Monthly Archives: February 2011

Behold our plastic shame


After a week of collecting all of our plastic waste in a pile in the kitchen, we are thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. Here’s our summary.

The details:

  • There are four of us: 2 adults, 1 child (9), 1 baby (5 months)
  • All of my plastic waste is included. Baby Jupiter’s disposable diapers were not included because I didn’t really want them hanging around. He averages 3 disposables/night (cloth during the day), so we can safely add 21 diapers to our tally. Mr. Legume presumably had additional waste that ended its life at his office and is not included here. Bug brought home all the plastic that was sent to school in his lunch box, so that’s included… but he spent 2 days at his dad’s place and I can’t be held accountable for that household’s waste too, so that’s not included.
  • We collected for 7 full days.

The Reuse pile:

That’s 3 large Amazon Fresh plastic bags, 4 produce bags, and 2 Ziplock sandwich bags. These can all easily be reused. They can also be reduced through discontinuing use of Amazon Fresh (I’ve selected their “less packaging” delivery option, but still receive at least 4 plastic bags per order), our new reusable produce bags, and more consistent use of our cloth sandwich bags.

The recycle pile:

That’s 7 takeout containers (from dinners over the weekend); 2 juice jugs (sans lids, which are too small to be recycled in Seattle); 1 salsa container; 1 sour cream container and lid; several produce bags (I cleaned out the fridge) that could be reused if I didn’t already have so many; 1 scones container; 1 fruit container, and lid.

Reduction here comes down primarily on the use of fewer conveniences (take out, pre-cut fruit, pre-made salsa) and using our new reusable produce bags.

And the trash pile:

That’s 2 plastic-windowed envelopes (the paper part of the envelopes will be recycled); 1 baby carrots bag; 1 frozen dinner wrapper; 1 cereal bag; 1 ravioli container; 1 tube of diaper rash cream; 1 bag of rice chips; the top to a plastic-lined bag of tortilla chips; various small plastic lids; 1 hotdog package (Mr. Legume was out of town for part of the week, and Bug and I upped our convenience food intake); multiple fruit snack wrappers (from Bug’s school lunch); 3 red twist-tie type things from Amazon Fresh orders; interior bag from box of crackers; 2 produce bags tied around meat trays (to keep the stench of rotting meat from filling the house); 2 packages of string cheese, plus several wrappers from the individual cheeses; 1 bag of Doritos (another thing I blame on Mr. Legume: he goes out of town, baby Jupiter screams uncontrollably for 2 days, I need comfort food); 1 wrapper for cheddar cheese; 2 gum package wrappers; interior bag for box of freezer waffles.
Reduction here again comes down to using fewer convenience foods. Finding less heavily packaged options for Bug’s school lunch foods will help too.
The VAST majority of our plastic waste is food related. The grocery store shall become my new battlefield!

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Filed under Environment, food, Plastic Free February

Operation One Less (produce bag)

Holy crap, you guys. Holy crap.

We have been collecting our plastic trash for almost a week now, and… HOLY CRAP! We have a lot of plastic. I’m embarrassed to share photos but, in the name of education, I will. (Tomorrow. Today is the last day of our collection week, so Bug and I will be examining and documenting our shame tonight. Should be ready to share tomorrow, and then I will hang my humiliated head for the rest of “plastic free” February.)

I am an environmentally conscious person. I certainly have not attained saint level green status, but I’d say I’m better than the average person (though, admittedly, that’s not really saying much). I’ve been hauling reusable shopping bags into grocery stores since the late ’80s, back when they required explanation. Without instruction, the cashiers would turn the bags over and over searching for a bar code to swipe, wondering aloud when and why the store started carrying tote bags. The teenage bag boys and girls would stare at them equally confounded and fold them up before asking “paper or plastic?” But judging by the enormous pile of mostly food-related plastic waste, it’s clear that I need to go much further than reusable shopping bags.

Any fruits and vegetables with thick enough skins are allowed to ride in my grocery cart free-range style, but for years I’ve been meaning to get some sort of reusable produce bags for my green leafies. After only a few days of collecting our plastic – and seeing the pile of green and yellow produce bags quickly stack up – I marched my butt to the store and finally made it happen. I am now the proud owner of several reusable TazzyTotes produce bags.

They embarked on their maiden voyage over the weekend, and brought home carrots, parsley, asparagus, and lentils (they work well for the bulk section too). Take that, plastic produce bag!

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Take Action to Ban Triclosan!

I didn’t even know what triclosan was up until recently, when Natural Home Magazine tweeted a link to an article listing the chemical as a reason to dislike anti-bacterial soaps. Never a fan of anti-bacterial anything (soap and water works just fine, people), I eagerly clicked on the link.

And then I was horrified.

Triclosan is officially a pesticide, and is found in a wide range of consumer products, including clothing, toothpaste, toys and, yes, liquid soap. According to the Environmental Working Group, triclosan is linked to cancer, developmental defects, and liver and inhalation toxicity, and may affect thyroid and other hormone systems (Source). Ninety-five percent of nursing mothers have traces of the chemical in their breast milk, and 75% of Americans over the age of 6 have traces in their urine (source).

