Archive for June, 2007

Reusable Vacuum Bags

cloth vacuum bagsSo, ok, I know I said I wasn’t going to buy anymore ‘things for the house’. But I went on my usual Wednesday shopping round, and stopped by Action because I was looking to buy some cheap gardening containers. I know that I shouldn’t be shopping at Action, because their stuff is just so ridiculously cheap that there is no doubt they are enslaving little Chinese children to make it. I mean, there is just no other rational explanation for why they can sell stuff so cheap.

But anyway, I didn’t find the flower pots, but I couldn’t resist getting a reusable vacuum bag. I mean, it was ONLY 1E!!! Who can resist that? And I just thought the idea was so funny that I thought I just had to try it out!

This picture gives a pretty good idea of what I got. The material is really crappy synthetic nylon type, with a zipper at the bottom to throw out the trash. The little white circle has is a sticker which you glue to the cardboard fitting that you take of your regular bags. That’s why the box claims it is a Universal vacuum bag. What I didn’t manage to figure out was what the hell the round thing with the sticker is attached to the opening with a Velcro. Anyone?

So I still have to try out if this thing actually works, and then I’ll get back to you. It looks promising, but for that price you can understand why I will have to see it to believe it before I can say anything about how it works. Clearly, not something for the prone to asthma to try 😀

The picture from here, where they are happy to sell them to you for 9,99$. Can’t be sure if it’s the same thing though. Has anyone heard of these?

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Edit:Duh! I figured out what the Velcro was for. Is pretty clever, actually! You leave the cardboard attachment in the vacuum and just take off the bag to empty it, and attach it with Velcro! That’s obvious! I can be pretty dim sometimes, huh?

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June 20, 2007 at 5:05 pm 10 comments

Price perception and the organic (and local).

I have this theory for a while now and I am now going to share it with you guys. and you can tell me if it makes sense or not. It all started with an observation of my patterns of ‘going out on the town’ in a relatively unfamiliar city.

Say, we go to Amsterdam for a weekend. We are quite broke as always, but despite the fact, we go out for dinner and look for a place for an after dinner drink, that hopefully will not rip us off. We pass a bar, and it looks nice, if only a little bit on the fancy side. And, inevitability, the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, this place looks nice, wanna go inside?”

“Hmm, I don’t know, it looks kinda expensive, I don’t think we can afford it”

And then what happens? We go somewhere else, that looks more like the kinda place we can afford (i. e. hole in the wall). And we end up paying 3 euros for a beer in a crappy looking hole in the wall.

And after this happened one or two times, I developed a new philosophy. This one more satisfactory, and it goes something like this:

“We are in Amsterdam. Gonna get ripped off no matter what we do. So we might as well enjoy it and go to the nice looking place we wanted to go in the first place. I’m sure it won’t rip you off any worse that the others”.

So then I started noticing this little theory applied to other things as well. Like, here in Wageningen, we had this really crappy looking supermarket, the kinda place you don’t want to spend more than 5 minutes in, just get the milk and get out before this place steals your soul. And the strange thing is, this place got a reputation of being cheap. But the fact is, when you actually compared the prices of the same products, it was even more expensive than the nice looking supermarket!

We as consumers are subject to a hell of a lot of manipulation. Why do you think all the prices are always $9.95 and not $10? Never $10. I know, rationally, that $9.95 is really 10$. But for some reason, it just seems a whole lot better than $10, huh? Why you go to the supermarket and buy something for $4.95 and next week it is on SALE, for ONLY $5.45!!! And yet, we still buy (into) this crap!

So, I wonder, even though there is no doubt that most local and organic things are, in fact, more expensive than their conventional counterparts (like the 8E/kg bell pepper), how much of the price difference is real, and how much is just in out heads?

I have, just recently, seen the lettuce heads at the organic market stand for 1E a piece, picked that same morning in Wageningen. In the supermarket, they have them imported from Spain, who knows when and how, for E1,5o! And the 8E/kg bell pepper seems expensive, right? That’s about E1,5 a piece. What if I tell you that about the same time I saw single overpackaged bell peppers trucked in from the Kingdom of Far Far Away at the supermarket at guess how much? That’s right, E1.50. And let’s not forget that said peppers rank at #3 of most evil vegetables in pesticide residue.

I’m not saying this is always the case. It’s true, about 70% of the times (my guesstimate), local and organic is more expensive. But it is also fresher, tastier and pesticide free! Isn’t that worth paying for?

Just because you buy something at ‘Cheap’o’market’ doesn’t mean that it is actually cheaper! I am just making a case for the fact that supermarkets are not actually the cheapest places to buy food, despite what they want you to think.

I’m just saying. Go to the farmer’s market. I bet you will find plenty of local (and sometimes organic as well, with or without certification), cheaper than at Cheap’o’market. Don’t just assume that it’s more expensive and therefore you can’t afford it. Do some research first, and actually compare it. Even better, look into the possibility of buying directly from farms in your area.

