Two Months Down

Week 8:

-1 Frozen Fruit Bag
-1 64 oz Almond Milk Tetra Pak
-1 Tempeh Wrapper
-1 Hummus Container
-1 Dish Soap Container
-1 Potato Bag
-1 Totrilla Bag
-1 Bottle Draino
-1 Chocolate Chip Bag
-1 Pizza Dough Bag
-1 Travel Lock Package
-1 Electronic Screen Wipes Package
-1 Johnny’s Selected Seeds Bumper Sticker
-1 Pill Container
-1 Pasta Bag
-3 Cheese Wrappers
-6 Safety Seals
-2 Lids
-2 Bread Ties
-1 Train Ticket

By the looks of it, this is our smallest pile to date!  Here are a couple key points about this week:

1. You are going to be seeing a lot less Tetra Paks in March.  I was clinging to store-bought soy milk’s delightful ability to remain suspended in coffee.  This week I decided that it is not enough of a reason to keep store bought, plastic contained milk when I can easily make it at home!  Sure, my home-made milks sink, but just what is it that makes store bought milk so creamy and long lasting? Is Carrageenen  that amazing? Why the Potassium citrate? Or even more mysterious, “natural flavors”?? Well homemade soy milk is cheaper and easy to make anyway (Click here to check out my previous post on how to make it at home!).  No more excuses!  In fact, I find I quite enjoy my coffee black.

2. We went bread free this week, just to see what it would do to our plastic stash.  There is no fresh bread source near our home (unless you count Panera…), nor do we have the time to make our own every week.  One thing we surely learned this week is this: we love bread. So bread bags will inevitably work their way into our lives.

And now, here comes the mothership: The monthly total for February!

Confronting our plastic waste in this way makes me so much more aware of the consequences of my actions.  I feel like I have more control over my decisions.  More power as a consumer.  And more respect as a cognizant habitant of this Mother Earth.

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Still Buzzin!

Last week’s coffee post got a whole lot of buzz, and in our home we are buzzing with delight at the overwhelming response to our post!  To follow up I want to post links to 2 videos just released by Equal Exchange about helping establish a coffee co-operative in Peru.  These co-ops unite farmers and give them the ability to export their product without going through deal brokers and commercial managers.  This company deals directly with farmers, empowering them and supporting sustainable, organic practices.  Cheap coffee has hidden costs, Equal Exchange coffee is worth every penny.  The video is well done, so press yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy!

Equal Exchange Peru Video Part One

Equal Exchange Peru Video Part Two

I also want to share my choice in travel mug.

CUPPOW!

CUPPOW!

The Cuppow turns a canning jar into a travel mug!  Check out their awesome video here!

What is great about this?

1. It is easy to clean.

2. The glass jar is heat resistant and doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals that can leach into your beverage like plastic does.

3. It’s cheap! The Cuppow costs $7.99.  Jars are less than $20 for a dozen, and are super useful in the kitchen even if you are not pickling! We use them to store everything from leftovers to produce, and now we use them as travel mugs!

4. It seals tight and doesn’t leak.

5. The Cuppow lid is phalate and BPA free.

AWESOME!

It comes in different sizes and styles, including a sippy top for hot beverages and a straw top for cold beverages.

The glass jar does heat up, but we found that a beer koozie fit quite snuggly, you can search and buy them online (like these ones I found on Etsy) or, if you are crafty like me, you can knit yourself one!

YUM!

YUM!

and I leave you with the picture that made my day :O) Raccoons and foxes make my heart melt.

I am a puddle.

