Archive for May, 2007

7 random facts

More Deliberate Every Day tagged me with this 7 random facts meme. This means you fabulous readers will be graced with 7 beautiful facts about me that you probably never wanted to know in the first place… Well, I have already mentioned that I am weirdly obsessed with trash, and you might have already guessed that I have an unreasonable love for cats, so I won’t count these ones. So here goes:

  1. I have absolutely no idea how are you  supposed to pronounce ‘meme’. If this was an actual conversation, I would totally be embarrassing myself. This happens to me quite often, when I try to say words that I have only seen in writing. My boyfriend gets quite a kick from it.

  2. I went through a vegetarian period when I was a teenager for a couple of years, mostly because of animal rights and suffering. This was totally inconsistent with the fact that I was still wearing leather. (Well, I already had it, so I wasn’t going to throw it away!)

  3. I’m a sucker for make-over shows. Style, home, extreme, you name it, I’ll watch it. I plead guilty to being a cheeseball. (yup, I watch too much TV as well).

  4. I don’t wear jeans. I don’t own even one single pair of jeans. In fact, I don’t wear blue either.  And I know this makes me a freak.

  5. I loathe intellectuality. I do. Really. I’m a practical gal, I don’t like abstract concepts. Especially when they are attached to pretentious people trying to show off how cultured they are.

  6. I’m really really really indecisive. I have serious problems making up my mind, and often change back and forth between extremes. Basically, I’m every salesperson and waiter’s worse nightmare. Well, sometimes I’m also very strong minded. No… well… I really can’t decide 😀

  7. I’m really old-fashioned. You would be surprised how old-fashioned I am for my age. Especially about how men should treat women. I think that men should pay for everything regardless, open the doors, pour the wine, but that housework should be divided equally 😀

And now…. MuAuaHhauAauaHAUHahah!!! I’m tagging my victims Be the Change (you’ve been awful quiet Caroline!), Chile Chews (your blogging meme baptism), Golightly Place, Green as a Thistle, Every Day Trash (another trash obsessed gal), Typed Words and Living Plastic Free. You’re it!

Rules (originally from The Bedroom Reader):

Each person tagged gives seven random facts about themselves. Those tagged need to write on their blog seven facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and need to read your blog.

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May 31, 2007 at 9:42 pm 6 comments

Recycling Guide – hardcore treehugger style

Recycle

Ok, so in case you haven’t read my first post, and don’t know this about me, I am an environmental engineer (well, sort of). I would be an environmental engineer by now if I hadn’t came to Wageningen to get a Masters degree, or if the Portuguese were like normal people and didn’t have 5 year degrees unlike the rest of the world… but never mind, I digress. Anyway, I’ve had my share of Waste Management throughout all this. I’m not claiming to be an expert, I didn’t read ‘Garbage Land’ but I do know about trash (in fact I have an unhealthy obsession with trash, even my thesis is about trash).

So anyway, I thought it was about time that I shared my bottomless pit of trash knowledge with the world, and maybe inform some peeps on all those things “they” don’t tell you. If you are still reading this far and think that recycling your cans and bottles is a big sacrifice, read no further. This post will only confuse and demotivate you. But if you want to recycle EVERYTHING you possibly can, this post is for you.

Now, here is what you must know about how recycling systems work: 1) there is a LOT that they don’t tell you. The reason is, they don’t want to confuse you and demotivate you from recycling. It’s for your own good, really 2) recycling materials, most of the times, are sorted by cranky, busy and underpaid employees (think Ten Worst Jobs in America). If something is not up to standard, it is rejected. No one is going to wash the plastic cup you didn’t wash. Best case, they will just reject the peanut butter jar. Worst case- they will assume the whole lot is contaminated and landfill it all.

Of course, recycling depends very much the place you live, so my first recommendation is to check with your local recycling system and see what they do and don’t recycle. There is no point in separating all your plastic if it’s not accepted.

