October 23, 2007

Week 18 Results: 5.6 oz of plastic, I think.

Home from Maryland. Ready to do the weekly tally, except I really have no idea how to tally all the plastic for this week. The photo above shows only my personal plastic usage, from the days before my trip mostly. But there was so much more plastic that I shared in at my parent’s house. One dinner, in which I expected there to be much less plastic because it was cooked from scratch, ended up using more plastic than I go through in several weeks because every produce item had been placed in its own little plastic bag before being bagged in a plastic grocery bag.

The meal was delicious. My sister is a great cook. And I pretty much realized that while staying with my family, I was under their roof and sharing their hospitality and it wasn’t my place to make a fuss. Not this time, anyway.

So I’m just going to arbitrarily add 10 items to the list this week and 5 ounces. I have no idea if this actually reflects my portion of the familial plastic, but it’s my best guess. So, here’s the tally:

Non-recyclable items used this week but purchased before the plastic project began:

  • 7 Refresh Endura single-use eye drop containers (#4 plastic).
  • 1 outer wrapper from a box of Refresh Endura eye drops.
  • 1 plastic window from a box of Kleenex facial tissues. We still have a few more to use up, I think. Am considering switching to a cloth handkerchief, but not sure on this one. I use very few paper tissues, and I’m thinking that recycled paper tissues might do just as well and be more hygienic. Thoughts?

And that’s all the old stuff. Now for the new plastic waste.

  • 1 plastic wrapper from a boxed Symantec Norton Internet Security software package. Turned out my downloaded Zone Alarm software was crashing my computer, and HP recommended purchasing Norton on disk rather than download. Okay, but why the huge box, Symantec? I feel another letter coming on.
  • 1 Straus Family Creamery milk bottle cap. I’ve been misspelling their name all along! For those wondering about the milk caps, here is a comment from Straus left on this blog last week in response to the post, Sending Things Back. I’ll copy it here for those who didn’t see it:

    October 18, 2007

    It’s Kristen from Straus Family Creamery. I must say … I have never heard of these Strauss people. I do know of an awesome creamery in Marshall that makes organic, hormone-free dairy products. They are called Straus Family Creamery. Don’t sweat it, everyone misspells it at least once.

    Thanks for the note back. I got it today. I will use the DVD for someone else. Thank you for your commitment to a plastic-free life.

    I did want to address the issue you mentioned in your letter about our plastic caps on our reusable glass bottles. Previously we used a foil lid. Foil is only one-time use. It is very hard to re-attach the lid securely enough to shake up all the cream. While plastic stinks, at least you can use it more than one time at home. Plus … plastic creates the best food safety barrier.

    Thanks for inviting me to your site!

    So, there’s the official response. While visiting my family in Maryland, I found out that my sister also buys her milk from a local dairy, and they use the exact same kind of milk bottles and caps. I guess it’s an industry standard. I’d love to know if there are any dairies out there looking at alternative lids.

  • All the plastic used in Maryland. Just guessing here, as I mentioned above.

Seeing all the plastic this weekend was a bit overwhelming for me. What can we do to reach more people? Are blogs like this one simply preaching to the converted, as my dad said. Or does it help to add one more voice to those crying out for change in the way we consume and waste?

How can we make a bigger difference? This is the question for me right now. I’d love to hear your ideas.

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12 years ago

I’m pro-handkerchiefs.

*Softer – your nose doesn’t get raw over several days of having a cold
*It’s thicker, so you won’t blow all the way through like you could tear a tissue
*As you reuse it, you use a different spot (just like I would use different spots of a tissue, not just throw it out after one blow)

12 years ago

Hi Alix,

I completely agree with you that we have to consider the importance of saving trees. In my practice, I strive to consider all of the impacts, human and environmental, of what I use.

When it comes to packaging, I prefer people to bring their own containers of course, but mail order is a problem. I could refuse to do it, but then I would not survive as a business, and I couldn’t help people get off plastic, harmful cosmetics, contraceptives etc. So I thought through my options and chose to use only reused boxes, bubble wrap, envelopes etc, to wrap in discarded posters, and to use paper tape to stick everything together. I don’t use more than I need to, and I use less than I would plastic tape because it sticks really well to other paper.

