Update on: Trash Free NYC – The Elliott Family’s one month plastic free experiment.

Here’s the latest update on the Elliott Family (Trash Free NYC) who live in Manhattan NY and are trying to live plastic free for the entire month of June.

In their journey, they have discovered that trying to purchase plastic free items is very difficult, especially when it comes to food.  As they struggle to find alternatives for many of the items they normally purchased in their local grocery store, they are finding that the contents of much of what they used to buy are not too appealing.  They call it “plastic food”.  Here’s an excerpt from a recent post:

Eliminating plastic packaging from your purchasing diet will quickly eliminate plastic food from your eating diet. When you vote against buying a frozen chicken pot pie because it comes in a plastic container inside a plastic bag inside a box, you are voting against the fake food that is in that plastic container inside the plastic bag inside the box:

Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie contains: “Cooked Chicken Meat (Cooked Dark Meat Chicken, Water, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Carrageenan, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Spice Extract), Shortening (Lard, Hydrogenated Lard, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Potatoes With Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Cooked Mechanically Separated Chicken, Modified Food Starch.”


Many studies indicate a range of health related issues come from the processing of food.  Preservatives in meats are suspected to aggravate issues like abdominal pain and bloating, and according to Wikipedia:

“Food processing can lower the nutritional value of foods, and introduce hazards not encountered with naturally-occurring products. Processed foods often include food additives, such as flavorings and texture-enhancing agents, which may have little or no nutritive value, or be unhealthy. Preservatives added or created during processing to extend the ‘shelf-life’ of commercially-available products, such as nitrites or sulphites, may cause adverse health effects.”

“The use of low-cost ingredients that mimic the properties of natural ingredients (e.g. cheap chemically-hardened vegetable oils in place of more-expensive natural saturated fats or cold-pressed oils) have been shown to cause severe health problems, but are still in widespread use because of cost concerns and lack of consumer knowledge about the effects of substitute ingredients.”

“Processed foods often have a higher ratio of calories to other essential nutrients than unprocessed foods, a phenomenon referred to as “empty calories“. So-called junk food, produced to satisfy consumer demand for convenience and low cost, are most often mass-produced processed food products.”

Sometimes, it’s not just about the physical aspects of healthy eating.  I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness project blog post where she talks about giving up “fake food“.  She gained something different:

“I haven’t noticed any change in my body. I haven’t lost weight, I don’t have more energy, I’m not any more or less hungry. But I feel much HAPPIER.”

While we have not eliminated plastic like the Elliotts, we have been cutting out processed foods as much as possible.  We have purchased more of our produce from the local farmer’s market, focusing on organically grown fruits and vegetables when the price isn’t too high.  We recently started our own back yard organic vegetable garden.  We are using all organic materials (including lady bugs for pest control.)  We have been growing tomatoes for years, but this is a much bigger step for us.

We also discovered that the process of working together – planning, tilling, planting and tending the garden – makes us, just like Gretchen Rubin, feel happier.


5 responses to “Update on: Trash Free NYC – The Elliott Family’s one month plastic free experiment.

  1. How about making sure that the plastic you use is compostable? There are alternatives out there that are socially responsible that still serve the usefulness of plastic.

  2. Kirk,
    Good suggestion. The industry is moving more this way. I understand there are a few new biopolymers coming out in volume in the next few years, but currently the costs are still high.

  3. Hi! I saw the nice mention of my blog, The Happiness Project, here. I very much appreciate the kind words and you shining a spotlight on my blog. Thanks and best wishes!

  4. How is your garden going?! Hope your lady bugs are happy! We hope you have a fruitful harvest and look forward to seeing the results. Thanks for following what we are doing — bringing no plastic into our house has made us instantly aware of how easy it is to steer clear of it by just changing some basic habits and patterns. So far, so good!

  5. Gretchen,
    Thanks for coming by. I learn much from your blog through j’s visits and evening discussions.

    Glad you stopped by. The garden is going nicely. We planted cucumbers, yellow squash, watermelon, sweet peppers, strawberries and tomatoes, plus several herbs.

    The lady bugs are due this week. We had to wait until there were some aphids to eat (and they have arrived!)

    I’ve been keeping up with your experiment. I read somewhere recently that a significant of NYC’s non-recycled waste is burned for energy (in a clean way.) I was thinking that this may be why you only can easily recycle #1 and #1 plastic. We can do all types here except #6.
    We will come visit towards the end of the month to glean your lessons learned.
    Chad M. Wall

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