One word blogging? Is this the gateway drug to twitter?
Since I can't maintain a discursive blog of any kind. And my non-virtual notebook has gone AWOL. Welcome to the world of random notes from a mind thinking intermittently of sustainability and the strange balance to be struck between living in the here and now and planning for an uncertain future without looking like you're too far off your rocker.
The Loyalsock Trail Association would love to have your used canning lids. You're not supposed to use them again. Their bona fides in our local recycling stream is dubious because of the rubber. And they're ready to reuse them to create the most lovingly handpainted trail blazes you've ever seen. Some representatives noted that most of their canned goods are going to some form of pop-top, so their supply is running low. I think we may have a win-win for all here.
We got a fancy new dehydrator. The biggest problem with it is its size, though. Combine its footprint with that of all the produce awaiting desiccation and we have a serious space issue. This will take some logistical planning. It is supposed to dry much more evenly. I'm even tempted to try making fruit leather -- which I have no particular interest in eating -- just because we can. Even yogurt leather bites. That sounds interesting. I like the coating on the pretzels or the raisins, but the thing inside not so much. This could be perfect.
These don't look like single words, do they? But they started out as "canning jar lids" and "dehydrator"...
The intractable non-recyclable: #1 and #6 rigid food containers of all shapes and sizes. Yes, a limited number of us could donate them to LARA or day-cares for use in craft projects (stalling them briefly on their landfill trajectory), but there's really nothing to be done with them. In the interests of space, they are now destined for the trash in our household. We do try to minimize accruing them, but it's tough to entirely avoid them around here.
Similarly, there are about eight orders of magnitude more plastic bags than we could ever really use in our lives. We can wash them and save them, but we'll never actually get around to reusing them as they continue to accumulate ad infinitum.
It is possible on the other hand to find yourself with a ready carry-out container in your own bag. I've been keeping a few crackers in a (compostable) cellophane bag inside a plastic container (for the most part banished from the kitchen these days in favor of glass of all descriptions). In a pinch, the rest of the burrito can supplant the crackers for a trip to the homestead. I'm trying to make it as much of a commonplace to carry that as it is to carry my reusable bag(s). What I really need to do is make sure to tuck a couple cello bags into the container too, to cover any and all take-away opportunities that arise. They don't survive well floating freely. But can keep the backpack or shoulder bag from assuming mammoth proportions.
Compostable cellophane -- I've surely mentioned them before. They are really quite handy. We've been using them for years. We do have to order them from OR, but we get several cases in a few different sizes periodically and it seems to work out. We have shared them with other households, but no one else seems to be quite as addicted to them as we are. We've also been composting them seamlessly from the start of our compost pile two years ago. I came across them when searching for edible packaging back in 2000. They seem to be as close as it gets, aside from an apple -- which Hazel doesn't really believe does have an edible wrapper.
Speaking of odd things to compost -- Compostable Diapers -- the component system, with its compostable or flushable core behind the gdiaper, really seems to be the way to go. It takes cradle to cradle design to heart and segments the different material properties needed into different parts of the unit. Each one can be cycled, washed, wiped, swapped out, composted/flushed, when necessary. We only tried them on a token basis at the very end of Hazel's brief tenure in diapers, mostly out of curiosity, rather than need. She was already done. I don't know whether they have added an adhesive to keep the insert from bunching so badly or sliding around. You can also just use them as wraps with prefolds or doubler stacks inside. (If you use cloth, you know what I'm talking about.) There's another version in the UK and another competitor out of AU, which I think is where gdiapers came from too. The end conclusion there is that EC (elimination communication) should be some part of the process all the way along and probably we'll all be better off for it, but yay for appropriate technology. (And then start reconsidering all that flushing going on for the rest of us.)
Produce bags -- I'm experimenting with cotton, mesh, nylon, etc produce bags. The biggest issue seems to be not being able to tell what's inside. So mesh or the really pale nylon may win out there. But the cotton really is a superior substance to wrap foodstuffs in. It does start to look funky, though. It gets a real patina of what I think are residual mildew stains.
