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,

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vitaminwater is neither vitamins nor...water? Discuss.

[Photo: Vincent Ducrey, Flickr]

My normal beat is plastic. But since I'm trying to convince Ellen DeGeneres to dump her bottled water advertising contracts, that means addressing the many other problems with the product-- like what is inside that single use plastic bottle.

I just posted this on vitaminwater zero's Facebook page:

Please help me out with this. Where does vitaminwater zero get its water? From glacéau's website:

"all water used in glacéau products comes from approved drinking water sources, and it already meets stringent epa regulations. we take it to an even higher level of purity via vapor distillation for smartwater and reverse osmosis for vitaminwater10. we then add back in electrolytes, natural flavors, colors found in fruits and vegetables, natural sweeteners and nutrients to vitaminwater and vitaminwater10"

I assume glacéau has not updated the page to include vitaminwater zero, but the source information is the same. Let's unpack this a little.

"all water used in glacéau products comes from approved drinking water sources, and it already meets stringent epa regulations."

What does glacéau mean by "approved drinking water sources"? Approved by whom? And they say it meets EPA regulations. EPA = Environmental Protection Agency. That is well and good, but they are selling a beverage. Shouldn't glacéau be meeting regulations from the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration? Aren't there laws saying that bottled water companies have to tell the public where they get their water and what exactly is in it? The answer is yes- for the state of California. Thank you, California. Glacéau has a Bottled Water Report on their website for smartwater, but there are no Bottled Water Reports for vitaminwater products.

What is in a name? The product is called vitaminwater. As we know from recent news , lawyers for Coca-Cola, owners of glacéau, have admitted "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage." That blows the first part of the name - "vitamin". By not publicly displaying the water sources for vitaminwater and vitaminwater zero, is Coca-Cola/glacéau saying their product isn't WATER? The bottle does specify it as a "nutrient enhanced water beverage". That is cutting things rather fine, don't you think?

Here is a link to glacéau smartwater Bottled Water Report, as required by the State of California:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I write comments - Maxell [UPDATED]

Facebook can be great sometimes. I was originally ticked off when so many companies, stores and manufacturers started to put up Facebook pages, but now I realize they made it a whole lot easier to reach out and give them feedback. Today I put this comment up on Maxell's page:

Product Packaging
I purchased a pair of Maxell headphones from Duane Reade drugstore in NYC today. I chose them because I know they are high quality, they were inexpensive, and they didn't come with much packaging.

I care about packaging, especially plastic packaging. Plastic pollution is a global problem that is killing humans, animals, clogging the world's oceans and damaging the planet's environment. I've been reducing my use of plastic (especially single use plastic) for a couple of years. But modern life is impossible without plastic--take headphones, for instance.

Although the Juicy Tunes headphones purchased today came in a small package, there is still a lot of plastic that I'll regrettably have to throw away. Is Maxell working towards green solutions such as using less plastic and less packaging overall? For example the outer plastic sleeve of Juicy Tunes headphones is completely unnecessary.

Will they respond?

Aug. 18 UPDATE: Maxell responds!

Hi Juli -
Maxell is always conscious of our impact on the environment. We are working everyday to reduce packaging and design new and innovative options that utilize earth friendly materials. Maxell has introduced eco-friendly packaging concepts - such as the NEW Maxell Eco box for recordable disc media. This package design will be available in the Canadian market this fall, and we are hoping that US retailers will embrace this new, recyclable design to replace the plastic spindle pack. Thank you for your input and support and we will continue to work towards improving our packaging design for all of our products in order to reduce waste

Aw...why does Canada always get the good stuff first?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Update on Ellen DeGeneres and Bottled Water- Online Petition

In addition to a Facebook group, there is now an online petition at Go Petition asking Ellen DeGeneres to cancel her contracts for bottled water, an industry that is damaging to people, animals and the planet.

Please sign the petition and share the link with others.

I do not criticize individuals for their personal plastic choices. But if you are a hugely influential celebrity encouraging your fans to buy single use plastics, that does deserve criticism.

It is especially distressing since Ellen's endorsement of vitaminwater zero goes against her public image as a charming, kind, generous and funny woman who is vegan and loves animals.

Ellen loves a good cause. Discouraging bottled water in single use plastic is an excellent cause.

As you know from my blog, single use plastic is the issue that gets me most. Plastic pollution is a blight that I see daily in my city environment. It is clogging our oceans, killing wildlife in large numbers, and making its way back up the food chain to us. But bottled water has a host of additional problems. Here are a few resources on bottled water, and why it is damaging to people, animals and the planet:

Bottlemania, by Elizabeth Royte
Bottled and Sold, by Peter Gleick

FLOW (For the Love of Water)
The Story of Bottled Water

Plastic Pollution Coalition
5 Gyres
Natural Resources Defense Council

Online Articles:
Why You Should Stop Drinking Bottled Water
9 Reasons to Stop Drinking Bottled Water
A World of Reasons to Stop Drinking Bottled Water

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pic of the day

[Picture: Library of Congress, via the Denver Post Click to enlarge]

I love this picture. It is one of many stunning color photographs taken by the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information between 1939-1943. Some seem like they were taken yesterday, and others are so striking as to seem iconic- yet they were new to me. See many more of them at The Denver Post.

I love this picture because there isn't a scrap of plastic anywhere. Plastic has invaded every aspect of our lives, and in trying to eliminate it I often wonder how life worked before plastic came along. This photo gives us a clue. You see several alternatives that plastic refuseniks are using today: wax paper, glass jars, and metal containers.

