Apr 7 2011

fast waste [day 315]

I love pretty much any condiment, mustard, ketchup, sour cream, grape jelly, salsa… you name it.  I’ve been referred to as the condiment queen.  This is a problem to me in the world of fast food.  There’s so much plastic and paper waste associated with it.  I looked up condiment packaging and found a few eco-friendly alternatives.  For me, this brings up a bigger question.  The word “ECO” is used a lot these days.  I’m glad people are coming up with eco-friendly options that are much better for the environment, but here’s my question.

Should we just be content with using products that are a little bit better for the environment or should we be trying to scale back our use of disposable products?

I’m trying to do both.  I’m not always successful as you can see in the photo, but those were given with my meal, not upon request, but just assumed I would eat them all.  I’ve cut way back on the fast food consumption over the past year.  Meals are supposed to be a time of fellowship and relaxation.  If my lifestyle needs fast food, I need to make some changes.

My ideas were validated a few days ago by the cost of fast food.  My 2 boys and I went to Sonic.  I’m usually all over the price shopping part of eating, but this day, I decided to let them order whatever they wanted.  They both ordered modestly, as did I.  Almost $18.00 spent and the kids were still hungry.  A few days later, we went to a sit-down restaurant.  This time it was me and the kids, but we brought a friend along as well.  Including ‘good’ food for all of us, one beer and one dessert, the total was around $35, including the tip.  There’s a price for all that packaging, not to mention the nutritional value of fast food.

Also, I’m not sure why, but the magic number of napkins seems to be 6.  Why do I need 6 napkins with a sandwich?  Do I look that messy?  If they give out 5 extra napkins per person, with an average customer count of 450 a day, that’s 2,250 napkins that go in a landfill.  And that’s just napkins.

I’m not saying I will never eat fast food again (although I’m leaning in that direction), but I will be doing it even less now.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat fast food either.  We should all be aware of the effects of it though.  There are times where the fast food meal is not a bad idea, but doing it regularly will cost you a lot of money, aid in destroying our earth and eventually will break your heart.


Jan 27 2011

surrounded by plastic [day 247]

Today, just a small collection of odd photos.  These remind me of a joke told by Steven Wright a long time ago.  He says he owns two rare photos, one of Norman Rockwell beating a child and one of Whodini locking his keys in his car.

Photo #1: Protecting the plastic

Seriously?  We need to wrap the plastic recycling bins in plastic sheets, and then place that wastefulness in a box?  What exactly is the purpose of the plastic wrap?  Maybe they did that so we would have something to place in our new recycling bins.

Photo #2: Surrounded

This is an old photo, taken in a motel room on our way to Mexico.  Did I really need a Starbucks latte that bad?  I have my own travel cups, but instead of bringing one I wasted a waxed paper cup, a plastic lid, a cardboard hugger thing and a plastic keep-your-coffee-from-spilling stick.  My roommate had a plastic bag sitting behind the coffee, and all of this sitting next to a plastic sign saying “save our planet”.  It’s a sign to place on the bed if you don’t want them to wash the sheets.  I wanted to place it on the bed, but we were only there one night, and I’m guessing the next guest would appreciate them being washed.

Photo #3: Sustainable styrofoam?

Wow.  What were these marketing people thinking?  Sustainably grown coffee, a beautiful story of how they’re helping the environment, all neatly packaged in a styrofoam cup.  My friend took this photo while traveling on an airplane.  Not like there’s a lot of choices at 32,000 feet above the earth.

These photos are just a few reminders of our disposable society.  How long will it be before our planet looks like a scene from a sci-fi movie?  No, I don’t mean the fun futuristic ones where we all own spaceships, wear silver clothing and have intergalactic space travel.  I mean the ones where people are trying to survive because there’s nothing left.  Yes, this might sound extreme, but is it?


