How are you stimulating your economy? With toys, pretty things, maybe a party or two? The possibilities are endless, but my favorite idea is this one, courtesy of Leisureguy:
George will be delighted!
If my blog looked into the mirror, reached in, and pulled out its opposite, it would be Buy-By Brian, Brian W. Jones's blog detailing everything he's purchased since August 2007. His posts are artful and thoughtful, and he sent me a really sweet note about our respective projects. In a way, it's much easier to define something in the positive, as he is doing, than it is to define something in the negative, as I tried to do with Fix.
Most interesting is Brian's categorizations of "want/need." You can sort all of his entries this way, and it reveals telling things about our culture. Honestly, many citizens of the world would label 100% of Brian's "needs" as wants. But to be fair, many of the things he needs are culturally or socially dictated. Or they follow a logic like, "if you're gonna ____, then you need a ____." Drillling down this way provides a lot of insight into the parent activity, such as biking or working in a particular field. The devil is in the details: if you read carefully, you begin to experience how even the most prosaic of choices can inspire serious reflection. (Not that I know how this guy lived before all of his stuff got stolen.) Enjoy!
Easy come, easy go. So why am I so depressed about leaving my new tote in a cab last weekend? Because I made it! (Admittedly, I had help, but still...) And it was full of experiences: my notes for some art projects I'd been working on and 2 magazines I'd been using for reference for those projects. Ugh ugh ugh. I'm sure whoever found it just threw it out - it would probably look like garbage to anyone else. I would have been much happier to have left my entire suitcase full of clothes and shoes!
A year of Fix actually made me more attached to things in certain ways: I feel like I really need the things I have/buy and I put more effort into the things I buy/have. I think this is interesting: "material" is a dirty word in our super-consumptive society, implying that someone "just cares about things." But someone accused of materialism in the conventional sense actually doesn't care about things but acquiring things; alternatively, he/she bases his/her self-worth on having certain things. In reality, the more material we are - the more we respect the materiality of the things we have - the less consumptive we are.
The moral? ALWAYS get a receipt from the driver!!! (I can't believe I didn't do that!) And if you find something do what you can to return it to the person, no matter how random the thing - you can't necessarily depend on the driver to do it.
Probably nobody is wondering, but just in case one little person out there is dying to know, I thought I’d update you on the latest in the smock experiment. I’m back in the smock, this time without all the fall-winter layers underneath. I love the bare legs and boots, as you can see in the photo below, but I will confess that it’s a lot of dress for the hotter/more humid days. By the last days of this month – the end of this smock’s tenure – I will probably be sporting sandals and a tank and sweating to get to July 1.
A few things are different about it this time. For one thing, the novelty’s worn off a little. In 2008 I’m not not buying anything, so the transgressiveness of the smock being one of the few things I’ve purchased this year is moot. I guess it was giving me a little charge every time I wore it. For another, my office eliminated its dress code early this year, so the boundaries between the smock and my work clothes are a lot less clear. It seems I liked the definition or divide it was providing between work and the rest of my life. I was wearing it about once a week even with the dress code, but I would carefully consider if my boots looked nice enough or if the shirt I was wearing underneath was one of my “dressier” ones. Somehow these little subtleties made the experiment feel more rigorous. Now I’ll just end up in it because I forgot to bring something else or I’m going somewhere after work and it’s easier not to change.
Wearing it for every single thing may be closer to Andrea Zittel’s original idea for the smock, but my version of the experiment helped me make some very interesting distinctions between my social/art life and the other things that I do. I started seeing activities as “in” activities or “out” activities, which didn’t necessarily correspond with leaving my apartment. For example, going to the corner store to get a pint of milk is definitely “staying in.” But going to the museum, even if I was going by myself and only to catch something quickly, is definitely “out.” And certain friends I found myself more compelled to wear the smock with and others I didn’t; with my former neighbors, for example, I don’t always feel it necessary to wear the smock, even if I’m technically “going out.”
All this has made me think very carefully about fashion and its role in my life. I’ve gotten really interested in the politics and subtleties of how clothes represent us, and I’ve been inspired to put together a few proposals for new performance projects about fashion. I’ll let you know how everything turns out – a new blog may be in the works!
