A record of my efforts to live a more sustainable life.

Show Us Your Plastic Challenge - Week 6 - January 17 - January 23, 2010



Recyclable Items (5):
  • 1 peanut butter jar (PETE 1)
  • 1 Tim Horton's lid (PS 6)
  • 1 orange juice carton
  • 1 tub from candy necklaces (PETE 1)
  • 1 dip container from mozza sticks at bowling alley (not pictured)

Non-Recyclable Items (14):
  • 1 taco shell bag
  • 1 bread bag
  • 1 fudge bar wrapper
  • 1 plastic fork -- I need to start carrying cutlery.
  • 1 package from combo lock -- I needed another one for use at the pool/gym at school
  • 1 toothpaste tube
  • 3 mini Laffy Taffy wrappers
  • 1 bag from mini Laffy Taffys -- They were delicious but I'm glad they're done messing up my plastic count!
  • 1 of those plastic things that holds can drinks together -- We got 2 cans of pop with a pizza deal and they came with this. I ripped it up so birds don't get their heads stuck in it.
  • 1 orange juice seal
  • 1 microwave popcorn wrapper
  • 1 floss container

Stuff that I think contains plastic but am unsure (mystery materials) (non-recyclable) (1):
  • 1 veggie sticks bag
Total Items: 20

Analysis:

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
I could make popcorn on the stove instead of in the microwave. I don't like the taste as much, but I'm going to try it again with popcorn seasoning, and we'll see. Also I should bring my thermos to Tim Horton's so I don't need the paper cup and plastic lid, the only problem being that I rarely go, and when I do I don't know in the morning that I'm going to, so I'd have to always have a rarely-used thermos with me.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Orange juice, toothpaste, floss.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I need to find a good way of carrying cutlery with me. I was going to use a toothbrush holder like Sustainable Dave does, but it turns out my cutlery is too big for those.

People just don't get it.

One of the big things I've learned on this journey is that the majority of people don't care, and don't even realise they should. It makes me sad. But all the more reason to carry on, and hope to change some people's minds!


A recent incident that really demonstrated this point to me:

A few days ago I went to Costco with my mom. They give out free samples there, in little paper cups. A woman was giving out little cookies, and she offered me one. Since she had the box of cookies right beside her, I asked her if I could have a cookie just placed in my hand instead of put in a paper cup and then put in my hand. She didn't seem to understand. I rephrased. She still didn't get it. She took a cookie out of a paper cup, handed it to me, and then crumpled up the paper cup, saying "I still have to throw it away. I can't use it again." I sighed. The last thing she said to me was the part that caused me the most surprise and dismay. She said "it's OK, these get thrown away by the thousands all the time." As we walked away, I said to my mom, "oh, well that makes me feel better then."


This just goes to show that there are still a lot of people who don't seem to even realise what's going on. And then there are also people who think they do, who recycle at home, and turn off the lights when they aren't needed, but who don't blink an eye at the thousands of paper cups being thrown in the trash every day, or who throw recyclable bottles, etc., in the garbage when they're out because there isn't a recycling bin around. We've got a long, long way to go.


Recyclable Items (4):
  • 1 salad tub top (PETE 1)
  • 1 margarine tub (PP 5)
  • 1 orange juice carton
  • 1 2L ginger ale bottle
Non-Recyclable Items (13):
  • 1 gingerbread man wrapper -- my last of the season
  • 1 toilet paper wrapper
  • 1 Booster Juice straw -- this one kills me because I just got my Glass Dharma straw, and then I forgot to take it when I went to Booster Juice. :(
  • 4 Laffy Taffy wrappers
  • 1 bag from triangle buns
  • 1 cracker package
  • 1 dried mangoes bag with top
  • 1 mint wrapper
  • 1 veggie chicken wrapper
  • 1 frozen vegetables bag
Stuff that I think contains plastic but am unsure (mystery materials) (non-recyclable) (3):
  • 2 granola bar wrappers
  • 1 chip bag
Total Items: 35

Analysis:

How many of these items are from “convenience” foods that could be made from scratch with less packaging but might take more time to prepare?
Granola bars, triangle buns (though I doubt I could make buns as good as those triangle buns).

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Margarine, my dried mangoes (yes, those are definitely essential).

What one item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I don't think I'll be getting those individually wrapped veggie chickens anymore. I got sick of them.

