Friday, January 28, 2011

Let's make stuff

I find this exciting and beautiful, and now have an irresistible urge to start gluing plastic together.

One Plastic Beach from Tess Thackara on Vimeo.

h/t Yes! Magazine

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vertiginous Veggies

I'm looking forward to spring and summer, so that I can improve our eating locally and seasonally. I'm also excited to start a garden. I've never really had a garden before. Our first home had some raised beds so I decided to plant onions. I forgot all about them and the neighborhood cats used the bed for a litter box. So that was a failure.

This house has a tiny back yard, a tiny front yard, and nearly no sunlight. In my research I'm discovering that nearly all veggies need full sun. This poses some problems. We've talked about giant ceramic pots, vertical potato farming, edible landscaping...

And what we have settled on is a Living Wall. We have a strip of grass between our driveway and the driveway of the house next door. It is 4' x 27', and right now it's home to a bunch of dead grass. It gets sun nearly all day long, it's the only place on our property that does. The nice thing about a living wall is, we can start with a few posts, and add more if it seems to be going well. This year we are going to do 4 posts, but we have room to add 2 more. I spent all morning trying to graph the thing, and this is what I think we're going to do:

No wonder I failed handwriting every year as a kid. 
It's tiny, and hard to read, but basically the two beds that sit on the ground will have tomatoes (on the south end) and zucchini (on the north end). I'm going to try romaine, basil, strawberries, carrots, and onions this year in the raised beds. Hopefully no cats feel frisky enough to climb the thing and "fertilize" it.

I'm a little nervous about this, since I really have no clue what I'm doing. I'm going to run my plan by someone with some know how when I go to buy seeds/sets...hopefully I don't get laughed out of the store.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Environmentalism and Social Justice

Food for thought on systems and implications. I know sometimes it's hard to sit and watch vids, at least it is for me, but the impact of this one is at the end. It's worth the time spent.

h/t Sociological Images

Friday, January 21, 2011

Green listed

The other day I blogged about my brief vacation into minimalism and suggested that before you make a purchase, list what you have and carefully consider if you really need to buy the item. To buy less is to green more, usually. Every time you don't purchase something you are saving resources.

After publishing that post, a friend of mine sent me a link to another kind of list, this time to see what people really need to be packing around on a daily basis, and what is superfluous stuff.

So now I'm thinking...all this awareness list-making, where can I take it next?

As a dovetail to My Plastic Free Life's "Show Us Your Plastic Trash" challenge on awareness raising, I have a new kind of list to try:

Keep a piece of paper in your kitchen. Every time you throw away, or even compost food waste, jot it down. I'm thinking the ends and stems of things probably don't count for this challenge. But if it's something you could have eaten, but didn't, something that wilted, molded, rotted, soured, or just got tossed, write it down. Take a picture even, if it moves you. But make a list of all the food you wasted in a week, things you scraped off plates, forgot in the back of the fridge, whatever.
Image credit: Word of Mouth Blog

Don't cheat this week either. Don't leave nasty things lurking in the fridge or pantry just so you don't have to list them. Clean out all that waste. Got leftovers in the fridge that are no longer fit for human consumption? Are you sprouting a mold farm in your Tupperware? Clean it out. Write it down. Take a long, honest look at the food you're wasting.

Do this for a week, share it if you want. I'll link to any of you bloggers next week if you blog about it, just let me know. After looking at my food waste for a week, I'm going to take a good hard look at our eating habits, and our grocery shopping. Because if we aren't using it, why on earth would I buy it?

For more green blogs: 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A not so minimal blog about minimalism.

This weekend we drove to Seattle. We left our suitcase lying lonely by the side of the bed. We had all the things we were hauling up their for our friends, but not our stuff.

I always over-pack. For a Friday-Sunday stay I'd packed (not including what I was wearing Friday in the car):
  • 3 shirts
  • 2 sweaters (one short sleeved, one long)
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • undies
  • bra
  • 7 socks (I only own mismatched socks & wasn't sure which to bring)
  • hair dryer
  • hair straightener 
  • hair brush
  • big ol' thing of eyeshadow
  • mascara
  • foundation
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrush
  • lotion
  • deodorant
  • and probably a bunch of other things I've forgotten to list
And that's not counting all the stuff The Man packed. 

