The Final Display

The trash is in the white bag; the recyclables are in the brown bag.

The trash is in the white bag; the recyclables are in the brown bag. The ice cream container is the largest item in the trash.


Day 7 – Last Day!

When I came home from my road trip I discovered my bread had molded. Whoops!

  • aluminum can – recycle
  • squash stems – trash
  • cracker bag of unidentified plastic – trash
  • two plastic/foil packs of drink mix – trash
  • moldy bread – trash
  • paper towel from gym – trash

I forgot to bring my towel to the gym, and after the run I needed to wipe down the machine – sanitation first. I also need to call Nabisco to see if their cracker bags are recyclable – though I have a feeling they’re not.

Day 6 – On the road again

This whirlwind LA trip closed Sunday with more drivin’.

  • tea bag, paper – trash
  • plastic water bottle – accidentally disposed of
  • 22-gram package of Kraft corn nuts made of foil-plastic hybrid – trash

I purchased some snack crackers which I haven’t finished yet, but when I do, they’ll come with cardboard (recycle) and a plastic bag (trash).

Day 5 – Attentive service can be a pain

On Saturday the family cooked a giant brunch together, went to the beach, hung out at the pool, and went out to dinner. I brought Tupperware with me to save my trash in.

  • paper green tea bag – trash
  • paper napkin and paper napkin ring from Acapulco Mexican Restaurant – trash
  • carne asado burrito – trash
  • roast beef deli sandwich – trash
  • yogurt container plastic 5 and foil lid – recycle
  • bulk foods bag of unknown plastic – saved for re-use
  • water bottle – disposed of by hotel staff 😦

What I did right

The Kaplan family relaxes by the pool Saturday.

The Kaplan family relaxes by the pool Saturday.

1. Tupperware Deli Sandwiches. I packed two deli lunches in Tupperware, thus avoiding the wrapper trash. The folks behind the counter at Henry’s were very helpful in that regard.

2. Reusable Bags. The family took their own reusable bags to Henry’s Farmers Market while shopping for omlette ingredients. Wow, thanks, everyone!

3. Thinking Ahead. I packed my own silverware and washcloth for eating at the restaurant.

4. Guarded my trash. I never thought I’d say this, but attentive service can be a pain! I defended my leftovers at Acapulco from the very attentive servers, who wanted to take my plate and/or box my leftovers for me. Because we were such a large party, we had a collection of well-meaning waiters and waitresses from whom I had to defend my trash!

What I could have done better

1. Refrigeration. I forgot to refrigerate the extra Deli sandwich and burrito, so they spoiled. Good thing they came with no wrappings!

2. Remembering what I had planned for. I left the silverware and washcloth that I packed in the car… far away from the restaurant!

Many Kaplans did remember their own water bottles. Way to go!

Many Kaplans did remember their own water bottles. Way to go!

3. Pack a water bottle. I left my water bottle behind, and found myself needing to stay hydrated. I figured I could re-use one plastic water bottle several times to cut down on waste. But in the end, someone saw the trash by my purse and decided to toss it for me. (Attentive hotel staff, perhaps?)  The good news is that many other family members remembered to pack their water bottles!

Overall the day went well. I feel quite proud that there were no challenges I was unprepared to deal with. The hard part was simply remembering to cart around the stuff I had packed!!

Wish me sustainability…

Day 4 Rundown – Where I Forgot, They Remembered

This is from Day 1 on the road. We started in Auburn and eight hours later we ended up in San Pedro to hang for my husband’s family’s reunion.

  • Glass coffee container – accidentally broken and disposed of at a rest stop. The glass shards were dangerous and no recycling container was nearby.
  • Plastic fork of unknown plastic type – trash – washed and saved for re-use
  • Paper towel with soy sauce – trash accidentally disposed of – whoops!
  • Plum pits – disposed of due to bugs in the car – sorry Deb!
In the House of Vege we opted to use Tupperware instead of the usual take-out containers.

In the House of Vege we opted to use Tupperware instead of the usual take-out containers.

All the planning in the world could have never prepared me for my own stupidity. I packed my own utensils and water bottle and washcloth, but left it all behind when we went to eat!

I also failed to save the plum pits in an airtight container, and days later, my very understanding mother-in-law had insects in her car because of it.

