Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘earth’

I felt it appropriate to post on the day of Earth Hour, but don’t read this during Earth Hour, which is 8:30pm to 9:30pm local time today!

The focus of this year’s Earth Hour is on what you are going to do beyond the Hour.  Are you planning to reduce your energy use, ride your bike to work, or recycle?  Well, I’m going to challenge you to do more.  I’m going to challenge you to eliminate as many disposable products as you can from your lifestyle.

When it comes to issues regarding reducing our personal energy use, it seems to me that there is a lot of emphasis on our direct energy use, i.e. through our use of electricity, oil and gas, etc.  But what about our indirect energy use?  I believe this issue should also be at the forefront.  That is why I started the Non-Disposable Earth Project, because I don’t think there is enough focus on how much energy use we can reduce by eliminating disposable products.

If we all turned off lights we aren’t using, that makes a significant difference collectively on our energy use.  However, if  we were all to stop using say, paper towels, that would have more impact than we realize.  That’s because all we see is the product’s end use.  We take it out of the package, wipe something up, and throw it out.  No energy use except our own, right?  We might feel guilty about adding garbage to the world, but do we stop to think about how much energy went into manufacturing that paper towel and getting it into our hands so it can be used just once and thrown away?

Let’s look at some of the benefits I can think of if we all stopped using paper towels:

  • we would save all the energy (fossil fuels and electricity) that is consumed to clear-cut trees, transport them, process them into paper, package them, transport them to the stores, transport them home, and then transport them to the garbage dump
  • we would have cleaner air by reducing the burning of fossil fuels
  • we would save millions of trees
  • we would preserve habitats for countless animals
  • we would preserve countless plant species
  • we would reduce our garbage, thus preserving the trees, plants, and habitat on land that would have been used for burying garbage
  • we would have even more clean air because we have more trees and plants
  • we would save a significant amount of water from the processing and manufacturing of the paper towels
  • we would keep the chemicals used in the processing and manufacturing of paper towels out of our water supply
  • we would save some money, and get to skip the paper towel aisle at the store, saving us some energy too!

And the list could go on.  As you can see, eliminating just one disposable product from our lifestyle not only greatly reduces our energy use, but also has other far-reaching benefits.

Earth Hour is about a global movement towards a sustainable Earth.  What better action to take than to eliminate the unsustainable practice of using disposable products?  Think about it today during Earth Hour and let’s make this a Non-Disposable Earth.  Look through your garbage and find a disposable product that you can live without.  Then live without it.  It’s that easy.

Read Full Post »

As we enter a new year, I want to challenge everyone to reduce their garbage.  Reducing your garbage is really about reducing consumption – the consumption of disposable, one-time-use products – and has far-reaching benefits.  Read about the many benefits in my previous post, Disposing of Disposables.

According to Heather Rogers’ Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage, , 80 percent of US products are used once and then thrown away!  Isn’t that a shocking statistic?  It means that 80% of our natural resources have been used up to make something that we will just throw away.  See a list of one-time-use products in my post, Ten Minutes or Less.  This statistic really puts a shameful light on the way our economy is based on creating a need for consumable products.  It doesn’t have to be that way….

When we take from the Earth, we also need to give back to it.  We need to return to the wisdom of ancient peoples, who understood and respected what the Earth gave us, and never took more than could be replenished. That is real sustainability.  That is one of the things I want to explore in this project.   Can I reduce my impact to the point that I am not taking away more than the Earth can give back, and how do I define that?

As the holidays approached, I have gotten busy and a little lazy.  So for the New Year, I am getting back on the bandwagon and challenging myself to reduce my garbage even further than I have.  Can I reduce my garbage down to say, just one bag a month?  How do I define what is garbage and what is not?  Others have already gone down the path to no garbage, so I’ll be looking to them for guidelines.  In the meanwhile, I’ll keep a weekly track and tally of the garbage that I produce, including compost.

And how about you?  Can you find one disposable item to reject, and start reducing your garbage?  Can you look into your garbage bag and see what kind of garbage you are producing and make a change?  Read about all the benefits in my previous post, Disposing of Disposables.  I hope you will join me in my efforts to make this a Non-Disposable Earth.

Happy New Year!

