Sunday, January 3, 2010

"A moment on the lips, a lifetime in the landfill"

This year we felt inspired to make a different New Year's resolution above and beyond our usual, "we will eat better and exercise more". We wanted to make a resolution that would have a positive impact, some sort of lifestyle change that would lessen our environmental footprint.

In taking a hard look at our day to day life we were recently struck by the amount of plastic that was ending up in our recycle bin and trash can. Even things that we bought at places that we consider to be environmentally friendly like Trader Joe's, and natural food stores it seemed were increasingly carrying products packaged in plastic. As an experiment we decided to collect all of our plastic throughout December to get a better idea of just how much our small household generates in one month. We went about life as we generally do without changing our usual habits (which isn't easy when you know you are going to be writing a blog about it and sharing it with the world). Here is a picture of our plastic usage for the month of December.

Crazy huh? And keep in mind this is the amount of plastic used in a two person household for just one month by a couple who most people would consider to be fairly eco-conscience. It's pretty shocking! It's easy to come up with excuses as to why our plastic consumption was so high in December. Things like, "it's the holidays" or "it's harder when you are traveling" come to mind. But there are always excuses that can be made and our goal is to be honest about it and to focus on finding solutions. (Try collecting your plastic for a month and we bet you will be surprised at how much you use).

In the past we didn't think too much about using plastic. After all we are avid recyclers, but we were stunned by just how much of it can't be recycled and will end up in a landfill or the ocean somewhere. In the picture above we've split out the recyclables (on the left) from the non-recyclables so that you can get a better idea. Packaging for cereal, energy bars, cheese, meats, spinach, coffee beans (used to be paper), bread, dried pasta, electronics, destroyed dog toys, tortillas, toothbrushes, frozen veggies, lids from everything, etc. cannot be recycled. Think about it, those ramen noodles that satisfy you for a half hour come in a plastic wrapper that will be in the environment forever.

We know we can do better! We're counting on you for your support and ideas as we blog about it. Throughout January we'll share with you what we learn about plastic, as well as tips for using less and we'll appeal to you for your ideas and advice when we're stumped. Here are the ground rules:
  • No purchasing of items packaged in plastic (including containers with plastic safety seals)
  • Reuse of plastic containers and bags that we already own is allowed
  • Purchasing items/tools that are made of or contain plastic with an anticipated use life of greater than one year is allowed
  • Corn based plastic packaging that can be composted is allowed, however we must compost it ourselves


  1. WOW!!! I'm impressed. That will be tough, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it all works out and solutions you come up with!

  2. Good luck! I'll be curious to know if you eat differently.

  3. Here are some pictures Matt shared with me taken in October at Midway Island by Chris Jordan I thought you might want to see...

  4. This is great Brooke! Truly inspiring.