Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #40 - Earth Day Challenge Results

Here's my belated Earth Day post where I take up Boss Sander's challenge of trying to reduce my trash to nothing for one day. Since I knew this would be impossible, I documented every piece of trash I threw out instead, with commentary on possible options to reduce and reuse it. And somehow, it neatly fits into a Thursday Thirteen post as well.
  1. Blister package for Claritin substitute. All medication of this type, no matter how large the quantity, is encapsulated in blister packaging which is completely useless. You cannot reuse it or re-purpose it in any way and it is made from a paper, foil and plastic combination that is totally non-recyclable. What are my options here? Not take the medicine and suffer through spring time allergies? Fight this sort of packaging and endure the wrath of the lobbying group that made this sort of packaging mandatory to safeguard children from accidental overdose (moms like me most likely!)? Or perhaps it is the pharmaceutical industry covering their ass. Can't complain there as they are the ones who ultimately write my paycheck in the industry I work in. I looked at my 3/4" x 3/4" blister pack remnant and threw it in the trash.
  2. Paper plate, plastic knife and napkin. That morning we had a meeting at work which included breakfast. Once you enter the work realm, any thoughts of reducing trash is thrown out the window. Convenience items are available so you don't waste time on washing dishes and focus on work. What would be my options? Bring in my own plate and knife and cloth napkin and look like a total dork? I ate my bagel and threw out the paper plate, plastic knife and napkin like everyone else.
  3. Half gallon milk container. Now this item was recyclable but not at work. It was easier to jot it down on my list rather than washing it out and bringing it home to recycle.
  4. Plastic packaging for a USB to Serial converter. I need this device for work so not buying it is not an option. These blasted heat-sealed plastic packages are the cause of many cuts and swearing sessions. Again, they are not made with recyclable plastic and cannot be reused for anything. So in the trash it went.
  5. Paper towels used in the bathroom. Now this is something that I will not live without when it comes to public bathrooms. I certainly won't touch the door handle with wet hands. And I won't bring a cloth towel from home to use every time I go to the bathroom (dork alert again). It may be possible to bring the paper towels to the paper recycling after I come out of the bathroom. But normally, I simply threw it out in the bathroom every time.
  6. Tissues for my nose. Claritin is good but not that good. I don't think I go a day without using tissues. Of course to prevent the spread of germs, I throw them away immediately (this reminds me of an SW engineer not throwing out his tissues when he was paired with another engineer doing extreme programming - yuck!). Options? Use a handkerchief? I can't stand the thought of stuffing my germs into my pocket. So it will probably be tissues for life for me. At home, we usually burn our paper trash (not great environmentally, but it does reduce trash going into landfills), but I won't be hauling my germy tissues from work to burn at home.
  7. Tuna fish foil package. Or rather some plastic foil combination again. I know that you can send Capri Sun drink pouches to TerraCycle to be made into cool bags, but they don't have a need for these tuna packages. And I still won't be getting Capri Sun because they aren't 100% juice.
  8. Plastic relish package. I used one of those condiment packages from the cafeteria to put into my tuna. Since I rarely have tuna for lunch, I can't see buying a relish jar to store at work. And even if I did, the chances of me bringing it home to recycle afterwards are pretty slim as well (see milk in #3).
  9. Plastic and wax wrapper for Babybel cheese. Now this cheese definitely has packaging overkill, but it is convenient and tasty. All food in the US is overly packaged and it is almost impossible to buy anything besides produce without packaging. A lot of it is recyclable, but there is so much that isn't. I remember the start of Germany's Green Dot recycling program in 1991 where manufacturers or retailers are required to "take back" their packaging or ensure that 80 percent of it is collected rather than thrown out. Then 80 percent of what's collected has to be reused or recycled. It is fraught with financial issues, but then again Germany has high recycling awareness at the manufacturer level. Until something like that is implemented in the US, packaging in general will continue to a huge impact on garbage.
  10. Three plastic packages from ramen noodles. OK, now I have to admit what I cooked for my kids that night. I did add turkey, peas and corn to balance out the junk food group. And I did spend an hour before dinner playing soccer with the kids instead of slaving over the stove to create a more nutritious meal.
  11. Plastic bag from bagel chips. Yet another food package with a foil/plastic combination.
  12. Banana peel. We are woefully lacking in the compost department. I will throw large pieces of compost food into the woods behind our house, such as melon or pineapple rinds, but most of the small stuff still goes in the trash. The thought of having a bin with semi-rotting food on my counter just doesn't do it for me, especially in the dead of winter where I would rarely take it out, or in the heat of the summer where the smell would instantly be overpowering.
  13. Foil gum wrapper. At least some gum wrappers are entirely paper and can be burned, but the long sticks almost always come in the paper foil combination.


Ashley said...

Thanks for playing along!! And you had some tough trash, there! The only things I could even see would be to be more aware of the food you buy and the packaging it comes in...and just buy different options. Check to make sure the plastic is recycleable or is in a different sort of packaging. But, like you work, that can be really hard when you take what you get. Unless, you brought your lunch (not talking plastic pony covered lunch box here lol) :)

The compost thing doesn't have to sit on your counter (I actually wish I had one of those little guys), but we use a crate in the corner of our yard...actually, now it's by my new garden. But, anyways, I layer dirt and dead stuff (leaves and pine needles and some cut grass clippings, my organic materials (fruits, veggies, etc), and all over again...then water it down. The crate keeps everything inside but has tons of holes so oxygen gets in and there's no it's outside! So, that's what we use. But, even if you could somehow hold on to things like your banana and orange peels until the end of the day, and just dump it in the woods...that works too! Nature will do its own thing, it doesn't need a bin lol.

But, you did a really great job!

Thanks for taking the challenge!

Anonymous said...

Not all of the Claritin generics come in blister packaging. Target's store brand comes in your choice of either the blister packaging or a bottle, and the one at Sam's Club comes in a bottle as well. I always buy one of these since I can't physically open the blister packs. The Sam's Club generic is by far the cheapest per tablet, BTW.

SuperGrandma said...

Great ideas. Thanks for this list. For our Earth Day contribution, We’re doing a campaign to help educate children about the importance of cherishing our Mother Earth. Part of the campaign includes fun educational tools like word search puzzles. You can print as many as you like for use in classrooms or at home. Enjoy, and Happy Earth Day!