Monday, June 30, 2008


Took Jaxon to his first movie at a theater this weekend to see Wall*E. He really enjoyed it and did great.

So even Pixar is sending the message that we need to do something about all the waste we are producing. John and I were talking later that night that we need to be more committed to recycling. We are pretty good about 80% of the time but we could do better. Especially with composting. Now that we have our vegetable garden going, we really need to build an actual set of compost bins and work harder to get stuff composting.

I still hope that this becomes more of a front and center issue. Everyone these days is so concerned about carbon footprints. How about trash generation? I would like to see more accountability for corporations to reduce their trash or at least some sort of mandate that all packaging be 100% recyclable. How hard would that be?

And McDonalds and the like...we go to McDonald's ocassionally. We went on Saturday evening. After seeing Wall*E I was accutely aware of the enormouse pile of trash sitting on our table from just the three of us. Most of it was recyclable. But guess what? There are no recycle bins at McDonalds. Why not? If they are going to produce such a disproportionate share of waste, the least they can do is recycle it! They have made a pretty decent effort to improve their image in the last few years, this seems like a simple way to go a step further.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Goodnight Bush

Courtesy of MOMocrats....


Processing recyclables

Ok - I am being a bit prolific today but I wanted to share this video that will help make your recycling efforts more effective. It is from Australia but my understanding is that my local recycling plant operates much the same, and I imagine the same is true in most places. Worth a watch.

Theres No Such Thing as Away (part 1)

There's No Such Thing as Away (part 2)

And much more good stuff here at SustainaBundy and their YouTube videos too.

The other thing is this particular disposal operation runs a shop where they pull out ANYTHING that looks resellable - HOW COOL IS THAT!!! They keep a free timber pile too! And parts for appliances too! Like the saying goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure. Seems like every transfer station should maintain an area where people could drop stuff off that is reusable and would be open to anyone to scavenge. Less for them to pay to haul and easy recycling. What a no brainer....hmmm maybe I need to write a letter to our county commissioners and garbage service....

PS - this one on composting is good too - the guy is pretty funny.


So with my last post, I have been thinking more about what things I own that are recycled and what I personally do to reduce waste.

Much of our furniture is hand me downs. Our kitchen table was John's parents, and before that belonged to his grandparents. Two of the beds in our house were handed down from his parents as well. Our piano is also third generation and beautiful. So are several other side tables and desks. One of the desks in my office looks to be from the 40's. I refinished it with the help of my Dad after finding it by the dumpster (!) at my college apartment. Jaxons dresser and end table were made for me as a child by my Dad. Our bedroom dresser belonged to John's parents, passed down from his grandparents. We used salvage lumber to construct our raised vegetable bed, planter boxes, and a chicken coop. And the list goes on.

I also buy probably around 50% of our other stuff on ebay and craigslist, much of it used. Most of the furnishings in Jaxon's room and many of his toys came from those sites or second hand stores.

And even though it wasn't the reason we bought it, our projector will ultimately produce far less non-recyclable waste than a big screen LCD or plasma would. It also has a much bigger screen (7.5 feet across!) and takes up almost no room since the screen pulls down from the ceiling, flat against the living room wall.

What do you do to reduce your waste? What kinds of things do you buy that are reused or recycled?

The Story of Stuff

This is depressing but a very important message. A little heavy on propaganda but a lot of truth and boy is it loaded on food for thought and the ultimatel message is exactly the issue that is on top of my list of concerns...

It is 20 minutes but so worth the watch. Pass it along. Maybe if enough people watch it our mindsets will start to collectively change. This really is probably one of the biggest problems our country faces.

At the very end, there is a short up note on work and progress toward solving the problem. And most important, I really couldn't agree with her message more.

And this quote by Victor Lebow?

"Our enormously productive economy ... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption.... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate."

According to wikipedia,
"Victor Lebow was a 20th century economist, widely known for his quotation regarding the formulation of American consumer capitalism found in his paper "Price Competition in 1955" (Journal of Retailing, Spring 1955) and more recently publicized in the short film Story of Stuff. In the film it is implied that Lebow's quote was a prescription for the economy to come, but when taken in context, it is contended as to whether his intents were prescription or critique."

But I found an even better post by Steve, with some really in depth contributing comments on Victor Lebow here. Seems Mr. Lebow was quite the prophet of consumerism, predicting the long term problems it would produce. 60 years later his predictions seem pretty much right on target.

From what one of the commenters on the above referenced post says, Victor Lebow was one of the early small retailers to get hit by a "big box" retailer (Woolworths), and went on to write articles and books on subjects related to consumerism. One of the "anonymous" comments on this post (why anonymous? this person did a lot of research and should get credit for it!) has quite a lot of back story on Mr. Lebow.

Anyway, read the post and comments too if you have time!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Optimum Speeds for Fuel Efficiency

I thought this listing of gas saving tips was somewhat interesting and informative, but I was especially surprised to read #27. Everything I have read lately still touts 55 mph as the optimum fuel efficient speed. I have had my doubts. I tend to drive 65-70 on the highway, mostly with cruise control on since I drive most of the way to work on a rural highway.
27. Do you need to slow down to 55 mph to save fuel?
Not really... every vehicle has its most efficient speed in the highest gear. It differs depending on the design of the car, and things like tire pressure, open windows, bike racks, etc. The 55 mph speed limits come from the 1970s, when a nationwide speed limit was established in an attempt to reduce gas consumption at the time of an energy crisis. This attempt failed miserably by the way, but that's another story. Which does not mean speed does not matter... it does. For modern aerodynamically enhanced cars, the most efficient average speed is more in the range of 65 mph or even higher. You don't want to exceed that speed if you are trying to maximize gas mileage. At higher speeds, the main gas eater is aerodynamic drag, which is proportional to the square of your speed. That means your car needs four times more fuel to overcome the drag when you double your speed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Baby Chicks

Did you know you can order baby chicks on-line and have them delivered through the mail? Yes, you can.

