November 2, 2010

Amanda R., Week 3

Amanda's plastic waste

Name: Amanda

Week: 3

Personal Info:

Read Amanda’s description in her Week 1 post.

Total items: 21

Total weight: 1.8 oz

Items: Recyclable
1 #4 bag — I purchased a heating pad in a cardboard box, and this was the inside packaging

1 #1 “free sample” cup — I took it at the farmers market without thinking.

Items: Nonrecyclable
3 envelope windows
3 #4 milk bottle tops
6 seals from jars/bottles
1 garbage bag
1 pump top
1 outlet plug cover — also from the heating pad
1 seal from pill bottle
2 Q-tips — when did these stop being made of cardboard??
1 plastic wrap around a cook pot — to hold the lid on, I suppose

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
Q-tips can be replaced with the old fashioned kind, assuming they still make these in cardboard. Unfortunately, I have a box of about 500…

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
Free-sample cup — I don’t really need to taste your bean soup, particularly when I know I’m not going to buy the beans in the plastic bag

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
None of it is really essential, but it seems to be a trade-off with buying food in glass jars that you get a plastic safety ring around the top.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I am picking up my worm composter at the farmers market tomorrow — I’m very excited! I’ll see if the worms can keep up with the kitchen waste, then it might be much easier to move to bag-free trash.

I’ve had a good week for make-your-own food items; my first batch of yogurt was a disaster (I used the Bulgarian “live acidophilus” in the glass jar as my starter culture, and I just ended up with cheese curds). I tried a second time, using Stonyfield as the starter (several websites suggest this is the best starter, because it has a high density of active live cultures), and have wonderful thick tasty yogurt!

I bought the e-book Beth advertised, and made energy bars that I’ve taken on a couple of my long bike rides this week, and I think they work great. I’ve now got a couple of friends overseas buying the book, so they can make energy bars in Tanzania!

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
It’s time to work out a substitute for crackers and a source for tortilla chips — I received a “make your own crackers” book in the mail a couple weeks ago, and am ready to try. I am thinking of hitting up the Mexican restaurants near the house to see if I can bring in my own bag and buy chips in bulk.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I’ve had a few email conversations the past couple of weeks with institutions about packaging. The farmers market was the most interesting — I was frustrated last Sunday to find that nearly everything at the Tucson farmers market was pre-bagged in plastic and so there was no real point to bringing my own cotton produce bags; I corresponded with the organizer of the market — sent her the links from this site about the markets in Berkeley going bag-less — she was very sympathetic and seemed interested in figuring out a way to gradually encourage the vendors to move away from plastic. We’ll see. Whole Foods, Annie’s, and Larabar have all been very polite, but all three essentially said they are trying to find alternative packaging (mostly to keep metal foil from touching the food), haven’t succeeded yet.

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