I use 100% recycled content labels that are off cuts from my product labeling, and the paper tape is un-bleached high post consumer content recycled. The whole wrapper is then recyclable as paper, so I hope that none of it ends up in the landfill, but if it did, it’s far safer than plastic. To date, the ONLY packaging for mail order item I have bought new is paper tape. I go through a roll per year.

My clients even bring back their paper bags with handles for reuse.

I do believe that Beth has a similar respect for resources, including trees.

*Now if I can only get off my butt and install the metal bidet toilet adaptor thing-y, I can spare the 100% recycled content toilet paper, too!*

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

12 years ago

I’ve started using hankies because although “a few recycled paper tissues” may not seem to make a difference, over time, with everyone using tissues, they make for a lot of forest. I cut up an old t-shirt I didn’t like and got plenty of hankies to last me between laundry cycles. I use them when I’m sick, too, taking about three a day with me because that’s when I would normally go through the most tissues. Another bonus to hankerchiefs is that after a few days of being sick, my face isn’t at all raw and miserable as it is when I use tissues. The snot doesn’t get anwhere, and it’s just as clean to cycle through a few hankies as it is to sacrifice a bunch of trees by using tissues. They’ve also come in handy for me when I have to pick up my hot glass jar that I use as a thermos.
This hanky issue brings up one of the few things that bother me about this blog and a few others. I feel that in the extreme decision to eliminate plastic, the importance of saving trees and not using paper products has been forgotten. I’ve seen a few examples where a paper product has been chosen in order to avoid plastic. For example, paper tape or paper packaging. I’m surprised that there has been no effort to avoid these items as well, considering the fact that all disposable products, regardless of what they are made of, are harmful for the environment.

12 years ago

I don’t remember how I stumbled across your website, but before I did I was living the average American life, and now I use baking soda as deodorant (etc.). You can reach the unconverted. I think most people want to do good in this world. As long as someone feels that reducing their plastic consumption is good, you’re providing the tools to do so.

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Hi Skeizix. I don’t have any data on the hanky issue. I’d imagine that if you’re just using it for your own runny nose over and over and that if you’re not actually sick, it wouldn’t be a problem. Please so let me know if you find actual data.

15 years ago

This is my first time posting a comment to a blog, so if this is in the wrong spot, I apologize. This comment is in regards to the whole hanky issue. I don’t get sick very often, but always seem to have a runny nose. I realized the other day that I go through a lot of kleenex. This is not good for the environment or my wallet. I used to have a professor who used a hanky and I thought it was so gross, now I’m starting to see where he’s coming from. The thing that always seems to come up is the issue of them being unhygeinic. I’ve tried to find solid evidence that they are, but I can’t. I can only find personal opinions. I can see that if you’re sick, reusing an hanky might not be a good idea, but if you’re just using it for occasional nose wipes, is it really that bad? Have you been able to find any good evidence on the pros and cons of using a hanky? I’ll continue my search, but please let me know if you come across anything. Love the blog :)

16 years ago

If you think about all the machines (and people) who’ve touched disposable tissues before you, and all the dirty and dusty trucks and warehouses they’ve been in before you bought them…I’d think a soft clean hankie, washed at home in hot water, might seem a little more appealing! ;)

16 years ago

Just want to echo the “you are making a difference” piece! I’ve been more and more aware of the plastic I throw away (and extremely frustrated by the limitations of the NYC recycling program!)and that is really because of reading blogs like yours.

Plus, I find your posts really educational and hands on, which makes me go from “ooh, bad plastic” to “ah, good non-plastic alternative”

Please keep up the great work and realize that you really are a pioneer and explorer, but the settlers will come too..it just takes time!

