A record of my efforts to live a more sustainable life.

Show Us Your Plastic Challenge - August 22 - August 28, 2010

Recyclable Items (3)
  • 1 syrup container from Salisbury House (PL 4) (Oh, there will be a rant on this.)
  • 1 orange juice carton (plastic spout and lid)
  • 1 soy milk carton (plastic spout and lid)

Non-Recyclable Items (7):
  • 1 margarine container from Salisbury House (See rant on syrup container.)
  • 2 cracker bags
  • 1 orange juice seal
  • 1 fudge bar wrapper
  • 1 caramel apple pop wrapper
  • 1 necklace package

Total Items: 10

Book Review: Voluntary Simplicity

Overall, I didn't like this book, but I do like the ideas behind it. The idea is that we would all be better off if we lived in smaller spaces, with less stuff. This would obviously have positive effects on the environment, since we would be producing less stuff, and cities could be denser, making it easier for people to travel without a car.

Beyond that, though, there are many personal benefits to a life of voluntary simplicity. As more and more people are discovering in this age of constant consumption, more stuff does not make us more happy, and in fact can take away from our happiness.

With less physical stuff in our lives, we could have more of a sense of calm. We'd have less to clean, and it would be easier to find the stuff we actually need. We'd have more money, since we wouldn't be spending it on so much stuff. With this extra calm, time (not spent cleaning), and money, we could then focus on the more important things in life, whatever that is to you.

That being said, getting rid of stuff is not easy. Between this book and some blogs I've started reading lately, I've been thinking about uncluttering a lot, and I can now tell you from experience: it's hard to get rid of stuff. It seems silly, but it's so easy to form attachments to material possessions. I had three pairs of slippers, even though I hardly ever wear slippers, and I couldn't bring myself to get rid of any. I finally threw one of the pairs in the to-be-donated pile, but it was tough.

I think it's worthwhile, though. I went through the clothes in my closet last week, and this time, instead of just donating stuff that didn't fit me (not much, since my body isn't really changing shape), I donated stuff that I didn't wear. There's still too much stuff in my closet, but I can get to all my clothes now without struggling with the surrounding hangers. It's a nice feeling.

While this book didn't really do anything for me (it lacked practical advice, and was rather repetitive), there are lots of other resources out there if you want to learn more about getting rid of your clutter and living a simpler life. The best one I've found so far, which is full of both inspiration and practical advice, is Unclutterer. The author of that blog, Erin Doland, even wrote a book, which I haven't read yet, but I'm sure would be really awesome.

In addition to Unclutterer, I recommend checking out The Story of Stuff, where you can watch videos showing, in very simplified form, the problems with our system of consuming stuff.

I forgot to take before pictures before starting my attempt at uncluttering, but I'll probably take some pictures of the stuff I'm donating, and after pictures if I accomplish anything impressive. I encourage you to try it as well, even if you just unclutter a single room, or just a closet! You could blog about it, or post pictures, and link to them in the comments. Have fun!

Show Us Your Plastic Challenge - August 15 - August 21, 2010

Recyclable Items (2)
  • 1 raspberries package (PETE 1)
  • 1 soy milk carton

Non-Recyclable Items (6):
  • 1 fudge bar wrapper
  • 1 magazine wrapper
  • 1 gnocchi bag
  • 1 microwave popcorn wrapper
  • 1 soy milk carton seal
  • 1 wrapper from Star Trek Scene It game

Total Items: 8

Book Review: Slow Death by Rubber Duck

Recently, I read Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. I knew going into this that the book would freak me out, and I was right.

The book describes the history, uses, and effects of a myriad of toxic chemicals that are in everything from hand soap to frying pans. It claims to be an optimistic book, but I gotta say, I don't feel too optimistic having read it.

The thing that does make me feel good is that now I'm more educated. I won't be using antibacterial hand soap anymore, now that I look at the ingredients and basically see a list of carcinogens, with some suspected reproductive toxins thrown in.

