Thursday, June 5, 2008

Extreme Eco Challenge Wrap Up

As you know, I participated in Crunchy Chicken's Extreme Eco Throwdown last month. Out of the seven suggested changes, I, of course, selected the easiest - to give up plastics. And I didn't even do that whole heartedly.

Instead, I took the lazy way out and simply made my daily changes be ones in which I found plastic alternatives to everyday problems. Also, I managed to turn a month-long commitment into a scant 17 modifications. Because I'm mathletic like that.

Anyhow, along the way I actually got a few questions from folks wondering how this or that worked out. Since I'm generally too lazy to answer comments as they come in, I thought I'd give you the low down on all those plastic-free adjustments.

1. Swapping My Neutrogena Toner for Burt's Bees Garden Tomato Toner - Although I did end up with a nice little breakout this month, I must be honest and tell you it had a lot less to do with my toner than it did with the 40 pounds of leftover Easter Candy I found hidden in the back of the pantry. The toner did a fine job of clearing away the excess dirt that soap just doesn't get. All in all, this change is a keeper.

2. Switching from Traditional Toothpaste to Baking Soda - LOVE this change! I improved the toothpaste recipe by adding some water and a generous amount of peppermint extract. I keep it all in an old glass spice jar and it works like a freakin' charm. This is also a keeper.

3. Making My Own Whipped Cream Instead of Buying the Stuff in the Tub - Great stuff! I made it all fancy a couple of weeks ago by adding powdered sugar (instead of granulated) and a couple drops of red food coloring. Made a nice pink dip for my strawberries. The only downside to this change is that I tend to eat a little too much of the stuff and give myself a nice case of the lactose-ly challenged stomach cramps. Keeper, but in moderation.

4. Choosing Pencils Over Pens - I like this change a lot, but I'm thinking I need to invest in one of those "old school" style, crank-handle pencil sharpeners. Because the plastic piece of shit sharpener that the boy has just ain't cutting it - so to speak. Keeper, but with a real sharpener.

5. Switching From a Plastic Disposable Razor to a Safety Razor - This requires a bit more finesse than one would expect. I have the pits down no problem, but find that to get a really close shave on the legs I need to draw a bath and concentrate. It's all in the angle, I think. Hopefully I'll get the hang of it soon and will be able to shave in the shower, but for now I need to take my time, lather up and pay attention. Oh, and maybe keep a Preserve razor in the shower as back up. Just in case. Keeper, but with backup plan.

6. Using Home-Frothed Shaving Cream - OK, so the truth comes out. The only reason I want to draw a bath to shave is so I can use my super-cool shaving cream kit. Hell, it's all the fun of making whipped cream, without the gas. Keeper.

7. Using Biodegradable, Non-Plastic Trash Bags - Oh the Controversy! Holy crap, who knew people felt so passionate about their plastic bags?!?! Anyhow, while I'm still on the fence about using corn as a plastic alternative, I think that bio-bags are a nice reminder that, by thinking outside the box, industry can and will find ways to reduce all of our dependency on oil. However, as we all know, the BEST solution is to cut down on the amount of trash produced - which I have done and continue to do. Verdict? Jury Still Out. Unfortunately, I bought a box of thirty gigabillion, because that got me free shipping. So I guess it's a keeper - until I run out at least. Maybe by then there will be an even better alternative available.

8. Switching from Plastic Sponges to Cellulose - I really like the sponges, I just really hated the price. I will definitely look for a way to either source these locally or buy in bulk. Or better yet, make the ones I currently own last forever. Keeper.

9. Buying Toilet Paper Without Plastic Packaging - Love this change! Something so nice about opening the vanity doors to see rows and rows of neatly stacked, paper wrapped toilet paper. Yeah, I know... cloth wipes. Just not there yet, folks. Keeper.

10. Using Paper Tape for My Packages - A bit of a PITA, but the satisfaction I get from not having to use plastic tape makes it all worth while. Plus? I found out there's a dispenser I can get that will wet the paper as I pull it out. It's a hundred sheckles so I won't be buying it anytime soon... but it's nice to know it's out there. Keeper.

11. Switching to an All-Natural Deodorant Stone - 95 here today. With high humidity. Outside most of the day. Got a little stinky. Reapplied and de-stinkified. And you know what? Even if it turns out I can only use it for nine months out of the year, isn't that still better than using the plastic-encased aluminum slab of death year round? Keeper.

12. Switching from Laundry Powder to Soap Nuts - Sucked. The nuts kept falling out of the little bag and they would stick to the clothes. Not to mention that I didn't really like the idea of shipping in my laundry detergent from Indonesia. BUT, thanks to the comments from my fabulous readers, I found this new detergent called Charlie's Soap and so far it's kicking ass. Just one tablespoon does a whole load. I also used it to clean up some mysterious crayon marks on the carpets and it worked like a charm. No plastic scoop, it's manufactured right in North Carolina and it's eco-friendly. Great job, Charlie. Passing on the nuts but keeping Charlie.

13. Using Only Beeswax or Soy Candles - I got a soy wax candle at the farmer's market and it does just what a candle should. I don't particularly care for the "flavor" I picked. I deviated from my normal buying pattern and opted for "ocean breeze". It's too perfumey for me and doesn't smell like food. Next time I'll get the vanilla. But that's not the candle's fault. Keeper.

