Month: April 2013

Plastic beaches

Just watched this ZDF documentary about plastic waste and the effects on the ocean. Here is the link. It’s in German with English subtitles and will still be online for a few more days. I knew about the things they were showing, but it’s always shocking to see the amount of damage plastic has already done to the environment. The thought of ever having used industrially produced body scrub and tooth paste that contained nano particles makes me sick. Normally I’m not a fan of throwing out things you could still use, but when it comes to body scrub and nano-particle-tooth-paste you really don’t wanna flush that stuff down the sink and into the ocean!

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A fresh start

New season, new ideas

Hello spring...

Hello spring…

The novelty has run off a bit, the 40-day-challenge is over and I started posting articles less frequently. So why should I continue this blog? And why should you read it? Well, first of all: Your positive feedback is a great motivation for me to keep on dealing with the entire plastic and packaging subject – and to write about it. Second, I would love to share my newly gained experience in recycling, re-using and upcycling with you.

Since I started Inglouriousplastics I have found more and more interesting recycling and upcycling ideas. During the challenge I had to be extremely creative as there were so many things I had to avoid. I think this must have triggered something. So I came up with a new plan for Ingloriousplastics – why not turn it into “Gloriousplastics” and focus more on how you can turn useless packaging into useful things? I will of course still continue avoiding unnecessary packaging, but the reality and the conclusion of my 40 days without plastic is: You just can’t always avoid packaging. I still try to buy as little packaged stuff as possible, in fact the first few days a.p. (after plastic-diet) I almost sticked to the habits I took up within the 40 days and hardly bought any plastic, but as time passes I notice it’s definitely getting more again. So I try to re-use, recycle and upcycle as much as possible. Therefore another conclusion could be: Don’t throw it away, turn it into something useful! Et voilà, here’s how that went:

Getting started – DIY greenhouse made from old fruit and veg containers

The story behind: I wanted to buy grapes, but they all came in plastic boxes. Knowing you can’t buy loose grapes anywhere around here, I grabbed a container although my bad conscience kicked it. What a coincidence I had just decided to set up a little veggie and

herb garden on my balcony and I was still in desperate need for plant pots, but didn’t feel happy about buying plastic plant pots. The solution: I used the grape container as a plant pot, filled it up with soil and planted rosemary seeds. And here’s my grape-container-greenhouse:

Hello greenhouse...

Hello greenhouse…

Good night, greenhouse...

Good night, greenhouse…

Fruit and veg containers are perfect for turning them into plant pots, as they have holes for the water to go through at the bottom. And the lid of the grape containers serves as a greenhouse roof which protects the seeds from the lovely little birds behind my house that love to eat them. After that I filled up more old veggie containers with soil and planted more things. You can also use old tins (Just put some holes in them so that the water can go through).

So try it out yourself – or follow my updates about the veggie garden and see if it works (This is a first time for me). Next Thursday a new DIY idea/plastic upcycling idea will follow. See you then and enjoy spring time (or autumn on the other side of the world)!

NYC & plastic

Part 2: How to avoid plastic on a long-distance flight

Before I could enjoy this view there was a serious obstacle...

Before I could enjoy this view I had to face a serious obstacle…

You just can’t! A lot of people asked me what I did on my flight from Frankfurt to JFK. Did I bring my own food? Did I refuse the airline’s pre-packaged food and drinks? Well, the answer to both questions is: Nope. On the contrary, I probably enjoyed my most plastic-filled day in 2013. This wasn’t because I thought I’d better throw my eco-consciousness overboard when I got on the plane, it was more because I was confused and helpless. Or lazy. Or therefore useless.

My dilemma: I thought that if I refused the food, the airline would just throw it out anyway. And that wouldn’t help anyone. On top of that a long-distance flight is one of the few occasions where I feel like a whole bunch of porcelain (instead of plastic boxes) might not be the best alternative. That’s why I decided not to take my own food with me and refuse the airline’s food. So I took and unpacked an army of tiny little plastic boxes and felt guilty for about 7,5 hours (That’s how long the flight takes).

I found one way to at least lessen the extend of the up-in-the-air-plastic-orgy: Re-use the plastic cups they give you. And the flight attendants definitely appreciate that. At one stage a passenger sitting behind me asked for a new cup and the flight attendant even asked him to re-use it telling him: “I’m sorry, but we produce so much trash. Please re-use your cup.” I was baffled and didn’t feel all that bad anymore. There is awareness. So I congratulated her and I can only hope other airlines or flight attendants will follow her example. What I realized: Next time I could just bring my own refillable cup and check out the reactions that will follow.

Lesson learned: Just because I do one bad thing (flying) doesn’t mean I can’t try to lessen the impact of another thing (my plastic consumption). Once again: Every little helps (I think this is the slogan of a supermarket. But try to ignore that, I’ve got nothing to do with it :-).

Next week: A more exciting topic than this!

NYC & plastic

Some plastic impressions from the city that never sleeps – part 1

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One of the reasons why you heard so little of me was my trip to New York. Going there was on my personal list of things to do before I die. As I had planned this trip a while in advance, I couldn’t foresee I would be on a no-plastic-diet during my stay. So I almost naturally looked at things in quite a different way.

