The Thing About Breadmakers

I was once a breadmaking fanatic, because my breadmaker meant 4 minutes of prep and 3.3 hours later I’d have delicious wholesome organic bread that the whole family would devour. Unlike most breadmaker owners, we actually used our machine regularly. We’d been making bread from it non-stop for years, until this week.

An artisan-style bread from a bread-maker that will please all. Photo © Liesl Clark

An artisan-style bread from a bread-maker that will please all. Photo © Liesl Clark

Here were the obvious benefits of this delicious bread:

1) No plastic packaging.

The little plastic bread clip

Bread bag with a little plastic bread clip.

2) Saves money. Our locally-baked bread costs about $5.00 per loaf. We buy our ingredients in bulk and each loaf costs us less than $1.00.

3) Nothing better than the smell (and taste) of home baked bread coming out of the oven.

But, truth be told, this bread has fluoropolymers leaching into it.

Let me back up a bit. A few years ago, I purged all things plastic from my kitchen. Especially plastic containers and Teflon-coated pans. I took our breadmaker to Best Buy for recycling because it had pans made of Teflon. I noticed, too, that the pans would peel this weird-looking plastic coating from them every year or so. That was the fluoropolymer coating that Dupont makes for all Teflon coated pans. This alarming article in The New York Times can fill you in on just how toxic fluoropolymers are.

So, I thought I would be clever and find a Teflon-free breadmaker, one safe for my family. Enter Zojirushi. Zojirushi makes what they call a Teflon-free breadmaker that we switched to after reading all the negative press about the potential health hazards of cooking with Teflon. We converted our entire kitchen into a Teflon-free zone, with the one exception of the breadmaker because we were ignorant. This machine is NOT teflon-free. In the product description it states “non-stick coated pan.” They coat it with a generic polymer that is….Teflon, but it’s just given a different name, fluoropolymer, the new fancy substitute that is an endocrine disruptor known to cause all kinds of cancers. It’s a sad state of affairs. I don’t believe there’s a bread machine out there that doesn’t have fluoropolymer coating.

Alas, if we want Teflon-free bread, we’ll have to make it sans breadmaker, in our clay or enamel-coated cast iron pans, with a little more care and attention to the process which might just make the bread taste even better. I grew up on homemade Teflon-free bread, and I’d like my children to have that privilege, too. I wonder if our local bakeries are using Teflon-free pans? It might not hurt to ask.

If you’re interested, here’s the recipe my family has eaten for years. Now they’ll have to enjoy it when I have more time to bake. It’s a whole wheat raisin and walnut bread that toasts perfectly, is moist, and has just the right amount of crunch in the crust.

Teflon-Free Zogirushi Pans. Photo © Liesl Clark

Teflon-Clad Zogirushi Pans. Photo © Liesl Clark

Whole Wheat Walnut Raisin Bread

1 Cup warm water

3/4 Cup combination of liquid ingredients (we use 1 egg + milk and a little yogurt)

2 Tablespoons flax seed oil (you can substitute another nut oil, but flax seed oil is excellent)

1 Heaping teaspoon salt (we use a celtic sea salt)

3 Cups flour (we prefer one cup whole wheat and 2 cups white, all organic)

4 Handfuls walnuts (this is also excellent with flax seeds)

3-4 Handfuls raisins

1 Tablespoon honey

3/8 Teaspoon yeast (we add more as our yeast ages since we buy it in bulk)

If you like a little body to your bread, add about 1/4 cup shredded zucchini or carrot which we do when those veggies are in our garden.

I think I’ll try to simulate a breadmaker next time and just add all of these ingredients in this order, making sure the yeast is added near the honey so it can react to the sugars in it and place the whole thing near our fireplace to activate the yeast with honey so it can rise in a breadmaker-like simulation, but using a big bowl. Then, mix the dough and let it rise, punch it back down, knead it, and let it rise again in a plastic-free bread pan, then bake. This recipe makes a 2-3 lb loaf of bread. Might make sense to double it so you get 2 loaves for your effort.

