Tuesday, July 26, 2016

mind your r's

We all know what the three arrows stand for on the recycle symbol - reduce, reuse, recycle - but have you given a thought to the other words besides "recycle?" Our focus tends be solely on recycle, when in fact, recycling should be one of the last stops along the path of the life of our stuff.

It could be that we are products of the US, where there is a lot of focus on stuff, possessions and things that make our lives easier and move along faster. I read somewhere (All You Need Is Less [AMAZON] that we are working hard to avoid working hard, which is in essence exercising, and then we spend tons of money and effort on dieting and losing weight. It is a bit ironic, to be sure.

And all of that money we spend on things that we don't need, use very little or don't even remember we have, is taking a toll on our wallets, the stuff is taking a toll on our health (plastic leaches toxic chemicals), our soul (too much stuff takes a toll on your emotional health), our planet and the animals that inhabit it. Plastics (which make up most of everything) hangs around next to forever.

I believe there is a huge connection between being as plastic free as possible and living waste free and part of that connection is "stuff." Do we really need all the stuff we acquire? Do we even use most of that stuff? Or does it clutter our lives and the planet?

For the next week or month or year, think before you make a new purchase. Consider: do you really need it? will you really use it? can you get it used or second-hand? in fact, do you already have it? by purchasing it, how will it truly make your life "better?"

Th first step in the waste pyramid is refusing something. Let's practice that for the next little while.

Monday, July 25, 2016

bottle it

This one is a many-layered discussion because it deals with water. Water can come from your tap, a water fountain, a restaurant, a filter or bottled water. This post will only cover the aspect of transporting your choice of water and not how the water is obtained, except for portable bottles.

Last year Americans used 50 BILLION plastic bottles, that is around 170 bottles per person, per year. Of that 50 billion, 38 BILLION were NOT recycled. That means that only about a quarter of water bottles are recycled. Before you climb into your comfy "but I recycle" blanket, consider that "recycling" water bottles is only a down-cycle, meaning that it is not cyclic - that PET water bottle has this life and one more (turned into park benches, bridges or fiber) before that, too, is sent to the waste heap, where, if it is lucky, will wind up in a landfill instead of the ocean.

People, this is another easy fix! One that will even save you money in the long run. Being ripped off by water bottle manufacturers irks me and it should irk you, too. Buying prepackaged water in bottles is completely unnecessary and, in most cases, isn't even good for you; the practice of filtering the water is questionable at best and belief in a corporation's good word and honesty should be at the top of your conspiracy list.

Conspiracies aside, it is a fact that you do not need to buy a bottle of water - you can take it with you. If you like cold water, get one that is insulated and fill it yourself. Truly, nothing could be easier - except maybe taking your own grocery bags to the market with you.

Your real important question shouldn't be "can I do this?" or "should I do this?" instead it should be "which bottle should I get?"


Insulated or not?  If you like it cold, get insulated.

Material?  I like to use stainless steel bottles (definitely NOT plastic), but some people like glass ones. If you opt for glass, consider using a mason jar with an attachment like this, from Cuppow.

The lid:   this one is important; you should be able to clean the lid thoroughly - and that means nothing fancy and complicated. Use the simplest lid that you can dry out well to avoid mildew buildup.

My family uses Under Armour Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel bottles. The beauty of this bottle is many: it is stainless steel - no flavor leaks into the water. It is insulated so beverages stay cold. The flip top lid is simple and easy to clean and keep dry. We bought extra lids (about $4 each, including shipping) and we rotate the lids so they can be cleaned and allowed to dry out very well. If you get this bottle, email me and I'll give you the contact info for more lids. The process was a bit of a run-around at the beginning, so I can save you a few emails.

Other bottles to consider:

Klean Kanteen, they also sell insulated bottles and have a whole range of product. The lids are simple enough. They also have a bamboo cap version!

Glass water bottles from ReuseIt.com  They have tons and tons of reusable bottles and bags, etc.

You can also purchase a bottle sling - makes carrying the bottles, especially on walks, much easier.

In any case, go search and get yourself a bottle and, more importantly, USE IT!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

bag it

Americans use 100 BILLION plastic single-use grocery bags each year. That's about 12 MILLION plastic bags in ONE HOUR.

One reusable bag can replace about 1,000 grocery bags in its lifetime. If you haven't yet made the switch to reusable bags, here is where you start.

