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Cultivate Simple 42: Life Without Plastic

August 12th, 2013

On this weeks episode we discuss cutting down on the plastic in your life while you cut down on the ‘stuff’ in your life.

What’s For Dinner

For dinner we had Braised Red Cabbage with Sausage

Resources for Plastic Free items

Plastic Free Life
Water Bottles from Klean Kanteen

In the kitchen:
100% Unbleached All Natural Waxed Paper
100% Unbleached Silicone Parchment Paper
Bee’s Wrap
Twist Sponges
If You Care Household Gloves Latex Cotton Flock Lined

In the Bathroom:
Merkur Model 180 Long Handled Safety Razor
Make Your Own Toothpowder, here’s one of my recipes

Plastic Manners
My Plastic Free Life

Brian’s Geeky Corner

PowerEx Charger
Eneloop Batteries

Books of the Week

25 Comments to “Cultivate Simple 42: Life Without Plastic”
  1. Lemongrass on August 12, 2013 at 6:05 am

    for the past 10 years i do all i can to cut out plastic from my life, and is enjoying the process peacefully. i made 5cotton market bags and alway carry three with me when ever i leave the house, i refuse plastic bags, i made myself a number of smaller bags to put bulk items or any veggies and fruits i buy at the market. i collect wide- mouth glass bottles for liquid. if veggies and fruits are wrapped in plastic i do not buy them. and i encourage others to do the same. use worn out pillow cases to make small bags for bulk items and fruits and veggies.
    for toothpaste:- baking soda, a pinch of sea salt, dr. bronners liquid soap, ground cinnamon, or mint, or aniseed or parsley seeds.

    Reply to Lemongrass's comment

  2. Rocky on August 12, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I haven’t listened the podcast, but the topic is very intriguing one. I have been trying using less of plastic for my garden, but I have not come up with anything that can substitute plastic sheet I use for low tunnel and mulch for heating soil. I also want to built a high tunnel and/or permanent green house, but again, there really isn’t any alternative to the plastic for glazing for those structures, except maybe using glass for really, really expensive permanent green house/ solarium. Do you have any suggestion for gardening without plastic for northern climate season extender?

    Reply to Rocky's comment

    • Susy on August 12, 2013 at 10:26 am

      We’re actually in the process of collecting old glass sliding glass doors to make a greenhouse and cold frames so we can avoid plastic for this use. You can also use organic cheesecloth instead of the polyester spun woven fabrics (like agribon).

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Rocky on August 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm

        Thanks for the tips. I have seen images of green house built with reclaimed old windows and glass doors. They are way too COOL! However, I still think it is not the viable replacement for plastic cover used for low and high tunnel and ground mulch. I have not sourced any organic cheesecloth, but I wonder if they even come in 10 feet wide. Beside, the cost consideration would be prohibitively high, I suspect. As long as “organic” cost so much more than “conventional”, it’s going to be an uphill battle converting plastic users, I think…

        to Rocky's comment

      • Susy on August 15, 2013 at 7:08 pm

        Eliot Coleman has an interesting section on this in the back of his book ‘Four-Season Harvest‘called Do We Really Want to Use Plastic? in which we talks about using plastic as opposed to buying vegetables from elsewhere. According to studies, it actually takes 60% less energy to use a plastic greenhouse (calculating in the environmental cost of the plastic) as it would to buy food from other states. I’m guessing the best option is to buy from a local farmer that already has a greenhouse in place and maybe doesn’t have enough customers for everything they grow.

        to Susy's comment

  3. Misti on August 12, 2013 at 8:36 am

    I haven’t even listened yet but I wanted to bang my head onto the cash register this weekend….I was buying several plastic storage bins at Target along with other items, including some cold grocery items. I told the cashier to put it all into the storage bins instead of bagging it. What does she do? She puts *some* of it in there and the proceeds to bag some of it, the cold stuff mostly, and then put it in the bin. I should have corrected her but sometimes it isn’t worth the confusion. What did I say at the beginning? I’m not sure why cashiers have such a hard time *not* bagging items. They always freak out when I say i’m going to carry the three items I bought. Or at the meat market/convenience store that people hit up on the interstate between Houston and Dallas…Chris and I bought a bag of cookies for our road trip a week ago and we asked for no bag….her excuse for giving us one was, well, we have to prove you bought it as you walked out of the store…um, what is a RECEIPT for?

