Dec 27 2010

the story of stuff [day 214]

I have an idea.  I know, no surprise…

I stumbled upon this little video called The Story of Stuff.  It’s a little over 20 minutes long, but I watched the whole thing.  Before I get into the details here, take a look if you haven’t seen it.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, skip around and take a quick look.

Although I like the overall message, I was questioning the statistics as I was watching it.  The presentation is awesome, the content easy to follow.  Again, the overall message here is a good one, but I have a few things to discuss and challenge.

The big picture of stuff. The message here is that we, as Americans, are abusing our planet, taking advantage of the disadvantaged and that we have all fallen victim to materialism.  On many levels, this is true, but some of the statistics seemed a little off to me.  After a bit of research on this video, I found they are using it in schools to teach children about materialism and “stuff”.  I’m not opposed to that at all, but this video is not just creating awareness, it’s trying to impose a guilt trip, and as Fox News stated, “Other critics have called it a “firehose of paranoia” meant to scare children into becoming environmental activists. They say the video romanticizes poverty in its attack on industrial nations and corporations.

I hope we’re teaching our kids to watch something like this and process it in a healthy way, as they should do with everything.  My kids question things, think about everything they take in, and sometimes have a viewpoint that even I haven’t thought of.  This video’s overall message is a good one, and unfortunately, it does paint an accurate “big picture” of our wasteful society.  The reason I say that, is because this video could be remade without all the statistics, showing both sides of the message about consumerism.  That’s a hint for my idea…   Continue reading


Dec 19 2010

cool art made from junk mail [day 207]

I got an awesome little gift a few days ago, unexpected and very much related to trash society.  The gift?  An origami box with a photo album inside, all made with junk mail and paper stuff from the recycling bin.  Check it out…

Continue reading


Dec 15 2010

can't live with it, can't live without it… reversed [day 203]

I ran across two interesting things this week, one posted on my Facebook page and the other in a Yahoo! Groups post on Compact.

These sites, xmaswithoutchina.com and the Marie Claire Yahoo! Shopping post, when combined together, portray a picture of our consumeristic “can’t live with it, can’t live without it”, but not necessarily in that order.  First, we must have it.  How many times have you looked at the “made in” tag on something you purchased?  I don’t do it very often, if at all.  Well, not now anyway, because of the challenge.  But before, when I was shopping, I rarely looked at these tags.  It’s a law that the place of origin, or manufacturing place be listed on the item, or on the packaging.

I decided to pick up 50 random items in my house to see where they were made.  My findings were not surprising.  60% were made in China, 38% in other countries besides the USA and 2% in the USA.  The 2%, accounting for one item, is an art bowl, purchased at a local art show.  Just in case you’re wondering, the items were such things as clothing, electronic games, toys, computer equipment, home decor items, alarm system, cookware, bedding, light fixtures and small appliances.

The Christmas without China is a challenge to take everything made in China out of your house and to shop for Christmas gifts, making sure none are made there.  This is the start of a documentary on this subject, by a man from China.

The 19 unusual gifts nobody wants is crazy stuff, available for purchase just in time for Christmas.  Let’s look at a couple of these items.   Continue reading


Nov 8 2010

do I need to look on craigslist to find a freecycle? [day 165]

I love the concept of freecycle.org, however, I have the worst luck actually getting anything.  I’ve responded to emails the second they hit my inbox, and the stuff seems to be gone.  It’s like calling into a radio station to be the 63rd caller.  Do they even do that anymore?

I love craigslist, almost everything in my house came from there.  I love eBay too, as I used to be a power seller (and shopper) and I’ve done over 5,000 transactions on there.

I do love the concept of freecycle, but I’m not a fan of it being a Yahoo group.  I can use it, but it’s not a user-friendly site.  I missed many things on there, trying desperately to be the first responder, things like A/C filters, canning jars, art supplies and even a hot tub.  I knew the hot tub would go quick.

