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Rebecca

RE: cheese - you could buy cheese wrapped in wax paper and re-use the wax paper when you've eaten the cheese - a little more re-cycling there. At Surdyk's, they sell many cheeses wrapped in paper. You might have to convince your grocer to sell it to you that way (and it would require a cheese counter, not a place selling cheeses pre-cut, as they dry out too fast for a grocer to keep them on the shelf pre-cut without plastic).

I love this blog and your thoughts on this topic - it's great to see so many green ideas in one place.

Lisa

For food storage, I have found that glass mason jars (of all sizes) are great. Also, they don't get food stains like plastic.

Bexley

Of course, you'd have to verify that the wax in the wax paper was an organic wax, and not silicone based like in parchment paper. they do still sell whole cheese rounds which are dipped in wax, and that wax is likely organic.

That would be tough, though. Even things that you can get in glass bottles instead of plastic would likely still come with plastic caps. The metal lids on glass jars are usually coated on the inside with plastic. Many canned items have a plastic coating on the inside as well. And even if they don't, the glue that holds the label on is likely a thermoplastic. You'd pretty much be limited to the produce section. Some butchers still wrap with butcher paper. Of course, then they slap a price sticker on it, which probably made from plastic-coated paper and held on with a plastic based adhesive.

Dave

I recently read about all the plastic used for bottled water. I'll admit i was consuming a ton of bottled water and I decided to change. So now it's filtered water out of a glass at home, and a washable bottle at the club.

Sadly we have turned into a throw away society and plastic is our favorite container.

P.S. Enjoy the blog -- been reading it for a while.

ranty

It's pretty near impossible to entirely give up plastic in this culture, but you can definitely reduce your usage of it. All those baggies and tupperware that you have can be reused to the point of disintegration. Wash out the baggies (turning them inside out and standing them on end to dry) and see how long they last - I've had some for years! They're beat up and the plastic is a bit milky, but they still work well for light, dry goods like popcorn. :-)

Also, many co-ops will be happy to serve you up your bulk whatever in a bag you bring from home. So here's another way to reuse - especially ziplocks. (And if your bag isn't TOO beat up yet and has no holes, you can even bring it to Bill's Imports and get your feta on... in your own bag... with brine.)

Eda Cherry

It's true! It's very frustrating when you think of those things you mentioned -- the plastic on the inside of a metal lids, etc. It's great to see the new products coming out though. Especially the reusable tote bags beginning to hit the mainstream en force (i.e. Lund's, Byerly's and even designer versions).

I've started noticing more and more replicas of other plastic products, too! I found this ceramic cup, I Am Not A Paper Cup via, and great looking glass designs of plastic drinking water bottles (dammit all to hell, I can't for the life of me find a link to them! But they look great.)

And let's not forget reusable wearables. Although, again, let's hope all these items are packaged in earth-friendly materials too. With every plastic bag I refuse when I've purchased something, I'd like to think I'm doing my part to keep the planet tidy, even if it's not as creative as these other ideas. But really, I'd love to make my first million figuring out something to make from all the plastic that gets thrown away every day...

Alexis

Thanks guys, great ideas!

A search for "recycled plastic bags" yields all kinds of cool stuff on etsy.com, like purses, wallets, jewelry, belts:

http://www.etsy.com/search_results.php?search_query=recycled+plastic+bags&search_type=tag_title&order=&page=1

This YouTube video shows you how to fuse plastic bags together with an iron and make a messenger bag:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB1mE8e35UY

And I should add that the plastic grocery bag is a key piece of equipment used when making tortillas, so that might explain their heedless distribution at the mercados.

Dave

I'm less worried about it than some people. Plastic is made with stuff we pulled out of the ground, and when we are done with it, we put it back in the ground.

Most of your favorite vegan-friendly shoes would simply not exist without plastics technology, and you can make the argument that a lot less food is wasted due to spoilage thanks to plastic wraps, bags, and containers.

So while one should always applaud the effort to be more eco-friendly in your daily life, getting religious about eliminating plastic is not only difficult to sustain, but can even be counter-productive.

Maryanna

Thanks for the reminder.
Are horchata cartons recyclable in Minneapolis. For oil, shampoo and laundry soap, there's the bulk section in the coop: http://www.seward.coop/grocery.php

Bexley

Bulk shampoo? So thats why hippies stink.

rachael

There are a few pretty good blogs about trying to live plastic-free that really highlight how difficult/practically impossible it is. Fake Plastic Fish (http://fakeplasticfish.com/) is my favorite-- she's pretty hardcore and even then she still turns up with plastic waste each week.

Leigha

Another option for home, garden, grocery, pet clean-up use is BioBags - 100% biodegradable, 100% compostable "plastic" bags made from a cornstarch mixture (www.biobagusa.com).

