ONE PAPER PLATE AT A TIME

My son has a friend who’s here most weekends. He’s a smart guy. His head is in the right place. He does very little cooking and uses paper plates. He doesn’t use tons of them — maybe a couple of packages a year. He’s single, doesn’t bring people home, and doesn’t eat a lot. Owen offered him a set of dishes. He said he didn’t bother with dishes. I pointed out that paper plates were the first thing I gave up when I decided to try making my lifestyle closer to my belief system.

He pointed out he isn’t a heavy user even of paper plates. I said that if every person stopped using just one package of paper plates a year, it would keep millions of tons of paper trash out of our ever diminishing dumps.

Just one package. Owen felt I was being pushy, but I thought, “Here’s a guy whose head is in the right place. If I can’t convince him to give up a single item, I can’t convince anyone of anything.” How difficult could it be for one guy to wash a plate once a day rather than tossing a paper plate into the trash? This is not a major, life-changing inconvenience. Did I convince him? I’m betting the next time he goes to buy plates, he might stop and think a couple of place settings of regular dishes might not be such a difficult change.

Everyone is in favor of this doing something about The Planet until it becomes inconvenient or costs money. People don’t like change, even if it’s free or when the change benefits the planet and works as well or better than whatever you did before. We all know we need to do something. Most of us feel helpless in the face of the monumental issues facing us.

No one person needs to do anything huge, but we can manage the small stuff.

I’m discovering over time what I can do. Each thing I change is something small, but that’s what I can do. I recycle even though most recycling around here is futile because we don’t have an single recycling plant. No one collects newspapers which used to be a big deal. It’s the reason I won’t accept get paper newspapers. It wouldn’t even cost me more to get hard copies — but then I’d be buried in newspapers which would ultimately become trash.

More than a decade ago, I switched from single use lithium batters to rechargeable batteries. They won’t last forever, but in 10 years of using nothing but rechargeables, only two have failed.

I did a lot of research about this because at the time, I was using a camera that worked on AAs and wanted to know which batteries were best. The answer? Panasonic Eneloop batteries. They aresold on Amazon. Probably other places too. All my AA and AAA Eneloops are still working like new and many of them are more than 12 years old. The Eneloops by Panasonic last longer than standard lithium batteries and while eventually, I’m sure they’ll stop working, in the meantime I personally have probably saved the world from hundreds of hazardous batteries. Don’t buy cheap rechargeables. It’s a waste of money.

Batteries were my first expensive concession to a less trashy environment. They were expensive , but not much more than lithium batteries you use once and toss. Technically, if you don’t already know this, all batteries are hazardous waste. Since we have no way to dispose of them, they wind up in the trash. We know better, no one provides pickups for small items considered hazardous so I’m betting all old batteries end up in the rubbish.

I am gradually discovering many small changes I can make to create less trash. Cellulose cleaning cloths (made mostly in Sweden) are a combination of cleaning rag and paper towel. They don’t last forever, but they last a long time and you can throw them in the laundry. Completely biodegradable, too. I like them so much that I went all over my kitchen and cleaned everything. Not only a trash saver, but a great cleaning tool. I replaced my plastic dish cleaning stuff with equivalent items made of wood or bamboo with natural bristles. They don’t cost much more than plastic, but perform better and last longer.

We have bidets like the ones they use in the middle east. These have hoses you can point where you need them. Great for cleaning the toilet and (I’m told) diapers. It’s how we survived the COVID toilet paper shortage. All my cleaning and washing stuff — for everything from my hands to the floor and everything else — are natural and non-lethal. They work well, in many cases better than the stuff I used before.

I still don’t know what to do about plastic because so many things arrive in plastic containers. Someone will have to invent something else I suppose — or actually build recycling plants and really reuse the plastic.

Considering that almost everyone is in favor of recycling and reducing or eliminating trash but no one wants to change the way they do things or pay even a little bit more for a safer product. No one likes change, especially for daily items.

I switched to 100% clean energy two years ago. When I started, it cost a penny per KW more than National Grid’s prices. Last year, their price was the same as National Grid. This year, they raised the price to 17 cents/KW which was too much for us. I called them, said I wanted to stay with them, but 17 cents was more than I could manage. They dropped the price to 13.4 cents/KW, which is less than the recent rates from National Grid.

If all of the people who agree we have a problem with the Earth and garbage were to make a single minor improvement, it would matter. One person wouldn’t accomplish anything, but 20 million people each making a small changes would matter. As an example, if everyone reduced their paper use by 25%, it would mean millions fewer trees cut down. Individually it might seem pointless, but collectively, it is something.

Change has to start somewhere. How about in your home?



Categories: Anecdote, climate change, House and home, kitchen gadgets, Photography, transition and change

Tags: , , , ,

20 replies

  1. We try to reuse, reduce and recycle just about everything. NOW, I’ll check into cellulose dish towels and Panasonic Eneloop batteries. Thanks for the tips!

