Sunday, September 13, 2009

Items collected during August 2009

  • 16 plastic bottles (1 Lemon-Lime Gatorade, 1 Tropicana Strawberry Orange, 1 Sprite, 1 Paul Masson VSOP brandy, 5 Deer Park water, 1 roadkilled Nestle Pure Life water, 1 Great Value water, 1 Safeway Refreshe water, 1 Kirkland spring water, 1 roadkilled Sam's Choice water, 1 water bottle without a label, 1 bottle of unknown contents without a label)
  • 7 aluminum cans (2 Heineken, 1 Coors Light, 1 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, 1 Hurricane High Gravity Lager, 1 Miller Lite, 1 Schlitz Red Bull Xtra Long Malt Liquor)
  • 5 glass bottles (1 Mistic Orange Carrot Juice Drink, 1 Sprite, 1 Heineken, 1 Budweiser, 1 Smirnoff Ice Malt Beverage)

  • 3 plastic carrier bags
  • 1 black pen

  • Lots! Individual items weren't logged. Included were many cigarette butts.

The "Great Value" brand is new to me. The label says it's bottled by Niagara Bottling and distributed by Wal-Mart.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Items collected during July 2009

I'm still avoiding bringing home other people's recyclables, out of concern I'll bring home H1N1 flu. Instead, I've spent quite a bit of time picking up non-recyclable trash, which seems preferable at this time because the bags of trash can be tossed straight into a trash can without having to enter my home. (Recyclables almost always need rinsing.) I didn't even attempt to keep a list of the trash I picked up during the month of July. I did note, however, that it included an unusual quantity of foam packaging, much of it broken into pieces.

When I picked up recyclable bottles and cans that didn't have visible contaminants, I sometimes threw them into a recycling bin at work without bringing them home for logging, so I can't provide a complete list of recyclables collected. However, the following list should be fairly complete.

  • 12 aluminum cans (1 Natural Light beer, 2 Diet Pepsi, 2 Heineken, 1 Miller Lite, 1 roadkilled Coors Light, 1 round Coors Light, 2 Miller High Life, 2 roadkilled Diet Coke)
  • 20 plastic water bottles (7 Deer Park, 2 Aquafina, 6 Kirkland, 1 water bottle without a label, 1 VASA, 2 Poland Spring, 1 Dasani)
  • 1 torn plastic bag

  • 2 black pens
  • 5 plastic carrier bags
  • 1 small plastic bag
  • 1 very long, very narrow plastic bag

One odd thing about the July tally is that it doesn't include any glass bottles. It's possible I picked some up and threw them in a recycling bin at work without logging them, but it's still odd that there would be such a discrepancy between the number of glass bottles and the number of aluminum cans. I can't explain it.

I have largely given up on picking up plastic bottles, because I find the environmental benefits of recycling plastic less clear than the benefits of recycling aluminum or glass. However, one day I felt compelled to pick up numerous plastic bottles. I was participating in a group walk for a cause I believe in, and was dismayed to find my fellow participants tossing their used water bottles onto the ground. I always find it disconcerting when people who are activists for one of the causes I believe in turn out not to care about one of my other causes, in this case the environment. I wanted to say something, but settled for whipping out a bag and filling it with discarded bottles. I wish I could also have collected the hundreds of bottles that were "properly" disposed of in overflowing trash cans, but I lacked the time and bag space to do anything about those. I'm already thinking ahead to the next walk, and am wondering how to raise the issue of plastic pollution with the organizers and participants. Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Buying Recycled-Content Products for Others

I've pretty much run out of ways to green my own life. I avoid packaging as much as practical, buy local foods at a farmer's market, buy paper products only when they are made of post-consumer recycled fiber, buy clothes only from yard sales, do not use a clothes drier, do not own a car, and never, ever travel by plane. There are several things I'm not yet doing, e.g., powering my home with solar energy and composting food scraps, but these are unfortunately not practical where I live at the moment.

Having reached a plateau in my efforts to green my own life, I've turned my attention to other people's lives. I don't mean that I harass people who drive hummers, or lecture friends whose toilet paper is made by Kimberly-Clark. That isn't my way. Instead, what I've been doing is helping people who want to live a green lifestyle but are constrained by their finances. In particular, I make bulk purchases of toilet paper, facial tissues, and office paper made of post-consumer recycled fiber, and give a portion of each purchase to eco-minded people of limited means who would otherwise be stuck buying whatever brand was cheapest.

This has proven very popular with environmentalists whose earnings are at the minimum wage level or below. They are happy to be able to live in accordance with their green values without going broke, and I'm happy to have a way of helping both my neighbors and the planet at the same time. So far, I'm giving supplies to only a handful of people, but I'm willing to give to more people if requested. I like knowing my money is doing some good for the environment, which is something I've lacked confidence in when donating to environmental groups.

I'm thinking about expanding the range of eco-friendly products I offer to people in need. One thing I'm uncertain about is what type of product brings the most benefit per dollar. I would welcome feedback from my readers. If you could spend $50 on eco-friendly products for low-income people, what would you buy? Organic produce? Rechargeable batteries and a battery charger? Other ideas? Keep in mind that these are low-income people, therefore renters, so they (like me) are unable to install solar water heaters or make other changes to their homes.

Driven crazy by blog software

I've been having a number of problems with blogging lately:

  • Blogger/Blogspot no longer shows me formatting buttons when I create blog entries. If I want to use bold text, bulleted lists, or any other formatting, I have to enter the HTML code myself. Another thing I can't do is preview my entries before posting them, which I used to be able to do.

  • I cannot find a way to make the URL for a blog entry anything other than the full title of the entry. For example, the blog entry titled "Hassle-Free Junk Mail Reduction" has the long URL "". I would like to be able to create shorter URLs, e.g., "". Is there any way to do this?

  • I am unable to leave comments on one of my favorite blogs, Awake Anew. The "Comment as:" drop-down menu doesn't display any items, and without an identity (not even "Anonymous") I can't leave a comment. I had the same problem at Fake Plastic Fish, another favorite green blog, but was able to get around it there by clicking on Preview, which seemingly made Blogger wake up and realize that I had to be allowed to enter an identity. This technique isn't working at Awake Anew. Danielle, if you're reading this, please know that I'm reading your blog, I just can't comment on it.

  • When I try to view pages at Fake Plastic Fish, my browser often displays the banner at the top and the advertisements at the side but doesn't show the actual text of the blog entry for ages. I've sometimes had to give up and shut down the computer because half an hour has passed, I've finished everything else I needed to do on the computer, and there's still no text visible. I've tried to get around this by using Yahoo's and Google's translation programs, hoping they would translate just the text and ignore the graphics, but, again, just saw lots of graphics and had to wait and wait for the text. Is there any web site out there where I can enter the URL of the page I would like to read and be shown only the text?

