Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Freecycle Frenzy

Well, I'm still working on the declutter aspect of my life. I have too much stuff and not much space. So I've been trying to get rid of things. I have a box of things to get ready for the consignment store again and today I managed to pass along a few things via Freecycle. I am now lighter one bag of packing peanuts (which I could not throw away), a bag of baby clothes, a bag full of hangers that came with many of the baby clothes my son got as gifts (also couldn't throw these away) and there are a bunch of things to go to the thriftstore.

I think I've decided not to wait for a garage sale. If I can't find a spot to store the boxes, I will either freecycle them or donate them. I just want the space back. Freecycle, by the way, was an ingenious invention. I find it amazing that there is a place to share things and to ask for things you need - and that people actually use it! Craigslist here also is good for selling or giving away things and I've made good use of it, too.

Today will see me taking down a good sized load of recycling. It's mostly paper I've purged - where does it all come from?? It's like it multiplies in the dark! But at least it's hitting the recycling bin and not the garbage.

I'm going to clean out another cupboard tonight after my son is in bed. It's full of 'stuff' and I'm sure there are some great things in there to share with others, too.

Dinner tonight is leftovers. I'm doing well on not tossing out leftovers since I'm sticking them in the freezer until I get to them. Makes it kind of like a free frozen dinner! We had a snow day here today and I'm too lazy to cook (saving energy, lol) and so this is perfect. I really am glad I read Maisie's blog and decided to follow suit.

That's it for today. A few little things.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Another Green Baby Step

If change happens in small increments, I'm moving forward. I now have a bowl and spoon at work so I can have a can of soup for lunch without using any of the throw away instant soups. I bring in a can opener and bring home the can to recycle. This is my lunch choice for when I'm rushed and don't have time to make anything. I do brown bag my food most of the time, and I'm working on making the contents better. I'm a Weight Watchers member - so I am encouraged to eat more fresh fruit/veggies and leaner proteins and good carbs. These are all things that are easy to bring and some of it comes in it's own Nature made packaging. I still need a suitable tupperware container in case I buy something for lunch, but I'm trying not to spend the money there, so it's not a priority at the moment.

I did take a slightly bigger step today and I placed an order for organic grocery home delivery. My food will travel an average of 1125 km's to my door - less than half the usual 2500 km's that most grocery food will travel. And that's mostly due to things like bananas, avocados, mangos, oranges and papayas. These things will never be local for us. I want to give my son as much organic food as I can afford, since it has less pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. And it definately can't hurt my husband and I to follow suit and eat better, too. I'm trying to find a balance between the high cost of organic and the best choices in the non-organic foods. I did read that avocados are the least likely to be pesticide ridden - and that grapes can be extremely high in them. I'll do some more research to determine my best organic choices and get the rest at the grocery store.

I'm hoping not to have to shop next week if I have this stuff delivered. That's another good choice - both for the environment (no car emmissions to get there) and my wallet (no veering off the list into oblivion)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Use it Up!

I am a member of a yahoo group that is a close knit community of women. Because we are of all different ages and backgrounds, we certainly do learn a lot from each other - while at the same time inspiring one another in exploring new things. This week a member issued a freezer and pantry challenge. This gist is this - see how far you can go without shopping for food/beverages, etc. Use up what you have on hand. This got me to thinking about all the things I currently have in my refrigerator - and once again I am guilty of too much food and things are spoiling.

We (my husband and I) decided it was high time we tried this. Now, since our parents usually send home dinner when we pick up our son, we don't cook dinner often. However, we do end up with lots of leftovers and we do buy things that need to be used all up, too. This week we are bound and determined to use up everything possible (not including what are sure to be science experiments in the back of the fridge) and I have decided that once a week will be leftover night. In order to ensure that things don't spoil from now on, we are putting the leftovers in the freezer (thanks Maisie for this idea!!) We can heat them up on the weekend and have a lazy man's smorgasboard.

With the use it up theme in mind, I'm also packing my lunch and snacks to work. Lately I've spent far too much money in the cafeteria - not to mention the fact that I've generated far too much waste by doing take out. I enquired about using my own take out containers so that I do not have to use styrofoam and they are amenable to me bringing in my own. Until I bring in a good size container for this purpose, I'm not buying lunch. I do use plastic cutlery as they don't want the silver removed, but I've been using the same set for quite some time and plan on doing so until they are no good - then I'll bring in something from home. And I was given an excellent travel mug for Christmas and I use that for my tea at work now to avoid the disposable stuff. I did forget it the other day and used a paper cup, but didn't take the plastic lid and I'm keeping the cup at my desk to get water for my plant.

