Sunday, September 27, 2009

Peace and love gan with ye

I loved all your comments on my "being the change" post. Clearly the love-hate relationship with stuff is a common one. It's so familiar and yet there's something very bizarre about it too. Is it just a peculiarly modern problem? I wonder if there is some sort of genetic programming for survival in times of scarcity - always 'needing' more and hoarding what we have.

I've listed here some of the things I'm doing to try to reuse things and consume less. In true "incrementalist" fashion (Alwen mentioned this term, which she got from Redneck Mother), some of these I've been doing for years, some are more recent - often after sitting in the back of my mind for some time. I'm sure some of these will seem really obvious to you. I'd love to hear in the comments if you've got other suggestions to share.

Reusing things

Aluminium foil. On some level, those single use sheets of metal have always seemed a crazy thing to only use once. Yet I've only really tried washing and reusing it very recently. I'm ashamed to say I was probably put off by what others in my house would think. I now decided we really should ban it altogether. We really only need alternative ways to cover casserole dishes in the oven, and I'd rather not go out and buy new dishes that come with lids. I've tried putting a baking tray on top, and also repurposing a foil baking dish which came with some Turkish takeaway - both worked fine as covers while baking. Of course, I'm a very basic cook and not doing anything fancy that requires a really good seal.

Getting the olive oil bottle refilled at Choku Bai Jo. I'd like to buy more foods this way, bringing my own container, to reduce packaging.

I recently bought myself a KeepCup for my takeaway coffees at work. I did it to feel better about the amount of waste created by disposable coffee cups. Getting a 50c discount per coffee was a brilliant surprise bonus. The cup has now just about paid for itself. The ceramic I Am Not A Paper Cup might be a bit nicer than plastic to drink from (the KeepCup's plastic retains a slight coffee-milky smell even though I wash it soon after use, but this does not affect the taste or enjoyment of my coffee) but it costs a lot more and couldn't be as carelessly thrown in my bag when I head out for a lunch time walk. I'm now wondering if I can bring my own packaging (eg a lunch box kept at work?) for takeaway food on the days I don't bring my lunch to work.

Buying second hand. I've gotten back into op-shopping for clothes. (Op shops are thrift stores or charity shops, for those outside Australia) I had given it up for years, finding it too frustrating. Now I find I have to be in the right mood. I also try to be relaxed about whether items ultimately make it into the wardrobe or not - if it gets re-donated, I just consider the purchase price part of my charitable donations.

I haven't bought furniture for ages, but there are one or two items I am thinking of for the 'new' house (we've been here about nine months now - time to finish unpacking perhaps?) and I intend to get them second-hand if I can. I like to save money but I also like the idea of giving good pieces an extended life rather than encouraging the manufacture of more cheap stuff. I would also condone buying new things that have been made well, from renewable materials - but for the moment I would rather spend less and pay off the mortgage. Eilleen at Consumption Rebellion recently furnished her whole house for under $1,000.

Reusing packaging and wrapping materials. I try to avoid using plastic mailing satchels - one of my guiding principles is to avoid single-use plastic things. Reusing wrapping materials was standard practice in my house growing up - some of the more study pieces of wrapping paper have been passed from person to person in my family countless times!

Trying to think of other uses for the many durable containers designed for one use, that normally go in the recycling bin. The return to op-shopping spawned a button collection, and each additional jar I save allows me to sort the colours more finely. I'm also planning to try these luggage tags, as mine broke on the last trip. This is a wonderful, if more ambitious, use of plastic containers.

Reusing the plastic bags from magazines and catalogues. I think I might have gotten this idea from Taph - I thought it was crazy at first, but it obviously stayed in the back of my mind. I only have a couple of magazine subscriptions but several catalogues also arrive sheathed in plastic and the wastefulness of it used to annoy me. Now I cut it open at the end and reuse the bag, mainly for small quantities of wool (they fit just a few balls), or to protect a book carried in my bag.

Using handkerchiefs instead of tissues. The tissue habit is taking a long time to really break. We use them as serviettes too. (One of the next things I should do is buy some cloth serviettes). We grew up without tissues in the house. Mum was never a fan, saying they were harsher on your nose than hankies. Unfortunately this was one of my mild acts of rebellion when I moved out of home. I bought a bunch of hankies several years ago but it's only this year that I've really cut down on tissue use. It's partly just remembering to carry one. I finally remembered to stuff a couple in my ski jacket pockets and they were brilliant because they don't shred like tissues do in wet conditions. I've also finally used hankies throughout a heavy cold or two this year and of course Mum was right, my nose did get less sore.

