Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kicking the Paper Habit - Part II

Back by popular demand in my inbox, more advice on kicking the paper (and plastic) habit: get your own shopping bags. Many grocery stores, including my local Shop-rite, give you a nickel off every time you use a cloth bag. Several stores make bags available for purchase, but buyer beware. I noticed that a certain chain grocer sells bags that are “manufactured with 100% post-consumer recycled content” and are made in China. Umm….huh? Apparently these things are here for my congreenience(tm). Notice they say manufactured with not from 100% post-consumer recycled content. That means they contain SOME recycled content. More alarming, however, is that we are importing MORE PLASTIC from China in the name of being green. I wonder what executive made that decision? Hello big grocery corporation with your name so neatly stamped on the bottom of your bag, I am paying attention!

Note: I did not buy this bag from A&P. I did purchase it at the thrift shop for a mere quarter.
I have made my own bags from, that’s right FROM, 100% recycled post-consumer waste, that is, other people’s discarded drapes.

These bags are easy to make. Find some old fabric -- old drapes, blankets, and upholstery are very sturdy choices. Now, cut two rectangles of your desired size. This will be the front and back of your bag. I have used lined drapes which make for an extra strong bag and look nicely finished too. Next cut two rectangles, one with the height being the same as the height of your front/back pieces and the width being about 6 or 8 inches. These are your sides. Cut a final rectangle for the bottom that is the width of your front/back and the height being the same as the width of your sides. Now, sew the front and back to the bottom, then sew the sides to the bottom, and sew the sides to the front and backs. Fold down the top, turn it under and sew a hem around it. Then you can attach your handles, just cut a length of fabric, sew it in a tube, turn it inside out and turn under the edges and sew onto your bag however you would like your handles. There you go, a funky shopping bag in 30 minutes or less.

Now if you are not inclined to sew, you can still get good shopping bags at yard sales in thrift shops for less than 50 cents:

For those of you not in the know (and I am counted among you – I looked it up) Wine Spectator is a magazine for exclusive wine connoisseurs. Don’ t you just love the irony! And the little Lands’ End tote pictured here is amazing – it is quite sturdy and holds more cans than any plastic or paper grocery bag ever could. In fact, it can hold four 29 ounce cans of tomato sauce AND six 16 ounce cans of beans.

Lesson Learned? Read the fine print people. Green might be the new black but some shades of green are blacker than they seem.

Hope you are inspired to kick the paper habit one product at a time!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Congreenience (TM)

Congreenience: Con ∙ green ∙ ience (kuhn-green-yuhns) noun 1. Having the quality of seeming environmentally correct and being readily available to the mass population 2. Thinly veiled attempts by Corporate America to appear green in order to lure customers into buying other things they do not need.

The term congreenience is a trademark and the intellectual property of Sandy Westermann and may not be used without prior written permission and due credit to its owner. Not trying to get all weird about it but the last thing I want is some corporation getting hold of this and making money off my word. Coin your own words, Corporate America.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kickin' the Paper Habit

We are a nation with at least two destructive habits, and I am not even talking about drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. We are a nation with an insatiable appetite for oil and paper, however oil is a topic for another day. The typical American household uses many paper products: paper cups, paper napkins, paper tissues, taper towels, toilet paper, paper grocery bags, paper lunch bags, disposable diapers, disposable feminine hygiene items, and the list goes on. Now there are disposable cleaning pads for your disposable floor cleaner, disposable wash cloths, disposable toilet paper liners.

We are not a paper using family with two exceptions: toilet paper and feminine hygiene products. My husband objects to the letting go of the former, though there truly are some viable solutions. I have simply not had the time to experiment with the latter, though I plan to one day. Gross, you might be thinking, but here's the alternative: the bulk of feminine hygiene products wind up in landfills, perhaps the very landfill upon which your house is built. We do not know how long these items take to decompose in a landfill as one has yet to do so.

That said, I am not expecting anyone to make that drastic of a change... not yet anyway. An easy way one can reduce their paper consumption and landfill contribution is to start using cloth napkins. Besides being an environmentally responsible choice, cloth napkins are pretty. We use only cotton or linen napkins. They are very absorbent and can be used to quickly wipe up anything your kids can spill before it hits the floor. No more running for wads of paper towels. No more ruining everyone else's napkins when a spill occurs. (I happen to know this first hand.) Cloth napkins are easy to launder and fold. I just toss them in with our daily laundry, give them a stiff shake, and hang them on the line to dry. I have started halving them over the clothesline like this:

This method causes me to do one less fold and makes a nice crease. When folded I store them in a basket next to our dishes.
Hope you are inspired to kick the paper habit, one paper product at a time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Somtimes Half Can be Bad...

There was a TV commercial to that effect several years ago. I don't remember what they were selling, only that the words returned to my head the minute I heard my daughter ask, "Can I keep her?", as she picked up a tattered, fluttering mess from the road.

Oh yes. Half can be bad. Especially when you are a butterfly. From what we can surmise, she was hit by a car, half her wings remained in tatters on the gravel of the unpaved road. After a steady diet of sugar water administered by qtip she managed to hang on for several days.