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Last year I tried giving up plastic for Lent. It's commendable, a good excuse to try the Plastic Challenge, and a great learning experience. (Warning: lengthy comment ahead!)


As Gabriel says above, the only real challenge was food; I don't often shop for anything else.  I accepted the little produce stickers, (the FM here is summer-only),  I could buy  milk in glass bottles, but what about meat and cheese? We have one of the nicest fromageries in America where I live, and even their stuff is saran-wrapped. My best bet for meat in my own containers would be Sacramento, an hour away. I know, I know, I could go vegan, but I'm a hardcore cheese addict, and I crave meat, especially in winter. Here's how it went:


Week 1: Easy - I had a bunch of stuff from before Lent that I needed eat before it went bad.

Week 2: Not bad - I can do anything for a week.

Week 3: Lasted until Wednesday, then broke.

I was standing there in the grocery store, craving chicken casserole and feeling like a hypocrite: eschewing plastic purchases while driving a car to the grocery store. I mentally screamed, "Screw it!" I bought two blocks of cheese, a whole chicken (at least it's Styrofoam free), went home, and told my roomie my story. She took one look at my purchases and said, "That's your food for the week, and it's less plastic than most Americans buy in a day".


Although I didn't make it, I consider it a win. I freed myself of the plastic purchase guilt I had prior to Lent 2012. I also developed a great love for my durable plastics - my ski jacket that is both fashionable and warm, my wine aerator that makes a $4 dollar wine taste like a $10 wine... I will use them kindly until they die, and then I'll be sad.  I still buy disposable plastic, just less. Will I be giving up plastic for Lent again this year? No, although I have great respect for those who do. I will satisfy myself instead by living plastic-light, rather than plastic-free. And maybe my 2013 Lenten resolution will be to go petroleum-light as well, by riding my bike more often.

2 years, 1 month ago on Giving Up Plastic for Lent


Your comment about altruism not truly existing is totally in line with leading behavioral evolution theories, which postulate that altruism is, in fact, selfish. That in the animal kingdom, altruism boosts survival. Not always for the altruistic individual, but at least for their genes.

2 years, 3 months ago on The End of the World is Coming and I'm Still not Buying New Plastic


How about a better labeling system to better educate? I thought myself pretty knowledgeable about environmental stuff and I still learned SO much from your book.


As a fisheries biologist, I work with formalin to preserve specimens. When I told a co-worker that formalin is used in the production of plastic, (something I learned from your book) she was appalled. Enough to swear never to store food in plastic again. It didn't matter how small the amount was, her personal experience with the nastiness of formalin meant she didn't want it anywhere near her food, even in minute quantities. Her first obstacle to reducing plastic use wasn't the lack of alternative (although that is a doozie), it was a lack of knowledge. Plastic works, why demand something else?


I think we need to increase demand for sustainability, so that it bursts out of urban-center bubbles and spreads to suburbia and beyond (cue Star Trek theme)! So that it spreads to advertising at big corporations and laws in big and small government. It's already started and a new labeling system could help fill the gap. Cigarettes in Europe now come with captions like "smoking causes impotence", why not packaging that says, "this packaging will last for 10,000 generations" etc? I'm sure others could think of better captions. Educational snippets, shocking enough to stick, but not too over the top. You'd need a bill passed to get them on products, but that's what democracy is for.


As for reducing demand on the planet by lowering the population, it's been shown that the most effective way to reduce birth rates is through educating women. The longer a woman stays in school, the later she starts having kids. Education is the key to decreasing plastics use and abuse of the environment in general. Any tools/programs that forward that goal are going to make the greatest difference.


2 years, 3 months ago on What Will It Take To Solve the Plastic Pollution Problem?


 @greentalk I also agree with Lori, particularly on research. I always appreciate a petition that's really gone to the effort of backing up their facts, just as it's an immediate turn-off when someone is using a petition to slam an agency with false accusations.

2 years, 5 months ago on Our Petitions Make a Difference: Say No to Disney's Toxic Lunchboxes & Yes to Safer Chemicals


I am a fisheries biologist, and while Bag It is a movie, nothing more or less, the information regarding policy is sound. It is in this respect that I recommended it, not as a scientific resource.

2 years, 6 months ago on Please Take Action. Refusing Plastic Bags & Foam Is Great. Banning Them Is Better!


I don't know about all states.....but in a lot of them (California for example), the plastic bag industry successfully lobbied to make it illegal for cities and towns to tax plastic bags. SF was planning on passing a tax initially, but went with a ban when that was the only option that remained. The Bag It movie has pretty good info.

2 years, 7 months ago on Please Take Action. Refusing Plastic Bags & Foam Is Great. Banning Them Is Better!


 @Meechity Most electricity in this country is generated by coal plants....okay, so coal isn't oil, it's actually a fossil fuel that burns dirtier than oil. Now, if you're plugging in your car to your house, entirely powered by the windmills in the backyard and the solar panels on the roof, great, but most of the time, this isn't the case. Personally, I think electric cars are a necessary step, and part of how we get to renewable, and most electric vehicles are small, so I imagine their mileage in terms of volts is pretty good. But if you power your electric vehicle with coal generated electricity, it's not any better than filling up at the gas station, possibly a little worse than just getting a very high mileage car, like a smart or hybrid like the prius.

2 years, 8 months ago on Starbucks Trash: Behind the Scenes


I would love to see this happen.


1) No

I don't shop at Trader Joe's, mainly because I feel that they market to people who think of themselves as environmentalists, while having products that are anything but environmentally friendly. I would love Trader Joe's to practice what it seems to want to preach, and be able to shop there, so for this I'd be willing to stop in to my local store. 

2) Stockton, CA is my nearest store

3) Yes. Safeway and Raley's both have more produce with less packaging. Safeway and Raleys also sell their own bread at least in paper bags, so there's at least one option without plastic. TJ's has all their bread in plastic. And the TJ salads are just ridiculous.

4) A few items, I'd have to visit again and take notes to be sure. I also suspect that the unpackaged items are more expensive, rather like at Safeway where an unpackaged potato is 0.99/lb and a ten pound bag of potatoes is five dollars.

5) I wanted to buy leeks and cucumbers and they were both shrink wrapped. I believe I also saw shrink wrapped bananas (and nature packages them so well, too!). Generally, the veggies were worse off than the fruits, again, I'd have to return and take notes.

6) Sign a petition, forward a petition, take pictures, write letters


2 years, 10 months ago on What Do You Think of the Plastic Produce Packaging at Trader Joe's Nowadays?


I had a friend get me on the toxic free band wagon and the biggest hurdle is just finding what works for you, so I'm always happy to share if it means other people won't have to go through as much trial and error.

2 years, 10 months ago on Plastic-Free Progress Report: Sarah Schmiechen