September 14, 2008

Year 2, Week 13 Results: 2.9 oz of plastic waste. Junk mail mad house.

I give up. You’ll see why below…

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

  • 1 broken spray nozzle. Lesson learned: do not add ground cinnamon (or any other ground spice, probably) to a solution you plan to spray from a plastic bottle. The cinnamon clogs up the works. And I, trying to force the liquid out, squeezed too hard and broke the danged sprayer. Sigh. I haven’t added the bottle itself to the tally because I’m hoping to find another spray nozzle to fit it. This was the bottle I was using for my homemade ant spray concoction. (Supposedly, ants don’t like cinnamon.) It’s better to put a whole cinnamon stick in the bottle than the ground stuff. But that’s not what I meant about giving up.
  • 1 prescription bottle & cap. Used up finally. As I’ve said before, these bottles are not refillable in California.

And the new plastic waste:

  • 27 plastic envelope windows! Yes, I did just sit on the floor and methodically remove each plastic window from 27 envelopes. It was a kind of Zen experience. (Not really, but it’s fun to say it.) THIS is what I mean about giving up. These envelopes fit into the category of “Who the heck am I kidding?” Back in December, I wrote that I was going to mail back plastic window envelopes containing junk mail to the original senders with a note (which I have been doing) and keep the rest to reuse.

    But, in reality, the envelopes have just been piling up and doing no good for anyone. I have reused a few. But I rarely send paper mail anymore. All my bank statements and monthly bills are now available online, so as much as I can, I’ve stopped the paper mail. I don’t send checks through the mail, opting for electronic payments. So the few envelopes that do come (from Financial West Group, to whom I wrote last month, ING Direct, which still sends the occasional notice through the mail, and assorted other random companies or organizations) sit in a pile and gather dust.

    I’ve been methodically reducing the amount of mail I receive in general, by signing up with companies like Green Dimes, Pro Quo, and Catalog Choice, that help to eliminate junk mail, and also by calling the senders directly or using their own pre-paid envelopes to send their mailings (including plastic window envelopes) back to them.

    Sadly, the biggest battle I’ve had has been with an organization I totally support: Planned Parenthood. Eight of the 27 envelopes shown above were from Planned Parenthood, and those were the ones I finally held onto after sending probably 15-20 of them back with messages requesting no more paper mail. Planned Parenthood was sending at least one or two pieces of mail per week. I wrote, and I called, and I pleaded with their phone solicitors to take me off the paper mailing list, to no avail. Aside from environmental concerns, I was unhappy that they were spending all my contribution money to send me letters asking for more!

    I stopped mailing their solicitations back finally and started just collecting them, planning to send a whole boxful to the Executive Director if the barrage didn’t stop. Yes, I was going a little crazy. Ask Michael. But I never had to take that step. Because somehow, finally, I talked to the right person who was able to make the flood of mail stop. And now I am sane again.

    Except I’m starting to get a little worried about my good friend Barack Obama. Gotta nip that one in the bud right away. E-mails every day I can handle. Phone calls — whatever. But paper mail — Just say no!

    And about the remaining paper envelopes left after removing the plastic windows… I’ve cut them up to use for scratch paper: “To Do” lists, phone messages, notes to Michael. I think those are good intermediate uses before finally recycling them.

  • 1 plastic cover from a Parnassus Funds prospectus. Come on folks! California’s having a drought! You don’t have to send our mail in plastic. It will arrive just fine. Plus, how many of your customers actually read these things anyway? (Yes, we know we should. But we don’t understand them. And we don’t want to understand them. And Dad, if you’re reading this [or anyone else who is more fiscally responsible than I], feel free to leave your snarkiest comment.) I’m curious about a lot of things in this world, but even though I do accounting for a living, reading investment reports makes my brain bleed out through my ears. It’s not pretty. Besides, that’s what awesome Ian is for.
  • Yet another plastic seal from around the neck of a jar of Fudge Is My Life. I wouldn’t have eaten this if the other two people who won the fudge sauce had emailed me their addresses. Not my fault really.
  • Plastic tag from a new lemon squeezer. I didn’t realize it was plastic until I got it home! Thought the tag was paper. And I’ve been wanting one of these manual lemon squeezers for sooooo long! I have an electric lemon juicer I got from someone on Freecycle last year, and it kinda sucks, so it’s going back up on Freecycle tonight. In many cases, manual tools seem to do a better job than electric. Can openers. Push mowers. And theoretically, handwashing dishes, but I’m closing that can-o-worms right now! (Please don’t open it up again. You know who you are.)

That’s all for now. Be sure and tune in tomorrow for the 3rd monthly Carnival of Trash, which will be hosted right here.

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I meant to write that you can paste the edges of each window to another window until you’ve created a faux window big enough to fit over a real window et voila, u have a privacy screen.


Using homemade wheat paste, you can stick the edges of each windows to another, continuing to do so until you’ve reated a faux window big enough to over fit a regular window, et voila! You’ve made yourself a privacy screen.

I have told Fake Plastic Fish Terry over and over and over that cinnamon, when mixed with water, turns a gel-like consistency and is very, very difficult to remove. I am simply appalled that u tried to force it thru an innocent sprayer.


I have formed a new group for superheroes – I call it Rescue Rangers – Plastics Division. Of course there is only me right now but I am hopeful as I scour my neighborhood “rescuing” plastic bottles and bags that others may also dress up in caped outfits and join me. If Beth can be a Brita filter, anything is possible! I am also trying to make my feet tiny (ecological footprint will be smaller) by turning down the volume of water at the tap when washing dishes, using only cold water for washing clothes and using only the front… Read more »


I also used to get a tremendous amount of junk mail from Planned Parenthood, more than from any other organization. I finally decided that if this was how they were going to spend their resources, I didn’t want to be a part of it. So I now contribute to Marie Stopes International instead.


FYI… Wells Fargo now has envelopeless ATMs. You can stick your deposits in w/out any envelope at all. :) Just in case anyone was wondering… :)


Maybe a more local, smaller bank/credit union than ING direct would be perceptive to your suggestions?

Condo Blues

Since prescription bottles are reusable by pharamcies, can you find a good reuse for them at home? I use them to sort craft supplies (I got a lot of beads from a woman when she passed) and of small things like screws, etc. in my toolbox.

Val T

Hmm… I wonder if you could just leave your collection of envelopes in the pile of envelopes the ATM provides?

(I don’t, sadly, get to deposit as often as I get mail)

Anarres Natural Health

I found a re-use for envelopes that makes me happy. They used to pile up because I rarely mail things.

I pop them in my waist pouch purse for making deposits at ABMs. That way I don't need to use one of their new ones. And when I am really on the ball, I pre pack my signed deposits in the envelope and put the total on the front.

This makes me happy.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey


One of the things that burns me up about those plastic windows in envelopes – they also come from the government. I’ve been on a letter writing campaign recently regarding the environment and education. Here I am using recycled paper and envelopes and what do politicians do? They send replies in envelopes with plastic windows! Even when I try to explain that plain, recycleable envelopes are best, they still use plastic windows. I received 13 such envelopes last week alone! No wonder every day citizens don’t try to reduce their use of plastic when the government doesn’t. Change is supposed… Read more »