Caption for the photo: "Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room, Chicago and Northwest Railway Company. Clinton, Iowa, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Things I hate: Coffee K-cups

[Picture: Herb Swanson for The New York Times]
I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but Gawker and The New York Times beat me to it. We have these things at my office- I bet you do too. And now they are very popular for home use as well. Pardon me for being a coffee snob, but they taste AWFUL. Plus, it is a newly created stream of sheer plastic waste. Therefore, they are things I hate. To review, Things I Hate generally:

- are made of plastic
- are meant to be used once and tossed away
- are not in any way recyclable
- appeal to people's vanity and desire for instant gratification
- strive to create a need where there was none before
- are recently created streams of pure waste

How long till we see these things stuck in the gullet of a baby albatross on Midway?

A couple choice quotes from the Times and Gawker- but go read them, too!

The Times:
More than 80 percent of Green Mountain’s $803 million in sales last year came from nonrecyclable, nonbiodegradable, single-use coffee pods and their brewing systems. This year, the company expects to sell nearly three billion K-Cups, the plastic and tinfoil pods that are made to be thrown away — filter, grounds and all — after one use.
Michael Dupee, Green Mountain's vice president for corporate social responsibility, said some customers did not like to see the waste. "Consumers see the waste stream," Mr. Dupee said, "and they compare it to what they had done before, and they have a perception that there is a problem."

I'm no "LEED certified environmental consultant" or "person with a grasp of basic science," but it seems to me that brewing coffee one cup at a time via disposable plastic "K-cups" is a mite wasteful. Well, that's just "consumer perception."...Silly consumers, always perceiving things.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I'm still really bugged about the Ellen Degeneres advertising bottled water thing. How can someone I like and admire do something that ethically...wrong? Why is it still OK to endorse bottled water in single use plastics, when it is clogging our oceans, making its way into the food chain, killing marine and desert animals, poisoning people at the bottle making stage, privatizing a public resource and then selling it back to us at hundreds of times the price...the list of why bottled water is wrong just goes on and on.

The point is, it is NOT OK. So I did what a lot of people do these days, and started a Facebook page. It'll never get 'Let Betty White Host SNL' numbers, but I hope lots of people join and that Ellen gets the message.

Here it is: Tell Ellen Degeneres To Dump Bottled Water Advertising!

Someone get this gal a Kleen Kanteen!

[Image: Gawker]

Amanda Seefried on the set of Little Red Riding Hood. Tsk, tsk. Try a stainless steel bottle next time, Ms. Seefried. The better to re-use, my dear!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New York's new BPA law just scratches the surface

On Friday, Governor Paterson signed legislation banning the sale, manufacture and distribution in New York of some products designed for infants and small children containing bisphenol-A (BPA), such as bottles, sippy-cups, straws and pacifiers. New York is the seventh American state to enact such a law; it takes effect on December 1.

BPA is a common industrial chemical that has been used since the 1960s. It is a hormone disruptor that is linked to such things as breast, testicular and prostate cancers, early-onset puberty, declines in sperm counts, diminished intellectual capacity and behavior problems.

While I'm glad the New York State legislature could finally find something to agree on (it passed both houses unanimously), this BPA law just scratches the surface. As I said, BPA is common. Here are other items we see and touch and eat and drink from every day that contain bisphenol-A:

- plastic linings in baby formula cans
- plastic linings in canned food
- plastic linings in canned sodas
- ATM and cash register receipts, in amounts 250-1000x greater than food cans

According to the National Institutes of Health, "BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure." But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the NIH has not considered the recent finding by the Environmental Working Group of BPA in ATM and register receipts, containing 250 to 1000 times the amount found in food can linings.

As I Google for news articles to support this blog post, the most common phrase I see is "BPA found", and it is pissing me off. "Oh, lookie here, we found BPA in cans! And receipts!" etc. Like we'd just found a new species of butterfly, or the all water route to Asia. All these things we're finding with BPA are man made. We made them, so 'we' shouldn't have to find out what is in them, much less find that what is in them is killing us.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ellen Good. Bottled Water Bad.

Do you like Ellen Degeneres? I do. She's a very funny lady. But it really made me sad to see her endorsing Glaceau's Vitamin Water Zero in ads that started this past spring. Take a look at the graphic below, then go here, to The Ellen Show's website, and leave a comment. Let her know what you think!

Bottled Water
Via: Term Life Insurance

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hopeful Things

Here are a few things that have me feeling hopeful lately. OK, so we aren't reversing global warming, or even making a dent in the mountains of plastic crap and packaging being shoved in our faces every day, but these small things tell me the message is getting through.

Crate & Barrel
featured re-usable polyester produce bags in their most recent catalog. Whoa. A major American retailer offering produce bags, not just the hippy food co-op stores? That is kind of a big effing deal. I would provide you with a link, but they SOLD OUT and are no longer featured on the website. In an online chat with a Crate & Barrel representative, I was told a larger quantity was on order that will be available in November. Said the rep: "We had no idea they'd be so popular." Woot!

Want to get your own produce bags before November? Here are a few sources:
- in NYC, the 4th Street Food Coop and Brooklyn Coop have them. I'm not sure about other places.
- Try these sellers on Etsy
- EcoBags
- (they have the same bags that were offered by Crate & Barrel)
- Make your own. Butterick has a pattern that includes several shopping bags including a produce bag, and there are also free patterns online, like this one.

Target's Home Organic Sheet Sets are packaged with very little plastic. I purchased a set recently when one of my old sheets got too soft and started to shred. And I was happy to find these sheets packaged in a little case made of the same fabric as a sheets, with a glossy paper cuff around it. The paper does have a plastic coating, but in comparison to the thick plastic bags that all the other sheets came in, this is a huge improvement. Now, why aren't ALL the sheets packaged similarly?

While window shopping in Grand Central on my lunch hour, I spotted these ceramic mugs at Tea & Honey...and they weren't packaged in a thick plastic box, as at other places. Hooray! They are called "I am NOT a paper cup" TM. They're double walled ceramic with a silicone lid; replacement silicone lids are also available. My favorite travel mug is ceramic and it is very chipped (it used to have a handle, long ago) and well used. It came from Starbucks. I've tried and tried to scratch the logo off but it won't budge, so I just suffer the shaming at indie coffee shops. I love ceramic because it doesn't impart flavor to my coffee, it insulates well, and cleans easily. And it just feels right, like a proper mug. When it breaks, I'm happy to know where to get a new one. If you can't get to Tea & Honey at Grand Central, plenty of other retailers offer it, some with more plastic packaging with others: MoMa Design Store, Target, an online search.

