Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: Plastic Free

Plastic-Free: How I kicked the plastic habit and how you can too by Beth Terry is one of the books I've been reading this week.


Here are 5 things I love about this book:

1. Beth Terry talks in a friendly and non-judgmental voice, explaining how she went from living a lifestyle of consumption and convenience to completely changing the way she lives, one step at a time. It is a very interesting and inspiring story.
2. She is not afraid to laugh at herself, like when she explains her first failed attempts to make liquid soap.
3. The chapter titled Nine reasons our personal changes matter is excellent for anyone who wonders whether a small personal choice would make any difference at all in the big picture.
4. The book has clear action items and the author encourages readers to make, perhaps, one change a month (until it becomes a habit) to keep from being overwhelmed.
5. The book features blurbs on several other people who have used different strategies to avoid plastic.It is nice to see how each person takes a different approach to reducing plastic.

My personal viewpoint on plastic: It is a marvelous innovation that has brought us amazing things, including electronics and the internet which I'm using right now to talk to you. But the ridiculous overuse of plastic and the wasteful throw-away products made with plastic threaten to suffocate us, literally and figuratively. So there's much to be said for using plastic sparingly and wisely.

Beth Terry writes a blog called My Plastic-Free Life. Her Steps to a Plastic-Free Life contains dozens of tips for everyday life. She says that the top two ways to reduce plastic waste is to avoid plastic bags and bottled water.

10 ways I'm reducing plastic waste from my life:

1. Not using plastic shopping bags. I've completely embraced this habit and it has been years since I've taken a plastic bag from the store. I carry my rag tag collection of cloth bags proudly. And if I make an unplanned stop at the grocery store, I carry out groceries in my hands.
My favorite cloth grocery bag; a gift from my friend Chaitanya.
She stamped it with apple halves using fabric paint. 
2. Not using plastic produce bags. For some time, I was reusing those flimsy plastic produce bags; then I decided it was worth it to invest a bit of cash cash and buy a nice set of reusable bags. I bought a set of mesh bags from this Etsy shop and boy, I'm a happy customer. Years later, they're as good as new and I always get compliments from check-out clerks who want to know where I got those cool produce bags.
Reusable mesh produce bags
3. Not using bottled water. I've used filter pitchers and faucet filters at various times in the past, but now we drink straight out of the tap. Tap water in the US is as clean and often cleaner than bottled water. Although our fridge also has a filter in the door. So there's no need to buy bottled water ever. At work, I had a reusable bottle that I refilled at the water fountain. When I travel, I take an empty water bottle through security and then fill it up once I am in the terminal. V occasionally buys soda but always in cans (the easiest thing to recycle).
Clean, free tap water: a beautiful thing
4. Switching to a glass lunch box. Our lunches are always dinner leftovers, and they generally need heating up. I still use plastic boxes for food storage but never heat food in plastic. I bought glass lunch boxes a few years ago and they're working great. They're heavy but they don't leak. Of course, if you're carrying a lunch that doesn't need heating, a good old stainless steel dabba would be ideal.
Glass dabba for hot lunches at work or at home
5. Not buying new plastic toys. I pledged to myself that I would not buy plastic toys either for Lila or for other kids. Instead, I've been buying wooden toys or books or games as gifts. We gratefully accept hand-me-downs from friends which is how Lila has the usual plastic baby toys- piano, stacking rings, oversize lego type stuff etc. Lila does get plastic toys as gifts and I allow that; it would be harsh not to. When I want a particular toy that might be plastic, I look for it in garage sales or on Craigslist. The most important thing is that we use the toys with care so that after they're outgrown, they can be cleaned and passed on to another child. Plastic is practically indestructible so we might as well take advantage of that. 
Ride-on toy: 101% plastic BUT it has a police siren!
Bought it off Craigslist for 10 bucks.
6. Choosing glass jars where possible. With many things, for instance, baby food and peanut butter and many other products, you have the choice of buying a glass or plastic container. In my book, glass wins every time because I wash out the jars and reuse them in many ways. Those plastic tubes of baby food especially make me cuh-RAZY. One tablespoon of food inside this thick junky plastic tube.

7. Using as few plastic baggies as possible. Snacks can be easily placed in a small container instead of a throw away baggie. Ditto for stuff that needs to be put in the freezer. We gave reusable sandwich/snack bags as birthday party favors:

8. Making most of our meals at home. Frozen meals and fast food creates an incredible amount of trash.  Making things like yogurt at home also saves quite a bit of plastic.

