Monday, April 26, 2010

That's all they got?

Paper towels. We have become way too dependant on them, and really for no good reason. (Convenience???) We have not bought any for our household in months. In fact, I can't remember the last time we bought a roll. We use Skoy Cloths ( for wiping around the bathroom and kitchen, cloth napkins, and old socks or t-shirts for bigger jobs. For those messes we really do not want to touch, we have a seemingly endless supply of paper napkins that have come to us through take-out. (We tell them not to send them or include them, but apparently it's just too automatic on their part. We use them sparingly, so we have plenty on hand when the cat has a small mess.)

Back in my paper-towel-using days, before I knew better, I used to love Viva Paper Towels, by none other than our friends at Kleenex, from Kimberly Clark. So soft, so absorbent... a little pricey, but when I felt extravagent I would treat myself to them. So, I really had to laugh when I saw their ad in the coupon section this weekend. They fly the line, "We made the packaging more attractive." (You know, the part you immediately throw away?) Then they say, "Then we made it easier to take off." (You know, because you immediately throw it away.) Yes, their new advertising, their claim to fame, their raison d'etre is that you can get into the package quickly and easily. THIS is why you MUST buy THESE paper towels. This is all they got? Really? This is the best reason they can come up with to get you to buy these? I'm thinkin' that's pretty thin logic.

Here are some reasons to NOT buy ANY paper towels:

"[Paper toweles result] in 254 million tons of trash every year. Once used, paper towels cannot be recycled. As many as 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day.

"Other facts you need to know about paper towels include:
  • 40% of U.S. landfill trash is paper products.
  • The paper industry is the third largest contributor to [climate change].
  • The average American discards of 700 pounds or more of paper each year.
  • If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year. Change that to using three less rolls per U.S. household per year, and that would save 120,000 tons of waste and $4.1 million in landfill dumping fees.
  • Your typical paper towel is manufactured using chlorine, which releases carcinogenic dioxins and furans."
Viva paper towels are surely from virgin fiber. And if the best they can do is make the throw-away part prettier and better (distraction), I'm thinkin' we can skip these altogether. I'm not saying you need to cut all paper towels out of your life completely (though you could try), but it'd be a great step if everyone could cut back a few rolls. 3 less rolls a year? Surely that's doable. We've just become way too accustomed to automatically reaching for the roll. There are so many other reusable things to use. Money is saved. This is a good green fix, and a pretty easy one at that... why not go for it?
Oh - and pass on the knowledge! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

What I Live Without... Easily

My coupon-clipping habit has scaled back quite a bit. It's kind of funny... I used to be a clippin' fool, but now I just don't use those products anymore. I decided it was time to list the things I have effortlessly learned to live without.
  • Shampoo. We use baking soda. I have a few left-over bottles of stuff that I will use on rare occasion, but generally I am saving money AND plastic and my hair is in fine shape.
  • Conditioner. Apple cider vinegar and water is a nice rinse. And no I don't smell like a salad. No chemicals here.
  • Laundry detergent. We use soap nuts. The contain natural saponin and are biodegradeble and do not come with extra chemicals or plastic. What does my laundry smell like? NOTHING! Don't even show me a dryer sheet, either. No chemicals in my clothing. That touches my skin, after all.
  • Drano. Don't need it. White vinegar and baking soda works fine.
  • Harsh cleaners/bleach. We use Better Life products for all our cleaning. Lemon and baking soda and white vinegar also supplement in areas, but I'm good with Better Life.
  • Specialty acne treatments. I'm Italian. I have oily skin. I have ALWAYS had pimples. I thought for sure that by the time I had grey hair, I wouldn't have zits anymore, but no. What I HAVE learned is that I don't need special soaps or creams or anything. When I feel a zit coming on, I dab toothpaste on it overnight, and poof it's gone as fast as with even prescription stuff. No extra chemicals, no extra packaging, no extra waste.
  • Hair color. I embrace my greys. And I used to feel so much guilt about all that waste and all those chemicals. I'll be natural, thanks. To each their own, but I'm good.
  • Straws. Snort... like THOSE are a necessity in life. Gimme a break.
  • Paper towels. We don't even have the holder in the kitchen anymore. If there is any mess we feel NEEDS a paper towel, we have a stash of napkins from take-out. We tell them to not include them but they send them anyway sometimes, so we keep them on hand for such situations. But we haven't bought a roll of paper towels in MONTHS, and I can't say I miss them.
  • Paper napkins. Who needs 'em? We have cloth. They don't take up much space in laundry.
  • Facial tissues. Hankies and bandanas.
  • Bath pouf. Loofahs are natural.
  • Bottled water. Haven't touched a plastic bottle to my lips in ages. Our faucet-mounted filter is great and my reuseable bottle goes everywhere with me. I don't drink soda. Rarely drink juice. I drink wine, but that's in glass. And wine is a necessity. :)
There you have it. That's a lot of stuff I DON'T buy, don't have to spend money on, don't have to throw away, doesn't have to be produced. I actually had to think hard about some of these, because it's all second nature to me now. I'm sure I'm leaving things out, because I just don't miss them anymore.

