Tag Archives: stupid plastic containers

PCC is baggin’ my veggies: why?

PCC’s new veggie bags are buggin’ me

It’s a little thing, but it has now taken on a gigantic irritation quotient in my brain: PCC uses this funky, straight-to-the-landfill plastic netting on many of the vegetables, such as brussel sprouts above, green beans and the like.

Why this bugs me: the netting is completely non-reusable, and face it: my relationship with PCC is a values-based thing.  I don’t go there because they have the best price.  I go there because their values are supposed to be somewhat in line with my own.  And my values are like this: I re-use & recycle to the degree possible.  That means: as much as possible.

These little green mesh bags?  Not so much.  Can’t re-use, can’t recycle…in fact, they’re a total waste, not to mention that if I want a lot (and I do, I eat a LOT of vegetables), I have to buy sometimes two or three of these plastic mesh packages.

So when I asked Kevin, the veg manager at my local PCC why PCC has suddenly started using them, his answer so completely underwhelmed that I just walked away: because  “it’s easier to stock with the mesh bags, and there’s less mess to clean up.”  No.  Really.

So, I went straight away to Metropolitan Market, it has a pretty wonderful veg and fruit section, and guess what!  Their sprouts and green beans?  Free as birds, no plastic mesh wrap.  And guess what else!  None on the floor.  No mess.  So I bought some of the green beans, and if this pattern continues, I may be heading over to Met Market for all my shopping.  I do like it better in many ways.

I work hard to avoid putting more stuff in the land fill.  I prefer to partner with organizations that are sensitive to the issues as well.  As I said, it’s a small thing…but those small things tend to have outsize power over time.

 

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This Sweet Old World

I’ve been humming the tune of This Sweet Old World today, floating between grief and disbelief over the BP Spill.  This isn’t a scree about that mess, I don’t know what can really be said.  BP should promise flat out that it will do anything and everything possible to make this right, simply, clearly, no hedging.

This sweet old world….

S’anyway…

Yesterday I had a minor medical treatment that involved a small incision and some stitches.  No big. But I was somewhat dumbfounded when over the course of 25 minutes I saw the assistant put on, remove and toss in the garbage no less than six pairs of latex gloves.

No, really.  Six pairs.  Right in the plastic bag that held the growing mound of waste that would be collected up and thrown somewhere.  The ocean probably.

I mentioned my surprise to the assistant and he, without the slightest thought, said, “well, we have to use a new set of gloves each time we open a canister because the germs can spread so easily.”

Ok.  Picture this: my little treatment happening at that moment, hundreds and hundreds of times yesterday all around the world…cuz yeah, it wasn’t very exotic.  And then imagine more complex treatments, and full out surgeries. Imagine the amount of plastic bags full of latex and plastic wrappers emanating from those hospitals all around the world.

six pairs of latex gloves in 25 minutes

So I’ve been thinking about this. Rolling it around in my head, along with the beached whales this summer and their stomachs full of plastic, and the ease of plastic, and the mindlessness of plastic and then a talk by Bill McKibben gave on NPR the other day and his new book, Eaarth,  which argues for the end of growth.

How did I get there?  Because it is the magic thinking of an expanding universe of humanity that is at the root of most of our problems today…as McKibben says, we are now “too big to succeed.”

Consider: the growing universe of germs is due to an ever increasing population that is ever increasing its number of cure-all antibiotics that the invisible microbial world mutates to conquer again and again and again.

Consider: the more people we have, the more resources we use, in an obviously limited world.

Consider: the dwindling resources requires us to take ever more extreme actions to supply the ever increasing population of humans demanding ever more of everything, while believing there is no cause-and-effect–magic!.

There is a report today about the impact slowing down– reducing driving speeds– would have in a systemic way...proof positive that a small thing can make a big difference.  We could do this, but as a nation, the idea of slowing down is insulting, not to mention unenforced, and basically any questioning of our power to do what we want, when we want, and at the speed we want, is generally viewed as unpatriotic.  Our magic thinking has gone round the bend.