I nearly forgot to bring containers to pick up our vegetarian Chinese take-out. (BTW, the House of Vege in Lomita – YUM.) Fortunately, my gracious hostess and the entire Kaplan family was QUITE wonderful in remembering, and offering to help out. Time and again they opted for real plates instead of paper plates, they bought items with the least amount of packaging, and generally helped me to feel supported in my often daunting endeavor. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip!

Day 3’s Trash – I did good!

My list today:

  • plastic tearaway top to Alpine Lace cheese bag, of unknown plastic type – trash
  • chewed gum and foil/paper wrapper – trash
  • 2 6×4 pieces scrap paper – trash

Thursday my brother cooked a wonderful roasted potatoes dinner from ingredients that mostly didn’t generate trash. But even if they had – what then? Do I consider him like a restaurant in that the waste from his food prep doesn’t count as mine?

I “own” one-fifth of the waste produced at that dinner, but when buying in bulk, that meal might waste only one-tenth of a package that creates ten meals. Not bad, I think. MUCH  better than microwaveable food.

Thursday I also packed lunches for my LA roadtrip. More on that to come soon!

Wish me sustainability!

Day 2’s Trash

Day 2’s trash list is long, because I went shopping:

  • 3 paper receipts – recycle
  • 2 squares cardboard tupperware packaging – recycle
  • 15 product USB stickers (geez, I only bought six items…) – trash
  • 2×4 square deli paper – trash
  • used packing tape – trash
  • 10×4″ Alpine Lace cheese pouch made of unidentified plastic *trash
  • 1.5 quart cardboard Dryer’s ice cream carton with unidentified coating * – trash
  • BRITA filter cartridge – trash – stored to later send to the Take Back the Filter Campaign
  • 2 watermelon rinds – disposed of – whoops!
  • 1 cardboard box of milk cartons – recycled already – whoops!
  • 8×11 envelope of glossy junk mail paper, addressed to someone else – returned to PO
  • cardboard box – saved for re-use!
  • packing paper – saved for re-use!

* A call to the manufacturers of Alpine Lace did not yeild the plastic type or recyclability information of this pouch. A call to Dryer’s confirmed that 1.5 quart, 1 quart, and 1 pint containers cannot be recycled.

What I did right

I went to my local bakery, La Bou’s, and brought along a plastic bag with me. They handed me a loaf and I went home with no trash except the receipt from the sale. I also managed to eat at a restaurant without generating paper trash.

How I could have done better

1. Compost! I forgot.. yes.. FORGOT that compostable food waste counts as trash. I had some watermelon at a restaurant, and didn’t take the rinds home because for some reason I thought they didn’t count as trash! Yes, they are bio-degradable, but no, I don’t have a compost system in place – so I chuck my food waste into the plastic-lined trash can, where the proper microbes may not ever reach it.

Luckily, my sister found an article on how to make your own composter in a soda bottle – so that’s what I’ll be starting when I get back from my road trip to LA!

2. Make it at home. Forces conspired against my friends and me to make our own ice cream yesterday, but the craving demanded satisfaction. I was disappointed to learn Dryer’s ice cream does not come in the recyclable Tetra Paks that milk comes in.

3. Shop Used, Freecycle, or Thrift. I bought some excellent new Tupperware yesterday to help cut down on the number of Ziplock bags I use – but I bought them brand-new. They came in packaging and with at least two product stickers on them each, which have to be thrown away. Ideally, I would have found something usable at a thrift store. It would have taken time to hunt down, and frankly, used Tupperware sounds a little creepy to me – so I chose to buy new.


So far, everyone I’ve spoken to – my friends and family, the waitress, the baker – have all been supportive of this endeavor. It’s great! I really appreciate their willingness to talk about the issue, and to be there for me. But I have noticed a strange response, too: people offer to take on my garbage as their own in order to “help me” cut back on my pile. They want to help, but they are missing the point, which is ultimately to reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill, no matter who is sending it there.

I suspect the offer to take on my trash stems from a desire to see me succeed – which is great! – but ultimately, I suspect it indicates how much we all have lost the feeling of personal responsibility for the trash we put into the landfill. If someone felt guilty for the plastic they were already dumping daily, would they really offer to take on more?

Not to worry though. While a lot of people have said my task seems too daunting to them, they are glad to see me trying, and that’s really where their offer of help comes from.