Please, no suggestions that I upgrade my computer. The last thing the planet needs is for me to buy more electronics. And, ironically, my computer works 100% perfectly for everything except blogging about environmental matters. I can access every other web page I want to read, including several blogs, just not the ones about the environment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hassle-Free Junk Mail Reduction

I receive much less junk mail than most people I know, probably because I'm diligent about contacting companies that send me unwanted mail and telling them to desist. However, it's a chore I dread, and lately I just haven't wanted to deal with phoning junk mailers.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to think of a way to help a man I know who is unemployed and has little to occupy his time. I wanted to get him a part-time job where I work, but the only vacancy involves contact with the public, and this man is completely unsuited to dealing with the public due to his disordered thinking and occasional delusional statements. We simply can't afford to have our office represented by someone who may blurt out inappropriate statements.

Although this man is unsuitable for making calls to companies his employer wants to do business with, it occurred to me that he would be perfectly capable of placing calls to companies an employer doesn't want anything to do with. After all, if he makes a bad impression, there's no harm done. So, I asked him if he would be interested in working for me occasionally, placing calls to companies that send me junk mail and asking them to stop. He readily agreed. I'm delighted with the outcome. It's great not having to phone the companies that send me unwanted catalogs or solicitations, and, as a bonus, I'm giving a little work to a man who would otherwise have none.

It would be interesting to calculate the environmental damage caused by junk mail. There are so many factors to consider, including the paper, the plastic windows in some envelopes, and the fuel used delivering the mail to its recipient then taking it away to a landfill or recycling center. Anyway, I'm just happy I'll now be getting a little less junk mail.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge

From June 8 until June 14, I participated in a modified version of the Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge, and recorded all the plastic trash I threw out. I couldn't comply with the requirement to take a photograph of my plastic trash at the end of the week, because there was no way I was going to ask the long-suffering people I live with to put up with Yet Another Pile of Trash. They already deal with two categories of trash that would go straight in the trash can in any normal household. In the living room, there's a mountain of Tetra Pak cartons that get saved until I visit a friend whose municipality accepts them for recycling, and in the bathroom, there are three large containers filled with plastic caps that are being saved indefinitely until they can be recycled. Aveda stores in certain other cities accept plastic caps for recycling, so I've been saving all the caps I've come across to take to Aveda when either the store in my city starts participating in the recycling program or someone I know visits a city where the recycling program is already active. Anyway, the point is that I didn't think it appropriate to announce that in addition to Tetra Pak cartons and bottle caps I would also be saving chocolate wrappers and other plastic trash.

Here's what I threw out:

Definitely not recyclable:

  • 2 paper sleeves with plastic lining from Weetabix breakfast cereal
  • 1 plastic bag from a different brand of cereal
  • 3 plastic wrappers from Fair Trade, organic chocolate
  • 1 bag of vegetarian burgers
  • 1 plastic clamshell containing blueberries (#6)
  • 3 bags of dried fruit
  • 1 plastic/cardboard container of dried fruit
  • 6 energy bar wrappers

Plastic portion probably not recyclable:

  • 2 aluminum cans
  • 4 Tetra Pak cartons


  • none

Total: 24

The instructions for the Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge said to include the recycling number at the bottom of each item, but only the blueberry container had a number. It's frustrating not having more information on what type of plastic is used. Each and every piece of plastic trash I threw out during the challenge week was packaging for food or beverages, and I'm astonished that there isn't a requirement that plastic in contact with food be labeled as to its type.

I wish I could say that recording my plastic trash for a week led to thoughts on how to reduce my consumption of plastic, but it didn't. There's no longer any store in the area that allows shoppers to bring their own containers for bulk foods, and I've got to eat something other than the potatoes, carrots and apples I buy at the farmer's market. I keep hoping that one of the local stores with bulk bins will abandon the ridiculous requirement that shoppers place bulk foods in plastic bags. I find it so ironic that Whole Foods, which brags about not offering plastic carrier bags at its check outs, still has rolls of plastic bags next to the bulk bins.

Items collected during June 2009

I'm still avoiding handling other people's trash, out of concern I'll bring home H1N1 flu. However, there have been times when I couldn't resist picking up recyclables or reusables, usually because they were within 10 feet of the river and I knew that picking them up was a now-or-never thing.


  • 4 glass bottles (1 Everfresh Grape Strawberry, 1 Elephant Malt Liquor, 1 Corona Extra, 1 S. Pellegrino mineral water)

  • 4 aluminum cans (1 Steel Reserve lager, 1 Yuengling lager, 1 roadkilled Diet Pepsi, 1 Heineken)

  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Dr Pepper, 1 Dasani water, 1 Strawberry Powerade Zero)


  • 1 trash bag

  • 1 plastic produce bag

  • 1 newspaper bag

  • 3 plastic carrier bags

  • 1 black Sharpie marker

The trash bag and produce bag had never been used, and were still folded tightly in the way plastic bags are only when they're brand new. I've never figured out why unused bags are so commonly found in the environment. It's especially hard to understand when it comes to bags like trash bags that actually cost money to the people who lose them.

Monday, May 25, 2009

No-Waste Festival Fun

A few days ago, I went to a festival where food and beverages abounded. I've been to the same festival in the past, and knew there would be endless paper plates, plastic forks, and plastic cups. This time, I came prepared! I brought my telescoping cup, which was a no brainer as I carry it pretty much everywhere during the summer. I was less sure what plate to bring, being daunted by the prospect of carrying home a dirty plate at the end of the day. Then, I realized that one of the carryout containers I take with me to restaurants for leftovers would be ideal. The lid meant I wouldn't have to worry about hygiene going to or from the festival, and, as a bonus, I could carry a metal spork inside the container. The container I used is similar to the one in this picture:

Everything went very well. I felt self conscious about my dish, surrounded as I was by people with paper plates. However, the only person who commented on my gear was positive about it. Having my own plate also benefited me right at the end of the festival, when I went to a food stand where there was still a lot of food available that wasn't being served because the stand had run out of plates. As the only nearby customer who still had possession of a plate, I was served a much greater portion of food than I would otherwise have been given.

I'm aware, of course, that there was disposable packaging "upstream" from me. This was brought home to me when a mouthful of food I ate turned out to have a strip of plastic wrap mixed in with it. However, I'm delighted finally to have found a convenient way to avoid paper plates and plastic forks at festivals. I love food-centric events, and anticipate bringing the carryout container and spork with me to numerous events.

Items collected during May 2009

I'm still avoiding picking up recyclables and reusables due to the presence of swine flu in my community. However, I've made a few exceptions:

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Tropicana Strawberry Melon Juice Drink, 1 Deer Park water)
  • 2 glass bottles (1 Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino Coffee Drink, 1 Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey)
  • 1 aluminum can (Bud Ice)
  • 1 instruction manual for a Nokia 6205 phone

  • 2 small plastic bags
  • 1 plastic carrier bag

  • 1 polystyrene cup with a plastic lid and straw (McDonald's)

Most of the items were picked up only because of special circumstances. The Tropicana bottle rolled up and down the bus I was riding for a good 10 minutes, finally reaching the steps and rolling off the bus when the doors opened to let me off. As the only passenger disembarking at that stop, I felt responsible for it. The glass Starbucks bottle was on the road directly in front of a parked car's wheel, and would likely have been smashed when the car was next used, causing a hazard to bicycle riders on that street. The small plastic bags were picked up while I was walking the dog and knew I would likely get to use the bags within minutes. The plastic carrier bag was picked up when I made an impromptu trip to the grocery store and, realizing I didn't have enough shopping bags with me, grabbed a bag from the sidewalk near the grocery store.