This bread has changed our lives. Easy. Cheap. Healthy. Homemade. Plastic-Free. Photo © Liesl Clark

Cheap. Healthy. Homemade. Plastic-Free. Photo © Liesl Clark

 

Off the Grid Toast

The Stovetop Toaster You Always Wanted

Our toaster oven stopped working two years ago and, coincidentally, I found a camp stove toaster a day later. I had wanted one of these for years. They’re the foldable lightweight stovetop toasters that enable you to toast your bread right over your burner. Coleman makes them and they cost less than $5 at Walmart. But if you’re patient, you’ll likely find one at a yard sale or in your Buy Nothing group.

Stovetop Toast-Makers Rule. © Liesl Clark

These toasters are perfect for the homebody interested in downsizing and getting rid of their small electrical appliances that just take up room and leave you with no options when the power goes out.

One by one, we’ve offloaded the little electrical appliances we rarely use, and our cupboards are so much easier to deal with. But more importantly, we’re making hand-made food again, and it ain’t no chore.  We’re finding alternative ways to make things off the grid, like yogurt, and are rediscovering the pleasures of simplicity and mindfully-made food. No, we aren’t poster-children for the farming life made simple, and we certainly aren’t feeling deprived. We don’t miss our toaster oven at all, thanks to our trusty Coleman camp stove toaster. I keep our new toast-maker on our stovetop day and night because toast is a staple around here since we bake our own bread. But it’s also foldable, so this gizmo won’t take up much room in your cupboard.

Simple, lightweight stovetop toaster. © Liesl Clark

Not only are we saving electricity, we’re convinced our toast tastes better as it’s toasted lightly over a diffused flame over the course of a few minutes, the same amount of time it would take in an electric toaster. I do believe Bagels are much better toasted with this thingy. And when the winter storms come and the power is out — we have toast! (Our stove is natural gas.)

Oh, and I’ve found the small base plate with holes on the toaster makes an excellent chili pepper roaster, too.

Embracing Ugly Veggies

Digging around in the garden, today, I had to run into the house to look up a stunning fact. Here it is: Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year, approximately 1.3 billion tons, is wasted. But here’s the hitch — The Food and Agricultural Association claims:

  • Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.

Fruits and veggies top out the list, not grains, dairy, meat and legumes. It’s the perishables that contribute to (in this country) the over 33 million tons of food each year that ends up in the landfill.

I posit that much of it is ugly veggies, like ours.

This time of year, the veggies in our garden are downright repulsive.

That's Broccoli Folks! © Liesl Clark

That’s Broccoli Folks! © Liesl Clark

The ceaseless rain and a recent freeze, has waterlogged the cauliflower.

Browned Cauli Still Tastes Great © Liesl Clark

Browned Cauli Still Tastes Great © Liesl Clark

Thanks to a few thousand slugs that share the land with us, the slender kale has holes in it.

Holy Kale © Liesl Clark

Holy Kale © Liesl Clark

The finger potatoes and sun chokes cling to the sodden earth like black clods of nutritious grit.

It's What's For Dinner © Liesl Clark

It’s What’s For Dinner © Liesl Clark

Never fear, friends, just lower your standards, and don’t let your ugly veggies get you down. They’re still food. Hideously delicious food.

Roasted Sun Chokes © Liesl Clark

Roasted Sun Chokes © Liesl Clark

 

Gone are the days of showing off our succulent crops in beautiful baskets on long lost sunny afternoons. No, tonight’s dinner was wrestled free from the muck and slime of a New Year’s dark garden of primal growth that only the diehard will eat. We eat the foul-looking foodstuffs because snubbing our nose at them would contribute to the EPA’s wasted food bottom line. No, we’ll whip up dishes from weird days where clouds and wet shadows prevail over the  sheepish sunlight.

We triumph, quietly, when the kids eat the ugly veggies.

Pizza with Kale and Red Pepper Flakes © Liesl Clark

Pizza with Kale and Red Pepper Flakes © Liesl Clark

So, why be ashamed of the slug holes and dark spots on your rotting heads of cauliflower or snail-slimed leaves of kale when you hear this confession and bear witness to our homely ingredients? Embrace your ugly veggies. They’re food after all.

