environment


Or at least things I’m doing that aren’t going to kill the Earth as quickly.

1. My garden. I’m hoping to grow a large percentage of our family’s summer and fall food, and hopefully keep the garden producing through the winter, as well as keeping some of our harvest with root-cellaring. Our house has a perfect room for a root cellar. It’s cold, dark, and if we get a door on it, I think it will be ideal all winter. Plus, I just got a book on four season gardening, from some people in Vermont, so I have to trust that they’re serious about producing even in the winter.

2. Composting. I’m so happy I have my own compost bin, and I will have a separate heap to put all the yard scraps in. That way, when I need some brown to put on top of the kitchen scraps, I can just grab some from the pile. Less goes into my trash, and I have home-made fertilizer for my lovely garden.

3. Cloth diapering. I can’t stand the thought of putting those horrible “disposable” things in the landfills. The funniest thing is seeing how huge my baby girl looks in the giant cloth diapers, though. I had to buy some summer clothes for her yesterday, and I ended up getting a bunch of skirts and some shorts that are the 4 year old size, so they will fit over the diapers.

4. Buying recycled clothes. There’s really no reason to shop for new clothing, since there is so much out there that gets discarded, but is in perfectly good shape. Plus, I have a love-affair with thrift stores. The other day, when I got home from a thrift store spree (there are about 7 thrift stores within a couple of mile of our house), Derek asked me how my treasure hunt had gone. I giggled. But I do love finding treasures that have been cast off for whatever reason, and I feel like I’ve avoided adding to the burden of resource depletion and possible human rights violations. Keeping goods in the loop eases my consumerist mind.

5. Using the local library. I love reading, I love books. I can’t afford to buy all the books I want, but more importantly, I want to avoid using up more resources by purchasing books I will only read once. Which is to say, I still buy books, and I still love them, but I’m buying fewer books. Plus, one needs to support the local library for so many reasons. They have so many books you will never be able to buy, they support literacy, both the boo variety and the computer variety, they have so many community programs, and they are havens of peace and quiet. My sanity would be much more threatened without the local library.

6.Turning things off. I try to leave lights off as much as possible. I try to hang the laundry to dry whenever possible. I encourage my kids to notice when things are unnecessarily ON, and help them understand why they should be OFF. I’ve tried to use as many low-energy things in our house as I could, with all compact fluorescent bulbs, low energy refrigeration (lesser of two evils, as far as I’m concerned. I wish I didn’t have one at all), low energy (and low water) washer and dryer, etc.

7. Opening windows. This spring is so gorgeous, but it’s already started getting hot. I’ve been opening the windows for circulation, rather than turning on the air conditioner. If I do end up desperately hot, I will try to keep the thermostat at something in the upper 70’s, rather than actually trying to make my house cool. Seasons are good for us, and a constant 71 degrees is not good for our dear Earth. During the winter, we kept the heat at 61 at night (I know, we could go lower, but my baby girl won’t keep herself under any blankets yet, and even with two pairs of fleece pajamas, she still got pretty cold) and 64 during the day, except on the days that I just couldn’t take it anymore, and turned it up to 68. I believe in sweaters and wool socks. From the thrift store, of course.

8. Recycling. Yes, I know how cliche all my things are, but I believe in recycling. I recycle everything I can. I want to really reduce how much trash we send to the land fill, so I recycle the things that can’t be used again, use up what can be used, make regular donations to the thrift stores, send the organic stuff to my compost bin, and give stuff away. I also try to purchase things that aren’t excessively packaged. Sometimes I get the large size, sometimes I skip something I want because it has too much plastic on it. Packaging makes me sad, especially when it’s intended to make the item look bigger or more exciting, and when there are multiple, unnecessary layers.

9. Making my own. Last night, I made a bunch of flannel baby wipes, and poured some home-made wipe-juice on them. I like to make my own cleaning products, using vinegar, Borax, baking soda, essential oils, and other good stuff. I would love to be a brilliant craftswoman, designing and building furniture and clothing out of reclaimed materials, but I’m just too lazy. Yesterday, I was about to throw an umbrella away. It has been on our porch all winter, and it was a piece of junk to begin with. It was rusty, all the little wires were bent, and it was unusable. When I picked it up, I suddenly thought how it would make a cute (and waterproof!) skirt for Kiki. All I need to do is cut a circle out of the middle and add some elastic or a strip of fabric with a fastener. Then I could decorate it with some ribbon or embroidery. Or maybe some tiny tassels on each of the points. I’ll post some photos when I’m done. And maybe while I’ve got the sewing machine out, I’ll get to those curtains I’ve been meaning to make since last November!

