0

September Already?!

Whoa, so it has been ages since I’ve been here… I’ve been keeping an eye on things, but haven’t had a chance to post. It’s been a crazy year so far. Some major highs, like…

  • Buying (mortgaging) our first house, just 5 mins up the road from my good friend Jho’s place
  • Getting a new kitten (rescued off the road at 5wks old, poor wee thing, just in time for my birthday)

I hereby christen this kitten Fruit Tingle.

  • Ending a lease for the last time ever (no more renting!!)
  • Everyone going great guns at work and school
  • My health hitting a plateau (and since the only other way it could go was down, I’m taking plateau as a major win)
  • Yankee Elv getting dreadlocks, which she loves, and which killed my hands for the 50-odd hours it took me to do them for her

Yankee Elv loving her dreads (they were less than a week old at this point)

Yankee Elv's new hairdo gave me the perfect opportunity to rock a dreadstache.

  • Mr Teeny-bop getting taller than me and is starting to act less like an irritating teenager and more like a sensible verging-on-grown-up boy
  • Our old mate The Dyke Mike coming back down under… maybe for good again
  • My vegan-ness continues unabated
  • …and did I mention our new house? Quarter of an acre, baby!

Yankee Elv running around the lounge room on the day we got the keys.

But there have been some heavy lows too. The biggest and hardest hitting was Loodle and Old Man Fatso leaving us for greener pastures/another turn at the wheel. They were both very old and it was time… but it still sucked. It’s been since January for Fatso and since May for Loodle, but we still miss them and catch ourselves looking for them. That’s probably partly why I haven’t been here too much. I didn’t feel like I could write about it. Time helps, a bit.

Fatso and Loodle in times gone by.

Otherwise… Yankee Elv’s health has gone down as mine has improved plateaued and we’re not sure what’s going on with her yet. The car has been a never-ending money pit, but we have found an awesome mechanic and our new place is closer to Yankee Elv’s work, so there’s less driving (better for us and the planet!) and everything seems to be on track now. There’s an enormous possum in our ceiling who refuses to leave and is probably peeing all over everything up there as I type. I think his little minion possums come bring him food and water. He sounds like an overgrown wombat wandering around over our heads.

But in the grand scheme of things, life hasn’t been treating us too badly. Some days are diamonds, some… no, I’m not going to go there John Denver. Especially since I only realised the lyrics were ‘stones’ when I looked them up just now. I always thought he said ‘dogs’. Why did I think that?

Sorry, sidetracked.

So anyway, basically, I’m here to say I’m here. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I still read your comments and I still think of things to write here all the time. I just haven’t been able to get here to write anything. Mortgages involve a lot of paperwork. Paperwork = time-consuming.

I hope to get here more often from now on, I’ve got lots I want to say, but I’m going to be honest. No promises. There’s lots we want to do with the new house to get it just how we want it and the rest of my family are planning on applying for Aussie citizenship shortly, now they’re eligible. More paperwork; more time. But I’ll pop back again at least periodically, if not regularly… maybe I’ll do some shorter posts. Somewhere between the microblogging of Twitter and the super-epic-macroblogging I tend to do here.

So on that note, I leave you with one of the awesome surprises we found it our backyard (it was a stick when we moved in and suddenly, rapidly, ended up like this):

Mulberries

More mulberries (there are tonnes of them)

Peaches! I think it's a dwarf peach tree.

More to come…

Advertisements
1

I Hate Cars

The title says it all. Please take into consideration the following points as you read this:

  • I don’t have a license and people give me shit about it all the time. Sometimes I think I should get one for convenience or to get people off my back, but I don’t like driving, it’s not good for the planet and I have no inclination to learn. Despite that, I probably will learn one day…. for the above reasons.
  • My partner drives a lot for work, although both of us wish she didn’t have to, and today she had a significant car accident. She’s not home yet and I am feeling all sensitive and paranoid and I just want to see her even though we’ve been texting and she has assured me she is alright.
  • My good mates had a major (car written off) accident last week, by a stupid drunk driver. They’re lucky to be alive.
  • I regularly feel terrified when in the car amongst traffic. It just gives me the heebie jeebies.
front of a ford laser, smushed in.

