Archive for April, 2007

Clogs

No clogs, please!

¬†Ok, not that kind of clogs… ūüėÄ

Just two weeks into our sustainable lifestyle and we are already faced with a potentially toxic situation. The shower drain is clogged… again. Last time I used a sodium hydroxide declogger, which as you can imagine, is downright nasty. Now that we are all sustainable and all, that can’t be our choice option.

The¬†problem with¬†our shower drain is that it’s not possible to open it and remove the nastiness manually, so we do have to resort to some sort of declogger. So before I¬†resorted to our old trusted caustic stuff I thought I might try this recipe, with baking soda and¬†white vinegar, washed down with boiling water. Yeah, I tried it… So much for that, I noticed a little¬†bit ¬†of an effect but the bottom line is, we still got clogs (or clog).

Tomorrow its back to the store get the caustic stuff…¬†It’s a pity grandmas old trusted soda fell through, and not just literally. It was worth a try.

Clogs courtesy of travelingbelgian on Flickr.

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April 11, 2007 at 12:41 am 7 comments

Toilet paper issues

Tree free? What about chlorine?This is just a short post about my full-of-indecisions and enviro-dilemmas sustainable-attempt of a life. I recently purchased my first ever pack of recycled toilet paper… Which is all well and good, but now I am wondering if it is really better for the environment if I buy the said paper.

You see, when I buy a package of regular virginal toilet paper, it’s normally never less than 12 rolls, wrapped in plastic. The thing is, because recycled paper is so unusual, I always have to buy it in small packs of 4. So if I buy 3 packs of recycled toilet paper, I produce around 2 times more plastic waste (I emphasize that here it’s not possible to recycle plastic) than if I buy a 12-pack.

The package brags about being made out of polyethylene plastic, and therefore free of evil PVC. However, what concerns me is that not only there is no mention of the post-consumer content, as there is no mention of the bleaching method. Since nothing is said about oxygen bleaching, I can only assume that this paper was chlorine bleached, which is about as nasty as it gets. Details about recycling paper and the nastiness of bleaching can be found here and here, for example.

And so, my friends, while I don’t find any other kinds of recycled paper, I think I am going to keep using trees… I have to say this is not an easy decision to make, and I appreciate any input anyone has on this matter.

April 10, 2007 at 12:50 pm 13 comments

Market Research

Wageningen Market

As you can probably guess from this wannabe clever title, today is market day in Wageningen (Vahhhhheningen, like you are trying to expel some mucus). So, in our soon to be squandered innocence, we headed off, carrying our little tote bags, a couple of plastic bags to reuse and a carton of eggs to refill at the organic dairy stand.

Full of good intentions, we successfully purchased a broccoli,a zucchini and a few mushrooms at the organic produce stand, making use of the totes and one of the plastic bags I brought along.¬†We knew we needed to be extra watchful, as it was only on the previous day that we weren’t quick enough to prevent the organic butcher from handing us our goodies in one of those dreaded plastic bags. We assumed, by the absence of packaging and¬†what they were selling that their stuff¬†was reasonably local.¬†Or at least I like to think so, and postpone my disillusion for some other time…

Unfortunately, however, we are still not at a point where we can afford to refill our stock entirely from the organic stand… So we went on, intending on getting some fruit and what not at a regular stand. It was then that we realized exactly how hopeless our situation is… Inspecting the items on display, I was still hoping to find something that could even remotely qualify as “local”. Bananas (Costa Rica) were obviously not an option, as well as the sugar snaps we were informed came from South Africa. Looking at the bleakness of this picture, it suddenly seemed that Spain was actually not such a bad perspective after all… In the end, we walked away with some spanish oranges, some spanish strawberries on the verge of spoiling and some plums, which seemed pretty good until I found out they were also from South Africa…

So there…. to quote Butters, “Oh Hamburguers!”. We have now, as I see it,¬†4 possible options. 1) We go bankrupt buying organic 2) We starve going local and avoiding packaging 3) we expand our standard¬†of what’s local to simply “Europe”, so we can allow ourselves to get stuff that is¬†trucked over from Spain and 4) we stop asking where stuff comes from and revert to our previous “ignorance is bliss” situation. None of these sounds especially appealing, but alas, we must feed.

And so it is, that I have reached the conclusion that after we can’t afford the organic stand anymore, we will limit ourselves to our continent and consider that to be as local as it gets…

Even so, I consider this day to be quite positive, considering that I managed to get home without adding more plastic bags to my collection and reuse one egg carton. But still, I did not escape plastic altogether, as the strawberries were packed in a plastic box.

