A Plastic-free Life

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.


Post-Plastic Free: Sunday
April 11, 2010, 7:49 AM
Filed under: Home Made, Triumph over Plastic

Beginning today I will be using the title ‘Post-Plastic Free’ (PPF) along with the day the entry is written. (Since I am going to be gone for much of this coming week, I will not be making daily entries all of the time.)

These changes reflect the fact that we are no longer engrossed in our day-to-day experience of excluding all plastics but moving into a longer term period of making sense of what we learned and figuring out how-to make a difference in the way we live or the way plastics are regularly used. This latter task will involve considerable letter writing and perhaps other ACTIONS, in which we hope you will join us.

Another side effect of our experience is that I notice we are thinking differently. When I need a product, I stop and think about it and wonder how hard it would be to make it or even if it could be made at home. Somehow, I think, we have all become convinced that commercial products are the only way to get lots of jobs done. Today was a case in point.

I wanted a spray starch to use with an appliqué project. I found the brand, Mary Ellen Best Press, on-line but the fact that it was in a plastic bottle was only part of my hesitation to buy it. Could I make it? The Internet is an unbelievable source for answering such questions.

I ‘Googled’ and found a couple of homemade starch recipes. It took me about 3 minutes to make the stuff up. I dipped a piece of fabric in it to let it dry overnight and when the rest cooled, I poured it into a (plastic) spray bottle we already had. This morning I ironed my sample piece and sprayed another piece of fabric and ironed that, too. It is great! Cost me maybe $. 05 to make it and 3 minutes – versus $8.95 plus tax and shipping online. That’s all I’m saying!

pan and plastic spray bottle of homemade starch

Homemade Starch

Tomorrow – maybe hair mousse?

ACTION DAY Five: Satisfying Saturday
April 10, 2010, 7:45 AM
Filed under: Home Made, Triumph over Plastic

Two good ideas! At the Contemporary Quilt Arts meeting I was impressed with their nametags: pieces of fabric attached with safety pins. Because this is an arts group, each nametag was fancified as well. In between meetings the cloth tags are pinned onto pieces of upholstery fabric samples, arranged alphabetically in a loose-leaf notebook.

notebook with cloth nametags

Fabric Nametags in Upholstery Sample Notebook

Also, I saw a package of Kirkland Baby Wipes made of tencel (a plant fiber) and touted as being ‘recyclable’. This is good – but once they are used, can they be recycled??? Maybe as ‘yard waste’ for the citywide compost heap. Vinnie says he will check on this.

ACTION DAY THREE: Getting Organized Thursday
April 8, 2010, 10:36 AM
Filed under: Home Made, Shocking!*#!, TAKE ACTION


We may not have brought ‘new’ plastic into our lives, but we are being swamped with the things we are trying to recycle. Here is my current attempt to get organized.

blue and grey bins

Storage Bins

There are two bins, one with our collection of grocery bags (sorted into plastic; canvas; and the weird paper-like stuff most of them are made of) and the other with our plastic bags (large grocery store size; produce ones; various kinds and sizes of zip-locs and the paper and waxed ones from cereal boxes, etc.) There are also some produce bags I made out of dishcloths – but I am not so pleased with them (produce stored in them in the fridge tends to dry out).

assorted shopping bags

Sorted Shopping Bags

The other shelves hold a collection of empty juice jugs (for refilling with liquid bulk items); empty milk cartons (for composting and starting seed for the garden); and the alarming number of fast-food drink cups that have made it into our lives.

assorted plastic bags

Sorted Plastic Bags

One final observation – the walls of the elevators at Northwest Hospital are covered in a plastic cloth. Why not have metal walls??? So much plastic is used that simply is not needed – there are better non-plastic options.

Another Action Letter:

April 9, 2010

Email: Roslyn@roslynduffy.com

Golden Glen Creamery

15098 Field Rd.

Bow, WA 98232

(360) 766-6455

Email: info@goldenglencreamery.com

Dear Golden Glen Creamery Administrators,

We appreciate your commitment to a clean, sustainable environment. Unfortunately, for the past month, we have been unable to purchase your products. During this past Lenten season, my husband, daughter and I attempted to bring ‘no new plastic’ into our home. We chronicled our experience (www.plasticfreelife.wordpress.com) and made many interesting and shocking discoveries. One such involved Golden Glen Creamery products.