Instead, we showed up with the clothes on our backs. We walked over to a drugstore to pick up the essentials, two toothbrushes, a small tube of toothpaste, a deodorant to share, and a tube of mascara. The hotel gave us a small comb.  I winced at all the unnecessary plastic that this slip-up generated.  Our friends loaned us t-shirts (extras they had packed), and we wore the same pants all weekend. 

It was great. I felt pretty loved by the number of people willing to lend us clothes. Since we just borrowed a couple of t-shirts, I didn't have to think about what I was going to wear. I didn't have to get up early to put on my make-up. Best of all, there was very little laundry to wash when we came back. 

Between this (small) forced exercise in minimalism, and the No Impact Experiment, I've begun to contemplate what we actually need.

For example, Chucks are on sale right now. I really want a pair. I only have a pair of running shoes, a pair of slip on casual shoes, a pair of crocs, several pairs of high heels, a pair of ladybug rain boots, various assorted flip flops... They're all beat up, of course, because I haven't bought myself a new pair of shoes in over a year... but see, that's why I need these, right?


I want them (a lot) but I don't need them. Will they make me happy? Maybe a little bit for a little while, and then they're just another pair of shoes. 

And something I'm noticing now, as I type this? What an eye-opener it is to list your stuff. It's disgusting. I don't own those adorable boots that everyone is wearing right now, and I don't own my beloved Chucks, and if you were to ask me last week about my shoes, I would have told you that I really don't have any. I could have told you in all honesty and seriousness that I don't own any shoes worth wearing. Because I don't wear them. And I feel frumpy half the time because I haven't bought new shoes in so long. And then I made the above list and it's shorter than what you'd actually find in my closet, because I became so embarrassed halfway through. There are so many people out there with so little, and I'm bummed because I don't have a particular style of shoes. Ugh.

So here's a challenge: 
Think of something you want. A pair of jeans, a new gadget, a watch, a phone, whatever. Now make a list of what you have that falls into the same general category. If you want jeans, list all the pants you own, and I mean all, sweats, khakis, jeans, dress pants, whatever.  

Think about how much satisfaction the purchase is really going to bring you. 
Would my family be better served with me in new shoes, or money being saved for a vacation? Duh.

Think about the homeless. 
Is there someone who needs shoes more than I do? Absolutely. 

Think about the carbon footprint of manufacture and transportation. 
Is the waste created by that purchase worth the good it is going to do? 

Do you still need it? Do you still want it? Or is there some better way to use or save that money?

I'm not saying don't buy anything, but the challenge is to put what you are buying in context, and make sure it's what you really want to spend your money on.

For more green goodness:

Monday, January 17, 2011

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

I've never been one of those people with a niche. I haven't fit into a category, dressed in a particular style, listened to a distinctive type of music, or had a job that somehow gave me identity. Almost all of my identity has been bound up in being a mom, first being a very young mother, and now being the mother to a lot of kids. Still, the distinction of being a parent isn't particularly distinct. I've always been kind of like cottage cheese, the neutral accent to the peaches or berries I hang out with.

That may make no sense outside of my head...

So when I really started cracking down on our impact, blogging about it, and sharing those posts with my Facebook friends, suddenly I began to have an identity in a new way. I'm the green one, the eco-mom. It's not something I consciously created, but it's more true every day.

I am not trying to actively convert people. I get so angry when someone questions the way I parent, cook, clean, whatever. People who say things like, "Oh you shouldn't do that." or "I would never do it that way." or "Here's what's wrong with your way." are much less effective and far more off-putting than those who just live the lifestyle. Part of the reason I clung so long to disposable diapers was the way many cloth diaperers lectured me about my parenting. Same thing with breastfeeding. I've always been a "You can't tell me what to do" kind of girl.

 If I bombard you with judgments, are you going to change the way you live? No. You're just going to avoid talking to me. But if I just live my life in a way that says, "I am trying to change. And it's hard." I'm not pushing you away, I'm drawing you in. The changes I make don't work for everyone, and I would never force my way of life on others. We all have our own journey.

What I am finding is, being gently open about my personal lifestyle choices impacts those around me to be more conscious. When talking to me, people think about their waste. Someone said to me "You would be so proud of me, I got four uses out of that paper before recycling it." or "I put sheets of paper on the floor...recyclable paper of course...". And I am excited by it, and amazed that they care what I think.

