Friday, July 12, 2019

What I Actually Do All Day (Sustainably)

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This was a hefty post to figure out.  A 'day in my life' is one thing, but then to run through and figure out exactly how much plastic I do or don't use in a day?  It's a lot.  So much we don't even think about, which is really how the problem started.  That said, this post is much longer than I intended it to be but I hope you find it useful.

Morning Routine

5:00/6:00 a.m. - 7:45 a.m. - I set an alarm for 6, but only wake up to it when John's at work.  Otherwise I just get up when he does, which is earlier than I need to anyway.  But I love getting stuff done in the morning.  I feel like I accomplish so much more and then don't have a huge task list to get through at the end of the day, when I'm tired from work.

Anyway, I turn off the alarm, make the bed, use the bathroom, brush my teeth.  I use bamboo toothbrushes since they're compostable, and pick up some form of toothpaste not in a plastic tube when I go to Whole Foods.  There are actually a lot of options for this now, between metal tubes, glass jars, and tablets that come packaged in paper.  I don't find that it costs me much more than plastic toothbrushes and plastic tubes of toothpaste, so it's worth it to me.

I don't wash my face in the morning, I just splash some water on before putting in my contacts.  Contacts are for sure the most wasteful part of my life.  Contact solution only comes in plastic bottles and my contacts themselves get thrown away too every 2 weeks (or 3-4 weeks, let's get real.)  This is just something I live with at the moment.

Then I put on an oil and a moisturizer that has SPF.  Thankfully the oil comes in glass but SPF is proving harder for me.  There are a lot of options for SPF for my body that come in metal tins, and those work fine, but I haven't found anything in suitable packaging (that is also cruelty free and has clean ingredients) that I like to use on my face, it's all too sticky or bright white.  If you have any ideas though, let me know.  I give that awhile to soak in and since I don't eat breakfast, I head straight to the coffee.

We're currently using a Keurig but we have reusable k-cups that we fill with ground coffee each morning.  We get the coffee grounds locally so it's in paper lined with aluminum, but it's more expensive.  Definitely a luxury item.  You can get coffee in bulk at Whole Foods, but if they don't have suitable plastic free packaging, you can ask the manager to use your own, I've done that.  The worst they can say is no, but it never hurts to try.  And then you're bringing them awareness that they need to offer that in their store or lose a customer.  Anyway, while the coffee is brewing, I clean up any mess John left in the kitchen from his breakfast (usually eggs) and either run the dishwasher, or empty it if we ran it overnight.  It's easy to give the counters and sink a quick wipe down with a damp microfiber cloth.  I'm always able to finish before the coffee is done. #Things we always think take longer than they do. 

I always put the coffee over ice and drink it black, like my soul.  I put it in a travel mug and get Hawkeye into her harness and leash and go for a walk.  I wear to bed what people generally wear to yoga so I don't feel the need to get changed before I head out, it's just black pants and a tank top over a bralette anyway.

From there I just play it by ear based on how I feel.  I either get on the treadmill for a little while, sit with my planner and schedule things out and make to do lists if I'm feeling scattered, finish a Jillian Michels video if I want my ass kicked, do some witchy things (like meditating, spell work, divination, etc.), or I just get dressed and leave earlier so I can walk most of the way to work.

As far as makeup, I use undereye concealer, brow pomade, eye shadow and eye liner, all in glass pots.  My mascara is in a plastic tube.  There are more eco-friendly options but they all seem so expensive to me for something that only lasts 3 months, so I'm still researching here.  Let me say in general though, companies that care about eco friendly packaging care about everything else too, like being cruelty free and paying living wages to their workers and using only clean ingredients.  They are worth the money and we should support them with our dollars.  I plan on putting my money where my mouth is going forward when it comes to mascara, but it takes time to do the research.  Then I brush my hair with a wooden hairbrush, and generally just leave it down for the day.

