Update on goals and gardening

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I am rather proud of myself in that all of the changes to reduce plastic have stuck over this very busy summer. I have not added too many more habits, yet, but I think I’ve saved 100+ plastic bags from landfills and have continued to be mindful about my buying habits and looking for alternatively packaged items.  I’d been simplifying for a couple of years (it took a while because I wanted to wear out rather than throw out some things and because I kept realizing I didn’t need something after all), and I finally feel like I’ve gotten to where I want to be with amount of belongings. It really helps with aiming for zero waste – and zero waste really helps with a goal of being minimalist.

With the garden, well, I had trouble for a couple of weeks earlier in the summer with the chickens getting out of their tractor constantly. By the time I got things locked down they had pretty much eaten everything that had been planted up to then, so the amount of produce I harvested at that time was probably worth only $5.00. At least it went to food producing animals, right?

The last few weeks I’ve been getting a bunch more planted and will let you know when those crops start to come in.

In summary, habits going strong, garden had a setback. Onward!

Y Girl

Kickin’ ur plastic: Part 5

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My computer monitor was getting pretty dusty.

LCD screens are a little tricky, since you can’t get them more than slightly damp and if you press too hard you can burn out some of the pixels, so people usually buy the little kits so as to be sure they won’t damage their screen.

I read several articles the last few weeks about cleaning them yourself and finally decided to just get to it and try it out.  I took a very soft, clean cotton cloth and wetted it thoroughly with distilled water, which is recommended much more than tap water.  I was just out of vinegar so did not do the half and half solution but probably will soon so as to make sure there is no grease left on.

So as minimize the chances of injuring the screen, and to absorb any excess water, I wrapped the cloth around a dry sponge.  Then I used that to wipe the screen.

Much better!  Hope this less-plastic idea for cleaning LCD screens by yourself is a help to someone.  Cost:  Fraction of a (plastic, bummer) jug of distilled water, so only a few cents.

Y Girl

Kickin’ ur plastic: Part 4

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What to do about Kleenex?

I grew up reading many old classic books and was always fascinated by the little customs and conventions surrounding handkerchiefs, things like having a useful one and a fancy one for show, and how everyone used to iron them each week.  People often cleaned things or wrapped things up in handkerchiefs.  It seemed rather cool to me, and I tried a couple of times to use one, but realized quickly the advantage Kleenex has in being disposable.  I don’t like carrying around used tissues.  I thought for the rest of my life I would just go ahead and use Kleenex and not worry about it.  Even when I got into more zero waste type interests I still thought that at least tissue boxes only have one small strip of plastic on the top.  Not too big a deal, right?

After a while I read an article featuring HankyBooks and was charmed.  So adorable and it seemed to really fix the major problem I had with handkerchiefs!  Plus they are a cute modern version.

I have not bought one yet, but I did make my own out of an old t-shirt.  Like so many other things, once the incredibly obvious solution arrives the actual process takes about five minutes to implement!

I sewed a seam in the back connecting the “pages” and simultaneously attaching the tie.

It rolls up nice and small, as you see.  I have not bought any Kleenex in several months, getting by with cloth and occasional TP.  Of course, we shall see what happens if I get a cold, though I think I might have had one this spring.  It started like one, anyway, but never turned into the normal messy, miserable thing to endure.  Since I eat Primal, I definitely seem more resistant to disease, so perhaps I won’t have the same type of colds any more…

Time to kick this plastic:  5 minutes.

Maintenance effort:  Completely fits my routine with no extra effort.

Cost:  $0.00

Y Girl

Kickin’ ur plastic: Part 3

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Hand soap – a guide for the squeamish and germ-phobic person.

For years and years I have heard about the dangers of Triclosan in liquid hand soaps and how it was contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and how it was not even necessary for killing germs.  I also disliked having to go through so much plastic buying soap.  I used to try to find a way to make liquid hand soap, but I could never find a practical way.

BUT.  There are several aspects of using a bar of soap that were very off-putting to me.  The holder tends to get slimy and yucky looking quickly.  I dislike having a bar be used hundreds of times over several weeks until it disappears.  It just seems unsanitary to me, especially when hair or something gets stuck in it, and I cannot get over that feeling.  Plus, liquid soaps seemed to be much better at keeping my hands moisturized.  So, I kept using them.

Then I read several articles about the way Triclosan (and many other chemicals) mess up our thyroids.  I was trying to lose some weight and I know a LOT of people, women especially, who have hypothyroidism and it makes life so much more difficult in every way.  Did I switch?  Well, I tried harder to think of some way I could start using bar soap, but I just could not figure out a way I could tolerate it.  I told myself that it probably was not that big a deal anyway, I was just washing my hands with it and had a lot less pollutants in my life than most people.  I experimented with shampoo bars, though, and discovered several sources of really nice, natural soaps that felt luxurious to use.

Then I went Primal with my diet (and sleep, and exercise) and discovered how much of a huge difference tiny changes can make.  My body composition was changing drastically for the better with mostly lifestyle changes, very little exercise, and I had so much mental energy that I decided to revisit the old soap issue and find a solution this time.

It turned out that the solution for me was provokingly simple.

I cut up my soap bar into small pieces and put it on the top of an overturned glass jar.  It was reused from being a food container, so it did not even cost anything.

