Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pack Your (Plastic) Bags, We're Going On a Guilt Trip

This post is about plastic and a few easy ways that I've found to help reduce my consumption.

If you're familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch you'll understand that this planet doesn't need more plastic in its oceans and landfills. The GPGP is the largest of five major oceanic garbage patches and by some accounts is estimated at twice the size of Texas. That's larger than the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut  New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawai'i, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maine, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Louisiana.


Here's more perspective. Every single living human being on the planet, all 7,045,045,481 of us, would fit  on the GPGP and we each would have about 2,100 sqft of plastic gunk to ourselves. And lest we forget... there are four other major oceanic garbage patches.

Decomposed Albatross & Stomach Contents
Before I dismount Hoof Hearted (that's the name of my high-horse), the Midway Atoll in the Pacific ocean is home to the largest albatross population in the world. A recent study showed every single dead albatross on the atoll had plastic in their stomachs. All of them. In most cases, they contained more plastic than food. Dr. Seuss was quite the prognosticator when in 1972 he wrote of "crummies in their tummies." Sure, he was writing about the Brown Bar-ba-loots  frisking about in their bar-ba-loot suits and not albatross (or is it albatri?) frisking about in their albatross... floss..., but the important distinction here is that albatross exist. Currently. Aight, I've gotten way off track, but one final thing. If you have Netflix, I highly recommend the documentary Bag It. It's not all preachy and doomy, and it might give you some insight into the yin of plastic's yang. I've included the link, so half your work is done.

Edward Everett Hale wrote "I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything  but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."

Over the last 10 years I've tried to be a better steward for the earth. I've gotten so much better at being aware of what I purchase, what I throw away, what I reuse, etc.But it didn't happen overnight. I started out recycling a little and over the years have gradually found ways to improve how I use the resources, eliminate some of the things that I don't need, and purchase in a manner that uses fewer resources (eg. reuse our dish soap bottle by refilling it at a grocer that carries bulk soap, reuse produce bags, avoid packaging by buying from the bulk bins, etc). I'm a looooooooong way from being good at this. Ultimately I'd like to nearly eliminate single use plastic from my life, but because we live in a disposable society it will be very difficult to do so. And, I love Coke. I buy a bottle of it a couple times a month. I could stop buying it in plastic bottles but it's usually an impulse buy and they don't sell individual cans at the Quickimart, nor am I ready to eliminate that impulse. Perhaps someday.

Until then, here's the first of a few posts detailing some easy things I've made to help my wife and I justify my Coke addiction.

Indoor Herb Garden

My wife recently discovered a neat book called The Zero-Mile Diet. The essence of which is organically growing everything you need to eat year 'round. Beyond the fact that we greatly enjoy working in our garden and eating the fruits of our labor, one of the many things that we find so appealing about adhering to this type of life-style is trying to eliminate pre-packaged foods with single use plastic containers and wrappers from our lives.

We already grow some herbs in our garden, but we would like to have more herbs and have them year 'round, so we want to grow some herbs indoors. We are also motivated by the environmental impact most packaged herbs are burdened with. They typically come in single use plastic containers or bags which are often not recyclable.

Our House, In The Middle of Our Street
I've mentioned once or twice that we live in a very small house (which leaves us lots of room for a garden), so finding some space for an indoor herb garden was a challenge. It had to be near a window so it could get plenty of sunlight, but our house only has seven windows, and space beneath them is already occupied by things like The World's Greatest Cat Condo, other plants, the dinner table/pile of bills, the kitchen sink, the bed, a stairwell, etc. Then my brilliant, beautiful, creative wife "discovered" (as in Columbus "discovered" America, really she identified what was already there and then pointed it out to Europe me) a couple feet of unused space right in front of a window. Our kitchen cupboards extend all the way to the edge of the kitchen window but the sides of the cupboards were free to have something attached to them.

I bought a few screw clamps from Home Depot (with the gift certificate my brother and his wife gave me for my birthday), screwed them to an 11" piece of the cedar fence boards I got a steal on, with wood screws from our old screen door, and attached them to the side of the cupboards. Then insert a peanut butter jar, tightened the clamp, and voila! Indoor herb garden. Well, "voila!" once we planted the herbs. Anyway, took me all of 10 minutes and cost me a buck.


  1. Nice to be reminded of the enormous amount of waste our species creates. Truly sad. By the way I now have the Madness song "our house" stuck in my head. Thanks.

  2. Great post! Keep those ideas coming - we need all the help we can get to reduce the amount of plastic and other packaging going into landfills and our surroundings. Living next to the pacific ocean makes you realize what a real problem plastic (and fishing line) is for birds and aquatic animals.

  3. Wow. Chuck is a cheapskate to only give you a one dollar gift certificate