Jan 6 2011

the green machine [day 223]

I’m really not sure exactly how much money I’ve saved doing this challenge, as I haven’t tracked it, however I know it’s a substantial amount.  I have no debt, I’m not always broke and comparing my finances to last year, I’ve spent way less.  I attribute the savings to these:

  • No retail. Buying things from eBay, craigslist, thrift stores and yard sales saves 75% or more off retail prices.
  • No impulse buys. Staying out of retail stores and practicing the 24 hour rule with my kids (day 140) works great!
  • Smart shopping. For the groceries and toiletries stuff I have to buy, I price shop shop in stores where I know the prices are generally lower.  I try and buy some generic brands and buy things with minimal packaging.
  • Usage. Will I really use this?  Is it something I’ve wanted for a while or something that just popped into my head?  If I haven’t been looking at something for a while, I wait.  If I really want or need it, it will stay in my mind.
  • Trading & sharing. I make trades with friends and share things like tools, yard equipment and things not used frequently.  This minimizes the amount of stuff I have, making cleaning and organizing much easier.
  • Counterculture. We didn’t do Christmas like the rest of society.  No Christmas bills!  It was still a very good Christmas, just different than the rest of the USA.
  • Look ahead. How long will this item last?  What’s the maintenance and upkeep cost?  Is it green?

Looking at all of this, my kids and I made a recent large item purchase.  It’s something we had in our old house and used quite a bit, all year long.  We’ve been wanting one for four years now, since we moved into this house.  The used market on the item has good availability, but difficult to find certain models.  Many are in working order, many are not.  Some require lots of extra money for set up, installation and transportation.  So what is it?  A hot tub.  Continue reading


Oct 19 2010

challenging the challenge [day 144]

Yes, I did it. I went into a retail store. It was Marshalls, and I went because I was asked to help pick out a tie and a shirt. Just for the record, we did look at the thrift store first, however it’s hard to find specific things in the right sizes. We were scheduled to go to a black tie ‘optional’ event, which means close to black tie. The thrift store didn’t have a white shirt or a cool looking black tie.

It felt weird, even just driving into the parking lot.  Once we entered the store, I felt this tremendous amount of guilt, like I was cheating on my challenge.  I wasn’t buying anything, but it was just strange to be in a retail store.  I decided to have some fun with it and see what challenges the challenge.  Off to the men’s department…

The underwear tie. Interesting tie here, pink with little designs on it.  Upon closer look, they look like little aliens, then after you look at it enough, it looks like little mini whitey-tightie underwear.  Or if you prefer, panties.  Is this a subliminal message tie of some sort?  Maybe.

We found the black tie he needed,  so let’s move on to the shirt.

The well-protected shirt. We found several white shirts, all of them nicely folded in plastic bags.  As Steve asked, “How am I supposed to try this on?  I’ll never be able to get it back in the bag.”  Hmmm, good point.  My thoughts?  If they want to sell it, they won’t mind you taking it out of the bag.  So we did.  Do you have any idea how much waste is involved in the packaging of just one shirt?!  Just in case you don’t, here’s the list:  Continue reading


Oct 17 2010

flying by the seat of our pants [day 143]

I had an interesting conversation with a guy I met recently in our church group.  Curt lived in Hawaii for a long time, after living in Amarillo, Texas.  We were discussing the “green issues”, possibly prompted from my lack of paper plates and plastic utensils while entertaining a large group of people.  He said when living in Amarillo, he didn’t think much about recycling, as it was never a priority since there’s so much room for landfills.  In Hawaii, that’s not the case.  Space is limited and people living there need to generate the smallest amount of trash possible.

As a society, it seems like we fly by the seat of our pants with things like this, then when it becomes a huge problem, only then to we create awareness and try to fix it.  (Halloween costume?  Check.)  Another guy in our group, Marc, was asking how we can be proactive to the problem of homelessness, which was our main reason for meeting.  Keyword: proactive.  What does it look like to be proactive in environmental and humanitarian issues?  If I answered that in one blog post, it would take me all year to write it.  I’ll take a different approach.

Why am I talking about this today?

Lots of reasons.   Continue reading