Sunday, September 30, 2007

Everyday Products with Little or No Plastic Packaging: A Shopping Guide

Today I created a new guide, Everyday Products with Little or No Plastic Packaging: A Shopping Guide.

The guide is basically an alphabetized list of everyday things that we buy, and provides the names of products that are packaged in little or no plastic, or tactics to use to avoid plastic when purchasing a product.

Included right now are only the categories of products that I bought yesterday, so it's a limited list. I plan to expand it over time and hope that it will eventually be a comprehensive guide for approaching life without plastic.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Avoiding Plastic at the Grocery Store: First Attempt

After fretting for several hours this morning, I went to the grocery store (pictured left), and made my first attempt at buying products with little or no plastic packaging.

I started my shopping adventure in the produce section. I would say that this is the least intimidating section of the grocery store, plastic-wise, so it was a nice way to ease myself into my oh-so-difficult task. While I was there, I picked up some green peppers, baking potatoes, ginger, squash of various sorts, and a few yellow onions, and of course, I didn't put any of these veggies into plastic produce bags.

I also bought some lettuce, though, and I would say that was the only tricky part in the veggies department. The lettuce was a bit wet so it was kinda weird not to put it into a plastic produce bag, but I just rolled with it and put it on top of one of the cloth grocery bags in my cart that I had brought with me from home. It worked out fine.

Note on produce: I was a bit peeved that the squash and green peppers I bought had big plastic stickers on them. Down with plastic stickers on produce!!

After buying my veggies, I went to the deli counter because I wanted some ham. Before I put my order in, I asked the woman if she could pack my ham into butcher paper and she said they only had butcher paper at the meat counter. Alas, I didn't get any ham. At the meat counter, I ordered some ground beef for the chili I'm making this week, and I asked the meat counter man pack it into butcher paper. He thought it was just weird that I didn't want a styrofoam tray or a plastic bag for the meat, but I just told him it would be fine that way. And it was.

My next mission was sweets. My boyfriend and I live together and he has quite the sweet tooth so he insisted that I buy cookies and ice cream. For cookies, I found Pepperidge Farm cookies packed in paper and foil. For ice cream, my b.f. needs the lactose free stuff so I had to buy Breyer's, which is packed in paper, but has a plastic safety seal. Bummer.

Toilet Paper
And now, the scariest part: toilet paper. I found three brands of toilet paper that were not wrapped in plastic, but as expected, they were all individually packaged. I ended buying both the Scott and Marcal brands to test them out. According to the label, Marcal is made from 100% recycled paper, presumably office paper (e.g. someone's TPS Reports). I haven't opened either brand yet, so I'm still deathly scared that they're both going to be horrible. Again, wiping with office paper? Ouch!

Other Stuff I Bought
During my shopping adventure, I also bought:
  • eggs in a paper carton
  • tuna fish in aluminum cans
  • milk in a glass bottle from Oberweiss Dairy (has plastic spout...darn)
  • El Milagro tortilla chips in a brown paper bag (has small plastic window...double-darn)
  • Natalie's salsa in a glass jar
  • Pepperidge Farm goldfish in a paper bag
  • diced tomatoes in aluminum cans
  • generic tampons in a cardboard box and individually wrapped in paper
  • Coke Zero in aluminum cans
There were also a few things I couldn't buy today:
  • q-tips (need to look elsewhere)
  • cereal (maybe I can find this at a bulk food store)
  • yogurt (it's ALL packed in plastic, but that's okay because I can make my own)
  • bread (only really expensive bread is packed in paper, but I can make my own bread, too)
  • deli ham (just need to try another store)

So that's a summary of my plastic-avoiding shopping experience today. The only plastic packaging I ended up with was the small window on the tortilla chips, the plastic safety seal on the lactose free ice cream, and the spout on the milk bottle, so I think it went really well. And I must add that the cashier didn't even notice that I didn't use plastic produce bags and didn't think I was weird for bringing my own bags. As I was walking back to my boyfriend's car with my cart, I really felt good about what I did today. I felt empowered. It was great.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Starting Out: Some Tips

So I haven't been in need of anything from the grocery store quite yet. I'll probably end up going out on Saturday afternoon, but I can already feel the fear growing, especially since the one thing I really need to buy is toilet paper. I know some toilet paper is packed in waxy paper, but I'm pretty sure that's the really harsh stuff that's usually made out of recycled office paper. How funny is that? I mean, there's something hilarious about the idea of wiping with someone's old TPS Reports, but I'm not sure I would wish that stuff on my worst enemy...and I might end up buying some on Saturday. Help!

