April 1, 2010

Reducing Plastic Waste: March 2010 Collection Results

4.0 oz Plastic Waste [.2 oz new/3.8 oz acquired prior to June 2007]

Beth's plastic waste - March 2010

Holy cow!  Lady Gaga called today.  Seriously.  I’ll tell you all about it at the bottom of this post.  For now, here is:

Beth’s March plastic waste collection

If it hadn’t been for that silly broken digital scale, my total plastic waste for the month would have been under half an ounce.

What I learned this month:

1) Duct tape will not repair a ripped up slipper sole. See below. Your suggestions requested.

2) I don’t need milk on my cereal; water works just fine. Really. That and a little maple syrup and I’m good to go. No more plastic milk bottle caps. My Facebook friends thought the idea was gross. I say, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

3) I can get through a head cold without prescription or OTC cough medicine. And I have no shame about posting photos of water running out my nose.

4) I can relieve a headache with acupressure (just discovered that one two nights ago). No plastic pill bottle required.

5) If you write to the U.S. Census Bureau, they will write back to you.  Sort of.

So, here’s March’s tally:

Plastic purchased before June 15 2007 and used up in the last month (3.8 oz):

  • 1 Thinner Digital scale. Read the whole scale saga here.
  • Duct tape. I thought I could use it to fix my fake plastic slipper. I was wrong. The tape just rubbed off. Here is a picture of said slipper. Synthetic rubber sole with poly foam cushioning. I do not want to have to buy new slippers and add the ripped ones to my plastic collection. Advice on possible ways to fix them encouraged.  (I can’t just leave my slipper ripped like it is because I’m tracking plastic crumbles through the house.

ripped up slipper sole

New plastic waste (.2 oz):

  • Packaging from new digital scale. A #4 plastic bag and two pull tabs. Let me explain a little more why I needed a new digital scale. Several people suggested on the digital scale post that I could simply measure things by volume rather than weight. But I use my scale for two purposes: making homemade cat food (the meat for each cat’s daily ration has to be weighed very precisely and is not always ground exactly the same way) and measuring my plastic waste each month, which would be impossible to do by volume.  There were suggestions for other types of scales, but I think the one I got will be fine.  I hope.
  • 1 tiny plastic bag of sea salt. Came with my new neti pot. Which I was so happy about. Until I dropped it in the sink a few days ago and broke it. Ceramic in bathroom = Bad Idea. I’m going to try and glue it, but if that doesn’t work, I’ll get a stainless steel one instead. :-(
  • 2 price tag holders. From new natural cat toy.  Yet another thing they sit and stare at glassy-eyed.  Their contempt for our offerings knows no bounds.
  • Plastic bag from a new tongue cleaner. It’s a Preserve tongue cleaner made from recycled plastic, but the bag is not, as far as I know. I got it from my dentist, who really really really wants me to use it.
  • Wrapper from 2 Pepto Bismol chewable tablets. Working on a dietary cure to make these unnecessary.
  • 2 toothpicks with plastic on the ends. From a restaurant. Stuck in my portabello mushroom sandwich. Always unexpected.
  • 4 plastic envelope windows. 2 promotions from companies from whose mailing lists I’ve asked to be removed. 2 from the U.S. Census Bureau, to whom I actually wrote a letter. Learn more about plastic window envelopes here.

Census Bureau Behind the Times?

So, here’s what happened with the Census Bureau: First, they sent out a letter to every household in the U.S. announcing that within a week they would be sending out the census forms to be completed. Then, as promised, they sent out the census forms.

This seemed like a waste of plastic, paper, and postage to me, and I had a better idea. So I wrote to the U.S. Census Bureau and suggested that instead of sending the announcement and then automatically sending the forms a week later, they could include in the initial announcement a code for people to complete their census forms online instead. Then, after a month or so had past, they could send out the actual forms only to people who hadn’t done it online already.

