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Plastic-free July challenge, inspiration, tips, and support

 
bartender
Posts: 1932
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Washing diapers is just not that big a deal.  With my first baby I had a diaper service for the first 2 months, with the second baby only one month. I was born in 1950, had plenty of younger siblings, and what people did with diapers was something I had witnessed.  It just seemed normal to me.  The poop gets rinsed into the toilet and flushed away.  If no flush toilet, then where ever adult poop goes, there, too, goes baby poop.  The other moms I knew in that era used to joke about building turds, (easier to dispose ofif the baby had been eating some foods and a real sloppy mess if s/he had been eating other foods...)  
You just create a work station other than the flush toilet if you don't have one.  you rinse until they're ready for the washing machine, or if you are hand washing, then  maybe just go ahead and wash them right then.  My system was to toss pee only diapers into a bucket of water with baking soda in it, rinse the poop out of the others until I thought they could go into the bucket.  When I had enough for a load, or it looked like I would be needing some clean ones coming up, I would wash the bucket full then hang them out on the line to dry.  Probably no one here needs to be told that sunlight is the best sanitizer, so line dried diapers are very clean, don't need bleach.  If they seem stiff, then a good shaking can soften them up.  I don't really think fabric softeners are a good idea for diapers.  They go right against the baby's skin, and then get wetted with urine, and then sit there awhile.  What ever they put in the fabric softener is still there, now dissolved and soaking in to the baby's skin.  (likewise what ever they make disposable diapers out of ).  Another thing to soften them up if they are "stiff" is a 10 minute tumble in the dryer on no heat.  I suppose there are handy people who could make a substitute dry laundry tumbler, bicycle powered perhaps.  Also, if you hang two diapers back to back on a windy day, they rub against each other and that makes them softer.

If there is not room on the clothes line for all the diapers in one row, you can pin a second row to the bottom of the higher up row, and so on until they are all flapping in the breeze.

I guess if washing diapers doesn't seem normal, then the best suggestion I can give is to get over the big aversion to baby poop.  (breast fed only babies have very inoffensive poop, kind of sticky, kind of an orange color, but it doesn't smell particularly awful).  Once they start eating other foods then sure it stinks, but so what.  Hands can easily be deodorized with mint essential oil in the soap (Dr Bronners would work if you don't have access to good mild hand made pure soap with essential oils.)  I would say baking soda, and it would work but it is drying to the skin.  If you are going to make a baking soda hand cleaning concoction, put oil like grape seed or olive oil in a jar with baking soda and a drop or two of essential oil use as you would an exfoliating scrub and rinse thoroughly.

I guess if there is interest there could be a whole thread on non disposable diaper systems and lore.  In the 80s it was a difficult thing to find wool diaper covers.  People were using plastic pants which kind of made a hot house effect and gave my babies rashes.  Wool coverings let them breathe, fewer rashes, the urine did not turn to ammonia inside the wool soakers.  There are all kinds of new fangled diaper systems pin less and I don't know what else.


 
greenhorn
Posts: 133
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:My mom was just saying how she'd given up on cloth diapers when I was a baby, it was too much work for her, and then I find this thread.  

I wonder about ways of making washing cloth diapers easier.  Or a reusable plastic one that you can wash.  Or maybe silicon, like those cooking implements.

Or if you put all your cloth diapers in a soak tub and then can do them at once.  Use the poop too.  Just brainstorming here.



Soaking does wonders. Learning to clean, after I left home, I found you don't have to scrub at stuck on food. Don't have to wear yourself out scrubbing at soiled counters. let water or a cleaning solution (and it doesn't have to be strong) sit and go wipe it up later. So I think a lot of the scrubbing and elbow breaking and back breaking work of the past was just because of wrong technique.

I would assume that Cloth diapers are no different. I think I would just throw them in a bin of water and let them soak till any heavy soiling could be rinsed off with a quick swish in then wash them like any other cloths.
The soak water could be used as liquid fertilizer. Yes, it's black water.... But in reality, nothing is coming out that didn't go in the other end so your own or your baby's excrement should be safe as fertilizer. Smell is the only issue.
 
bartender
Posts: 966
Location: Ohio, USA
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We try to reuse these. What a joke.
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Why I hate single use plastic bags.
 
Amit Enventres
bartender
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Instead, we do a lot of cloth bags, containers, and putting of plates atop serving containers. We still own these in case someone needs something that doesn't fit the other options, but they are slowly going back to the ways of the dinosaurs. The gallon size we still use because if we don't freeze them, they seem to last multiple reuses and seem like a good alternative as reusable produce bags.
 
master steward & author
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Anyone else taking the plunge this year?
 
