Tips on Being Green: Start with Waste Reduction

We need new system design.

Sustainability has been important to me as long as I can remember. I started the journey when I was young, with a book my Aunt sent my family: 50 Ways You Can Save the Planet. Until then, I had no idea the planet needed saving. Since, I’ve paired down that focusing on educating people about the environment is one of the reasons I’m here, on this planet.

Why

Why do we need to educate ourselves on the environment? Because in our hurried society, we are so busy taking care of basic needs that we either forgot, we’re not taught, or a combination, of all the things that we need. The rampant fires, the rising waters, the continued pollution are all reasons why we need more environmental education.

Handily, a friend, in the food buying club world, asked for recent resources on how to do green. Thinking about this, I realized that I don’t turn to too many outside sources anymore.

While it’s good to stay up to date on recent bloggers, I have found that following a few basic principles are more key to living a green life.

And, funny enough, I got on this topic with my husband the other day. Husband never really understood why I preach a green, organic life. In a fit, I expressed, exasperatedly, it comes down to keeping our basic life resources clean so that our kids and their kids can drink from the tap without fear of contamination. So our kids and their kids can walk outside without a gas mask because the air is so polluted. So our kids and their kids can use the earth without fear it’s so contaminated with pollutants they cannot grow healthy food.

Whole Life

The bottom line it’s about a whole life thinking. Thinking in terms of what we need every day and shaping our health around that.

Systems Thinking

It is a simple systems concept, from start to finish. If we reduce the amount of things we take in, we will reduce our output.

Reduce Input

So, what does that mean in the day-to-day? Let’s take a look at the kitchen. In the kitchen we prepare food, we cook food, we consume food, we clean containers that helped with the whole thing, and we store all the unfinished bits. When we reduce our input, we are using reusable containers, for one. When we wash our dishes, we are using chemical-free agents to do our cleaning, so we reduce our input of more chemicals in the ground and through the water filtration process. When we reduce our input into systems, we are reducing our waste. So, we are recycling and composting as much as we can, based on where we live.

Reduce output

A natural consequence of reducing our input will be reducing our output. When we use durable plates and silverware, we simply don’t have to throw away as much. When we use reusable containers for our food waste, we aren’t throwing away plastic bags that held a sandwich. When we buy in bulk, we also have less packaging to throw away or recycle. Coming from this aspect, once you start picking away, one at a time, places where you used to throw something away and you’ve replaced it with a durable good, you’ve already started reducing your waste footprint on the world, and you’ve started being more sustainable.

Whole Foods

A huge place this waste is found is in food. Have you noticed how much packaging it takes to get our food? I’ve seen Kiwis in plastic clam shell containers, not to mention everything on the inside aisles of a grocery store.

An easy way to reduce the amount of output you have is to eat whole foods. Buy apples instead of applesauce. Buy fresh corn instead of canned. Buy heads of lettuce instead of lettuce in tubs. Learn to make your own food with whole ingredients instead of buying cans of soup, sauce, and everything in between. Even if you just pick one thing, you will have begun the waste reduction towards a more sustainable world.

I’m not typically a fan of fad diets, but we have found where they have shifted us into better health after letting go of foods that aggravate sensitivities. A few years ago, we began eating in the “Whole 30” way. Basically, we eat a chunk of meat surrounded by vegetables. Whole 30 advocates argue that the added chemicals to our food is making us sick, so eliminate those, and you’ll feel better. Whether you’re eating paleo, keto, or a vegetarian diet – generally speaking, you’ll be eating more whole foods. Whole fruits, whole vegetables, not preprocessed in some plant. The more you get into these diets, you may find yourself making your own broth, roasting whole chickens, and tending after your own hens to get your own eggs out of your own backyard. All of these steps will simply reduce waste in your home. The bonus being, you’ll eat better too!

New System Design

Another important aspect to sustainability is design. Running on carbon stealing, over built, waste inducing design will not solve our world’s problems.

You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

~ Buckminster Fuller

We need a new way of thinking about things. Paying attention to new technologies (new ways of designing buildings), participating in politics to update codes (seriously, why is greywater illegal?), and buying the new technologies as you can afford it (can’t wait to get my Tesla!). All these things will help move us towards a greener world.

What Will You Do?

So, the next question is – what will you do? First, assess where you are.

My favorite assessment is “My Footprint”. It’s gotten a facelift since the last time I took it, and it’s still quite informative. Full disclosure – here’s the link to my results: http://myfootprint.org/en/your_results/?id=3357605. On my family’s lifestyle, it would take 3.08 earths to sustain us. While this is much lower than the country’s average, seriously 3.08 earths? I only know of one we can access, today.

Try both of these quizzes. My Footprint is great for adults and covers a range of systems that keep us going (http://myfootprint.org), and this Scholastic quiz (for kids) breaks down kid-friendly ways to reduce your impact (http://www.scholastic.com/downtoearth/quiz/howgreenareyou/).