Fix hasn't been as DIY as I thought it might be at the beginning...but now that I've eschewed buying for so long, and I detest throwing things out, I'm starting to see the things around me in a new way. A plastic net bag for potatoes became a scrubby for my dishes. This t-shirt became a roomy new tote, thanks to the vision and skills of one of the helpers at the Swap-O-Rama-Rama. It's one-of-a-kind, and gives the tee I promised I'd wear but never actually did a real purpose. I'm looking forward to making more bags with old shirts when I finally get the old sewing machine I have fixed up...
(For the crafty folks, I doubled the thickness with other old tee scraps and made two squares. We joined these to a strip at the bottom and sewed up the sides, tacking the little triangle back to the bottom. I sewed around the edges of two doubled-up tubes for straps. These are already stretching; I will probably have to knot them up soon. Next time I will probably try more thickness or use something else altogether for the straps - I always have way too much stuff in my bag!)
I'll be away for a couple of weeks on an early summer vacation. Enjoy the long weekend!
Yeah, yeah, I'm embarrassed to say I'm still a little addicted to paper. I like receipts, I like holding a paid bill in my hand, I love filing things away. But finally I signed up for paper statements for nearly all of my recurring mail. I proved to myself last year that I could manage keeping track of and paying an online bill so the rest should have followed suit a while ago. The worst offender was the bank statement - I barely even look at those! Better late than never, I guess?
I also signed up today for the ConEd Solutions Green Energy plan, something that has mystified me for a while and I'm still not totally clear on. Deregulation has made it so that you can choose an energy supplier - in New York City, ConEd stays the deliverer - and some of these suppliers are green suppliers, using wind, biomass, etc. I've known about this since long before Fix but somehow never got around to doing it and every time I tried got intimidated by ConEd's terribly designed website and an overload of information. Feeling a little reckless, today I chose ConEd Solutions, vaguely reassured by the fact that they are a ConEd company (I'm sure it doesn't make a damn bit of difference), therefore putting my money behind alternative energy. What I think is going to happen is that I will continue to get a ConEd bill, with both ConEd's and ConEd Solution's charges on it, and my power will cost approximately 2-3 cents more per kilowatt hour. ($4-5 more per bill, but the taxes are waived, which are about $2...so $3 total per bill? We'll see.)
Continuing the trend of spring greening, I bought a tomato plant this weekend at the farmer's market. I wasn't going to do the tomatoes this summer because I didn't want to have to find a ride to the Bronx to get the plants and then buy a bunch of soil that I would have to throw out or store for the winter. But since they were right there and looked so beautiful and strong and smelled so delicious - a tomato plant has the most distinctive smell! - I went ahead and grabbed one. I've got my PayDirt from the LESEC (made from my own kitchen scraps?) and the pots from last year, so I guess I'm good to go. Now if it will only warm up a little! If you haven't already, read Michael Pollen's sweet little plea to plant a garden this year.
In more "it's about time!" news, my building management has finally put out two little recycling bins in a hard-to-reach and unmarked spot in the garbage area! The paper bin was full of construction crap and the plastic/metal one had maybe one can and a plastic bottle. In a rare appearance, the porter was taking care of the trash when I was down there and blamed the cans' misuse on "them" (meaning the tenants). "They just throw whatever wherever." Yeah, I'll bet. The tenants just throw the construction debris from the apartment the management renovated into the recycling bin. Whatever, it's a start.
Honestly, following up on all these little things is of course good for the environment and generally more efficient for my life, but feel a little boring compared to the challenge of not buying anything new for a year. In some ways, it's easier to be an Environmental Super Hero, as arduous puts it, than to put into motion all these piddly little changes. Even One Local Summer, a blogosphere challenge that requires making one meal entirely from local ingredients per week feels kind of small enough not to commit to doing it...I do that sometimes anyway, right? Wouldn't One Local Week or One Local Month feel more hard-core and maybe more rewarding? We'll see: I'd like to do some kind of Eating Good in the Hood series this summer...stay tuned.
This post may contain more information than you wanted to know about me. Consider yourself warned.
