Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Passing the torch!

We have passed the torch to Gail in San Diego! Go Gail!


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Elke 1st Week

I didn't know what I was getting into when I took over Max's no-trash-for-two-weeks initiative last week. This has been extremely challenging and I wouldn't say that I have been as successful as Max. But, it has certainly been eye-opening and has raised my awareness of trash and how much I pollute. During the first week, I traveled out to Phoenix, LA, and San Francisco, and the whole idea of going into the shpiel and pulling out my plastic plate turned me off. So, I essentially was very hungry (and thirsty) for the first 7 days of this. Then I realized I have to eat - the project would be a failure if I didn't eat. So, I started to get comfortable with the story and confront people more aggressively. Here are my experiences.

Starbucks - Starbucks gives you $.10 off if you bring your own mug AND they give you compliments like "that's cool" or "thanks for saving the environment" That all made me feel good.
Auntie Anne's Pretzels - I said that she could just pass me my pretzel right into my hand and she said "I don't know how you are going to do that." She was laughing and went along with it.
Specialty's Cookies (SF) - Very nice about it, but just didn't really get it. I asked for a cookie with no paper and they scooped it up with the paper, then took it out of the paper, gave me the cookie and threw out the paper. Doh!
Nordstroms - I bought some earrings last week and told them about my project. They guy (who looked 14) agreed to recycle the plastic card the earrings came on but then put the pair of earrings in a card board box with tissue and then tucked that in a plastic bag. Doh!
Victoria's Secret - I had to say "no bag" FOUR times - putting stuff in a bag is so ingrained in their minds.
Giant Grocery Store - Wet lettuce everywhere....
Southwest Airlines - They say they recycle and I hope that is the case because those snack boxes create a ton of waste. OH, I almost forget, NO napkin with my drink. Who needs a napkin with their drink? For the condensation on the bottom of their cup?
California Pizza Kitchen - They were accomodating, but they stand out as a place that creates a lot of waste (any pizza place) because they give you the pizza in a giant box. Is that HUGE box neccessary?
Sit Down Restaurants - This is the way to do it! They use real plates and as long as you clear your plate and ask for no straw, you can get through the meal with no trash at all. If anyone takes the baton after me, I highly recommend sit down restaurants.
Public Restrooms - Most places do not have hand dryers anymore. Yes, I still wash my hands but I "air dry" which takes a long time and I wind up just wiping the water off on my jeans. So I often have wet jeans.
My house - I haven't been throwing out things so there is trash just sitting around, on the counter. Aidan is going crazy. I have pushed the boundaries of which plastic items can go in the recycling bin.
My purse - In my purse, I am carrying the excess trash, which consists of Southwest airlines peanut wrappers, hotel key cards, ear plugs, baggage check tag, and other snack wrappers.

All in all, this is a great project and I am glad that I am doing it. I tell the story as much as possible so that everyone knows about it. Yesterday at a July 4th party, I told the story to 6 people and then one guy went to the bathroom and said that he had the option of either using towels or air dryer. He chose air dryer :)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day 14 Done!!!

Finally done! I can go back to all the convenience of throwing things away. Actually, there were only a few points during the experiment that I found that I was truely inconvenienced in any major way. Cutting out all those goodies with the packaging, eating meals at the restaurant vs taking it to go, air drying my hands - all was really no big deal in the end. I had many people doubting the ability to go no-trash when I first mentioned it to them, but I feel that it shows that with minimal forthought and a concious lookout, we can reduce our reliance on disposables without too much heartache.

Nevertheless, there was some unavoidable trash. In the picture I am showing off all my trash for the past 2 weeks. Not too shabby! (and most of that is a weird wood and steel contraption that held up a new suit in box that was delivered to me). Our trash as consumers is just the tip of the iceberg - I just read actually that what we throw away is only 5% of the actual waste in producing the item we just consumed! wow. staggering.

Well, time to celebrate with a beer and hotdog...

