Tuesday, September 30, 2008
No that shiny smooth exterior is not plastic! These flower pots are made from renewable grain husks (i.e. rice), contain no wood or petroleum ingredients, do not deplete natural resources, and decompose in landfills if they ever end up there!
I'm in love.
I bought my first this weekend. I have a Hawaiian Ti Plant to put in it too (the plant it really a stick right now, but I hear if I plant it in some soil and give it some lovin' it will be beautiful). Now I'm just waiting on some potting soil/dirt that doesn't come in a plastic bag. My boss has a green thumb and I think she might let me have some dirt from her back yard if I ask nicely....
This is revolutionary. I can't believe these pots are not made from plastic. They look and feel like plastic, last a long time, and then reenter the ecosystem via nirvana.
We need more products like this in the world!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Second best is Prospect Wine Shop in Brooklyn, which participated in the Brooklyn Green Team's NO Plastic Bag Challenge. They keep a sign up at the cash register about the evil's of plastic bags and encourage customers not to use them. I was there on Friday and the girls working at the counter were amazing-- they asked every person if they "needed" a plastic bag. If someone already had a bag, they would ask "do you need another bag, or can you use the one you have?" Pow. You've been greened!
At least the ziplock bags are reusable...and the justifying begins.
This is where the dialectics comes in. How do I make my decisions....what's the process....? Kerry and I made the rules that we play by, and continue to make them as we go along, so there is not real set process. Really this is a very personal process, the process of deciding what plastic I will not allow in my life and what plastic I can justify--all under the overarching umbrella of no new plastic/one piece of plastic a day. Which is where the dialectics comes in, i.e. point, counter-point, synthesis of points, constantly going on in my head around plastic.
So, today for example: I went to my local Farmer's Market and walked away plastic free. Then I had to drive by a different farmer's market on my way to a fall festival and knew I could get my beloved pistachios at that FM, but I also knew that my buying these pistachios would involve plastic. I bought two bag! I don't get to that FM very often, and they are good pistachios(!) and they are local. So, I justified this in my head. Now, on to the fall festival. It was hot today over 90 out in the desert where the festival was (not particularly fall-like but whatever) so I got thirsty... Well, I had my trusty collapsible cup, ta-da, but none of the vendors would let me use my own cup to buy their ice-tea or smoothie in. "Health code violation" something or another, they weren't budging. I searched for a water fountain to fill my depleted Sigg to no avail. I was ready to go thirsty because I would not use a disposable plastic cup-and yet just earlier I bought not one, but two bags of pistachios in plastic without any real guilt...hum. Finally, I saw some kids filling styrofoam cups of water at one of the vendor stands and I knew that as an adult I could get them to give me water--they wouldn't question me. So I filled my water bottle surreptitiously, health code violation and all. But sales of cold drinks were lost on me.
It just gets me wondering though, about some of my choices, and how non-straight forward this plastic reductionist life is sometimes. It would be more straight forward if I just lied to you and said I only use one piece a day and that I put my foot down on all new plastic (period). But let's face it I'm human and so this process is human too, and somedays it's just weird.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
we're doing a lot really well-- it's so efficient to have a chef cooking for our whole staff and to eat lunch off of real plates and bowls and silverware.
but i'd love to hear suggestions about easy ways to make a difference in greening the office.
of course i want to eliminate all plastic, but i'm learning that we actually spend heaps of money on paper towels for the bathroom. we do have plastic utensils around, and paper cups, plates and bowls, but don't spend nearly as much on them.
thoughts? questions? comments?
thanks for your help!
If you have been reading along lately you know I moved recently and had to acquire a lot of new furniture (and plastic) during this move. I debated whether to buy a bed or not because of the fact that they are all (okay not all, but the kind I can afford) made with polyester and other plastic-y synthetic material and stuffing. Well I bought a bed, synthetic material and all. I realized good sleep is a good thing. Now on to the sheets and pillows...