Washing the Grit From Sun Chokes © Liesl Clark

Washing the Grit From Sun Chokes © Liesl Clark

No one’s watching. No one’s comparing their Instagram-perfect patches of deep solstice greens with yours.  Bon appetit!  Go ahead, share your vile veggies with the fates that befall all winter gardens. Welcome them into your kitchen, unsightly as they are.

Snail on Kale © Liesl Clark

Snail on Kale © Liesl Clark

We eat our ugly veggies with pride. How about you?

What’s In Our Compost

Yuck? No! It’s food for your veggies and flowers.

Most people don’t know that you can compost all sorts of paper bits, string, cotton fabric, human hair, and wax paper. Throw it in the pile and turn it into garden gold!

What’s in Our Compost? Paper scraps, hair, pet fur, wax paper, egg shells, cotton fabrics, string, read on….

If you don’t compost, you can put these things in your organic or yard waste, if you have a municipal yard waste pickup in your community. Failing that, offer your compostables up to a neighbor in your Buy Nothing group. They’ll gladly take it off your hands. My pile can always take more ingredients as we use it on our 8 gardens and one acre of lawn. Keeping this stuff out of your garbage will save you money in the end. So, what can go into the compost pile?

Any organic matter that our chickens, dog, cat, humans, or guinea pig won’t eat goes into the decomposing pile. But we’re also able to compost other weird stuff. Here’s a short list of the unusual things we’ve been able to turn into fertilizer:

Human Hair from Haircuts and Shower Drains

Pet Fur

Band Aid Wrappers

Baskets

Wine at the Bottom of the Glass

Floor Sweepings (I pick out the plastic bits)

Clay

Coffee Grounds and Filters (but you knew that already)

Coffee Bags (non-plastic-lined, just rip out the metal strip at the top)

Sugar Packets

Shredded Paper

Ashes from the Fireplace and Fire Pit

Paper Produce Stickers

Butter Wrappers (these really do break down)

Wax Paper (but it also makes great fire-starter)

String

Bailing Twine

Balloons (the latex kind only)

Cotton Fabric

Cornstarch Packing Peanuts

Crushed Egg Shells (the worms love ’em)

Cardboard Egg Cartons (great carbon source)

Q-Tips (the kind with the paper applicators, non-plastic)

Toilet Paper Rolls (ditto on the carbon source)

Nut Shells (they do break down, but can also go in the firestarter)

Fruit Pits (we get sprouted peach trees each year)

Fabric Scraps (so long as they’re natural non-bleached, non-poly)

Sheep’s Wool (we have lots for crafting)

SCOBY (my hens love it, but it can go in the compost, too)

Half-Burned Match Sticks

Old Seeds and Their Packets (we might get some freebie veggies the next season)

Pencil Shavings From the Sharpener

Nail Clippings From Cats, Dogs, Humans (Ew, gross!)

Paper Lollipop Sticks

Wax Coated Paper Candy Wrappers

Masking Tape

Parchment Paper

Old Potpourri

Old Baking Soda

Non-Toxic Play Doh

Puzzles

Rags

Latex Rubber Bands

Corn Husks and Cobs

Yarn

Paper Towels (but we’ve given those up)

Tissues (same as above)

Tea Bags and Paper Wrappers

Paper Scraps

Old Herbs and Spices

Entire Buried Fish (these go way down in the pile)

Entire Buried Chickens (these go even further down in the pile)

Cat Vomit (did she write cat vomit? Seriously, why throw it in the garbage if it’s just going to break down anyway?)

Avocado Pits (See what I did there? I moved right along. BTW, the worms love the avocado pits and lay their eggs in them. Think worm nursery.)

Guinea Pig Droppings (Have I grossed you out enough?)

Dog Vomit (Ok, Liesl, you’ve gone too far!)

Bee Vomit (That’s honey!)

I’ll stop there. You get the point. If it’s organic matter, it’ll break down. If it’s a paper product, the organic matter in the pile will break the paper down. And it all ends up on the lawn or in the gardens feeding the little plants into big plants and then producing beautiful food for our table.