10. Use less. I try to limit the use of things that aren’t totally waste free and non-toxic. I’ve started only washing my hair about once or twice a week, instead of every other day. There’s really no reason to wash your hair every day, since your natural oils help your hair stay healthy and shiny, and also help with the frizzies. Plus, washing your hair often makes your skin produce more oil than it needs, so it gets greasier faster if you wash it all the time. I also don’t put clothes in the laundry unless they’re really dirty. By that, I mean that they have discernible spots or smells. Clothes shouldn’t be laundered often, because each time you wash them, the fibers break down more and the color fades, so if you want your clothes to last, don’t wash them so often. Just because you wore a shirt doesn’t mean it’s dirty. I give my shirts at least two days, and this may be TMI, but pants can last a couple of weeks. After all, that’s what underwear is for: to protect your clothing so you don’t need to wash it as often. (I’ve also found some more environmentally friendly laundry detergent that I love. Seventh Generation makes some that does well in an HE washer, and it smells incredible, like eucalyptus and lavender.)

Happy Earth Day!

I’m ready to go off the grid and move into a cave and eat only fruits that fall off the tree and wear clothes that are made from skins of animals that are already dead that I skin and tan myself and not breathe anymore ever. I mean, come on. Biodiesel is WORSE than petroleum? What is there left? Aside from not driving any more and not using electricity and not having any more kids and letting all the cows and pigs go free?

As if the bring-your-own-bag song weren’t bad enough, last night, I spent a good hour surfing the ether world for ideas on using up those fabulous petroleum byproduct pieces of doodoo. I can’t call them useless, because MY OH MY did I find some amazing uses for them. It would be far better if they ceased to exist, but while they’re here, and they can’t degrade, and there are billions of them, we might as well put them to use.

I should not be surprised that there are people out there who dedicate their spare time to using up plastic bags. I mean, there are people who make soap for fun, there are people who run 26.2 miles for fun, and there are people who collect neti pots and use them to serve gravy or cream. So why not try to use those stupid bags? And I’m not talking about using them as liners for garbage cans, or to take out the pile of diapers outside the bathroom door (not that I’ve ever had a pile of diapers outside the bathroom door, or anywhere else in my house). No, my favorite site so far is My Recycled Bags.com, where the author uses them for craft projects. Craft projects, you say? Don’t laugh. This lady, and she’s not the only one out there who does this, cuts the bags into strips and makes a chain of them, then crochets all sorts of great stuff. Like this reusable grocery bag. Way to make those things fit their intended function, only without the tearing and spilling their contents onto the parking lot. Or how about a cute little cosmetic bag? A water bottle holder? A pot scrubber?

This fantastic woman also uses the innards of cassette tapes and VCR tapes to crochet stuff. Among other things, like the above, check this out. That leaves me speechless.

Needless to say, I think I have found a kindred spirit. I’m so sad I didn’t think of it, but I’m so glad that there are people out there who want to slow our waste production, and who can think of creative ways to do it. I just need a bigger crochet hook.

Carbon Conscious Consumer Logo

Are there people out there that have no fridge? I mean on purpose. I realize that there are many more people on the earth who don’t have a fridge than people who do, but that seems like a far-away, non-North American thing. Wow, I sound like such a nut.

I was thinking today about what we would do if we had no fridge, whether as a result of a disaster that rendered electricity unavailable, or if we just decided that it was one luxury that we should do without, to help minimize our energy consumption. Do you know anyone that doesn’t have a fridge?

I think I could pull it off, but where does the cost-efficiency cross the line with using electricity to keep food fresh versus using some mode of transportation to get the perishable stuff more often if you don’t have refrigeration? I would sure need to have a garden, and a few chickens wouldn’t hurt, but there are many things I would still have to buy. I would buy things like grains, nuts, dry beans, dry spices, and dried fruits and vegetables, but I guess I would have to buy huge quantities, and then make sure I had a cool, dry place in the basement for them. Then I would have to make sure I had enough fresh stuff from the garden to feed us every day of the growing season, plus whatever I could put up in jars or dehydrate.

I would also feel OK about walking to the market, which is about a mile away, or biking, when I get a bike. I guess if I had a bike, I could tow one of those kid trailers, but fill it up with groceries instead. Except I wouldn’t have to fill it up, since I would only need to buy what I would use the same day.