Our smushed car. ūüė¶

I hate cars.

no cars sign

Here’s why:

Car maintenance. You spend a fortune maintaining an object you don’t really care about (well, I don’t), which ultimately depreciates in value until it hits rock bottom. Petrol and services and new tyres and oil and brake fluid and power steering fluid and windscreen wiper blades and cleaning and fixing broken air conditioners and rebuilding stupid broken motors. We bought our last car for $3500 and sold it two years later for $120 (including quite nice stereo, replaced tyres and a replaced motor which cost $2000).

Car insurance. It’s expensive. You pay a fortune in premiums or pay an excess. If you haven’t been driving without incident for ages it costs more. If you’re a young male it costs more. The insurance companies try to get out of paying for anything if at all possible. But you have to have it because what if something happens?

Petrol. It costs lots, is the root of many wars and conflicts and causes massive environmental damage. Petrol (oil, gasoline… whatever you call it) is super sucky.

It’s dangerous to drive. Lots of people die or are injured driving. I’m paranoid to drive. I’m paranoid to be in the car while other people are driving. People drive like maniacs sometimes. Anyone with a license can get on the road. There’s no law against driving tired, which can be just as bad as driving drunk. People drive drunk! I know they do. People speed. People get road rage and are impatient and drive in a hurry and are affected by their moods.

It’s dangerous to be a pedestrian/cyclist when you’re on or near a road. See the above reason. Car drivers tend not to be fond of pedestrians or cyclists… unless the pedestrian is pressing the crossing button so the traffic lights change in their favour. Then they praise the pedestrian. But they never give them a courtesy wave. They save that for other drivers. Cos some drivers (not all) think they are a cut above.

Cars have allowed for the proliferation of stupid car-based infrastructure, like enormous highways and oodles of roads roads roads and urban sprawl and jobs where you have to travel between sites, instead of hiring one person for one place, and another person for another place. Small community lifestyle – even amidst urban villages – is dwindling because no-one works near home anymore.

Cars have been so integrated into our culture that not driving or wanting to drive makes you appear to be a freak. When starting my new job, I downplayed it. ‘Oh, I prefer to take public transport. It’s better for the planet, for my health, you don’t have to worry about finding a park or paying for parking…’. Some folks thought that was fine. But on the days where I have to travel further afield, people suggest using a company car. I often end up car-pooling, which is fine, but I’d rather catch the bus or train. People talk to me like they feel sorry for me though, and offer me a lift. If I try to suggest that I’m ok, they steamroll the issue. My dad suggested they might just want to be able to use the T2 lane, but I don’t think so. I think they feel like they’re doing their civic duty by offering the poor public transport girl a ride.

Ok, maybe some of them are being nice. Maybe it’s my own internalised feelings that make the offers seem a tad condescending. Sometimes it feels like I’m the kid that my parents have to drop off places cos I’m not old enough to drive.

But – and here’s a catch 22 – because cars are so integrated into our culture and society, sometimes it really is more convenient to get a car ride, and I want someone to offer me a lift. So sometimes I resent it and sometimes I want it. Which makes me pissed off at myself and the world. But not at the people who offer me lifts. *sigh*

The integration and proliferation of cars means less walking, riding, running, bussing, training, ferrying… which means less fitness, less health, less wellness. Instead we sit alone, sedentary, inside our cars, stuck for ages in giant traffic jams, idling, as the fumes waft into the atmosphere. While I wait at bus stops, sometimes a play a little game with myself where I count the number of people in the cars that go by. I put them into two teams – the single-person car and the multi-person car. They compete. The single-person car always wins. Most car rides are made alone.