Peas produced from the fertilizer we make out of our weird composted stuffs. © Liesl Clark

Peas produced from the fertilizer we make out of weird composted stuffs. © Liesl Clark

What NOT to put into your compost pile:

Lint: I used to put lint into the compost until I realized much of our lint is synthetic fibers. It’ll never break down.

Organic Produce Stickers (You have to pick off each one of these buggers and put them in your trash because they’re made of plastic.)

Plastic-Coated Papers

Thermal Receipts (These are Bisphenol-A-laden. It’s an endocrine disruptor. Just say “no” when someone asks if you want a receipt.)

What other oddities can you add to the compostables list?

How (and Why) I Kicked the Paper Towel Habit

A few good rags,

A few good rags in a basket = alternative to paper towels. Photo © Liesl Clark

A few good rags in a basket = alternative to paper towels. Photo © Liesl Clark

a washing machine,

2-3 weeks-worth of cloth rags in line for laundering = sustainable replacement for paper towels. Photo © Liesl Clark

2-3 weeks-worth of cloth rags in line for laundering = sustainable replacement for paper towels. Photo © Liesl Clark

and an empty drawer

"Wiping Towel Drawer," under the counter right next to the dinner table, ready for wipe-ups. Photo © Liesl Clark

“Wiping Towel Drawer,” under the counter, right next to the dinner table, ready for wipe-ups. Photo © Liesl Clark

are all it took to convert my family from paper towels to cloth towels.

Rosie would be proud of these cloth towels. They’re definitely “the quicker picker upper” vs. Bounty, her paper equivalent.

And there’s another reason to skip paper towels altogether: Bisphenol A, a chemical linked with cancer among other things. Sadly, according to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, our recycled paper products are now laced with this endocrine disruptor because thermal receipts that have high amounts of BPA have been recycled into most of our post-consumer paper products. Therefore, recycled content paper towels, newspapers, business cards, printer paper, even toilet paper have BPA and BPS in them. Returning to virgin pulp paper products might the healthier route to take! But the environmental impact of using virgin paper (a.k.a. loss of trees and the dioxins released in the atmosphere during the process of bleaching conventional toilet paper), according to the Huffington Post, far outweighs the small amounts of BPS found in our recycled paper toilet paper.

Oh, and BPA has also been detected in our currency.

Hazardous waste? Photo © Liesl Clark

Hazardous waste? Photo © Liesl Clark

I think this whole situation might be the perfect example of a bass ackwards trash backwards absolutely hazardous mess only humans can create. Somehow, we’ve managed to contaminate our own paper recycling streams with such toxic chemicals that post-consumer recycled paper itself is no longer a green option. Strategists say that if we stop recycling our thermal receipts or any recycled paper that has BPA in it, we may return to BPA-free papers. The problem is that according to some estimates, 8 million tons of BPA are produced each year and it’s been detected on every beach ever tested for the chemical.

The dilemma appears to fit perfectly with Urban Dictionary‘s definition of bass ackwards:

bass ackwards
Ass backwards. The state of doing (or having done) something the wrong way.
No no dude, you’ve got the cables plugged in all bass ackwards.

Before we recycle our papers into new papers and disseminate them all over the planet, into our gray water (in the case of toilet paper) and onto our countertops (paper towels) let’s find out what’s in them and exclude the papers that have toxic chemicals in them.

The bad guys: Thermal receipts have more BPA (that transfers into your skin upon contact) than any other paper, can, or plastic. Photo © Liesl Clark

The bad guys: Thermal receipts have more BPA (that transfers into your skin upon contact) than any other paper, can, or plastic. Photo © Liesl Clark

What can you do to help prevent BPA and its alternative BPS from spreading further into our watersheds? Stop buying paper towels, refuse receipts at stores, and don’t put them in your compost, your recycling, or even in your fireplace. Seems the toxic culprits need to be collected and bagged up so their chemicals can never leach into our groundwater. Think male frogs with female genitalia and you’ll get the picture. I’m considering taking the ones I collect to our household hazardous waste facility.

cloth towels instead of paper

Now, what to do with those paper towel holders? We use ours in a closet to hold rolls of string and masking, duct, electrical tape.