Show Us Your Plastic Challenge - Week 4 - January 3 - January 9, 2010



Recyclable Items (5):
  • 1 orange juice carton with plastic spout and lid
  • 1 package from watermelon -- pre-chopped watermelon is definitely not something I would ever buy myself*
  • 1 honey tub (PP 5)*
  • 1 package from combination lock (cardboard and plastic)
  • 1 popcorn jug (PETE 1) -- a huge jug that lasts many months
Non-Recyclable Items (24):
  • 1 wrap from rutabaga
  • 1 top of dried mangoes bag -- the bag itself will show up later
  • 2 wraps from boxes of tea bags
  • 1 packet from shredded cheese*
  • 1 7-11 candy bag
  • 1 cough medicine bottle -- amazingly not recyclable*
  • 1 Riesens bag*
  • 2 toothpicks with colourful plastic wrap on the ends -- I've been trying to get into the habit of asking them not to give me these (they're from my favourite cafĂ©) but I forgot this time.
  • 1 wrap from toilet paper
  • 1 bread bag
  • 8 mini Laffy Taffy wrappers
  • 1 microwave popcorn wrapper
  • 1 Styrofoam plate
  • 1 piece of Scotch tape from my prescription -- I asked them not to give me the unnecessary paper bag with staple, and they were nice about it, but then they taped the boxes together instead, haha.
  • 1 plastic seal from concentrate juice
Total Items: 29

* These are things I had some of at someone else's house (mostly my boyfriend's) so they aren't pictured, as most of them weren't empty when I left.

Analysis:

This is my first week with less than 30 items! :-)

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
I need to keep remembering to ask for no toothpicks. (I'm also trying to ask for no napkins. A sandwich just isn't that messy.) I could start buying honey at Bulk Barn, where it's in a plastic container, but I can keep bringing the same one back and refilling it. Once I get my reusable bulk bags I can get 7-11 candy without a plastic bag, and I could buy popcorn kernels in bulk. Toilet paper being individually wrapped is just plain dumb, but I don't control the toilet paper purchases in my house.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
The orange juice carton (at least it's just the spout and lid that are plastic), and I had to buy a combination lock. I've never seen one in a plastic-free package.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
It doesn't seem to be possible to buy bread without a plastic bag. Even the bakery at the end of my street has all the bread bagged before you get there. And I eat a lot of bread. I'll keep looking, though.



Recyclable Items (5):
  • 1 face mask bottle (LDPE 4) and lid (PP 5) -- I don't use it much so this is like a once or twice a year thing
  • 2 envelopes with windows from my Visa bill -- 1 recycled, the blank one set aside to be reused
  • 1 2L pop bottle -- I had some pop from a bottle at my boyfriend Jonny's New Year's party. -- re-purposed as dog toy (Indy doesn't eat it so it's ok, she just likes to attack it), then recycled
  • 1 raspberries container (PETE 1)

Non-Recyclable Items (30):
  • 1 bundle of scotch tape
  • 2 video game wrappers -- Christmas presents
  • 3 popcorn wrappers
  • 2 burrito wrappers -- I was at work and didn't have a lunch. There were individually wrapped burritos in the freezer...
  • 1 pen -- also a rare garbage item
  • 2 plastic forks -- one from a holiday party and one from cake at work
  • 1 Styrofoam plate -- from holiday party
  • 1 package whose origin I don't recall...
  • 1 caramel apple pop wrapper
  • 1 dried mangoes bag
  • 1 package from lasagne box -- why are so many boxes wrapped in plastic?
  • 1 apple bag
  • 1 Riesens bag -- Christmas candy
  • 1 bread bag -- not pictured as my mom threw it out
  • 1 Pot of Gold wrapper
  • 4 mini Laffy Taffy wrappers
  • 1 plastic twist tie -- will be reused
  • 1 package from rechargeable battery pack
  • 1 pill package
  • 1 Mini Eggs bag -- Christmas candy
  • 1 icing container from cinnamon buns
  • 1 veggie chicken wrapper

Total Items: 35

Analysis:

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
Still need to find a good way of replacing microwave popcorn. I should also call Visa and get them to email me my bills, which would stop those stupid window envelopes.

How many of these items are from “convenience” foods that could be made from scratch with less packaging but might take more time to prepare?
The burritos and the cinnamon buns.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
My pills (though I am going to talk to the people at the drug store about decreasing the amount of paper and cardboard packaging they're in by the time I get them). Also the video games.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Candy, candy, candy.

What one item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I'm going to try not to eat any more of those individually wrapped burritos. This can be accomplished by decreasing the frequency with which I forget to bring a lunch to work.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I'm starting to realise that every week there are things that I only throw out "once in a while." Each one of them may be a rarity, but altogether they seem to be a lot! It's really reminding me that every little bit counts because it really adds up.

