Twelve Rs for December

Happy December! Being kind is so easy, and December should be a month of kindness. The Actions for Happiness Calendar is below. Earth kindness is also so important.

During December plastic waste and food waste increases. This December see how you can apply the some of the twelve Rs to reduce your plastic waste footprint. Start by banning all glitter from your home and always bringing your reusable shopping bags.

REMEMBER

REKIND

REDUCE  

REUSE  

REFUSE  

REFILL 

REPAIR  

REPURPOSE 

RETHINK  

REGIFT  

RESEARCH 

RECYCLE 

Plastic-Free Presents: Mindful Gifting for Healthier Holidays – YouTube 

Another video from Plastic Pollution Coalition:

Kindness creates a ripple, spread it every day, and everyday do something kind for the planet by reducing your plastic consumption!

Tips to use less plastic: https://health4earth.com/2022/02/27/tips-to-use-less-plastic/

A Plastic-Free Thanksgiving

These ideas are from Beyond Plastic:

Happy Thanksgiving! Remember your reusable shopping bags and reusable containers!

  1. Choose Scratch Over Store-Bought

Most store-bought dishes from supermarkets and restaurants will be packaged in plastic containers. To avoid the unnecessary plastic, focus on cooking from scratch. Ingredients like vegetables, flour, butter, and nuts can be commonly found in non-plastic packaging. For items like nuts and dried fruits, see if your local market, co-op or health food store has a bulk section and bring your own bags to fill up! When faced with a choice of packaging, choose glass or paper over plastic. If you’re looking for inspiration, see our recipe suggestions below.

  • Shop Local

Shopping locally not only reduces your meal’s carbon footprint, but you can bring your own bags and containers and you’re less likely to encounter plastic packaging than at your grocery store. Small businesses also need our support more than ever during the pandemic. Give your community your thanks by supporting each other!

If you don’t have the time or inclination to make pumpkin, pecan, or apple pie from scratch, check your local bakery.  While you’re there, pick up the bread you’ll need to make your stuffing and bring it all home in your reusable bags. Visit your local farmers market to pick up potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, greens, and more. If your farmers market is closed for the season, many CSAs (community supported agriculture) also offer a special one-time Thanksgiving share of goodies to anyone, even if you’re not a subscriber. 

  • Use Sustainable Decor

Forget the dollar store, make the perfect fall decor for your table setting with things from your backyard and local farm stand. Pressed leaves and pumpkins make for great wall and table adornments! Check out some DIY ideas here. And don’t forget to get the kids involved!

  • Serve on Reusable Dishes & Dinnerware 

Plastic utensils and cups end up in landfills, incinerators, or waterways where they can pose a threat to wildlife. Set your table with reusable plates, cups, serving platters, utensils and napkins. This can also include glass pitchers or bottles for drinks. If your family enjoys seltzer, consider investing in a SodaStream or other carbonation machine (tip: choose the model that comes with glass bottles over plastic). If you have kids, assign them the task of polishing silver—they may find it deeply satisfying. Sticking to reusables only will not only reduce your waste but also save you money.

  • Provide or Bring Reusable Containers for Leftovers

Going to family or friend’s home for dinner? Bring your own glass or metal containers to cart home some delicious leftovers. There are also some great beeswax-coated fabric wraps out there these days that can take the place of plastic wrap or tinfoil. If you are hosting the dinner, remind guests to bring reusable containers with them. If you have extras to spare (say from all those take-out containers you’ve saved since the lockdown started), you can offer them to guests who’ve forgotten to bring their own. Please remember to take the necessary precautions when interacting with others to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

  • Compost!

Compost any scraps from cooking or leftovers that aren’t being saved, as well as any compostable decor you’ve put up (once you tire of it). Reminder, if your Thanksgiving dinner includes a turkey, make stock out of the carcass before you compost it—you can make a very flavorful turkey soup or freeze it for months. If you’re not sure what can and can’t be composted, check out this helpful list. If you don’t have a backyard compost, see if your city or town has a local composting system. If they don’t, look into how to start one!

