What does a year’s worth of plastic look like?

Like this:

Condensed version

Condensed version

Expanded version

Expanded version

It has been 365 days of saving every bag and bottle, lid and wrapper, tube and straw.

What did we learn from a year’s worth of plastic?

1. Plastic is EVERYWHERE.  And it can be quite sneaky too.  Straws would sneak their way into water at restaurants.  Plastic stickers are all over the place (see below).  Safety seals are apparently necessary on everything from pills to honey and oil bottles.  Despite our best efforts, our pile unavoidably grew.

Plastic stickers from produce and clothes

Plastic stickers from produce and clothes

IMG_6789

22 Almond milks

22 Almond milks

2. We have a sweet tooth for salty snacks.  As two busy commuters and hummus enthusiasts, we went through about a bag of chips per week.  Pictured below are the oddly beautiful 56 chip bags we extricated from our annual accrual.

Hummus, cheese, and other bins

Hummus, cheese, and other bins

3. Our communities need more local bakers!  It looked like by far the bulk of the volume we created (when uncompressed) was bread bags.  We didn’t have the time to bake our own and we did not want to go bread-less.  Try as we might, we could not find a good, local bread source were we could pick up our bread plastic free.

4. There is SO much we can do to reduce our plastic footprint!  This year we invested in stainless steel ice trays, bamboo utensils, glass straws, soap nuts, Glasslock tupperware, and Cuppows.  I sewed homemade produce bags and napkins that we wash and reuse.  We now dilute our dish soap and prolong the life of one bottle for months longer than we formerly could.  We quit ‘pooing (resulting in by far our most popular post of the year, check it out here) and now use baking soda and vinegar to wash our hair.  We made our own household cleaners and soy milk, and grew vegetables in our garden.  This project was an inspirational catalyst for change, and we are excited to keep up these plastic-reducing habits and keep searching for ways to support local businesses that promote a zero-waste lifestyle.  This may be the end of our plastic hoarding, but it is just a part of our lifelong learning journey.  Cheers, may the adventure continue!

Happy New Years!

Kim, Brandon and Titan

Advertisements

October Total: Ice Ice Baby

IMG_0139

-11 Bread Bags
-9 Chip Bags
-7 Almond Milk Jugs
-1 Orange Milk Jug
-1 Toilet Paper Bag
-Packaging from online orders and clothes
-Styrofoam from TV screen
-2 Dog Treat Bags
-4 Shipping Envelopes/bags
-1 Beyond Meat Package
-1 Liquid Dish Soap Bottle
-2 Old Ice Cube Trays
-1 Cranberry Bag
-1 Brown Sugar Bag
-1 Bag Coarse Wheat Bran
-1 Lotion Tube Container
-1 Q Tip Package
-1 Listerine Bottle
-1 Apple Picking Bag
-1 Almond Meal Package
-3 Rice Noodle Package
-1 Celery Bag
-1 Broken Dog Leash
-1 Bottle Keratin Therapy
-2 Raspberry containers
-1 Apple Cider Donut Container
-1 Pistacio Container
-1 Currants Container
-1 Bottle Kefir
-5 Fromm Dogfood Sample Bags
-1 Basil Bag
-1 Produce Bag
-1 Dog Leash Container
-1 Tooth Brush Container
-10 Cheese Wraps
-1 Sponge Wrapper
-1 Motzarella Container
-1 Hummus Container
-2 Beer Sample Cup
-19 Lids
-3 Mesh Garlic Bags
-1 Mint Container
-3 Spoons
-3 Pill Containers
-2 Pens
-1 Toothpaste Tube
-2 Acai Packages
-3 Straws

A big pile this month.  I can’t believe we only have two months to go!  It is going to be hard to break the habit of hoarding straws home in my wallet!

This month I want to feature a fun new plastic-free item: Ice Cube Trays!  We had these old trays that I inherited from my parents, I remember them from when I was a kid.  There are no markings on them, no labels.  I was never confident that they were BPA free or safe for our bodies.