The Most Important Rule is:

Do NOT recycle anything that is greasy or dirty

This will most likely result in a whole batch of perfectly good recyclables getting send to landfill because recycling collectors will assume the whole container is contaminated. This WILL happen, for example, if they see a food-soaked item in a cardboard recycling bin [1], like a pizza box. No one is going to go through a container and separate the ‘clean’ from the ‘dirty’. And if it doesn’t get rejected right away, it will force a recycling worker to go handle rotting food on the sorting table by HAND.

And here are the general rules for each material:

Glass and metal:

  • Remove the caps.
  • You don’t need to wash these because they are processed at high temperatures, so contamination doesn’t affect the recycling [3]. (Some places recommend a quick rinse to prevent odours, but personally I don’t think it’s necessary)
  • Glass bottles from olive oil, for example, are ok too, as well as sardine cans and things like that.
  • Only glass bottles and jars can be recycled.
  • You can’t recycle light bulbs (not CFL), ceramics, Pyrex, kitchen glassware like glasses and plates, white skin cream jars. These types of glass have different melting temperatures than regular glass and form solid inclusions in the final product [4].

Paper:

  • You don’t have to remove staples, plastic windows, spirals from notebooks. These get strained out when the paper is turned to pulp [1]
  • Remove tape if you can, because it tends to gum up the machines, but it’s ok if there is some left. [1]
  • No dirty or greasy paper (very important!!). This means no napkins or tissues (even if they are only slightly dirty :D)
  • Do NOT recycle pizza boxes!!! Even IF the pizza box IS clean, they will still assume it’s dirty and toss it just the same, and possibly the whole container as well! Treehuggers, enviro-freaks, you don’t want to risk that, do you?
  • Waxed, composit or laminated paper is generally not allowed, like milk cartons, fast food wraps, drink boxes. Note: Some places accept drink cartons, but I wouldn’t recycle it if it means getting milk all over clean paper and ruining it for recycling. I cannot emphasize enough that if that happens everything will get tossed!
  • Thermal paper cannot be recycled – this means fax paper, but I also think it means supermarket receipts, which are increasingly printed on it are not recyclable also. “Just say no”… or toss it yourself. [2],[3]
  • Flatten cardboard boxes – again, if they are not flattened, they can be rejected [1].

Plastic:

  • #1 and #2 are the best to recycle, as long as it’s clean
  • #3, 4, 5 and 6 can be recyclable, even though it’s expensive and/or complicated, so avoid buying these if possible.
  • #7 has virtually no recycling potential [3] so avoid this one like the plague. And of course, don’t bother recycling it.
  • Always remove the bottle caps and toss them. They are a different plastic than the bottle and most of the times are not marked.
  • Don’t even bother washing plastic if it’s been in contact with grease. You are wasting water on something that will be rejected anyway. Let me explain, even if you do get that peanut butter jar sparkling clean, because everyone else doesn’t, they will assume it’s greasy and toss it.
  • If it’s been in contact with non-grease liquids or food, give it a little rinse. But a little bit of soda residue is fine.

 

And finally, last words of wisdom:

  • “When in doubt, throw it out”. [2] I think a common mistake is ‘when in doubt, recycle’, which often leads to more harm then good.

  • Don’t bother recycling small pieces of paper and plastic. Normally, grading is one of the first stages in recycling plants, all the small bits and pieces are sifted out and trashed.

Are you still with me, brave reader? I hope I didn’t overwhelm you too much… Don’t hesitate to speak up if you have any questions, doubts or comments!

Sources:

[1] Harvard University Recycling FAQs

[2] The World’s Shortest Comprehensive Recycling Guide

[3] The Consummer Recycling Guide: Commonly Recycled Materials

[4]Tchobanoglous “Integrated Solid Waste Maanagement – Engineering Principles and Management Issues”

Photo Courtesy of Kingdesmond1337 on Flickr.

 Edit: I am actually now in the process of reading Garbage Land. So far it confirms everything I’ve said. 

