Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Plastic-Free Camping: Is It Possible?

This past weekend, my friends and I went on a lovely camping trip.

We took the train out to the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore on Friday and then spent our time laying on the beach, swimming in the cool waters of Lake Michigan, and even partying with a friend's family (his Dad has a house on the beach). We also made some nice campfires and spent hours under the stars talking and drinking whiskey.

Yes, it was a wonderful little vacation, but it had its downside.

I think I may have used more plastic this weekend than I have in the entire year put together.

And it was all my fault. Almost.

I didn't go to the grocery store the night before our camping trip because someone stole the wheel off my bike, my primary mode of transportation and the vehicle I use for my grocery shopping. This meant that I had to wing it and eat what I could find in Indiana. That meant buying turkey dogs in plastic wrappers and various other plastic-ful things. It was sad.

But I'll get over it.

Still, the experience got me thinking. I absolutely love backcountry camping, but is it possible to do backcountry camping trip without plastic? I mean, I usually rely on those freeze dried dinners, which are packaged in a thick plastic bag, because they are light and very easy to prepare after a long, exhausting day of hiking. And that's just dinners. Lunch is typically a bagel or a pita straight out of a plastic bag. And of course, I kind of want everything to be in plastic because it's light and prevents food from getting all over my backpack.

What's a girl to do? Ideas? I don't want to stop backcountry camping!

I guess I'll have to consider adding this to the "What I Haven't Given Up" List. Hmpfh.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In Time

I have exciting news to share. My blog and I were featured in the Time Magazine article, The Truth About Plastic!

If you're a new reader, thank you for stopping by. It means a lot to me to know that you're interested in what I'm doing and that you may even be thinking about or already trying to reduce your own plastic consumption.

That said, here's a summary of some of my favorite and/or most popular posts for those of you visiting Life Less Plastic for the first time.
As you read, please feel free to leave comments. Your input is extremely valuable to me and, I'm sure, to other readers. We can't wait to hear your ideas!

Finally, if you're interested in further reading on going plastic-free, I recommend you check out the blog Fake Plastic Fish. Written by Beth Terry, a fellow environmentalist from far-away California, the blog contains tons of in-depth info and thoughtful discussion.

P.S. Regular readers, I just want to say thanks to you as well. I always appreciate your feedback and am so happy to have the opportunity to share my adventures (and mis-adventures) with you.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Produce Bags, Anyone?

It seems like everyone is using cloth shopping bags these days—a great thing since the number of plastic grocery bags consumed each year is somewhere between 500 billion and 1 trillion.

But what about produce bags?! From what I can tell, absolutely no one in Chicago is using them. It's crazy!

Indeed so few Chicagoans are hip to these amazing little baggies that I'm forced to assume that most people don't even know what they are.

Here's a quick, if not obvious, explanation:
  • Produce bags are small cloth sacks.
  • They serve as reusable replacements for the disposable, plastic produce bags most of us are familiar with.
  • They're available in various sizes from several online vendors including Ecobags.com, Reusablebags.com, and Amazon.com.
  • To be the most eco-friendly, you can also make your own produce bags out of your old t-shirts or use bags you already have around the house.
I got my produce bags from Ecobags.com back in October and have been loving them ever since.

When I pull them out in the supermarket and start putting apples or spinach into them, no one notices or looks twice at what I'm doing (although, to be honest, I'm so proud of my produce bags that I'd be happy if they did). And when I have things rung up, the cashiers never seem to care. They just peek into the bags, quickly figure out what's inside, and ring the stuff up. It's painless.

If you're trying to find easy ways to green your lifestyle, get some produce bags. You won't regret it.

For additional tips on how to use less plastic, see the following post: Protect the Environment: Ten Tips for Avoiding Plastic.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Unexpected Benefits of Giving Up Plastic

When I first decided to give up plastic, it was an experiment. I didn't know if I could do it, and I didn't know what it would mean in terms of my daily life.

Eventually, though, I learned that I really could do it. I just had to change the way I shop.

Now when I go to the grocery store, I do most of my shopping along the outer wall of the store. I buy tons of produce and bulk food items like rice, and nuts, and whole grains, and I don't buy pop since aluminum cans have a plastic lining. I also never buy pre-packaged convenience foods. Basically, giving up plastic has made my diet a lot healthier.

And now when I step into a department store or the drug store, I usually don't buy anything because almost every product available is either packaged in plastic or has plastic in it. Including clothes. That means that I avoid buying new things that I probably don't need anyways. Translation: giving up plastic means saving tons of money.

How unexpected.

When I went plastic-free I knew I'd be doing something good for the environment and I knew it would help me get potentially harmful chemicals out of my life, but I didn't realize that it would also mean eating healthy and saving money. What great bonuses!

And how inspiring to know that making one positive change in your life can lead to so many positive consequences for you and the environment.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Waste at the Taste

The Taste of Chicago has to be one of the most wasteful festivals in the country.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's a great event for the most part. It's bunches of fun to spend an evening in downtown Chicago trying new and exotic foods, but almost EVERY dish available comes laden with packaging, most of it made of plastic. It's not environmentally friendly.

Case in point: I went over to the Taste yesterday with my sister and tried my hardest to avoid plastic, and I still failed.
I ended up with two plastic forks and a small styrofoam bowl.

How did it happen? For the forks, I told the servers that I didn't want them, but they were moving so fast that they forgot. For the bowl, I ordered a dish I was unfamiliar with and found out too late that it was being served in styrofoam. Darnit.

Anyways, I want the Taste organizers to start thinking of more eco-friendly ways to distribute fast food and then I want them to encourage participating restaurants to use them.

Afterall, Mayor Daley has made it a priority to turn Chicago into a "green" city. A less wasteful Taste of Chicago would be an important step in getting there.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Big Changes

For anyone who's noticed my semi-incommunicado status and general lack of posts lately, I'm finally going to reveal a few of the many causes.

To start, my boyfriend and I broke up. Even though it was a very civil break-up based on a mutual decision by the two of us, it's been a sad and stressful time over these past few months, and it's made it hard for me to get motivated to write posts.

Adding to the stress was the fact that I had to find a new apartment because my b.f. and I lived together. This meant lots of time spent going from apartment to apartment and having plenty of interviews with potential new roommates.

Then I actually had to spend many, many hours packing up all of my stuff and move to my new place. Obviously, tons of work.

Despite all the craziness, though, I think things are finally starting to level out for me. My new apartment, with its hardwood floors, high ceilings, and quirky kitchen tile, is absolutely gorgeous, and my new roommates are very nice and completely charming.

Now I just have to tell them about my plastic-freeness (I didn't know them before moving into my new place so they don't know).

Right now, my plan is to wait a week and then tell them. That way, once they hear the news they will already understand that it won't effect their lives within the apartment very much.

The one way it might effect them: dishsoap. I don't know what we'll do yet. Should we use Dr. Bronner's? Should I ask them to use a homemade solution? I'll have to think about that tomorrow.