Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Plastic-Free Shampoo Suggestions

A few months ago, my blog and I were featured in the Time magazine article, The Truth About Plastic. The author started the article with the line, "If you know where to find a good plastic-free shampoo, can you tell Jeanne Haegele?"

As you might imagine, this little line resulted in a lot of emails and ideas coming my way, which I figure I should share. Here they are.

Plastic-free Shampoo Ideas
  • Lush bar shampoo (I got a looooot of emails about these)
  • J.R. Liggett's old fashioned bar shampoo
  • Chagrin Valley bar shampoo
  • Burt's Bees baby bar shampoo
  • Burt's Bess rosemary mind bar shampoo
  • Kirk's original hardwater castille soap
  • Liquid shampoo from bulk dispensers at health stores (it seems that this is a possibility on the West coast)
  • Indian herbs (see here for recipes)
  • Yoghurt (although I think this is actually more of a conditioner)
And that's all I got. Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Blog Contest: It's Life Less Plastic's Year Anniversary

It's hard to believe, but it's been a year since the day I composed the first Life Less Plastic post and started this blog. It's been a hard road, but it's also been extremely rewarding, in part because of the support so many of you have given me.

As a bit of a thank you and to get new people involved, I've decided to have a blog contest! Everyone is invited to participate.

The prize: A set of five produce bags from Ecobags

How to Enter: Just submit a comment that shares one thing people can do to cut their plastic use. And don't be afraid to be creative. Oh, and don't worry if you submit a repeat. That's okay, too.

To decide the winner, I'll do a random drawing from all those who enter.

The entry deadline will be October 3, and I'll post the winner the following day.

Good luck everyone!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's Official: I'm Out of Deodorant

I knew it would happen one of these days, and now that day is here. I finally ran out of my last stick of deodorant.

That means I'll be using baking soda from here on out.

It sounds scary, but I'm not that worried because I already ran a week-long experiment to find out if baking soda would be effective enough to kill my pit odor. And it was.

We'll see what happens over time, though. Some people say that baking soda eventually irritates their armpits or even gives them a rash. Gross.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's Time to Take Back the Filter

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has been on a mission to get Brita to recycle their water filters for quite some time. A main argument: they recycle the filters in Europe; why can't they do it in North America?

Help Beth reach Brita by signing her petition at www.takebackthefilter.org.

Need convincing? Check out this simple video by a supporter of the cause, Jeph Foust.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How I Gave Up Plastic

Here's something interesting. The Dallas Morning News asked me to write an opinion piece for their Sunday news magazine, and they actually published it!

The article I wrote is called "How I Gave Up Plastic," and it was paired with a piece by Stanley Fish called, "I Am, Therefore I Pollute." Fish writes the New York Times blog Think Again.

Here's the text of my article as it appeared:

How I Gave Up Plastic
by Jeanne Haegele

Bad habits are hard to break, but sometimes you just have to try. At least, that's what I've been telling myself for the past year as I've attempted to give up plastic.

Why on earth would anyone give up plastic? There are ample reasons.

Americans send huge amounts of plastic to landfills each year – almost 60 billion pounds in 2006 alone. Some plastic never biodegrades, and most of what does takes hundreds of years. It is difficult to recycle, and evidence of plastic's negative health effects is mounting. Then there's the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a vast, swirling soup in the Pacific Ocean where wildlife is threatened by plastic refuse trapped in the currents.

Last autumn, thinking over these worrisome facts on a bike ride through the streets of Chicago, I started to wonder whether it would be possible to live without plastic. It seemed unlikely, especially since everything in the supermarket is wrapped, if not double-wrapped, in the stuff. How could I avoid it?

But I decided to go for it. I would conduct an experiment and give up everyone's favorite polymer.

Looking back now at those first few months, I understand why people feel green fatigue. Learning to live without plastic wasn't easy. I had to throw out so many of my old routines and rethink fundamental aspects of my life.

Grocery shopping was my greatest challenge. I remember my initial trip to the the supermarket, when I first learned that so many of my normal standbys were off-limits. Crackers, chips, cookies, pasta and dozens of other favorites were out, and I had no idea what to buy. Only a few items came home with me that day – and even some of those, like the canned tuna and milk, had hidden plastic in their packaging (aluminum cans and paper milk cartons are lined with a thin layer of plastic). I spent those first few weeks a bit hungry.

But with some practice, grocery shopping became surprisingly easy. Fruits and veggies are a much bigger part of my diet now, and I've discovered that several stores in my area have bulk bins with enough products to keep me happy – cereal, oatmeal, granola, nuts, dried fruit, rice and chocolate candy are some of my favorites. And I still buy milk (in a glass container) and meat (wrapped in paper at the deli), and use my own cloth produce and grocery bags. Eating well has been not a problem – and the cost savings are significant.

Groceries haven't been my only dilemma, though. Most of my favorite toiletries are packaged in plastic. Searching for a shampoo replacement has been a constant struggle, and conditioning my hair with a vinegar solution, while effective, makes me worry about smelling like a salad. And do you know how hard it is to find plastic-free makeup? Difficult enough that I've basically given up. Still, even these have been changes for the better; I use very few toiletries now, and I am, once again, saving a lot of cash.

So, like kicking a nail-biting problem, I gave up plastic – a bad habit that was hurting the environment – and I'm stronger for it. I've tested my boundaries, forced myself to think critically about my actions and developed a simpler way of life. I'm happier and healthier than ever.

I know I have more bad habits, still unnoticed or unchecked. But with a little effort, I know I can get rid of them, too. It just takes a true dedication to change, little by little. A commitment to drive less, adjust my thermostat, even eat less meat.

