I’ve been inspired by packaging [day 28 & 29]

I’ve been inspired to create an art series, or maybe this will be a new addition to my Excessable series.  The extreme disposable excess in packaging baffles me.  In some cases, I understand where they’re coming from, however that equates to about 10% of my understanding.

mens-shirt-blank-canvasMen’s shirts.  I wrote a blog post about the ridiculous amount of packaging in men’s shirts.  It takes a good 10 minutes to take a shirt out of the package.  I’m thinking Whodini wouldn’t even be able to do it much quicker.

My idea is to use the shirt as my canvas.  I’ll attach all of the packaging to it to make info graphics to educate people about the waste.  Why buy a shirt that’s packaged like Fort Knox, using 13 different types plastic, paper and metal when you can just buy one off a hanger?  Then you can give the hanger back to the store for reuse?  Continue reading

Cast your vote for good [day 22 & 23]

The purpose of doing a challenge is to stretch our thinking and to initiate lifestyle changes for good purposes.  For that reason, I’m not too legalistic with my rules.  The idea is to make good and logical choices.  I have decided to make a small change in my shopping habits for the remainder of this challenge.

the-shiftThe Shift

I’m adding 100% recyclable packaging to my list of approved things to purchase.  Why?  Because it’s near impossible to live this way.  I could do it, but not with a full-time job and being a full-time single mom.  It’s not sustainable.  There are parts of it that are sustainable though.  This process is all about how to make some simple lifestyle changes that have a positive impact on our lives, the lives of others and our resources.  Continue reading

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

Observations of a mad woman [day 9]

Observations of a mad woman trying to be environmentally responsible:

I’m mad.  Crazy mad and mad that simple alternatives are not even on the radar.

Almond milk is good, but I’ll likely go back to my regular skim milk.  I will make this on occasion though.  Plastic milk containers can be recycled, wax-coated cartons cannot.

It’s not easy to be a container label-reader.  Unless you have memorized the cryptic plastic symbols or the company has chosen to be helpful, telling you if the packaging is recyclable, forget it.  Most of the time I’m guessing.

Here’s how the system works. If the packaging can be reused or recycled, or is made from recycled products, it will be listed as such.  If not, it won’t say anything.  Promote the good, ignore the bad.  If nothing else comes out of this, I should use my design skills and simplify the recycling types labels and present my simple system to the EPA.  Even is I was trying to shop for recyclable containers, many would be difficult to identify.  Next time you shop, try reading the labels.  What did you find?

gab-the-box-terracycle

I found this label intriguing.  Terracycle?  Never heard of it.  Bag the Box?  That makes sense, but I need more info.  Continue reading

The parable of cat litter [day 3]

My goal today is to find a challenge-suitable cat litter.  There’s not enough litter left in the cat box to even cover the bottom of it.  I’ve spent the last hour and a half researching cat litter options.  Here are my findings:

non-environmental-cat-products-dumb-cat-platic-litter-searchLimited options for non-disposable or 100% biodegradable packaging.  I figure clay cat litter is a natural product anyway, but all of the added chemicals to deodorize and clump make it not so great.  I was just looking for litter I can buy in bulk, and place it in my own reusable container or 100% biodegradable packaging.  I’ll let you know how this plays out after my trip to the local pet store.

Products are designed for comfort and ease.  “Make your life easier!  Buy all of this plastic crap (pun intended), throw it away and start clean and fresh!” Seriously, a Diaper Genie for cat poop?  Yes, I’d like to keep the poop for a while and make it into plastic sausage links.  Really??!?

All-inclusive marketing.  Dumb Cat is pretty clever.  I call my cat that name all the time, but I don’t need a spray to make her dumber.  How about the  environmentally friendly plastic bags?  The polyethylene* allows us to make the bags thinner.  Thinner than not using one?  No. And I’m just picturing my kids taking that out to the trash can.  “Mom!!  I don’t how that bag broke, I was just walking it out to the trash can!”  Yeah, slinging it around and hitting his brother with it.  Bad vision!  Let’s move on.  Continue reading

dear fast food places, I miss you

For the first time in several months, I missed fast food.  I was craving a Wendy’s chicken sandwich and fries.  I was craving the food itself much more than the convenience of it, however that would be nice sometimes.  My anti-fast food thing is more about the paper waste.  I think we need to become less wasteful in our ways and this is my contribution to that.  It did make me think though…

  • What if I brought my own packaging?  Yes, this would be weird, but I wonder if the fast food places would use the things I brought?  They have strict rules to follow, not only corporate rules, but health department rules.  This might just be my next mini-challenge.
  • What if fast food places provided non-disposable options?  They would need more labor costs for washing dishes, but would save on paper supplies.
  • Is recycling enough?  No.  Most of these places don’t recycle, although they say their stuff can be recycled.  ??!!?  Look at us!!  We’re being green because this is biodegradable!  Great.  Huge landfills with lots of stuff that will still take many years to disintegrate.

Just a few thoughts.  Fast food is not evil.  Without my challenge, I might partake once or twice a month.  Every time I have, I feel terrible that I’m supporting something I don’t believe in.

Dear fast food places,

Please put those top CEO’s to work on coming up with some non-wasteful ways for you to do your business.  Our entire world will benefit from it, and you will too.

Sincerely,  A person that missed your food

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.

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?

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

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