9. Cloth diapers. Anu asked me about our cloth diapering experience. We cloth diapered Lila the whole time we were living in St. Louis (her first year), and we used a cloth diaper service. It worked beautifully for us because we didn't have to wash the cloth diapers. With our work situation, we couldn't have. These diapers were rectangular cloths that you folded and used with a velcro-closed wrap on top. So this is the only kind of cloth diaper I have experience with. Using these was just as easy as using disposables. After leaving STL, I've been using disposable diapers while I try and figure out what to do.

10. BYO doggie bag. When we go out to eat, I usually bring a container from home to use as my "doggie bag" for bringing leftovers home. This weekend, we went out to brunch. I didn't eat the buttermilk biscuits and wanted to bring them home for a snack, but I'd forgotten to take a container. Luckily, I stopped myself just before I asked for a take out box (usually styrofoam or plastic) and wrapped them in a paper napkin to bring home instead. Every little bit helps. When I just take a minute to think, I can make better decisions.

Three things I want to work on:

1. Doggie poop bags: We buy plastic bags for picking up after Mr. Dale. I'm reading up on a good alternative to this.

2. Eating utensils while on the go: Once in a while, we'll be out and about and stop at some fast foodish place- say, a burrito place- for a meal. Then I use plastic forks and spoons and cringe at the waste. Carrying eating utensils in my purse would be such an easy thing and I need to start doing that.

3. Buying from bulk bins: There are a couple of good stores in town with wonderful bulk bins. I can cut down on packaging waste by using those instead of pulling packets off the shelf.

Sometimes, there are tricky choices around the risk-benefit ratio of plastic. One of the first things I did in the new home was to look for a backyard composter- now that I don't have access to the lovely community garden in STL and am responsible for my own composting. After thinking of different options, we ended up buying this plastic composter which is sold at subsidized rates by our county.

I don't love that it is made of plastic, but it is rodent-proof (also keeping out such pests as kids and dogs) and hopefully will last a lifetime and the benefits of composting over years definitely outweigh the cost of this plastic thingamajig.

I also noticed that this particular book has a plastic cover- kinda ironic given the title. But again, this is a copy from the public library. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of people will read this book, and the protective plastic cover is probably a small price to pay for keeping this copy stain free and clean.

When it comes to making these kinds of changes in our lives, there's always the temptation to say, "I don't have time for this". I can't remember to carry bags around, and who's going to wash out snack bags every day? We pride ourselves on being busy, busy, busy. But this is when I ask myself what kind of person I want to be, and the choice is easy. I don't want to be wasteful. I want to be mindful. And most of all, I want to set a good example. These changes are worth working towards and making time for. I have a LONG way to go but at least the intention is there.

Easiest idea for those who eat lunch at work
Keep a mug, glass, plate, napkin and eating utensils in a desk drawer. BOOM- over time, countless plastic/paper plates, plastic forks and spoons, paper napkins will be saved from the landfill.

Snehal shared the link for another blog with great tips: Zero Waste Home.

Your turn: what plastic-reducing strategies are working for you? What are you struggling with?

61 comments:

  1. Great post, as always! Thanks for including the link to Bea's blog.

    I have re-examined my lifestyle in an attempt to reduce plastic, much like Beth. I drink coffee in the shop in a ceramic cup. I eat ice-cream/gelato in a cone (no more samples with plastic spoons for me). I scour Craigslist for everything I need. I grow my vegetables :) I only shop in bulk sections of grocery stores.

    As you mentioned, it may appear to be challenging at first, but it ends up becoming a habit.

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    1. Thanks for mentioning that blog, I always enjoying reading about more ideas. I never drink coffee outside but a ceramic mug is such a simple change to make. The ice cream cone was something I hadn't thought about but will definitely be doing that! Love everything you're doing.

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  2. I use my grocery bag, but there are times I forget and many a times I have more than I can carry in my hands, when I d take plastic bags, I recycle them in the bins outside the store on my next trip, but I sometimes forget :( - in which case- I admit- I use them to line my trash can.

    For cleaning floors, I use old nighties / vests worn and torn types, as my 'katka'.

    I am not sure, but I seem to recollect, when I was little, our maid would use 'naralachi shendi' to clean dishes.

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    1. Well, if you need plastic bags for lining the trash can, then using the ones from the store is not a bad thing. I like that some stores are recycling plastic bags but reducing is SO much better than recycling.