Buzzed for 1000 Years

Week 7:

-4 Bread Bags
-1 Produce Bag
-1 Vegan Marshmellow Bag
-1 Motzarella Cheese Container
-1 Earth Balance Container
-1 Feta Cheese Container
-2 Frozen Fruit Packages
-1 Vegan Sausage Package
-1 Chapstick
-1 Swiffer Mop Container (and this will be our last)
-1 Blueberry Package
-1 Razor Refill Package
-3 Plastic Films
-1 Nut Package
-1 Tempeh Package
-1 Toilet Paper Package
-2 Dog Treat Packages
-1 Mesh Garlic Bag
-4 Safety Seals
-1 Chocolate Wrapper
-1 Chip Bag
-1 Pair of Contacts
-1 Rosemary Package
-1 Salt Grinder Top
-1 Dog Medicine Package

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One piece of plastic you will never see in our pile is a coffee cup.  This week we wanted to explain why and how we avoid such waste:

Coffee is a delight unto which many people give themselves, each and every day. It has integrated into our culture with coffee shops around every corner and numberous varieties of beans and roasts. I personally enjoy waking up to a hot cup of freshly pressed coffee on cold mornings, enjoying one over a conversation and especially when relaxing and reading a book. Indeed, coffee is an aromatically fantastic beverage that I can see at my side as I move forward. So where does coffee go wrong, and how is it effecting our environment in a negative way?

Just like with meat production, over time a rising demand for coffee has caused some farmers to change their growing methods in order to boost production.  Traditional, shade grown coffee takes longer to ripen, but it offers great soil stability, habitat for wildlife, and maintains a cool, damp microclimate under the canopy that is perfect for water-loving coffee plants.  The newer sun-cultivation method causes the coffee plants to ripen faster and increases yields.  Yet it promotes deforestation and the destruction of wildlife habitat, destabilizes soil and increases erosion and requires more fertilizers, pesticides, and water. As consumers in America our product choices matter.  We import coffee from around the world, driving the market through demand.  If your coffee is not marked organic or shade grown you are probably buying coffee grown through sun-cultivation methods.  You have the power to demand change through what you choose to buy.  For some great options check out Equal Exchange.  (Their chocolate is also top notch!)

K-CUP PYRAMID

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These 31 Plastic K-Cups are the result of an afternoon at my workplace. Being conservative, I’d say my workplace goes through 50 of these each day. Like most plastics we have discussed over the past weeks, these things will not degrade, they will end up in a landfill and last for years and years. Just imagine! Someone casually has a cup of coffee that is made in 20 seconds, drinks it in 3-5 minutes and creates a piece of waste that lasts for centuries. People do it every day, multiple times a day. And, as you may know… there are a lot of people in the world.

Waste… waste… waste! Why so much waste!? Not only are K-Cups wasteful, they are low-quality and could only dream of actually possessing the richness of fresh ground, freshly steeped coffee beans. But unlike a true, delicious cup of coffee, K-Cups produce a slug of caffeine in under 30 seconds, all at the press of a button. It certainly fits the mindset – convenient, no effort, instant reward. How much do people enjoy the ease and convenience of K-Cups? 2.5 Million K-Cups are consumed in America each day, according to a report by Keurig. 😦 How many a year? You do the math… it’s alarming.

In Keurigs defense, they do support socially and environmentally responsible practices.  Yet, within this wordy webpage, they admit that their product is a challenge to recycle.  And they fail to address the fact that their product promotes the mindless production of plastic waste.  If they really care about the environment they would fully endorse their reusable K cup, and phase out the single use disposables.  No matter how much they write about supporting fair trade farmers on their website, their company is in no way environmentally responsible.  There are so many more responsible ways to brew a cup of joe!

EXCESS, SQUARED

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If you live in New England, you have inevitably seen this horrible image. What is it, you may ask, that makes this so horrible? See what sleeps within!

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You have seen correct – it is styrofoam (plastic) housing another piece of plastic, with a plastic straw. These beverages on average tend to last under 10 minutes, many even faster because it is iced, and people drink iced cause it goes down quick and easy.

Styrofoam is a great environmental enemy. It takes a long time to break down, takes up copious space in a landfill, is made from dangerous chemicals and is virtually un-recyclable. How un-recyclable? Roughly 25 Billion Styrofoam cups every year get thrown away into landfills. If you love your Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, and you also love the climate, shelter, and food this planet provides you, train yourself to bring your own reusable cup.