People are asking about snack containers. There are several systems out there, most combining a waterproof material and a fabric. In that category, I think I prefer the wrap'n mat type that opens fully for easiest cleaning. But I'm not convinced that the fabric is really doing anything for you other than offending your sensibilities less. It would probably work fine, better even, if it were just a durable foldable washable piece of polypropylene. To that end, there are now envelopes for snacks made of just that with a little hook and loop closure. Those seem to win out in the washability area, not having seams to catch crud and hold moisture. If you want a fancy pattern, there's a little "device" someone has started marketing (under a name so forgettable I've forgotten it) which essentially consists of a stainless bowl that sits inside a cloth drawstring pouch, with a carabiner for clipping to bags or belts or whatever. In this case, pull the bowl out and clean. Throw the bag in the dishwasher. They sell it in cute patterns, but would probably be just fine to make them out of muslin (or use one of those produce bags I've been stocking up on).
Lunchboxes -- the bowl in bag approach is also what I've settled on for the lunchbox dilemma for the time being. We are too subject to catastrophic spills to stay with anything absorptive. So I've stuck a plastic container inside the zippered lunchbox, to catch the more deplorable leaks, and still leave room for a variety of strange-shaped contents. If only they'd stop chewing on the now-discontinued straws that I put their kefir in. I just can't bring myself to buy the stuff that comes in the IV drip bag format that often. It is much less energy intensive than single-use bottles, but just can't hold a candle to bulk bottles and resusable single-serving containers (if only the straws were more durable).
Durable Straws -- we do actually have several stainless steel straws. I couldn't resist. Though the kids don't seem to like them. There's even a company that makes byos straws from glass. They have a variety of styles, some kinked, some with anti-roll beads, and a variety of carrying satchels, including a bamboo case. But obviously, there's no way that's working in a 1st grader's lunchbox. Especially a first grader who won't drink the stuff unless its anonymously hiding under an opaque lid. But maybe if you really think a straw is essential, you might indulge in this bizarre artifact of a culture of consumption trying (cluelessly) to put on the brakes.
Steve thinks I deprive the kids because I see no point in serving them juice. I don't drink the stuff myself. It's mostly empty calories and just cultivates a craving for sweets in them. Hazel would have an IV drip of juice, if she could. Ezra is really just happy with oj anyway. The latest version is that Hazel is drinking fruit tea, which I sweeten with sugar, or agave, or honey. It winds up tasting like kool-aid. But there, that must be my anti-juice bias speaking again. I just don't get the point. I like a nice smoothie, but that's not a drink, it's a dessert or snack. I guess it puts us in the same place I find myself with respect to soda. That's also a dessert. To be consumed in small quantities, exceptionally, not next to a meal, probably in a nice ambiance (soda-fountain anyone?). But that's just food-nazi me.
Beakers, 250ml, for kid's glasses. There are slightly heavier duty ones. We have moved on to regular glass and hang the consequences, but retroactively that might have been a good idea 5 years ago.
The latest entries -- refillable dry-erase markers -- from AU. We already have refillable regular markers, though they are halfway between permanent and washable. They don't stay in well enough to be used effectively to decorate cloth napkins or t shirts, but they also don't come off of furniture, fingers, or other hapless things in the surround. The dry-erases seem pretty classy. They come with everything you need.
I was prodded into searching for non-toxic refillable dry erase markers by the new push for dry erase scratch sheets -- as a replacement for note paper, scratch paper, workpads, etc. Either make your own by laminating a sheet of something. Or get purpose made ones, complete with preprinted graph lines, the periodic table, or other subject-specific features.
Pencil and chalk extenders -- a really low-tech, classic and classy way to green your school supplies. These extra handles can help you eke out the last centimeter from your stubs, without causing carpal tunnel or provoking fits of frustration. These are just no brainers. Where were our brains when we forgot about them for 50 years?
I think that's it for now. If you're lucky, for my next act I will add all the links to help you track these wonderful things down and learn more.
Or I'll wax lyrical and unrequited about the Xtracycle -- they're running a great promotion right now which might have been perfect for us two years ago, but will probably just result in me still not getting one (an awesome, efficient, and utilitarian ride which I would take back and forth to the community pool??? good point...) ...
And a ps Cast Iron Kitchen Implements -- I've been looking for a good natural version of a ladle or a pasta fork. We got this coconut shell think with a wood handle, but it seems to have an excellent food debris lurkim underneath the basket-woven handle/bowl attachment. And all the pasta forks die sad deaths. So I think I'm going to try to commission a ladle and a pasta fork from the blacksmithy in New Columbia. We don't use non-stick pans so I don't think that will be a problem. And we don't tend to leave a ladle sitting in the hot soup, though I think it may be easier to add an insulating sleeve of some kind to a metal handle than to fiddle with the connection down in the business end of the implement.