RECIPE SUGGESTIONS

6 Steps To a Plastic-Free Thanksgiving — Beyond Plastics – Working To End Single-Use Plastic Pollution

Halloween Creativity

Halloween is a great time to be creative. I love the original costumes that parade to my front door. For me the challenge is how to be plastic-free? I don’t like candy packaging that can’t be recycled and will lie in a garbage dump for 5oo years and struggle every year to find a sustainable treat. Beyond Plastic has some terrific decorating, costume and treat suggestions for a plastic-free Halloween:

First, create a reusable bag to carry with you. turn a washable shopping bag inside and decorate your bag. A perfect way to have your original candy collection bag!

health4earth

Turn your clean reusable bag inside out and decorate.

Plastic-free ideas from Beyond Plastic:

Pick plastic-free packages. If you need to stick to packaged candies, there are some options that come wrapped in foil or small thin cardboard boxes. Candies like Dots, Milk Duds, and Junior Mints come in small cardboard boxes, Tootsie Rolls and other fruit chews and Dubble Bubble come wrapped in paper, and there are many small Halloween-themed chocolates that come wrapped in foil that, at least in theory, could be collected and recycled

Costumes

Try to avoid buying new costumes in one of those desperate last-minute trips to the seasonal Halloween Stores that pop up like mushrooms in October because they are cheaply made and are almost always made entirely from plastic.

Instead, plan ahead and visit your local thrift store to find they key elements you need to make your own costumes. Most thrift stores also have pre-loved costumes for sale and you may find a great ready-made costume that way if you start looking early enough. You can also try to borrow either a whole costume or the key elements you need to create your own from a friend or family member. I’ve found that social media can be a big help in crowdsourcing costume ideas, entire costumes, or just certain “ingredients” for them.

Likewise, if you have costumes your kids have outgrown or that you’ve grown tired of, snap a few photos of them and invite your friends to use them this year. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor and you can all save some time, money, and material from the landfill this way.

Decorations

If you want to deck out your house, go for it! But do your best to steer clear of single-use and cheap plastic items that are likely to end up in the trash after a single use. Fortunately, nature makes a gorgeous line of non-toxic, fully compostable Halloween decorations in the form of pumpkins and other decorative gourds along with hay bales, reeds, and ornamental corn.

Here are a few ideas to try, all of which are great activities to do with kids:

  • Carve pumpkins (this one goes without saying!)
    • Consider inviting some friends to join you outside on a sunny weekend day and serve (reusable) mugs of mulled cider and donuts to make it a party.
    • After you’ve scooped out the seeds from your pumpkins, assign someone to clean the goop off them and then roast them for a nutritious and tasty fall snack. Scroll down to the end of this post for the simple directions to make roasted pumpkin seeds.
    • Click here for some great jack-o-lantern ideas. One fun switch can be to cut the bottom of the pumpkin off rather than the top and rest it on a plate with the cut side down. This allows you to retain the stem which you can turn into an interesting hairdo feature. We also love the “puking” pumpkin concept in which you use the “guts” of the pumpkin.
    • Help younger kids to draw their designs on and make sure to handle any tricky knife-work.
    • Provide candles or LED lights for each pumpkin and light them up when night falls for all to enjoy.
  • Make your own scarecrows. Dig through your ragbag to find some old clothes, buy a bale of hay, stuff the clothes with with hay, and top with a pumpkin head or a burlap or paper grocery bag on which you’ve drawn a funny face. When you’re through with the scarecrows, remove the hay, wash the old clothes and either return them to the rag bag or donate them if there’s still life in them, and compost the rest of the materials. If you live near a farm, note that many farm animals love to eat discarded pumpkins.
  • Choose LEDs. If you want to light your house up at night beyond the jack-o-lanterns, make sure you purchase LED string lights as they use significantly less energy (hence lower carbon emissions) and will also last longer than incandescent bulbs will.
  • Make “Halloween Trees”. This idea comes from a project that our digital director grew up doing and that she now does with her own kids. Search outside for fallen branches that mimic the look of gnarled spooky old trees. “Plant” the tree branch in a pot of dirt. Then let the fun begin! Make decorations by cutting bats, black cats and witches out of construction paper and hanging them from the branches with string. Search for small rounded or rectangular stones to serve as gravestones that you can write or paint on “RIP So and So”, “Here Lies…”, and half bury them in the dirt. If you feel like getting really creative, bust out the clay and sculpt some pumpkins, a witch or a skeleton to sprinkle around the ground below the tree. This can keep kids entertained for hours and you can save the best decorations for years to come and continue building on your spooky scenes. Beyond Plastic
  • Make Halloween Plastic-Free! — Beyond Plastics – Working To End Single-Use Plastic Pollution
  • More plastic-free Halloween ideas.