This is just me. I hope people can take some ideas from here. I just like to teach by example.

What can you cut?

Earth Day Cometh

So... Earth Day approaches. People ask me what I am doing for Earth Day. Hm. Honestly... nothing very special. Every day is Earth Day to me. I try to be as concious and responsible every day as I can. It's like Valentine's Day; I don't love my husband more on a day set aside on the calendar. I love him more than the previous day and not as much as the next, and it's the same for me and Earth Day.

imgres.jpgIs it a good thing, though? YES! It's a very good day. Any day that we can raise the awareness of anyone out there is a good day. If people feel they can be a little bit better for at least one day, that's cool. Yes, have the celebrations and have the special events and do everything you can. At least it's one occasion where there will be no plastic trinkets to commemorate the day, like St. Patrick's Day with funny throw-away glasses and hats and beads etc. Or the new year celebrations with throw-away noisemakers and glasses. (what's with all the glasses??) Or Easter. Or Mother's Day with all the cards and food-wastage. Or the above-mentioned Valentine's Day with even more plastic. Yeah... at least we can celebrate this day with more focus on LESS waste. Let's keep it that way. If the time comes that I see a flashing-light pin shaped like a leaf or even the Earth to mark this day, that will be the time I will lose it for sure. I wouldn't put it past anyone, though. Gotta make that buck on cheap plastic Chinese imports....

Yes. Earth Day. It's great it's such a big deal now, but I'll be spending it the way I spend most other days... loving Nature and lamenting its ruin.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's OK. It's MUCH LESS toxic plastic.

When your product hook/ad line has to be that, with the new and improved thing, you'll throw away LESS toxic non-biodegradeable plastic... well, I gotta say THAT is REALLY a problem. "Try our new product! It's a lot less bad for the planet, while still being really bad for the planet, but less bad!!! Try it! You care about the planet, don't you? Well now we're bad but less bad! So that's good!!!"

Where to begin. Yeesh. Pampers has introduced the brand new "Dry Max" Swaddlers and Cruisers. Now, disposable diapers make my head fly off anyway, so researching this really got me. I actually had to stop reading the reviews. But I jump ahead... the line that caught my eye was this part of their ad: "Moms who use Pampers with Dry Max could together throw away the weight of 1 billion less* diapers every 3 years.**"  (*compared to previous Swadlers/Cruisers **based on 08/09 volume for Swaddlers/Cruisers)

Oh. Um. YAY!!! I can throw away LESS!!! Now, I usually do avoid diaper-talk, because I really have way too much to say about them, but the time has come. Is it me, or is this just like saying, Smoke our cigarettes, you'll get LESS cancer... or eat our crap, you'll get LESS heart trouble and fat. We're bad, but less bad, so therefore we are good.

I thought I would research a little, as is fair, and I happened upon reviews for Pampers' new and improved product. They weren't good. But that's not what struck me the most. What struck me were the comments "between" the lines... Several moms commented on the overwhelming chemical smell that came out when they opened the box. Sigh. Yeah... the reason for that is all the CHEMICALS in the DIAPERS that keep your baby SO wonderfully DRY!!!! HELLO!!! It's a core of chemicals that whisk away the pee-pee so YOU don't have to change your child so often. Chemicals, by the way, that you should be horrified to have anywhere near your baby's skin. Chemicals that are toxic to the touch, which is why they are locked away in all those layers. Chemicals that would harm your child. HARM! Just think... when you throw "away" that diaper, these same chemicals get to run and frolic and play in the environment.