The whiskey bottle, beer can, water bottle, Nokia manual, and McDonald's cup were collected after being on the ground for so long that I concluded that any flu viruses clinging to them would have expired days or even weeks ago from exposure to the heat. I've started making a note of the other recyclables I pass so I can pick up those that have been lying around for a day or longer.

I wish the Nokia manual had been picked up by whoever owns the Nokia phone. The manual lay in the street for a long time, and I left it there until rain was imminent.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Recyclables collected Monday, April 27, 2009

  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park water, 1 Powerade Zero, 1 roadkilled Snapple Fruit Punch)
  • 1 plastic dry cleaning bag

The recyclables listed above are the last I will be collecting for a while. My community is one of those affected by the new flu virus, and there's a chance that some of the recyclables littering the neighborhood will be contaminated with the virus. The chance is very, very low, and if I lived alone, I would continue to pick up other people's discarded recyclables. However, I don't live alone. I live with my family in a home with a single bathroom, and the sink where I rinse recyclables is shared by everyone. I hope the flu panic will be over soon so I can return to picking up recyclables. There have been so many in the days since April 27.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Privacy Advocates Should Act Environmentally NOW

When I act environmentally, my concern is usually the welfare of people and animals. For example, I avoid wasting electricity because the electricity in my city is produced by burning coal, and the emissions from the power plant cause respiratory problems for vulnerable residents. Another example is collecting discarded plastic bags that may otherwise be ingested by animals living in the ocean.

However, another motivation is wishing to stave off the draconian government measures that will some day have to be implemented if people don't voluntarily act more environmentally. We are fast approaching a point at which national governments will enact laws to force citizens to pollute less, and I'm concerned with the form those laws will take.

One option already being discussed is the introduction of a carbon tax. There is also the potential for a plastic tax, pesticide tax, and so forth. Although these taxes have much to recommend them, they would have a disproportionate impact on poorer people. Think, for example, of the impact on a tax on electricity. For a poor family, this could mean being unable to use heating or air conditioning even in extreme weather. Meanwhile, a wealthy person like Al Gore could continue to air condition his mansion despite the tax. This clearly would not be fair.

A more just approach to stopping pollution would be rationing. Each person would have the right to cause a certain amount of carbon-equivalent pollution and could buy a certain quantity of plastic and pesticide per year. Rationing would affect everyone equally, regardless of income level.

If rationing was done through paper ration coupons, as was the case in the past, I would support it 100%. Unfortunately, it's extremely unlikely that paper coupons would be used, at least in industrialized countries. Instead, electronic cards similar to debit cards would be used. Such cards are already used for the United States' food stamps program and other government programs.

The implications for privacy are staggering. If there is a carbon tax, it will apply to every item transported by a gasoline-powered vehicle. (Items transported by electric vehicles will also be affected if the source of electricity is coal or natural gas.) The ration card will therefore be used for almost every purchase a person makes, from food to books to furnishings. Even with privacy measures in place, it is likely that, sooner or later, a subpoena or hacker will cause a person's expenditures to become public knowledge. Think back to Monica Lewinsky's book purchases, which became public knowledge because she paid with a credit card. If every purchase involves swiping a ration card, we could all find our reading lists made public.

I find this prospect very disturbing. Most of us will, at one time or another, purchase something we don't want the world to know about. It may be something indicative of a medical problem, like a package of adult diapers or a book on dealing with the aftereffects of prostate surgery. It may be something indicative of our religious beliefs, which we feel the need to keep from family members or employers. It may simply be something we're irrationally embarrassed to have "normal" people know we buy, such as a DVD of a TV show we're supposed to be too sophisticated to enjoy.

Rationing would address the pollution caused by products' manufacture and shipping to the point of sale, but would not address the problems caused by products being dumped illegally when they are no longer wanted. To deter illegal dumping, it's possible that many products will one day be sold with RFID chips embedded in them. This would be very effective at stopping the practice of people dumping fishing nets, refrigerators, mattresses, and other large items. Unfortunately, RFID chips, like electronic ration cards, would have serious privacy implications.

I want to preserve my right to buy and use products anonymously, and I want to see poor people able to afford necessities like heating. My faint hope is that if a critical mass of people voluntarily practice rationing of gasoline, electricity, plastic, pesticides, water, et cetera, we can stave off the introduction of laws that will either erode our privacy or impose undue hardship on the poor. Voluntarily adhering to environmental standards today is much more palatable to me than waiting for national governments to enact draconian environmental protection laws.

Items collected Saturday, April 25, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Budweiser, 1 roadkilled AriZona Green Tea)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park water, 1 Sprite)
  • 1 newspaper section

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

Recyclable collected Friday, April 24, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Powerade Mountain Berry Blast)

Recyclable collected Thursday, April 23, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Coca-Cola Zero)

Recyclables collected Tuesday, April 21, 2009

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Velicoff Vodka, 1 Lemon-Lime Gatorade G)
  • 1 glass bottle (Conundrum California white table wine)

I came across the wine bottle while on my way to a grocery store that sells wine, and was faced with a dilemma. Having a big wine bottle sticking out of my bag while I was in the store would have made me look like a shop lifter, but leaving the bottle where it was would have meant needing to backtrack to pick it up before going home with my groceries. The solution I hit on was to take the bottle to a small store just down the street from the grocery store. The cashier there is aware of my habit of picking up recyclables and thinks it's great, so I was confident he wouldn't mind holding onto the bottle for me while I did my shopping. Things turned out even better than I had planned when he said he had a load of recyclables of his own that he needed to take to the big bin at the back of the building and would take my bottle with his recyclables if I watched the store until he returned.

Items collected Monday, April 20, 2009

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Minute Maid orange juice, 1 Gatorade)
  • 1 aluminum can (Busch Light beer)

  • 1 small plastic bag

Trash collected Sunday, April 19, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle containing trash (bottle labeled Welch's Strawberry Mango Splash)

I should have pulled out the trash and put the bottle in the recycling bin, but I was in no mood to handle wet, disgusting trash with my bare hands.

