Posts Tagged ‘environment’

When I tell people I’ve gone plastic-free, I usually get one of two questions:

1) What, so you don’t use any plastic products?

2) So what do you do about X? (where X is some product we can’t imagine living without).

The answer to question #1 is simple: I’m only avoiding buying or consuming plastic products. I’m not about to throw about the plastic products I have. It’s exactly those products that help me with the answer to question #2.

I’ve spent the last few years building up an arsenal of objects to help reuse more and buy less.

This post is brought to you by the letter B.

"21st Century Fushion" fused plastic...

Photo credit: Urban Woodswalker

Bags: I imagine almost everyone is familiar with those fold-up reusable grocery bags at this point. It seems as if every event and non-profit is intent on sending you one of these grocery bags, right?  I have over ten. At least I won’t have to use disposable bags if I ever need to make a run on canned goods to prepare for the zombie apocalypse.

These reusable bags are more essential now that many cities and counties are passing plastic bag bans. Sure, most of those plastic reusable bags are made from synthetic fibers, but it takes only ten uses of a reusable bags to make using it more efficient than disposable plastic bags.

eneloop rechargeable battery

Photo credit: liewcf

Batteries: Finding batteries that aren’t wrapped up in plastic? Good luck. I purchased rechargeable batteries months ago, which has made this dilemma a little more manageable. Granted, with only eight such batteries, I still end up swapping batteries around between my wireless mouse, my X-box controller, and sundry household items. I did find one person on the forums of My Plastic Free Life who said she found plastic-free packaged batteries at Wal-Mart.

Seeing as about everything in Wal-Mart is encased in plastic, I remain skeptical.

The battery brand I prefer is Sanyo‘s Eneloop. I’ve been using them for over a year and haven’t noticed any diminished charge time.

Light Bulbs: This one’s easy: candles.

Okay, just kidding. This issue hasn’t come up in my plastic pledge, because I already switch over to compact fluorescent light bulbs, which last like ten years. However, there are some plastic free options. Beth Terry over at My Plastic Free Life recommends Ace Hardware, where she found a 5-pack box of GE compact fluorescent lightbulbs that didn’t have the stupid plastic windows that most light bulb packages have.

For lightbulbs that aren’t your standard 60-watt bulbs—well, I’m just hoping one of those doesn’t burn out. Probably the best measure to reduce packaging on high-wattage incandescent lightbulbs is to buy in bulk, or just try to avoid them altogether.

Baking Soda: This stuff is great. It comes in cardboard packages, and it’s useful for almost everything. I could write an entire post on baking soda alone, so I’m going to leave it at that for now.

Plastic is everywhere; it wraps our food, it packages our products; it touches us every day. Lately, I’ve been wondering whether it’s enough to just recycle. No matter how much we recycle, plastic ends up in our streams, along our roads, and in our oceans. It kills wildlife, and I’d wager it hurts us. That’s why I’m taking a pledge off plastic: ninety days without buying or receiving plastic products, or as near as I can manage. In this blog, I will document my struggles to avoid using plastic. My pledge off plastic starts on October 20 and ends on January 17.

The rules of the plastic pledge are:

  • Do not purchase any product containing plastic (food containers, DVDs, etc.)
  • Do not use any disposable plastic products (e.g. straws, lids, packaging, etc).

If I use a disposable plastic product I have from before starting the pledge, I’ll document the use and sum up everything at the end of each week. Through this project, I hope to highlight:

  • Consequences of plastic.
  • Alternatives to plastic.
  • Resources to help accomplish the pledge.
  • What items contain plastic that you never think about.
  • How this pledge changes my habits and the way I think myself as a consumer.

I first heard about the Pacific Garbage Heap through TED Talks. I’m a vociferous TED Talk listener. I play them while I work on home projects, sometimes listening to several dozen in sequence. One day in 2010 when I was installing new bamboo flooring, I started noticing a lot of TED Talks discussing the oceans, marine life, and this thing called the Pacific Garbage Heap. The event where the talks had been recorded was called Mission Blue, and it was an independently organized TED event in the Galapagos Islands. From TED’s website:

“On April 6-10, 2010, inspired by Sylvia Earle’s TED Prize wish, a group of 100 scientists, activists and philanthropists set sail on an epic adventure into the blue. During five days of cruising the Galapagos Islands, we developed a new model of radical collaboration that could significantly impact the way we protect our oceans. (For details, read the blog post “Ocean Hope at Mission Blue.”)

Talks in this theme come from the scientists and ocean lovers onboard Mission Blue Voyage. And start by watching Sylvia Earle’s TED Prize wish from TED2009: “I wish you would use all means at your disposal — films! expeditions! the web! more! — to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.”

I was moved by what the speakers said during the event, yet the problem seemed very big and very distant. I rarely visited the coast, so I rarely saw the plastic detritus along the rocky shores of the Pacific Northwest.

Two events crystalized my feelings about plastic use: a visit to the Galapagos Islands in 2011 and a TEDx Rainier talk I attended here in Seattle at the University of Washington. In the Galapagos, I found my favorite place in the world—and one threatened by the ocean trash. Here in Seattle, I witnessed a video by Chris Jordan about his journey to the Midway Islands, a small island chain in the middle of the Pacific. In the short documentary, Edit: In the trailer for his feature-length documentary, he presents the tragic story of the albatrosses that roost on the island. They are dying in droves, choking on the colorful plastic that washes ashore daily.

His five-minute documentary moved me and two hundred other people to tears.

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I might not have the ability to bring people to tears in documenting my own struggles with plastic consumption, but I can do a small part to raise awareness about the crisis that’s under way in our oceans. This blog is part of that effort.