Mar 30 2011

I don’t need no stinkin’ plastic liners [day 307]

I quit using plastic garbage bags, or any type of plastic lining in my trash cans.  Why?  I just don’t see why we need to place trash in plastic bags, taking much longer for it to decompose in a landfill.  I thought back to my kids earlier diaper days and the Diaper Genie.  I had one and used it for about a week, but I never understood why it was a good idea to turn dirty diapers into plastic sausage links.  It made no sense to me whatsoever.

I have, what most people consider, a very small trash can and recycling bin in my house.  They’re so small they fit under the sink cabinet.  They’re both plastic bins, making them easy to wash and they don’t leak.  Also, the small size makes them easy for my kids to empty into the outdoor containers.

I ran out of plastic liners a few months ago.  I decided to try going linerless.  It felt a little weird at first, but soon I started to wonder why I ever used plastic liners in the first place.  They really don’t do anything other than make the trash less biodegradable.  If I have some wet trash, typically food, I can place that in another piece of trash like a plastic wrapper from another piece of food.  This new system has been good.  No issues to report.  Buying things to purposely throw away is making less and less sense to me.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned in this process and a few tips I’ve picked up in researching this topic.

Biodegradable garbage bags. These bags cost a bit more, but if you absolutely need a trash liner, this is a good way to go.

Repurpose shopping bags. Instead of buying bags, reuse the ones you get from shopping.  They’re usually not big, but just consider it a motivation to cut down on the amount of trash you produce.  Use these for the ‘wet trash’ only when needed.

Learn what can and can’t be recycled. You would be surprised at the list of what can and can’t go into the recycling bin.  Pizza boxes?  No, because they have grease on them.  Styrofoam?  Yes, they started recycling this a couple of years ago.  I’ve found that most waste can be recycled.  We fill up our recycle bin way before the trash bin.

Separate your trash into bins. Some people have a compost-type bin for food trash, separate from the regular trash.  I have a separate bin for plastic caps so I can take them to Aveda for recycling.  I don’t do composting yet, but the change in our grocery shopping habits yield way less waste and trash.

Consider composting. I’m still considering it.  :)

Repurpose you trash.  If you need a liner for something, use a bread wrapper or potato chip bag.  You’re not adding anything to the trash and you’re not spending money buying fancy plastic liners to make your trash more attractive for the garbage truck.

Use plastic washable containers. Get rid of the metal trash cans, use small plastic ones, then you won’t need liners.

If you’re not sure about this, try it for a week.  You can always go back to using liners.  If nothing else, you’re saving money on trash.

 


Feb 16 2011

I miss my lazy jelly [day 265]

We ran out of grape jelly a few days ago, and I quickly added that to our list to buy some more.  Now that I’ve changed my grocery shopping habits, I don’t have 23 jelly options, as it’s been narrowed down to about 3.  Missing from the new selection was my lazy jelly, the squeezable kind that is mostly no mess.

It completely crossed my mind to put the new high maintenance jelly into the squeeze bottle.  I was actually going to go through a lot of work and take the time to move the jelly into a new location.  Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?  I decided not to move it, and I made sandwiches for my kids lunch, and guess what?  It wasn’t horrible.  It makes me wonder how many times I’ve complicated something in efforts to make it easier.


Jan 15 2011

build it and they will come… [day 232]

Yesterday I had to shop for work again.  I’m designing an interactive wall that unfortunately need some new supplies.  I was mentioning the fact that I had to go to the store in front of someone that just heard about my no retail challenge.  He asked, “So, if you shop for work, isn’t that against your challenge?  Doesn’t that give you the getting-new-stuff satisfaction?”  Okay, so I’m not sure if those were his exact words, but you get the point.  Here’s the answer to that question.

Let me start by saying that shopping is extremely frustrating and a root canal might have been a better way to spend my time.  Here’s why.