    Sorry for the morning rant….I’m sure the podcast is great and will listen soon.

    Reply to Misti's comment

    • Susy on August 12, 2013 at 10:23 am

      UGH, I know the feeling. This happens to me at times. Thankfully, when you shop at a health food store or a small co-op they’re usually a little more in tune. Our co-op offers small boxes that they receive items in as a packaging option instead of bags if you forget your own.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • DebbieB on August 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      I’ve gotten that “the plastic bag proves you paid for it” excuse too. Lame. Also I’ve had cashiers that were rude about my cloth bags because they don’t fit on their bag-stands perfectly. And I’ve had the same experience with the “put it in the plastic bin” thing too. Why is it so hard??

      Reply to DebbieB's comment

      • Nonny on September 28, 2015 at 9:10 pm

        @Misty @Susy @DebbyB: Talk to management. My guess is these employees have been told to behave in the way you describe. Managers want folks to carry their bags to advertise their store. Or customers have complained when “this” is packed with “that” leading to bags with just a few items. Or they have no one checking to see if your 3-items-purchased receipt matches what you’re carrying out of the store. I can imagine lots of scenarios that push cashiers/baggers to listen to their managers before they listen to you. So talk to management, and encourage your friends to do the same. As a last resort, unpack the items and leave the plastic bag behind, apologizing to the cashier/bagger for undoing their work and explaining that you’re cutting down on plastic. And take the receipt!

        to Nonny's comment

  4. DebbieB on August 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Some good tips for reducing plastic and waste this week. We recycling as much as possible, and try to avoid excess packaging. I save plastic mailers from packages that come in the mail to reuse for shipping in my weaving/spinning home business. I’ve been using a water filter and Kleen Kanteen water bottles for a long time. At your recommendation awhile back, I’ve switched from storing food and leftovers in plastic containers to storing it in wide-mouthed mason jars – I really like them. I love your mom’s trick of covering bowls with plates – I’ll try that! I’m intrigued by the BeeWrap for my husband’s daily lunch sandwich, which is currently sent in a plastic sandwich box. I’d have to train him to not throw it away after use, though!

    Now I’m off to lose a few hours reading Plastic Manners and My Plastic Free Life.

    Enjoy your well-deserved 2-week break, but know that you will definitely be missed!

    Reply to DebbieB's comment

  5. Elyse on August 12, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    So many good ideas! I do the bowl/plate thing too, and use glass for food storage a lot – but I haven’t been brave enough to use it in the freezer yet! I think that will have to wait until we get a chest freezer and have more space to play with. We *used* to be good about taking cloth bags shopping, but since the baby came a lot of our good habits have come undone.

    Susy, you and your bolt of cheesecloth are my heroes.

    Enjoy the break – well deserved! We’ll miss you!

    Reply to Elyse's comment

  6. John on August 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    For help with Porcupines, I’d wager Bone sauce might work.

    Reply to John's comment

  7. Lizzie on August 12, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    For those with babies, cloth diapers and cloth wipes are a wonderful alternative to disposable diapers. I particularly love the BumGenius brand for diapers, and we just use cut up second hand flannel receiving blankets for cloth wipes. If you haven’t seen modern cloth diapers and are imagining safety pins and rubber pants, today’s cloth diapers are nothing of the sort! I can’t recommend them enough. Our 18-month-old daughter has been in fewer than five disposable diapers her entire life, and she has also never had a diaper rash, another benefit of putting natural fibers next to your baby’s bottom instead of something synthetic!