I couldn't really pick out pieces of information from this mass of statistics and stories that were good for a review, so I will simply recommend the book. Also, check out the Slow Death by Rubber Duck website for loads of useful information.

One tidbit I did enjoy was this helpful reminder of which plastics are the most harmful (good to know even if you are trying to avoid all plastics): 4, 5, 1, and 2; all the rest are bad for you!

This book has had quite an effect on me, leading me to finally purge the huge quantities of lotion and body wash I've accumulated over the years, so stay tuned to see my closet go through a major overhaul!

Show Us Your Plastic Challenge - August 8 - August 14, 2010

Recyclable Items (1)
  • 1 envelope with plastic window

Non-Recyclable Items (10):
  • 1 bag from party favour
  • 1 microwave popcorn wrapper
  • 3 coils from agendas (I cleaned out my closet.)
  • 1 fudge bar wrapper
  • 1 apple filling package
  • 1 icing package
  • 1 pasta bag
  • 1 pill package

Total Items: 11

Show Us Your Plastic Challenge - August 1 - August 7, 2010

Recyclable Items (0) (Well that's a first...)

Non-Recyclable Items (13):
  • 1 bread bag
  • 1 microwave popcorn wrapper
  • 1 cheese slice wrapper
  • 2 drink carton seals
  • 4 size stickers from clothing
  • 1 Styrofoam plate
  • 1 Styrofoam bowl
  • 1 fudge bar wrapper
  • 1 cereal bag

Total Items: 13

  • The only items on the list that are a result of my vacation are the size stickers (did I mention this is the shopping kind of vacation?).
  • The Styrofoam plate and bowl are from Folklorama, which I love, but which I realised this year is really really bad with the plastic! I did manage to avoid the plastic cutlery, at least, by bringing my own from home.

I'm Going on Vacation!

It's time for my yearly trip to Grand Forks, North Dakota! So I'll be gone from Monday (tomorrow) until Thursday. This shouldn't have much of an effect on my posting schedule if I manage to write something fairly soon upon my return.

Of course, this presents me with a new challenge! This will be my first vacation since beginning the Show Us Your Plastic Trash Challenge. In the past, it occurs to me, we've used plastic shopping bags in Grand Forks, despite the fact that we've used almost none of them at home in years. So for the first time, we (me, my mom, my sister Stephanie, and my grandma) will be bringing cloth bags, as well as water bottles and coffee/tea/hot chocolate mugs, since I think the hotel's cups for their free hot beverages are Styrofoam.

As for other environmental impacts of our annual trip, I think we do pretty well. We live in Winnipeg (except my grandma who's from Gimli), so Grand Forks is only a few hours away. We drive in my grandparents' car, which is a hybrid, and gets us there and back on a surprisingly small amount of gas. While we're there, we don't drive much, since our hotel is right next to Columbia Mall, where we spend most of our time. We pretty much only drive across the highway to get to Target and all those other big stores.

I'm excited to see how this trip affects my plastic count! Also, I'm excited for the guilty pleasure that is my yearly involvement in consumerism! I justify it with the fact that I hardly buy any clothes during the rest of the year, since I like to get my clothes at Hot Topic.

I'll let you know how it went when I get back!

Recyclable Items (7):
  • 1 orange juice carton
  • 1 soy milk carton
  • 1 FedEx envelope (plastic protective layer on front)
  • 1 lid from hot chocolate (PS 8) (I asked for no lid!)
  • 2 envelopes with windows
  • 1 raspberries container (PETE 1)

Non-Recyclable Items (7):
  • 1 orange juice seal
  • 2 Taco Bell mild sauce packets
  • 1 cereal bag
  • 1 Itzakadoozie wrapper (It's a kind of popsicle thing. I was at the zoo, and it was hot, and they're just so delicious!)
  • 1 perogies bag (I think we may be able to get these in our own container. Looking into that.)
  • 1 plastic sticker from a bunch of organic bananas

Total Items: 14 (I don't know what's going on lately!)