Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No More...Dish Soap

I'm nearly out of dish soap. The dreaded day when I finally run out is almost here.

I've been scared of this day for many moons and have been wondering over and over, "What, oh what, am I going to do without dishwashing liquid?" and "Where, oh where, will I ever find plastic free dish soap?"

But no fear. Dr. B's is here.

I've discovered, as many others surely have, that Dr. Bronner's bar soap does a fine job at getting the grime off my plates and flatware.

Here's how I wash dishes:
  • For a large batch, I fill up the sink part way with hot water and swoosh my lemon-scented bar of soap around in it when it's done filling. Then I proceed as normal.
  • For a smaller batch, I just dab the sponge on the soap now and again and wash like I normally would
And that's it. My dishes come out sparkling clean. Yep, you gotta love Dr. B's!

(BTW, Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish uses Dr. Bronner's liquid soap, which comes in a bottle made of 100% post-consumer recycled platic. Definitely a decent option for those not into bar soap)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Letter to Whole Foods: Thank You for Ending Plastic Bag Distribution

As you may have heard, Whole Foods plans to stop giving out plastic bags entirely by Earth Day this year.

Check out the letter I wrote to them in support, and then consider writing one of your own!

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Dear Whole Foods,

Thank you for taking another step towards helping the environment by eliminating your distribution of plastic bags. These days, it's important for corporations like yours, as well as individuals, to make strong moves and set a good example, so I think what you are doing is great.

But I would also like to ask you to take further action. Please require your customers to pay an additional fee for paper bags. I ask you to do this because your customers will need strong motivation to bring their own bags. Otherwise, they may simply switch to paper bags, which I have consistently heard have a larger carbon footprint than plastic bags.

Anyways, I thank you again for your initiative in reducing plastic waste and look forward to learning about similar actions from your organization in the future.

Until Then,
[Me]

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Need Power!

I didn't post yesterday because the power supply for my computer is broken. Argh!

I'm going to run out and buy a replacement tomorrow, which means I'll be buying new plastic.

I'd like to buy a power supply used, but I feel like that would be too risky since a bad one can mess a computer up (and I've already had my fair share of computer problems this year).

Darnit!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Give Me Cheese, Please!

I love cheese of all varieties. Swiss, cheddar, brie, blue, havarti, gruyere, alpenzeller--they're all amazing! But unfortunately, I've been having trouble finding a way to get plastic free cheese at my local grocery store

That is, until tonight when I suddenly had a brilliant idea: I should bring my own container to the supermarket!

How obvious! And you know what? It worked, and the guy at the deli counter barely looked at me strange when I asked him to put the cheese I ordered into my container.

I'm so happy. I have three quarters of a pound of provolone in my fridge, and I know that it will be easy to get more in the future. This is a good day.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home

I really want to see the movie Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home.

The problem: the film is not available for rent or digital purchase. The only way to see it is by purchasing a DVD through the movie's website, which I obviously don't want to do since DVDs and their cases are made of plastic.

So I was sad...until I discovered Brave New Theaters, a site that allows you to find screenings of indie films in your area and to schedule screenings of your own.

From the site, I learned that there's a woman in a nearby suburb hosting a screening of Garbage this March. Yahoo!

Even more lucky--she said that if I like the movie, I can borrow her DVD and host a screening of my own in Chicago. How cool!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Mom Is Bringing Her Own Bags!

I'm so happy! My mom, a.k.a. Momasaur, just told me that she is now bringing her own bags to the store!

I never thought it would happen.

This Christmas, my sisters and I tried to convince her to stop using plastic bags, but she said she wouldn't. Her reasons: 1) bringing your own bags is embarrassing and 2) it's inconvenient.

Now, I understand reason 1. Momasaur lives on the south side of Chicago, where grocery employees (and other shoppers) don't regularly encounter crunchy types. In fact, during a visit to a store near her house, I nearly gave a bagger a heart attack once because I insisted that I didn't need a plastic bag for a single loaf of bread. He simply couldn't believe it.

Yep, I can see why bringing your own bag makes you stand out down where my mom lives, and I applaud her for having the courage to be different. She's really doing something cool.

Oh, and as for Momasaur's reason number 2, she has apparently realized that her reusable bags are actually MORE convenient than plastic ones. She says that it's easy to leave them in the car, and they can carry lots of stuff, prevent things from rolling around in the car, and don't dig into her hands since she can sling them over her shoulder.

It's official! She's a convert!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Pollution in People

The Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, which is based in Washington and consists of more than 50 organizations, undertook a cute little study in 2005 called "Pollution in People."

The Study

"In 2005, ten Washington residents agreed to testing of their hair, blood, and urine for the presence of toxic chemicals as part of an investigative study by the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition. The Coalition wanted to know which chemicals were getting into our bodies, and at what levels, to better understand the potential harm posed by poor regulation of chemicals, and to develop better solutions."