So that was one crazy-maker for me. Another was a comment about how their child had more rash with this new Pampers. Yes. Because... well, see above. More chemicals to keep more dry to leave on longer to have less bulk to leave on longer... oh, I said that part twice. It is FACT that leaving your baby, your precious cargo, your widdle babykins locked in a plastic wrapping for 12 hours is gonna give it more of a RASH!!! These things were not MEANT to keep your baby's skin from breathing for hours on end! Parents say they like plastic toxic disposable (?? throwing away only means it's no longer around YOU... it ain't goin' anywhere, it's still ON the Earth) because they don't have to change the diaper so often. Well. Hi. I'm obvious, and you are? Baby's skin was designed so as to need diaper-changing on a fairly frequent basis. If you are too lazy to change your child every few hours and therefore need to pollute and toxify MY home, the planet, with your plastic poop-bombs, then maybe you should have re-thought the whole having-a-baby thing.

There were other comments about chafing and roughness and price... on and on and on... 'til I really HAD to stop reading. Why? Because EVERY ONE of these issues could be avoided completely by using cloth diapers. Every one. Every single one. No chemicals, less rash, no roughness... crazy money-savings over the course of the diaper-stages... but way too many people still have some old pre-concieved prejudice against cloth diapers and refuse to even try them. I've had the whole "YOU come do my laundry then"-thing thrown at me. Well, no, you are the one who chose to have a baby. Guess what. Babies poo. Babies get smelly. Didn't know that? Of course you did. Live with the consequences. Babies are not convenient or easy or neat. They are work and they get messy and if you think they are worth it then deal with it or don't have one.

Shew. See why I usually avoid this topic? Hahhaha. Cloth diapers are the best things ever. Safe, long-lasting, good for your baby... there is nothing bad about them. Pampers, on the other hand, are so bad that their ad campaign has to be that you'll still have garbage, just less of it. Wow. Somehow, I am not impressed. No one should be impressed. P&G gets a big boo on this one. If we never sold so-called disposable diapers ever again, I would be very happy. "Drier"? "Thinner"? So what. Still bad, still toxic, still the wrong choice.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's wrong with just buying spices the "old" way?

OK, seriously???

McCormick, you got great spices. Normally, I do not buy your product anyway because I opt for the less expensive brands, but all in all, you're a decent company. Glass bottles, quality stuff. So why'd ya have to go and sully that image with this new product? (oh... yeah... profit. I forgot.)

Amazingly convenient new packages! Fun and easy! Pre-measured! Really? Have we gotten that bad at cooking? Apparently. McCormick now has Recipe Inspirations, complete with little plastic bubbles of pre-measured spices and a handy recipe on the back. I find these more than a little disgusting. Insulting, even. Should I give them props for encouraging home cooking? I'd like to, but I can't. This really is just more needless packaging and wasteful plastic. This ain't rocket science. It's cooking. By all means, pass up the fast food and cook a healthy meal at home, but I say REJECT this product. It's not so difficult to have a nice collection of spices that can be measured out at any time. These aren't a lot of products that you would not want on hand in a bigger selection anyway. They aren't terribly exotic or hard to find. They are just spices, but now marketed to the people who find they need convenience to live. I'm sure there is a great market out there for this product, but I really wish there wasn't. I really wish we would all just pass this latest ploy at time-saving right by. We need to get back to doing things the right way as opposed to the convenient way. These little plastic blister-packs will end up in one place: the ocean.

Stop. Just stop. Stop right here, right now. If we buy into this, they'll just keep going with more of the same. Please buy your spices in the bulk manner that we are accustomed to; or, go a step further by growing some of your own parsley, basil etc, even if just on your windowsill in your apartment. There is no need for this product, and no redeeming feature. Reject.

But please keep cooking at home. :)

But it's so CONVENIENT!!

I would like to get rid of that word altogether. Why does everything have to be SO convenient? What are we doing with all this extra time we have from everything being so convenient? Are we planting more trees? Are we cleaning more beaches? Are we curing cancer, AIDS, the common cold? Are we combating world hunger? Winning the war on drugs? Stopping teen pregnancy or suicides? Ending depression? Fixing the economy???

Um... nope. Notta one.