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I used to see only chocolate in this…

The big question:

Was it easier or harder to stick to my plan? Surprisingly it turned out a lot easier to avoid plastic in the U.S. than I thought it would be. I don’t know if this had to do with the fact that I just stayed in New York State and New Jersey or if it’s easier in the States in general, but the thing is: As there is a much bigger product range on the other side of the Atlantic, you automatically find a lot more alternatives to plastic. On the flip side you do have a lot more ridiculously packaged things as well and it is a lot harder to refuse plastic bags. It’s hard to imagine – Thanks to years and years of watching American movies and series I always had the image of paper shopping bags that come with no handle in my mind. Those times seem to be over though. Nowadays it’s all about plastic bags.

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I’m not alone – Seen on the NY Subway

Nobagspleasethankyou!

Those nasty little monsters are almost forced upon you when you go to ordinary supermarkets and corner shops. Needless to say they are free. Sometimes the shop assistants were so quick at putting my stuff in a plastic bag that I had to make them out the stuff from the plastic bag again, which made me feel a bit rude as I know that they consider it a nice, polite thing to do. So after a while I knew I had to tell them straight away. That way I avoided awkward moments in the queue. I also noticed that upmarket delis and supermarkets often offered a choice between plastic and recycling paper bags, so that helped as well. In the end I saw a lot of people who left “ordinary” (so no upmarket, hipster/trendy delis) supermarkets and delis carrying four, five or even six plastic bags. That reminded me a bit of the UK where I witnessed the same whenever I went shopping. On top of that the bags hardly ever seem to get re-used as the material is so crappy and thin. My conclusion after observing the situation in NYC and Germany: You have to make people pay for plastic bags!

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Tortilla chips, hooray!

The problem my friend is blowing in the wind

As happy as I was about finding things I had so dearly missed in Germany (Recycling toilet paper in recycling paper bags – I did find it in the end! Chips in recycling paper bags! Cookies in recycling paper bags! Organic supermarket chains like Whole Food offering loose rice, nuts, dried fruits etc.! ), as unhappy I got when I noticed how much plastic waste there was everywhere. Unfortunately a lot of the plastic bags ended up somewhere on the streets, in people’s front yards or in trees. Eventually a lot of it ends up in the Sea that is surrounding this wonderful city. Sad!

Lesson learned: More plastic, more alternatives to plastic. That means: My personal situation got a bit easier, but in a more normal situation where I wouldn’t have taken the subway just to find that one specialized shop that sold something without plastic I would have probably produced the same amount of waste – if not more.

More news about my trip will follow next week on Thursday – from now on the weekly Ingloriousplastics day!

The conclusion

What happened?

I spent 40 days without plastic packaging. It was challenging, it was frustrating at times, but I managed. I got a ton of interesting e-mails, comments and had I lots of vivid discussions with people in my neighbourhood, friends, visitors and followers from all over the world. I spent the last weeks in the U.S. and just came back a little while ago, that’s why my recent posts were rather irregular (In fact I published some older posts I had written a while ago without putting them online).

I will give you an update about how the whole plastic thing worked in the U.S. in my next post. Before you say that a flight to the U.S. probably made my carbon footprint look worse than my plastic project would have ever made it better, well, this is right. The flight was booked before I even had the idea to go plastic-free and after all flying and saving unnecessary packaging is still better than flying and NOT saving unnecessary packaging, right? And when it comes down to that whole “not being a 100% consistent” thing, this is also one of my main conclusions after 40 days:

Every little helps!

It’s not about being perfect, it’s about saving that one plastic bag you wouldn’t have needed anyway, to pay attention to what you consume and learn about how your lifestyle affects the environment and others. During the last six weeks I became a lot more aware of my behavior as a consumer and knowing why and how I consumed things. Even though I did my best to literally avoid all plastic packaging (and reducing other packaging materials as well), I know it’s unrealistic to cut out all plastic from my life for the rest of my time. What I will continue doing, however, is reducing plastic packaging and packaging in general – cause this is what I learned in the last six weeks.

Nobody needs that much crap. Seen in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, NYC

Nobody needs that much crap. Seen in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, NYC

How?

Easy one!

Easy one!

In the end it comes down to things that have proven to be easy and effective at the same time: Always looking for more eco-friendly alternatives, always using my canvas/cotton bag for shopping, re-using old plastic bags, buying loose instead of packaged veggies and fruits, buying fresh, unpackaged and regional things from the market, using soap bars instead of liquid soap and shower gel, using cotton tissues and napkins, avoiding bottled water and just consuming less in general. Those measures will definitely stick. They are so easy to integrate into my daily life and yet make a huge difference.

Things that turned out to be too hard to stick to:

Seen in the U.S.

Seen in the U.S.

A few (but important items): Living without toilet paper and living without certain packaged foods that otherwise wouldn’t be available for me anymore.

What’s becoming of this blog?

It will continue – not that much as a “challenge blog” though anymore (Nevertheless a post about my experience in the U.S. is still following, so don’t take me by the word). Inglorious plastics will be centered around packaging (and not only plastic, but packaging in general) on a more general level. I want to keep you updated about interesting ideas, projects and easy and effective ways to recycle things (DIY will be a big topic, too). And of course I would be happy to continue discussing packaging issues.

So I hope you stay tuned 🙂

P.S. What do you think about this conclusion?