Thursday, April 30, 2009

A sign of sea change

You know attitudes are changing when you see an infomercial like this:

I just saw this ad on ESPN during my lunch break. ESPN. That means the company is paying big bucks to saturate their message- they smell big profit.


A word to the wise, though-- from comments on the YouTube page it seems there has been difficulty getting the canteens from this company delivered after ordering. Other stainless steel bottles are already out there and can be purchased in stores, for instance Kleen Kanteens are at Whole Foods.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Earth Day at Grand Central

Yesterday at lunch I walked by Grand Central and was caught by surprise. There was an Earth Day fair! A big one! I am constantly amazed by this city. Huge events can take place, attracting thousands, and 2 blocks away you wouldn't know it. I should have known about the Earth Day at Grand Central event, but didn't.

It is still going on today until 5pm, so drop by if you are out and about! There are many great booths there, petitions to sign, tap water to sample, drawings to enter, and even a little swag if that is your thing. The fair is on the west side of Grand Central, outdoors.

One of the people I talked to was producer/director Pamela French who is creating short films that ask: "How would you make New York a Greener Apple?" I waited my turn and mentioned a few less-plastic things...I'm afraid I was a little obnoxious. But it was fun!

Check out Pamela's project at

PS- Have you been outside today? It is BEAUTIFUL. Get out there!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


It looks like we won't be getting our bottle deposit law for a little while yet. Here's fervently hoping any amendments are used only to allow companies to comply, and not to weaken the law.

Heard this morning on public radio:
The expanded bottle deposits were supposed to take effect June 1st, but now Governor Paterson and legislative leaders say it may have to be delayed. It seems the new law has some unintended consequences. It requires that all water bottles sold in New York have a special UPC bar code, so that bottles sold in other states without deposits can't be used to fraudulently collect the nickel deposits from New York redemption centers.

But bottlers, particularly smaller operations, say they can't make all of the necessary changes by then. And some large distributors say they have so much inventory in their warehouses that they can't sell all of the non deposit water bottles in the six or so weeks left before the law is to take effect.

Governor Paterson says he's listened to the companies' concerns, and is looking at ways to delay the implementation of the law.

"We are talking to them," said Paterson "We don't want to do anything to hurt the industry while we are trying to clean up the environment."

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who also received awards, say they are willing to consider delaying the implementation of the law as well, so that bottlers and retailers can comply. Speaker Silver says he's not interested in "hurting businesses", while Senator Smith says there's no harm in correcting a mistake.

Paterson and the leaders say the change could be accomplished through amendments, and believe they won't have to redo the entire bottle deposit law.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mother Jones Article - I'm a zealot, but a NICE zealot!

I'm thrilled with the article by Elizabeth Royte (and accompanying photo of me by Erica McDonald) that is in the May/June issue of Mother Jones magazine.

There is just one quote that is a little misleading. It isn't even inaccurate, just missing some information that leads the reader to a wrong conclusion. It is probably a case of what came out of my mouth wasn't as clear as what was in my head. The quote:

"Whole Foods will take the No. 5s," she tells me. Who knew that bottle caps were stamped with recycling numbers? "Look," she says. I squint at the tiny white digit on the tiny white cap. "This is a 2," she says. "I'll have to bring that one uptown to Aveda. They take any rigid cap with threads."

Here's the thing. Aveda doesn't take #2 caps. Like the Gimme 5 program at Whole Foods, Aveda takes caps made of #5 polypropyelene. The difference between the programs? Gimme 5 (Whole Foods in partnership with Preserve) accepts any clean used plastic item stamped with a #5 symbol. Aveda takes caps only, and the cap does not need to be stamped with #5-- because any rigid plastic cap with threads is most likely made from #5 PP. For further details on these great programs, check the links provided.

