January 23, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Alyssa Lee, Week 1

Alyssa's plastic waste

Name: Alyssa Lee

Week: 1

Personal Info:
Gender: Female

Geographical location: My home is in Stanislaus County but I’m currently a freshman at UCLA where I live in an apartment.

Housemate/relationship status: I’m living in the apartment with my older sister and my older cousin, neither of whom are taking the challenge.

Work status: I’m currently away from home for school. I spend my time studying, playing in the Marching Band, overwhelming myself with clubs and community service, tutoring for money, and pining for home…

Other: I’ve been on my green kick since August ’10 and have been following multiple blogs. However, since I was still living with my mom and didn’t really buy much for myself, I found it pointless to do the challenge, although I have been keeping all my plastic. Now that I’m fending for myself, I figured it’s time to take the challenge. However, as I’ve said, I’ve already been reducing my plastic use since August so this isn’t a true reflection of all my plastic consumption.

I’ve always been interested in crafts, so I’ve been saving them mostly for projects. My family hasn’t really backed me up so it’s hard on the tight budget we have (Three kids at UCLA + rising tuition… you do the math) to justify buying organic or non-plastic things all the time. Certain things I’ve cut out are indeed cheaper, such as my homemade laundry detergent, but things like stainless steel containers or wood cutting boards haven’t yet made the cut.

Total items: 13

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
According to the City of LA Bureau of Sanitation, it seems most all these plastics “can” be recycled through the curbside recycling program but I’m not quite certain.
1. Plastic bread bag (#2/#4)
I’m not sure which kind of plastic this is, but LA Recycling says it is recyclable. In any case, I’m saving it to make a knitted grocery tote.
2. Plastic packing from tofu (#5)
LA Reycling takes all plastics #1-7 but I use these for extra storage. The plastic wrappers will be used for my plastic packaging project.
3. Plastic packaging from saltine crackers
I’m not sure what kind of plastic this is, but I called the center and they said they would take it. I’m saving this for my plastic project though so it’s not going in any bins yet. :)
4. Plastic bottle caps from soymilk carton and who-knows what
I’m keeping these in my bottle cap collection and hoping to eventually make some beautiful piece of art.
5. Plastic applesauce cup
6. Plastic packaging from Post-It note pack
The Post-It notes were a gift from my teacher since I’m addicted to them. I know it’s a bad habit, but I keep all of them and make origami out of them when they’re no longer useful. :)
7. Plastic cereal bag liner
Again, saving this for my plastic packaging project.

Items: Nonrecyclable
1. Plastic food bowl and lid from BruinCafe
This entire week, I haven’t really eaten anything because of not having enough time to pack a lunch in the morning. I ran into my friend who has a generous meal plan on campus and she offered to buy me something, but forgetting that it wasn’t at the dining halls, I ended up with this bowl for my soup before it was too late. I did refuse the spoon, drink, and chips, but I was too hungry to cancel my order.
2. Tetra Pak soymilk carton
3. Green tea wrapper
I loooove green tea. My friend bought me this huge box unfortunately, so I’m slowly using it up.

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I’m going to try to stop buying Big Cereal and eat cereal in a box, granola, or oatmeal instead. I could also replace the tea with loose tea but I haven’t seemed to find any yet. Suggestions? I also could replace the applesauce with the large applesauce that’s sold in glass jars at Trader Joe’s. Maybe when apples are in season, I’ll try to make my own.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I could easily give up the saltines and other crackers. I’m already working to cut HFCs out of my diet and enriched flours are next. I could also give up Post-Its since I got a lovely new phone which can easily hold memos, but these Post-Its will probably last me the rest of my life. I could also give up the applesauce for now.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Tofu. I really love tofu and I love the protein it offers. It is a bit of an essential food for me as a vegan. I know there are places like at Asian markets where they have tofu in open barrels of water, but I’m not sure how sanitary those are, from what I’ve seen. I know it’s awful, but I’ve been making good use of the cartons. I also need the bread and am so far unsuccessful at finding places where I can buy “naked” bread. Soymilk, almond milk, etc. are also necessary for me and seem to come mostly in tetra pak. I want to look into making my own soymilk, but I don’t know where to find soybeans. Suggestions?

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I think I just need to be more prepared in the mornings so that I don’t go hungry and make a dumb mistake like getting an entire plastic bowl just for one meal. I’m often in a hurry and out until late with classes and work, but if I stay prepared, I don’t have to make slip ups.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Next time, even if I’m hungry, I’ll deny the plastic bowl or any plastic packaging for food.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
Although I’m finding a use for all the plastic waste I get (and having a lot of fun finding and doing different crafts for them), I still have a lot of work in the Reduce department. I recently found a small market where they sell nuts in bulk so I’m excited to try that out. There’s also a Farmers Market nearby on Sundays so I’ve been buying groceries there with the plastic bags I already have. Since becoming a vegetarian and then recently a vegan, it’s been easy to cut out plastic from cheese, yogurt, meat, etc., but also harder in some ways, since my newer staples like tofu and soymilk are much harder to find plastic alternatives for.

For anyone interested, here is my plastic packaging project, so far

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