Notice the entirely wasteful beer cup that I am using! Did I not learn anything???? Maybe the hot dog is actually reducing waste as it is stuffed with leftover animal parts.

And I am very excited to pass the torch on to my sister Elke who despite planning her wedding in 2 months, is going to take up the no-trash challenge!

Go Elke!!!

I will turn over the blog to her now...


Day 12-13

Here is my man Tony serving my lunch on my camping plate...
He doesnt look so happy about my camera, but he is now so much more enlightened about the trash that he uses as part of his job.

Getting into the final stretches...cant mess up now.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Day 8-11 The Restaurant Vs the Patron

Today I talk to the owner of the LA Cafe. He said something startling to me. He would love for all of his customers to be like me because that would cut down on half his costs. Half his costs!? wow, I had no idea it was that much. For a while, I was all about blaming the restaurant and the availability of cheap disposables, but his comment got me thinking. He would love to cut back but customers demand it. They need the bags, and plastic containers, handful of napkins, etc. And he has to buy it and give it to them just to survive. So who is more to blame? The restaurant or the patron?

I decided to probe a little deeper. Is trash really half your costs? "Well, actually NYC rent is 40%, then employment is 30%, insurance 10%, food x%, disposables actually around 6%". 6%? That doesn't seem like much. Back to square one. His focus is on rent and employment - if those fluctuate, there goes his business. Trash was obviously a small part of the equation, and not really on his mind. They could put twice as many napkins in my bag and it would hardly make a difference.

Maybe if the economics were really that it were half his costs, than he would look at alternative or reduced packaging techniques.

And have Americans become accustomed to using so many napkins because they were given to us in the first place? Just like Starbucks, we only became addicted to coffee when we found it on every corner. Now we are addicted to the java jacket, the lid, the stirring spoon, and don't forget the napkins.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Day 6-7 Corporate America

I was flying back up to NYC over the weekend and was starving from being stuck on the runway for 3 hours and not being able to accept one of their crappy snacks because of all the packaging. By the time I got to Laguardia, the Wendy's in the American Airlines terminal was the only restaurant open, so I gave it a shot and went into my pre-order spiel. And they wouldn't serve me! The manager came out and said that if my plate was dirty, it might get on the hamburger, and I may sue him! I could not believe it. He was so cold - like they even have a guideline for using someone else's plate. Put the motherf**kin hamburger in the motherf**kin plate! Even my piercing thoughts didn't sway him.

By contrast, I love going to small New York mom-and-pop bodega's and deli's often run by Hispanic and foreign workers. The reaction to my project is always so spirited. My new pal Tony at the LA cafe at Madison Park has the whole staff trained to serve my breakfast with no trash or else I will "fine" them. Everyone behind the counter (10 or so) now knows who I am, and all have some fun reaction to my project. It is either laughter, questions, a look of complete weirdness, but it is always warmth and a smile.

This project has reinforced my opinion of the overly processed world of corporations, which are rife with guidelines corporate processes and governed by the economics of being sued. Getting back to the point of this project, even if all those guidelines and rules cut off the human element, they could be used for waste efficiency to be part of the "process".


Monday, June 18, 2007

Day 5 Company Cafeteria

The no-trash diet is making me notice the excessively disposable culture that we live in. The industry centered around food is the most glaring example. In our company cafeteria, the food servers default to putting food into a Styrofoam container despite having a pile of regular plates to choose from. You have to request for the regular plate!

Furthermore, most people eating in the cafeteria seem to be using the Styrofoam container although they are eating there and not even taking it to go. Maybe they prefer it because they can just throw it all into the trash without going to the other end of the cafeteria to drop off the plates on the conveyor belt.

On a more fun note, one beer can of mine has had a grand exit to its life. At the Clermont Lounge in Atlanta last night I broke down with friends and had a beer knowing that I would be carrying it home to my recycling bin. What a better way to compact for space efficiency than to have the legendary Atlanta phenomena Blondie do it for me. Blondie is a short old black stripper with bright blond hair whose signature move fit perfectly with my need for a crushed beer can. With a big smile (and 10 bucks) she placed it between her breasts and squeezed her elbows across the front of her chest with the might of her bosom reducing my can to an efficient, environmentally friendly size. Perfect, thanks Blondie!!