Three Simple Things

What Can I Do?

If you breathe air or drink water, you should care about the health of our Earth.

We all know the Earth is suffering. What we fail to recognize is that a sick planet leads to unhealthy sick people and for long-term consequences for our children. 

We must hold business accountable for the plastic they produce, and they must be held accountable if they pollute our air and water. Our elected officials need to be held accountable to hold oil companies and plastic producers to rigorous standards. Most important, we also have to hold ourselves accountable for how we pollute our air and water. Holding ourselves personally responsible is what we can control!

Even little things can make a huge difference if we work together. On Earth Day recalibrate your life to do three simple things a week to lighten our Earth’s load:

Choose one day to eat meatless, choose one day to not drive, and choose one day to be plastic-free. On plastic-free day don’t purchase or use anything plastic, and don’t or eat or drink food from plastic containers.

Don’t eat or drink from plastic

Every Day do something kind, and please take three breaths for peace in Ukraine.

Peace For Ukraine!

This reading list is too long, but I hope you can read at least one of these excellent articles:

On Earth Day ‘the world is not on track’ | Opinion – Minnesota Reformer 

Opinion | Enough About Climate Change. Air Pollution Is Killing Us Now. – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

3 eye-opening, science-based New Year’s resolutions that could help everyone | PBS NewsHour 

U.S. Has Highest Percentage of People Who Aren’t Worried About Climate Change in Survey of 31 Countries – EcoWatch 

Report lists Mississippi as one of ‘most endangered’ U.S. rivers | MPR News

‘Breakthrough’ Study Finds Microplastics in Human Blood – EcoWatch   

And from my city: Kick single use plastics. In Minneapolis, less than half of plastics are recycled. Most plastics are made from oil and gas. About 4% to 8% of the world’s oil product is for plastics, and most plastics are thrown away after a single use. Plastics collect in our lakes and rivers and break down into micro and nanoplastics. One way to help is to bring your own bag to grocery and convenience stores.

Coca-Cola produces 200,000 new plastic bottles a minute and sells 112 billion plastic beverage bottles worldwide every year for a total of roughly 3 million metric tons of plastic packaging. The majority of Coca-Cola’s plastic bottles are not recycled and only 11.5% are made from recycled material. Many of Coca-Cola’s plastic bottles end up littered in the world’s rivers and ocean.

Reuse on America Recycles Day

November 15, is America Recycles Day.  After so many years I am still surprised how hard it is to recycle in the United States. In my travels across America I can go weeks without seeing a recycle bin. In Europe often recycling is front and center, not perfect but it is seems a priority.

I have been surprised to learn this doesn’t always mean the product is recyclable????

Unfortunately it is still very hard to recycle plastic correctly in America. Paper/cardboard, glass and metal cans work well, but plastic, please read on.

Plastic recycling is very challenging. There is very little regulation of plastic in the United States. Plastic producers claim recycling is the answer to their products, but they don’t want any responsibility to pay for recycling or disposal of their products. They often they say their plastic is recyclable, when in fact it might be just one per cent recyclable or not at all.

Why is plastic recycling so hard? First there are those recycle 1-7 numbers. For something to be recycled it first needs to be collected, and then sorted into those  numbers. Next, it needs a market, or someone to buy it. All this makes plastic recycling expensive for communities (tax payers) and it is labor intensive.

 I am fortunate to live in a county (Hennepin) that makes this a priority, and I can’t express my gratitude to them enough!

Both Maine and Oregon have passed legislation to hold producers responsible for recycling and disposing of their products. This is a beginning and it is hopeful that more regulation of plastic could happen. As consumers we also have responsibility, when we purchase plastic we reinforce the idea that this is OK, and more of it is produced. The plastic chemical companies are gearing up to produce more plastic for the future, lets work to hold them accountable! Talk to your elected officials about how plastic producers should be held responsible for what happens to long lived plastics after disposal. Manufacturers also need more integrity in labeling what is in their plastic products.

On America Recycles Day recycle more of your paper/cardboard, glass and tin cans, and recycle plastic bottles and containers, but also begin to REDUCE your PLASTIC consumption.  Always bring your reusable cups/bottles, and bags for a start.