Pillows are all sold in plastic bags(!)-foiled again (or plasticed again, as the case may be). I assumed I would have the same problem with sheets, but wait what is that I see on the shelf at Target, organic cotton sheets in an organic cotton drawstring bag? I don't even think there is any plastic hiding inside the bag! I don't know for sure yet though because my Target was, of course, out of Queen size organic cotton sheets. So I will have to wait until I can try another Target store tomorrow-but the odds are looking good on these being plastic-free sheets. I opened the King size sheet set drawstring bag and poked around a little. I couldn't hear any tell-tale plastic crackles. Of course these sheets are more than double the plastic encases cotton/polyester mix sheets, but you gotta do what you gotta do and maybe take a cut in your budget somewhere else-lets say the ice cream budget department. So, Target wins some much need plastic-free points in the sheet options department. Not enough positive points to counter act all the negative points they are getting in the Halloween candy department though. Try and find Halloween candy not wrapped in plastic-really try. Then try and find individually wrapped Halloween candy not wrapped in plastic twice (outer bag and inner individually wrapped pieces-plastic and plastic) it's gonna be a rough year for those who come a knocking at my door :(
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
High Frutose Corn Syrup
Have you seen this commercial claiming that High Fructose Corn Syrup is "all natural" and "no worse for you than sugar"?
See the video here.
The Corn Refiners Association has spent $30M on this ad campaign to boost the reputation of High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Of course, you recognize that these ads are an outrage. Based on that commercial, we should all be drinking other corn-based products, such as ethanol.
The average American is deeply misguided about their food choices. They don't know that HFCS may be linked with: Diabetes • Obesity • Liver Disease
As health counselors, we educate people about eating whole foods and guide them to develop a deeper understanding of their food and lifestyle choices.
The work that we do is more important now than ever!
Help us fulfill our mission to play a crucial role in improving health and happiness in America, and through that process create ripple effect that transforms the world.
Please enjoy our new catalog and forward this message to others who may be interested in attending our school.
Founder & Director
P.S. Our community is fired up about this ad. See a response article by a graduate here.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I love getting emails about plastic:
"hi kerry, i was at a small indian restaurant in inwood yesterday. we ate in the restaurant but they still served us in plastic...container and fork, etc. after our meal, i literally felt like i had consumed plastic. it was really gross. i wonder if there is any truth to that. like how plastic might appear solid, but we do consume trace amounts of it. would be interested in your thoughts"
When we eat food that's served on plastic, or wrapped in plastic, or sucked up through a plastic straw we consume guilt with every bite and sip.
Even if you think you don't give a hoot about the environment, you are an intelligent person (yes you!) and at some level (subconsious, or if you've been reading this blog, conscious!) you realize that it's a destructive action. This gives the food a bitter aftertaste.
My diagnosis is polymer anxiety, and the best course of treatment is to use less plastic :)
Alan Weisman said it well in his book, The World Without Us:
"Plastic embodies our collective guilt over trashing the environment. Something about plastic feels uneasily permanent. The difference may have to do with what happens outside landfills, where a newspaper gets shredded by wind, cracks in sunlight, and dissolves in rain--if it doesn't burn first."
[Note: Alan goes on to explain newspapers don't biodegrade when they are buried in a landfill away from air and water. But that's a story for another blog. I recommend reading Alan's article Polymers are Forever.]
So my question to you, dear reader, is:
What is ONE THING you can do today to reduce your plastic guilt?
This is true for saving land and trees as well as oceans and turtles.
Today was The Ocean Conservancy: International Coastal Cleanup Day. Last year 378,000 volunteers worked together to pick up trash and keep it from entering the ocean (and waterways that lead to the ocean). Of the top ten dangerous debris items collected worldwide last year guess how many are plastic?
Here is the list:
Bags (587,827 collected in one day)
Crab/Lobster/Fish Traps (7,409)
Fishing Line (71,744)
Plastic Sheering/Tarps (55,317)
Rope (121, 094)
Six-Pack Holders (31,144)
Strapping Bands (3,378)
This constitutes a lot of plastic debris that will not end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the bellies of turtles (I guess it goes to landfills? Humm....).
Thank you for caring a whole awful lot Ocean Conservancy and volunteers!
