Tag Archives: plastics

World Water Day: two great vids, and maybe just for today, don’t be afraid of your tap.

First video clearly, and with a good sense of humor, highlights how the bottled water industry (Pepsi, Coke, Fiji, etc) have used stark fear to manufacture the demand for bottled water. I’ve switched to drinking from the tap over the last year; we use a regular old filter. No big.

This video shows the horrendous life-cycle of bottled water, and how much it really really costs. And did you know how many cargo ship loads of water bottles end up as mountains of plastic garbage in India. Think about that next time you toss a plastic bottle in the “recycle” bin. More here, it’s a good–and clever–video.

Second video from Surfrider association. I hope every school in the world streams this in for their kids to watch, if only so they can know what they’re inheriting from us.

The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water from Surfrider Foundation on Vimeo.

End-of-year round up: yeehah!

Some updates on two themes for the year, Living Green and Running.  I’ll save Running for another day before 2010 descends.

Living Green

One big change I’ve really enjoyed is switching to home-made toothpaste.  “Enjoyed” is an overstatement, in fact it was a pretty big adjustment. What most of us are used to wrt to toothpaste is pretty sweet gel stuff, easy to use and tasty like good chewing gum.  Home-made toothpaste isn’t like that so it was an adjustment.

What led to making my own:

  • Estimating the annual landfill caused by non-recyclable tubes emanating from our house, our neighborhood, our city (literally millions of tubes)
  • Investigating toothpaste recipes and history and realizing there were real health benefits to a simple recipe of baking soda, mint mouthwash, glycerin and flavoring
  • Trying it out and learning it takes about 5 minutes to make a jar of it that will last a month.  5 minutes = 1 month.

Some downsides:

  • My partner didn’t like the taste and refused to use it, thus my goal of reducing our personal landfill quotient was cut in half for a while.
  • It doesn’t leave your mouth “zingingly” clean-feeling, so I continue to rinse with mouthwash, but that container IS recyclable  and it added nothing new to my existing habits.
  • You have to stir it up sometimes, but that was good enough for Bob Marley so it’s good enough for me.

An update to the first bullet/”downsides”: I had my first dental check-up about 6 months after I started using homemade toothpaste and was given the most glowing report I’ve ever had from a dentist.  In fact the technician said, in that geeky dental technician way: “I have total gingi-envy of your teeth.”  Homemade toothpaste cuts bacteria way better than traditional toothpastes on the market, it turns out.  My partner started using the homemade version about a month after that report.

Another change we’ve put in place regards plastic bags. Even though we’re fortunate in Seattle to have a plastic bag recycling program, still, once you become aware of how many plastic bags you’re putting into the system, just picking up more and more becomes slightly irritating and disturbing. When you factor in the issue of plastic bags making their way into the oceans and waterways of the world, well, my head sort of explodes, ok?

We began tracking the amount of bags we have in a week: bags from produce, packaging bags for everything from rice to frozen berries, bags from the grocery store.  We made a decision to simply clean and dry all we could and reuse them at the store.  This was a clumsy new process and took time before the magic started to happen: after a while, we simply weren’t bringing IN as many bags.  AND! we now had fridge storage plastic and stopped needing to use so much plastic wrap.  All in all, after about a month, it was a no-brainer.


  • Once we figured out a path to get clean, dry bags into our shopping bags for weekend market/grocery shopping, the system worked.
  • Fridge storage is a lot easier–this was unexpected.  There’s always an easy to use bag in the drawer waiting for you.
  • We’ve reduced our recycling load, again–not by a ton, but by some measure for sure.
  • A bag is a bag is a bag–at first I was self-conscious about using bags with marketing on them, but now I don’t care.  A bag is a bag, it’s a container, that’s all.  Relief.


  • Making a process, and building a habit around the process takes about 3 months
  • When reusing the packaging bags, like from frozen berries, the store has problems with the existing bar code on the bag; we just turn then inside out now so the bar code doesn’t trigger.
  • Sometimes we have a few too many bags in the clean/dry process and it gets a wee bit unwieldy.  Just sometimes.

Those are the two GREEN initiatives that have taken root in our home.  Change is slow.  We’ve done lots of other things over the last few years but I wanted to highlight these two because they indicate a different level of commitment to change than other things we’ve done (drying our clothes on lines when possible, driving less, composting more).  Happy New Year! Let’s make it a good one!

Emails from the Western Front: the Pacific Garbage Patch

Over at the HuffPpost, Laurie David is chronicling Charles Moore’s exploration of the path from the California Coast to the northern waters of the Hawaiian Islands. The goal? Plastics. He’s aboard the Algalita, a research vessel dedicated to studying the impact of plastics on the environment of the world’s oceans.

He will be sending regular emails describing their findings, and Laurie David will post them on the HuffPost. I look forward to following the adventure, and hope you’ll help spread the news about this research that affects us all.

The Plastic Generation

Recall the famous scene from The Graduate:

Mr. Maguire: Ben. I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Ben: Yes sir?

Mr. Maguire: Are you listening?

Ben: Yes, I am.

Mr. Maguire: Plastics.

Plastics. That’s Mr. Maguire’s advice for Ben about his bright future. Of course he was right, even if the full blossom of Plastics has taken many roads and many incarnations. This weekend I was at my nephew’s house and was reminded of this scene in The Graduate because this home, average in many and good ways, has 3 kids and 2 adults and there was more plastic in that house than I’ve seen perhaps ever.

And while most of the plastic may well be useful (who am I to judge the harried life of young parents), there was one area that struck me not only as dumb, but not even useful, and in fact sort of…well, icky.


The shower, the sinks, the kitchen–there was not one bar of soap to be found in the house. Every last bit of soap in the whole house was dispensed out of some kind of plastic container that was most definitely a use-once-and-toss device. That’s right: dozens of bottles throughout the house, use once, toss into a landfill. And I’m not talking about one container per “wash-station”–there were three or four. In the bathrooms there were maybe as many as 15 or 20 containers. Each with a limited life, each destined for a landfill.

I took a shower and had to use a bottle of body wash that was sort of gummy and actually not useful to me–certainly not as easy or useful as a freakin bar of soap would have been. And of course, when you get near the bottom, the container is even more irritating since the goo inside moves so dang slowly, so out it goes and in comes the new replacement: another plastic container of goo.

People: bars of soap have worked really well for so long, really! They’re simple, and once used, they don’t go in a landfill. There’s every flavor, scent, texture, what have you. So I’m wondering: what’s with the containers of goo? How have you been sold on the idea that those plastic containers are better than a bar of soap?

The generation coming up? This is the plastic generation, the full flower of Mr. Maguire’s vision from the 60’s.

Oh, the humanity!

Gayle Chong Kwan Plastic Bottle City

Gayle Chong Kwan Plastic Bottle City