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!