Once again - nothing drastic, but baby steps in the right direction. I do a lot of things right - I take transit, I have a reusable mug at work, I recycle everything I can, I buy second hand - and much more. But there are so many things I could do better (i.e. drive less, waste less, spend money more wisely to support things that fit my values).

I continue to learn and for now - I'm working on that pantry/freezer challenge.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Declutter (reduce, reuse, recycle)

Well, it’s been a busy week – and I’m working on clearing out some things. After calls to the city, we finally had a recycling pickup. However, our bins are nearly full again as we are trying to get rid of the stuff we’ve been keeping until there is room. I do have to say I appreciate that they came. We were told they’d be there on Friday and they were – at 9 o’clock at night! But they did it and I am happy. I was quite upset someone in my building tossed all the boxes that were filled with cardboard into the dumpster. Very disappointing to say the least as they were not a nuisance and had a lot stuffed into them while awaiting pickup.

I have posted some packing peanuts that a package arrived with, and a quirky little kettle on Craigslist. I’m hoping to keep them out of the landfill. I’ve also thinned out my son’s toys and clothes a little. A few things have been packed up and put away, a few things put aside in case a neighbour would like them for their baby and a few things are in the garage sale box. I’ve also listed a few toys on Craigslist. I packed up some things of mine for ebay and will list them later in the week. I have a bunch of clothes to wash and press to take to the consignment shop in a couple of weeks.

I also took some things to the consignment shop, some things to the thrift store and some stuff to the used bookstore. It’s been a pass it along to the next owner kind of weekend!

I can happily report that when I went to the grocery store I used my own grocery bags! I didn’t use plastic for anything. But on the downside, I was hungry when I shopped and bought an instant soup in a nonrecyclable container. I don’t think it offset the no plastic bags and all the organic produce I bought, but still – not a sound decision. In the future I will plan better.

I’ve also decided to part with my fishtank,stand and accessories and it will be donated to a senior's care facility that my sister works at. A good re-use, I think. And it will make lots of other people happy, while simplifying my life just a little. Hopefully we’ll move that in the next week or so.

My goals this week are to continue in my declutter and to ensure that what leaves the house leaves it in a responsible way - being reused by someone else.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Recycling Blues and Shopping Highs

This week has had a bit of a blip as far as recycling goes around here. Our city has changed contractors for pick up and it has created quite a mess as the new company gets going. There have been people who, as a result of the change over, have not had pickup since Dec 18th. As you can imagine they put out the bins and then no one comes. It's a mess and a recent windstorm has not left things looking pretty. Hopefully this will resolve itself. One well meaning person put a sign on our bins saying not to use them as there is no pick up and directed people to use the garbage instead. The situation has been rectified, but at the time I was absolutely horrified and quickly sent out messages to find out what was going on.

So until the pickup occurs, I am accumulating paper and containers in my home. I live in a complex and we share bins, so until things are settled down, I'd prefer to wait to ensure my stuff actually gets picked up.

I've been saving things that cannot be picked up and that are interesting in shape or useful for a local elementary schools kindergarten. They liked getting formula containers and baby food jars, little cardboard boxes and such, so I've continued saving things for them. I have a collection of fruit cups for them - I can't recycle them but I think they would make a great base for a craft.

I think I've mentioned this but here we can recycle plastic numbers 1,2 4 and 5 as well as cans, mixed paper and newspaper. I also save all the store brand containers to take back to the shop to earn extra membercard points.

Today when I ran into the store to buy milk, I picked up a few other things I was low on and declined the bag. I had some in the car, so carried my items out and used my own bag. And to note - I bought a 4 litre jug of milk for my son instead of the 2 litre carton. We can't yet recycle the cartons and I figure he'll drink it all before it expires so I went for the recyclable packaging.

The other day I bought a new winter coat. Now it may not seen eco friendly to shop - but I keep buying the cheaper items, which don't last long as they aren't well made. My last coat is no longer serviceable so I spent the extra money and bought a very good coat - one that will last me for years. It's very nice and dressy, good for work and going out. And I waited until now as it was reduced in price (less than 1/2) and then had further clearance discounts on it. So even though it cost more than I'd usually spend, it's good quality and I won't need to replace it for a long time. I read that you should buy investment pieces when you can - things that last, rather than one season wonders. That many of the bargain items are not going to last as long and may also have been made with questionable labour. Something to think about, too.

