June 1, 2009

TheGreenCat in NYC

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m TheGreenCat. I blog over at It’s a Green Green Green Green World. I live alone in Manhattan (where I also work full-time). I try to limit my overall waste anyway, so while I don’t avoid plastic, I do try to avoid tossing it in the landfills (as I try to avoid tossing anything in the landfills). Here’s my first go-round with Beth’s plastic challenge:


Total plastic waste generated in 7 days:
4.5 ounces of plastic (not including the few items noted below).2.5 ounces is recyclable.

Plastic that I owned prior to Monday:

  • 3 cellophane bags from some gift boxes
  • a couple strips of tape
  • 1 cellophane bag from soup mix
  • a couple of bandaids (not pictured or weighed)
  • 1 take out container
  • 1 shampoo bottle and cap
  • 1 fruit container
  • 1 synthetic wine cork

New plastic I acquired during the week:

  • 1 styrofoam tray, plastic pad and plastic wrap from chicken breasts (not pictured or weighed)
  • 1 disposable gown (not pictured or weighed)
  • 1 wrapper from a Luna Bar
  • 1 “wax” paper from Dunkin’ Donuts
  • 1 chip bag
  • 2 nipple markers
  • 7 cellophane windows from envelopes
  • 1 safety seal from container of milk
  • 1 liner from box of Kleenex tissues
  • 2 pieces of plastic wrap
  • 1 condiment container


  1. The cellophane-wrapped gift boxes were something I rescued from the landfill.Brand new, these boxes (set of 3 per bag) were taking up space in the storage room at work.Luckily, the folks I work with know I hate to throw useful things out so they asked if I wanted them.I donated most of them to NYC Rescued Kitties but saved 3 sets for personal use.This week I was cleaning my office and decided to use some of these boxes and bring the rest home.This cellophane is headed for the landfill.
  1. The tape came from various pieces of paper I had taped to the walls in my office.During my cleaning frenzy this week I decided to switch over to magnets so I took the tape off the papers. This tape is headed for the landfill.
  1. The soup mix was part of my birthday present from Sherry (mmmm, good soup!)This cellophane is headed for the landfill.
  1. I managed to burn my wrist on my sewing machine and to blister my feet breaking in some new shoes so I used a couple of bandaids this week.I didn’t save them for photos or weighing because, well, they were gross. Landfill.
  1. The takeout container was from my dinner on Sunday night.I didn’t realize when I ordered it that my meal would be more than I could eat in one sitting so I ended up taking half of it home.This is a #6 plastic so I can recycle it at the Park Slope Coop.
  1. I am very vain about my hair and I have not found a non-plastic shampoo alternative that works for me.I buy Giovanni shampoo because a least it is organic and biodegradable.However, it comes in a plastic container.The container is recyclable and since I only wash my hair 2-3 times a week I don’t go through it that quickly.The cap, sadly, is not recyclable in my area.
  1. My local grocery store had some amazing organic raspberries on sale.I knew I should resist but I couldn’t so I bought them.This #6 plastic will go to the Coop for recycling
  1. The wine cork comes from one of my current favorite inexpensive wines.I save all my wine corks (real and synthetic) and will donate them to TerraCycle’s cork brigade for recycling.
  1. The chicken was for the soup.I didn’t save the packaging because I didn’t think itwas worth it to try to get all the chicken juice off it just so I could save it for my tally. Landfill.
  1. I saw the cardiologist this week.They use synthetic (some kind of plastic I’m sure) disposable gowns. Landfill.
  1. The Luna Bar was just bad planning.I hadn’t had lunch and was on my way o my boyfriend’s place for dinner.I was hungry and knew it would be probably another hour before I ate so I bought the Luna Bar.Landfill.
  1. I’m going to guess that the “wax” paper that the servers use in Dunkin’ Donuts to grab my donuts is coated in plastic of some kind.Luckily they use paper bags.Landfill.
  1. I have no idea why I bought chips.I hardly ever buy chips.Sigh.Landfill.
  1. I was pleased to see that the radiology place where I had my mammogram this week uses fabric (reusable) gowns.Unfortunately they use plastic nipple markers (think little bandaids).Landfill.
  1. I hardly get any mail.I actually like NOT getting mail.Somehow this week I managed to get a credit card offer, a statement from my IRA, 3 medical bills (from my little ER stint last month) and 2 solicitations which all included cellophane windows.Landfill.
  1. I have written to Horizon Organic about their plastic pour spouts on their milk (and other dairy) cartons.They are unconcerned.Landfill.
  1. I have never understood how a slip of plastic lining supposedly makes my tissues come out of the box easier.At how I only buy recycled tissues without the plastic lining (note: Marcal Small Steps fits the bill, Seventh Generation does not).At work, however, we have Kleenex which has this plastic liner.Landfill.
  1. I was making cookies which require overnight refrigeration in rolls (like slice and bake cookies).I thought about using “wax” paper or parchment paper but those both have plastic in them too so I went with the plastic wrap which I know works and which can be recycled at the Coop.
  1. The aforementioned dinner with the boyfriend was Indian takeout (which I love).I had samosas which come with chutney in a plastic container.Recyclable at the Coop.


I have to say that I am surprised at the number of items I have on this list (it’s more than I thought it would be) and I’m surprised at the weight (it’s less than I thought that much stuff would be). I try to avoid plastic when I can which is why I am surprised I had so much plastic waste. I could certainly do better in the land of food. Convenience foods and takeout resulted in quite a bit of plastic this week (and I mostly cooked and ate at home!). Dairy also is a weakness for me. I can justify spending more money on organic dairy because my body digests that better but my wallet can’t afford to buy the local milk products in returnable glass bottles. Sometimes the wallet wins out.

My vanity also uses a lot of plastic. I have been able to reduce plastic in some ways (by using baking soda instead of toothpaste and making my own skin lotion, but there are so many products that make me feel more comfortable that come in plastic containers. If I could find a good shampoo in bulk or a plastic-free styling product that worked for me, I’d do it, but this is one area where I know I’m not willing to compromise too much. I do look for products that are biodegradable but sadly there’s still a lot of plastic out there.

To be honest I’m not sure what else I can do to reduce my plastic waste. I already try to buy products with minimal packaging and I usually go for glass over plastic if I have a choice. I try to reuse as much as I can as well. Still, all that plastic seems like a lot for one woman in one week.

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