Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Plastic Bag, the Movie

I went to the grocery store last Sunday and, once again, forgot to take along my ChicoBag. Probably its dinky, handy size stuffed up inside itself is what makes me forget about it sometimes; I should probably keep it prominently undid somewhere to remember, because I feel bad whenever I leave it behind.

That sounds like a plug, but it's really not. I simply don't like using the plastic bags from the store, any reusable would do fine by me; I just happen to have the ChicoBag is all. I had intended to shop on the cheap at the bestest store in the world Aldi, but winter crapped on us last weekend and Aldi is some 20 miles or so away, I opted going to the only store here in town instead.

I swear to God, this particular chain of stores must own stock in some sort of plastics affair, because they totally outdo themselves how many bags they can use up! Pathetic, it is, and I was a part of that on Sunday, probably skewing higher the already boggling stats: 60,000 plastic bags used in the U.S. every five seconds, more than 100,000 marine animals killed off every year, not to mention the unbelievable resources used up just to make the things.

The Odessa store alone might very well be solely responsible for that Pacific Ocean vortex thingy, I could imagine. Yeah, my bad, and I'll try to do better remembering the next time. I do lots of stuff that's not so planet-friendly, I'm sure, but I try my best doing whatever I can, and after watching this movie I think I'll do better remembering my ChicoBag hereafter.

Plastic Bag, the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and then discarded it, trying to grasp its purpose in the world. Eventually it winds up in the ocean, a promised nirvana where it will settle among its own kind, letting go the memory of its maker...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Picture This: Salsa

No excuses, really, for why this picture of a salsa jar on my deck here. I was there, it was there, things happened. I guess the bigger question would be why it was outside with me in the first place. All right, fine, I'm sort of an oddball a total wackjob when it comes to making stuff and putting it in jars, I carry it places with me sometimes, thinking it somehow photogenic. Which it isn't, really.

I did have a picture of the salsa unjarred that was quite pretty, actually, dished up with chips and stuff, not all mushed behind glass which could just as easily look like regurge as much as not, but the camera died and I ate it before I had the chance for a do-over. Not the camera I ate, the salsa, I ate the salsa. Also that first one gone wild with chips was not modeled on the deck; that would plainly be wrong.

I wasn't kidding, though, what I said putting fresh made food in jars makes me want to take pictures. "Awesome" is a word I say a lot, and I am truly trying to stop that, but for now it is all I can think of, how this whole big-ass jar of deliciousness is not only tastier fresh and preservative-free than your store-boughts, it's, like, virtually cost-free, too. (I'm also trying hard to stop saying "like" like that, you know?)

This time of year, and it is still too early for the tomatoes in the grocery to be decent, I stick with canned tomatoes for it. No hatin' on the wonderfulness of Red Gold (←contest there) or anything, but I opted for the Always Save brand. A 49-cent can went into this one, and I had to buy the head of garlic, an onion and jalapeños, but what? Maybe less than a buck altogether, I am supposing. A couple of cloves of the garlic, couple of peppers and half an onion. Oh, and a lime, I squirted some juice from that into it, too. If I had put in cilantro, that might have put me over my buck budget, but I hate cilantro. Bleh.

The fantasticker thing about it, also, is that as cheap and better all around as it is made fresh, once I get my garden growing here (still giddy about that, by the way) I can save even the George that this took, plus it will be even fresher. I'm all for the cheap, free is even better, and there is nothing in here that I won't be growing myself. I'm also all in with organic and locally grown, and you sure can't get more local than stepping just outside. Yep, awesome.

For now even with this batch, though, notwithstanding some compromise toward the economical and ecological aspects, it's still a good sight better all around than the alternatives. I don't understand why, even for others less chintzy and less environmentally bent than myself, folks don't do this sort of thing anyway? Get a rope. It's just flat out better, plus it tastes more excellent knowing I made it. I don't even own a food processor, just a really big knife, that risk alone makes me appreciate it more. Plus it's prettier, for taking pictures and such.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Free Books and Saving Green

"Help make the world a library and recycle at the same time."

