#PlasticFreeJuly: Day 5

Let me just begin by saying: Sorry to my Target.

I did something that now seems a little crazy, but….I took a basket home. One of their shopping baskets home. I didn’t want to use a plastic bag and I didn’t have my reusable ones. I didn’t just want to buy a new one and I didn’t want to carry the things I had bought in my hands. So we just put everything back in the basket after paying and took it to my car. It was terrible, but I did prevent myself from using at least 3 plastic bags.

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Now it’s just staring at me while I write this blog post…

In other news, I’ve successfully gotten rid of 1/3 of my closet (clothes and shoes), which for me is a great step in the right direction. I know it doesn’t really have to with plastic, but it does have to do with being less wasteful. I’m trying to reduce the amount of “fast fashion” pieces that I own, and stick with more basic pieces that could last a while. I have found some really good basic pieces in Target and thrift stores before, like jeans, jumpsuits, and dresses that will help me limit the amount of trendy fashion that I take part in.

SO now I have a Target basket, but I also have three paper bags filled with clothes to donate. I think that’s definitely a win. I definitely have a long way to go in terms of my closet, but I’m making progress.

I also, very aggressively, stopped my best friend from using a plastic straw at the restaurant we went to. I have to try and help those around me stop their bad plastic habits. And I did. Very aggressively.

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I think on Day 6, today I’m going to just stay at home or try and go to my local bulk/zero waste store, Verde Market. It has been extremely rainy, but I will try to get out there and challenge myself to not use any plastic.

Are you taking part in the challenge? If yes, what have you been doing?

 

Until next time,

Dani

 

#PlasticFreeJuly: Day 2

Yes, you read that right…day 2. I kind of forgot about this challenge and started a day late. At the end of Day 1, I realized that I desperately need to complete this challenge.

I was in my car on my way home from work and I looked down….

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I had not one…not two…not three, but FOUR PLASTIC STRAWS still in their wrapping.

Image result for fainting gif This gif was me…because how COULD I???

This is how: I am too lazy to make breakfast and stopped at the same fast food place a couple of times a week to buy some breakfast…and every time I grabbed my carton orange juice, I didn’t reject the plastic straw even though I didn’t really need it for my drink. I am just as ashamed as you probably are because my arch nemesis are plastic straws and here I am with FOUR unopened ones in my car. I also haven’t thrown them out or done something with them because of this shame that I feel.

I know I sound dramatic, but let’s be real, it’s a big deal. I don’t know what has changed within me that makes me forget to reject the straw, but whatever it is is not good. I need to go back to my plastic-free lifestyle, hence, this challenge.

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For Day 2, I posted on my Instagram (@latinatreehugger and @danialviz) about my new reusable 12 oz coffee cup. I had been looking for something small to hold my cafe con leche and I found one at Walmart. It’s sealed super tight so it’s really hard for me to spill it since I’m such a clutz. I tried using a mason jar as my coffee cup and burned myself real quick, but this one works great and fits in my lunch bag or the cup holders on the side of my work backpack. 

I have really been making an effort to dedicate some time in the morning to make my own coffee at home if I’m really craving it. So far, so good. I’ve learned how to make my cafe con leche the way that the Cuban viejitas do at those Cuban bakeries.

 

For Day 3, I’m not sure what I’m going to advocate, but I’ll definitely keep this challenge going and I will try to document every day on my blog. Maybe at the end of each week, I’ll record a podcast on the revelations I’ve had during the challenge that week.

Until next time,

Dani

Microplastics in the AIR?

Hey guys, so I’m taking a little break from posting only podcasts and I’m going to get on here and write some short and sweet blog posts for the times that you or I can’t do the podcast thing.

Let’s talk about plastics…again. This time let’s focus on microplastics.

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I don’t know if you have been following any news source lately or if it’s just my college department’s newsletter, but I have been seeing a lot of news regarding microplastics. I’ve always known that they are an issue, obviously, but I didn’t think it was getting this out of hand.

Nature and NPR released articles relating to finding microplastics in the air in France’s Pyrenees Mountains.

Microplastics….in the air….

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Now we can’t breathe in either…first, we couldn’t eat salt from the ocean or fish and now we can’t even breathe in France and around the world. Incredible…

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These are the mountains in France, the Pyrenees Mountains.

