Monday, February 25, 2008

The Story of Stuff

If you do nothing else today - go see this website! It's a 20 minute video and I guarantee you, it's worth watching.

I had this site passed along to me by my cousin, Brenda, in the comments to one of my posts. My husband and I watched it and... well... were chastened, to say the least. While we know all this - it's more a back of the mind kind of knowing - not a conscious knowing. And it should be a conscious knowing to help us make better decisions.

We are in the process of replacing appliances - but since ours still work (albiet not that well) we will ensure they get more life out of them by passing them along to someone who can use them. Our dishwasher needs replacing first - and I've had it serviced twice already to extend it's life. Since it could still be useful to someone, I'll put it on Craigslist, etc. to see if someone would like it.

If we sell - and we plan to do so in the next year - we need to have upgraded appliances. We've made ours last over 12 years, and I hear that's good for the quality of appliances we have. That also includes our hot water tank that apparently should have been replaced years ago. Thankfully no one told it about the fact it was supposed to be disposed of after about 6 or so years. All of our appliances have been serviced over the last few years, rather than replaced - and after watching this video, I'm so glad we did that.

And I'm also going to try to hang on to my computer a little longer. My laptop has broken keys, doesn't charge and barely plugs in - but I think I can get a little more life out it - and so I will.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Plastic Paradise?

While I was looking for some information on the the North Shore of Oahu, I came across an article that gave me pause for thought. It started with me finding a story about plastic bags and how there is a group on this island that is working toward banning them - and since it's stalled in their legislature at the moment, they are working on converting the people that live here. They promote reusable bags and one person even went so far as to bring in compostable take out containers (replacing the styrofoam clamshells) as well as compostable cutlery and even a recycled paper napkin. I was impressed. I wasn't as impressed with the lack of recycling pickup here - that's a definite thumbs down for Oahu and something that needs to be instituted here.

What really got me was the conversation that started in the comments section. It brought out a lot of opinions, that's for sure. What seemed to run through was that people don't want plastic if it's bad for the environment - but that they don't want laws that tell them what to do. I keep hearing that in different places - that we shouldn't be pushed into this Global Warming issue. That people aren't sure of the science and aren't willing to let the government make that choice for them - they want to do the right thing - but not because they have no choice and not under the banner of Global Warming.

I think I have to agree - somewhat. In a world that has countries that won't be players in the issue because they appear not to care, it's hard to swallow the fact that your government thinks you should be the fix. It's also hard to compete in a global market when you are taxed to death over everything - and then again for this on top of it - while at the same time your competitors don't have that to deal with. But, if you do it of your own accord - because you care - and if big business is forced to do things in an environmentally safe way, without having to additionally compensate for the rest of the world that isn't, maybe that's a good compromise. No one should be allowed to exploit and pollute our world. We've done enough damage.

Ah - now off my soapbox and back to my article. I was shocked to hear this one. Here I am - in Paradise - and I find out that a part of this state has a plastic beach. Yep, you read that right - a plastic beach. Apparently so much plastic wears down in the ocean that the little itty bits it separates into end up there and it's a plastic beach - a good foot or so deep. Now if that doesn't have you thinking twice about things, I don't know what will. If I'd read that article before I bought my son some toys to play with here (that we are leaving for future guests to enjoy) I'd not have bought them since they are beach toys and they are - you guessed it - plastic.

Here is the article if you'd like to read it.

So - while I admit to getting some plastic bags when we picked up a few things at the swapmeet, (couldn't leave without a classic Hawaiian shirt, right?) I used the first bag to put all my purchases in. And I'm using the bags over and over as I can. I'll probably even pack stuff in them, and then recycle them when we get home.

Lastly - I thought I'd share. I did laundry yesterday and not only did I wash on cold but... I hung it out to dry! I did have to put some things in the dryer (thick towels and what was damp at days end) but most of it air dried and it felt great! My friend Maisie would be proud.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


While I hate to brag, I really have to share that I'm writing this blog entry from Hawaii! We are staying on the North Shore of Oahu in a house on the beach. This is the life. Really! I know it's just a vacation, but I could see myself living in a place like this fulltime.

