Monday, June 30, 2008

WHOLE lotta plastic and some FOODS

Thanks to investigative journalist extraordinaire Rachel Martin for these Whole Foods photos.

Plastic Sandwiches:

Plastic Cookies:

Soooooo many plastic beverages:

Plastic Salads:

Plastic Water:

What are everyone's thoughts... maddening? outrageous? mildly alarming? no big deal?

Monday's Plastic Challenge

I've noticed a pattern when I tell people about the Plastic Diet. They think it is dumb. Nonsense, pointless, outrageously inconvenient.

I explain how plastic doesn't biodegrade--ever. How the seaturtles are choking. How it's healthier for me to consume less packaged foods and more fruits and veggies anyway. Nope. Today a friend told me he was going to consume extra plastic goods to counteract my efforts. Not cool!

So then I bring out the big guns: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Works every time. At first I read that it was bigger than Texas, but this Independent article says it's almost TWICE the size of the continental US.

Some more on the plastic soup:
  • 100 million tons of flotsam; every square mile of ocean has 46,000 pieces of floating plastic
  • Moves around like an animal without a leash
  • Will double in size over next decade unless consumers cut back on disposable plastics
  • Modern plastics are so durable that objects over 50 years old are still floating around
  • Hundreds of millions of plastic pellets (nurdles.. the raw material of the plastic industry) end up in the food chain and on your dinner plate.
Now you know. Monday's Plastic Challenge: let's each tell one new person about the Garbage Patch today and see their reaction.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Time will ease your pain...

I love these lines from the Brandi Carlile song Cannonball:

"Someone told me a lie
Someone looked me in the eye
And said time will ease your pain"

Well guess what? It is a lie. Time will not ease the pain of plastic. Look me in the screen; I will not lie to you reader. Plastic will out last time!
Plastic will win the war, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight.
Fight on plastic dieters!

Plastic Free in Plakias

We drink tons of water here because it's so hot and windy! In case you're interested in the wind, my friend Robert showed me the best Greek weather site.. here's our forecast for the next few days. The image of the blown-over palm tree cracks us up, that means windy. The red arrow means it's a north wind. And the numbers in the column to the left of the red arrow is the windiness on a scale of 1 to 12. So tomorrow is a 7, that's pretty windy.

Anyway, the best thing my friend Edward ever taught me, besides how to peel an orange, is that the tap water here is perfectly good to drink. It's sweet and delicious in fact. Before I used to buy tons of plastic bottles... most people here still do. I try to spread the word about the tap water without being preachy... don't think I've converted anyone yet. Saves heaps of money too!

my beautiful water faucet!
plastic is foreverplastic is forever

Drink tap water-use less plastic.

Oh you gotta see this video. It's made by a friend of my brother who is/was a Vasser student. The best part starts about 30 seconds in.
Enjoy Vasser's Tap is Back.

All hell breaks loose.

Well, the plastic diet is MUCH easier as a single gal...than it is with kids around. My older brother, his wife and two kids are visiting and disposable non-recyclable wasteful plastic is finding its way into my hands before I even notice! Yikes. Kids make this much harder. Not only is everything that is made for them plastic, you also are prone to letting your guard down all the time because you have your guard up watching them. Good thing I am perfecting the art of a life less plastic now so I am ready for the future. I will have to try harder tomorrow. Today I used: two plastic utensils, bought cheese in plastic, and used a styrofoam plate and cup! This is what you would call a plastic binge.

Genesis of the Plastic Water Bottle: Three

Tpoic: Drinking water fountains the alternative “safe source of drinking water”.

What ever happened to drinking fountains? They went the way of the pay phone I think. We used to pay nothing for water we now pay $2 for an 8 oz bottle and we used to pay .25 cents for a phone call now we pay $60 a month for a cell phone plan...hum evolution has it’s costly consequences.

I remember lining up for the drinking fountain in elementary school…we’d line up for the fountain, then line up for the was a bit of a revolving door, but good times. I still use water fountains, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one. “Hey guys, don’t you want free water too? No? Oh, okay then. Catch you later.”
I fill up every chance I get.

When I started thinking about the genesis of the plastic water vessel I couldn’t help but think, “Really what happened to the water fountain?” Well I didn’t find that out but I found out something else.

Did you know…
“The modern drinking fountain was invented and then manufactured in the early 1900s by two men: Halsey Willard Taylor and the Halsey Taylor Company. These men changed how water was served in public places.

Halsey Taylor's father had died of typhoid fever caused by contaminated public drinking water. His father's death motivated him to invent a the water fountain, to provide safer drinking water. Luther Haws was a part-time plumber and sheet metal contractor.”

Let these men’s work not be in vain. Act now! Go drink from the nearest water fountain and fill up your reusable canteen while your at it. History lives in us.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Plastic-Free on the Plane

Hi! Okay, so I started my journey to Greece on Tuesday night, determined not to use plastic on the flight. First snafu: I forgot to fill my trusty Sigg before getting on the plane. No problem, I fell asleep right away. I slept most of the way to Dublin, but woke up at one point and a plastic cup of water had materialized on my tray table. Oops. I kept the cup to reuse it. Had coffee in a paper cup (not ideal, but no plastic lid) at Dublin airport.

Then flew from Dublin to London Gatwick, no plastic. I ate a banana and an avocado. Delicious.

At Gatwick I checked in for my British Airways flight to Crete. The British Airways people were surprised to see my paper ticket and were like "we don't fly to Crete anymore, talk to Easy Jet." The Easy Jet people said "we have no record of you, whatsoever. Go talk to BA."

I went back to BA and they told me there was a 1 in 2000 chance of that happening. I mean, I had a ticket for a flight that didn't exist. I felt like Sandra Bullock in The Net. And my bag was routed onto a flight that didn't exist! I managed to get my bag back.. had to be personally escorted through security for it. Good thing I ate my final avocado before getting patted down in security.. don't think they would have approved. They did confiscate my spoon though.

