Plastic Audit July

For Plastic Free July this year, I decided to take a hard look at my monthly consumption.

I saved all the plastic I used and then would need to discard during the month. I did not count long term use plastics that I was not throwing away at the time. I cleaned items that had food or drink in them so that they would not attract any crawling friends.

Unfortunately, what you will see below is not everything. I was not able to keep some plastic cups while at a few restaurants. So multiply the plastic cups by a few!

I want to preface that I did A LOT of traveling in July, so I tried my best to be prepared and bring my own snacks or drinks. When I did buy drinks while out, I tried to get things in glass or aluminum cans.

Sorting

I began the sorting by making 2 piles: locally recyclable and non-recyclables (or unknown).

Where I live, recyclable plastic includes numbers 1,2,5, and 7. It is important to do this research prior to tossing it in your bin. Wishful recycling, which is recycling an item with the hopes of it being recyclable or not knowing for sure, is unfortunately a hinderance to the recycling process. Read more here.

Now, within these piles, I sorted further into reusable items (that I actually have a plan for) and items TerraCycle will collect.

Here’s a rough breakdown of quantity and types of the plastics that landed in each category:

Reusable/Recyclable:

  • 2 take out containers
  • 1 bug keeping container (I have a pet bearded dragon!)
  • 1 square almond container – I like to poke holes in the bottle and use these with the lids as pots for plants
Almond container not pictured…it was being used to hold items below.

Recyclables:

  • 1 olive oil bottle
  • 1 juice bottle
  • 5 pill bottles
  • 1 camera packaging
  • 1 small portion cup
  • 8 to go cups and lids (add a few cups to this that I could not keep)

TerraCycle/Upcycle/Compostable?/Non-recyclable:

  • 1 colored party cup – will be cleaned and reused
  • 2 plastic forks – will be cleaned and reused
  • 30+ daily contact packs – I can TerraCycle these and the contacts, but I did not save those (I ran out of my monthly and had to switch to the daily ones I have as back ups)
  • 6 grocery store bags – I use these to line my small trash cans but can also recycle at my work (from takeout, drive through pharmacy, forgotten farmers market bags)
  • 1 World Centric compostable container – unfortunately, from the website, it says that this breaks down in a commercial composting system and is not recommended for home composting, which is the only thing I have access to right now
  • 8 clear plastic bags – I can recycle these at my work and also reuse them as I can for compost or food (from local granola, packaging for farmers market greens, few Ziploc bags from camera shipment)
  • 1 large non-clear Ziploc from medical powder – will use to freeze compost

Non-recyclable:

  • 6 pieces of medical waste and their packaging including Humira pens, an at home antibody test, and poor contact lens case
  • About 30 pieces of food packaging – including wrappers from candy, frozen burrito, tofu, flatbread, granola bars, chip bags, local tea, salad dressing, and local cheese
  • 3 miscellaneous bits from SD card reader and camera shipment

109 pieces of plastic later…

After going through my consumption, I am both proud and sad. No matter how hard I try to reduce and reuse, I will have some plastic waste. I cannot stop using plastic altogether because how else will I be able to administer my medication?

I have come to terms with that and prefer to focus on the hundreds of plastic waste I have been able to avoid. For example, you don’t see much plastic silverware in this pile. I try to bring my own straw and silverware when I get takeout!

There are easy steps we can take to reduce our personal plastic consumption through individual action, including:

  • Buy food and home items in paper, glass, or cardboard packaging.
  • Bring your own silverware, straw, cup, etc.
  • Use a reusable water bottle!

Ultimately, to make a large dent on our plastic problem, we need to hold companies accountable.

Some states like Oregon and Maine have already made some steps towards this “extended producer responsibility”, as you can read in this article from Grist.

Individual action can become a powerful movement.

#BreakFreeFromPlastic Movement provides pathways for our individual actions to come together and enact change. Not only do they have toolkits to assist with effective action, but this global movement is currently working towards getting support for plastic punting legislation.

Contact your local representatives using this form to ask for their support!

What will you do hold large companies responsible?

11 Steps to Create a Sustainable Apartment

I recently moved into my first apartment! It was unfurnished, so I had a blank canvas to create the space I wanted to live in. Following my own philosophy, I aimed to do this as sustainable as possible.

