Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writing Utensils

Tonight I started preaching the gospel of un-plastic in my Fiscal Federalism class (which, by the way, is amazing -- if you go to GWU, you should definitely take it!! or anything Prof. Brunori teaches). The result? My professor banned plastic henceforth in class. This is great! Except, now I don't know what to write with...

Last weekend I saw some feather pens at Glen Echo park. Looks like fun, but the ink might be messy. I'll have to see if I can find a good metal pen somewhere. Or perhaps a pencil. But pencils have plastic erasers and require sharpeners, many of which are themselves plastic. Anybody have advice on un-plastic writing utensils?

Monday, September 22, 2008


I went to the grocery store tonight. It was an odd mix of stocking up on plastic before I go plastic-free and feeling motivated to try to avoid plastic.

Plus side:
*I got lots of canned food. It's amazing how much good stuff you can make out of things that come in cans.
* Salsa, one of my favorite foods, comes in glass jars. Without any plastic around the edge! (Why, oh why, can't hummus come in glass jars too?!)
*I took my own bags and my grocery cart. Giant actually gives you back 5 cents for each bag you DON'T use. That was nice! Plus I had a good conversation at the check-out about my attempts to reduce plastic use.
*I almost got a big bottle of olive oil in a plastic jar, but at the last minute I caught myself and switched it for a glass jar.
*I didn't use any new plastic bags for my produce.
*I enacted my lettuce plan by buying a whole head of lettuce, taking it home, washing it, tearing it up and storing it! Just like bagged lettuce but plastic free! My salad felt so much better knowing that it didn't come from a bag. Plus it tasted crisper.
*I found flavored rice in cardboard boxes. Very exciting! I used to always buy it in the plastic pouches.
*I bought cous cous that came in a cardboard box instead of in a plastic container. Except it's a LOT more expensive that way. But they were out of the plastic ones anyway, so my decision was pretty easy.
*I got the larger jar of cumin because it came in a glass jar instead of the cheaper, smaller (not even recyclable!) plastic jar.

Minus side:
*I caved and bought one last box of Swiffer wet cleaning pads. Not only made of plastic, but encased in hard, never-going-to-biodegrade plastic!
*I got some yogurt. I am going to miss yogurt. Although, I will say that it's pretty cool that they've stopped putting that extra plastic cap on top of the foil. Maybe if I just get a big thing of yogurt once in awhile it will be ok, because I can totally reuse those as tupperware!
*I got popsicles. I am really going to miss popsicles. I guess I could make them myself but they won't be as good. And it will be hard to make them only have 15 calories. On the plus side, ice cream sandwiches seem plastic-free. They come in cardboard and are wrapped in paper.
*I got meat. Ground turkey for my yummy soup and chicken to stock up on for when I'm not supposed to buy plastic. It is IMPOSSIBLE to get meat without plastic. I'm not sure I want meat without plastic. But I definitely can't get it even if I want it.

Convention Catastrophe

I went to the ICMA conference today in Richmond for my "Managing State and Local Governments" class. (ICMA, for the uninitiated in public policy world, is the International City/County Managers Association.) It was informative and fun...and a plastic MINEFIELD! Without even meaning to, I had 2 beverages in plastic containers. I brought them home to be sure I recycle them, but OOPS! I forgot my trusty water bottle, and it was all down hill from there. See the wreckage here:

I picked up a number of glossy brochures from vendors -- doubtless paper products slathered with plastic. I got a whole bunch of cool Census Bureau info, mostly on CD/DVDs and encased in, you guessed it, plastic. Although, at least the 2008 Statistical Abstract of the US was in a paper case. I picked up some stress balls (or school buses, worlds, road blocks...they really are creative!) that are without a doubt made of plastic. I do intend to use them to relieve my (often significant) stress, but I'm sure I could come up with a less plasticy way to relieve stress.

I haven't officially started the Plastic Diet yet, but it's on my mind every day.

I'm off to the grocery store now, and I'm already scared. Nothing but plastic in there!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lettuce Spinner

My most exciting birthday present was, oddly enough, a lettuce spinner. Granted, it is plastic (please hold your reactions). However, it will save lots of plastic use in the future and prevent me from using those plastic bags that fly away to the swirly Pacific Ocean mess.

