July 24, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Rachael M R, Week 1



Most of our plastic comes from food packaging – we do buy as much as we can from the local Farmer’s Mkt in the summer and grow some of our own food, but we can’t always afford the store options that are not packaged. We do try to buy in bulk in some items but they still come in plastic – how do we reduce when we can’t afford the other options?

Location:Portland, Maine, United States

Name: Rachael M R

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I am a 38 yr old artist, and stay at home mother of a 1 yr old beautiful clever girl. My husband and I think that we are conscious of our environmental footprint. We are concerned for our health, our babies health and our local impact.

Total items: 43

Total weight: 29 oz

Items: Recyclable
1 lb strawberry container
pint fresh fig container
pint blueberry container
pint grape tomato container
3 baby yogurt containers
1 vitamin D bottle
64 oz juice container
1 lb grocery deli/ olive container
tom’s of maine deoderant

(i did not write down the numbers before recycling, but my community recycles these options)

Items: Nonrecyclable
1 lbcelery bag
2 lb carrot bag
feminine pad bag (plus 18 individual wrappers)
12 pk toilet paper pkg
3-1 lb mushroom styrofoam + pkg
2 plastic 6 pack rings
vit D bottle pkg
1 lb ham slice pkg
1 lb hot dog pkg
12 oz bacon pkg
2 deli bags
3 sandwich size ziploc style bags
2 Lg ziploc style bags
2 milk jug rings
3 grocery bags
paper towel pkg
1 7th Gen diaper pkg
fresh basil bag
2 fresh vegetable bags
1 lb string cheese pkg (with 20 individual wrappers)
1 lb cheese pkg
2 cracker bags
2 plastic wine corks
8 multi vitamin wrappers
1 mandarin orange plastic net bag
2 onion plastic net bags
1 baby wipes refillable pkg
2 pint plant pots with plastic labels
plastic lid for olive oil bottle
plastic lid for red wine vinegar bottle
plastic window in fresh bread bag
2 bread bags
2 store clothes hangers
ipod shuffle usb docker
Birthday balloon
kitchen sponge

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I could probably get rid of my baby’s string cheese addiction and go back to just buying blocks of cheese – reducing the packaging. I could try and find a brand I don’t hate of feminine pads that come in more paper options. I could focus on using our cloth diapers more often (I use them about 50% of the time) but then I would just use more laundry detergent (that comes in plastic bottles).

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Not very many. I already buy in bulk, I try to buy BPA free or corn made plastics, I reuse all my grocery bags and ziplocs that I do get.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Since most of our items are food and household help items, I feel that almost all are essential.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I guess if I totally revamped my life to be self sufficient and grew all of my food, made my own soaps and didn’t rely on any outside foodstuffs. Or if we made a considerable amount more of money so that I could buy food more often, in smaller quantities from local markets without packaging.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I will focus on changing my feminine pad brand to a full paper option.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I think that it is a shame that even organic foods (for which we buy most of our bulk veggies and meat options) come in plastic.

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16 Comments on "Plastic Challenge: Rachael M R, Week 1"

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Welcome Rachael! I just wanted to say I’m glad you’re doing the challenge. We have four people in our household, and it can be tough to reduce the amount of plastic you produce, especially because you can’t necessarily enforce your own standards for everyone in your family. I get bummed out almost weekly about the amount of plastic we’re producing, but finally (after ten weeks!) I can see that we’re making progress. If you stick with it and just focus on slow but steady improvement, you’ll see progress too. One thing I’ve been doing lately is focusing on not wasting… Read more »
I definitely agree with those who have said to use things up and switch to plastic-free gradually, item by item. That’s the way to go. I was *shocked* and dismayed when I did the challenge. I haven’t had the courage to do it again yet! Most of mine was food packaging, though for me, I would save money by buying less packaged stuff. We’re doing 30 days of whole vegan food right now in our household(no processed stuff), so that is helping, but I already put my back out with the lengthy food prep times, wah! Ibuprofen comes in plastic.… Read more »
Hey Rachael! I just wanted to tell you that I completely understand where you’re coming from… as a mother of 3 children and a stay at home mom… I 100 million % get where you’re coming from. This whole process has taken me such a long time and even now I still struggle with some things. I don’t think that anyone that offered their suggestions would expect you to change all of these things immediately… :) I, personally, offered what advice I could and eventually when you’re ready… you may use it. Change is an ongoing process that takes time…… Read more »

You might consider using wash cloths in place of baby wipes? Cheaper in the long run and you can wash them with the diapers.