      Oh those coconut brushes were AWESOME- biodegradable and all. I'm sure one of these days they will become popular in the US too.

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  3. Great post, Nupur!

    I have reduced my plastic footprint by practising most of what you have written about. Except for the diapers! With my daughter, I cloth diapered her during the day (used disposables at night) until she was a year old. Then I switched completely to disposables (though it was everything I didn't want to do!), simply because of the convenience; besides, after going through months of washing dirty diapers, I had had it!

    Which is why I'm very intrigued by the diaper service you've mentioned. I read on their website that the diapers do not need to be washed. So did you use any liners which you discarded, and sent the diapers to be cleaned? I'd greatly appreciate the info; I'm going to research the options available here if the need arises!

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    1. So the way it worked is: they gave us a covered bin (with a deodorizer disk). We put dirty diapers in there and they were collected weekly by a van from the diaper service. At the same time, they delivered fresh clean diapers.

      For people who know their limitations (in my case, I knew I would not have time to wash diapers, with no washer dryer in my basement and husband happened to be traveling a lot in Lila's first year), a diaper service is an excellent option. Do a web search for diaper service along with the name of your city to see what comes up.

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    2. I know this sounds crazy, because I thought so too the first time I heard about it, but it really works! Infant potty training! I have 5 daughters. With my first 3 I used cloth diapers most of the time, with disposables for long car trips, sickness, etc. With my last two I started them on the potty as tiny infants. Yes they can do it! Diaper companies don't want you to know. Just as an infant knows when it is hungry, they know they have to and can release at will. It's just a matter of taking them potty every time they have a dry diaper, or you think they need to go and signaling with a "psss" (for #1) or grunt(for# 2) sound over an appropriate receptacle. I have cut down on diaper use by more than half during the first six months and had them diaper free at around a year old. Do a web search for "Eliminations communications" or "Infant potty training". This is not something new. Before modern diapers, and in many native areas, this was and is the norm! It really doesn't take more time. Just a different mindset for parents: taking care of the babies elimination needs before the fact, rather than after. And it is just plain fun every time they go!

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    3. I'm so glad you mentioned EC. Yes, it is nothing new (practiced in many cultures but new to the US), and yes, I'm very interested in using it. My baby does have a potty and likes using it, but we need to make it more of a habit for her.

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    4. Double thumbs up for EC. We used it for both our boys right from birth. It works. Doing your own diaper laundry is not a big deal, either. It's all about making time for what rocks your boat. We preferred home laundering to avoid bleach use and so we could air dry the diapers. Our oldest, now 4.5 years old, was in underpants by about 16 months. Our younger one now 19 months reliably informs us of an impending bum and is starting to do the same for pee about 50% of the time. I've probably washed a poppy diaper thrice in the last year.

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    5. Sorry. That was supposed to be "impending bm". Silly virtual keyboard!

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  4. loved this post. i try to be as plastic-free as possible but after reading this, I realise what a long way I have to go.

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    1. We ALL have a long way to go, well except for the author of this book LOL, but we can all start somewhere.

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    2. rofl. you are right, i went nuts half way thru the author's list.. :D The only thing I do is reusing shopping bags. Glad no baby yet. But just wodnering how bad will the soiled cloth diapers stink?! :-\

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  5. Nice post Nupur. Are those reusable sandwich bags made of fabric? Also, i was wondering if you use plastic trash bags in the house or found any replacement?

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    1. Yes, those reusable sandwich bags are made with cotton fabric with a waterproof nylon lining.
      Alas, I'm using plastic trash bags in the house because that's mandated by local laws here (all trash has to be bagged).

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  6. Hi. I'm so glad the book has been inspiring to you, and kudos to you for all the steps you have taken. The plastic cover is ironic. All the libraries are covering the book in plastic, which is not something I or the publisher have control over. I do understand why they do it but wish they would find a more sustainable material. I blogged about it here: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2012/06/when-a-plastic-free-book-is-covered-in-plastic/

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    1. I know the plastic book jacket had nothing to do with your choices, Beth! I know I'll keep trying to include more of your tips in my own life.

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  7. I find that the glass containers for lunch leak near the lids especially with gravy based lunches. Is there a specific glass container you recommend?

