Friday, April 9, 2010

Changing times

I saw three members of my family over the Easter weekend and it was awesome. Sometimes I feel very isolated up here in the north. I'm not big on phone calls, so the geographic distance between me and my siblings is a barrier to feeling close to family. This is also not a city that attracts tourists easily, I think. If you only get one or two short vacations in a year, well, let's just say that my home isn't often chosen. And then sometimes it is and there is great rejoicing.

In spite of our lack of closeness, we seem to be moving down some similar routes in our thinking. It was great to discuss things like excessive consumption and wasteful lifestyles, gardening and simple living.

Sometimes I read environmental blogs and peak oil articles and it can be kind of depressing. My sister left a small stack of magazines for the girls to read. One included an article about garbage.

Did you know that a plastic container will last somewhere between 1 million years and forever?? I use cloth bags for shopping and reuse as much as I can, but even if I feel good about reusing my Tupperware for 10 years, it will still last forever after I'm done with it. And what about the plastic that only gets used once? And there is plastic in every room in my house. All will eventually get brittle, crack and be un-useable and then last forever in a landfill somewhere or in the big floating garbage island in the ocean.

Just because plastic (and other garbage) is easily accessible, cheap and convenient, we should be thinking of it as an extreme luxury when we use it. "Just because we can" is not a good excuse for doing something and it bothers me that I continue to contribute to the problem.

Having said that, I look at what I do today that I didn't do five years ago and don't get too bummed out about it. One forum that I contribute to had a helpful discussion where we listed all of the things we used to buy and don't anymore. This means that we are either using less, doing without, re-using or upcycling, or have found alternatives that use less fossil fuels, less packaging. Less is the new More. :-)

Here was my list of what I almost never buy in the stores and it makes me feel better:
  • kleenex
  • paper towels
  • plastic wrap (although I can't find a plastic-less solution for everything yet)
  • Ziplock bags
  • yoghurt
  • bread
  • mayonaise
  • cookies (except mandatory Girl Guide cookies!)
  • crackers
  • menstrual supplies
  • new fabric
  • most vegetables
  • eggs
  • most herbs (I saved rosemary, parsley, poppy seeds, chives)
  • packaged mixes (soups, gravy, chili, taco, etc.)
  • instant oatmeal
  • cereal
  • relish, chutney, jam, canned fruit
  • canned tomatoes
  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • hair spray (although I think I'll go back to that - I can't find an alternative)
  • deoderant
  • hair gel
  • household cleaners (floor, window and bathroom cleaners)
  • laundry detergeant

This wasn't at all the case a few years ago, so I'm happy that I'm making a difference in my small way. I still read the depressing blogs sometimes, but if I just keep taking baby steps I don't let them get me down.

This year I'm getting more gardening space, so I'm hoping to grow a few more things that I didn't have room for. I'd like to try corn again, and we've been living off of the potatoes of other people's gardens this year. I'd like to either grow my own or be able to grow excessive amounts of other things so that I too can contribute to someone else's pantry. It would be great to trade veggies for local meat or dairy because that's what our commercial packaged products seem to be. Any meat "growers" out there?

It's a pity you can't trade veggies for natural gas...


Rosa said...

You are way ahead of me in the not buying department!
Good for you! :D

Tamara Jansen said...

I'm not really sure how I would do without some of the things on your list. No plastic wrap?! That's a toughy!

Unknown said...

Ev, we'll trade veggies for meat! :) We have lamb (I know it's not your fave) and some beef as well!

We are growing a garden, of course, but that doesn't mean we'll have enough of all the things we want. I'm not growing any broccoli or cauliflower, and I'm unlikely to have enough corn - and if you get anything that is less-than-people-quality, we have critters who will eat it!

Ping me via email on my website when you're growing stuff, I'm sure we can work out a trade!

Evelyn in Canada said...

Rosa: You're way ahead of me in buying local meat (chicken, pork, deer, elk,...)

Tamara: I don't actually "do without" some of those things. I do with alternatives. And for plastics, we've lived for a long time with older purchases. Now that I'm actually out of wrap, I don't know how long I'll last.

Apple Jack: I'll definitely ping you - I have tons of brocolli seedlings. We'll talk!