This weekend will hopefully see me taking more items to the consignment store and to the thrift shop. I'm determined to declutter by making sure that serviceable items do not get thrown away.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

To Shop or Not to Shop

That really is the question. I came across a very interesting little book at the library the other day and as I was reading it, I started to really think about how I spend my money. Like most people, I do not have endless supplies of cash. I shop for bargains, I use coupons, I figure out how much I'm getting for the dollars I spend on an item. Generally I buy what is going to give me the most for my money. As I said in a previous post - it's not easy to spend less and shop more responsibly. In fact I heard a news story the other day that said that one of the reasons that people are getting fatter is that bad food costs less.

This little book "the better world shopping guide" by Ellis Jones (New Society Publishers) rates different companies based not only on how environmentally responsible they are - but also their social responsibility looking at human rights, community involvement, animal protection, corporate crime, discrimination, employee treatment and philanthropy. It is a fantastic little book - and while it has an American focus, it is still invaluable for Canadians and even those abroad.

I was shocked to discover some information about companies I thought were better - we drive Saturns but GM received the worst grading for many reasons- and pleased to see that I've made some good choices - Seventh Generation was rated the best company on the Planet!
I'm looking into organic home delivery from a local supplier who buys things as close to home as possible and I was thinking this was a great move(and it is) yet this little book showed me in a few minutes how many other things need to be looked at. If you want more information - go to www.betterworldshopper.org . You can research all the information there and even buy this great little guide (small enough to fit into your pocket) to take shopping with you.

I guess it comes down to making good choices - buying fair trade products when available, organic when possible and buying from companies that show responsibility in what they do. You can see the top 10 changes to make in your shopping habits for the most impact for your dollar, the top 10 best companies, the top 10 worst companies and more.

I'm going to make some changes in my shopping habits. A little more review is needed, but there are some things I can do easily as I put together this week's shopping list. I can buy my husband's favourite coffee as it’s fair trade and organic (one of the top 10 things to do) I can still buy chocolate but make better choices on who I buy it from (another top 10 item to do). I can choose some of my groceries from the brands listed (and I even have coupons for some!) And best of all - I can keep buying my Tetley tea!! Again - small choices but important ones. I think I see a theme here, don't you?

Who knew your morning coffee choice could be environmentally friendly AND change lives?

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Cleaner Clean

It's so easy to talk about making changes, isn't it? It's nice to say that I'll switch to a more environmentally friendly kind of cleaner or that I'll try to eliminate phosphates or chlorine from my home. It's a little harder to bite the bullet and actually buy those things. I find it rather amazing that it costs so much less to eat crappy food, use toxic products in our home, and poison the natural world around us, than it does to buy healthy, non-toxic, safe products.

While I know that I can buy some vinegar and baking soda and lemon juice and so on and make my own, the reality is that I want the convenience of ready made products. We work 40 hours a week, we both commute 3 hours a day (yes, we are looking at this later in the year) we have to do all the household chores and still find time to spend with our baby and each other. While it is definately something to aspire to, taking the time to make everything from scratch at this point in our lives just isn't realistic.

So, I decided to vote with my dollars and make my money count by buying things that cost a little more, but hurt a little less. I want to replace all the items in my cleaning cupboard with non-toxic alternatives; to that end we purchased non-toxic, phosphate and chlorine free items from Nature Clean and Seventh Generation. My caddy under the sink is now the proud holder of dishwasher detergent, rinse aid, chlorine free bleach, glass cleaner, kitchen and bathroom cleaner and tub and tile scrub. It looks rather pretty, if I may say so myself.

But being the realist I am, I know that I have to finish what I've already bought. So that means that I'll be using some of the less desirable things for awhile. My choices are to throw it away (definately not environmentally friendly), to use it (still not a good choice) or give it away (passing the buck). I've put together a small bag of things I know I won't use and I'll give those away, I'll use some of it on things our son doesn't touch and begin using the gentler items where he'll come in contact with them. (i.e the bathtub) In the future I do not plan on buying the harsh cleaners so it's a start.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Being a Bag Lady

Did you know that if you shop once a week and take home only four bags of groceries, you will use 224 plastic grocery bags a year? Just think about that for a moment. In five years you will have used over 1000 plastic grocery bags. And let's be realistic, how many of us actually get all our stuff into four of those little bags? In fact, I'd be willing to bet that six bags a week is probably more the average if you take into account the bags you get from all the other places you frequent. That's 312 a year or a whopping 1560 over a five year period. If the average large city has a population of between 500,000 and 1,00,000 and if you make the average family size four people and every family replaced plastic shopping bags for four weeks, that would keep 3-6 MILLION plastic bags out of the landfill. And that's just one city.