 Just being in conversation with someone trying to live a green life plants the seed (oh look, an eco-metaphor...) in their mind about the choices they make. This is what awareness raising is. It doesn't mean blasting people with articles, or preaching about the dangers of processed foods, or shouting from your soap box whenever you see someone drinking bottled water. That's not raising awareness, that's raising hackles, and it often forces people to dig in and resist.

I really hope to continue to live the life openly, and be the change humbly.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Miss Scarlett and a little foot-stamping.

In response to my frustration at not knowing how to eat local and organic, my sister-in-law told me about a little store called Brown Box Organics. Yesterday while Boy 3 was at his gymnastics class, Girl 1 and I did a little local market reconnaissance. It is a beautiful shop and the staff is really friendly and helpful. They have local, organic, non-GMO foods, and I learned a lot just roaming the aisles. I ended up buying a leek and a bag of Chippery BBQ chips. 

What I'm learning is, I picked the wrong time of year to try and go local and organic. It's funny how what a late-onset realization this is. It's winter, and I'm out looking for fresh, local, organic produce. I am so detached from the growing cycle, and from where my food comes from. I have no idea what grows well in Idaho. I have no clue what is in season and what isn't. I think that's probably true of a lot of people. So now I have some catching up to do. I keep having flashbacks to the days when I used to read Jean M. Auel and her Ayla adventures. I thought that longing for greens was a cave person only problem. Turns out there's like, this whole natural cycle. Duh.

Looking back over my No Impact Week posts, I realize that I spend a lot of time being frustrated. I want to live this perfect green lifestyle NOW. I get so frustrated by what I don't know, what doesn't work, or what we can't afford. And the more I research the more I realize just how very expensive the food part of the green lifestyle can get. I am not saying it isn't worth it, I'm just saying there's no way we can go whole hog right off the bat. We just can't afford it.

Doing things in baby steps means not every aspect of our lives are green all the time. I worry about hypocrisy a lot, the need to be consistent is part of my identity, and I don't want to be accused of lying, cheating, or not living up to my values. I want to do things right, and I'm tempted to give up when I can't do it perfectly. There was a good article about this today on TreeHugger: In Defense of Hypocrisy- In Search of the Sustainable Double Standard

So, here are some truths and then I'm just going to move on and stop judging myself so harshly:

  • We have a ton of plastic bags in the basement. The things are like herpes, easy to get, impossible to get rid of. I can't throw them out, but I often fail to remember to bring my reusables. 
  • I bought Kraft Macaroni & Cheese this week, along with a slew of other non-organic processed foods. When one lunch of mac & cheese requires 4 boxes to feed the fam, I can't afford Annie's all the time. I buy what I can, when I can, but I can't do it all at once.
  • We use disposable baby wipes. Not going to quit that, it's too cumbersome and gross. Sometimes we use disposable diapers. 
  • The laundry room is disgusting again. 
  • My compost heap is frozen. I am failing on that one.
  • I love my gadgets, my iPod and laptop and such. I use them a lot.
I'm sure there are a million more failures, but the thing is, every day I try to improve something. I'm not giving up, and I'm probably going to crap out more often than I succeed, but every day I try. If I'm inconsistent? Oh. Well. Tomorrow is another day. Fiddle dee dee? Maybe. But at least I give a damn enough to try. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

All Hail the Red Knight!

Okay. I really want to shoot off a snarky post about this, but I'm going to try and be productive.

I tend to focus on the home front with my politics. I make changes in our home, I try to teach the kids to make good choices and to question the world around them. I write about simple, personal changes people can make to change the world. When something in my sphere of day to day experience is out of whack, I look for ways to change it. I rarely focus on politicians. I vote in every election, and I research who and what I'm voting for (or against) but day to day neither the state nor federal government is often on my radar. I'm not oblivious, but my limited time and resources force me to choose my foci.

My g-Reader has been full of articles on the Cornwall Alliance and their campaign against the "Green Dragon". I've scanned these, and I dismissed them, because every cause has a mission and a end-times documentary to back it up, and I assumed these people were just the flip side of my coin. Not much I can do about it, I figured. Here's a promo video, in case you haven't seen:

I'd love to watch it, to see what the arguments and talking points are, but the cost is $50 and 12 weeks that I don't have. There is a book coming out soon, and when that hits or the library, I might pick it up. If I am going to be grounded in my beliefs, I should research all sides both to "know my enemy" (a phrase that does more harm than good, IMO) and to make sure I've explored all the nooks and crannies of my own world view.