In this day of computer tax filing and bill paying and juror check-ins, it just seemed like something they might consider. Well, I got a letter back from the U.S. Census Bureau thanking me for being concerned about what they are doing with the tax payers’ money and assuring me that they need to send out the paper announcements to promote the census so that they don’t have to send actual employees’ to bang down our doors.

In other words, they hadn’t read my actual letter at all. I wasn’t asking them not to send the announcement. I was asking them to provide an online way to complete the census. Should I write back again or let it go? The census only happens once every ten years. Probably not worth spending more energy on it.

Gaga Stop Calling!

Well, that’s it for me for March.  Oh wait.  One more thing.  Lady Gaga called and said she was sorry for tossing that plastic wrapper onto the street in her new video Telephone and that she will walk back up that road in her stilettos and pick it up. Actually, it was Beyoncé who did the tossing. But it’s Gaga’s video, so she will take responsibility for her mess.

Lady Gaga plastic wrapper litter Telephone video

Lady Gaga plastic wrapper litter Telephone video

Also? She said she wants me to come on tour with her to talk to her audiences about plastic. My response?

Stop callin’, stop callin’; I don’t wanna think anymore!; I got my head and my heart on the dance-floor.

I mean, what would you have said?

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Mary K
13 years ago

I had the exact same thought about the Census….. I was amazed that I could not complete it online. I talked to other people who had the same reaction.

13 years ago

On my local radio station they were talking about the cost of the census and that not only are the mailings going out, but they ARE going door to door also…just in case. I haven’t confirmed this but I don’t open the door for people that are not invited to my home, and I bet that’s who those two women were rapping very loudly on my front door the other day. Plus, I’ve seen a few others roaming around the neighborhood with clipboards in hand. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous for them to send a postcard telling us that they’ll be sending us another piece of mail in the next week. People will get their mail and probably not miss the big CENSUS words on the front of the envelope…and unless you’ve been living under a rock (I don’t watch much TV nor read the newspaper or work with people and I knew it was coming) you know the form will be coming. If they don’t want to fill it out, that pre-post card isn’t going to change that.

Debbie B
13 years ago

I’m not sure if you’ve fixed those slippers yet and I think all of the ideas that I had were already mentioned. I’ve used fabric paint on the bottom of knitted felted slippers to make them skid proof but the fabric paint comes in a plastic tube so that’s out.

I will try to make the case for knitting your own pair of socks. I hate, hate, hate double point needles and was introduced to the Magic Loop knitting method with extra long circular needles. This was the single greatest knitting idea ever. So I’d encourage you to give it a thought. I went to a trunk show at my local knitting store and there was a pattern for cool tube socks with twisted ribbing so there’s no heel (blog post here: http://www.momogusknits.com/2010/02/belated-snow-day-post-and-new-pattern.html ). For some reason the pattern isn’t up yet on her site but I’m sure it will be soon. She’s very green so the pattern is in a PDF format and is e-mailed.

Keep up the great posts!

Earth Friendly Goodies
13 years ago

Great gag with the Gaga, you made me read every word of your post, except for the 44th word – I skipped that one. I just discovered your blog today and I must say quite inspirational – I look around the house and am amazed at how much plastic I see – you’ve come so far!

I’m sure you’ve looked into it but you can do away with those pepto bismal tablets by taking a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar. (of course it comes with a plastic top though)

13 years ago

Many people eat cereal or oatmeal without milk, especially those allergic to milk. My brother ate it with apple juice but my brother in law is allergic to apples so that wouldn’t work there. I’ve seen orange juice used and I can see that water would work as well. I say I prefer it with milk (mmm milk) but like you said, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
We received a both census letters and two postcards. I like the online idea and the comment said above about how if someone isn’t going to open and fill out the census when they receive it they aren’t likely to care much about the additional mail. Reducing is the first line of defense. Thanks for the reminder to speak up when we have an opinion, anyone on here that agrees with you should send in comments as well (preferably by e-mail or by re-using their own paper/envelopes). The more voices, the more likely to be heard. Whether its the Census, the grocer or the dentist…make your plastic free preferences be heard!

