Finder.)

I explained that the yard is basically hard clay that is overrun every Spring by tough little yellow flowers that refuse to be pulled up. Each year the landlord sends some guys over to chop the weeds down, but they’re never uprooted.… Read the rest

April 25, 2011

Crochet Your Own Plastic-Free Headphone Ear Pads

Back in January, I posted on my Facebook profile:

The foam pads (read: plastic) on my headphones are wearing out. Motivation to learn to crochet because I hate round knitting.

Well, this weekend, April 23, I finally summoned up the motivation to learn enough crochet basics to fix my headphones.

See, even though I use my wooden thinksound ear buds for most electronic listening, I also have a pair of big cordless headphones for watching TV late at night and another scrappy pair of regular headphones that probably came with an old Walkman or something. The foam pads on both pairs were just in shreds. And while it’s possible to buy replacements, I didn’t want any new plastic.

So, after Googling for a while (my favorite thing) I found some instructions for crocheting my own.

Crochet Headphone Covers from Craftbits.com

Crochet: Headphone Covers, Revisited from Sewhooked.org.

Great! Except I didn’t know how to crochet. My grandmother… Read the rest