Saturday, December 31, 2011

Not Fit For Human Exposure

And by that, I mean me.

It's amazing how a simple shopping stop can be so trying. I don't mind crowds, I don't mind traffic. What I mind is looking around at people in check-out lines and seeing just how much plastic is going on around me. Here I am in a not-quite-Whole-Foods-but-actually-better store, a more natural store where the more health-conscious types shop... good meats, nice produce, lots and lots of homeopathic type stuff. And yet... The woman in front of me gets everything double-bagged. This, while every single little bit of produce is in it's own plastic bag. I don't bag things like the kale I grabbed; it doesn't need to go in one. Neither does my spinach. It was all I could do to maintain a civil expression on my face. I almost asked why she didn't feel the need to put her bananas in a separate produce bag. (I didn't.)

Other checkout lines... more produce bags. More plastic bags. It's a Saturday. Were people not planning to stop at the store? Where are the reusables?

I thought we were further than this. I thought we were making progress. I thought I was in a store surrounded by educated people who cared about stuff. They have a whole section of gluten-free, for crying out loud! Are we not advanced?

I guess not. Maybe I just shouldn't go out in public anymore. maybe I just need to not look around at anything or anyone. Maybe... ah, never mind. Maybe 2012 will be better. Maybe we'll learn something. Maybe people will start to hear as well as listen.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Nature Made or Man Made?

Sea sponges are really cool. I've always liked them. They are kinda weird. I looked them up: "The Sea Sponge is not a coral, and is not a plant, rather it is classified as an animal which has neither brain nor central nervous system. Sea Sponges live on the ocean floor, they attach themselves permanently to a solid location under the water and they do not move around." Cool, right? They reproduce by budding or breaking off or just catching errant free-flowing sperm from one another! They fascinate me. And sponges are everywhere in our lives, but mostly the fake kind, not the real "animals".

Someone gave me a real natural sea sponge for use in the shower. I'd been using a synthetic one that was also given to me. I've used a loofah before too, but those can be really scratchy. But I like them because they are natural. As, of course, are sea sponges. I really hadn't used one before, I guess, because after trying it, I had to wonder why I don't always use them. It's the perfect blend of soft and scratchy. Mother Nature provides. But, then I got to thinking. I think a lot in the shower. Good ideas come up in there.

Sea sponges are animals. Does that mean vegans are against them? I brought the question to social media, as I have lots of vegan acquaintances. Hazard of the trade. (Little joke there.) I mean, if using worms for composting is a no-no because you are "enslaving" worms by doing that, then surely being so bold as to use a dead animal to exfoliate is a giant oops. The discussion was pretty... enlightening. I thought I would share.

It would seem loofahs are preferable because they are plants and sponges are animals and animals are a "no" even though they really have no brains or awareness... just basic functions. About as alive as a plant, right? So where's the line? Is wool a no? That comes from an animal. But no animal is killed for it. Someone said, no, sea sponges are taken from the ocean and are over-harvested. (Isn't everything?) Another respected friend said, why not use a cloth? Well... there's a sticky wicket. How eco-friendly is cotton? Not very. MASSIVE amounts of pesticide there. Organic cotton? Well, better, but... Bamboo? All these things still require processing which takes chemicals and energy. Sea sponges require... harvesting and drying. They are insanely regenerative, and if harvested responsibly and properly, they are fine. Plus, I would think, an added bonus is the desire to keep the water where they live and breed clean and free from pollutants. So, that's a good thing, right? You don't genetically modify them, you don't pump them full of chemicals or growth hormone, you just let them grow. You let them grow in a healthy ocean environment. To me, that's better than producing cotton. There is incentive to keep their home pristine. That's pretty high up there in my book.

And did I mention that they are the perfect blend of soft and scratchy?

None of the points against really washed for me. (Small pun intended.) Cloth instead? No, manufacturing cloth is probably bigger harm in the long run. Over-harvested? Not if done properly and sustainable, which is easy to do. Animal? I wear leather, I eat meat, so that's not really there for me as an argument. Loofah instead? Maybe sometimes. To me, it boils down to this: Man manufactures, but Mother Nature provides. Why not take care of her so she can continue to do so? Awareness, people. There it is.

I shall continue to use my sea sponge with my Dr. Bronner's soap. And I will thank the Mother every time. (And Dr. Bronner too, I guess.) Will I run out and buy another when this one has finished? Maybe. I'll find a place that harvests them responsibly, of course. Synthetic sponge? Nope. Natural? Yes. Do I need them for dishes, for make-up? No. There are other good things for that. But for this, Nature provides, and I'm good with that.

Good info found on:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Quickie on Chemical Smells

Yesterday was a day of vegging out on the couch with my cousin, whom I rarely see. We saw a few "Extreme Christmas Lights"-type shows, which were horrifying and we couldn't stop watching, but I digress.