When we realized that almost all milk (and juice) cartons had plastic nozzles, we sought out Golden Glen Creamery milk in glass bottles – but all the caps were plastic!

Our experiment helped us to realize that there are lots of things in our lives that contain plastics – many of them invaluable and impossible to eliminate, but there are also places that we don’t need to add more plastics – and plastic bottle caps are definitely among them.

While visiting the Skagit County Museum, we saw old-fashioned milk bottles with paper caps. We also remember, as kids, opening aluminum ones. Bottle caps are one way in which plastic has slipped into our lives, where it is really not needed.

Please, eliminate plastic caps from your products.

Thank You,

Roslyn Ann Duffy

Day Thirty-Nine and Seven-and-a-half-Sevenths: Famous Saturday
April 3, 2010, 9:51 AM
Filed under: Home Made, Shocking!*#!, TAKE ACTION, Triumph over Plastic

We made it into Time magazine two weeks in a row (not us exactly, but still). Last week I felt a bit bummed to read that everyone and her brother is going on some kind of deprivation regimen and blogging about it. My thought, ‘How mainstream can we get???”

This week we (or at least Plastics) were one of Time’s Cover Headlines. The article basically says that today our environment may be getting cleaned up, but thanks to plastics, it is our bodies that are where the real pollution is now located.

So friends, read on. I think we are onto something here.

Here are the ‘plastic-free’ Easter baskets for our granddaughters. I used grapevines for the bases but the plastic bag inside the wooden airplane box ‘trumped us’.

Paper airplane in box and Theo's chocolates

Plastic-Free Easter Basket

wooden toy and candy in Easter basket

Easter Nest?

Vinnie ground his own flour today. Flour is something that usually doesn’t come in plastic, but he wanted me to record this and show you a picture. This is a grinder we bought a long time ago, while living in Idaho. It grinds grains of all kinds between two stone discs.  (His bread was superb.)

grinding flour in metal grinder

Grinding Wheat

Day Thirty-Nine: Countdown Saturday
March 27, 2010, 7:52 AM
Filed under: Home Made, Triumph over Plastic

Gift-wrap and cards. Have you ever noticed that almost all new greeting cards are wrapped in plastic sleeves?

I stocked up on some loose ones at the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital Thrift shop (the one on Aurora) the other day.

Now today I need to wrap a gift (the quilt I made for Jean’s baby shower). I think I will use a large grocery bag and cover it with tissue. With a ribbon attached, that should do the trick.

Yogurt needs to be made today. And we need another tortilla-run to Central Market.

Day Thirty-Six: Weakening Wednesday
March 24, 2010, 9:03 AM
Filed under: Home Made, Shocking!*#!, Trumped by Plastic

I need nettles. Allergies are trumping and the tea isn’t doing the trick for me. I predict there is a plastic purchase ahead today.

There are Easter things to be bought. I am visiting Theo’s Chocolate on Friday to get some non-plastic goodies. Bridget and I have signed up for their tour (which, if you haven’t taken it, includes LOTS of samples :-)).

Vinnie doesn’t care what the actual count of days is – he says Lent lasts until Easter (so there you go.)*

Bridget is making hummus for her graduation (nursing assistant) potluck, today. (Yeah, Bridget – for both accomplishments!)

Since several people have asked – I am planning on coming up with step-by-step slideshows of how to make many of the foods I have mentioned. Hopefully, it will save some of you from having to experiment your way through edible and non-edible versions.

Here is a composite picture of what five weeks of plastic newspaper bags look like.

35 Plastic Newspaper Bags

35 Plastic Newspaper Bags

(If anyone has a plastic milk or juice nozzle you could spare, get it to me, please, and I will make a composite of all the ones we haven’t used these past weeks.)

*He does not believe GPS readings, either.