Items collected Friday, April 17, 2009

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Lipton Green Tea, 1 Gatorade Rain)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

Recyclable collected Thursday, April 16, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (brown bottle without a label)

Recyclables collected Wednesday, April 15, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Odesse Vodka)
  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Big K Diet Cola, 1 roadkilled Miller Lite)

Items collected Monday, April 13, 2009

  • 1 thick newspaper section
  • 4 plastic bottles (1 Lipton Brisk Lemon Iced Tea, 1 Glaceau Orange-Orange Vitamin Water, 1 roadkilled bottle without a label, 1 Purex laundry detergent)
  • 1 glass bottle (Corona Extra)

  • 2 plastic bags
  • approximately half a cup of Purex laundry detergent

The laundry detergent bottle was broken, which is probably why it was abandoned by its previous owner. However, by carrying it with the broken end up, I was able to bring it home and pour the remaining detergent into an empty shampoo bottle. I detest the smell of Purex and won't use it myself, but a friend uses it so I'll give the detergent to him.

Recyclables collected April 8-10, 2009

I didn't get a chance to use the computer for several days, and left the recyclables I found those days in three neat little piles. Unfortunately, I ended up knocking them over, and can't say with certainty which recyclables were picked up which day. This is a compilation of all the recyclables picked up over the course of three days:

  • 2 aluminum cans (both Steel Reserve High Gravity Lager)
  • 8 plastic bottles (3 Dasani waters, 1 Aquafina water, 1 Deer Park water, 1 Camelot water, 1 Tropicana orange juice, 1 Tropicana apple juice)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recyclables collected Tuesday, April 7, 2009

  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Velicoff Vodka, 1 Tropicana Twister, 1 roadkilled bottle without a label)
  • 1 aluminum can (roadkilled Modelo especial beer)

Recyclables collected Monday, April 6, 2009

  • 1 aluminum can (Diet Coke)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Gatorade "G", 1 Glaceau Vitamin Water)
  • 1 glass bottle (Coca-Cola Classic)

I had heard that all Coca-Cola sold in the United States came in plastic bottles or aluminum cans, with glass bottles being used only in other countries, so I can't explain the existence of the glass bottle listed above. It was buried in mud and may have been on/in the ground for a long time, but surely not for years.

Recyclables collected Sunday, April 5, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Deer Park water)
  • 1 aluminum can (Bud Light)
  • 1 glass bottle (bottle labeled Nantucket Nectars Lemonade but used to hold beer)

Recyclable collected Saturday, April 4, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (caffeine free Diet Coke)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Items collected Thursday, April 2, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Pearson's Vodka)
  • 3 aluminum cans (2 Steel Reserve lager, 1 Canada Dry ginger ale)
  • 2 brown paper bags

  • 1 plastic carrier bag
  • 1 black pen

Recyclables collected Tuesday, March 31, 2009

  • 2 glass bottles (1 Stella Artois beer, 1 Best Mango Juice Drink)
  • 1 aluminum can (roadkilled Steel Reserve lager)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park water, 1 Crystal Ridge water)

The Best Mango Juice Drink was bottled in Egypt. I often marvel at just how many of the bottles and cans I pick up contained beverages from other continents. What's odd is that when it comes to foodstuffs, it's very difficult to obtain the foreign imports I crave. I'm a bit jealous of the people who are able to buy the imported products they enjoy. Of course, it would be better if all these products were made locally, of locally-grown ingredients.

The Crystal Ridge water is distributed by a company located in "Earth City," Missouri. I wonder how the city ended up with a name like that.

Items collected Monday, March 30, 2009

  • 4 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park water, 1 roadkilled Tropicana Juice Beverage, 2 bottles without labels)
  • 1 aluminum can (roadkilled Diet Coke)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag
  • 1 small plastic bag

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour tonight

Earth Hour is just a few hours away. I'm not at all convinced it will achieve anything, but will be doing my part by turning off all our lights and using a solar flashlight. If there were any Earth Hour parties nearby, I'd probably go to one, but my city doesn't have much planned for tonight.

What bothers me about Earth Hour is that so many of the buildings that will be darkened for an hour could be left darkened all night, every night, and yet continue to waste lots of electricity by being fully lit 364 nights per year. I'd like to see us move beyond symbolic gestures and start making permanent, meaningful changes.

Despite my reservations, I'm eager to participate in Earth Hour, because it's the first opportunity I've had for ages to act in conjunction with other environmentalists. It's nice to think about other people turning off their lights at the same time I do.

Reusable collected Friday, March 27, 2009

1 plastic carrier bag

Recyclable collected Thursday, March 26, 2009

  • 1 aluminum can (Steel Reserve lager)

In general, I try to avoid harming wildlife, even tiny critters like ants and spiders. I was therefore unsure what to do when I picked up the Steel Reserve can listed above and discovered that it was filled with spider web, a sign that it was likely inhabited by a spider. As an environmentalist, I felt obliged to take the can home for recycling, and as a protector of spiders, I felt obliged to put the can back down where I found it.

I settled for taking the can home, but making sure that the water I used to rinse it was plain, not soapy. (I rinse recyclables in water that has already been used for washing either hands or dishes.) The spider, still very much alive and kicking, ended up near the opening in the can, and was coaxed into a sealable plastic container similar to those I use for bulk foods. Spidey was then taken outside and left in an area with bushes similar to those the can had been resting under. I still feel a bit guilty for taking Spidey's home away, but hope that the bushes, fallen logs, and other vegetation he now has access to will prove to be an adequate substitute.

Recyclables collected Wednesday, March 25, 2009

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Tropicana orange juice, 1 Deer Park water)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Items collected Tuesday, March 24, 2009

  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Coca-Cola, 1 roadkilled Dasani water, 1 bottle without a label)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

Recyclables collected Monday, March 23, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Heineken)
  • 4 plastic bottles (1 Propel Fit Water Beverage, 1 Aquafina water, 1 roadkilled bottle without a label, 1 water bottle that has no label but which I'm almost certain is a Deer Park bottle with a child-proof cap)

The Heineken bottle was almost full, and was sealed shut with a cap that was thoroughly rusted. My first two attempts at removing the cap resulted in pieces of rust flying off while the cap itself remained in place. Eventually, the cap came off.

When I do monthly tallies of the recyclables I pick up, I separate out plain water from other beverages. In anticipation of having forgotten what Propel Water is by the time I tally this month's recyclables, I'm making a note here that Propel Water falls into the other beverage category. Propel has sucrose syrup as its second ingredient.

Recyclables collected Sunday, March 22, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Bacardi rum)
  • 1 plastic bottle (Minute Maid orange juice)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recyclable collected Saturday, March 21, 2009

  • 1 aluminum can (AriZona Kiwi Strawberry)

Items collected Friday, March 20, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Deer Park Eco-Shape water)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

The bag listed above is in pristine condition, and hasn't even been opened. I find quite a few bags in this condition and am always puzzled by how they end up on the street.

Recyclables collected Thursday, March 19, 2009

  • 3 aluminum cans (1 AriZona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey, 1 AriZona Iced Tea with Lemon Flavor, 1 Busch Light)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Recyclables collected Wednesday, March 18, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Heineken, 1 King Cobra premium malt liquor)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park Eco-Shape water, 1 Vault Red Blitz)

I'm happy to say that yesterday's St. Patrick's Day revelers do not appear to have littered. I didn't see even a single item of litter that could be traced to any of the numerous St. Patrick's Day parties that took place here.

