Category Archives: composting

plastic: the dawning realization

So, what I’ve figured out over the past two weeks: not using my car is like a walk in the park compared to managing plastic. You can clean and save all the bags and re-use them week after week at the grocery store until you are blue in the face and it will still barely make a ripple in the vast ocean of plastic that comes into the home simply in packaging.

recyclable plastic containers

And those are the recyclable kinds of plastic. Everything, it seems, is wrapped in some kind of plastic–most of it non-recyclable. So, we’re already a little bummed. The bag of plastic recycling under the sink is growing more slowly than it used to, but it’s far from empty. Where are we going to put all this plastic the entire world is now using to package everything–just packaging, mind you! This is just the stuff you take the desired item out of and toss–landfill, landfill!

Today, with little prodding from me, my partner remembered to use the recycled plastic bags I’d brought and we managed to get out of the store with No New Bags in tow. But hey, if you’ve set your sites on living a wee bit greener, ditching your car and riding your bike is a thousand times easier. Why? Because you have more choice in the matter.

Okay, a little bummed but undaunted, I continue in my quest.

plastic bags

And I wanted to share a little story. A friend of mine, when she heard about my new project to reduce plastic bags and such from my life, read the previous blog and told me of an amazing plastic bag feat: the trash can liner in her home office is the same plastic bag she’s used for 12 years. 12 Years! That is so awesome and such an indication of how plastic lives on and on and on and on….

So, the experiment continues… I think the next step is to begin learning about what other people are doing about Plastic. More soon.

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Days 323-331: MLwC, the easy Shake ‘n Pour Pancake mix & John Edwards

General Mills Shake n Pour

In the annals of things I would not have thought needed improvement: pancake mix containers. There’s someone somewhere who’s job it is to figure out how to improve on things that work fine in order to sell more products, and I think that might not be a very good use of someone’s time–I don’t care how much they earn.

Take Bisquick’s Shake ‘n Pour bottle of pancake mix. Is it really so very very difficult to make pancakes from the mix in a box? Do we have to make a plastic bottle to hold a chemically processed liquid so all you have to do (we’re very very busy!) is shake it and pour it out? I happened to see this product on TV the other day and really was taken aback.

Plastic bottle: will not decompose in that very busy Mom’s lifetime, nor the span of her kid’s, or even their kids.

Pancake mix: processing and shelf life virtually guarantee there is zero health benefit to the “food”–it’s just filling bellies, and likely has so much sugar and salt that the kids would be better off with a slice of toast and peanut butter. Much better off.

I know, I know–why should I care? But I’ll tell you why: I just spent a few days with my nephew who is 34 and fights with diet/nutrition issues. He’s grown up in a mass-consume culture, more accustomed to the taste of processed sugar than real food, and now when he’d like to change things, it’s extremely difficult. And as he gets older, his health problems will increase, his dependence on medications will increase, his positive participation in our culture will decrease–and that breaks my heart.

This is our culture, people. This is our country, our culture. I literally don’t think having a plastic bottle of pancake mix is making us any better–it’s just growing profits for General Mills.

Which brings me to John Edwards. I read the other day, though I can’t find it now, that some columnist was backing John Edwards, against all odds, because he felt that one of the core problems in our country, if not the world is the rise of unchecked corporations and of all the candidates out there, the one candidate that truly understands corporations and how to battle them effectively is John Edwards. It strikes me that that reason alone may be contributing heavily to his virtual invisibility in the run-up to the race.

But beyond his profession, Edwards’ tone and language on the campaign trail have increased business antipathy toward him. His stump speeches are peppered with attacks on “corporate greed” and warnings of “the destruction of the middle class.”
He accuses lobbyists of “corrupting the government” and says Americans lack universal health care because of “drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists.”
Despite not winning the two state nominating contests completed so far, with 48 to go, Edwards insists he is in the race to stay. An Edwards campaign spokesman said on Thursday that inside-the-Beltway operatives who fight to defend the powerful and the privileged should be afraid. (credit: indybay.org)

I’m not suggesting I’m backing Edwards–in fact, I don’t know yet who I’m backing. Any of the top three would be good, to be honest. But the issue with corporations is exceptionally important. We are currently suffering the burden of the polar opposite of Edwards: an administration so thoroughly in lock-step with corporations, the relationship is nearly seamless.

Apologies to Edwards for discussing General Mills’ ridiculous products in the same post as the presidential nominee, but in terms of corporate hunger for products above brains, it seemed to connect up for me.

Daily Stats (things seem to be getting way out of hand in terms of tracking progress in these final weeks of the year long MLwC project: Sat, Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat)
Car: 64 miles (P-bo, a dozen tasks and 8 days)
Bike: approx. 15 miles or so, several tasks
Ped: 5 miles
Bus: 0

Day 133: MLwC, food and the 4th

Here’s what the 4th of July looks, smells and sounds like in my neck of the woods:

seattle fireworks pic

Wall-to-wall people camped out at the beach from early morning on in order to have a good spot to watch the fireworks over Elliott Bay and Queen Anne.

Traffic backed up from the bridge all the way to and from the beach all day and until the very early morning hours.

The twin smells of barbecue and wood fires, combined later with sulpher from the fireworks themselves.

Boom boxes blaring, kids running around laughing, squealing, adults talking over too much beer and sun…but all having a pretty good holiday.

And food. Chips, hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, take-out chicken, store-bought cherry pie…a cornucopia of processed american food.

Which brings me to the Slow Food, an international organization with over 80,000 members started in 1986 as a reaction to McDonald’s and other american fast food enterprises. They focus on the intersection of community, farming, food production, taste, health, and the pure enjoyment of real, unprocessed food. Their mission statement:

We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy – a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.

