Sunday, January 11, 2009

Plastics Make it Possible...

PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE.…-still-want-to-use-plastic-bags/
(For some reason, when I hyperlink it, it doesn't work. Please do copy and paste.)

I'm actually really glad that I got back to some source material. I've been slipping a lot. Here's what happened today when I went to the grocery store:
  • I purchased bottled water. I like to be prepared in case of random emergency. Sadly, bottled water comes exclusively in plastic. Why yes, of course, I'd like to drink my water out of a toxic container! Argh.
  • I succeeded once again in purchasing turkey from the deli and asking them to place it in my container. I even succeeded in getting them to use a paper towel to catch the turkey instead of that awful one-time-use thin plastic. However, the turkey overall comes packaged in plastic and they use cellophane to cover it between it's really not a plastic-free treat.
  • Given the strenuous discussion I had with the deli over using paper towels and not plastic to catch the turkey (it took a few minutes to chat with the manager who was a little rude but then a line was forming. I did get to explain my efforts to the guy behind me, who thought that bringing my own plastic container to reuse was a good idea), I forgot to ask for cheese. And then I passed some Pepper Jack. And I bought it.
  • I had a friend over for brunch and decided to splurge (in both money and plastic) on some smoked salmon. I also bought her a Mango Tango, my favorite carb-filled juice. I figure if I can't have yummy juice, that doesn't mean she shouldn't. But I forgot about the plastic. Odwalla is the kind of company that should care about this stuff....maybe I should write to them.
  • The South Beach Diet requires SO MUCH PLASTIC. I have to buy dairy because otherwise there is nothing I'm allowed to eat that will fill me up (there are only so many kinds of leaves out there and you have to munch them round the clock to feel full). I really can't wait for this to be somewhat over. I don't even like this much dairy and meat. But for 2 weeks I'm letting myself make the tradeoff to get the cheeses to lose some weight.
Anyway, I just read that article and feel newly committed. This is making me seriously rethink my ideal level of crunch...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Crunchy is Too Crunchy?

So, tonight I was reading my friend Brittney's blog about her kids. She describes a breast milk-related mishap involving bags that leak during the defrosting process. She also mentions that ALL milk-storage bags are plastic. This makes sense to me. I really can't think of an alternate material in which to store it. Which leads me here...does anyone know of other ways to store milk?

That got me thinking about crunch. Not the celery kind, the granola kind. Just how crunchy am I? And how does this relate to my Plastic Diet?

Well, to take on the Diet at all, I guess I have to be somewhat crunchy. Plus, I totally did that whole "service year, community-living thing," which was pretty darn crunchy. Although, we didn't really sit around knitting or plant vegetable gardens. My service year was actually an intense educational experience in personal relationships and communication. For those things alone, I wouldn't trade it for the world. That doesn't even mention the fact that it got me into education!

But back to crunch. I mean, I don't have dreads and never did. I never learned basket-weaving in college. I do know how to knit, but only because I had a lot of time on my hands while I was studying abroad. Unfortunately, I kinda suck at it, and have only made a few scarves. (I tried to knit a baby blanket for my cousin's kid once and ended up with about 10"....oops. It's still in the closet. The kid is 2 years old now.)

On the other hand, I have always tried to be low maintenance. I think this comes from a combined desire to play down the only-child status and a desire to prove to my dad that I wasn't too girly. But still, I can enjoy a good pedicure (I don't want to discuss the plastic implications of this. I respect the PlasticIsForever womens' decisions on the matter, but I'm not there myself). I do enjoy high heels sometimes. I can rock a suit. But then again, even most of our college-dreaded friends have grown up and shaved. So maybe that's not the right definition of crunch.

Too much crunch and you're a weirdo. Not enough and you're a shallow flake.
I think crunch, like plastic, must be taken in moderation.

P.S. Apparently even the mainstream journalists are picking up on the no-plastic craze! This could be the start of something beautiful! (And I totally stole that article reference from Kerry.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Plastic in Daily Life

I used a lot of plastic today, but I don't feel guilty. This was the kind of plastic that I truly don't know how to avoid while still being a responsible, hygiene-oriented person. Here's what happened:

1. I bought my books for the semester. One of them was wrapped in plastic (with a plastic CD-ROM inside) and there were no used copies anywhere. If I ordered it online, there would have been packaging and unnecessary shipping energy, so I don't think that's a net gain. I had to do it.
2. I went to CVS where I acquired:
  • a new toothbrush, made of plastic and wrapped in plastic (I think this counts as medical plastic, but why isn't someone making an eco-brush? Or are they? Please inform!)
  • a new roll of Satin Tape floss, aka the reason I have never had a cavity (again, I think this counts as medical plastic but would love to replace it)
  • a new bottle of hydrogen peroxide -- I got a big one from which I can refill my smaller size, so a little plastic saved but still too much used; again, medical plastic, but depressing

3. I cooked the free food my mom's been giving me. Unfortunately, it involved salmon wrapped in plastic. It wasn't even a reusable baggie that I could have washed out!

