This past July I participated in the Story of Stuff’s plastic challenge. Although one of their aims is to make plastic a “thing of the past,” I think it’s more realistic (and desirable) to both reduce our use, and support efforts to create systems that break plastic down into harmless components. There is research with mushrooms that makes plastic breakdown a real possibility.
For this post, I just want to share a list of plastic substitutes I came up with, and a bit about my experience. A couple of these may get their own, longer, blogpost in the future.
- Started using a Green Panda toothbrush with bamboo handle & bristles. This already has its own blogpost.
- My Oxo plastic watering can was disintegrating after several years, and I replaced it with a galvanized metal one from Ace hardware, complete with a rosette-style spout. It works quite well, with a smooth thick handle that doesn’t cut into my palm. As much as I liked my OXO, I like this better.
- I started using undyed wool yarn to tie up large plants/small shrubs such as my tomato plants, so I can phase out that green plastic ribbon they sell you at the gardening center. The yarn is softer & kinder to the plant stems than the natural fiber twine they also sell at the gardening center.
- I am currently experimenting with using different types of rubber tubes & straps for large shrubs/small trees.
- I bought a set of beeswax wrappers to cover food bowls. It’s still an experiment-in-process. They’re pricey when compared to a roll of plastic wrap, but they can be gently washed in cool water. These have been useful to cover up pans of baked goods, and the like. Not recommended for meat.
- I’m most excited about eliminating synthetic sponge purchases from my shopping list. I’m not even using steel wool scrubbers as much. These 2 items have been replaced by my Wooltangles! These come in a pack of 3, and definitely deserve their own blogpost. I took a few minutes to sew a hemp cord border around mine for extra scrubbing power. This gives me a scrubber soft enough for non-stick cookware, and strong enough for my big roasting pan, when combined with a pre-soak & some Barkeeper’s Friend. The history of these Wooltangles is right in the phrase “steel wool.” That differentiates steel wool from regular wool, which is what folks used to scrub up with, back in the day. I had no idea!
- My mom was telling me about a guy who makes all kinds of different plant starter pots from natural materials, so I cleaned out half a grapefruit rind, poked some holes in the bottom, and dried it outside over the course of a few dry hot days. It’s now wrapped up & waiting to be used in the spring. I’ll have to update you all on that. 🙂 I’m interested to see how the seedlings respond, and how the container itself breaks down when planted in the soil.
As a final note to the July challenge, I want to give a lot of credit to Story of Stuff for helping provide a framework for community-wide and global change in the realm of plastic disposal. Although our homes are where we feel we have the most control, our local & global community networks are what will effect the best, most long-lasting change. I wrote a letter to one of our local restaurants asking them to consider offering plastic beverage straws on request, rather than including one automatically with each beverage served. One of the founding partners responded to my email with firm agreement, and promised to bring it up at their management meeting later that week. Each and every effort counts. Together we can reach the tipping point.