And for what! For an accessible, convenient beverage? I recommend to anyone who cannot take their thoughts off their Dunkin Donuts iced coffee to realize there is a better option, and it starts when you wake up in the morning. Not only is is tastier and more satisfying, it is waste free and could potentially support the people who need it most.

ITS YOU, BREWING AT HOME!

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Fair Trade Coffee Beans and a handy grinder!

Stainless Steel French Press!

Stainless Steel French Press!

It couldn’t be easier to make your own fantastic coffee at home. I have found that going through these motions is a great way to get my groggy brain moving in the morning.  And it feels good to know I am making smart choices for the environment.

1. Buy some beans! We refilled this container from the bulk isle at the Equal Exchange Cafe near North Station in Boston. Most grocery stores also have bulk coffee. So grab a mason jar and fill it up with your favorite!
2. Grind Beans on Coarse Setting. Our Black and Decker Grinder cost me less than $30, and you coffee tastes much more flavorful when freshly ground.
2. Bring Water to a near Boil
3. Place ground beans and water into the french press and stir.
4. Wait 4 minutes.
5. Stir once more, press and voila! You have delicious coffee!  Our Bodum french press makes the perfect amount for 2, but they also sell smaller presses if you are drinking solo.
6. Compost those coffee grounds :O) We dump ours right in our garden.  Turns out that mushrooms love them too. Back to the Roots sells mushroom kits at Whole Foods that lets you grow a pound and a half of gourmet mushrooms out of coffee grounds right in your kitchen!

And if your really feeling sustainable and supportive, get your own set of hand made local pottery to drink em up!  We bought these beauties in Portland, Me.IMG_5393

Trés belle, non? Now wake up and get brewing, waste free!

Week 6: Snowstorm Essentials

Week 6:
-3 Bread Bags
-1 Tortilla Bag
-1 Coffee Package
-1 plastic wrap
-1 1/2 Gallon Almond Milk
-1 Pita Chip Package
-2 Graham Cracker Bags
-2 oz and 4 oz Food Container
-1 Chocolate Wrapper
-1 Razor
-1 Razor Package
-1 Toothpaste Tube
-2 Cheese Films
-1 Produce Bag
-1 Tempeh Package
-1 Kefir Container
-1 Toilet Paper Wrapper
-1 Field Roast Package
-2 Container Safety Seals
-1 Kale Food Tie
-2 Straws
-3 Lids
-1 Yeast Packet
-Miscellaneous bits and films

Week 6 Plastic Waste

Week 6 Plastic Waste

First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate the comments, facebook “likes” and “shares”, and overall support we are getting from so many of the wonderful people in our lives.  Knowing that you are sharing our journey makes it mean so much more to us, and we love hearing your ideas!  You guys seriously RULE.

This week an epic snowstorm pummeled Massachusetts, leaving us (and 650,000 others) without power for three days (or more, I still have some friends without).  Roads became clogged with snow, trees fell, and power lines hung slack between houses.  With the right combination of homemade pizza, beers, and snowpants we managed to survive, and were embraced by the snow-coated wonderland outside our doorstep.  We thought this would be a great time to express our appreciation for the plastic that did not make our waste list, but helped us brave the storm.

A snowy morning walk :O)

A snowy morning walk :O)

1. Shovels: Where would I be without you?? Oh yeah, stuck in my house.  Dig it??

2. Let there be light!  Brandon’s Black Diamond camping lantern shined as bright as any house lamp on 4 double A batteries.  Our headlamps lit our books and knitting projects.  Out little orange plastic lighter started our 4 candles that provided a warm glow on cold nights.

Plastic we love: lanterns, lamps, lighters, and warm gear!

Plastic we love: lanterns, lamps, lighters, and warm gear!

3. Bundle up!  Above you see my fluff-tastic, super warm down jacket.  What’s it made out of?  100% polyester.  That’s right, plastic.  Put on some wool long underwear beneath that beast and you are ready for some serious cold!  I would also like to thank my Patagonia Gortex jacket.  Waterproof, warm, awesome.  I don’t have to be an REI employee to tell you that this stuff is worth every penny ;O)  We have invested in some expensive, yet high quality outdoor gear because we understand that the storm is only as bad as your worst piece of gear.