It was a commercial, and my cousin's remark that got me. You know the commercial... people are blindfolded and brought into a disgusting mess of a place and asked what they smell, as the place was doused with *insert product name here you know what it is (hint hint it's pictured)* right before they came in. People swear it smells like fresh fields and flowers and everything and are then completely horrified and just plain blown away when they take off their blindfolds. I've long been irked by these commercials. I may have snorted or something. My cousin said, "I don't know what's scarier: what's in those rooms or that the chemicals cover it."

She's brilliant. She nailed it in that statement. We should be completely flabbergasted that whatever is in those cans is SO laden with CRAP that it can cover that stuff. Do you really want that in your lungs? In  your child's lungs?? Pets?

We see things so wrong.


Oh - and those Christmas Light shows? Just - wow. A whole other blog.

I Have Questions.

My mother tells me I was always crazy-inquisitive. I think my "why" phase is still happening. So, I have questions. They don't stop. I don't always have answers. I'm going to put a bunch of 'em down here, and work on answering them in the next few blogs. Maybe someone will answer a few for me. I tend to come up with the ones that don't *really* have answers. Not so much hypothetical, just... not so answerable.

Why don't we think ahead anymore? How'd that happen? Did we ever?

Why is it "whatever jobs, now, and damn the consequences" and not "better jobs that are better for the future"?

Why is there a new kind of mascara ever other day? Don't they all pretty much work the same? Does the mascara technology really advance that much?

Why do people use throw-away plates and utensils at home?

Why do we still use plastic when we know better?

What happened to these humans between 17-31-ish? How did they totally miss the boat on everything and why are they so clueless?

Why does anyone have more than 2 kids?

Why do people have more than 2 kids when they can't spend quality time with them or give them healthy stuff?

Why do we think chemicals smell clean?

Do vegans use sea sponges?

Why do some vegans oppose composting with worms?

What is up with vegan dental floss??

Why must omnivore restaurants offer vegan dishes but vegan places don't offer omnivore choices?

Why do pagan bookstore carry christian material but christian bookstores don't carry pagan material?

And mostly: Why do we completely ignore the evidence that is right in our face?

I guess the short answer to all these things is: It's just easier. Right? It's easier to just think of the now, easier to take the jobs that are handed over rather than demanding better ones with a healthy side of change, it's easier to throw things away and use plastic and clean with the cheap stuff that everyone else uses and well hell we just want kids and we'll figure it out later.

These and more keep my brain a-spinnin'. I'm going to be working on them for awhile. Feel free to chime in anytime.

Where Have You Been All My Life?

So I have overcome the brain-washing and the duping and have learned that a cast iron skillet does wonders for the simplest most humble grilled cheese sandwich, and everything else, too. And I have this base desire to own a whole set of Le Creuset in yellow - no, green - no, yellow... well, whatever. That will have to wait until I have my own TV show or something.

This holiday, though, found me gifted with a beautiful enameled 5 1/2 quart dutch oven. (My coworker listens to me when I talk!) We have a plain cast iron one, but you can't do just anything in those. So this was a welcome addition to my kitchen. And I did not wait long to try it.

How I feel about mine!
I'm convinced I will not have awesome pasta sauce again until I make it from my own home-grown tomatoes and I jar it for a supply over the winter (this IS the plan for next winter), but I thought, well, let's see what we can do here. Chopped my onions, chopped my garlic, got my chicken "sausage" ready. Put my onions in with a little oil. Oh, this is troubling, look, it's getting brown stuff stuck on the bottom. Well, I guess this will take some getting-used-to. Can't be great and right the first time out all the time. Garlic in. OK. Definite stickies. Sigh. I'll do better next time. Sausage, in. (Meanwhile it smells extra good, I AM noticing that.) But wait... what's this? The brown goodness stuck on the bottom came right up and off! Could it... could it be... stuff doesn't STICK to this when used properly????

The lid, so nice and heavy, is keeping all that flavor in! That iron is keeping the heat so nicely distributed! OK, so I still have a little mark on my hand because I had the heat up a LITTLE high and the bubbling sauce got over-zealous. But I am pretty sure that is the best sauce (I'm not from Jersey, it's sauce, not gravy) (and it's not "red sauce" it's just sauce) I have made while relying on those horrid jars of crap. (Yes, I do feel dirty, why do you ask?)

It's the wonderful beautiful heavy pot that made my sauce extra good, I know it. I just made chicken noodle soup in it today. My Hunny got a cold for the holiday, and what better excuse to try it out on soup from scratch? Yes, it rocks.

So where has this stuff been all my life?? Yeah, it's pricey, but with good care, it will last probably the rest of my life. Remind me again why we stopped using this stuff in favor of lighter cheaper just-plain-crappier crap? Because I cannot remember. Piece by piece, I will grow my collection. And when I make sauce from my own home-grown tomatoes with my own home-grown garlic and my own home-grown onions and herbs, it will be EPIC. :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Learning That Waste Begets Waste!