As you may remember, I've talked about the Preserve razor, Beth's (Fake Plastic Fish) suggestion to try a safety razor, and my time-consuming first attempt at buying a safety razor off of e-Bay. The safety razor seemed like a lot of work, and a little eco-weirdo, but I liked the old-timey-ness of it and frankly I thought it might be kind of sexy to use a safety razor for legs. So I kept at it, and found one on e-Bay that some guy had used a couple of times and decided it was too much work. He threw in some blades, soap, and a badger brush, so the whole shebang was pretty much a steal. (Plus, it was a "buy it now" option, which soothed my impatience.) Anyway. Girls, LISTEN UP (and dudes too): this is the best thing ever. Ever.
Have I ever considered drag on my skin? Not really. But this shave tells me that I should have. The safety razor shave is so clean and comfortable, I never want to go back to crappy plastic blades. Have I cut myself? Nope, not once. (It's called a safety razor.) Razor burn? No way. The delicate underarm and bikini regions? No prob if you take it slow. I've gotten rid of some perma-burn that I didn't even know I had...it's probably been plaguing my pits for the last 15 years!
Do it now! This guide gives a lot of great info about what razors to buy, how to clean them, what blades/soaps/brushes to use, etc. (It actually gives waaaaaaaay too much information, and the boys-club tone is really aggravating, but it's a great place to start. Hopefully some funnier and more industrious eco-blogger chick will start up a ladies' shaving forum - I'll gladly comment.) I bought an HD Merkur Classic b/c it has a longer handle and it's what people seemed to recommend. I've been alternating between regular bar soap and some fancy shaving cream in a tube (using the badger brush) when I can luxuriate a little - they both work fine. The first time you try you'll need to take a little time, just to get the feel of it. The dude on the shaving site recommends shaving with the growth of the hair on the first pass; I don't really think this is necessary for legs unless you're really hairy or nervous about it.
So here we have this amazing gourmet shaving experience, which will actually turn out to be cheaper in the long run and better for the environment. Hooray! As for the straight razor, the option that produces no waste at all (I guess you just sharpen the blade?), I'm thinking it's a little too nuts for the legs. Maybe I'll try it when my DE (double-edged) razor amortizes to nearly zero? That'll take a while.
Finally, I promised months ago that I'd follow up on my Keeper experience. (The Keeper is an enviro-alternative for tampons.) I wish I was as excited about it as the safety razor, but...I can't give it a two thumbs up (yet?). For one, the Keeper comes in two sizes, B for "before childbirth" and A for "after childbirth" - can we circulate a petition for T for "tiny"? The size thing makes installation and de-installation a little harrowing, but once everything's all set, no worries for the rest of the day. I recently found an online forum for all things eco-menstrual, so I'm thinking I'll try to work up the courage to spend some time reading the brave girls' advice and give the Keeper a few more tries.
More from the Leisureguy (see his thoughts in the comments on this entry):
I had a couple of additional thoughts.
If your readers don't like to use plastics, they can buy Honeybee Spa
shaving soaps just as a puck. This can be used as a shaving stick (with no
container): rub it against the grain of one's (wet) leg, then build the
lather with a brush just as with a shaving stick. She has even more
fragrances available in shaving soap pucks:
The other thought was to use the oil pass as a finishing pass. One guy on
ShaveMyFace.com said that his wife really liked that. And you can just use a
regular oil like almond, olive, etc. More about the oil pass here:
Good idea on the pucks - you're not going to
believe this, but people like Beth at Fake Plastic Fish don't even buy
soap in that tiny bit of shiny plastic wrapper...they'll go to the
farmer's market or Lush where they can get it in paper or no packaging
at all. Maybe the Honeybee Spa is a small enough operation that one
can email and request no packaging? (Of course with the understanding
that damage, melting, etc. during shipping is not the fault of the
I had totally forgotten about the oil, though! I
think maybe someone even emailed me about that way back when I said I
was running out of shaving lotion. I've definitely read about using
oil in glass bottles on other eco-blogs...thanks for the reminder, and
for the tips on using it!
Thanks again for reading.
Please help me come up with some ideas for a thoughtful reader and loyal friend, head of the "Wellness Committee" at her 50-person office. Some additional infos that might help: they have 8 or so departments, and it's not a super-corporate environment. Something weird that might matter for this project: they don't get any natural light in their basement space. Let's get to it!
...the Wellness committee has been charged with presenting recommendations to the department heads about how they can operate in a greener fashion.
