Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Overthinker's Guide to Saving the Planet

My name is Lentil Breakdown and I am an overthinker.
Pfew. It felt really good to type that. It's tough keeping all these unmedicated thoughts bottled up inside. So now that I've outed my brain, let me explain. There’s a fine line between being a conscious person and an overthinker. An overthinker is really just a conscious person who accidentally wanders into the next mental county when she’s too busy thinking to see where she's going.

One symptom of my affliction is how far out of my way I’ll go to save plastic. I have become so conscious of the natural resources we use and cavalierly throw away that on my way to the recycling bin, I’ve moved closer to the loony bin. But before I officially lose my mind, I want to share some of the conscious choices I make on a daily basis to illustrate my good intentions—along with proof of my impending insanity. Maybe you’ll start to think about what you can do to save resources too—without veering off to the funny farm. This is my daily 12-step program for saving the planet. I'm pretty sure it's too late to save me.

1. Committed I save any type of plastic bag from bread, rice cakes, tortillas, chips—even scraps of seran wrap—to put my cat’s litter-box jewels or old cat food in. Commit Me I can’t throw any plastic bag away. Pack rat + bag lady = plastic pack-rat lady.

2. Committed Instead of wasting a large piece of seran wrap to cover a bowl of leftovers or a cut melon, I’ll put a plate on top of it or invert the melon face down on the plate. Commit Me Water doesn’t grow on trees. How much H2O does it take to wash that extra plate? Would I be better off using the plastic?

3. Committed I carry my own cloth Eco Bags to the farmers’ market to put my produce in, but if I accidentally forget to bring them, I will refuse to use their plastic bags. Commit Me I didn’t grow up in the circus, so getting three pounds of loose apricots on the scale when you’re not a professional juggler is a bitch.

4. Committed I try to avoid buying produce in plastic containers, and when I’m at the farmer’s market, I take out the cherry tomatoes, strawberries, figs, etc. and give the containers back to the farmers. Commit Me With no formal box-boy training, my precious, pricey produce has arrived home smashed—and it didn’t even stop at a bar.

5. Committed When I see things in my shared trash bin outside that should be in the recycling bin, I get so mad, I rummage through the trash and take them out. Commit Me The neighbors refer to me as “the homeless lady that lives next door.”

6. Committed I don’t want to throw my kitchen scraps in the trash because they emit a lot of carbon, but I don’t have a yard to make a compost. So I’ll put the scraps in a container next to the sink and let them sit there for days. Commit Me A sourdough starter makes a lovely bread, but this type of fermentation? Not so much.

7. Committed I wash Ziplock baggies with dish soap and reuse them when possible. Commit Me See step #2. And if they’re so dirty they require too much water, I feel guilty and revert to step #1.

8. Committed I wash and reuse plastic containers from take-out food or yogurt—even styrofoam ones (since they are technically plastic). Commit Me Is it safe to reuse single-use plastics or do the plastics break down in your food? Will I get cancer from trying to be green? Bonus Neurosis: Is it weird to rent a storage locker for your plastic containers?

9. Committed I put my trash in a brown grocery bag inside of a plastic grocery bag (am still looking for that plastic alternative). When ready to be thrown in the dumpster, I’ll take the plain brown bag out of the plastic outer bag so I can reuse it with the next brown bag. Commit Me Wet garbage falls through the brown bag as I'm walking through my living room, and my carpet curses at me.

10. Committed If I’m eating out and want to take home leftovers, I’ll ask for a piece of foil rather than use a plastic or styrofoam container. Commit Me Waiters find it an odd request, so I confess to them that I’m on a plastic-saving crusade. They think that’s even odder.

11. Committed I save paper towels in my kitchen that have only been used to dry my clean hands, and I’ll use them later to dry produce or wipe up spills. Commit Me If anyone needs proof to commit me, I’ve left a paper trail.

12. Committed Sometimes when I’m at a public function, I’ll sit there dehydrating rather than drink a bottled water or use a hard plastic cup. Commit Me Even my bladder thinks I’m crazy.

Geez. Now I’m feeling T.M.I. remorse. And that was only the tip of the insanity iceberg. What “unusual” things are you doing to save resources?

Related Links

What's Your Plastic Footprint?

My Bladders' Carbon Footprint

The Plastic Eater


  1. I think you should take your show on the road. You have such a gift! Seriously, I haven't heard comedic material this good on being green. Very relevant for our time.

    I hate to admit it, but I only do #3 & #11.

    Okay, I hate to add to your problems, but #10 brings up another issue. Be careful using aluminum foil. They have found traces of aluminum in the brains of deceased Alzheimer's patients. The aluminum seems to scramble the circuitry of the brain. It might be too late for you, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

  2. Great read! I like to "recycle" my glass jars in a different way. I keep them for storing leftovers in the fridge, and I also use them to store my own spice mixes.

  3. I try to do much of the same, including reusing bread bags for storage. I am a fanatic recycler and I have noticed that my husband (who doesn't really pay attention to such things) has become too intimidated to throw things away. He leaves them on the countertop, for me to deal with, which is better than the lecture which ensues if I find a recyclable item in the trash.

  4. I try to do my part too but have not reached loony status - although my husband may disagree.

    We wash plastic baggies, I reuse glass and large yogurt containers (great for storage and sending leftovers with guests), we use cloth napkins, and I have a tiffin - that I keep in my car for leftovers when I'm eating out. On the occassions when my "to go food" doesn't make it in the tiffin - I have also been known to recycle.

    I do, however agree, I'm not willing to dehydrate for the cause. So it looks like you're the looniest!

  5. Silvina: I do know about the aluminum problem, but if you only use it to transport and don't heat it, I think it's fine. But it's definitely one more issue to deal with that I don't always want to think about!

    Faith: I have a problem throwing away jars too if they're good for storage!

    Trish: Welcome! Sounds like you're starting to infiltrate your husband's consciousness, which is good.

    Andrea: I am not really willing to dehydrate for the cause, but if I must use a plastic cup for one measly cup of water, I will sometimes stick the plastic cup in my purse and put it in my collection when I get home. Do I still win the loony contest?

  6. Yay! Overthinking must be fine and good if Lentil does it. But soft! What is that I see (No. 11) about her drying her hands on "paper towels?" We can probably all agree that is not the least bit green!

  7. Becky: good catch! Let me clarify: I keep 3 different dish cloths going at once and dry my hands on 2 of them (since I wash them so much), and the third to dry pots and pans if needed (I keep that one pristine). Only in extreme cases of cleanliness, like when using my hands to roll dough, will I dry my hands with a paper towel. But fear not! I will hang it to dry and use it again! One roll of paper towels might last me 3 - 6 months!

  8. Even though I'm rolling on the floor laughing after reading your post (as usual), these are very good ideas!!

    Here's my add: Use your discarded mail and junk mail envelopes as scratch paper. They're the perfect size for grocery lists or love notes.

  9. I honestly consider this a rational thought pattern! I mean I really do. GREG

  10. Me, too. It's very looping, like life. It's why we all tune in to Lentil. As in: We got a very fuel-efficient car. I find myself thinking of more places to go so that I can go out and drive it, thereby saving fuel.

  11. You are just too funny! I second the first comment: you really need to be on a comedy act a la Seinfeld

  12. Oh my goodness!! I could not stop laughing... you should definitely be doing stand - up!! Very cute way to inspire/instruct those of us who "aren't" green by nature!!

  13. Any farm that you're on is going to be funny.