Mapping Plastic: First Days of Our Journey

Even Point White Pier ain’t plastic-free. We found Chapstick tubes lodged in the cracks. Photo © Liesl Clark

Our journey started on a windy day. Circumnavigating Bainbridge Island to map the plastic on its shores has started off like any other beach walk where we tease plastic detritus from tall grasses, seaweed, and huge boulders. Our friends, Rebecca Rockefeller, David Dale Campbell, and their daughters met us at Pleasant Beach, aka Lynwood Center Beach, and we headed south at the day’s lowest tide in hopes of reaching Point White Pier by dark. But we hit a snag.

Rich Passage is a narrow waterway providing access between Seattle and Bremerton for ferries, submarines and naval boats from the nearby seaports. Strong tidal conditions prevail and a winter shoreline walk along the Bainbridge side of the passage is impossible. Lined entirely with bulkheads, houses built right up to the coast, Rich Passage isn’t actually passable on foot. Our map here shows the section, right at Point White, that we had to skip, but we’ll return at a minus tide in the spring to complete as much of it as possible and collect whatever plastics are plastered to the human-made coast.

Legs 1 and 2 of the Bainbridge Island Plastic Mapping Project. Our Track is in Blue.

It’s a 53-mile circumnavigation we’re undertaking and we’ve done about 2. Beginnings are all about logistics, so the fact that we managed to track our progress by GPS and map it for you here is a huge feat.

Rebecca Rockefeller Inspecting “The Armored Coast,” Photo © Liesl Clark

We resumed our route on the west side of Point White 2 days later and cleaned the armored coast of plastic to Point White Pier, a landmark on Bainbridge where the fishing is good and summer swimmers hurl themselves into Puget Sound’s frigid waters.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “One of the largest estuaries in the United States, Puget Sound has roughly 2,500 miles of sheltered coastline, about one-third of which is armored. An increasing regional population and rising sea level will likely increase the pressure for additional shoreline armoring. Bulkheads, seawalls, and other armoring structures protect shoreline properties from damage and loss due to erosion, but armoring can also affect the nearshore habitat that is so important to restoring and preserving the health of Puget Sound.”

The man-made basalt armor of Crystal Springs. Plastics are jammed around the boulders. Photo © Liesl Clark

We see the daily affect of the sea upon the armored coastlines we walk and know climate change and sea level rise will ultimately win out. And studies are proving that armored coasts cause increased erosion on neighboring shorelines and adversely affect wildlife habitats. For us plastic pluckers, the armored coastlines mean there’s little plastic to be procured as there’s no true high tide line. Those plastics will have to deposit themselves somewhere else.

Rope Is Easily Caught in Man-Made Boulder-Strewn Coastline, Photo © Liesl Clark

Marine rope and fishing line is easily found behind and around boulders placed along Puget Sound’s shorelines, a barrier between sea and land but a catchment sieve for ropes and lines. We approach these coastlines with steely knives, our tools to free plastic filament ropes so we can remove them permanently in an effort to prevent future entanglement of marine species. The ropes placed by people to moor or tie down their boats, of course, are left alone. Most ropes we free, we’re able to simply pull from the rocks or pick up from the high tide line.

Some marine rope is reused by our researchers. Photo © Liesl Clark

Every beach walk brings surprises, sometimes in the form of items our intrepid children would like to keep — gifts from the sea — or bizarre relics in plastic that have no purpose on a beach. The new-looking basketball was a surprise, until we found a second one and realized they can’t be uncommon. Then the plastic spongy pig thing brought shouts of joy.

A Pig on the Beach? Photo © Liesl Clark

What the? Photo © Liesl Clark

But it was the white plastic replica sculpture of “The Last Supper” that won first prize this time.

“The Last Supper” on the Beach. Photo © Liesl Clark

What weird stuff have you found on the beach?