IMG_0206

 

Then I heard about Onyx Stainless Steel Ice Cube Trays.  We ordered two online and immediately put them to use. IMG_0195IMG_0202They are so easy to use, just pop up the handle and the ice separates.  Now we finally have a plastic free way to make ice-cubes.  Just one more small step towards a healthier and more sustainable future :O)

 

3 Months To Go: September Total

IMG_0087

-4 Almond Milk Bottles
-1 Uncle Matt’s Orange Juice Bottle
-2 25 Pound Dogfood Bags
-8 Chip Bags
-11 Bread Bags
-1 Toilet Paper Wrapper
-4 Bunched Basil Bags
-1 Carrot Bag
-Packaging for L L Bean sheets, pillowcases and towels
-1 Coffee Bag
-2 Avocado Bag
-1 Lime Bag
-6 Produce Bags
-2 Dog Treat Bags
-2 Toothpaste Tubes
-1 Raspberry Container
-1 Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers Container
-1 Tofu Container
-20 Lids
-3 Cheese Films
-1 Ziplock Bag
-3 1 oz. Spice Containers
-2 Airbourne Tubes
-1 Vegan Marshmellow Bag
-1 Sundried Tomato Packaging
-1 Earthbalance Bin
-4 Contact Cases
-8 Lobster Bands
-1 Plastic Cup
-1 Pill Container
-2 Pens
-Miscellaneous Bits
-Miscellaneous Films and Bags

There you have it, the plastic footprint of 2 people and a big fluffy dog for the past month.  It’s not pretty, and it reminds me of the places where I have been slacking (bread).  There are too many bags this month, definitely something to be more aware of.

If you have been following us, you may know this already, but its been on my mind this week as I restocked out cleaning supplies… toxicity.  Most people out there are aware of BPA, or Bisphenol A.  BPA mimics estrogen, a hormone linked to everything from fetal development to metabolism.  Guys, this is not just a female thing, you have estrogen too!  It is a key player in the maturation of your sperm and may even be necessary to have a healthy libido.  It makes sense that we do not want BPA in our bodies messing with our development and a couple years ago there was a big push to get it out of our waterbottles.  But did you know that BPA is still in the lining of most cans? (This is why I do not drink beer out of cans)  You can find guides (like this one) online to help you identify companies that took the CPA out of their canned goods.

It’s not just BPA we need to think about.  There are thousands of ill-studied chemicals in the products we use such as detergents, soaps, household cleaners, toothpaste, shampoos, and other toiletries and cosmetics.  This became increasingly apparent to me when my allergist told me that I was severely reactive to Thimerosal.  Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative that was routinely used in childhood vaccines in the past but has fallen out of favor in recent years.  It is 49% ethyl ethyl mercury, which is recognized as a potent neurotoxin.  The FDA banned the sale of topically applied antibiotics containing thimerosal in the 1980s.  Nevertheless, Brandon and I were able to identify it under different names in multiple products in our own bathroom!

Why are companies allowed to put harmful chemicals in our products?  Shouldn’t we be able to trust them to do what is best for their customer’s health? The short answer to this question is no.  Producers do not have to prove that a chemical is safe before putting it in their products.  It is up to us to prove harm (which is very hard to do!).  Every day we are exposed to harmful chemicals in our household cleaners, toiletries, and many other products.

The best thing to do is to be as informed as possible and make the best choices for you and your family.  So here are some resources to get you started!

-Watch Chemerical!.  This documentary follows a family as they challenge themselves to rid their home of harmful chemicals.  This ends up being a lot more challenging than they expect, but rewarding in the end.  You can stream it on Netflix, check it out!

-Look up the products you use and find out more about what is in them.  http://www.goodguide.com/  and http://www.ewg.org/ (Environmental Working Group) both offer easy online guide that allow you to search for and compare products as well as learn about ingredients and find healthier options.

Lastly, I will share with you my recipe for our household all-purpose cleaner.  Last week Brandon was using it to clean our kitchen and couldn’t believe it was homemade!  Not only is it way cheaper to make it yourself, it is also free from the harsh chemicals in factory made cleaners :O)

-Combine 1 tsp. Borax, 1/2 tsp washing soda, 1 tsp of Dr. Bronners liquid castile soap, 2 cups of water, and essential oil as preferred (I used about a 20 drop combo of lavender and eucalyptus).  Mix it up and you are done!