Last week I refilled a bottle of liquid dish soap for the first time, at 4th Street Food Co-op. It took this long because roommates kept buying new bottles. I was using bar soap to wash dishes for a while, but found that it made the dishes slippery and easy to drop. Perhaps a different bar soap would work better. Or, I can just keep refilling my bottle at the food co-op. I'm encouraged to find more stores offering bulk items and liquid bulk items, such as soaps, oils and vinegars in particular. Liquid bulk items are a new thing for NYC.

Have you seen hopeful signs that the message about single use plastics is getting through to individuals, retailers and manufacturers? Let me know!

Monday, July 12, 2010

I write comments

I contributed this comment today to McDonald's "Values in Practice Blog". It hasn't been published yet.

Bob, you are addressing the very issue I came here to find. I want to know what McDonald's is doing, if anything, about sustainable consumption and extended producer responsibility. I have long been dismayed by the inability to purchase coffee in my refillable mug at McDonalds, and now with McCafe lattes and frappes adding (according to AdAge) $1 billion to annual sales, I cringe thinking about the hundreds upon thousands of un-recyclable polypropylene cups and lids going to landfills, never mind the straws.

Will McDonald's consider filling re-usable mugs and tumblers brought in by customers? Will they take responsibility and recycle their plastic packaging?

Thanks for any insight,


UPDATE as of July 20: My comment was published along with a few others. No response from the author as of yet.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

This proposal sucks, but could reduce a stream of NYC plastic waste.

[Photo: Gothamist]
Something tells me this proposal won't pass, because millions of New Yorkers will scream bloody murder, and I'll be one of them.
The MTA has proposed a $1 surcharge every time one of the city’s 1.6 million straphangers purchases a new MetroCard from one of the MTA’s vending machines.

Sources told the New York Post, "It would provide an incentive to hold onto the card. Helping rein in manufacturing, distribution and disposal costs as well as providing a new revenue stream for the cash-starved agency.”

...the proposal is part of a financial plan due at the end of this month to bridge a $400 million budget shortfall. I think the dollar surcharge idea sucks, because it punishes the people who can least afford it, and will discourage ridership.

The idea only has appeal in that, if it passes, it will mean fewer plastic MetroCards being manufactured, distributed, and thrown away-- so less waste, less carbon footprint. It will encourage riders to purchase unlimited monthly cards, so they will only pay the surcharge once a month, or once in a blue moon by using the EasyPayXpress program that automatically refills your card. I have been successfully using the same MetroCard for over a year with this program, and think it is great.

BUT. There are an awful lot of New Yorkers who can't afford $89 up front for a monthly unlimited card, or even $27 for a weekly. I can just imagine the boardroom full of Mr. Burns who thought up this idea, to bridge the budget gap on the backs of the working poor and unemployed. Nice. And for a tourist or bridge-and-tunneler visiting New York, an added dollar surcharge will likely be the deciding factor between taking the subway or taking a cab.

The idea is being pitched like a sin-tax, with the sin in this case being the act of purchasing and throwing away so many of those evil, wasteful plastic cards. Now, usually the beneficiaries of sin-taxes are not the folks who create the 'sin' in the first place. Gambling taxes often pay for education, cigarette taxes pay for smoking cessation programs, etc. But a MetroCard tax that goes right back to the MTA, makers of the MetroCard? Um....NO.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

PlasticLess Celebrity Spotting


Reese Witherspoon was photographed today (presumably on set to judge by the gown and the hair) sporting both a re-usable canvas bag AND a re-usable mug for her beverage. Two thumbs up, Ms. Witherspoon!

Have you spotted a celebrity going PlasticLess? Let me know!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Things I hate: Microwaveable 'convenience' foods

(Photo: Gawker)

As a reminder, Things I Hate generally:

- are made of plastic
- are meant to be used once and tossed away
- are not in any way recyclable
- appeal to people's vanity and desire for instant gratification
- strive to create a need where there was none before
- are recently created streams of pure waste

Microwaveable convenience foods skeeve me out, and not just because they never, ever look like the picture on the box when prepared. First, there's the waste issue. By the time you are done there's practically more packaging waste than food, and most of it is plastic.

For another thing, there's the act of microwaving food in plastic. Knowing what we know now about plastic and heat, it boggles my mind that there are hugely profitable companies designing entire lines of food that are heated in their own 'disposable' plastic containers. (I haven't looked at any of these things in the store lately- what kind of plastic do they use for the dishes? Is it BPA free? Recyclable? Has any consumer group even asked about this??) Here, have some toxic chemicals with your mass produced, highly processed meal! Yech. How much longer before the thought of heating food in plastic becomes anathema? That day will come, I'm pretty sure of it.

I also object to the whole aesthetic. Who wants to eat or even serve food out of a dish that looks like it should contain dog food? (And that is what the food more or less looks like in reality anyway...)

Then there is the whole mass production issue. Mass production enables millions of people to be fed for relatively little money- a plus. But it comes with risks- like the mass distribution of yummy, yummy salmonella.

Microwaveable convenience foods: how convenient are they, really?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tomorrow is No Plastic Day. Who Knew?

I only just found out that tomorrow, June 8, is "No Plastic Day". No worries here- where every day is No Plastic Day! Or at least As-little-plastic-as-I-can-get-away-with Day...

If you would like to participate, here are details from No Plastic Day's web page-- and they're pretty simple, so why just make it a one day thing?