Adding insult to injury, the “beneficial” use in anti-bacterial soap is marginal at best. Studies show that soap and water works just as well as antibacterials in removing bacteria from hands. (Antibacterials kill the bacteria while soap and water merely removes them, but the results are the same.) (Source.) Further, many people use anti-bacterial soaps to help stave off colds and flus… which are viruses and are not affected by antibacterials.

Further, it is believed to aid in the development of antibiotic-immune “super bugs,” and contaminates water, plants, and fish.

In short, there is nothing even remotely redeeming about the chemical.

We now have the opportunity to tell the EPA to ban triclosan. Beyond Pesticides is asking for public comment on the Ban Triclosan petition, filed by 82 public health and environmental groups. The public comment period is expiring on Monday, February 7. Visit the Beyond Pesticides blog for instructions on submitting your comment and letting the EPA know that this chemical must be banned for public safety.

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Filed under Environment, Home, Toxics

Dumpster Diving

As part of Plastic Free February, we are collecting our plastic waste for one week. This is a little counter-intuitive, because if we were actually plastic free in February, we wouldn’t have any plastic waste to collect. Right?


Sadly, we have plenty to collect. Yesterday Bug and I spread the collection from just one day on the kitchen floor to examine our progress.

  1. Two Amazon Fresh plastic bags from a recent delivery. (These arrive, despite the fact that I select the “less packaging” option every time I order. More infuriating is that one of those bags held a package of sausages that were inside yet another plastic bag, while the other held a single lemon. Why the sausages and the lemon couldn’t be put in the same plastic bag – or no plastic bag at all – is beyond me.)
  2. Red twist tie-type thing that holds Amazon Fresh crates closed.
  3. One interior plastic bag from a box of frozen waffles.
  4. One Odwalla juice jug, plus lid.
  5. Two plastic-windowed envelopes.
  6. Two string cheese wrappers.
  7. One Orbits gum 3-pack wrapper.
  8. One Orbits gum wrapper (the wrapper inside the 3-pack wrapper).
  9. One bag of Rice Chips (this is extra embarrassing in that I ate that entire bag in one day).
  10. The cut-off corner to a bag of baby carrots (the remainder of the bag will likely show up later in the week).
  11. One ziplock baggie from Bug’s lunch bag.
  12. One plastic-lined top to a bag of tortilla chips (the remainder of this bag will also show up later this week).
  13. One cap to a carton of orange juice.

If that’s just 24 hours, imagine what the pile will look like by the end of the week.

As we reviewed our stash, I asked Bug to suggest ways that we could reduce our waste. We could stop ordering from Amazon Fresh, he suggested. Make waffles from scratch (which would be divine, but honestly isn’t likely to happen during the rushed week-day mornings). Buy regular carrots instead of packaged baby ones (this representing a huge break through – Bug used to only eat baby carrots). Use ReUsies instead of ziplocks to pack lunch. We also talked about what items we can reuse and what we can recycle.

So, while we’re not plastic free yet, I like to think that participating this month is providing ample educational opportunities. If nothing else, Bug now walks around pointing at things and gasping, “That’s plastic too!” which is annoying and satisfying at the same time.

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Filed under Environment, Home, Kids, Plastic Free February

Plastic Free February is going plastic free during the month of February and inviting all of us to join in on the fun. The rules:

  1. Don’t buy/acquire any new plastic.
  2. Don’t cook or store food in plastic.
  3. Minimize all other plastic use.

I’ll admit, I’m tempted… but I’m just not up for it. Maybe it’s because I spent the day yesterday caring for an ill infant, but the mere idea of trying to go without his (plastic-handled) pacifier for an entire month almost makes me cry.

Still, I like the idea of a month spent being more conscious of our plastic consumption, particularly as an educational tool for Bug. With that in mind, we carefully examined the contents of our most recent grocery bag. It contained:

  1. one pizza-flavored bagel (a snack for Bug)
  2. 1/4 lb of sliced deli ham
  3. deli container of a farro salad (a snack for me)
  4. small container of fresh sage
  5. freezer-sized plastic baggies
  6. one jar of blue cheese salad dressing
  7. one package of blueberry scones
  8. one bunch of green onions
  9. one bag of apples
  10. one lime

As I pulled each item out of the bag, Bug shouted out “good!” (no plastic) or “bad!” (anything with plastic packaging). I placed all of the bad items at one end of the dining room table, and all the good items at the other end. The deli ham was sealed in a plastic baggie before the butcher handed it to me; the sage and scones came in plastic clamshell containers; the freezer baggies are, well, baggies; the salad dressing, while packaged in a glass jar, had a plastic lid; I put the green onions in a plastic produce bag; the apples were packaged in a bag (I normally don’t buy them that way, but these apples were small enough to be eaten in their entirety when packed in Bug’s lunch). Out of 10 items, only three were plastic-free (the lime, bagel, and farro salad). Pretty abysmal.

After shaking our heads in dismay at the piles, we decided to spend the rest of the month at least thinking about our plastic consumption, even if we don’t aim to eradicate it entirely. I have some fun activities planned for us to help wrap our minds around how much plastic is in our lives. Will be sharing more as the month goes on…

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Filed under Environment, Home, Kids