British Airways got me a new flight on Wednesday night from London Heathrow to Athens, then Athens to Crete. This meant travel from Tuesday night to Thursday morning, and a total of 6 airports and 4 flights. In my weary delirium I lost my resolve and had a plastic binge, eating an airplane meal on the London-Athens leg. It is extraordinary how much waste we create for a crappy meal on a 3 hour flight that leaves at 11pm, a time when no one needs to eat anyway. The mind boggles. I kept my utensils for re-use and kept my cups. By the time I was done my original plastic cup had a crack in it so I could only get water and had to drink it super fast so it didn't drip!

If the airlines hired me as a consultant, this is what I would say: give people one cup. Make them pay two dollars for extra cups. And don't serve meals on night flights or flights under 4 hours. Just serve a snack that has one wrapper, instead of a meal that has individually wrapped salad, cheese, main course, utensils, fruit cup, etc etc etc. I think people would be more enthusiastic about a modest meal if they knew it was to reduce waste rather than because the airline was being cheap. People's expectations for a decent airplane meal are set pretty low anyhow.

I'll write more tomorrow. Let me tell you, it's hard to avoid plastic on holiday! Straws, butter packets and water bottles abound! And I overlooked my Ritter Sport obsession when I signed on for this silly diet. Plus Claire and I want rubber tubes for the beach. Ooooh lucky ladybug just landed on my computer.. make a wish!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Genesis of the Plastic Water Bottle: Two

The genesis or evolution of the modern-day plastic water bottle is richer and deeper than you may have imagined…

John Caruso, explained the development of the "water vessel" (aka water bottle) in his article: Skins, Gourds, Pop Bottles, and Design: The Evolution of the Canteen as an Artifact.
Here are some excerpts and my comments

Humble beginnings:
“One of the most important inventions of early humans was the development of technology that allowed hunters to travel farther. (Travelling is fun-just wait until we invent the jet plane.) This was simply a portable water vessel or water-carrying device. (Oh do tell me more!) Early societies could travel safely only as long as there was a safe source of water for drinking. In order for the hunter-gatherers to travel farther they had to develop a way to take water with them. Thus, the first portable water vessel or 'canteen' developed out of the necessity of acquiring more food sources. (Yes it is true all great stories start with food.)

Look at us go:
“Water vessels were created in imitation of water-catching leaves and other organic structures. (Hum...) Animal skins and stomach casings (ick) were used in temperate regions to carry water. Entire animal skins, such as goat, were used in desert cultures to carry and store water; hollowed-out gourds were used in forested regions. Vessels were carved of wood as well as sections of bamboo trees for use in Asian jungle and island cultures.”

…and go:
“Wood was used to construct small boxes and barrels, which were developed as canteens in the 16th and 17th century. (I think those barrels came in handy for other libations too.) Glass bottles appeared but were not popular (boo!-glass is cool) due to their expense and fragile nature (oh). With the development of metals and the industrial capacity to bend and form metal, round bottle shapes began to appear of sheet-formed metal, first as two bowls welded together with the addition of a spout. Eventually the modern canteen shape was created in aluminum deep drawn stamping and was the standard for 80 years. (Sigg any one?)

“This design [used for aluminum canteens] was then copied and produced in plastic using blow-molded polyethylene."(STOP!)

Kind of cool how it all unfolded, until the plastic part, that is. Hooray for water bottles that allowed us to evolve! Perhaps though we have taken this necessity for “a safe source of drinking water” a little too far. Just a thought—I'm open to debating it. Are you really going to die of thirst during that meeting or when you are out shoe shopping. Well I am feeling parched just thinking about buying new shoes…where is my safe source of drinking water right now anyway? If you are feeling parched now is the time to act—buy a reusable canteen! I love it—canteen sounds so much cooler than bottle. Now get out there and hunt and gather. Live the dream!

Source: Caruso, J. (2001) Skins, Gourds, Pop Bottles, and Design: The Evolution of the Canteen as an Artifact. The Technology Teacher, 61(3), 23-25.


We hope you made it to Greece okay and without acquiring too much plastic en route.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Genesis of the Plastic Water Bottle: One

Plastic water bottles are on my mind. So, I’m going to do a little series on them...

Back story: I was a plastic bottle user/abuser once. I am no saint. I went from using and abusing to keeping one disposable plastic water bottle for a long time (days, weeks, months—oh my). I liked those Fuji ones because their plastic is thick and so they last a long time (and by a "long time" I really mean forever). But I have closed the book on that chapter of my life. Everyone deserves a second chance I think. At some point a few years ago I moved to a ‘real’ reusable plastic water bottle (it has a built in straw—I liked that). Then I started reading more about the chemicals in plastic—icky stuff—and how the chemicals leach out into the water particularly with repeated use or heat exposure (recent Nalgene controversy any one?). So I went to Sigg. I heart Sigg.
Well the last week I was at an all day training (with my Sigg) and looking around the room (I got bored quick) I noticed the number of disposable plastic water bottles and it shocked me! (It shouldn't shock me, but still it continues to do so.) I haven’t used a disposable plastic water bottle in months and before that, only sparingly. Some people had two or three empties! It was like a water frat party. It got me thinking though. When I was a kid there weren’t plastic water bottles everywhere…when did they take over society? I can’t place that moment in time. Can you? They went from oblivion to necessity in maybe a decade or two? How crazy is that!
So, I have been doing some research.

Here are the findings for my first installment:
Check out this 2-minute video about plastic water bottles. It’s quick and informative and a little funny. I couldn’t just paste it into the blog, so you’ll have to leave to check it out. But come back later for another installment of the Genesis of the Plastic Water Bottle by Erin.

Green machine.

