Trash-FreeNYC finishes up plastic free month…

As you may remember, I’ve been following trashfreenycthe month long experiment of the Elliott family, a family of 5 who live in Manhattan, NYC.  I found them on twitter and started following their story because they lived a large urban city, much different than my experience in a relatively small, suburban city.  I thought you might like to hear an update on their experience and future plans.

According to their postings over the month of June, the project took a lot of effort, partly because it was new and partly because there were convenience trade-offs.   They had to haul a lot of compost from “110th st. to Union square” (at least I have a backyard compost).  It was less convenient to have to shop at different stores to find products that didn’t use plastic.  Meals took more effort because “plastic free” eliminated many take-out meal options and almost all pre-packaged, prepared products from the market due to plastic containers and packaging.  Beyond meals, they decided to get creative and try things like making their own liquid hand soap and experimenting with home made toothpaste recipes (I suspect that one might go by the wayside.  Quote from one of the daughters, “It burns, It burns!”)

There were many pleasant discoveries too.  Shopping for most of their food at the Farmers market turned out to be nice and fun, and their overall diet was healthier.  They enjoyed the experience of making their own yogurt, cheese and bread.  The kids even discovered an ice cream source that was plastic-free.

There was other learning too.  They had a great “It’s a big old plastic world” facts post. You should check it out, but here’s a couple of the more interesting ones:

  • According to estimates by the EPA and the Wall Street Journal, the United States uses over 275 million plastic bags every day.
  • Based on decomposition studies, plastics buried in landfills take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
  • According to Recycling-Revolution, the United States goes through 2.5 MILLION plastic bottles every hour.
  • It takes more than 15 million barrels of oil (not including those used for transport) to manufacture the estimated 22 billion plastic bottles the U.S. uses annually. Incidentally, that’s enough to fuel about 100,000 cars for an entire year.
  • It takes more than 3 liters of water to create one liter of bottled water.

The best thing to come out of it (especially for the parents, I suspect) was that “It felt good to really limit the amount of garbage we put into the system.”

They have decided to continue the plastic free effort throughout the rest of the summer (not all were happy with that).

“This idea was not met with universal cheers at home. In the interest of family harmony, we may ease the rules occasionally. But the girls understand that the whole point of this exercise was to increase our awareness and understanding of this disposable society, and to change what we can, even if it’s just the five of us.”

Way to go Daniela and Steve and the girls.  You are not the only ones who learned from this exercise.  Good luck and thanks for sharing.

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