Posts Tagged ‘waste’

Here are a couple of things I’m wondering about throwing away:

  1. The “holiday gift pack” I received containing body splash and lotion, heavily perfumed.  Scented stuff drives me nuts, but I hate to throw it away.  I don’t know anyone I’d be willing to give it to.  The bottles are not recyclable, by the way.
    Linguistic note: I only use the word ‘gift’ when it’s from someone I don’t really know.  If it’s a friend or a family member, I use the word ‘present.’
  2. Ohhh, a wonderful yoga book, B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health.  I bought it a couple of years ago, and recommend it highly to anyone with a serious yoga practice.  Here’s the deal.  The book came out without sufficient editing and proofreading, and the Iyengar family was very unhappy.  The new edition is all fixed, but they want people to throw away the original version.  I just hate throwing away any book, especially a hardcover book.  I am afraid it would be irresponsible to give it to someone else, even Goodwill, because who knows what’s wrong in it.  (I’m not nuts about spending another $35, but I might anyway, because the book is so great.)

I guess I’m very lucky to have these dilemmas. We have food on the table and a roof over our heads.

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My friend Mianne just sent me a link to Inhabitat, a blog about green design. That designers are thinking about this makes me very hopeful about the possibilities for the future.

On the Inhabitat blog I read about Chris Jordan, who was the keynote speaker for the Greener Gadget conference that took place on Friday. Recently I made a comment wishing there were a way to make art out of junk. Look at Chris Jordan’s photographic work. Click into the “Running the Numbers” section. I was mesmerized.

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Giving things away

My walking partner told me about someone she knows (or read about? or saw on TV? I forget) whose family decided that when they get something new they must give away two things. I have a lot of stuff that I don’t need. Many things I keep for silly sentimental reasons. It’s one thing to keep a baby sweater made by a dear friend for B when he was a baby, but another to keep a pair of pants I loved but that are really awful-looking now. (Actually, I have more than one pair of those.)

So I’m trying it out. I got some new jeans, and went through my drawers to find some to give away. I collected two grocery bags of clothing. It did occur to me that I should maybe save some of that stuff back to use as trade-outs for future acquisitions, but that seems ridiculous. It will get harder over time, though.

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This is really just an ad for another website: http://www.storyofstuff.com/

It contains a 20-minute movie about the stuff of the world – its creation, sales, and removal. Watch it, weep, then do something.

So I think I’m doing the right things, and then I realize I am not. I went to Target today and bought stuff. Our toaster oven has lost its little brain and thinks all toast should be black. I replaced it with a snazzy new toaster oven. Did I really need that? I bought three rubber boot trays to put under the bench in the mudroom. Not really necessary, just a useful item to keep things clean.

The more I pay attention to plastic and its relatives, the more I see. Right now I’m in guilt mode. Maybe I can get more positive.

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What’s the deal with sheets? I bought new sheets recently. (Tip: Don’t get the cheap 100% cotton sheets from Target. They don’t have decent hems and are very lightweight and rough.) They came in those plastic um, box-shaped “bags” with zippers. Are they recyclable? Who knows? The zippers would seem problematic. Are they reusable? Not really. When you get grocery bags, many uses arise. These sheet bags, or boxes, don’t lend themselves to any immediate use. I’d have to make up a use for them, which is silly.

Comforters come in these too. Fortunately, I found and bought two comforters, one for the guest bed and one for Willie’s bed, that were just wrapped with a ribbon, like a present. No plastic except for one tag-attacher.

The sheet bag-boxes are just more junk to go into places like the North Pacific Gyre. Where else?

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I mentioned this earlier in passing, but I want to give it its own post. CatalogChoice is a site where you can opt out of catalogs. It takes 10 weeks, and I hope it really works. Sitting down with the 15 catalogs that came today and declining them one by one on CatalogChoice is deeply satisfying.

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A couple of weeks ago I bought new socks and was so irritated at the packaging that I meant to write a post about them. But, as happens with so many possible posts, it slid right out of my mind.

Yesterday I bought more socks. (After Thanksgiving some of my socks traveled to another city.) Whoa! Totally different packaging!

The first 3-pack came in the plastic hanger that I think of as normal for sock packages:

Plastic sock packaging

This strikes me as way up on the top of the useless scale. Its purpose is purely for selling socks – keeping them together, keeping single pairs from being stolen, and displaying them on the rack. Once the socks are purchased, the hanger is worthless. I can’t even put it in the plastic recycling, because it doesn’t have a recycling number. Even if it did, I doubt that the recycling center would take it.

The socks I bought yesterday came in a cardboard package:

cardboard sock packaging

There’s a teeny plastic hanger at the top, but otherwise some very clever packaging person has managed to make a sock holder entirely out of a single piece of lightweight cardboard. It has fingers that hold the socks together, and the band that wraps around the bottom contains a picture and the size information.

As I’ve been writing about plastic lately, I’ve been more and more aware of it in the stores. I still buy things that come in plastic, but I’m making an effort to buy less and to make better decisions. In our consumer culture we have a huge range of choices available to us everywhere we shop. When we go shopping, unless we already know what brand, size, and variant of item we want, we have to study all the choices. (Shampoo springs to mind, but I’m not going to write about it now.) When I was choosing socks, I could have gone with a 3-pack of three colors (black, brown, grey), a two-pack from another manufacturer, several possibilities of socks made from different materials (acrylic, cotton, wool, goodness knows what else), other slightly different styles, higher end socks bearing well-known brands, and so on. Now I realize I can also base my choice on packaging, which is the only choice that makes a difference in the long run.