Have you heard of Flock and their Eco-edition web browser?
It's really rather cool. It's a web browser for eco-friendly people. You know like Safari for Mac-friendly people and Firefox and Explorer for other-friendly people.
I downloaded EcoFlock the other day and really like it.
First of all it's green in both color and content.
Then there are also the preloaded green websites like: and
You might want to check it out. You can download it here:

On another note...
I didn't use any plastic today and even had a yummy fondue dinner out with a friend. Eating out without plastic is always a little harder than staying in my plastic free bubble house to eat....those butter packets that come with bread, the mint wrapped in plastic afterwards...all tempting...but NO it's dry bread and bad breath for me. I have perfected my "Just water-no straw-please" routine for eating out though. You really have to look 'em in the eye when you sweetly say "no straw PLEASE" sometimes I even repeat it before s/he leaves the table. I just throw in another "no straw" as s/he walks away. And even then they sometimes forget-straw pandering robots these waiters and waitresses are I tell you! You'd think they invest all their tips in straw stock.
The other night I was out to dinner with a friend and the waitress had already heard me say no straw and then I convinced my friend she didn't need a straw either. So the waitress said, "Can I ask what's up with the straw thing?". I could have copped out and said I have OCD or a plastic allergy, but no I gave her my story in a nutshell. Plastic-bad...less new plastic-hooray...plastic never biodegrades...blah blah. To my great surprise the waitress said, "Wow, that's really amazing” and something along the lines of that’s commendable but she didn't say the word commendable.
Lesson learned: Always tell your story because you may change someone’s straw drinking, plastic bag using habits and get a complement to boot.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Note on the dry cleaners.

If you have clothes that have to be dry cleaned, join the club, here are some helpful hints:
1) Always return your hangers, they can be reused over and over again. Plus it feels good to return them and the dry cleaner is very appreciative.
2) Ask the dry cleaner not to put that plastic slipcover over your clothes.
Okay my dry cleaner won’t do this and we are on a first name basis. Hey, remember me, I'm the one you like for retuning the hangers? No?
Well, I got the same ‘dust argument' from my dry cleaner that Kerry encountered when getting her clothes laundered. Why do professional cleaners like to swaddle clothes in plastic wrap? I swear, I don't live in a vacuum. There is dust out there in the world where I wear my clothes! It doesn't bother me. Dust is in fact the least of my worries. Really it is food stains that brings me a knocking at your door, not dust stains. Isn't dust really good for business in the long run dry cleaner lady? These are all losing arguments; apparently plastic slipcovers are a wasteful must. What I have done to combat this is, I take the plastic wrap off my clothes (very gently-careful not to rip) when I pick up my perfectly-dust-free dry cleaned clothes. Right there and then, I take that plastic off. I give it back to the lady; ask her to reuse it, she always agrees. As long as "it isn't wrinkled" she'll reuse it. Then I turn and walk away with my fingers crossed and blissfully innocents to what happens next knowing I have tried my best. That and I am trying to dry clean less.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Best Birthday Present!

How great is this!?

I repeat:

Thanks, Ellie!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hey-hey cheese man thanx for the cheese!

You would think I had won the lottery, but no I just bought cheese at Whole Foods today and it didn’t involve acquiring new plastic!
Here is my story.
The quest:
Blue cheese to go in this yummy looking pasta salad recipe I just came across.
The journey:
I walked up to the fancy cheese display counter at Whole Foods and asked, “Can I have you cut me a chunk of cheese from that cheese wheel (that has not plastic on it) and have you put it in this plastic bag for me?”
Look for dumbfoundness from the cheese man.
Okay, I am going to need to explain. Deep breath I can do this.
I told him how I am trying to cut out plastic and that all the cheese that is already cut is wrapped in cellophane and well this is problem for me.
He offered to cut me a piece and put it on a plastic tray/plate like thing and then wrap it in cellophane…hum…I guess I was not making any sense to the cheese man.
Let me try again.
I told him I have a bag to put the cheeses in. I demonstrated the bag. I’ll take the cheese home, you see, in my plastic bag and then reuse the bag, but I can’t really reuse the cellophane. So no cellophane please.
He offered to put the cheese in a plastic cup. Well, at least we got past the cellophane, but cheese man please work with me here.
I almost gave up. Apparently when I say “No plastic please.” people hear “Blah blah blah plastic blah.”
Cheese man let me explain again.
(I have to hand it to him for putting up with me. He was patient. I think the real problem for him was putting his fancy smelly cheese in my lowly plastic bag.)
Finally he said, “That’s a really bizarre request.” I agreed. It is. Then, “Let me ask my manager.” and off he went with my plastic bag in hand…as proof…for inspection…I will never know.
Wow! Whole Foods really does not want me to leave their store without my fair share of their plastic.
The conquest:
Whole Foods gets major props for putting up with my “bizarre” request.
The end:
The cheese man and I bonded while he cut my piece of cheese and put it in my plastic bag. We talked about how Whole Food’s doesn’t use plastic bags to bag groceries anymore. One small step for plastic-haters, one giant leap for Whole Foodkind.

Lessons learned.
1) Ask;
2) Persist;
2a) Explain repeatedly the concept of no NEW plastic;
2b) Explain again;
3) Bring aluminum foil to have them wrap your cheeses in, this way the cheese man won’t be offended by the plastic bag;
4) The cheese man is cool once you get past that hard plastic exterior.
I cannot tell you how amazing this cheese buy was for me. My life revolves around dairy products: ice cream, cheese, and yogurt are staples! Plus no cellophane on my cheese allowed me to use my piece of plastic for the day to buy nitrate free bacon!

Leaving on a plastic-free jet plane

So last night at my birthday party, I assembled an impromptu focus group to brainstorm about avoiding plastic on my flight to Greece. I mean, ALL anyone wanted to talk about was plastic. Kind of amazing how intrigued people get. And Suzanne gave me the best compliment...she said we're "changing the world." That is the idea! So as my birthday present, please send our blog along to friends and countrymen who might enjoy it. OK, the strategy we came up with is as follows:

1. Eat and hydrate before my flight.
2. Don't eat airplane food. Bring my own food and/or eat plastic-free snack on layover in Dublin. I want to bring something quirky so that the person sitting next to me will be like "oh my gosh, I can't believe that girl just pulled a baked sweet potato out of her purse!"
3. Bring my shiny new Sigg, fill it at a water fountain after going through security
4. If I need more water on the flight, I'll ask the attendants to let me use the Sigg as my cup. Of course, the water will be coming from a plastic bottle. dagger.

Are there any holes in this plan? I'm worried that the pillow or blanket on the plane will be wrapped in plastic. I guess I can bundle up for the flight and I might bring my own pillow anyway. And a pashmina to use as a blanket. I get so cold on planes. What am I missing?

