Posts filed under ‘environment’

Overdue post about that trip to Portugal

AveiroBack when my camera still worked.

Well, seems like that sign I put up on my last post was more than accurate… I didn’t mean to. I really did mean to write about my adventures that very day but then I never got around to do it.

In the meantime, I packed up all my shit and moved, my boyfriend left and now I’m more or less settled in my new place. This time I will not get sidetracked. I will tell you all about my moving and my new place on one of my next posts.

Anyways, I’m gonna spare you all of the “ahhh we went here” and “ooh we went there” and all that “it was so nice” crap and cheesy pictures of us in front of this and that and get right down to the environmental stuff. So lets get on with it shall we, in a neatly organized fashion.

It rocked:

The metro network.It is only a few years old, but its really really good. Most of the times, it is more convenient than driving because its faster and parking is a pain. My boyfriend arrived a couple of days after me and I decided to try the metro service to pick him up. I was pretty impressed, it was really fast, VERY close to the terminal and no parking (which, at airports, is quite a rip off). The bus network is very good as well, but its not as easy to figure out, and the schedules are less predictable.

The recycling. Recycling is slowly making its way into mainstream culture. Now you have recycling bins in most public places like the airport and metro stations, and it looks like people actually use them. The recycling infrastructure is quite good. I missed the composting bin that I was used to here in Holland, but I think they are working on that too, they already started collection biodegradable waste from large producers. My mom is a very thorough recycler. I got her into it when I was still a pre-teen. I am very proud of her in this matter.

The market. Whereas most of supermarket food in Portugal is imported, the food at the market, where I demonstratively bought vegetables, was very local, most likely organic and dirt cheap. Now I just need to convince ClosetMom to shop there more often.

ClosetFriends. I was very impressed that ClosetFriends have the habit of picking up old batteries, if they see them laying around in the street and depositing them in the appropriate recycling bin. Bravo, ClosetFriends. Something I can learn from you. (insert suggestion for Vanessa here)

It sucked:

ClosetMom refuses to use the metro. Her work involves a lot of driving around the city, including during rush hour. She could totally use the metro at least for some trips, if it wasn’t so much trouble to figure out where the stops are *roll eyes*.

Smog. ClosetMom picked me up from the airport (see above). The first thing I noticed on the drive home, was how smoggy Porto looked. I didn’t remember it being like that last year. The horizon looked yellow, and I’m not exaggerating. Coincidence or not, I got a sore throat about a week later, that quickly developed into a cold. Yes, it could have been just a cold, but I think it was pollution related cold.

Plastic Bags. Man, this country has a plastic bag problem! Even if you buy just one tiny little thing, they stuff it in a bag before you have time to open your mouth. I have to say, unlike in the Netherlands, getting away without a useless bag took considerably more effort. But at some point, I got very good at announcing “No bag, please” as soon as I hand them my purchase.

The receipt holder fad. Now this was annoying. Since last time I was in Portugal, apparel shops developed this new fad. Now instead of just handing you your receipt, now they put it in a nice little cardboard receipt-holder thingy. WTF?? This time, I didn’t manage to develop a defense against this one because I was too perplexed to react, but next time I’ll be prepared. Bastards…

My camera may or may not be broken. It died on me in the middle a shot. I still have hope that it could have been the batteries (even though there was no indication that they were getting low), so now I am dreading the moment of truth, when I change the batteries and realize that I have to do something about the matter. In the mean time, I have no camera, and have already recurred to borrowing from strangers once. (Before, I was using ClosetBoyfriend’s digital to take all those fabulous pictures of my groceries). Now I’m thinking of buying a crappy second hand one to tie things over.

Greatest Accomplishments:

Refusing mom’s well meaning ride offers and getting around quite easily by metro, bus (1x) and walking. Managed to keep use of car to a minimum. Used the metro to go to the beach (thanks, global warming), the airport and city center bunch of times. In almost 2 weeks, used the car 5 times, including 2 trips to the airport and one ride from friends.

