Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Plastic-Free Life: WWBD (What Would Beth Do)?

I have been very inspired by Beth Terry and her blog Fake Plastic Fish. While I flap my jaws about plastic consumption, Beth is taking action. Check out her blog – you’ll see what I mean. I really want to join Beth’s Plastic Posse. But to do so I feel I need to be more deliberate and judicious in my plastic usage - just because we live at an eco-village doesn't mean we have it all figured out. Often, it means that we don't, but are consciously seeking the answers!

Here are the questions she poses, and my answers. How would YOU answer the following?

1. What was it that first inspired you to eliminate plastic from your life? Was it a particular issue? News article? Experience? And when was this?
The first I remember being aware of the evils of plastic was in high school (way back in the disco-inferno 70's). We heard about turtles and sea birds being strangled by the plastic 6-pack rings. Of course, we didn’t stop buying the six-packs; we simply became vigilant about cutting them apart. Years later when I started composting all food scraps, buying in bulk, recycling paper and aluminum and steel, my garbage output became pretty darned small (put out weekly in, um, plastic bags...). I was impressed with myself. But I still kept buying plastic. It’s time for a little humility, and a more concerted effort.
2) What have been the 1-3 easiest changes to make?
Some things have been absolutely easy-peasy no-brainers: grocery bags, coffee cups, reusable flatware and glass storage containers at home.

I really enjoy bringing my own bags to the grocery store. The nice Mennonite ladies at the local store totally get it, and the teenagers at the local "supermarket" put up with it (remember, we’re in the middle of rural red-state Missouri). My favorite bag is made from recycled PET (read: plastic) and while I understand the irony in this, I also feel a responsibility to support the companies making products out of recycled plastic. I also have one made out of recycled organic cotton, and some really old beaters from years and years ago...
I always bring my own coffee cup. While this is mainly about being very annoyed by disposable cups, I really like having my own cup. I know exactly how much sugar and milk to put in to make it taste perfect, and my hand doesn’t get burned holding it. This too, is recycled plastic. (I can imagine Beth shaking her head, moaning "oh no, where have I gone wrong..."). But until I can find a stainless steel tumbler with a screw-on lid, I’m sticking to it. Pop-off lids tend to do just that, and I’ve had too many papers, purses, car seats and desk tops soggified from tipped over coffee tumblers to believe that they'll stay on. My search continues. Let me know if you find one!

Tucked in the bottom of my bag whenever I travel is my bamboo flatware travel kit and cloth napkin. The first one I made for myself, and then I made more for friends. These were so popular that I now make them for our store. Once again, my motives are pretty selfish. I HATE using plastic flatware. The stuff breaks, and is just plain cheesy to eat with. The same goes for the “compostable” flatware (talk about a load of crap! Just because it CAN be composted doesn’t mean that it WILL be composted. Can you say “greenwashing?”).

When we leave for a trip we are fully stocked with delicious edibles. But when we get to our destination we usually buy some food. (Side note on life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage: Trips beginning here in rural Missouri seem to take forever. We get up at 4:30 a.m. and drive our bio-diesel vehicle-coop car to the train station in Quincy, Il. From there we take a 4½-hour train ride to Chicago’s Union Station. From there we either get on another train or take the El to the airport. It makes for a long, hungry day.)
In train stations and airports (and on trains and airplanes) it is considered criminal to give a patron a metal fork and knife to use while dining. So I bring my own. And get to use my own cloth napkin, too.
You can just as easily bring your own flatware; it doesn’t have to be fancy schmancy bamboo. Just get a cloth napkin, wrap it around a fork, knife and spoon you’re willing to part with and tie it up with a rubber band or ribbon. This will, however, only work on trains. Dude! You’re so eco!

Home food storage: I love Pyrex. Borosilicate glass is the coolest stuff! I’ve found some fabulous old glass refrigerator containers at auctions and on E-bay - the truly "vintage" ones have glass lids. We also sell some at the Mercantile, so I have a set of these in my kitchen, although they do have plastic lids. Quart jars are great for leftovers. Once you start, it gets easier.

3)What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Plastic is everywhere! EVERYWHERE! It’s like body snatchers. Or Republicans. Or SUVs. Or ragweed pollen in the fall. Even when I buy in bulk there is plastic. A 10-lb box of organic raisins or walnuts? Inside the cardboard box is a plastic bag. Sigh.

So I set small goals, and reward myself for small victories (I am very easily amused). My goal this month: learn to make ricotta and mozzarella (both easy cheeses), cottage cheese and sour cream**. Ted (here at Dancing Rabbit) makes fabulous yogurt and delivers it in quart jars; there’s no reason to be buying any of these in plastic containers. Milk is available from two local dairies; both use glass bottles.

**just found this link for sour cream and cottage cheese, and this for ricotta, both over at Crunchy Chicken. Yay!

4)What one thing would you say to encourage others to lessen their plastic consumption?
Start small. Be kind, to yourself and others. And realize that you are not alone in your quest!

Here is lots more inspiration from members (official and unofficial) of the Plastic Posse. You'll find great ideas, lots of humanity, and absolutely no judgement for anyone but themselves:

This will make you want to give up plastic altogether......while this will inspire you.

Good luck - we're all in this together!


  1. Awesome post!


    Check out my post today and see if you still want to be drinking out of plastic...


  2. This is an inspiring post. I am currently working on reducing the amount of plastic and disposables I use. I recycle the disposables I do use, or reuse them myself. For example, all brown paper bags or packing paper I receive in packages gets turned into gift wrap and gift cards, and I have just started turning plastic bottles into jewelry. (You can see my first attempt at some recycled plastic bottle earrings on my blog, :)

  3. I love that Aladdin Sustain tumbler! I have one too! I mostly use mine because I love the concept. I do like the stainless steel tumblers because it keeps my coffee warm longer, but the fact that the sustain tumbler is made with 100% recycled material and it is 100$ recycleable makes me feel really good about using it!

    I also haven't been having any trouble with the pop off lid, although at first I was a bit nervous. It's interesting that I came across your blog because I was planning on doing a green theme for all of my holiday gifts this year and I was going to use the Aladdin Sustain Tumbler and the green Aladdin BPA free water bottle!

    I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one that likes it! =)

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