January 26, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Suzanne in Davis, Week 2


Suzanne's plastic wasteSuzanne's plastic waste

Name: Suzanne in Davis, CA

Week: 2

Personal Info:
I work full-time and travel for work occasionally; my husband also works full-time and we have two kids under 6.

I have two photos: one is plastic that represents our chronic uses of plastic. The other is of plastic of a “one-time” plastic — I don’t plan on replacing it, next time I’ll refuse it, etc.

I don’t include plastic that my husband bought and consumed himself or fed the kids while I was away.

In Davis, rigid plastics #1-7 can be put in curbside recycling.

Total items: 38

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
1. Cetaphil: #2
2. Ibuprofin was #5 & 6.

Items: Nonrecyclable
Photo of “chronic” (clockwise from top)
1. plastic wrap from IKEA (right now I will occasionally buy stuff from IKEA, but have noted how much plastic they use so am mindful about what I buy)
2. birdseed (I don’t have bulk wild bird seed available in my town, will continue to look but not a high priority)
3. kid’s ibuprofin
4. wrapping from a kid’s party “favor” bag (my view is that I will not refuse things offered with love)
5. Perrier bottle cap and bread tie
6. masking tape from bulk buys and random sticker backs
7. envelope plastic (I’ve noted as a future project to figure out where these are coming from and elminate these mailings)
8. super glue wrapping (to fix another item that we didn’t want to throw away)
9. cheddar cheese wrap
10. butter box (still searching for bulk butter – buy Straus b/c it’s local)
11. center — St. Benoit yogurt plastic ring and milk ring.

Photo of stuff I will not replace or refuse next time (top left, clockwise):
1. Crapola of plastic that came with gingerbread house kit. Never again!
2. Wrapping that came with new power cord (next time – refuse and return)
3. 2nd to last wipes container … almost there…
4. Ecover dishwashing tablets (using up my stash, already bought box of 7th gen powdered detergent to replace it with)
5. Tangerine wrapping (next time, will buy loose – this is ridiculous)
6. fruit leather wrapping (more plastic than food! next time will get treat for kids from bulk)
7. plastic card from target that I will refuse next time if offered.
8. plastic wrap on toothbrush from dentist that next time I will refuse
9. balloon that next time I’ll refuse – my kids love them for about 2 seconds
10. Cetaphil – replacing with hard soap with minimal packaging.

What items can I replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Right now my “reducing waste” focus is on:
(a) relearning to cook for my family with dried beans and only bulk items (this is huge and will take some time).
(b) finding alternate sources for tortillas, bagels and bread.

So I’ve noted future areas of improvement, but they’ll be later…
Aside from the comments in the “one-time” list, I could:
– buy used frames, lamps etc. at secondhand stores with no wrapping (this will be a big lifestyle shift for me so now it’s in the future)
– figure out way to buy cheese without plastic (this is also in future, as will take some figuring out or activism at my store)
– find bulk butter (see above)

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
All the items in the “one-time” photo.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
For me…
1. ibuprofin
2. birdseed
3. milk jug and yogurt jar rings

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Shopping second hand
Refusing more
Sourcing bulk dairy at a second store or with a higher PITA factor.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Finding bagels w/o plastic.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
Going slowly is the key…. taking it one thing at a time.

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8 Comments on "Plastic Challenge: Suzanne in Davis, Week 2"

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I just want to send lots of gratitude to you Beth and the other commenters. Participating in this challenge – even for just 2 weeks – has really helped me focus my efforts on what needs to be done next. I’m going to take a break from the challene and focusing on incorporating the changes I made in the past few months. Based on help from your blog, just in the past 2 weeks I solved the broth dilemma, switched to a plastic-free dishwasher soap, and replaced all my cleaning products with homemade versions to use the plastic I already… Read more »

Suzanne, I’m so glad this exercise was helpful. I know sometimes people are reluctant to collect their plastic because they are afraid to learn how much they are using, but that’s how we learn! How else can we figure out what changes we need to make and where to place our energy. I’m thrilled for your changes and I agree that taking some time to incorporate the changes is a good idea. Don’t go overboard with too much too soon or you could burn yourself out. Cheers!

EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)

Thanks Beth! I’ll give it a try. I’m deathly allergic to almonds, so almond oil seems like a bid idea, but I’ll try it with jojoba. I fear I have the plastic blender issue to contend with, but it will give me an excuse to step up my efforts to find a glass one.

EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)
Hi Suzanne, If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend a slow cooker for beans. I just sort them, rinse them and toss them in the cooker. Cover the cooker with a folded thick towel to conserve the heat, and they’re perfect in the morning. (The trick is not to add any salt while they’re cooking.) I’ve also recently been trying to make friends with my pressure cooker. I’ve succeeded in making rice, pea soup and lentils with only minor bumps (like getting the timing right.) Also, for the lotion, I’ve taken to using either jojoba or coconut oil… Read more »

Here’s a recipe for lotion that I made. It does include beeswax and turned out great. /2008/01/hand-lotion-is-it-for-bees/

Second-hand super glue! I say, Suzanne, do call me when you need super glue in the future… or any other annoying thing that comes in plastic. Together, we can at least avoid buying new crapola. (Maybe.) Seriously–think “Freecycle,” only more like an extension of your garage. Into our home…


I notice you had super-glue for fixing. This week I watched as my boyfriend lovingly fixed a clay Moroccan ashtray that had broke in the wind (while he was away & I used it as a weight for drying shower curtain. woops) he spent ages doing it & succeeded! But as I looked on, the super-glue came in a plastic packet, the glue was in plastic, separate lid & I pondered the irony of make & mend…. Oh what to do….

Second hand shopping is fun, because you can buy so much more for the same money!

Hi Suzanne. I really like the strategies you’ve outlined. The thing about buying secondhand is that you will sometimes have to wait for things instead of having them immediately, but it is doable. And sometimes, while you’re looking for something secondhand, you either realize you don’t need it after all or you find a way to borrow it instead. More than once my “no new plastic” rule has saved me from my own impulsivity (hmm… WordPress doesn’t think that’s a word, but I know it is.)