Is It Bigger Than a Bread Box?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My friend Bryant Holsenbeck has taken on a challenge that I think is way harder than trying to eat for a dollar a day — she’s trying to go for a year without using disposable plastic. Whoa!

I’ve been working on helping her think of alternatives. My strategy is to step back and think about what people did in the old days before plastic was used for everything.

I was thinking about bread, and how bread gets stale if you don’t put it in plastic, and what they did before plastic. And I thought about bread boxes, which I’ve never really thought about before except for the “Is it bigger than a bread box?” question in Twenty Questions. So I told Bryant she needs to get a bread box. (I think she did.)

The latest conundrum is how do you get diswashing liquid without getting a plastic bottle? We’re a little stuck on that, though I have some ideas and am running some experiments and am hopeful that I’ll be able to figure something out.

Check out her blog The Last Straw at

Also while you’re there, be sure to check out her fabulous art — including my favorites, the birds made from credit cards. Love ’em!!

11 Responses to “Is It Bigger Than a Bread Box?”

  1. Jo Says:

    I buy dishwashing liquid from a bulk foods store here in NZ, just filling up my own bottle. Another method is to swish plain soap around in the water as the water runs into your dish pan or sink. People used to use a wire gadget for this that had a hinged cage to hold a bar of soap at the end of a long handle. Modern plastic versions are still sold. However, this isn’t “disposable plastic”, so would be okay for this challenge. Hanging a bar of soap from the tap in an open weave bag would work too. I think those bags are a popular space saving idea on boats. If you do an image search for “soap saver”, you’ll see different options.

  2. Have you visited Fake Plastic Fish’s blog? She has been trying to live plastic free for almost three years and would have some great tips. I think she uses Dr Bronners bar soap for dish washing.

    I’ve also read that you can store bread in linen bags. It doesn’t last as long as in plastic, but longer than with nothing.

  3. Carrie Says:

    Try this breadbox–I used one when I used to do bread machine bread a lot. It keeps things fresher than a regular breadbox.

  4. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the Fake Plastic Fish info! That will be a great resource. Also the soap saver idea. I think she’ll figure something out; some things are just a matter of getting used to something different. If you’re used to really sudsy dishwater, something mildly soapy just seems different, even if it gets the dishes clean.

  5. Chard Lady Says:

    Since tofu is usually sold in plastic tubs these days, if she wants any, she might want to make her own. One of the leftovers of the tofu-making process is a soapy liquid. When I read about it, I said to myself that I would never wash anything in it, but when I made tofu, I changed my mind. It actually smelled pretty nice and left the dishes clean.

  6. lessisenough Says:


    We have an Asian Grocery that sells really great freshly made tofu, I bet they’d be happy to pass off their tofu-making leftovers. But boy would they look at you like you were nuts if you went in and asked for that!

  7. Lindsey Says:

    You can totally make your own laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid using bar soap, borax, washing soda or baking soda, and vinegar, which all come in cardboard boxes or glass bottles. Admittedly, I make my own laundry detergent ( and keep it in a big plastic bucket, but if you made it in lesser quantities, you could keep either in glass containers. I don’t have dishwashing liquid posted on my blog, but you can find many recipes pretty easily by searching “make your own dishwashing liquid).

  8. lessisenough Says:

    I’ve been making cleaning products for a bunch of years and I actually teach a class on it. (For those of you Durham-area readers who are interested, I think I’ll be teaching a class at The Scrap Exchange in the spring — I’ll post details when we’ve figured out what we’re doing.) So I know that most things are cheap and easy and much better than buying commercial products.

    The problem is that most liquid cleaning solutions start with a liquid base, either soap or detergent, which come in a plastic bottle.

    I know that you can grate soap and mix with boiling water, but the texture is not the same as liquid soap or detergent that you buy. You can also use washing soda and/or borax and it will be alkaline, so it will be slippery, and it will clean, but it will not be sudsy and it will not feel like the dishwashing liquid that you’re used to.

    So basically that’s what I’m trying to figure out. Not just something that will work, there are a bunch of options for that, but something that will work and not be too different from what you’re used to.

    I actually started using Sal Suds in the laundry a few years ago and it works great. It’s super concentrated and I have a front-loading machine so I just put in a tiny bit. I have no idea how the cost compares to either homemade or commercial laundry detergent, but it’s dead simple, and one less thing to keep track of.

  9. Chard Lady Says:

    How lucky for you to have a fresh tofu source. I haven’t seen fresh tofu anywhere around here.

  10. Is she trying to do away with all plastic, or just one time use plastic? I’m sure there are plenty of bread-sized Tupperware-type things.

    As for the dish soap, doesn’t the soap for the dishwasher come in cardboard boxes? Couldn’t she use that, or make something from that?

  11. lessisenough Says:

    She’s trying to do without disposable plastic; she’s still using the plastic she has around. And she actually got a big tin to use as a breadbox. My concern about tupperware-type containers would be that the bread would get moldy because it would be sealed up too tight.

    I did get a box of Seventh Generation automatic dishwashing powder to see how that would work with handwashing dishes, and it actually worked great but it’s not sudsy at all. It’s very slippery, you just have to use a tiny bit of it (I put a tablespoon or less diluted in a quart of water, and then poured maybe 1/4 cup into a sinkful of water) and it gets your dishes super clean, but it takes a little getting used to, and it’s not quite as satisfying as sticking your hands into a big soapy basin.

    However before I could have her try that (I wasn’t sure if she would like it, it’s definitely different) she serendipitiously solved her problem with … laundry detergent. She started using powdered laundry detergent (Arm & Hammer, fragrance-free, in the big yellow box) but didn’t realize that you need to put the detergent in first before the water. She put it in after the water and ended up with a clump of detergent crud on top. She took the detergent crud out and threw into the soap dish with the soap she was using for the dishes without really thinking about it. The next time she did dishes, it was totally sudsy and it took her a second to figure out what was different (the lack of suds with the soap had kind of been bumming her out) and then she realized it was the laundry detergent. So she’s going to use that.

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