Reconnaissance January 29, 2010

I found this image on the web. It is in India. I am wondering if these signs might be a good idea on the NC coast.


This week I have been traveling to Raleigh early each morning to work at Raleigh Charter High School.  On the way home, I have stopped at stores to look for food without plastic around it.  ALDI’S where stuff is cheap and you have to pay 25 cents to use a shopping cart was a complete bust.  I bought an avocado and some very bad ice cream.  Trader Joe’s was not much better.  There were some apples and eggplant and bananas with out plastic coverings  and I was able to find a good deal on some maple syrup in a glass bottle.  Also, the young man who I asked about chocolate not wrapped in plastic was way helpful.  He found me some Swiss chocolate wrapped in paper and aluminum foil down on a bottom shelf somewhere.

What is becoming very clear is that my year without disposable plastic will be possible mostly because I live in a town with a very good year round farmers market and a Whole Foods and the wonderful Weaver St. Market

Weaver St. is a co-op with 3 stores in my area within driving distance.

Mostly, I will be eating locally–before the plastic wrap gets on the food.  Thank you Barbara Kingslover for your excellent model.   If you have not read her book, ANIMAL,VEGETABLE, Miracle, then I would say, drop what you are doing and read it now.  She chronicles her family eating local food for one year…

When people ask me how I am doing in my year attempting to get rid of disposable plastic in my life, I tell them “grumpy, but determined.”

Last spring I was in Elizabeth City, NC driving back and forth each day for a residency at Currituck High School on the outer banks of NC.  Each day I enjoyed views over esturaries and marshes and sometimes glimpses of our beautiful Atlantic ocean.  One afternoon, I was standing in the middle of a huge box store which seemed recently planted in the center of a marshy green field.  I was in search of sewing needles.  As I stood in the middle looking right and left and up and down through plastic lawn chairs, Styrofoam coolers, and much more, looking for the correct isle, I thought to myself, “this store, most of it, in fact almost all of it, is not biodegradable.  The stuff we buy here will not decompose.  The chairs will crack and break, the dishes will fade and get lost, the clothes will end up in bales of polyester sent to a 3rd world country –the packaging around most of the toys, tools and food will get tossed in an instant, and if we are lucky, all we can hope is that all this plastic will end up buried in a landfill, and not floating in an ocean somewhere. “

Later in the week, I stopped at a small park to  walk out onto a wooden pier .  I had seen people fishing here every time I passed and it looked like a great place to view a sunset.  So I parked in the small gravel access area and walked out to the end, past cypress roots entwined with Styrofoam cups and beer cans and shredded plastic bags.  The big view was of sky and water; the close up one was of us and our thoughtlessness.

This fall I was back on the coast in Manteo NC for another residency.  Since the spring, North Carolina has passed an ordinance disallowing stores to give plastic bags to customers on the barrier islands.  Yes, there is a Walmart in Kitty Hawk, NC that gives you paper bags instead of plastic.

This is a small answer to a huge problem, a tiny step.

Perhaps,this week, you have heard the news about Bisphenol-A, a toxin in all most all plastic we are using to cover our food in the United States.  Yikes–Europe outlawed this stuff long ago.  How have we allowed this to happen here ?   My friend Barbara, a wonderful nutritionist who works for my local Whole Foods, sent me this link about what they are doing to monitor and change this. Here it is if you are interested.

Okay–here is the good news.  My friend Rebecca Currie (don’t miss her blog–Less is Enough) is stil working on helping me find a way to make my own dish detergent, and I have found a local source of toilet paper which is not  wrapped in plastic–Brame office supply!  It is nearby and I can buy toilet paper for 65 cents per roll–no plastic anywhere near!. This weekend, I AM FINALLY GOING TO MAKE ME OWN YOUGURT!  Soon, I hope to have a few good recipes for you.

On the way to the Coast, right after Christmas, 2009--plastic in the water all the time everywhere.

auntieintellectual January 29th, 2010

If you were at RCHS then you were just a muffin’s throw away from the (future?) home of Escazu, source of locally made chocolate bars packaged in paper and (I believe) a non-plastic inner wrapper. You could just buy the more expensive truffles, but the bars are $4 and a fabulous treat.

