Sunday, September 25, 2011

No Impact Week: Day Two - Waste

Day two of my No Impact Week challenge focused on waste: what waste do I create and was it really needed? Day one, on Sunday, was all about trying to reduce consumption, trying to avoid filling your life with unecessary stuff.

On the first day, I had to collect all the waste I created. On the Monday I looked in the bag and categorised things into: items I used for more than ten minutes and items I used for less than ten minutes. A lot of it were wrappers, tissues and food. So really, a lot of it is for less than ten minutes. Oops!

I normally use hankerchiefs (yes, I'm rather old fashioned that way) and this week I have a cold. I tend to change habits when with a cold and go all out and use the Aloe Vera tissues in order to avoid a sore, scratchy nose. Not that I'm proud of it.

To reduce waste, I can proudly say that this is the first month I've used a menstrual cup instead of tampons. The brand I have is Lunette. I'm still getting used to it, but it's ok. The cups last for years, so although a big upfront cost (about $70 I think, although cheaper online) they pay for themselves as tampons are expensive.

The No Impact Week challenged me with two questions: what went into my special waste bag? Why was it hard or easy to make waste? During the challenge week, I've carried around a plastic bag and collected my waste wherever I go: at work, in public, at restaurants. I opted to eat lunch at the cafe rather than take away, as it cuts down packaging waste. I noticed most restaurants only provide paper serviettes. A pity. I collect very few plastic shopping bags and don't use plastic bags for vegetables: I buy them nude. I've started washing the plastic bags for reuse (as they do in Cuba) and set aside ripped bags that I'll take back to the supermarket for recycling (I've never done this).

My Fregie collection: for when buying nude vegetables
I'm big on recycling: I try and recycle the maximum including items often forgotten in the bathroom. So my challenge is reducing waste. This week was the first time I ordered fruit toast from the local cafe and got them to put it into my plastic container. No paper bag needed! I always go there with my own mug, and get a discount for my environmental efforts. One of the shops at the Camberwell Fresh Food Market sells nuts, grains and dried fuit in bulk, so this week I bought red lentils in my plastic container. Not so hard after all! Buying a whole set of Decor plastic containers is high on my agenda so that I can buy food free of packaging. I can probably buy it cheaper that way, too, as bulk goods are normally discounted. I'll end up with higher nutrition from unprocessed foods plus lower packaging waste. Yay! I've always thought I should take my own container to cafes, but this week is what pushed me to finally do it.

Container for lentils: no bag!
The amount of food waste I put in the garbage disturbs me: I'm used to a worm farm or compost bin for all the scraps and peelings. I don't have one at the moment, which means I don't get to use the wonderful nutrients on my plants. I'm in two minds whether I should fix this, as I move house in three months. At least by using the peelings for making stock I reuse waste, although I can't recycle it. By making more meals from scatch, this will help reduce my packaging waste, too. I already cook my own meals rather than buy prepared meals. I could go back to basics even more e.g. pastry and stock (I nearly used up last weeks stock with a lovely potato and leek soup). Both I can keep frozen.
Betty: my shopping companion of 9 years
The No Impact Week challenge on waste has definitely made me consider all the wrapping I throw out. I think I will be able to use my own containers at more shops and cafes in the future.

Monday, September 19, 2011

No Impact Week: Day One - Consumption

The first challenge dished up to participants in the world wide No Impact Week was Consumption. Essentially, we buy a lot of stuff, and although it may take a lot of resources to get to you, an amazing amount of what we buy is discarded within six months.

If you want to take a roller-coaster of how our society consumes, watch The Story of Stuff.

So my challenge for the week is to try and not buy new stuff, except for food. The hope is that instead of using shopping as an activity, I can spend time with friends and family and socialising or giving back to my community. I wouldn't say I consider shopping a pleasurable experience, a "hobby". However, I do occassionally shop so it still applies to me.

The task I was given: write all the items I am planning on buying this week, apart from food. Then I was asked to cross off whatever I could live without for the week. Third, I had to creatively think how else I could get these items without buying new. This might be borrowing, buying second hand, swapping or making second hand. Here are my potential items and what I can do instead of buying new (keep in mind I'm organising a permaculture conference):
  • texters - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • Blu-tac - borrow
  • butchers paper - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • Decor plastic containers - buy 2nd hand on eBay, swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • a top - can live without for a week
  • casual shoes - can live without for a week
  • eucalyptus oil - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • garden stakes - swap via Freecycle or zillch
  • dish cloth - buy 2nd hand facewasher at the Salvos or Vinnies
  • scourer - can't think of another option but new. Could wait
I need garden stakes because I potted up my fruit trees. I thought I had 12. I have 16. And an obsession with buying fruit trees. An investment in the future, I say!