13 years ago

The way I fixed my partner’s old slippers (he has used duct tape in the past more successfully than it sounds like you did, but it makes the bottoms really slippery) is to take the top section of an old wool hiking sock that had gotten past darnable into just old, cut a tube-length from it, and slip it over the slipper so it goes all the way around and covers the bad part of the sole. Then just baste the part that touches the fabric top.

It’s not super safe, though – stuff can catch in it and trip you. For myself, I just wear thick wool socks. But he doesn’t want to give up his slippers.

13 years ago

I loved your post about Lady Gaga. If she was really serious maybe we can invite her to talk to some folks in Sacramento and get them to pass legislation this year to reduce plastic waste :) just a thought.

J. Lynne
13 years ago

You can make your own soymilk, rice milk or nut milk. In fact, rice milk and nut milk are so incredibly easy, All you need is a really good blender. I don’t know why anyone would put water on their cereal. Though I usually have my cereal with yogurt, which I can make at home as well.

13 years ago

I totally fell for the Lady Gaga thing.

A friend of mine used to use orange juice on her granola cereal.

I totally agree with you about the Census. I was upset about that, too, and I think you have a great alternative idea (and I actually read it!).

@Brett – Reducing plastic waste and making other eco-friendly changes in my life has greatly improved the quality of my life. Like Beth said, I eat fresh, healthy meals instead of pre-packaged. I use real cloth instead of scratchy tissues or scratchy paper napkins and paper towels. I make homemade bread instead of getting the fake bread (fread) from the grocery store. As we’re shopping with our colorful produce bags at the grocery store, people stop to talk with us, and we’ve made so many new friends! I feel more conscious in everything I do – more connected to myself, the environment, and other people. I’m not just making decisions anymore on autopilot. This has improved my life in every area.

@ Darris – We store leafy greens, broccoli, and any other fresh produce that wilts easily in our fridge in water. We fill a container with some water, cut off the end of the produce, and stick it in just like you would with fresh flowers. This is also a great way to revive already wilted produce. They soak it all up, their cells get nice and plump, and voila! crisp broccoli and lettuce!

Great post, Beth!


13 years ago

Beth, I was about to comment: did Lady Gaga REALLY call you?? Totally didn’t think about what day it was yesterday! nice gag! I don’t have any other slipper suggestions to add here – I’m sure you’ll think of something!

Laura M.
13 years ago

Have you tried taking the slippers to a cobbler? Or you could cut a leather sole to fit and sew it on.

Brett Cassidy
13 years ago

Hello Beth, I believe your passion toward the environment is admirable. However, in the world that we live in, creating almost no plastic waste simply seems irrational. To me, it seems that you are forcing yourself to live a decreased quality of life for almost no reward. I understand that you are trying to set an example, and spread your message through your blog, but there are some things that some people would view as borderline insanity. For example, putting water in your cereal may not taste as bad as most people would imagine, but I can’t imagine that it would taste anywhere as good as milk. Furthermore, using acupuncture to cure your headaches doesn’t sound quite as ridiculous as putting water in milk, but can you honestly expect a large amount of people to follow your lead of sticking needles into themselves every time they get a headache.

While telling the Census Bureau to use less paper seems like a good idea, it is impractical when it comes down to it. Sending letters to every household in America is far from cheap, you are right about that. However, I am absolutely positive that the Census Bureau knows this. The United States Census needs to be as accurate as possible. They take whatever measures are necessary to ensure this. If there was not some benefit to spending a lot of money on paper to send letters, they simply wouldn’t. But there simply must be.

13 years ago

Grrr…that US Census Bureau. I got a SECOND set of forms in the mail, even though I had filled out and returned the first promptly (within a week, anyway). So yes, please do write them again.