We tried for 2 months to get some more chicks here in Central Oregon and finally gave up. They were sold almost the second they arrived at the feed stores and no one would let us order them in advance. They were all first come first serve and since they always arrived midday on weekdays, we kept missing out.

So I started searching on-line. Problem is, most hatcheries have a minimum 25-50 chick order. We only wanted 6 or 8. I finally found Cackle Hatchery who had a 15 chick minimum order. We figured we could handle 15 and quickly found a taker for 8. So I placed an order. A week or so later (as they noted on their website) I got a call saying our chicks were being shipped and to expect a phone call from the Sisters Post Office Friday morning. Sure enough, we got a call at 7:00 am (long before the post office opens) letting us know the chicks were there waiting for us. So John headed over to pick them up.

We actually wound up with an extra chick, 11 rather than 10 buff orpingtons and 5 barred rocks. My friend took all 5 barred rocks (which I ordered for her) and 3 of the orpingtons so we are left with 8 orpingtons which we have decided to keep.

They are so cute and doing great! Last year we had one buff orpington, one rhode island red and one that I can't remember that was black and white - might have been a barred rock. Anyway, their names were Ethel (the buff which we still have), Gertie (the red) and Henrietta (the black). A coyote got Gertie, and Henrietta got sick and died (while we were on vacation - poor neighbors!)

So I asked Jaxon what we should name the new chicks. He promptly responded that the yellow ones (all 11 of them!) were Ethels and the black ones are Henriettas. Well, the Henriettas are gone now so we don't have to worry about them but I suggested the chicks might each want their own names. Jaxon was ok with that as long as at least one is Ethel. So far we have "Little Ethel" "Junior" "Sunny" and "Daisy". We are trying to keep with *yellow* names for the rest. Any ideas?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Your Opinion Does Count

Dave had an insightful response to my post yesterday about excess packaging. His is the first comment on the post. Take a minute to read what he had to say...

I also added to what I had to say as well and here is an excerpt..

It is unfortunate that the size of the package is dictated by the amount of print or advertising needed rather than the size of the product. It seems like a single display box for the shelf with multiple smaller bottles still might suffice. I guess ultimately it comes down to marketing. At least with the Robitussin I bought (in generic form) the bottle was full, and the box was only as big as the bottle.

I know that companies who make an effort to be more environmentally friendly weigh heavily in my decision on which products to choose but ultimately my choice usually boils down to price and value. With drugs, which item is most effective, then secondly which of the most effective choices is cheapest. It certainly doesn't help that company though if upon opening a package, my impression is that they have been wasteful in their packaging. It shadows my opinion of that company as a whole and makes it less likely that I will be a repeat buyer. On the flip side, when I am pleasantly surprised to see a company making efforts to be environmentally conscious in their decisions, I am left with a positive impression and am more likely to seek out that company or brand in the future.

I do see that some of it is dictated by law though.

For the mucinex, it wasn't a blister pack (for travel I like blister packs actually) and the bottle was huge compared to the amount of pills in it. The pills took up maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the space in the bottle, and the bottle only took up about a 1/3 of the box! But guess what? Those boxes took up more shelf space and were highly visible compared to other cough supressants so I think in this case, the answer was pretty clearly marketing driven.

I think this is the reason it is important for consumers to keep harping on companies to change this way of thinking, and to try to use our buying power to encourage more eco-friendly choices in "marketing". Until it is proven to do more harm than good to the bottom line companies will continue to make choices based on monetary rather than environmental impacts.

I try to leave feedback with companies objecting to packaging waste when I can - which I did with the mucinex yesterday. I sent an email to the distributor. Unless it becomes clear to companies that their consumers really do care about stuff like this, they are unlikely to change their practices. Generally though, most companies value consumer feedback, whether it is positive or negative. After all, many spend millions soliciting that type of input through surveys, so it is pretty clear that they do ultimately listen to consumers and it is important (and generally easy) to log onto their websites and use the "contact us" option to voice our opinions!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Sorry - no posts lately. I've been sick for the past week and am still battling the dry unproductive cough that will not let me sleep at night.

I have long been irritated by excessive packaging of goods, especially with the current heightened focus on recycling and reducing waste. Why is it taking so long for companies to embrace a philosophy of aggressively reducing packaging? I am glad to see Walmart stepping up to the plate to make a concerted effort to become a greener corporation. We'll see how well they continue to follow through. Costco often falls short on packaging, despite selling bulk items, things are often double or even triple packaged.

For instance, yesterday I bought a package of maximum strength Mucinex expectorant. The bottle that contained 14 tablets was at least 4 times the size it needed to be, and that bottle was inside a box that was 2-3 times bigger than the bottle. Not only is this excess package waste, but excess shipping space which equals more gas to ship the item. And for what purpose? I just really don't get it.