Heritage apple, persimmon, cherry, peach, almond...

Monday's focus is Waste, so I had to collect all my garbage and recycling from Sunday. The food waste will be a bit high, as because I am trying to reduce over-processed foods, I decided to make chicken stock to freeze. Only $2 for a bag of bones, and I get a stock that is only real ingredients, no numbers (you know, the number codes on ingredient lists) and no salt.
Stock pot and finished chicken stock
I made pumpkin chutney so added pumpkin skin, pith and seeds. Hence it has a slightly orange tinge.
Pumpkin chutney
The pumpkin is homegrown!

I'll let you know how I went with Day Two-Waste.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

No Impact Week: 18-25 Sept

Tomorrow is the first day of No Impact Week. I've signed up for an eight day "carbon cleanse".

My life is pretty busy right now, organising the 2011 South East Australian Bioregional Permaculture Conference which is only two weeks away (starts with a party on Friday 30 September). After I watched the documentary, No Impact Man, I felt compelled to check out their website. I discovered I was right in time for the third annual No Impact Week: open to participants all over the world (want to join me?).

I was both interested in challenging myself to go one step more, as well as doubted I had the time or energy to participate. Then I thought, if not now, when? Enough excuses, just do it! What's the worst that can happen? I participate partly rather than fully? That's still a good outcome: at least I will have partly challenged myself and my way of living on this earth and in this society.

So I am signed up and ready to go. Each day has a theme. Sunday 18 September is Consumption. I hope to share some of my experiences with you.

I already know what I'm doing part of Sunday: finishing making chicken stock and pumpkin chutney. This is my second batch of making chicken stock instead of buying stock powder (in my attempt not to eat ingredients of "numbers" and varying levels of salt, plus using the waste of a carcass as a resource). It really is just boiling up a $2 bag of chicken bones for hours, I discovered while reading Arabella Forge's Frugavore. Why make chutney? Because it is yummy! This time, I even grew the pumpkin myself!

I didn't finish making the stock and chutney on Saturday as I also have a social life: dinner down at the pub with friends was calling me. A lovely night it was, too!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No Impact Man

Last night I watched the film No Impact Man, at home. A good time to reflect on my life and my impact. It was a one year experiment of a man and his family to live with no environmental impact in New York City. It wasn't billed as a scientific experiment: they did what they thought was the best option to reduce their impact. So it was also a social experiment. They wanted to see how they would deal with the challenge.

The challenge progressed in stages. By the end,  they produced no garbage, bought nothing except local food, turned off from mains electricity and only rode a bike or walked. This wasn't an environmental activist family: the wife at least had a typical life and so had a high consumerist lifestyle. It was hard. Many families say that having a child increases waste generation: they had a toddler to contend with!

The more you get into such a challenge, the more you realise the impact of your life. Producing no waste meant buying food free of packaging, so mainly possible at farmers' markets and bulk supplies stores for dry goods. Only local food meant no coffee, which was very hard for the wife. Only walking or cycling meant they didn't even use the subway and they took the stairs instead of elevators & escalators.

By the end, they had definitely reduced their environmental impact. But they felt the wonderful extra benefits were that the simpler lifestyle meant the family was healthier, happier and had formed better relationships with each other and those around them. They were richer by being free of the excess. After the year, they kept some actions and let some go.

It was good to be personally challenged and inspired. I feel I do a fair amount to try and live sustainably. Watching the film made me reflect on how even my actions that evening required a lot of energy and produced waste. I had the heater on, was watching a DVD, had more lights on than where I was sitting, had eaten a non-vegetarian take away meal which came with two plastic bags, a plastic container and styrofoam container, to which I added a dash of Japanese made soy sauce and then I washed the dishes with store bought dishwashing liquid. The plastic bags are recyclable if I take them to a supermarket (I've never done this) and the styrofoam is headed for landfill.

It inspired me to follow Cecilia Macaulay's suggestion of getting a good set of stackable plastic containers and using them at food co-ops: decrease useless diversity in order to help you have good dinners. I searched the local supermarkets today for what the Decor range could offer.

I went online tonight to The No Impact Project. I was greeted by the offer of undertaking the No Impact Challenge, along with thousands of people around the world. The next week long challenge starts 18 September. Should I just do it? It even has the option for a group starting a challenge team. Pretty cool to get support from those around you and give it a go together! I'll ponder.