Monday, October 27

Noitalever: Contacts

I have worn contacts, quite happily, since the sixth grade. I have always found them easy and comfortable. However, with a goal to eradicate plastic from my life, I had to evaluate my contact lens system.

I wear two-week soft lens. I thought that I was doing pretty good because I've been using the same case forever (I wash it constantly) and I buy the big bottles of solution. Yesterday, I wondered if contact lens solution was really necessary, so I Googled it.


In short, I found out that contacts and contact solutions are way more dangerous than I'd ever thought, AND there's no way to cut down my use of plastic here and still be safe.

Contact lenses are also made of plastic, packaged in plastic, sterilized with solution that comes in plastic, stored in plastic containers, and not made to last forever. They are expensive, and now I am fully aware how huge the risks are. Wow.

So, I've made a decision. I'm going back to glasses.

I spend about $265/yr on contacts and contact paraphernalia, whereas I could simply spend around $100/yr on glasses (as long as my vision is changing...after that, I can keep glasses for much, much longer). With glasses, it's a way cheaper option (and better for the environment!) to replace only the lenses. Also, this doesn't take into account that most insurance plans cover glasses and do not cover contacts.

I have one and a half months of contacts left, which will conveniently last me until I have an opportunity to go to the eye doctor's back home. At that point, I will say farewell to contacts until a safer, more environmentally-friendly system comes along.

Saturday, October 25

Noitalever: Free Samples?

Today, I went to the Cheese Walk at the Moscow Co-Op. Whereas the cheese samples were very good, the procedural stuff disappointed me. There were about ten sampling stations set up throughout the store, and nine of them had serious shortcomings for a Co-Op sponsored event.

1) Each station had a “trash can” created from a paper grocery sack and lined with a plastic bag! Okay, Co-Op. Seriously. I think we’ll be fine throwing our trash into a simple paper sack, especially since we were throwing away things like toothpicks.

2) Were they composting? I couldn’t be sure. The lady at the first station assured me that the trash would be sorted later, but it seems like it would have been a lot easier just to separate it from the start. Additionally, she might have been saying that to appease me, and that thought makes me cranky.

3) Sometimes, there were wine and beer samples in plastic sample cups! Other stations had paper sample cups of roughly the same size – why couldn’t they just use those? The swig of wine or beer would be gone before it could degrade the cup anyways.

4) Cheese is almost always wrapped in cellophane or packaged in a plastic tub. I feel like it’s better to get the latter, because then you can either reuse the tub or recycle it.

5) They were inviting people to use plastic spoons to sample the soft cheese when they had bread available as well.

Are you wondering what the tenth station was? Well, it wasn’t really cheese at all! It was a coffee station, and they made the coffee in a porcelain coffee maker and poured it into compostable cups (which is really good, because I’d left mine in the car – shame on me!). The guy even told me to drink my coffee within the hour or the cup would start breaking down…lol! The shining crown on this coffee drinking experience, however, was the stir sticks. They were strands of pasta! This worked great, and I wish coffee shops all over would start offering this option. Starbucks would never do it, of course, but I bet that there are a lot of neighborhood coffee shops that would be up for this change.

Friday, October 24

Noitalever: Eating on Campus

Hello, all!

I would like to extend a special welcome to anyone who arrived here via fakeplasticfish. Because of this new traffic, all of the less-plastic entries are going to be public instead of the usual friends-only content.

So, in my first post about plastic, I mentioned that I was not attempting to make any changes involving food at the time being. My logic was that I didn't cook for myself, so there was obviously nothing that I could do.

Why didn't anyone correct my completely erroneous logic?!?

It's okay, I have since corrected myself. I came back to school and began to notice all of the plastic involved in the food that I eat. I live on campus and have a meal plan, and part of this meal plan is a certain amount of money that has to be spent in special food places. I discovered this semester (now that I was looking for it) that a lot of the "Grab and Go" salads and sandwiches and cookies come packaged in plastic! Oh no!

In fact, it's worse than that. As I look around to find things to spend my must-spend money on, I cannot find any convenience items that are plastic-free! What is a girl to do?

I have taken three major steps in dealing with this issue.

1) I have given up plastic cutlery! - The main cafeteria here has plates and cutlery that can be washed and reused, but the cafeteria in the main academic building has all plastic cutlery. The plates and bowls are compostable (and they have a composter!), but the cutlery isn't. I have started to bring my own silverware. If I happen to forget, I use a pair of wooden chopsticks (also compostable).

2) I have given up all "Grab-and-Go" and convenience foods. - I can spend my money on sit-down-and-eat things, so I simply plan more time to do so. This is actually better for me, too. Totally unforeseen benefit, but I feel better from not eating on the run. This was a hard change, though, because I love sushi and Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles, both of which come in plastic of some sort.

3) I buy in bulk and bring my own bags. We have Win-Co here, which is the most amazing store ever. It is a chain grocery store, but it has bulk bins for practically all dry goods, including spices. I bring paper bags to put stuff in, and then I can store it in tupperware and recycled plastic containers (left over from before I quit buying plastic) when I get home. Win-Co also gives you a bag discount, so I save at least a quarter whenever I go. Small incentive, but every little bit helps.

Next, let's talk about Going Trayless.

Many college cafeterias have started "going trayless" - stopped putting out trays for students to use. Studies show that it takes a half gallon of heated water to wash each tray, and also the detergent and manpower. Additionally, a third more food is wasted when trays are used. This is because students naturally take less if they have to carry the plates themselves.

You may be skeptical about this half-gallon concept. Well, I used to work in the cafeteria and here's the logic behind that. We had an industrial dishwasher that we could run racks of dishes through via conveyor belt. Trays and their unwieldy-ness could only go through eight to a rack, and dinners usually run 700-800 students. That's one hundred rounds of dishwashing for trays alone! Wow!

My university has implemented Trayless Tuesdays, but I have given up trays altogether. I've noticed that a lot of students are doing the same - after a few weeks of going trayless on Tuesday, they've discovered that they just don't need a tray. Many students, however, view it as a huge inconvenience. I think they'll get over it. In five years, I hope that trayless is the norm and that students don't even think twice about not taking a tray.

Do you eat lunch in a cafeteria somewhere? Encourage your cafeteria to go trayless, at least one day a week. As we know, most change happens slowly. At the very least, try going trayless yourself.

Have a great weekend!