Read Full Post »

Well, Christmas Day went over exceedingly well.  This was the first time I prepared an authentic Christmas dinner for the family – usually it’s a Chinese-interpretation of what turkey dinner is, prepared by my parents.  I did everything from stuffing the turkey, to cranberry sauce, to real gravy, yum!

Gift-wise, that went successfully too.  Mom nagged me all day about getting her a World’s Best Pot Scrubber like mine, and to her surprise, everyone got one under the tree.  The melamine plates went over really well by my Uncle and Aunt, and the Al Gore and David Suzuki books seemed to arouse genuine curiosity with the cousins.  Most of my daughters’ gifts were unpackaged toys, except for a few, and she noticed that right away.   And the traditional exchange of red envelopes carries over to Christmas, so gifts from the elders was also package-less.  I still feel guilty over the wrapping paper, but I saved at least half of it to use again next year.  The little pieces will be great for those smaller gifts that my daughter likes to wrap.  I even managed to save a few with tags intact for next year!  That greatly reduced the amount of paper I had to recycle.

As we cleaned up dinner last night, and as I peered into the fridge packed with leftovers today, I wondered, what about food waste?  How big an issue is that?  I know that living in a small household such as mine, if I don’t eat the food and my daughter doesn’t eat the food, no one else will.  So often, things get left uneaten and I waste more than I care to admit.

I try to console myself by saying it is being composted, but I know that the issue is bigger than that.  For every bit of food that I waste, I am throwing away all the energy that it took to grow the food, transport the food, keep the food at the right temperature, and then to transport the waste, and compost it at a facility.  Not to mention the energy that it took for me to make the money to buy the food, and the energy that I used to get it home, keep it cool in my fridge, and cook it if it was leftovers.

Interestingly enough, the day after Christmas, there was an article in the Toronto Star today entitled How we waste food which describes the problem in detail, including how much food goes uneaten in households and wasted in the food industry.  In the day that of hunter-gatherers, wasting food was not a problem.  You picked it, you ate it, if you didn’t eat it, it went straight back into the ground.  However, today it seems we are so far removed from food production, and food production has been so mechanized, that eating an apple today is many, many times more energy consuming than it used to be to just pick it off your tree.  And if the food has been further processed, the impact is even greater.  Composting is not the energy-free process it should be either.  The whole process seems almost ridiculous, really.  Food should be much simpler.  That is one of the reasons why eating local is so important to me, and I am going to try to continue eating local as much as I can over the winter.  I already decided a few years ago to definitely avoid anything that was grown overseas.  Oranges shouldn’t be coming from Africa.  However, I do make exceptions if it’s just an occasional treat that is grown in season and can’t be grown locally.

As the New Year approaches, one of my Non-Disposable Earth Project goals will be to reduce the waste of food.  I am not sure how I am going to do that, as it is a multi-faceted problem, unlike replacing paper napkins with cloth ones.  I will have to be careful not to prepare too much food, which I think I can handle.  But trying not to have too much food in the fridge is a little trickier, as it is dependent on when I have time to pick up groceries.  Then there is the issue of pleasing household tastes, i.e. we don’t both like to eat the same thing, so some waste goes along with that too.  And from day to day, I don’t always want to eat the same thing.  It will be tricky, but I think I there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Finally, although I think it is great that we have municipal composting in Toronto, I still feel a little pang of guilt that I’m not doing my own composting.  Doing your own composting requires zero carbon output, unless you count the output from your own elbow grease.  Also, after scooping up some of the free city compost this spring and finding much foreign matter in it including bits of plastic bag and broken glass, I don’t trust the city compost anymore.  So I’ve been toying with the idea of worm composting – indoor composting in a small bin at home.  If I can find the room for it in my small kitchen.  I’d love to find someone who already does it and see what it’s like.  More on that as it develops.

So what have I learned this holiday?  That I even have to add food to my list of non-disposables so that food can complete the cycle of land to plate and back to the land in the most efficient, least wasteful manner possible.

Read Full Post »

In Colin Beavan’s book, No Impact Man, I read a statistic that really stunned me.  He states that according to Heather Rogers’ Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage, 80 percent of US products are used once, then thrown away! At first, I thought that this was an exaggeration.  But on close examination, I realized that it was true.

So, I thought it would be great to start this project by first really becoming aware of all the waste we do produce.  I am going to try and list everything that I can think of that was designed to be used only once, including a sub-category of products that can potentially be used for ten minutes or less.  I invite you to really open your eyes and be aware of the waste generated around you, and add to this list as you go throughout your day.