Most of our time will be spent right here in this house getting some of that R&R that I've heard rumours about. We'll do a few touristy things but for the most part this house and this beach are just where we want to be. Right now I'm still trying to slow down and enjoy the unfilled time. It's hard - I keep looking for stuff to do. I figure this time next week, I'll have perfected it.

Now I'm sure you're wondering "Just what does this have to do with living a greener life?" Well, I'm so glad you asked. It has PLENTY to do with it. You see, I have a plan. While we are here, we are not at home with all of our things - those things you know I'm so attached to. We are not using all the things we use every day - all the cleaners (both house and body), all the gadgets and so on. We are taking time to take stock of our life and to see where it is we want to go. I'm living without my stuff - which is giving me the time and distance I need to think more clearly about what it is I want out of life.

While I haven't gotten to the point of writing it all down - I do know that things will have to change as my vision of life has changed over the past decade and I've just not adjusted my lifestyle to meet that vision. Upon my return, you will get to find out more on this topic. Remember I said March was the month to declutter - well, it's about more than just stuff. It's going to be about decluttering a life, making room for what's important (friends, family and so one) and letting go of what's not (shopping for fun, a disposable lifestyle, etc.)

I've also learned that travelling with a baby is an experience and that it is NOT an earth friendly one if your baby isn't able to regular food yet. Since my son has allergies - he can't eat a lot of commercially prepared baby food. He's just beginning to eat things with more texture and is not ready for 'real' food. This means making him something different from us. I forgot my hand mixer, so I'm limited in what to make him as I need to be able to dice it finely. I ended up buying a lot of baby food - I searched to find the few things he can have and stocked up. (not too much variety but he won't starve) I also bought some stuff I can cook for him when we are at the house. At home I make his food and freeze it in ice cube trays. Can't do that in Hawaii as it's too hot to be carrying it around when you go out. Plus - if you do keep it frozen - you can't heat it up for him at the beach. So jars and fruit cups it is. And I'm not sure what to do with them. I never throw them away at home - so I'm hoping to find a way to recycle them. Otherwise I can see me bringing it all home. (did I mention my suitcases were full when I arrived here?)

We also bought a playpen for him to sleep in (we'll keep it at our family's place to use when we visit) and we bought a beach umbrella to keep him in the shade. Both of these will get plenty of use over the next few years - by us and by anyone we know that can use them. And when we are done with the playpen, it will go on to another life with another family as I intend to take good care of it. (another key to being green - take care of what you have - make it last and then pass it on so it can continue it's useful life)

The fact that my suitcase is full is a good thing, though. I could have filled another suitcase coming here but by squeezing it into less space, it means that I don't have room to buy junk. We don't plan on bringing home souvenirs for everyone. No sense in bringing home stuff for their next garage sale. It's definately not earth friendly to buy stuff people don't want! My own souvenir will be a baby food jar with some sand in it. Maybe a little piece of coral (it's washes up on the beach here) and a shell or two that we find (uninhabited, of course!) That's it. We will have pictures, maybe a post card or two, and our memories. This will be a first, that's for sure, as I usually come home loaded with things.

Oh - and just in case our house-sitter is reading this - don't worry! You're getting some thing - just not something disposable!

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's All About The Stuff!!

At least, sometimes it feels that way.

Do you ever feel overburdened by things, paper.... stuff? I know I sure do. I've been on a decluttering mission for a few years, but it seems that I take two steps forward and one (sometimes two) steps back. I make a little headway, but then more stuff just appears. Either its a conspiracy to make me crazy or it multiplies in dark corners!

It's hard to admit that maybe, just maybe, I'm the source of the problem. After all, who wants to be the source of all that brings angst into their lives? Alas, it is true. I really am the source of all that is cluttered. I find that in my effort to not throw things away, to save money, to be prepared, to (insert excuse here) I accumulate more and more. Sometimes it's a great deal and I have to buy one, or two or ten of whatever it is. Sometimes it's something I really did want but didn't plan for where to put it or what to get rid of to make room for it. And lastly - the hardest one of all - it's something that someone is giving me. This is particularily true for the things that I'm given for my son. Grandparents, friends, acquaintances seem to buy, share, hand down all sorts of wonderous stuff that finds it's way into my home. Granted some of it is particularly beautiful stuff, but I don't differentiate at the door.