And not exactly related, but it certainly smells similar is this: Congressman Simpson lands Chairman of Interior Appropriations

This is my congressman. I should be excited, right?

Except I'm not. Because as the above mentions, Congressman Simpson is a proponent of nuclear energy (which is economically good for Idaho, I get that. I also understand that what is economically good for Idaho isn't always what is best for Idaho.) as well as an opponent of the EPA (at least, as it stands now).

 The EPA is the scariest agency in the federal government, an agency run amok....Its bloated budget has allowed it to drastically expand its regulatory authority in a way that is hurting our economy and pushing an unwelcomed government further into the lives of Idahoans. As Chairman of this subcommittee, I look forward to bringing some common sense to the EPA and some certainty for our nation’s job creators.

So I'm not excited for my congressman to be this particular chairman. I've written Congressman Simpson letters and emails in the past, when a particular issue seemed to merit writing. He has very polite "Thank you but no thank you" notes. I'll give him that much.

So, here's the question of the day: When your representative espouses many convictions directly opposed to your own, and when all past attempts to educate/inform/change that representative's mind have hit a steel wall, and when that representative has been your rep since 1999 and probably will remain so for all do you not get discouraged?

RRR Room by Room- Playroom Deep Clean, or "Off With Their Heads"

I'm jumping to the playroom today because it is in desperate need of a cleaning. I'm only about halfway finished cleaning it up, but I plan on getting the kids involved with the rest, so blog break time.

Clean Side
When we were house shopping, we knew we wanted a basement with a playroom for the kids. We wanted a space where the kids could relax, be loud, and make a mess. The house we are in now has a great playroom, lots of space and light, away from the rest of the house so they can scream, wrestle, and just go crazy. My obstetrician told me when we had Boy 3 that we should pad the walls of one room, put a cage over the light, and  just let the boys go nuts in there. This playroom is about as close to that as we're going to get, and all of us love it.

The problem with the kids having their own space is that I am not around to supervise all the different things they get into. The kids "clean" the basement at least once a week, but really what they do is stuff and hide and scootch things around the room. Last week was even messier because I banned television and video games as part of No Impact Week. They were into everything. When I ventured into KidLand today to do a deep clean, I had to wade through Lego bits, random train tracks, and all sorts of board game shrapnel. Most girls with big brothers have decapitated Barbies, and our girls are no exception. They should make a series of dolls with the heads already off and save everyone the trouble. I can see it now, "Barbie Antoinette", "Barbie Queen of Scots"...ooh my repurpose wheels are turning...


What the crap does this have to do with RRR? Well, the lack of putting-away-ness of my children means that many board games, Lego sets, Nerf darts, Barbies, end up trashed. We have two new Lego board games the kids got for Christmas, and as I'm cleaning I'm finding bits of them all over the place. The chances of us being able to recreate what was originally in the box? Zilch, I betcha.

And the batteries...oh man.

So, I'm beginning by cleaning this room the way I clean everything:

  • Starting in the far corner of the room from the door.
  • Clean the room in rows from left to right, top to bottom
  • Sort things into piles as I go. Example: a Lego pile, a train track pile, a book pile, a pile of things that don't go in this room. 
  • Nothing stays where it doesn't belong. 
  • Once the whole room is in piles, figure out the best storage and then put them away
  • Dust
  • Wipe
  • Vaccuum
  • Beat the children if they don't keep it this way (Kidding.)
Dirty side

Like I said, I still have the other side of the room to deal with, but what I need to research now is finding ways to make it simple for the kids to put pieces away when they're finished. I could watch them every time they play with anything, but that would just make everyone unhappy. I've been to homes where the toys are all sorted by type and the kids all put them back where they came from...maybe I'm a bad role model. I've never been good at keeping things clean or organized, and I don't know how to create a system or motivation for my kids. Ideas?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Here's the mail, it never fails...