(Got the cardboard packaged socks at Target.)

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Oh, not really the wastebasket, because I’m putting this stuff in the recycling, but little better. (Where does that stuff go? Ultimately to the North Pacific Gyre, I know.)

I’d like to write a funny, lighthearted post about our silly dog and maybe something about how my foot is improving. But good golly.

I ordered some new sheets. OK, it really is time to quit ordering stuff and having it shipped in, at what cost to the environment I don’t even know. But (whine) I couldn’t find what I wanted in town, and this great mail order company had the sheets I wanted. (end whine)

That’s my bad part.

Then, the sheets were backordered in some strange way so that I got 3 separate packages, each plasticked, each trucked in separately. Two arrived on the same day. The other one the next day. That’s their bad part.

I like this company. I imagine this issue has something to do with their computer system, which doesn’t take into account that you could, say, hold all the packages backordered to arrive the same week, and send them together. I might write to them about it.

Eyes rolling back in head . . .

Maybe next time I’ll be light and funny.

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I don’t want you to think I’m asking for a pat on the back about how much we recycle or reuse when I write about what’s in our trash. I’m really looking at how much perma-junk our household of two reasonably careful people is creating all the time. We’re pretty good about reusing plastic. We’ve used the same cereal containers for about 10 years (acquired during a bad grain moth infestation). I reuse every plastic food bag as long as I can, until it gets holes in it or is too dirty to reuse.

This morning I had cranberry relish and Swedish crispbread, both being stored in Rubbermaid plastic containers. I made the relish last night, so in our wastebasket we now have two bags that cranberries came in, and a plastic apple bag with holes in it (not easily reusable). I threw moldy bread into the compost, and threw out the bag. I usually drink an Emergen-C, which comes in a little foil envelope – thrown away. We buy our coffee in bulk, using paper bags that are practically family heirlooms. I ran out of hair conditioner this morning. The bottle went in the recycling. How much plastic can we recycle? It’s still there, just in different form. Our newspaper comes in a blue plastic bag every day. Those go in the recycling. I wonder if I could get the carrier not to use a bag. I doubt it, but I can ask.

I went to Target but didn’t take my own bags. I made the checker consolidate, but I still walked out of there with two plastic bags. And what was in them? A plastic bottle of oil. A plastic spray bottle of environmentally gently all-purpose cleaner. A bag of sugar, yay, biodegradable! Mascara in a plastic tube, blisterpacked to cardboard for easy display and theft prevention. A new throw rug with a non-slip rubber backing (OK, 4 rugs so I can see which one looks OK) – what is that backing made of? Two plastic bottles of dish soap (2 for 1 sale). From the natural foods store, I brought out one plastic bag each of apples and oranges.

Oh gosh, there’s more. I find this critically important, and I can’t see how we’re going to fix it.

Take a look at the video below, Alphabet Soup, about the double-Texas-sized floating trash mass in the North Pacific Gyre. It’s horrifically fascinating.

Or look at the LA Times series on the altered ocean.

I’m going to go make chicken soup (chicken in plastic, broth homemade but stored in plastic, noodles in plastic).

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I plan to write more about what’s in the wastebasket, but for now I have another detritus-themed post.

Willie left for college a year ago last September, and when he left we asked him to be all packed up for our November move to the new house. (Tip: Don’t move in the same year your child goes to college, for a multitude of reasons.) He only packed in a half-assed way, and mostly resorted to throwing junk in boxes without lids, and with things sticking out the top for maximum unstackability.

Several boxes ended up in the garage at the new house, and every time Willie has come home I’ve tried to get him to sort through them. Last week he finally gave them a cursory look through before telling me everything could go to Goodwill. I could ALMOST do that, but it was all dusty and some of it was total junk and I didn’t want to make them throw it away (e.g., old Happy Meal toys, bent spiral notebooks with two pages used, gloves with holes in the fingers, disreputable t-shirts).

This meant that I had to look at everything. The t-shirts will become shop rags for Rick. The good shirts will be washed and folded before they go to Goodwill. I found a huge box of buttons – who gave those to him? My sister? I’m keeping them in my sewing cabinet. A box of Magic the Gathering cards, which may or may not be valuable. A yellow legal pad. And then some things that I just don’t know what to do with – cool rocks, some fossils, a little carabiner flashlight – oh, right, I can put that in the Goodwill box. I hate to throw away the Koosh balls. When we traveled back east when Willie was young we used to play Koosh catch in airports while we waited around between flights. But do I need to keep them?

Then I came back in from the garage and looked at my father’s desk, which he left me when he died last year. I thought we had cleaned it all out the week after he died, but in fact quite a bit was left. Some of it is easy to ditch – the big brochure from the local hospital springs to mind – and some of it is hard. I can’t throw out the list in his handwriting of all the places he and Mom ever lived. I’ll hang onto it, I guess, and then when I die Willie can sort through the desk and decide. Maybe it will have crumbled into dust and he won’t have to.

B.B. King is on TV in the next room. Gotta go.

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