As you might know, Mi Madre has a tiny quilting hobby, and that hobby creates a lot of mess in the form of fabric and thread scraps. Being the thrifty, eco-friendly (aside from her GIGANTIC PICK UP TRUCK) lady she is, she came up with a method to use all those scraps. I don’t create nearly as much detritus as she does, but I eventually had enough scraps to use for this project.
Loyal readers/stalkers may remember that my sweet, cutest-dog-until-the-end-of-eternity Flapjack already has a handmade dog bed. They may also remember that he once did this to my carpeting:
He basically did the same thing to the bed in his crate. So we’re going to start with a new bed, and toys while he’s locked up, because he obviously needs something to do other than dig.
You will need a thrift store or other unneeded pillow case, and a bunch of crap to stuff it with. If you are reworking some of your t-shirts, save the scraps for this type of thing. This is a great way to reuse holey socks, stained undershirts, or other fabric that is too messed up for the thrift store.
Stuff it with all that crap you’ve been saving (you can even store scraps in the pillow case while you’re hoarding them up), and make it nice and fluffy. Then pin it shut like so:
Sew that beast shut, and BOOM dog bed! I even wrapped Flapjack’s in another thifted pillow case so I can wash it:
What if you don’t have a dog, or all your dogs already have beds? Make them anyway and donate to your local shelter or pet rescue organization. Dogs can be destructive, as my sweet angel pie has shown, so they need that stuff constantly.
My friend Palmer the Nomad recently wrote two blog posts that I really enjoyed, and inspired me to rant on a topic I haven’t blogged about before: chemical vs. natural. For some reason lots of people seem to think chemical = bad, and natural = good, and vice versa. Neither of these approaches is correct.
I have heard the argument “Well, everything is technically a chemical”, which is scientifically true, but not the actual issue being discussed. People that are pro-natural and anti-chemical are talking about man made chemicals, like aspartame, not helium. Congratulations, you have just argued semantics, and completely avoided making a relevant point.
I have also heard “Why bother with natural stuff when the chemicals do the same thing (sometimes adding:) but better?” Well, several reasons. If you could just grow mint in your yard and chew some for a headache, it would be much cheaper than pain killers. You would avoid the toxic mess that’s a byproduct of the manufacturing process, the trash from the packaging, and the remaining chemicals you pee out into our water system. Some medications also cause side effects (decongestants make me high, for example) so if there was an herb I could take instead, I totally would. Medications can also have horrible problems that don’t show up until later, like the recent rash of heart problems caused in young women by birth control pills, or suicides caused by antidepressants.
I have heard people say “It’s natural!”, in context meaning either ‘it can’t be harmful’ or ‘it’s good for you’. Neither of these are necessarily true. Poison ivy is natural, but there’s no part of my body I want that stuff near. Oleander, foxglove, nightshade, and hemlock, are just another couple of examples. Many plants evolved to try and NOT be eaten, and use poison and discomfort to achieve that. Buffalo feces is natural also, but I’m not planning to eat it.
The other problem with “natural” is that it has become a subjective term, in regards to manufactured products. Manufacturers know people prefer natural products to chemicals, so they’ve started sticking that word on all kinds of crap. Unfortunately, it has no regulatory meaning, so you may get that happy feeling from helping the planet, while unknowingly killing fish downstream, or giving yourself asthma.
I do think we use too many manufactured chemicals we just don’t need (air freshener for example), but just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s the best option for the job. That phrase is just used to assuage your guilt, like buying indulgences, and justify actions you want to take anyway. The bottom line, is neither of these choices is the right answer for every problem, and the arguments have been simplified to the point of absurdity. There is no reason for there to be a vs. in this topic at all. Find a solution that will do what’s needed with as little impact as possible.
As the heat rages on outside here in Texas, I start looking for ways to minimize our electric and water bills, and that generally spills over into being more eco-friendly in general. I posted prviously about trying to be greener at work, and I try to do the same at home when I can. This is a bit of what I’ve accomplished so far.
For work I bought (at the thrift store, of course), a Corelle bowl/plate. It’s like a wide, shallow bowl, so I only need the one dish in my office, and I’m no longer wasting paper plates and bowls. I also bought a fork and spoon, so I’m no longer using the plastic forks and spoons provided at my office. An unexpected bonus: I no longer have to refill the plasticware when it runs out! So saving plastic (which means reducing my oil consumption, since plastic is made from petroleum), and saving myself some hassle.
We are constantly getting things shipped into the office, and I have been bringing home the empty boxes and bubble wrap. My sister, Beans, sis-in-law Lis, and friend Samantha have all moved or are moving in the space of a couple months. All the boxes and packing materials I had collected went to them. When I don’t have any friends or relations moving, I use that stuff to ship gifts or books to friends and family, or to wrap presents for birthdays and Christmas, or to ship things I sell online.