Now that you’ve assessed how green you are, what is an easy first step you can take? Where will you reduce your impact? What change do you want to see? Please share your quiz results in the comments below!

The Shop is Updated

A few weeks ago, we worked with some of the pieces of walnut and oak we have, and we updated our shop. Check out the new pieces on Etsy. Most are one of a kind. Get yours today!

Stained Walnut Oil Holder
Finished with a salad bowl finish, this oil holder holds 11 9 or 10ml roller bottles. The salad bowl finish brings out the dark, beautiful richness of the walnut. This piece was designed to accentuate the natural beauty of the grain. It’s great to fit in small places.
Walnut Oil Holder
This unstained walnut oil holder, with its butter soft finish, will hold 12 9 or 10 ml roller bottles. This is a one of a kind piece. Fit your diluted touch kit or your emotional oil touch kit with ease!
Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak 🔎zoom  Request a custom order and have something made just for you. Item details 5 out of 5 stars.      (1) reviews Shipping & Policies Do you have your favorite massage oils in 5ml bottles? This holder was designed specifically for dōTERRA's AromaTouch Technique Kit, including space for fractionated coconut oil. Keep your massage tools at the ready to offer the healing touch of massage and oils! Will hold any 5ml bottles or 4oz bottle in the center. This holder is made of white oak. Meet the owners of BalanceShared Learn more about their shop and process  Michelle Lasley    Peter Lasley Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak
Store your 5ml AromaTouch oils and Fractionated Coconut Oil in this oak holder.

A word about bleach

Bleach Bottle Image
Image via Wikipedia

I began this post on August 10, 2008, where I had recently posted a few items regarding cleaning: general house cleaning and whiter laundry. It seems that quite a few people are trying to find ways to make their whites whiter. As I look at the search terms, I noticed that often the search is ‘how do I make my whites whiter laundry’. The same old question that maybe has been plaguing our civilization for centuries continues to plague us now. How do we keep clothes looking good? For some people, tipping the balance into an eco-friendly home routine is pretty easy but for others hanging onto these old standbys like bleach is difficult to let go. Even in natural cleaning books, many suggest using bleach to kill germs and make whites whiter.

Remember a few things when considering bleach.

  • It is an acid, a very caustic acid and a poison.
  • It eats at clothing (and other things) a lot faster than alternatives like vinegar.
  • Vinegar we eat and is much safer for children and pets.

My original intention with this post was to summarize some scientific studies that displayed the horrors of bleach. Time, life, and lack of information in my searches made my original goal change. Now, I just want the post out of my draft folder! When this topic again interests me… hopefully it will be grand.

Enhanced by Zemanta

I am an Urban Homesteader

Heated & whisked
Making HOMEmade chocolate syrup in my (urban) home(stead). Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I know what to do.

I know where the resources are.

I’ve written, somewhat extensively on the subject.

Today: I am an Urban Homesteader.

In 2008, I self-published my first of two books with Dr. Deborah Tolman. With her knowledge and know-how, my writing, editing, graphic design, and web skills – and with support from several other friends and colleagues, we self-published the Tolman Guide to Going Green. We published one for Portland, Oregon, where we both lived in 2008 and one for Asheville, North Carolina, where Deb has sustainable connections.

We took a systems approach to sustainability. How do you encompass natural processes at home? How do you make going green accessible in a way that the apartment dweller with the smallest income can still be green?

Also, in 2008, it was discussed by Kelly & Eric at Root Simple.

Shannon Hayes takes a feminist approach in Radical Homemaking.

It’s cliched and made fun of in Portlandia.

Cities, towns, neighborhoods all over the world are participating in Urban Homesteading.

What does this cheesy cliche even mean?

It means, take your home and make it green by thinking in full cycles, like homesteaders used to do.

Would you throw away that tin can if it would make a great Christmas Tree Ornament? No? Well, you just saved something from the landfill. Go green! You are an urban homesteader!

Would you mow over that grass or would you bag it and take it to the curb? What, your time is limited, and you don’t want to spend the extra money for the bag attachment (or you don’t have a bag attachment because you’re using a Reel Mower)? Well – congratulations! You have just participated in grass-cycling! You are an urban homesteader!

You (attempt) to grow your own greens all around your small urban plot or your apartment? You are really keeping it local! Go green! Congratulations you are an urban homesteader!

What, you make your own laundry soap because it costs less than a penny per load and your family must be frugal with those limited dollars coming in? Congratulations! You are an urban homesteader!