Participate in No Plastic Day

No Plastic Day is a world wide event intended to bring awareness of the over consumption of disposable plastic goods such as plastic bags and bottles. It is well known that there are floating islands of trash in most of the world's oceans. The huge amounts of plastic trash we all discard daily doesn't decompose, doesn't break down, and most of it is toxic to the animals that accidentally consume it. The current rate of plastic consumption is not sustainable and is starting to create a huge problem for marine life particularly. Fish eat toxic plastic bits. We catch the fish and eat the fish. Its only a matter of time before we've polluted our own food supplies with plastic trash.

What you can do on No Plastic Day - June 8, 2010

* No plastic bags - If you buy something from a store on No Plastic Day, bring your own bags. If you don't have any cloth or paper bags, just reuse the plastic bags you already have. They'll never biodegrade so you might as well reuse them if you already have them.

* No plastic bottles - Drink water from the tap or buy drinks in aluminum cans or glass bottles if you must.

* Limit your garbage - Almost everything you throw away is made of plastic. By limiting the garbage you create, you will reduce your plastic waste as well.

* Be creative - Everyone's situation is different and you will need to customize your own situation for No Plastic Day. Be creative. Reuse, recycle, and reduce your waste. Consider it a personal experiment to find ways you can create less garbage and try to use no disposable plastics.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pic of the Day

(Picture via Huffington Post)

Petroleum marine pollution on the beach, coated in its own layer of petroleum marine pollution.

Monday, May 31, 2010

More (or less) plastic free cooking, and musings on solo living

(Photo: Smitten Kitchen)

This weekend I'm sticking close to home, doing a couple of things: finishing 'moving in' to my apartment and making pizzas.

I've been in my apartment since March, with a roommate. One of the two rooms does not have a closet, so the place can function as a 2 bedroom with one person using a hall closet for storage, or a lovely and roomy 1 bedroom with a living room/office. My roommate (we originally met two apartments ago) invited me to move in to take over his lease when he relocated. He moved this weekend and I've decided to keep the place to myself, at least for a while. It is the first time in my life that I've had my own place where everything is mine (including the messes! and the plastic!), and I have full control over my home environment.

Though I haven't finished unpacking the last of my boxes, I have to say it feels really nice. All my years in NYC have been spent in shared apartments, with most of my worldly possessions piled in my bedroom. You can understand an obsession with storage solutions and fascination with de-cluttering, even while feeling a complete failure at it. Now, with my things spread out over a 2 room apartment, I see that I really don't have so much stuff. There is room to breathe, and it feels lovely. The downside to having my own place is that I've met some amazingly wonderful people in my roommates, and having never lived alone wonder how I'll like it after a while. We shall see!

Now, the pizzas. I was inspired by two things seen on the internet- Oliver Strand's article in the NY Times last week advocating aging the dough overnight for a better crust, and Smitten Kitchen's Shaved Asparagus Pizza (pictured above). Making pizza doesn't seem like the best thing to do on the first warm weekend of summer, but I'm having fun with it. It is a great way to use up leftovers and try new cooking techniques. The leftovers are mostly from The Art of Eating (related post below), and things my roommate left behind.

New techniques include aging pizza dough overnight- actually, I'm re-acquainting myself with pizza dough, period; I haven't made pizza since high school! And Smitten Kitchen's idea of shaving asparagus is sheer genius. The first pizza (made using Smitten Kitchen's dough recipe and not aging it) came out really well and used up all of the leftover asparagus. I still consider myself a fairly unwilling veggie eater, so having a half pound of asparagus go down in a flash on top of a pizza is pretty amazing. For cheese, I just used fresh grated Parmesan- which came wrapped in plastic. Cheese is an ongoing plastic issue. I'd like to learn to make it but don't see giving up fine cheeses such as aged Parmesan, not completely. The best I can do is to be choosy with it. For now I bring a one pound hunk of parm home, remove the plastic and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator- which is made of re-usable #5 plastic- and it lasts me at least a couple months.

For today's pizza I'm trying the dough aging technique and using parm cheese as well as a hodgepodge of leftovers from the fridge: jarred pasta sauce, a bit of pesto, a tomato, oven roasted first to bring out flavor, and most of a shallot, caramelized. Roasting the tomato and caramelizing the shallot are also new techniques for me, and it is a good thing I do have the apartment to myself since I smoked up the place pretty good with the shallot. Roasting a shallot in a dry skillet for 20 minutes before adding oil? Really, Mark Bittman, really?? In the end the shallot came out OK, but that was a LOT of smoke.

The dough isn't right- I screwed up the flour measurement and had to add a lot more in the kneading process, which I know doesn't do good things- you aren't supposed to knead pizza dough much. And plastic avoidance played a part here. The recipes say to cover the dough with plastic wrap while it is rising. Instead, for the first pizza I coated the dough with a bit of olive oil (which the recipe calls for anyway), then flipped it over a couple times in the rising process to prevent a hard skin from forming on the exposed dough. For the second pizza dough, aged overnight, I covered the dough with a tea towel. That must be what cooks did before the invention of plastic wrap, right? It didn't work. Maybe I should have dampened the towel from the start (I dampened it half way through), or maybe there is a better plastic free technique out there-- anyone? The dough formed a skin, which sort of worked itself back in while forming the pizza, but not really.

But here's the thing- pizza is very forgiving. It might not be as gorgeous as the pictures from Smitten Kitchen and the NY Times, but it still tastes pretty darned good.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cooking with less plastic-- for the stage!

This weekend, New York Metro Vocal Arts Ensemble (NYMVAE) will present "NYMVAE à la Carte", a food-themed double bill of J.S. Bach's Coffee Cantata and The Art of Eating, a new opera by Jeffrey Lependorf. I have been involved with the company for a few years and am not singing in this production, but am helping out on the 'back stage' side- specifically with rounding up props.

