If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. Joseph Wood Krutch

Friday, April 13, 2007


Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. Kurt Vonnegut
Wow, isn' t that true. Wander any garage sale and you will see this is true. Along with the requisite books, exercise equipment and old clothes are the plates emblazoned with cable cars or shot glasses that say "Wyatt Earp" or "Johnny Red" or some such. Each of them was bought so as to bring back memories of those fine moments when we finally escaped the prison of our world and had a little fun. Now its worth twenty-five cents but you'll take a dime if someone offered. Right? Why do we do this?

I have a drawer full of this kind of stuff. Prizes from battery packages, souvenirs, things I am sure will be "collectors items" someday. Yeah right. Am I nuts? Dust collectors is all they are. I even have a drawer with no less than 200 pens in it. You never know when a crowd might show, each needing a pen, so they stay in the drawer waiting for that day. I guess that answers the question about "Am I Nuts?"

I am now following the advice in 30 Days to a Simpler Life by Connie Cox and Chris Evatt and drawer by drawer I have been unburdening my life of these things. Three piles, "Keep", "Toss" and "Give Away". I e-bayed a few things and then bought a few books on how to live simpler. I honestly don't know. I am indoctrinated in consumption. It is going well though and each time I get rid of things I feel just a little lighter and the Goodwill gets a little richer. I don't yet miss any of it and I am trying hard not to replace it with more junk.


I have also been thinking a great deal about paper recently and since we went out to eat last night at our favorite place "The Laughing Planet Cafe" I was more aware of the amount of paper I was mindlessly consuming. It was dreadful. I ordered a burrito bowl which had no paper wrapper but I found myself, without even thinking, filling up a little paper cup with salsa at the salsa bar then picking up paper napkins and bringing them back to the table. I didn't give it a second thought until I got to the table. It was just a habit of consumption. Worse yet, when I wanted more salsa I didn't return with the same cup. I got a new one! More mindless consumption. OK, so you're saying "Don't beat yourself up, it was one napkin and two little cups." True, but if everyone uses the equivalent how many trees must die for a few minutes of my convenience so it can end up in a landfill somewhere. Millions?

There is a very good book by Wanda Urbanska and Frank Levering called "Nothing is Too Small to Make a Difference". It is this book that began to wake me up to my own consumption habits years ago. I am not as far along as I would like to be but I am taking more diligent efforts now. I highly recommend this book as a starting place for anyone that wants to simplify. Anyway one of the points in the book is that every step we each take individually makes a difference. Regardless of how small. Use one less napkin per day, that is three-hudred and sixty-five this year. Use one less paper salsa cup each week, that is fifty-two this year. It all adds up and makes a difference. Imagine if the whole world adopted this viewpoint.

By the way, if you live or visit Portland Oregon make sure you try "The Laughing Planet Cafe" on Belmont. You won't regret it and five bucks will get you a decent meal.

Well, that is enough of my early Saturday morning ramble. Signing out.


Mail Woes and Cloth Bags


Yesterday and today I received one pound three ounces of junk mail that went directly from my mailbox to the recycle bin. Yikes! One of the pieces actually came in a box with a pen for me to sign a petition. It may have been a good cause but I didn't really look at it. I just disassembled it, took out the pen and threw the rest in the recycle bin. I have begun a daily log of the weight of my junk mail and I will post it here weekly at least. I have called a few of the places that send me mail and have found that if you plan to do this on a regular basis be prepared to be put on hold a lot or be transferred to voice mail. Some will even act miffed that you are taking up their time. But stopping the flood of junk mail is worth the hassle.

OK, before I sound too holier than thou I do have to confess my guilt. I used to own a company that produced co-op ad pieces that went out through bulk mail to thousands of homes and consumed tons of paper and gallons of ink and probably irritated a few people in the process as well. But I was asleep then, I am awake now and I have flogged myself sufficiently to be free of that sin. Now I even print things on my computer to .pdf' files as much as I can and use paper only when absolutely necessary. Saves me a bunch on toner too. And we all know how much they charge for toner.

One thing I did recently is to pay a buck to the Direct Marketing Association for their Preferred Mail Service. Basically what this does is tell them I am sick of junk mail and would gladly pay a buck to get rid of it. Sort of like a spam filter for your snail mail. It takes a few months for the system to kick in and if it works I should see 75% less poundage coming my way. I also went to OptOut Prescreen.com and opted out of all of the "You are pre-approved for a Uranium credit card with a One-Million Dollar Limit" junk mail I get. This one is free to sign up for and lasts for five years unless you mail in a signature on a separate form and then it is permanent. If my efforts are successful I should see a big drop in my junk mail in the next six months. OK, now onto another topic.