Eckhart and Pollution and Solution

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says:

"Are you polluting the world or cleaning up the mess? You are responsible for your inner space; nobody else is, just as you are responsible for the planet. As within, so without: If humans clear inner pollution, then they will also cease to create outer pollution."

Caffeinated insanity.

Look at that beautiful mug... it's beaming!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese Has Plastic :(

I kind of suspected it. I have made more than my fair share of box mac & cheese as a babysitter for many years. I should have known what I was getting into, but I deceived myself into thinking Annie's organic macaroni and cheese would rise above the rest and come through for me...think again!
The plastic is embedded. An embedded agent of the plastic war!
You have to look close but the packet, the one the powdery cheese comes in, has three distinct layers:
layer 1: outside—paper = yeay
layer 2: middle—aluminum = sure okay
layer 3: inside—PLASTIC = ugh
You can see it in the rip. This does not pass the rip test!
Thank goodness we are allowed one piece of plastic a day. Into the plastic heap you go (well thankfully it's still a tiny plastic pile).
I like homemade mac & cheese better anyway. But for the love of god, where can a girl find cheese not encased in plastic. My mac may just have to imagine it's cheese from now on.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Surfers don't like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch either.

I live in SoCal and generally love the beach...but I am not a surfer. In fact I have been deathly afraid of sharks since seeing the movie Jaws at age 5 and avoid open water deeper than my waist with great effort…but, I digress. Even though I’m defiantly not a surfer I love the Surf Rider Foundation and their mission. Here is what they have to say about plastic (great information if your a novice plastic-hater) and some more information about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch(es)--as in there is more than one!
I couldn’t have said it better myself…

Did you know that an estimated 100 million tons of plastic debris have accumulated in two areas of the Pacific Ocean that together are larger than the continental United States? (These areas are aptly called the Eastern and Western Garbage Patches.) There is so much plastic, that it outnumbers the zooplankton six to one.
Plastic, like diamonds, are forever.
It doesn't biodegrade and no naturally occurring organisms can break it down. Plastic photo-degrades, which means that sunlight breaks it down into smaller and smaller pieces. Those small pieces drift in the ocean and are mistaken for food by fish and birds. Seabirds are often found dead with innards full of plastic. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for food and are often found dead with their intestines clogged by plastic bags. Sadly, 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year due to ingestion of or entanglement in plastics. The scope of the problem is astounding, but the Surfrider Foundation is working, through our Rise Above Plastics Campaign, to discourage the use of single-use plastics and encourage everyone to reduce, reuse and recycle. On a more personal level, I have committed to using cloth shopping bags and reusable drink containers. I'm asking you to do the same and make a pledge to Rise Above Plastics. It's a simple pledge to:
• Use reusable bottles for water and other drinks.
• Use cloth bags for groceries and other purchases.
• Recycle the plastic bags and bottles you already have.

I know that you, as a Surfrider Foundation member, are especially concerned about the effects of plastic on our oceans, waves and beaches. You and I both know that the best solution to the plastics problem is to reduce, reuse and recycle - a simple solution that is easy to commit to!
If you think that your pledge won't make much of a difference, think again. For each reusable bag you use, another 400 plastic bags will be kept from being used. Every reusable water bottle will keep another 167 plastic bottles from entering the environment.
Simply click here and pledge to Rise Above Plastics.

Thank you for making a difference for our world's oceans, waves and beaches.

I will wear CLEAN clothes!

Thank you for your suggestions on how to get the plastic out of my insatiable need for clean clothes :)
I am very excited to try this recipe for making my own detergent:
2 ½ ounces bath soap grated into flakes (I knew that old fashion—all metal—kitchen scale would come in handy some day!)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1 cup of plastic diet excitement!
I will reuse my current plastic detergent bottle as the container to keep this in too. Reducing and reusing-score.
I love all recipes (particularly ones that involve food as a product!) so making my own soap and detergent (even though they aren't food) really appeals to me. Obviously this doesn’t appeal to everyone so let me highlight this website from the comments section of my last post on how to wash clothes more ecologically:
So, we can all find a way to reduce that fits us and make this world a little greener and less plasticy in the process!

A Confession. And Plastic Free Coffee!

A confession: I've been sneaking some plastic behind Erin's back.

Here's the problem: I stop at Canteen for coffee every morning. The owner guy winks at me (winking is such a lost art!) and I think I'm such a hotshot because I bring my own mug. But I always take a splash of those stupid french vanilla creamers which come in plastic, or soy milk which comes in evil Tetra Paks. Sorry, having trouble with these images.. as you can see, Tetra Paks have a mind of their own!

Here's the story with Tetra Paks: their technology involves aseptic packaging that is used for liquids, including juice, soy milks, soups and wine. (Aseptic processing means that the food is sterilized, the container is sterilized and the container is filled in a sterile environment. Swiss innovation. Liquid food can be stored at room temp for a year...kind of amazing/gross when you think about it.)

Tetra Paks are made from layers of plastic, metal, and paper. Guess what that means? They are difficult and expensive to recycle.

Meanwhile: Tetra Pak is making money by putting more and more liquids in their space-agey containers. In 2006, they produced 130 BILLION packages. Sales revenues of $11 billion.

So... some of you have asked why we aren't more pro-recycling on this blog. Recycling is good, but using LESS is the real hero here. Repeat: using less is the real hero!

What does this mean for my morning coffee? (I drink decaf by the way.. it's about the ritual more than the caffeine. And all of my crushes at Canteen.) Well, I have two ideas and both involve bees: honey and almond milk. I don't think honey will cut the sourness of the coffee enough. But check out this recipe for homemade almond milk, how easy and delicious does it look? How excited are we!?

Easy and Delicious Almond Milk Recipe

On Bananas

I thought you all might like this article on bananas. What do bananas have to do with plastic? Well, the article discusses bananas becoming a luxury instead of a cheap staple. And as Erin and I reduce plastic in our lives, things that used to be cheap staples like marvelous cotton balls and Q-tips start to look like a luxury because they are encased in plastic. Also, it goes to show that reducing plastic is not the only factor to consider in trying to take better care of mama earth.