Friday, September 19, 2008
It started out well, happy go-lucky and plastic-free until...bam...I went to the gym. They told me I had to get a new key chain scan card-the kind they use to check you in. Mine seemed just fine to me, but they are "updating." I graciously refused, but they said it was a necessary. Damn the man. Then I went off to Office Depot later to buy ink for my printer. Apparently I was in a delusional state because obviously printer cartridges are plastic...I was holding two in my hand to return for goodness sake. But somehow it didn't strike me until I got in the check-out line, 'oh shit, more plastic.' I have to print about a million (okay 17) Intern Applications to determine my fate and future career in psychology in the next month so I need ink (and luck). No two ways about that-at least there is a really great system for reusing printer cartridges these days. And then because it was a long hard day with a lot of non-plastic related hassles and frustrations, 8:00 pm, and I hadn't eaten, etc. etc., I bought a little bag of Twizzlers at Office Depot too! It just goes to show: increase the stress, increase the plastic. I feel bad about the Twizzlers purchase-it was a flagrant Plastic Diet violation, but I love Twizzlers. I haven't had them in months (okay I had a few in August when someone else bought the bag, but still, months). So, it was not a no-plastic-day, but it was a relatively low-plastic day at least.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
1) I live in a pretty urban area and have very very little yard.
1a) This is not a major impediment. Do a simple google search on 'Urban Composting' and you will have many solutions.
Check. Next impediment?
2) I DO NOT WANT to attract RATS, or let me just put it out there-rodents of any kind are unwelcome, but particularly NO rats. I will have to leave my theoretical composter outside, close to my back door. I have no car port, garage or shed for semi-protection from citters. I think I am likely to attract rats with the smell of yummy decomposing veggies....
2a) Attracting rats is a major impediments because I have an inordinately large fear of these little critters compared to the actual danger they pose.
3) AND MOST IMPORTANTLY I can't find any non-plastic composters to buy that will enclose and protect my decomposing waste (see #2 as to why I would prefer an enclosed composting receptacle). I can find mesh-style or wood bins…I don’t trust the wood bins and definitely not the mesh cage on the rat front.
3a) I found this one metal unit, but for the life of me I can't find where to actually buy it! This looks rather rat proof to me :)
Help me out here...anyone out there know where to find a non-plastic composter that will not attract critters? Please keep in mind I have exactly 4 square feet next to my backdoor in which to put this composter. It doesn't seem like an easy problem for little old me to solve on my own. But when I solve this little problem my own composted dirt will come in very handy when I want to plant, say anything, in a pot because all the dirt found in stores comes in, you guessed it, plastic bags! Dirt sold in plastic-I mean really! I guess I could dig up part of my 4 square feet of dirt or someone else’s yard...but sage advice in this area would also be greatly appreciated.
FYI: My brother already tried to convince me that an open mesh enclosed composter would "not likely attract many rats." I'm going to need quite a bit better odds than that to play this hand. I don't gamble with the Bubonic plague unless I'm going to win.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I look around my apartment sometimes and think 'Wow, there is a lot of plastic here.' Then I remember much of it I acquired before I became aware of how dangerous plastic is for me and the environment. If I were to just rid my life of all the plastic I already owned I would be wasting plastic. So, of course I don't. I use what I have and try not to acquire more. I try to have as many low-plastic and no-plastic days as possible.
On days I buy food this is particularly hard. Meats and dairy products are by far the hardest items to find sans plastic! Meat always comes in plastic, at the store or the farmer's market, cooked, uncooked, jerky or frozen. I cannot find a way around this. Even the really good meat like grass-fed bison and free-range chicken that I buy because it is healthier for me and better for the environment paradoxically still comes in plastic...even if I get it at the meat counter or butcher or directly from the grower. I am at a loss here. Other than meat most of my protein comes from dairy products, which also almost always seem to come in plastic! I buy milk in glass bottles, but they have plastic tops. I thrive on cheese but it is almost inevitably wrapped or sealed in plastic (except that one time I bonded with the cheese man). Often butter comes sans plastic (but sadly this usually means it is not raw or local which I prefer). And ice cream, oh ice cream, you too come in containers that sadly also use plastic. (See the picture of the milk carton-this layering of paper and plastic is the same for ice cream containers and most water resistant 'paper' food containers.)