On a personal note, I am now going to look into the possibility of buying cherries and strawberries and other fruit from farms just on the edge of town. Yesterday I noticed them from the bus. They had a little barrack by the side of the road with a painted sign saying ‘Cherries for sale’. I bet ya that’s the cheapest I’ll find here in town. And if they are not organic, who cares? They are local, which is cool too.

The point is, you are going to get ripped off no matter what you do. So might as well enjoy it, and get what you really want, and not go for the inferior alternative just because your perception is tricking you into thinking it’s cheaper 😀

Yummy photo by CAZASCO on Flickr.

June 16, 2007 at 2:58 pm 13 comments

More recycling

recycling

A couple of days ago, Emily was worrying about whether the fact that her municipality collects all the recyclables in one bag means they are just landfilling them. As it turns out, that is quite a current and relevant question. The answer is, no, fortunately, they are indeed recycling it.

Just yesterday, Treehugger had a great post about a new recycling technology that optically separates materials like different types of plastic and paper. That means that they now can sort the recyclables automatically, where traditionally people were required.

I highly recommend reading the original article in the Economist. It is quite informative, for those of you who are still curious about recycling ‘magic’.

Anyway, the point is, with the new automated sorting, many recycling programs are switching from several recycling bins to a single bin. The main advantage of the switch is that the recycling rate tends to be much higher with a single bin. As an example, San Francisco, who switched to single bin a few years ago, now has a recycling rate of 69%. I don’t know if you realize, but 69% is huge! By comparison, the American average is 32%.

Also according to the Economist, the recycling rate here in the Netherlands stands at 60%. Not bad if you consider they don’t collect plastic from households. I do, however, think that there is plastic being collected and recycled from businesses and other large producers. I mean, there is a European Directive that makes it mandatory for them to recycle a certain amount of plastic.

So, my friends, if some time in the future your municipality asks you to put all your recyclables in one bag, worry not! It’s a good thing!

Oh and sorry, Treehugger, for ripping off the image from your post. It’s just so pretty and informative… I hope you can forgive me. I do it out of reverence to you.

June 12, 2007 at 2:16 pm 4 comments

Reusable Bags (and bottles and mugs)

I am not much of an online shopper. I have, on occasion, spent numerous hours on Ebay trying to find fashionable vintage shoes, but never succeeded in spending a single Euro. As I said before, I’m kind of old-fashioned. I compulsively examine all my potential purchases. I poke them, twist them around, smell them, check for the ‘best before’ date, check for suspicious ingredients. So you can imagine the limitations online shopping has for someone like me.

But yes, finally, a while back I successfully placed my first ever online order. It’s been a while that I actually bought anything for myself (or the house), so now it seems that green accessories is the only shopping therapy I can get. So I went over to Reusable Bags, and got myself some shiny new things.

Here’s what I got:

reusable bags

A Kleen Kanteen water bottle, a stainless steel commuter mug (the lid is not on the picture), a couple of Wrap’N’Mats and a few produce bags.

The Kleen Kanteen bottle is pretty cool. It’s a lighter than I expected. Of course it’s heavier than a plastic bottle, but it’s not so noticeable. The only thing I don’t like about it is that when you are drinking from it you have to press this tiny little rubber thingy on the lid to let out the air. That’s not so great, actually. It’s not very comfortable little button to press, for once, and second, the sound of the air sipping out of the bottle can be…well… a little embarrassing, if you are on a crowded bus for example. But that’s something I can live with.

The mug is not exactly what I expected when I ordered it. The size is pretty handy, and the lid is pretty good. You can easily transport hot coffee in it and not worry about spilling. The little annoyance with it is that it doesn’t have the little hole to sip from when the lid is closed. I have seen other cups with a little sliding system that magically uncovers a little hole to sip your coffee through the lid. And I really wanted a little sipping hole 😦 *snif*

The ecobags produce bags are pretty much what you can expect. I am still going through a pile of paper bags I got so I only really used them to buy the said produce once. And the lady at the organic store called my bags ‘funny’. I’m cool with ‘funny’. Better than ‘wacko hippie’ I say.

I’m still a little ambiguous about the Wrap’N’Mats. I mean, they are pretty handy, and do their job pretty well. But. When I first unpacked them, the ‘new shower curtain’ smell was pretty nasty. And they are not even made with PVC, rather they claim to use PEVA, PVC’s less evil twin. Whatever the case may be, I rinsed them best I could and hung them outside on the clothes line to air out. It’s ok now. But I still have my suspicions. Something that smells that fowl can’t be so great in a tight embrace with your cheese sarnies. Oh and if you are wondering why I got the extra-cheesy ‘environmental’ print you see in the picture… Well, it was a hole 2 bucks cheaper than the ‘adult’ versions. And I’m a cheap-ass, what can I say.