Addressed ClosetMom’s bottled water habit. She claims tap water is bad for the kidneys (bullshit) and it tastes bad (tasted just fine to me). Explained how bottled water has less quality and how plastic gives you cancer. Refused to drink bottled water thus proving there is nothing wrong with tap water. Before she used a plastic cup to drink from the water cooler in the office. Now keeps a cup there and explains to co-workers how plastic gives you cancer. They don’t believe her, saying “they wouldn’t deliberately give us all cancer”. So naive…

Got 2 ClosetFriends more interested in vegetarian food, and even got them to try some meatless cooking by themselves. Score. ClosetMom is more resistant to the idea, but I’ll get to her too… eventually.

Resolution of the washing machine ordeal.This one requires a little more background explanation. When I got to Portugal, I was informed that our washing machine was broken and that a new washing machine was scheduled to be delivered the next day. I, of course, was shocked that ClosetMom, despite being broke, ordered a +-500E washing machine, without even trying to fix the old one (age 7, and a very good brand, so technically, its still middle aged in washing machine years). I explained how the washing machine must be a cheap fix, and that ClosetMom was too quick to cough up 500 euros she didn’t have. However, it was already too late. However, it just so happened that ClosetMom was buying the display model and that the delivery guys were dumbasses. Because it was the display model and they were too lazy to pack it up, they were delivering it without any packaging, and then tried to fit it through the building door. Sure enough, when my mom saw her brand new washing machine all banged up around the sides, she knows nothing more than to say “well then, you can take your ~@?$^%*# washing machine and stuff it (…)”. And so, I had ClosetMom call the official repair service and for 50 bucks the thing was good as new. If that ain’t Karma, I don’t know what is. Now, whether this was a good or bad outcome in terms of greenness I don’t know. I really don’t know what they will do with that banged up washing machine. Maybe they’ll fix it. Maybe they’ll sell it. Maybe they’ll just recycle it. All I know is that ClosetMom wasn’t having a banged up washing machine. And I don’t think I would either.

For next time:

Get ClosetMom and ClosetFriends to Bring Their Own Bags when they go shopping. This time I didn’t have time to go shopping with ClosetMom, so the plastic bags issue didn’t “come up”. I’ll get them all next time. MauAUauahahAAHahAHA!!

Get everyone DivaCups for their B’days. I already started psychologically preparing ClosetMom, showing her my Diva, telling her how great it is… I think I’ll get her one for Xmas now. MauAUauahahAAHahAHA!!

Lessons Learned:

  • You must know your enemy and be prepared to strike back. It’s the surprise attacks that screw us over.
  • When trying to get someone to change their ways, people always respond better when you put things in terms of “What’s in it for me”, like “save money” or “NOT get cancer”. I found that “its better for the environment” crap gets you nowhere, so I don’t even go there.
  • It’s not that people are trying to harm the environment, its just that sometimes they don’t know any better. Most of the time, they just don’t know there is a better way. Like ” you don’t HAVE to take bags every time just because they try to give you one”.

And so, even though I didn’t offset my trip (partly because I’m broke, partly because I still haven’t made up my mind on offsetting), I would say that the overall impact of my trip goes a long way towards canceling out the plane rides. Or at least I prefer to think so.

 

 

October 8, 2007 at 1:55 pm 5 comments

Went to Portugal. But I’m back now.

I know, I know, I’ve been a bad, bad blogger again, didn’t warn my dearest readers I’d be absent for over 2 weeks, shame on me. So that sign is what I should have put up before I left… But I’m guessing you must be used to my irregular posting by now. If you’re not, you better get used to it, because I don’t think it is going to get better any time soon. If you want regularity, you always have my Friday Linkfest feature at Celsias (and even that has been taken on by another writer the last 2 weeks because I was on holiday). But we’re open now!

The month of September is being quite an eventful one, so I’ll just give you a quick update on what’s been going on and what you can expect from The Closet, followed by an account of my time in Portugal, in which I rant about the Environment there and you get extremely jealous of me because Portugal is so much awesome and everything the Spanish, French and Italians can do, we can do, better.