I’ll keep trying freecycle, because I believe in what you’re doing, keeping stuff out of landfills.  Other people’s trash is definitely my treasure.


Oct 9 2010

why does anyone need a speaker under their butt? [day 135]

So…  I don’t get it.  I can see a chair with speakers, but I really don’t get the speaker under the butt, or between the legs design here.

Does anyone else understand this?  If so, please comment.

This is what I love about thrift stores though.  So much stuff comes through these places, and who knows what ‘it’ is?  I guess that’s where creativity comes in.  What can you do with it to keep it in use and out of a landfill?

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.  A very good reason to donate stuff you don’t want, as someone out there will want it.  :)


Aug 21 2010

paper vs. plastic paper [day 85]

Paper plates.  Can you call them that anymore?  Most of them are made from paper with plastic coatings, foam or plastic.  I choose not to use them most of the time, but going camping, I figured that’s not a bad idea.  I thought back to my girl scout days and remembered a camping trip where I had a canteen and some little metal dishes in a nylon mesh bag.  We didn’t use a bunch of disposable stuff, we ate and washed our dishes.  I don’t remember it being much of a hassle.

So off to the grocery store for food.  Just for the record, I did not buy the paper plates, as that’s not on my challenge list of acceptable things to buy.   I know they make environmentally friendly paper plates, but I didn’t see any.  I thought I would just select a small pack of paper plates with no plastic coating, lining, prints or any other special features.  My thoughts?  Simple paper shouldn’t be too bad for landfills.

So here are my choices, well, I can’t call it that, it was one choice.  A 300 count pack of paper plates.  No small packs, just the jumbo size.  We got it, figuring I could bring the extras to work or use them for art projects or something.

Paper plates are not evil. I’m blogging this for a couple of reasons, not because I have disposable plate issues.  So what are the reasons?  This is shopping in general, not just paper plates.  😉

  • The paradox of choice: we have a selection of many types, but do we have a good selection?  Is there another place to shop that might have better choices?
  • Is there an alternative to what we are buying? This might not be necessary in many cases, but it’s a good thought process.  My choice is not to use paper plates because I want to minimize my use of disposable paper, plastic and foam products.  At home, I have all mismatched dishes.  I have a lot so I can entertain and still have many plates and bowls, and if one breaks, I simply buy more at the thrift store.
  • Am I willing to go without? Sometimes no, but sometimes yes.  By thinking about it, I can make better use of my money and find creative ways to not need as much stuff.

Want to know the kicker here?  A raccoon, probably the one that ate our loaf of bread, got into the paper plates and approximately 150 of them were all over the camp site.  Raccoons are evil.  😉


Jun 30 2010

the challenge: day 34 [digital hoarders and dead computers]

I just realized something yesterday, not only do I have some hoarding tendencies, I’m clearly a digital hoarder.  I save all of my files, even the ones I know I will never use again.  I have several binders filled with disks, many of them useless due to technology changes over the past several years.

At the risk of age stamping myself here, my first computer was a 286 Packard Bell, 40 megabyte hard drive, 1 megabyte RAM, 5 1/4 floppy drive & 3.5 floppy drive.  Wow.  Realization number 2, I’m a mental hoarder too.  Who remember this kind of stuff??!?!  Sadly, I didn’t have to look it up.

I said this in an earlier blog post, the only difference between 99.9% of us and the people on the Hoarders TV show, is that we can, and do, part with our stuff.  Can you imagine how many computers are in landfills?  Planned obsolescence on computers is what, 4 years at best?  The oldest computer I own is approximately 8 years old.  It runs a few old PC programs and sometimes, my vinyl plotter.  My other “old” computer is a G4 PowerBook.  It’s 4.5 years old, runs slow, but not bad for its age, however the screen started to go last week.