I think Target made some gift cards out of that same material last holiday season - but who knows why they're not making them out of the same material ALL the time.

Tara

You bring up an interesting point with the vegetarian shoe issue. I've thought about it a lot in the last year or so since I'm also veggie and don't buy leather. Is it better to buy a few pair of leather shoes that will last a long time or buy non-leather shoes that tend to wear out and have to be replaced at a faster pace? It's between support an industry I am morally opposed to and creating more non-biodegradable waste. I haven't figured it out. Do you ever think about this?

Leigha

Plastic is made with stuff we pulled out of the ground, and when we are done with it, we put it back in the ground (AND) getting religious about eliminating plastic is not only difficult to sustain, but can even be counter-productive.

Um, are you serious? Wow. Just, wow.

Mpls Simpleton

Er...In Hennepin County your plastic doesn't go into the ground. It's sent to the HERC.

http://wwwa.co.hennepin.mn.us/portal/site/HCInternet/menuitem.3f94db53874f9b6f68ce1e10b1466498/?vgnextoid=aad2c95fa29fc010VgnVCM1000000f094689RCRD

Elizabeth

Filter your water at home (either with a pitcher or something on your faucet). Yes, there's still plastic, but much less than buying bottled water.

The problem with your water is probably due to the pipes in your building or connecting the building to the city's water supply, so it's not really Rybak's fault.

Alexis

Home water filtration cartridges (like Brita) are not reusable and are made from non-recyclable plastic; at least the 2-gallon water jugs I buy now can be recycled. But I'm going to look into a water cooler system (like Culligan) with the 5-gallon reusable bottles.

Mpls: Your link doesn't work and I'm not sure which HERC you're referring to.

Maryanna: The cartons aren't recyclable, either. I'm sure they have that plastic lining.

Thanks everyone else for the great blog and product links! Keep 'em coming.

Alexis

Sorry Tara, I missed your question the first time through.

Buying non-leather shoes falls into the category of unavoidable plastic for me. At least I know I'll have them for a really long time and will get good use out of them. I still have (and wear!) shoes I bought 10 years ago. Plastic shoes last a long time and even when I don't want them anymore, they're usually still in good enough shape to donate to someone else.

Tara

Alexis, I also continue to buy plastic shoes because I can't stand the thought of leather on my feet, but I sometimes wonder about the wisdom of this. For summer shoes, it's no problem because you're right, they last a long time. But my winter boots tend to get eaten up by the salt and what not and I end up replacing them pretty often. I guess it's a no-win situation, like so many things seem to be these days. BTW...awesome post! It's great to get people thinking about and discussing these types of issues.

Sarah Buckley

Every time I sell something I sell always ask do you need a bag??? Not because I want them to take one but for them to think do I really need another bag??? I also try to use a quality bag that I know can cart a lunch for a good year and if a client takes one I ask them to reuse it. I am such a dork I make suggestions as how to use them again. I have been bringing the same lunch bags back and forth for I think 5 years. Yet I still marvel about the amount of waste I create. I really try to keep it down.... can you imagine if you did not think about it how much you could create??? Scary!!!

sarah Buckley

Oh Alexis..... I love Premium Waters Located in our beautiful Ne Minneapolis on Broadway you can have them deliver 3-5 gallons of water in a reusable container. Uber Green they sell crocs to dispense water in, More of a cold water freak? they will rent you a cooler...which I do at the salon so if breaks they fix it!!!

Alexis

Oh hi Sarah, I was just thinking about you. When I wrote this blog entry, I realized that I'm out of conditioner. I'm stopping by the salon tomorrow!

Bexley

Plastic isn't "non-biodegradeable." It takes anywhere from centuries to millenia, sure, but it will eventually decompose.

Rich G.

Bexley -- technically not true. To biodegrade, a material needs to be broken down into component elements. In plastic's case, it gets broken down into smaller and smaller particles of the same material. Eventually, after a few centuries, you can't actually see the plastic, but the polymer is still hanging around in the water, the air, etc. And because it so readily soaks up pollutants, it can be an incredibly toxic mix.

That said, it takes less energy to recycle plastic bags than it does paper. So if you're responsible with your plastic bag usage, avoid them when you can and reuse them where you can't (recycling when you need to), there is a responsible way to use plastics. Unfortunately, plastics are overused in general because petroleum products have been cheaper than the alternatives for thirty plus years. Because the price of oil has spiked so high, we'll start seeing alternatives -- like Target's corn-based plastics -- in fairly short order.

Hanson

I went green like, oh I don't know two weeks or so ago, you know, using Seventh Generation soap, re-using my paper bags and dating live men and ditching the blow up dolls. No biggy, but I do my part.

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