I get dressed, make sure Hawkeye is set up with water and food and a duck jerky treat, grab my purse and head out.  What's in it?  My driver's license, cash, train pass, John's extra truck key (easier if it just stays in there), phone, headphones, sunglasses, lip balm, and of course, a biodegradable doggy poop bag.  Even if Hawkeye isn't with me, it's always in there.

Work Routine

8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. - All depending on whether I get a ride from someone or how the bus is running, I'm sometimes in as early as 8, but never later than 8:30.  This has nothing to do with plastic, at least not single use plastic, but it does have to do with sustainability - I don't own a car and I plan on never owning one.  It takes me one hour to walk to work, which is completely doable.  I could bike if I wanted, I suppose.  Otherwise, I take the bus.  It's less, carbon footprint-wise, than a car, since there's more than just me riding that bus.

I have a glass water bottle that I keep at my desk.  There's a water cooler at the office.  It's not the most sustainable thing, since those are giant plastic jugs, but Ice Mountain claims they do reuse them as often as they can and I really, really hate the taste of Chicago tap water so I drink the water cooler water.  But only ever out of my glass bottle and never the little plastic cups that are on the side of the cooler.  Also, I only ever drink water or coffee, sometimes tea, so no plastic pop bottles here.

I bring leftovers in glass tupperware for lunch.  More on that in the evening section.  Occasionally I'll walk over to Whole Foods and pick up something in the salad bar, and use my own container or a cardboard box of theirs to transport it.  I keep a reusuable bag at work in case I end up buying more.

Throughout the day, I try to print as little as possible.  Yes paper is recyclable, but it's still wasteful and toner cartridges can only be reused so many times before they too are trash.  Unfortunately, most of my work waste is in the form of pens and highlighters.  Like I mentioned yesterday, I love my mildliners, but they're plastic.  As are the pens I use.  Not as distinctly single use as a straw or a plastic water bottle, since I use them for months, but still - plastic.  Whomp.  I feel the same about my paper planner, since it has a plastic cover, and whenever I use stickers in it.  It comes with the stickers but stickers are plastic so... I'll probably move off away from this particular type of planner and any sort of stickers once it's used up.

Anyway, that's about it from my day, since it's pretty standard office work.

Evening Routine

5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. - My after work routine varies a bit depending on John's work schedule.  If he's off, I head home and spend some relaxing time with him and Hawkeye.  If he's at the firehouse, I've usually dropped Hawkeye at my parents that morning to play with their dog and then head there after work instead.  I can walk to my parents from my office, and we have some nice downtime there too.  And generally have a happy hour because booze comes in glass and I can drink it out of a stainless steel straw. 😃

Either way, then we head into dinner time.  I grocery shop on the weekends so it's not part of the week day routine but I still thought it important to note that we shop package free as much as possible.  We have mesh bags for produce and reusable bags for everything else.  I buy things in bulk or aluminum cans, trying to avoid as much packaged goods as possible - stuff wrapped in plastic is generally junk food anyway.  I also eat vegan, but John eats meat which comes in plastic.  We try to buy direct from this wholesale meat place and they'll use paper or cardboard or reusable containers but we're in Chicago so nothing is slaughtered here anymore - it got here somehow, wrapped in plastic somewhere along the way.  He also drinks milk but we get it in glass.

That's important to note about bulk bins and produce though too - you have to think about how it got to your store.  It's delusional to think that produce made it's way to Chicago from Florida or California or Mexico without plastic being involved.  I mean, it's better than buying everything pre-cut in clam-shell containers and producing extra waste, for sure, but it's not perfect.  When the weather is nice, I try to buy everything local, direct from the farmers, freezing things along the way for winter use.  It's by no means a perfect system, but I try to do what I can.  Plus then the produce doesn't have those annoying stickers. 