Marshal
Posts: 6204
Location: Missoula, MT
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We do lots of little things to avoid plastic...and while I want to do better, I don't know that I'll be able to achieve plastic-free for a month. So I'm going to figure out a bit of a modified goal for us.

I do take my own shopping *and* produce bags in to the grocery store and farmers market, though I often forget my shopping bag at other stores. This month, I'll vow to not bring home any plastic shopping bags.

Here's a blogger who had justified getting plastic bags at the store because she used them to line her trash can/rubbish bin. And how she changed her thinking.

https://treadingmyownpath.com/2013/04/20/how-toline-your-rubbish-bin-without-a-plastic-bag/



I'm sure there are other areas where I can choose foods to buy that are in less or no plastic, (such as bulk foods - done *without* plastic!) so I will be working on that, too!
 
Jocelyn Campbell
Marshal
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This post highlights my favorite methods for avoiding plastic wrap.

http://lifeyourway.net/7-ways-to-avoid-using-plastic-wrap/

The one I like the best of all is what she shows in this picture:



Plates on top of bowls. Absolutely easy, stackable, microwavable or toaster oven safe (usually), re-usable---all the things!


 
Marshal
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Location: West Tennessee
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r ranson wrote:Anyone else taking the plunge this year?



I am!, or we are (my wife and I). About a month ago, I decided to start plastic free July a little early. We finally tossed our plastic toothbrushes after I ordered some bamboo toothbrushes and now have been using one twice a day for a month now. I had high expectations after using plastic toothbrushes my entire life and I'm happy to say the bamboo brush is holding up well, in fact, equally as well as any petroleum based toothbrush, and I'm really referring to the bristles that eventually wear out. I've included a picture of my toothbrush (I know, strange huh?) and the plant based bristles are, I would say, about 96% their original straightness, and I brush twice a day, every day, so about 60 uses so far.

Unbeknownst to me, my wife ordered these silicone resealable bags (pictures below) as a replacement for those all too common plastic zip-top bags, which we do reuse those when we can, but like Amit noted above, they don't last long, like they're almost engineered to be used once then fail. I'm happy to get away from using those zip top bags, and it'll be interesting to see how long these last and how well they hold up. The only slight downside to the bags is they come with an (ahem) plastic slide to seal the bags shut. But, at least it's not single-use plastics, and I hope that these last a long time.

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greenhorn
Posts: 10
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Bonnie Kuhlman wrote:I have been reducing my plastic use for many years.  I reuse glass bottles for water bottles; I use my own reusable market bags; I store leftovers in glass baking dishes, but even these have plastic lids.  The things I find difficult are the groceries I purchase: sour cream comes in plastic; most yogurt come in plastic (I've found 1 brand in a jar); bread, tortillas, chips, crackers all come in plastic; most produce: berries, lettuce, carrots, etc. come in some form of plastic.  

Has anyone found solutions to these other than making your own?  

Thanks for posting this Destiny.  I'd really like to reduce my plastic even more.


When buying groceries you can at least bring back plastic bags to reuse for produce.   (Like berries)
You can make your shops more aware by leaving packaging in the store.  You have  to be quite charming to accomplish this.

 
greenhorn
Posts: 484
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I can feel your pain, but I don't think labeling "plastic" as evil is the right way to do things.

Plastic is co-mingled with polymer in meaning.  Wood is a cellulose fibre (polymer) fibre reinforced, hemicellulose/lignin co-polymer matrix material.  Some woods last a long time (such as black locust, osage-orange and tamarack), and some don't (such as just about every native tree that grows on my land ).

Something we should want to move away from, is using durable plastics in single use applications.

Many years ago, I worked adjacent to pharmaceutical science.  Something they were looking at was to get canola to produce mono-clonal antibodies.  But something that had been accomplished at that time, was to get canola to produce polyester.  Polyester which comes out of most chemical processes is largely linear (or was at that time).  The polyester that was produced in canola was highly branched.

Obviously this didn't take the world by storm, as I don't see it in everyday life now.  But there seem to be a number of biodegradable polymers which are available.  Are they available at the reduction of land for growing food, I don't know?  But I don't know that this needs to be considered anyway.

Most bio-polymers seem to come down the plant stream.  But the shells of crustaceans is often called chitin (to me, a protein).  Products called chitin and chitosan (acetylated chitin?) seem to be very useful.

