June 8, 2008

Week 51 Results: 4.4 oz of plastic waste

Wow. I actually got my butt outside yesterday and did some heavy non-computer related labor. Finally planted the tomato seedlings that Jennconspiracy brought me weeks ago. Hope they will live. I’ve been so tied to my desk chair that I let most of my outdoor potted plants in the roof garden sizzle and dry up. I rationalized my laziness as water conservation, which it actually was! We are officially in a drought here, and I can’t justify ornamental plants in pots on the hot roof. Also, we now have access to some ground in the front yard, so I can actually plant something useful like veggies.

I had about 20 little funerals (in my own mind) yesterday as I lugged each heavy terra cotta pot with its dead flower arrangement down to the front yard, dumped it out, hacked up the solidified potting soil with a trowel in order to reuse it, and deposited the dried up corpses into the green compost bin. I envisioned what each plant had looked like at its peak and felt a little sad. But then I looked around at all the flowering plants in my neighborhood and realized that if I just get out more, I have a huge garden to enjoy just by walking down the street!

Included in this week’s tally are some plastic items I came across while dismantling the roof garden and mantling (?) the new front yard garden, which at this point consists of 4 tomatoes plants and a whole bunch of dirt and compost. Oh yeah, more on the compost in tomorrow’s post.

Plastic items used this week but purchased before the plastic project began:

  • 1 plastic bag of Black Gold organic potting mix. Still had about 1/4 of a bag left, so dumped it out into the front yard.
  • 8 plastic plant identification tags from deceased plants. I kept any tags that were blank on one side to reuse. These in the tally have printing on both sides.
  • 1 plastic case from a set of chopsticks. Found in the silverware drawer while putting dishes away.
  • 1 totally scrungy, funkified yellow/green sponge. I think I’ve eaked out every bit of life from this thing, and it’s time to let go. I have a few more funky synthetic sponges I’m using up before switching to the Twist natural cellulose/loofah versions I bought at Whole Foods. (Don’t like dish rags, so please don’t try to convince me.)
  • Flexcar membership card. Flexcar was bought out by Zip Car and the card replaced with a brand new plastic Zipcard.
  • Tiny piece of scotch tape from something I can’t recall.
  • Little green plastic frog from one of my plant pots, half of which is now charred black. When I first started container gardening, back in the day, I thought it was cute to put little plastic critters in the pots. How this thing got charred is a mystery. Could the sun do that to plastic? Crazy. Another roof garden casualty.
  • A wad of electrical tape I pulled off some electronics this week while trying to figure out why the TV sound wouldn’t come on. A big waste.

New plastic purchased since the plastic project began and used this week:

  • Plastic outer wrapper from a 24-pack of Instinct canned cat food. No decisions in the pet food arena yet.
  • Outer seal from a 1/2 pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The second one from the parental visit.
  • 1 bit of plastic from a bunch of organic fair trade bananas.

One more week to go before the 1-year anniversary of Fake Plastic Fish!

My goal this week: 0 plastic waste. In this entire year, I have yet to complete a week completely plastic-free. But I’m determined that week 52 will be that week. To that end, I’ll be taking precautions. I’ve already tallied the cat food wrapper, and we won’t go through another whole case in a week. No one is to buy take out food for me. In fact, I won’t visit any restaurants that I haven’t already personally certified as safe from plastic. Maybe I’ll just avoid restaurants altogether. Also, no bananas this week, since I only buy the organic variety that come with plastic around the stems. I will not order anything through the mail. And I’ll put a sincere request out to friends and family: please, please, please no plastic this week!

I have an idea in mind for my Week 52 photo, but it will only work if there is no plastic.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
14 years ago

Regarding bananas: Have you checked other stores? I just bought some organic bananas, and there was no extra plastic on the end. (There was, however, a piece of plastic tape on the bunch, but I think that was to identify them as the cheap old bananas, as the non-organic ones in the bag also had it.) Anyway, just wanted to say that not every company puts the plastic on the ends.

14 years ago

Hi, Beth. I have a problem I was wondering if anyone had a good solution/alternative to, it would probably be you. Currently I line all the garbage cans in my house with plastic bags and then just tie up the bags and throw them out when full. I was wondering what’s the eco-friendly alternative to doing this? I’ve seen some biodegradable bags for kitchen size garbage cans, but what about garbage cans for bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.? With kids in the house and all the dirty stuff that goes into the cans, I can’t leave them unlined. What’s the cleanest and most eco-friendly thing to do? Thanks.

14 years ago

We were doing so well (for us anyway) until this weekend when my husband ordered Chinese food for 10 people. The amount of plastic that came with the meal ruined my appetite all together. And styrofoam containers, whoever uses them anymore? It should be illegal. I think San Mateo county banned it. Time for me to write to my city.

We don’t do take out much at all these days, because we want to know what goes into our food and to minimize packaging. But every so often, we still indulge. Have you ever written about how to minimize take out packaging?