Both one acts involve food and drink that are consumed on stage, which can be tricky to get right. Further, The Art of Eating is based on an essay by M.F.K. Fisher, a prolific and well-respected food writer who was active from the 1930s until her death in 1992. I had never heard of M.F.K. Fisher until now, but my foodie friends tell me I must read at least a few of her essays. She was the Ur-female food writer: before Julia Child and Ruth Reichl, there was M.F.K. Fisher, blazing a trail. Food essays and recipes from a time before single-use-plastics existed? Yes I do think I should read her essays!

The Art of Eating
takes place in a tiny French restaurant in 1950, and involves four food dishes that are served- and partially consumed- on stage. I'm responsible for two of those dishes. Gulp! My dishes are braised endive and asparagus with shallots and lentils. I am modifying the linked recipes a bit- for example, I'm not going to attempt a poached egg which is hard enough to get right at home, let alone getting it to the theater!

Wish me luck. I'm an OK home cook but no gourmet, and I've never made prop food before. It is my first time preparing puy lentils and endive. This stuff has to look like it was made by a French chef and two sopranos (the show is double cast) have to eat a few bites of it on stage! And of course, I'm doing this while avoiding single use plastics. Here is how I did on that score:

- fresh produce (Belgian endive and asparagus) purchased using cloth bags. The asparagus had rubber bands and and a plastic tag.
- shallots and herbs purchased using cloth bags
- Puy lentils purchased from the bulk section using a cloth bag
- White wine vinegar came with a plastic cap and seal
- pepper corns came in a plastic tub (I've had the same huge tub for over a year)
- olive oil came in a metal gallon canister with a plastic spout and cap- I now know a couple places where I can get olive oil using my own glass bottle.
- salt, sugar and butter came in paper and cardboard

If you are in New York City, I hope you will attend a performance! We have amazing performers, a completely charming production, and you can see how my prop food came out. The shows are May 20-23 at Baruch College's Performing Arts Center Bernie West Theater. Tickets are available here

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Brita filter and #5 recycling update, NYC edition

Fourteen months ago, Brita USA joined a program called Gimme 5 to recycle its filters, thanks in part to a grassroots campaign led by Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish. This is a take-back program for spent Brita filters as well as #5 plastics -such as yogurt cups and take-out containers- sponsored by Brita (naturally), Stoneyfield Organic and Tom's of Maine, in partnership with Preserve, the company that recycles the plastic and turns it into new products. One other company is a big partner: Whole Foods. You can either mail your used filters to Preserve, or drop them off at participating Whole Foods stores.

I am so glad the program was started. To me it is a sign companies are starting to take responsibility for the products they manufacture, instead of leaving it all to the consumer and local governments. I'm rooting for Gimme 5's success, and wish more people knew about it. I haven't purchased a Brita filter for a while (since I drink mostly tap)- is Gimme 5 featured prominently on the package? Have you seen posters or advertising for Gimme 5? I haven't- and that worries me.

Additionally, a friend contacted me a couple weeks ago and asked if the program was in trouble- she tried to drop off a filter at a New York City Whole Foods and was told by an employee that they 'don't take them anymore'. Alarming! Thankfully, this is not the case. I reached out to every Whole Foods store in NYC and heard back: Gimme 5 is still going. Going strong? That I don't know- I hope so! Here is what I got back from NYC Whole Foods store managers:

Columbus Circle: "We do participate in the Gimme 5 program, and also we recycle the Brita filters in the Gimme 5 bins. The bin is located by our Whole Body department. Any questions please ask."

Tribeca: "We are extremely happy to say we accept #5 plastics!!! We have TWO collection bins located in our wonderful Tribeca store, one by our Local registers on the far right and one in the café upstairs by the elevator. We love this program and we are very happy to promote it. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. Thank you and have a wonderful day."

Bowery: "I'm happy to share with you that our store does in fact participate in this wonderful program. All you need to do is bring in your #5 plastics to the Customer Service booth and our Team Members will put the items in the Gimme 5 bin, which we keep behind the booth. We do this to avoid co mingling and to ensure that only #5 plastics are getting into this bin, so it can properly be sent out. And to further answer your question, you can bring in Brita filters as well. ANY #5 plastic!"

Union Square: "Thanks for your inquiry, we absolutely do recycle your spent filter just wrap it up in a plastic a plastic bag ( that Preserve will recycle). Thanks for the compliment we definitely do take pride in being the only Company that has this program."

Chelsea: "Our Gimme 5 recycling receptacle can be found at customer service. We accept anything that is #5 and Brita Filters in the Gimme 5 program."

I'm stoked that so many Whole Foods stores are taking part! Especially since right now, this is one of the only ways for New Yorkers to recycle #5 plastics, including Brita filters. I'll have a filter of my own to recycle in a month or so. I drink mostly tap, but a few weeks ago there was a water main break in my neighborhood resulting in rusty water coming out of our faucets for the better part of a day. I started using my roommate's Brita pitcher. The water is back to normal now, but still-- I'm glad we have the filter.

Have YOU recycled with Gimme 5? How was your experience?

Thursday, May 6, 2010


One big change the comes with avoiding single use plastics is in the area of snacking. Think about it- pretty much anything that's crispy, crunchy, salty or sweet or both, and designed to be ripped open and placed directly into your pie-hole, is going to come with some plastic. See, it's that ripping open part.

I'm not ready to trade potato chips for apple slices and a handful of bulk bin trail mix. Not entirely, anyway. Here are some strategies and alternatives I use to get my fix while avoiding plastic:

- enjoying french fries and potato crisps at restaurants and pubs. (Yeah, this is a cheat as lots of places are likely dumping fries into the fryer out of a plastic bag, but not all of them...)

- nuts and dried fruits from the bulk section- I always have walnuts and raisins on hand; dried cranberries and almonds are another favorite combo.

- Kale Chips! Crispy, savory, and gone in a millisecond. If you haven't tried them yet, DO. Here is a recipe.

