I think it's time to provide a list of stuff I'm doing to be mostly plastic-free. Here it is:
1. Bringing my own cloth bags to the store and not accepting any plastic shopping bags.
2. Buying food from bulk bins to avoid plastic packaging. Some of the foods I regularly buy include cereal, granola, rice, nuts, beans, and quick oats. I've also purchased couscous, steal cut outs, rolled oats, Bulgar wheat, barley, and nutritional yeast.
3. Eating more fresh produce since it has no packaging (and is super good for you).
4. Using cloth bags instead of plastic produce bags for my fruits and veggies. I also bring along old plastic grocery bags just in case I'm buying a lot of stuff.
5. Giving up the plastic-packaged convenience foods that I so love, including ramen noodles and frozen pizza.
6. Using vinegar rinse instead of conditioner. Right now I'm alternating between the vinegar rinse and the conditioner I still have and it's working quite nicely.
7. Making my own bread. BTW, why do fresh bakery breads in stores always have a plastic window in the bag? It's so pointless!
8. Making my own yogurt to avoid plastic yogurt tubs. Note: making yogurt is SUPER easy--you should try it!
9. Cleaning with baking soda and vinegar instead of harsh household chemicals that come in plastic bottles.
10. Washing my dishes with Dr. Bronner's bar soap. It works! I'm not kidding!
11. Bringing my own stainless steel coffee mug to the coffee shop. This is important because paper cups are lined with plastic.
12. Bringing along a reusable water bottle or mug for water, and NEVER drinking bottled water.
13. Bringing my own takeout containers to restaurants in case I have leftovers. This sounds embarrassing, but no one has ever even noticed that I've brought my own container except for the people I'm with.
14. Not buying aluminum food cans, excluding canned tomatoes and vegetable broth, which I haven't been able to give up yet. Hopefully, I can/jar some tomatoes this summer and do away with this plastic use, though.
15. Not drinking soda from aluminum cans, although I'll admit that I've probably had about 10 cans of soda since I started trying to go plastic-free. This is a real improvement over my old habit of drinking soda every day, though, so that's good. (Update 3.19.09 - I've been drinking too many cans of soda lately. Arg!)
16. Composting in order to use fewer plastic garbage bags (and because it's awesome). Note that I use 7th Generation bags from a minimum of 55% recycled plastic right now.
17. Bringing my own tupperware container to the store for buying cheese at the deli. Note: One commenter pointed out that tupperware is plastic. Totally true, but I don't want to go out and buy replacements for these containers until they wear out since I think it would be wasteful. Just thought I'd mention it.
18. Having meat wrapped in paper at the meat counter. Sometimes they give me little plastic sheets, though, without my noticing, which is unfortunate.
19. Getting more serious about gardening so that I start canning locally-grown vegetables for use during the winter. This will help me avoid aluminum cans for tomatoes for sure.
20. Buying toilet paper that doesn't come in a giant plastic bag, but instead comes individually wrapped in paper.
21. Eliminating use of paper towels for wiping hands and cleaning. It's all cloth towels and rags for me these days.
22. Eating finger food if real silverware isn't available. It's sounds silly but it's perfectly do-able. One of these days, I'm going to start carrying around my own silverware.
23. Not eating off of plastic plates. Sometimes this requires me to a bit rude and take a ceramic plate from someones cupboard and then wash it when I'm done, but not one has seemed to mind this yet.
24. Always telling the waitress or bartender, "no straw please."
What I Haven't Given Up
1. Aluminum cans of tomatoes and vegetable broth, as I mentioned earlier.
2. Trash bags, which I also mentioned earlier.
3. Organic milk from Nature Valley, which comes in a paper carton lined with plastic. I figure it's way more important to buy organic when it comes to dairy and I can't get organic milk in a returnable glass jar.
4. Medicine, including my beloved ibuprofen.
5. Toothpaste. I tried using homemade toothpaste for a while, but I quit recently because I haven't had a chance to ask my dentist if she thought it was an okay thing to do. I'm using Tom's of Maine now, but I'd like to try homemade toothpaste again when I run out of the tube I have.
6. The occasional box of pasta with a plastic window. It's very hard to find bulk pasta in Chicago, and right now the only two stores I know that sell it are about a 25-minute drive away.
7. The plastic on the underside of metal lids and the occasional plastic seal on the outside of jars.
8. Plastic lids on jars of food. I've gotten pretty good at avoiding these, but I have purchased a few food items with plastic lids when it was my only option.
1. Running out of makeup. It's gonna be sad.
2. Using the last of my shampoo. I have a Burt's Bees shampoo bar that I haven't tried yet. I hope it works!
2. Using my last disposable razor. I suppose I'll have to buy a safety razor, which scares me.
3. Running out of deodorant. I'll have to experiment with Lush deodorant more.
Well, that's a pretty good summary of how my project has been going so far. If you're a regular reader, you know I'm not perfect, and sometimes I fail, fail again, and then fail again, and then fail some more, but in general, I'm definitely pleased with the amount of plastic I've been able to rid from my life since I started this project. Yep. It's been a good thing, and it really hasn't been that difficult. Of course there have been a few challenges here and there, but ever since I initially identified the big changes that I had to make and then figured out how to make them, Life Less Plastic has felt pretty good.