May 29, 2007 at 3:29 pm 50 comments

This is getting really belgium

 The pissing bastards

(Don’t know if you caught the obscure Get Fuzzy reference)

So I spent the last couple of days in Belgium, having a little interviewing marathon for my thesis. 4 guys in 2 days (3 of them on the same day!). It was a very educational experience, I learned a number of the new things, including about myself.

For one, I learned that I really need to be in my own environment to be eco-conscious. As soon as normality is taken away from me,  my ‘convictions’ fly out the window faster than you can say ‘global warming’. I behaved very poorly these 2 days, as much as it pains me to admit it. I was doing it all. Using the tiny little hotel toiletries… Eating mediocre non-organic meat, and worse, unsustainable tuna and salmon sushi…. Accepting coffee in plastic cups at my meetings… I even bought a glass of juice in a pretty little plastic cup, a paper packaged brownie and didn’t bitch about it. I found that it’s really hard to fight the disposable establishment when I’m out of my element like this…

At least I came to my senses at lunch and consciously didn’t eat at this one place  (even though it looked really good) because to say that place was over-packaged would be an understatement. Even their soup was in disposable paper cups… Not to mention the *gasp* Styrofoam coffee cups. So I went to a more traditional place instead, you know, with real dishes.

A new world was opened to me, now that I now what good towels feel like… And now I have to go back to my crappy ones *sigh* Nonetheless, even though from now on I will probably be coveting towels like those every time I pass a linen store, I have made a resolution (yeah, that’s right, I can make resolutions too you know). I decided not to buy anymore ‘things for the house”. I tend to exorcise my need to consume by buying candle-holders and special cheese-slicers and stuff like that. But now I am trying to slip into ‘moving out’ mode, which means stopping accumulating things and starting to purge all the useless crap I’ve been buying.

I found out that Belgiums are weird. They greet each other with kisses… Now, that would not be strange to me at all, because all of us Mediterraneans do that. The particular thing about waffle eaters is that unlike us meds, guys kiss guys on the cheek… That’s just so odd!!! At first I even thought it was a gay thing, but then I saw regular scrubs doing it, so it must be a cultural thing…
And trust me, they were straight! (I know because I have been accused of having an overactive gaydar, never the other way around).

I realize now how lucky I am to have dutch tap water. I had to refill my bottle in Belgium and man, it tastes horrible! I am starting to doubt if I will be strong enough to keep off the bottle if I have to live in a place with yucky water like that! I was dehydrating all the way back on the train just because of the taste of it…

My rusty french is better than I thought… at least the 357 people I asked for directions seemed to understand me. And I always found what I was looking for, so yay for me. The absurd thing is that at times I had to slip in dutch words into the mix, and my dutch is so much worse than my french!

Anyway, I really like Belgium. It has a sort of chaotic charm to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to do any of the touristy stuff this time, because Brussels is really beautiful. I didn’t even buy chocolate, can you imagine? Hard as it is to believe, I actually think that Belgium is the European country that is more similar to my familiar old Portugal, at least out of northern Europe. I think even more than France. (I know I’m just talking out of my @$$ cause I didn’t go to ALL of the countries in Europe… yet. But still… the point remains.)

Its amazing how you can clearly see the point where Belgium ends and Holland begins. On the Belgium side you actually have hills, and trees growing randomly in a seemingly natural manner. On the dutch side, everything is flat  flat flat flat. All the trees are planted precisely 5m away from each other. All the farms are exactly rectangular, forming a perfectly geometric pattern, like a masterfully crafted quilt. Seriously, the dutch are so anal… But I guess the Belgiums would have all drowned a long time ago if they had to claim half their country from the North Sea.

And now you ask ‘Wow! How did you manage to insult so many people in such a short post?’ Well… I guess it takes a special kind of talent :p

Army of pissing boys by Mr Jaded on Flickr.

——————————

Edit: I am having some trouble making the Get Fuzzy link work, because it is on an archive of Cafepress. If that link is not working, and you are dying to know what the ‘fuzzy’ reference is, go here, choose ‘strip designs’ and ‘bucky’s unique vocabulary’.