The Results
The study, of course, found that all of the participants had toxic chemicals in their bodies in varying amounts. Examples of chemicals found include DDT, mercury, arsenic, and phthalates (potentially toxic chemicals used to soften plastic).

But this isn't that surprising since it's well accepted that our bodies absorb many of the chemicals that we come in contact with (obviously quite frightening considering "the great majority of chemicals in common use have not been adequately studied for their effects on human health").

Anyways, I recommend checking out the study's website. It provides profiles for the people studied, information on phthalates and other chemicals, and a resource on safe alternatives.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Homemade Toothpaste

I used the last of my toothpaste yesterday morning. Nooooo!!!!!

Why am I sad? Since toothpaste is only available in plastic tubes, I now have to figure out a way to make my own.

To prevent myself from going to go to bed with a dirty mouth, I scoured the internet last night to find information on the subject. I had a hard time locating a definitive source of recipes, but I came up with the following concoction based on what I found.

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Cinnamon Toothpaste
  • 3 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons of vodka
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
To make, simply mix all three ingredients together in a jar. It ends up as sort of a damp powder. To use, just dip your damp toothbrush into the jar to pick up a bit of the paste/powder and brush as normal.

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I brushed with my new toothpaste last night, and it was simply...okay. To be honest, I found it pretty salty, actually, but I think it's something I can get used to.

In terms of whether or not it's good for my teeth, I think I'll ask my dentist what she thinks when I go visit her next month. Heck, maybe she'll have a good recipe.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Plastic Recycling Gets Dirty in China

Spotted on Fake Plastic Fish, the following video brings you to a Chinese facility that recycles plastics from all around the world. Quite disturbing, the video has inspired Beth from Fake Plastic Fish, as both protest and social experiment, to collect all of her recyclable items for an entire year.

It's also made me feel even better about trying to be as plastic free as possible.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

China Bans Free Plastic Shopping Bags

Announced yesterday, China is banning the distribution of free plastic bags—good news considering the Chinese now use about 3 billion plastic bags each day.

According to an article by the Associated Press, the ban starts June 1 and will completely eliminate the use of traditional, ultra-thin plastic bags. In addition, retailers will be required to charge customers for providing thicker bags.

The regulation is intended to bring about "a return to cloth bags and shopping baskets to reduce the use of plastic bags," which only became commonplace in China about 15 years ago.

Hopefully, the fact that free plastic bags are a relatively new thing to the country will make getting rid of them easier on its citizens, who seem to be responding positively to the new regulation.

One shopkeeper says that it might be a bother, "but these bags really do create a lot of pollution, so it should be a good thing."

Another resident says that the move shows that "China [is] serious about joining global efforts to stem environmental deterioration.

"I think this really shows that China is being a responsible country."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Reusable Water Bottles: A Great Way to Be Good to the Environment

When you need some water, rehydrate with a few sips from a reusable bottle!

If don't have one already, don't worry. You can probably purchase a bottle from a local thrift store (a thorough cleaning will make it good as new) or use an old glass jar like No Impact Man.

But if this isn't your thing and you want to purchase something new, there are lots of types to choose from. Here's the lowdown.

Popular Water Bottle Brands

Klean Kanteen - My personal favorite, these bottles are stainless steel and are pretty much the only ones on the market with a plastic free and aluminum free body.

Sigg - Extraordinarily cute and available in myriad colorful designs, these bottles are made of aluminum and have a liner made of top-secret material. Sigg says the ingredients of the liner are undisclosed to maintain their competitive advantage, which may mean there's plastic in there somewhere. Oh, and the lid is obviously made of plastic.

Nalgene - Since all Nalgene bottles are made of plastic, I wouldn't recommend them. If you insist on purchasing a Nalgene, go for one of the opaque bottles. These are made of a plastic less likely to have negative health effects. Stay aways from clear Nalgene bottles, as they are made of PVC plastic and may have negative health effects.

Camelbak - These bottles, which are quickly becoming a popular choice, are made of plastic so I wouldn't recommend them. Camelbak hard bottles are made of PVC, so they should be especially avoided.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Too Much Packaging: The Plastic Battle

Check out "The Plastic Battle", Winner of the Best One-minute Green Film Contest held by Friends of the Earth.

This simple film demonstrates how over-the-top and unnecessary plastic packaging often is, and also recalls how time-consuming and frustrating plastic packaging can be when you're trying to extract its contents.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Homemade Hair Conditioner: Vinegar Rinse Is Awesome!

I feel lied to, deceived, and misguided. All my life, I thought that you have to spend a lot of money on shampoo and conditioner to have nice hair, but that's simply not true.

