Saturday, March 19, 2011

Planning To Get Planted: A Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge

A Tree Makes
The Perfect Headstone!
Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge: (courtesy of Small Footprints)
"Though it may be challenging to contemplate, think about greening your "final arrangements." Visit  or  for more information."
I've talked this over with The Lovely Wife. My first thought was to have my ashes mixed with clay, then rolled into drawing pencils for her to scetch with. That way, whenever anyone asks where I am, she can say, "Over there, on the wall!"

She's quite good at scetching, when the impulse strikes, but she rolls her eyes whenever I make this suggestion, so perhaps she may not thinks it's as funny as I do (...a guy figures these things out, after enough years of marriage!!)
So I came up with an alternative idea: plant my body under an tree.
I'm not sure how to deal with the public health concerns, but otherwise it just makes sense for my body, untreated (...and with all the useful stuff removed for transplants and science ... although I intend to die at so advanced and age, after so much living, that the parts would be useful only to a museum ...) to go back into the soil. Wrap it in paper or cotton, if that's more esthetic, then let the natural processes take back what I've taken from them. I won't mind; I'm not there.
An apple tree would be very nice. The blossoms are great and the fruit so tasty! But other trees are good too; the important thing is that it fit on the site so the tree has a natural lifespan. If it started as a sapling, it would long outlast anyone who remembers me, and give shade and other services to passers-by much better than a stone.
One of my happiest childhood memories is climbing a cedar tree; wouldn't it be amusing to have a cedar tree climb me?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nothing Is Better For Thee Than Me - A Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge

Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge: (thanks to my bloggy friend Small Footprints)
"Avoid buying products that have lots of packaging. About a third of the waste we generate is from packaging to get items to our homes. Choose loose products and buy refillable containers when possible (food co-ops and health food stores usually offer these options.)"
Quaker Oats box
Buy in bulk, then
Store at home in
These great boxes!
I love my morning oatmeal. Pour some flakes into a bowl, add some raisins or thinly sliced apple or what-have-you, then pour boiling water on it and stir - you're done! There is NO NEED to get pre-packaged "instant oatmeal"; hot water cooks the stuff all the same. All you are getting when you buy a box of prepackaged envelopes are a box and some envelopes to throw away. AND for this privilege you pay twice or more than I do. Why?
I get my oatmeal in bulk. A couple of years ago I bought a couple of boxes of oatmeal, in the traditional cardboard cylandar, and just saved the boxes. They are very durable, show no sign of wear, and look ready to serve us for many years to come. Such a deal!
Sometimes I my oats from Costco, sometimes I buy it from the Bulk Food aisle from my local grocer. If your grocer doesn't have a bulk food aisle, ask why - it's very popular, and grocers often like to get ideas from their customer!
I love the bulk food aisles because the prices are insanely great, there's always a new product I haven't seen before, and I can actually see the stuff before I buy it. If you haven't been in one lately, you may be amazed by the selection; it's not just dry powdered goods, but may also include almost anything, such as nuts, dried fruits, cookies and candy. If you live in a space so small that Costco's large boxes are not convenient, the bulk aisle is for you because you can buy very small quantities; you're not limited to the arbitrary sizes that manufacturers have picked for you. For added savings, you can save and reuse the little plastic bags you pour the bulk food into.
One of my earliest memories is of playing with a Quaker Oats Box; I've always loved their motto "Nothing Is Better For Thee Than Me"; isn't it funny that the same basic thing is still wonderful today?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Compost Watch: A Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge

Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge:
"Reuse and recycle waste, and compost food waste to reduce the rubbish destined for landfill sites. If you don't have one, consider buying or making a composter. The average US household produces about 4.5 pounds of solid waste per day. Landfill sites are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, with every pound of solid waste generating 2 pounds of greenhouse gases. Composting is methane-free and does not produce carbon. For information about composting and buying composters, see .
This is a pretty easy challenge for us, since we have a yard. We've dedicated a space in the back for a compost heap; it's not quite as scientifically balanced as an elaborate composting system, but it gets the job done. I've previously written about Growing a Compost Pile and recently discovered that even in the dead of winter, inside the heap we get an amazingly busy crop of worms!!

I do notice that most of our neighbors have yard waste bins. This means that they are giving away the grass clippings and fallen leaves that I would just toss onto my compost heap. AND they pay for the privilege. Now, this material is not wasted; the City of Seattle sends it to Cedar Grove which turns it into very nice compost, which we can buy back at a great price. But it seems to me it'd be better for us to hold on to as much of it as possible, and compost in place. So I resolve to talk with my neighbors and see if they'd like to cut back on their expenses a little, either by composting in their yard, or by converting a little more of my back yard into a community yard waste area. I'm not sure that I'm ready for food waste, but I'll gladly take all the grass clippings and sticks they can provide!

We've gotten together before for community pot lucks and block watch, so why not a compost watch?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't Reload ... RECALL!

Don't reload, recall!

I heard that this phrase was on a sign at a D.C. corporate fundraiser for the Wisconsin Republican Senators, and thought it might go well with a photo. Share widely!

I'm experimenting with putting it on t-shirts and stuff.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Debagging - A Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge!

Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge:
"Reduce the number of plastic bags you use by getting a fabric or reusable bag for shopping. Although plastic bags use 70% less plastic than they did 20 years ago, most are still made from polyethylene, a non-degradable plastic. If you live near a brewery, you can obtain 15-20 gallon durable, synthetic grain bags which breweries usually throw away. These can either be used as garbage bags or rinsed out and re-used to take trash to the dump.
This seems like a two-fer, and both parts are do-able.
As I've blogged before, The Lovely Wife and I use fabric bags for shopping a lot. We try always to keep some on a peg in the pantry for when we walk to the store, and a few in the car in case we shop while out-and-about. It doesn't hurt that most stores give you a nickel off per bag!
I also like to use cardboard cartons for serious shopping; they hold a lot, are inexpensive and, when they wear out, recycle easily. I tried making a video about it, and something went wrong, which makes it funnier although less useful:

Now the 2nd part of the challenge refers to brewery bags. I've never thought of this, but Big Al's Brewery is a short walk from here. Some Sundays we make it part of our shopping stroll; after we get incredibly good deals on veggies at Samway (carefully stowed in cloth bags!), ice cream from Full Tilt and either a pizza from Proletariat Pizza or the Bee Special from the Triangle, we take a growler to fill up at Big Al's.

So for the sake of the Lenten Carbon Fast, I resolve to ask them about their grain bags - I wouldn't be surprised if they reuse them somehow (since they're pretty cool neighbors) but let's find out. A trip to a brewry on Sunday is practically a spiritual exercise!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Love The Leftovers : Lenten Carbon Fast Challenge!

Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge:
"Notice what food you throw away this week. See if you can reduce it by a third. Eat leftovers and shop more carefully using a list and planning your meals. The amount of food thrown away by an average household adds the equivalent CO2 emissions of 1-5 cars."
I know exactly where most of my food waste comes from: my terrible habit of putting leftovers in the fridge and forgetting about them. When I make food, I waste very little. For example, I never peel potatoes and I'm perfectly happy crocking veggies that look a little tired. But once I've prepared the food, the leftovers will often get forgotten.
Of course, they aren't forgotten forever. Every couple of months, I run out of space in the fridge, get annoyed, and spend an hour cleaning it out. This is where most of my food waste comes from, as I dispose of what has become science experiments. Some of the loss is reduced by tossing it on the compost pile, but that's still wasteful; and anything with meat products in it has to go into the trash, because I don't want to risk attracting vermin.
The great George Carlin used to say
"Leftovers make you feel good twice. First, when you put it away, you feel thrifty and intelligent: ‘I’m saving food!’ Then a month later when blue hair is growing out of the ham, and you throw it away, you feel really intelligent: ‘I’m saving my life!’"

I need a way to systematically cycle through fridge leftovers so they get eaten. I really do like leftovers; I just don't remember them.

Anyone have any ideas?

Michelle Cowkitty Cat

Michelle Cowkitty Cat
Drinking from the bathrom faucet
Michelle entered our lives when we decided to get a companion for our first cat, Impromptu Damnkat McCord (Imp). We visited the wonderful Next To Nature store at the Junction in West Seattle, where the Friends of the Animals Foundation (FAF) kept several cats for adoption who had outstayed their time at the pound. We liked Michelle from the start for her calm, larger-than-life attitude; she really is a big-boned cat and she moved like an Imperial Walker, yet maintains a Marlena Dietrich-like silence most of the time. Michelle, and her friend Shadow, soon joined us to complete our household. Kris soon discovered that Michelle likes running water. While she will drink from a dish if it's necessary, she prefers to summon one of us (by walking over and staring intently with her Kliban-Kitty eyes) to turn on the bathroom tap every so slightly. She'll then drink carefully and, if we don't stick around, informed us when she's done by landing on the floor with a thumb and a ring of her collar bell. Then off she saunters or stalks, perhaps to join us as we read on the couch, perhaps to sleep on the daybed, mistress of all she sees!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Welcoming the 80 Per Cent: A Lenten Carbon Fast challenge

Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge:
Think about how we are depleting our resources at an unsustainable rate. Reflect on the facts that the richest 20% of the world's population consumes 80% of the world's resources, and those who contribute least to the causes suffer most from the effects of climate change.
I'll bet some people look at that challenge and go, "Hey, guilt trip! You're just trying to make me feel bad!" Well, I'm not. Shame and guilt are terrible motivators, and often send people in the opposite direction ("If I'm that shameful, why bother trying to be better?")
Geese near Lake Union
Nice too look at,
But what a mess the leave!
But it's a good idea to think about what will happen when the rest of the world catches up to our standard of living.
You can't keep people in poverty forever; something is going to happen, even if I don't know what; the best thing to happen would be for them to get out of poverty and all the other things would be global disasters. But if getting out of poverty means consuming resources at our rate, clearly there's going to be a huge problem. The math don't work!
It's like the geese we have hanging around our parks. A few geese, walking around and eating and honking and pooping on the ground are no real problem; but if everyone in the park started eating and pooping like silly geese, the situation would be unsustainable!
We have a choice.
We can lead. We can figure out how to have a great standard of living, without consuming so huge a fraction of the world's resources. We can then share that knowledge with everyone else. Whether we give that knowledge away, or sell it to them at a profit, is a detail I'll leave to each person to choose on their own.
Or we can follow. We can let someone else figure out the solution. They will then implement it, and the way they do that may not be to our liking. Certainly we won't get the credit for it, probably we won't make any profit off it, and possibly there may be parts of it that we don't like for other reasons.
One thing we cannot do is stand in the way, at least not for very long. History teaches us that we cannot maintain our favored position forever; the best we can hope for is to share our values widely enough so that whatever our world grows into preserves what we most treasure: our moral and political values.
You see? there is no guilt trip here, just a realistic appraisal of what we have to do. The 80 per cent are coming, and welcoming them is both in our interest, and the right thing to do.
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, "Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves...". This is always excellent advice, but to it let us also add "...and don't be silly geese!"