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Three Weeks’ Report and Stubborn Plastic Packaging

Three Weeks’ Report and Stubborn Plastic Packaging March 26, 2011

Over the past three weeks, since March 5, we have generated 7 oz. of plastic waste (trash and recycling combined) between the two of us.

Now we’re talking.  That’s getting somewhere!

Things I have yet to find a way to work around or do without in the world of plastic:

  1. Cooking oil bottles.  I can’t convince myself that using more imported olive oil is actually better for the planet than the plastic ubiquitous to vegetable oil bottles.  And gallon bottles are so much thicker than the smaller ones that there is no appreciable reduction in plastic waste to buying in bulk.  Alas.  I’m still waiting for inspiration to strike on that one.
  2. Hand lotion.  I don’t use much–the extra large bottles I bought two years ago, before moving into Chestnut House, just ran out this winter.  And I do use lotions and salves packed in metal (Bag Balm, Burt’s Bees, and so on) on my hands.  But my face, too, gets very dry in the New England winter, and I can’t use those on my face.  Shampoo I can do without, but lotion for my skin in mid-winter, not so much.
  3. Sanitary Pads.  None of the organic-cotton, eco-friendly alternatives quite work for me.  The fact that my job does not permit me to use a bathroom whenever I wish makes this surprisingly difficult–not the only place I’ve found where modern life gets in the way of doing an environmentally-friendly thing. For the moment, I’m sticking with a brand that is composed of paper, and packaged in a thin layer of plastic.
  4. Plastic wrapping around locally produced meat and cheese.  This, I may eventually be able to do something about by learning to make my own cheese.  (No, I’m not kidding–I think this may be fun, in fact, and a way to have affordable and sustainably-produced cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and maybe one day even cheddar.)
  5. Bottle caps and can liners.  Even glass bottles come with  plastic caps, and cans are generally lined with plastic these days… as are coffee bag liners, but those we can avoid if we plan ahead and bring our own bag or jar. 
  6. Ammonia and bleach bottles.  We’re sparing with both–ammonia is what we use to disinfect things like handkerchiefs and rags that have been used in funky bacterial-contaminated cleanups, and bleach is used to sanitize brewing equipment and the occasional countertop–but we do use them.  Since we do not use hot water for our laundry, we need something to sanitize with from time to time.  (Bleach, the more toxic substance, lasts almost forever.  Ammonia we go through more quickly.)

Overall, though, we’ve settled into a groove around plastic avoidance here.  We’re not avoiding everything, and we do make mistakes.  But on the whole, this part of trying to live a more environmentally friendly life is becoming habit, and much easier than I’d have supposed last June, when we began the experiment.

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