January 23, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Sarah Schmiechen, Week 1

Sarah Schmiechen's plastic waste

Name: Sarah Schmiechen

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I live with my husband and my son in a college town in Indiana. I work out of the home, and my husband is a stay at home dad. He does most of the shopping, so I don’t have as much influence over what comes into the house as I might like, but we’re both on board with the idea of reducing our use of plastic. I didn’t include my husband or son’s plastic waste, unless I used part of it.

As a reader of this blog, I’ve benefited from its influence and have already cut back on some things. We use Kleen Kanteens instead of plastic bottles for water, I’ve tried to stop using paper towels as much as possible in favor of cloth rags, we use baking soda and vinegar to clean as much as possible. I know we have a long way to go though!

Having a three year old means we have a lot more plastic coming into the house than we used to, in terms of toys, diapers, some kinds of food packaging, etc. In addition, because we are living on one salary, we have to weigh some choices against price – e.g., I would love to buy all our milk in glass bottles, but by a conservative estimate, it would cost us $500 more a year.

This first week includes a number of items from a New Years Eve party that we finally finished up. (The food, not the party :). We entertain a lot and that can be a challenge depending on what people bring over.

Total items: 40-ish

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
Milk cartons with plastic caps (and linings?), one lid from a glass milk bottle
Two litre of Coke (from New Years Eve)
Box of chicken stock with plastic lid
Two styrofoam egg cartons
One bag of pita chips from New Years Eve
One bag of pretzels from New Years Eve
One plastic top of a resealable raisin bag

Items: Nonrecyclable
Two bread bags with twist ties
One wine cork
One Lindt truffle wrapper
Two plastic covers/hole inserts from Kleenex boxes
5 envelopes with plastic windows
One broken doorbell
One cap from a glass bottle of walnut oil
One broken corkscrew (it has a little piece of plastic in the middle)
Several blister packs from batteries and the new doorbell
One random piece of red plastic that I can’t identify
Museum membership packet – the membership cards came on on, and it came in an envelope with a plastic window
Many plastic grocery and produce bags
Not pictured – some saran wrap that was used to wrap some other cheese from New Years Eve

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I could buy eggs in cardboard instead of styrofoam. Raisins can be bought in bulk. A lot of the grocery and produce bags could be eliminated totally. I can try and stop some of the mail that comes with the glass windows. Chocolate can be purchased in bulk. I think Seventh Generation tissues don’t have plastic on them. I baked some bread this week so hopefully we will buy less bread in bags. We could make our own chicken stock. I can try and look for wine with real corks.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I could give up Coke, and the other snacks.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
I don’t think we can get milk or batteries without plastic packaging. I don’t think we could have gotten our museum membership cards without plastic.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I think a lot of cosmetics would have to go. None were pictured this week, but most cosmetics I use are in plastic.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I’m going to try and get some of the mail with plastic windows stopped. I will also try and keep baking bread.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
It seems like a lot of plastic use in our could be reduced by either time (e.g. baking) or money (the milk). Both of those are in short supply. It’s a matter of prioritizing.

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