Yes, We Will Have No Bananas

I could write so much more about bananas, but see what you think!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How will I wash my clothes?

I did a load of laundry today and realized I will need to buy detergent in about three loads...hum. I know you can buy powder laundry detergent in a box but then there is a plastic scoop inside—I don't want a plastic scoop. I don't think throwing a bar of soap in the washer is really going to get me very far either... I will have to do some research here. I wonder if powder dishwasher soap that comes in a paper box (without a scoop) would work just as well? Really how discerning can soap be? Where there is dirt and mess—it cleans it up! It’s banal really. At any rate I will be moving to bar face soap, bar shampoo and have already bought bar hair conditioner, maybe a small bar of soap (oh! or little chiplettes of soap) in the machine isn’t such a bad idea. I think this is an experiment I should have with a laundromat machine though, not with my aunt and uncle’s washing machine that they so graciously let me use for free. Well, three loads of carefree, careless, luxuriously simple laundry left and then on to the great bar soap-dish soap adventure!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Plastic Stared Me in the Eyes, and I Didn't Blink

This morning our chef asked me to use plastic at breakfast! Oh my nurdle! She totally caught me off guard, I wasn't expecting to be called out on my plastic-free lifestyle so early in the morning. But I'm new, so it was a perfect opportunity to brand myself as the pesky new treehugger girl who doesn't use plastic. I said "is it okay as long as I wash my dishes myself?" There was a long pause, and she nodded yes. Whew! Close call.

I must say, for my basic day-to-day life I'm getting pretty good at avoiding plastic. Especially thanks to my insulated coffee mug which comes everywhere. It's just those less frequent purchases like shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste that are tricky.

Some delicious plastic-free snacks that I've embraced:
Frozen bananas

Need to find a bulk supplier of quinoa.. I guess I'll have to venture to the dreaded Trader Joes. I know everyone loves that place but it stresses me out.. too crowded! But the advantage of buying in BULK is you don't have to do it too often. Cha-ching.

Is it or isn’t it?

Even though my evasion of plastic is more than the average person, my knowledge about plastic really isn’t. This leaves me with an interesting dilemma. How am I to figure out what is and isn’t plastic (?), so that I can avoid these items, count them, and at the very least play by the rules.
Some things are obviously plastic. Some things on the other hand are in limbo. Let me explain. You see I work with children. I give them stickers—simple right? Not anymore. The backing that you peel the stickers off of…what is that? It looks like a papery substance, rips like paper, but feels smooth like plastic…or is it paper with some sort of plastic finish or is that a wax finish? I have heard of these things called “plasticizers"...what are they? They sound like how that feels. Could I possibly worry about this more than I already do? Probably not.
Not all that is smooth and shiny is plastic, right?
Well, I have developed the rudimentary “rip test” to maintain my sanity with these everyday dilemmas. So far the "test" is serving me well, I think? It is hard to determine if it's really serving me well per se, or just serving me, since I made it up and I am the one doing all the “experiments”. Not exactly a double-blind, unbiased, impartial set of experiments now is it?
Here is the simple logic I use in my test:
If it rips like paper—you know you can see the little fibers as they are pulled apart from each other—VICTORY!
Plastic has a very different rip. In fact it is hard to rip but once you get it started if you get that smooth as silk rip—that’s plastic. PUT IT DOWN. BACK AWAY SLOWLY. DON’T LOOK BACK!
As you can see it is not an exact science, which really is the whole problem, I am not a scientist. So, if you have any other ideas to help me to figure out this what is and isn’t plastic problem let me know...tootsie roll wrappers and stickers hang in the balance here. Please HELP!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Running low on toothpaste

Hi everyone! Hope you all had a fun weekend! Mine was not as plastic-free as I would have liked .. there was some surran wrap involved in a hot wax treatment during a pedicure, and a granola bar wrapper and I drank from a carton of Tropicana which is surely laced with plastic. Also, I adopted some stray plastic from my parents house: I took some travel-sized soap, a bottle of aloe after-sun gel and nail polish that I'll bring to Greece. But the way I see it, I'm saving that plastic from a life of obscurity in their cabinets.

Okay, about the toothpaste. Running low. At times like these, I ponder and research the plastic-free alternatives. And the first place I turn is to the ultimate plastic blog, Envirowoman is a Canadian self-proclaimed eco-freak and she is magnificent. She took a pledge for NO NEW PLASTIC (at all.. none of this "one piece a day" cop out nonsense) in 2007 and has continued in 2008. She tirelessly seeks out plastic-free alternatives to everything and she's a huge inspiration to us.

Here's her post about toothpaste:

The comments section is particulary helpful in terms of alternatives. I'm intrigued by these chips:
What do you think? Should I give them a try?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Running shorts

My piece of plastic for the day: new polyester running shorts. There is no such thing as running shorts sans plastic! Elastic bands...polyester material...whatever it is that makes material stretchy...all synthetic polymers, a.k.a. plastic.
On an up note, I used no plastic at a family BBQ today!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sorry for saving a sea turtle.

I have learned something about myself since starting the Plastic Diet:

I don't like to inconvenience people. Or step on toes. I like to blend like a chameleon.

When I first started following a vegetarian diet, I remember my friend Dana inviting me over for dinner. She made chicken soup and pasta with meat sauce. She told me to "eat around the meat," and I DID. So meek was I.

But our plastic-free adventure has made me step out of my comfort zone. On day 1, I couldn't request a real fork when everyone else was using plastic. But today, I can!

I started a new job yesterday, and they feed us breakfast and lunch. They set out plastic spoons and paper/plastic-y bowls at breakfast, but this morning I just ASKED (remember.. it never hurts to ask!) where the spoons were. I got a real spoon, a real bowl, ate my cereal, washed my dishes and went on with my life. Plastic free and apology free!