    Reply to Lizzie's comment

  8. Lizzie on August 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I was also wondering if you guys could post a link to the toilet paper you buy :) I’d love to stop purchasing the plastic-encased packs from the store (and use your amazon affiliate link)!

    Reply to Lizzie's comment

  9. Claire on August 13, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Hi! I was wondering if you guys had any good idea of what to do with all of the Styrofoam that’s typically included in packaging. We moved last year and many of our new items were stuffed with it, and we felt too terrible just throwing it away… so now our garage is graced with big piles of it. Do we really just have to grit our teeth and throw it in the landfill? Any ideas you’ve got would be appreciated. thanks!

    Reply to Claire's comment

  10. Colleen on August 15, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Susy, you are not “crazy”, strawberries and balsamic vinegar are wonderful. One of my favorite salads is a spinach salad with strawberries and a balsamic vinaigrette.

    Thanks for all the information and thoughts on how to use less plastic. We live in an area where recycling and using less plastic is a big deal. One town has banned retailers from giving out plastic shopping bags. Some even charge a small fee for paper bags, ultimately encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags.

    Enjoy your time off, you both deserve a vacation. You will be missed.

    Reply to Colleen's comment

  11. BJ on August 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    You and Brian have helped me cut out a little pit of plastic waste in my life by giving me deliciously, home roasted coffee beans. Instead of buying individual K-Cups for my Keurig I purchased the refillable one (made of plastic but totally reusable) and I use it every morning. I like knowing that I am not throwing out a plastic K-Cup every time I make a cup of coffee, which is usually only once or twice a day. I am also putting the used coffee grinds in my garden, so that is great too!

    Reply to BJ's comment

  12. PennyAshevilleNC on August 21, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Boat Bags! My husband was a yacht and sport fish boat captain for years and he has many from different boats- I love them. It was so funny to me to be loading up my purse/lunchbag for work this morning while you were talking about it. :)

    Reply to PennyAshevilleNC's comment

  13. angie h on August 22, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    I have been annoyed with plastic for a long time even before I started making food changes. I hate the “cheapness” look of it and using it. One thing I struggle with eliminating is ziplock baggies for freezing and especially storing bread. I have been wanting to get some organic bread bags and use parchment for bread on the counter, but I am not sure if that would do well in the freezer.

    My freezer is so full, ziplocks are easy to stuff in to every last gap. I envision mason jars tumbling out and shattering all over the floor. I have mainly switched to glass containers, but still have a few plastic (but I only use them for cold stuff).

    How do you launder cheesecloth? I didn’t realize it would hold up, so I always use it and throw it away.

    We rarely use foil, but when I am out I miss it for covering things in the oven like lasagna and scalloped potatoes… Although, I have read how many nasties are in it and how easily they leach into food especially when heated.

    Love the battery tip! I have wished for easier recycling of batteries and now the university has a recycle bin for batteries and technology waste. But, reliable recharging is even better!

    Enjoy your time off!

    Reply to angie h's comment

  14. angie h on August 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Also I really like this shop (for the reusable theme) cotton coffee filters and tea bags, handkerchiefs, unpaper towels, sandwich baggies and linens.

    I especially love the thread borders for the unpaper towels so I can assign colors to certain uses-like one color for kitchen wipe ups and one color for cleaning.

    Reply to angie h's comment

  15. stella novack on August 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I listened to my first podcast today. Loved it! Have you read the book entitled “The Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson?

    Reply to stella novack's comment

    • Susy on August 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      I don’t think I have, I’ll have to look it up.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • stella novack on August 28, 2013 at 9:54 pm

        I just went to your FB page and see that you posted something about the Johnsons. Aren’t they awesome? Bea has really inspired me and now I’m happy that I came across your podcast because you are inspiring me, too!

        to stella novack's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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