May 25, 2007 at 12:53 pm 9 comments

Not dead yet

Good news: I’m not dead yet. Still alive… and kicking… a little.

Bad news: This is not a real post. My thesis work avalanched on me so, probably, no new posts till the weekend. I got a lot of stuff to talk about, so stay tuned for the next episode.

May 23, 2007 at 12:07 am 1 comment

And the award goes to…

Yup… Green as a Thistle  honoured me with a Thinking Blogger Award! Thanks Vanessa! (Still can’t believe it cause I’m the kind of person who always complains about never winning anything). 

My thinking awards are going to go to blogs who challanged my preception of the world and/or inspired some kind of change in my life.  So my award goes to:

  1. EnviroWoman’s Living Plastic Free in 2007– even though I was trying not to repeat nominations, I just had to give the much deserved praise to EnviroWoman. She makes it possible for me to believe that there can be life without plastic.
  2. Rachel’s Compact – the pledge of not buying anything new for a year. Made me realize shopping and consuming has an impact, and that there is nothing like not-shopping to counteract the “system”.
  3. Sara’s Walk Slowly, Live Wildly – because her blog is so pleasant and positive that just gets you motivated about stuff. Also comes with great photos and ‘thinking’ posts. She gave me the idea of using cloth bags for produce and not only for shopping. (I was planning to write about these in the future).
  4. Lori’s Do you realize? – I like how she balances her personal eco-moves, deep environmental discussions and personal posts on this blog, complete with a good dose of humour.
  5. Vanessa’s Green as a Thistle –  I know, how lame am I for awarding my last spot to the person who nominated me in the first place… but her blog is the coolest, funniest and most inspirational, so I just had to…

Special Mentions:

No Impact Man, who inspired the thought ‘if this guy can live without toilet paper, what excuse do I have?’ (Although I suspect that he secretely figured out how to use the 3 seashells).

Crunchy Chicken – who brought about the Diva Cup revolution.

Little Blog in the Big Woods – the reason I unplugged my freezer.

So, if you got a thinking blogger award, you are encouraged to go brag about it on your own blog and let us know which blogs make YOU think.

May 15, 2007 at 4:21 pm 6 comments

Wageningen’s Buy Nothing Day 2006

I found this video today, more or less accidentally and I thought I would share it with you. Buy Nothing Day was in November, apparently on a Saturday, and I can’t believe that I somehow missed it! It just totally passed me by, I didn’t even know about it. Damn… It looked really cool… apart from the typical November weather.

It’s here for a few reasons. You can see the small town where I live, you can see the market I always talk about, and you can see the back of Emmaus, the charity shop (where you see the ‘pimp my bike’).

The thing they are shooting the video from is a tricycle, a special cargo bike. I used it twice for moving my shit across town (including one bulky sofa). Apparently it was put together by 2 local organizations, one of which I knew because they give out free food at the market about once a month. That’s the ‘Food Not Bombs’ people, it’s them pouring soup in the video. (also in Wikipedia)

The first two stands you can see are the organic vegetables (the guy who waves at them) and right next to it is the organic dairy guy. It’s too bad they didn’t write ‘free hugs’ in dutch, “gratis knuffels”. Knuffels (the k is not silent) always cracks me up… it’s just such a funny word 😀

Notice in the end, when they are putting the tricycle back, there is a yellow sign in the road and a bunch of bicycles inside. That’s the shared patio of Emmaus and a ‘Bike Oasis’, which is a bike repair shop where I always take my bike when I have a flat. The guy is really nice.

Anyway, I just thought it would be interesting for you guys to see where I live and actually see the stuff I’m always talking about. I hope you enjoyed it.

May 11, 2007 at 3:34 pm 5 comments

Success and Failure

Environmental dialogues with a catClick to see full size.

I just couldn’t resist posting this strip from Get Fuzzy, my favorite comic strip. It describes my kitty dialogues very accurately.

