Monthly Archives: December 2009

End-of-year round up: yeehah!

Some updates on two themes for the year, Living Green and Running.  I’ll save Running for another day before 2010 descends.

Living Green

One big change I’ve really enjoyed is switching to home-made toothpaste.  “Enjoyed” is an overstatement, in fact it was a pretty big adjustment. What most of us are used to wrt to toothpaste is pretty sweet gel stuff, easy to use and tasty like good chewing gum.  Home-made toothpaste isn’t like that so it was an adjustment.

What led to making my own:

  • Estimating the annual landfill caused by non-recyclable tubes emanating from our house, our neighborhood, our city (literally millions of tubes)
  • Investigating toothpaste recipes and history and realizing there were real health benefits to a simple recipe of baking soda, mint mouthwash, glycerin and flavoring
  • Trying it out and learning it takes about 5 minutes to make a jar of it that will last a month.  5 minutes = 1 month.

Some downsides:

  • My partner didn’t like the taste and refused to use it, thus my goal of reducing our personal landfill quotient was cut in half for a while.
  • It doesn’t leave your mouth “zingingly” clean-feeling, so I continue to rinse with mouthwash, but that container IS recyclable  and it added nothing new to my existing habits.
  • You have to stir it up sometimes, but that was good enough for Bob Marley so it’s good enough for me.

An update to the first bullet/”downsides”: I had my first dental check-up about 6 months after I started using homemade toothpaste and was given the most glowing report I’ve ever had from a dentist.  In fact the technician said, in that geeky dental technician way: “I have total gingi-envy of your teeth.”  Homemade toothpaste cuts bacteria way better than traditional toothpastes on the market, it turns out.  My partner started using the homemade version about a month after that report.

Another change we’ve put in place regards plastic bags. Even though we’re fortunate in Seattle to have a plastic bag recycling program, still, once you become aware of how many plastic bags you’re putting into the system, just picking up more and more becomes slightly irritating and disturbing. When you factor in the issue of plastic bags making their way into the oceans and waterways of the world, well, my head sort of explodes, ok?

We began tracking the amount of bags we have in a week: bags from produce, packaging bags for everything from rice to frozen berries, bags from the grocery store.  We made a decision to simply clean and dry all we could and reuse them at the store.  This was a clumsy new process and took time before the magic started to happen: after a while, we simply weren’t bringing IN as many bags.  AND! we now had fridge storage plastic and stopped needing to use so much plastic wrap.  All in all, after about a month, it was a no-brainer.

Upsides:

  • Once we figured out a path to get clean, dry bags into our shopping bags for weekend market/grocery shopping, the system worked.
  • Fridge storage is a lot easier–this was unexpected.  There’s always an easy to use bag in the drawer waiting for you.
  • We’ve reduced our recycling load, again–not by a ton, but by some measure for sure.
  • A bag is a bag is a bag–at first I was self-conscious about using bags with marketing on them, but now I don’t care.  A bag is a bag, it’s a container, that’s all.  Relief.

Downsides:

  • Making a process, and building a habit around the process takes about 3 months
  • When reusing the packaging bags, like from frozen berries, the store has problems with the existing bar code on the bag; we just turn then inside out now so the bar code doesn’t trigger.
  • Sometimes we have a few too many bags in the clean/dry process and it gets a wee bit unwieldy.  Just sometimes.

Those are the two GREEN initiatives that have taken root in our home.  Change is slow.  We’ve done lots of other things over the last few years but I wanted to highlight these two because they indicate a different level of commitment to change than other things we’ve done (drying our clothes on lines when possible, driving less, composting more).  Happy New Year! Let’s make it a good one!

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Running past 50: still going….

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….

Yesterday I went for a quick run that ended up lasting an hour.  It’s not like I haven’t run for an hour before, but I’ve only run for an hour or more when I was trying to reach a goal.  Yesterday….ahh, yesterday I just kept running because it felt so damn good, because the day was brilliant bright and chilly, because within running distance of my house I have two parks with excellent running trails ready and waiting, because the music on my shuffle was superb….it just all came together for an awsome run that just kept on dishing up great views, good trails, and winter endorphins.

Towards the end of the run, as I headed down to the path along the waterfront, the view revealed itself: sun blazing, glinting on the water, the snow on the Olympics bright and beautiful, it all took my breath away to a degree I nearly started to cry–it was all so perfectly unexpected.

Now today I look out the window and see the sun starting to burn the fog off the Salish Sea and think: wow, it would be so cool to have that run again!

But it doesn’t work that way, and I know it.  Every time I’ve tried to recreate a particularly fabulous run, or surf experience, or dinner date, or just about anything that peaks in a surprisingly wonderful way, it backfires.  It just doesn’t work.  Who knows all the ways and reasons something comes together in every way now and then?

So, I’ll probably head out today, and will probably start on the same route, and will probably have a secret wish in the back of my head that today’s run will be as good as yesterday’s, but bottom line: just run.  That’s all.  And be grateful every step for good health and a lucky life.

Oh and one last thing: after several months working on my stride, following the tips in Born to Run, the last week I’ve really started to notice a change: I have long stretches of running like a kid, back straight with weight forward on the mid to upper part of my feet, arms loose and pumping.  And guess what, even after a long run, the next day my heels are not bothering me so much at all.

Also, I’ve let my tennis shoes break down and taken the little wedge out of the heel…this summer I practiced running barefoot, doing laps around the soccer field in the park.  I have to believe it’s working: the coordinating muscles in my feet are super strong, taking some of the stress off my heels!

Born to Run is on my top 10 list of books this year, for sure.