Girl 1 looked out the window today, saw the outgoing mail sticking out of the box, and ran to the door with excitement. "Mom! Mom! Mail's here!" I had no idea she was so enthusiastic about mail. Her little face fell when I told her that the mail carrier hadn't arrived yet, and we needed to leave that mail in the mailbox.

Inspiration time!

I think I may have mentioned my hoarding...I have an ever-growing stash of boxes, canisters, bottles, and yes plastic bags, in my basement. I try to use them for all my bulk buying, and now that we're committing to less processed food it should be less of an issue, but still, I have a pile of empty junk lurking. Right now it all fits in a cabinet, but I need to be more proactive about reusing it all.

One of the things that was down there, oddly, was an empty fridge pack for Pepsi Max. Not sure why it didn't get recycled, maybe the craft-gods knew we'd need it. Another awesome coincidence was that we had opened it at the wrong end, so it didn't have the can dispenser hole. Instead, we had just opened the flaps at the wrong end. Score! We were going to make a mailbox for Girl 1.


First we cut the two big flaps and the bottom small flap off the (incorrectly) opened end.

Mail goes in

Then we finished punching in the handle-hole bit on the top of the box, this would be our mail slot.

Mail comes out

Then I had Girl 1 pick out colors of construction paper and I taped it on to the box. Not so pretty, but she was in control and liked picking the colors herself. We cut a piece of construction paper to fit the open end of the box and taped it to the remaining top flap. This would be how Girl 1 would reach in and retrieve the mail.

Behold the evil grin. 

    Girl 1 colored while I taped.


After the box was covered in paper (leaving the slot in the top uncovered) Girl 1 decorated it with markers. If we'd had stickers that would have been so cute. Maybe the next time we get junk mail from Disney Movie Club we'll add 'em...

Here's the mail, it never fails!

We put it on our "catch all" so Girl 2 can't reach it. So far her Daddy, Boy 2, and I have all written little love notes and put them in the box. Today when she was sleeping, her cousins stopped by and while they were here I had them put a note in the mailbox.

She LOVES getting mail. 

No Impact Week-Friday

Today's challenge is to minimize water usage.

Looking at what we have changed around here, conserving water is probably the thing we're best at. We have fallen down in a couple areas and need to get back to it, but overall we're doing well.

  • As far as yesterday's question of hand washing dishes versus filling the dishwasher, the answer can be found here: TreeHugger
  • We have fallen away from the six minute showers, so we need to get back to that. We just need to be more diligent about setting the timer. 
  • We haven't been filling the shower bucket because we can't pour it on the lawn, or it will freeze. I read today that we should use it to flush the commode. Duh. So that's an easy fix.
  • Boy 2 wowed us yesterday by demonstrating his technique for brushing his teeth. No one taught him this, he just figured it out. Not a new idea, but new to him, and our house:
    • Fill a cup with some water.
    • Wet your toothbrush in the cup of water.
    • Apply toothpaste and brush.
    • Swish to rinse with a small sip from the cup. Spit into the sink.
    • Swish toothbrush in the cup to rinse.
    • Pour water into the sink to rinse your spit.
    • (The average faucet pours 2 gallons a minute. This is WAY better.)
  • We never drink bottled water, and The Man and I use reusable water bottles throughout the day, saving on multiple cups. 
  • I'm cutting down on my pop consumption, which uses more water than just drinking water. Weird.
  • We still need low flush toilets and low flow faucets, but we will get there when budget allows.
So we have all the right ideas, we just need to be more diligent in following them. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Impact Week- Thursday

Today's Challenge: Unplug

This one sucks for me, because I'm struggling to figure out how many of my "I can't"s really should be, "I don't wanna"s.

I turned off both PCs in the office, but left the strip on because the modem & router are connected to it, and I need to be able to get online with my laptop for work, research, and blogging. Do I NEED to blog? Writing fills a very deep need in me. I work better, and I am more aware when I have written, or will write about what I'm doing. I could do this with pen and paper, but I have had little luck sticking to any sort of writing that isn't being immediately read. I need feedback in order to think. I've been told this is an extrovert's trait. Maybe so. I learn better through discussion than reading. I think more clearly when I am communicating and receiving a response. So I write online. I probably could switch, but I think my writing would dry up all together.

