Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I did not update the Green Garbage Project last week. Please look for a two-week update this upcoming Monday. I hope everyone had a wonderful week and has much to be thankful for.
Our lives have finally – finally – returned to normal. I feel like we’ve been working toward normal since mid-August, when we moved into our new place. The last box is unpacked, there is art hanging on our walls, and the laundry room, which became a “catch-all for everything we don’t have a place for” got cleaned out, thanks to a visit from an Oregonian photographer. I’m not sick, neither is Adam, and I’m facing my first full week of teaching (minus the distractions of holidays and parent-teacher conferences, etc.) since November started. Even our garbage-free way of life seems exceptionally normal to us now – we have a system down, so it’s no longer impacting our daily activities.
We added some more minimal stuff to the box. For what I think is the third week in a row, a lightbulb burned out, and these irritate me each time we add them to the box, since they weren’t ours to begin with – and had they been ours, they wouldn’t have burned out yet, since we use the twisty CFLs. Nevertheless, into the shoebox they go, along with some plastic seals from toiletry items. And that’s been it.
We’re prepping for the holiday season, both Thanksgiving and Christmas. My parents are hosting Thanksgiving this year and we are theming the meal around locally available foods. I’m in charge of pies, but I still need to decide what to make. I did go ahead and buy some fun Christmas fabric for wrapping presents. We also found a package of eco-friendly Christmas cards at the local department store, meaning they are readily available. Our cards are made with recycled paper and came packaged in a cardboard box with – gasp! – no plastic packaging whatsoever.
Seriously, that’s been it for us for the past week. Things are rolling along smoothly. Thanks for reading!
My week was marked by coming down with a horrible flu and staying home and in bed Tuesday through Friday. Only after the weekend did I finally start to feel better again. While Adam and I haven’t been sick much this year, one thing I have learned is that being sick equals garbage creation. I’ve talked before about this, but it’s worth mentioning again – being garbage-free is a mindset, and a large part of this mindset is maintaining a positive, can-do attitude. When I feel sick, I don’t lose the motivation to be garbage free, but I want instant gratification and symptom relief, which often equals cold medicine trapped inside some garbage-producing plastic bottle or blister pack. So, with my flu came the associated packaging garbage – a foil packet from ThermaFlu, the plastic seal from a Dayquil bottle, etc. Part of the problem was, like I said, that when I’m feeling so poorly, I don’t have the time, effort, or desire to scour the shelves for a garbage-free product. The other half of the problem is that in the medical industry, often a garbage-free option simply doesn’t exist. I think this is because we perceive sanitary to mean single use and safety-sealed. So, with the flu came a handful of miscellaneous plastic bits added to the shoebox. A tip, though, from Adam: the little silica gel freshness packs that come in many pill bottles can earn a second life living in a camera bag, where they suck out any moisture, protecting your equipment. Cool.
We also started our Christmas shopping on Saturday, believe it or not. It was surreal that we took down Halloween decorations one day and were out holiday shopping the next, but there you go. The stores had their holiday displays set up and one was already playing Christmas music. I came home with a poinsettia for my living room. I love this time of year, and I’m starting to think that it may be the hardest time to be “garbage free,” because for me, the holidays are steeped in tradition. Part of the joy of the holiday season is doing things the way they’ve been done for generations, and being garbage free means some of those traditions have to be adjusted. In some areas, I don’t mind, like wrapping presents in holiday fabric instead of paper, but I’m going to have a hard time not putting candy canes on my tree come December. Most of my garbage energies are being put toward waste-free holidays, so if I come up with any creative solutions, I’ll be sure to post them here.
Not much news here on the recycling front except the normal day-to-day stuff. Up front, I should note that during November, my updates may not be as lengthy as normal, because I participate in National Novel Writing Month each year, which is a writing challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. This means the amount of writing I do on a daily basis is vastly extended, and the combination of the novel challenge, school, and Green Garbage Project means I won’t have as much time on my hands as normal. You can still expect an update each week, and full-length updates will return in December, just in time for a garbage-free holiday season.
I completed my Master Recycler class last Thursday, and aside from making up a couple class sessions I missed, I’m all certified. This means I can start my volunteering with Marion County – if you sign up for the program, you commit to at least 30 hours of volunteer time spent educating community members about recycling and trash-related environmental issues. These payback hours are one of the main reasons I got involved in the program in the first place, because they serve as more ways I can get involved in the growing Green Movement. As volunteer opportunities come up, I will blog about them. The first one, of course, is my talk at the Salem Progressive Film Series’ showing of Garbage: The Revolution Starts at Home on Dec. 10 (see more info here http://www.salemprogressivefilms.net/films-coming.html).
Halloween has also come and gone, and with it, our decision to hand out Halloween candy even though the candy wrappers likely went into the trash after it got home. We tried to find candy wrapped in recyclable packaging, which, under non-Halloween circumstances is easy, but when wrapped “fun-size” becomes more difficult. I was disappointed to find very few candy options in recyclable packaging – even candy that normally comes in boxes (even mini-boxes) like Junior Mints or Milk Duds came packaged in plastic-wrapped boxes. If single throwaway packaging is bad, double-wrapping something is even worse. It can be so frustrating sometimes!
I do have to admit, too, that Adam and I succumbed to temptation and snuck a few pieces of candy from the trick or treat bowl. The wrappers are carefully preserved and I have plans to incorporate them into my fused-plastic craft projects, which I’ve been working on lately. Once I perfect the technique, I’ll post pictures about how you can turn what is typically garbage into a reusable craft like a tote bag or pencil pouch.
Finally, now that November has arrived, we are starting to think about ways to incorporate our sustainable ethic into the holiday season. The first thing on my list is making cloth gift bags for Christmas presents rather than wrapping them in wrapping paper. I’ll post pictures of these when finished, too.