Today was the first time I saw a bottle of Vault Red Blitz. It's a brand of soda made by the Coca-Cola Company.

Recyclables collected Tuesday, March 17, 2009

  • 3 aluminum cans (1 Heineken, 1 Budweiser, 1 Diet Sprite)
  • 1 plastic bottle (Gatorade Tiger Focus)

Items collected Monday, March 16, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Miller lager)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

Items collected Sunday, March 15, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Tecate beer, 1 extremely roadkilled Pabst Blue Ribbon beer)
  • 7 plastic bottles (1 Dr Pepper, 2 "spring!" brand spring water, 1 DrinkMore water, 1 Kirkland Signature spring water, 1 Glaceau Kiwi-Strawberry Vitamin water, 1 Smirnoff vodka)

  • 1 dead Sharpie marker
  • 1 opened, leaking pouch of energy goo

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Recyclables collected Friday, March 13, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Deer Park water)
  • 1 aluminum can (Natural Ice lager)

Items collected Thursday, March 12, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Miller High Life "The Champagne of Beers")
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Dasani water, 1 Safeway Refreshe water, 1 Gatorade)
  • 1 torn plastic bag
  • 1 Jack Chick comic book

  • 1 black pen

Recyclables collected Wednesday, March 11, 2009

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Classic Selection spring water, 1 Diet Pepsi)

Items collected Tuesday, March 10, 2009

  • 2 glass bottles (1 Heineken, 1 Smirnoff Ice Green Apple Bite malt beverage)
  • 2 aluminum cans (1 roadkilled Bud Light, 1 roadkilled Steel Reserve)
  • 4 plastic bottles (1 Mtn Dew, 1 Deer Park water, 1 Safeway Refreshe water, 1 roadkilled Sierra Mist)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag (dirty but can be reused as a trash bag)

"Mtn Dew" appears to be the new name of what was formerly called "Mountain Dew". I guess people today are supposed to be too stupid to spell "Mountain". Sigh.

Items collected Monday, March 9, 2009

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Nestle PureLife water, 1 Fresca soda)
  • 3 aluminum cans (1 Natural Light beer, 1 roadkilled Diet Coke, 1 round Diet Coke)
  • 1 roadkilled aluminum tray

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

  • 1 torn, dirty plastic carrier bag

I used to put more effort into scrubbing torn plastic bags so they could be recycled, but I've been short on time lately and have decided to throw in the trash any that it would take a great deal of effort to clean. Naturally, I feel guilty about this, but I just can't keep up with everything at the moment.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Items collected Saturday, March 7, 2009

  • several sheets of newspaper

  • 1 polystyrene clamshell container

The newspaper sheets all came from the Wall Street Journal, and the person who had been reading it did substantial underlining and notetaking in the "Biggest 1,000 Stocks" section. My fantasy is to be the kind of computer hacker who could find out who owns the underlined stocks so I could track the person down and give him or her a lecture on littering.

Until recently, I mostly ignored newspapers I saw on the street, reasoning that they were biodegradable. However, I realized that it made little sense to expend lots of effort on recycling paper I had used myself, sometimes carrying it for miles to drop it in a bin, while ignoring other people's abandoned papers.

Recyclables collected Friday, March 6, 2009

  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park water, 1 Gatorade A.M., 1 Raspberry-Apple Vitamin Water)

Recyclables collected Thursday, March 5, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Velicoff vodka)
  • 1 aluminum can ("Natural Light" beer)

Recyclables collected Wednesday, March 4, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Fox Lodge spring water)
  • 1 newspaper (minus a few very wet sheets that I threw in the trash)

Recyclables collected Saturday, February 28, 2009

  • many sheets of newspaper, equivalent to approximately one intact newspaper

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Items collected Friday, February 27, 2009

  • 5 plastic bottles (1 Vasa water, 1 Smirnoff Vodka, 1 Glaceau Vitamin Water, 1 Swiss Premium Lemonade, 1 roadkilled Deer Park water)
  • 1 aluminum can (roadkilled Bud Light)

  • 1 plastic produce bag
  • 1 plastic carrier bag

Items collected Thursday, February 26, 2009

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park water, 1 Poland Spring water)
  • 1 aluminum can (Miller Lite)

  • 1 Ensure bottle (plastic #5)
  • 1 M&M wrapper
  • 2 Special K bar wrappers

Items collected Wednesday, February 25, 2009

  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park Eco-Shape water, 1 Diet Pepsi, 1 plastic bottle without a label)

  • 1 polystyrene plate stuck in the entrance to a drain

Recyclables collected Tuesday, February 24, 2009

  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park water, 1 Nestea diet iced tea, 1 Lipton diet green tea)

Trash collected Monday, February 23, 2009

  • 1 piece of polystyrene

I don't know why I didn't come across any recyclable bottles or cans on Monday. I walked a long distance over streets that are usually strewn with recyclables, but there were no recyclables to be seen. All I picked up was a single piece of polystyrene. I almost didn't bother writing this blog entry, because a single piece of polystyrene is hardly significant, but, in the interest of maintaining a complete record of the trash I pick up, decided I should record my feeble trash collection effort of the day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Items collected Friday, February 20, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Everfresh Papaya)
  • 1 aluminum can (Diet Coke)
  • 6 plastic bottles (1 Dr Pepper, 1 Deer Park water, 1 Velicoff Vodka, 1 Kirkland spring water, 1 milk bottle, 1 crushed bottle without a label)
  • 1 plastic container from Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Mint Creams
  • 1 newspaper

  • 1 blue pen
  • 2 plastic carrier bags
  • 1 small plastic bag

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Falling off the low-plastic wagon

I haven't been doing very well lately with avoiding plastic. Some of the items giving me problems are:

Lip balm. The weather has been nasty, and I want real lip balm, not shea butter.

Breakfast cereal. I keep thinking I should switch to bulk oatmeal, but I don't always have access to a stove so the only type of oatmeal that really works for me is the "one minute" kind. I really should get around to looking into how regular oats get turned into minute oats. If it's something simple I could do at home, buying bulk oatmeal may be a good way to avoid bagged breakfast cereals.

Dishwashing gloves. My old pair became unusable some time ago, and since then I've been washing dishes with bare hands. It worked well until I washed dishes for three hours straight. The next morning, I discovered the skin on my hands peeling off in a most disgusting fashion. I bought new gloves later that day.

Shampoo. I usually wash my hair using bar soap, but whenever I have an important meeting I use bottled shampoo.

Clif bars. They're on sale this week. I'm only human and cannot resist!

Work items. I use disposable vinyl products at work and don't anticipate being able to avoid them any time soon. (On a more positive note, I'm proud to say that even though my job involves seemingly endless off-site meetings, I've never owned a car and have managed to get to each and every meeting by bus or on foot.)

I'll keep trying to avoid disposable plastic, but don't anticipate much progress in the near future.