Anyways, since I don't have any kernels of wisdom about shopping, I figured I'd provide a quick list of things that we can all start with in our mission to reduce plastic consumption. Note that I got this list from the blog Deep-Sea News.

1. No plastic grocery bags
Obviously the easiest one and the one you already know about. Ask for paper at the supermarket. Better yet take your own bags. I like the ECOBAG made from 100% recycled cotton (double bonus) for its durability and size. Amazon has them for $8.99 a piece which is still a bet hefty.

2. No plastic "poop" bags
Biobag offers a lot of great products. One of the best is the 100% biodegradable dog waste bag. You can pick up a pack of them at Amazon for $6.99.

3. No plastic trash bags
But what about my trash bags? Biobag also offers a tall kitchen bag, so you are quickly running out of excuses. They come in 3 gallon and 13 gallon size. You can get them at Amazon.

4. No plastic produce bags
How do keep my pound of bean sprouts, my pound of tomatoes, and lettuce separate? Ecobags also makes produce bags and fancy net bags that are great for this.

5. No plastic silverware
Your work lunchroom is chock-o-block full of plastic utensils. You could take your own for starters. I know but you don't want to give up that spork? I don't either. Luckily, we don't have to. Vargo makes a lovely field-rated titanium spork avialable at Amazon. Additionally, you could get your company to switch to Biocorp's compostable cups, utensils, plates, etc. The utensils are made up of cornstarch and surprisingly are amazing sturdy. Biocorp makes it easy for you to order online.

6. No plastic cup or cup lids
I love coffee! The downside of my love is all those cups and plastic lids I generate from a Starbucks visit. Solution: Get a stainless steel mug and bring it with. And Starbucks actually gives you a discount for bringing in your own mug so eventually you'll earn your money back (for the mug, not the expensive coffee).

7. No plastic water bottles
You really don't want to be drinking out of plastic anyway. Plastic leeches bisphenol A, a well known endocrine disrupter. Your thinking I use a Nalgene, so I'm good. That's only true if you use one the "old school" opaque white pliable polycarbonate bottles. Klean Kanteen, a great small company, makes a stainless steal alternative. You can purchase them online and the company also supports the Breast Cancer Fund (double bonus).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The idea for this blog was conceived yesterday while I was thinking about how I can reduce my plastic consumption. I was slowly bicycling to work and imagining myself in the grocery store, weaving through the aisles and trying to avoid products packaged in plastic. As I shopped in my imaginary grocery store, I went from aisle to aisle searching for things I need, but since I was searching for sans-plastic products, nothing ended up in my cart. Nothing. So then I pictured myself getting angry in the grocery store (and in fact, I actually started to angry there on my bike) because it was so difficult to avoid plastic. After all, almost everything in the grocery store is wrapped, if not double-wrapped, in plastic. And then, there on my bike, I wondered, “Am I the only person trying to figure out how to avoid plastic?” Well, obviously not.

And that's when I first thought that it might be cool to start a blog about reducing plastic use.

Like any good nerd, though, I decided that I should run a google search and find out who else is writing blogs about reducing plastic consumption before I start my own blog. I mean, if 300 people are already writing about their shopping strategies for reducing plastic consumption, I might reconsider creating a blog. The results of my google search, however, returned nothing quite like my the blog I was imagining. This meant I had no other choice but to start writing.

As you've surely gathered, within this blog, I hope to share with you my experiences as I try to avoid plastic within the grocery store, drug store, and even clothing store. I intend to include lists of products to look for within the grocery store and drug store that are packaged in little or no plastic, as well as clothing brands that do not use plastic products or are typically plastic free. Finally, I plan to create additional entries detailing statistics and information about plastic and how it is harmful to us, along with links to articles about plastic and to blogs of others trying hard like me to reduce the amount of plastic they buy.

So why do I want to reduce my plastic use in the first place? In short, to lessen my personal effect on the environment and make my lifestyle a healthier one. I'll go into more detail later, but for now I'm excited that I've decided to make a change in how I live. I'm excited that I am really going to make an effort to do something that I believe in.

And, obviously, since I'm starting this blog today, that means that my quest to use less plastic begins today.