The Pledge: Plastic Free July

July 31, 2017
By Amy Powell

For the month of July, in San Francisco, CA, I pledged to “avoid single-use plastic, reuse or recycle the plastic I did use, educate others about plastic waste, and take Citizen Muscle actions to make plastic a thing of the past.” I pledged because plastic production and its consumption has increased globally at an alarmingly high rate. And a majority of the plastic that is produced does not get recycled (the percent is much lower than you’d think — in the US only 9.5% of plastic was recycled in 2014). Instead, most plastic ends up in our water, landfills and oceans causing physical and environmental health issues. Consumers have been trained to rely on plastic, I wanted to see if it was possible to live without it.

Like all of the pledges I’ve participated in, I quickly advanced the call to action, flipping the pledge into a challenge — a personal attempt to not use or purchase single-use plastic at all for 31 consecutive days. I deemed it the “No Single-Use Plastic Challenge” (NSUPC). To accomplish this particular challenge, above all I knew I needed to be more conscious of how and what I consumed. Regularly, out of convenience, I purchase single-use plastic water bottles, use single-use plastic coffee lids and go through an obscene amount of single-use plastic straws (because I prefer drinking from a straw). Despite these consumption confessions, I knew if I could cut out these particular habits from my routine, I would be able to conquer NSUPC. Because honestly, “How difficult would it be to completely avoid single-use plastic in San Francisco?!”

Within the first week of NSUPC I started to understand just how difficult. My sincere optimism was courageously hopeless at best. Let me explain.

In the days leading up to July 1, the first official day of NSUPC, I mentally and physically prepared. I located and filled all of the reusable water bottles I had collected over the years – 18 total! I located and cleaned my coffee travel mug. I made self-promises: if I happened to forget a water bottle I would find the closest water fountain (or borrow a friend’s water bottle) instead of buying a single-use plastic bottle; or if I forgot my coffee travel mug, I would still allow myself the cup of coffee. I just wouldn’t reach for a single-use plastic lid. I promised that I would stop using plastic straws all together. (This part would be the real challenge.) And I actively started telling my friends and acquaintances about the pledge and how I was changing my consumption behavior to achieve success. 

During the first week I focused on my consumption — everything from food to goods to gifts. I analyzed each item I wanted to purchase, the materials it took to create that item and any additional materials used to wrap or carry out the item post-purchase. If plastic was part of the item’s production in any way, I asked myself, “Is it single-use or multiple-use plastic?” There is a difference. Unfortunately for me, I found that most items I wanted to use or buy contained one, two or more types of single-use plastic. Either the item was made entirely of single-use plastic or single-use plastic was used to wrap, secure or seal the item I wanted inside. For example: single-use plastic wrapped around my favorite cheeses (and is used to package almost every single item at the grocery store); it is hidden inside cardboard boxes to keep my favorite cereals or crackers fresh; it is wrapped around the flowers I buy for my apartment; it is holding my fresh smoothie; it is lining the trash bins at work and at home. It is everywhere.

I knew I couldn’t physically survive the next 4 weeks without consumption — even if it was the barest of minimums — so instead of staying in, I changed my thinking and my actions. I got creative and persuasive. In weeks 2 and 3, some would have deemed my behavior pushy or rude, but I wanted to see just how far I could take NSUPC while still keeping as normal a lifestyle as possible. I wanted to see if non-plastic options were indeed available if you asked for them. Surprisingly, the answer I found more often than not was “yes, possible.” When a grocery clerk started to bag my groceries in a plastic bag, I asked for paper. When a server brought out a plastic box to go, I asked for a paper box (or for a piece of foil). When I really wanted a straw I asked for a paper straw. (Surprisingly lots of bars had paper ones in the back.) When my fresh flowers were being wrapped, I asked for paper wrapping only and a cloth ribbon. When my water bottle was empty, I asked coffee shops to fill it with tap water. The more I asked, the more non-plastic alternatives I was given.