My lettuce spinner: The Backstory.

I acquired a lettuce spinner because I will sorely miss my bagged lettuce on the plastic diet. I know it's not good for the world, and it's totally more expensive, but I'm more likely to eat salad if I buy lettuce in a bag. In my attempt to pre-plan for this mission, I decided that a lettuce spinner could help the cause. I will get heads of lettuce (no plastic there, just maybe a metal twist-tie), wash it, break it up, and store it in my own reusable container. That way salads will be easy but I won't be using the evil bagged lettuce. Yay for reusable plastic purchased in the service of averting future plastic!

Plastic Pets

Today I realized how hard it is to have pets without plastic.

I took a trip to the pet store because my cats have been clawing my chairs lately, and I figured one reason might be because their clawing post is kitten-sized. I got them a new clawing post -- which has carpet (undoubtedly partially plastic) and was wrapped in plastic tape (but only a short piece) with a paper/plastic tag for price.

While I was there, I picked up a giant tub of cat litter. Sadly, the big boxes come in plastic. Smaller ones are cardboard with a small plastic handle. But the big ones are plastic. Hard plastic. Ugh. Maybe if I take it back to the store next time and fill it up with litter, I can consider that reuse (they sell litter without a box, but it's not the kind I like...).

I also got a jar of litter deodorizer. Sadly, this came in a plastic jar. Why can't it be glass? I'm sure I could use baking soda and essential oils, but this lavender-scented litter deodorizer really helps.

Finally, I got them some cat toys. Two little tennis balls full of catnip, to be exact. I'm sure the rubber balls involve some kind of plastic. But worst of all, they were wrapped in plastic! ugh! On the bright side, my cats' favorite toys are t-shirts that I cut up into long strips that they can chase like strings. That's a cotton-based toy sure to please!

I hope that I will be able to provide for my felines in my life post-plastic!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Yummy Burrito...No Plastic!

On my way home from class today, I stopped at Baja Fresh to quell a grilled veggie burrito craving. I managed to avoid plastic even while enjoying this tasty treat! I think this was good practice for next month when I dive full force into the Plastic Diet.

I poured salsa (lots of it! I like it spicy!) directly on the burrito, avoiding those little plastic cups and their evil companions, the little plastic lids. I almost picked up a plastic fork and knife, but fortunately I had my bag from lunch with me, complete with the real fork and spoon I'd taken to work. Mission accomplished! 1 yummy burrito, 0 pieces of plastic. I did need 4 napkins because I made such a mess pouring the salsa straight on the burrito, so if you have to weigh the paper vs. plastic thing...I don't have a complete analysis. But paper biodegrades and is renewable and, well, plastic just isn't. Yay for a successful plastic-free meal. This is giving me hope.

Un-plastic Choices

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today about the differences between NYC and DC. While she advocated for the "honesty" that NYC folks have about a desire to make money, I have to say I'm on board with the public service inherent in DC life.

I do seek to have a mission-based life. I'm not 100% altruistic; I volunteered for 1 year, not my entire life, and I'm sure I'll need money to raise a family one day. But I do need my life to involve service, and I'm happiest when my job integrates that too.

Keeping this in mind will help me avoid plastic actions.

Plastic in Daily Life

I've been observing plastic for several weeks now. I'm feeling pretty scared of the Plastic Diet challenge. I think I'm going to try for October - and I'll just try to make it through that month on the "one piece a day" to see how it goes. Not quite as hard core as Kerry and Erin, but it's a start.

Anyway, today I noticed a couple of things:
1. Subway has plastic straws wrapped in plastic! Most places at least cover their hopelessly non-eco-friendly plastic straws in happy biodegradeable paper.

2. Classico tomato sauce has no extra plastic around the edge of its jar! Yay Classico! I still heard the pop and the lid popped up, so I know the canning process did its job, but it wasted no extra plastic! Yippee! Though I'm concerned about how to eat pasta on the Plastic Diet. Most pasta has that little plastic window or comes in a plastic bag to decrease total packaging. I'm going to have to look into this.

The grocery store is an incredibly scary place for a Plastic Dieter!!