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Eco-friendly Wet Weather Gear

In case you have missed it (and if you don’t live in South East Queensland, then it’s entirely likely you have), Brisbane has been experiencing some seriously wet weather. My shed has flooded for the first time ever. On Tuesday, we had the wettest day in 23 years. It’s been pretty crazy.

And I have a broken umbrella.

Fortunately, Yankee Elv had a spare unbroken umbrella, so I’ve been using that, but it did get me thinking about the broken state of my umbrella. One of the metal spines (arms? prongs? what do you call them?) is snapped in half and the nylon fabric has become detached from another metal bit. It was a pretty cheap umbrella to start with. The plastic handle was really uncomfortable and it was super flimsy. As one blogger, Sharon Russell, said:

Many people have adopted the belief that buying several cheap umbrellas is less costly than buying one umbrella of good quality that will last a few years. Instead, they simply plan to replace broken umbrellas whenever they need to.”

I must say, I have fallen prey to this attitude. What’s worse, when I stopped to think about, it occurred to me that pretty much every bit of an umbrella is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. Also, considering the cheapness, I’m pretty sure it’s not made from recycled materials. A bummer all around.

So this led me to thinking… what kind of environmentally sustainable wet weather gear might there be available? The answer: not much.

Treehugger has a nice listĀ of umbrellas, but everything is American (except one, which is British). I found a Dutch raincoat (but seriously, brown and yellow? what possessed them?), however it looks a bit thick for our climate. It mostly rains in summer here. Ecouterre has a list of raincoats but they are all so expensive! There are some good, inexpensive, Australian umbrellas made from recycled umbrellas available at Positive Impact, but they only sell them in sets of 1000 or more for corporate clients. I think that might be a couple too many. Even ebay can’t help me. šŸ˜¦

I guess I could go for the Urban Dictionary definition.

Does anyone know where I could get some eco-friendly wet weather gear?

Short of making my own raincoat out of the one Ikea bag I happen to have available and would rather like to keep?

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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’ shizĀ definiteĀ 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!

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The Story of Stuff

I just read a great article about Annie Leonard, who created The Story of Stuff. The Story of Stuff is a short, animated film that explains our consumer lifestyle and how it is affected us and the planet – from go to whoa. Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it before (you can choose different languages and captions if you click through to the site).

I like how the article allows Annie to better explain some of the points people have refuted. I also like how it gives us a bit of background to how she got into environmental activism. I especially like how the article is appearing in a major magazine – Elle – so lots of people will get to hear more about The Story of Stuff. Good stuff, Elle!

P.S. I really like the idea of a kampung. Does anyone know of any western (specifically Australian) types of these? Mostly I’ve seen eco-villages, but they don’t allow you to keeps cats and dogs and that doesn’t work for me (although I understand their reasons). I would love to live near like-minded people, eventually, and the whole sharing of resources and community appeals to me.

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Teenage Boys Are Not Eco-Friendly

The title of this post says it all really. I can be as eco-friendly as I want. My son is not. This is a juxtaposition, ja?

teeny-bop emo

Mr Teeny-bop is emo, with coffee and crossword. (I got a snap of him smiling after this... emo defeated!)

Sometimes, it’s not his fault. Sometimes it is… sort of. Here are the top 10 reasons why, in no particular order.

1. Teenage boys grow, seemingly exponentially. Buying lots of clothes is not eco-friendly, and of course, teenage boys are too fashionable to want second-hand clothes. Ooh la la.

2. Teenage boys eat a lot. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me so much, but my teenage boy is a picky, picky eater. He likes processed foods, like Kraft’s Mac&Cheese (the kind in the blue box), when he could just as easily eat the fresh, homemade kind his mother (not me, the other mother) makes. Pretty much the only non-processed nutrition he consumes comes from fruit, veges and soy milk. Ok, and cheese and meat and cereal and pasta and bread. But that’s it. And I don’t mean lots of kinds of these things. There are two kinds of cheese (one wrapped in plastic), several kinds of meat and cereal, two kinds of pasta (including Mac&Cheese) and white, low GI bread. Oh, and pierogi.Ā  No other non-processed food. Does coffee count as processed or non-processed? He drinks that too now (one cup a day only; he’s the only person in the house who likes it.) You might think I’m a terrible mother for letting him eat like this, but remember – when you’re a teenage boy, you know it all, and that includes what food you like. Besides, compared to what he used to eat, we are having victories every day. He tried sushi recently. He didn’t love it, but he tried it, and apparently it’s better than baked beans (another recent attempt). It seems resistance is futile after all.

3. Teenage boys break headphones. Sometimes I wonder if teenage boys realise there are actually a finite number of headphones in the world. And what do you do with broken headphones? There’s really no use for them. Can anyone think of a use for them? Mr Teeny-bop has just gone through three pairs in a month. I shudder when I think of the plastic-y, metal-y waste. I think I had one pair of headphones in all my teenage years. Then again, people didn’t walk around with their own personal soundtrack to life playing constantly inside their head (or from their iPod – however you’d like to describe it.) Maybe the next eco-unfriendly thing is increased hearing aid waste due to iPod-induced deafness. (I say waste, because I know teenage boys wearing hearing aids will lose or break the aids as quickly as they destroy headphones.)

4. Teenage boys do half-arsed chores around the house and call it done. For example, teenage boys mow the lawn and leave the cut grass out as green manure… on the concrete driveway. Call me sceptical, but I don’t think it’s going to enrich the soil too much there. Teenage boys don’t take as much care as they could when choosing which bin to tip the recycling into, because they are too busy thinking about lame Facebook applications and text messaging. Teenage boys don’t turn off the lights when they leave rooms. Teenage boys forget to turn the iron off (when they bother to iron). You may be sensing a pattern here. Yes, it’s the pattern of my irritation. Mothers of teenage boys have their own issues.