Here are some of the things that I focused on when furnishing and stocking my apartment!

*Sometimes I use affiliate links in my content. This won’t cost you anything and will not harm our mother earth. I just might get some funding to go toward filling my logbook and sharing more with you.

1. Used furniture

Probably one of the easiest things to find is used furniture. On the streets with a FREE sign, thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, your attic, or even a friend’s house.

One of my favorite pieces from Marketplace. The tea towel is from Goodwill!

I got most of my furniture from Facebook Marketplace, which would sometimes take me to places where I would find even more. I got quite a few things from a couple who I guess just resell stuff for fun in retirement? They have yard sales often and let me walk through their set up.

The Facebook Marketplace also directed me to antique stores, where I did find the most lovely refinished, robin egg blue dresser and buffet.

I also saved a lot of furniture from my college apartment, including the futon no one wanted (it’s a college couch…used for many years…need I say more?), a lamp, storage cubes, wire racks, pillows, and a comfy chair.

The only brand new things in this image are the TV, the rug, and the Biden sign.

To spruce things up a bit, I decided I wanted to put a navy cover on the futon. When I was looking at futon covers to buy, I realized I had a navy sheet from my extra long twin sheets set. Now, it does not fit on the ends perfectly, but it does fit well enough and the pillows on the end cover it up.

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2. Used kitchen and household items

Anything from silverware, dishes, pots, or even a drying rack!

From Facebook Marketplace, I got bundles from people who were moving or getting rid of a variety of different kitchen tools. This was incredibly cheap compared to buying new silverware, bowls, plates, and cups. I got things I never even thought I would need, like a peeler, bottle opener, and a can opener. I also got a rice cooker!

The used dishrack may seem odd, but why let a good one go to waste? I just cleaned it up, sanitized it, and it was good to go.

While perusing, I found collectible plates that matched a mug I bought at a Salvation Army while living in Florida this summer!!! What a find!!

At Goodwill, I picked up a spatula, a Pyrex measuring cup, and the most important tool: a pizza cutter.

If you buy new, try to get plastic free and reusable items, like food wraps, and bowl covers.

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3. Do It Yourself!

Or have a loved one do it themselves. My boyfriend found a metal stand and a thin, round piece of wood. He painted it white, put it together, and now I have a great kitchen table.

Chairs and rug are from Marketplace, table runner from Goodwill, and salt a pepper shakers are from my yard sale find!

One of my favorite decorations to make by upcycling are painted wine bottles.

I also have old t-shirts and fabric scraps that I haphazardly sewed together to make my own rags. No need for paper towels!

There’s so many things you can do yourself for your apartment!

4. Phase in different soaps and cleaning products

Disclaimer: use what you have first!

Let’s start with your personal hygiene. I use bar soap for hands and body, shampoo bars, and conditioner bars. There’s also refillable alternatives also if that is not your speed.

When it comes to doing dishes, there is bar soap for that also!

I recently started using dish soap that comes concentrated in a case of wax. You can compost the wax or even turn it into a candle.

For laundry, I am quite fortunate to have a family member that works at a natural food store with a robust bulk section (which if you have access to bulk, DO IT). I bring my own container and fill it with laundry detergent made by Better Life. I have also picked up the Tru Earth Laundry Strips to try.

Although I have never tried it, there are also options like a laundry bar!

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5. Wooden and upcycled cleaning tools

If you are buying any new cleaning tools, you can get wooden ones, like this toilet bowl brush and dish washing brush.

When it comes to cleaning nooks and crannies, old tooth brushes are great.

Be creative with your cleaning!

6. Shop local: local farms and farmers markets

Buying from local farms and vendors can cut down on your waste depending on the packaging, but in general it’s a good practice to buy locally sourced. It supports your local economy and reduces carbon footprint. Personally, I find that when I buy local, I am more connected to my food and where it is coming from.

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7. Compost (if possible!)

There are many ways to compost while in an apartment set up if you have a place to put it eventually or can put a system outdoors. I was considering a system like this countertop bin, but I still have not figured out my set up.

However, I have been freezing it in used plastic bags and taking it to my mom’s house when I have the chance.

