ENVIRONMENT

My Evolving Curbside Pile

My house needs breathing room. Cleaning out the clutter is priority these days and although I have known it for quite some time I have managed to put blinders up and ignore it’s importance. Everywhere I turn now it is mentioned lately. People are jumping on the bandwagon. Between books, articles, podcasts, etc. I can’t escape the reminders. It shouldn’t be that hard but to some it is.

Decluttering, dejunking, minimizing or whatever name you want to use is also about considering the environment.  It is a decision that impacts how much waste we produce. The less stuff we bring in our spaces, naturally there is less packaging, the by-product of purchasing items. This movement that is happening has called attention to something that has been talked about for years and that is the importance of minimizing our environmental carbon footprint.


 

Household recycling started the ball rolling.  I remember when waste management started adding blue bins into the mix.  It was a learning curve and an exercise in shrinking the pile size of our garbage. Over the years the system has developed and changed. The number of items that can go into our boxes is always improving and so has my diligence in filling it up.

Composting took another chunk out of the pile.  I live in a rural area so I can do my own composting. In the towns around my home there are municipal green bin programs where along with your garbage and recycling is a weekly organics pickup. Every spring the gorgeously fertile soil is available to residences for free, which I think is a great added incentive.

Now it is about reducing the size of my blue bin. When I began using my reusable bags at the grocery store it was amazing how much my recycling pile shrunk. When I began shopping more thoughtfully and sometimes in bulk, it shrunk a bit more. I aim to buy fewer processed items and try to shop at markets during the summer. I try to spend more time on the outskirts of the grocery stores.  The inside aisles are full of cans and processed goods, boxes of cereals, and jars, etc. I still go there because there are things I need and want but I try to use them less often than more because of health and conscious food choices. Recently I began bringing reusable produce bags but it is still hit and miss whether I remember to bring them. sometimes I get there and realize I have left them at home. Buying bulk is another way to cut down on packaging. For snacks and lunches on the go I refill containers from larger packs of food. My next step can be filling containers where I can buy from bulk bins.  More and more businesses are beginning to support this which is a really good thing! It’s an indication of the demand from eco-minded consumers.  Momentum is starting to grow.

 

DECLUTTERING

Waste Not, Want Not

Waste of food, waste of water, waste of stuff for our homes and workplaces. Where does it all go?  I can’t talk about it all at once, it’s just too much.  Cleaning out our spaces is really tough when you’re also trying to minimize the amount of waste and litter that you send out the door.  I’ll be writing posts in the future on different aspects of these so keep an eye out.


Recycle

The recycling program where I live is pretty good.  Most people that live around here have a pretty good handle on sorting out their household trash. I don’t go around checking out everyone boxes but as I am moving about I see most have their blue boxes, green bin (if they live in town), and garbage bags out.  The goal should be to make the bags of garbage less and less each week but for now we still have a three bag weekly limit.

On a recent trip to Halifax, NS  I was reminded of how much can be done and how much further we have to go. The recycling program in Halifax is well developed. Residents have to follow the system or they risk a fine upwards of $200 or not having their waste picked up. They will follow through and leave your pile at the curb if residents don’t take the effort to sort properly.  I have been told it does happen on occasion. In Aug 2015 the Halifax Region Municipality implemented a plan where clear bags are only accepted. Each household is allotted one “privacy” black bag for personal trash. They also have a green cart program. It seemed like a big step but residents adjusted and now it’s second nature.


Plastic Free

I’ve been aiming for less plastic in my home.  If I am going to be honest, I still have a lot.  Some of our water bottles are plastic but they still work and until they break I will use them.  Throwing away things that work fine and are being used just to get something wiser is wasteful. Some plastics in our home are just unavoidable such as parts of our car, lawnmower and appliances. My dish rack is plastic but like a lot of things it is just stuff I have purchased to fill a need. It was during a time when I didn’t care about the things I do now.  Also the cost is a factor.  It will be easier to make these choices as costs come down and availability/variety increases.


Package Free

When shopping aim for minimal packaging.  Biodegradable isn’t also the best either because it still may need to go through a process to break it down. As the volume of our garbage bag diminishes and the blue bins are more and more stuffed you can easily realize how much of what we purchase is actually packaging. recycling our plastics and paper can only take us so far in reducing waste. It is just re-routing where we put out garbage to a certain extent.  It still takes a lot of resources to break it down and turn it into something. How much of it ends up being trashed in the end?


Reuse & Up-cycle

Reusing bags is the most obvious one that comes to mind but also containers, bottles and boxes.  I notice many more people carrying around a refillable water bottle with me instead of buying bottles of water.  Many things can have alternate uses than the original it was made for.


Donate

Send things that can still be useful to another home by giving it away to someone or a company. Some people make a business of refurbishing and selling items such as furniture or appliances.  Recently I saw a charity requesting donations for cast iron ware for them to fix up and sell. What a great idea!

Some places to donate items that come to mind are The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, local community charities and then there are places like the SPCA which need supplies such as towels or food.  Housing and Shelter groups are another place to help out by donating. Make sure to contact your local shelters to find out what needs they have.  In some cases they may even have a pick-up program.


 

I have all this stuff that I don’t need and what it still boils down to is wastage.  We need to buy less and spend more carefully. Be thoughtful of the choices we make when we go shopping for food or clothes.

It is possible to de-junk without being wasteful.  It is just going to take a bit longer but it will be safer and cleaner and an opportunity to save some money.

