Tuesday, March 31, 2009

running green

Erin and I are running the Big Sur Marathon on April 26!

We both ran 20 miles this weekend, on our respective coasts. I ran over the Manhattan bridge at least 4 times, I lost track after awhile.

Anyway, just got a newsletter from Big Sur and this is what they say:

Going Green
The Big Sur Marathon is fully committed to supporting sustainable practices not just during race weekend, but throughout the year. We have implemented race day recycling both on the course and at the finish, along with recyclable bib numbers, our BYOB program, PickUp Pal ridesharing service and 97% online paperless registration. In the course of the next few years we hope to be a fully "green" event.

This all sounds good but I'm curious about cups. Are they using throwaway cups? Because I drink at every water station and that seems like a waste. Erin, should we write them to ask?


...okay not yet, but just in case of emergency, you should be prepared! Do you have an emergency pack/kit? If you do chances are there is plastic in it. Plastic is sadly inevitable in the emergency preparedness arena. I made an emergency pack about two years ago after attending a workshop on working with disaster victims. I was sufficiently scared about impending doom and insuring mayhem that I went home and put something together (over about a period of a month-I guess I wasn't that scared).

I was reminded recently that the emergency food in my emergency backpack has expiration dates. So, I fished the pack out of the trunk of my car and found that all the power bars I had put in there two years ago are in fact one year past due. (Of course I’ll still eat them now, but they are no longer 'emergency ready' because they might make me sick and I don't want to be sick in an emergency.) I have bought 5 more power bars (in plastic wrappers of course!) as replacements. I figure the two year old beef jerky and fruit leather can probably make it another year. They are sealed in plastic after all they should last forever!

In my rekindled emergency preparedness flurry I have decided to add a few more things that I can't believe weren't in my pack before! I can say happily most of these new additions are decidedly not plastic. In case you want to make your own in-case-of-nuclear-meltdown-and-major-earthquake-bag I suggest these basics: some light non-perishable food (power bars, beef jerky, fruit leather, etc. enough for 2-3 days), a couple of bottles of water (I know, but in a pinch you will be glad you invested in that plastic encased water), a change of clothes and good pair of walking shoes (you may have to walk a long way if mayhem breaks out-so sneakers will be nice to have), sunscreen (plastic again), basic toiletries + toilet paper, and a pocket knife. Okay, so here are my new additions: rubber band for hair, deodorant stone, two sets of bamboo utensils (so I can share one set with someone who forgets utensils-someone is gonna forget utensils), two face masks (like for painting, which will also be helpful in trying to breath in smoke or around toxic particles), matches, paper and a pen...okay here is where I went a little MacGyver for no apparent reason...9 rubber bands, 5 paperclips, and a bunch of popsicle sticks (all non-plastic!). Who knows these 'essentials' might come in handy. I'll probably be kicking myself about not making it 10 rubber bands.

Now you all should go get something together, just in case. Try to use as little plastic as possible-it's a challenge!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

eco-friendly cleaning products

One area in my plastic-less life that I haven't looked at too closely is household cleaning products. I think that's because they last a long time, so I don't buy new ones too often.

But last month I had the chance to meet with someone from Shaklee. Shaklee is cool because they're one of the first companies to offset CO2 emissions and really take a stand for sustainable business practices. They use natural ingredients and make biodegradable household cleaners.

We talked about my aversion to plastic, and she let me try Basic H2 Super Cleaning Concentrate. It's all purpose, which I love. And it's super concentrated, which is even better. (16 oz makes 48 GALLONS of cleaner). I feel good about finding a cleaner that's biodegradable, and that uses a lot less plastic since it's so concentrated. And it makes a lot of sense to use stuff on your stove and countertops that isn't toxic.

On a separate note, I also tried some Shaklee skin care products which were amazing!

Friday, March 27, 2009

where does plastic reduction fit in...

There has been a lot of buzz in the organic/local/sustainable food world lately about the new White House vegetable garden. Victory cries reverberate from Food Democracy Now and Slow Food followers alike. In fact this kind of food (the organic/sustainable/local kind, a.k.a. my kind) is getting more and more mainstream.

This is a great article about just this topic from the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/business/22food.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

You may or may not know this but I'm about as crazy about local/sustainable/fair food (a.k.a. Slow Food) as I am about reducing plastic. These causes are both about a better environment, so they go hand in hand, right? Well, I am becoming more and more impatient about the lack of concern from organic and sustainable food manufacturers and consumers about the non-organic non-sustainable nature of the plastic packaging that most of this food is sold in. It makes no sense to me. Why care so much about growing great environmentally conscious food and care so little about what it is packaged in?

