A Plastic-free Life

PPF: Naiveté Wake-Up
April 30, 2010, 10:31 AM
Filed under: Shocking!*#!, TAKE ACTION, Uncategorized

After feeling bummed that the letters I wrote went out into a big VOID, I decided to try again. This time I would find the name of a real person and mail my letter directly to that person. Wasn’t I the innocent?

Several hours later, I had some unexpected information. It turns out I HAD sent my letters into a REALLY BIG VOID, after all.

The sweet website of laughing children for Horizon products – is actually not the Horizon company, but a company owned by WhiteWave Foods, based in Colorado. WhiteWave also owns: Land O’ Lakes; Silk and International Delights.

The down-home story of Annie’s Naturals beginnings on its website, though charming, fails to mention that Annie sold the company to Homegrown Naturals (not a homegrown little guy, despite its name) a few years back.

So much for naiveté! As of today, Homegrown Naturals Consumer Relations Manager, Sherrie Crespin, will be getting a letter asking that packaging no longer include plastic film over its labels. Her address is: 564 Gateway Dr.; Napa, CA 94558.

Also, WhiteWave’s packaging person, Susan King, will be asked to consider not using plastic nozzles or plastic straws with a letter to her at: WhiteWave Foods; 12002 Airport Way; Broomfield, CO 80021.

More later (I hope).


PPF: Alternative Experimentation
April 27, 2010, 12:20 PM
Filed under: Shocking!*#!, TAKE ACTION, Triumph over Plastic

We have tried a few new items that aren’t plastic-shrouded. Vinnie found a bar soap type of shampoo.

bar of paper-wrapped shampoo

Bar Shampoo

I was fully prepared to report it was awful – but I used it this morning and it was great. Lots of lather and my hair feels good.

The dental floss in the cardboard package works just fine, too.

Cardboard Carton Dental Floss

Dental Floss

Which reminds me, that string pot scrubber is sort of buried under the plastic scrubbies (I think this speaks to whether we are using it or not –i.e. NOT.)

The other thing worth noting is how many containers, bags and plastic holders we seem swamped with – in spite of bringing in virtually no new ones for over two months.

By treating what we have as non-renewable resources (I am actually rinsing and reusing plastic wrap!!!) we have more than enough to meet our needs.

Now when I wrap a sandwich, I have a stack of empty cereal box liners to choose from (instead of the supply of plastic sandwich bags I used to keep on hand).

Paper flour bag and waxed cereal liner

Reusable Containers

If something needs to be frozen, there are cereal liner bags, reusable plastic bags or even aluminum foil pouches from some products, handy and available to use. The point is – there are plenty – and then some, without needing to add to our supply. What comes our way, when treated as resources, make our needs and the available supply totally sustainable.

That is shocking (to me, at least) and exciting, too!!!

PPF: Murky Moderation
April 23, 2010, 8:56 AM
Filed under: Shocking!*#!, Triumph over Plastic, Trumped by Plastic

Last week, while I was at Camp Huston, on a quilting retreat, one of the servers dropped an armful of plates. None of them broke – bringing to mind another plastic feature, one that is pretty valuable.

Our ‘plastic free’ experience has forced me to recognize that not much is clearly ‘black or white’.  Plastic isn’t ‘all bad’ though certainly it isn’t ‘all good’. This moderation thinking is resonating in other ways.

I stopped off at Northgate Mall yesterday (malls are places I generally think of as being pretty much – all bad) and a blind woman was having trouble navigating through Penny’s. I offered to help her and she asked me to guide her to the mall walkway, toward the store she wanted. After I had done so – I looked around and noticed other people at the mall: a man with stunted legs maneuvering his wheelchair; another man, slightly disheveled, resting on a chair in the walkway, and of course, my lady friend tapping her way along to her destination. What a great place a mall is for giving each of these folks an accessible, safe and warm place to come to.  Definitely, not ‘all bad’.

Maybe in modern parlance, this is what the Buddha meant by the ‘middle way’.

On the Vinnie product front – we now have dental floss in a cardboard carton.

blue and white carton of dental floss

Cardboard Carton Floss

On the Roslyn product front – we now have razor replacement cartridges. Do they still make the kind of razor with the loose blades, where you twist the metal bottom of the razor stem to loosen up the top to insert the blade? I remember getting an impressive gash with one of those blades as a curious 4-year-old while exploring my neighbor’s bathroom. Another not so ‘black or white’ change.

A baby grey whale died on a Washington State beach last week. This type of whale is a bottom feeder, sifting mud, looking for tiny crustaceans. An autopsy showed that the whale’s stomach contained (among lots of other gunk) twenty plastic bags. Yummers!

PPF: ‘Hummingbird Heroes Hall of Fame’
April 22, 2010, 9:36 AM
Filed under: TAKE ACTION, Triumph over Plastic

We watched the move ‘Dirt’ on PBS the other night (really good one!). In one segment a woman from Africa tells a story (folktale, I believe) about a fire in the forest.

