ENVIRONMENT, Zero waste

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.

FOOD, Recipes

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!

DECLUTTERING

Counter Space

A constant source of aggravation for me is always having very little to no table space. I am continuously having to move things over to make room to work whether it is preparation for meals, eating, work or a place to set down a book.  I realized this was a problem long ago but it wasn’t until my daughter came along that I saw the real negative implications of this habit. I call it a habit because it was really just procrastination of putting things away.  Things are always just being set down to put away “later”. The problem with this is that later comes much-later, most likely during a cleaning blitz that I feel forced into and resent. Housework and maintenance should not be so negative.  I don’t want that for my family.  I want to provide an environment that is comfortable – not with the noise and chaos of clutter.

The Decluttering Plan

I tried some different approaches already.  I tried focusing on an area of the house. I tried dividing it into sections like kitchen supplies, office supplies, clothing, etc. – you get the drift. They all worked for a bit but then I lost steam.  That’s OK because I figure as long as I keep going, slow as it may be, it will gradually turn into a lifestyle. My approach these days is to keep reminding myself to be ruthless in my decision of whether a particular item stays or goes – yes or no. The yes is fine and if I am right it will find a home. The no’s are another story and post, but it must go out the door.

My biggest stumbling block is distraction.  Sometimes it is a physical interruption such as a call, text or email I need to deal with or some sort of mom duty – even letting the dog outside.  More than likely it is me getting stumped by “where do I put this”, or “should it be donated or tossed in the trash?”

And then my train of thought is off … rambling down the tracks.

This brings me to my next big block which is not to be wasteful. I have trouble carelessly filling up our landfills with things that are not broken. I am always wanting to pass things on somehow but sometimes junk is junk and other times it can be put to good use by someone else. So I have to decide whether it truly is trash or worth something to another.

And again, my train of thought is off.

Minimizing our stuff is all about discovering what we want to have around you – getting rid of all the excess. I am by no means looking to be a minimalist. I won’t get into it right now but I recognize that there is a difference. What I want is to just be thoughtful about the choices we make and the materials that buy.

I made this list of some of the reasons I have been drawn into this idea of minimizing/purging/decluttering/simplifying. They overlap and are integrated with each other. I don’t really think you can have one without the other, but for the sake of the list here it is.

  1. Healthy body
  2. Healthy mind
  3. Family
  4. Organization
  5. The environment
ENVIRONMENT, Zero waste

Zero-waste living would be easier if …

A friend posted this on her site the other day and it keeps running though my mind. As I go through my day and I am shopping, packing lunch or cooking supper this incomplete sentence keeps running though my head. I realize it can’t be answered in one sentence. A general shift has to happen on all levels, from individuals to communities, to businesses, to municipal governments, to our country leaders etc. We live in an industrialized society and we are so accustomed to living our lives guided by consumerism. We have gotten complacent and when given the choice chose convenience. I am guilty of giving in. I buy individual yogourts for my daughters lunches. She gets one everyday. It would make sense to send her with a container that is filled from the larger container in the fridge. It would be more economical and she wouldn’t have to add that plastic container to the recycling bin at school. So why do it? I want her to eat it and have told myself that she is more likely to if it is in that cute colourful little container. Somehow it tastes better and is more fun to eat when its in a package. But is that true? Have we all been tricked and convinced by business and advertising? We need to shift our attitude and not be persuaded by advertising an it is teaching our kids these things. giving them the ability to be critical and mindful so that they have the power to make those choices.

I do my tiny bit, but I want to do so much more. I use my bags at the grocery stores and often turn down the plastic ones at stores. When I pack lunches I use containers instead of baggies. I try to buy bulk if I can and not send in prepackaged treats. Mygirl brings a water bottle and only occasionally brings a juice box.

Packaging is the huge culprit because we live in a day and age where so much of what we have is imported. It is a world of trading and merchandising and with that comes packaging. All our stuff has to be prepared for shipping, prepared for delivery and distribution and then again prepared and perhaps repackaged for us to purchase from store shelves. It is impossible to avoid but we can minimize our impact at our own individual levels. Make conscious decisions of what and how we bring things into our homes. We can put our efforts into our daily lives – make easy switches such as doing away with plastic bottles where you can and carry your own refillable container. Bring your own bags to the stores or use cardboard boxes. Pack litterless lunch boxes. Shop local and eat more healthy whole fresh produce. Print out emails and such only when necessary. Eat less fast or take out foods – use your own refillable wares when you can as more places are beginning to do this. There are so many little everyday things that we as individuals can do. Once we get going and make the switches they’ll become habit and routine – not a big deal.