Ten minutes or less:

  • fast food/take-out containers (plastic, styrofoam, paper)
  • disposable utensils (plastic, wood)
  • plastic or paper wrapping for utensils
  • plastic sushi grass
  • napkins
  • paper tray liners
  • fast food bags (paper or plastic) to bring your food ‘all the way’ to your seat
  • take-out cups (plastic, styrofoam, paper)
  • plastic lids for the cups
  • plastic drink bottles
  • glass drink bottles
  • juice boxes
  • drink pouches
  • straws
  • paper wrapping for straws
  • coffee stir sticks (plastic, wood)
  • paper condiment cups
  • toilet paper
  • facial tissue
  • paper towel
  • wet napkins
  • make-up removal pads
  • disposable plates (paper, styrofoam)
  • flyers
  • brochures
  • poop and scoop bags
  • syringes and other sterilized medical supplies
  • cigarette butts

Usually tossed out the same day:

  • newspapers
  • pizza boxes
  • frozen food trays and packaging
  • sandwich bags
  • party streamers
  • party hats
  • glow in the dark novelties
  • diapers
  • styrofoam and plastic wrap that comes with meat purchases
  • feminine napkins
  • tampons
  • condoms

Other one-use items:

  • product packaging outside (plastic, paper)
  • product packaging inside (plastic, paper, styrofoam, metal)
  • styrofoam peanuts
  • bubble wrap
  • envelopes
  • price tags
  • magazines
  • plastic shopping bags
  • paper shopping bags
  • plastic produce bags
  • plastic wrap
  • plastic clamshell containers
  • plastic netting for produce
  • milk and juice cartons
  • tin cans
  • egg cartons (paper, styrofoam, and now plastic)
  • washed lettuce and prepared salad containers
  • prepared meat containers
  • baked good containers
  • plastic cake containers
  • cardboard under the prepared cake
  • syringes
  • packaging for syringes and other sterillized medical supplies
  • balloons
  • ribbons
  • gift wrap
  • coupons
  • tickets
  • receipts
  • toothbrushes
  • disposable razors
  • razor blades
  • batteries
  • hotel soaps and toiletries
  • paper or plastic bags wrapped around hotel glasses
  • candy wrappers
  • disposable sweeping and mopping pads
  • disposable wash cloths
  • lipstick containers
  • make-up containers
  • lip balm containers
  • make-up sponges
  • ‘socks’ you use to try on shoes
  • any bottle/container that was not meant to be refilled (eg. everything from shampoo to dish detergent, to condiments, etc.)

The lists can go on and on and I plan to add to it.  At this moment, I can only think of the things that I come into contact with myself, so feel free to add your two cents to the list!

Read Full Post »

My 39th birthday has passed, and I’m finally feeling moved to make my mark in the world.  To do something bigger than my own efforts at living sustainably.  I know that in order to leave my daughter with a better world than the one she was born in, I have to start reaching out and affecting more people.  So here I am, starting a blog to record my efforts and hopefully attract others to join with me and make an impact together.  For ourselves, our children and everyone’s children.

For the record, I’ve reduced our household garbage, which consists mainly of plastic in one form or another, to just one grocery bag’s worth a week.  Recyclables amount to the size of a banker’s box every two weeks.  And compost, probably two or three produce bags full a week.  We barely use anything disposable.  I’m only on the second of the two-pack 100% recycled paper towel rolls I bought over a year ago.  A 12-roll pack of 100% recycled toilet paper lasts two months at least.  We have fun homemade fabric napkins, and never use paper napkins.  I bring my own shopping bags, reuse ‘disposable’ utensils and I try to remember to bring my own glass food savers whenever I want to order take-out.

My daughter, she gets it, and is always aware of the waste that is being produced.  She has even decided that she won’t ask for her favourite toys anymore if they come in wasteful packaging.  But when she sees it around her and she asks me, “Mom, why do people waste?”  it’s really hard to give her a satisfactory answer….

So, I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a Mom that just points out what other people are doing wrong.  I want to show her that we can make things change.  That yes, we can do things at home and on a personal level, but that we can even influence other people.  So, here I am embarking on something very new and scary to me, but something I know will be life-changing and fulfilling.

Thank you for joining us!

Read Full Post »