At first, breaking these habits will seem difficult; it did when I gave up plastic. But this experiment has shown me that the hardest thing about making changes is breaking old patterns, patterns that comfort you or help you make mundane decisions but don't truly influence your quality of life. Getting greener seems difficult at first, but it only takes small steps to get you on your way.

As for me, the more steps I take, the less I miss the old bad habits. And the more I learn that it's not the minor hardships that matter in the end.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Evidence Mounts: Bisphenol A May Cause Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes

Last week, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report on the first study examining links between Bisphenol A and its effects on humans.

The report states that scientists identified "a significant relationship between urine concentrations of BPA and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver-enzyme abnormalities in a representative sample of the adult US population."

It also points that the study, which suggests "links between BPA and some of the most significant and economically burdensome human diseases, is based on a cross-sectional study and therefore cannot establish causality."

So correlation doesn't equal causation. But it probably means it's time to stop letting our babies drink out bottles made with this chemical.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dear American Airlines Flight Attendant, What Was Your Problem?

I'm back from my trip and can report that, with the support of my sister, I was able to limit my plastic consumption for the most part. Here's a quick summary of the plastic I did use:
  • A plastic glass for wine on the plane (an early transgression)
  • Two of those miniature cups for cream
  • A glasses repair kit with a bit of plastic packaging (the screw on my sunglasses fell out)
  • various hotel key cards
  • A miniature bottle of shampoo (I went in this amazingly gorgeous soaking pool at my hotel and I had to wash the chlorine out of my hair)
  • A few bags of chocolate covered hazelnuts (souvenirs for my new roomies and my dad)
  • A styrofoam cup and plastic stirrer for tea
I know I'm missing one or two things, but that basically sums it up, which is pretty good for six days of travel. A few of them could have been avoided, obviously, and I take full responsibility for them.

Well, for all of them except the last one.

That STUPID styrofoam cup and stirrer were not my fault at all. On the plane on the way home, it was really, really cold so I asked my American Airlines flight attendant for some hot tea. I handed her my stainless steel reusable mug and asked politely, Can you just put the tea in here please?

And you know what she said? Oh, ahhhh (uncomfortable pause) I'm just going to put it in a cup for you.

What is that supposed to mean? Why didn't she want to use my stainless steel mug? It was totally clean. What was her problem?

Did American Airlines instruct her not to fill reusable mugs, or was she just being a freak? I would really like to know.

Anyways, I may never find out, but I guess it's time to write a letter.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Dark Side of the Otherwise Enchanting Sky Mall Catalog

Written on my plane ride yesterday:

On a seemingly endless flight from Chicago to Portland, I'm plagued by an annoying runny nose, an unfamiliar pressure in my sinuses, and a severe case of boredom. Luckily, I have with me several things to keep me company including my laptop, a few frothy works of fiction, and the Atlantic Monthly that I bought in airport.

Oh, and of course, I have the Sky Mall Catalog. Thank God.

Yes, thank God for the Sky Mall. It's a work of art, really. Or at least in my mind it is. From my view (and I'm pretty sure in part in the creator's view--note the lowercase "c"), it is a hilarious work of social satire that makes fun of humanity's illogical desire to buy things, often made of cheap plastic, that no one could or should ever need.

Examples include:

The Corn Butterer

The Insta Airbed with Backrest

The Do-Nu-Matic

The Pet Observation Dome

Wow. The Sky Mall is truly brilliant in its ability to entertain.

But with all good things in life, the Sky Mall has a dark side. That is, there must actually be people buying crap out of this catalog. And not just the normal stuff in the catalog--there are a few things like clocks and wind chimes--they're buying the crazy, ridiculous junk like the delightful corn butterer I just mentioned (oh my God, use a knife!).

It seems unfathomable to me, but it must be true because the Sky Mall is always there. On every flight. So I'm left asking, what is wrong with people? How do they not realize that once they buy this stuff, it's just going to clog up their basements and attics and living rooms. And God forbid, they're buying these things as gifts. Please, friends and family, don't buy me this kind of stuff. Ever! It will just stress me out and make me think about how I lack storage and need a bigger apartment. Your presents will make me feel inadequate. Is that what you want?

Anyways, maybe I shouldn't be complaining. At least the Sky Mall helps me pass these horrible, food-less, dehydrating hours with a smile--a smile I can still enjoy even if it does have murky undertones.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another Travel Challenge

I'm off to Portland today to visit my sister, and you know what that means. Another travel challenge.

Will I buy fast food wrapped in plastic? Will I buy bottled water out of serious dehydration?

Based on this previous experience and this one, I may not have the ability or the will power to be plastic-free. But we'll see. At least I'll have my sister there to help me out this time.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

BBC writer Chris Jeavens has been blogging about her adventures in giving up plastic for the past month, and only a few days ago she mentioned my no 'poo regimen on her blog.

Normally, this would be extremely exciting, but instead it's a bit embarassing because I'm no longer a no 'poo person.

I know. It's hard to believe, but I think I have a good reason for giving it up. I had the most horrible case of dandruff! A case so bad that I was forced to buy a bottle of Head and Shoulders.

Please don't scoff. If you could have seen the blizzard of snowy white flakes coming off my head you would have understood.

Anyways, since I started using my new bottle of shampoo my hair has been dandruff-free and wonderfully clean. It's been a real relief, so I guess I'm planning to use the whole bottle of Head and Shoulders and then move back to Lush shampoo. But just in case I get dandruff again, does anyone have any tips?

p.s. I checked out Lush's dandruff bar and it's not an option. I can't stand the smell.

p.p.s Since it's been a while since I've written, I feel I should admit that I've had one or two additional lapses this month in my plastic-free-ness. But otherwise I'm still doing well.