We recycle paper, of course. But recycling paper is actually only a start. A better option for some of the paper we recycle is for it not to show up at our houses in the first place. Every day I stand over the recycle bin tossing in paper junk mail (including ripping the plastic windows off envelopes so the remainder can be recycled). Some of it is unsolicited, and some of it is duplication because Scott and I have both wound up on the same mailing lists. Into the bin it goes.

This may save some trees, but it does nothing to reduce the amount of fossil fuel that was burned to create and ship the mail to us to begin with. Today I added us to DirectMail.com’s Mail Preference List, a free service that takes you off mailing lists so you don’t receive the junk mail you don’t want. I added both of us, and made sure that for the stuff we want, only one of us was included in the “keep sending this to us” section, to eliminate the duplication.

Other things we have done to eliminate needless paper from arriving at the house: Read the rest of this entry »



June 24, 2007

Two items crossed my desk this week. One was a survey about a new water product that allegedly isn’t as heavy as tea but has the “health benefits” of tea built into it. (Read: yet another flavored fortified water.) The other was a news story on CNN about an order given by the mayor of San Francisco banning the city government from buying bottled water, even for water coolers. (HOORAY for them!)

Now, I buy bottled water once in a while, but it’s for two reasons. One, I have a supply in stock for hurricane preparedness (I live in Florida) which will sit there indefinitely until we need it. Two, I buy a large bottle and then reuse it over and over again (for taking water with me to the gym) until the bottle begins to fail structurally or develops other problems, at which time I replace it and recycle the old. I suspect the water companies figured this habit out, though, because Evian bottles fail rapidly, and so do those from my local store brand. At the moment I’m using a Fiji bottle, and it’s holding up well. But I’m thinking I’m not going to do that anymore — I’ll just buy a durable plastic bottle from Rubbermaid or someone similar, and use it permanently.

One thing this habit of drinking the bottled water and then refilling with tap has taught me is that my tap water tastes better than some bottled water. For example, by comparison with my tap water, Evian tastes positively chemical to me. I’d heard about the studies comparing the quality of bottled water vs. tap but this morning I actually went out and read up on it (allaboutwater.org and the NRDC’s study of bottled water) and was stunned to see that not only is bottled water less well regulated (FDA regulations for bottled water are less stringent than EPA regulations for tap), it failed the microbe-content test in nearly 20 percent of samples studied!


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I know all you men out there have convinced yourselves that we don’t really think this, but we do.

Yep. When we see you driving SUVs and Hummers and so forth, we all of us, without exception,  think you’re compensating for, shall we say, a lack of stature, an inability to perform, a tendency to… disappoint.

I had my doubts that we all thought that. Then, as I was walking along the street with one of my many nun friends, a Hummer drove by, and she said, “Bet that guy’s sporting a limp roll of dimes, tops.”

Nuf said.

The Cost of a Candy Bar

June 18, 2007

I’m standing in the grocery store today and I catch myself doing something I’ve caught myself doing before — trying to talk myself into buying a candy bar, even though I’m not hungry and I don’t actually crave one. It’s amazing how often I give in, too. As if I’ll regret not having bought it when I leave without it (which has, I’ll admit, happened). But I long ago learned that five minutes worth of discipline in the grocery store saves hours of discipline later on, so I try to ignore the self-destructive voices urging me toward chocolate, with spotty success.

Historically this has largely been for health/diet reasons. I lost 50 lbs during 2000, and have kept most of it off (although lately I’ve been fighting some creepage-back). And I think that’s how most people typically evaluate many food choices – in terms of health. Recently, though, I’ve started to think of candy bars in larger terms.

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Kellogg has taken a first step toward ceasing marketing of unhealthy products to children under 12, including in schools, according to a report on ABC News. They’re also embarking on a new-but-flawed labeling program for their foods that will give people nutritional information on the front of the box (I say flawed because the labeling information will be based on a 2,000 calorie [read adult] diet, even though many of the products are intended primarily for children, who require far fewer calories.) It’s a start.

Kudos to Kellogg for taking this first step without forcing a long court battle and without hiding behind the lack of federal regulation, of course, and like they, I hope other companies will jump on. But the darts and laurels procession doesn’t stop there:

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I first saw this on ABC’s World News Tonight. It’s a program called “Donors Choose,” which helps teachers whose budgets don’t cover their projects find donors willing to help out. You go to the site, you find a project you think worthy, you donate what you can. Every little bit helps.

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Paper vs. Plastic

June 11, 2007

One thing this forum will be about, I hope, is eliminating confusion. Many people want to make choices that are good for the planet but aren’t sure what choice to make. Do I use aluminum foil or plastic wrap? Wood fencing or metal or plastic? Which one REALLY has the least impact, both in manufacturing and in disposal?

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Apparently I Lied

June 10, 2007

The posts here so far haven’t been especially political (and in terms of who did what to whom in the world of Reps and Dems I don’t anticipate it will become so) but I just took a look at my blogroll so far, and it’s got quite the political slant.

Which makes me think this blog might end up being more political than I planned — but only because when we’re talking about our relationship to our society and our planet, it necessarily becomes so to some extent. Politics is about policy, and improving the world is about shaping policy, which means dealing with policymakers, which is, of course, another word for politicians.

But I’ll try to keep it about living thoughtfully and ethically, and have the politics, such as they are, grow out of that.

Last week, I noticed that my local grocery store was now advertising its milk as RBGH-free. What, I wondered, is RBGH? I have since found out.

I won’t go on at length about it. I’ll just give you the bare bones and the sources.

RBGH stands for Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and it is administered to cows (through the kind offices of its manufacturer, Monsanto) to increase milk production, which it does. It also makes the cows far more likely to contract several illnesses, including mastitis.

I watched a little segment about this very issue in a documentary called “The Corporation” (which I highly recommend) yesterday, and one eyewitness said the pus generated by the cows in trying to fight off the mastitis ends up in the milk.

Well, that was enough for me, but it turns out it isn’t all the bad news.

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Moving Toward Simple

June 9, 2007

Just as I was thinking of starting this forum, The Washington Post published “Breaking Free of Suburbia’s Stranglehold.” Although the article had a Christian bent that is utterly foreign to me, it otherwise spoke volumes. For one thing, it backed up my assertion that the urge to simplify isn’t merely something that’s happening to me or people I personally know. If it’s made the Washington Post, we must be looking at critical mass here ahead of us somewhere.

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