4. Distractions: Our computers played an assortment of my old DVDs on dwindling batteries to pass the time while we waited for the wind to cease.  My guitar, although only partially plastic, enjoyed some extra attention as we strummed and plucked the hours away.  Thank you plastic, for assuaging our cabin fever!

Shadow refusing to pose for a picture

Shadow refusing to pose for a picture

Week 5: Bring Bamboo to Lunch!

Rejected!

Rejected!

Week 5:

-5 Lids

-3 food containers (1 hummus, 2 take out indian food)

-2 Container Seals (from hummus and earth balance? It becomes hard to tell)

-3 Films

-2 Frozen Fruit Bags

-2 Toothbrushes

-2 Toothbrush packages

-1 Graham Cracker Wrapper

-1 Bubble Wrap Envelope

-1 Simply Orange Juice Bottle

-1 Chocolate Wrapper

-1 Hair Brush Package

-1 Potato Bag (the only way we could buy organic…)

-1 Tortilla Bag

-1 Bread Bag

-1 Brown Sugar Bag

-1 Large Tetra Pak (almond milk)

-1 Tempeh Package

-1 Dehydrated Dog Food Bag

-1 Spice Lid

-Film seal from Hummus Package

-Pill Package

-Seal from Nyquil

Another week, another pile.  This one looks smaller than average, a promising start to our second month.   Yet this pile, however small, is adding up to a big realization of how extensive our footprint is on this planet. We find ourselves thinking much more about our consumer choices knowing that we have to keep it with us until the end of the year.  We are no longer making excuses for the things we buy (Ok, we excused the OJ this week because Brandon was sick… there are still excuses, but we recognize them for what they are: areas for improvement).  If it is wrapped in plastic, we hem and haw over the pros and cons to buying it.  We know we cannot live without plastic, nor do we plan to or want to, but these plastic piles are making us think long and hard about what plastics we could be avoiding.

This week we want to feature one of our favorite plastic-reducing tools: To-Go-Ware Utensils!

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Easy to carry and beautiful to boot, these utensils make a great lightweight addition to any lunch bag, purse, or backpack. Each set of utensils comes with a fork, spoon, knife and chopsticks. They are made from a high-quality sustainable bamboo, which is very durable and doesn’t stain or absorb flavors. They also have a food-safe oil finish so they can look sleek without any chemical additives.

If carrying around your own place-setting seems a bit odd, the company does you a favor and puts them all in an easy to carry case with a handy carabiner. Even the utensil package sports a sustainable drive, being made from recycled PET bottles itself! Indeed, when it comes down to lunch time nothing turns more heads in curiosity then when you whip out a bamboo spoon before you dive into soup in a mason jar.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

However these utensils serve a great purpose than turning heads and starting conversations – they are a symbol of sustainability and another grand step away from single use disposable plastics.  From backyard barbecues to take-out orders, we see plastic ‘silverware’ floating about everywhere.  They are a sign of our disposable living, of people who are too busy to make a proper lunch, of marketing that seduces us with convenience.  These utensil wait for us to use them that one time, that one bite, that one sample of ice cream. We use these plastics and throw them out, their life seemingly not lasting even a minute.  Yet these plastics live on, in landfills and in the environment.  Worldcentric.org estimates that at least 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the US alone.  Just imagine all those forks!

I can no longer be satisfied tasting anything if by doing so I produce and therein promote waste. There is a better way! As one adage goes, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — There is a reason why REDUCE comes first.  It is the most effective way to solve the problem.  Well, we all gotta eat, so let it be with our hands, or with our bamboo! So treat yourself to a To Go Ware bamboo utensil set.  I’m also willing to bet that if you start to avoid the places that serve you plastic utensils, you will not only be making better choices for the environment, but also healthier choices for your body.