Big new goals on America Recycles Day https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/581578-epa-issues-national-recyling-plan-with-goal-of-50-percent-recycling

Make it a plastic-free day!

buy in bulk

Buying in bulk and refilling your bottles is the next step in reducing plastic.

Reading and watching list:

Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works. – The New York Times (nytimes.com) 

John Oliver Takes on the Plastics Industry – EcoWatch

California Just Passed 5 Mega Laws to Fight the Plastic Crisis – EcoWatch 

Plastics recycling is 90 percent garbage, John Oliver says, but that’s not your fault and there is a fix (yahoo.com) 

Watch Story of the Bottle! – Greenpeace

Virginia Governor Takes Action on Single-Use Plastics – EcoWatchBreak Free From Plastic Pollution Act Receives National Support – Center for Biological Diversity

August Challenge

 

“Being kind and warm-hearted is the secret to a happier life and a better world for everyone.” Dalai Lama

Last night as I was purchasing groceries, the young clerk said to me, “I have had such a good day, all the customers have been so nice!”

August is here, and this month subscribes to a kindness challenge.

The Actions for Happiness group has a calendar for Altruistic August with lots of ideas. See their ideas below.

If you still haven’t Your first action a kindness is to get vaccinated from Covid The collective health of all our communities is important. Get vaccinated!

Then…Our Earth needs kindness too. During August I challenge you to drive less, recycle more, buy less, and reuse more.

Make your August into double challenge days! If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot. Thank you.

Here’s my list of things to do:

Meatless Monday, Plastic-free Tuesday, Walking Wednesday, Transit Thursday, Zero food-waste Friday, litter pick-up Saturday, and finally, Smiling Sunday.

Have a Fun and thoughtful August, Actions for Happiness calendar follows:

Make it Plastic Free

The best time to start Plastic Free July was on July 1, but the second best time is today. Become aware of the plastic you use everyday all year! Plastic Free July is a world wide movement to become aware of the amount of plastic we use in our lives. It is about finding alternatives to the tons of plastic the world uses everyday. We are filling our bodies, our oceans, rivers and land with plastic. Plastic that will survive hundreds of years. Reducing our single-use consumption can make a big difference.

Reuse and Refuse plastic!

So what are single use plastics? Single-use plastics are items meant to be trashed after use. Single-use plastics are used for packaging and items such as bottles, wrappers, straws, and bags.

Survey your garbage, what plastic does it contain? Can you recycle any of it? What does it tell you about your choices and purchases? What plastic items do you think you could do without? Is there someway you can have less plastic garbage?

Don’t try to go plastic free to start, it’s close to impossible in the world we are living, but awareness and one item at a time is success!

July is plastic-free month

“Please, No straw!”

What is one plastic item you can give up? Baggies? Produce bags? Bottled water? Plastic straws? Plastic utensils? Styrofoam? For the next two weeks, don’t purchase or use that item. Hopefully, you can live without that product, and then choose another plastic item you can also end using. Keep it simple, don’t try to do too much. Simple steps will lead to more success and less frustration. There is nothing easy reducing plastic in our plastic world. Good luck as you begin a new journey of more sustainable and healthy living.

reuse

Reusable cloth produce bags

Ask me if you need help, I have been on this plastic free journey for years, and constantly learn new ways to reduce plastic. It is rewarding to know you have lightened your plastic footprint. Good luck!

Model a new way forward: “When we use disposable items, we send a message: this is what we want, keep it up, make more of this. When we refuse, and choose reusable, we model another way forward. Our choices can make a difference. Let’s make them count!” PlasticfreeTuesday 

Many ideas to reduce plastic use:

How to Get Rid of Throwaway Culture – YES! Magazine (yesmagazine.org)

Getting started – Plastic Free JulyGetting started – Plastic Free July 

Plastic Free July – Be Part of the Solution   

New Zealand to Ban Most Single-Use Plastics by 2025 – EcoWatch

Here’s What Happens When You Eat From Plastic Containers – EcoWatch 

How Plant-Based Packaging Can Solve the Plastic Crisis – Business and Tech (futureofbusinessandtech.com)  


The Story of Plastic (animated short) – Story of Stuff

Pandemic pollution: Disposable masks, gloves are saving lives but ruining the environment | PBS NewsHour

Seven ways to go plastic free for Plastic Free July – Greenpeace Aotearoa

Norwex Movement  10 ways to be plastic-free

The Challenge of Plastic

Do the best you can until you know better, then do better” Maya Angelou

 

Covid-19 has been a plastic disaster. As we climb out of this abyss we must take single-use plastic seriously. We also need to hold companies accountable for bad packaging.