This is not easy! But the saga continues...
Crunchy carbs of all kinds also come in plastic…bread, crackers, cookies, pasta (pasta you can often find plastic-free most of the time, but not at Whole Foods of all places). I gobble up these carbs when I am out to dinner or over friends, because I miss them due to the fact that to reduce my plastic intake I have not bought bread or crackers in plastic since June 1st! I am starting to make my own bread-thank goodness, why did I wait so long to make this move-but this is not up everyone’s alley, thus it is not a solution for everyone. Most of my plastic reductionist solutions in fact require a lot of forethought and planning and are homemade solutions.
So, some days I find it hard to see how this plastic wrapped food system will change. One day at a time I tell myself. Plus I get inspiration from the other plastic-less bloggers out there (see our 'Get Inspires' area).
I had my big bag, and one plastic bag to re-use, but that wasn't enough. Shame on me.
Met Supermarket has a guy to bag your groceries for you.
It was like he was on a mission to use as many plastic bags as possible!
He was double-bagging, mint that was already wrapped in plastic was put in it's own double-bag, plastic was flying EVERYWHERE.
So I stepped in, and we loaded up my big bag (I had 8 loose limes, 2 lemons, 3 avocados and an onion rolling around in my bag, that was pretty funny.)
Then I told him I didn't need any double bags, and I provided my extra plastic bag.
Number of plastic bags we would have used if the Met guy had his way: 8+
Number of plastic bags I took from Met: 1
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Saturday is my shopping (and cooking) day. I'm a busy girl (aren't we all though) but I still set aside time every weekend to shop at the farmer's market and cook meals for the week. I do get slightly perturbed when people say things along the lines of 'I couldn't do what your doing because I don't have the time.' or 'I can't give up plastic we need it.' or 'It's too expensive to eat fresh.'
Well, eating fresh fruit and vegetables is one way to cut down on your plastic. All the frozen fruits and veggies I know come in plastic. Also remember to bring your own bags or reuse the plastic bags you already have over and over and over again when you are fruit and veggie shopping. Here is a picture of my plastic free snacks for the week: peaches, figs, jujubes (no not jujyfruit-which I do also like and is one of the few candies that does not have a plastic wrapper!) and cherry tomatoes. All of this cost me about $9, seems like a lot, but how much are you going to spend on snacks this week? Plus two of those peaches are going into a peach upside down cake that I will be making from scratch so I don't have to buy cake mix which comes in a plastic bag (I really do love easy old cake mix, this was hard to give up.)
I did have a frustrating moment at Whole Foods this morning though that I wanted to share. (My usual food buying routine is farmer's market 1st, Whole Foods 2nd.) I bought bacon from the meat counter to use in a pasta dish. The man at the meat counter wanted to put a piece of plastic down on the scale before weighing out the bacon. I asked him to just use the paper he would subsequently be wrapping my bacon in. He did not want to. I asked him again nicely, saying I would rather not use the extra plastic. His response: "The bacon comes wrapped in plastic when we get it." My response to that: "All the more reason for me to use less plastic now." He acquiesced, begrudgingly. I walked away a little pissed. Really it wasn't a hard thing for him to do, but I let it go, I don't need any more plastic anger than I already have. Note to self: Bring tin foil when I need to buy meat, that way they can weigh my stuff out on that. Note-note to self: I think you have made this note to self before-remember it this time.
Enjoy your weekend and don't forget about how wonderfully plastic-less fruit is compared to other snacks.
Friday, September 12, 2008
There are many chemicals (for example: carcinogens and endocrine/hormone disruptors that cause major health problems like cancer and reproductive disorders) in the plastics we use everyday to contain/package food and the other products we buy. These dangerous chemicals are present in most plastics, even the "safe" ones (see Kerry's latest post).
So, I think...yes, we should still be outraged about the fact that we and everyone we know uses too much wasteful one-time-use plastic (plastic that will last forever in our landfills and oceans-leaching out chemicals in the process), but we should also be outraged by the health consequences of plastics. I am outraged! I hide it well on a daily basis, but under my calm exterior, the rage simmers and sometimes boils over.