Like most of my stuff, I will keep these until they die.  When the inevitable death arrives, I will find a program for electronics recycling or…

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Jun 16 2010

recycling the recycling conversation [day 19 & 20]

On day 14 of the challenge, I blogged about a recycling program I set up at our church building.  I have received some emails about my “free recycling program”, challenging me with the question, “Is it ethical?”

Let me start by saying these people have some very points, and I do take this very seriously.  If I in anyway thought this would be a problem, not only would I have not done it, but I also wouldn’t be encouraging everyone else to join in on it.  There’s something else you should know, these comments (as far as I know) are from people that don’t personally know me.  They were sent to me anonymously through someone I do know.  With that being said, I’m glad to see some opposing views, as it opens the door to some awesome conversations.  I encourage your feedback!  Please feel free to post your comments on my blog, good or bad.  I think debate about critical issues is a good and healthy process.

Issue #1: Confidentiality

Someone was worried that we were recycling confidential papers that might have information about people in our church.  We have a shredder and all of that type of paper is shredded.  No worries there.  :)

Issue #2: Residential vs. Commercial

Instead of trying to paraphrase this, I’m going to quote this person.

“The question of ethics still remains. The recycling program set up for a business is set up for a business. The recycling program for a home is set up for a home because they assume the volume will be less and there are typically more homes in a city than there are businesses so the cost evens out to a lower amount per home based on volume.  So by taking the business recycling to your home, you are circumventing the city regulations/rules/costs, etc. by using your home instead. If everyone starts to do this, then the cost of the home recycling item on residential bills would need to increase to help pay for it. Long shot that it would be a volume buster but you never know. I’m pretty certain the city wouldn’t really want for this to happen. Just not sure it’s an ethical thing for the church to be doing.”

I believe this person has a great point.  My thought is that we are simply filling up the leftover space in our bins.  Extra pick-ups cost more and nobody is bringing that much home.

Issue #3: Why bring it home?

Again, I’ll just share what I received.

“I don’t get why you have to take the recycling home when you can just take it to a recycling pick up place.  They have several in (our city).  Don’t they have those in other towns?  We almost always fill up our recycle bin, so I wouldn’t just take some home from church to throw in mine.  I personally think it’s in poor taste  for a church to suggest this, even though it does save them money.”

Again, I take these comments seriously and my intention was to be a good steward of God’s resources.  So after all of the feedback, I decided to take a little field trip.  My kids and I visited the recycling center here in Frisco.

The Scoop on Recycling

I looked around at the recycling center.  It’s been a while since I’ve been over there, and they still have the fun painted recycling containers.  We went inside and I found someone that could answer my recycling questions.  I told her where I work, explained in detail the program I set up and my reasons for doing it.  Then I asked the big questions, “Is this unethical?  Is it okay to utilize the extra space in our bins?”  She suggested that we bring it to the center and gave me the hours of operation.  The home bins are not a problem, however, due to the nature of our business type recycling, they have specific bins for paper and cardboard.  It’s not a problem to bring some of it home, but it does make their jobs easier if we bring it to the center.

The Solution

I will modify the program to bring everything to the center and only use home bins for small loads or overflow if needed.  Once this is in place, we will be able to expand our recycling to plastic, cardboard and other materials.  My son also decided to get a bin for recycling batteries.  We can bring those to the center as well.

Also, someone suggested I contact a few local schools.  Some of the schools have programs for recycling where they get credit or financial benefits for the amount the collect.  If any of those apply in our local schools, we will work with them.

One last thing.  I’m teaching this stuff to my kids, not only the recycling part, but the process of finding creative solutions to making our planet a better place.  I very much appreciate the people that gave their time to voice concerns.  Their input prompted me to do more research, and in the long run, will make this program successful in many ways.  If there are other concerns or questions out there, please post them.  This is my intended purpose for trashsociety.com.  I want to start people thinking creatively…   How we can significantly cut down our waste?   Why is that even important?  If you’re reading this, then you must be somewhat interested, or really bored.  😉

Here’s some  more pics from the recycling center…