Anyone who gets their food at a local farmer’s market is part of the slow food movement, whether they realize it or not. Anyone who takes the time to prepare their meals, who cares about what goes in their body, or who enjoys real, unprocessed food, or prefers restaurants that use local fresh and organic produce is part of the slow food movement. Because in our culture, it is much easier to just buy a bag of chips, pick up some hot dogs or burgers, grab a mass-produced pizza and knock back a six pack of fast-brewed beer.

We have come to expect so little from our food. In a fast food world, it’s all about quantity, not quality. In a slow food world, those values are reversed.

So, anyway, I spent the day with pals (so great to hang with your girl gang, Di!) and had lunch at the Pike Place Market. Later I rode home to spend the evening with some more friends; we had slow cooked spicy black beans, rice, guacamole, corn tortillas, salad, and a fresh fruit crisp with cherries from our own pie-cherry tree in the backyard…and man, was it good! How was your 4th?

Daily stats: (Wednesday)
Car: 0
Bike: 15 miles
Bus: 1.5 miles
Water taxi: 2 miles
Ped: approx 2 miles

Day 102 & 103: WLwC and doing more, not less

Seth Godin has a recent post about global climate change and marketing. I hate it that the two are inextricably connected, but they are. His point: don’t ask people to do less, ask them to do more. We, as humans (at least in this hemisphere and on this continent), are hard-wired for more–we don’t like less.

I agree with the more idea and think we can expand it endlessly, whereas less can be sort of a dead-end discussion.

In fact, I think that’s what we’ve been discussing here for the last few months–do more! Walk more, recycle more, compost more…and in its own systemic way, those actions will lead to less. No muss, no fuss.

greenfist.jpg

For example, compost more. At our house, a few months ago we began taking advantage of Seattle’s compost program wherein you can put veggie/food scraps in your yardwaste bin, which then goes into a massive composting process and becomes the basis for gorgeous flower and P-patch beds all over the city. We’ve done it big-time: recently when taking the garbage out, it seemed almost empty…and it was! The only thing in it was a couple of bags of cat-sand. We’d managed to compost and re-use almost everything during the week.

So, do you think Godin’s onto something when he says do more, not less and what kinds of good-more are you seeing in your neck of the woods in response to climate change?

Daily stats (Tuesday and Wednesday)

Car: 0
Bike: approx 10 miles
Foot: 3.5
Bus: 0

day 83 & 84: My life w car *and* Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

My Mom called and said, “you have to get this sauce: Frank’s Red Hot.” Why? Because cayenne will cure just about anything and it’s the best hot sauce she’s ever had. Hmmm. She said it’s curing her arthritis–and that has some basis in fact, apparently.

franks-red-hot.jpg

They don’t sell Frank’s at our local organic food store, couldn’t find it at the other market we frequent. But they did sell it at Safeway–a store I never frequent for lots of old, Chavez days reasons–so we picked up two bottles and tried them tonight.

The weird thing: Frank’s Red Hot has got the most basic ingredients you can imagine. Cayenne, vinegar, salt, water. That’s it! So how come my back-to-basics grocery store doesn’t stock it? And also: it’s cheap! Maybe that’s why–they don’t give away shelf space for nothin’.

What else is going on? John Lombard wants to save us from ourselves: he’s single handedly trying to raise awareness about the degradation of the Puget Sound, the destruction of salmon habitat. I’m still really unclear about how come salmon is a common dinner entre when its numbers are diminishing at an alarming rate, but here’s a site that explains how to eat salmon if you are inclined, while still protecting the environment.

Saw “My Name is Rachel Corrie” at the Seattle Rep the other night and was blown away by it. It’s closed now in Seattle but has already hit the road and is making a wave in EU international tour. This is about the young American woman who was run over by a bulldozer and killed in Gaza in the Palestinian camps. She was a writer with wonderful journals she kept from 5 years old on–the play is based on those journals, right up to the last 5 minutes of her life. Wonderful, amazing–one woman show. The pamphleting outside the theatre seemed a gross continuation of the same politics that killed this young woman and kills young innocence the world around. Made me sad.

What else? We just put organic compost on all the beds in our yard (we have a lot of yard) so spring must really be here even though the temperature is so abnormally low, the evenings still dropping to the high 30’s. Also, the local Farmer’s Market started–paltry pickings, it’s still too early for much produce, but it’s a great thing to have it back! Support Your Local Farmer’s Market!

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And I think that’s all for now.

Daily stats:
car: apprx 35 miles (2 people, about 9 tasks)
bike: zip
bus: zip
flexcar: zip

Day 37: My Life w Car

In Seattle, we have this great program for composting food scraps that’s just working out so well and reducing our overall garbage production. It just started in December, and it’s been part of our ongoing discussion regarding what to do with our food scraps.

As vegetarians, our food scraps are easy and ideal for composting; the biggest issue is we have more food scraps than a small worm bin can really handle. I, particularly, eat a lot of fruit everyday which results in a lot of peels, cores, and other fruit scraps. Then we eat a lot of fresh veggies that create a pile of scraps–cores, peels, etc. We’ve always wanted to compost everything but haven’t been able to, mainly due to the amount.

toter1.jpg

Well, now we just add it to our yard waste! What could be easier! At first we were skeptical because we figured the neighborhood raccoons would dig into it, but turns out that with all the other green material in the bin–leaves, grass, prunings, etc–the smell of our veggies and fruit scraps gets overwhelmed. So, so far, so good. And it has reduced our garbage by about 30% each week–amazing!

We still do the worm composting, by the way. The vermiculture output is so good for the garden soil, we could never stop that entirely. Anxious to get the garden going this year!

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Daily Stats:
Car: 8.5 miles/ 3 tasks
Bike: 0
Flexcar: 0
Bus: 0
a pie: 0