January 23, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Rebecca M, Week 1


Rebecca's plastic waste

Name: Rebecca

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I live in Denver, Colorado. Full time members of my household include me and 3 indoor cats. Part time members include my boyfriend who visits about once a week and 2 stray/feral cats who I feed and care for as much as they will let me.

I work from home doing graphic design/database design and other computer related stuff.

I am a most of the time vegetarian which means that I eat chicken a few times a year, fish or seafood a few times a month and dairy and eggs daily.

I see reducing my plastic as a bit of a balancing act, and I’ve got a few challenges to deal with.

Challenge Number 1: I have severe food allergies and sensitivities. I’m allergic to almost all nuts and seeds, as well as a whole pile of other things, and I can only tolerate limited amounts of soy. All of this makes my protien choices severly limited, and pretty much necessitates the inclusion of some animal products in my diet.

Challenge Number 2: My business took a real hit during the economic downturn and I’m now living on about $17K per year. That’s actually quite doable for me since I’m the queen of frugal, but it means that I’m often faced with tough decisions when it comes to spending more to get a greener option.

Challenge Number 3: My boyfriend is only mildly supportive of my green efforts. It’s not that he doesn’t see environmental issues as important, but he believes that the driving issue behind our environmental problems is population, and since we’ve chosen not to have kids he feels we’ve done our part. He also sees my “eco-guilt” as rather unhealthy, and at times it has become a real bone of contention in our relationship. Translation… I don’t push it where my boyfriend is concerned.

Total items: about 56

Total weight: about 9 ounces

Items: Recyclable
1 Vitamin Bottle #2
1 Vitamin Bottle #1
1 Cat Treat Jar #3
1 Chinese Takeout Container #5

Items: Nonrecyclable
1 – styrofoam cup (I’ll probably use this to start seeds for the garden)
3 – Lids from vitamin bottles & cat treats
2 – lids from styrofoam cup & Chinese takeout
1 – Birth Control Pills blister pack
7 – Breath Right Nasal Strips
1 – Plastic Q-Tip
3 – cheese wrappers
1 – frozen fish wrapper
1 – plastic seal from wine bottle
2 – plastic seals from vitamin bottles
1 – plastic piece from milk bottle top
1 – tag from broccoli
3 – takeout soy sauce packages
1 – fortune cookie wrapper
2 – plastic twist ties
1 – sticker from box for computer part
20 – plastic windows from bank statements (all the end of year stuff arrived this week)

I also didn’t include the 4 cans of catfood per day which are lined in plastic…

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Ummm… the Q-tip. I usually buy the kind with paper sticks instead of plastic, but I grabbed the wrong box.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I’d LOVE to get rid of all of the bank statements, but I’m not sure how to do it for the year end stuff. I’ll see what’s possible.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
The birth control pills

The breath right strips – I’m sure that I could significantly reduce my impact if I were to stop breathing, but I’m not quite willing to go that far yet! :)

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Spending more money! Or rather, earning more money so I’d have more to spend.

I might be able to find vitamins in glass bottles, but cost might be an issue. I’ll have to see how the price compares.

I’m researching getting cheese from a local dairy, but holy moly is it expensive! We’ll see…

I might be able to bring my own containers for the Chinese takeout…. but this is sort of a boyfriend issue. I fear it might go over like a fat juicy fart in church with him. The folks at this restaurant also speak very little English and I’m not sure if I would be able to explain it to them… they have a hard enough time understanding that I don’t want their free egg rolls because they have pork in them… The truth is we only get take out once every few months… I dunno…

I could probably get fish in paper if I went to the seafood counter… but this is both a cost issue as well as a lesser of evils thing, since fresh salmon in Colorado has a HUGE carbon footprint, frozen is the better alternative.

I’ve thought about making home made catfood, but not sure I’m ready to go there yet. The cat treats might also be done away with if I could get Mr. Picky to eat without enticement…

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Chinese Takeout

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
There are always tradeoffs!