ENVIRONMENT, Home

Ordinary Days

The small changes that we do in our daily lives will eventually add up to make a significant difference. Every time we make a choice to leave our reusable bags at home instead of putting them to good use at the grocery store it makes an impact. Sometimes I forget and get to the counter and they are out of boxes. I still have a choice of coming back later with my bags but sometimes my load is just to much and I live outside of town, so I am guilty of taking a couple of bags here and there. For the most part I have grown accustomed to always having some or just carrying my items in my hand. I use the example of the bags because it is a switch that many around my area have already made. I still notice a lot of the plastic bags being used but not nearly the amount even 5 years ago. The grocery store I go to is so accustomed to me have bags they are surprised when I don’t. More often than not I get asked in stores if I want a bag and being able to say “no thank you”, without hesitation is becoming easier all the time. That is the goal – to make all these adjustments big and small and make them ordinary.

My list of things is growing. I can’t say its a huge list but I am working on it and my hope is that it evolves as I move along. It really isn’t that hard to make these changes one at a time.

Here are some of the simple switches that I have already made:

Revamping My Cleaning Regime

Hand-Soap

Litterless Lunchbox

ENVIRONMENT, ESSENTIAL OILS

Revamping My Cleaning Regime

So many cleaning products have passed through my door. Many have made me wonder why on earth someone thought it would be a good idea. Results never work out the way I wanted them too. Either it fell short of my cleaning expectation or some other physical side effect such as a sore throat or having to hold my breath so I don’t pass out. I’m extra sensitive to all those intense ingredients, perhaps more than your average person. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

There is a surge of healthier and environmentally friendly products in response to the demand for alternatives to keeping our spaces clean. In conjunction with that there are so many ways that you can make your own products. People are taking matters into their own hands and coming up with their own designs, tweaking and personalizing recipes. I started switching out my items by slowly replacing them with my own concoctions.

The most obvious one to go in this house was glass and counter cleaners. I buy a lot of vinegar these days! By adding essential oils you add extra cleaning properties plus it leaves the room filled with natural fragrance.

The All Purpose Mixture

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 – 20 drops of Essential Oils (some good ones for cleaning are Lime, Lemon, Orange, Onguard, Tea Tree)

Tables and counters: I use this on counter tops and for spot cleaning small messes on the floor. I mix it in a spray bottle and keep it handy.

Appliances: This is great for giving everything from your stove to your fridge, a quick wipe down. For a deeper clean and to dissolve tough food stains try adding baking soda or soap.

Floors: A micro-fiber mop with a solution attachment works great to do the floors. The same mixture can be used. The nice thing about this is you can sometimes get extra bottles. You can mix something different in each and swap the bottles depending on your need or mood.

ENVIRONMENT, Litterless Lunches

Litterless Lunchbox

One less item in my daughters lunch box that goes to the recycling bin. Lately I have stopped purchasing those individual yogurt containers and fill a small one up for her to bring to school. This simple switch was easier than I thought! She had no qualms about not having the cute flashy packaging, I have no qualms about the extra little cup to wash. So what is the deal – why did it take so long for me to do this? I was the one who did the shopping and made the decision that she would be more likely to eat it if she had a lunch that looked like her friends. I decided when I was shopping that it would be convenient. She still eats her yogurt everyday, it takes me a few extra seconds to pack it in her lunch box and wash it at the end of the day (I am washing dishes anyway).

By doing this: There is one less plastic container in the school recycling bin each day.

By doing this: I save in cost as the packs usually cost more.

By doing this: One by one it will gradually influence others in their choices. The more common it is to have people do this the better.


Update: One thing I changed since then is sending the small mason jars for things like the yogurt and fruit cups. My daughter actually thinks these are super cute and enjoys using them! I can’t believe it took me so long to use them for this reason because I have them already and have been using them for spices and small food storage for a while now. I guess thinking that she was so young I was nervous sending the weight plus the glass into school with her. She is getting older now and more responsible with things like that.  Those mason jars are quite thick and the small ones are pretty light.  They do sell silicone covers if I am ever so inclined.

FOOD

Chickpeas! Made from Scratch

My newest pressure cooker adventure is cooking my own chickpeas instead of using the canned ones. I still keep some cans around for backup for those days when a recipe calls for them and I don’t have any made. I find a batch will keep in the fridge and I take what I need out of it as I go. In my instant pot I can make it in about 40 minutes from start to finish. Actually it’s a bit longer considering the heat up and cook down period so I have to plan an extra hour if I need it that day. It sure beats having to pre-soak and useuse st or slow cooker. Oh and the flavour! Much more intense than the cans.

I find a ratio of 1:3 works well. In this description I’ll double this because usually that will last a few days.

Here is how it goes:

  • rinse 2 cups of raw chickpeas and add to pot (pick out and sad looking ones)
  • add 6 cups of water
  • cover and adjust the manual timer to 35 minutes.
  • make sure the steam release is closed. I have forgotten to check before and wondered why the pressure would not build up. The cooker will just hiss away until it is closed.
  • After it finishes beeping at the end let it naturally cool down so you keep the flavours in.
  • I use a slotted spoon to transfer them into a container to go right in the fridge. Most of the water will be gone but there will be some left that can be turned into a fantastic soup. Last night I just added water, some chicken pieces that I had in the freezer, rice, and made a yummy congee snack for later. It would make a great base for a lot of dishes so you could also keep it in a glass jar in the fridge for a few days.

By doing this:

  1. I save in the cost
  2. I save the time
  3. I save the salt
  4. I have one less can to recycle

Buy doing this I add flavour and nutrients to my recipes!