Our beach plastics survey would be remiss if we didn’t highlight the usual suspects, like balloons. This is one of the hundreds we’ve picked up in the last year alone.

Balloon and Pool Noodle Washed Up On Bainbridge Island. Photo © Liesl Clark

If you haven’t noticed, balloons blow, and when they have a ribbon attached to them that ribbon gets wrapped up in seaweed or around the necks of curious seals. We’ve seen countless images of seals entangled in plastic. Balloons and their attendant ribbons contribute to this problem. Please consider alternatives to balloons for your next birthday party to help prevent their inevitable migration to the sea. We don’t buy gift ribbon anymore, now that we’ve seen how much of it lines our shores.

Inner Plastic Lining of a Mylar Balloon, Washed Ashore. Photo © Liesl Clark

The Tally So Far:
We’re inventorying our island plastics by item. And so far, the most populous plastics are plastic bottle caps, styrofoam chunks, earplugs, construction zone tape (37 feet), fireworks, pvc piping, snack food bags & wrappers, plastic drink bottles, styrofoam food trays, tape, and 209 feet of marine rope. We’ve recycled the plastic bottles along with any glass bottles and aluminum cans we pick up along the way — just putting what’s plucked from the sea back into our materials economy.

Items of Note?
Three plastic wreath frames presented themselves on a high shoreline bank. In an upcoming post we’ll expose what ecologists say about the affects of throwing your yard clippings and organic waste into the sea. Grass clippings are not good for our oceans, yet we’re finding that Bainbridge Island residents are piling their yard waste and organics along their sea walls so they can be pulled out to sea with high tides and storm events. Hence the wreath frames, nursery tape, plastic plant pots, and those plastic tags that tell you what kind of plant you’ve bought are found all over Puget Sound. If we find things that can be reused, we put them back into circulation. So, we’re proud to note that the two of the plastic wreath frames were shared on our local Buy Nothing group and an island neighbor will use them for upcoming holiday wreath-making. I was inspired by her enthusiasm and reused one for a wreath I made of rosemary clippings from one of our plants. We’re also collecting all golf balls, tennis balls, and beach toys to be reused by local friends.

On a lighter side, we found a very old and rusty plastic lighter from The Derby lounge in Ketchican, Alaska!

Want to join us, physically or virtually, in our adventure around Bainbridge Island on our Plastic Mapping expedition? No need for us to do this alone! Drop us a line in the comments and we’ll arrange a date.

Mapping Plastic: A Circumnavigation of Bainbridge Island

Many have done it by sailboat, motorboat, even kayaks. One person recently swam it. But how many people have hiked around Bainbridge Island? I mean all the way around, skirting its shores, circling the entire landmass like a May pole?

Circumnavigating Bainbridge Island To Map Plastics, Photo © Liesl Clark

The 53-mile circumnavigation is precisely the journey we’re embarking upon, but it’s not just a walk in the rock-strewn, slimy, barnacle-laden park, nor is it a pristine walk on the beach. This journey has a critical element: We’re picking up all the man-made trash we see on the shoreline along the way. What sorts of debris are washing up on this 36-square-mile island, 8 miles off the coast of Seattle in the middle of Puget Sound?

Circumnavigating An Island’s Shores Bring New Light to Single Use Plastics, Photo © Liesl Clark

We’re no strangers to beach debris, more accurately described as “everyday plastics.” My friend and co-founder at The Buy Nothing Project, Rebecca Rockefeller, and I have traversed many island beaches picking up plastics. Indeed, we’ve spent months inventorying the buggers, listing them by item. We’ve created disturbing art about our beach plastics, have conducted beach pick-ups and art projects with local classrooms, and founded a social movement with an eye toward addressing that first of the 3 “R’s,” REDUCING the amount of plastics we consume in the first place. If we just shared what we already had, rather than buying new, wouldn’t that have impact?  If we’ve learned one thing in the last 5 years of research it’s this: If it’s made of plastic, it will end up in our waters.

