Fast food without waste? [day 17]

I wonder when the fast food craze will end and the eco food will take over.  What?  It could happen.  Doing this challenge during a road trip was, well, a trip.  2,777 miles in 8 days.

map-start-route-66

I let my kids buy their own snacks and I didn’t make them participate in the challenge.  They did some of the time, and of their own free will, but I didn’t require it.  We mostly stopped at restaurants, not fast food places.  It’s pretty easy to keep with the challenge at sit-down places.  Our last trek home was a long one, and eating in the car was a good plan.   Continue reading

$206 was my highest electric bill this hot summer

Yes, that’s my thermostat.  It’s reading 92°.   No, I don’t want to turn my air conditioner back on.  One cool day is all need to motivate me to turn it off until the heat is needed.  I’m tired of the high electric bills.  I’m fine in the low 90’s down in Mexico, why not here as well?  Honestly, for the record breaking hot temperatures we had, my utility bills were substantially lower than many people I know, even with similar sized houses.  How is that?  My highest bill this summer was $206.  That’s with a non-efficient 1,780 square feet.  What I mean by non-efficient is that I have 18′ ceilings with a loft floor plan, cheap windows with broken seals, exterior doors that don’t fit properly and crappy insulation.  So $206 isn’t bad at all really, but it could be better.  How did I achieve that low bill?  Here’s a few things:

    • Programming the thermostat.  I keep the programs high, like 82°.  Sometimes that’s comfortable, sometimes I turn it down.  If we’re not home, at least it’s not cooling the place to low temperatures.  Good to change your filter each month too.
    • Involve my kids.  Their incentive is any utility bill under $50, they get $10 each.  No doable in the summer, but it is in the winter.  I also charge them for leaving lights on.  Sounds mean, but it works.  Sometimes they turn off the lights, other times, they’re willing to contribute to the cost of the utilities.
    • Cook all at one time & outside.  Cooking several meals to freeze and microwave works well.  We limit the oven use too.  Sometimes we use one or two burners on the stove and rotate pots off the already heated cooking elements.  We also use the outdoor grill much more than cooking inside.
    • Laundry limits.  We do laundry after dark when it’s a tad cooler.  Full loads only with a partial dry cycle.  The damp clothing dries very quickly in the heat, but the clothes are still soft to the touch.
    • Use fans.  Only when in the room.  I don’t run them unless we’re in front of them.  I also added a fan in the kitchen, which helps while cooking.
    • Energy-efficient lighting.  90% of the bulbs in my house are the energy-efficient type.  This costs a bit more, but well worth the conversion in the long run.
    • Fix the ridiculous stuff.  The attic access in my house was putting out so much hot air, you could feel it when you walked under it.  I spent $6 and added weather stripping to it.  And even though my doors fit terribly, I replaced the weather stripping around them.  $40 made them a lot better until I can afford to replace the doors.  I sealed and caulked the large gap under the door that goes to my garage.  It cost me nothing, as I used leftovers found in my garage.

These are a few simple things we did that must have worked, because in the past, I’ve had electric bills well over $300 when the heat wasn’t near as bad.  Every little bit helps.  :)

back to school… supplies & demand lessons

Yes, it’s time to start preparing for back-to-school.  My kids are in denial that they’re going back soon.  I’m in denial that I have to spend a lot of money on school supplies.  Of all the challenges a year of no retail shopping posed on our lives, school supplies was the most difficult and time consuming.  (You can read about this: Back to school [day 58] and School supply update [day 83])  I think the difficulty is because of the specific list of “must buys” from the school district.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to providing school supplies for my kids, I just don’t understand why they require brand names and why they don’t let the teachers make their own specific lists.  We have the technology now to do that.

Back to school for us means going through all of last years’ stuff.  On the last day of school, my kids ran in the house, threw all of their school stuff in the back of the closet and it hasn’t seen the light of day since.  I pulled it all out.  My 1st find was a lunch bag… with a partially eaten sandwich.

Lesson #1:  Go through this stuff before it goes into the closet.

On to the backpacks and reusable shopping bags that are filled with who knows what.  Yikes!  Could they really have used this much paper??!?  All of this went into the recycling bin.  Can’t these workbooks be designed to be used more than once?  Is there a way to use less paper?  I’m not a teacher so I’m not even going to pretend that I could suggest a better way.  I think teachers are a huge blessing to our kids.

Lesson #2:  Get backpacks with wheels to avoid future doctor visits for back problems.  Continue reading

tomorrow is the last day! [day 364]

No, I’m not predicting the end of the world.  It’s the last day of the challenge!  It’s been a really good year.  I thought I might look back at the post from day 1.  Wow!  A lot has changed since then!!  Here’s the first post.

