MOGO Blogroll: Fake Plastic Fish

Do you find yourself haunted by the amount of plastic in your life? Has it become a nemesis? Perhaps it’s the addiction you can’t shake, promising yourself that this is the last piece of Tupperware, that next time you’ll remember to bring your reusable bags to the store, that you’re really going to switch to refillable pens….

Recently I discovered a cool blog called Fake Plastic Fish.  The founder, Beth Terry, uses her blog to chronicle her efforts to stop buying new plastic and to educate and inspire others to reduce their own plastics use. In addition to plastics-related news stories and an ongoing tally and analysis of her plastics use, Terry also has a great list of the plastic-free changes she’s made. Last year she also led the “Take Back the Filter” campaign to convince Clorox (which owns Brita in the U.S.) to start recycling some of its water filter cartridges.

FPF also has a plethora of useful websites and other resources, and Terry uses really clear categories for tagging her posts. I also like that Terry shows an awareness of the impacts of plastics not just on people and the planet, but on animals, too.

The Big Green Purse blog recently did an interesting interview with Terry about her blog and about plastics.

I felt pretty proud of my plastics use…until I looked around FPF. It’s definitely a good tool to help me remember that I can always to more to do less with plastics.

~ Marsha

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MOGO Tip: Become Your Own Garbage Hauler for a Few Days

garbagebagsJust how much waste do we generate? The average American generates 760 kgs of garbage per person per year (4.6 pounds per person per day).

And this New York Times article from May 2008 reveals that “Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year, which is about 12 percent of the total waste stream.”

A lot of what we throw away is stuff we don’t really use (or need), or stuff that could be diverted elsewhere, whether reused, recycled, redirected (or refrained from using in the first place).

Challenge yourself for a day or a week: keep all your waste — everything that you would throw away, and store it somewhere, so that you can get a real sense of what your garbage footprint is. If you can’t keep it, then write down everything you toss and keep a list. Then look through your treasure of trash and notice what could be recycled, what could be reused, what could be redirected, and what you could have done without in the first place. Think about how you could have gotten what you needed without generating garbage. If you have kids, get them in on this little adventure; turn it into something fun.

Although I’m encouraging you to keep your waste for just a few days, one guy decided to keep all his garbage and recycling for a YEAR, to see how much would accumulate, and how well he could do at reducing his waste impact. Dave kept a blog of his efforts, cataloging all the waste he generated and how he dealt with it.

Dave now has a website, Sustainable Dave, with resources, tips and insights for reducing waste and living sustainably. Check it out for some tips to help you reduce your waste-print.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of fnavarro.

Rethinking Recycling

Planet in plastic bagOne of the habits we in the U.S. have frequently been proud of is our recycling. Lots of us do it. It’s often one of the first projects students adopt to green their schools. The 3 R’s of Reduce – Reuse – Recycle have become a fond and familiar refrain. We feel good that we can buy stuff and then send the packaging back to become something else, instead of ending up as trash. Tossing that bottle or can into the bin has become almost second nature — something we do without thinking. And Oregonians are especially proud of our bottle bill, which is undergoing some changes, so that people will be inspired to recycle even more.

Recycling as planet-saver is a great cultural myth, but it’s not the reality. The issue is much more complex.

In its Fall 2007 issue, Co-op America focuses on trash. An especially interesting article in this issue (though I think all their articles are terrific) is the one on “Following the Waste Stream.”

As the article mentions, glass and aluminum can be “perpetually” recycled and paper can be “downcycled” into lower grade products (until the fibers get too short to bind together). (Downcycling means recycling the material into a product of lesser quality.) Plastics are another story. Plastics can only be downcycled into something else once – and that’s only for certain plastics. And the thing that it’s downcycled into can’t be recycled or downcycled.

The article reports that most plastics can’t even be recycled, even though they carry that renowned symbol on the bottom. And even some plastics (and other recyclable materials) that get sent to recycling centers end up in landfills or incinerators. I learned from the article that plastic bags (though I try to avoid them as much as possible anyway), which are happily recycled by so many – are more likely than not shipped overseas, where they end up in incinerators and landfills (so our eco-friendly efforts are contributing to the pollution of other countries).

In No Impact Man’s post a couple months ago, he blogged about how recycling isn’t enough and shared a great video clip from a guy at Cornell University that demonstrates the difference in recycling and landfill rates for water bottles using…a torrent of water bottles. They make a really interesting sort of waterfall effect.

As Co-op America points out in their “Getting to Zero Waste” issue, and No Impact Man elucidates in his post of 42 ways to not make trash, certainly, recycling is important; but, the more important and essential goal is not creating trash in the first place. Zero waste.

How do you reduce waste in your life?

~ Marsha