i just wanted to say that the Skoy cloths and the cloth feminine pads are definitely on my list! And i am intrigued by the switch to deoderant/ toothpaste and soap nuts. As an overall view, too, i think it is important that people realize how expensive it is to be healthy. We do try, really hard, but it is a battle. A battle of time and money (and sometimes those go hand in hand) – like, i can bake, but i can’t bake all the time and bread & crackers are constant staples with a 1 yr old. And… Read more »
Thanks for all the great ideas – especially with the feminine pads, sponges, paper towels. Many of the little things on this list aren’t necessarily weekly items (they just happened to be on this weeks list) so, i will find it easy to eliminate things like 6 pack rings and deli bags (we rarely use deli meat/cheese as we are nitrate free). But it is a shame that some of these options will be harder – my little store doesn’t offer carrots, mushrooms and onions loose, and i can do the math – the bulk bags i buy are certainly… Read more »
Welcome Rachael! On the FemHy front, have you considered a DivaCup? Definitely worth looking into… I’ll never go back :) For deli meats, if you bring your own containers they should be able to tare the scale before weighing your selection (so you’re not charged for the weight of your container). I’ve only ever encountered an issue with this when buying mussels from the seafood place because they “need to breathe” & cannot be enclosed. It looks like quite a bit of produce is bulking up your list as well. Sometimes I find that the way things are priced in… Read more »
ok i am going to link drops abit here.. but I have written about these in detail so better to just refer you on… sandwich bags and plastic wrap – http://fondalashay.com/mintchilli/abeego feminine stuffs, i use a divacup and love it! – http://fondalashay.com/mintchilli/menstrual-cups for the laundry detergent debacle.. http://fondalashay.com/mintchilli/soapnuts Some other thoughts to help, all the meat can be bought in paper at a butcher.. mine is actually cheaper the the commercial grocery store. And if you have the room they will work with you on a discount if you buy bulk. The bread bags.. might look into finding a local… Read more »
Hey Rachael! I originally started doing the plastic challenge because I wanted to reduce the amount of plastic food packaging that we were using. I tried to read through everyone’s lists for you, but I may cover some things twice (I apologize if I do!) First, my aunt just gifted me some Skoy cloths! They are Ah-mazing!! Normally I cut up old t-shirts or towels to use as rags, but I’m really enjoying the Skoy cloths :) Going down your list: Baby yogurt: Make the switch to the large container of yogurt. It’s the same thing (different flavor maybe) but… Read more »

I’m sure as an environmentally aware person, you’ve already considered eliminating or reducing the animal products in your diet. That will go along way toward reducing plastic, as well as other environmental and health impacts. I just filled up several mason jars with beans, peas, lentils, and nuts at the bulk bins. No-plastic, cheap, zero-cholesterol, hormone-free protein!

http://lunapads.com/ is another brand of reusable feminine pads. I’ve never had them leak through. I wash them in their own load, but that just helps make me comfortable to the idea, I’m sure it’s not necessary.

http://ourlittleapartment.com/ includes posts about babies including cloth diapers.

Hi Rachael, Over the last year or so, I’ve adoped the method of using up existing items packaged in plastic (like shampoos, liquid soaps, etc.) and when I go to replace them, sought non-plastic alternatives, one item at a time. I still have a ways to go, but so far all of the alternatives have stuck and I do believe that the slow and steady approach was a key factor. Of our shared items on your list, here’s what has worked for me. Deodorant: inspired by beth’s post /2008/03/update-3-soap-and-shampoo-and-deodorant/ I switched to baking soda/corn starch (2:1 ratio for me, YMMV).… Read more »

Sponge – if it’s cellulose, it’s compostable, but cut it up first. I crochet them out of cotton. When they can take no more rounds of dishes and spins in the wash, they easily compost.

I highly recommend trying mama cloth. I buy from http://www.newmoonpads.com and have never had a problem! I cannot stand the plastic disposable ones now. They just go in with the towels and such when I do laundry. Since you sometimes cloth diaper your little one, just throw them in with a load of diapers. You could also switch to a powered detergent that comes in a box instead of using liquid.

Keep up the good work!


Have you thought about losing the diapers? maybe a g-diaper or a swim diaper, we have some from iplay that we love

Hi Rachael. Welcome to the challenge. Have you looked at Natracare pads? http://www.natracare.com They are compostable and plastic-free. Are they available where you live? I agree with you that it’s completely ironic to sell organic produce in plastic packaging. It’s great to buy as much from the farmers market as possible. Have you tried bringing fruit containers back to the farmers to reuse? At my farmers market, they love to get them back. I see a kitchen sponge and a paper towel wrapper on your list. One solution I’ve switched to, which I adore, are Skoy cloths which are made… Read more »