One might be tempted to switch to paper bags, since, well, it isn't plastic, but that is a whole other environmental nasty ballgame in itself. Never mind the trees that are used to make the bags, the energy and other resources needed to make them are just as evil, including cleaning and preparing the bags using more chemicals.

If you are squeamish about starting to accumulate reusable bags, consider that they pay for themselves in no time, as most grocers offer bag refunds whenever you use them.

If you keep forgetting to bring your bags, make a pact with yourself that if you forget them you will have to do without bags for the trip  - no taking plastic or paper because you messed up. It won't take more than a few times of your thoughtlessness to ensure that you will remember. Emptying your cart of goods into your car and then carrying them into your home will be just annoying enough that you will remember to bring your bags.

Most grocery stores now sell reusable bags made of plastic bottles (down-cycled) so you can start there, but consider buying your bags from companies that will take them back once they break or are no longer needed, to ensure that there is a positive end-life to your plastic. Or go with canvas bags.

And, mind you, the numbers above do not include other single-use plastic bags, such as produce, bread or the other tons of other stuff that are packaged in plastic bags and then tossed.

Get grocery tote bags from your grocer or try:

Reuse It - they also sell reusable produce bags.

Chico Bags - they also sell reusable produce bags.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

the impetus - part two

Why adopt a plastic-free lifestyle? Mostly for the same reasons you are vegan (or should be!) For the health of yourself, your family, the animals and your planet. Simple enough, right? While you should be doing your due diligence in researching this topic via well-known published books ( Plastic Free [Amazon] or Plastic: A Toxic Love Story [Amazon]) or videos (Bag It [Amazon] Plastic Planet [Amazon] Plastic Paradise [Amazon] and many more!) here are a few reasons to get you started.


Endocrine Disruptors, just to name one disturbing result/product that comes via eating/drinking from and, possibly, wearing plastics. Bisphenol A is something most of us have heard of by now, but it isn't the only endocrine disruptor in plastics. There are many more because of the way plastics are made to give them their specific characteristic nature such as flexibility and thickness. Endocrine disruptors are hormone altering chemicals. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Your Family.

See above.

The Animals.

In addition to the above, which also affects all the animals everywhere because of the  ubiquitousness of plastics, certain animals see plastic as food. Since it is not, they die. The albatross on Midway is just one tiny example.

Photo by Chris Jordan. Use with permission from US Fish and Wildlife and WilderUtopia.com

Your Planet.

Plastic doesn't just go away. It goes somewhere, and that somewhere is planet earth. I need not tell you that the earth is finite and because we are producing 300 million tons of plastic each year, and because the plastic hangs around for god knows how long, we are in a deep pile of plastic shit.

More plastic statistics you always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask.

Now that you know, do something.

Friday, July 22, 2016

introduction - the impetus

I am the author of three vegan cookbooks, mother to three children, guardian to three cats, and wife to one husband. Over the past year I have been contemplating, and even reducing and refusing, plastic in my life, and over the course of this time it has dawned on me how difficult it is to be vegan and plastic-free.

Take for instance our protein choices - tofu, seitan and beans. We can certainly purchase dry beans from the bulk section of our grocery store, but how many grocery stores sell gmo-free tofu that isn't packaged in plastic containers? Seitan we can purchase prepared - packaged in plastic - or make our own - using vital wheat gluten that comes packaged in plastic bags. I don't know about you, but I don't relish making my own gluten flour from bulk-purchased whole wheat flour.

Then there is nondairy milk, all packaged in cartons that are coated with plastic. Bread comes sliced and ready to eat out of plastic bags and nondairy cheese is more often than not packaged in plastic as well. Cans come lined with plastic, pasta is in plastic and even leafy greens are contained in plastic boxes, wrapped in plastic bags or bound with ties made of plastic.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Of course the list goes on and on, with relatively no relief in sight, but that's not what this blog is about, and admittedly the title is a bit misleading; I am not and have not gone plastic-free...yet. But that doesn't mean I won't try. And just like the journey to veganism, it can be an all at once, instant deal or a trek through many obstacles on the way to accomplishing as much as we possibly can. The goal isn't perfection, but to do the best we possibly can do; to aim and reach the limit of that possibility and then look beyond the horizon and do even more.