That's what BookCrossing is all about, and I have to say one of the best ever plans for some ordinary chum to come up with. Pretty genius turning an idea so unsophisticated into a process going on for nine years now, as of last month.

Like that Where's George? money-tracking by serial number thingy, only different with books. Stalking George was fun for awhile when I did it years ago, interesting but hardly recycling nor very edifying, really; also characteristically not free, and I've run out of Georges to track anyway.

BookCrossing is funner, and just maybe might get people picking up a book once every now and again. Folks don't seem to be book-readers so much anymore, which I find disappointing. Stupid, really, but that's my opinion and nobody asked for it. People do like free stuff, though, and finding a book laid in some random place labeled for free keeps books traveling.

Read and release for books: you read one and pass it along, left anywhere at all with a catchy sticker like "Take Me Home" for someone else to find. The first one to send a book on its course registers it online for getting assigned a unique ID number. That persons, and others afterward then, make journal entries about the book... where it was found, where it was left, and any comments about the book itself, whatever.

Some end up in impressive faraway places, too. I'm an idiot, I know. Don't know why that seems so groovy to me (yes, I said "groovy"); I'm not unfamiliar with airplanes nor that people use them to go places and even read there sometimes. Still. I've never had one travel so far, and I admit I would think that was cool. Guess there are not a lot of international travelers where I live.

This is awesome for so many reasons, not the least as I mentioned it gets people reading, hopefully. That it is absolutely free is a big perk, also finding a book you might not otherwise necessarily have read but do, that's kind of a neat thing. Unless the book sucks, of course. But then you can say so at BookCrossing's site and send it on its way, maybe to appeal to someone with worser or better taste than you, depending.

Anyway, if you love books, check out their website, you can start recycling your own books that you might be done with, setting them loose on others, and also check where books might have been left nearby wherever you are. I love to read, but I really love free, and the recycling part is pretty incredible when you think about it, beyond what you might first think.

Get this: of the number of book publishers in the U.S., more than 80,000 of them, only 250 signed the Book Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper Use, committing to improve their ecological footprint. I sure as hell don't want books to go away, for sure, but it seems that apparently more could be done toward making them a bit more earth-friendly than now. So there ya have it, like I said, BookCrossing is just plain awesome for so many reasons.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The No Impact Man Effect

This guy Colin Beavan's year-long experiment going über green is fascinating to me, both for how extreme he went with it and, too, that he managed pulling it off in New York City. I don't know why exactly that would matter any more than someplace else, it just seems to me that where all things are so readily gettable it might be particularly hard bucking temptation. At the start of it, he said:
"For one year, my wife, my 2-year-old daughter, my dog and I, while living in the middle of New York City, are attempting to live without making any net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets…"
Could just be my own lack of self-discipline is why it impresses me; I couldn't go so far as what they did even from out here in the country. I'm quite certain at some point I'd cave to a trip into town for some non-green thing, like toilet paper maybe. But they managed giving up even that, right there in the Big Apple.

I had wanted to see the No Impact Man documentary he made about the experience (trailer down there ↓) but everywhere I checked for it online today it had been removed, copyright claptrap. I hate it when I'm too late to take advantage of others' violations. FYI, once I blogged about wanting to see a different movie and a few days later it showed up in my mailbox from an anonymous reader. I'm just sayin'.

I really want to read the book at some point, too, maybe the library here has it, but I doubt it. I did pick up reading his blog when I first heard of him sometime last year, probably not so different than the book actually. I like the way he started it off toward the beginning of the experiment, though, with his first post,
"I am just a liberal schlub who got sick of not putting my money where my mouth was. In a way, the whole project is a protest against my highly-principled, lowly-actioned former self. I’m fumbling through, trying to do my best and doing the research as I go along."
Maybe not going so radical or for so long a time as they did, but surely there's something to be learned from his and his brood's ordeal, revelation about this or that what we don't even consider effecting our own carbon footprint. Left without the book and the movie (so far anyway), for me his blog has been a worthwhile read.