I also reuse the boxes to hold extra recycling (we always have too much to fit in the bin). I also keep one box in my office for thrift store items. As we decide to get rid of things, I chuck them into the box. When it’s full, I drop it off.
When we get paper shipments, they come in several boxes with lids that are exactly the same. I use these in my craft room to separate individual projects. They are all the same size, so they are easy to stack, and I use a sharpie and masking tape to label them. I put the projects or craft supplies I don’t need often at the bottom of the stack, and make sure the labels always face outward.
I finally got a reusable water bottle. It’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s that I’m picky. I don’t like metal because I want to be able to see through the container so I know it’s clean. I also wanted one with a wide opening at the top so I can actually get my hand or a scrubber in there to clean it. I also wanted it to fit in the cup holder in my car snuggly so I don’t have to worry about it flying all over the car every time I turn a corner. I don’t like the ones with straws, because, again, they are impossible to clean properly.
I also needed to to close securely, because I have been doused with water bottles before, and it is no pleasant. I had a previous one with a screw-top. The top was attached to the bottle by a plastic ring around the top of the bottle. As soon as you had finished half the water in the bottle, the hanging lid made the whole thing top-heavy, so it fell over constantly. I didn’t want to buy and reject 80 different bottles, so I started out very picky from the start, and I finally found one that fits all those criteria. I even got a pink one for me, and a blue one for Hubby. I have had it for about a month now, and I always have it with me.
Because I took the time to think about what I really wanted, I was able to find one that has integrated into my life seamlessly. This makes being green easy and thoughtless, which is the perfect way to make changes. This will prevent me drinking and using over 100 bottles of water per year (at least, since I was averaging at least 2 per week). I am also drinking a ton more water than I was, because I have it with me everywhere, and I can fill it up anywhere. Hubby and I were road-tripping down to San Antonio this weekend, and fast food places filled them up with cold water for free, and with no hassles.
I have been having a weird couple of weeks. It seems like random, slightly unpleasant events keep occurring. That, in and of itself, is not unusual for me, but things have been happening so frequently that I’m starting to wonder if I slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum. Maybe I’m in a parallel dimension that’s very similar to my own, but in which dishes jump off counters, fruit trees have no fruit, and I’m a pirate.
First of all, the other day I was just walking through my bedroom, just like normal. Somehow I smashed my left foot into my bed. I tend to trip on things, and bump into things a lot, but this was horrific. It is still hurting, 5 days later, and it was hugely swollen, with weird purple spots (See?!? Even bruises are weird in this dimension!). The ironic part is, a large portion of my left foot is numb at all times, due to a pinched nerve in my back. Did I smash the numb part? Of course not. So I’ve been hobbling around like a wicked crone in a fairy tale.
A week or so ago, I went to my dentist for a normal cleaning. Did it work out with a pat on the back and a free toothbrush? I’m not that lucky. First of all, I got a COUPON for a toothbrush. What? I depend on the dentist to supply all my travel sized dental equipment. A coupon for a normal sized toothbrush doesn’t help me. I already have dozens of them laying around at home. Second of all, my nice, young dentist, from my same hometown was gone. Instead, I have the love child of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mr. Clean. He was polite, but intimidating. Turns out that one of my fillings from last year needs to be replaced (he wouldn’t say if it was done incorrectly before), and he wanted to give me a GOLD tooth. Granted, it would be way in the back, and I do love pirates, but still. My insurance company decided that if I was going to have the fun of being a pirate, I had to pay for a large chunk of it myself, so normal filling it is. That whole experience was not fun, but I’m sure everyone knows what it’s like, so I won’t force any of us to relive the horror that is the dentist’s chair.
Right now, in my kitchen, there is the inexplicable sound of water running. I have checked the sink, under the sink, the outside hoses, the water heater, the water heater downspout outside, and the sink upstairs. Hubby has checked it all too, and we cannot find anything. It’s like Chinese water torture, but instead of dripping on my head, it’s giving me visions of water building up inside the walls, slowly destroying my home, and everything I love.
As always, Hubby and I are constantly trying to lighten the workload around the house and be more ecofriendly, when possible. Our dishwasher is tempermental at best, and we were having to rewash things at least twice. We decided that if we each had one bowl and one plate, we would just use them, and hand wash them ourselves. This way, the dishes don’t stack up, and no one gets resentful having to wash up the gross dishes the other person leaves with food on them in the sink rather than just rinsing them. 3 guesses who does that. We went to the thrift store and picked out one each. The whole system was working great. There were a very small number of dishes each day that we easily hand washed. Then, somehow, my bowl jumped out of my hand and committed suicide. It exploded across the kitchen, scaring the crap out of me and Flapjack. I cleaned it up, and everything returned to normal, but now more dishes are appearing. I decided I would just use one of the bowl we had, but they must be multiplying on the counter. It’s bizarre.