As for softer #2 caps, well for those we are S.O.L. at the moment. Landfill, ahoy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sneaky plastic avoidance tactic

Sunday morning I stopped in a coffee shop for a pre-church gig pick-me-up, and didn't have my mug. I sheepishly ordered a paper cup with no lid and turned away the offered stir stick. All of a sudden I made this little apologetic wince and shrug, saying "Yeah sorry, I'm doing the no plastic thing."

Like everybody's doing it.

Maybe if I pretend "the no plastic thing" is all the rage and just everyone is doing it, it will catch on-- even if I only succeed in fooling myself!

Friday, April 17, 2009


Now this should get some peoples' attention.

Child Obesity Is Linked to Chemicals in Plastics

The lede:

Exposure to chemicals used in plastics may be linked with childhood obesity, according to results from a long-term health study on girls who live in East Harlem and surrounding communities that were presented to community leaders on Thursday by researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Story is by the City Room writer with the coolest middle name ever, Jennifer 8. Lee.

The Bay vs The Bag

I'm copying this over from Fake Plastic Fish. The video is about plastic in the San Francisco area, but applies everywhere. And hey, we live next to an ocean too.

Unexpected good news from the MTA

Photo: Warga/Daily News

Woot! The MTA just made it easier for all of us to not throw away plastic MetroCards every month. VERY GOOD NEWS. Takes a tiny (teeny tiny) bit of sting out of the rates going up.

Also, this option is a lot more convenient. No more standing on line for a new card while your train is pulling out of the station. Win win.

Here it is in the Daily News:

Straphangers can now buy unlimited-ride MetroCards that last two years - averting the need to stand on line at a token booth or MetroCard vending machine.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Heard back from Pret

A while ago I e-mailed Pret-A-Manger about the packaging they use for food. There is one near my workplace and I knew the warm wraps came in paper while just about everything else came with plastic. Then they started using plastic stickers on the wraps and I was out one lunch option.

Someone got back to me today-- it looks like they are making efforts to winnow down the plastic:

Thanks for taking the time to write us! We really appreciate hearing
from our customers.

We are currently working with our suppliers to look at alternative films
for our packaging, both biodegradable and compostable.

We unfortunately had to change the stickers, as the previous one did not
securely keep the package sealed - which was a food safety concern. We
are having an environmental audit done in the UK. The results will be
coming out with guidelines on how to better improve our environmental

All of our paper bags and napkins are made from recycled materials.
Unfortunately due to regulation, we cannot use recycled materials for
products that come into direct contact with food.

Once again, many thanks for taking the time to send us your query!


Shequan Planes
Customer Relations

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two public plastic avoidance events

Happy Belated Easter! This past week was Holy Week, a busy one for singers with church jobs. It meant I didn't eat at home very much. But I did pretty well about avoiding plastic, if you don't count things like accepting Girl Scout Cookies from a plastic sleeve and soda from a liter bottle in a paper cup.

One small step for me-- I got my courage up and mentioned my plastic avoidance in public in order to not use or collect any new plastic.

At Patsy's Pizzeria there were leftovers in a paper box that came in a plastic bag. The host graciously took it back to re-use when I said I was trying not to use so much plastic.

At one of my church jobs there was an INCREDIBLE potluck meal after the Saturday Vigil. Food was served onto paper plates with napkins, plasticware and plastic cups. I used my mug for a beverage and asked to go in the kitchen for a metal fork, and explained why. And it wasn't any big deal. I even heard how the church used to have a full service set of china and silverware but they fell into disuse and were sadly given away a number of years ago.

I guess I knew it wouldn't be a big deal, but its still taking me a while to a) remember and b) feel comfortable mentioning my plastic avoidance in public settings. Talking about it in conversation has always been OK, but piping up in restaurants and in social situations to avoid using plastic has taken some mental adjustment on my part. I still feel pretty shy about doing it. Hopefully it will get easier.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eco Dent VeganFloss found in NYC

Spotted and purchased from Life Thyme in the West Village. Have you seen this floss in a different store? Please post in comments!