This works for me because the soap is used up in just days and as soon as it’s gone I can put the jar in the dishwasher and get it perfectly clean again.  Thus I always have a clean holder and nice looking soap.

Including shipping the soap cost me about $8.00 and I think it is going to last (used by two, in the kitchen) about two months, so only a dollar a week or so.  This is cheaper than the plastic refills, which is great.  I believe I was spending about two dollars a week on the liquid soap.

You can probably find someone selling  really cool soaps near you at a farmer’s market, or if you are not able to get to any then there are tons of great suppliers online.  You can always go with hand soap from the supermarket, but until you have tried a really great hand soap you have no idea what you are missing.  Actually, one reason I am happy about having made this change is now I get to try more varieties of soaps than I have been able to before!

Y Girl

Asthma/Allergies: A good reason to kick your plastic

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It seems like my immediate family members are the ONLY people I know who basically never have seasonal allergies, and none of my siblings (or me) ever had asthma.  There are several of us, so it always seemed a bit unusual to me, considering the prevalence among other families.  It’s especially weird considering that breathing fumes from candles or woodsmoke or basically anything tends to give me a headache after about five minutes, so I’m pretty sensitive.

Right now the pollen outside is so thick it layers all the cars in green and yellow and if you go on a walk at dawn the air smells incredibly strong and spicy.  I can tell I am breathing a lot of pollen, but I do not have to blow my nose often and my head and eyes feel great.  I am quite “bright-eyed and busy-tailed” lately, actually.  It’s not that I have good genes, either, because various cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents have seasonal allergies.

I was wondering why none of my immediate family has allergy problems and thinking about plastic and what I’ve been learning lately.  Specifically, if you are using plastic around your food supply, it leaches chemicals most quickly when exposed to radiation such as sunlight, heat, or acids.  I suddenly realized that maybe the reason we don’t suffer from allergies is because growing up (and still, for those of us who have moved out) we never had a microwave.  It never seemed necessary and with so many little kids it’s kind of a given it would get broken often, so we never got one.

I did a little googling, and boy is there a lot of interesting stuff out there related to plastic and the airway!
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If you use a microwave and don’t want to stop using it yet, try only heating things in glass or ceramic.  The microwave itself is still plastic, but you will lessen your exposure that way.  Then you can think about putting your microwave in the garage for a month or two and seeing how you can get along without it.

The body is pretty incredible and can metabolize a lot of poisons with time; phthalates especially I believe can clear out within a week, though other plastics might take longer.  What if you could cure your allergies and asthma symptoms by eliminating plastic?

I am SOOO curious about this, please someone try this and tell me!

Y Girl

Kickin’ ur plastic: Part 2

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Of course, the OTHER super obvious thing is to switch to using cloth bags when shopping, because plastic bags are EEVIL.  Well, they are!  Haven’t you heard that “swisshhh” under your bed some nights, just waiting until you go to sleep to creep up and – ?  But seriously, I have been making old t-shirts into shopping bags and working hard on getting into the habit of remembering them!  (You can find tutorials everywhere for this; I’m not linking to any because there are SO MANY.) I also bought two string produce bags – they are plastic string, I admit, but I could not find any cotton string ones and I really, really need them in order to stop using those stretchy plastic bags.

I leave you with a link to a strangely sad and surreal video about the too-long life of a plastic bag.  It was happy when useful, but after it could no longer be used, it had to linger on… and on…

I take back what I said about the evilness of plastic bags.  Take pity on them and do not enslave them!  Let them stay cozy, innocent little oil molecules lolloping around in the sand…

Y Girl

Kickin’ ur plastic: Part 1

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This series will be about individual things I have done to switch over from plastic to using natural materials.  I will try to provide cost breakdowns, pros and cons in my opinion of each version, how much effort it took to switch, and what affect it has had on my emotions/health/life in general.  Now, if I could just get a non-plastic computer keyboard!

First, the obvious change:  I stopped buying water bottles.  I never used to buy that many, since I work at a desk and usually had a glass of water on the desk to drink from.  The glass used to be a plastic tumbler, though – yikes!  When I did buy water bottles, I tended to reuse them, which it turns out is a VERY BAD idea.

But, about two years ago I got an insulated Klean Kanteen and started using ONLY glass glasses.  The glasses are extremely cheap to stock up on at thrift stores.  I like the taste a LOT more, too.  It was interesting, until I started researching the plastic stuff, I never realized how easy it really is to taste and smell plastic.  And, if you can taste it and smell it, it means you are ingesting it and it is going into your cells.  Gross.

The thing about plastic is that many of the chemicals that make up plastic products are used as hormones by our bodies.  In other words, the entire world is having its reproductive systems messed with.  Many animals are actually affected worse than us humans, but humans are having tons of issues with hormones.  It does not just mean danger of things like infertility, it means things like premature aging, cancers, bad moods, persistent fat, etc. etc.  So yeah, I am serious about kicking my plastic out the door as much as possible, starting with anything related to my food.

I think with shipping my Kanteen came to about $32 or so, which is not cheap up front at all.  However, I have used it several times a week since then and in that time I probably would have bought at least 40 water bottles, at more than a dollar each.  So the math comes out right on that one already.  It being me, the poor thing has a quite a few dings already, but still works perfectly and it is AMAZING how cold stuff stays in a hot car in the middle of summer!  I figure it should last me at least another five to ten years, minimum, though I might have to replace the top earlier.

Y Girl