what I’ve learned (so far)

June 13, 2011|Posted in: green, plastic, sustainable living

1. Plastic bags are easy to wash and reuse. Fill the sink with hot sudsy water. Slip one hand into the bag and then act as if you are washing your hands. Turn bag inside out and repeat. wring the water out (gently so it doesn’t rip) and then find a good place for it to hang dry. A tall spoon in the dish drainer is a good place if you don’t have an outdoor or bathtub clothesline.

2. Bacon and other meat may leak through one sheet of butcher paper. Next time I’ll ask for a double wrap of paper. Otherwise, the paper is just fine. No plastics needed.

3. Very soon I’m going to have to make the hard decision about keeping our non-stick pots and pans. I know Teflon is plastic. I know it gets into the food. I even killed our pet bird a few years back by cooking with Teflon. Yes. I killed it with Teflon fumes. I’m very sorry about that. So Teflon will have to go. This feels hard, though — like getting rid of the TV or the Internet. So I’ll get back to this one. But I already know what I have to do. (I told you the family would hate me.)

4. We’re gonna have to get rid of cable anyway since I have to cut the budget to make room for more expensive foods without plastic. This is actually a win, obviously — less crappy TV and mo’ betta food. It’s a win, really. But, stubborn child that I am, I don’t wanna hafta. So…we’ll come back to this one, too. (ITYTFWHM)

5. Just because it’s plastic and it breaks doesn’t mean it’s dead and gone. A plastic item in my house broke this week and I was able to replace the broken part (the handle of the nut chopper I use when baking). I found a simple wooden handle (kind of like a drawer pull) for 10 cents at the Alameda Antiques Faire, removed the broken plastic one and replaced it. Now I have a nut chopper again. Yay! I put the broken plastic pieces in the recycling bin.

6. There are many metal, glass and wooden items out there that still do the job of a plastic version, without the toxic effects of making, shipping or discarding plastics. So if a plastic something breaks at hour house, or you need something new, see if there’s an alternative to the cheapest thing. Chances are, if it’s plastic and cheap, it’s gonna break soon anyway. More later on reintroducing old/antique items back to our lives, but today at the Alameda Antiques and Collectibles Faire I found a brass sprinkler, a metal ice tray, some canisters, a jar grabber (for canning) a bottle opener and a cheese grater — no plastic to be seen.

7. Water tastes better out of a reusable metal bottle than a plastic bottle. Maybe it shouldn’t make a difference, but I can taste it. Actually, the best water vessel I ever had was a Mexican olla, made of clay. The taste of water from the olla was awesome. Your lips would stick to the clay edge of the cup just the tiniest bit. What a sensory experience. Loved it — now to keep my eyes open for an olla.

8. Avoiding plastic is exhausting, requiring full vigilance. I can’t believe how hard this has been so far, and also how wonderful the non-plastic alternatives have been.

What have you learned about plastics so far?

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.


  1. noreply@blogger.com'

    June 13, 2011

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    I’m slowly but surely replacing my cookware with cast iron. I keep a look out at thrift stores & garage sales for stuff that can be rehab’d as a lot of folks toss them because they don’t know how to season & care for them – SCORE!

  2. noreply@blogger.com'

    June 14, 2011

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    I found your blog through a frugal-living site (can’t remember which one) and am really enjoying it. I started reading at the beginning of your plastic challenge, and you have certainly helped me think more about it. I like to consider ourselves fairly ‘green’ (especially in comparison to our fellow small-city dwellers) but you are giving me a lot of food for thought. I appreciate your honesty and detailed recording.

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