All jokes aside, this is actually really alarming. Apparently, high amounts of microplastics are raining down on a remote and seemingly pristine part of the mountains and according to scientists, they could potentially be floating everywhere. So now it’s raining microplastics, too. I honestly don’t know how this isn’t extremely alarming to anyone else besides the professors that are sending the students these news articles.

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Let’s go back a little bit and talk about what microplastics are really. They are small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life. Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. According to NOAA, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as cleansers and toothpaste. They easily pass through the water filtration systems and end up in the ocean and they pose a potential threat to aquatic life.

We need to be more aware of the way we are affecting our environment. Now it’s not even a matter of not using a plastic straw, it’s a matter of just completing stopping the use of plastic or generating better ways to recycle it or to reuse it in products we “can’t live without” or products that everyone uses. If we can find ways to repurpose all of this plastic we are wasting and throwing away, we could definitely make a huge difference. Obviously, completely getting off plastic worldwide is the goal, but we have to start somewhere, right?

So how did they find the microplastic in the mountains? Well, one day the researcher who was part of the team dreamed up the experiment, Steve Allen, thought about what happens to something like a plastic bag on a fence flapping away…the plastic has to go somewhere once you don’t see that bag there anymore. Allen’s team set up some collectors there for like five months to trap the plastic particles and they said they expected some, but not as many as they actually found.

They found…. get this…365 plastic particles on average every day on a square meter collector. They found several types of microplastic floating on the wind in the Pyrenees like fibers from clothing, and bits from plastic bags, plastic film, and packaging material.

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This is the kind of example of plastics stuck somewhere that will eventually break down into micro ones.

Apparently, it isn’t even local. The closest villages around the mountain are within 60 miles of the study site. In the NPR article, they said that scientists know how dust travels, like from the Sahara across the Atlantic, but scientists basically don’t know anything about how microplastics move. It’s not something that people have been observing in nature for decades…. this is something that has been happening recently.

So, this next part is the part that kind of shocked me a lot, besides the already shocking conclusion that there are microplastics in a mountain range that is 4,500 feet above sea level. Allen says that if this much micro plastic manages to get halfway up the Pyrenees mountains, it could theoretically be everywhere. And that probably means that we are most likely inhaling them right now. Another scary thing is that if we are inhaling them, what will happen to us? We don’t really know how our human systems will react to microplastic. Chelsea Rochman, a plastic researched at the University of Toronto found microplastics as far away from civilization as the Arctic. So, it doesn’t matter that you personally don’t use any plastics, if the person in another country is still using it. The broken-down plastics will find their way to you, apparently. Obviously, this is all speculation, but scientists believe it’s probably what’s happening.

If you want to read the NPR article yourself here it is. It’s really alarming to think that plastics are in our air now, but that is something for you to have an opinion, or not, about. Tell your friends about this and make them aware of what is going on in our environment. This is in France, but the trade winds and all the other wind systems make these things travel to us or to you.

Until next time and don’t breathe too much! (haha…just kidding?)

Dani

Back to School? How to be waste-free at school.

It’s that time again for a lot of us.

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That time of year where we have to discontinue our binge-watching and get our lives together for.

BACK TO SCHOOL!

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I’m entering my final year at my university, but this year is different. I’m trying to be zero-waste this year, which makes shopping for school supplies a bit complicated.

I headed to Walmart with my brother the night before my semester starts, which was the worst idea I could have ever had, but we started to hunt for our supplies.

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I then realized, that I have to be as zero-waste as possible. It’s really hard to do that when all of the pens, pencils, markers, and other writing utensils come in plastic wrappings. Sure, the backing is cardboard (which we can recycle), but the wrapping covering them is plastic.

One of the blogs that I follow for zero-waste inspiration and shopping is called Package Free Shop. In this store you can find all sorts of package-free items like razors, toothbrushes, shopping bags, and other such things.

For back to school, they added some school supply items that are package free and sustainable. They have recycled paper notebooks, binders, and folders. They also have 100% cotton pencil pouches and book bags. I also recommend if you already have pencil pouches or notebooks that are half filled, just keep using them. If they have a rip, just do some basic sewing and fix it. That is one way that we create waste: by just throwing things way because we don’t like the anymore. There are DIY ways to just revamp something that we do not like anymore. Try to find those ways. If you really don’t want to keep it anymore, but it is still a good item, then just donate it to Goodwill or other secondhand-stores around you.

