Sunday, May 31, 2009


So here we are, Kerry and I decided to start reducing and tracking our plastic consumption (trials, tribulations and discoveries) a year ago tomorrow! Throughout the year I have been reducing my plastic consumption as much as possible with the goal of not using more than one piece of disposal plastic a day! Along the way I have been holding on to all the plastic I have consumed/wasted, inherited and been given. So, here is what I ended up with after being very conscious of my plastic related consumption for one year. I have counted it all up and I have 446 different pieces of plastic. That is more than one piece a day on aggregate :(. It comes out to be 1.2 pieces a day. Not bad, but not exactly what I was shooting for. Also, I think it is fair to say I have not been able to hold on to every last piece of plastic waste I have created this year so my estimate is that that my actual consumption is somewhere between 5-10% more than 446 pieces (+ 23-25 more pieces). Food related plastic accounted for a whopping 45% of my plastic waste! But I’m not that surprised about the food related plastic waste really. It has been the hardest to reduce on a daily basis. Not counted in my total is any disposable plastic that I owned prior to June 1, 2008, even if I consumed it in the last year. This is tally is of the disposable plastic (even if it is recyclable) that came in and went out of my life in one year’s time. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be if I wasn’t consciously trying to reduce! As I looked through everything today, there were things that I thought "oops", "was not worth it" and "well worth it!" about, but I'll spare you my commentary below :)
Here is how I have broken down and categorized my plastic consumption...

Food related
Plastic caps from glass milk bottles-28
Individual wrappers for bags of tea-20
Cheese wrappers-18
Junk food wrappers (i.e chips, snack packs, protein bars)-15
Little hard candy wrappers (i.e., mints, etc.)-10
Candy wrappers-8
Styrofoam of some food related container type-8
Snack size candy wrappers-6
Bags of some unknown kind-6
Bags cereal comes in-6
Ice-cream sandwich wrappers-5
Plastic packaging from meat-5
Cookie related packaging-4
Yogurt containers-4
Frosting containers-2
Bags of turbinado raw sugar-2
Bags of local pistachios-2
Clear plastic clam shell for take-away food-2
Raw butter wrappers-2
6-pack ring-1
Tofu container-1
Completely unidentifiable/miscellaneous-5

All the rest
Completely miscellaneous clear thin plastic wrapping from products unknown-31
Hard formed plastic that products come in (i.e., LED light bulbs, etc.)-25
Plastic that shrink wraps around a bottle and it’s cap (i.e. on a bottle of salad dressing)-24
Miscellaneous plastic wrappers/bags from buying nails and other construction related things-21
Bags used in packaging of product (i.e. that say 'this is not a toy' on them)-19
Miscellaneous cellophane-18
Long thin plastic sleeves (I have no idea what they were from probably Ikea furniture related)-17
Little plastic T-shaped things that clip the price tag to clothing-13
Toiletry related wrappers/packaging (i.e. toilet paper wrapper, medicine)-13
Mailing envelops-12
Plastic wrap that some magazines/journals come in-12
Plastic sleeves some cards come in-9
Plastic packaging from buying curtains/curtain rods (for 5 windows)-9
Bamboo knitting needle plastic sleeves-6
Miscellaneous hard plastic bits/clips-6
Little hangers (maybe related to buying curtains?)-4
Itty-bitty ziploc bags that extra buttons come in on clothes-4
Bubble wrap-3
Printer cartridge related plastic (not the actual cartridge)-3
Plastic sleeves flowers come in-3
Membership cards-2
Oil change sticker for car windshield-2
Plastic that wrapped 3 rolls of paper towels together-1
Plastic that wrapped 4 sponges together-1
Highlighter pen-1
Mechanical pencil-1
Bracelet to enter Go Green Expo-1
Instant heat compress-1
Plastic bag that my new mattress came in-1


So, the next question is… Is it over? And the answer is of course NO. The best part of this year has been rubbing of my plastic reductionist lifestyle on friends and strangers! The plastic diet continues, once a plastic reductionist, always a plastic reductionist! How about the blog? The beauty of cyberspace is that the blog will always exist :). I will continue to post now and then as ecological, plastic reducing and plastic abusing things come on to my radar. Kerry and I started out with the hope of posting once a day and that of course dwindled over time. I have had the goal of posting once a week for the last few months and that may dwindle now too, but the plastic diet is never over!

Tomorrow I’ll post the pictures cataloging my year’s worth of plastic listed above!

Now the big question is...what to do with all these pieces of plastic? Recycle what can be recycled of course, but what to do with the rest... Anything bag-like I will reuses as a bag and anything bubble wrap or packaging related I will reuse for packaging. It is all the other stuff that is now (and always was) just plastic waste!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sigg boxes!