It was not until the end of week 3 that I realized my clever system was not yet possible everywhere. On a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles I stopped for gas and my favorite drink concoction – a specific, yet random mix of raspberry ice tea, lemonade, 7Up and Mountain Dew. I would usually grab the largest store-provided plastic cup, fill it with ice and mix away but this time I brought my own large cup from the car. At checkout the clerk looked baffled, then unimpressed. At this particular gas convenience store (off the record, Extra Mile) personal cups were not OK. The reason? Each cup is individually barcoded for inventory. So, if a customer doesn’t use one of the store-provided individually-coded single-use plastic cups, the clerk cannot ring it up. And, once a cup has been barcoded, it cannot be used or coded again. Bummer. I told her about NSUPC and asked her if there were a secret generic barcode she could use or if she had any other option? The answer was — “No.” So, I reluctantly went back to the soda fountain and grabbed a single-use plastic cup for her to ring up. As I left the store she called behind me, “Do you want to keep it, or should I throw it away?”

I made it through the rest of the month with what I call 50/25/25 action success. There were times when I did succeed and was able to avoid single-use plastic altogether; there were times when single-use plastic was unavoidable (even if I really really tried to avoid it or not use it); and there were times I let my guard down and a plastic straw showed up in my drink or a plastic coffee lid snapped on my cup before I could say, “No, thank you.”

After witnessing and learning all that I did in 31 days, I ask myself, “Why is mass consumption of single-use plastic necessary?” Further, “Are their specific industries that require the use of single-use plastic? Are there potential health risks in not using single-use plastic?” Two industries that quickly come to mind are food service and healthcare. (I found many articles online discussing pros and cons of single-use plastic in healthcare, and pros in foodservice.)

As I took a deeper look at the pros of single-use and multi-use plastic, I adjusted my perception, “Maybe plastic is OK when it is produced in a mindful way and supports human health and well-being.” But I cannot find mindfulness in the current rate we are producing and consuming single-use plastics globally – especially within many industries that do not involve food service or healthcare. In these other industries I found the most common decision maker in support of single-use plastic to be, cheap cost. For business that may make sense, but for the longevity of human existence and the planet we live on, it is foolish.

In order to accelerate change, everyone needs to be a proactive leader. Corporations and businesses need to actively and financially commit to finding alternatives to plastic and decrease their reliance and consumption of all single-use plastic used in production. Consumers need to be vigilant and educated about what they buy, what that product is made of and who produces it. Consumers must be vocal. They must request single-use plastic and plastic-free products from the corporations and businesses they buy from. They should take action and speak to their local and state government leaders, policy makers and legislators about decreasing the production of single-use plastic in both the United States and globally. And consumers must remember, we have ultimate purchasing power over corporations and businesses. (If we don’t buy it, they won’t produce it.)

I am glad I took the pledge and created my own NSUPC. I will continue – and I encourage you – to avoid single-use plastic, reuse or recycle the plastic we do use, educate others about plastic waste, and take Citizen Muscle actions to make plastic a thing of the past. One day we will.


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2013 in Review

By Amy Powell

Thank you to all of those who read, critiqued, and shared my blog in 2013. Here’s to a fantastic 2014…. there are exciting reviews to come! Happy New Year!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 520 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Citizen’s Band: American Food With A Ring

Citizen's Band // Street View

Citizen’s Band // Street View

July 27, 2013
By Amy Powell

Positioned on the bustling corner of Folsom & 8th Street in San Francisco, Citizen’s Band is not only highly visible to foot and car traffic, it neighbors two local nightclubs – the Cat Club and the F8 Lounge. Boasting a moderate industrial atmosphere, and tiny (only 1,200 square feet) space, Citizen’s Band has a fresh face, cozy feel, and local esteem.

On a Friday night, I was lucky to get one seat at the frequented “seat yourself” counter. If parties of two or more did not have a reservation, they were in for a wait (30 – 45 minutes at least). Despite the crowd, I was greeted quickly by the night’s manager, seated, and served silverware, a full glass bottle of water, and an eco-friendly, double-sided dinner menu.

The menu featured an equal amount of savory American diner-style plates (fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, grilled burger) and flavorful vegetarian selections (kale salad, padron peppers, daily vegetarian special). Each of Citizen’s Band’s plates provided a yummy-something for every palette. Portions were generous, and each plate was complimented by an exciting, artistically placed addition – a tower of onion rings atop the mac & cheese, an asparagus bridge next to the Ca​esar salad, and a melting stack of “12K” (everything you’d ever want, if you were daring enough to order it) on your Kobe beef burger.