Ikea. This store is a giant maze.  I only needed one thing from there, a couple sets of Dioder multi colored lights.  I go in the exit there because I can look in the “as is” section first, and it’s the quickest way to the spot where the lights should be.  After making my way through the cold warehouse part into the marketplace, I find the display.  Sold out.  After asking about the next shipment, I find out these lights are discontinued and they’ll be replaced with a new design.  The problem?  The new sets are not available yet.  I start looking for my bread crumbs and make my way back to civilization.

Walmart. Not much to report here, just another giant superstore that takes forever to get into.  They didn’t have what I needed, which was inexpensive, decent quality, modern digital photo frames.  I needed 5 that look exactly alike.  They had some cheap, low quality ones, so on to the next store.

Lowe’s. Now, I’m all about a hardware store, if I have to shop.  I decided to take a look for LED lights, similar to Ikea’s.  Low and behold, they had them, and for the same price.  These are actually a little better, as one controller will hold more daisy chained lights.  They had just gotten these in a week prior.  Continue reading


Dec 10 2010

Oprah's favorite things or advertising by the big O? [day 197]

Oprah always has her list of favorite things at Christmas time and gives them away to her viewers or audience.  A lot of this feels like advertising, although she has a few things to say about each of these and why she likes them.  Unfortunately that doesn’t rules out paid advertising.  If Oprah mentions you or your product, you’re an instant success.  When I worked for Barnes and Noble 15 years ago, we would have to order 100+ of any title she mentioned on her show.  She has a lot of power to make a difference.

I pulled up her list several weeks ago for my blog, but decided to pull it up this morning while I write this post.  Surprise!  Oprah has added over 10 new items to her favorite things.  Among the new items?  An iPad, Scrabble for the iPad, glittery Uggs and Coach bags.  I had every intention of believing she actual uses these things, likes them and then features them on her show.  Clearly this is not the case, this is yet another creative, and very expensive, advertising vehicle.  Why do I think that?  The answer is in the iPad…

Apple iPad. Read the blurb under the photo.  She says, “Words cannot describe what I feel for this magnificent device.  I really think it’s the best invention of the century so far.”  She continues on with, “Thanks to my iPad, I now read about four newspapers a day.  I write my column for O magazine way before the deadline because I love writing on it so much.”  Really Oprah?  If that’s true, why is it late making your list of favorite things?  Could it be that Apple contacted you to market this magnificent device?  If they did and you accepted it, good for you and good for Apple.  It’s a win-win for Applrah.  What I have a problem with is lying.  If Oprah really uses this and it’s one of her favorite things, then why is it late on the list?  This is advertising, plain and simple.  She writes on it way before her deadlines, yet this is a recent favorite things addition?  It doesn’t add up Oprah.  Maybe you should stop playing Scrabble on your treadmill and find a truth-in-advertising app.  It’s okay to advertise, it’s okay to say you like stuff you don’t use often, but don’t act like you can’t live without it and that you do things with it you clearly don’t do.

Now, let me take the direction I planned with this post.  I had planned to talk about a few of her items, then my next post will be Jody’s favorite things.  So I think I’ll go to the Apple store and see if they’ll sponsor me?  In the mean time, take a look at a few other Oprah 2010 items.

kiva.org. I started with Kiva because this is a great thing to do for Christmas gifts.  For $25 you can help someone from anywhere in the world fund their small business.  This is a great gift for many reasons.  It helps people in need, it allows you to help them, the person receiving the gift doesn’t collect a bunch of stuff they don’t need and you can see who you’re helping.  Once that money has helped someone, you can choose for that money to go out again to help another project or person.  Groupon.com is doing a matching program too!  This will be on Jody’s favorite things as well.

Hope by Philosophy. Oprah has been using this moisturizer for over 10 years.  Again, this was a late addition, so i took 10 years and 2 months for her to decide to make it a favorite?  Nope, I think it was a late addition, because it features a picture of a “certain little girl from Mississippi.”  I wonder who that could be?  Good thing she decided they’re a favorite or this company would be investing in some 3M stickers with some other not-so-certain kid from Montana.  If Hope really costs $38 for 2 ounces, it’s no wonder there’s a lack of hope in our culture.  My philosophy?  I can’t afford hope, although this topical type hope might be easier than the psychological hope.