Items collected Thursday, February 19, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Steel Reserve high gravity lager, 1 Bud Ice)
  • 4 plastic bottles (1 Fiji water, 1 Nestle Pure Life water, 1 blackberry grape SoBe Life Water, 1 Faygo Pineapple)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

  • 1 polystyrene plate

Recyclables collected Wednesday, February 18, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Diet Pepsi, 1 Miller Lite)
  • 4 plastic bottles (1 regular Deer Park water, 1 Deer Park Eco-Shape water, 1 Coca-Cola, 1 Mountain Dew Revolution)

Recyclables collected Tuesday, February 17, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Caffeine Free Diet Coke, 1 Budweiser)
  • 2 plastic bottles (both Deer Park water)
  • 2 glass bottles (1 Yuengling lager, 1 Richards Wild Irish Rose grape wine with citrus spirits)

Items collected Monday, February 16, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (both roadkilled Pepsi)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park water, 1 Diet Dr Pepper)
  • 1 glass bottle (Corona Extra)

  • 1 black pen

One of the Pepsi cans has "LIVE EARTH" printed on it. What irony.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Recyclables collected Friday, February 13, 2009

  • 6 aluminum cans (4 Tecate beer, 1 Miller Lite, 1 Coca-Cola)
  • 5 plastic bottles (1 Odesse Vodka, 3 Deer Park water, 1 plastic bottle without a label)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Items collected Thursday, February 12, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Budweiser)
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Clear Fruit Cherry Blast, 1 Deer Park Eco-Shape water, 1 Nestle Pure Life water)

  • 2 plastic bags

Items collected Wednesday, February 11, 2009

  • 1 aluminum can (Natural Ice lager)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Perrier water, 1 Safeway Refreshe water)

  • 1 intact plastic bag

  • 1 torn plastic bag too dirty to recycle

Reusable found Tuesday, February 10, 2009

  • 1 black pen

Recyclables collected Monday, February 9, 2009

  • 3 aluminum cans (1 Vintage Seltzer, 1 Bud Light, 1 Arizona Fruit Punch)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Fuze slenderize, 1 Canada Dry ginger ale)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Recyclable collected Friday, February 6, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Deer Park water)

Recyclables collected Thursday, February 5, 2009

  • 6 glass bottles (5 Corona Extra, 1 Sapporo Premium Beer "Japan's Oldest Brand")
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Dasani water, 1 Coca-Cola, 1 bottle without a label)
  • 1 torn plastic bag
  • the tear-off tops of two sets of newspaper bags

When I was approaching the end of my travels on Thursday, I thought about how short that day's recital would be. I hadn't found any bottles or cans at that point, only the remains of plastic bags. Then, right before I finished plodding through the cold, I came across 6 glass bottles on one block followed by 3 plastic bottles on the next.

Two of Thursday's plastic bottles were noteworthy for the unusual physical damage that had been done to them. The label-free plastic bottle was torn apart at both ends while the middle was left intact. The tearing looks intentional, yet I can't think of any motivation except perhaps for a display of manly strength. The Dasani bottle is even more perplexing, because it's in perfect shape except for three holes with smooth, flat edges. Could the plastic have been melted away somehow? Why on earth would anyone do that to their water bottle?

Another little mystery I can't get out of my mind is why my current neighborhood is the only one I've ever lived in that is frequently littered with the tops of sets of newspaper bags, even though I've always lived in places with high rates of home newspaper delivery. Until I moved here, I wasn't even aware that newspaper bags had tear-off top sections that were stapled together. I always knew that newspapers were delivered inside plastic bags, but I never gave any thought to how the bags were bundled together before being used by the people who deliver newspapers. Then, I came here, and soon came across the stapled-together tops of the bags, often with several complete bags still attached. Until very recently, I threw the bag tops straight into the nearest trash can, but now they're recyclable where a friend lives so I can take them to her house for recycling. Anyway, although I can understand newspaper delivery people being litterbugs, I find it odd that I never came across these bag tops before moving here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Items collected Wednesday, February 4, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Heineken)
  • 1 aluminum can (Arizona Green Tea)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Dasani water, 1 water bottle without a label)

  • 1 plastic bag

Items collected Tuesday, February 3, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Corona Extra)
  • 1 aluminum can (Miller Lite)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Tropicana pink lemonade, 1 water bottle without a label)

  • 1 black pen

  • 2 dirty plastic bags

The plastic bags had a tar-like substance on them that wouldn't rinse off in plain water. I could still have used the bags as trash bags, but they smelled bad and I didn't want to keep them around until I needed a new trash bag so I threw them out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Items collected Monday, February 2, 2009

  • 3 glass bottles (2 Corona Extra beer, 1 Amstel Light lager)
  • 1 aluminum can (Steel Reserve high gravity lager)
  • 1 plastic bottle without a label
  • 1 brown paper bag

  • 2 small plastic bags (1 from a liquor store, 1 from the 7-Eleven bakery)

  • 1 plastic straw from inside the Steel Reserve can

Recyclable collected Saturday, January 31, 2009

  • 1 plastic bottle (Classic Selection spring water)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Items collected Friday, January 30, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Heineken)
  • 1 aluminum can (Budweiser)
  • 1 plastic bottle (Seagram's Ginger Ale)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

The plastic bag has the name of the state lottery printed on it. If the government ever proposes banning or taxing plastic bags, I wonder if the lottery board will object on the grounds that plastic bags are part of its advertising efforts. I've always found the lottery's role in government bizarre. The idea that we must have a lottery in order to balance the budget has never made sense to me.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An update on my New Year's resolutions and other efforts to be greener

I've been doing fairly well with most of my environmental New Year's resolutions. The most successful has been the one that says I will aim to eat at least one potato each day. There have been only a few days when I didn't eat any potatoes. Eating lots of potatoes has enabled me to reduce the amount of plastic-wrapped bread and pasta I eat, which I'm pleased about. I've also done fairly well with reducing elevator trips and writing more letters. The only abysmal failure has been the resolution to wake up earlier.

I'm also trying to green my life in other ways, with mixed results. A major sticking point is packaging. I'm doing well at buying produce and snacks without packaging, but products like soymilk are available only in packaged form. I've been using packaging-free or low-packaging body care products, but am not at all satisfied with them and am ready to give up and return to bottled shampoo and Merry Hempsters lip balm.

One thing that frustrates me is that even when shopping at the eco goods store, most of the products I see don't seem very eco-friendly to me. Take To-Go Ware, for example. I fully understand why people whose concern is their own health will choose to buy stainless steel food storage containers. There's a lot of concern about chemicals in plastic containers leaching into food, and if a person's priority is his or her own health, To-Go Ware's containers are an excellent idea. But, as an environmentalist, I can't just do what's best for me. I need to think about the impact on other people and animals, and for them it's much better if I keep using the plastic containers that are already in my kitchen. Buying stainless steel containers means minerals being mined, processed, and transported, which is bad for the environment! Even if my home was destroyed and I needed to start over, it'd be better for the environment to get a bunch of used plastic containers through Freecycle than to order a set of brand new To-Go Ware containers.

