R124: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse Review . . . cha cha cha

Okay, this is where the blog is clearly a vanity blog, a private journal. Like so many others working at blogging about a sustainable lifestyle, the minutia of our lives becomes so very important. Any readers who may have followed me from Shakesville or another feminist blog might scratch her or his head and think, jeebus who cares about these details?

This is about changing lives in the simple little routines of our lives. This is how we start to save our planet quite dramatically – from the subjective terrain of our own vantage points. Our billions of points BTW . . . It is time to take a snapshot of where I am at right now.

I love this quote I read today written by a blogger from down under.
Every time we blog about reducing our fuel consumption, every time we decide to install solar panels, when we start growing some of our own food, when we step out of the mainstream and mend our clothes, when we decide to downshift or get rid of our debt, every time we blog about our greener lives – it makes the corporate world gulp and take notice. People power is an incredible force.

Whatever you can do, do it. Whatever changes you’re thinking about, make them happen. There is a revolution happening and we are leading it, my friends. It might be a quiet and gentle start but what we are doing is significant and vital. I’m sure the mainstream media will claim the revolution as its own soon, and will shout loudly about living greener and more frugal lives, and I know our governments will then be more pro-active. In the meantime, we need to keep encouraging each other through our blogs, we need to show and tell everyday about how our lives are being lived in all our small towns, in our suburbs and in our cities. We need to lead our governments to this brave new world.

My own revolution started just as I turned 60 at the end of last year. I started make-a-(green)plan blog to herald the changes I was going to take on to live a more sustainable life.

A1: Air, my first numbered post this challenge year I wrote the following:

What am I doing in the next year that will help with global warming – clearing the befouled air, that halo of atmosphere?
  • Water I use
  • Gas I burn driving
  • Electrical energy I use
  • Factory made food I consume
  • Food from outside local area
  • Factory products I consume
  • Waste I produce
  • Paper & Cardboard (or compost)
  • Glass
  • Fabric
  • Plastic
  • Cloth shopping bags
  • Cloth dish rags & towels
  • Cloth napkins
  • Cloth hankies
  • Cloth toilet wipes
  • Glass jars

Before I begin I have the observation that the first category, reduce is by far the most vital in my own mind. I am not a proponent of the ‘green’ lifestyle that is about changing nothing but the product brand to a ‘eco-friendly’ version any more than those vegetarians who must buy pretend meat products made from soy or chicken. My own belief is that there are dozens and dozens of meaningless products we have been urged (she says with sarcasm) to buy for convenience. I no longer drink that kool-aid.

The reuse category has been a great one for me to introduce into my life. These reusable elements are my favorite. Repurposing found objects weren’t even mentioned in my original list and yet this is where I have derived the most satisfaction. I have been photographing these and sharing them here, here, here and here.

The second category of recycle is one I feel least involved with in my own lifestyle. My goal has been to try and head the waste off before it enters my home. I don’t feel we should be entertaining all of this notions of recycled being a pass. There are so many costs involved.

I have reduced the water I use significantly. I used to shower daily. Now I shower once a week and occasionally twice. I sink bathe if I feel I need more frequent cleaning. I wear the same clothes for 3 or 4 days. I don’t wash my truck and outside windows like I used to with the hose. Frankly, I am sad to see the truck’s finish erode in the sea air. I don’t flush except when I poop and then I often have grey water from my shower or whatever to use for flushing. I found a definite drop in water use by not being as anxious about cleanliness. I live alone and I don’t do intense physical labor. It is such a waste to obsess.

My gas use may drop even more as I am giving my truck to my son in a couple of weeks, though I hardly drive at all and haven’t for more than a year. Almost all of my errands are under 4-6 miles round trip. I have all but eliminated grocery store buying, except for a few items I don’t have on hand or get from the farmer’s market. I hope to get a bike (would love the electric bike) instead.

My electrical use has dropped from last year and the year before at this time, I am using about 60% of what I used to burn. I would love for it to be 10%. I just gave up the television and the heater last month. I hope to zap more phantom power and eliminate more cooking with the onset of more garden salads and solar cooking. My greatest drop came from not having the water heater on and keeping lights off at night. Eliminating appliances, unplugging or turning off power cords and putting coffee in a carafe are all helpful when I remember. This is the part where repetition will help me this year. My own body clock might be better attuned to the sun and I would save more. If I was only awake when the sun was up, I’d see a real savings – as summer is a coming.

As I have said, factory food is fairly minimal. I haven’t had boxed food for some years. I would have to count my meals at my son’s restaurant as factory meals though, because they don’t buy local or necessarily organic. The meat meals I have eaten this year have been from there. This is indeed ‘cheating’ but I am not claiming perfection. I have also succumbed to some snack food and salami a couple of times recently. So shoot me. I am proud I am not buying meat. Three years ago I ate meat for three meals each day.

Consumer goods are all but eliminated. I did make the exception this year with items to help me lead a more sustainable life. I have written about the toilet lid sink, manual washing machine and the solar oven. Oh yes, I also popped for a recycled toothbrush with re-usable handle for replacement bristles and some quart and gallon jars for food storage. Factory made household cleaners are almost gone though I did buy ‘green’ laundry detergent and some bleach in a fit of fastidiousness a week ago. I have had thrift store buys, but these have no carbon implications – only frugality and clutter issues. I used to have thrift store jonesing and I finally snapped out of that a couple years ago.

As I said, the recycle category is a bit of a snore. My food goes to the compost, the little bit of paper (envelopes mostly and political junk) also go to the worms. What plastic, glass or aluminum that needs to be recycled does. I eliminated water bottles and most other plastic, don’t buy many condiments and no juices so glass is rare. My one big error is forgetting to take reusable containers instead of getting the restaurant stuff. Though they are switching to recyclable soy or corn take out containers, there is still the plastic bag. I am thinking of making a ‘Waste Man’ out of black sunscreen fabric and hanging him like a windsock out back. I will fill him with the plastic and other stuff I can’t recycle and call him Art (or John McCain, full of crap). If he fills to the brim, I’ll give him a brother. I will fill up as many men with my waste as it takes this year. I would hope it is only one. We shall see.

On the whole I am feeling I have made some real progress. This month is a reading challenge at Green Bean Dreams. I didn’t sign up and I think I should be reading more. On the other hand I have thrown myself into my neighborhood community garden and painting projects, so I have moved out of my comfort zone. I hope to also kick myself out of the house and into more fun past times in nature this summer. There is much to look forward to in the season ahead.


Chile said...

You've come a long way, Kate! I love the photos and all the changes you've made. Your writing sounds like you are finding satisfaction with the direction you are going, too.

katecontinued said...

Thank you Chile, that is very generous. I am finding satisfaction. I just loved all that you shared today at Crunchy Chicken's invitation to speak of making changes. You have some wonderful stories to tell.