I suppose our cultural ideas of Intellectual Property say it’s okay to trademark words. But, I think it’s a terrible idea. Trademarking ideas in this day and age of collective consciousness is simply another way to make a game out of doing good. Sure, a part of me agrees that rules can force us into creativity and better answers to our world’s problems, but sometimes it’s just gone too far. Trying to trademark a name for something that was already published as a book? Can this even be done? Wouldn’t the copyright law on the book trump the trademarking of the concept? And, how close are we to Big Brother when we try to enforce this collective consciousness? Seriously? In this economy? Don’t we have better things to do?

So, today, sponsored by Take Back Urban Homesteading and Crunchy Chicken, is a day of Action. It’s a day to Take Back Urban Homesteading. Write about what makes you an Urban Homesteader in the hopes we’ll jam the blogosphere with our collective consciousness.

Enhanced by Zemanta

I’m in a Food Club

December Frontier
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

A what? I haven’t really blogged about it. It’s central to my life. It’s been important to me for several years. And, still I haven’t written about it. My family knows. My friends know. My new friends all know that I am in a food club.

So, what is a food club? A buying club, in its simplest form, is a group of people who buy wholesale, together. A food buying club is composed of people who buy food wholesale, together. A group, acting like a business (some formal, some informal) guaranteeing a supplier of a minimum order in order to get discounts. The labor is distributed, then, through the club. That is, the club’s members sort the orders, organize distribution, and collect and arrange payments.

A few years ago, I found myself in a completely different reality than I thought I would be: I was a wife and mother and could no longer afford to shop exclusively at farmers markets. I was priced out. The single lifestyle was suddenly replaced with diapers (cloth and disposable), onsies, insurance, and another person’s very different tastes. I was, like many moms I now know, just getting used to single life when I was surprised with change. I was getting my organic, local ideas figured out when I entered the world many already struggle with: how to balance those single dreams with family realities. In my case, it was “single, organic, local, sustainable” dreams with family ideals and budgets.

Portland Oregon from the east. By User:Fcb981
Image via Wikipedia

I am not unique in this query. The path I chose to find a solution might be a little different, but here in Portland, Oregon it is gaining traction (so much so, it’s now mocked, laughably, and boy I cannot wait to see it, in Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein‘s Portlandia).

Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon.
Image via Wikipedia

Portland is known for its food snobbery. It’s known for modifying everything when it comes to food. “I would like my triple espresso, non-fat, organic, fair-trade, dark-roasted, single-origin mocha please, served in ceramic or my own reusable mug.” Local, organic, vegan, fair trade, Certified, sourced, vetted, heirloom, non-GMO are all words of norm in this food world.

It’s mystifying and interesting and eyebrow raising, all at the same time.

I want access to whole foods. Probably, not too far off, but certainly not too far into, a Nourishing Traditions menu plan. I tend to think of things a little simply (in my mind). We’ve been eating a certain way for 10,000 years: bread, meat, fruit, vegetables, animal milk in cheese and yogurt (and more). We’ve grown seeds, cultivated seeds, saved seeds, and processed them fairly local until about 300 or so years ago when our lives changed quite dramatically with the Industrial Revolution. I am not a fan of vegan fair because from what I’ve seen it ventures too far into processed-food land, which is ultimately what I think I (we) should be moving away from (and into a more wholesome whole food way of living).

Chicken Leftovers
Chicken leftovers. Sure, I should have picked a prettier picture instead of the what yielded 7 cups of shredded chicken, but this was a meaty bird. 7lbs, 7 cups of leftovers = lots of leftover chicken fried rice = YUM. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

But, what does that mean? My husband and I try, every year to tend a garden. Every year we learn something, fail at something, and succeed at something. We are no where near being able to sustain ourselves from our own toils and labor in the land. So, we need to outsource. I would rather not outsource overseas. My sustainable studies have taught me in order to have a secure food shed I need to source my food locally. Anyone ever consider a 100-mile diet? Some folks in Vancouver, B.C. did – and they found it’s HARD. Compromises have already been made, banana anyone? But, how can we make these compromises friendlier to those who produce food and to those who consume it?

By knowing your farmer. By knowing your distributor. By ceasing to rely solely on the supermarket and taking your (my) dollars direct to the producer. I was interested in more organic spices, personal care, and grain. Bob’s Red Mill is in Milwaukie, Oregon, the next suburb over, in the same Metro region, within the same Urban Growth Boundary. I called and found out they work with un-incorporated groups. The catch? We had to meet the minimum: 500lbs. I can’t store that much grain. One 50 lb bag of flour will last 6-8 months, so I couldn’t do basically 3 years worth in my house! But, if I found some people who would buy with me…

And the seed is planted. In 2008, I knew I wanted to build a food buying club.

The urban growth boundary edge at Bull Mountai...
Image via Wikipedia
Enhanced by Zemanta

Attachment Parenting as Paradigm Shift

Rousseau complained in his First Discourse how, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, we relied too much on specialists to answer our problems and too little on our own reasoning. He complained that we have Mathematicians, and Scientists, and Chemists to solve our problems, all commodifying humanity.