Here is what's awesome about Eco Dent VeganFloss:

- No Plastic Box or blister card. Minimal plastic period- just a small bag around the spool of floss, stickers to seal the box closed, and a plastic core on the spool.
- The spool has 100 yards, instead of 30 or 50 yards. One 100 yd. spool of VeganFloss in cardboard replaces 2-3 1/2 plastic boxes of regular floss

It is also vegan and not tested on animals, which is nice. I got the cinnamon version, and look forward to using it when my two remaining plastic boxes of floss get used up.


Just as NY State environmentalists are celebrating getting a 5 cent deposit on water bottles approved, this happens not too far from where I live in Queens:

A Bottle Scavenger by Choice Is Killed by a Hit-Run Driver
Published: April 8, 2009
In the mornings, Virginia Montalvo threw her 71-year-old body behind a shopping cart and thrust it out onto the streets of Woodhaven, Queens, where she filled it with the neighborhood’s emptied bottles and cans. At night, she did it again.

The New Yorkers who scavenge recyclables for the nickel deposit normally do not have much farther to fall, but those who knew Ms. Montalvo said she did not need the money. She was married, lived in a home owned by a daughter and had seven children with the means to support her.

Her reason was simple, said Esteban Cobos, 44, her son-in-law: “She went and did her collections to keep herself busy, so as not to be bored sitting at home.”

At 10:24 p.m. Monday, Ms. Montalvo was pushing a full cart across Jamaica Avenue just east of 98th Street when a van traveling east hit her, the police said. The van kept going; paramedics took Ms. Montalvo to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m.

Detectives interviewed several people who saw the accident, which left bags of bottles and cans strewn on Jamaica Avenue under the elevated tracks of the J and Z trains. Investigators believe the van might have been speeding, but they had not found any videotape from a nearby store showing the impact. The vehicle, possibly a dark blue or gray cargo van, had not been located as of Tuesday afternoon.

The police asked any other witnesses to call 1-800-577-TIPS.

In addition to her seven children Mr. Cobos said, Ms. Montalvo had at least 10 grandchildren. She came to the United States from Peru about six years ago, he said, and was thinking of traveling back there in June.

One of Ms. Montalvo’s shopping carts was chained outside her home on 96th Street, about two blocks from where she died. Mr. Cobos said that Ms. Montalvo’s husband sometimes went with her on her collections.

She would redeem her cans and bottles at neighborhood Key Food or C-Town supermarkets. It was not clear where she was headed when she was hit; she was by the C-Town but crossing to the other side of the Avenue.

A neighbor, Virginia Chavez, said Ms. Montalvo often visited the convenience store where Ms. Chavez’s husband worked and talked about Peru. “She was from my country,” Ms. Chavez said. “What a pity.”

Miguelina Ramos, owner of Miguelina’s Beauty Salon, a few doors down from Ms. Montalvo’s house, said, “I saw her every day, in the morning and at night,” she said. “She would pass with her cart. For her, it was a job.”

This makes me so very sad. She was keeping herself busy and cleaning up her community in the process. My heart goes out to Mrs. Montalvo's family.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


As of June 1, NY State is getting a 5 cent fee on bottled water! This will REALLY cut down on litter. Because there is no incentive to recycle, water bottles (and caps, don't forget the caps) are littered everywhere in NYC, and maybe it is just me but I think especially in Queens. People complain about plastic bags blowing in the wind and clogging the gutter-- I see bottles and caps all over the place. Well, now there is a darned good reason not to toss them, and if you do, someone will probably come along and pick them up for the change.

Better yet, the unredeemed nickels go back to NY State for environmental clean up. Win, win.

Thank you, Albany!