Grocery shopping for me lately has brought on a large bit of guilt too. Since I eat a plant based diet that means I shop mostly in the produce and bulk sections. And what does that mean? It means that I come home from the market with dozens of plastic bags each time I go. I'm not talking about the "paper or plastic" bags at the checkout counter. I mean the flimsy ones you spend five minutes trying to open so you can dump a head of lettuce in. However I have finally discovered an answer. They are called Eco Bags, are made of cloth, have a string tie and are reusable. I found them at ReusableBags.com. I ordered ten of them at $2.25 a piece with about five bucks shipping today and they should be here sometime next week. Once I have a chance to use them I'll post my experiences here. Since I already use reusable bags to bring my groceries home having these should eliminate the plastic all together. Oh, and I should mention when you are at the site don't leave without reading the "Fast Facts" section and looking at the "Photo Gallery". Plastic bags are not just unsightly and a waste of resources, they also kill an enormous amount of wildlife.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Soap is ubiquitous

Soap is ubiquitous. It's everywhere. Was I just redundant? Anyway there is hand soap, car soap, laundry soap, dog soap, cat soap, hair soap (we just call it shampoo but it is really just soap), dish soap, foot soap; iguana soap? But where does all of this soap go after we are done? And how much does it cost in dollars and environmentally to get rid of it once we have sent it down the drain? Or here is the biggest question; What is it doing to our bodies and do we really need to be this clean? OK that was sort of two questions but they were both good ones don't you think? Oops, another question.

Many are not aware that our skin is the largest organ in the human body. How else could we stick our hand under our armpit and squeak out a tune? But seriously, everything we put on our skin eventually soaks in and passes through our bloodstream to our liver and kidneys and then hopefully out. But maybe some of it lodges in our tissues too. Do we really know? Hmmm...kind of makes you think differently about all the lotions and potions out there doesn't it.

The long and short of this post though is that I ran out of hand soap yesterday. I have been using a fairly decent natural soap but it had a pretty long list of ingredients, many of them which I had no idea what they were. I guess I just took their word for it that they were natural. Finding a replacement soap with simple ingredients, that was not just good for me, but also the sewer system and planet was REALLY difficult. Lots of choices but very few good ones. I ended up buying a very simple castille soap that has peppermint oil and Aloe Vera in it. I could read the contents without consulting a chemistry textbook or having to use a magnifying glass. That was a very big plus to me. I don't see a dime from any of this so I guess I could make a shameless plug. Shadow Lake Pure Castille Soap. Peppermint Leaf variety from Citru-Solv in Danbury CT. It has six simple ingredients and it is great for hiking trips since it is 100% biodegradable. I like that. Smells pretty good and my wife likes that. I don't really pay attention.

Well, maybe that is a lot to say about soap but after learning a few years ago about the crap that is in most of the stuff on the market today, like antifreeze, I am much more careful about what I buy and use. One of my long term goals is to start producing my own cleaners including laundry detergent. I have done a little reading and it doesn't look that difficult. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How the toilet paper caused me to flush an entire forest

I'm not sure if you have heard of the "No Impact Guy". He and his family, two year old included, are living one entire year without making an impact on the planet. No plastic, no garbage, no tv... Sounds like quite a challenge but he is spurring lots of people like myself to be more sincere about living cleaner. He's been all over the news recently, even made it onto the Colbert Report, and I think the thing that caught most peoples attention is the fact that he has sworn off toilet paper entirely. Toilet paper! I'm still trying to figure out the details on that one and I am not sure I am ready for that step yet but maybe someday. It did get me to thinking about the toilet paper I use though. Cottonelle. Now perhaps I have been confused or a little dense but I have been buying this stuff thinking they used cotton fiber rather than wood fiber to manufacture it. Wrong! This is the worst stuff you can buy. It is made entirely from virgin wood fiber pulled out of clear cuts of old growth forests in Canada. Hoo boy. I think maybe it is the spotted owls and not Wal-Mart that's been following me

OK. So I have a little supply of Cottonelle left which I plan to use up and then never buy again. I did a quick search on the Internet and that led me to some stuff called Purely Cotton that IS made entirely from cotton. Here's the rub though. It can only be ordered online, link above, but you can order a roll, a case or whatever you want. They make both toilet paper and tissue.

I contacted Natures Way Tissue, the manufaturer and they are an American Indian owned company. I asked about the organic value etc. and they were very nice to send me a FAQ sheet with all of the information. In short, no, it is not an organic product but it is considered a recycled product. The explanation is lengthy and not worth going into here but the product looks good in my book and it is "tree free". Plus I like the fact that it is American Indian owned.

If you still want paper then there are a few toilet paper brands that cut the mustard per Greenpeace. They are CVS Bathroom Tissue 1000, Cascades, Marcal, Natural Value, Earth First, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value. If you pop over to the Greenpeace site they also have a very good action pack with tons of information about Kimberly-Clark's rape of the boreal forests of Canada. It is 28 pages of some pretty good information. I had no idea.