I'm using the washer and dryer today. We make so much laundry that trying to keep it washed in the bathtub...I just can't fathom that working. And I'm not sure that the tub can compete with the water efficiency of our washer. Maybe. I will go back to line drying in the summer, and I'm stewing on ways to line dry indoors, but we aren't there yet. I'd like to pare down our clothing, but the boys are so hard on their clothes, I don't know if it's possible.

I'm keeping the lights on only in the room I am in. I tried keeping them off, but our house gets very little sun, and it is so gloomy and dark. I struggle to see, and I can't have candles burning if Girl 1 is in the house. She's fascinated with fire.

Gorbachev Hasselhoff needs his sunlamp on all day, or he'll freeze. So that stays on.

Today I'm just cutting and pinning the fabric for some place mats I'm working on, but tomorrow I'll be using electricity to sew them, as well as all of my REpUrpoSE pieces. My hand stitching isn't tight enough, and I don't own a manual sewing machine.

I used the water heater (which runs on natural gas) to heat the girls' bath, and all the males used it to heat their showers. I accidentally made grits in the microwave (a delicious leftover from before my decision to cut processed foods) before remembering today's challenge. Could have cut that one.

There seem to be lots of "can't"s. Sadness.

I did a big load of dishes in the dishwasher today, but now that I'm mostly caught up, I am going to try and hand wash. Is this water efficient? I need more research. I'm also not sure time will allow me to hand wash regularly. This may need to be something akin to Meatless Mondays when I do it once a week.

HEY! How about one day a week with no electricity (except the furnace)? That might be something we could try...

I have unplugged everything not in use, to cut down on vampire power. I walked room to room and made sure anything plugged in was off, and the house is amazingly quiet. I didn't realize how much humming and thrumming was going on. The girls are napping and the boys are in school. The only sound right now is the rhythm of the dryer and the tapping of my laptop keys. It's really calming.

The kids are never allowed to play video games on school nights, and this week I cut t.v. too. Boy 3 struggled with that a bit, but yesterday they went to the playground and played until dark with their friends. They even took Girl 1, and she was thrilled.

Today I walked over to the school with the girls and had lunch with The Man and the younger two boys. Boy 3's teacher said he'd been so excited all morning that we were coming. He gave me so many hugs. We had a great time talking with the boys' friends and eating together. On the "No Impact" pdf there is a excerpt from Colin's blog:
Since we have no electricity as part of the No Impact experiment, we also have no TV. Last week, someone asked me how we entertain Isabella without one. Coincidentally, that day, my friend Mayer, whose community garden plot I help with, called to say that fireflies were in season at the garden and that I should take Isabella there at dusk. So we went . . . when about six fireflies circled around us, Isabella suddenly looked at me and said, ‘I’m so happy, Daddy.’ She never said that while we were watching television. 
I felt some of that today as we ate lunch together. It motivates me to look for more ways to have experiences with the kids, rather than just keeping busy with "things".

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

No Impact Week- Wednesday

Take your food list from yesterday and calculate your carbon “foodprint.”

Yesterday I had:

  • coffee (not fair trade, but this is the last can that won't be)
  • a Cameo apple (grown in Washington which, according to, are possibly in season, although not local.)
  • a piece of Cascade Pride bread (not local)
  • a bowl of leftover "ketchup soup" (Other than the milk, none of the ingredients were local or in season)
  • lots of tap water 
  • a couple of Hershey's kisses (*sigh*, not local, obv.)
  • a beef roast (from the gift of meat, don't know where it's from, I'll find out when the 'rents return to town.) with potatoes (which simplesteps says are never in season in Idaho...wth?) carrots (organic, in season, but not local), zucchini (again, not local or in season), organic chicken broth (not.local.)
  • granola bar (bah.)
 A caveat: we tried  to get our produce local, but the year-round farmer's market that was supposed to be open Sunday, wasn't. It's open today, but that doesn't do us much good now, does it?

I planned three meatless meals this week, one of which turned carnivorous when we realized the ham in the fridge was about to expire so we slapped it on our grilled cheese. We had Winter Soup and homemade bread Monday, and we're having homemade mac and cheese with green beans tonight.

I am beyond frustrated. Due to the random potato thing, I don't trust I'm trying to feed us healthier, less processed foods, but I'm agitated because I don't know how to eat in season. I'm pissed, frankly, although at who or what, I don't know.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

No Impact Week- Tuesday

We managed to make it through today using only cloth diapers...PooFest seems to have ended. w00t! I threw away the plastic thing that holds the bread bag closed today...I think that's it.