I had a discussion today with a friend, and advocate of Dr. Sears Attachment Parenting, who described attachment parenting more as a means to get in touch with our intentions, desires, and how we really want our children to grow up. Then, recognizing these things, making conscious decisions in our parenting to reflect those values. She bemoaned folks who have a desire to check things off a list and call that attachment parenting because it took the feeling out of it. Attachment Parenting, from what I understand of her view of it, is taking conscious goals and relaying them to situation-specific moments within the big picture.

I argued that attachment parenting, worded that way, was more a way to engage a paradigm shift in our society where we move away from these roles (as Rousseau described) into more holistic thinking and living.

What do you think?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Bath Tips

  • Hydrogen peroxide when swished in your mouth will whiten your teeth and works as a cheap disinfecting mouthwash.
  • Brushing your teeth with baking soda and water paste will whiten your teeth too.
  • A solution of 2 tsp. Tea Tree oil mixed with 2 cups water in a spray bottle, sprayed on and left, will eliminate mold spots in your shower for a month or so. Straight vinegar will do the same, most of the time.
  • Rust and hard water stains can be removed with full-strength lemon juice.

Bathroom References

Some Really Expensive Toilets are Terrible. Intini, J. 2006. Maclean’s. 119(10):84. (Magazine article)

If you’re thinking about greywater for the toilet idea… not all low-flow toilets are created equally efficient, and price is not always indicative of a toilet’s efficiency. This and other points are made by Bill Gualey, an engineer who tests the performance of low-flow toilets. Obviously invested seriously in the subject, Gualey has engineered a test to gauge how well low-flow toilets perform, and he is currently working on a new ranking system similar to the energy star rating for appliances that will identify the best-performing toilets for shoppers.

Water Savers. 1995. Consumer Reports. 60(2):118—124. (Magazine article)

Consumer Reports tested and rated 29 low-flow showerheads and 32 low-flow toilets and compares them in this report, by cost, brand, and performance. The article also reports on payback time for low-flow fixtures, which is 2 years, or less for a showerhead, and 9 years for a low-flow toilet.

Low-flow toilets with performance ratings in the very good-to-better range cost from $200-$700. That may be a hard sell for some budgets so Consumer Reports has added suggestions for retrofitting existing toilets to save water, including tank water displacement and dual-flush levers. While more cost effective in the short run, such options are not as effective at saving water in the long run.

Consumer Reports believes low-flow fixtures to be effective at saving water and costs and more efficient than the conventional models. One caveat: if they don’t perform well, you might be taking longer showers and making more flushes.

Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water. Van der Ryn, S. 1995. Ecological Design Press. Sausalito, California. (Book)

Alternative home waste disposal methods, such as composting toilets and the use of grey water in and around the home are important sustainable solutions. “Toilet Papers” outlines a number of viable options for composting toilets, complete with illustrations and detailed diagrams. Like a primer to grey water systems, the book describes how plumbing can be modified to direct grey water for use as irrigation or toilet water. Lavatory history and a human anatomy lesson make the rest of the book an interesting resource and it serves as a how-to manual for those folks with either some building and plumbing expertise, or simple determination.

Water. 2008. Rocky Mountain Institute Homepage. www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid123.php

The Rocky Mountain Institute’s website offers advice and information on the following water topics:

  • Water-efficient fixtures & appliance
  • Landscaping and irrigation
  • Greywater systems, compost toilets, and rain collection
  • Wastewater treatment systems
  • Drinking water quality

Civil action: promoting water efficiency and protecting rivers

This site is comprehensive and useful. Regarding composting toilets, there is a warning to homeowners that many local jurisdictions are unfamiliar with the technology, and therefore do not have codes enacted — making it difficult to pass inspections. The Rocky Mountain Institute provides numerous links for further information on all of these important topics.

Products for Water Conservation. Green Home Building Homepage.  www.greenhomebuilding.com/Products/waterconservation.htm#composttoilet

A good source page for information on water conservation products, Green Home provides links to suppliers or manufactures of:

  • Conservation Kits
  • Clothes Washers
  • Composting Toilets
  • Bathroom Fixtures
  • Grey Water Supplies
  • Barrels & Tanks

Check out this site to get ideas for your next home project.

Living Room Tips

  • ½ tsp olive oil and ¼ c. lemon juice makes furniture polish.
  • You can clean windows with vinegar in a spray bottle, then wipe clear with a dry newspaper.
  • Rubbing alcohol on cloths will disinfect most surfaces and costs much less than Mr. Clean wipes.
  • A solution of 2 teaspoon Tea Tree oil mixed with 2 cups water in a spray bottle, sprayed on and left, will eliminate mold spots in your shower for a month or so. Straight vinegar will do the same, most of the time.