There are things we could do.  You and I both know there are things we could do differently, for the sake of this sweet old world.

Midway Atoll: Art, Grief and Transformation

Take a look at some photos from the front–the front being that stretch of sea that holds the world’s biggest floating garbage patch.  Will it someday come to be known as an “oceanfill” like landfill?

Chris Jordan’s work is entitled “Art, Grief and Transformation.”  As he says, the grief of seeing wildlife killed by having ingested plastic it thinks is food is nearly too much to contemplate.

The amount of plastic we are producing, discarding, and sending into the food chain is unfathomable.  Our disconnect from the reality of overpopulation and over-consumption is stunning.  How did we evolve to such a level of magic thinking?

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.

Upsides:

  • 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.

Downsides:

  • 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.

Days 323-331: MLwC, the easy Shake ‘n Pour Pancake mix & John Edwards

General Mills Shake n Pour

In the annals of things I would not have thought needed improvement: pancake mix containers. There’s someone somewhere who’s job it is to figure out how to improve on things that work fine in order to sell more products, and I think that might not be a very good use of someone’s time–I don’t care how much they earn.

Take Bisquick’s Shake ‘n Pour bottle of pancake mix. Is it really so very very difficult to make pancakes from the mix in a box? Do we have to make a plastic bottle to hold a chemically processed liquid so all you have to do (we’re very very busy!) is shake it and pour it out? I happened to see this product on TV the other day and really was taken aback.

Plastic bottle: will not decompose in that very busy Mom’s lifetime, nor the span of her kid’s, or even their kids.

Pancake mix: processing and shelf life virtually guarantee there is zero health benefit to the “food”–it’s just filling bellies, and likely has so much sugar and salt that the kids would be better off with a slice of toast and peanut butter. Much better off.

I know, I know–why should I care? But I’ll tell you why: I just spent a few days with my nephew who is 34 and fights with diet/nutrition issues. He’s grown up in a mass-consume culture, more accustomed to the taste of processed sugar than real food, and now when he’d like to change things, it’s extremely difficult. And as he gets older, his health problems will increase, his dependence on medications will increase, his positive participation in our culture will decrease–and that breaks my heart.

This is our culture, people. This is our country, our culture. I literally don’t think having a plastic bottle of pancake mix is making us any better–it’s just growing profits for General Mills.

Which brings me to John Edwards. I read the other day, though I can’t find it now, that some columnist was backing John Edwards, against all odds, because he felt that one of the core problems in our country, if not the world is the rise of unchecked corporations and of all the candidates out there, the one candidate that truly understands corporations and how to battle them effectively is John Edwards. It strikes me that that reason alone may be contributing heavily to his virtual invisibility in the run-up to the race.

But beyond his profession, Edwards’ tone and language on the campaign trail have increased business antipathy toward him. His stump speeches are peppered with attacks on “corporate greed” and warnings of “the destruction of the middle class.”
He accuses lobbyists of “corrupting the government” and says Americans lack universal health care because of “drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists.”
Despite not winning the two state nominating contests completed so far, with 48 to go, Edwards insists he is in the race to stay. An Edwards campaign spokesman said on Thursday that inside-the-Beltway operatives who fight to defend the powerful and the privileged should be afraid. (credit: indybay.org)

I’m not suggesting I’m backing Edwards–in fact, I don’t know yet who I’m backing. Any of the top three would be good, to be honest. But the issue with corporations is exceptionally important. We are currently suffering the burden of the polar opposite of Edwards: an administration so thoroughly in lock-step with corporations, the relationship is nearly seamless.

Apologies to Edwards for discussing General Mills’ ridiculous products in the same post as the presidential nominee, but in terms of corporate hunger for products above brains, it seemed to connect up for me.

Daily Stats (things seem to be getting way out of hand in terms of tracking progress in these final weeks of the year long MLwC project: Sat, Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat)
Car: 64 miles (P-bo, a dozen tasks and 8 days)
Bike: approx. 15 miles or so, several tasks
Ped: 5 miles
Bus: 0