The reason that most closely pertains to this blog is the environmental impact of course. You all know it. Go mad on Google for a while. Stumble around on StumbleUpon, if you’ve got some environmental pages saved (it’ll show you more of the same – check my account out if you want an example). Basically, driving alone – the way the vast majority of Australians travel – is the most polluting, environmentally damaging way to get around.

co2 emissions (pounds per passenger). single car = 1.1. jet = 0.97. carpool with 3 people = 0.37.

single-car driving sucks.

So let’s sum it up:

  • Expensive (maintenance, insurance, repairs, registration)
  • Causes world conflict
  • Dangerous (for the drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians, wildlife)
  • Screwing with society (infrastructure, work-life balance, urban sprawl)
  • Unhealthy (sedentary as compared to physical, plus pollution is bad for the lungs, eyes etc)
  • Environmentally hazardous (pollution, oil collection etc)

And we lovely little human beings stick with it, for all that, because of convenience… or perhaps more to the point, because we believe or have been conditioned to believe that cars are necessary. A requirement. We wouldn’t have one if it wasn’t for Yankee Elv’s job. Or if we did, we wouldn’t use it for anything more than the odd camping trip or visit to my parents. At least, we wouldn’t if there was better infrastructure. Bah.

Cars suck.

I wanna go live in a place without cars, or in a place where those communal car companies make cars available in the suburbs, rather than just in the city. Why do you need them in the city? You’re IN THE CITY with a MILLION BUSES and TRAINS and FERRIES and WALKING PATHS and FOOTBRIDGES…

Yeah, it’s not a great day for me. I’m ticked off. And I hate cars.

The end.

Share

4

Recycle: Asthma Puffers (Inhalers)

I’m sitting here with my leg hurting from tonight’s injection (damn legs give me more trouble than anywhere else!), and I kind of let my mind wander. It wandered to the asthma puffers (inhalers, if you’re American) sitting on my bedside table. On the very slim chance you haven’t seen one before, they are number 2 HDPE plastic devices which each contain a pressurised metal cylinder full of medication. You place the plastic mouthpiece in your mouth, press down on the canister, and breathe in the gaseous medication it emits. Ta-da. Nice and simple; I’ve been using them since I was a kid… so you can imagine how many I’ve gone through over the years.

puffer

Asthma puffers really puff! (Note: this is not my puffer, so check your own puffer to find out what kind of plastic it is before you get too excited!)

I recently had to replace an empty puffer, and as I did so, I got cranky about the waste. Not for the first time, I wondered why there’s no puffer recycling program. Folks have come up with all kinds of weird and wacky ways to reuse the little suckers, and I know how dispose of expired (not empty) medication – in my area, you take it back to the pharmacy; pretty easy. Brisbane City Council’s plastic recycling fact sheet seems to suggest they could go in the standard yellow-lidded recycling bin… but they have some broad caveats, so I think that would warrant checking.

No-one (as far as I can find) seems to have something universal, concrete and 100% fo’ shiz¬†definite¬†that will work for everyone to reduce, reuse and/or recycle these plastic and metal constructs that millions of people use to stay alive or live a normal life. Which is crappy. Sometimes I don’t want to have to research my finicky, regional niche recyclers – I just want the ubiquitous big-guy! Sometimes I’m too tired to be picky.

So I guess what I’m ultimately saying is: does anyone know of anything or have any suggestions, aside from having to mail my empty puffers halfway round the world to GlaxoSmithKline‘s North Carolina offices?

I plan to continue to research this (including emailing Brisbane City Council) and will let you know what I find out.

P.S. You know what? My leg still stings… but I think I’m sleepy enough now not to care. Silver lining!

Share

0

A Quick Word from the Abyss

Hello loyal folks! You must be loyal if you’re still checking out my blog after all this time without a post. I promise I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve just been swamped and tired fatigued (apparently that’s what I’m supposed to say when I’m tired these days, since there’s a medical reason for it – except I don’t feel nearly as all-consumingly exhausted as other people describe, which makes me wonder if I am actually just plain old tired after all). I even wrote a catch-up post about a month ago – but I was interrupted before I could post it, then I got too busy to even log on for a while! I just posted it now, backdated, so you can go have a look at my thoughts from that time.