Nikon D3100 SLR camera. I’ve been using Nikon cameras since the early 80’s.  My first Nikon was an 8008 film camera.  I have to admit, I’m more into electronics than clothing or girly stuff.  Whether you’re buying a camera, a tv, a sweater or a necklace, just make sure is something that will be liked and used, not something to add to the pile of stuff you or your loved one doesn’t use.

Baker’s edge baking pans. Here’s something Oprah really does like, as it was on the original list and she’s always talking about dieting.  First of all, this pan would be a diet for me, as I like the inside pieces of lasagna and cakes, not the crusty outside stuff.  It comes with Ghirardelli brownie mix too, which is a little funny since she’s also featuring a book, A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson.  A contradiction?  Yes Oprah, it is.

My point in featuring Oprah is that she’s sold out to the money making.  Anything will be on her favorites list if the company supports her.  What are your favorites and why?  Don’t sell out to culture or anything else people are selling unless you believe in it.


Oct 13 2010

gee, that will look great in my garage… [day 140]

The challenge seemed to go quickly at first, now it feels a little slower.  Things I might buy if I could, right now:

  • A gas regulator for my grill. It’s still having some issues.
  • Stain for my house. I want to stain my bright orange bricks like I did in the back.
  • Paint. For my house and for art.  I don’t need much, but I would buy a few tubes here and there when they’re on sale.
  • Camera remote. A remote shutter release for stop motion videos.

Okay, so the list isn’t very long.  I don’t miss the mall, as a matter of fact, I can’t stand the mall.  I don’t miss retail stores much either, although it would be nice to just go in there and simply buy something when needed.  The no retail shopping takes work when you need some small little item, like for a house repair or for the kids school projects.  Continue reading


Jul 24 2010

back to school [day 58]

Houston, we have a prob… challenge.  It’s time to buy school supplies.  The boys dad is buying their new shoes, which is good, because I have had a difficult time finding used ones for them.  I suppose it would be helpful if I knew what size they wore!  I realized I did not have that info when asked what size bowling shoes they needed last week.

Here’s the school supply list for Frisco ISD, 4th grade:

  • 1 Crayola Crayons, 24 count
  • 1 Crayola Washable Markers, Classic Thick
  • 1 Crayola Map Colors (colored pencils)
  • 12 #2 Pencils
  • 1 Pink Pearl Eraser
  • 2 Ballpoint Pen, red
  • 1 Highlighter, yellow
  • 1 Wooden Ruler, 12 inch with 1/8, 1⁄4, and 1⁄2 inch markings
  • 1 Fiskars for Kids Scissors, sharp tip, 5‐to‐8 inches
  • 2 Large Elmer’s Glue Sticks
  • 1 Spacemaker 8 X 5 School Box
  • 1 Assorted Construction Paper, 12 X 18
  • 2 Wide Ruled Spiral Notebooks, 70 Notebooks
  • 4 Composition Notebooks
  • 2 Packages of Wide Ruled Notebook Paper, 200 Sheets
  • 6 Folders with brads/pockets‐blue, purple, yellow, green, orange, and red
  • 1 Large Box of Kleenex Tissues

Notes Specific for Fourth Grade: Student planners will be provided by the school. Students will be using dictionaries and thesauruses in their work; if you do not have these items at home, you may consider purchasing them.