Ahh, the yearly office holiday cards. Sure, there are "eco-friendly" cards with envelopes made from recycled product... blah blah woof woof... and yeah it is a nice sentiment and people appreciate it... Sigh... and really what else do you do, it's expected, it's the "proper" thing to do, it's rude if you don't, and oh it makes people feel so nice for, what? three seconds? Maybe I'm not giving the whole thing enough credit.


Some traditions can go away, slip away into the great night, never to be heard from again. If I can get myself past the thought of the cards themselves (which I can't anyway), then looking at the waste AROUND the waste is enough to send me over. Think about it: You got the cards. You got all the packaging the cards came in. You got the plastic that they wrap around the bundles of cards to keep them fresh. (???!) You got the boxes.

THEN... you print out the labels. Printer cartridge waste created. Then you have the empty pages of non-recyclable stuff the labels were peeled from. And then you have the strips of crap from the envelopes that cover the sticky part because, you know, who the heck wants to actually have to lick or moisten the envelope to seal it?

If we look and think just a little past, beyond... then the obvious waste is even more wasteful. Can't we re-think some of this stuff? Must we keep on in the same tracks and habits? Who is profiting? Who is gaining? Who is losing?

Where do YOU see more waste that goes below the surface of it all?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Un-learn Cards - Do You Realize?

Used to be a card-sender. Now, not so much. Here and there. And I almost never go into a drug store, and even less wander into the greeting card aisle when in a drug store. So, as I walked through that very area the other day, I was surprised at how many musical cards there are now.

They are fun. They are cute. My cousin loves to send them. They make people smile, laugh even. Happy! Good times.

Do you realize that every single one of those cute, fun, happy little things is considered e-waste?

But it's so small. So what? It's harmless. Am I really going to be this nit-picky? Well, yes. Because this is just one of those things that is a tiny useless piece of e-waste that will add up. How big of a pile is a million of these things? And because they are cards, no one thinks anything of throwing them in regular trash, when actually they are NOT regular trash. Tiny bits of chemicals... precious metals... for what? 2 seconds of "Oh ha ha how cute" then immediately forgotten? What's really the point?

Sure, it's so small it may as well be harmless. But where does it end? We aren't learning anything. We aren't changing for the better, we aren't improving, we just keep going in the wring direction. Here I was, in one aisle in one drug store in one small part of one big town in one big state, so let me think of how many times this scene is repeated. How about those that aren't sold, and just end up in a heap because they don't work anymore?

Staggering, isn't it?

Sure, they are NICE. They are pretty. They are delightful (for 5 seconds). WHAT'S the POINT? Do we need these? Can 't we enjoy a nice, full, satisfying life without these? Are you going to die thinking, "I'm so sorry I never sent or received a greeting card that played music."

I surely hope not.

This is another case of the big greeting card companies making scads of money on nothing-really-useful. And it's not like they are creating jobs. Some little factory in China surely makes these. Are they enriching our lives so much that we cannot do without them?

There are other ways to show love or spread a little smile. Better ways. They might take a little more time and effort than buying a card and sending it, but isn't that part of it? Am I being overly picky? Maybe. I'm OK with that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Un-learning Gift Wrap

According to Hallmark research, the gift wrap industry accounts for approximately $2.9 billion a year in retail sales. (Source: Hallmark Industry Estimates, 2009)
Gift bags were introduced in 1987 and, according to Hallmark research and sales history, they have been the number one way consumers choose to present gifts since 2002.
Hallmark is credited with founding the gift wrap industry in 1917.
I almost don't feel like I need to say anything after that. But you know me. I will.

We spend perfectly good money on something that is going to be torn up and thrown away. Sure, it's pretty for a few days. But what's the point? Pretty? Pretty is the point? Ugh.

I cannot and will not understand that line of thinking anymore. There are so many ways to present presents that do not involve buying a wasteful product that will only end up as garbage. Plastic covering it before you buy it... trees felled to make the inside tubes, and the paper itself, unfriendly ink and dying processes... there's so much wrong and unnecessary about wrapping paper, and really nothing redeeming. Oh, wait, it creates jobs. I forgot. So long as we create jobs, we can do anything. Damn the consequences to the future.

You can wrap things in material, bandannas, newspaper, brown paper that can be decorated... reusable shopping bags, t-shirts... SO many different things! It might be different if there was some irreplaceable need for wrapping paper, but there is not! It is NOT a necessity! It's one of the least necessary things I can think of! $2.9 billion??? SURELY that money is better spent in other areas. No? Just me?

Someone, please, explain this to me if you would. Because, for the life of me, I can't come up with a reason for wrapping paper except that Hallmark likes money. It doesn't matter if you find it at the 99 Cent Store; it's waste and it is not needed. The only way it is good is if you have kept and re-used it for years. There are a few people who manage that, but it's still going to be waste in someone's house somewhere, some time soon.

Don't get me started on all the plastic ribbons.