Archive for November 2011

Sofa Saga   2 comments

Way back in June I posted about buying a new sofa, and while that process was easy (though expensive), it has been much more difficult to deal with the existing sofa. I admit to being lazy and not starting to find a new home for the old sofa during the summer between when we ordered the new sofa, and when we received it. The new sofa actually showed up a couple weeks early, too, so I was caught off guard. But over the last few months I’ve been having no luck getting rid of the sofa.

I tried calling every charity with a thrift store in the Sacramento area, but no luck. The problem is the fact that the existing sofa has tears in the fabric of the seat, and needs to be reupholstered. The foam and liner in the seat also need to be replaced due to 17 years of active usage, so a slipcover doesn’t take care of the problem. But the sofa is still sound. A peek underneath does look like hardwood, so it does still have life left in it. The springs are “no sag” springs, which apparently don’t live up to their name but are really easy to support if that is the case. Unfortunately for the sofa, the local charities only take gently used furniture since they have no way to make the repairs.

We’ve tried listing the sofa twice on Freecycle and once on Craigslist, with no bites. Not even a nibble. I’m a little frustrated with Freecycle because I think it takes the concept of local a little too far. Our local Freecycle is Rancho Cordova. So if I post something, it only goes to people in Rancho Cordova, not other people in the Sacramento metro area. By my count there are three Freecycle groups for “Sacramento”, as well as Orangevale, Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, Folsom, Carmichael, Elk Grove, and Roseville (all of which are cities/communities in the Sacramento metro area). I’m not keen on joining all of them.

I’ve left a message with a man who teaches upholstery at a local adult education school, and this week I’ll try calling homeless shelters. Why all this work? Two things. Emotionally, I confess to having an attachment to the sofa since my parents bought it when I was a teenager and passed it down to me over a decade ago. Second, I really really hate the idea of throwing something sound into the landfill. The cost estimate that I’ve gotten from upholsterers is $300-$500, but I can’t afford to spend that kind of money for something I’m giving away. I was hoping that someone who needs a couch would be willing to take one that needs a few hundred dollars of work rather than spending the same or more on a new piece. Guess not.

We can’t keep this extra sofa around for much longer as it is really in the way. I am seriously conflicted, though, because I just can’t stand throwing away something that still has use left in it. I wonder if I should start listing it on Craiglist and Freecycle as a set with the loveseat, which is in fine condition. I’m not ready to get rid of the loveseat, which was going to go in the nursery, but giving away both together might be a better option than throwing away the sofa.

What is the take home lesson here? If you’ve kept a sofa long enough for the seat to get  worn out reupholster it instead of replacing it.

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Posted November 27, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, home, unshopping

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Shame on Whole Foods For Selling “Natural” Turkeys   1 comment

Ordering a turkey for Thanksgiving is an interesting process. The choices! I mean, really, it’s just a turkey! But one of my greenwashing pet peeves is being highlighted all over the place, and that is the use of the word “natural”. The Whole Foods holiday catalogue listed “natural” turkeys, organic turkeys, and “heirloom” turkeys. I confess that I don’t know enough about turkeys to know if heirloom actually means anything. But I’m well aware that natural is a meaningless term. What’s an unnatural turkey? Other than tofurkey, anyway. All it is is marketing, greenwashing. It is tricky, too, since when in a hurry a natural turkey sounds like a good choice. I almost got caught, even, until I paused for a moment to ask why there were so many options and realized that it boiled down to organic and not-organic. Unfortunately, we actually have one of those not-organic “natural” turkeys, but that’s because they don’t have pre-brined organic turkeys.

This is one of my pet peeves because I find deceptive advertising to be a horrible practice. The only reason to say that it is a “natural” turkey rather than just a turkey is to make people think they’re getting something healthier. But since it’s not a regulated term, natural can mean fed ground up cows and injected with some fancy saline solution (just as an example, I know nothing about raising turkeys).

Posted November 24, 2011 by mayakey in food, musings, shopping, Uncategorized

Marketing In Social Media/Blogosphere   Leave a comment

This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately for some reason. Generally speaking, I ignore advertisements. In fact, I’m a perverse person who is more likely to avoid a product that I have seen advertised on TV than go out and buy it. This started early, with my subscription to Consumer Reports for Kids back when I was a kid. One of the major foci of the magazine was teaching kids to be critical observers of ads, and not snookered by every slick saying. I took the lesson to heart. Plus I seem to remember my parents discouraging logo t-shirts as just free advertising for a company. So something has to be really important to me before I’m willing to tout a shirt/bag/whatever with a logo. Looking in my closet and drawers I see logos for my alma mater, the University of Michigan, and that’s it. (Although some of them have small sponsorship logos on them). As of last week, however, there’s a new one. Calvert has started a new campaign called the “Too Big To Fail” campaign, and I was immediately captivated. So I was willing to take a photo, have it uploaded to Facebook with me tagged, and liked Calvert on Facebook for the t-shirt saying “Too Big To Fail” under a giant graphic of the earth.

