Thursday, November 29, 2007

Celebrate! It's a Plastic Free Christmas

My ultra-supportive sister is urging me to attempt a Plastic Free Christmas, and with her encouragement I think I'm going to try it. But I have to ask myself, what would a Plastic Free Christmas be like? Is it even possible? I suppose it's time for me to find out.

My plan is in the early stages of conception, but so far I intend to:
  • Make a special request to my family to avoid plastic when they're buying stuff for me. I'm considering indicating that plastic gift cards are okay, since using said gift certificates will allow me to make sure all the other stuff I get with them is plastic free.
  • Request that I receive no candy in my stocking, excluding bulk candy in paper bags or fine chocolate wrapped in paper
  • Avoid buying my family stuff made of plastic. This might be tough, but I'm gonna try.
  • Make homemade chocolate-covered pretzels for my co-workers again instead of buying presents.
  • Use newspaper and old packing paper to wrap presents, thus avoiding the plastic cellophane wrapping paper comes in. Actually, I think wrapping paper should be outlawed, but that's besides the point.
  • Avoid using tape for wrapping presents by experimenting with homemade glue (does anyone have a recipe they can recommend?)
Anyways, that's my plan so far. I'm probably going to annoy the heck out of my family with it, but, according to a somewhat annoying recent New York Times article, every family these days has an eco-grinch, so I guess that's going to have to be me.

Note: My sister has been eco-conscious and vocal about environmental issues for way longer than me, so I think she might actually deserve the title. We'll have to battle it out this Christmas :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Letter to Whole Foods on the Plastic Scooper in My 365 Everyday Value Laundry Powder

Below is my letter to Whole Foods. Note that I mailed back the plastic scooper with the letter.


Dear John Mackey and Other Whole Foods Decision Makers,

I care a lot about the environment and I know you do, too. That’s what unites us, and that is why I do a lot of my shopping at Whole Foods. When I take a trip to your store, I’m always happy to buy the nice goodies in your bulk bins, and I always appreciate the fact that many of the meats and dairy products you sell come from healthy, free-range animals that are raised in an ethical and environmentally friendly way.

What I do not enjoy is the plastic scooper that I found in your 365 Everyday Value Laundry Power. As an advocate for reducing the plastic that this nation consumes, as well as someone who wants to be nice to the Earth, I spent a lot of time hunting around Chicago for an affordable laundry soap that wouldn’t pollute the Earth (you’re probably not surprised that such a soap is hard to find in the Midwest). When I finally found your 365 soap, I was overjoyed. I thought I had found the answer to all of my laundry woes. But, of course, that feeling died when I opened my new box of detergent and found that plastic scooper.

So my plea to you is this. Please stop selling your 365 laundry power with a plastic scooper!

If you do this, I will continue buying your detergent. For the time being, though, I won’t be buying it again. I am switching to Ecover brand laundry powder, which comes with a convenient and biodegradable cardboard scooper.

Oh, and if you remove the plastic scooper, please contact me so that I can let all of my blog readers know. To read my blog, which contains lots of kind references to Whole Foods as well as a copy of this letter, visit


Monday, November 26, 2007

No More...Shampoo and Conditioner

I like my hair. It is nice to me. I don't color it, barely ever style it, and only blowdry it on Chicago's famously cold days, and despite my lack of effort, my hair responds by being silky and shiny, with just a bit of wave for volume.

So naturally I don't want to disturb this amazing status quo. I mean, why would I want to change something that is working pretty well for me right now? But since there's a serious lack of hair care products that aren't packaged in plastic, I may have to. Crapola!

Luckily, I don't actually have to give up shampoo. There are several options out there that seem totally viable including:
  • Doctor Bronner's bar soap, which has worked fine when I've used it on camping trips
  • The various shampoo bars available at Lush
  • Burt's Bees Rosemary Mint Shampoo, which I totally forgot about (an entry in Fake Plastic Fish reminded me).
But, seriously folks, we all know that shampoo really isn't what makes for amazing hair. It's the conditioner. I have long hair, which I sometimes pretend to myself might even be called beautiful, so the thought of giving up conditioner makes me want to cry. Seriously. Cry.