Why as taxpayers and citizens are we paying the price of this environmental disaster of plastic while the creators of this packaging have no responsibility? The landfills in the county where I live are full, and plastic trash can last for hundreds of years, maybe forever!  What are the manufacturers of this plastic thinking other than profit? As consumers we are also at fault. If we keep buying this plastic packaging they will keep making it!

July is plastic-free month
Work to reduce your plastic footprint

How can we all reduce our landfill trash? Surveying my garbage I find I have way too much plastic that cannot be recycled, and most of it is # 7 plastic that cannot be recycled.   Why would companies use plastic that can’t be recycled? I decided to ask them. I sent an emails or telephoned Wyman’s Blueberries, Bob’s Red Mill, Morning Star and Gardein.  A few companies admitted they wished their  packaging was better, but it was a freshness and a cost issue to stay competitive. What about the costs to the environment and our health? 

#7 plastic is a mixture of different plastics and it is designed to make it hard to know what it contains. It can contain harmful chemicals like BPA. Don’t purchase it, and don’t purchase any plastic that can’t be recycled!

Model a new way forward: “When we use disposable items, we send a message: this is what we want, keep it up, make more of this. When we refuse, and choose reusable, we model another way forward. Our choices can make a difference. Let’s make them count!” PlasticfreeTuesday 

Also choose reusable masks and gloves!

Bob’s Red Mill was the most disappointing of the companies I contacted. They sell lots of products, many that are hard to find, and have a monopoly on some products. Bob’s has a trusted reputation of being  healthy and sustainable. I am sad they use awful  # 7 packaging, and at our house we won’t purchase their products or any #7 plastic until their packaging improves.

Please recycle plastic bags at grocery stores!

The good news is that by being a smarter shopper it is possible to find items that are packaged in recyclable #4 plastic. These #4 bags need to be dropped off at grocery stores for store recycling. They should not be placed with your normal plastic recycling because they disable the sorting machines.

health4earth
Bring your own reusable bags.

Lets hold plastic producers accountable and avoid harmful plastic. It is always best to reuse bags and containers when possible, but sadly that often is not an option. However, with new awareness we can do better, one plastic item at a time.

Reading list:

Tips & tricks for grocery shopping with less waste (plasticfreetuesday.com)

Solving Packaging

Virginia moves closer to ban plastic foam containers | Environment | rappnews.com 

Action item: Can you join me and take action demanding President Biden act on plastics? Click here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/president-biden-be-a-plasticfreepresident?source=email&

 

 

A Plastic-free President, sign petition

Please sign the petition below asking President Biden to help stop the plastic crisis facing the world.

Plastic will soon outweigh all the fish in the sea, and it’s in our drinking water and on our plates. Yet industry plans to increase plastic production by 40% over the next decade.

President Biden can, and must, act on plastic pollution. We must stop producing more plastic and transform our throwaway economy to a regenerative one.

We demand President Biden take bold actions on plastic pollution and be a #PlasticFreePresident.

550+ organizations recently launched a plan outlining eight actions President Biden can take without Congress to fight the plastic pollution crisis. President Biden must take all eight actions.

Can you join me and take action demanding President Biden act on plastics? Click here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/president-biden-be-a-plasticfreepresident?source=email&

Thanks!

We all must do everything we can to reduce plastic pollution.

Below are the eight important actions that need to be immediately taken:

  1. Use the purchasing power of the Federal government to eliminate single-use plastics and replace them with reusable products.
  2. Deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities associated with infrastructure projects.
  3. Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions.
  4. Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors.
  5. Update existing federal regulations to curtail pollution from plastics facilities by using the best available science and technology.
  6. Stop subsidizing plastic producers.
  7. Join international efforts to address the global plastic pollution crisis through new and strengthened multilateral agreements.
  8. Reduce and mitigate the impacts of discarded and lost fishing gear.