May 17, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Pheas, Week 1

How to eat healthfully—I am vegan and aim to eat more raw food—with minimal plastic and minimal food prep. I absolutely hate food preparation, so things that rely on my doing more washing, chopping, peeling, and cooking are unlikely to happen except in very small increments over time.

I’m open to other suggestions, as well, but the food prep is my biggest challenge.

Location:Jacksonville, Florida, United States

Name: Pheas

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I am a 40-year-old woman. I live in a single-family home with my wife and our 3 cats and 3 dogs. I work full-time from home.

Total items: 86

Total weight: 1 lb., 2 oz.

Items: Recyclable
2 SodaStream bottles (could not decipher number, but curbside municipal recycling accepts #1 and #2 with necks)
1 vitamin bottle (same as above)

2 SodaStream caps (we are able to drop all of these off at Whole Foods for
1 vitamin bottle cap
1 kombucha bottle cap
1 almond milk bottle cap

(We also have access to the Gimme 5 program, but I didn’t have any #5 tubs this week.)

Items: Nonrecyclable
Wrapper from case of canned dog food
Bag from spinach
Bag from cat food
2 bags from cat hairball-preventive treats
4 containers from prepared raw-food items
Hummus tub, lid, and plastic cover
2 containers and lids from berries
2 sleeves from frozen meals
2 lids from containers we no longer have
Crinkly sheet used in place of cotton in vitamin bottle
Bag from vegan cheese
Sleeve from tofu
Peel-off strip from Netflix envelope
Hotel shampoo bottle and lid
Plastic cup
3 envelope windows
3 dressing containers and lids from prepared raw-food items (a bit melted by the dishwasher)
Blister pack from migraine medication
2 dessicant packets from vitamins
Seal from almond milk
Inner and outer seals from vitamin bottle
Seal from kombucha
Part of broken bag clip
Seal from mystery item
2 single-use bottles from eye drops
2 transdermal pain patches and cover sheets
Champagne foil, apparently plastic-coated, though I can’t be sure
Birth-control pill blister pack (mixed foil, cardboard, and plastic)

Shown but not weighed because I couldn’t separate the plastic from a heavier component:
Paper tray from frozen meal
2 candy canes wrapped in plastic I couldn’t get off
Expired SodaStream flavor
Part of a broken bag clip with magnet

Not shown or weighed:
2 straws I was surprised with in restaurants

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
The shampoo bottle (I stayed in a hotel and brought my shampoo bar, but my traveling companion used the hotel shampoo, so I brought the leftovers home to use rather than waste)
The plastic cup (I was ambushed. I ordered a margarita on Cinco de Mayo at a place where I’ve had them before in glass and where other people were drinking them in glass. I think the restaurant was just so busy that they ran out of clean glasses.)
The straws (I carry a stainless one in my purse, but I don’t always remember to specify “no straw.”)
Bag clips (I recently bought some stainless ones from the green boating site. They are much nicer and will be hard to break.)

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Most vitamin bottles, seals, caps, fillers, and dessicants (I am cutting way down on supplements because I am eating better.)
Pain patches and eye drops (Both are prescriptions that I just haven’t found that helpful and will not renew.)
Candy canes (These were a hostess gift.)
SodaStream flavors (Not having used things before they expired tells me I don’t need to buy them. I drink flavored sodas rarely enough that I will just buy them in glass bottles rather than brew my own. And maybe one day I’ll even try my own recipes.)

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Migraine medication, including birth-control pills
Berries (No nearby store sells them in anything but plastic. Our farmers’ market closed, but they rarely had berries and used plastic, as well. I will check out the farmers’ market 20 miles away, but that won’t likely be a regular thing because of the drive.)
Dog and cat food and medication (We have six rescue animals, five of whom are seniors and also have medical conditions or special diets. We are exploring options, but after some severe health scares, we are very cautious.)

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Willingness to do more food preparation. We are exploring a personal chef as an option to help us eat better without relying on plastic-packaged food or expecting ourselves to suddenly enjoy cooking. We also just joined a CSA for the fall, which should mean more fresh, unpackaged fruits and vegetables on hand. I have belonged to a CSA before, and the cost of the organic vegetables helped force me to eat them before they went bad.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Everything mentioned in the “give up” and “replace” questions above. I am also continuing to gradually reduce my consumption of food packaging.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
It’s very hard to reduce plastic if you absolutely hate doing food prep. I actually don’t mind cooking and kind of like baking … when I’m not working full-time. I don’t mind cooking and baking on vacation, and I did a ton of it when I was unemployed, but it is the last thing I want to do with my evenings and weekends after I’ve already given 40-50 hours a week at the virtual office.

I was truly dismayed at the quantity I accumulated in only a week, because I am really trying. We’ve almost entirely eliminated plastic food storage containers. We use tiffins for takeout. I don’t touch bottled water or plastic shopping bags. Bills are all done online. I use shampoo bars and vinegar solution conditioner. This week was a little heavier than usual because I did a major pantry clean-out, but still! A pound a week is 50 pounds a year. Yikes!

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