Simple DIY cleaners

Simple DIY cleaners

Potato Chips and Ear Plugs: July’s Plastic

July’s Plastic

-2 Califa Farms Almond Milk Bottles
-1 If You Care Dish Soap Bottle
-14 Small Chip Bags
-2 Big Chip Bags
-2 Quorn package
-1 Frozen Corn Package
-3 Dog Treat Bags
-4 Bread Bags
-1 Pizza Dough Bag
-1 Tortilla Bag
-5 Produce Bags
-2 Polystyrene Containers
-22 Daily Contact Cases
-1 Disposable Razor Head
-2 Disposable Water Bottles
-2 Cereal Bag
-10 Lids
-1 Container for Chocolate Covers Graham Crackers
-2 Ear Plugs
-1 Trail Mix Bag
-1 Pretzel Bag
-5 Electircal Tape Cases
-5 Cheese Films
-3 Food Containers (Veggie Cream Cheese, pesto, and unknown)
-1 Frozen Dog Treat Container
-2 Pill Containers
-1 Nature Valley Granola Bar Bag

Titan always gets excited for the end-of-the-month plastic count.  As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and this month Titan scored my used earplug, seasoned by my inner ear as I spent 3 weeks sleeping in a tent in down east Maine.  Those little foamy nuggets helped me sleep through rainy nights and thunder.  They were then going to provide Titan an indigestible snack, but I managed to chase him down and steal it back before that happened.

July was an unusual month.  I (Kim) was away in Maine starting my grad school program.  Eating in a cafeteria, I couldn’t help but feel like a liar when I brought my plastic home.  My portion of this pile is small, but most of the plastic I used this month was indirect, behind the scenes.  I was also issued an extraordinary number of potato chip bags, which my beast of a stomach gladly accepted, and I wore contacts a lot more than usual.  Brandon is working hard at his school’s summer session/camp.  A portion of our plastic came from the projects he did with his students (bottles), or from his lack of time to cook (aka cereal).  We didn’t realize just how much we balanced each other’s time with cooking and taking care of Titan until I left!  It is so lovely to be reunited after 3 weeks apart :O)

Some plastic-free victories of the month:

-Seeing everyone show up in Maine with Tuperware containers!  Not a single ziplock baggie was used for sandwiches and snack, huzzah!

-Per my request, a bar brought our group’s beers in glass, even though they were serving other’s in plastic.  And all of our waters came in glass AND straw free! Bravo!

-Meeting Bill Coperthwaite, who has the rare propensity for making everything with his own hands.  His yurt (put together without powertools in the 70’s and still holding beautiful and strong) was equipped with hand carved wooden spoons, bowls, even a tape dispenser!

Bill's Yurt!

Bill’s Yurt!

What plastic victories did you have this month?

May’s Monthly Plastic Total

IMG_5919

Tucked into our bin, this month’s total seems neat and manageable.  A closer look, aka dumping it all over my kitchen floor, revealed an expanding smorgasborg of films, bags, caps, containers, bottles, tubes, and tubs.  Included in this pile I found:

-2 Bags stuffed with plastic bags and films (I couldn’t bring myself to individually count them all, this made up the majority of the pile)
-4 Chip Bags
-2 Bubble Wrap Padded Envelopes
-5 Mesh Bags (from lemons, limes, and garlic)
-1 6-pack holder
-1 Toothpaste Tube
-1 Tetra Pak (coconut milk)
-4 plastic cups
-20 Lids
-5 Tubs (cheese, yogurt, pomagranate seeds)
-6 Utensils
-2 Straws
-1 Coffee Bag

Titan being a very good boy and resisting the urge to bury his face in this pile of trash

Titan being a very good boy and resisting the urge to bury his face in this pile of trash

This month I decided to cut back on my totaling posts.  Without weekly tallies I was disconnected from what was accumulating in our plastic bin.  Once covered and out of mind, these pieces now bring back memories of a good times, like our reusable cups from the bacon and beer festival or the wrappers from healthy snacks we snuck into the theater to see the new Star Trek movie.  Dumping it out on my floor felt like flipping through a scrapbook, and I relived my month, good and bad, as I made piles of lids and shoved a bread bag full of plastic films.  In our fast-paced, throw-away culture we never contemplate the life of our waste after we throw it away.  For us, away is still here, in our crawl space.  And week by week be build a scrapbook of memories that will will rediscover at the end of the year.  There is no way we can ignore our plastic footprint this year.

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.

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