Getting rid of phone books

Today, NPR had a segment (“The Phone Book’s Days Appear Numbered”) about a California bill to make white page directories opt-in, the problems associated with their production and disposal and about the overall decline of the utility of phonebooks. (These are, of course, mostly paper — a valuable resource in its own right — but sometimes they’ve wrapped in plastic.)

A phone book trade group obviously sensing pressure — other state bill have failed, but for how long I wonder — have created an opt-out service. Not so useful, but worth promoting if your goal is to reduce useless giveaways. (Catalog Choice is another.)

Go to for details.

Cleaning hard plastic surfaces?

Some plastic items are very useful — or at the very least, they ought to be well cared-for so they can have a long service life.

Which begs the question — how do you care for plastic when (very often) its very cheapness meant it wasn’t intended for long-term care?

So, I’ll ask my scant readers: how do you keep hard plastic surfaces — the ones most likely to survive — clean and attractive? Plastic-free care ideas, of course, are preferred.

Bought batteries online with less plastic

Trying to make household appliances last longer, to keep their plastic in active use and out of landfills. So when my old cordless phone’s battery wore out, I ordered one from an eBay vendor. Cheaper that way. (I care about low cost, too, to a point.)

Little would I guess la_tronics — whose appeal was free shipping — would ship my order in a rigid all-cardboard “gator pak

Of course, the product did come with a small plastic blister; I assume there’s some plastic in the battery itself, but that was a given and the packing isn’t.

Note: I received no compensation for this notice; indeed, I have not contacted the vendor about it.

Easy steps to help your friends use less plastic

I’m here in Washington, D.C. and quite close to the action of tomorrow’s inauguration of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth President of the United States. I can only imagine how much plastic will be used in the collective festivities. But that’s not why I’m writing.

With the new Administration comes a measure of optimism, if not certainty. And with optimism, resolve. While plastic-free bloggers can strip their use down to nil, real reduction will come only if we can convince producers to use less plastic and consumers to rely on it less. I’ve wondered if some actions — particularly around plastic-free alternatives to shampoo and deodorant — is more discouraging than inspiring. More about that later.

Unlike the maxim on saving — take care of the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves — I think plastic-reduction has address big uses first. So this is how I would start.

  • give up plastic-bottled drinks. replace them with canned drinks, if at all.
  • give up plastic-bottled cleaning supplies. replace them with pasteboard-boxed powders.
  • don’t waste products that come packaged in plastic. recommended amounts –detergent, toothpaste — are often excessive.
  • clean plastic goods to extend their life. that includes polyester fabrics.
  • give up microwaving in plastic storage containers.
  • if you eat at inexpensive restaurants, choose those that serve food with durable service pieces or sandwiches wrapped in paper.
  • decline plastic bags, even if you don’t have your own bag, if you can carry what you bought.
  • request that vendors not ship with plastic packaging. sometimes they comply.
  • save money by not buying plastic kitsch for home decor, holidays and celebrations.

If you can make those changes, you’ll really drop your plastic use. Then, if you like, you can move to advanced studies.

Stocking stuffer: shoe brushes

low-plastic_brushes1 Back in September, Hubby and I vacationed in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Seeing a Fuller Brush shop at an outlet mall in Reading, I stopped to see what was offered. There, in addition to two brushes made mostly of plastic, I found these US-made and evidently plastic-free shoe brushes. The small one is for daubing polish, the larger for bringing up a shine. Shoe care has been one of those mainly manly domestic tasks that I thought I should be better at, and old rags have a role but when used alone leave me covered in shoe polish, so I avoid the task. Besides: care for goods is a corollary to reducing consumption, plastic included. And they’d make a nice stocking stuffer.
These brushes were sold loose, which it why I mention it here. The only other shoe brush I recall buying — somewhat rougher made than the one pictured here — I got for my father when I was visiting the West Bank, also loose.

Not much good that does you, unless you live in southeastern Pennsylvania or Bethlehem (as in “O Little Town” not the former steel center), right? Well, a few days ago, I noticed in my neighborhood market, a cardboard-packed shoe brush, under the Kiwi brand, almost identical to the one above. So they may be more widely available for sale, certainly at a shoe repair shop.

Dishwashing powder in a box

Here’s an easy one: if you use an automatic dishwasher, use powdered detergent — packaged in a pasteboard box — instead of a gel in a plastic bottle or those plastic bags filled with those preportioned plastic pillows. (What exactly happens to the plastic that “disappears” in the wash cycle?)

I know, I know: I should be using something environmentally sensitive. But none I’ve tried has really ever worked well, most come in big plastic bottles and, if you have to wash something two or three times is it that good for the environment? For those reasons — and domestic tranquility — I’ll stick with the name brands.

Ah, but this a good opportunity for a little plastic reduction in the office. Many workplaces have dishwashers, and someone has to buy the detergent . . . .