    Thanks,
    Deepa

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    1. Deepa- my glass dabbas are Snapware Glasslock. I've had good results with them, even the one where one of the 4 sides of the lid broke off (I've continued to use it without problems). Soups and gravies generally don't leak from these. I can only remember one or two instances of that happening.

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  8. I use cloth napkins for parties and bought a set of inexpensive plastic but re-useable dishes, bowls etc from IKEA for casual parties. I have not bought disposable plates, spoons etc in years.

    At work, we have real dishes and a dishwasher and I always use the real stuff and rinse it and put it in the dishwasher

    I struggle with buying ready-chopped veggies - to help with eating at home on nights I am too rushed to chop veggies. I do reuse any and all plastic bags till they literally drop dead ;-) as also all the plastic "dabbas" from humus, spread etc.

    I struggle with buying small portion snacks for school lunches.

    Best wishes on your new life!

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    1. Cloth napkins- yes! And it is a great idea to buy extra reusable dishes for use in parties. I'm going to hit up garage sales and buy dishes, now that I have place to store them. Thanks for your ideas.

      I understand how the dinner rush can make pre-chopped veggies tempting to buy. The one suggestion I have is to go grocery shopping on the weekend at a time when you'll have time and energy to chop veggies right after you get home. Then you'll have your own pre-chopped veggies for the week. Here's another discussion that might interest you:
      http://www.thekitchn.com/great-tip-preco-160933

      About small portion sizes- I have plastic (yes, plastic but reusable) ziplock containers that I portion snacks into for the week. Takes 5 minutes on a weekend.

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  9. When we got stuff from the bulk bins at our local, wonderful co-op we got infested with pantry moth. Happened twice in two different homes. Since then, we are avoiding the bulk bins. Making yogurt at home is amazing and it is surprising how many yogurt containers we are not bringing home!

    One thing we have to get into habit is taking containers for leftovers. we cringe everytime we see styrofoam :(

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    1. Oh dear- I did not think about that!! I guess it is even more likely in stores that don't have a high turnover.

      Yes, making yogurt at home saves money and plastic and tastes yum on top of it all.

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  10. Loved this post !
    When I read through I was literally ticking the ones I do n which I don’t and so I realized though I follow most of the ways of reducing plastic, I still use my Tupperware for Tiffin, loved your option.

    Btw Nupur would love to see a post of meal planning, I know you've given inputs in few posts but may be a some detailed tips especially for Indian Lunch\Dinner would be great. Cos there are times when you just can’t think of options..Infact I had plainly Googled for meal planning tips (loved the link you shared couple of posts back) with some lovely posts but none with respect to Indian Menu .. So see you soon on that :)

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    1. Thanks Kanchan! I am not a stickler for meal planning but if I can, I'll write a post to discuss this.

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  11. I am not completely there yet. Those mesh bags for produce are a great idea How about lining the trash cans. These days I buy a few plastic bags(our county taxes 5 cents per bag which is actually a good thing, put plastic bag usage in check, see a lot more people using reusable bags) for just that purpose but rest of the time use reusable bags. What do you do for lining your trash cans I am curious?

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    1. I line the trash can with plastic garbage bags. Here the local regulations say that trash has to be bagged (garbage collectors lift the bag from our curbside trash carts and place into truck so I can see why it would need to be bagged and tied) so I don't see a way out. But with composting and all, we put out trash once a week and that will be once in 2 weeks once we're not using disposable diapers.

      Funny thing is that a friend moved to another country and gave me a huge box of trash bags from Costco so I have a lifetime supply of trash lines.

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    2. We put out garbage every other week mostly. Once the biodegradable stuff is taken out of the equation there is very little garbage to dispose daily.

      I know composting is not for everyone - the bugs, smell all is not pleasant.

      But if I had the power I will make it mandatory for neighborhoods to have a vegetable plot and a composting bin. I am sure the kids and adults alike will have a lot of fun.

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    3. I'm hoping that with this composter I bought there won't be bugs and smell- we'll see. It really is a crime to put compostable stuff into the landfill.

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  12. Awesome subject! I hope you'll let us know what alternatives you find for dog poop bags. I sometimes use biodegradable ones, but it requires a drive across town to get them.

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    1. I use biodegradable poop bags also but the word "biodegradable" for plastic bags means it just makes smaller plastic trash. Not the best alternative. Besides, I'm sure they never break down in landfills anyway.

      This book has some interesting options for poop bags, actually, including building/buying pet waste composter or flushing the poop. If you can find the book, I think you'll like reading the discussion of this.

