07/28/2012

In the News Today

Surprise! Delight!
I yelled into the kitchen to Celine today: “Celine! Plastic bags are banned in the *ENTIRE COUNTRY OF RWANDA*!” It’s true. Since 2007.

Now I’m digging a bit more. Of course there is a TEDxTalk about it. Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, the Director General of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, spoke at TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch in November 2010. View the talk here.

“Plastic is in our land, plastic is in our bodies…the bodies of our animals. If we want sustainable development, why are we repeating the same mistakes?” – Dr. Mukankomeje.

I thought Celine’s comment after my exclamation was really insightful: “A lot of developing countries don’t have a lot of infrastructure, whereas here we hide behind recycling facilities. They don’t have the capacity to deal with that sh*t.”

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I hold the belief that awareness is the first step towards taking action and creating a shift towards a positive outcome.
Now that I’m doing this plastic-free 2012 project (which is totally ‘built-in’ mentally now), I notice so much more great news about plastic bag bans, ocean clean-up media projects, documentaries, analysis, and best of all: people who are changing how they consume so as to slowly weed out plastic from their lives.

Big thanks to all of you who are now asking for your drinks without straws (and getting metal ones!)
Thanks to you who are using your own mugs over and over instead of the plastic-lined paper hot cups and all plastic cold to go cups.
Thank you for stepping into the realization that we have erred with the ways of plastic consumption.
Thank you for moving towards a better Earth.

If you are just starting a plastic-free or plastic-reduced life, treat yourself to this TEDxTalk from the charming and motivating Wallace “J” Nichols. Rethink Product and Design.

Or for tips from someone who is living plastic free still to this day: Beth Terry. “The average American generates about 100 lbs of plastic waste per year…what I have here I mostly blame on my cats.”
Her “A-Ha” moment is EXACTLY the same as mine:

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07/20/2012

Guest Blog Post: “Ben Schiendelman: Bagless in Seattle”*

Ben is quick on the draw. I (Celine) wrote about meeting him and his subsequent plastic challenge conversion about week ago. We met during my last trip to Portland. The gin was his fault. Here is his first guest blog about how one goes disposable free in the Emerald City.

He doesn’t mention it in his post but Ben is working on launching seattlesubway.org (just sign up for the updates for now… expect awesomness later). He also has his own super rad blog here.

*my title, not his. haha

Hi everyone!

As you read in Celine’s post, trying to avoid plastic isn’t new to me – but it’s not something I’ve focused on in recent years. I live in Seattle, where like BC, we have mostly hydro power, and we also have a large central city with a strong downtown that’s ripe for transit investment. Our largest consumption of fossil fuels is in the ridiculous amount of driving people do in our city – so my advocacy here has been in pushing for fast, reliable, electric mass transit to give people a better way to get around.

But as you all know, that’s only part of the equation! We do a lot on the legislative level – this month, our city banned plastic grocery bags (mostly), and we’re working on passing the same law for the entire state. But in order to pass legislation like this, we need to show people first that there are better solutions. That’s why I’m so excited about Passing Up Plastic – it makes people consider the alternatives they have already and become open to making these changes permanently.

I’m actually doing something a little different than Celine and Carol-Lynne. I’m trying to eliminate my use of any disposable goods, if I can, not just plastic. My employer’s cafeteria provides disposable plastic cutlery – ‘compostable’ to make you feel better – and paper plates and bowls. After getting back from Portland, one of the first things I did was bring a pair of chopsticks, a spoon and a bowl to work, to not only eliminate the cutlery, but also the trash! Producing a paper plate takes as much fossil fuel to create and ship as any plastic wrapper. Of course, so does a ceramic bowl and a pair of wooden chopsticks – but only once, rather than adding more fossil fuel every use!

I’ll write more soon about the mistakes I’ve already made, and what I’ve done about them.

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07/19/2012

I am at Starbucks. Damn it.

I am studying with a friend right now and we’ve been occupying this corner in a Starbucks for a couple of hours now.
Perhaps all this hard work I’m doing tired me out. I let my guard down. Maybe it’s auto-pilot syndrome…

My first drink was totally in a ceramic mug. What do you take me for, people? ;D
But I just went back (to the same barista) to ask for a second drink. It came in the paper to-go cup.

I didn’t ask for a for-here cup that time.

KA-BLAM!

“Starbucks white paper cups, used for hot beverages, are made of paper fiber and the industry standard liner (low-density polyethylene plastic). The paper provides the rigidity for the cup, while the plastic layer keeps the paper layer intact by protecting it from the hot beverage. This plastic layer also makes the hot beverage cups unrecyclable in most paper recycling systems. We are continually evaluating alternatives to the current plastic coating, and are currently conducting life cycle assessments for bio-based plastics.”

I’m sipping my warm milk from my first to-go cup boasting that ever-familiar Starbucks branding. Talk about 21st Century problems, eh?

On a more positive note, I’m stoked to spend some time writing some really positive and exciting posts in the future. I’ve got lots of stories and videos to share.

07/15/2012

Travel Log: Portland

I love this city as fiercely as I’m learning to hate plastic straws! I refuse to admit that my sin bin is filled with straws because I simply drink too much gin and get so caught up in the bliss that I forget about everything else. By everything I really mean everything.. like the planet. My love affair is so deep that when I do health cleanses I somehow justify drinking gin throughout… it’s clean! There’s no sugar! It’s just juniper berries! Are you with me?!

My favourite Gin in the entire world. Distilled by Victoria’s very own NDP MLA, Lana Popham. More proof that Gin = progressive values?

 

As an aside, did you know that there’s a notable correlation between drinking gin and having a left of centre political leaning? *This study was done in the U.S. so the data may not be equivalent in Canada*

Back to Portland, I went out to distilleries, brew pubs and other Portlandian watering holes. One night in particularly I was treated to a plethora of tasty gin mojitos. They arrived double strawed. Imagine my distress! Until I tasted it and promptly zoomed into gin-town reverie!

The silver lining here was that I spent the weekend getting to know a compelling human named Ben Schiendelman from Seattle. Upon returning home to Seattle this status popped up on his facebook feed:

“In the wake of Camp Wellstone, I find myself energized by all the awesome people fighting for issues I care about across a dozen categories. One thing in particular sticks out, because it’s something I’ve been ignoring lately: disposables and plastic crap. I try to buy only durable, reusable goods made of wood, metal, and glass, and these make up most of my possessions, but I’ll stop for tea or coffee nearly every day in a disposable paper cup with a plastic lid. So, first, that stops – there is no reason to create demand for oil any more than I have to. Second, if I do use plastic, I’m keeping it (for a year?), so it’s a pain in the ass and it reminds me. Third, when I fuck up, or when I see something for which there is or could be a better solution, you all get to hear about it. I put way too much effort into big environmental causes to ignore poor day to day choices, and we have better, more sustainable solutions for nearly everything in our day to day lives. Now that you’ve read this – who will join me in trying to eliminate plastic and disposable crap from our lives?”

A convert! Perhaps in the long run these six straws are a sacrifice to the gods of plastic free. Maybe we’ll hear from Ben in the future to see how his experiment is going across the pond in Seatown.