- Popcorn. I eat a lot of it. Buy from the bulk bins, prepare on the stove with olive oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot. If I want something salty/sweet, I go for kettle corn. (Beware- kettle corn is extremely addictive.)

- Whole fruit. Apples, oranges, pears, you get the idea.

- Hummus. My favorite recipe is Crunchy Chicken's, using chickpeas from the bulk section. I found the trick is to cook the bejesus out of the beans (skim off the little skins that float to the surface), and don't be stingy with the olive oil. Great with crudite- carrots, celery, broccoli etc.

- Other bulk bin bean dips- black bean, white bean. Eat with crudite veggies or bits of bread.

- Avocado. I'd say guacamole, but I love avocado so much that I don't have the patience to make it, so I just eat it.

- I tried Mark Bittman's flatbread recipe. It was OK. Perhaps better with practice and a hotter oven.

- Oatmeal cookies, using oatmeal, chopped walnuts, raisins and chocolate chips from the bulk section. And real butter, thank you very much. I can't make these often because I'll eat them until I get a stomach ache. Every. Time.

What are your favorite plastic free snacks? Let me know!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Things I hate: Plastic as an economic indicator

Last week, American Public Media's show Marketplace stated
If you want to see signs the economy is bouncing back, look no farther than plastic.
My stomach took a nosedive when I heard that. The story goes that Dow Chemical's stated earnings surged a whopping 2,300 percent, and this is a good thing because it means that people are buying more stuff. And as we all know, stuff is either made of plastic, comes wrapped in plastic, or both. Further, Bill Wood of Mountain Top Economics and Research says that in a recovering economy, plastic packaging will always recover first as consumers go back to old habits:
BILL Wood: You could buy a head of lettuce, or you could buy prepackaged salad. You could buy a block of cheese, or you could buy pre-grated cheese. But as the economy recovers, consumers tend to purchase more of the preprocessed, packaged stuff.
So if Dow Chemical's profits are up, that means we are BACK, America! USA! USA!


Here is a nice visual to go along with the story. It is a time lapse video of 24 hours at a Walmart. I wonder, of all the stuff and packaging purchased that day, how much of it ended in a landfill in the following 24 hours?

Stephen Wilkes - Time-Lapse: A Day at A Walmart Store. from BERNSTEIN & ANDRIULLI on Vimeo.

PlasticLess Celebrity Spotting

Have you noticed in the past couple of weeks that Stephen Colbert has traded out single use plastic water bottles on his show for a metal re-usable water bottle? Way to go, Mr. Colbert!

I often wonder when being spotted with a plastic water bottle or beverage in a single use plastic container will become a no-go for celebrities...and the rest of us. What will it take to pry the plastic iced coffee cups from the hands of the Olsen Twins? That day is coming, be sure. It is just a matter of when.

Have you spotted a celebrity going PlasticLess? Let me know!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How's your French? PlasticLess NYC was featured (briefly) on France 5 yesterday

Thank you to the French commenters who alerted me to SOUS LE SOLEIL VERT, a 52 minute documentary about parts of the Green movement in the United States by Chantal Lasbats. You can view the documentary online here.

I was featured within the first 10 minutes of the film, in a section largely about Freegans. It may appear that I am a Freegan- while I greatly admire what they do, I am not. I took a tour they offer to the media and the general public last year. You can see my impressions of the tour in a blog post here. I encourage anyone to take that tour; it really opens your eyes to the needless waste around us every day. It will shake you up, challenge your assumptions, and really make you think. Looking online, I'm not sure if the NYC Freegan group is offering the same media tour that I took, but you can sign up or inquire with their MeetUp group here.

If you are visiting PlasticLess NYC for the first time, welcome! I hope you take some time to look around, and see what it is like to live with a lot less plastic in New York City. Be sure to see my Top 15 tips on reducing Single Use Plastics, here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Leonard Lopate discusses plastic recycling on today's Please Explain

WNYC's The Leonard Lopate show has a regular segment on Friday called Please Explain, and today's segment was all about plastic recycling, with guest Eric Goldstein, senior attorney in the Natural Resource Defense Council's New York office and co-director of NRDC's urban program. You can listen to the segment here (it hasn't been posted online yet, but should be there later today):

Monday, April 19, 2010

Found: the East Coast's very own Oceanic Garbage Patch

For over ten years now we've known about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a toxic soup made mostly of plastic waste that extends over a huge area, anywhere from the size of Texas to the size of the continental United States. Scientists have said there are probably more oceanic garbage patches on the planet collecting in Earth's other oceanic gyres, but they hadn't been documented and studied. Until now.

A group called 5 Gyres has found and documented a second great garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean.

Fellow New Yorkers, this one is ours:
Charles Moore, an ocean researcher credited with discovering the Pacific garbage patch in 1997, said the Atlantic undoubtedly has comparable amounts of plastic. The east coast of the United States has more people and more rivers to funnel garbage into the sea.
Up to 80% of marine debris comes from land. Plastic garbage in the ocean is worse than land-filled plastic waste because it spreads over a huge area, slowly photo-degrades, acts as a sponge for other potentially harmful chemicals in the ocean (never-mind the hormone disrupting chemicals it contains to begin with...), kills marine life, and eventually gets passed back up the food chain to US. According to Moore, "Humanity's plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint".

Its overwhelming, isn't it? Kind of makes you want to stick your head in the sand and say 'life's too short for me to worry about this and we're screwed, anyway'. Well excuse me, but F*** that. Here's the thing- Rome wasn't built in a day, but in comparison to Rome? The garbage patches WERE. We humans have only had this throw-away plastic mentality and industry for what, 40, 50 years? The garbage patches can only be that old then. And while it is impossible for us to go out and clean them up, we sure as hell can stop adding to them. If it only took humanity 40-50 years to develop a throw-away economy, it shouldn't take nearly that long to re-design it, so that we discard way less and the things we do discard are biodegradable, and don't harm us or the planet.