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    2. Our family dog was trained to use the toilet. So very convenient.

      Sneha.

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  13. There is a Cloth Diapering group on Ravelry that talks a lot about using cloth when you have shared and coin-operated washing machines. I would do some searching there if you are looking for ideas! :)

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    1. You know, with the move and settling in, I haven't had a chance to think of what cloth diapers to buy. But I know Ravelry is an excellent resource!

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  14. What an inspirational post! :) What amazes me most is how you are so careful even after being a parent - to not be tempted into what's most convenient but what's the right thing to do! I use tote bags (I love the apple print! I am so tempted to make one for myself and my friends) and I don't use disposable plates or such when I have company over but there have been several times when friends have been uncomfortable to NOT use disposable stuff and one even made us remove it from storage and refused to eat in regular reusable one we use at home. I think they see it as an obligation to not use disposable stuff themselves and that just means 'too much work' or the difficulty of having serving bowls in the plates, disposable ones have ridges that take care of that. I am struggling to stop using those ziplock bags, I grew up without them so I have hopes that I can live without them too.

    I am seriously considering buying a cast iron cookware and really confused if i should go for pre-seasoned one or an enameled one. Since you have a Le Creuset enameled (the yellow tomato! if Im right.) and ur lodge pre-seasoned skillet I would really appreciate if you could do a post on comparing the two that can help prospective buyers decide. There are tons of links on the internet but I completely trust your opinion and know for sure that it wont be a paid recommendation. So tell me, which one should I go for? Pre-Seasoned or Enameled cast iron?

    - Priti

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    1. Priti- kids watch carefully so I want to be a good role model for Lila. Not to mention that having a baby is about the most non-eco-friendly thing you can possibly do! So the pressure is there to at least be a little responsible in other ways.
      I don't let my friends tell me what I can and cannot do in my own house. If someone refused to eat off a reusable plate, they would go hungry and never be invited over again.
      I have one enameled and two pre-seasoned pans and all three get a lot of use! The advantage of pre-seasoned is that iron leaches into food (boosting iron content) and it is less expensive. Advantage of enameled is that it is not as prone to rusting.

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    2. Thanks Nupur! I read about the iron leeching into food part. Wondering if food tastes metallic? Please let me know.

      I also use a terracotta/clay pot to cook and one small one to set yogurt in. They are eco-friendly and keep food warm/cold for a long time. They go in the oven and gas stove top and are light in weight (but breakable ofcourse).

      Also, one habit of making sure all cloth/tote bags remain in the car is that I don't close the back door of the car after unloading the groceries until I go back and keep the empty cloth bags inside. If I am too lazy I just keep the empty bags outside the car and that reminds whoever is driving next to keep it inside. Having a garage helps doing this.

      - Priti

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    3. Food tastes metallic only if you leave it in the cast iron for too long after cooking. I cook the food, then remove it into another dish. Also, acidic foods like those with tomato leach much more iron than non-acidic foods.

      I've never ever cooked with clay pots- would love to try that one day!

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  15. I've made it a habit to keep reusable cloth bags in the car, for that unexpected grocery/other store run.

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    1. Great idea! Now why don't I do that??

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  16. How do you stock food in your kitchen .. I mean the rice, legumes lentils and the myriad spices we stock up in our kitchen..

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    1. Do you mean what containers I'm using? For most things, I reuse plastic and glass containers (like yogurt tubs and pasta sauce jars). In some cases, I bought containers to use in the pantry.

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  17. http://www.atlcottontails.com/ - diaper delivery in atlanta

    Divya M

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    1. I'm not in Atlanta though! Thanks for the link.

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  18. Such a thought provoking post Nupur! Thanks for sharing the link to Beth Terry's blog.Very useful and so many good ideas there! One that I will start right away is switching to a good old fountain pen and give up those use and throw ball point pens.

    One thing that works for me is buying milk in reusable glass bottles. After using up the milk, rinse the bottle and return it to the store to get back your 25cents deposit. And also the shopping bags like many other readers have indicated:-)

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    1. I liked the discussion about pens but frankly, have never bought a ball point pen in my life. There always seem to be dozens lying around everywhere and given free.

      LOVE your choice re glass milk bottles. I've seen those in a nearby store and will probably switch- you're inspiring me to do it.