14. Replacing Liquid Soap With Bar Soap in the Bathrooms - I'm using up the last of my Dr. Bronner's peppermint scented castille oil but then plan on switching all the soaps over to handsoap. I found out Mary has a bunch of cute designs, including the hands, Celtic knots and mini goat heads. What's not to love about that? Keeper.

15. Getting Ice Cream in a Cone or in My Own Dish - I already f'd up on this one. We went out for ice cream this weekend and I forgot to bring our own dishes. As predicted, the girl got a dish and the boy got a milkshake and I single-handedly ruined the planet by being a crappy environmentalist. I don't deserve any ice cream. Loser.

16. Making My Own Mozzarella - Now that the hot weather has hit us like a ton of bricks, I'm not even thinking about turning the oven on to make pizza, so why would I need mozzarella? I wish I had the patience to make hard cheeses like cheddar or jack, but come on... eight months?!?!? This girl needs instant gratification. The change has inspired me to find a local cheese artisan and buy all my cheese from them. No luck so far, but I'll let you know if/when I find one. Keeper, when I feel doing something fun, but not an everyday kind of change.

17. Buying Cupcakes Sans the Plastic Clamshell - Got the cupcakes and they were not only cute but delicious! I picked them up in a baker's cardboard box and they survived the ride home without any Kitties Hello-ing my car floorboards. Who knew we could live so well without plastic cupcake partitions? Keeper.

There you have it. The nuts and bolts of my eco-throwdown. Not life-altering adjustments but small steps taken toward a "life less plastic". But I think the real lesson was not in the day-to-day but in how we view the ubiquitous plastic in our lives. More on that tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

great job erin! about #11. i've been using a similar deoderant stone too. like you, i find it not totally effective in high stress situations. (i live car-lite in south florida, read dripping wet humidity, combined with blazing sun and lots of walking or bike rides and gardening.) however, i've recently switched to baking soda. yeah! i just dry off after a shower and pat a little baking soda under both arms. i find it holds up far better under pressure than the wet stone. i haven't been thru an entire summer with either version but i'd place my bets on the soda based on experiences so far.

MamaBird said...

you rock!! hope you had a great birthday. so, I think your kids would like this - i was at a friend's house for dinner last weekend and she made whipped cream just by putting it in a jar and shaking it - her kids did it in about 5 minutes. it was amazingly easy. i am never busting out the mixer again!

Wendy said...

I love all of your changes - so inspiring! My favorite, though, was switching to pencils.

I recently cleaned out/organized our crafting supplies. I could never find a pen, although I knew we had dozens and dozens of them, and I did find them and put them into a place where we could all find them. But when I saw your challenge, I remembered that when my son worked for at the book warehouse, he brought home a CASE of pencils, and they've been just sitting in the closet - hundreds and hundreds of them. So, while I was desparately seeking a pen, I had all of the pencils languishing.

Anyway, I remembered the box o' pencils, and I've been making the switch ... thanks to you :).

We're still using the electric sharpener we have (I know, bad Eco-Wendy!), but I'm on the lookout for one of those school-type hand-crank ones, too ;).

Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Awesome ideas! My husband totally freaks out at the amount of plastic we consume, and we are always looking for ways to reduce. Now if I could convince my mother-in-law to layoff the plastic toys for my kids birthdays....

heather t said...

Thanks so much for the wrap-up! I would love to see something like this as you enter your next year (has it been a year already???) - maybe once a week, review all the changes you made the same week this past year and let us know how they are working for you.

Deanna said...

Very inspiring. As for the sponges, why not just use a dish cloth? I think they are much more sanitary. I put out a fresh dish cloth and towel in the kitchen each day. I also have a basket of older cloths and rags under the sink which I use for cleaning. I just wash and re-use.

Green Bean said...

Thanks for the wrap up! I signed up for the challenge and totally sucked. I'll need to try your deodarant though! As to the cloth wipes, not there yet on my end (pun intended) either.

Anonymous said...

I second Anonymous's comment about baking soda. I've been using it as deodorant for a couple of months now, put it on with a powder puff after drying off, and it works really well. No odor and no itchiness that others have experienced. I added tea tree oil to mine, but now I here that it could disrupt my hormones. Sheesh.

Re: ice cream. Ate a ton of it while my folks were visiting. Was happily surprised that the Dreyer's ice cream shop in my neighborhood uses all compostable cups, spoons, cups, etc. AND they actually compost them. Yes, it did still get a cone because why throw something away when you don't have to? But dad and mom got cups, and it was nice to know they'd be making someone some nice fertilizer.

Burbanmom said...

Powder Puff?!?!? So THAT'S how you do it! I thought you stood on your head and poured it on! Geesh. Now maybe I'll give it a try!

JJ (Lady Di) said...

Thanks to you, I took my own containers to the Lebanese Festival in Short Pump this year. Only one person gave me grief - he wanted to put the food into a styrofoam container and THEN I could put it in mine. I pointed out how that defeated the purpose and the other three people in the both didn't see anything wrong with him putting the food in my own container. Everyone else at the other booths thought it was a great idea. I felt a bit odd at first, but it was quite empowering, especially when I saw how much was being thrown away after people were done (we were getting ours to go). Thank you.