Today's challenge: Alternative modes of transportation.

This is a tough one for me. We don't drive much. Hardly at all, really. The kids walk to school. We live three big blocks (about a mile) from The Man's work. We go to the grocery store (less than 2 miles) once a week. And then on Tuesdays, Boy 3 has gymnastics (6 miles away). That's it. We fill up the van with gasoline around once a month.

For Christmas, I got a kick-ass Huffy cruiser. I plan on taking that to the grocery store, probably hauling food in the kid wagon thing that has been sitting forlornly in the garage since I gave my mountain bike to Boy 1. I don't know if I'm tough enough to ride it in the cold, but I'm going to try. Right now we're good on groceries, I don't need to go again until Sunday.

As I was preparing for today's challenge I knew it fell on gymnastics day. I can't bike 12 miles round-trip yet, not in this weather with Boy 3 and Girl 2 in tow. And a couple of the roads are really busy, we wouldn't be home by dark, and I'm just not ready for that yet. Are these cop-outs? Maybe. I don't think so though.

I decided we would take the bus. I checked out the Valley Ride website to figure out costs & routes. They have this amazing trip planner that allows you to key in your starting point and destination and then tells you the various ways you could ride the bus to get there. So awesome. The problem I ran up against is that there is no way to get him to gymnastics by 4:00, if we take the bus. If I picked him up at school, and we ran (with Girl 2 in tow, having woken Girl 1 from her nap just to meet the boys at school) we might be able to catch a bus that would get him there within 5 minutes of start time. Maybe. So we drove. If Boy 3 gets moved up to the next level of gymnastics, I will try to pick a time that allows us to take the bus.

Since we drove, I did a batch of errands in the area. There is a bank and a thrift shop right in the neighborhood. I deposited our checks & shopped (unvictoriously) for diaper covers. A bonus: today was fill a bag free day at the thrift shop. I got a stack of books for free. Score!

The second part of today's challenge was to take action. Today President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act. Today I signed a petition encouraging Congress to find the funding to support the bill. Please consider signing it too.

Monday, January 3, 2011

No Impact Week- Monday

"Empty your special trash bag from yesterday. Separate the items into two piles: stuff that you used for more than ten minutes, and stuff you used for less than ten minutes. How does this make you feel?"

The disposable diapers we put on Girl 2 (because I am once again behind on the laundry) were the only things in the bag that were used for more than 10 minutes. And the damn thing was full of plastic bags. I loathe plastic bags, but for some reason I can't seem to remember to bring to the store my old produce bags or the awesome reusable produce bags my mom made. Nor can I remember to bring my reusable shopping bags from the trunk into the store half of the time. My feelings? Angry. Frustrated. Disgusted. 

"Consider all trash bins off-limits."

The thing I like about today's challenge is how it forces me to think about the waste a decision will create before using anything. If I know that I am not allowed to throw anything away, I'm going to make my choices much more carefully. It's like having a calorie allowance and suddenly having to really choose what to put in my mouth...or like considering how much I'm going to drink when we're about to embark on a barren bathroom-less stretch of road trip. People (myself included) need to live a lifestyle of thrift and thoughtfulness. I felt that strongly today.

However, even though I am sticking diligently to the life plan I created, and even though I'm working to intentionally avoid creating waste, as the delightful Ian Malcolm would say, "Life finds a way."

Image credit:

Girl 2 has a tummy bug. Or ate something that didn't agree with her. Or wants to kill Mother Earth. Whatevs. She has diarrhea and is a unhappy, super crappy, baby. Minimalism does not apply to diaper covers apparently, because the 3 covers we own are not enough to cover today's poo-splosion. So we're back (again!) to the stupid disposables. I need to search craigslist & the secondhand shops for more covers. When you have to purchase, purchase secondhand. It reduces on manufacturing waste. *sigh*

I'm lucky to work from home, and all online, so I don't generate much paper waste for my job. The Man does though, and his office doesn't recycle (Yet. I'm looking your way people...and I have plans...*devilish eyebrow wiggle*). He took a brown paper bag to work to put all his waste paper in to bring home for recycling. Apparently it wasn't very full by the end of the day, because it only contained the waste he would normally trash. He's the creator of the paper trail at the office, but it goes through several more employees before hitting the trash. So while he made a bunch of waste, it won't go to the trash for days/weeks.

