boxes, bells and whistles

June 28, 2011|Posted in: Challenge Update, family, food, green, plastic, sustainable living

Every day is a challenge when you’re trying to avoid plastic. Every. Single. Day.

Plastic is so ubiquitous in our lives that it’s hard to really see it all — it attaches itself to products like static cling, and is almost as hard to get rid of. At the beginning of the month I took everything plastic-bag-like back to the grocery store bin for recycling (these are bins near the front door of most grocery stores, where you can recycle your plastic grocery bags). I put other plastic bags in with the grocery bags — from other stores, plus other types of plastic wrap, baggies, etc. I figure I can at least try to get it recycled that way — if it ends up in landfill at their end, at least I tried. And if it does get recycled, I’m glad I made the effort.

I usually have a pretty large bag every month – though it does compress down pretty small. I will say that my household is at about a third of what we’ve had in past months, which is a plus — that means far fewer bags and plastics made it into the house. Our garbage can continues empty — aside from the one car-trash dump last week, our new smaller 20-gallon can is empty. Our recycling bin is full each week, and there’s been more in the green waste (city composting). So all of those are wins, and if I had remembered to keep score over plastic, I think I’d still be ahead.

I’d like to share this link that I got as an e-mail, for purchasing ball-point pens. These are the first to be made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, according to Pilot. If you’re going to buy ball-point pens, then they might as well be made from something recycled, and then recycled again afterward. Here’s the link: Pilot Pens on sale.

Another product I would like to praise is Annie Chun‘s, a line of Asian foods that has made strides toward better packaging. The instant soups have eliminated the plastic film wrap, and the containers are now compostable instead of plastic. The paperboard cover is made from recycled cardboard now as well. I make the point about Annie Chun’s because I notice that most ethnic foods are lagging way behind in terms of eco-sensitive packaging. Especially imported foods — I recommend avoiding them at this point, because foods shipped from afar are not  good for the planet (food miles), and foods shipped from afar in plastic or virgin paper wrap are even worse. Annie Chun’s is based in Marin County, by the way.

Pay attention to what you buy. It really does matter.

In other plasticky news, I am really enjoying my wooden and boar bristle toothbrush. I like it. It’s gentle but does a thorough job. Plastic bristles make my gums bleed. Enough said. Both Mr. Husband and self are now using the organic silk floss and it works just fine. It doesn’t shred as I thought it would. So that’s also good news. I’m also enjoying the different feel of a wooden comb and brush with natural bristles instead of the “scratch my head” plastic brush I had been using as both comb/brush. Who would have thought taking care of myself would feel so nice? (I also feel like saying “I coulda had a V8!” right now. [slaps forehead])

As the end of the month draws near and payday approaches, I will again have to look at what we’ve spent on food and how the budget was impacted. I haven’t yet made the call to cancel cable, and will take a look at bills and expenses later on to see how we’re doing. I do know that our food is delicious these days. Our bread is better quality. Our milk tastes better. Our cheese is better quality. Our meat is definitely better quality, and not purchased because it’s cheap or on sale. The junk food quotient has gone way down. Our beverages are healthier, too. And, amazingly, my family doesn’t hate me.

We’re very glad to say that beer and wine still come in glass (or aluminum), and so do quality small-batch sodas and juices. The San Francisco Chronicle had a nice little piece about glass vs. aluminum in Sunday’s paper. The upshot is that if it’s locally brewed or made, glass is the better option (Lagunitas Brewery or Sonoma/Napa wines, for my local peeps). If it comes from afar (out of state, imported), aluminum is lighter and therefore has a lower carbon footprint. Glass is infinitely recyclable or refillable, but it’s heavier, so that’s why local is preferred (fewer gas/miles to bring it), says the article. We celebrated by drinking a locally brewed beer Sunday.

How are you doing on your own plastics purge? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of "Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop" and "Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News" (rep'd by Booktrope). She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. Her articles have appeared in Thrillist, Quill, Paste, San Francisco Chronicle, and in many magazines; her latest poetry appears in The East Bay Literary review.

1 Comment

  1. noreply@blogger.com'

    Jon Spangler
    June 29, 2011

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    I think we are doing better because you have helped focus our attention on the plastics issue. We are not as green or plastic-free as you are but I’m pretty sure we are still better than most Alameda households.

    There is job security in this “going green” effort for many of us for a very long time…

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