Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Find It! Episode 2

**Contest deadline extended to 11:59, Friday, June 26 (International Human Rights Day! Totally unrelated...)**

It's a happy post tonight. :)

So, way back when, I promised that if I posted a "Find It! Episode 1," it would be followed by an "Episode 2." It's time for that episode.

You know the drill: Open the pictures, save them on your computer. Use some nifty program to draw circles around the plastic lurking in these gorgeous Grecian landscapes. Email the answers to theunplasticlife@gmail.com. Win a cool un-plastic prize (details TBD, but it'll be good!). Contest closes at 11:59 pm EST on Friday (June 26, 2009).

Just four of them this time (I'm so easy on you!):




Also, congrats, dear readers, you've gotten us over 1,000 page views since May 14! Nice work! Keep it up!

Moby Dick is no Friend to the Plastic Dieter

I made the mistake of trying to eat at Moby Dick tonight. Moby Dick is a take-out falafel/pita place in Dupont Circle. I was excited, since I absolutely ADORE Mediterranean food. But, once inside, it became clear that Moby Dick is no friend to the Plastic Dieter.

It started out innocently enough. I walked in and perused the menu excitedly. When it became clear that the restaurant generally served its food on either plastic plates or in styrofoam containers, I started to get concerned. But, this is nothing I don't face often enough. Just last week I ate with some colleagues in the Botanical Gardens. We got take out from the Native American museum, which typically uses plastic for to-go containers, and I just asked the chef to kindly wrap my turkey sandwich in a paper towel. It worked just fine!

So, I asked if I could order a pita sandwich and have them wrap it in a paper towel. The employee stuttered a yes but his overbearing, rude manager shouted out a no. Not yet deterred, I asked if they could use foil. The manager reported that it was against the health code. Really? It's against the health code to serve a sandwich in paper or foil? Chipotle, Baja Fresh, Potbelly's, Cosi, even fast food like McDonald's and Burger King do it all the time. And I am 100% sure I've eaten foil-wrapped falafel in Adams Morgan. It looks like this wrapped up in foil:

Or like this in paper:

I'd be frankly shocked if there were any rule against using paper or foil packaging. I'd very much like to see it in writing. When it's not the middle of the night, I'll try to check into the DC Health Code.

Eventually, the employee brought over the hard plastic plate and the styrofoam container and said, "We have this or we have this." And I said, "Well, then I don't think I want anything." My friends still ate there, but I went to Baja Fresh. I will never eat at Moby Dick. Not until they at least try a biodegradeable plastic. There are so many other options that are at least marginally accomodating of their customers. My distress this evening really went beyond the plastic issue to the way I felt I was treated, with a complete lack of flexibility, creativity, or customer service.

At least my burrito was delicious.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fold-up Reusable Bag

This one is really a shout out to my parents for sharing this incredible anti-plastic device with me.

Thank you!!

It's a reusable bag, but one that folds into a small square -- perfect for tucking into my work bag.

On my way home, I stopped by the grocery store to grab just a few things. As I was there, and my list went from turkey to tomatoes to lettuce to granola bars, I started to worry that I wouldn't be able to get it all home. Don't get me wrong - I have no shame whatsoever about waltzing down the street carrying a head of lettuce. But my catch was bordering on the limit of what my arms could carry (that link is to one of my very favorite posts from Kerry and Erin's anti-plastic journey).

And then - dah dah dah DUHM - I remembered that I'd tucked this:

into my bag. Yes, that's the same picture, but it's so beautiful, don't you think? And, yes I've blogged about this awesome contraption before, but since it totally made my night, I figured it deserved another shot.

*While we're on the subject of carrying heads of lettuce down the street (sans bag), I just want to note that among the health and conscience benefits of Plastic Dieting is the fact that it works your confidence. I'm a stronger human for not caring at all if people think it's weird to carry around lettuce without plastic. I think it's weirder to carry it around IN plastic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blueberry Muffins!

Tonight, after dinner, I was craving something more. You know, preferrably something a little sweet but not too heavy. I opened the pantry and saw an extra pack of blueberry muffins! I made some last week and forgot that I bought two of the mixes. I was definitely the happiest person ever!

I made myself (and my roommate) a delicious treat:

And this was the only packaging:

Yum! Do you have a favorite low-plastic treat?


Summer is a time for festivals, and DC hosts one almost every weekend. This weekend, for example, was Pride. The Folklife Festival is coming up. And I'm sure we'll be celebrating almost everything under the sun, week by week.

Festivals are plastic nightmares.

I have some pictures of this weekend's plastic, but I can't post them yet because they are on - get this - a disposable camera. I know, I know. I forgot my camera and a friend and I picked up old school disposable ones. I feel terrible.

A notable unnecessary use of plastic was the plastic bags a bank was passing out at the Pride festival yesterday. They were intended to hold all the random papers and (plastic) swag people would inevitably pick up from around the displays. Why not paper? Or, better yet, canvas? Or canvas made of recycled plastic? Honestly, probably because all of those things would be more expensive to produce. But the social cost of plastic (what with its never going away and all) is pretty high...

