Thursday, May 24, 2012

The medium is the message

Congratulations are due to the city of Los Angeles, which yesterday passed a plastic grocery bag ban, becoming the largest city in America to do so.

Here in New York City, things are different.  The State of New York has a recycling law for bags, which "requires large retail stores and shopping malls, as well as medium to large chain stores that sell products and provide plastic carryout bags to accept clean plastic bags for recycling, and to stock reusable bags for purchase, starting January 2009."  Has the law made a dent?  Hard to say.  Reusable bags are certainly more popular and stores do stock them for purchase, but I have my doubts about the recycling part of the law.  

Meanwhile, in Williamsburg...

Takeshi Miyakawa, a visual artist and furniture designer, was arrested Saturday after placing the installation in two separate areas of the same New York City neighborhood. His lawyer and employer both called the arrest a misunderstanding.
The first apparatus was found Friday morning after a caller reported a suspicious package to police. It consisted of a plastic bag that contained a battery and was suspended from a metal rod attached to a tree. The bag, which had the classic "I Love New York" logo printed on it, was connected by a wire to a plastic box that contained more wires.
The area was evacuated for two hours until a bomb squad determined that the device was not dangerous.
The artist's friend, Louis Lim, said Monday that the art installation was nothing more than a translucent plastic bag with a battery-powered flashlight inside it.
"At night, when it's hung, it looks like the bag is glowing," Lim said. "The reason he did this was to lift people's spirits. He was simply trying to say that he loves the city and spread that attitude around."
I too, love New York.  And I should follow Takeshi Miyakawa's example by showing it more, and spreading the attitude.  But instead of glowing plastic bags in trees and on lamp posts, how about a little more awareness of plastic pollution in our city?

It doesn't seem that Miyakawa intended to make a statement about plastic pollution, public art, civil obedience/disobedience, terrorism and fear, but those are the issues that come up for me.  How about you?  I'm not much of an art critic- if you were to describe this installation, including the public aftermath, how would you describe it?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why Bulk Bin Shopping Is Awesome

  1. You avoid single use plastic bags. Duh. Especially if you bring your own cloth bags.
  2. You pay only for food. Not packaging, not marketing. Just food
  3. There's no way to hide food inflation with smaller bags and boxes.
  4. Using bulk ingredients means you are eating unprocessed and minimally processed foods, which is tons better for you than stuff that comes in boxes and cans.
  5. Scrutinizing labels with unrecognizable ingredients and frequently bogus nutrition claims becomes a thing of the past.
  6. It saves money! Bulk food is less expensive than processed, packaged food. A lot less expensive.
  7. Want to eat local? Bulk bin sections often tell you where stuff was grown, and feature local products.
  8. Bulk food is easier to carry and store. What used to take up bags and bags, and fill up cabinets now takes up a lot less space, without all the bulky boxes, trays, packaging and air filled plastic bags.
  9. Your pantry will look like a page from a Crate and Barrel catalog, with all that food in pretty glass jars.
  10. Did I mention the lack of plastic?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Here we go again

It appears that some celebrities haven't gotten the message that endorsing products that are horrible for the planet is not OK.

"Shh! No one tell me how stupid I look!"

A couple of days ago, Smartwater (made by Glaceau, owned by Coca-Cola) released a video featuring Jennifer Aniston and designed to 'go viral'. I won't give them the satisfaction of putting a link to it here, but a Google search will turn it up pretty quickly.

Glaceau (once again, owned by Coca-Cola) must be reacting to dragging bottled water sales. People are figuring out that bottled water is a stupid waste of money in addition to being horrible for the environment. So they are using the oldest trick in the book, sex- better yet a sexy celebrity- to push their product.

Sigh. I've already put a fair amount of effort into telling Ellen Degeneres that this kind of thing isn't smart. The era of pasting a celebrity's face on a horrible product and thereby making it 'cool' has passed. Who wants to send Jen a reality check?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Conference TEDx livestream, Saturday, Nov. 6 11:30am - 9pm ET. Watch it here!

The Plastic Pollution Coalition and TEDx is hosting the TEDx GreatPacificGarbagePatch conference tomorrow. It will be broadcast LIVE online. Speakers include environmental and plastic pollution experts Van Jones, Sylvia Earle, David de Rothschild, Chris Jordan, Beth Terry, Captain Charles Moore, and more!

Join me in watching here.