Issues

  1. Since this is a standard list, sometimes the teachers don’t need or want this stuff.  Some of it is used, some of the stuff came back home at the end of the school year.
  2. Name brands.  Really?  Is the school getting a kick-back from Crayola, Fiskars or Elmer’s?  I agree that sometimes these companies do make better products, but most times you pay a premium.
  3. My kids are going to be embarrassed by me bringing in a bunch of used or incorrect supplies.  Maybe I SHOULD join the PTA.  Can you imagine???  LOL

Challenges

  1. Finding some of these supplies used, such as colored paper and spiral notebooks, is going to be difficult.
  2. Finding all this stuff for free or in thrift stores is going to be difficult, and most likely, very time consuming.
  3. Brainstorming a way to change the system for the better, getting the needed supplies to the school, but also having a system for the extras.  (teachers, help me out here)

Solutions

I don’t have many answers yet, as I haven’t really started the search.  I am starting today and will keep you posted.  Here’s a few things I do have:

  1. We are reusing lunch boxes and backpacks.  If they want new (used) ones, they’ll have to go shop for them in thrift stores.
  2. We are using a lot of supplies leftover from last year, such as scissors, paper, rulers, etc…
  3. Share multi packs of supplies with neighbors.  If you buy in bulk, you can save money.  This is a greener way to shop too, as the bulk stuff usually has less packaging.
  4. If possible, talk to the teachers to see what they need.  This usually is not an option before school starts, but once school is in progress, you might have some supplies laying around the house that they could use for projects.
  5. Old folders can get a facelift with a little artwork and duct tape.

Off to thrift for school supplies.  :)


May 31 2010

mexico [day 3 & 4]

I’m leaving Mexico right now and what an incredible weekend.  Going to Casa Hogar Elim (and surrounding areas this time) is always incredible and I never want to leave.  Being there sheds a whole new light, well, maybe not new, but a recent light on the challenge.

I really don’t struggle with any desire to shop while in Mexico unless it’s something for the orphanage or food from the Sorriana.  I didn’t do any shopping, nor did I have a desire to.  I decided to help the ‘guys’ with the construction projects, as that’s more up my alley than cooking or shopping anyway.

Now I have as many power tools, if not more than the average guy, but I have to admit, I had some power tool envy going on.  I happened to mention that to a few of the guys, and counting the days until I could buy tools.  Finally, one of them asked, “If you’re counting down the days until you can buy stuff, why are you doing this challenge?”  I pondered that for a bit and after a period of time, I now have even more reasons for doing this and an added perspective on it.

Here’s an example of the positive change the challenge provides.  Without the challenge, I would have probably bought a grinder.  Could I use a grinder?  Yes, I actually have many uses for it.  Do I want a grinder?  Yes, I do and I have for a while.  Do I need a grinder?  No.  This challenge will not only save me money (which is not at all my intended purpose), but it will make me really think about want versus need and I will accomplish not collecting more stuff.

The second thing I thought about is the ‘new way of living in community’.  I already do this some, but now I want to be more intentional about it.  If I need to use a grinder for anything, I can borrow one.  If someone needs something I have, I can share as well.  What would it look like if we all did that?  And did it all of the time, before we ever considered going shopping and making a purchase of any kind?  I have all the tiling tools available to mankind and I frequently lend them to people so they can do work themselves and they don’t have to buy tools that would sit in the garage for years between uses, provided the tools ever get used a second time.  Bartering and sharing should be a way of life for everyone.  It would eliminate waste in most cases, saving money for things we really need and in the process, building community and building friendships.

 

Going back ‘home’ to my fancy 1780 square foot castle with indoor plumbing, electricity and beautiful furnishings, tightly nestled in among other castles with towering fences to protect our privacy… well you get the picture.  This is not easy.  I feel more comfortable in Mexico in areas where there’s no plumbing or electricity.  A place where it is dangerous to go at night, where gangs steal things and sexually assault women and kids.  A place where a home is made from leftover plywood scraps and maybe some old mattress springs.  A place where pure beauty exists.  A place where you are family even if you don’t speak the language. A place where you are welcomed and accepted.  A place where you could stay if you had no other place to go.

So you might be asking the question, “What’s so beautiful about a dangerous place with no modern conveniences, built out of junk with a few nice inhabitants?”  Simple.  It’s the people.  The people are beautiful, and a village built out of what we (in America) might consider trash, to me, is a very attractive representation of God’s love and my family through Christ.

How could you leave a place like that and want to go home, much less go shopping?