What do you use for produce bags?

Bryant January 29th, 2010

Thanks for the telling me about Escazu chocolate–I think I have had some and will look for more….having to eat only very good chocolate for a year, is not a bad benefit of trying to dodge plastic wrappers.
Produce bags? I don’t use them. At Krogers, Whole Foods, Compare, Harris Teeter and my local farmers market I just put my vegetables into my cart or into my reusable shopping bag. Why do we need that plastic, except to hold the peas or some such. I do carry a few small paper bags for those guys. I will say that I am not buying all of the fruits in those plastic containers–I figure if Barbara Kingslover could do it, then so can I

Judith January 30th, 2010

Borax is good for laundry and dishes, cleaning the shower, tub and toilet and washing the floor. It comes in a cardboard box that doesn’t even have a metal spout.

You still use toilet paper? I have switched totally to cloth in my kitchen and bathroom (yes, cloth menstrual pads). The guys still use TP but I’m off the stuff. Sorry if that was TMI.

I like your blog and look forward to watching your progress.

Bryant January 30th, 2010

Judith–thanks for the Borax tip. I will look for it. grocery stores? hardware stores? 20 Mule team Borax–where are you?
yes to toilet paper–My mission here is to only use biodegradable stuff when possible. I have been amazed at how much of our world is wrapped in plastic when it does not need to be.

Katherine Caldwell January 31st, 2010

I love this blog! How can I follow it? I’m still working on crackers for you. Later today. I have a lot of cooking projects going right now.

Martha Waskey January 31st, 2010

I am impressed with your attempt to do without plastic. When I was about 5 (early ’50’s)living in New Orleans I remember going into a brand new cutting edge store called the “Plastic Store”. Everything they sold was made of plastic. It all seemed so modern then. Now look we have done! I support you in your challange. I know it won’t be easy. I will be looking around myself now that you have brought it to y attention.

auntieintellectual January 31st, 2010

I’ve gotten 20-mule-team borax at Kroger’s or Food Lion. It’s in the aisle with the other laundry products, but it may be on the top or bottom shelf rather than right at eye level.

I saw a woman with some really cool stretchy knitted produce bags, but they also looked heavy (I think they were probably hemp) and like they would add quite a bit to the cost of your food over their life span. If you’re buying for one it would make sense just to plop your fruit and veggies in your bag, but when you’re buying for 4 or 5 it’s a different matter. I’m now thinking of trying to make some more practical ones myself.

Good luck with your project. Last year I tried to go as long as I could without buying anything made in China. I made it for about 4 weeks and then slipped up. I hope you do better with your experiment than I did!

Bryant January 31st, 2010

I am carrying different sizes of paper bags around with me as well for bulk stuff. My friend jeanette always arrives at the farmers market with a basket full of all of those hard plastic boxes that lettuce and fruit come in. My friend Vernessa from Switzerland has a salad bag out of cloth for me that I have not seen yet and tells me that in Europe they have reusable linen bread bags. Good luck with finding out what works for you. Though I do not shop for 4, I buy enough to know how it is a balancing, paying attention all the time thing, and that it is work. Stores full of plastic do not make it easier.

Judith February 2nd, 2010

I find 20 mule team at the local grocery. It’s in the laundry aisle. I just found out yesterday it’s also good for ridding insects from the home such as roaches and moths. I got an infested bag of rice and we have a moth invasion. blech.

Pete February 23rd, 2010

Remember that borax is a poison, and a potent one too! When we started recycling all of our laundry “waste” (i.e., not really!) water into our yard, we stopped using borax and chlorine bleach. We have a diverter valve that gives us the option to send the water down the drain and to the sewage treatment plant, but that does not make the toxins disappear. Reusing our wastes in our own yard made us think about about the downstream impacts. The solution to pollution is not dilution, it’s not polluting. For laundry, we use Bio-Pac products (the liquids come in plastic bottles that they used to take back, but are still recyclable). added bonus – it’s fragrance and petroleum free.

Bryant February 26th, 2010

Thanks Pete–I did not know this about Borax. Also, i have not sought it out, so i am grateful to know this upfront. Thank you.

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