Asparagus Caesar Salad

Asparagus Caesar Salad

I ordered the “Asparagus Caesar Salad” and “Padron Peppers” appetizer, paired with a chilled glass of NV Prosecco Bel Casel from Italy. As my server cracked open a fresh bottle of Prosecco, the two-man chef team acknowledged my order for a brief second as they seamlessly prepped, steamed, grilled, fried, and plated dish after dish in their open, back-corner kitchen.

Padron Peppers

Padron Peppers

As my appetizers arrived, the manager motioned to one of the three parties patiently waiting at the front door. While she showed them to the “community-table,​” without missing a beat, my server quickly filled a bottle with water, grabbed ​four​ glasses and delivered them to the new diners. He was then quickly back in the kitchen to help carry hot food to a table across the room. The quality of service and attentiveness of staff was impeccable. M​y appetizers were unique, flavorful, and portioned to perfection. And the prices were moderate.​

Before I could ask for my bill, my server was printing and dropping my check in front of me alongside two homemade mini sugar cookies. Delicious. I left the restaurant with a full belly and a satisfied palette – tastes of salt, sugar, hot peppers and cool Prosecco lingered on my tongue​. Next time, I’ll​ order the burger (all “12K” of it)!

My View

My View

Find Citizen’s Band on the Web, Facebook or Twitter. Enjoy!

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Coming In Hot: HOTTUB at Beauty Bar, Austin TX

HOTTUB @ Beauty Bar, Austin- March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012
By Amy Powell

HOTTUB has just arrived in Austin, Texas for their first of three performances at the 26th annual South by Southwest festival. Despite a chaotic day of cross-country travel- 6am flight out of California, 2-hour drive from Houston, one empty tank of gas, and more in-town traffic than Austin locals have seen all year- the five-piece disco rap band from Oakland, California arrives at Beauty Bar fierce with energy.

Backed by beat-making producer, Jason “Jaysonik” Stinnett, and keyboardist, Mark “Funky Fingers” Gregory, HOTTUB packs a 3-part vocal punch powered by Nicole “Coco Machete” Feliciano, Amber “Ambr33zy” Royal, and Jennifer “LoliPop” Ackerman. Tonight, the hyper dynamic MCs are dolled out in lace, jean, leather, and leopard print fashion, with gold bracelets, exotic eye makeup, and “baller” necklaces that push “bling” kink to punk-pop party levels.

With “10 Numbers” in her pocket, Feliciano leverages her way up, onto a front speaker, while Royal and Ackerman thrust themselves into the crowd to join fans for Feliciano’s rap. Just three songs into their set- Beauty Bar is on “Man Bitch” fire. HOTTUB brings hard-hitting disco funk beats and shout-out “Oakland in Jungle” lyrics to Austin music fans- the house has no option but to get down with ghetto-pop enthusiasm- Bay Area-style.

How can one band manage a band-in-crowd, beer soaked, mic-in-mouth, motor boat girl sandwich (x2), fans-on-stage dance party into one 30-minute set? The answer, HOTTUB is not just a band. HOTTUB is fast and clever, hard-hitting and concise, like-minded and glam, full-boobied and fabulous. HOTTUB is a “game changer.”

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DJ 2 Watch: Dylan McIntosh

Splash Pit Recommended

Photo by Megan Krause

February 28, 2012
By Amy Powell

Tall, slender, and striking, Dylan McIntosh is poised in front of a lap top and turntables, gripping cushy headphones comfortably wrapped around his neck. For the last seven years, audiences have found McIntosh, veiled behind a gleaming drum kit, in San Francisco’s electronica-rock trio, BLVD. Now he stands solo, at center stage, in pursuit of entertaining audiences through an alternate music medium, DJing. McIntosh’s unique method focuses on mashing traditionally arranged songs– strong with melody and (most importantly) vocals– to create a set, rich with timeless hits and modern variety. In one hour, McIntosh will feature remixes from Foster the People, Empire of the Sun, and the Foals, and highlight throw-back classics from Fleetwood Mac, The Police, Natalia Kills, and Gaelle. With an audacious sense of cultivating genre infusions, McIntosh is distinctively capable of stirring up a cold dance floor to get any dance party in motion.
For booking & event rates, contact Dylan McIntosh via email, or phone, 415-706-0793.