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  19. Thanks for your input on the cloth diapers. I'll have to see if they have something similar here in Houston.
    Thanks for the Etsy link, I will definitely look into that.
    I used disposables with our first and are contemplating cloth for our 2nd baby but,as you mentioned, I'm not sure we'll be able to manage while working full-time and with a active 3 year old.

    My daughter takes lunch from home to her preschool and we use Lunchbots lunchboxes. They are made of steel and are of excellent quality. My husband and I use pyrex containers for our lunches.

    We are already doing most things from your post.
    The two things I need to work on are, stop using ziploc baggies and to not forget to take shopping totes to the store.

    Wonderful post Nupur! Much love to Lila and Dale.

    -Anu

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    1. Anu- I did a quick search and Houston seems to have a couple of diaper services. I can't talk about washing cloth diapers with your schedule but can say for sure that if you find a service, it is not any harder than disposables. In fact you never have to run out and buy diapers.

      A couple of people have said they store totes in the car- that might help you! Thanks for the lovely comment.

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  20. Such an inspiring post Nupur!!! I've been trying to make changes but I'm nowhere close to where you are, I hope to get there someday. Some have become habits, others need working on. I've stopped using plastic containers for storing cooked food. I have a few that I use for storing left over uncooked/unused veggies like half an onion, lemon, ginger etc. As and when I get new glass jars (salsas, sauces etc.) I replace the plastic ones in my pantry with these. I need to work on storing reusable bags in my car. I usually keep paper bags in the car but I think sturdier, reusable ones would be a better option. I've eliminated about 75% of home-cleaners with homemade ones (but I confess this has more to do with eliminating chemicals with offensive odors rather than plastic) - it's vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, essential oils. And I recently bought all the things I need to make laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent etc. Last week, I made 1 gallon of hand soap. And my first batch of laundry detergent. I'm going to work on dishwasher detergent next.

    I used cloth diapers for 1 year, mostly prefolds. But once S got mobile, it was getting very difficult to change his diaper as often as I did with the pre-folds, so I switched to chlorine-free disposables. I wish I'd stuck to cloth diapers though. I don't buy plastic toys for him nor buy them as gifts. But when I need to, I'll use your suggestion of looking for them in Craiglist. When he was a baby, I crocheted all his toys.

    Things I need to work on:

    - Not using zip-loc bags for freezing. I wish I could find a better alternative.
    - Chopping and freezing my own veggies instead of buying them
    - Not using disposable plates and utensils for big parties

    I love those mesh bags!! And what an adorable tote that is! Makes me want to make one for myself right away.

    Mamatha

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    1. Mamatha- I'd love to hear your experience with making your own cleaners. Wanna write a guest post for me??

      Crocheted toys have got to be the best things ever. Thanks for all your ideas.

      Have you tried reusable containers instead of bags for the freezer? And the book has a nice tip for partyware: get a box and fill it up with plates, cups, glasses, utensils- all cheap thrift store and garage sale finds. Being mismatched is half the fun. This box can even be shared among friends or neighbors, it can sit in someone's garage or closet while not in use.

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  21. I wonder when we made such a huge decision to turn to plastic. I remember growing up buying veggies and fruits into a "jholna" (cloth bag that we would take. Then coming home we would sit and sort all the vegetables to out away in mesh bags. Always carried stainless steel dhabas to school and zip locks were unheard of! Eating out was a treat in a bluemoon and even when you did eat out we used our hands. So much plastic saved! I wish we could go back to those simple years.
    Kudos to you for being such a good environmentalist. You are such an inspiration!

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    1. I think plastic manufacturing got dirt cheap and at that point, the decision was made for us. But I love that all the sustainable practices of our childhood are coming back.
      Don't call me an environmentalist- now you're making me laugh! :)

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  22. Another great post Nupur! I have been trying to live environmentally friendly for a few years now, but I sure have a LONG way to go. I must admit that I have a lot of plastic containers but I have stopped buying them since a few years. I use those containers to store cut veggies in fridge and freezer, and also to store snacks. I also use the small ziplock containers to carry snacks whe we travel, or for the snacks I sometimes carry in my purse. 90% of the storage containers in my pantry are recycled bournvita and pasta sauce bottles. I wish we could get refill packs here in US for items like coffee and oil. I also store some yogurt, sour cream tubs so that friends can take potluck leftovers in them instead of using plastic bags (which I almost never have).