More of the Strange World of Clever Chick in Part 2: Seriously, call Stephen Hawking
I’ve been paying a bit more attention to my routine at work. At home, I recycle religiously, avoid packaging where possible, use green bags and eco-friendly cleaning products. The office is a whole different story.
I already bring my lunch in reusable containers, print everything possible double-sided, and recycle the massive ink cartridges we use. I am bad, though. I use disposable plates, bowls, plasticware, and *gasp* bottled water! It would be super simple to bring a bowl, plate, and silverware from home, and just keep them up here.
So far I’ve dramatically reduced my use of post-its and note pads by creating a digital to do list in Excel. This enables me to have multiple pages, so I can separate everything, and keep my desk cleaner.
I finally bought one dish to bring to work that I can just wash instead of throwing out. It’s kind of a bowl/plate combo; either a really wide, shallow bowl, or a pretty deep plate. I had soup in it yesterday, and it worked great. Plus, it’s Corelle, and it was only $1 at Goodwill! (I also found some fantabulous shoes while I was there, which might show up in a later post).
I turn off my monitor when I leave for the day (I can’t shut down the computer because of the way things are networked), and I’ve stopped using my candle warmer. I’m trying to wear warmer clothes, so I don’t have to turn my space heater on as much, and I have a CFL in my lamp instead of a normal bulb. I take dead batteries to be recycled instead of throwing them in the trash.
I’ve been trying to print less overall, but our work is very paper-dependent. That might be changing in the future (the company is slowly crawling toward a paperless office), but we’ll see. Of the paper we do print, most of it has to be shredded when it needs to be disposed of, but it all gets recycled. The stuff that doesn’t need to be shredded used to all get mixed into the same pile, but now I’m trying to avoid wasting the electricity of shredding excessively, and throwing it directly in the recycle bin.
There are things I will not do to go green, all of which I will tell you about right now! (if you get the movie reference you get a gold star!)
1) Hankerchief – that’s disgusting. No, just no.
2) “Let it mellow” – also disgusting.
3) Pretty much anything that’s too disgusting to comprehend.
Other than that, I do what’s practical, and within my budget. I’m still looking for little ways to improve my routine, but there’s a lot that not under my control at the office. I’m sure that’s how it is for most people, but little things have an impact, too.
After I wrote my mini-frauxgalness rant (hasn’t that phrase caught on yet? Jeez), I realized there’s another faux-eco occurance that arises constantly. I call it faux-green, because I haven’t thought of anything better yet. You spammers constantly commenting could try posting something useful for a change, and let me know if you think of something more clever.
I touched on the concept of faux-green in a previous post. Planet Green is constantly guilty of this type of thing. The whole show “Emeril Green” is only as green as the horse poo it’s made of. Simply using organic ingredients in cooking DOES NOT make it eco-friendly! You can’t ship special, rare, expensive, organic olive oil all the way from Italy or Nepal or somewhere and call it green (well green in color, yes, in enviromental impact, no). Shipping things from that far away leads to tons of fuel use, for what I consider to be very little gain, environment-wise.
Another problem is called “green washing”. Companies put some kind of pseudo eco-label on their product, without actually doing anything beneficial for the environment. I saw plates at the store the other day with a huge green leaf sticker on each one, that proclaimed “Made from Recycled Content!” in huge letters. In tiny letters below, it said “20% post consumer waste”, or something along those lines. 20%? Really? I’m not going to get excited about that. The worst one I saw, and I can’t remember what it was on, proudly proclaimed that it was made of recyclABLE content. That means they did nothing other than use the same old cardboard or plastic as always, and they want you to do the work of helping the environment.
These kind of things are part of why I am very hesitant to jump onto any trend. I tend to focus on my pocketbook before anything else, and it’s kept me out of trouble so far, knock on wood (which is recyclable!).
I am aware that the blog has been silent for about two weeks now. There are several reasons for this. I am temporarily back to full time at work, my sister, Beans is getting married, and I have been nominated wedding planner, and I’m lazy. I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff to add to the “Interesting” category, but uploading of pictures has not occurred. I thought today I would write a mini-rant about something that really bugs me: fake frugalness (or frauxgal, as I’m calling it).
There are hundreds of websites, books, and blogs that recommend certain things in the name of frugality and eco-friendliness. You really have to sift through the crap to find anything useful. Planetgreen.com, the website from the Discovery Channel network, is a huge perpetrator of this, and I almost want to start a whole other blog that is simply an anti-planet green critique. However, I support the effort they are making, and I realize the volume of content demanded means that a lot of filler is going to be posted.