14 years ago

If anyone can make this a plastic free week- it’s you! Good luck in the run up to your Blogaversery.
:0) kt

14 years ago

Beth – I’ve begun experimenting with making my own cat food based on the book, The Whole Pet Diet by Andi Browne. With the first batch, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly since I already had chicken stock in the freezer; they seem to like it. I’ve mixed it with the canned food they usually have.
The problem I have is storage – it makes quite a bit. Some of it I froze in ice cube trays which turned out to just right for mixing; remembering to take some out in the evening was the problem with that. I froze the rest in 1-lb-size cottage cheese containers which are too large a portion to be used before it spoils. It lasts about 3-4 days in the fridge.
I’m going to resolve the container situation before I make more.
Carla in Idaho

14 years ago

Thank you so much for writing this blog! I’ve always been very concerned about the environment, but I don’t own a house or a car, so there didn’t seem to be much I could do. You’ve given me a whole new direction to go in! I’ve posted links to your blog and sad albatross picture article on my blog, and am harassing my friends about being more environmentally aware. Thank you for all your suggestions and your inspirational project!

14 years ago

Was in the grocery yesterday and thought of you when I saw potatoes shrink wrapped in plastic. Why? So they will cook faster! Take a look for yourself at and notice the label on them – “ExpressBake”

Go oil prices, Go! Rid us of waste and foolishness, be it plastic wrapped spuds or Hummers.

14 years ago

I tried last month to go for a week with out plastic (and several other things – due to Crunchy Chicken). I just could not believe how miserably I failed. Plastic is everywhere :( Good luck with your week of plastic free!

Anarres Natural Health
14 years ago

Hi Beth,

I always water my indoor plants with un drunk water from cups and glasses just before I do the dishes. Then my outdoor plants get the dishwater! I keep a bucket on the stairs to my backyard that I fill with waste water, and when it’s full, or it’s timely, I pour it into my watering can and have a go around the garden. Given that I do the dishes daily, and use a natural soap (non SLS), the plants thrive… I also invert green plastic pop bottles (cut almost off at the top side) on spikes, fill with sand and bury these for away-for-the-weekend watering – a Caribbean technique.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

14 years ago

Just quickly want to note that I am LOVING your site and as a result am really rethinking all of my at home plastic use. Thanks for the challenge. The world gets changed one idea, one person at a time, so THANKS!

14 years ago

Good luck! My husband and I are trying to reduce the plastic in our lives, but it is astonishing all the places it shows up!

14 years ago

Good luck with not collecting any plastic this week, I am sure you can do it!

14 years ago

Poor plantses… Beth, of course you can justify ornamental plants in pots – all plants help the environment. Spider plants are especially good at cleaning the air — just move them off the hot roof. Now – big lawns are a problem — that requires a lot more water than plants in pots.

I’m with the recommendations for drip irrigation — I’ve thought about this but it means buying a lot of plastic tubing. Right now I just water all my plants at the roots (yep – all 40 of them plus the chard, parsley, arugula, herbs, peas, broc rab).

14 years ago

Writing as a scientist, props for the graph! Yay data! And it’s good motivation too.

Second, as a US citizen in Tokyo, your blog is interesting for many reasons. Here garbage is separated as burnable (paper, food) and unburnable (plastic, metal). Actually, all the garbage is burned, but the “unburnable” kind is burned in high temperature furnaces for cleaner emissions. Also, unnecessary plastic packaging is a huge problem here, in large part due to overly-powerful (and connected) lobby. As an example, while you might expect a plastic liner bag inside a box of cookies, do you expect the box to have a plastic tray separating two rows of individually wrapped cookies?? Ecological sanity in Japan is still along way away..

Keep up the good work

14 years ago

It’ll never work. Plastic is The One True God!

14 years ago

As a midwestern transplant who didn’t believe it really wouldn’t rain my first summer in the Bay Area, I have finally learned some techniques to keep plants alive, despite my disinterest in watering them. One of my best tips, especially for things in containers is to create a slow drip of irrigation. I’ve done this by overturning a wine bottle filled with water into the container near the roots of the plant. Depending on the density of the soil you may have to keep the cork in the bottle and pierce a small hole through it (I often accidentally run the corkscrew clean through, so this isn’t really a problem for me) to keep the water trickling out at a slow enough rate that you only have to change it less than once a week. I use this with my in soil plants now without the cork. Of course, with container plants you can always water them from the bottom by placing the container (with a hole in the bottom, of course, in a dish that can hold plenty of water so the plant can take it up as needed. Of course, mulching the surface, even in container plantings really helps retain moisture. My favorite mulch of all time was cacao shell mulch which mats down at the first rain and doesn’t allow any weeds to sprout, but this is a purchased product, and since there aren’t any first rains here you’d do fine with any wood chippings, leaf rakings, or redwood dropping gatherings (from Berkeley campus).
I can’t believe this is my first comment, as I’ve been admiring your dedication and your interest in researching the details behind the eco-marketing for quite some time. Thanks for the great work!!

14 years ago

Hi Beth – Not long to go…good luck for the Blogaversery. ;-D