Update on my glass straw

I tried my new glass straw for the first time today! I had a Booster Juice, which is the reason I bought the straw in the first place. As it turns out, it's a little narrow, so drinking a smoothie through it requires way more effort than it normally would. That's my own fault, though, as I didn't get the smoothie size. I got the size smaller, because the smoothie size is too wide for the lid of a Booster Juice cup. Anyway, it still worked, and it's great for all thinner liquids!

So, if you're planning to drink smoothies, milkshakes, etc. with your Glass Dharma straw, I would definitely recommend the smoothie size.

Show Us Your Plastic Challenge - Week 2 - December 20 - December 26, 2009



Recyclable Items (6):
  • 1 orange juice carton with plastic spout and lid
  • 1 So Nice Noel Nog carton (HDPE 2)
  • 1 package from tape measure -- Secret Santa gift
  • 1 soy milk carton with plastic spout and lid
  • 1 advent calendar -- cardboard and plastic stuck together, so I put the whole thing in the recycling. Hopefully it actually gets recycled.
  • 1 package from Wii classic controller -- I hate that everything to do with my beloved video games comes wrapped in its weight in plastic
Non-Recyclable Items (31):
  • 2 popcorn packages
  • 2 Booster Juice straws
  • 2 packages from dog treats -- Christmas presents for my boyfriend's dog
  • 1 Mini Eggs bag -- from my Christmas candy stash... this stuff is going to be hurting my tally for a while I'm afraid
  • 1 bag from licorice laces -- Christmas candy
  • 1 cheesecake wrapper -- dessert at Christmas dinner
  • 2 packages that I put in my pile and forgot what they were from before I got around to writing them down
  • 1 top of salad bag -- bag itself will show up later
  • 1 seal from soy milk carton -- at least I don't think that's recyclable...
  • 4 mini Laffy Taffy wrappers -- Christmas candy
  • 1 bag from frozen veggies
  • 1 bag and Styrofoam packaging from fountain I got for Christmas
  • 1 package from Wii Balance Board protector
  • 3 plastic envelopes -- I ordered 3 things from the same site, and they were shipping separately, each in its own pile of plastic, yet arrived together, wrapped in an elastic. Honestly.
  • 2 Styrofoam package protectors -- from above online order
  • 1 hook from clothing -- those things they hang stuff on in stores..
  • 1 size sticker from t-shirt
  • 2 pieces of scotch tape
  • 2 price tag attachers

Total Items: 37

Analysis:

Excuse of the week: Christmas presents. Good grief.

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
Still waiting on my glass straw to arrive. Salad could easily be replaced by just buying lettuce (though that sometimes comes in a plastic bag as well). I need to make an effort to move my candy consumption over to the unpackaged or less packaged varieties. Those individually wrapped Laffy Taffies are going to be plaguing my efforts in this challenge for a while yet.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
Perhaps in the future I could find a plastic-free alternative to my usual advent calendar.

How many of these items are from “convenience” foods that could be made from scratch with less packaging but might take more time to prepare?
The salad bag and the frozen veggies bag.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Definitely orange juice and soy milk (at least the cartons are cardboard; just the spout and lid are plastic). I also could never give up my Wii games, and they come wrapped in plastic as do all accessories, unfortunately.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Still the candy issue... Also too much of my food comes in plastic packaging, but in order to change that I have to change how my mom shops, which is difficult to do if it goes against price and convenience.

I'm already on week 5 of the Show Us Your Plastic Challenge, but I want to have all my progress recorded here, so I will now begin back-posting my plastic collections. I should be caught up pretty soon. So here's week 1!




Recyclable Items (7):
  • 1 raspberries container (PETE 1)
  • 2 milk jugs with lids (HDPE 2)
  • 1 milk jug security seal
  • 1 lid from Bulk Barn container
  • 2 fountain drink lids (PS 6)

Non-Recyclable Items (29):
  • 1 McCain hashbrowns bag*
  • 1 wrapper from microwave popcorn
  • 1 gingerbread man wrapper
  • 1 organic bananas bag*
  • 1 toothpaste tube
  • 1 dried mangoes bag
  • 2 bags from Kraft shredded cheese
  • 1 grocery bag from Cookies by George (will be reused but eventually will end up as a garbage bag)*
  • 1 wrapper from caramel apple pop
  • 1 bubble wrap envelope, with more bubble wrap inside, and a plastic package
  • 4 flimsy plastic bags from Bulk Barn*
  • 2 Booster Juice straws
  • 1 apple turnover filling packet
  • 1 icing packet
  • 1 bread bag
  • 1 caramel apple bag
  • 1 plastic fork
  • 2 fountain drink straws
  • 1 veggie ground round package
  • 1 plastic wrap from brownies
  • 1 plastic bag from 7-11 candies
  • 1 price tag attacher
  • 1 wrapper from Pot of Gold

* These items would be recyclable, but my city's recycling program does not accept plastic bags (not just grocery bags, but anything bag-shaped). I have no idea why.

