Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stupid Cost-Cutting Trick? Try AWESOME.


Via Gawker: Stupid Cost-Cutting Tricks: You Are Not Appreciated


I'm on day 6 of...whatever this is. My nose is raw so I broke down and bought tissues to give it a break from TP. I couldn't find a box without a plastic flap at the opening. Oh well.

On the bright side, I got Chinese take-out the other day (Chinese take-out + Netflix = ideal sick day combination) and for the first time took my own containers to the restaurant. They had no problem using them. Success!

My roommate spent some time in Beijing and says that it is common for workers to take metal lunch tins to street food vendors in the morning, and purchase food for the day. She said the only litter she saw while there was from McDonalds and A&W.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Plastic Gets My Approval (hint: it is reusable)

Check out this video from The New York Times:

I am happy to see that re-usable moving bins are becoming available for residential moves in NYC. I had looked for a company that used them this past summer and didn't find one. One sturdy plastic bin that can be re-used 100 times vs. a cardboard box with limited re-use and all that plastic tape? The bin is better, especially if it is made from recycled plastic.

Here is a link for Movers Not Shakers:

Monday, January 19, 2009

First, the good news: Cheddar Accomplished

I bought my first plastic free cheese today, sliced cheddar from the deli counter at my local Key Foods. I asked the counter guy if he could wrap it in paper and not put it in a bag. He said "Uh, OK." And that was it! No hassle whatsoever.

Here is a picture, along with sugar, celery in an Eco-bag purchased at Top Tomato and fresh bread from Artopolis Bakery, one of the many wonderful bakeries in my neighborhood. Plastic free bread is easy around here. What's hard is not stuffing half a loaf in my face before I get home.

Now for the bad news. I am way behind on the tally and know I've lost track of some things. Look for a big catch up tally post soon. It won't be pretty.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Plastic Free dry cleaning?

Ever seen "Organic Dry Cleaning" signs and wondered just how much of an oxymoron that was? An article in today's New York Times has an answer.

It May Market Organic Alternatives, but Is Your Cleaner Really Greener?

In New York and around the country, dry-cleaning stores have increasingly sprouted signs reading “organic” or “green,” as environmentally conscious consumers look for alternatives to traditional dry cleaning and its use of the solvent perchloroethylene. Prolonged contact with that solvent, known as PCE or perc, has been linked in some studies to cancer and neurological troubles like vision problems, and its use is strictly regulated.

But marketing claims for the alternatives are not regulated at all.

Frightening, no? The Times has an excellent chart showing the pros and cons of dry cleaning alternatives, check it out.

Meanwhile, no matter what method of professional cleaning you use, you are still left with that pesky plastic bag. (The hanger is fully re-usable, which is way better than recycling, and cleaners gladly take them back, btw. I am always surprised when people don't know this.) Here in NYC we can recycle dry cleaning bags along with plastic grocery bags at stores, but the best choice is still to not use them at all.

In my imagination there is a very fine and fancy cleaning service that gives your fresh clothes back to you in a fabric garment bag, to be exchanged at your next service. Does it exist? I mean if it exists anywhere... How did the Rockefellers and Astors get their coats and morning suits cleaned at the turn of the century? What was there before dry cleaning?

Personally I avoid dry cleaning if at all possible. Partly for 'green' reasons but mostly because I am a cheapskate. I hand wash sweaters and delicates, and disregard "Dry Clean Only" tags- they are a lot of bull, in most cases. If a garment is made from natural fibers, or mostly from natural fibers, it can be hand washed and laid flat to dry. The only problem with this is shaped garments with linings, like overcoats and suits, and garments with trimming and beading. Paddings, trim and linings get shriveled and can be next to impossible to reshape. These are the things I get dry cleaned, after putting it off until it absolutely must be done.

You see 'dry clean only' in many cheaply made garments- things that cost more than the original purchase price after you get them cleaned a few times. I see the 'dry clean only' tag as a way to hide the cheapness of materials and construction- dyes that won't stay when the garment gets wet, buttons that break in the dryer, hems that come out completely when one thread is snagged. Things to think about when purchasing clothing for sure. Quality clothes not only look better, they are better for the earth in the long run. And when I say quality I mean actual quality, not marketing quality. Expensive marketing does not mean a good product.

Rant over! Anyway, do you think plastic free dry cleaning exists?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Update on Aveda and Gimme 5

I've been absent from the internet since last Saturday- my modem died! The cable company finally came out yesterday to replace it and they took the old modem with them. Technically I am renting the equipment, but wonder if the dead modem should go on the weekly tally. What do you think?

On Tuesday I went to the Union Square and Chelsea Whole Foods stores to check on the Gimme 5 recycling program. Union Square does not have it set up yet, but say it is coming soon. The Chelsea store never replied to my inquiry, and a visit there turned up no evidence of Gimme 5. Today I sent inquiries to the Columbus Circle, Bowery and soon-to-be-opened 97th Street stores and will let you know what I hear.

I also visited the Aveda store at Grand Central, where they happily took my handful of plastic bottle caps. Now that I know they can be recycled, I see them everywhere! I'm tempted to take a little walk around my neighborhood when I get home, just to see how many caps I can pick up.