Day one of any long time period challenge is more of a normal time than a reality check of the radical decision you just committed to.  I decided to do this challenge very early in the morning, which is the time my monkeys are the most active.  Yeah, I should probably explain that.  My friend Steve says my thoughts are like a bunch of monkeys next to a banana tree, so we frequently refer to the monkeys in my head.  Monkeys are fun and cute, so we’ll go with it.

So I had breakfast with my kids and decided to tell them the news!  We will not be shopping retail for a year.  No new toys, no new video games, no new clothes.  After the silence, then denial, they reluctantly agreed that it was a good plan, although they thought a year was a bit excessive.  Well, with all the excess in our society, why not add a little more excess?  LOL

The ironic thing here is that I still have to shop sometimes for work, and this being the first day of the challenge, I had to go to Ikea for stage set stuff.  I had an Ikea gift card for $50 in my wallet, just to complicate things.  So off I went to shop, placing the stage items in the cart, along with a few things that I could buy with the gift card.  Well, as we all justify the stuff we absolutely need, my justification here was that I should use up the gift card since it probably will get lost or decrease in value over a year.  As I was about to check out, I put the stuff back.  I don’t NEED it and I’m not even sure I WANT it.  I was there, I had ‘Ikea’ money and everyone needs more stuff, right?  I still have the gift card and plan to give it to someone I know that is getting his first apartment and actually has a few basic needs.

I told a few people about my plans, or my challenge.  A few people thought it was a good idea and were not surprised.  (They obviously know me well and there’s not many things I can do to surprise anyone)  Others said it was cool, but they could never do it.  Let me just say here that I like to shop, but not like most people.  I hate malls and I hate spending money.  I like material things though.  There.  I said it.  I have an internal struggle with wanting simple and less fighting with a desire for more.  I was raised in a very materialistic house.  I have to call it a house, not a home, because a much higher value was placed on the material things in the house, not the people living in it.

I suppose I’m doing this to prove to myself that I don’t need a lot of stuff.  I’m also doing this for my kids to teach them about another world, a crazy different world that exists outside this wealthy, affluent bubble we live in.  A world where poverty and hunger exist because 20% of the world has 80% of the stuff, including food and water.  As Gandhi said,“There’s enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed.”

This challenge is a very small step.  I know I have a long way to go here, but if everyone just made some really small sacrifice, our world would change in a radically wonderful way.  The monkeys are still processing all of this, along with my kids.  Off to day 2…

I had an art show several years ago called Excessable, all of the photographs depicting the excess in our society, how accessible it is and how it doesn’t fulfill us.  I’ve used some of these before in my blog posts, but today, they have more meaning to me.

Continue reading

rethinking a good purchase [day 340]

Some would say I broke the challenge on a purchase this weekend, but if I did, it was in every effort to rethink good.  I was in Mexico, which is why I haven’t been blogging the last few days.  The internet was sporadic and I simply had something better to do… spend time with over 100 beautiful kids.  So what did I buy?   3 corn brooms and 2 padlocks.  I bought other stuff, but that fell into the approved categories of food and toiletries.

My Spanish is limited to about 25 words, so even had I wanted to explain the no shopping challenge, that would not have been possible.  These kids work so hard to keep the orphanage clean, I would have bought them a truckload of brooms if they wanted them.

The locks, although not spoken, had to be for the food pantry and cleaning supply room.  It’s just easier to maintain these when there are some controls in place.

These kids are completely amazing and they take care of each other like nothing I’ve ever seen.  I miss them terribly and I can’t wait to get back down there.  I’ll blog a little more on my shopping trip and other fun adventures down there shortly.  Shopping for necessities really doesn’t take that much thought.  We bought what they needed.  No more, no less.  So did I break my challenge rules?  Yes, no doubt, but it was the right thing to do and I feel great about it.

grocery shopping update [day 304]

I’ve gotten a few questions on my new grocery shopping plan.  I shop more frequently, but buying less, limiting myself to 25 items or less.  You can read the story about the downsizing and new shopping plan that was published in early February 2011.  Take a look.

Here’s the before and after photos of my pantry.  The after was taken a couple of weeks ago and even has less in there today.  I don’t have photos of the refrigerator or freezer, but they are sparse as well.  Here’s some of the results or the new way of shopping.

Money savings.

I started shopping at Aldi versus Kroger, Tom Thumb, WalMart or Target.  That, coupled with the 25 items or less, has produced the following monetary results.  These amount reflect groceries, the occasional toiletry items and some wine.

February 2011: $268.95

March 2011 (so far, 1 week left): $149.89

I started this in mid January, so I didn’t look at that month.  Here’s what I spent the 2 months prior.  Continue reading

no retail shopping faq’s [day 296]

Since I’m moving toward the end of this challenge, I’ve been hearing a lot of questions.  Time for a quick FAQ’s update.  I’m going to write the answers to some of these questions in tweetable segments.

