Archive for the ‘reduce’ Tag

Clothesline, Finally   Leave a comment

This past weekend, with the impetus of spring cleaning, we finally finished our clothesline. It’s been on the wish list since we moved in, but we just didn’t get around to it, until this year. We started putting in the posts in winter, after weeks of dry sunny weather, and then it started raining. So this weekend we finally got up the crossbars and lines so that we could dry the comforter, mattress protector, and pillows way way faster than a dryer can do.

Disclaimer: This was another one of our cheap, winging-it DIY projects; we weren’t designing/building something to last 20 years or more. We started with a couple 4×4 posts that came from the makeshift awning the previous owners had on the side of the house. There was some discussion over where to put the line, taking into account sun exposure, wind direction, clothing flappage allowance (no lines located inches from the fence), fruit-tree access, prevention of knocked foreheads, and the as-yet-unplanned layout of play and gardening space when we get around to ripping out concrete. Then we ¬†hand augured a couple holes through the hard clay (good thing Mike has good upper body strength or it might have taken me all day!). We dug down roughly 2-feet, giving us about 6-feet aboveground, and then filled the holes with concrete around the posts. As I mentioned before, then it started raining so the concrete cured for at least 4 months before we moved on to step 2.

For our crossbars we used a 2×4 from the old awning, cut into roughly 3-foot lengths. It’s an arbitrary length, picked because we had one piece of wood that was 70-inches long, and everything else was much longer. With eyebolts spaced at just under 1-foot we have 4 lines plenty long enough for a couple loads of laundry, with space to move between them while hanging/removing clothes. We’re both most familiar with plastic coated metal lines, but at the hardware store all we found was nylon clothesline so we’re giving it a try. I’m assuming we’ll have to tighten the lines at least a couple times in the first month as it stretches.

The clothesline withstood the first weekend of laundry, and it was so nice to hang up the comforter and come back a couple hours later to find it dry rather than repeatedly have to reposition it in the dryer. We’ll see how this goes in the future, and how long the lines last. I did a search and found a Mother Earth News article that recommends using 8×8’s buried to 4 or 5-feet with knee braces.

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Posted May 15, 2012 by mayakey in energy use, frugal living, home, simple living

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More Greenwashing Napkins   Leave a comment

Apparently I’m on a greenwashing bent right now, what with my last two posts being about greenwashing in the dry cleaning industry and nail polish marketing. I notice things unfortunately often, but don’t always make note of them.

Last year I posted about the greenwashing paper napkins that Quiznos was using, this year I have another paper napkin from a pizza chain (I don’t remember which one and there’s no logo on the napkin). The claim? “Save the environment, one napkin at a time.” Even a 100% recycled paper napkin is not going to save the environment. Recycling is at the bottom of the 3-R’s since it is the least beneficial. Using FEWER napkins (reduce), and/or using cloth napkins (reuse), would be better choices but still wouldn’t quite rise to “save the environment” level. These types of small steps need to be part of a larger pattern, a larger movement, to really be effective. Yes, it’s a very good thing to use disposable napkins made from 100% recycled material, and I wish that all fast food/take-out restaurants did so. However, it really annoys me when a company makes outrageous claims of benefit for very small steps. Does anyone actually see these logos and think that the restaurant is a “green” restaurant? Or does anyone actually think that using recycled disposable napkins instead of virgin disposable napkins will save the world? Now, if the claim was “Help the environment, one napkin at a time” I might be able to get on board with it not being greenwashing.

A non-greenwashing (at least in my opinion) example is some brands/sizes of bottled water that I’ve seen recently that are using smaller caps to use less plastic. The bottles that I’ve seen haven’t gone to such lengths as to redesign the label touting that they’re saving the world by using less plastic, they’ve put a note on the label that by using smaller caps they are using less plastic. There is no “save the world” claim, only a mention that this is part of an “ongoing effort to reduce [their] impact on the environment.” For that reason I’m thinking that this is not greenwashing but is legitimate green marketing of a product that is inherently not environmentally friends. There’s only so much that the impact of a disposable plastic water bottle can be reduced. Disposable means landfill space with long-term maintenance of leaching and methane production, or incineration with air pollution and ash disposal concerns, or recycling with energy consumption and downcycling issues. Plastic most likely means petroleum product, with all the impact associated with oil drilling, or it can mean corn product, which also has a significant footprint of energy and other inputs. And water itself is a concern. Some brands of bottled water are tap water, but some are “spring water” and by my understanding that means they have to tap into the spring before it reaches the surface. This requires the construction of an industrial facility in an otherwise untouched place, and my cause the spring to dry up and change the local hydrology. And then there’s that Fiji water brand that ships bottled water to us rich first-worlders while the locals don’t have adequate sanitation and clean water facilities.