So anyway, my boyfriend is graduating tomorrow, which, unfortunately for me, means he is going back to the US a week from now. Which unfortunately for me, also means that I’m going to be left alone in this @#$@#@$%# country until I finish my !@!#@$%^&* thesis and can get the f#c% outta here. (Fortunately for you, this probably means my posting will become more regular just because I’ll be bored out of my mind). This also means that I can no longer stay in my apartment both for financial and mental sanity reasons. Hence, this week will be quite hectic as we have to move all our stuff to my new room, and BF gets ready to leave the country. I found a room in a hippie-minded student community and will write more about it in due time.

In the meantime, I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but our beloved ClosetCat was only borrowed, as we were taking care of him while his owner was away. So shortly before we went to Portugal, ClosetCat’s true owner returned from exile and we had no choice but to hand over our sweet little kitten to his owner. We miss him already. *sigh*

In other news, I am making contacts with a local environmental activism group, and if all goes well, will work with them on a project for my internship. You will also hear more about this as things develop. Tomorrow, I am taking a break from packing and cleaning to go to a screening of the documentary “Waste=Food” they are organizing.

So I know you must be hanging on the edges of your seats waiting for the follow-up post to my last post, but I’m afraid you will have to hang in there a little longer. Things are going to be a little crazy here for a while, but I will get on it as soon as I can. In the meantime, feel free to browse the archives, or subscribe to the Closet Environmentalist (which you can even get by email now).

But look, I’ve already extended myself more than I intended to, and I didn’t even get to the juicy part of my story: Portugal. So I’ll tell you what. I’m gonna get on writing it today and you can count on it first thing tomorrow. Gotta stretch this out, you know, Kill Bill style 😉

Photo by Leo Reynolds.

September 25, 2007 at 10:11 pm 5 comments

Green Clothes Part I – a long lasting wardrobe

 

Photo: Nicky’s Eye View

No matter how many discussions we have about the benefits of buying green vs buying nothing, there is one thing that widely agreed on: the greenest garments are the ones you already have [TH]. The less stuff you buy, the better for the environment. (Yeah, that’s right, screw the economy, I am NOT here to serve you, so no, I DO NOT have the obligation of spending my money to make you sure you capitalists get fat off the backs of the poor.)

Therefore, I am going to start my Green Clothes series with how we can extract the most life of the stuff that is already in our closet. This means making it last as long as possible, and delay the dreaded moment when your favorite shirt makes you look like a scrub. Personally speaking, I am a very fussy shopper, so I need to absolutely love anything I buy, as well as be convinced that the piece in question makes me look good and passes my quality inspection (part II). So you can be sure that the moment I realize that I can’t wear my favorite sweater anymore because it looks like I stole it from a homeless person is a heartbreaking one. (And my hope is that I realize it before anyone else does, but who knows).

The first thing you must know is that your clothes’ #1 enemy is you wearing them. They get worn, deformed, stretched, pilled, dirty, stained and just plain old. But I have a solution for you. Ready? Take your clothes off! No, really! Take off your clothes as soon as you get home. Slip into something more comfortable *wink wink*. Relax. For example, you can promote some of the stuff you can no longer wear in public to ‘house clothes’.

Consider the benefits:

  • No grease stains (and smells) on your work outfit
  • No tomato sauce on your white shirt
  • Less dirty clothes means you need to wash less
  • No trying to get your pet’s angora off your pants
  • No pulled threads/ruined pantyhose from kitty claws

And here are some other gentle wearing tips:

  • Don’t put stuff in your pockets, namely, cellphones, wallets and hands. Deformed pockets are one of the first things that makes coats unwearable.
  • If you wear a purse or bag of sorts, don’t wear the strap across your body. You’ll notice that the friction leaves pilling and chafing marks on your shirts/sweaters. Those marks get ugly really fast.
  • Also avoid labels from your top layers chafing against your inner layers. (Personally, I cut the labels off, but keep them for the care instructions).
  • In the colder weather you may also want to wear an undershirt or t-shirt under a shirt or a sweater, it’s warmer and means you don’t need to wash shirts/sweaters as often.