I've come across a great book for someone like me - good enough that I actually went right over to my bookshelf and got rid of 1/2 of the books that are supposed to tell me how to get organized, uncluttered, financially free and all that great stuff. If they are on the shelf, well, they are obviously not working! It's Peter Walsh's "It's All Too Much" and the title just sang to me as I walked on by. I recommend this book as it has you examine what you want out of life before you tackle the stuff. It's not about finding great storage, it's about examining your relationship with things and your own sense of control in your life. Very powerful words in this little book. My one issue is that he talks about trashing things with great abandon. For me, if it has life left, it is to be reused. So I ask that if you follow this path - find ways to share what you let go of, rather than sending it to the landfill.

So as my journey begins, what to do with all that Stuff is going to be the issue. I was saving it for a garage sale, but as the boxes get higher, I'm not sure I want to store it until late spring. I've decided that I'll put what I can on consignment and unless I find a place to keep the boxes that's out of the way, they will be donated. It's more about living the vision, than making a few bucks out of my old stuff. I'll also do some research to see if there are any places that can use what I have or where I can take things.

For anyone letting go of things consider used bookstores, thrift stores, consignment shops, transition houses, church projects, homeless shelters and animal shelters. All of these places are available as an outlet for your used items. There are even some charities that take old stained clothes if they are good for rags as they sell the material by the pound to buyers. Look into it in your city and see how little you can throw away, while at the same time letting go of a great deal.

My journey will really take off in March as I have designated March as the big letting go month. I'll definately keep you posted on how it goes. So far I have four garage sale boxes, two ebay boxes, a stack of books, a few items of clothing and some odds and ends to send back to their owners - all waiting to go. And by the way, I did get rid of that fish tank - it's now happily esconced in a long term care facility for the residents to enjoy.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Recycling Troubles

This weekend has been a great one for letting go of 'stuff' and sharing what's good with others. I've taken quite a bit of stuff to the consignment shop, a box of items and two bags full of grocery store bags to the thrift store, took down some recycling, returned all the pop bottles for their refund and left a bunch of stuff out for people to pick up, thanks to freecycle. I'd say that this was a productive weekend as far as not throwing away perfectly good things.

Now - on the down side, my city is failing rather badly in the recycling department. We have had two pick ups since December 18th. I live in the city of Surrey, B.C. and I can't believe what a terrible job they have done with the switchover of service providers. A new contract was awarded to International Paper, effective January 1st 2008. It appears that during the last two weeks of their contract, Waste Management decided not to bother fulfilling their contract, and the new company - over a month later, still can't do theirs.

As a tax payer and a person who feels very strongly about recycling, this situation disgusts me. I spoke to the person in charge on Thursday to find out what was happening. As we'd had snow, and I was fine with a delay due to this, I wanted to know when they would come. I was told that day. On Friday I was told that he'd dispatched "his" crew and they'd be there that afternoon. Well, it's now Sunday and they never showed. We've been given an assortment of excuses ranging from not having remotes to undergrounds, to them not being able actually enter the undergrounds (something that was never a problem for the previous company) I really have to ask - just how much does the City of Surrey care that my neighbourhood is paying for a service we're not receiving. Do they care that the bins are overflowing and that people are using the garbage instead now? Do they care that our tax dollars are paying someone to NOT do their job?

I applaud the decision to add things to our recycling stream later this year, but if it is done with the same finesse as changing contractors has been done, I'm already concerned that it will only result in chaos and, in the end, a terrible waste of resources.

So, to the City of Surrey, I say - Wake up! Get it right! Make these people accountable and make them do their job. This is affecting our planet and it's time you stood up and did something about it.

I'll be following up tomorrow. I've already left a message this weekend and I intend to see this through until we get the service we've had in the past.