Which brings me to the another frustration: timing.

As far as what I threw away today:
  • 1 sticker off my breakfast apple
  • a crapload (hyuck, hyuck!) of diapers and wipes
  • the baggie the last of the deli ham came in 
  • small baggie the baking powder was in (neither of these bags was in good enough shape to keep)
  • two chip bags that the kids finished the remnants of today.
  • the plastic rings from around several cans of Christmas Play-Doh 
  • the tag that was holding a bunch of kale together
The frustrating part of the timing is, the chip bags and the Play-Doh were purchased a while ago, and I didn't do it. :) Wassnt me. 

The exercise is really enlightening though, because if I carry it into next week, I can preempt the waste by being more careful in my purchasing. And this week's purchases were significantly less packaging intense than normal. So it does work, even though today's waste was less than stellar.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

No Impact Week- Sunday

Today I begin following the steps of the No Impact Experiment. The Man is on board with me, and the kids have been informed.

"Step 1: Type up a list of all the stuff you “need” to buy this week. Delete the items that you can live without for the week. For the rest of the items, figure out if you can purchase them second-hand, borrow them, or make them yourself."

There really aren't many things we need to buy this week. We are good on clothes, toys, household items. My parents gave us a case of pork and a case of beef for Christmas, and we still have chicken from our bulk buy in the fall. We made a grocery run today, mostly produce, some dry goods and canned goods, and lots of bread. I'm going to make my first loaf of bread in the bread machine this week, but we go through 4 or 5 loaves. Until I know I can make it successfully on my own, we do store bread.

The Man will probably need to gas up the company van at some point, which I think counts as he's the primary driver of the vehicle. I think I can get by on the half tank of gas in our personal van, especially with Tuesday's challenge. I'll have to buy a few song downloads for a spoof I'm participating in...does that count as "stuff"? Other than that...I really can't think of anything we need to buy. We've begun stockpiling with coupons again, but we've been trying to do it rationally, and not just hoarding things because we can get them for free. We will put the couponing on hold this week. I'm not so deeply re-entrenched in that lifestyle that it hurts me (much) to set it aside for a bit.

"Step 2: Put an empty re-usable bag in a private place at home. Throughout the day, fill it up with all of your trash, recyclables, and food waste. If you’re out of the house, carry your trash home with you. Make sure that nobody else’s trash  gets in there but your own. This will help you get ready for Monday’s challenge."

I've managed to lose the SD card reader, again. So I have a picture of the trash. I suppose you'll just have to visualize for now. We haven't had dinner yet and we've filled a brown grocery bag plus a box from a case of beer we put in the fridge. I'm not sure how much waste dinner will make. I'll update this evening if it's noteworthy.

We cleaned out the fridge today, and I didn't take a picture of that. A lot of wasted produce went into the compost...there was a lot of waste today that isn't in this picture. We have to find a way to use what we have while it's still good. I'm appalled at what we wasted.

I did buy flour, brown sugar, elbow macaroni, rice, cereal, and some spices in bulk today. All of those went into containers that I've had stashed in the cupboard (a coffee can, an old formula can, old spice jars...). My hoarding paid off a bit today. Still, you can only hoard so much before the house is overwhelmed.

"Step 3: Just for this week, try not to shop for new items. Will you find something better to do with your time and money? Could you use this time to spend with friends instead?"

We don't spend that much money anyway...we don't have a ton to spend. I don't go to the mall, and now that Christmas is over, I'm not going to be doing any online shopping. I don't think that I'm going to have significantly more time or money this week. The grocery bill was less today, but that's because of the awesome meat present. :)

The Man & I watched "The Story of Stuff" today (I'd seen it before) as a reminder of what we're trying to break free of. We also watched a little football & made light of the commercials. "I don't have a GMC. I suck. Let's go shopping." "You bought me an iPod, not an iPad. Must not love me enough. I suck. Let's go shopping." It's amazing how ridiculous commercials seem when you put them in that light.

I'm feeling pretty excited about all the healthy seasonal produce in my fridge & cabinets, and pretty depressed at how much waste we're still making. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's challenge.