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.