Every now and then being more attentive, just occasionally rethinking how we might do a singular thing, could make a better difference; one doesn't necessarily have to be totally nutjob about it. For example, I myself am still buying toilet paper. "Liberal schlub" I might also be, but I'm posolutely not that much of a wackadoodle.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

First Year Container Gardening

I have decided to take a stab at container gardening this season, and frankly, I think I am probably more excited about it than I should be, practically giddy at the thought. As likely as not I could blame that on me running on empty. I slept not at all last night and had only a nap this morning. At this point I'm on my third or fourth wind, so I feel sort of crazy hyper anyway. No doubt I should be going to bed rather than here babbling on about my reckoned on garden, but whatever.

So yeah, here's the thing. It's not that I am unaccustomed to gardening, I've done it before so it's not as if I am embarking on some new agrarian adventure. My heredity alone probably would account for a sort of genetic propensity to grow stuff, but container gardening, that's new to me. Never thought about it much, I suppose since I never had any reason to consider doing it before now. This year is different without having my own place, I'm just glad I thought of it in time.

I'm sure it will be quite different, and I'll undoubtedly screw up some things. For example, I don't know what is the best size of container to use for growing this veg or that one, I'm sure that matters, and can I grow any sort of root vegetable? The thing is, wherever I miss the boat it won't matter much, since the whole experiment will be mostly free from seeds I've saved, or a few cents for the rest. Which makes the grade for poor and penny-wise me.

I save all sorts of awesome trash, too, like egg cartons and yogurt cups, which, like Mike Lieberman who is my inspiration, I figure seem perfect for starting out some seeds. Also I'm pretty sure those five-gallon buckets people always have stacked somewhere around (maybe I just hang with a weirdo bunch) would be spot on, real gone for growing.

Amazing how long I have rambled on about it, I am aware. I could just have easily summed up this treatise in one-forty, probably even less, with space left over for a hashtag or two. But I am kind of tingly right now thinking about this, overly charged up; I don't know exactly why, other than blaming it on my circadian rhythm out of whack. I should hit the sack now before my stream of consciousness keeps me going on.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ecovillager Wannabe

I have said for probably about four or five years now that I want to, more than anything (sheesh, that's a bit much, but I do want to quite a lot), go check out the Dancing Rabbit ecovillage, here in Missouri. I want to move there, I want to be a Rabbit, I really do. It's not even very far from where I am in Odessa; Rutledge is only just over 211 miles away, three and a half hours. Much obliged, MapQuest.

Here's their deal:
"[E]cological sustainability is the primary focus of our long-term vision and our daily lives. Residents agree to follow ecological covenants and sustainability guidelines. We build our homes using alternative techniques such as straw bale and cob, powering them with renewable energy from sun and wind. Vehicles at DR are owned cooperatively and powered by biodiesel. Overall, we eat an ever-increasing amount of local, organic, and in-season foods, including many home-grown vegetables.

"We strive to be good stewards of our land, with much of our acreage reserved as wildlife habitat. In the grasslands we are reintroducing native prairie plants to help revitalize our region's biodiversity. We have planted over 10,000 trees to restore our land to its pre-settlement ecology [...] and provide a sustainable source of wood for our community in years to come.

"In addition to being a wonderful home for us, DR is a model for social change. Outreach and education are integral to our mission. Rather than isolating ourselves completely from the mainstream, we promote DR as a viable alternative. We enjoy sharing discoveries and ideas of sustainable living with people who have a wide variety of lifestyles."
Since I first heard of the place, I have regularly kept up with some of the folks already living there, through members' blogs and newsletters, so the yen keeps getting stronger for me to go. It's been bumming me out lately, in particular, since now is the time of every year they start up the tours and work exchange opportunities to go throughout the summer; of course, that's certainly out of the question, me being flat broke and all.

Why I never managed to get around dropping in on Dancing Rabbit back when I had money and the chance, who knows? I swear, though, one of these days I will somehow be headed up there, feasibly falling in for the long-term with a community of like-minded wacks such as myself. From what I know about the village and the goings-on, being a part of it would make me very happy. Not to mention making your own humanure, that would be awesome.

Bunch more videos at Dancing Rabbit's YouTube channel: