Monthly Archives: January 2012

Moonshine? No, that’s my laundry detergent.

While I would love to be able to go down to the local still and fill a mason jar with distilled goodness (if only to check the experience off of a list), what is pictured at right is hardly something anyone would want to drink. Indeed, with the exception of some crazy concoction I had out of a plastic bottle while in Thailand some 15 years ago, I can honestly say that I have never had any unlicensed spirits and don’t even know if the color of the liquid represented here is anything close to what one would expect from moonshine.

What I do know, however, is that I can walk three blocks from my house and fill any container I happen to bring with me with hand soap, dish soap, laundry liquid, household cleanser or any assortment of liquid detergent. While folks keep telling me to switch to the lid that Glenn Beck uses that is free of BHA/BPA/PCP or whatever, I am sure that it is ok to use the old-fashioned lid with my soap. Right?

Green Scene is the spot and they have tons of stuff for the green person’s lifestyle.  Sure, a lot of the things are expensive luxury items like bags made from reclaimed material that was once used on the side of a truck last seen cruising on the Autobahn or over the Pyrenees. But, if it is soap you want, Green Scene is the place for you.

Next time I go, I might even buy that cute sticker I saw: Say no to plastic bags! Damn – too bad it’s made out of plastic. Nice thought, though.


Time to get out the word

Our parents, the grandparents of our children, are great.  They are supportive of our kids and encourage them in all of their pursuits.  Currently, one of our kids is gearing up for the school science fair.  For a first grader, this means she is making dinosaur bones out of salt-dough, making a poster with a drawing of a T-rex and creating a “dig” with a bucket of sand and the salt-dough bones.

Seeing this interest in dinosaurs, one of their grandmothers lovingly sent a dinosaur bone-making kit.  So that our other daughter would have something also, her grandmother sent her a petri dish/agar set so she could take swabs of things and grow her own cultures.  Both kits are awesome.  Both kits, however, are plasticulated.

Of course, when I opened the package I could have packed everything up and sent it back, but our kids were right there as the package came (addressed to them) and when I opened it, there was no turning back. I can be tough, but I didn’t feel like working through this one.

From the beginning of this experience, wehave tried to approach it sincerely, but without driving ourselves crazy.  Part of the thing was also to use the first couple of months to figure out where the gaps were and to close them up.  Clearly, having folks send us plastic stuff is one of the gaps – and one which would be easily covered. For one, there is nothing that says we must accept plastic that arrives in the mail, but the other thing we need to do is educate folks around us as to what we are up to.  In this case, we didn’t do either.  In this case, however, we will learn and move forward.  That, and look forward to seeing what types of animals live in between our child’s toes.

Looking for a Toothbrush

I need a new toothbrush and even before doing a general Google search for a plastic-free option, I check out where Beth Terry has amassed an enormous amount of information about avoiding plastic. Sure enough, she has a post from May of last year where she looks at several options that don’t all necessarily fit into the plastic-free category, but they are definitely not your normal CVS variety.

One toothbrush is made from post-consumer plastic and is wholly recyclable (it even comes with a sleeve that will allow you to mail the toothbrush back to Massachusetts – the toothbrush’s state of origin). Yeah, they get to be plasitc lumber in the next life, but ummmm… plastic?  Trying to stay away from that, Beth.

Another brush has a wood body, but has Nylon 4 bristles. A study claims that Nylon 4 will biodegrade in 4 months in soil with active sludge or something like that.  Not sure what active sludge is, but I can hardly get my compost to wholly biodegrade in our backyard so I’m pretty sure that the Nylon 4 is going to last more than 4 months around here.  Besides, this brush comes from Australia. While Australia is no China, and from what I remember a pretty good place for a worker to live, that’s a long way for a toothbrush to travel. Beth also says that this brush comes in a plastic sleeve.  Yikes!

The third option is also a brush with a wooden body, but instead of plastic bristles, it boasts bristles that are made entirely from natural fibers. And what fibers might those be? This un-vegan-friendly brush is made with pig hairs harvested from meat pigs in China. The hairs are only going to go in the bin anyway, might as well put them to good use. Gross.  Almost as gross as Haggis. Can’t do it. This is also one well-traveled toothbrush.  The pig hairs travel from China to Germany where they are united with the wood handle and then they make their way to you via the people who are in Quebec, but have a warehouse in New York.

It looks like as far as toothbrushes go, there isn’t a perfect option if one is trying to go plastic-free.  Beth Terry, the goddess of plastic-free, goes with the first option. As a product that is from the Northeast, it doesn’t take much to get it to me here in Lancaster and I like that component. And while the use of the toothbrush doesn’t mean that there is less of a demand for plastic on the planet, borrowing a bit of plastic as it transitions from one thing (yogurt containers) to another thing (plastic lumber) sounds okay. Plus, if Beth Terry says it’s okay, it must be okay. Okay?


Plastic-free groceries

Here’s what I picked up at Lemon Street Market today.  Part of it is my order from Abundant Earth Co-op and part of it is off the shelves at the store.  I dropped off the jars for Trish on Monday morning and she filled them up with my bulk order (G/F oats, rice, chocolate chips, quinoa).  The rest is cans of coconut milk, a case of Annie’s mac and cheese, bananas, and ginger. (Is there a plastic-lining in the Annie’s cheese packet?  Ooh, I’ll have to check that out.)

While I was in the store Steve called and said “Can you pick up some treats for me to take to a talk tonight?”  I replied “The only plastic-free treats I can find are home-made chocolate chip cookies that look good (and really big) but are $2.50 each.”  We quickly came up with an idea for making hummus – I couldn’t buy it pre-made because it came in a plastic tub, but I could buy the can of garbanzo beans and two lemons!  So as I was walking home Steve was putting the tahini and garlic in the cuisinart, and when I got home he dropped in the garbanzo beans and the lemon juice, and 5 minutes later he was out the door with the hummus.  A small victory for the zero-plastic-influx house!

I’m making a small list of “quirky things you can do to reduce plastic consumption”.  Here’s number 1:  wear thin socks underneath your polyester tights when you are wearing boots.  They make your tights last longer, and make your feet feel better anyway.  The day will come when I darn my tights! I’ll post for SURE about that.

Hey! Central Market!

Central Market in downtown Lancaster is key for us if we are going to go zero-plastic-influx. The produce stands not only provide unpackaged produce, but for you locovores out there, there are also some producers.  Earl Groff and his wife provide veggis year-round, the Barr boys always have some of their own stuff, the Stoners rock some local veggis, Mrs. Thomas’ applesauce is wonderful, Lancaster Farm Fresh is on the scene, Ben Weiss (grower of the absolutely most fantastic squash ever to be grown on planet earth) is over near the NE corner should you wonder, and there are local meats aplenty amidst a smattering of locally produced processed foods and goods. The place seriously rocks the East Coast.

During a conversation with the Market Master, Jessica Mailhot, the topic of her plans for Market came up.  Her goal is to make Lancaster’s Central Market a go-to destination not only for visiters to Lancaster County, the home of Amish and smorgasbords, but for visiters to the East Coast in general.  I don’t think that goal is unrealistic.  Market is awesome.  It has everything (including Amish quilts from China – made by Chinese Amish and sold by Lancaster Amish). And it is a seriously important part of Lancaster’s social fabric. Sure, you can get some of the best produce in the world (if you know which stands to go to), but you can also see all of your neighbors and make connections with some wonderful people.

Make no mistake, folks who visit see that.  They see the regulars go belly-up to the meat cooler or produce stand or spice rack. They hear us greet standholders by name. They wait while we talk about all sorts of things. They wonder what this place is. Then they buy a whoopie pie, and wonder what the hell is going on in this small town in Central Pennsylvania that is leaving the Amish and Lincoln Highway behind.  Tot ziens! (It’s on purpose.)

So Much Garbage

Part of an art exhibition on Nye Beach, this fish was made of pieces of plastic collected on nearby beaches. (Photo: Maureen Carr)

The new header photo on Plasticulous is a detail from Maureen Carr’s photo, So Much Garbage. The plastic in the header was found on Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon and rearranged into the fish pictured here.  Man, the construction of the fish must have taken forever!

I looked for a while for a photo to use as the header and while there are quite a few (well, a lot) of photos of plastic out there, most of them are really depressing.  Hey, I don’t need to run away from the facts, but I don’t need to see a photo of ensnared turtles, pigs foraging through plastic garbage, children swimming in ponds of bottles and all of that to know that plastic in the environment is a big deal.

I could have turned to the recycling industry for help, but their photos are hum-drum depictions of plastic bottles waiting for another “happy” life. It’s all just going to end up in a landfill or forest or body of water anyway, but that’s perhaps a topic for another entry.  Remind me.

What I found in Maureen Carr’s photo in the header satisfied the need to stick to the established theme, but it didn’t smack me in the face every time I looked at it. There is entirely too much smacking out there – we don’t need that sort of thing on Plasticulous, do we? There is something, however, that is utterly, plasticulous about the image that Maureen captured.  Who has the time to drill all of those holes in all of those tiny pieces of plastic? Clearly those folks don’t spend enough of their days at the Rogue Brewery. It is also crazy to think that all of that plastic was found on one beach in a small town on the Oregon coast. I suppose the regulars on that beach could tell us that the fish is just a small fraction of what washes up each year.

Ultimately what I appreciate about the photo, however, is that a group of folks took the nasty thing that is ocean-bound plastic and made something really awesome looking.  Hell, I’d love to see that fish swimming down a street in Lancaster, wouldn’t you?

My kids love the BBC cartoon, Rastamouse. What’s so great about Rastamouse is that he, to paraphrase his theme song, works with his pals, the Easy Crew, to make the bad things good.  While it may be tough to say that making a fish out of ocean-bound plastic makes a bad thing all the way good, it’s a start.  Cheers to the folks in Newport. And thanks to Maureen for being there to take the shot.

Hell, I can’t resist…

Plastic windows in envelopes

Steve has been really good about getting us off mailing lists.  I did my part and got us onto electronic mailings (and off of paper mailings) from the girls’ college funds.  Legally, however, if we make a donation to their college funds then they must BY LAW send us paper mail, and it will have a little plastic window in it.  Soooo if you’ve been following me so far, we can avoid any plastic coming in from them by not planning for the girls’ future.  That seems a bit counter-productive, although I do note that plastic windows in envelopes is something  that the woman decided she just had to live with, and I do appreciate that this effort is reducing our mail overall.

Steve and I haven’t made any purchases for a couple days and we note that not buying stuff is a really easy way to avoid buying stuff that’s plastic.