But, best of luck in reducing usage of durable plastics in one-time usage.  All other applications I think need more consideration, as a general rule.

 
rancher
Posts: 1063
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I do my best to buy as little as possible in one-use-only plastic. I get my vegetables once a week in paper bags, delivered in a shop in town, from the only biodynamic farm in the region. They deliver in this way for more clients, and in some more villages, on the same day. Their paper bags are re-usable (if they still look good, you can return them).
I go to market with a tupperware container to be filled with my weekly dose of nuts. I am sorry there are no other products I can buy in bulk here.
Since a few weeks I bake my own bread. I keep it in a cotton bag I made myself.
I don't use any soap, shower-gel, shampoo, or whatever, so that's no problem. The coconut oil I use for my teeth is in a plastic container, sorry.
If possible I reuse plastic bags / containers. For example I still use the zip-lock plastic bags we received my late husbands medication in (he died 2 years ago, after a long time on heavy medication).

Probably many people, even some of my friends, consider me a 'freek' ... I don't mind.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
Marshal
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A lot of good points about plastic and finding it difficult to avoid in many foods at the store unless you make your own...well, everything. And good for those of you not worried if friends and family think you are a freak!

Some of us might not want to take on this challenge for even a month, and I think some times, some of us stall, or don't make ANY change because we think we need to go all the way or to an extreme to do it right. I thought of this thread when I ran across this today:



I think one first easy step on the road to reducing waste imperfectly might be remembering (or going out for) the re-usable bags in your car. This probably took me at least a year to get better at doing consistently.

Another step toward imperfectness might be buying one food from the bulk bin (with a re-usable jar or bag) instead of in packaging at each grocery trip - like Inge and her nuts for the week.

Personally, I *really* like the plates on top of bowls (if you don't have lids) for your leftovers in my post just a couple previous to this one.

So with an eye to being imperfect while minimizing plastic (or any) waste, are there any new tips or attitude shifts that help in your household?

 
bartender
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Thanks for the "refresh" post, Jocelyn.  It was inspiring to read what others are doing.  I have been more conscious about my plastic consumption over the recent years and as you said, trying to make steady progress in the right direction.  Definitely not even close to perfect though.

I was pretty disappointed and upset to discover that Lundburg rice has taken a big step backwards in their bulk packaging as sold by Costco.  I went from being able to buy their rice in 25 lb paper bags (from Bob's Red Mill) to 12 lb paper bags (at Costco) to this last visit only being able to buy their rice in 12 lb plastic bags.  :(  So discouraging when it goes in that direction rather than the other way.
 
ranch hand
Posts: 212
Location: California Coastal range
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If you have an Azure standard drop point by you they are doing all their bulk packaging that they do in house in unbleached paper.  I have reused it for gift wrapping, fire starting and mulch. So any flour or grains etc... In paper.  They sell Natural value TP that is recycled  content and paper wrapped.  I buy butter, Rumiano, by the case from them and it has no plastic over wrap or plastic coated paper.  It is easy  to buy bar soap and a shampoo bar wth no plastic packaging.  

Stores around here you can fill your own container for dish soaps lotions etc. -- but they are buying it in a gallon plastic jug, do you are no worse off just buying in bulk in the plastic jug to begin with if you have a large household.  

I have been grinding my own peanut butter and buying the case of peanuts in bulk.

And my youngest made all the households in the family a set of beeswax wraps for those funny sized items, for example, the really large one I was given will cover the lasagna pan to put leftovers in the fridge (. To big for the plate trick which is what we do for smaller bowls) Thr beeswax wraps were made with cotton cloth, the pure beeswax was grated and sprinkled on to the cloth, it does not take much, the cloth was on a piece of unbleached parchment paper because I did not want my offspring to mess up my baking pans or oven with wax, put in the oven on low heat until the wax melted, then a cheap natural bristle chip brush was used to spread it evenly. The brush is now living in with the resting our wax processing cans and brushes for future reuse
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
rancher
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I see my last post here was almost a year ago. I didn't write anything on bees wax wraps there. But as far as I know I had one back then. The small size, for wrapping your lunch sandwiches in. Now I have a larger one too, the size for a whole loaf of bread. It can be used to cover a large bowl in the fridge, like Debi told, and for many other uses.
 
Sue Reeves
ranch hand
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A tip for when you forget to bring in your bags,  and I have seen others doing this in my area, not just me -- so try it out, be a trend setter !  So you just load the groceries back into the cart, or if they bag, tell them to just put it in the cart, you can tell them your bags are in the car and you will do it there ( even if you realy left the by the door at home), so just put the groceries or hardware store stuff straight into your trunk or all over the backseat if you need to, the cart makes it easy to get it all to the car and once you are home you can go get the bags or a box or basket
 
rancher
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I like this forum because it reminds me of posts I made some time ago, and we're encouraged to post our progress!

