November 13, 2010

Ashley M., Weeks 1 – 4

Ashley's plastic waste

Name: Ashley M.

Week: 1 – 4

Personal Info:

I live in the conservative part of California (Central Valley…Woot!) where I blog about random things and my great attempt to make our lives suck a little less.

I am an instructional aide and caregiver and have spent a lot of time wondering how to reduce the cost and waste associated with caring for my elderly grandmother. Though my grandmother is resistant to many of my zany ideas, a few passed the muster (or is it mustard?) and so we have successfully made changes such as switching to washable cloth bedpads and finding a zinc-free denture adhesive that actually works (reducing our need for tubes of adhesive by 2/3).

After all of the changes made and the resulting reduction of items leaving the house in garbage bags each week, this is where we stand in regards to just the things used in our caregiving activities.

Total items: 49 total items: 28 (Monthly items) and 21 (Non-Monthly)

Total weight: 30.5 oz total

Items: Recyclable
Over half of our items were those used on a monthly basis (prescriptions, Depends…) and the rest were items we use on occasion or just happen to use up this month (otc items we buy in large quantities, packaging for medical tape, surgical socks).

The known recyclable items are:
#1: lotion bottle, vitamin bottle, mini-hand sanitizer bottle

#2: 2 OTC bottles (low dose asprin, ibuprofin for my back)

#4: enema bottle

#5: 11 prescription bottles (out of 15 prescriptions so some months, this number will increase)

I say these are recyclable only because they have the chasing arrows on them. Most around here don’t differentiate between the numbers (or even between recyclable and non-recyclable plastics). Fives can be sent in to Gimme-5 or dropped off at Whole Foods (roughly 50 miles away).

Items: Nonrecyclable
14 lids from prescription, non-prescription bottles (Unsure as they are unmarked)

lids from lotion, hand sanitizer

Sorb-It cylinder from one of the prescription bottles

Eye drop bottle

Head On (Applied directly where it hurt…never buying it again)

Neosporin tube

Ambisol tube

2 tubes of denture adhesive

Tube of Ben Gay (again… for my back. If I would insist on proper lifting and transfer techniques, this wouldn’t be such a big issue)

Sheet of plastic thingies that hold the laxative pills.

Salonpas envelop

Package of Costco baby wipes

plastic casing from eye drop package

plastic casing from medical tape package

plastic bag that the anti-embolism stockings

2 large packages of Depends (could have sworn I once saw a recycle sign on them… couldn’t find it though)

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
One thing I stress is to follow doctor’s orders. If you think you don’t need to take as much of a prescription, talk it over with the doctor. Be completely transparent with your health issues. Changes in your prescription (type or increased dosage/strength) mean you’ll come home with yet another new prescription bottle.

The only things we can do to change the number of prescription bottles we go through are to be vigilant with documentation. Writing down when pills are taken and what effects are felt/noticed will help the doctor to evaluate if changes are needed or if a prescription can be elimitated altogether.

For some prescriptions, we could ask if it is possible to get a 60 day supply. If we could do this with all of the small sized pills that hardly take up room in even the smaller bottles, we could certainly cut down on the volume of pill bottles at the end of the month.

For OTC items, we try to buy in bulk. It may be time for me to see if I can get larger bottles of some things (Like Motrin, which I use for my back because I can’t convince grandma to let me use a gait belt and proper transfer/lifting techniques. Thus, my reliance on Motrin for back pain.

Changes in diet could reduce the need (or dependency) on additional fiber or laxatives/enemas.

Otherwise, anything that we use a lot of (depends, vitamins) we already buy in the largest avaliable packages.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
I would love to give up baby wipes, but I would have to convince grandma of it. hand sanitizer and the topical pain creams would be my second choices.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Prescription bottles (“Why, oh pharmacy people, do you take my bottle back knowing you can’t reuse the bottle when I come in for refils???”)

Depends (we have tried… Grandma refuses any other brand/type of underwear)

Supplements(She has difficulty absorbing nutrients in the first place… supplements are necessary for her, even with a proper diet she will need supplements)

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Diet with more fiber.

Increase water consumption (or just refuse to buy soda for her)

Constant Vigilance regarding to documenting medications and changes in her health.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Pain creams. It seems rather redundant to have both Motrin and Ben-Gay/Salonpas/Head On when really, Motrin works.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
Getting sick sucks!

There are some issues I have that could be managed well with diet and exercise (as well as avoiding caffeine and reducing the toxic stuff I put on my skin to fix the issues I have). In fact, with just watching what I ate and drinking more water, I saw a great improvement in my weight and rosacae symptoms.

Bottom line: It’s far easier to stay healthier when you are relatively healthy than to try and reverse an illness later on.

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