Let us take a stand together against plastic--for the planet, for the sea turtles, and for ourselves!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
did you ever wonder what those numbers.. 1, 2, 7.. on your plastic containers mean?
there is so much to learn about plastic!
here is some info from the national geographic green guide:
What To Look For
Plastic is the most widely used material in the United States, and it crops up in everything from toys to clothes to food containers. But not all plastics are created equal, particularly in regards to food storage: Some plastics can transmit chemicals into your food, while others are perfectly safe [Kerry's note: safe for sea turtles?].
Before you know which type of plastic container to buy the next time you hit the store, you first need to know how to tell them apart. Plastics are typically classified by a number from #1 to #7, each number representing a different type of resin. That number is usually imprinted on the bottom of your container; flip it upside down, and you'll see a recycling triangle with the number in the middle.
Here's a quick breakdown of plastic resin types:
#1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Product examples: Disposable soft drink and water bottles, cough-syrup bottles
#2 high density polyethylene (HDPE)/
Product examples: Milk jugs, toys, liquid detergent bottles, shampoo bottles
#3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
Product examples: Meat wrap, cooking oil bottles, plumbing pipes
#4 low density polyethylene (LDPE)
Product examples: Cling wrap, grocery bags, sandwich bags
#5 polypropylene (PP)
Product examples: Syrup bottles, yogurt cups/tubs, diapers
#6 polystyrene (PS)
Product examples: Disposable coffee cups, clam-shell take-out containers
#7 other (misc.; usually polycarbonate, or PC, but also polylactide, or PLA, plastics made from renewable resources)
Product examples: Baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food-storage containers, medical storage containers
Now that you know what each of the numbers represents, here are the kinds you should look for at the store:
#2HDPE, #4LDPE and #5PP
These three types of plastic are the healthiest. They transmit no known chemicals into your food and they're generally recyclable; #2 is very commonly accepted by municipal recycling programs, but you may have a more difficult time finding someone to recycle your #4 and #5 containers.
#1 bottles and containers are fine for single use [Kerry's note: what is fine about single use???] and are widely accepted by municipal recyclers. You won't find many reusable containers made from #1, but they do exist. It's also best to avoid reusing #1 plastic bottles; water and soda bottles in particular are hard to clean, and because plastic is porous, these bottles absorb flavors and bacteria that you can't get rid of.
PLA (polylactide) plastics are made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content. The starch is converted into polylactide acid (PLA). Although you can't recycle these plant-based plastics, you can compost them in a municipal composter or in your backyard compost heap. Most decompose in about twelve days unlike conventional plastic, which can take up to 100 years.
Plastics to Avoid
#3 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is often used frequently in cling wraps for meat. However, PVC contains softeners called phthalates that interfere with hormonal development, and its manufacture and incineration release dioxin, a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Vinyl chloride, the primary building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen that also poses a threat to workers during manufacture.
Extruded polystyrene (#6 PS; commonly known as Styrofoam) is used in take-out containers and cups, and non-extruded PS is used in clear disposable takeout containers, disposable plastic cutlery and cups. Both forms of PS can leach styrene into food; styrene is considered a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction.
#7 Polycarbonate (PC) is found in baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, water-cooler bottles and the epoxy linings of tin food cans. PC is composed of a hormone-disrupting chemical called bisphenol A, which has been linked to a wide variety of problems such as cancer and obesity.
Monday, September 8, 2008
At the last minute, I decided my Sigg would be too heavy to run with.
So I re-used the same waxy paper cup for the whole 2 hours of racing.
At each water station I asked them to pour the water right into my cup.
Compared to the hassle of running half a marathon on muddy trails, it was really no trouble at all, and I must have saved at LEAST 10 cups.
If you read this blog you know that Erin and I dislike wasteful one-time use products more than anything, so today was a major victory in the crusade against OTU!
pictures to come.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Cell Phones, 2007
Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.
Plastic Bottles, 2007
Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.
Check out more of this amazing art at http://www.chrisjordan.com/