In order to save on time, money, and electricity/gas, we try not to cook dinner every day.  And my general rule in the house is that if the air conditioning is on, you have no business running the ovenJohn hates that rule.  So when I do cook in the summer, I make things on the stove and make enough to last a few meals.  Always leftovers for lunches at least, but like when John needs chicken cooked for his post-workout protein, those all get made at once, and he often grills them.  Everything is stored in glass containers in the fridge or freezer.  We always eat on real plates and use real silverware and cloth napkins - no plastic or paper anything.

After dinner I clean up the dishes and kitchen, same as in the morning.  If it's full, I run the dishwasher using powder detergent that comes in a cardboard box.  If you stay on top of it after all meals throughout the day, it's much easier and faster to clean a kitchen with some water on a cloth than it is if you have to clean dried, caked on messes.  I also usually hop into John's bathroom and give that a quick wipe down too, it takes 2 minutes and then I can take the cloth straight to the laundry room.

I always shower at night, even if I don't wash my hair (I could never wash my hair in the mornings, it wouldn't dry in time before work and I hate using a hair dryer.)  I remove my makeup with almond oil.  This does come in a plastic bottle, but I use so little that one bottle generally lasts a full year (maybe longer!)  I wash my face with raw honey from the farmer's market, which means glass bottles that I can then return to them for reuse.  If it's a hair washing day (every... 4th? ish day) I wash and condition my hair with bars that come wrapped in paper and then use bar soap and a washcloth instead of a plastic shower scrubee when I need it (water and friction from the washcloth get you clean just fine.)  I've already mentioned that I use an epilator to remove hair which is not for the faint of heart, but I got used to it quickly.  Safety razors are also a good zero waste option though, and you can just use the bar soap instead of shaving cream.

After the shower I use a crystal deodorant which is in a plastic container but one tiny $3 stick will last years, it honestly looks brand new still.  When I eventually do need a new one, I bet I can find just the stone without the plastic.  I use a solid serum on my face, which I buy in person so it can go right into my tin and not into plastic to be shipped.  I sometimes use a Lush moisturizer over it, but not daily.  Empty Lush pots can be returned.  I find I don't need body moisturizer since I don't use anything super stripping in the shower, like traditional body wash or razors.  If an area feels dry at all though, I can just put almond oil on it.

While I'm putting the skincare on, I wipe down my bathroom if it needs it, but it definitely doesn't every day, since I use so few products and they're all kind of 'clean' (i.e. no hair spray film or soap/shaving cream residue.)  I leave my hair alone, just put it up in a clip to dry.  Yes, plastic clips, but I've had them for years.  And lastly is of course to brush my teeth and floss with zero waste floss, take my contacts out and return them to their (plastic) case, and head to bed.  I usually put my glasses on and read before bed, but not always.

Things I do weekly or monthly but not daily: laundry, where I wash everything on cold and just use a laundry powder that comes in a tin and hang most things to dry; vacuum, with a bag-less vacuum cleaner so all the dirt inside can then get composted. And by bag-less I mean I turn on the robot vacuum so I don't have to do any actual work; use a menstrual cup; and dry mop the floors, which is basically swiffering but with a reusable duster and not a throw away swiffer pad.

Okay that's everything that I could think of without this post getting totally out of control.  I hope this was helpful to you.  Not only to show you some ways to be sustainable and reduce plastic, but also to assure you that it's hard, a long process you really have to commit to, and something that's difficult to be perfect at given how our society functions.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try or that you're in this alone.  Every single step adds up!  I've saved countless plastic bags, toothbrushes, straws, k-cups and more at this point, and that's no small matter.  Add that into everything Steph does in a day, and all of you - we're making a difference!

How does a typical day look for you?  What ways do you try to be sustainable and reduce your use of plastic and your carbon footprint in general?  If you have a post of your own to share, leave it in the comments below.  Next week, feel free to share a post or instagram about what plastic free issues you're struggling with (like me and facial SPF!)  Someone might just have an answer for you.

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