That being said, here are some of my ultimate pet peeves:
“Make your own simple face wash! All you need are dozens of hard to find, ludicrously expensive ingredients and equipment to make it yourself!” – There are dozens of “recipes” that need all kinds of essential oils, and saflower oil, and one ounce of some expensive ingredient you’ve never heard of, but only comes in giant, expensive bottles at whole foods. How is this saving me money? I can use soap for crap’s sake. What the hell is wrong with soap? Since when is it expensive? And I have an “eco-friendly” recipe for laundry soap that uses Ivory soap, so it can’t be that bad for the envirnoment. This all seems like a lot of work for zero payoff.
“Find some kind of eco-service in your area!” – Why the hell am I reading this website if I have to do all the leg work myself? I realize this is a globally available site, so they can’t be too specific, but all of these writers seem to live in New York or LA. There is not an eco-drycleaner in the entire state of Alabama, and I doubt there is one near me (although I live in Austin, so I may be wrong). Why do I have to go and spend bookoo bucks on eco-friendly anything? I just don’t buy dry-clean only clothes, which is what their advice should have been. There’s also the classic “Find a farmer’s market near you!”. Yeah, I live in Texas. This place is mostly desert and cattle. What can they grow? Oranges and cow feed. The oranges aren’t local to me, so I’m stuck with cow feed. No thanks.
“Don’t rinse your dishes! Today’s modern appliances can clean anything!” – I have seen this gem on MULTIPLE websites. Well I decided to do the MOST eco- and wallet-friendly thing: not replace my dishwasher until it breaks. Yeah. Replacing all your old appliances, which is what many of these sites advocate, creates a huge amount of landfill waste, not to mention all the chemicals and mining of resources used to create the NEW applaince, plus all the fuel to ship it to the store, and then your home, plus the fuel to ship the old one to the landfill. What a load of bollocks. I rinse my dishes because it doesn’t take much water, then I don’t have to run them through the machine twice. Tada! The lazy solution is often the best one.
“Wash your car at a car wash/Wash your car at home!” – These are literal conflicts I’ve seen, and this is the best example. Eco-sites tell you to use a car wash, because it will take less water. What about whatever crazy-ass chemicals Chevron uses? Are we really going to assume that a gas station is using biodegradable soaps, wax, etc? Doubtful. That also leads us back to me doing all the work of finding a possible non-existant eco-carwash. Not feeling it. Washing your car at home may take a bit more water, but it’s far cheaper, and I can control what and home much soap is used. And how about this: don’t wash your car. Maybe it’s just because I live in the biggest state worth living in (I’ve been to Alaska. You aren’t missing anything), but my car is always dirty. I drove three hours each way this weekend to go visit my girlfriends, plus driving a couple hours all around the city of Houston. You tend to hit lots of bugs, exhaust, and dirt with that much driving. Why would I wash it just to watch all that happen again? I understand if you live somewhere where they salt the roads in winter, but I would not have my happy ass in the driveway scrubbing in snow anyway, so that makes it an easy decision for you. I have heard that having a dirty car reduces your fuel efficiency, but I haven’t noticed a change from when my Dad used to take my car to get it washed constantly to now. Driving habits have much more influence on it, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.
“Turn this egg carton into an amazing puppet!” – This one really ticks me off. No, I’m not going to spend a bunch of money at Hobby Lobby on rhine stones, glue and glitter to turn a piece of garbage into a pretty piece of garbage. With ANY craft project, look at the final result FIRST, and decide if it’s something you want to keep in your home for ten years. No? Then save your time for something you’ll love to have around, not something you feel obligated to keep just because you made it. I once almost made a mirror surrounded by mardi-gras beads. I have never been to mardi-gras, I have nothing else in my house that is remotely mardi-gras related, I have no desire to go to mardi-gras, or decorate any area in my house with that theme. I also did not own a mirror for it, or have enough glue, so I would have had to buy both of those things just to create a huge, tacky mirror I wouldn’t want in my house. Solution? Donate the beads to a thrift store. I worked at a thrift store for a long time, and they can sell just about anything. If you have scraps of fabric and things, they can sell the fabric in bulk to another company who recycles the fibers into other stuff, so the charity makes even more money. Use this rule if you’re not sure: if it’s trash, throw it away. If someone else could use it, donate it to a thrift store.
There are other situations similar to these, but these are examples that typify what I’ve seen. Bottom line: if you have to spend a lot of money it’s not frugal, and I doubt it’s eco-friendly enough to be worthwhile. End of rant.