Following on from that post: clearly the first month of my new job did turn out to be a kicker. I don’t know why I thought it would be otherwise. Maybe because the job is easier and slower than my old job in so many ways.

However, you know what it’s like – anytime you start a new job you’re exhausted and overwhelmed for at least the first month. I was like that even when I started as a check-out chick operator at Coles as a teenager! (I actually used to hear the sounds of the cash registers in my head when I lay in bed after work.) I’m finally now coming out of the mire of newness… a little bit. To add to that, there have been a rash of health problems in my family – some very serious – so that has been occupying my mind too. For a while I didn’t have the mental capacity (aka space left in my brain) to think of new posts for little old Eco Lesbo Vego, but now they’re coming thick and fast. There are lots of things I want to write about – I have some really interesting topics that will hopefully be coming your way soon. Friday Feast recipes, too.

Queensland Rail (QR) train.

I work out of several locations now, and some are much further away than my old job, so I find myself doing lots more travelling. I'm looking into upgrading to a smartphone so I can post while I'm on the train. (I'm not being a terrible environmentalist by getting a new phone; I've had my current mobile for 6 years and it was second-hand when I got it. If I was to say my phone 'is on its last legs', it would be an understatement.)

Basically, this little note is just to say:

  • I haven’t forgotten this blog – or the people that read it (thanks for coming back time and again!)
  • I’m still vegan and I’m still cooking up new vegan recipes to share with you; they’ll be coming soon
  • Look out for new posts in the near future – I’m not finished writing about ELVish stuff yet!

I hope you’ll continue to stick with me and share your own insights. I’ll be right back!

Share

0

My Spontaneous Hiatus

You may have noticed (I hope you noticed!) that I’ve been incommunicado for almost a month. Ok, not totally, thanks to Twitter, but I haven’t posted here for a while. Not even a Friday Feast recipe, and I have several saved up waiting to share.

Basically, I took a break because life has been simultaneously kind and kicking me around a bit lately.

  • Kind = quitting my job, having a new job lined up, taking three weeks off work and finding out I don’t have this fairly debilitating disease my neurologist thought I might have.
  • Kicking = spending some time in hospital, spending some time at the dentist, finding out I have a different debilitating disease which will require daily injections as part of an proactive treatment regime.

There’s been other stuff going on too, like Mr Teeny-bop breaking his finger, Pou getting an abcess from a suspected cat fight, Loodle’s arthritis getting worse, Old Man Fatso losing his marbles from old age, Yankee Elv having some serious insomnia and Diva-cat being exceptionally diva-esque… but I figure these things are just part of my normal life. There always has to be something going on. This month just seemed excessively on, though.

So I took a break, from pretty much everything. I rather liked it.

Although I had three weeks with very few responsibilities, and I had all these plans of things I was going to do, I actually spent a sizable portion of my time in bed/on the couch/in the hammock reading books. I did acquire a new laptop (I’ve finally given up on second-hand ones after a series of duds) so I spent some time fiddling with it. I caught up with friends, watched my sister play hockey (field hockey – we’re in Queensland, after all), visited with my parents, watched my Diva and Fatso sleep, played pseudo-soccer with Pou, took Loodle to the dog park, cuddled with Yankee Elv and had some in-depth discussions with my budding playwright of a son. I slept a lot too. Getting up on Monday morning is going to hurt.

diva and fatso

Diva and Fatso sleep so cutely together that you can't help stopping to look at them.

So basically, although I had a tonne of time to write posts here, I chose to spend that time in a state of pure relaxation. I don’t regret that.

However, I’m getting back into the groove of things, so hopefully you’ll see some more from me soon. On the other hand, who knows whether my new job will be kind or a kicker? Here’s hoping it’s the former!

mr teeny-bop and cashew the pig.