What I desperately want access to is a store that sells bulk liquid shampoo, bulk peanut butter, bulk jelly, loose carrots, unwrapped sliced bread, and so forth. I marvel when I read about the things some plastic-free bloggers are able to buy without packaging from the stores in their cities and wonder why my city, which is progressive in other ways, is so far behind.

I'm not much of an organizer, but am toying with the idea of starting a small co-op that would stock only bulk items. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of people here who are as frustrated as I am by the limited choices for plastic-free and packaging-free shopping. I expect it would take a lot of time and money to run a co-op, so I don't want to rush into it, but it's something to consider. Alternatively, if I could get a group of people to put pressure on the stores with the limited bulk offerings, that might achieve better results than I can achieve on my own.

Right now, however, I need to act on my resolution to wake up earlier each morning by getting some shut-eye. I don't think I'll ever find it natural to go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up with the sun, but I'll at least give it a try.

Recyclables collected Thursday, January 29, 2009

  • 1 aluminum can (Pepsi)
  • 1 glass bottle (Miller Lite)
  • 1 plastic bottle (Classic Selection Spring Water)

Items collected Monday, January 26, 2009

  • 3 glass bottles (1 Heineken, 1 George Killian's Irish Red premium lager, 1 Snapple Green Tea)
  • 1 aluminum can (Canada Dry ginger ale)
  • 4 plastic bottles (1 G2 electrolyte beverage, 1 "365" brand spring water, 1 water bottle without a label, 1 bottle of unknown contents without a label)

  • 2 plastic carrier bags

The water bottle without a label was more than half full of solid ice. Carrying it around for hours was not fun.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Recyclables collected Friday, January 23, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Sprite, 1 Arizona Lemon Tea)
  • 1 plastic bottle (Mountain Dew Voltage)

Recyclables collected Thursday, January 22, 2009

  • 3 aluminum cans (1 Coors Light, 1 Milwaukee's Best Ice, 1 foot-squashed Sparks malt beverage)
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Pepsi, 1 Deer Park Eco-Shape water, 1 Giant Acadia water)

Items collected Wednesday, January 21, 2009

  • 3 aluminum cans (1 Pepsi, 1 roadkilled Coors Light, 1 roadkilled Natural Light)
  • 4 plastic bottles (1 Pepsi, 1 Deer Park water, 1 Crystal Geyser water, 1 bottle without a label)

  • 1 small plastic bag from Subway
  • 1 plastic carrier bag

  • Assorted empty food packages inside the Subway bag listed above

The Crystal Geyser bottle was half full of ice, and it was a challenge to carry it without becoming chilled. Even after I put it in a bag, it made my leg cold.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Items collected Tuesday, January 20, 2009

  • 4 aluminum cans (2 Keystone Light beer, 1 Bud Light, 1 Diet Pepsi)
  • 4 plastic bottles (1 Vasa water, 1 Deer Park water, 1 Gatorade Cool Blue, 1 Tropicana Cranberry)

  • 2 ziploc bags

  • 1 plastic straw

One of the aluminum cans had had a cigarette butt placed in it and then been partially squashed. The squashing resulted in the beer-soaked cigarette butt becoming stuck in the can, and I couldn't shake it out when I poured out the beer that remained in the can. I looked around for something to dislodge the cigarette butt, and found a plastic straw a few feet away. Using the straw, I was able to get a large piece of butt out of the can, but there were still shredded pieces left inside the can stinking it up. It was pretty disgusting. Looking on the bright side, if there hadn't been a cigarette butt for me to remove, I wouldn't have picked up the straw and it would have remained on the ground.

Happy Inauguration Day to everyone in the United States!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Items collected Monday, January 19, 2009

  • 3 aluminum cans (1 Arizona green tea, 1 Keystone Light beer, 1 Sprite)
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Safeway Refreshe water, 1 Vasa water, 1 Coca-Cola)
  • 1 glass bottle (Heineken)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

I saw other people out picking up trash today, which was wonderful. I think they were doing it as part of a special event organized in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Items collected Friday, January 16, 2009

  • 2 ziplock bags

I have no idea why there were so many ziplock bags abandoned in the neighborhood this week. They were all intact and relatively clean.

Items collected Thursday, January 15, 2009

  • 1 aluminum can (Arizona Rx Energy Herbal Tonic)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Zelko vodka, 1 private label water bottle)
  • 1 cardboard wrapper from Trident Splash Orange Swirl gum

Items collected Wednesday, January 14, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Heineken)
  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Tecate beer, 1 roadkilled Sparks malt beverage)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Lipton Brisk iced tea, 1 roadkilled Pepsi)
  • 1 torn plastic bag

  • 2 ziplock bags

Items collected Tuesday, January 13, 2009

  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Seagram's Ginger Ale, 1 7Up)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag
  • 1 small ziplock bag

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Items collected Monday, January 12, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Bud Light, 1 Heineken)
  • 1 glass bottle (Yuengling lager)
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Mountain Dew Voltage, 1 Aquafina water, 1 bottle with the label removed)

  • 2 plastic carrier bags

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tally of items collected in December 2008


  • 33.5 aluminum cans (31.5 alcoholic, 2 Diet Coke)
  • 16 glass bottles (12 alcoholic, 1 without a label but believed to be a beer bottle, 3 non-alcoholic)
  • 62 plastic bottles (32 plain water, 2 former water bottles repurposed for holding other beverages, 16 other non-alcoholic beverages, 4 alcoholic, 8 unknown)
  • 3 torn plastic bags
  • 1 brown paper bag
  • 2 newspaper sections


  • 12 plastic carrier bags
  • 12 small plastic bags of a size suitable for dog waste (number includes a plastic sleeve I knotted at one end to turn it into a bag)
  • 1 coat hanger
  • 3 black pens
  • 1 blue pen


  • 1 set of 6-pack rings from around Coors Light cans
  • 1 plastic carrier bag so filthy I threw it in the nearest trash can
  • 1 plastic bottle lacking a recycling symbol and resin type
  • 2 torn plastic bags without resin numbers
  • 1 dead pen

Friday, January 9, 2009

Items found Friday, January 9, 2009

  • 2 aluminum cans (1 Sparks Plus malt beverage, 1 roadkilled Bud Light)
  • 1 glass bottle (Smirnoff Ice malt beverage)
  • 1 plastic bottle (Sierra Mist lemon-lime soda)

  • 1 black pen

  • plastic 6-pack rings

Items found Thursday, January 8, 2009

  • 2 glass bottles (both Corona extra)
  • 2 plastic bottles (both Pepsi)
  • 1 aluminum can (Pepsi)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

I don't usually pick up aluminum cans that contained sugary beverages, because they're often occupied by ants. However, I felt safe picking up Thursday's Pepsi can because it was so cold that I doubted any ants would be active.

