November 3, 2008

Year 2, Week 20 Results: 4.0 oz of plastic waste.

Oy! Too much plastic this week. You’d think that I wouldn’t have brought back plastic from a meditation retreat. And you would be wrong.

Here’s the tally:

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

  • 1 expired Chase VISA card. Wondering if these cards will be biodegradable eventually. Like some gift cards these days. Or renewable without having to destroy the old card?

And the new plastic waste:

    • 1 big World’s Best Cat Litter bag. We went back to SwheatScoop [2016 update:  Swheatscoop has switched to a plastic bag.  We now use Integrity cat litter instead.] this week, even though I don’t really like it, to save the plastic. And then Soots, who seemed to have grown out of the habit, pooped on the floor. *Sigh* I think little kitty likes the World’s Best Cat Litter better. I tried explaining to him about plastic, but he didn’t understand because he’s… you know… a cat. Also, the corn litter just smells better. Maybe we’ll try mixing the two kinds and see what happens.

      And yes, I said I’d try making my own newspaper litter like Allie does, but first things first. Let me get in the habit of making their food first!


    • Packing tape from two packages sent to me this week. I’m going to have to start spreading the word about paper packing tape.


    • 3 plastic envelope windows. From Chase VISA, Financial West Group, & Kaiser Permanente. All mailings I can’t avoid.


    • Bandaid from Red Cross blood donation. It should have been included in the tally a few weeks ago. I also end up with a long plasticky bandage wrapped around my arm, but instead of taking a new one each time, I bring back the old one and ask them to reuse it. And yes, they look at me like I’m nuts.


    • Plant identification stake. From squash plant. Not reusable because it’s printed on both sides. Next year, I’m going to grow veggies from seeds and avoid all plastic.


    • 1 Snyder’s pretzel bag. Thursday night, I got to my meditation retreat center too late for dinner and was starving. I grabbed a bag of pretzels from the snack table to tide me over until the next day.


  • 1 Hershey’s miniature chocolate bar wrapper. The second night of the meditation retreat being Halloween, our retreat leader Jon showed up in bunny ears and a cotton tail and passed out candy bars. How could I say no?

I just got back from phone banking at the Obama campaign. The first time I’ve ever done this in my life. Enjoying listening to George Lakoff on NPR as I write this. Looking forward to tomorrow’s results. Hoping my candidate wins and that the Propositions I care the most about win and fail in the ways I want. But mostly, being grateful that finally the suspense will be over and we can get on with the work ahead, regardless of the results.

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Regarding cat litter, have you tried Feline Pine Scoop? It comes in a cardboard box and is made from pine scraps from lumber production. It clumps really well and I think controls odor very well for an unscented product (though I only have one cat). It does, however, get tracked all over the house.

Beth Terry

Canadian — Some of them may be cornstarch, but not all of them, and if they’re not labeled, I have to assume they’re plastic. And yes, technically I can put the whole thing in the paper recycling, but the plastic is actually a contaminant and for the purposes of this project, I am collecting all my plastic waste rather than recycling it. Amy — Yep. I have switched to online statements for all my accounts. This envelope contained the actual new credit card. And unfortunately, Financial West Group is not yet set up for online statements. Kaiser sent me test… Read more »


"3 plastic envelope windows. From Chase VISA, Financial West Group, & Kaiser Permanente. All mailings I can't avoid."

you can avoid this by calling up your credit card companies/banks/financial agencies and tell them you want to a) switch to online statements and b) not to send you ANYTHING in the mail that isn't required by law (some things are). i did this with Chase and haven't received any mail from them in a really long time.

Beth Terry

Hi Birthblessed. In the Paperback Swap, can you contact the person sending you the book directly in advance? That might be the best way to make sure you get minimal plastic each time. If not, do they have a message board where you can raise the issue? I don’t think you need me to figure out the wording!

heather t

You’re right – try making a gradual switch when changing kitty litters. Gradually mix in more and more of the new litter and less of the old. Give them time to get used to it.


I love how you wrote a letter to the retreat center and got such a good response. I’m horrible about that! Just this week I got a book from Paperback Swap and was SO frustrated; the sender had completely encased the book in plastic packing tape. The worst part was that the book was wrapped so skin-tight that the only way to get it free of its cocoon required damaging the book slightly. :(

What wording would you use in a letter to Paperback Swap to encourage them to educate folks on low-impact book packaging techniques?


I have heard that those plastic windows are normally made of cornstarch or something — do you know if there’s any truth to that?

Certainly the brochures the city sent me say I don’t have to remove them before recyling the envelopes.