This makes Calvert only the second company to make it into my “interests” on Facebook. Now I’m not sure what I want to do about it. I do like Calvert, which is a good thing since my IRA is with them and we plan to open a Washington DC 529 plan since that’s the one they manage. Social investing is really important to me. But am I willing to be free advertising for them? Not sure. On my website I have a short list of online retailers that I like. I put it there because I used to get asked a lot where I go to buy organic clothing, etc. I had forgotten about the list but now I think I’m going to take it down because, again, I’m not sure I’m willing to be free advertising for them.

On the other hand, is it really a compromise of my values to promote companies that align with my values? I can walk around in jeans all day every day without anyone realizing that they are organic cotton and entirely made-in-America, so just buying the jeans doesn’t help expand the LOHAS market base much. But, adding a third hand here, promoting a company doesn’t necessarily improve awareness of an issue, which in the  case of the jeans would be intense pesticide use on cotton and sweatshop labor. That’s theoretically what this blog is for (among the hundreds of similar blogs out there).

All this just to decide if I should “like” the companies that I purchase from on Facebook. I think I think too much! What do you think? 🙂

Posted November 18, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, money, musings, shopping

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Why Do We Not Respect Our Limits?   Leave a comment

This past weekend was the San Francisco Green Festival again. As usual, a good time was had listening to speakers and making some super-discounted (and desperately needed) clothing purchases. I got free worm castings and feel somewhat more confident about the project to turn the plastic drums in the backyard into rain barrels. The day was significantly marred, however, on the drive home when I pushed myself beyond my limits for too long. We left a few minutes later than planned, and encountered an accident that created a long backup, so in order to get back to Sacramento in time for my sister-in-law to watch most of the Sacramento State football game I had to really make up time. As a result, for over two hours I made myself drive faster than I was comfortable driving on the busy freeway at night. Why? I don’t really know. Getting back home quickly was definitely not necessary, and she wasn’t pressuring me. Let me be clear, while my speed was higher than I was comfortable with at the time, it was slower than I sometimes drive during the daytime and I was moving with the flow of traffic, so it’s not an issue of unsafe driving. It’s a question of why not respect my limits and instead push my mind and body to a tension breaking point for no good reason. All it took was a silly trigger just before I reached home to cause me to completely loose it: screaming, crying, shaking, and not being able to take a real breathe. I was a complete wreck. And for what?

This extreme was a new experience for me, but it’s not the first time in my life that I have not respected my limits. You’d think I’d learn since the results are never good. But I’d also guess that I’m not alone in this affliction. Again I ask myself, why do I not respect my limits? It is the exact opposite of the conscious life that I strive for. Why not listen to my body, mind, heart, and intuition in situations like this? I haven’t yet answered my question.

Posted November 14, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, musings

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Leveraging Charitable Donations   Leave a comment

Every year in November, my co-workers and I get lots of reminders that we have until the end of the month to submit our charitable contribution matching forms for the year. I don’t know how common it is for companies to match their employees donations to charitable organizations, but it comes to mind now as a great offer to take advantage of if you are one of the lucky. Sometimes I feel silly sending in my piddly little check to be matched. It almost feels like there’s no point in matching such a small amount (relatively speaking). But then I remind myself that if I’m donating $40 to the scholarship fund, the fund is getting $80. It may still be a small amount, but it is less small.

The employer matching program is just one way that I try to leverage my charitable contributions. Another is a credit card that makes a donation to charitable organization(s) for every purchase that you make, or one issued by a community lending bank. A frequent topic (or side-topic) in personal finance blogs is shopping for rewards cards in such a way as to maximize your benefits. I, on the other hand, deliberately chose a credit card that gives charitable donations to a whole list of companies. (Although at some point in the last couple of years it also seems to have gained some kind of rewards points.) To me that is the reward: lots of charitable donations to a wide variety of organizations. Granted, some of them are organizations that I wouldn’t personally donate to, but when I vote each year on the amount that goes to each charity I just don’t vote for them. There’s at least one phone company (CREDO) that does the same for cell phones and long distance. And then there’s the list of over a thousand companies that participate in “1% for the planet” or some other kind of give-back. That’s a lot of ways to facilitate financial support for charitable organizations.

I also like the back-door method, which is to deliberately purchase products from companies that “do good”. That’s a major point for fair trade certification. That’s also one of the benefits to buying something made by someone locally rather than from a factory in a cheap-labor country. I consider that spending a little bit more on a product so that the producers make enough money to not need charity or other outside support, is a good thing.

Posted November 8, 2011 by mayakey in fair trade, money

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