 Photo Courtesy of .:Kemal:. on Flickr

April 7, 2007 at 11:55 pm 3 comments

Wasting money

First, I would like to thank everyone for visiting and for all the nice comments and the support we’ve been getting with this project. You guys have been great… I totally wasn’t expecting that this blog would do so well, less than a week since I started promoting it. No hate mail yet… I guess we’re not that cool yet, but I don’t mind. It builds my moral…

Second, I would like to apologize to my friend Ana… She was always an out-of-the-closet environmentalist and we used to make fun of her for being so naive back in university. She was always getting on everyone’s case about saving water, walking instead of driving, and other eco-nazi stuff like that. Sorry Ana!

One Green little kittenI’m still overwhelmed by the amount of plastic I’ve got in my trash and in my fridge, waiting to be trashed. I’m developing a solution for the kitty litter problem. I recently got some really eco-friendly litter. It sounds great, but I will still have to see how it measures up. It’s made from pressed forest waste, the stuff that results from forest cleaning, tree free.¬†Its local and you can put in the compost bin. So I also got some compostable bags, and the big plan is to put the biobag in the bucket and use it for the kitchen waste and the litter.

I still have some concerns about this whole thing, though. The compost bags say they should be changed up to 2 weeks and and you can’t put stuff that is too moist in them. I am worried the poor bag is going to fall apart with¬†the kitty¬†wastes.¬†As for the litter, it was about the¬†same price as clumping litter, the problem is that you “should” change it 2 times a week, which will be quite expensive and also quite a pain. So I think next time I will try another kind, like wheat or corn, or whatever I can find here. But at least¬†I am saying NO to plastic bags from now on.

My big trash bag is still lasting, almost two weeks now. The compostable bags I found didn’t¬†come in the medium size, and in the end I decided that its not worth using a compostable bag to incinerate our trash in. I paid E1,89 for the 10 compostable bags, which I can make up with what I’m saving on trashbags. Those are normally around 1,5E for 20¬†but they are lasting 4 times as¬†long now.

I was also quite happy to find out that my favorite tea filters¬†that I use to brew whole leaf tea are actually oxygen bleached and compostable… I know its a little wasteful but I just like them so much… and they are made in Germany, which is fairly “local”.

April 6, 2007 at 1:27 pm 3 comments

Frozen assets

Fridge in the Snow

This day just took a completely dramatic and unexpected turn. I was just going about my usual blog round, which includes a stop at ¬†Little Blog In the Big Woods. Greenpa’s seemingly insane suggestion that everyone should get rid of their fridges… actually got me thinking, believe it or not… Well… not about my poor tiny innocent little fridge, I have no problem with him. At least for now. I am not prepared to give him up, especially with the warmer weather approaching.

But I realized that I completely forgot about the monster freezer I keep in my bike garage, quietly tucked away out of sight and out of mind. Why do we use that thing, anyway? I have four drawers full of last century frozen veggies that were already there when we moved in. I am almost tempted to think it is worth to keep running it just to avoid confrontation with that nastiness. But alas, I must be brave… So actually, we have been keeping it on for the sake of some rotten greens, half a package of ice-cream and a bunch of ice bags (plastic ice bags… another thing to add to¬†The List).

So there… I made up my mind. I’m pulling the plug on the big white. I am still left with a moral dilemma about having to throw away a number of plastic bags full of water. Hmm… Here’s what I’ll do: I’m going to give it until Sunday to get rid of the ice… Which may or may not include getting a bunch of people over and an alcohol binge… Oh the sacrifices one has to endure…¬†¬†ūüėÄ

Anyway, I actually think there is something to be said about no-fridge idea. Maybe not while its warm, and not in hot climates. But why not using your balcony in the winter as a natural refrigerator? I have done it when I lived in a student corridor and had no space in the fridge… it works just as well. I can even envision having a shelf on the balcony especialy for that purpose and unplugging the indoor one. This is definately something I will consider next winter.

How about you Vanessa? Wanna give it a try? ūüėČ

Photo Courtesy of Phil Dowsing on Flickr

April 4, 2007 at 8:51 pm 7 comments

Let there be Compost!

    

Soon after I bravely decided to drag (!)  my boyfriend into this lifestyle experiment, he was quick to introduce our first major behaviour modification. #30 on the list- how I have stubbornly refused to recycle our organic waste (even though the collection bin is right by the regular container).

My reasons for doing so were mainly because I was fearing that it would be stinky to keep our organic waste in the house for a few days, rather than dumping it in the big trash bag, which we then would take out more frequently. Then, I was also too lazy to think about finding a solution for storing our organic waste.

After we made decision last Monday, we debated for a while on how exactly we ought to go about it, and even considered *gasp* using a plastic bag. In the end we decided to use a plain old bucket, which we lined with a little newspaper in the bottom and keep it on the balcony. I also debated whether dumping the newspaper in the compost bin was acceptable, and then decided that it was, since apparently it is common to add newspaper in home composting.