Recyclables found Wednesday, January 7, 2009

  • 3 glass bottles (1 Jack Daniel's whiskey, 2 Very Special E&J Brandy)
  • 3 aluminum cans (1 Red Bull malt liquor, 1 roadkilled Heineken, 1 roadkilled Bud Ice)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Recyclable found Tuesday, January 6, 2009

  • 1 aluminum can (roadkilled Coors Light)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Items found Monday, January 5, 2009

  • 2 glass bottles (1 Miller Lite, 1 Miller Genuine Draft lager)
  • 4 aluminum cans (1 Heineken, 1 Natural Light, 2 Diet Cokes including 1 roadkilled)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Dasani water, 1 Nikolai vodka)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag
  • 1 tube of vulcanizing fluid (stuff used to attach patches to bicycle tubes)

  • 1 small plastic bag with a hole in it

Letter to Amy's Kitchen

Here's my final letter about cardboard packaging.

My family recently resolved to buy boxed food products only if the boxes are made of post-consumer recycled paperboard. This resolution led to dismay when one of us pulled an Amy's meal out of the freezer and discovered that although the box has "CARTON IS RECYCLABLE" printed on it, there's no mention of it being made of recycled materials. Also, the cardboard tray the food sits in is not marked as being made of recycled materials. I realize it can take time between when changes are made to a product and when new packaging is designed to reflect those changes, and am hoping that the boxes used today are, in fact, made of post-consumer recycled material. Could you please tell me whether this is the case? My family is very much hoping the answer is "yes" so we don't have to stop eating Amy's meals when the current supply runs out.

I expect I'll hear from blog readers that I should be cooking whole foods at home, not buying TV dinners. Please keep in mind that my family isn't yet willing to give up some of the products I've given up myself. Personally, I consider Amy's meals to be an unnecessary extravagance, but I cringe at the thought of them not being in the freezer any more because they're better for human health than many of the meals that would otherwise be consumed by family members. If Amy's packaging isn't made of recycled materials, I need to find a more eco-friendly brand of TV dinners ASAP!

Letter to Weetabix

Here's another letter about cardboard packaging.

I was pleased to see that Weetabix comes in boxes made of recycled cardboard, and was especially pleased to see that 50% of the cardboard was recycled post-consumer. I've been trying to change my diet so that I buy boxed foods only if the boxes are made of recycled materials, and it's proving to be quite a challenge. Seeing that Weetabix's boxes were made of recycled cardboard was a factor in me deciding to switch to Weetabix from my previous breakfast cereal.

I have a couple of questions for you about the paper sleeves Weetabix are packaged in within the cardboard boxes:
1. Are the paper sleeves made of recycled paper?
2. What does the shiny inner coating consist of?

I look forward to reading your reply.

I really hope I get a reply about the shiny inner coating of the paper sleeves, because the answer will determine whether the sleeves are compostable. I'm not actually composting at the moment, but hope to start soon.

Letter to Turtle Island, makers of Tofurky

In keeping with my resolution to write more letters telling manufacturers why I've switched to or away from their products, I sent e-mail to Turtle Island earlier about the packaging Tofurky slices come in.

I was pleased to see that Tofurky slices come in boxes marked "100% Recycled Paperboard". I've been trying to change my diet so that I buy boxed foods only if the boxes are made of recycled materials, and it's proving to be quite a challenge. Ideally, I'd like to buy products packaged in materials that were recycled post-consumer, so could you please tell me what percentage of the paperboard in your boxes is post-consumer recycled?

I'd also appreciate information on the plastic used for the inner packaging. What type of plastic is it?

I look forward to reading your reply.

Recyclables found Saturday, January 3, 2009

  • 1 aluminum can (Diet Coke)
  • 1 plastic bottle (private label bottled water)

In the past, I've always named the brands of the recyclable bottles I've collected, and for the sake of consistency I should name the business whose label was on the water bottle I found on Saturday. However, it's a local company, and giving the name of the company would reveal my location. I really, really don't want future employers, or even the people I work with at present, to know the extent to which I'm an environmentalist, so I'm withholding the water's brand name. Otherwise, someone, some day, will put my location together with other personal details revealed in this blog and figure out that nice, normal "Pat Smith" (not my real name, obviously) is the weirdo Cousin Yellowstone who goes around picking up bottles of urine and other revolting trash.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Letter to the Coca-Cola Company

Several months ago, I stopped habitually consuming soda, and now drink it only on special occasions. My family, on the other hand, guzzles at least one case of soda each week, usually more. Although I gently encourage moderation or outright quitting, I don't anticipate my family becoming soda-free any time soon. What family members are willing to do right now is switch brands, if a different brand is more eco-friendly and tastes just as good.

One of our concerns is whether the cardboard cases that cans of soda are sold in are made of recycled fiber. All the varieties of soda currently consumed by family members are made by the Coca-Cola company, so I just sent the following inquiry to the Coca-Cola company.

My family currently consumes a lot of beverages made by the Coca-Cola company, but we're tree huggers and have become concerned about the environmental impact of the cardboard cases our cans of soda are packaged in. We've resolved to buy soda only if it comes in cases made of post-consumer recycled fiber. I've looked on cases of the Coke products we drink but don't see any information on recycled content. Could you please let me know whether the cardboard cases you use are made of post-consumer recycled fiber?

If I receive a response, I'll post it here.

By the way, Grist magazine has a good article on the environmental impact of soda, but it doesn't mention the cardboard cases that soda comes in.

Update: I received a response from Coca-Cola. The news isn't good. Here's what a Coca-Cola representative had to say:

Date: Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 2:02 PM
From: Coca-Cola Support
Reply-To: Coca-Cola Support

Thank you for your recent email message, Mr. Yellowstone. We appreciate this opportunity to respond.

We're pleased to let you know that our cartons do contain at least 15 percent recycled material. Furthermore, these cartons are recyclable.

We hope this information is helpful. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

Industry and Consumer Affairs
The Coca-Cola Company

I sent this in reply:


Thank you for the information on recycled content in Coca-Cola's cartons. My family was very disappointed to learn that the cartons aren't made of 100% recycled material. The idea of trees being cut down to make cartons for our cans of soda is disturbing to us. As much as we love soda, we've decided to stop buying it until the cartons are made of 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard.

I hope you won't mind if I check back with you from time to time to see if the percentage of recycled material has increased. Everyone in my family is a fan of either Coke or Diet Coke, so we would welcome news of our favorite beverages being packaged in cartons that are less harmful to the planet.

Yours truly,
Cousin Yellowstone

Now, of course, we have to follow through and ration our remaining soda, because I'm not going out and buying more. This is going to be hard, really hard, for at least one family member.

Items found Friday, January 2, 2009

  • 1 glass bottle (Everfresh Premium Papaya)
  • 2 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park Eco-Shape water, 1 Vasa water)

  • 1 plastic carrier bag

The Vasa bottle has the words "DO NOT REUSE" printed on the label. I've never understood the concept of a bottle that's safe to use after it's been sitting on a supermarket shelf for weeks, yet unsafe to reuse even a single time.

Item found Thursday, January 1, 2009

  • 1 plastic carrier bag