If you can’t get your supplies from this website and Walmart is just closer, then try to find the least wasteful things.

Pilot has pens that are called B2P (Bottle-2-pen), which launched in 2010. The gel ink and ball point pens are made from 89% and 83% recycled plastic bottles respectively. They are all 100% refillable.

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Notebooks are for the most part recyclable, but you can always try to reuse the ones from the last semester or school year. This way you can reduce the amount of waste you are causing. Always try to save things you used from the previous year so that you can use them for the following semester.

If you are in the market for a new notebook, there are these super cool reusable notebooks that I found out about last semester. They are called Rocketbook. It is a reusable, digital notebook. There is an app that the notebook goes with where you just upload the pages to and then erase it when you’re done.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write notes.
  2. Choose a destination. You use symbols at the bottom of the pages that connect to your Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, iCloud, iMessage, or Email. Each symbol represents a course that you are taking or a specific destination.
  3. Scan your pages.

To erase your notes, you just have to wipe them clean with water and a cloth. It’s really simple and can be used an endless amount of time.

It’s always a little difficult to be zero waste, but you just have to be conscious about the items you are grabbing and buying and how you can reduce your waste. Will it be recyclable? Can I refill it? Can I donate it when I’m done?

Good luck!

Until next time,

Dani

Shopping: Plastic-free!

One of the hardest things to adjust to is bringing my own reusable bag everywhere I go. It’s so hard to not forget it, especially because we are so accustomed to just conforming to the norm of receiving plastic bags. Well, it’s time to break that terrible habit.

Here’s why:

For starters, oceans. Everything about the oceans. The animals, the actual water in the ocean, the reefs, everything. Sea turtles eat jellyfish and jellyfish look very similar to plastic bags. We might be able to tell the difference, but the sea turtles can’t. When they digest them, it causes blockages within their digestive system and eventually, they will die because of it.

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On the left, a plastic bag. On the right, jellyfish.

Plastic bags are petroleum-based and so they don’t biodegrade. According to the EPA, Americans use more than 380 BILLION PLASTIC BAGS! BILLIONS!!!! A 2015 study estimated that there are more than 15 TRILLION pieces of plastic trash in the ocean.

Now that you know all of those super depressing facts, let’s talk about how to change our habits and thus using less plastic.

If you shop anywhere, you can find reusable cloth bags. Walmart sells them for a dollar. H&M sometimes has them on sale for $0.50. Ross has the big ones for $2. You can find them anywhere for less than $5 each. They sell them in different sizes so you can use them wherever and for whatever.

When you shop for groceries, think about how many produce plastic bags you use….it’s probably a lot. What you can do is just bring your reusable bag or you can spend $5 on a pack of 5 reusable produce bags from Target. You can use one bag for more than one vegetable or fruit and so you won’t need many.

You can also try to stop buying cherries in plastic bags. Cherries don’t need to be in plastic bags. They have this super cool natural skin that protects their insides. Wow, nature is great! But seriously, you don’t need to have cherries in a plastic bag or grapes or strawberries in a plastic container. Try to go to farmer’s markets where they don’t put their produce in plastic containers.

If you can avoid it, try to not buy things that are obviously not supposed to be in plastic containers. Did you ever read that article about the peeled oranges in a plastic container? It was from Whole Foods….so people make mistakes? Sure, but sometimes those mistakes end up with animals being found on the beach with dozens of pounds of plastic in their stomachs.

You can also avoid plastic bags through buying in bulk or at package-free stores like Whole Foods. They have a section in their stores where you can bring your own container (I love using mason jars since they’re glass and serve many purposes), tare it (zero the weight), pour your food in it and then pay by the pound. I think most Whole Foods only have things like oats, chocolate covered almonds, quinoa, possibly rice, trail mix, and other such things. Just by doing this, you can already reduce half of your plastic waste when shopping.

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I could talk about this for days, but I will leave you with what I have written for now. If you have any questions, comment them down below!

Until next time,

Dani