    I have been using cloth bags for groceries. Carrying mesh produce bags is a great idea. I think Joann's carry white mesh fabric, may be I'll get the fabric and sew a few. We never buy bottled water. I recycle plastic, glass, metal and paper, but I still don't know how exactly to deal with - 1. thick plastic bags that Indian groceries come in, 2. bags of frozen veggies (i do buy frozen veggies, the ones we don't get fresh), 3. plastic canisters of sanitizing wipes (can you put those with regular recyclable plastic containers?) Any thoughts?

    The things I would like to work on are - 1. carrying my own container for restaurant leftovers. we don't eat out that often, but I never remember to carry my own container (may be I'll start keeping one in the car), 2. buying stuff off craigslist - I'm really worried about infestation, a big mental block.

    I don't have a dog here, but regarding picking up after dogs, I think you might like this - http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=11324153&f=PAD%2FpsNotAvailInUS%2FNo
    and you can use the doggie poop as plant manure :D

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    1. Thanks for sharing all those great tips, Amruta. Yes, you can easily sew produce bags with mesh fabrics. I've seen free patterns/tutorials online. The ones I bought are double layered which makes them very sturdy.

      I don't know how to deal with bags from Indian groceries or frozen veggies either. Do the plastic canisters have a number on them? I am pretty sure those can be recycled. Or don't buy sanitizing wipes :) just use cloth to wipe.

      I've seen those poop scoopers but we can't use raw animal waste as manure- it needs special composting.

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    2. I have a pattern pinned for mesh bags, but never thought of carrying those to grocery shopping. That indeed is a great idea. Didn't know abt special composting for animal waste. I use sanitizing wipes only for toilets(cleaning the seat, cover and exterior) but for some reason I always thought I couldn't throw the empty canisters along with rest of the plastic...duh! Thanks for reminding me to check the number.

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    3. Pour a vinegar-water solution in a spray bottle to spray toilet seats etc. Wipe down with a few folded pieces of toilet tissue. You don't need container of sanitizing wipes.

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  23. This is such a great post Nupur. A lot of things just slip in by way of convenience and we dont realise. The amount of plastic waste in India is mind boggling. Now stores are charging for plastic carry bags which deters people from asking for more and makes most carry their own bags. I have cloth bags in all my purses (3, am guilty) & a couple in the car incase i need more. I buy vegetables from a local delivery truck and it isn't pre packed, we have to carry a bag. i try not to buy stuff that has too much packaging. I had a rule that worked great "no more buying of ANYTHING except medicines and food" till i used up, gave away or figured out what to do with all the stuff i had. Too many home decor items, clothes, bed linen, curtains etc. The embargo lasted 18 months. Now I think real hard before I buy stuff to the extent where everyone thinks I am kanjoos...i hardly bother.

    I am struggling with recycling electronic items, cables, laptops etc... also am guilty of ziplock bags and a little online shopping that involves miles of bubble wrap. this post is making me rethink all of that...Its sad that India which had a pretty robust recycle, reuse culture is now shifting towards a use and throw one...

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  24. I am trying to limit the number of plastic toys I buy for Mehuli. She is anyway most happy playing with the most inane things ( sock- throwing is her number one favorite activity; watching people eat food is the second !? ) The plastic items she has grown out of I try to donate to the Salvation army or consignment stores so that someone else can enjoy them. I wish I could do things to reduce my plastic consumption more... It's a constant struggle.

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  25. A Very inspiring post Nupur. I am loving your blogging marathon. I am quite cautious about the amount of plastic that goes in landfills. we all need to do all we can to reduce waste. I do most of the things you have listed but need to do much more. I like those little mesh bags you use for groceries. I should get them.
    thanks for all your posts
    Anjali

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  26. Great post, Nupur! I cringe every time I see people pulling 4-5 sheets of tissue paper to wipe hands at public restrooms.
    When I was a graduate assistant in one of my school departments, we had to print a lot of things (and I mean a lot! - hated it). So I implemented a 'double-sided printing only' rule across the department. You won't believe the amount of paper we saved!

    I practice most of the other things you mentioned. Simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.

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  27. Hi Nupur!

    take a hug. I loved this post. My husband and I have been implementing most of these tips you have posted but there is always something new to learn. We fretted over the produce bags every single time we went grocery shopping and used those only when absolutely necessary. But I love the idea of a re-usable produce bag! I am so going to buy these. Another thing we follow religiously is to leave a few brown bags in our car. So if we need to make an unplanned stop to buy groceries, we use these.

    keep posting and sharing these lovely ideas!



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