Plastic induced sadness…

…and plastic induced resentment has happened to me A LOT since starting the diet—especially when I see people misusing and abusing plastic :(
Case in point: I was in the line at Whole Foods three days ago. My tally was: five items, no plastic, cost $14.12. The woman in front of me spent $300+ on her groceries! She obviously must care about organic and natural food to spend that much money (I don't spend that in a month!), but…and here is the sad and resentful part…every single piece of produce she was buying was in its own plastic bag! At least 10 plastic bags! How can you care enough to buy a lot of super expensive, super good food and then wrap it all in excessive plastic?
I was dumbfounded, literally speechless.
'What can/should I say to her?' I kept thinking. How can I say something so she will listen to me? How do I come off non-preachy, condescending, or holier-than-thou? I could not figure out what to say without sounding like a zealot and so I said nothing. People get really defensive really quickly when they feel judged. I don't want defensiveness—I want epiphany.
I can’t keep saying nothing either—I’ll explode!
I really have to figure out the right thing to say so people don’t get turned off, not listen to me, and think 'oh it’s another of those hippie tree hugger crazy liberal recyclers again'. Okay I am all of those things, but I want people to listen and be inspired to change in spite of what they might think of my hippie tree hugging crazy liberal recycling self. I need help! What do I say? I don’t even have a good opener yet…“I see you have a lot of plastic bags there…STOP IT!” just won’t work.
Suggestions greatly appreciated!

Oh and a confession.
I had a moment of weakness at the bookstore today (note to self never go shopping). I bought two new books on CD!!! Ahhh...that's a lot of plastic. No plastic yesterday—a lot today! Famine or feast.
Right, so resolution: No more buying books on CD for a long long time.
On a positive note we do share CD books within my family (no duplications allowed) and I get books on CD from the library very often...but oh the temptation when they are 40% off!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Friday's Plastic Challenge

Hi! A bunch of people have emailed us to say they are trying to reduce plastic use, but it is hard and they are overwhelmed. Can they still get their salad for lunch? How can they transport leafy greens home from the supermarket? Good questions! We'll write about these soon enough. But in the spirit of making small, lasting changes here is my challenge for Friday:

Just say no to one (1) piece of plastic today!

Instead of trying to cut it out cold turkey, which is pretty near impossible, look to cut out one (1) piece of plastic. If you're really feeling ambitious, you could experiment with having a plastic-free breakfast or lunch. See how it feels, and let us know!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Plastic Wrongness, Plus Some Cuteness

Exhibit A: This culprit was rolling around on the floor of the subway this morning. Someone paid $3 for disgusting-looking melon and kiwi and then abandoned it on the train. Tres sad.

This is my fruit. Comes wrapped perfectly by nature. Every time I eat an orange, I think to myself, wow, an orange is a such a miracle. By the way, my friend Edward taught me an awesome trick for unpeeling an orange with ease. Roll it firmly between your hands before you start peeling, I almost always get the peel off in one piece now!

Okay this picture is just cute. The little guy I babysit loving Feist's 1234 video. That video makes him so happy! And I guess my computer is made of plastic, but unlike the plastic fruit container it brings lasting joy to infants. We're not working towards perfection here, but we are working towards making smarter, more conscious choices, right?

I hope you're sitting down for this one. This is an overflowing garbage can in Brooklyn. Would you look at all that plastic? This town needs to go on a serious plastic diet!

Plastic teeth.

I am the proud new owner of…okay I’m not proud at all and I’m sad to say I wasted plastic on…a brand new night guard for my teeth! My dentist has told for the last two years I am wearing away the enamel on my teeth (said in a stern and disparaging voice) from…grinding them at night?...nice guess doc, but I don’t grind my teeth…okay clenching them!?…ding-ding-ding. I clench my teeth, what can you do, life gets to be stressful sometimes. But don’t worry she said the answer is simple—plastic!
I put her off for a year. I bought a sports mouth guard for $4, that piece of plastic didn’t last a night; it made me gag in my sleep. So, last week I was fitted and today—today the big day—a sleek new clear plastic replica of my teeth in reverse arrived. I’m ashamed to say how much I paid for such a thing, but it does fit my teeth like a glove and I got the plaster mold of my teeth to boot!
Now my teeth will be swaddled in plastic every night…where will it end I ask you? Next, I’ll probably need contacts and a hearing aid! No more doctor's visits fir me.
So, no fun reused energy efficient air conditioner for me, wasteful old plastic tooth mold—humpf. But at least my teeth and matching plastic guard will be able to keep each other company for eternity. Teeth are nature’s plastic after all—they last forever, if you don’t wear away the enamel that is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

An air conditioner is a big ol heavy piece of plastic

We're 4 days into a 95 degree heat wave and this self-employed plastic dieter had no air conditioner!  Which made working from home a tad bit unpleasant.  Ooooooh I was tempted to walk to Target, pick up an A/C and bring it home in a cab.  

But no silly, that would be like eating a whole chocolate cake AND a cheese pizza while on a weight-loss diet. I had to find a secondhand A/C on Craigslist and save it from the dumpster. 

Here's my criteria: 
1. Must fit in my window
2. $100 or less (because that's what I would have paid for a new one at Target)
3. Energy saver model 
4. Seller must live within a one-block radius of my apartment.   

I found a good candidate on Sunday but I missed her phone call so she sold it to someone else. I worried that I might need to loosen my criteria... perhaps travel further for pickup?  But no! It was so hot, I couldn't muster the energy. Plus, I don't want to be seen rolling one of those stupid wheely carts all over Brooklyn. I'm self-conscious like that. 

Well guess what, today my perfect air conditioner manifested. Price: $100, energy saver and the seller told me "we're practically neighbors!" It even comes with a remote control. Yay.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes it takes 4 days of scouring Craigslist, toggling back and forth between Electronics and Household items for sale because people post A/Cs in both categories, to do right by Mama Earth which seems like a long time in the midst of a heat wave but is totally worth it!   

Monday, June 9, 2008

Cows and plastic.