Overall, I’m rationalizing that the $50 I spend on all this crap is so totally worth it, but hmm… deep down, I think internet shopping really isn’t my thing. I don’t know if I would have bought some of that stuff if I was allowed to thoroughly examine it like I would have liked.

And yeah, Reusable Bags people… you are welcome to send me free stuff now. I have promoted you plenty over here…

June 10, 2007 at 11:47 pm 7 comments

New Address!

Ok, guys. I finally took the big plunge and changed my blog address. I don’t know if you noticed, but since a couple of days ago, the address is http://closetenvironmentalist.com. The old links you might have to me still work, they just get redirected to the new address.

Now, fellow bloggers, I would like to ask you to please please please update your blogroll links to me. So that my link count doesn’t take a total dive. So that all the desperate folks out there who type in ‘kitty litter’ or ‘toilet clogs’, or often times ‘kitty litter toilet clogs’ don’t miss out on the chance of landing on my blog. You wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of the pleasure of stumbling upon my rants on the ‘Diva Cup’ and ‘Toilet paper’ now would you? 😉

Thanks a bunch! I really appreciate it!

June 6, 2007 at 3:07 pm 3 comments

Your friendly neighbourhood Closet Environmentalist

(I can’t believe I managed to spell that properly, but spellcheck says I did)

Hi there folks. Please excuse me if you are expecting a serious post, but as it happens, writing that monster-post on recycling left me kind of drained out. This post is going to serve 2 purposes:

  1. tooting my own horn 😀

  2. answering Lori’s questions about that recycling post (scroll down if you really can’t wait!)

No, sadly, the Carnival of the Green is not being hosted here. For that, you will have to wait until March 3rd 2008. But, my recycling post is being featured on the Carnival, this week being hosted on Groxie, and has made an appearance on a few other  blogs.

Here are the big news. I finally decided to, literally, put my money where my mouth is, and get my very own domain name. From now on, www.closetenvironmentalist.com is up and running!  And I even made sure to register it at Dreamhost, who proclaims to be green on the account of buying Renewable Energy Credits and Carbon Credits. Better than most, I say.

So now I have two options, and as I mentioned in my last post, that is a problem. Should I have my new domain as the blog’s address, or stick to the old one? I am hesitating because if I change, I will loose my precious technocrati number (22 and growing!) and pretty much start from scratch. That would mean that I have to work a lot more to write some more awesome posts to get my old rating back 😀 Then of course, I will have to ask you folks who link to me to update your blogroll with the new address. So considering all the facts, what should I do? Comment, comment, help me out! (I was even trying to make a little poll, Crunchy Chicken style, but turns out WordPress will not let me 😦

And now, for our little Q & A:

Q: What happens to, say, milk and soda containers that have the twist-off lids that, when twisted off, leave a little ring around the container? Do they get tossed? Should we remove the rings? (I do, a lot of the time.)

A: Well, I never do actually, I admit it. That is considered a ‘residual contaminant’, which is acceptable to some extent. So, no, they don;’t get tossed. It is better that you remove it, yes, because the quality of the material is better if the plastic is more ‘pure’. BUT. Most plastic is downcycled, which means for example, when you recycle soda bottles they are turned into garden pots or fleece stuff. So it really is up to you. If you feel like ripping them off, rip away!

Q: What about plastic containers that have a plastic label shrink-wrapped around them? Are we supposed to be removing that label as well? (Again, I have been, just to be safe.)

A: Ok, I’m not quite sure what shrink wrapped is. You mean, like the label of a coke bottle? If it comes of easily then it doesn’t hurt to take it off. But I don’t think leaving the label on is basis for rejection.

Q: Do you think it would be more worthwhile to buy peanut butter in glass jars, so that more of them would be recycled? (I fall into the category of “have been wasting my dish soap cleaning peanut butter jars”.)

A: Yes, definitely. You don’t even have to clean it as well. Just rinse it off. It doesn’t matter if glass is still greasy, because the high temperatures take care of it.

Q: What about broken window (or picture frame) glass? I’ve heard this can’t be put in either? True?

A: True. Broken window glass is a big no-no.

Q: What about the plastic bags from cereal boxes? Or the bags with the “ziploc” type zipper that you can get with everything from pet foods to organic sugar?

A: Cereal plastic bags, and other UPOs (Unidentifyable Plastic Objects) –  depends if your local recycling takes all kinds of plastics or just #1 and #2. If it’s the former, then you can, if it’s the latter, then you can only put in plastics that are identified as such. In this case, they will discard all other kinds anyway. Ziploc bags – are made of nice plastic #1 PET. Yes you can recycle them. But why don’t you reuse them first, to store veggies or herbs or what have you? 😉 If they are clean, you can reuse them. If you can’t reuse them because they are greasy then you can’t recycle them either.

Satisfied?

By the way, while I was digging for answers to these questions, I found this little game. Are you aware? Check it out.

June 4, 2007 at 8:30 pm 4 comments


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