As the flames raged, all of the animals of the forest gathered and stared in dismay. They felt helpless and overwhelmed. All, except the hummingbird, that is.

She saw those huge flames and flew with all her speed to the river, gathered a droplet of water into her beak, and flew back to drizzle it onto the roaring fire. She did this again and again.

After awhile, one of the other animals (an elephant perhaps?) approached her and asked why she was doing it? What difference could she make? ‘Well,’ she said.

“I’m doing the best I can.”

I like that hummingbird’s attitude. It gave be a boost of encouragement. So far I have written 4 letters, and not even the one thanking Central Market for some of their practices has been acknowledged. It does feel futile – but

‘I’m doing the best I can.’

Today I read about a woman (88 years old) who went from restaurant to restaurant in her home community of Vashon Island, slowly persuading owners to stop using Styrofoam take-out containers.  Not only did many of them change practices voluntarily, the Island’s governing council has now passed a law limiting Styrofoam use.

(In the children’s book, Global Citizenship: Living Sustainably, Susan Watson says the length of time it takes for Styrofoam to decompose is: NEVER!

(On page 15 she gives the decomposition time of lots of things: an orange peel – 6 months; plastic drink bottles – 450 years!!!))

So, as of today – I am starting the

Hummingbird Heroes Hall of Fame’.

To get on it – you only have to

‘do the best you can.’

Please join.

Let me know what your tiny droplet is so we can all celebrate with you!

Hurrah for Hummingbirds!

PPF: TP Tuesday
April 21, 2010, 8:28 AM
Filed under: Triumph over Plastic
Big box of toilet paper with two rolls on top

TP Bonanza

Great news! Remember how I stocked up on toilet paper before our ‘fast’ began because it all came wrapped in plastic? Well, Vinnie was thrilled to find toilet tissue without plastic wrapping at our local Costco – in an 80 ROLL BOX!!!

So if you are in short supply at your place – give me a call (we still haven’t gone through my stockpiled supply :-). )

PPF: Inspirational Wednesday

Someone out there is really taking recycling seriously (Vinnie, don’t get any ideas!).

Today I read about David de Rothschild, who has embarked on a trip across the Pacific Ocean, sailing in a boat made of 12,000 plastic bottles. He left from San Francisco, with a final destination of Sydney, Australia – 4100 miles away. His theory is that instead of (or in addition to) recycling, we need to design products for reuse (maybe I am on to something with ironing that bag with a hole in it into a piece of usable plastic ‘cloth!).

So far on the voyage, he reports constant bits of floating trash – plastic bags resembling jelly fish and other constant debris (he logs the GPS position of what he finds and interacts with schools via Skype and a website: http://www.theplastiki.com/), but he won’t try to navigate the huge plastic whirlpool, about 1000 miles in diameter (one of about 5 ‘gyres’ worldwide comprising such conglomerations), that forms a floating plastic island out in the middle of the ocean. The boat is named: Plastiki. There is also a Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/plastiki.

Another discovery at home – the labels on Annie’s Naturals products are coated with a film of – PLASTIC! I discovered this while removing a label to prepare a bottle for recycling.

partially peeled plastic label on glass bottle

Hidden Plastic

So – here is today’s letter:

Annie’s Naturals / Annie’s Inc.

564 Gateway Dr.

Napa, CA 94558



Dear Annie’s Administrators,

We appreciate Annie’s commitment to sustainability and earth-friendly practices so we were truly shocked when I removed the label from a bottle of Annie’s BBQ sauce to prepare it for recycling, only to discover a thin plastic film overlay on the paper label.

There is so much plastic we can’t seem to get away from, but this packaging detail is a truly unnecessary introduction of plastic into the environment. Making a simple change in your packaging can make a real difference in stemming the avalanche of plastic that is suffocating our planet. Please change this packaging policy in all of your products (today I found the same film on my bottle of Annie’s salad dressing).

Annie’s can make even more of a difference in healing our environment than they already do. Thank-you for listening.

PPF: No-Brainer Monday

One aspect of plastic is that it is made NOT TO LAST. Exhibit A: my plastic bag with a hole at the seam. I could recycle this (and maybe I will) but I am going to hold onto it. Awhile back I tried to fuse plastic bags together to make a sort of plastic cloth that I could use to make a carrier bag or lunch bag. It didn’t work out so great – but I want to give it another try so this bag may become part of my experiment. (The plastic yarn thing did not work out well at all!)

More thinking today. I unwrapped a bottle of vitamins (among the medicine category I had declared outside of our ability to eliminate) and I realized that not only was the bottle plastic, but the whole thing with shrink-wrapped in a plastic casing. Way too much unnecessary plastic! (The company, Oregon’s Wild Harvest, has been added to my letter-to-be list.) Then I realized something else I COULD DO – only buy vitamins in glass bottles. Simple. Pretty much a no-brainer.

plastic and glass vitamin bottles with packaging

Vitamin Packaging

fingers sticking out of hole in blue plastic bag

Built-in Obsolescence