Take this quote from the NY Times article I linked to above. “This has never been just about business,” said Gary Hirshberg, chief executive of Stonyfield Farm, the maker of organic yogurt. “We are here to change the world. We dreamt for decades of having this moment.” Hummmm...Mr. Hirshberg your entire yogurt line is sold in plastic! Is the Great Pacific Gyre’s impact on the marine ecosystem the kind of change you have been dreaming about for decades? I have found individual cups of yogurt sold in glass (Spega) at a national food chain (Whole Foods)—so I know it can be done. If Stonyfield Farm yogurt dumped the plastic, I would know ‘it’s not just about business’ and that would be a movement I could really get behind!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I wish I wasn't filled with so much angst over my recent purchase of an external hard drive....BUT it is made of plastic and came in plastic packaging (2 pieces and tape)! Maybe I should have looked for a used external hard drive on craigslist (why am I just thinking of this now? is that a good idea buying a used hard drive?). I'm not very technologically savvy (read: I had my younger brother buy the external hard drive for me because I didn't know where to start and he had to show me how to use it) but I have begun to feel it is completely reckless of me to not back up all my digital pictures, i-tunes library, and dissertation work. So, I took the plunge. Now I am trying to justify my decision in my head and I have a real negative bias against spending unnecessary time and energy justifying decisions that have already been made...this is where the angst comes in. Technology and the plastic diet seem to bump heads a lot.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


What to hear some irony? The Los Angels Department of Water and Power spent $70,000 on bottled water last year. Yes, you heard that right LA's water department is buying bottled water for employees to drink. Keep in mind Los Angeles is touted for having some of the best tap water anywhere. (Debatable I know, but statistically it is very clean.) Granted we steal our water from Colorado and Northern California, but all the same it is good water and our Department of Water and Power is buying bottled water! In plastic bottles! Our mayor Villaraigosa tried to put his foot down on this expense after his first election, but it’s still happening. Less money has been spent each year, for the last four years, but still $70,000 last year is a lot of money. Well, in walks 'The Great American Economic Crisis' and now the foot is really going down. No more water encased in wasteful plastic for you Department of Water and Power—it costs too much!

The economy has had the same effect on my university's bottled water buying proclivity. I was recently at a meeting where we were told there is no more bottled water for lunch meetings due to budget cuts. Apparently, the presentation I gave a the monthly faculty meeting back in October about reducing, reusing, recycling and ecological stewardship was not as effective as the “presentation” the economy is currently giving the budget office. Either way I am happy...I guess. If economic destruction is the only way for people to start reducing their unnecessary plastic consumption I’ll take it…although I think we could have made these practical change just as easy without the whole economic crisis thing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reduce toxic plastics in the home

Have you checked out the www.healthychild.org website?
I love it. I also love their book Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, and Safer Home.

This nonprofit is committed to a healthier world for us all...and that means less plastic!

They have a new new Health eHome interactive guide that I highly recommend checking out. Many of the tips for the kitchen are about the toxic effects of plastic and why people should reduce their plastic use. Also, they have great 'Pocket Guides' that discuss the dangers of plastic and talk about alternative choices. My favorite pocket guides are: Healthier Teether & Pacifier, Healthy Toys, and Safer Plastics!

The main reason I love this organization is that it is about helping people make changes for the better based on sound information. It is not all doom and gloom, which leaves people overwhelmed and discouraged-they have tips and solutions!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

L'Occitane Deodorant Stone

I bought the deodorant stone from L'Occitane!  

So far, so good! 

No aluminum, no plastic. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Imagine a world where the electrolyzer is king.

I heard about the Electrolyzer cleaning system this weekend and my mind went wild with the possibilities of how this electrified salt/water solution could reduce the use of plastic and chemicals in the world!

Never heard about electrolyzed water as a cleaning agent before (I hadn’t either before Sunday). Check out this website: http://www.electrolyzercorp.com/

This is how it works…“A diluted salt water solution is passed through an electrical field and two separation membranes. This process generates two separate outputs simultaneously. The first is alkaline water with a pH of approximately 11.3. The alkaline water is used as a cleaner and degreaser. The second is electrolyzed acid water with an approximate pH of 2.7. The acidic water, containing 30 ppm hypochlorous acid (HOCI), has an extremely powerful bactericidal/viricidal effect. No special storage, handling, protective clothing, or environmental controls are required. No tainting or residues are left behind after use.” And you can just go and refill a cleaning/spray bottle from the electrolyzer system whenever you need more! Plus, it is nontoxic. Using this means no more buying, using, and recycling (or trashing) plastic containers for cleaning!! Well, it’s not that easy of course...the system costs thousands of dollars (but not tens of thousand mind you) and it is only commercially available. I heard about it because the show ‘Off Ramp’ did a story on the Sheraton Hotel chain piloting the use of the Electrolyzer system in their Delfina hotel in Santa Monica, CA. Apparently Sheraton will be rolling this new cleaning tool out in all their hotels soon! (That’s a lot of plastic reduction right there–thanx Sheraton.) But all I can think about is a community electrolyzer fill station in every town (or every natural food store) where people go to fill-up/refill when they need to clean the house. The plastic waste reduction and chemical exposure reduction possibilities have me swooning.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Back to nature.