PS- The Gimme 5 page has a list of participating Whole Foods stores. Here are the stores listed for NYC:
New York (10 Columbus Cir)
New York (270 Greenwich St)
New York (4 Union Sq S)
New York (95 E Houston St)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Plastic Tally, Week 6

Here is my plastic tally for last week, including Christmas and air travel to Kansas City:

- Fork & wrapper from Whole Foods
- bag from Bed Bath & Beyond, fork, re-usable Ziploc container
- milk carton
- plastic curly ribbon for wrapping gifts
- thread spool
- various shared soda bottles, cracker and chip bags during the Christmas holiday

The fork & wrapper from Whole Foods were mentioned in an earlier post. The Bed Bath & Beyond bag, Ziploc container and fork were acquired before midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I sang at two different churches that evening and didn't make time to grab dinner, so a choir member brought me some delicious turkey and stuffing from the party he hosted that evening. I was and am so grateful! But yea, it came with plastic. I stashed the fork in a kitchen drawer with a whole bunch of other plastic utensils. That will be a project for the future- figuring out what to do with them. The Ziploc container will get plenty of re-use; it is the perfect size for sandwiches. The Bed Bath & Beyond bag was re-used for my flight Christmas morning to Kansas City, holding a box if baklava that leaked honey during the flight. After that the bag was used once more to pick up dog poop, resulting in four uses for one bag. I feel OK about that.

I took my Eco-bags with me to buy fresh produce for the big family dinner on the 27th. I didn't mention them, just whipped them out at the store and went looking for produce that wasn't swathed in plastic. The young cashier seemed a little confused, but didn't say anything. So there you have it-- Eco-bags work just as well at a HyVee in Kansas City as they do at New York and Astoria grocery stores.

The milk carton is paper, lined with plastic on the inside and outside. Happily it is recyclable in NYC! --placed in the bin with metal and #1 and #2 plastic bottles. I wanted to be sure that this was really the case, so a couple weeks ago I used the contact form at to ask about milk cartons. Here is the answer:

Thank you for contacting the Department of Sanitation Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling.

Milk cartons & juice boxes (or any such cartons and aseptic packaging for drinks: ice tea, soy milk, soup, etc.) are categorized as beverage cartons and should be recycled along with your Beverage Cartons, Bottles, Cans, Metal & Foil recyclables < >.

* Empty and rinse containers before recycling. Place all together in CLEAR bags, or in any bin labeled with blue recycling decals < > or marked "BOTTLES & CANS".

* Remove caps & lids. Place METAL caps & lids in the recycling bin; put plastic caps & lids in the garbage. [NOTE FROM JULI: plastic caps can be recycled through Gimme 5 at Whole Foods, at Aveda stores, or at the Park Slope Food Coop!]

These recyclable beverage cartons require special processing to separate the layers of valuable paper, foil, and plastic used in their manufacture. That’s why these items are included in your bin or Clear plastic bag with bottles, cans, metal & foil – so DSNY can bring them to a materials recovery facility (MRF), which sorts the different types of recyclables and forwards bales of each commodity to separate recyclers. For more info, please see our answer to the Frequently Asked Question, What Happens to Recyclables? < >.

Paper and Cardboard is a separate stream of recyclables. Please see What and how to Recycle in New York City : Paper and Cardboard < > for more info. Please note: Do not include wax- or plastic-coated paper with your paper and cardboard recyclables. Also, do not include food-soiled paper.

For more information, please see What and How to Recycle in New York City < >.

I hope this information is helpful. Thank you for your interest in recycling.


Brian Magoolaghan
Public Education and Outreach Specialist

I wrapped my Christmas gifts with The New York Times and curly ribbon. The ribbon was plastic, but it has been hanging around for several years and isn't recyclable so I used it up. No plastic tape was needed or used.

The thread spool came from one of my Christmas gifts: a silly frilly 50s style apron made entirely with materials from my craft stash. No new purchases were necessary, a nod to my Compact past. The floral print fabric was formerly a curtain in one of my college apartments (very Sound of Music or Gone With the Wind). It was originally a cotton/poly yardage purchased from Walmart in Manhattan, KS. I don't remember where the lace came from, probably leftover from another project. The finished apron came out really cute if I do say so, and was a big hit!

There will be more empty plastic thread spools as my stash is depleted. What kind of plastic is it? If it is #5 and had the number imprinted, it could be recycled. Hmmm. Letter writing opportunity. Spools could be made with compressed recycled cardboard pulp, don't you think? Past that, manufacturers could at the very least put a recycling symbol on the spool.

There is another letter writing opportunity related to my trip to KC. Airport drinking fountains saved me during the trip since I forgot my water bottle at home. Even if I'd had it with me, it would have been filled at fountains past the security checkpoint. Well the Kansas City airport does not have water fountains past the security checkpoints. The airport wasn't designed with post 9-11 NSA needs in mind. Public toilets and water fountains are on the outside ring, and after 9-11 small security checkpoints were constructed at each gate grouping. Restrooms were added past the checkpoint a year or so ago, but not water fountains. Instead, there is a vendor selling snacks and bottled water. This is just wrong.

New rule- if I am a guest in someone's home, do I make a fuss by bringing up my plastic pledge? No. Well, maybe. I will make a point of not bringing plastic to the party, and will avoid using a plastic cups, plates and utensils. But if the host provides food and beverage that comes packaged in plastic, it won't be refused. Because that would be pointlessly rude, and I like soda, chips and crackers just as much as everyone else! Is this self righteous and hypocritical? Probably. Making others feel guilty and bad with my personal plastic pledge is a valid concern. It is not unlike being a proselytizing religious convert-- not someone you want to invite to a party.