Today on NPR I heard about how cows in India are dying from eating plastic bags. Alarming! Kerry and I were appalled by the fact that the same thing is happening to sea turtles. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jelly fish, a tasty delight. Apparently cows just like to eat the leftovers-yum mango-in the bags that blow their way. Hearing about the sea turtles with stomachs full of plastic was one of the images that started Kerry and I on this little escapade, but if it hadn't been the turtles this story about the cows would have been impetus enough. At any rate you must hear this story: .
The solution to the how they “solved” the whole cows-eating-plastic-bags-and-dying dilemma is a bit disturbing. I hope we can all do a little better in coming up with some other solutions to reducing our plastic usage.

Plastics of the day:
Tape and bubble wrap from a package in the mail. Must never buy on-line again!

This shirt is dry clean only. That means it's dirty. - Mitch Hedburg

I was oh-so-scared that I would have to stop dropping off my laundry at Happy Cleaners as part of the Plastic Diet. I mean, being able to drop of my laundry was one of my big reasons for moving to New York. In Boston, you do your own damn laundry. But here, on every corner is a cleaner who will wash and fold for just a few dollars. Amazing.

The problem is, Happy Cleaners smothers my clean clothes in a plastic shroud, and we can't have that. So I asked Amy if it would be possible to not wrap my clothes in plastic and she said no, because my bag is netted and dust would get in. Dust? What dust? From whence does this dust come? Before I could ask about the dust, she pulled a non-netted bag from under the counter and in one swift movement transferred my clothes.

Today I picked up the laundry, carried it upstairs, praying that my laundry would be untethered, and it was! Free as a bird.

Lesson Learned: Always ask!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

0-1 this weekend.

A zero day for Saturday—I didn’t take on any new plastic. A good day.
Today I used a Ziploc bag to freeze some cherries. It’s cherry season in CA. Yipee! Actually it’s the last week(s) of the 6-8 week season—too short a season if you ask me. So, I wanted to freeze some more (I already have one Ziploc full!) yummy yummy farmer’s market cherries for later in the year. Pitted and frozen, I’m already imagining a mixed berry crumble for later in the summer! Freezing is far quicker and more efficient than canning, although canning doesn’t use plastic. Conundrum. I did some canning last summer; I'm not sure I have it in me this year with everything else I have going on. But I’m determined to only do as much freezing as the Ziplocs I already own can handle. That is I won’t be buying more Ziplocs, to do more freezing, when the few I have are full of scrumptious summer fruit. We all have to make sacrifices sometimes ☺.

Plastic Penance

No plastic today after the debacle in the park yesterday!

Plastic Picnic


So today I brought my smug plastic-free self to a bbq in Prospect Park. I brought my own water bottle, I brought my own utensils, and I thought I was prepared. Ha! That's like doing 2 pushups and saying I'm in good shape. I needed plastic BOOT CAMP to prepare for today. My head is still spinning.

Here is the plastic that bamboozled me:
1. Plastic bag. Needed to contain the 6-pack that we picked up on the way. I asked if he had a paper bag, but no. Could have SO easily been avoided.
2. Plastic cup. I am embarrassed.
3. Plastic wrapper around slice of cheese that went on my burger. OH my gosh and I'm a vegetarian, I can't believe I'm admitting any of this. It was 95 degrees, I wasn't thinking straight.

Lesson learned: Erin is right, this is war. You can't rush out of the house, you have to be prepared and that means stocking up the arsenal. To avoid plastic, you have to plan ahead, stay focused, look alive!

Friday, June 6, 2008

No thank you to more plastic ARSENAL!

Today I received two new treasures! Unfortunately they are plastic but these new cups have helped to fill out my plastic diet arsenal. I think we have already mentioned the importance of being prepared, but let me reiterate, THIS IS KEY. Most of the plastic we just throw away on a daily basis are mindlessly convenient things like: cups, plastic water bottles, plastic utensils, straws, take-out boxes and plastic bags. So, I have equipped myself with the following weapons (pictured above) for a war against styrofoam cups, plastic forks and the like. Watch out polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, silicone and this is war.

Here is the run down of my cache:
NEW! Collapsible cups ( Mine hold 12 fl. oz. each and are green! They travel only in pairs apparently so I have two, but two will likely come in handy. I looked for metal collapsible cups (like I remember from camping as a kid) but only found very small ones, i.e. 3 fl oz. (for shots) or ones that were really expensive ($30). I justify this plastic purchase by knowing I will not be using styrofoam or clear plastic cups when out and about any more! I needed something that would easily fit in my purse and this is it. Also, I promise to keep them forever and pass them down to my grandchildren who will likely think they are quaint and old fashion being made out of that 20th and 21st century fad material-plastic. Oh there is no BPA in them either :)
Take-out container: I bring my own take-out container when I go out to eat too. I like this one from Crate & Barrel (; sometimes I also use wide-mouth Mason jars. This I just keep in my car…it is too bulky and fragile to stay in my purse full-time.
Sigg water bottle ( I have had mine (well three of them) for about a year and love them!
Metal utensils: My own knife, fork, and spoon (Brunton Titanium Flatware) that used to only come out for camping, but now live a new life of glory with almost daily use.
Straw: My very own, acquired about two weeks. So far it’s still holding up its end of the bargain. I don't know how long it will last though...I guess the answer is forever since it is plastic after all.
Cloth napkin: Well, this dosen’t cut down on plastic, but it cuts down on using too many paper napkins. Saving trees is important too!
Okay, this won't all fit in your clutch, but it all fits in my purse and really constitutes a great basic arsenal.

2 Plastic Bags.. thanks a lot J. Crew

I ordered a bikini from J. Crew, it arrived today, the top and bottom were in separate plastic bags. Does that count as two pieces of plastic? Oh dear. Good news is.. I love it!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Why are we even doing this?

Why are we even doing this? you ask, with scorn in your eyes and an iced coffee in your hand.

Well, in the broadest sense, we want to be more conscious about all of our consumption choices.

And more specifically, Erin and I realized that we didn't want to use plastic after learning about the Great Garbage Patch, a plastic stew that has amassed in the Pacific Ocean due to a vortex of swirling air and water.

The Garbage Patch is larger than the size of Texas. It takes one week to sail a boat through. The fishies and the seaturtles are choking on it.