Using a vinegar rinse works just as well as Pantene conditioner!


I know it sounds crazy and unbelievable, but excluding that fact that your hair might experience a tiny more static in winter, it's true. After using a vinegar rinse, my hair was shiny, soft, and knot-free. And after it dried there was absolutely no smell. Even my boyfriend didn't notice it when I tested him. How awesome!

My Recipe
Here are the ingredients I used:
  • Just under 1 liter of hot water (about 4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 sprig of rosemary, for fragrance
  • 1 bag of chamomile apple tea, for fragrance
To make vinegar rinse: place water in container of your choice, put the rest of the ingredients inside, and let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes. That's it!

In the Shower

Before using my vinegar rinse, I shampooed my hair as usual, and then worked approximately 3/4 of a cup of the vinegar rinse into my hair. Afterwards, I rinsed well and let my hair air dry.

Boyfriend Smell Test
As I mentioned earlier, my boyfriend didn't notice any vinegar smell.

The test: I made sure to wash my hair while he wasn't home so that I could test it on him without him knowing what was going on. When he returned home and my hair was perfectly dry, I walked up to him and nonchalantly tossed my hair in his face (it was sort of funny at the time), and he didn't mention anything. Later, I told him why I did it, and asked him outright if he could smell the vinegar. His response: "No." Awesome! No vinegar smell!

I'm Not Scared Anymore
I'm not out of conditioner yet, but now I know that I no longer need to fear the day when I run out. I will have an effective conditioner to use that is plastic free, environmentally friendly, and healthy.

Additional Resources
UPDATE: Most people recommend only using a vinegar rinse two or three times each week. More often than they may dry your hair out.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Plastic Free New Year's Resolutions

It's a new year! Here are my plastic-related resolutions for 2008.
  • Continue being as plastic free as possible : I've been mostly plastic free for the past three months and have nearly eliminated the purchase of products made of plastic or packaged in it. I plan to continue doing this during 2008, and hope I can be even more successful at it in the new year.
  • Stop consuming plastic-packaged junk food at work: There are always candies and sweets lying around in open plastic packages at my office that I've been letting myself eat up-til-now. I guess I figured that since I didn't purchase the food and I wasn't consuming the whole package, it was okay. I've decided to formally change my mind on this since, by consuming even part of the package, I am still contributing to plastic waste, and also because these snacks are totally unhealthy. Office snacks--away with thee!
  • Eat fewer plastic-packaged snacks when I am visiting friends and family: Most of the snacks that my friends and family offer come in plastic, and since I don't need snacks in the first place I plan to stop partaking. Note that I am still willing to consume meals that involve plastic packaging on social visits since I don't want to be anti-social or become a horribly annoying house guest.
  • Try making homemade toiletries and beauty products: It's very hard to find plastic free toiletries, and there's lots of recipes out there for natural, homemade products that might be good replacements for things I already use. I'm excited to try recipes for things like conditioner, toothpaste, and face mask to see how they work.
  • Shop at thrift stores and garage sales to find plastic free replacements for home items: Examples include my plastic spatula, measuring cups, measuring spoons, and the plastic jewelry box I keep in the bathroom. I'll be sure to donate all of my old plastic items back to the thrift stores where I buy my new-to-me plastic free items.
  • Grow a plastic free garden: I plan on growing a vegetable garden again this summer, but unfortunately, seedlings usually come in little plastic pots. That means that in the near future I'll need to figure out how to grow plants from seeds that I would normally buy as seedlings. Note: Since my dad says tomatoes grown from seed never grow that well, I think I'll still purchase my tomatoes as seedlings.
Notes and Exceptions
Now that I've had a chance to figure out what parts of being plastic free work for me, I have decided to continue purchasing:
  • Select canned goods: I am going to allow myself to buy vegetable broth and the occasional can of coconut milk.
  • Tortilla chips: To keep my cute boyfriend happy, I'm also going to continue buying El Milagro tortilla chips, which are packed in a brown paper bag with a thin plastic lining.
  • Medicine: As you might remember, I am not avoiding plastic packaging associated with medical items such as ibuprofen, claritin, and eye care products since it's nearly impossible to find these items without plastic packaging.
  • Food at restaurants: In order to prevent myself from being miserable and completely anti-social, I am going to continue dining in restaurants, even though I know most of the products used in the kitchen probably come from plastic packages.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Back in Business!

Tonight, I found out that my super-smart, ultra-cool boyfriend fixed my computer as part of my Christmas present. Apparently the problem was strictly my hard drive so I don't have to worry about sending my entire computer into the electronic waste stream...for now.

Anyways, I'm glad to once again have easy access to a computer and to be able to make posts on a regular basis. I'm planning for an every-other-day schedule for now.

Thanks, b.f., for fixing my computer!