Beth Terry (* The speaker, not author of FPF!)
13 years ago

Oh – one more thing on the Census. I was at a store a month ago and this woman walks in with a big box. She was giving away metal water bottles with plastic screw tops that said, “2010 Census: We need you to Return it!” I saw these bottles not long after on sale for $14.99! She said she had given several cases away. This is ONE person, How many more people were out there randomly giving away these bottles? While it’s nice to have, I’m not happy that my government thought it was a good idea to squander our money this way. I’m very happy using my glass bottles to carry water. I reuse juice bottles and carry them in a cloth shoulder bag I made. Works better, no plastic, and not using tax dollars. Just sayin…

Beth Terry (* The speaker, not author of FPF!)
13 years ago

Hey Beth – just love following your progress. Here’s an idea for your morning cereal – Try applesauce. Papaya juice is also good. Both come in recyclable glass bottles. Actually – switch to oatmeal. I make oatmeal and put slivered almonds and cut up apples in the bottom of the dish, then top with applesauce. I have a nut grinder from my great grandma (circa 1902) that works great on fresh almonds.

Can’t help you with the slipper. The only solution is probably that goop stuff that we used to use to fix sneakers. But it probably comes in a plastic tube or has a plastic cap. You could superglue something to the bottom! Eh, more plastic type compound…

Congrats on all the great press!

13 years ago

Re the slippers: Didn’t you knit a handy ipod cover? If you can knit that innovative creation, I’m sure slippers will be no prob. :) Alternatively, like others mentioned take it to a shoe repair place. I go to Jack’s Shoe repair on Market and Fremont. I seriously brought in shoes that looked ready for the garbage (not even goodwill worthy) and he transformed them into brand new! Disclaimer: He did use a plastic sole though and I never asked about leather…

Re Lady Gaga: Ha! Ha! Hilarious!

13 years ago

I’ve been reading your site a few days now. I went thru a phase a few years ago trying to get the plastic out of my house. I did not go to the lengths you have, but I made some improvements on what I was doing. You have inspired me. I went grocery shopping today and I thought about my purchases and I thought about all this plastic. I recycled my batteries and I found my local Brita recycling container. All excellent stuff! I have a lot to learn, and I want to eliminate my plastic trash also. It makes me sad to see it. I do a lot right, but I’m seeing there is still a lot more to do. My fridge is full of plastic. Gross. I store a lot of things in glass, but a lot just comes in plastic. Can you share with us what you do with your veggies? I don’t eat meat but I do eat cheese. Plastic! Salad? Plastic! It’s crazy! I go on. You know this stuff, I’m just figuring it out.

Thanks for the EYE OPENER. Love and blessings, Rachel (your new fan!)

Isle Dance
13 years ago

I don’t know who Lady Gaga is, but your plastic lessons are great.

monkaking red in - and therby - eyjen
13 years ago

u faker!! i’mgonna kick ur butt for taking red in – and thereby-me in about the whole Gaga thing. ur fired!!

knutty knitter
13 years ago

We do our census online here already. They need to upgrade themselves.

I never have found much that will work on defunct slippers. Heavy knitted sox instead????

I just filled in a submission form for mining (anti here of course) Hope lots of others do it too even if it is a bit of a pain. I submitted it – no idea what happens next. Will find out in due course I suppose :)

That april first thing just gets me – its the 2nd of April here!

viv in nz

Condo Blues
13 years ago

They had a story on our local news about the double forms being considered wasteful. Apparently the Census bureau has documentation that says by sending the first notice it increases the likelyhood of people filling out the form when they send it.

As for your slippers, can you take them to a shoe repair place and have them resole them? Why reinvent the wheel?

13 years ago

My idea requires knitting…knit oversize wool socks and then felt them. If you are new to knitting sock it can actually be a pretty good project as the felting kind of smooths over imperfections. They will be warm and durable.

I can’t believe how little plastic you go through. I wouldn’t be surprised if one month you won’t have anything to post! You are an inspiration.

13 years ago

I don’t know that I have ever seen a blog post that feature someones old slippers and Lady Gaga before. Lol- i told you she didn’t have a dick! Great Video.

As far as your old slipper, beyond some form of resin, I have no clue on how to repair them.