Let’s move on to clothes’ enemy #2! As you may guess, enemy #2 is washing. Washing is BAD, using energy, water and detergent, as well as wearing out your much loved stuff, so you should do it as little as possible. By the way, did you know that most of the environmental impact of clothing comes from washing and drying? Of course I am not suggesting that everyone start walking around in dirty clothes. I am just saying you should keep the washing down to when its really necessary.

Personally, I identify laundry by smell (unless I made a mess out of myself with tomato sauce or something, which sometimes happens too). I normally don’t sweat very much, so I wear skin-contact tops and shirts and such for about 4-5 times, pants a little more, about 5-7 times. If you always wear sweaters and knits over something else, you probably don’t need to wash them at all, if you are lucky enough to avoid stain incidents and don’t cook dinner in your favorite cardigan. The same goes for skirts. I hardly wash my skirts, maybe few times a year. I do have to wash my sweaters a little more often than I would like.

Now before you dismiss me as a ‘European’ or someone who clearly never went to a smoky bar and came out smelling like cigarette butts, here is what you should know: the trick is hanging your smoky or stuffy clothes on a hanger out on the balcony, in the wind and sun. Leave them during the day, and they will smell as fresh as when you last washed them (Do I sound like a Febreeze commercial? Sorry…) No, really. You just have to try it, it really works.

So trust me on this, let your nose tell you if you can wear that again, and hang it outside if you want to freshen it up. Don’t forget, if you wear your ‘house clothes’ at home, you can wear your office clothes a few more times before you need to wash them. And be sure you always hang up or fold away the ‘re-wear’ stuff. If you pile everything on a chair, the psychological effect will be that the pile is dirty, even if its not.

Washing Photo: stevec77

More washing tips:

  • Wash garments inside out
  • Use wash bags to protect undies and other delicate items
  • If you get a stain, rinse it and give it a little hand wash if necessary. Machine washing does nothing to dry stains
  • Don’t use softener. Besides being nasty by itself, softener coats the fibers and decreases their longevity. Many people recommend a spoon of vinegar in the rinse cycle, but I never tried it. I just don’t use anything. (a little more on this later)
  • Separate darks from lights, to avoid the classic pink shirt.
  • Don’t use bleach. Some fabrics can’t be bleached even with non-chlorine bleach.
  • Use an appropriate temperature to what you are washing and to how dirty it is. I know cold-washing is the green thing to do, but there is nothing green in a cold-wash followed by another cold or even warm wash because you realized that everything is still dirty
  • And finally, this one is a little blasphemous so use at own risk: some dry-clean only items can be hand-washed very carefully. Basically just wiggle it a little (very little) in cold water with some delicate detergent like Ecover and rinse by wiggling a little more in clean water (change 1-2 times). Don’t wring or twist, just lightly squeeze the water out from the flat fabric. Dry flat.

So now we move on to enemy #3: Drying. Now drying is as evil as it gets for your clothes, as well as for CO2. If you notice, most clothes, and ALL delicate ones, will have a “do not tumble dry” sign on the label. The heat is very damaging to everything, but cotton normally handles it a little better. But it still lasts less, as opposed to shrinking on the spot like wool. Air dry. Use a clothes line, drying rack or even shower curtain rod, whatever strikes your fancy.