Posted April 14, 2012 by mayakey in environment, resource use

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The First “R” is Reduce For a Reason   Leave a comment

A while ago I read a newspaper article that started with a statement something along the lines of: We’re all familiar with the three “R’s” reuse, recycle, and repurpose… It made me ANGRY to read that, and weeks (months?) later that anger is still festering. The three “R’s” of environmentalism are REDUCE, reuse, recycle. Besides, reuse and repurpose are redundant.

The order of those “R” words is not arbitrary but is in order of importance and impact. Reducing is the most important thing that you can do, pretty much across the board because the benefits multiply. There’s the immediate and obvious effect of reduction that you use less of whatever it is, be it electricity, water, paper, food, plastic, media, pesticides, or concrete. Depending on what was reduced, there is also a reduction in waste going to a landfill or incinerator with consequent reduction in soil, groundwater, or air pollution. Because of the (somewhat unavoidable) amount of loss and waste along the supply chain, that reduction on a personal scale leads to a waste reduction of many-fold moving up the chain. Some examples are a lightbulb left off not that only reduces the electricity to generate light but also the electricity wasted through heat generation (and losses in the transmission system, and losses at the power plant, and inefficiencies in the generation of electricity, and water consumed by the power plant); and a paper not used not only saves a piece of paper but the packaging, the paper trimmed off the roll, the bleaching/dyeing chemicals, the energy and water to make the paper, and the energy to transport it. Not using something therefore means not using a lot more of the raw materials required to make that something, and reducing the pressing need to mine/harvest/pump ever more of those raw materials at an ever faster rate.

In some cases there are other benefits. Printing less paper means that you have less paper that needs to be filed and stored somewhere, saving time and money. Having less junk means less of your house is taken up by storage space and more can be used for living space. Buying less whatever generally saves money. Watching less TV or spending less time playing video/computer games may mean more family time or sleep. Having less stuff or fewer commitments can mean a much more peaceful life. For people like me who hate to shop, buying less stuff means I have to shop less. On a larger scale using less pavement means more infiltration, healthier plants, more groundwater storage, and less pollution in surface waterways.

At a time like this when jobs are a hot topic and the unemployment rate is scarily high, is it “unpatriotic” to talk about reducing consumption of anything/everything? I don’t think so. For one thing, an economy that is mostly based on excessive consumption is not sustainable ecologically or economically. Isn’t some of what we’re going through now a contraction from the rapidly increasing rates of consumption and indebtedness in recent years? And considering the scarily high amount of personal debt carried by the average American, reduced consumption that saves money also increases personal stability and security. More consumption isn’t necessarily going to be a long term economic fix, but smarter consumption would help.

Change Purse Tissues   Leave a comment

One of the waste-reduction measures that I implemented years ago was to stop carrying around the travel sized plastic tissue pouches, but instead keep a fabric pouch of tissues in my purse. It was one of those head slapper moments when I suddenly realized that a change purse is approximately the same size as a travel tissue pouch, and would work better without the plastic waste (for the pouch and the packaging for the set of tissue pouches).

When I conceived of the idea, of course, there were no change purses for sale at Whole Foods, or at the next Green Festival. Instead I settled for a Fair Trade zippered pouch sized for bills, which was twice as large as needed for the folded tissues, and slightly awkward in my purse. But a few weeks ago I saw pretty organic hemp change purses that look sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of purse life, so now my tissues are in just the right size pouch, and after a few years of making do I can say that this idea is brilliant! (As I pat myself on the back, apparently.)

To be honest, there are some drawbacks, namely that if I forget to refill it when it becomes empty, I have no tissues. While it feels faster, I’m not sure that walking to the closet and digging out a fresh plastic tissue pouch is really any faster than stepping up to the nearest tissue box, grabbing and folding a couple tissues, and stuffing them in the hemp pouch. And the reusable zippered¬†(or snap) pouch has a big benefit: it stays closed. Never again will the little sticker meant to close the plastic pouch get linted up/torn off, thereby leaving the tissues defenseless against anything that rubs up against them. The side benefit is the fact that no matter what they print on the plastic pouch, I bet you can find a change purse that you like better; I know I did.

Posted March 28, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, frugal living, resource use, unshopping

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