Using less of or less harmful versions

Washing my hair with bicarb soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar. This is still in the experimental stage and may deserve a post of its own - I could probably spend a while trying to work out exactly why I am doing this - anyway it's cheap and (I think) more environmentally friendly. Kudos to Bells for the push.

Buying more local fruit and vegetables (to reduce my carbon footprint) - I try to be organised and get them from Choku Bai Jo as much as possible, instead of the supermarket. We do have a supermarket literally across the road, so this takes discipline. Their stock is both from their own farm and other sources, and their labels show how far it's travelled as well as whether it is organic.

Taking the bus to work. I've always done this, because it's mostly quicker and cheaper than driving, given that the bus stops outside my work whereas I would have to park much further away. Also, I get 10-15 min of reading time each way. I never used to be able to read in the car, as a kid. I'm not sure I can even now (I am almost always the driver so don't get to test this). But I can read on the bus, as long as the driver is not too herky-jerky.

Not using glad wrap - I put leftovers in lidded containers. I also have some washable plastic covers that look like shower caps, for anything without its own lid. I bought them in the supermarket (first time was many years ago) - the elastic slowly stretches out but they last quite a long time, with care.

Shopping bags - I'm a bit amazed that anyone still takes plastic bags in shops - they should all be charging for them by now, but only a few do. I find those green bags much more pleasant to use than plastic bags - they are strong and fit more in. We actually held out with plastic bags for some time after the shopping bags became popular, because we used them for picking up after the dogs.

Then we discovered that bread bags are the perfect size for a second use as dog poo bags. They are much less likely to have holes in them, too.

Using leaf tea instead of tea bags. I have a little infuser at work and a teapot at home.


amy said...

Oh, good thinking on the bread bags. We need bags to clean the litter box. I've been using my own shopping bags for years and years--that does seem like such an easy one, doesn't it? I don't know that I have other suggestions at the moment. How about a story?

My children's school is keeping track of how much trash, recycling, and compost every class generates from lunch. So my 7yo came home and said, "Is there anything you can give me for lunch that doesn't make trash?" I thought and thought, trying to figure out WHAT trash he was making. Everything goes into plastic containers that I rinse out every night, except for the sandwich, which goes into a compostable wax paper bag. The school doesn't recycle the yogurt cup, but he rinses it out & brings it home so I can recycle it at Whole Foods, which takes that # (plastics are coded here). (I also send him with a real spoon, of course.) Turns out his one piece of trash per day is the peel-off top of the yogurt cup, and you know what? I DON'T NEED THE GUILT FOR THAT ONE PIECE OF TRASH. It made me resent the school a little, I admit. Because I try, I really do try, we recycle and compost and in our community we pay at the dump according to how much trash we generate (which I think is BRILLIANT and every community should do it), and I try to be mindful but I refuse to be plunged into the apocalyptic abyss over the peel-off top of a yogurt cup.

dr k said...

yes good call on the bread bags. although we do buy these biodegradable ones from the dog tidy people, so at least i know they break down, which then lets the poo break down etc. i wonder tho if they make them from recycled materials?

chocolatetrudi said...

Love these ideas - especially the baggage tags. Here are a few of my favourites:

Bread bags are exactly the right size to fit around my Dyson vacuume cleaner dust barrel thingy, so when I empty it less dust escapes.

Rubber gloves can be cut up to make elastic bands - small ones from the fingers, larger ones from the palm/wrist part.

The brand of yoghurt I like has a lid that seals really well (they set the yoghurt in the tub) and the tub is a little transparent. If you transfer left-over house paint into them it keeps much, much longer - especially that little bit left sitting at the bottom of the can which is doomed to dry out.

I've lived glad-wrap free for years, and hardly ever use foil.

Bells said...

i've been questioning my use of foil a bit lately. I use it a lot but try and reuse bits - for eg I roast a chicken, I let it rest under foil for a while, then I use that foil to wrap the leftovers we eat for the next couple of days. I find it hard to live without it but I do try and use less or re-use.

Also, tissues really bother me. I don't like to rely on them and much prefer hankies for all the reasons listed. I once knew a girl who said hankies were disgusting because you had to wash them with other clothes and that was just putting nasal stuff through your wash.

What? And putting dirt and other general nasty stuff through the wash is no different? Hankies last years. Tissues don't.

Alwen said...

If you slit a worn-out cotton sweat sock up the side and cut the toe off, it makes a great rag.

Then one day we had people over and they wanted wet towels in a tub of water and ice, and this girl looked at one of my (clean! clean!) sock rags, and said, "This. Is a sock," like I'd pushed her face into my shoe.

I managed to say evenly, "It had a long and happy life as a sock, and now it has been reincarnated as a rag."