Just for fun, here's a picture of Mr Teeny-bop hanging out with Cashew the miniature pig at my hometown show (fair).

Share

9

Reduce: Toothbrush Waste

Am I an eco-freak or is thinking about environmentally friendly dental hygiene a normal trait amongst the eco-conscious?

Thank you, I thought it was normal. (No comments from the peanut gallery.)

Alright, for those of you less eco-freak normal than me, here’s why you should be thinking about the environmental impact of toothbrushes. Let’s take Australia as an example.

There are about 22 million people in the country. Let’s say, as a very rough estimate, that 1.25 million are little babies and don’t have teeth. So that’s 20.75 million Australians with teeth (including dentures, which still need to be brushed, so they count.) We all know the dentist tells us to change our toothbrush when it starts to get shaggy; about every three months. We also know that we are lazy, so we probably only change them every four months. So let’s say everyone changes their toothbrush three times a year (every four months).

Here’s the equation:

  • Australian population with teeth¬† x number of toothbrushes used per person per year¬† = number of toothbrushes used in Australia per year

…which equates to:

  • 20,750,000¬† x 3¬† = 62,250,000

Yes, you read that right. By my very rough estimate, Australians are using 62 and a quarter million toothbrushes per year. (Some estimates say 30 million, but I’m going to presume Australians care about their dental hygiene more than that.) To boggle your brain a little more, keep in mind that Australia has a small population. Think of how many toothbrushes the US, Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and Indonesians are using. Yikes!

These toothbrushes are made of plastic (the handles) and nylon (the bristles), plus they come in that dodgy plastic packaging – one of those single-use, disposable consumer items The Story of Stuff claims make up the vast proportion of our purchases.

Remember, no plastic is boidegradable. Photodegradable, sure (that means, broken down by sunlight into tiny pieces) – but it’s still there, being ingested by ever smaller organisms – entering and messing with our food chain from the very lowest level. All plastic rubbish goes into landfill or one of the ocean garbage patches (there are five – even though you may have only heard of the largest one in the North Pacific).

So what can we do about it?

Well, Mr Teeny-bop and I are trialling the Environmental Toothbrush and we are very excited! (Yankee Elv will get one too when her current toothbrush wears out.)

I found the wooden toothbrushes at Flannery’s for $2.95 each, which is very comparable with standard plastic toothbrushes (actually less than some). They are made of sustainably-produced bamboo (the handle) and a biodegradable polymer (the bristles) and will apparently compost completely in your home compost heap or bin. The packaging is cardboard and paper, which can be composted or recycled.

The one environmental downside is that they are manufactured in China (although this would be an upside if you lived in China, so I guess it all depends on your perspective). Regardless, every other toothbrush I’ve been able to find on the shelves is also made in China, so it’s not like they’re any worse than what we’ve been buying anyway, in terms of travel miles. My findings on manufacturing locations are backed up by an Australian Low Impact blog.

As far as the efficacy goes, I think they are great! The bristles are soft, which is my preference anyway, but these are a bit softer than I’ve been able to find otherwise, so I’m very impressd with that.

The handle is comfortable and the head is small, which works for me as I have a small mouth. Sometimes I find toothbrushes are a bit big to fit comfortably between my top and bottom teeth and I have to really open wide to brush my back molars. This toothbrush doesn’t require that, which is great.

Also, my front teeth curve a little bit and it can be difficult to clean the back of them, but the small head and soft, bendy bristles make cleaning a breeze. I think I actually like the way this brush works better than any other I’ve used. So it’s a win for me!

Mr Teeny-bop also reports that is it very comfortable. He likes that it’s not so ‘plasticky’ in his mouth and he also likes the smaller head and softer bristles. We are using coloured elastic bands (stolen from Yankee Elv’s old hair supplies) to tell the toothbrushes apart.

I am conscious that we will have to be careful to keep the toothbrushes dry. I think leaving them standing in a cup (our current method) is not going to be an effective way of keeping the ends from staying damp and potentially rotting. We’ll have to modify our toothbrush storage method, but I think that is a small price to pay.