You can also check if there’s a community garden or a local farm that will take it.

8. Reuse and repurpose containers

I keep all sorts of jars and containers for storing food, make up, all sorts of things! Be creative with this. I use an old jar to hold my tweezers and hair scissors. Even one as a toothbrush holder.

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9. Thrift and mend!

When moving to a new place, you might want to revamp your wardrobe.

Honestly, most of the clothes I get compliments on are second hand. I find such joy in sifting through racks of previously loved items to find the ones that speak to me. In this journey of reducing my clothing cycle, I have also held myself back from immediately buying new first. I try to find it used if I can. Buy from brands that practice sustainability if you are going to buy new.

I also have found that knowing how to mend your clothing or sew a button on is helpful. It gives more life to your favorite sweater or dress.

10. Sustainable toilet paper

You have probably seen these products among the toilet paper shortage. You can get recycled or bamboo toilet paper, packaged in paper! I ordered from Reel Paper and you can sign up for a subscription so you never go without it again.

11. Have a minimalist mindset

I decided to ditch the idea of having a microwave. My kitchen is TINY and it did not seem necessary after having an oven, stovetop, and toaster that also works as an air fryer.

By no means can I call myself a minimalist, but I try to adopt their philosophies.

These are just a few things to think about if you are moving!

There’s so much more to do. What ideas do you have?

Low-Waste Holiday Gift Guide

*Sometimes I use affiliate links in my content. This won’t cost you anything and will not harm our mother earth. I just might get some funding to go toward filling my logbook and sharing more with you.

I absolutely love giving gifts and bringing joy to others!

However, I do not love buying things that don’t follow my philosophy. Like the golden rule says, treat others the way you want to be treated. You should still give a gift they will enjoy, but you can still share your love of the environment at the same time.

Here are some ideas to give a gift they will love while loving our environment!

1. Give an experience

Memories last longer than most tangible items. Although during COVID times there are fewer options in the immediate future but there are still some options! I would rather have a nice dinner, go on a mini road trip, go to the beach, an online class for something fun, at home spa night, or even skydive maybe? There are endless options, just be creative!

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2. Buy small and local

Okay, this is not necessarily low-waste depending on what you buy. However, I believe that buying something crafted from your neighbor and supporting your local, small business economy is the next best thing. Typically, these items will also last longer, are higher quality, made with love, and can be low-waste! It also has to travel less distance and decreases carbon impact.

Love Etsy? You can search for items by shop location. Search for your item and in the left hand column, there will be an option to filter results by location. Just choose how close “local” is for you.

My favorite local gift to give is bar soap!

3. Donate to a charity

Nothing means more than giving to an organization or charity that someone cares about deeply. Giving in their honor is a great gift.

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4. Make something

I LOVE homemade gifts. The amount of care and love that go into them make me cherish them even more. I like to make cards that can be used as decoration as well. It’s great to also to upcycle! I enjoy painting old wine bottles. You can make something small or large. Even food! Make them a recipe in a jar.

5. Get them reusable and low impact essentials

There are many websites, such as Life Without Plastic, where you can get essentials like bamboo toothbrushes, razors, metal straws, travel bamboo cutlery, reusable tea bags, bowl covers, and bees wax wrap. These are great gifts because they support everyday life!

6. Thrift!

You can find some of the coolest things at the thrift store. Whether they love a nice flannel or antique lamps. There are so many previously loved and perfectly great items that will bring your friend joy.

Can’t go into the store? Goodwill has some online auctions!

7. Ask them what they might like

Although some love the element of surprise, you can find that in other ways. We used to make lists as kids for Santa…why not do it again? If someone wants something, then they will most likely keep it for awhile or use it a lot. This makes for a great gift that is not likely to get donated the next day.

8. Ask them what they don’t need

This year my mom and I told each other what we knew we did not need more of in our life. For example, she has a lot of lotion…because she often received it as a gift. Now, we would still absolutely love anything we got for each other and by no means is this a judgement of whether someone likes something or not. However, if you want to give a tangible gift that will not go to waste and will be useful for someone, I do not see anything wrong in asking what they already have in excess!

What other ideas do you have for gift giving this season?