Beachdebris, Robbins Island, MA, Photo © Liesl Clark

The obvious solution to our dependence upon plastics is to find reasonable alternatives and obvious reuse solutions and convince people to choose those over buying new plastics. We aim to show people in innovative ways how plastics will never go away and are ubiquitous in our environment. Hence, we collect those plastics we find washing up on our beaches and determine where they’re coming from. What percentage are single-use plastics like straws, syringes, and water bottles and tampons? What percentage are coming from the fishing and shipping industries, from construction projects, and from our own homes and cars? The only way to find out is to pick up a sampling from every shoreline on our island, to prove they’re on every beach, washed down our watersheds or blown ashore by the prevailing winds.

A few hundred yards’ collection of plastic, Photo © Liesl Clark

Bainbridge Island is like any landmass, encircled by the waters of Puget Sound, some beaches more exposed to currents and wind drift than others. We see this circumnavigation as a sort of metaphor for all islands, indeed all continents, with watersheds and beaches dumping and receiving debris over time.

Storm Drains Go Unfiltered and Unchecked on Bainbridge Island, Photo © Liesl Clark

My online search for the earliest pioneers to have circumnavigated our beloved island brought up a single result, and an ironic one at that: Bruce Barcott, writer and friend. We had no idea Bruce had taken on the journey, let alone that he wrote about it in Backpacker Magazine. He even self published a book about it, having also mapped his route on Google Earth in an incredible interactive tour-de-island-force worth checking out. Bruce’s map will be our baseline, a critical resource to discover interesting shoreline features as well as the ins and outs of the inlets, coves and private properties potentially off-limits to hikers like us. But if we’re doing some good (picking up pollution) will we be barred from passing? Due to tide constraints, Bruce apparently didn’t actually complete his full circumnavigation, opting for inland trails instead. We’re going to try our hand at completing a full circumambulation.

I first met Bruce Barcott in Seattle at the offices of Alpine Ascents International. My husband, Pete Athans, and I, along with our 1 and 3 year olds, had just moved to the area from north of Boston, one of the furthest points on the continent away from Seattle. Bruce and Pete were hired by Alpine Ascents International to assist them in procuring a coveted mountaineering concession on Mount Rainier. Two years later, when we were headed for a month to Nepal, Bruce and his family were looking for a home to occupy while house-hunting on the island. They house-sat for us and quickly found a home for themselves on the island. Bruce, in an effort to get to know the island first-hand, decided to hike around its shores, mapping his progress on his iphone.

We, too, will employ iphones and our trusty GPS to log in waypoints and document our progress. Other essential tools will include reusable bags, backpacks, and haul bags for collecting plastics, strapping the big pieces to our backs, and a knife for cutting marine rope and fishing line from rocks and washed-up tree trunks. Our cameras will record specific plastics that marine biologist friends are interested in documenting, and the essential iphone app, Tide Chart.

Plenty of Pens on the Beach, Photo © Liesl Clark

With a population of 23,000 and 36-square-miles of land, our island demographics prove that there are approximately 834 people per square mile on this speck of Northwest terra firma. That’s a lot denser than I would’ve thought, but significantly less than Seattle’s 7,251 people per square mile. We’re all contributing to the plastics that are making their way down from our homes, cars, and businesses to our seas. And our islandround journey is yet another means to figure out where it’s all coming from, why, and how we can stop it.

Come Help Us Inventory Bainbridge Island’s Beach Plastics, Photo © Liesl Clark

If you’re on Bainbridge and want to join us, please contact us and we’ll coordinate days and times to meet up for a leg of the journey. We’d love to have your eyes, hands, and backs for the recovery of human-made debris from the sea. We welcome classrooms, community groups, and all our island friends on this journey. And when this encircling of our island is done, we’ll welcome help in assessing the inventory of documented plastics in our island to determine where it’s coming from and come up with ideas for reducing it in the first place.

It’s winter storm season, and we expect some sobering results and strong shoreline winds but hopefully we’ll encounter some unanticipated surprises as we map our collective plastics, coming closer to uncovering the truth behind the flow of synthetic polymers into our seas.

Voyager Montessori School’s Rainbow of Puget Sound’s Beach Plastics, Photo © Liesl Clark