Plastic-free camping isn't that hard. It's camping after all, the whole point is to get back to nature, it's an activity that has plastic-free written all over it!

I was up in the Los Padres Forest outside of LA this weekend and it was cold at night! My polyester sleeping bag was so polyestery and scratchy. (It made me realize I don’t appreciated my organic cotton sheets enough.) I remember as a kid everyone in my family had matching brown cotton sleeping bags. They had a pattern of flying ducks on the inside, cold metal zippers, and the cotton stuffing bunched up around the seams as they got older and worn. They smelled mildewy the last time I thought of using one in college and I think they met their demise soon after that. So there is no going back to the sleeping bag of my youth. I wonder how hard it would be to find a cotton or all-natural sleeping bag these days and would it be warm enough? This is the best option I could find on a quick search just now: http://www.allergybuyersclubshopping.com/cf-be-dreambag-sleepsack.html It doesn't look that warm. It was in the 30's last night in the foothills. Some how I don't think this one would keep me warm enough (the bag I actually had wasn’t warm enough either so I guess I shouldn't be too picky). I'll keep looking for something...better...hopefully...

On another note I did make my own marshmallows for roasting so as to avoid buying marshmallows bought in plastic. My homemade ones roasted up lovely! Homemade marshmallows are surprisingly easy to make and always a hit. There was a time (a long long time ago when I had more time) when I actually made my own graham crackers too! This weekend I let someone else take care of getting the graham crackers and I didn't partake...all I care about it the roasted marshmallow anyway. Do you remember when graham crackers came wrapped in brown wax paper not clear plastic...when did that change?

All in all camping is very compatible with a plastic-less lifestyle and I highly recommend it :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

That's so annoying!

I dropped some sweaters off at the dry cleaners today. I go to a place that is more expensive than another that I (used to) like but this place respects my wish to have no plastic sleeve put on my clothes. The other place wouldn't stop using the plastic sleeve no matter how I pleaded. Why? I pleaded, it doesn’t harm you…dust doesn't bother me I live in this great big dirty world and dust is the least of my worries...
Anyway, my plastic-reductionist-friendly dry cleaner is hilarious (so I do factor the entertainment value into the price). Going there always involves a 15-20 minute conversation about his other customers and unsolicited advice for my love life. Believe it or not one of his other customers is a secret agent and he can prove this because she always brings in clothes with weird holes in them. I know hard to believe, but can’t argue with that kind of evidence can you? My dry cleaner knows me even though I have tried to cut down on my dry cleaning needs (nasty chemicals and all) but just in case he has forgotten me since last time, every time I bring something in I say, "Oh and no plastic remember (smile)." So, today he says to me in his lovely stilted ESL, "It so funny some people want no plastic (wait there are others like me?) and some want too much plastic, one plastic on each piece." He proceeded to show me someone’s dry cleaning order that had individual plastic sleeves put over each shirt! Of course my reply to this was, "Oh that is so annoying!" And then my dry cleaner man says, "I know and he is man! It would be better if it was women who said please, can you please put plastic on each just for me. No this is man who is worried about dust. So annoying!" I laughed a little inside at my dear dry cleaner's old world views of masculinity and femininity. To him this guy who wants each shirt individually covered in plastic has let all other men down for making such a sissy request. To me he has just let down all mankind. Either way he (and others like him) are letting us all down.

P.S. Some plastic-free camping (other than the tent of course) is on tap for the weekend-I don't think it should be too hard to pull off.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lunch time!

When it comes to packing/bringing your own lunch there are so many great plastic-free options! Yeay!

These are the three I usually choose from:

Ball jars, Pyrex with top (okay the top is plastic), and stainless steal To-Go Ware lunch box. Also, I love my reusable Happy-sacks which aren’t pictured.

Beth of Fake Plastic Fish recently reviewed a new stainless steal option — Lunchbots. Have you seen these? They are very cool! They are a stainless steal replacement to plastic tupperware. I will probably end up getting some Lunchbots sometime soon, but thinking about buying them made me realize I really do gravitate more toward glass than stainless steal for my food storage. I like stainless steal—a lot—but glass really serves my food storage needs better. Especially when it comes to packing my lunch, which I usually do in glass because I eat leftovers that needs reheating. Heating in stainless steal with the microwave at work is not an option.

I love that there are so many plastic free food storage/packing options out there. I wish more people took advantage of them! (No more onetime use plastic at lunchtime people—please.) My desire for less plastic at the lunch table was especially poignant today when I was in a working lunch meeting. All but one of the other eight people with me ordered take-out Thai food and then ate their food out of the styrofoam boxes the food was delivered in (ick!) and then threw out the styrofoam!

What do you readers out there prefer glass or stainless steal or some other miracle non-plastic option I have yet to discover?