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)

 

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?

Week 15’s Plastic Free Recipe: Chocolate Hazelnut Milkshake!

Week 15:
-2 Kale Ties
-2 Bread Bags
-1 Tortilla Bag
-1 Bagel Bag
-1 Honey Container
-1 Ketchup Bottle
-1 Tempeh Wrap
-Bubble Wrap and Inflatable Bags from Shipment (bulk of this week’s stash)
-1 Old Ziplock
-3 Misc. Films
-1 Pill Casing
-1 HDPE Tub (goat cheese)
-3 Cheese Wraps
-1 Band Aid Wrapper
-4 Lids
-2 Safety Seals

This week’s pile is filmy and puffy, with about half of its volume coming from bubble wrap and shipping film.  When compressed, it looks quite small, but dumped out the films spread themselves out and take up quite a bit of space!  This week I tried a new nut milk recipe, and I wanted to share it with you all.

I can’t remember when I stopped drinking cow’s milk.  Was it because of my distaste for the industrial food system that treats these animals with no compassion or respect? Was it to avoid the large ecological footprint that comes from the waste produced by industrial dairy farms?  Was it because the idea of breast feeding from a cow freaked me out? I couldn’t tell you.  Whatever made me do it, I am glad I made the decision now, for my body and the environment.

Many people find they feel much better when they switch to nut and seed milks.  Dairy cows are exposed to high levels of antibiotics, GMOs and hormones.  These toxins can end up in your glass, and in your body.  Your body will also thank you for the lack of lactose.  Our bodies are designed to consume our mother’s milk when we are little, but not as adults.  Lactose disturbs the digestive tracks of most adults.  Want less farts? Try nut milks.

We love nut and seed milks.  Almond milk continues to be our favorite.  I have used it for smoothies, cooking, and baking.  Unfortunately, almonds are expensive, so we have been making soy milk.  For a recipe for homemade soy milk visit our previous post.  This week I decided to try something new: a recipe for hazelnut milk taken from Good Girl Gone Green.

What you need:

-1 cup hazelnuts, from the bulk isle of course!, soaked for 4-6 hours.
-3 cups water
-1/4 cup sweetener (we used maple syrup, honey or agave would work too)
-1 Tbs vanilla
-2 Tbs cocoa butter or coconut oil (we didn’t have any so I omitted this)

What to do:

-Dump it all in a blender and puree it until you have foamy, delicious milk!

-You have the option of straining the milk.  If you don’t it will be far more nutritious, but quite gritty.  If you do it will be silky smooth milk.

Now, if you paid attention to the title of this blog, I said Chocolate Hazelnut Milkshake!  What we did was add 2 Tbs of cocoa powder and some frozen banana to the mix. Yum!

IMG_5633

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

Week 4 – A Month Amongst Plastic

A hat that lasts! Really lasts…

IMG_5297

3 Tetra Paks (2 Soup, 1 Milk)
3 Cheese Films
2 Feminine Product Package
2 Pillowfill Bags
2 Bread Bags
2 Pill Cases
Ziplock (Gallon)
Phyllo Dough Film
Toaster Oven Film
Toaster Oven Styrofoam
Pasta Package
Tempeh Package
Pita Chip Bag
Method Dish Soap Container
Frozen Fruit Bag
Paper Towel Film
Earth Balance Container
Can of Pumpkin
Corn Tortilla Package
Hard Shell Plastic for Watch
Energy Bar Wrapper
Dry Erase Marker Package
Vegetable Tie
Busted Hair Elastic
Packaging Tape

Today marks the end of the first month of plastic collection, and how much we have learned already! It is easy to have our daily habits and actions go unnoticed, but much can be learned when we start to quantify our activity.

This past week continues our developing trends: TetraPaks, bread, cheese, and a variety of other food product waste. Oh food, you vital and wonderful, essential and beautiful thing! If only to find you in your natural state each day of my life, what joys would follow.

Speaking of the joys of food, Kim and I have begun to plan our foray into an in depth gardening experience this upcoming season. With the stunning growth of urban farming and the explosion of small space gardening, the amount of resources for those entering into a deeper connection with food becomes ever more available. We recently picked up a copy of Urban Farm and seeded a vast array of fresh ideas about how to get started and shared a plentitude of stories about urban farmers in action. We’ll tell you this: We’re pumped! Prepare to see our posts this upcoming spring and summer overflow with pictures, pains and the unrivaled joy of growing your own food — and in a sense growing your very self!

Ah but yes, plastics — they still don’t plan to leave, do they? I must share with you now a photo of a month’s worth of plastics, spread upon the floor:

IMG_5305

Multiply that by twelve and you can imagine how much floor space this plastic is going to take up! The largest plastics in our month’s collection were toaster oven packaging and the  comforter/comforter cover packaging. Otherwise, it is almost all food plastic! I am excited to see what sort of reduction will take place this spring and summer when we start not only making our own food, but having access to the vast array of farm fresh produce blooming from the Earth. Huzzah!