Total Items: 36

Analysis:
First, a quick explanation...
Saturday of this week was my family Christmas party, which means a tonne of food prepared, with me eating a bit of everything. Also, in preparation for this, my mom cleaned out the cupboards, so more stuff got thrown away all at once than is usual. Hopefully future weeks will show a marked decrease because of this...

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
I just ordered a glass straw from Glass Dharma, so that will eliminate the straws. I'm also planning on ordering some reusable produce and bulk bags. Nothing else here is really very easy to replace because it's my mom who does most of the grocery shopping. One thing I could do is do a better job of remembering to tell salespeople that I don't need packaging (like the bag for the caramel apple that I was eating right away anyway).

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
I could probably give up Pot of Gold chocolates.

How many of these items are from “convenience” foods that could be made from scratch with less packaging but might take more time to prepare?
Most of them. Cheese can easily be shredded by hand instead of buying it in bags (although cheese comes wrapped in plastic too). Hashbrowns could also be made by hand. Instead of microwave popcorn I could use regular popcorn. I even have a popcorn maker. However, I just like the taste of microwave popcorn better, unfortunately. We'll see on that one.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Those little bits of plastic that attach price tags to clothing are everywhere! Luckily, I'm not a big shopper, so I don't really get many of them. Raspberries only come in plastic containers, except at the farmer's market, which is only open in summer.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I eat a lot of candy. Looking at this list, that seems to be a big source of plastic. I need to start favouring candy and other junk food that doesn't come in plastic packaging, like a lot of bulk stuff, once I get my reusable bulk bags.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
Plastic is everywhere! I never noticed until I started this challenge. The worst thing I realised is that organic food has more packaging than non-organic food. I'm a fairly big supporter of the organic food industry, so that poses a bit of a challenge. And I just don't think I can go back to regular bananas when the organic ones taste so much better!

A belated introduction

I probably should have started with an introduction. Instead, I started with a post about my new straw, because I was excited about it, and now I feel like it came out like an advertisement. So forgive me if it did, because that is definitely not the purpose of this blog.

So, an introduction. My name is Lianne Lavoie. I'm a computer science student at the University of Manitoba. I play the piano, dance, and collect books. I discover new interests too quickly to ever get far in any of them, so I'd say I know a little bit about a lot of things. And, perhaps most importantly from your point of view, I'm worried about the planet and the creatures on it, and try to do what I can to help the situation.

Some of my efforts thus far: I'm a vegetarian. I ride my bike when I can, and ride the bus when I can't (and by can't, I mean it's cold out and I don't do cold well). I'm always trying to reduce, reuse, and recycle more. Well, recycling is easy. It's mostly the reducing I'm working on.

On that note, I'm currently doing the Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge on Fake Plastic Fish. (By the way, that site is pretty cool and you should check it out.) For the challenge, each week I keep all the plastic I would otherwise have thrown away or recycled, and at the end of the week I take a picture of it all, count it, and analyse it in terms of what plastic I could stop using or use less of. I'll start posting those analyses here soon as well.

So that's about all I've got to say about me for the moment. More to come soon, as my effort in green continues!

Glass Dharma straws

I figured I'd start this blog off with an accomplishment of sorts. When I got home from work today, there was a package waiting for me, and it contained my Glass Dharma straw!




Glass Dharma makes glass straws. And they're guaranteed for life against breakage. So now I can go to Booster Juice (as well as my rare meal in a food court) without using a piece of plastic that will be used once and thrown away. So yay! I also got a bamboo case for my straw, so I can just throw it in my backpack when I'm going to school or work and always have it handy.

I got the extra long straw, because Booster Juice cups are pretty big, but there are quite a few to choose from, like the decorative dots straws in the picture.

Alternatively, you could just not use straws. I've always thought they were kind of a waste. I love Booster Juice, though, and that would be hard to drink without a straw.

Next step: Remember to tell people in restaurants not to give you a straw with your water or other beverage. This could be tough since they're brought right away in some places. If it's wrapped, though, surely they could just take it back and give it to someone else, right?