I would also have to plan much better than I do. I would have to make meals that are the right size, with no leftovers. When I was in the Philippines, we would make dinner in the evening, and leave the leftovers on the table, covered with a cage so the rats couldn’t get to it. Then we never had to make breakfast. At first it bothered me, especially in such a warm, humid climate, but since nobody else seemed to care, I just followed suit. I think I have reverted to the paranoid American mentality, though.

Is this something that matters to people? Or is it just assumed that there will always be refrigeration? When we were looking for a house, it really only crossed my mind briefly that we could survive without a fridge, but not long enough for me to seriously consider not having one. In fact, I think I was more inclined to think of where I could put a deep-freeze or second fridge. Do I need either of those things? We have just decided to eat meat only once a week at the most, and it seems like meat is what people keep. I don’t really get pre-made, packaged foods, and that also takes up a big chunk of the average American fridge.

So do you dare me? It would take planning, and the cooperation of the other 4 people who live with me, but I think it’s possible. How much would I have to change?

Sometimes I meditate on the subject of what I would write on my postcard if I sent one to postsecret. Angela has tagged me for this 8 facts meme, and I’m ready. I’m going to try to remember all those “secrets” that I’ve been storing up for a rainy day. And I’m not saying I’m proud of all these. Most of them make me feel like a freak.

1. Every time I use a paper towel, I think about how I’m probably going to Hell. I hate being wasteful, but the convenience of grabbing a paper towel and then not having to wash it is too seductive. But I do save every single plastic bag I ever come in contact with. If I get one at the market, because I was dumb enough to leave the house without my canvas shopping bags or Mexican bolsas, and I have to get one of those crappy bags, I save it and use it as many times as I can. I reuse ziploc bags. I make Derek wash them. I save the bags from the bulk section and use them the next time I go shopping, and I don’t put veggies in any bag at all. Four zucchini? No bag. Dripping wet parsley? No bag. Twelve oranges? That’s what that canvas bag is for.

2. I wear my clothes until they’re visibly dirty. Don’t say ew. Americans have such a neurosis about being clean. Clothes last much longer if you don’t wash them every single time you wear them. So you use less water, put less soap into the water supply, use less energy for the dryer, spend less money on clothes, and have that nice, comfy feeling of not having to get into tight jeans every single time you dress.

3. I have to do everything myself. And then brag about it. I made a pie today from pumpkins that I baked. Next year, I’ll have pumpkins in the garden, so I’ll just run outside to get a pumpkin to make that pie. I made three and a half meals out of one tiny roasted chicken, including a great soup from the broth I made with the carcass. I made my kids their Halloween costumes. I’m knitting myself a scarf. I make our bread whenever I can. I’m planning on making all the Christmas presents this year.

4. I’m always deeply ashamed when I give people store-bought presents. Unless they’re from DI. Then they’re recycled, so it’s OK. I never send thank you cards, because I never get it together and actually make them.

5. I’m afraid of everyone. Even people I’ve known since I was 5. Even my own family. Even Derek. I’m always afraid they really know what a sham I am, or they’re just being nice.

6. Prepare yourself for this one. It will sound horrible, but read on. I think I’m smarter and more talented than almost everyone. Which is not to say that I necessarily know more, but that I have this inner demon that says, “I may not know that, but it’s only because I haven’t tried to learn it yet. It’s not like I can’t, I just haven’t had the time.” Don’t misunderstand me. I know this is a snobbery, and that it’s untrue, but my brain doesn’t want to change it’s mind. I was told at a very young age that I was very smart, by many people. Those things don’t just go away.

7. The people that I know are smarter than me make me the most terrified. Like they know I’m really just an idiot. I have to compensate for my feelings of inferiority by doing everything myself. Like somehow sewing puppy costumes makes up for my inability to even read the math Derek works on. Or speaking 9 languages makes up for my dismal lack of knowledge in pop culture. (It’s a total lie, I don’t really speak 9 languages. But for the record, I speak English as my native tongue. I lived in Mexico when I was 5, and learned fluent Spanish, which I lost in the years following, but regained in part when I went back to Mexico when I was 19.

I studied German for 5 years in High School, but I didn’t have my heart in it. I learned the vocab, but I never cared about the cases. Hmmm, how can you speak German without the cases?

I took Italian for 4 or 5 semesters in college, because when I was choosing my classes my first semester, all the Spanish classes were full. I went to Vienna, Austria for a semester abroad, and improved my German, then took 3 more semesters of it.

