Thursday, June 19, 2014

Zero Waste -- a One Year Anniversary

I cannot stay astonished for too long at the length of time I have been away from this blog.  My home smells like a movie theater as I have just popped popcorn while my father-in-law has taken the kids to the park.  The thing I have discovered about a Zero Waste lifestyle is that one needs to learn to slow down and carve out time for oneself and one's family.

To step back, I discovered the book 'Zero Waste Home' by Bea Johnson in a Martha Steward Living article.  The clean counters and empty cabinets were all to familiar -- they were my husband idea of a perfect home.  Intrigued, and frankly sure that it would be IMPOSSIBLE, I decided to check it out when it was published.

At the time, Nina was very into a book her Godmother gave her, 'Celebrate the Earth; Psalm 104' by Dorrie Papademetriou.  At the end, she gives quotes of various Church Fathers and other literary figures about the beauty of the earth and how it is a magnificent gift God has bestowed on us.  Nina really liked what St. Basil had to say and after reading the quote "We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of pain.  May we realize that they (animals) live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and they love the sweetness of life." many, many, many times, it just struck me.

I had my epiphany.

Bea Johnson turned her home and family around to a waste-free, commercial-free, and plastic-free lifestyle to protect this fragile gift of God.  Or at least, that is how I took it.  I then decided to take on the Zero-Waste lifestyle.

Though my husband would love clean surfaces and well organized cabinets, I failed to realize he would also like a separate abode where he could store all his stuff.  As a commuter and parent, he also likes his pre-packaging.  A LOT.

It was challenge.  We started composting using large coffee cans from St. Katherine's coffee hour.  I began eliminating many of the plastics in our home by either donating or recycling them.  I felt it bit awkward about that -- why should I give some other poor sucker my cast off plastics.  In the end, it worked out ok.  I began thrift and consignment shopping to eliminate tags and commercialism.  The fires in Bangladesh also sent me over the edge and broke my Target habit...only to be replaced by a Fred Meyer habit.  Still, I only go to Fred Meyer only twice a month.

Then came the big step: taking my own dishes to coffee hour.  I don't like being 'THAT' person, the person who asks lots of questions about how things are prepared or presented with a scrunched nose that indicates disdain.  It is SO ELITIST.  That is my only hold back with all of this -- I don't want folks to think I think I am better than them.

It is like with converting to Orthodoxy (isn't everything, though?).  I converted to Orthodoxy because I recognized in it THE TRUTH.  It combines both the natural and spiritual world in a way that blew my mind.  It has immense value in my life.  And though at first, I was a crazy convert, I believe I have toned it down...a bit.  At least I don't stand around in the street shouting about the end times.  My ideal for showing God's Love is by living a life of patience and kindness.  Then I had children.  Now I just hope I don't curse too much.

The same goes for Zero Waste -- I don't proclaim it.  I think ahead, I have given things up, I have experimented, and I have learned.  I now have a balcony garden which was once a storage for all the old plastic stuff we didn't want.  Now I have bird guano on my chives.  YAY!

Now, many people when I do start talking about Zero Waste will say 'Oh, I recycle.'  Many, many, MANY Zero-Waste authors warned me that people will say that.

The point of Zero-Waste is to eliminate packaging from the waste stream.  There are a few things that our family cannot give up:

  • Cereal -- I don't understand this.  AT ALL.  But, the oldest person in our family refuses granola, so, there it is.
  • Chips -- OK, I kinda get this.  I do not fry well.  I oven bake well, but even then, the tortilla chips I tried to make were a disaster.  So, I cave. I go to Trader Joe's once a month and stock up on cereal, chips, and...
  • Sauces -- I don't like making sauces.  BBQ sauce, spaghetti sauce, APPLESAUCE.  Ick.  I am going to try to make my own tomato paste and ketchup and will can my own peaches...but that is where I draw the line.  Well, salsa and pickles too.  I made my own canned jalapenos and carrots and they are AMAZING.  I will definitely make more.  
  • Diapers -- We tried the reusables.  Two bouts of norovirus later and NO THANK YOU.  We still need to disassemble the sprayer.  Anyhow, we use Terracycle to recycle the wipes and diaper packaging, but unless you are doing a fundraiser, I don't recommend Terracycle.  You have to accumulate 50 pounds of chip wrappers to recycle.  We eat a lot of chips, but not THAT many chips.  Diapers do not have a limitation as they will recycle regardless, but if you send in a certain amount of packaging, then you can earn points for a non-profit.  I am also toilet training Tom a bit earlier than I would.  He actually likes it and it is kinda fun when the excretions make it INTO the potty.  I don't think I could have done Elimination Communication as I lost my mind with the second one.
  • Various Household Items -- I have a rule about buying second hand.  Everyone gets new underwear and socks.  If I can't find it at three thrift stores, I buy it online using Amazon Prime.
  • Forgot RICEMILK & almond milk -- Am attempting to make my own and sneak it into the containers to see if L will notice.
  • Hummus -- apparently, I do not make great hummus.  HMPH.
  • Pita -- see above. HMPH.
  • Yogurt and Cream Cheese -- these are ones I cannot give up.  I am going to attempt my own yogurt but all experiments with cream cheese have resulted in fail or butter.
  • Beer -- yeh, that ain't happening.
So far, it has all worked out.  I want pressure canner and a food mill.  I continually purge our possessions.  Our house is still a disaster, but I can tell you exactly what you can buy in bulk (non-packaged, not Costco) and where.

It has been a trip.  I am not sure how this will all happen when I get a job...but then again I hope I can work from home.  That is another story all together.