Ah, I know. We're working more. We're watching more TV. Both of which cause us to want/buy more convenient stuff so we have more time to work and watch TV.

Can't some stuff still be a challenge, or maybe a wee bit more time-consuming, so that the end result is maybe more worth it or more treasured or ANYTHING? I continue to maintain that the almightly search for convenience has led us down the primrose path. I say to you, whenever you see the word "convenient", be suspicious. Avoid. Run the other way. Some things are still worth DOING. I worry about a world in which everything is so darn convenient that we don't actually DO anything. Why read a book; it's so much more convenient to see the movie they made from it. No movie? Book probably not worth my time then. Why clean something? It's so much more convenient to throw away and buy new. Why use Pyrex or glass? Plastic is so much more convenient. Reusable water bottle? The single-use plastic ones are so much more convenient.

See what I mean? Let's begin treating that word with a little contempt. And spread it around. Teach kids the value of things, not convenience.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What's Next? Disposable Bath Towels?

I'm fairly jaded. I have been a cynic since... oh... roughly age 11. But this product made even my jaw drop.

My mom pointed it out to me, and from reports around the country, when people first saw the commercial, they thought of me and my certain outrage. I'm so touched! Being TV-less this week, I visited the site: We are greeted by this statement: "Introducing new Kleenex (r) Hand Towels. Your hands are only as clean as the towel used to dry them."

Now... I'm trying to picture the ad pitch meeting for this. When they said that last sentence, did they think it was particularly pithy and touching and caring, or were they barely stifling laughter as they said, "Can you believe they're gonna fall for this one!!!?"

I looked over the site. I listened to the hand-drying song that some ad-man created to further sell the fear of our own laundry. I actually was moved to tears... by the insanity of it. I couldn't even blog on it right away because it was just too much. I didn't know where to begin! It's too inane! It's much too much to think they want us to think OUR OWN TOWELS are bad for us! It's like a sick joke! But there it is. I couldn't sit back and watch Kimberly-Clarke reap the benefits of more clear-cutting on our fear of germs in our own homes. There are a few mentions of CDC (Center for Disease Control) guidelines on the site, you know, to make it all official and really truly scary. If the CDC says it, it must be true, right? Aha... my hook. I went to the CDC's site and diligently searched for their dire recommendations about our unsafe hand towels. Would the CDC really have something to say about the dangerous terry-cloth hanging oh-so-innocently in our bathrooms? I mean, sure. You WASH your hands, with soap and all, but that towel!!! Kleenex says right there on the site: " Regular washing of cloth hand towels does not ensure cleanliness." ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? So, back to the CDC. I found hand-drying guidelines for cruise ships (OK, those are basically floating Petri dishes, I'll grant them that one) and medical/dental facilities. Again, granted. I could find nothing that suggested the CDC is alarmed by our evil hand towels in our homes. So, I contacted them. I figure they should be made aware that Kimberly-Clarke is taking liberties with their guidelines, which, really, should be taken seriously and not used for scare tactics in the name of profit.

After all, does KC make this product because they are worried about us? No. They make it because they can profit off our fears. If they can stoke the fire of our germophobia with so-called CDC regulations, then all the better, I suppose.

I contacted the CDC. Within 24 hours, they responded that they were unaware of any such recommendations for home hand-drying, but would escalate my inquiry. (This is where I am impressed that they would take one small question so seriously!) I made no mention of the product or company, initially. The next day, I receive a PHONE CALL FROM the CDC! They actually called ME to discuss this further! (This is where I am beyond impressed!) A very nice doctor asked about the product in question. I told her what it was and gave her the site. She went to it. I could hear the skepticism in her "Hmmmmm..." tinged with faint amusement. I directed her to the pages that loosely quote CDC guidelines. They use them in such a broad term as to think they might have gotten away with it. I explained to her that I felt Kleenex's use of the guidelines was alarmist and misleading. She was definitely landing on my side with this one. She assured me that she was unaware of any recommendations the CDC would make about HOME towels, but that the CDC is a big place, and she would make sure this was brought to the attention of the proper people to see if there are nefarious doings afoot here. (OK, those are my words, not hers, but that's the gist.) I trust her to do so. After all, she called me.