Here's a picture from Best Life, and the article that goes with it: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Shocking information, right? So, much like my decision not to eat meat when I learned about the cruelty of factory farming, I decided that I can't partake in the plastic insanity knowing that my trash could choke a seaturtle. No thank you!

For today's plastic count: haven't used any so far. Can I make it through the next four hours plastic-free? Check back tomorrow to find out!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I miss Luna bars most of all. sniff sniff.

Just kidding. Kind of. I mean, it's only been 4 days, but I probably would have eaten 2 or 3 Luna bars by now.

I hopped on the Clif website to see what the story is with the material they use to make Luna wrappers. Just to make SURE it's plastic. And I learned that Clif has partnered with this company called TerraCycle ( that is collecting wrappers... not only from Lunas, but also from Chips Ahoy, Stonyfield yogurt containers, wine corks and soda bottles. They then donate money to charity and turn the materials into stylish bags and/or worm poop.

Seems like a lot of effort to convert the wrappers from products we don't really need, right? Plus, you have to be a 501(c)3 charity to collect the wrappers. So I emailed to see if there are charities collecting wrappers in New York. But in the meantime, I'm fine with forgoing my Lunas!

In other plastic news... more plastic retroactively snuck into my life! There was a second box of crackers that I brought home from Becca's on Sunday. Inside that box is a BAG made of plastic. And inside that bag are delicious crunchy goodness. Constant vigilance!

Sneaky, sneaky plastic.

I think I have done pretty well for the last two days, but I must confess plastic is far sneaker than I once thought. I bought bakery goods (something I am oft to do) and was wise enough to ask the lady behind the counter to put my items in a paper box instead of the plastic one she first picked up. No problem right, not so quick. She used two pieces of tape (plastic!!!) to close the sides of the box. Really, why close the box? I'm just going to open it and eat that may not make it to the car in fact. It was too quick I couldn’t stop her! Foiled again. Okay, Kerry and I have conferred and we cannot sweat the pieces of tape that will encroach upon our plastic diet. Buying tape on the other hand, that is a different story—that counts. Disaster temporarily averted. But when I got home I found a book that I ordered from Amazon (last week, before the diet) had arrived…in a plastic bubble pack envelope. The envelope has taken up residence with my straw from Sunday, patiently awaiting the arrival of their next petroleum product companion… I will not be ordering books online anymore I guess. This is really okay though because there are likely many used bookstores I can frequent. Now I just need to find them. Who needs new books anyway, I need to brush up on my classics!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Zero Pieces of Plastic

I didn't use any plastic today! I feel so, so... authentic. Erin, beware: we have a long summer of melty drippy ice cream cones ahead of us. When the melting is not contained in a plastic cup you need a carefully executed ice cream strategy: lots of napkins, no talking, focus. Good luck!

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Zip-Lock Bag

I didn't use any (new) plastic today! BUT I realized that I unwittingly accepted a zip-lock bag full of chips when I left Becca's shower yesterday, so I'm going to count that for today because I ate some (and since I'm in confession mode.. by some I mean all) of them today. Don't worry, I will rinse the zip lock and re-use it, just like Gwyneth Paltrow does.

Erin and I have joked that this is going to end up being the Plastic Diet because when you're avoiding plastic, you can't eat anything! And it's true. I went to Whole Foods tonight and stumbled around the aisles and threw some oranges and bananas into my basket. Good thing its summer..

One last thing... I finally booked my flight to Greece! It's 14 hours long, so that's going to take some planning to avoid plastic.. but here is my question .. are you allowed to bring fruit on flights? I seem to recall my dad got in trouble with customs and had to pay a $200 fine for trying to bring an apple into New Zealand. Can you bring fruit as long as you eat it before getting to customs though?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Plastic Fork

First day in New York! I was out all day and had to dodge some plastic bullets at Whole Foods and Pinkberry. Luckily I had my own plastic fork and spoon with me. But do the cups they use at Pinkberry have plastic in them? Someone on Yelp said they are made from recycled paper, but you can't exactly trust Yelp now can you. The Pinkberry site didn't mention anything about the materials they use, but I found out their chairs (Phillippe Stark Victoria Ghost chairs) cost $500. Now that is some expensive polycarbonate!

I then went to a bridal shower and used a plastic fork. It all happened so fast! One minute I walked in the door and the next minute I was eating veggie lasagna with a plastic fork and realized.. oh well, that's my one piece for the day.

First day in LA!

A pretty good first day if I do say so myself…

1 conscious choice piece of plastic: Pom Tea plastic wrapper (Why wrap glass in plastic I ask you? The up side is I do have a nice new glass container with a lid that seals. I am still suspicious it will pass muster, i.e. hold liquid, when it really counts though, like when in my purse);
1 let my guard down piece of plastic: red straw in my enjoying-a-lazy-Sunday-afternoon Amaretto Sour (I tell you, you let your guard down for one second and boom...plastic).
Total=2 pieces

I realized many days may take on the following theme, ‘Sometimes you win the fight, but lose the war’.
This takes vigilance, make no mistake about it.
Toblerone is one of my favorite chocolate bars for a reason (zero plastic-hurray!)

The Plastic Diet Rules

Happy June 1! Today is the day that Erin and I are starting our Great Plastic Challenge. Here are the rules to guide our plastic free bi-coastal adventure:

Rule # 1: Limit/confine/reduce plastic intake to no more than one piece of plastic per day.

Break it down now...
a. If someone gives you plastic unwittingly, too bad, that's your piece of plastic
b. If you can give it back do, if you can reuse it do, if you can live without it do
c. You must keep all the new plastic you accumulate in your plastic heap
d. For the love of all that is good and holy, those little pieces of plastic on clothing tags don't count.
e. Be honest! We're allowed to mess up but we have to blog about it when we do.

Guiding principles:
1. Be polite to the purveyors of plastic in our lives; not everyone is committed to this cause :)
2. When in doubt about what is okay or allowed, ask yourself "could a seaturtle choke on this?" or "does this look like it will be around until the end of time?" Consume accordingly.

That's all for now.. this blog is our place to discuss our challenges, victories and questions that come up. Have fun and wish us luck!