I’m really excited about this.
Can you make any recommendations or suggest any resources for this project?
I emailed Katy my ideas earlier this week, and then I thought maybe someone else could be interested in seeing them:
I think buying recycled paper and other supplies (folders, etc) is one of the most important things to do - if you can't buy 100% PCW, the brand with the highest PCW content will be good. This lets companies know there is a market for products with recycled content.
I have recently stopped using my trash can at work b/c I usually just throw out a couple of things. I save up the trash and put it in the kitchen trash when I go return my tray. One can per group of people will reduce throwing away partly-used plastic bags. This may not be a problem if you don't have a cleaning service replacing the bags every night.
A little harder would be to save the scraps from the lunchroom for composting. The LESEC collects them at Union Square Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat...I save mine in a black plastic bag in the fridge and drop it on Saturdays. You can't do meat or dairy - they have a list of the guidelines at the station on Saturdays. I have reduced my trash by a lot doing this - it might also help reduce food waste.
Another coupla things I think you do already:
E-waste collection/destruction according to the Basel Action Network:
Power strips and unplugging - this might be a fun device for you guys: The Kill-A-Watt usage monitor
I wish my company would do a friendly competition, like who can reduce their food waste the most in a month; who can generate the least amount of garbage, etc. This might be fun if you can find something where people aren't handicapped by their individual jobs, i.e.: some jobs use a lot more paper than others, etc. Getting a baseline and then using percentages might be a way to work around this.
Hope this helps!
Swap-O-Rama-Rama: I am so excited to participate in this gigantic DIY fashion event! The mama of all clothing swaps, this one features workshops and sewing machines and a fashion show in addition to pounds and pounds of treasure, yours for the taking for $10 and a bag of clean clothes. I've been following this event for a couple of years now and I am really looking forward to checking it out! Here's a link to Life Less Plastic's description of her experience in Chicago. Sunday, April 27 - 2pm to 7pm, at the NYU Kimmel Building, Washington Square South.
Missed the last NYC Dept. of Sanitation e-waste event? Head down to Tekserve, where you can drop off your unwanted electronics Saturday (10-4), Sunday (10-4), and Monday (4-7). They'll enter you to win nifty Apple products and you can get $25 off a new computer purchased in the next 30 days. Love that Tekserve! Even if you don't have e-waste at the moment, support the independent Apple specialists who do a lot for the NYC community in the arts, the environment, and education. 119 W. 23rd.
There is also electronic and textile recycling this Saturday at Grand St High school in Brooklyn, 850 Grand St.
Two or three posts ago, I wrote how silly it is to go out and get a fancy new container for water to replace plastic bottles. Serves me right for sounding so smug: not a week later I found myself buying a brand-new water container!
My boss had a birthday; I had no gift ideas. Inter-office gifts are so tricky but still I wanted to do a little something...I was despairing...and then it hit me! Several months back Boss came back from a lunch appointment with a Ball jar. The barbeque they ordered came with lemonade in jars - a fun little gimmick and then he had a reusable quart container for tea and water in the office. It served him great for months, until he dropped it on the kitchen floor. I think he mourned the thing for a whole week.
I was so proud of myself for remembering the jar! He loved it, it wasn't expensive but still thoughtful, useful around the office, etc. etc. That it is more earth-friendly is just an extra-special bonus for me (I'm pretty sure he prefers glass because it tastes and smells better). I went online - I was now looking to get this thing ASAP, and finding things like Ball jars on short notice in NYC is really, really difficult (believe it or not). I soon discovered that I couldn't buy one or even two new jars online. I had to buy twelve! Used jars? No problem - eBay people sell tons of them one at a time. But I felt like I couldn't get the big boss a used jar for his birthday. Someday perhaps it will be acceptable but not this week.
Forgo the perfect birthday present because the manufacture and shipping of twelve brand-new jars seems so wasteful? I figured his one jar would keep lots of plastic cups and bottles out of the trash, and the example for the company would be extremely valuable, whatever his motivations for using the jar are. The container is distinctive and memorable, and he was taking it to both internal meetings and meetings with visitors - maybe many more cups and bottles would stay out of the landfill because of his "message."
He was delighted by the gift. Maybe I'll learn how to do some canning.