16 years ago

When I was a kid, milk came from the milkman and it came in glass bottles. The bottle had a cap that was made of a waxed heavy paper. The cap sort of pleated itself around the top of the bottle. Inside, at the mouth of the bottle, was a disc with a tab stapled to it. You pulled on the tab and out came the disc. When you opened a new bottle of milk, you’d shake it to mix up the cream on top, then take off that pleated cap & throw it away. The disc was what you used to keep the bottle covered.

You can make hankies out of anything – an old silk shirt, a piece of sheet, or even a wool sweater. You can wash your hankie when you wash your hands or take a shower or do the dishes. I love my hankies, and tie the pretty ones around my wrist so they’re handy for my ever-drippy nose.

16 years ago

I’m no where near as “advanced” as you are on the plastic front, but just two months ago switched to handkerchiefs. It’s working out really well. I guess I don’t see the unhygienic part to it. You don’t use the same area twice and it goes into the wash. If people got along fine with this for hundreds of years, I’m not sure the advent of disposable tissues was all that important.

16 years ago

I have been using cloth bags for shopping for years, but since reading blogs like yours and EnvironWoman’s I have been trying to seriously reduce my and my family’s plastic consumption. You are making a difference!

16 years ago

I’m okay with a cloth hanky but if you’re not sure about that, what is wrong with your toilet paper? I never purchase tissues and just pack a roll of TP around if I’m sick. You could even compost it if needed. As for the milk, we used to purchase local milk in a glass jug for my husband. It had the foil top but you could purchase a plastic lid to keep and use at home if you wanted to. We also payed a deposit on the glass and just returned it when we wanted another jug. Seemed to work fine for us! Keep up the good work.

16 years ago

Bad tidings I bring. Went to the grocery to get my usual big box of raisins…it has a plastic top but the box is cardboard. Stood there staring for a bit, wondering what had happened to their stock then I noticed…no more box but now a plastic bag, resealable! But so was the box.

At a renewable energy fair in northern Illinois a couple of years ago there was a speaker who talked about how petroleum dependent we are, how plastic makes our world…he pointed out the tent we were in, the nylon ropes holding it up, the folding chairs we sat on, the fake wood podium, the microphone he was using, the tables for the displays, all were made of plastic. Cars have been steadily getting away from metal to plastic, under the “bumpers” are big hunks of styrofoam. I guess plastic food is next…artificial taste and texture and completely inert to avoid weight gain! Those little yellow marshmallow chicks are pretty close already.

Beth Terry
16 years ago

Hi. I just want to jump in and clarify that the Straus milk didn’t go bad in just days. I bought it last Sunday, over a week ago. I shouldn’t have bought such a big bottle, but I forgot I was going away.


terrible person
16 years ago

What about if everyone who reads your blog undertakes to talk to one person per day, long enough to explain the facts about plastic, and “convert” the person to the cause — including undertaking to read this blog and talk to one person? It doesn’t seem like all that much — but it would increase our numbers exponentially! Okay, maybe it’s hard to find new people to talk to after a while, once you’ve done your family and your co-workers. But we meet all sorts of people each day, online or off-: clerks in stores, people sitting next to us on buses, etc….

Did you mention to Straus that the milk went sour in just days?

heather t
16 years ago

Well, I don’t know about preaching to the converted. I’m guessing not all your readers (ok, me) are not quite at the level of plastic-free that you are. But we’re probably all trying, and reading blogs like yours help because they make me rethink the plastic I do use.

Same with No Impact Man – no way could I do what he does. Not all at once anyway. (For starters, we live in a semi-rural suburb, miles from a shopping area or even a local store, it’s 12 miles to school, etc. We NEED our minivan.) But, that said, the example gets the rest of us thinking about what ELSE we can do.

And neither of you is ONLY blogging about it – you and NIM are both actively trying to make changes in your community, changes that will have a bigger impact than your own personal efforts.

Now, as far as tissues vs. hankies go, I feel there are some areas where disposable is better, and personal hygeine is one of them. Sure, buy recycled if you can, but give me a disposable tissue over a grody hanky any day! (My personal ick factor; your mileage may vary.)

16 years ago

Welcome home either way!