Some recent less-plastic efforts
- chicken feed now in paper bags
- Bought a non-plastic razor, haven't lost a limb yet! Will save loads of money over disposable ones anyway as new blades are pennies.
- no more teabags- loose leaf tea in reusable thermos flasks has removed plastic in tea bags and plastic water bottles.
- all cleaning and laundry products (except 1) come in 5L containers that when cleaned, go to the allotment for hauling water.

Failures
- can't get the cats to eat any other brand. We've tried brands with compostable-cardboard packs, or recyclable tetrapacks- but finicky cat throws it up everywhere. Sticking with the plastic-sleeved brand, at least its better than those awful foil-pouches.

Next things to tackle
- toilet roll- we did get if in paper wrap from costco but no longer go there and have reverted to the plastic-wrapped stuff from aldi. This needs fixing!
- investigate the 'solutions' for stopping plastic microfibres in the washing- lots of sports done here so lots of synthetic clothing in the wash (the 1 laundry product in a smaller plastic bottle is antibacterial for this clothing as well)
- audit all the plastic I buy again.. where should I target next?
 
Jocelyn Campbell
Marshal
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:I found a dental floss that comes in a little cardboard box.  The floss itself is still a form of polymer, a plastic.  I did find a dental floss made of silk (it came in a plastic box), and I bought them both.  When I floss, sometimes I use baking soda to polish between my teeth.  The silk floss did not standup to the bkg soda, even when doubled.  Still when I found both products (side by side in the dental care row) I was very excited.  I just wonder when the silk floss makers will ditch the plastic box!


It's been three years since Thekla wrote that on page one of this thread. There might be better options now.

I think dental floss warrants it's own thread, so I made one!

Chime in at best eco dental floss to let us know what works for you and dodges the plastic.

 
rancher
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Interesting thread for sure

Things which seem to come in plastic for us is yogurt and creme fresh. I do have my own supply of goat milk which i drink everyday. The yogurt and creme fresh containers get used for all kinds of things. We buy the yogurt in big square containers. These are easily stacked and can store all kinds of things in them from bone broth stock in the freezer to frozen berries, and even just as containers. I keep my goats salt and minerals in it. I soak/sprout my chicken food in it.  I've even brought them home from the recycling centre to use them at home. My girlfriend cuts them up and uses them as labels for seedling starts, and for tomato labels.

Our feed bags for the goats and chickens come in a plastic bag which we end up using as our garbage bag. I am storing apples in them for our pigs as well as collecting hazelnuts and whatnot in them. they have uses though i end up getting way more than i need. This year our island held there annual Styrofoam days where a whole cohort of people go out on boats and clean up plastic/Styrofoam off the beach and than it gets recycled by ocean legacy. I gave away as many feed bags as i could to the cause as they are easy to carry around with one hand.

When i think of switching to stainless steel containers instead of using plastic ones. I am a bit hesitant as:
1) the plastic ones come a long with the food i buy
2) almost free!
3) reusable to a degree
4) To buy all stainless steel would cost a bit of a fortune and i would still be left with the unused plastic containers.

At our bulk food store, we often ask for banana boxes to put our food in instead of using biodegradable bags. The store has all of these boxes and they just flatten them and recycle them. We also put bulk items like bananas and other produce into our carts and or into the boxes without bags. When i go to a store and buy a few items i always say no thanks to the bag and carry it out by hand.
I have even bought an item at the hardware store and took all of the packaging out of the container and left it at the store so as not to deal with it at home. Let the store deal with the plastic.

Most of our plastic bags get reused, some hold cat meat in them which go into the freezer. Other times a double wrap a leg of lamb or goat and put it in the freezer.

I probably have more but this is all i want to say right now.
 
bartender
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This video shows a number of ideas for eliminating plastic in the garden. I expect that many of us are already doing many of these ideas, but if you know any beginner gardeners, it's worth a watch:


 
Jocelyn Campbell
Marshal
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Jay Angler wrote:This video shows a number of ideas for eliminating plastic in the garden. I expect that many of us are already doing many of these ideas, but if you know any beginner gardeners, it's worth a watch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSZB0DyxlfI&feature=youtu.be


Thanks for that - it was enjoyable!

The top comment also said this:

Another alternative to plastic string if you don't have gentle hemp or soft cotton twine on hand and you need to tie up in a pinch is that nasty bindweed (looks like morning glory): grasp a length of it at its "up" end and run it through your forefinger and thumb of the other back toward the root end to strip off all of the leaves at once - when fresh the vine is very flexible and ties easily.  Same can be done with periwinkle and such but not much is as flexible as bindweed which deserves to be punished.


Brilliant!
 
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