I went on a religious mission to the Philippines when I was 22, and learned Tagalog fluently. One of my native companions said that when she wasn’t looking at me while I was talking, she would forget that I was not a Filipina. I also studied Ilokano, a regional dialect, while I was there. I was never fluent in Ilokano, but I could talk about church and God pretty smoothly.

I stayed in Holland for a few weeks with a Dutch friend, and learned a bit of Dutch, after which I got some books in Dutch and studied it on my own. My friend once told me that it was funny hearing me speak Dutch, because instead of an American accent, I had a German accent.

I took a semester of French following my trip to Holland. Only one, but with the background in Spanish and Italian, all I had to do was learn the spelling and pronunciation idiosyncrasies.

After I met Derek, I took a semester of Russian. The teacher only let me in because I had the same last name as he did, but I turned out to be a crack shot at it, so he liked me all the more. Even when I skipped about two weeks… after getting engaged. Yes, I was one of those. Don’t make fun.

But since I’m afraid of everyone, I never speak any of the languages, so they pretty much don’t count anyway. Oh, I started learning Greek this summer. Yay for me.

8. I want to know everything. I honestly cannot think of a subject that I don’t want to know more about.

Are you sad you wasted your time on that?

I’m tagging Elizasmom, Kalli, my fantastic aunt Barbara, Sketchy, Honeyvine, Yardbird and that’s gonna have to be all! Because who else can I tag that hasn’t done this one or hasn’t decided to renounce all future tags?

I’ve been asked by Erin to openly admit my obsessions. How can I, when I’m so embarrassed about them in the first place?

I’ll leave out the really ghetto ones. So 5 obsessions:

1. Running. Everyone who knows me already knows my obsession with running. It’s not like I’m this fantastic runner, or that I run very fast, or even very far. I just like it a lot, and I especially like trail running. I even have a crappy blog about running. Derek owes me $10,000 for each child I’ve made, but one day he was wondering just how much of my $30,000 I’ve already spent. He said that running stuff doesn’t count, since it’s a physical and psychological need for me. So running shoes, clothes, races, driving to races, all that doesn’t count as part of my $30,000. I think I’ll start signing up for races in Paris and London.

2. Recycling. I’m so far gone that I can only shop at thrift stores for clothes. I always bring my own bags to the market unless I’m buying bulk stuff, in which case I save the same plastic bag and twist tie and use it as many times as I can before it is riddled with holes. I’m dying to have a compost bin (but I can’t yet because my grandpa doesn’t want one in his backyard, but I did make him order a recycling bin for the trash, which he didn’t want because he thought we shouldn’t have to pay for it), and I always save jars and reuse them for keeping things like rice and beans.

3. Cooking. I read cookbooks like novels. I love Indian, South East Asian, Mexican, Native American, Mediterranean, North African, Moroccan, Italian, Finnish, Spanish, vegetarian, vegan, baking… I realize that all those labels are broad generalizations, but I love trying new stuff. I also don’t like repeating meals. There are only a few things that I make periodically. Lentil Sausage Soup, Sweet Potato Quesadillas, Turkey or Pork soft Tacos, and I can’t think of anything else. I have a collection of cookbooks, and I find new stuff in them all the time. I loooove vegetables, so the majority of my cookbooks are vegetarian, and my favorites are from the Moosewood Restaurant. I feel sad for people that don’t eat vegetables, or who think grey green beans and steamed broccoli are the only choices.

4. Mind games. Sudoku, Planarity (which doesn’t count after you figure it out), puzzles, ciphers, foreign languages, math, stuff you have to think about. I guess mystery novels counts in this category, too, and I love me a good mystery.

5. Knitting and crocheting. I only learned how to knit a couple of years ago, and I started crocheting after that. It was while on break from applique, which I haven’t done since I started knitting. Mostly all I do is little stuff, like baby blankets. I did knit a little lamb for my mom, which I then felted. It was the cutest thing. I like to knit while Derek reads books to me out loud. We’ve gone through lots of good books this way. We’ve especially love “The Cat Who…” books. They’re not gory like some other mysteries, and as far as language, they’re pretty clean.

I changed my mind. I’m not embarrassed about these ones, I just left out all the ones I don’t want widely known. But I do think all these things fall under the heading of ways to waste time. But I guess if we weren’t going to waste any time, we’d have to still be eking out our existence on the farm. And I’m tagging bon, Carrie, Crystal, Dan (because I think that would be funny. I hope I can get him to post on DYM), and my cousin Mike, cause honestly, I’m just too curious.