Any ideas for combatting these types of plastic?

Bread & Brew: An Eco-Friendly Pizza Place/Bar

Welcome to the neighborhood to Bread & Brew, a new restaurant at 20th and N in South Dupont. This place is great! They use all organic everything, shop fresh and local, and even care about the evils of plastic! All of the products in the bar are biodegradeable! I'm so excited about not having to say, "No straw, please!" They have a Grand Opening on Tuesday (the 13th) but the doors are already open if you want to sneak a preview.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Finally, an Un-plastic Cheese

So, I'm South Beach-ing with my parents. My mom bought some of the Laughing Cow ("La Vache Qui Rit") cheese. It's not covered in plastic! The wooden container holds foil-wrapped wedges! At last. :)

I've used 2 pieces of plastic today -- wrappers for my coveted sugar-free popsicles. Seriously, those things are my plastic un-doing. Anybody have good un-plastic substitutes?

I also acquired an ID card for the school where I tutor (made of plastic), but I don't think that counts because it's reusable!

Sunday, January 4, 2009


The most important thing I learned this summer was how to be explicit about tradeoffs. They're everywhere, especially in public-policy-land, but also in life. Plastic Dieting forces me to be explicit about my tradeoffs and at least make honest decisions.

Yesterday, my mom called and asked if I wanted to go on the South Beach Diet with my parents. I do want to shed a few holiday pounds, but really what sold me was her offer to cook me dinner for the next 2 weeks. I mean, how can you say no to that?! So I'm in. But South Beach-ing can conflict with Plastic Dieting since lots of the things they advocate involve wasteful plastic. String cheese, for example. Jello-cups. Salad in a bag. This is interesting because the South Beach Diet is supposed to be about a healthier lifestyle. And plastic never feels healthy. String cheese is made of things so scary that a friend who used to work for Kraft would never go near it. I know they are trying to make the diet accessible and low-work for people, but these things should not be mutually exclusive. I'll just pack my own slice of cheese, thanks!

I went to the grocery store today. I did ok. Here are some of my adventures in the veritable mine zone that a grocery store is for a plastic dieter:
  • I managed to find salad dressing in a GLASS bottle (Ken's), but when I got home, I realized that the lid is plastic. :(
  • I took my own tupperware to the deli to get sliced turkey and cheese. They kindly used my containers, but some cellophane was wasted in the process. Next time, I'll have to take paper towels to catch the products on so they won't use plastic on me. But still, I saved those thick plastic covers you usually get with sliced meat or cheese. The friendly employee didn't even look at me like I had 3 heads. Maybe there are other Plastic Dieters in my neighborhood. Plus, this turkey is YUMMY!
  • I used no plastic bags, even for produce (took old ones with me), but did cave and buy some cherry tomatoes (in plastic containers).
  • I canNOT find plastic-free nuts. I got the can with the plastic lid but paper sides. All the others came in plastic BAGS. Maybe this is a Whole Foods item...I could take my own bag and get nuts there.
All in all, a decent performance. Now we'll have to see how this South Beach thing works.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Holidays, Choices, and an Attitude of less-Plastitude

Happy New Year!

I won't say that I made any "new" plastic resolutions, since my relationship with plastic has been evolving. Having survived exams, I've gone back to attempting to limit my plastic to 3 items of non-reusable stuff per day. I admire the 1-a-day users, but I found that it was so extreme as to be depressing, and I felt constantly guilty. But I will continue to moderate my usage with the hopes of decreasing it back down to 1-a-day at some point.

Still, I win some and I lose some. Today, for example, I haven't used any plastic at all yet! I managed to make a good choice and quell the urge to go to Taco Bell, where sauce packets and forks are made of plastic. Although, I'm planning a trip to the grocery store that will probably require the purchase of at least a little plastic. Last night, I used a truly unacceptable number of little plastic straws. Oops. But I keep trying.

I found that the holidays were a time of plastic victory. I took my plasti-phobia with me to the Midwest, where I celebrated Christmas in my dad's hometown of Canton, OH. My relatives didn't seem too annoyed with my campaign to use real dishwasher dishes instead of the plastic alternatives. I tried to do extra dishes to moderate the work it creates. And my cousin Sherri even used a canvas bag instead of plastic to carry food! It's amazing how interested people get when you explain how really really horrible plastic is for the world. I find the petroleum argument ever more useful in this time of oil-craziness.

Here is a picture of a big stack of beautiful dishwasher plates:

On a less happy note, today I took drycleaning for the first time since I started my plastic awareness. I don't wear a lot of dry-clean-only clothes, and I tend to store them up for awhile before dropping off. Anyway, I tried to convince them to take my bag and use it to cover the clothes instead of putting one of their plastic sheaths on it, but it was no use. I tried all of my best arguments but they fell on deaf ears. I could probably try the really expensive dry cleaner down the street, but I don't think I can afford her. Does anyone know of a plastic-free dry cleaner in DC? Preferrably one that a grad student can afford?

May 2009 be filled with plastic-free days and plastic-free decisions.