We started our little bucket last Tuesday, and on Saturday I took out a healthy amount of 3,5 Kg of organic waste. Yay! Because of that, my ordinary waste bag is still going strong since Monday, no smells. Another nice thing about recycling food scraps – we don’t have to take the trash bag out as many times, which means we can save on plastic trash bags and a little money (we had to buy them). Unfortunately there are no alternatives to trash bags, for now…

And now for the bad BAD news. Now that I recycle all my paper, glass, and bio-waste,¬†I was¬†made aware of this shocking conclusion when I looked into the regular trash bag- it was all PLASTIC!!! Oh crap… What am I going to do about all this plastic? Especially in this @#$%^& country, where you can’t even recycle it?!!!

So it looks like our next challenge for sustainable living has become clear –¬†trying to get rid of all this over-packaging. I’m not quite sure how to go about it yet…. I fear it will require a lot of sacrifices at the supermarket… *sigh* Maybe we can just shop more at the market and less in Alberthein… And still have my litter cleaning dilemma – I use the plastic bags from the market for that…

On the plus side – I noticed I just ran out of plastic wrap and I am boicoting buying any more of it. We still have tinfoil though…

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Update:

I have just learnt that biodegradable (“afbreekbaar”)¬†trashbags exist at C1000, the “other” supermarket (Albertheins’ scrubby cousin). I will investigate whether I can afford biodegradable bags if I subsidize them with the money I save by not having to buy so many of them…

April 3, 2007 at 6:21 pm 3 comments

Where we are

(Oh how I love double meanings….)

I figure I should explain a little about the contexts that surround this blog. Despite the fact that I got my inspiration from a series of American (and Canadian) blogs , I have to point out that this is NOT an American blog. This is a blog grounded in my reality and environmental experiences, which are deeply related to living in the Netherlands.

And still, I feel a connection to the American blogsphere, not only because it was the source of my inspiration but also because my boyfriend is American, and like it or not, I know that at some point in the near-midterm future we will be relocating to the US. I know that at that point, I will have some serious adjusting to do, together with my green lifestyle policies, and, accordingly, with this blog.

But now for a brief explanation of what living in the Netherlands implies for our lifestyle, and what is the current status of our struggle towards sustainability.

Transport:First of all, the country is tiny… and flat. We live in tiny town. We don’t have a car. There are cycling paths on every street. Cycling is the main form of transport around our tiny town, and that’s what we do. There are special saddle bags on the bag of our bikes which allow us to carry a surprising amount of groceries. And for outside town, the public transport service is pretty good. So the transport part is already as green as it gets here, so I won’t be talking much about that. Flying, however, is a problem, with such an internationally scattered life, but I will get back to this some other time.

Consumption: We always bring our own bags for shopping. Especially because grocery bags cost 20 E cts in most places. But I have to admit that sometimes I get small plastic bags (that are free) because I use them to scoop out kitty dumplings out of the litter box… I am currently looking into tackling this problem. Other than that, I also have to say that I have been, inadvertently, following the Compact buy nothing principle. I haven’t bought anything since Xmas… This was, for me, a source of consumer depression for a while but I’m over that now that is fits so nicely into our newly acquired reduced consumption goals.

Food: Regarding food, we have been, generally, going for organic stuff, except when organic is WAY out of budget. I still haven’t decided weather I want to go for “local” in this place. Consider that this super-small, overcrowded country is the third largest exporter of agricultural products in the world. I don’t even want to think about what they do to their food here, but I will mention that there are ongoing rumours about horse meat in meat products and sugar injections into strawberries. I will investigate into local vs. organic further on, but I have to say that for now my preconceived judgement prefers tomatoes transported from Spain…

Energy: A lot of wasting in this department, you can have a look at The List. Last time I changed a light-bulb I bought a CFL. Other than that, all the other lights are the regular type… and I’m not going to change them unless they burn out. The house is rented and I don’t expect to be here long enough for CFLs to “pay for themselves”. We don’t have a drier. We merrily hang our clothes on the balcony and the laundry rack when its cold. I’ve never known any other way to dry clothes…

Water: Let’s see… I share showers a lot ūüėÄ the toilet has flush control and we don’t own a dishwasher, for better or for worse.

Heating: Its central. We have been abusing it a little, especially because the landlords don’t send us the bills. But its spring now and we have been cutting down on it.

Waste: We recycle all of our paper and glass… No plastic or metal, sadly, because they don’t have collection for that.

So there… that’s about all there is to know about the environmental conditions of our little household.

April 2, 2007 at 2:25 pm 2 comments

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