5. Teenage boys are even rougher on their shoes than pre-teen boys. I did not think this was possible, but apparently it is. Like broken headphones, what do you do with worn out shoes, I ask you? We have to buy new ones every term (roughly 12 weeks).

6. Teenage boys like lots of screen time. Wii, GameCube, YouTube, Facebook, MSN, text messaging, TV, DVD, camcorders, email… (I am looking at a screen a lot too, to be fair, but a lot of that is for my job.) Screen time takes electricity, and more of it means more electricity. Teenage boys also forget to turn appliances off. Before bed every night I do a round of the house, turning off computers, consoles, DVD players, TVs…

7. Teenage boys wear bigger clothes. This is fine, except it means I wash the same number of items, but I need to run more loads of laundry to fit everything in. I also run out of room on the clothes line. Trust me when I say that you should not try to circumvent this by overstuffing the washing machine. Teenage boys also smell, and if you don’t leave enough room for the clothes to get well scrubbed, the smell is going to linger. Even front loaders (which I have, and which apparently are supposed to be full during use as the agitation action is caused by the clothes rubbing together) do not do well being overstuffed.

8. As previously mentioned, teenage boys smell. Self-aware teenage boys (like my dear Mr Teeny-bop), try to circumvent this with deodorant. Unfortunately, mass marketing and peer pressure means Lynx body spray (not anti-perspirant), in a pressurised can, is the deodorant of choice. At least BO smells a little better when mixed with Lynx… even if it is sprayed so thickly I can taste it if I go into the bathroom after Mr Teeny-bop in the morning. Does anyone know what happens to spray cans when they are thrown away?

9. Teenage boys have a social life, which I am all for. Fortunately, living in a city permits a social life via bus, most of the time. However, the car trips we make to drop off/pick up are still considerably more than those made in pre-teen days. There’s just no way around the car and its links to suburbia unless there is dramatic social, demographic and economic change.

10. Teenage boys are rough on clothes. Socks wear out fast. The hems of shorts come down ‘by accident’. Shirts get stained. Jeans get ripped. Jumpers get covered in dog and cat fur. Hats get lost. Undies… well, ok. Undies wear pretty normally. But this brings us back to the first point – buying more clothes. Again. For a different reason. It’s a race to see whether he outgrows them or trashes them first.

Sometimes I think my efforts towards eco-consciousness are circumvented by my son. Sometimes my pattern of irritation feels ready to erupt into firey temper tantrums. (Yes, mothers have temper tantrums, they just look a lot different to kids’ temper tantrums.) Then my teenageĀ  boy does something sweet, like invent an imaginary Italian bed and breakfast, complete with hand-written menu and fake accent, just so he can wear a manly apron and cook pancakes for me as Mother’s Day breakfast in bed, instead of adding to the consumer culture and buying me a gift I don’t really need.

Most days, he’s grumpy and self-absorbed, but sometimes I get a glimpse of who he used to be, and who he’ll become, and I know it’ll be worth these angsty teenage years in the end. No-one who can be that loving and gentle with an aging ginger cat can stay angsty forever.

At least, I hope so!

mr teeny-bop and fatso

Mr Teeny-bop and that aging ginger cat, Old Man Fatso, sleeping on the couch.

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Fibres: Natural vs Synthetic

Wool vs acrylic? Cotton vs polyester? Hemp vs nylon? I know the natural fibres are typically more comfortable to wear, but what’s better for the environment?

Cotton, wool, hemp, acrylic, polyester...?

Cotton, wool, hemp, acrylic, polyester...?

You might think it’s a simple question – surely the natural stuff is better, right? But when you consider the impact of sheep on the environment or the amount of water required to sustain cotton crops, it does get you starting to wonder… especially when you factor in recycled (and sometimes recyclable) synthetic fabrics, like polyester made from old PET bottles.

But then again… maybe all the hoo-haa about recycled fabrics is just a bunch of greenwash. Check out this article on O Ecotextiles for more information.

Ultimately, I don’t know. I think I need to explore O Ecotextiles a little more and hope to be enlightened. At the moment, though, I’m leaning towards natural, especially when you look at the energy required to produce fabrics, the actual content of the fabric (oil in the synthetic fabrics is kinda off-putting) and the life of the fabrics after we’re finished using them (natural fibres will biodegrade, whereas synthetic ones won’t). Based almost purely on personal opinion, I think probably the best choice would be yarns produced from the by-products of some other industry (like soy yarns, which are made from soy fibres left over from making tofu), or yarn that is removed in a mutually beneficial way (alpaca removed by brushing, shearing pet sheep in summer etc).

Anyone know more and care to share?

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Reduce: Paper

I hate paper.

Ok, I don’t really. Actually, sometimes I love paper – like when I want to read a book (that I already own or have borrowed from the library – I try to avoid buying new ones). But I do like to avoid using paper unless I really have to. I’m especially conscious of it when I’m at work – reading on-screen and using notepads made from old company letterhead.

paperball-hed1

This article outlines some tips you can follow to help you reduce your reliance on paper. I don’t think digitising your existing paper is necessary for any reason other than personal preference though – you already have the paper anyway.

The other thing I would suggest is to consider other sources of paper that you can also reduce:

  • Paper cups and other disposable ‘crockery’
  • Tissues and toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Paper and cardboard food packaging (buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging).

Of course, that’s just reducing. There’s an awful lot of reusing and recycling that could occur – but reducing should come first.

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