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Sam’s Chowder Mobile: Menu Highlight

February 26, 2012
By Amy Powell

The steaming hot clam chowder served out of Chowder Mobile’s tiny food truck window is delightfully flavored and perfectly creamy. Authentic and delicious, Sam’s chowder is seasoned with bay leaf, a unique spice blend, fresh cracked black pepper, and loaded with clams, bacon, potato, celery, and onion (top with Sriracha and lemon to taste). For $5.50 a bowl, chowder is a great item to split before biting into one of Sam’s meat-filled Po’ Boy sandwiches.

Find full menu, location schedule, & Facebook information here.

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The Legacy Continues: BLVD at The Independent

January 6, 2012
By Amy Powell

With four girls in front of her, Jessica Westwood is an impatient wreck as she waits for a stall in the ladies’ room. “No way I’m getting a spot in the front row now, I’ll have to push my way up, I haven’t seen BLVD for over a year, they’re one of my favorites,” she gushes. Her confession is received with nods from the others waiting in line.

Tonight is BLVD’s third annual winter showcase at The Independent in San Francisco. Just six days after New Year’s Eve, winter takes a turn for the warmer while locals take the popular venue by storm. All guests are in rare form, including an unwavering party-ready honey badger centered prominently on the show flier- “Honey badger don’t care… honey badger just wants to get down!”

House lights dim to dark and three slender silhouettes slip on stage. The rowdy crowd settles as a calm, methodical pulse hits through the kick drum. The stage is swept over by a rich peach glow illuminating the members of BLVD– Dylan McIntosh, drums/samples, Curtis Sloane, electric guitar/samples, and Tripp Bains, bass/keyboard– along with an eager Westwood who is now standing, front and center, in the first row.

For the next ninety minutes, BLVD takes their audience– both local fans and long-time friends– on an euphoric roller coaster of synthesized jams, mashed up remixes, electro pop riffs, and energized arrangements that showcase classic BLVD genius; one epic dance party.

Since the conception of BLVD’s legacy in 2003, the band has tested various production and talent to stimulate their audience and progress their sound. They have featured elaborate laser shows that prove to be a sensational highpoint during late night sets. And in 2008-10 they invited noteworthy lyricist, Souleye, on board to fuse the trio’s instrumental talent with flowing hip hop vocals.

Tonight the band invites members of supporting acts– livetronica duo, Crush Effect, and electronic hip-hop group, Vokab Kompany– to sit in. Saxophonist Jesse Molloy fills the house with smooth, sophisticated vibration. And Vokab Kompany MCs, Robbie Gallo and Matt Burke, energize the stage with charismatic fashion giving fans a chance to reminisce on days when Souleye dominated the mic and danced the stage.

Over the last two years, BLVD has developed new method for their original sound. Their set is built on covered samples from Michael Jackson, Kaskade, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ghostland Observatory, Foster the People, Empire of the Sun, LMFAO, Foals and Calvin Harris; and peppered with new rhythms that range from original Cuban sahara to popular Miami cool. Luckily, BLVD has not abandoned their signature rhythm– an eerie X-Files cadence glittered with angelic beats that give way to hard-hitting wah-wah bass– and make conscious efforts to feature melodies that celebrate their initial blend of unique synthesized melodies and unpolluted instrumental technique.

Center stage, under sporadic projections of Japanese characters and pulsing heart rate monitors, McIntosh shoots a smirk to Bains at stage right and then looks to Sloane at stage left before announcing the next selection in their set, BLVD’s first-written song, “Again in the Light.”

Wearing satisfied smiles, collard black shirts, and professional confidence, BLVD is nine years deep, three men strong, four albums produced, and thousands of fans deserved. With a reinvented sound full of energy, sophisticated attitude and just enough pop culture to keep critics on their toes, BLVD still holds electronic legacy to make fans– and even a ferocious honey badger– get down.

Tripp Bains on bass guitar at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography

Dylan McIntosh on drums at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography

BLVD at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography

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