The answer isn't finding a way to clean up the garbage patches. We are way too late for that. The answer is in taking a look at our own trash cans, at the things we buy, use, and throw away. How much of your trash is plastic? How much of it is recyclable? How much can you avoid altogether? If we all do even a little bit towards reducing our waste, things WILL change. It'll be fast, and it'll be easier than we think-- if enough of us act and speak up. Business and manufacturers will pay attention. God willing, our government will pay attention--but being the realist that I am, I'm pretty sure business and industry will react first. But for that to happen, we-- we good little American Consumers-- have to act.

Don't be discouraged. Don't be overwhelmed. Do something.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NYC to expand curbside plastic recycling?

NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is introducing legislation that would expand and overhaul NYC's recycling program, including expanding the plastics that are collected for recycling. Currently the city only accepts bottles and jugs of #1 and #2 plastic- the new legislation would add "all rigid plastic containers, like those used to hold laundry detergent, motor oil and yogurt." That sounds like all #1, #2, and #5 plastic containers, whether bottle/jug or take-out container-- but I wish I could find a copy of the proposed legislation to see exactly which types of plastic are included.

It seems like the legislation has a good chance of passing, and that is good news. But I wonder- is it funded? How will it be paid for? I did see an article saying "plastic expansion that is contingent upon a new recycling facility in Brooklyn, which will not open until 2012."

Encouraging recycling and offering more recycling options- that is all great. I applaud Speaker Quinn for introducing the legislation, and Mayor Bloomberg for encouraging it. BUT- we still need more voices saying, hey, don't create so much waste in the first place. Recycling isn't the answer- it isn't even close to the top of the list. A lot of our waste, recyclable or not, is SO easily avoided.

For instance, in the picture above, if the new law takes effect you'll be able to recycle the containers on the left at curbside- but I'm guessing not the lids. And definitely not much on the right- not the Styrofoam clam shell, maybe the small plastic containers (but not the lids). As opposed to now, when you can take those #5 take out containers on the left to Whole Foods for Gimme 5 collection, OR-- and hear me out-- go to a restaurant that uses re-usable sturdy ware, sit down, enjoy your meal, and skip the waste!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Plastic discussion today on WNYC

A friend alerted me to a segment discussing plastic on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show today. The segment featured Mindy Pennybacker, author of Do One Green Thing, who has a website:

Though the segment was ostensibly about her book and about how we can affect positive change for the environment with the choices we make as consumers, there was indeed a LOT of discussion about plastic-- the different types, what is dangerous, what is less dangerous. One of the big points was don't put ANY plastic in the microwave, even if it says "microwavable" on it.

I wish she had made more of a point of pushing re-usable non plastic options, instead of describing less unsafe plastic options and non-plastic single use options (unbleached wax paper or recycled aluminum foil for lunch sandwiches, for example-- why not a re-usable wrap or box? It is just as convenient.).

It was a really interesting segment. You can hear the whole thing here:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Move update

Tuesday is the big day- I am moving apartments, staying in Queens but going from Astoria To Woodside. I'm using Movers Not Shakers; they provided me with re-usable plastic moving boxes to reduce move-associated waste.

Part of any move is de-cluttering before packing in earnest. Or it should be! Often you can tell when someone has moved by the pile-o-crap left on the curb, lots of it usable stuff that has just been left there. Sometimes those things get claimed, but a lot of times it is landfill ahoy.

Last week I took 3 bags of stuff to Goodwill, gave away my TV with Craigslist, and sold my DVD player to a singer acquaintance. This weekend I sold a stack of books to The Strand Bookstore, gave away the ones they didn't want, took a bread bag stuffed full of plastic caps (some mine, some my roommate's, lots collected from sidewalks) to Aveda for recycling, and a smaller bag of spent toiletry packages to Origins for their recycling program. Still left to do: take my broken electronics- cell phone, power cords- to the neighborhood Office Depot and put in their recycling bin. I'm selling and giving some things to my roommate- futon couch, microwave, toaster, Brita water pitcher.

With all of that, the trash output from my move shouldn't be noticeable from the street view. But then there's the paper. My Achilles Heel. My Paperloo. I have way too much of it! After a year of de-cluttering by joining The Compact, a year spent Post Compact, and a year going PlasticLess, I still have a lot of paper clutter. Packing it up has been painful. Sigh. I'm still a long way away from having a Zero Waste Home.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cooking from the bulk bin section

The bulk bin section can be intimidating to the uninitiated. First you have to get over any squeamishness you may have about food that is not portioned and sealed. (OMG! Naked Food! Out there in the open!) Then, if you are avoiding plastic like me, you have to plan ahead and bring your own containers and fabric bags from home. And you have to decide how much to get, instead of letting a food manufacturer decide for you. And once you get it home, how will you store it?

And then, you have to figure out what the heck to do with it. There are no boxes or cans with pictures of the prepared product on the front. No helpful recipes on the back label. And most of these foods are raw, unprocessed, unfinished: dried beans, lentils, quinoa, rice, oats, buckwheat...even if you know what they are, they can take some processing before they look and taste like what we are used to getting from cans, boxes, plastic foil envelopes, and the salad bar at Whole Foods. Now, this isn't nearly as hard or as time consuming as you might think, but if you don't KNOW that- it is intimidating!

If only someone would provide recipes for all that stuff.

Well, someone has. She didn't do it to specifically take advantage of bulk bins, but I'm finding her recipes incredibly useful as I explore my bulk bin options. That someone is Martha Rose Shulman of The New York Times, with a section of the website called Recipes for Health.

