Posts Tagged ‘Shopping’

Over the past weekend, I was back home in Oregon to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. My mom has been following my blog, and she knew I was trying to live plastic free. She also told my grandma, who was preparing Thanksgiving dinner, about my pledge.
A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....
Great, this is going to go well, I thought.

I have a loving and supporting family, but when it comes to my environmentalist vein, I tend to drive the family a bit nuts. Heck, they’re still just adjusting to me being a pescatarian. Trying to make it five days without purchasing plastic or consuming food packaged in plastic? I figured I didn’t stand a chance.

I guess it’s a measure of how supportive my family is that they tried at all to get food that was plastic free. Even with our efforts to reduce, we weren’t able to entirely eliminate the plastic. Allow me to break it down:

The Jello Incident: The first night my girlfriend and I stayed with her parents in Portland. As per normal, the moment we stepped into the house, we were inundated with offers of food. Normally, I just politely refuse the food, preferring to leave with my waistline intact. However, I discovered almost immediately that my girlfriend’s mother had made an irrational amount of Jello. And by irrational, I mean ten boxes. Of Jello. I knew that Jello powder was contained in plastic bags within the boxes. Plus, all the Jello jigglers were stored in little plastic cups (thankfully, reusable) covered in Saran wrap (unfortunately, not reusable). I figured it would be impolite to refuse all the Jello, so I settled on having one of the cups.

Success at Breakfast: Most mornings over the holidays, I escaped with a banana, eggs, and pastries or rolls that came in cardboard packaging. Breakfast proved the easiest meal. I was forced to refuse to pick up my mother’s cinnamon dulce latte at Starbucks at one point, because she didn’t have a reusable cup. Adding that one to the Christmas list!

The Big Meal (a.k.a how I totally suck at Thanksgiving): I’ve never really been a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Through childhood, I was content with some turkey, a few rolls, and some fruit salad. It took twenty years of my life to decide to opt-in to stuffing. I still don’t eat mashed potatoes, gravy, or cranberries—and now turkey has been replaced by salmon. In other words, I suck at Thanksgiving. So let’s look at where I succeeded and where I failed with my plastic pledge.

Salmon: Bought at a fresh fish market. Unfortunately, it was wrapped in a plastic bag, which I’m afraid was destined for the trash can because of its fishiness. Fail.

Stuffing: Comes in a box, but inside the box is a plastic bag. Fail.

Fruit Salad: Although some of the fruit (apples, oranges, bananas) was plastic free, the berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) were definitely packaged in plastic. Fail.

Jeesh…I’m not doing very good, am I?

Bread Rolls: Finally, success! These came wrapped in foil from the catering that also delivered our pies. Win.

Beer and Wine: The wine cork was real cork, as opposed to plastic (the virtues of plastic over the endangered cork tree are another issue entirely). However, the beer bottle lids have a little plastic seal, which makes them not entirely plastic free. Fail-ish.

Olives: A guilty Thanksgiving pleasure of mine—and one that comes in a BPA lined can. Fail. At least I’m in good company, since Beth Terry—my plastic free heroine—recently posted a confession regarding these subtle and sinister plastic-lined metallic villains.

Pie and Ice Cream: This came from a catering service, which delivered the pie in a plastic-free box. Was the pie made from ingredients that came in plastic? Probably. I guess I can’t have your cake pie and eat it too. The ice cream container didn’t have any plastic windows, so that was a plus. I’m a little suspicious of ice cream containers though. The cardboard is suspiciously durable. Plastic perhaps?

Lunches etc.: I have to give kudos to my mom on this one, and not just ’cause she’s my mother. She dug up a recipe for these focaccia-bread-like creations that included freshly minced vegetables, cream cheese, and salad dressing. A bizarre combination, to be sure, but also one that was utterly delicious and plastic free—or so she assured me. She also made chocolate chip cookies that, with the exception of the chocolate chips, came from plastic-free baking goods. It got me to thinking that chocolate chip cookies are actually great plastic-free goodies, if you buy the chocolate chips in bulk. That’s probably a post for another time, though.

Conclusion?

Traveling while living plastic free is hard. Add to that trying not to offend your family, or your significant other’s family, and it becomes an even greater challenge. I learned a lot from the weekend. The best part was having a conversation with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and even my grandparents about my pledge off plastic. It made them think about their habits, and it changed the interaction from me preaching to them about environmental degradation to us having a constructive conversation.

When was the last time you talked to your family about reducing waste?

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Okay, so I’ll say this upfront: I’m probably going to take some shit for not thinking about this fact before starting my pledge off plastic:

Most clothing has plastic in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t go clothing shopping very often—maybe once or twice per year. As a result, I don’t tend to think about these things, which leads me to how this realization came crashing down on me.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at Subway buying my normal sandwich before class. I was very specific in asking the sandwich-maker to not give me a bag, which led him to ask, “why?” He had scraggly hair and a half-dozen piercings. He seemed like a bit of a hippy, so I decided to explain that I had pledged off plastic for 90 days, which included plastic bags.

