The garden has gone frighteningly wild and the pepita pumpkin growing in the chicken garden has taken over. The Dashwoods forage around beneath the giant leaves and half the time you wouldn’t even know there are chickens out there.
I did a 24-hour bike race last weekend. yes, you read that right, 24 hours. It started at 7 p.m. Friday and ended at 7 p.m. Saturday. Except it got called at 6 p.m. Saturday due to a torrential downpour that flooded the streets and threatened the safety of the riders. I came in fourth place in the solo women category. It’s a points race, not miles, but in the process of completing 45 laps and 19 vacation bonus point stops, I rode a total of 230 miles. And I had a heck of a fun time doing it!
Between gardening and cycling, I have not been remiss in continuing the zero waste grocery shopping challenge I started at the beginning of the year. It’s going great and after reading Life Without Plastic by Jay Sinha and Chantal Plamondon, avoiding plastic at the grocery store has expanded into avoiding it as much as possible in the rest of my life too. Not only are plastics made from fossil fuels and contribute significantly to the climate crisis, plastic pollution is a blight, kills wildlife, and, because of all the toxic chemicals in plastic, makes us sick and is possibly killing us too.
Plastic has become ubiquitous and we don’t even notice it anymore. I’m thinking if you want to improve your health and make an effort to stop climate change, aside from not driving and eating less meat, getting rid of as much plastic from your life as you can is the next most significant thing you can do. Is it easy? No. It is pretty much impossible to live a 100% plastic-free life if you are lucky enough to enjoy the privileges of living in a developed country. However, not even the Arctic is free from plastic. But if you care about the world, living as plastic free as you can is living your life aligned with your values.
Grocery shopping. We’ve got it down pretty well now. Local sweet corn is finally in season and James bought 15 ears of corn at the farmers market the other day. He cooked them up, removed the corn from the cobs and, after making a fantastic corn chowder, put the corn in the freezer. Since we can’t buy frozen corn in plastic bags in winter, we are stocking up now. Yes, it is work but we are really happy that we are achieving multiple goals: organic, in-season corn from a local farmer 100% plastic-free. Can we save up enough to last us all winter? No, our freezer is not that big. Sure we could can some, but there is no real reason to do that. We need to get used to not having all the food available to us all year round. It’s not just tomatoes we shouldn’t buy in winter.
We ran out of dish soap and even though we could get a refill in the bulk area of our co-op, we decided to make our own dish soap instead. We bought a bar of palm-oil free castile soap (if you don’t know why it is important to avoid palm oil, Treading My Own Path has a fantastic blog post explaining it all), shredded it up, boiled 2 cups of water, added the shredded soap and stirred it around to melt it. This turns the soap to liquid. Let it cool to room temperature and then add a tablespoon of baking soda. Mix it in, and there you go, liquid dish soap. It cleans just fine and is mild on the hands. If you want a scent, you can add a few drops of essential oil.
We ran out of bathroom cleaner too. I have been using Bon Ami scrub for years, it is non-toxic and comes in a cardboard and metal can. But I decided to make my own cleaner with 2 tablespoons of citric acid and 2 cups of water. It works great! The only thing is, citric acid was surprisingly hard to find. Finally managed to locate some at Target with their food canning supplies. Sadly, it is in a plastic jar. I bought it anyway because I wanted to try it. The jar will last a long time and maybe I will be able to find some that is not contained in plastic by the time it’s out. If not, I will be using vinegar instead. That both citric acid and vinegar work so well to clean my bathroom has made me decide that we have all pretty much fallen prey to advertising that says we need a melange of chemicals to clean our tubs and toilets.
A couple weeks ago our Mr Coffee died. It is the second coffee maker we have had in the past four years. That it would cost more to repair my Mr. Coffee than to buy a new one, and that the one we had prior to four years ago lasted for about eight or nine years was a rather eye-opening realization on just how much of a disposable society this has gotten to be.
Well, so a new coffee maker was in order but it could not have any plastic at all. We ended up getting a lovely porcelain and stainless steel French press. We heat the water in a stainless steel and copper kettle on the stove. The coffee is fantastic and, bonus, we don’t need to use paper coffee filters any longer. Unless we drop it on the floor and break it, our porcelain French press should pretty much last forever.
Also a couple weeks ago our swiffer broom snapped in half. James was beating the dust out of it on the deck a little too vigorously. We have hardwood floors and the swiffer picked up the dust and cat fur quite nicely. We thought we were doing really well because the swiffer thingy was washable so we were able to use it over and over. But when the handle snapped we had the chance to re-evaluate. Swiffer handle: plastic. Swiffer broom/mop head: synthetic and therefore plastic.
We happen to also have an old fashioned wooden handled broom with natural bristles. So that is what we use to sweep the floors now. The first time I had a major allergy attack because it doesn’t catch all the dust in the broom like the swiffer did, but kicks it up in the air where I promptly inhale it. That was a hard lesson.
Now sweeping is an opportunity for mindfulness. I must move slowly and carefully, paying attention so I don’t whip all the dust up into the air. It’s hard! This morning was the first time I actually managed to sweep and not have an allergy attack. Sweeping mindfully is oddly satisfying and felt at one point today almost like a dance. I’m starting to understand why Buddhist monks spend so much time sweeping.
One more thing before I go. Clothes. Synthetic fabric is made of plastic. I have been paring down my wardrobe to begin with, and haven’t bought anything new since last summer when I needed pants. Going forward, I am going to be careful to buy only natural fibers. Cotton is my preference and since cotton is laden with petrochemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) I will be investing in organic cotton. Good thing I don’t buy a lot of clothes! An alternative is buying secondhand, but there are some things, like underwear, you want to buy new. And since I needed some underwear I bought a pair of Thunderpants.
Is that not an awesome name for underwear? They are a great company–small family-owned business, organic cotton, fair trade, the mill workers who make the fabric are paid fairly, and the people who sew the underwear are paid fairly. I bought a pair with the space invaders video game on them. The underwear arrived in a recycled and compostable plastic mailing bag. Inside they were wrapped in tissue paper and had a note thanking me for my order. Yes, they were expensive for a single pair of underwear. But they are well made and will be lasting a very long time. Also, the fit is fantastic. And it’s fun walking around with space invaders on my underwear even when I am the only one who knows it.
I found another organic cotton underwear company called Pact that I plan on trying eventually. They are a certified B Corporation. Their underwear is pretty plain compared to Thunderpants, but they are also half the price. I am looking forward to a little compare and contrast when the time comes.
Ok, I’ve gone on enough for one day. But allow me to challenge you. What is one thing you buy regularly that is plastic or has plastic packaging? Here’s the challenge: find a plastic-free alternative. You can do it! Be sure to let me know so I can cheer you on!