Thursday, January 29, 2009

An update on my New Year's resolutions and other efforts to be greener

I've been doing fairly well with most of my environmental New Year's resolutions. The most successful has been the one that says I will aim to eat at least one potato each day. There have been only a few days when I didn't eat any potatoes. Eating lots of potatoes has enabled me to reduce the amount of plastic-wrapped bread and pasta I eat, which I'm pleased about. I've also done fairly well with reducing elevator trips and writing more letters. The only abysmal failure has been the resolution to wake up earlier.

I'm also trying to green my life in other ways, with mixed results. A major sticking point is packaging. I'm doing well at buying produce and snacks without packaging, but products like soymilk are available only in packaged form. I've been using packaging-free or low-packaging body care products, but am not at all satisfied with them and am ready to give up and return to bottled shampoo and Merry Hempsters lip balm.

One thing that frustrates me is that even when shopping at the eco goods store, most of the products I see don't seem very eco-friendly to me. Take To-Go Ware, for example. I fully understand why people whose concern is their own health will choose to buy stainless steel food storage containers. There's a lot of concern about chemicals in plastic containers leaching into food, and if a person's priority is his or her own health, To-Go Ware's containers are an excellent idea. But, as an environmentalist, I can't just do what's best for me. I need to think about the impact on other people and animals, and for them it's much better if I keep using the plastic containers that are already in my kitchen. Buying stainless steel containers means minerals being mined, processed, and transported, which is bad for the environment! Even if my home was destroyed and I needed to start over, it'd be better for the environment to get a bunch of used plastic containers through Freecycle than to order a set of brand new To-Go Ware containers.

What I desperately want access to is a store that sells bulk liquid shampoo, bulk peanut butter, bulk jelly, loose carrots, unwrapped sliced bread, and so forth. I marvel when I read about the things some plastic-free bloggers are able to buy without packaging from the stores in their cities and wonder why my city, which is progressive in other ways, is so far behind.

I'm not much of an organizer, but am toying with the idea of starting a small co-op that would stock only bulk items. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of people here who are as frustrated as I am by the limited choices for plastic-free and packaging-free shopping. I expect it would take a lot of time and money to run a co-op, so I don't want to rush into it, but it's something to consider. Alternatively, if I could get a group of people to put pressure on the stores with the limited bulk offerings, that might achieve better results than I can achieve on my own.

Right now, however, I need to act on my resolution to wake up earlier each morning by getting some shut-eye. I don't think I'll ever find it natural to go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up with the sun, but I'll at least give it a try.


Danielle said...

I know, I know. I definitely have it easy in a lot of ways. Win-Co has been an excellent resource for me, as has having a co-op nearby.

I read about this thing called "community cooking." A bunch of people team up and "power cook" on the weekends or something, and then taking servings home to freeze or whatever. The benefit to this is that you can buy items in much larger quantities, and thus reduce packaging.

There are also CSAs that you can consider.

Lastly, have you looked around for farms that you can buy from directly? Could be that you could buy flour directly from them and bake your own bread. You just don't understand how cooking-impaired I am: if I can do it, anyone can.

Cousin Yellowstone said...

Danielle, thanks for all the suggestions. They're all good, but the one that really made a light bulb appear above my head is the suggestion to buy flour from a local farm. I can't see myself doing much baking as long as I live in my current home, because the kitchen is so inadequate. However, reading your suggestion made me think about a farmer at the farmer's market who is as anti-plastic as you and me. I suspect he could use some extra income to compensate for the customers he's lost by refusing to hand out plastic bags with the produce he sells at the farmer's market, and baking bread might be a way for him to combine earning money with campaigning against plastic. When the farmer's market reopens, I'll suggest to him that he consider baking and selling bread.

If I do buy intact loaves from the farmer, one thing I definitely need to do is improve my bread slicing skills. When I've tried slicing bread before, my clumsy efforts have resulted in slices too thick for the toaster. I wish I understood how I can be competent in other areas of manual dexterity while being such a loser in the kitchen!