“Well what’s your coat made of?” he retorted.

I was wearing my favorite Kenneth Coal wool jacket. (I got it as a present, before I knew what a jackass Kenneth Cole was; see here if you don’t know what I mean).

I stuttered a bit and then mumbled that things I bought before the start of the pledge didn’t count. If that were the case, I’d be running around in the same two or three shirts that are 100% cotton or wool (and don’t have any synthetic threads or tags). The fact is that most manufactured clothing has plastic somewhere in it.

That being said, it got me to thinking about some strategies for buying plastic free clothing if I were to buy clothing more than once or twice per year.

Men Shopping for Clothing Accessories

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

  • Choose cotton, wool, or hemp instead of synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester, and orlon.
  • Buy second-hand: This is a good practice for reducing your environmental footprint, regardless of whether you’re reducing plastic or not.
  • Make your own clothes. (Unlikely for me, but if you know someone who sews, pay them or trade them services to help out).

Underwear is a bit more of a challenge, and one that probably won’t come up during my 3-month pledge. However, My Plastic Free Life has some great recommendations for eco-friendly, plastic-lite undies.

One bright note is that a lot of companies are now created synthetic fabrics using plastic bottles and other recycled plastic goods. And although that plastic is still bound for landfills and oceans once the clothes wear out and get discarded, it’s nice to see a few clothing manufacturers changing habits.

As for me, this just sealed my fate as a second-hand shopper.

One of the biggest challenges with my 90-day pledge off buying plastic products is finding everyday products that aren’t packaged in plastic. I wrote previously about my effort to deal with toiletries and hygiene products such as toothpaste and shampoo.

And that’s going well: Three weeks into the pledge, and I’ve shifted entirely to using baking soda for toothpaste. For hair, I’m using a combination of baking soda and water for shampoo and an apple cider vinegar solution for conditioner. I can’t recommend this enough—the result is healthier hair, fewer chemicals down the drain, and money saved. There’s extensive documentation on how to make the transition, so I won’t go into detail here. Give it a try!

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. I’m writing today with a confession:

I purchased plastic.

It wasn’t my fault, though! In my search for a solution for purchasing toilet paper that wasn’t wrapped up in plastic, I found Beth Terry’s post on MyPlasticFreeLife.com. The site suggests buying boxes of Seventh Generation toilet paper, which when purchased in bulk come without plastic wrapping. I’ve been buying Seventh Generation for several years now, so it wasn’t a big stretch to buy a big box of toilet paper online.

Unfortunately, to my dismay, the previous link on Beth’s site connected me to a vendor on Amazon that was selling toilet paper in boxes that contained plastic air-bubble wrap.

The good news is that Beth has since updated the post with a new link, so in the future, I’ll be able to order plastic-free toilet paper. I just have about fifty rolls to go through first…

I suppose the one consolation is that the vendor selling the Seventh Generation toilet paper did encourage reuse of the boxes. And I set aside the plastic air-bubble wrap to use for future packages. Now I just have to figure out how to package up boxes without using tape.

I guess this Christmas I’ll be using brown paper packages tied up in string.

Jack-o-lantern

I had big plans for Halloween this year—not for what I was going to wear (I already figured that out), but for what I was going to buy after Halloween was over.

I’m dazzled by all the cool stuff in those Halloween superstores. They’ve got costumes, and makeup, and props, all of which is unavailable or expensive during most of the year. So this year, as I was walkin through the aisles—prior to starting my pledge off plastic—I said, this is the year I’m going to splurge. After Halloween is over, I’m going to clean out a bunch of the clearance in preparation for throwing a Halloween extravaganza next year.

‘Twas not to be. Virtually everything at those Halloween stores contains plastic. The props are made almost entirely of plastic. The costumes have all kinds of synthetic fibers. The smaller stuff, like costume makeup, comes in plastic containers. It’s a lot of plastic.

And all this plastic got me to thinking: Where does all this stuff go once Halloween is over? For consumers, it’s probably bound fo the closet, never to be worn again until eventually donated to Goodwill. What do stores do with all the Halloween stuff, though?

I did a little searching online, but I couldn’t find anything about what stores like Spirit and Halloween Express do with all their costumes. I suppose the same is true of any other holiday supplies, like those for Thanksgiving and Christmas. You’d think it’s in the interest of stores to sell that stuff, but I have a sneaking suspicion that much of it is just thrown away or incinerated. It’s expensive to ship products back to a warehouse and pay to store them for a year.

And then there’s all that candy. One of my coworkers keeps a basket of mixed candy outside his desk, and, for better or worse, I’ve had to give it up. All that candy comes in plastic bags, and a lot of the paper is coated in a thin layer of plastic to preserve the sweets inside. My stomach is sad, but my waistline is happy.

Don’t mind me, I’ll just be here, munching on granola.

There are already lots of bloggers who have written about how to have an eco-friendly halloween. The plastic coalition has a good list of recommendations. I think one of the best things you can do is just get the most use out of those costumes and props. Don’t be spooked by purchasing used costumes or making your own.