Leave a Reply

9 Comments on "Plastic Challenge: Rebecca M, Week 1"

Notify of
EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)
Hi Beth, Vicodin… Yikes! That’s heavy duty pain stuff. My 20’s were a complete exercise in pain, but once I got on the pill (well, this one particular pill which has the right proportion of hormones for me) and got my whole crazy vitamin/supplement thing working, I’m nearly pain free. I do admit though, there have been many times that I’ve thought that menopause will be a complete blessing when it finally arrives. It’s actually pretty amazing when I think about it though. I’m 43 and still have all of my female parts, which is a record by over 10… Read more »

Hi again Rebecca. I too chose not to have children. I too suffered from debilitating cramps each month. In fact, I had an ongoing prescription for Vicodin. And even that didn’t help if I didn’t catch the cramps in time. After fibroid surgery that didn’t help at all, I finally ended up having a hysterectomy in 2007, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. No more periods. No more birth control. No more pain. :-) (Not necessarily recommending it, but just saying…)

BC. Has a huge foot print. Its not just the packaging. But what it leaves behind in the sewage. Those hormones do not get filtered out. They affect our fish and our wildlife. Condoms even get eaten by wildlife. You could look into Natural family Planning and STICK TO IT. I am NOT a fan of the pill. For a gazillion reasons.. But you said you had other reasons for needing it…… So…. You could start pressuring the pharmaceutical companies to package in small glass bottles- with a calender paper label on the bottle. Which you would mark each day.… Read more »
don’t worry, I completely understand that your boyfriend isn’t actually a jerk. Beth wrote a good post about how our habits can alienate our friends and family (if you haven’t read it, it’s here: /2010/12/wanna-hang-out-with-me/). that’s too bad about getting hit by a car! I make a point to wear a helmet when riding my bike, and I try to follow traffic rules and everything, it can get pretty dangerous. people are telling me all the time that living by my seemingly extreme ideals is not worth the stress that I put myself through, but avoiding plastic has made me… Read more »
I am totally laughing out loud about all the boyfriend comments. Looks like I struck a chord with this one! I may try Beth’s suggestion of ordering takeout on my own with my own containers to see how it goes. I have never actually ordered takeout just for me… it’s sort of a “rare treat” thing and I don’t usually go there just for me, but it could be fun. It’s also possible that I’m blaming this all on my boyfriend when really it’s me who’s squeamish about the whole thing. (Moi? Use my boyfriend as a scapegoat? Never…) In… Read more »

Your boyfriend could get a vacsectomy…No more plastics…See if you could go to a nutritionist who could guide you in your food choices to avoid the food allergies and to get the vitamins you need…I would love the pattern for the bags…I think I could figure it out and love the idea…Try a small amount of homemade cat food…and go from there…Good luck…My family thinks I am nuts too…

I feel you about the takeout thing, my family gives me the same kind of disapproval. I look at it this way: someone I’m with might be embarrassed by my behavior, but it’s embarrassing to me to be forced to eat out of a plastic container when there’s a simple alternative that I’m perfectly willing to go through with. you sacrificing your beliefs and getting the disposable take-out container is the same as your boyfriend’s potential embarrassment over you bringing your own. we don’t want to cause discomfort to those around us, but why is our discomfort less important than… Read more »
I know birth control is a really personal thing, but if it works with the rest of your life, you could consider switching to an IUD. They’re more expensive up-front, but then you’re set for 5 or 10 years, depending on the model you get. There may be a bit of plastic on them, and I’m sure they’re packaged in plastic before the insertion, but it’s better than the monthly plastic containers. You might consider bopping over to the Planned Parenthood website and checking to see if there’s another option that would work with your life. As for the takeout,… Read more »
Hi Rebecca. Yes, you can get vitamins in glass, but I think they will cost more. I can see your balancing act, and it’s a sad truth that often the greener options are beyond the budgets of lower income people. We do what we can. The hope is that the prices will come down as the market grows. As for the Chinese take-out, why not try it on your own (without the boyfriend) and see what happens? My favorite thing when I’m sick is for Michael to bring me Chinese hot and sour soup in a To-Go Ware tiffin. It… Read more »