Watch live streaming video from tedxgp2 at

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another refill option for NYC: Beer Growlers

I visited a couple of Whole Foods stores over the weekend, to purchase a new Klean Kanteen * and a couple of Lunchbot containers. There will be more on the Lunchbots in a future post.

At the Union Square Whole Foods, I saw something new. Beer in refillable growler jugs! They just started offering it a month ago. You pay a bit more for the jug on your first visit, but then you return that jug and get a new one filled with local beer, and don't pay the extra fee.

Beer growlers aren't a new thing in NYC, but they aren't common either. I'm glad to see it spreading to more locations. And Whole Foods isn't the only place you can find them. Here is an article with a list of locations for refillable beer in NYC:

Growlers, the New Old Beer Conveyance - NY Times

*The bummer about Klean Kanteens, Siggs, and other re-usable bottles, the reason many people cite for not getting them, is the cost of replacing them when they get lost. I had my old Kanteen for almost two years. Compared to the cost of bottled water, the replacement price is negligable. I could buy a new Klean Kanteen every month and still save money in comparison to purchasing a bottle of water every day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

10 Reasons Why Kool-Aid is better than Vitaminwater - or Vitaminwater Zero.

[Photo: Failblog]

10. You can say "Yeah, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid" without a hint of irony.

9. Less packaging = Less plastic pollution

8. Kool-Aid is a lot less expensive than Vitaminwater products.

7. Unlike Vitaminwater, Kool-Aid doesn't brag about how nutritious it is, then have its lawyers say 'no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking our product was a healthy beverage'. And Kool-Aid even has 10% daily value of Vitamin C.

6. With Kool-Aid, you can know exactly where the water is coming from, and what is in it. Not true with Vitaminwater.*

5. The money you spend for Kool-Aid isn't going to multimillion dollar celebrity ad campaigns (yuck).

4. You generally don't see Kool-Aid packets littering city streets. Vitaminwater bottles? They're all over the place.

3. Instead of drinking stuff that looks like Kool-Aid, you could just drink Kool-Aid.

2. Vitaminwater is over-hyped and over-exposed. Kool-Aid is retro.

1. "Hey, Ellen DeGeneres!" just doesn't have the same ring as "Hey, Kool-Aid!"

* Municipal tap water is more regulated than bottled water, and cities must publish drinking water supply and quality reports. Thanks to a California law, bottled water companies must publish water supply and quality reports as well. There are currently no Bottled Water Reports for vitaminwater products.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sugarcane plastic? [UPDATE]

From the Associated Press:

P&G to use sugarcane-based plastic in packaging

(AP) – 1 day ago

CINCINNATI — Consumer products makers Procter & Gamble Co. said Thursday that it will use a plastic derived from sugarcane in the packaging of some of its products.

P&G said the material will be used for Pantene Pro-V, Covergirl, and Max Factor products.

The plastic is made from a process that converts sugarcane into high-density polyethylene. The company says it is 100 percent recyclable.

P&G plans to buy the plastic from the Brazilian company Braskem SA. The first products using the plastic will be sold next year.

Interesting. Sugarcane will take the place of petroleum, so a renewable resource will replace a nonrenewable one. But I have questions:

- Will it take more energy to convert sugarcane to plastic than it currently takes with petroleum?

- Won't this new HDPE plastic still contain phtalates, with all the same health risks as petroleum HDPE?

- Will sugarcane HDPE be recycled along with petroleum HDPE with existing curbside programs, or will it have to be collected and recycled separately?

I hate it when manufacturers say "please recycle" without telling consumers HOW.

August 18 UPDATE: Jenny from P&G Responds! See the original in comments to this post.

This is Jenny from P&G - I work on this project, and I saw your blog, so I thought I would answer your questions! If you have any more questions, feel free to email me and I'd be happy to chat.

- We've done a Life Cycle Assessment which shows it takes considerably less energy to make the sugarcane plastic than the current petroleum plastic. Also, the facilities which make the sugarcane ethanol run on energy produced from the sugarcane by-products (bagasse) i.e. renewable energy. In fact, they produce more energy than the use, so they return it to the grid in Brazil.

- The HDPE sugarcane plastic won't contain phtalates.

- Yes, the new sugarcane HDPE will be able to be recycled in existing curbside programs, as it can be recycled together with petroleum HDPE in current municipal recycling facilities - no sorting required. This is one of the things which makes the sugarcane plastic a good choice as a sustainable renewable plastic.

thanks for your interest,