Partial Rainbow Photo: tillwe

Useful tips (from someone who never used a drier, EVER)

  • Drying in the sun is great and all, but if you do, dry inside out. The sun discolors fabrics.
  • Listen carefully, because here is the secret of soft clothes without drier or softener: do not overdry. Big mistake. That is the very cause of cardboard stiff jeans off the line. I can’t really describe it better than this: clothes should not feel wet, but should feel cold to the touch. A little moisture should still be left but not too much.
  • If you are going to iron them, then they should be a little more on the moist side. It’s easier to iron and you can use a lower temperature and no steam.
  • Be careful with delicates. Wool and easily deformable fabrics need to dry flat, in which case you should lay it on a towel somewhere. Other things do just as well on a hanger, if not better. Sometimes lengthwise stretching actually works to your advantage, to counter a little shrinking. Drying on a hanger also prevents the line mark and sometimes, even the need to iron.
  • By the way, if you are new to air drying, you may be faced with the situation where you just did a load of laundry, but realized that you don’t have the time or disposition to hang it up. Don’t leave the laundry in the washing machine for more than 12 hours. It gets all musty and stinky and you’ll have to wash it again. Try to time your laundry so that you can hang it right away.

Green Clothes Photo: Ninette Luz

Speaking of ironing, as you must have seen this coming, ironing is, of course, enemy #4. Basically, if you must iron, do it on the lowest temperature that gets the job done, even if you need to use a little more muscle power. Another trick I like is the hanger in the shower, works well for shirts, skirts and tops, etc. The steam gets rid of most of the wrinkles for you. Folding tightly also works on cotton T’s for example, among other things. Also, if you are ironing something for the 1st time, especially with synthetic fibers, do a little test on an inside seam. Just to make sure you don’t end up with a big hole on something brand new. If doubt persists, iron through a sheet or something of the sort.

So there. That’s about all you need to know about making your wardrobe last. You can probably tell that I learned most of this stuff the hard way. But now you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. Do you have any more tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Further Reading:

How to Green Your Wardrobe

Eco-Tip: Choosing Green Clothing

Ten Ways to Ensure Long Life for your Clothing

Coming up: Part II – Green Shopping for Quality

 

September 6, 2007 at 1:22 pm 47 comments

Shameless plug

Just to let you know that the recycling guide  I wrote back in May got reposted on Celsias today. There are a few improvements and adaptations, including a new title. Stop by if you feel like revisiting it. If you liked this article and/or you are in a giving mood, give it a little boost on digg, reddit and stumble upon.

September 3, 2007 at 5:16 pm 2 comments

A case of the humans

This on is a little old so you might have seen it before. I just found it and I thought it was hilarious. But then again, I am quite partial to gore-y, distasteful humor. Enjoy!

I try to be an optimist with this whole ‘saving the planet’ thing, but sometimes I think that Agent Smith was right all along.

September 1, 2007 at 12:38 pm 3 comments

Eco-friendly is…

..not being a dumbass. Once you decide to care for the environment, being a dumbass is probably the biggest obstacle in your way. Oh how I envy organized people who’s head is firmly set on their shoulders.

Example: Since I started this blog, I have been very careful to turn everything off from the plug, the phone chargers,  laptop adapters and even the modem/router. I turned the water heater temperature down and have been zealously turning the lights off. And puff. One dumbass moment and its all gone (cough left cough iron cough on cough).

I can’t even begin to count how many umbrellas, sunglasses, pens, books and even various types of clothes, scarves, gloves belts and hats. I have lost during my short life. They could probably fill a whole lost and found room with all the stuff I’ve lost.

Being a dumbass is bad for the environment. My advice to you: don’t be like me.

*I continue to promise*

August 29, 2007 at 6:37 pm 5 comments

Tuesday Ten: 10 things I could be doing right now…

… if my @#$%^&*@#$$%%&^* thesis wasn’t consuming my life. What’s that you say? No more thesis whining? Well, sorry guys. How did that song go? Something about a party and crying ‘if I want to’?

  1. Visiting my family in Russia
  2. Visiting my family  and friends  in Portugal.
  3. Going to the beach every day.
  4. Writing posts.
  5. Reading books.
  6. Learning to knit.
  7. Launching a super-awesome jewelry business on Etsy (yes, I make jewelry, or used to, back when I had a life)
  8. Learning some web design.
  9. Making my blog super-awesome and maybe going self-hosted.
  10. Having a life.