I must leave with just one warning about some of the recycled brands though. Some feel as though they were made in a sandpaper plant so you may want to test different ones before switching for good. I'm going to try out the cotton.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Welcome-I am a resource pig

I am a resource pig and I know it. I'm trying to change. Honest. In this blog I hope to document my steps away from my own resource over consumption and on toward more sustainable life practices. Nothing like a little transparency to do the trick, huh.

One of my favorite past times is hiking. I have always followed the cardinal rule of hiking "leave only footprints and take only memories". It just seemed like the right thing to do. A day came that I realized as soon as the hike was over I was right back to trampling good old planet earth without care. I thought to myself, "Self, shouldn't you try to leave the least footprint you possibly can all the time? Not just when recreating? Hmm...good point. So, before I recycle myself back to soil and feed the dandelions, marigolds and lilies I decided it was time to clean up my act.

After my "conversion" I discovered that society in general views my goal of trying to live more sustainably as being very uncool for the most part. I sometimes find myself lumped together with being a "new ager", "hippie leftover" or sometimes even viewed as being "unpatriotic". "What do you mean you avoid the mall? It's your patriotic duty to shop and keep the economy humming. Waht about the corporations? What will happen to the stockholders? The economy will crash if we all start to live sustainably and stop buying more stuff."

OK, that may be all true. But, economy collapses are survivable. It's happened many times before and we all just went back to eating worms or something while we looked for a good farm and then waited for a good crop of broccoli and carrots. Ice ages and total desertification on the other hand are probably not as easily survivable. Mabybe if you have some good Eddie Bauer gear and a basement full of canned food. Wait! Did someone turn up the heat? Water, I need water!

Another example of falling outside the mainstream is when I chose to begin eating a plant-based rather than an animal-based diet. To be perfectly honest my first intent in changing was health and not sustainability but the ecology bandwagon rolled by soon after and I just jumped right on. My choice was severely questioned by nearly everyone I mentioned it too though. With great concern they would ask, "How on earth do you get your protein if not from a dead cow or chicken?" The answer, of course is that I get it the same place the cow and chicken did before they died. From plants, nuts, seeds, etc, etc. etc. Also, since I gave up mothers milk about fifty-one years ago I decided, very late in life, to give up cow's milk too. I mean it is true I do have calves but I use those mostly for walking and not drinking. And yes, I get my calcium the same way believe it or now. Plants. If somenone out there does find any carnivore cows or chickens please let me know and I may reconsider this choice.

It takes a lot of work to move toward sustainability since the choices are many and it may not be for the faint of heart. One of the easier choices to make is; do I use a paper bag that consumes a tree and saves oil or do I opt for the plastic one that consumes oil and saves a tree? I recently opted for the reusable plastic bags as they seemed to leave the least footprint.

A move toward sustainability may be difficult but it does have a very positive result. It will cost a lot less to live, life will become simpler and less stressful,and I will be much healthier. Admittedly I have taken just a few small baby steps, but it is a start. Each week (month?, year?, decade?) I plan to move a little closer to my goal as I read, learn, adapt and apply. Here are a few of the things I have done so far.

1. I recycle anything I possibly can and end up dumping very little in the dumpster.
2. I eat low on the food chain. That means I eat a very sustainable plant based diet and have eliminated all animal products from the menu since they consume resources at an alarming rate. I do use honey from time to time but mostly agave nectar.
3. I strive to leave the car parked as much as possible and walk or take the bus whenever I can. I'm still working on that one and have considered selling the car and using Flex Cars or a rental whenever I really, really, really need a car.
4. I have taken steps to reduce the junk mail I receive. Here are some instructions on how to do that: Stop the Junk Mail
5. I buy organic when it is available and shop local as much as I can. I am also trying now to eat with the seasons but have not yet fully refined that goal.
6. I read. Books, blogs, websites, anything I can to learn and adapt. Society it seems has moved so far away from sustainability in the last one-hundred years much of our knowledge of living with the earth has been lost. I know I certainly did not grow up in a sustainable household. There are still a few persons in the U.S. that live simply and it is from these I hope to learn how to return.
7. I do not sell my "allotment for polluting" by buying "carbon credits" so I can continue to pollute. I would much rather reduce my own consumption, educate others to do so as well and reduce the carbon emissions that way.

Well, that is my story for now. I hope to keep this blog going and document my progress. I actuallly hope to make quicker progress now than before and I encourage others to join me and post suggestions, good books to read and most of all encouragement. As time goes on I also hope to expand this site and offer select books for sale that will help others move toward co-habiting peacefully with the earth. The way we all did for thousands and thousands of years.

Please recycle this blog properly in the right bin.