Last night I made Baked Quinoa With Spinach and Cheese using quinoa from the bulk bin section, and baby spinach bought loose and put in my fabric bag (unfortunately the cheeses did not come without plastic- that is still a challenge for me). Tonight I'm making a white bean hummus (pictured above from the Times website) from the Bruschetta section, using dried cannellini beans. Both are simple to make, and delicious!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Avoiding E-Waste

Electronic waste is admittedly a bigger, badder, more toxic-to-humans problem than plastic waste. I haven't taken it on though, because 1) people don't tend to use an electronic device just once and then toss it like they do with plastic and 2) electronics contain a LOT of plastic, so it is the same issue in some ways.

I am moving apartments in a couple of weeks, and trying to lighten my load before the packing starts. Yesterday I took 3 bags of clothes and shoes to Goodwill, and today I gave away my TV to someone I found through Craigslist with a 'free stuff' ad. Freecycle would have worked too. I'm trying to sell my DVD player, but will donate it to Goodwill or Salvation Army for a tax deduction if I don't find a buyer. I could have done that with the TV, but without a car, having someone come to pick it up works better! And he seemed thrilled to get it. I'm glad it will be used.

(All my movie and show watching is on the computer these days, using Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. The TV hadn't been turned on in almost a year.)

Here are ways to avoid E-Waste:
- Think hard before buying- do you REALLY need it to begin with?
- Consider buying used
- Give or sell your items to a friend who can use it, or find someone with Craigslist and Freecycle
- Donate your working items to Salvation Army, Goodwill, Materials for the Arts, or other charitable organizations who will take them- you may be able to get a tax deduction.
- Utilize store recycling programs like Best Buy's.
- Find local electronics recycling events. Check out New York City's here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sugar Shock

I finally got around to buying candy-coated chocolate covered peanuts from the bulk section at Fairway-- because even paper bags of M&Ms are coated with plastic on the inside.

SunSpire Peanut Sundrops: $9.49/lb.
Peanut M&Ms: about $6.72/lb.

Buying food from the bulk section is often less expensive than packaged equivalents, but not always!

Although I shouldn't be too upset with the price difference. In addition to coming without plastic, the SunSpire candies "contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Their bright candy color comes from beet juice, beta carotene and natural caramel. Their yummy chocolate centers are made with rich milk chocolate, sweetened with evaporated cane juice and a touch of unsulphered molasses."

I can live with that. I guess.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jenny McCarthy was on to something

...just the wrong something. Nicholas Kristoff has another excellent column warning of the dangers of pthalates, toxic chemicals found in many plastics and personal care products, and possible links to conditions like autism, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

There is still no definitive smoking gun saying "Yep, toxic chemicals in the environment aren't just killing the planet, they're killing US". But the studies and peer-review journal articles are mounting.

Please, go read the whole thing.

How many more articles like this will it take before smart, well educated people will be aghast at the very idea of eating and drinking with plastic, and buying food swathed in plastic, swimming in plastic? Kristoff recommends avoiding plastics 3, 6 and 7-- but forks and straws don't come with numbers stamped on them to begin with, and are we to expect consumers to start examining all containers for plastic numbers on top of the nutritional labels? This is just crazy. Better to avoid the plastic altogether.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I have found a new guru!

In addition to the always inspirational Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish, there is a new star to add to the constellation of (Anti) Trash Bloggers: Bea, of Zero Waste Home

Here is an article about her in yesterday's New York Times.

Wow. I hope anyone who catches this will enjoy reading her posts as much as I am enjoying them!

Friday, January 15, 2010

More bulk bin options in NYC

Most Americans have gotten the idea that they should have and use re-usable grocery bags. The next step is a big one-- getting everyone to seek out food with less packaging. I checked out the new Whole Foods store on the Upper West Side last week and was encouraged to see that it has a bulk section. I think it is the first Whole Foods in NYC to have one- does anyone know if others in the area do? They even had a big sign encouraging customers to bring in their own containers, which is awesome!

Most natural or organic food stores have bulk sections. A couple examples are Westerly Natural Market and Integral Yoga's food store.

The biggest and most heavily used bulk section I've seen is still upstairs at the Upper West Side Fairway (do the Harlem or Redhook Fairways have bulk sections?) Although the UWS Whole Foods might give it some competition.

My new favorite came about from a commenter on this blog! 4th Street Food Co-op. It is a pretty tiny place, with most of the space dedicated to bulk food items. They have phased out plastic bags entirely, in favor of cloth and biobags. And they have bulk items not found other places, like pasta, oils, vinegars, soaps and shampoos, and spices. I haven't joined as a member yet, but I'm thinking about it.

Do you buy food items from bulk sections to avoid packaging? Do you bring your own bags and containers? Where do you do your shopping?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Plastic Free Deodorant, a Success Story

I started using plastic free deodorant in November and haven't looked back. Here is how it works:

- container (mine is a plastic food container, but a tin would be nice)
- powder puff (my sister gave me one from her house)
- 1 part baking powder
- 1 part corn starch
- spritz of perfume (optional)

It works really well! In fact it works a lot better than the roll-on 'deodorant crystal' I was trying to finish up. I'm just tossing the rest of that stuff out.

Screening: Garbage Dreams, January 14

Promoted from comments:

We are screening the film Garbage Dreams at the Queens Botanical Garden next week. Thought you might be interested in attending or posting it to your blog.

A Compost Movie and Discussion Night: Garbage Dreams
Thursday, January 14th, 7pm
Fee: $5/person

Join the Queens Compost Project for a screening of the film Garbage Dreams with a short discussion of waste issues to follow. Garbage Dreams follows three teenage boys born into the trash trade and growing up in the world’s largest garbage village on the outskirts of Cairo. It is the home to 60,000 Zabaleen, Arabic for “garbage people.” Far ahead of any modern “Green” initiatives, the Zabaleen survive by recycling 80 percent of the garbage they collect. When their community is suddenly faced with the globalization of its trade, each of the teenage boys is forced to make choices that will impact his future and the survival of his community.

Screening will take place in the Queens Botanical Garden auditorium; entrance is on Dahlia Avenue, through after-hours gate behind the Visitor and Administration building.


Here is a trailer for the film.