Ps: to the unfortunate soul who landed on this blog wanting to know if s/he could “still wear pleated khaki shorts” the answer is no, you most certainly cannot still wear pleated khaki shorts. But I wouldn’t take my word for it. According to BF, “pleated” doesn’t mean what I think it means. Oh well.

Thanks for sticking around guys. The wardrobe series is still in the works. As my mom likes to say, I “continue to promise”.

August 28, 2007 at 10:43 pm 5 comments

Bad blogger, BAD!

Is there anybody out there? I am fearing everyone has given up on me by now.

Sorry guys… I was going through one of those ‘phases’ again. My thesis seems to be consuming all of my energy and inspiration. How time flies… Seems like it was only yesterday that I wrote that links post… Anyway, I am going to restrain from whining and move on to the public service announcement.

Public Service Announcement:

I am now working on something, so get ready for some serious awesomeness coming soon, possibly in the same category of awesomeness as my recycling post (well, I’ll let you be the judge of that). Stay tuned for a how-to series, this time wardrobe related.

August 26, 2007 at 5:49 pm 10 comments

This week’s favorites

This is a test run. I don’t normally post only links, but let’s try it. Let me know how you like it.

Sharon, over at Casaubon’s Book, does a great job refuting this stupid article. Seriously, that bullshit pissed me off. But I’ll just refer you to Sharon’s post, because she does a much better job explaining why it’s bullshit than I ever will. But so that you have an idea, the original article, written by a “environmentalist” (note the sarcasm), has a field day quoting ‘studies’ and tries to argue that walking to the store creates more carbon than driving there.

“Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg [2lb] of CO2 to the atmosphere,” he said, a calculation based on the Government’s official fuel emission figures. “If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You’d need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving.”

What a loadacrap. I might have to return to this topic later because GRRRRRRRRR!!!!

On another, less pissed off, note, did you know that coin hoarding is bad for the environment? So stop collecting those pennies and put them back in circulation. Otherwise, you are creating the need for extra metal to maintain the coin circulation. Check out Green Living Tips, where Michael will explain it more accurately.

Siel, Green LA Girl, has detailed instructions on how to green your booze happy hour. Follow the links and have fun (responsibly, hehehe).

And finally, here is a recycling tip, courtesy of Amy Stodghill from Green Options.  If you are a hardcore recycler, and you want to get rid of your old VHS tapes, or CDs, or audio tapes or printer cartridges, you can use GreenDisk‘s Pack-IT service (In the US). Here is a list of what you can recycle this way. Yes there is a cost, $6,95 for a box under 20lbs. Peace of mind? Priceless.

August 7, 2007 at 12:11 pm 9 comments

Recycling – I told you so!

recycled newsRemember how I said recycling greasy and dirty paper and plastic was worse than not recycling at all? Apparently, I am not the only one. This week, letsrecycle.com, a website that specializes in waste and recycling news of the UK, published a story that confirms it. Chase Plastics, a British recycling company, has called councils to stop collecting plastic film from households.

(Plastic film is a technical term that applies not only to plastic film wrap but all kinds of thin, soft plastics, like pretty much every kind of wrapper there is, from the toilet paper package to plastic bags)

According to Jessica Baker, representing the company, “kerbside collections should be restricted to plastic bottles only”.

“This would reduce the contamination of other materials, such as paper and aluminium, caused by food residues stuck to cling film and plastic trays. It would also make sorting plastics easier and solve problems at materials recycling facilities, where film “gums” the machinery. While councils appear to be in favor of dropping film, the difficulty lies in convincing a public which is calling for all materials to be recycled. The problem is getting the message across that it’s just as important to leave certain things out as it is to put them in. Plastic is inert in landfill, it’s material which decomposes that is causing problems”

So there you have it. I told you so. *Does a little goofy ‘I told you so’ dance*

Photo recycled from Flawka, on Flickr.

August 3, 2007 at 1:19 pm 3 comments

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