Still, I know I will (or might) make it through this because I think I have a plan. Here's an outline:
  • When I run out of my current shampoo, I'll make the switch to one of the various products above, which will probably be fine.
  • I'll slow my use of the two bottles of conditioner I still have to one application per week.
  • When I run out of the conditioner I still have, I'll probably go out (after I finish crying) and buy one of the conditioning bars available at Lush, which don't get great reviews. Then I will hope and hope and hope that my hair still looks nice.
  • If my hair is miserable and looks horrible after a few months of the new regiment, I'll go out and buy a bottle of eco-friendly plastic-packaged conditioner and only use it once a month or on special occasions.
Yep, that's my plan. I'm going to try my absolute hardest to avoid buying a plastic bottle of conditioner, but I'm also going to also allow myself to buy it if, after a few months, I feel it's my only option. And I think that's okay for now, especially if it takes me a year to get through that bottle. We'll see, though. Maybe I'll just cut my hair instead (um, just joking).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Target Recognizes the Dangers of PVC Plastic

In light of the recent surge in public awareness about the possible dangers of PVC plastic, Target is planning to reduce the number of products that it carries that are either made of PVC or packed in it.

A November 6 Wall Street Journal article reports that Target is taking the following actions in relation to PVC plastic:
  • Developing an action plan to identify PVC alternatives
  • Making efforts to produce Target place mat and table linen categories nearly phthalate-free by spring
  • Finding PVC alternatives for use in most toy categories for fall 2008.
It is obvious that Target is taking these steps because they ultimately think it will increase their bottom line by bettering their image and protecting them from future lawsuits or problems that might arise if phalate-containing PVC is outlawed.

Still, I find Target's initiative encouraging because it shows that when the public expresses interest in an issue, retailers will make efforts to respond to the public's demands.

With this in mind, I'm planning to write a letter to Target to show support of their actions and to encourage them to take further steps to protect the environment such as choosing better packaging and materials for Target-brand products and setting higher standards for the products they purchase from other companies.

I'll post the letter once it's sent.

Emergency Post: My Computer Crashed

Just wanted to let readers know that my computer is dying and no longer recognizes my wireless card, so my posts might be a bit more sporadic for the next few weeks.

Thanks for the understanding.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

No More...Garbage Bags

My dilemma is this: when I run out of plastic garbage bags, where am I going to put my trash?

I have three options right now:
  1. Continue to buy plastic garbage bags
  2. Buy biodegradable plastic bags, which will take many, many years to decompose in an airtight landfill
  3. Start vermiculture composting so that I can use paper bags for the garbage that doesn't go in the bin
So I'm not interested in options one and two, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to start composting inside my house. I mean, I have so many questions. Where will I keep the bin? How much work will it require to take care of the bin? Am I too lazy to do it?

I do want to compost, though. I guess I'm just scared.

Another quandary
In order to recycle in my Chicago ward, you have to put recyclable items into blue plastic bags. But I HAVE to recycle, so I guess that means I won't be able to totally avoid plastic garbage bags no matter what I do.

Fortunately, the city of Chicago is planning to adopt a new Blue Cart Program, but unfortunately, it's been delayed until July 2008. Once the program is in place in my neighborhood, I won't have to use blue plastic bags anymore. I can't wait.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

My Garden, the Plastic I Found in it, and Why Gardening is Good for the Environment

Yesterday I put my garden to sleep for the winter. I pulled up new weeds, raked up any additional leaves and dead plants, and then turned the soil. To my surprise, I also found several bits of old plastic (pictured at right) lurking in the soil of my beautiful garden plot.

It made me sad to find all of this plastic stuff in my garden because it once again reinforced the idea that it's impossible to escape plastic. It's everywhere and unavoidable.

Still, I was happy this weekend because I spent a lot of time thinking about the benefits of gardening, as well as about about my experiences this year growing my first garden ever.

Why Gardening is Good for the Environment
Gardening is good for the environment because it provides:
  • locally grown fruits and vegetables that are not being shipped from thousands of miles away and are not polluting the Earth on their way to your plate
  • food that is not being sprayed with harmful pesticides
  • produce that is hopefully grown responsibly and organically
  • plastic free fruits and veggies that are not shipped or stored in plastic containers at any time
My Gardening Experience
I feel very fortunate that I live in a two flat and have landlords with an extra garden plot that they let me use. Excluding a few hiccups due to extremely heavy rains, my garden was very good to me this year and allowed me to eat many wonderful basil and tomato salads and stir frys made with awesome fresh vegetables that were not only kinder to the environment, but also more nutritious because they were fresh.

I grew a variety of herbs and vegetables including tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeƱo peppers, green beans (bush variety), basil, sage, parsley, and rosemary. All of these plans are easy to grow in the Midwest and can be grown on a balcony in large pots.

Next Spring
I already can't wait to plant my garden next spring. I've learned a lot this year, and have also had the chance to think more about maximizing the space I have and producing even more wonderful food. And now that my garden is ready for the spring, all that I have to do now is plant my garlic and wait for warmer weather.


To learn more about gardening before spring comes around, visit Gardenweb. The site provides tons of info on how to grow a garden and connects you with tons of people that are incredibly knowledgeable about a variety of gardening topics.