autumn days

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is that recyclable? (take two)

Dearest Hannah,

We're learning more about recycling every day!  We should be following the specifics about what can be recycled from curbside pick up, from plastic bags to plastic containers of a certain shape and size.  The rest should be sorted into bins and taken to Far West Fibers, where they let you sort out the materials and then they recycle metal, plastics, shoes, and much more.  So now Papa will curse this new project of accumulating recyclables in bins in our garage.  He'll forget about the bins once I push more for biodegradable cat litter.
Attempting to evolve,
your mama

grocery adventures

Dear Hannah,

You and I finally got out of the house for a date.  And where did we go for our fun time together?  The grocery store, of course!  Your papa was overwhelmed by all the veggies and bulk goods I put on the list and was relieved when I finally volunteered to fetch them.

We are trying to reduce our environmental impact, meaning reducing our intake of goods, reusing what we have, and recycling what we can't use again.  We are trying to mainly reduce, as then there is less to reuse and recycle.  Plastics get more toxic the more they are recycled, and much of the plastics we have are not recyclable in the first place.  Hopefully next week when the weather isn't bone-chillingly-cold, we'll get to a local farmers market.  (Portland Farmers Market, Lloyd Farmers Market)  Yes, there are some ambitious farmers sell fresh produce outdoors all year.  We'll make a run to Limbo for gallon glass jars and fresh herbs, but until then, we've made it to the grocery store.

I've been talking with my friend Holly about alternative reusable packaging.  I've been sewing fabric bags to hold bulk goods, from pasta to paprika, but I am still working through zillions of plastic bulk bags from previous shopping.  On this shopping trip, you and I spent all of our time in the fresh food and bulk sections, with a quick run through the store to grab some Borax.  I am not quite sure what to do with the Borax yet, but we'll get to it sooner than later.  There is a list of never-ending projects around here, from art to thank you cards, from making breads to dinners.  We'll get to Borax.  But in the bulk section, we had such fun finding our favorite cooking and baking ingredients: poppy seeds, pastas, rice mixes, flax, cinnamon, allspice.  Next time we'll take a glass jar and fill up on honey.  We had such fun, I think we should regularly ask your papa to watch your brother so you and I can peruse the isles of the bulk and produce departments.  I didn't know shopping could be so much fun!

Breaded with love,
your mama

Thursday, January 6, 2011

decreasing our home's impact

After discussing home efficiency and less home waste with friends, these are things I will attempt to implement into our lives.
  • when leaving for vacation, turn off all power at water heater and circuit breaker except refrigerator
  • use only existing bags to bring home new goods, such as fabric bags for pasta or jars for peanut butter
  • more holiday crafts with materials at home, such as corn husk dolls or homemade laundry detergent
  • more meals with home canned staples (Hello, tomato soup and pizza on homemade bread!)
  • list of sustainable ideas from 
    • shower less than five minutes each day
    • turn off computer when away half hour
    • send emails instead of paper
    • reuse and refill products
    • teleconference instead of commute
    • lunch with reusable containers and utensils (and napkin) 
    • at gatherings, provide reusable containers, utensils, and healthy local food
    • smaller home with energy efficient appliances and bulbs
    • 68 degree or lower in home without air conditioning
    • weatherized house with tight caulking, windows, and sufficient insulation
    • buy 100% green power or provide your own
    • all native plants in yard without any chemicals
    • little or no grass to mow
    • no watering in yard and plenty of drought resistant plants
    • collect and use rain water
    • bike, walk
    • vegetarian or eat some local organic meats
    • recycle and compost
    • "Use everything until you wear it out, repair it, or give it away to others; buy in bulk; consider the packaging in your purchase decision"

homemade products

Dear Hannah,

I have learned so much from No Impact Man and keep attempting to apply it to our lives.  Your papa says he is the No Impact Man and that it is the rest of his family with all the waste.  Doesn't he do our shopping?  Well, Colin Beavan's book and film have brought much environmental conversation and activity into our home.  Your papa asked me never to turn off his water cooler again, but hasn't yet mentioned my constantly unplugging his appliances.  He even asked you to turn off the lights and water, doesn't mind you cosleeping with him without a diaper, and bought a used work chair off  We are all making progress.  In an attempt to buy fewer plastic goods, I am searching for a laundry detergent recipe using borax and haven't yet found it.  We use a green detergent, but I'd like to end our use of all those plastic tubs.

In my hunt, I have found Colin Beavan's recipes for other home products.  Perhaps we'll be able to integrate some of them into our repertoire.  What will your poor shampoo-loving papa think now?  The following recipes are Colin's from the above link.

Household cleanser—One quart water, 1 teaspoon borax, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon castile soap (you can see my supplies will last until I’m about 76 and it’s way cheaper than store bought).

Soap—You can use castile soap but we’re using soap made from local beeswax and bought at the farmers' market.

Shampoo—Seven ounces of filtered water, one ounce castile soap, one teaspoon olive oil. [Since writing this post, I've decided I'm not a great fan of this recipe. I now use baking soda mixed with water. It doesn't suds but it cleans really well. NIM 6/28/07]

Dishwashing detergent—one measure castile soap to one measure water.

Of course, if you can’t be bothered to mix this stuff up, just go to your local health food store and buy the eco-products that are explicitly labeled “nontoxic” (an FDA term) and biodegradable, are plant rather than petroleum based (I avoid animal based products too), and contain no chlorine bleach, benzyne, toluene, xylene, trichlorethane or phosphates. Buy them concentrated and large to avoid extra plastic packaging.

Still searching (for detergent),
your mama

healthy decomposable cleaners

a homemade drawstring bag

Monday, January 3, 2011

donating our extras

Dear Hannah,

We are so grateful to get all your clothing from your older cousin after she and three other girls have used it.  There is plenty of wonderful clothing we'll keep in case someday you're blessed with a sister.  Until then, we have so many extra clothes.  I got to wondering about people needing baby clothes, as I don't want to sell my fifth-time-around clothes on craigslist; I just want to give it away.  After volunteering in a women's shelter, I know they do amazing work and see a lot of children.  Those children may need clothes.  I've found they need NEW clothes.  We have some of those as well, as our loved ones bless us with more children's clothing than we can ever use.  I will research who can put our older clothing to good use.  But for now, I'll make a donation pile for the local women's shelter.  We have been so blessed with such abundance in our lives, it is nice to share what we have with others.  And the non-salvageable goods we can turn into rags and rugs and other creative goods.  Like eating a chicken, we don't want to waste anything.  Everything has a place and a purpose.

Much love,
your mama

clothing and household items for Clackamas Women's Services