August 27, 2012

Plastic Challenge: Green Gal, Week 1


Specific suggestions for brands for things like reusable glass straws, best types of water bottles and reusable storage containers, and creative ideas for reusing things we have to avoid purchasing new plastic products would be really helpful! Some of these answers might be in Beth’s book, which I’m still reading, but if anyone has had experiences with particular brands, please give me your recommendations! Thanks!

Location:Santa Cruz, California, United States

Name: Green Gal

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I am an undergraduate literature student at UC Santa Cruz. I have a green tips & simple living blog called Green Gal, and I work in the Sustainability Office on campus. Despite these inclinations toward more sustainble living, I can definitely reduce the amount of plastic waste I generate in my life and work toward having less contact with plastic in general.

Green Gal’s personal blog:

List of plastic items REFUSED this week. (Yay!)
– plastic lid on fountain soda at various restaurants (who needs ’em?)
– plastic straw for soda at various restaurants
– plastic Starbucks cup for iced latte (used my own mug)
– plastic knife to open my burrito (unfortunately, did use a plastic fork…)
– plastic cup for salsa at restaurant (put the salsa from the salsa bar right on my burrito!)

Total items collected: 17

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
– Brisk lemonade bottle, PETE #1 – I know this type of plastic can be recycled through the campus recycling facilities, which means I place it with my other recyclables in one of the bins outside my dorm. On looking this up to make sure I was right, I found this: “Plastic containers #1-7 are accepted for recycling. This includes plastic bottles, jars, and tubs. Please rinse, and remove caps or lids before placing in recycling bins. Step on plastic containers to flatten.” I had heard that removing caps was a good habit, but it’s good to know that the University requests it.

– bell pepper bag – If I ball this up and place it with other bags in one bag, I can recycle it. I know my office has a bag of bags for recycling, so I will add it to that one since I don’t have enough of my own bags to recycle it. (I double checked online: “Bags must be contained within a plastic bag, no single plastic bags! Bags must be clean, dry and bagged together for recycling. You can place the bags in the mixed recycling bins throughout campus.” —

– Colgate toothpaste lid – It’s the same material as the lid for the lemonade, so I’m gonna go for it and put it with my recycling.

Items: Nonrecyclable
– Doritos chips bag

– feminine hygiene waste materials – Truly, it’s 17+ because obviously I did not collect all of my feminine hygiene-related waste materials this week.

– plastic coated receipts – I need to start requesting no receipt!

– Colgate toothpaste container

– Almond cheese wrapper

– Miscellaneous pieces of plastic that were in my dorm

– plastic cling wrap from the bagels I got at the University Center cafe – I have been trying to reuse them when I need to wrap something up.

– plastic spoon & plastic knife – I will reuse them, at least :/

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Definitely do-able:

– Next time I want non-water, I can fill up my water bottle in the dining hall with juice or soda.

– Purchase vegetables that are not in plastic wrap.

– Give reusable feminine hygiene products a try – I saw a post about it on, so I should take another good look at it.

– Ask that cashiers not print a receipt for me, particularly when they ask (they usually ask at Starbucks, I’ve noticed).

– Avoid purchasing items wrapped in cling wrap, and simply don’t purchase it for my kitchen. Get reusable containers instead.

– Actually carry around reusable utensils like I say I will. Maybe get lighter-weight ones or make some kind of carrying case for them so I can easily remember them.

Ideas for the future:

– Make my own chips using tortillas or potatoes

– Make my own toothpaste?

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
– Cling wrap
– Foods that come wrapped in plastic (I can at least reduce the amount of these I purchase regularly)

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
– Toothpaste
– Dairy-free cheeses (I’m allergic to milk)

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
– Simply not purchase things that are unnecessary when they come wrapped in plastic and wait until I find a non-plastic version of the same item

– Be willing to give reusable feminine hygiene products a try! (This is definitely going to be a challenge, I think.)

– Stick to remembering my utensils when I go out.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I will look into and purchase some reusable feminine hygiene products this week.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
It’s all about being a conscious consumer and thinking before you order at a restaurant or grab something in the grocery store. I think I might start writing down all of my encounters with plastic in case I forget to hang onto them. That will also force me to consider whether I need that plastic item each time I encounter it!

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