Friday, June 12, 2009


It's rained here pretty much every day this week. Rain always makes me think about plastic. And how sometimes I do like it.

Seriously, a paper umbrella wouldn't work very well. A glass rain coat? No, thanks, I'll take Gore-Tex(r), please! That stuff is pretty amazing.

BUT, rain does beg the case for planning ahead - it's best to use a reusable coat or umbrella and not one of those poncho things. But in an emergency, I'd still want a poncho.

Afterall, this was never an all out ban on plastic. Just an effort to reduce unnecessary one-time-use plastic. Maybe this is the exception that proves the rule.

Anyone have rainy day suggestions?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Real World

I start a new job today. It's not just a new job - it's a new part of my life, post-grad school. It's the sort of work I hope I'll do for quite some time. Even though I've been an "adult" for awhile now, it somehow seems like the beginning of real life. The beginning of the rest of my life. Per the Grey's Anatomy episode and my previous post, "Today, my life begins..."

Accordingly, I have to take some of my anti-plastic accouterments with me to this new office. I want to take silverware, but I'm pretty sure those won't pass the metal detectors. So I'm taking plastic silverware (washed and reused from some previous event ... don't worry, we don't buy that stuff). I always take a bowl to work. Plus I'll have my fold-up reusable bag with me (love that thing!!).

And the usual. The Sigg and the reusable coffee cup.

I think I'm set. Off to work!


Every time I do yoga, I think about how it is related to my Plastic Journey. The mindfulness I've attempted to bring to my plastic consumption is akin to the mindfulness of yoga. It's not that I never use plastic -- it's that I make a conscious choice about when to use it. And I honor the expense to the Earth when I choose so to do.

Modifying plastic use is like yoga in another way. If you've been in a yoga class, you'll remember the frequent calls to "micro-adjustments," those tiny movements that make a pose more intense. Yoga is all about baby steps, knowing that you sometimes take backwards steps too, even when you're taking baby steps. It's about working in tiny increments and cultivating an attitude of appreciating the impact of those itty-bitty changes.

Yesterday, I was at Baja Fresh with a friend. I used my paper chip container to hold my salsas instead of the plastic cups. And I realized that this is one of many teeny, tiny micro-adjustments that has become part of my life.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Earth 2100

Did you watch Earth 2100 last night?

I did. I found it terrifying.

Now, I'm not 100% sure how likely each of the potential plots is. But even if some of the assumptions are wrong, the show convinces me even more how important it is to reduce our use of natural resources.

Plastic comes from petroleum. Reducing your plastic use frees up those resources to tide us over until we think of better ways to transport ourselves and heat/cool our homes.

If nothing else, it was good un-plastic inspiration. See for yourself by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Relax Your Face!

So, this post is more about the "plastic life" part than the reduction, reuse, and recycling part.

I love yoga. One of my favorite things about yoga is the way it asks me to be conscious of movement and sensation I commonly ignore. Relaxing the face is one of those things.

Try it:
Unclench your jaw.
Now relax your tongue. Do you feel the jaw relaxing even further?
Is your brow furrowed? Release it too.
Imagine relaxation flowing from the point between your eyebrows.
Relax your ears.
Relax your shoulders down from your ears.
Close your eyes.
Slowly allow them to open again.

Doesn't it feel better?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Not Me! Monday

If I work quickly, I just might get this up while it's still Monday. Although, I've clearly not let that stop me in the past.

So, what did I NOT do this week? Some of these are plastic-related and some, well, not so much.

I definitely did not use the word "flummoxed" in regular conversation. And I certainly was not so flummoxed that I could literally think of no other words.

I clearly didn't refuse to accept a pin at my college reunion (available because I made a donation to the school) because it was wrapped in plastic, but then go on to indulge in the campus-preferred sandwich, even with its plastic accoutrements.

While traveling, I did NOT generate alllll this plastic waste! (Though, notice the lovely Sigg nestled happily in there...I did try. But I should have packed/bought food. OH SO MUCH PLASTIC!)

And I certainly didn't wait until the very last possible "Not Me! Monday" second. Nope. Not at all. Not me!

When in Athens, Do as the Athenians Do

You may remember one very excited post from Day 1 in Athens. I was pumped that, as soon as we stepped off the bus and into the city center (Syntagma), we saw awesome recycling centers. And awesome Athenians using them. It was pretty great.

Well, my parents and I carefully saved all recyclables and deposited them appropriately ourselves. Despite some eyerolling at the start of the trip, by the end of it they were almost more into this stuff than I was! They were seeing plastic everywhere, avoiding it like pro's, and hoarding recyclables with the best of them. Way to go, Mom and Dad!

So, here we are, recycling away.
Dad recycles:

Mom recycles:

And I recycle:

Afterall, it's what the Athenians do! Oh, and what do you get for recycling? Coupons for money off at Carrefour (a European supermarket)! The Greeks totally live right!