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