Although Halloween isn’t really a holiday, it always feels like it is the kick-off to the holiday season, so I am including it in this post.
I made a couple of trash-free breakthroughs this past Halloween. After fretting for a couple of weeks about what to do about the whole Halloween giving-away-candy thing, my best friend passed on a great idea to me – give away pencils! It was the perfect trash-free solution! If you use a pencil up completely, until the last bit of lead almost touches the eraser, the left-over trash is minimal. Individual pencils aren’t packaged in trash like traditional Halloween sweet treats. And – everyone can use a pencil.
Despite their utilitarian value, giving out #2 pencils seemed a bit boring. In the hunt for more exotic pencils, I came across pencils made with recycled newspaper and even old blue jeans. The pencil that I knew would be the winner, however, was the one made out old money.
I bought the pencils made out of recycled U.S. currency from the GreenLine Paper Company. GreenLine has won environmental awards for their dedication to the sale of quality, environmentally friendly products. An added bonus, the pencils came in a recycled, and recyclable, paper package with no unnecessary, non-recyclable filler. Besides being a great trash-free purchase, the kids loved the pencils! One trick-or-treater even commented that he might be able to get extra credit in school for using the pencil.
Once October 31st had past, I needed to figure out what to do with our Jack-o-lanterns.
After sitting in our refrigerator for a few days, I decided to give these fellas a more exciting fate than the compost bin. I chopped them up and put them in the freezer with plans to turn them into a tasty dish later in the year. If anyone has any favorite recipes that call for fresh/uncanned pumpkin, I would love to hear about them!
Thanksgiving can be a fairly easy trash-free holiday, since there is great tradition in homemade cooking with fresh ingredients. I hosted a potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner this year at my house for family and friends. My boyfriend and I provided the salad, turkey, cranberry sauce, and gravy. Due to my trash-free pledge, Adam bought our plastic-wrapped turkey, and I purchased the rest of the ingredients. For future Thanksgivings I would like to look into finding packaging-free turkey options. If anyone knows about locations on Oahu that sell unpackaged turkeys, or turkeys in biodegradable packaging, I would love to know about them!
We served canned cranberry sauce since making it from scratch would require purchasing cranberries in plastic packaging. We supplemented our homemade gravy with canned gravy to avoid the powder mix which comes in non-recyclable, non-compostable packaging. I bought most of our salad ingredients as I always do – free of produce bags. Rather than using Manoa lettuce, I splurged for pre-packaged local Deans Greens and put the plastic bags aside for recycling.
Rather than doing a traditional turkey, we decided to get it cooked “kalua” style in an imu, or underground oven. A community program close to where live, the Key Project, cooks kalua turkeys as a fundraiser each year. Its a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bird) arrangement. You bring the bird and, for a small donation, they cook it in an enormous imu. There is a trash risk, however - you have to wrap the turkey in A LOT of foil.
Foil is not something that is included with the City’s mixed recyclable pick-up. Luckily, there are places on Oahu that will recycle foil and pay you for it. I plan to take my bag of cleaned, post-Thanksgiving turkey foil to Reynolds Recycling.
The finishing touch for our trash-free Thankgiving dinner, was using cloth napkins in place of paper towels and paper napkins.
I learned over the year to keep a basket of cloth napkins out to make them easily accessible for day-to-day usage.
After the meal was done and all the meat was pulled off the turkey, I used the remaining carcass to make turkey soup and threw the clean bones into the freezer for future re-use and recycling.
According to the website, Traditional Foods, the bones can be re-used a few times to make soup broth and added to dishes like beans and rice, for flavor. Once I have squeezed the juices out of them, I will throw them into my compost bin. I also froze the smaller pieces of turkey for taco filling, and a bag of scraps for my dog.
“Recycling Revelation” update
In my last post, “Recycling Revelation,” I wrote about finding new places to recycle more kinds of plastic, specifically #2 and #4 plastic bags. Stuart Coleman, the Hawaii Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation, mentioned in an email to me that this information was a bit misleading. He explained, “The plastics industry wants to say the solution to plastic pollution is recycling, yet less than 9% (some say 5%) of all plastic bags are ever recycled. Commercial recyclers actually hate plastic bags because they foul up their machines and say the bags themselves just aren’t worth recycling.” He also mentioned that the website I provided, www.plasticbagrecycling.org, is actually funded by the plastics industry and that they “often distort the truth to spread propaganda about their products and resist even the most common sense measures to reduce plastic pollution.”
Stuart also provided me a link to an interesting article he wrote for the Honolulu Weekly called “Plastic Fantastic Love.” One important point that the article makes it that although recycling plastic bags seems like a good solution, according to Stiv Wilson, a journalist and ocean activist who worked with the Surfrider Foundation to help pass bag bans in the Pacific Northwest, in actuality, “It takes 70 percent virgin plastic to create a new bag.” Stiv explains futher that “all we’re doing by plastic recycling is creating more, not less plastic in the world, while giving the average, good intentioned citizen the illusion of progress.”
Wow. I guess it is back to homemade tortillas.
Surfrider, along with a host of other organizations, are working on getting the Bag Bill, SB 1368, passed in 2012. If SB 1368 becomes law, it will reduce plastic pollution statewide. This is an important step in moving towards a trash-free or zero-waste culture in the islands. Contact Surfrider Foundation to learn how you can help with the Rise Above Plastics campaign and get this bill passed.