So why don’t you give them a try? If you don’t live in Queensland and thus don’t have access to a Flannery’s shop, you can order the toothbrushes from the site, like the folks at My Green Australia are going to. Alternatively, try find your own locally produced environmentally-friendly toothbrushes, and spend your four minutes of toothbrushing per day congratulating yourself for diverting more plastic from landfills and oceans. Cos we all deserve some self-congratulation sometimes, right?

Remember to spread the word to your family and friends. These toothbrushes are not only good for the environment, they’re also good value and comfy to use!

P.S. These toothbrushes are also vegan. No boar bristles!

Share

0

Moving the BP Oil Disaster

I got some serious news about my health recently. I’m still waiting on a definite diagnosis, but I probably have a degenerative disease with a likely outcome of paralysis or blindness. Fun stuff. Imagine Yankee Elv with her hearing dog and me with a guide and/or assistance dog. Won’t we make a pair? I’m hoping I’m one of the lucky ones who misses out on those symptoms, but there’s no way to know, there’s no cure and I haven’t responded well to treatment so far.

As you may imagine, this has had me a bit distracted. That’s partly why recently there have been lots of posts about happy, achievable things, like saving chickens and eating vegan food – I haven’t felt up to delving into the serious stuff. Plus, aside from eating healthily, exercising regularly and avoiding illness and tiredness, the best way to look after myself is to reduce stress. Just for a little while, reducing stress has included not keeping up with the really nasty environmental crap – like the disaster of the BP oil spill. It just didn’t seem like something I should stress about. So that’s why you haven’t seen anything from me about arguably the greatest single event of human-created ecological catastrophe in memory.

However, a friend of mine posted about this site on Facebook, and I thought it was too good not to share. It’s called IfItWasMyHome.com and it allows you to digitally move the oil spill around on a map. You think it’s bad in the Gulf of Mexico? Well, of course it is. But is it better or worse if it’s in a major city? What about if it was where you live? On this site, you can try it out.

I found it interesting because I lived on the Gulf Coast in Texas for a while. In reality, it’s getting close to places I’ve been, so I can picture what it’s doing.

BP oil spill

The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The little red circle shows where I used to live.

I also moved the oil spill to Brisbane. It helps me understand, more tangibly, how big it actually is. It covers up the entire south east of Queensland region, including where I live now, where I grew up, where I go camping… everything. It’s huge.

oil spill if it was moved to brisbane

Here's what the oil spill would look like if it had happened in Brisbane.

Here it is in New York. The place where Yankee Elv grew up is covered in oil.

oil spill if it was moved to new york

Here's what the oil spill would look like if it had happened in New York.

Possibly the most shocking and frightening image came up when I moved the spill to Rome.

oil spill covering rome

Here's what the oil spill would look like if it had happened in Rome.

The width of the spill is greater than the width of the entire country of Italy. The BP oil disaster is bigger – significantly bigger – than a number of European countries. You can see them right there on the map. Get that in your head…

…then think about how the oil has been gushing out unchecked for well over a month. So far, BP has not done much. What kind of company doesn’t have a contingency plan for a disaster like this? Did they really think nothing like this would ever happen? Why didn’t they have plans in place, just in case? So far, the most help has come from Kevin Costner. Good on him, his brother and their company – but why on earth is a movie star better qualified to clean this up than the enormous company who got the world into this position? And if he’s so much better qualified, why didn’t they get him on board before this happened?

See why I have been trying not to think about this? I get into a stressy, rant-y place. But really, even if BP can’t figure out how to stop the tragedy, why aren’t they at least paying people to get out and clean it up? That’s something achievable that, sadly, people have experience with.

oily pelicans

Why isn't BP paying people to clean up the affected areas and wildlife, like these poor pelicans in Louisiana?*

*Photos by Charlie Riedel for The Big Picture.

Share