AP Article is here

Now if we can just do something about those #5 PP caps...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Week 19 plastic waste, and rainy Friday blogging

First, Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has a new video up, giving a tour of her plastic shrine:

Impressive. Beth not only keeps a tally, she weighs her weekly output, keeps a Flickr stream of the pictures for documentation, AND has 2+ years of plastic neatly stored away. Keep in mind, she has kept EVERYTHING, and it all fits in 3 bins-- that is less plastic than an average household throws out in a couple of weeks, I bet. I think it is hilarious that Beth's kitties are also obsessed with plastic!

I just keep a 'more-or-less' weekly tally, and recycle or throw it away once the picture is taken. Maybe I could get a Flickr stream going though.

Here is this week's:

- pull cap from a bottle of walnut oil
- plastic/metal cap from a bottle of balsamic vinegar
- mystery tab from some fresh asparagus (came with rubber bands as well, but they aren't being thrown out)
- Sticker from a Spicy Falafel Melt from Pret
- several fruit stickers (not pictured)

I had thought there would be asparagus at the farmer's market, but it isn't up yet. Anyone know where there's a guide for what is in season and when in New York's food shed? I bought the asparagus at a greengrocer, figuring for the rubber bands but missing the mystery tag till I got home. The Pret sticker was a surprise as well. I know the wraps are 'safe'-- no box with plastic window. And I thought the stickers were paper before-- now I'm not sure if the plastic sticker is new or I just wasn't paying attention. Here's my e-mail to Pret:

Hi, I am trying to reduce my use of disposable plastics and enjoy coming to Pret for lunch because the hot wraps come in paper--unlike the sandwiches, which are boxed with a plastic window.

Yesterday I noticed the label sticker on my Falafel wrap was made of plastic. Is this new? I thought they were paper before. It is disappointing, because it means I won't be able to purchase lunch at Pret anymore.

Will Pret A Manger consider eliminating plastic from packaging, or switching to a biodegradable film instead of plastic for sandwich boxes?


Juli Borst

Here are a couple of article links with great anti-plastic and anti-consumerism content, for your Friday reading pleasure:

Your Water Bottle Is One Quarter Oil
, by Julie Whitty, on Mother Jones That water doesn't seem so healthy now, does it? I CANNOT WAIT until the bottled water backlash hits full swing. It is just starting, nowhere near the peak, and believe me it has been a long time in coming. Changing a multi-billion a year industry will not be easy.

Reverend Billy says: Eat Your Values (ok, that is my title) Interviewed by Gabrielle Langholtz at Edible Brooklyn. Choice quotes:

That’s the basis of our whole philosophy, to understand that story—who grew it, how did it get to you, will it decompose? It’s hard to be a normal American consumer when you start to discover where food comes from. It changes everything. If we could work out our food issues it would take care of a lot of the other stuff.

I really don’t buy anything. I’ve bought almost nothing in this whole kitchen. We use discarded candle containers for glasses. It turns out that when you yell “Stop Shopping” at people for 10 years, it makes it really hard to buy stuff.

HA! I am getting to know the feeling.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Where I get my distaste for waste

My dad is in the news! The Emporia Gazette, to be exact. He wrote a feature article about his life-long love for bicycling for the "Shape Up, Emporia!" series, and was quoted in an article about the Multi-use Path Planning Committee, which Dad chairs. The Committee just had a plans approved that will build two recreational paths for use by pedestrians and cyclists.

A quote from Dad's feature article:

Using a bicycle for work meant that our family could manage with one car and saved the cost of the extra auto. My children know that I am a natural Depression-era tightwad and buying unneeded gasoline is a waste. Out of the Depression came a life-long passion for conservation — reduce, reuse, recycle has always been my lifestyle.

...and mine as well. Thank you, Dad, for teaching us your values in the way you live your life. You're the best role model a child could ever have.

The picture is from a family bike trip two summers ago. Dad and I are with my sisters Jonell and Rose and niece Ruth Ann, taking a break at the extreme Northeast Corner of Kansas. From this vantage point you can see Missouri, Nebraska, and supposedly all the way to Iowa on a clear day.