    Like

    • Panasonic — of all the manufacturers — is the only one who makes really good, long-lasting batteries. Not cheap, but the bunch I first bought in 2010 still work as well as they did when I got them. I tried (briefly) cheaper batteries and they work a few times, then died. These are great batteries and once you get enough of them, it’s great never running out of batteries — AND never having to figure out what to do with a dead battery.

      The cellulose dish rags are shockingly efficient at cleaning surfaces. Countertops, appliances, everything. They also pick up crumbs which are always a problem for me because nothing picks them up — but these really DO. And NOT expensive.

      Like

  2. Great Post
    In Switzerland., *everything* gets recycled! We turn up at our town’s plant with pre-sorted glass, newspapers & cardboard. Plastic (with all the right codes such as PET), coffee pods, batteries , all foils and metal. We pay for our garbage bags (heavily,) but we pay attention to not take home too much ‘stuff’. It’s a mind set and it works.
    As HH says: tout est dans la tête- it’s all in a mind .

    Like

  3. Once again your spot-on stewardship of planet Earth shines, Marilyn. Also re the Panasonic Eneloop batteries: a friend let me know that there are devices that let you have C and D cell sizes. Here’s a link to the C adaptor: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00JRF2GD8?ref=ppx_pt2_dt_b_prod_image&th=1. Best, Babsje

    Like

    • Except for a few cheap flashlight, we don’t have much need for those big batteries, though I could use maybe half a dozen of them for flashllight. Eneloops now come in quite a few sizes. They used to be mostly AA and AAA sizes because those were the most commonly used. We actually have too many AAs since remotes and other small devices use AAAs instead. We never seem to have quite enough AAAs. I’m sure as soon as I stock up on AAAs, they come up with a NEW size.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Our council like most in Tasmania provides a recycling bin which gets emptied every two weeks. I have some doubts about whether the stuff does get properly recycled but it’s where our paper junk, cardboard and tins go. This morning after the collection there was a note on the bin. I was afraid that it was a message saying we’d put the bin in the wrong place or they were changing the pick up times or something. It wasn’t. It was from the council and it said “Thank you for being a good sort”. They must have been doing an audit of what people were putting in the bins.

    Like

    • We get (such as it is) recycling from whatever company we hire to collect trash. In Boston, they city collected it, but out here, we pay by the barrel. Not for the recycling, but for regular trash. Right now, they only take aluminum cans, plastic bottles, other clear plastics, and cardboard. No paper and no glass. But a little is better than nothing.

      Isn’t it great being a good citizen?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I found out later that the council had indeed sent someone to inspect the bins and that some people received a red or orange tag on their bin if they had put non recyclable products in it. So green is good 🙂

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  5. Our Waste Management company tells us to put used paper plates in the Yard Waste/Compostable bin.

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    • Nobody tells us anything. They will take away SOME recyclables, but no most. And it’s kind of pointless to compost. We have 2 acres of woods with about two foot deep of compost. We need actual recycle facilities.

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  6. All good ideas, Marilyn! I already do many of these, and you’ve reminded me about a few others, like giving up my occasional roll of paper towels:(

    Like

  7. Basically I agree with your premise — BUT — in an area where water is scarce, paper plates would not be the thing I would choose to eliminate. Paper is biodegradable — but you need water to wash dishes, and we are now into a drought that has brought down the levels of all the lakes that are used domestically (including Lake Mead and the other lakes on the Colorado River, with another dry year in sight. For batteries, our trash company has a Hazmat collection site where you can take electronics and batteries, etc. They hand out exchangeable plastic tubs big enough for a year’s worth of batteries. Plastics are a huge issue here, as they are made of petroleum products, and that leads to oil spills! Stores of all types cannot hand out single use plastic bags, and we have to pay for paper bags — again, paper is biodegradable — or use cloth reusable bags. We all do our part in separating the trash. Every little bit helps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes. If this were last year, I’d have to agree. We had almost no rain for the last couple of years. I was afraid our well would run dry and since we aren’t connected to town water, if the well runs dry, you life is over. This year, we are drowning and it hasn’t STOPPED raining since last May.

      Our trash company collects what they think they can find homes for. Plastic bottles, cardboard cartons (clean ones), and aluminum cans. No glass which is weird because glass is so easy to recycle. But they don’t have much to work with from the town because our dump has been turned into a wind farm, so he has to find places to put everything. They do the best they can given the limitations of this town.

      We urgently need actual recycling facilities, but there aren’t ANY. Hardly any in the state and none in this county — but we are the “lost county.” We ain’t got nothin’! Hazmat collection? Nah. For a very smart state, we are run very stupidly.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Things are a bit challenging here and you know why? A huge population, fewer resources, and lesser incomes with very little awareness among the masses make it difficult to be a community task. I would say that a big difference has come and awareness increased many folds in the last few years, India is changing and adopting greener options for sustainable living.

    Like

    • That’s happening here too. Despite all the weird people, everyone is looking for not only greener options, but things that can be use, cleaned and re-used. I think a lot of people are weary of the “use and toss” mentality that was part of what has gotten us into this mess.

      Like

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