For an investment of as little as 99 cents a bag, you could do your part to keep millions of plastic bags out of the landfills. Everyone wants you to buy their new 'eco-friendly' shopping bag - so why not find one you like and invest in a few. They don't have to cost a lot of money - they just have to be sturdy. I've noticed, too, that most of them hold far more than the standard plastic ones. You could even make your own if you were so inclined - that way you could have funky and fun bags that you want to show off - a good reason not to forget them in the car!

After thinking this over, I have decided to actually USE all those bags I keep buying at my grocery store. I have about 8 or so of them, but I keep forgetting to use them. I will buy a few more (I keep using them for other things and never have them all in the same place) and will put them in my car. When I bring grocery bags upstairs, I will put them right back at the front door to go back into the car. I do use them now and then, but I never seem to have them with me when I want them. Today I got a plastic bag when buying books - so I'll bring a canvas bag to work and leave it in my desk drawer for next time.

And if you happen to have too many plastic bags in your cupboard - don't throw them away when you declutter. Take them to your local thrift store and they can reuse them.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Recycle, Recycle

I was looking at my city's website and I've learned that my city is going to expand their blue bin recycling program. This is fabulous! Soon we will be able to recycle things like milk cartons, tetra paks and those aluminum pie tins. We currently recycle glass, metal, mixed paper, newspaper and plastics labelled 1,2, 4 or 5. They also accept most plastic shopping bags. We will also no longer have to sort items, which will make it easier to use the blue bins.

While I know that the ultimate goal is to reduce and reuse before you recycle, this change will be welcome as I do sometimes have those things and hated throwing them away. I always return the drink boxes/bottles for the refund as I save all that money and put it in an account for my son's education - a very good reason to recycle! My grocery store also has a recycling program. By bringing in the containers on their list, you earn points. I've cashed in those points that we earn through shopping there and recycling there, and so far it's netted over $100 in his education fund over the last year. It really is such a simple thing to do, and with an incentive that makes it even more worthwhile.

As I'm cleaning I'm adding to the recycling pile. I'm trying hard not to throw things away this week and am identifying items that are an issue for me. For example, my son's organic individual fruit cups come in a plastic container with a foil lid. While I like the organic aspect, they are packed in plastic labelled with a 6 - something I cannot recycle. I will now be on the hunt for a new source of this for him. Other than applesauce, I haven't seen large sizes of these that I could distribute into smaller portions, so this will be a challenge. I have no idea where to buy fruit 'sauce' type treats that aren't packed in these containers. I did buy yogurt in the large container for him this week - thus saving me from recycling a case of little containers.

Tomorrow we go on our first family 'experience'. I'm trying to do things, rather than acquire things so we are going to a hockey game. This is one of the ways I can reduce my use of 'stuff'.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well - It's Official! My living green journey is beginning. It started with a bit of a bump, though, as we were exposed to a nasty virus yesterday during our New Year's celebration. We left our son with his grandparents for another day, just in case we get sick. While sharing is good, this isn't something we'd want to share, lol.

So my day was spent taking down the tree. We use an artificial tree (allergies - no real trees allowed here) and it's all that remains up in our home. I purged the decorations that were left in the boxes this year. I have a large box full of things for a garage sale this summer. I've decided not to throw away anything, rather I'll see if anyone wants it first. And a garage sale seems like a nice way to recycle things. I can use the money to do something fun, later.

I guess I started the year green by not throwing away any of those things. I also have a bunch of old pinecones that I purged and they will go into the in-laws composter. I saved all the gift bags, tissue paper, gift boxes to be reused. I always do this. I've accumulated quite a big collection, so I think I'll clear that out and put away some to share. I've also put away the Christmas cards to save. I also put away all the ones I can reuse when I make cards or gift tags. We got gift tags in the mail from junk mail, so I kept those to use next year rather than throwing them away.

This is my start - reusing things where I can. And as we go through our home, spring cleaning (a little early) I will be putting things aside for the garage sale (I think these are the perfect re-use events and afterward I donate everything that is in good condition) and for the consignment shop (where I like to shop, too). I already check out thrift stores and we are inundated with Kid Swaps for me to find things for our son. After this month I am sufficiently disgusted with the major toy makers to not buy their stuff new. I have never seen so much packaging - it's sick. I threw away a big bag of plastic, wire and tape and have a huge box of cardboard to recycle from it. This is one way to stand up for what I think with my money. I much prefer the way toys used to be packaged - in a box that you could reuse. This new packaging of a half open box with plastic overlays, wire holding everything in, shrink wrap and more is so very wasteful.

Day one is over - and I'm happy with my beginning. I'm doing my best not to throw away things - and I've fixed a bunch of things so they can be used properly, too. A very successful day, I think.