Have you come across these yet? I just found them the other day in the store All Shades of Green in Silverlake, CA. As you may know, if you have been following this blog from the beginning, I'm a big fan of Sigg water bottles (of course I also have a lot of love for Klean Kanteen :). So these Sigg lunch/snack boxes were a very cool find in my opinion. I'm not sure how long they have been on the market, but this is the first I have seen of them. What I like...the box lid clips down on the sides for a nice seal, they come in two sizes and of course I like the great colors. On the downside they are a little pricey: $36-$32. I recently bought a pair of Lunchbots (the uno and the duo) and love these stainless steal containers, which cost about half the price of the Sigg boxes, but are smaller. As opposed to the Lunchbots, the Sigg boxes have a bit of rubber (not sure if it's synthetic or natural) to seal closed. All-in-all it is nice to see there are a number of these plastic free food container alternatives out there!

Monday, May 25, 2009

recycle and recover

Have you heard of Origins new recycling initiative...check it out.
They will take back any empty cosmetic tubes, bottles and jars (from any company!) and send everything to a central location where products will be recycled or used for energy recovery. What a great way to make the most of those plastic cosmetic products you have as you are phasing out your use of plastic all together!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

reducing the kitchen

Some pictures and thoughts of how I have reduced plastic in my kitchen this year:

I buy food from bulk bins at Whole Foods/food co-op/farmer's market and store it in jars. On the lower shelf is loose leaf tea in reusable and refillable tins.

I wash out ziploc and all other plastic food bags (i.e. from chips, candy, etc.) to use over and over and over and over again.

For the trash I use paper bags (small or large) acquired while shopping. I just say no to plastic bags.

I've acquired a number of non-plastic reusable containers for food and I reuse the glass jars my food comes in for containers too.

I use bar soap to clean the dishes and hope to find liquid soap from a bulk dispenser to refill that glass corn shaped soap dispenser. I use a Skoy cloth instead of a synthetic plastic sponge.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bird Balls?

Ever heard of Bird Balls? Me neither! But I saw them (pictured above/below) the other day and had to find out more.The other day I wandered my way up into the beautiful Elysian Park (just minutes from Downtown LA). While driving around this huge park that has gorgeous vistas I stumbled upon the Elysian Reservoir. It caught my eye because the water didn't look like water, but I couldn't figure out what was up. The reservoir is fenced in and was pretty far away and I felt like my eyes were just not focusing well, but that water didn’t look like water. I was about to walk away when a security guard came by the fence. I asked him what was up with the water. He told me that the reservoir was covered in small (baseball-size) plastic balls! Oh, I thought, that’s what that looks like. Next questions, why? Apparently to protect the water (which is drinking water for Angelinos) from sunlight because when sunlight mixes with the bromide and chlorine in the water, the carcinogen bromate can form. Yikes! Hummm….but what about the toxic effects of hot plastic sitting in water for hours on end? Do they leach out chemicals? The security guard didn’t think so (very reassuring) and now I am worried. That means more research to do.At any rate that’s a lot of plastic! I’m not really sure what the alternative is to using hundreds of thousands (millions?) of plastic balls to keep this water drinkable, but there are likely to be consequences to the local ecosystem and maybe those of us who are drinking the water too. Is there a better alternative....? Oh plastic, you are just everywhere I turn!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

camp lantern: to be plastic or not to be plastic, that is the question

I am going camping this coming weekend and thinking of buying my own camp lantern. (I'll probably just borrow one from a friend again this trip, but in the near future I do need/want to purchase my own). So, I have been looking into my options.

There is the good old metal and glass option (which uses butane/kerosene/unleaded gas as fuel).

Then there is the modern plastic and CFL option.

I have borrowed a friend’s CFL lantern a few times recently and really liked it, but it's a whole lotta plastic for a plastic dieter to buy. Obviously the plastic reductionism in me says "No way" to the plastic CFL version, but having used one I must say it is very nice and it is by no means throw away plastic—I'd be using it for years and years and years. But there is something to be said for a good old fashion lantern—like my family used camping when I was growing up. I just remember it is tricky to light the mantle (the white part that glows) and I wonder how easy it will be to find butane or kerosene... You would think I have nothing to do with my time (which just isn't true) if I told you how much time I have spent debating which type of lantern to buy. I even had a 20-minute conversation with my mother about it the other day. We weighed the pros and cons, she did not offer to give me my parent’s lantern (which was what I was really hoping for :), and then I told her how I wanted a lantern that would pass my worst case scenario test, i.e. if all hell breaks loose from a natural disaster/nuclear meltdown I want a lantern that will get me through. Well, decidedly neither will get me that far without a working infrastructure, but the CFL one will go first if there is no electric grid for me to plug into to recharge. Although I would also need an infrastructure to find butane or other fuel. My mother's last words on the debate were “at least if something like that did happened you may be able to walk all the way across country [CA to VT] to get to us on one gallon of butane, just keep a gallon on hand for emergencies." Done. Glass and metal win out-yet again-over plastic and technology.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