The census thing… that really made me grind my teeth as well- I got two notices from the gubernment that told me to expect my census form within such and such a time. Too bad for all those trees, and excuse me, isn’t there a recession. Oh well of course the U.S. Gubernment doesn’t pay postage and so much is automated that they don’t pay workers anymore either. Oh well. The guy from the yellow pages must work for the census Bureau as well.

13 years ago

I want to see Beth totally dressed up Gaga style! But with no plastic of course.

Ditto on the cobbler, they can do almost anything to shoes, even ones I thought were beyond repair.

13 years ago

I enjoyed the Lady Gaga touch. Happy April Fool’s Day! :)

13 years ago

As for slippers, how about some wool socks instead? Keeps the heat in, moisture out, natural product – we aren’t killing any animals for it, no one dies over them, no plastic exposure, AND… warm feet.

As for Lady Gaga… DUDE get out there and talk to people about plastic! If you don’t do it, who will? What a great opportunity…

surviving and thriving on pennies
13 years ago

Oh im going Gaga over you talking to Gaga! You sooo should go on tour with her. Love the video, love the outfits, and love Gaga. Take me with you! What a great way to get the word out.

13 years ago

Please Beth, don’t use leather to resole your slippers. Plastic waste is horrendous ~ animal exploitation is unthinkable. What do you use to store your leafy greens and other veggies while in the fridge? I use canvas but most veggies wilt within hours. My family uses rice milk in the cardboard cartons. I don’t like the waste and there is plastic in the tab. Is there plastic anywhere else in the packaging in aseptic packs? I make almond milk daily but have yet to get my teenage son to put it on his cereal. I’m going to start mixing it to adjust his taste buds. : ) You provide so much food for thought Beth ~ thank you for all you do!!!

13 years ago

Take a look in your plastic collection — maybe you have something that you could use on your slipper?

Susanna a.k.a. Cheap Like Me
13 years ago

Depending how you feel about leather, you can buy leather soles at knitting stores (albeit usually in a plastic bag) or I bet you can find a leather craftsperson locally who could cut them for you and you could stitch them onto those slippers! Or find some sort of non-plastic glue to slick over the plastic crumbles so they stay put?

13 years ago

Love you Beth, I am visiting my Mom in Florida and was picking up plastic on the beach, like to think it will be recycled but probably won’t. It saddened me to see a man at Publix buying 4 cases of bottled water, not only the plastic bottles but the cases are shrink wrapped in plastic. Bottled water should be outlawed. Got my Mom on cloth bags at least.

13 years ago

Could you live without the slippers? Would heavy socks do just as well?

If not, can you sew? Maybe you could find a piece of heavy fabric (canvas maybe?) and sew it to the fabric of your slippers so the whole sole is covered.

Attach the sole of something else (like a pair of flip-flops past their expiration) to the bottom with adhesive. Added benefit is you’ll be taller! If you don’t already have a strong adhesive, I doubt you’ll find anything without a plastic cap, though.

Good luck, Beth!

13 years ago

We also got a follow up letter to remind us to complete the census. We had completed it and hadn’t mailed it yet because we had to make a special trip to a mail box with a slot big enough for the census to be mailed back in since our complex mailbox slot barely even fits a netflix in it. If someone isn’t going to open the census and complete it they certainly aren’t going to open the pre and post follow up letters and even if they do open them I doubt they are going to be persuaded to complete it just because they got pre and post notices.

You might want to send another message to them, someone might actually read it this time you never know. The fact that they didn’t read it kinda proves my point that people aren’t going to be influenced by a letter anyways, I know they get a lot more messages than we do but still if they want us to do something the least they could do is actually read what is sent to them.

13 years ago

oh you are so funny, aren’t you.

That would have been cool.

Leanne Opaskar
13 years ago

Re: your slippers —

Take them to your local cobbler and see if they can replace the bottoms with nice leather soles, or something similar. My cobbler is fantastic, and does a terrific job repairing everything from torn sandal straps to broken parts of my hockey goaltending equipment. Their prices are usually very reasonable!