Wow.  I could never do no retail shopping.  How are you doing it?

NO RETAIL SHOPPING motivation & benefits outweigh discomfort & inconvenience. #ilovetheresults #saved$ #+time #lessstress #trashsociety

Are you going to do a big shopping spree on the day you can shop again?

NO, no shopping spree. http://trashsociety.com NO retail shopping #1year #minimalism #happy #lessstuff

Is there anything you would buy new right now if you could?

a $3 part to fix a light switch. #similarsmallitems #notavailablenew http://trashsociety.com

possibly a pair of TOMS shoes. http://wp.me/p1jNEP-Fx #oneforone #toms #good

Are you going to write a book after you finish this?

Yes. #yes http://trashsociety.com #unlessGodhasabiggerplan #book #ebooks

You’re radical.  Do you really expect others to do this?

not in the radical way as I am. many r participating on smaller levels w/ HUGE RESULTS. http://trashsociety.com #goodintheworld

How does this work with food?  Do you eat used food?

yes, I eat used food. SERIOUSLY? no, I don’t eat used food. #newfood #shopwithbetterchoices #startingagarden

I still don’t get it.

TRY IT on a small scale. #try1tinything #1smallchange #thentalktome http://trashsociety.com

These are some of the most popular questions, and at some point, I should list some of the responses I get.  I’ve had people tell me everything from it takes way too much time to do these things and I don’t care to the economy will collapse if everyone does this and nobody cares.  I don’t think I can single-handedly collapse the economy and if nobody cared I wouldn’t have a huge number of people reading my blog.  Yes, I’m radical, but through my radicalness, I’m trying to make a point that people can do some small things that will benefit them and the rest of the world.  Many thanks to all who read this stuff and make a few small changes along the way.  :)

transfer of time, from shopping to sharing [day 294]

We’re taught from little on that we should always share.  As we get a little older, we have our own stuff, but we’re still told to share on occasion.  Then we hit our teens.  I don’t think anyone told me I should share anymore at that age.  We start backing off the sharing.  Then as an adult, I guess we’re not really expected to share, although if an opportunity arises, most of the time, we will share.  If we need something, we usually just go out and buy it, resulting in ownership of a lot of stuff.  Stuff that costs money, stuff that uses resources and stuff we simply don’t need.  What if we transferred shopping time into sharing time?  What if we started to share again?

So what is sharing?

share [shair]

— n

1. a part or portion of something owned, allotted to, or contributed by a person or group

— vb  (often foll by out ) (when intr, often foll by  in )

1. to divide or apportion, esp equally

2. to join with another or others in the use of (something): can I share your umbrella?

We all have things sitting around our house that we don’t use regularly.  A few days ago, I used a drill as an example.  Could we lend our drill to a friend?  If you need a hole and you don’t have a drill, could you borrow one?  Let’s do a little exercise.

Think of 3 things you have sitting around your house, not being used or used rarely.

~

Would you be willing to lend these items to someone you know?

If you’re like me, you probably thought of more than 3 items.  What would it look like for you to lend these things out?  With current technology, this is not only possible, it’s easy.  You won’t have to wonder who you lent that book to anymore either.  You can sign up on actsofsharing.com to borrow and lend with only your friends.  Not only will it track your items, but it will also calculate how much you have saved by borrowing, how much you’ve saved your friends by lending them things and tells you how many items in total your friends have listed.  Continue reading

creativity on the fly [day 293]

Since I’m planning on rebranding my blog, I decided not to print up business cards for SxSW.  Yesterday there was a drawing for a book from the Go Virtual session and all you had to do was drop in a business card.  I sighed after reading the sign, then put my brain to work.

I have a coffee cup cardboard sleeve I’ve been carrying with me all week.  Yes, I’m using a paper cup, reluctantly, but I thought at least I can reuse the cardboard sleeve.  Light bulb!!  I’ll write my info on the cardboard sleeve.  I make my regular cards out of recycled stuff anyway, so this is not far from what I would have anyway.  I wrote my info, I dropped it in the bag and I listened to a great session.

After the session, they did the drawing for the books.  The girl doing the drawing had no idea that was in there, but as she was choosing a card, she said, “I’m going to grab this one that feels different.”  I won my choice of the two books AND I got my paper sleeve back.  My little Ecogrip has quite a journey going here.  I think I might need to give it an itizen tag.

Sometimes easy solutions can be found for life’s little problems, all it takes is a willingness to do something.  Not bringing cards probably wasn’t my brightest plan, but they have plenty of recycling materials here and I’ve made several cards on the fly.  Less than one minute of thinking about a solution yielded many great things.  I got a new book, people got to see how repurposing works, my cardboard sleeve is getting a long life, less paper was used, something created as disposable has been used over 5 times now and I have a great story.

If you run into a small issue today, throw one minute at creating a simple solution.  :)