LA river clean-up

I participated in the 20th Annual LA Gran Limpieza-Great LA River Cleanup this weekend and was appalled by the number of plastic...guess what?....straws(!) that I picked up. Plastic straw really are my nemesis! I didn’t expect so many straws. Of course I picked up a lot of plastic bags, food wrappers, some computer/electronic cords, a few barrettes, and other miscellaneous plastic and other trash, but I was really surprised by how many straws I picked up. I have had it in for straws since day one of this year of plastic reduction. I picked up more straws out of the river basin in two hours on Saturday than I have turned down in restaurants this whole year. I have become notorious for saying "No straw" when I am out to eat and this is the very reason why straws are the epitome of one-time use plastic waste. Ugh! After plastic bags straws would be the next plastic item I would like to see banned.

Of course plastic was consumed in this cleanup effort...plastic gloves for protection, plastic bags for collecting garbage, and they had water in plastic bottles of volunteers. I used the gloves and cleanup bag, but no plastic encased water for me.

It was nice to get out to the LA river and really see it up close. You may know the LA "river" as the great paved basin that it is portrayed in movies like Grease, Terminator 2, and many many others. It was nice to see it is not all concrete and trash. There is wildlife—plants, birds, insects, crawdads—and not all parts of the river are completely paved. Some parts of the river are down right pretty. The river certainly does need a good cleaning though, it is by no means sit-by-the-shore-for-a-picnic ready in most parts (and probably never will be). All in all I'm glad I was reminded that this river has a unique ecosystem that needs loving care stupid straws are.

Friday, May 8, 2009

reducing the bathroom

Before the plastic diet:

After the plastic diet:

I had the forethought to take this picture back in July 2008 of my plastic related toiletries in order to compare to (my then hopeful) reduction of these toiletries over the year.

So, here is what I have done...

Conditioner: I went from plastic encased to the LUSH condition bar. (That is the funny shaped soap like object in the 'after' picture.) The use of the conditioner bar did play into my decision to cut 14 inches off hair (it just didn't work with long hair!), but over all this change was not the worst sacrifice I have had to make.

Shampoo: I have not bought any all year! I had a backlog to go through for some reason. Now I am at the end of my shampoo supply and I'm looking into bar soap shampoos. Currently taking suggestions...

Face cleansers/scrubs/etc: I went from plastic encased face cleaning products to good old soap! I have opted for handmade and local options (I'm using a goat milk soap now :) and found them to be great and moisturizing. Goodbye foaming cleanser and scrubs forever.

Deodorant: In the winter I used baking soda and tea tree oil, in the summer this plastic free option just doesn't work in the SoCal heat. So I am back to normal old plastic encased deodorant, but my winter deodorant is completely plastic free :)

Toothpaste: I've been using Tom's of Maine for a while. It is one of the only brands where only the cap is the only plastic in the product-tube is recyclable metal!

Toothbrush: No change...any thoughts on non-plastic toothbrush options out there?

Floss: Since I use it so rarely :( I have yet to need any more since last year. But as far as I know all types come in plastic...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

lost plastic, found plastic

I am morning the loss of a pair of earbuds today. The left side stopped working awhile ago, but the right side bit it today. Now this piece of plastic and metal is completely useless and non-recyclable, sigh. But while out for a run with my earbuds today, during which they met their final demise, I found a cool piece of plastic! It was kind of a full circle moment—one piece of plastic in my life bites the dust another piece of plastic finds it’s way to me. I found this body of a plastic…baby doll? It's a very weird body shape for a baby doll in my opinion. It is definitely not the Barbie-style body shape of many plastic dolls. I think it is this uniquely lovely body shape that caught my eye and led me to pick it up off the street, bring it home, and make it mine. A new piece of modern art(!)—it looks good on the bookshelf. It is completely useless, but it intrigues me, which is more than I can say for my useless earbuds. The earbuds will not get to live a life of glory as modern art on my bookshelf, into the draw (a.k.a. person landfill) for you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The 11th month

There is month left of Kerry and my "official" year long plastic diet.
I will need to start cataloging my plastic consumption soon, as I have kept most of what I have consumed.
I also was able to see the movie Addicted to Plastic, which I wrote about last week, and found it to be a nice reminder of why the plastic diet is not just a year long adventure but has become a way of life.