It’s now been more than one month since I started this blog, and taking all things environmental a little more seriously… So I guess it’s about time to have a little recap on our “struggle”. I know this is kind of a random time for a recap, but please, be patient with me. Take into consideration that this is the blog of a highly UNorganized person, who probably qualifies as Attention Defective. Such is my condition, condemned to starting blogs on ordinary days, and having random unannounced recaps. And I am a little short on time and blogging topics, and it finally seems like I have enough to recap about.

Bad news first:

  • This week, the kitty-litter experiment has been officially declared a failure. Kitten fought the system and won. I tried to make him realize that it was better for the environment and for his kitty health but he would not have it. Believe me, he made it verrrry clear. “Oh Boo Hoo! Every time a microwave dings an angelfish looses it’s reef”
  • That means, back to the nasty clumping litter, and back to the ‘scooping plastic bags’. No kitty litter composting 😦
  • I still can’t stand tofu… My taste buds reject it like my cat rejects eco-litter. Lucky I didn’t leave any surprises around the house like some orange citizen I know (who will remain anonymous to preserve his dignity).
  • I keep getting a load of free newspapers, in dutch, despite the ‘No unaddressed advertising’ sticker on the mailbox. Talk about waste of paper. They sit in the mailbox till it’s recycle day. Grrrrr…
  • I kinda dropped the ball on monitoring my utility bills… I have no idea how much money, if any, I am saving. I know this sounds strange but we’ve had this arrangement 1,5 years now. The bills are included in the rent and we are adjusting it when we move out.

And now for the good stuff…

  • The freezer is unplugged! Hoorray!
  • Bringing Your Own Bags is old news here, everyone does it (plastic bags are a expensive commodity here, you know). So I took it to the next level, where I am viciously storing and reusing EVERY single bag I already have. This includes stuffing my totes with paper bags for fruit and veggies on the verge of disintegration, piles of price stickers on top of each other. I am also religiously reusing egg cartons. If the eggs are not packed yet I just put them in My Own Carton. At one organic stand at the market, I ‘exchange’ my empty cartons for a full carton, their cartons are all reused as well.
  • We are now unplugging all our electrics from the socket. Except the microwave… I use it as a watch in the kitchen. Being disorganized also means having improvised watches, like the cell phone, the microwave and the church tower.
  • I recently discovered that we are actually using green electricity here. I would never suspected that of my landlords, judging by the stashes of disposable plates, cups and utensils we inherited. Oddly, I found out because it says so on the mailbox sticker. Awsome!
  • I am growing herbs on the balcony, which are just starting to be big enough to use. We are also growing arugula and spinach (even though I’m pretty sure I’m messing up the spinach).
  • We are buying organic veggies exclusively (unless there is dinner emergency), and buying as local as possible. And strangely, I don’t think I am spending much more money than before. At least not enough to notice.
  • What I am noticing is that we are buying less quantities of veggies, and using them. Because organic stuff is so expensive, we really cut down on food waste. When we were buying the cheapest, we would often get a bunch of stuff and let it go bad.
  • We stopped relying on meat for every meal. Now we have an agreement on once-a-week meat, but ironically, we forgot to honour it this week. Our tasty organic steak this week was, sadly, replaced by some crappy supermarket salami.
  • And finally, a very satisfying change is that I don’t buy my stuff at the supermarket anymore. Now I just go there on emergencies, like the above mentioned dinner, as well as breakfast and litter emergencies. That means that I am also avoiding the plastic invasion of my kitchen by the packaging army.
  • Oh, and I almost forgot! I got the Diva Cup, no more disposables for this gal!

I’ts looking good, everyone! I don’t think that any of the changes I made are very hard to do, but it does take a lot more ‘thinking investment’ into my daily life. And it requires me to be constantly on the look out for the packaging scum of the Earth trying to infiltrate my home. I know that supposedly I am spending more money on food, but somehow I am not noticing any cash flow shortages. And I do think what we’ve been doing has the potential of saving me more money than what I am spending. So in the end, it’s all peaches and cream. As long as they are organic of course 😉

May 8, 2007 at 1:33 am 7 comments

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