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Day 3-4 Health Affects

If we cut down on trash, we are also helping our weight problem!

This trash diet is actually forcing me to eath healthy. As I choose foods that don't come in packaging, I find myself gravitating to salads, freshly prepared foods, and generally higher quality places. Something that comes packaged or is given to you wrapped is much more likel to be junk food, old, full of preservatives, or just bad for you. No soda, no mid day snacks from the vending machine, no frozen pizza.

Also, by having to finish everything on my plate, I am fearful of ordering too much and therefore I order more conservatively. Go figure!

Here's the trash collected:
- 1 long baggage claim receipt. I don't think this bad boy recycles
- 1 red ribbon. I somehow took it because I needed to jerry rig a sign, which failed miserably anyway.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Day 1-2- Food Servers

Rough start: My first hard lesson was hardly a minute after my noon start time. I went to gather my nifty camping plate and bowl and found that there was some odd cellophane sticky packaging on the bottom that I didnt see before. Damn! There is no way this weird stuff is recyclable so it has now found a home in my bag for the next 2 weeks. This is going to take some better planning Max - be alert!!!

At my first meal in a deli, the first thing I realized was how interactive this project is going to be given my restaurant lifestyle. I am going to have to explain it every time I eat - and in such a way as to not seem insulting, arrogant, or just weird.

The next thing I quickly noticed was how ingrained people are in their habits. It has been noted to me before that I have never worked in the service industry and that I can't possibly understand, so I could be making some highly uninformed judgements here. But no matter how much they seem understand the project (and sometimes even enjoy it), and kindly deliver my food on my plate like I ask, they invariably try to stuff me with other disposables. No, I don't want it all in a plastic take out bag. Put the napkins back in the canister please. No straw thanks. After these quick interceptions, they seem to look surprised at themselves, and then the true "I get it" expression lights up on their face.

So here's the count after 2 days:
1 mess of cellophane crap
several receipts - which should be recycle able. but otherwise feelin good!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Intro to the Project

I have taken up the challenge of going two weeks with no trash. Call it weird or whatever you want, but I will strive to not contribute anything to a landfill under my watch for the next 14 days.

I give full credit to Ashley at Frog Design for making up the rules. Ashley, if you are reading this, I know you eye roll at being a part of a trend but hey, you're cool and you've started it now.

Here are the basic rules:
-No public or private trash cans of any kind
-No giving trash to anyone else to throw away for you
-Recycling, donating, compost are OK
-Finish everything on your plate or compost
-Incinerating not allowed
-Normal toilet procedures (maybe that's my addition?)
-Any garbage collected must stay with you at all times (within 5 feet according to her)

A couple notes: Although recycling is allowed, I am striving to not even collect anything for the recycling bins. I'm sure THAT paper cup is recyclable - I still just don't want it! Also, for any naysayers, there are probably many environmental holes you could poke in the challenge, but whatever, it's still a good thing.

If I get anyone besides friends and family reading this, here is a little about me. I am a 30 year old, single white male living in New York (and Atlanta now). I travel alot with my corporate job, I eat almost entirely in restaurants (which poses its own subtleties), and like most people I enjoy my big to-go cup of coffee with lid, stirring stick, java jacket, and a couple extra napkins for comfort.

Now, why am I doing this?

First, up until now, I would only consider myself a semi-environmentalist - I am environmentally conscious but I have never really contributed anything more meaningful to the cause than the occasional recycled bottle. Time to change that.

Next, although I do genuinely want to help the environment, I also see it as an adventure, a different lens to look through, hopefully a good story, and something just a bit odd.

Wish me luck!!


PS: Here is her original description: http://www.frogdesign.com/frogblog/trash-talk-introduction.html