I do not know if I will hear back about what happens. I figure, at the very least, perhaps Kimberly-Clarke will have to shell out a few bucks to change their campaign and site. I'm OK with hitting them in their wallets. Better, to have them publicly state they misused the guidelines. Best case: product gets halted completely, cease-and-desist, never made again. (I can hope.) All I know is, I tried. I already do not use Kleenex Facial Tissue, because hankies work great and I am not afraid of them and I do not want to kill trees or fill landfills when my allergies hit. Oh - I did send an e-mail to Kimberly-Clarke as well, explaining what I was doing with the CDC... but I have yet to hear back from them. Yeah. I called in the big guns. I'm just little me, but let's see them argue with the CDC. They can't exactly throw money at them to make them go away... I don't think so anyway...

I do fear that if we let them get away with this product and sell public fear to this degree, single-use bath towels are not far behind. We don't need to be afraid of our own laundry. Let's not get that carried away. Please?

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Argument for Pre-Owned: A Sofa Saga

We moved. Not far, but we moved. We just got to a bigger apartment in our same complex. No moving trucks involved. We swore we would not bring our couch, which has nice memories but was becoming more and more hated as time went on. It wasn't a great purchase in the first place, and the fabric on the cushions was tearing, and it was never the right fit for us anyway. It was a learning experience.

So, we have been on the look-out for "the" perfect couch for months now, in preparation for the move. That old couch was NOT coming, no way, no how. (shamefully, that couch isn't very old at all, it should have lasted longer and I cringe to have it hauled away as landfill-filler...) The perfect couch is an elusive creature. I refuse to pay full retail for almost anything, so furniture stores really hurt me. But we wanted to avoid another cheap couch that wouldn't last. Plus, I have high standards for my sofa, as I spend a fair amount of time on it. (I'm enjoying it now with my laptop) I need to sit in it and be hugged by soft yet firm cushions. It has to have a high back to I can just lean my head back on it. I need to be able to fall onto it after a hard day. My couch is my comfort and my refuge, moreso than my bed, I think. My couch is for books and cat and coffee, for curling up, for stretching out, for spacing out, for vegging out. For living. Feet-up-on-it kind of living.

We did find it. We found it at a close-out store which satisfied my frugal (cheap??) side. It's fairly massive. It fits the two of us comfortably, with the cat wherever she chooses to plop. So far that's mostly on the generous back. It's cushiony curl-uppy and soft and made by a really great quality manufacturer. It's big and sturdy and will last a good long time, as a couch should. So what's the problem? Well...

I died a little inside when it arrived swathed in plastic. I understand, even if I don't like it. It's a dirty world and we don't want anything to get onto our couch before it has a chance for crumbs and cat hair (see previous blog. it's a dark brown couch. I won't see black cat hair). So, there's major footprint and trash and waste before it even got in the place. The second part I completely forgot about, not having purchased a "quality" couch in quite a long time, was alllll the massive amounts of "stuff" with which this thing was treated. Flame-retardant-stain-retardant-breathing-retardant stuff. Even as I sit here on Day 3 of sofa-happiness, I am surrounded by wafting tendrils of off-gassing lovliness.

I know about this off-gassing. Totally forgot about it. But now I recall how it hurts us and our children and the condors and all I can do is smell it and know that it affects us one and all. I look at my cat sleeping peacefully on it and wonder if maybe she shouldn't be breathing it in, right there so close to it with her little face and little lungs. I muse on the headache creeping around the corners of my brain, and know I should get up for some fresh non-off-gassy air. I KNOW we need to STOP treating furniture and carpets etc... but we won't. Not anytime soon. I realize that had we continued to look and really prowled through used furniture stores, we might have found a really great couch that finished its off-gassing already, and we would not have contributed to the new-purchase-manufacture cycle.

But I can't stay mad at my sofa. I lean my head back on it and it oh so softly yet firmly supports me. It will stop being stinky soon enough. I just have to promise to love it and keep it for a very long time. And next time, many years from now, maybe we will have learned that we shouldn't use all those chemicals, and my next sofa will not threaten me (and the planet) with cancer. I can hope. Otherwise, I'll looked for pre-owned. I'm hoping that's a few decades down the road. The best I can do now is make this one last and last... after all, it's not its fault. It's our fault. We need to protect ourselves from (GASP) stains and of course we have to make sure we don't catch on fire while sitting watching TV.

Apparently, destroying our habitat is worth the protection from our own clumsiness and stupidity...