Sunday, April 27, 2008

Minimalist's Tips:Gdiapers and Other Good Things

New products are popping up all the time to help ease the volume in the world's landfills. If you've got a baby, you owe it to yourself to check out Gdiapers. My friend Missus.Mint has been trying them out and has written about her experience on her blog. They are flushable! I know I would have loved that when I had a baby! Click on Missus.Mint to reach the article.

Now here's my idea for the day: I love those Emrgen-C vitamin fizzy drinks but they come in a foil and plastic package. If they were in paper packet like a tea bag or in a paper tube like a Pixie Stick, I could just drop them into my compost bin. So, I'm going to write to the company, but before I do, I want to know what my friends think. So leave a comment and vote for either:

Tea bag like packet or Pixie Stick like tube. Then I'll let the company know the results when I write to them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Minimalist's Approach to Laundry

Chances are, ever since you left home to live on your own, laundry has been an issue. I remember an old punk rock song about two people breaking up and the girl was saying " I feel much better when my laundry's done." That's because if you're partying all the time and never home, your laundry's probably piling up all over the floor as a constant reminder that you don't have it together!

So now you're grown up and perhaps have not only your own laundry to do, but other's as well. Here are some ways to keep it from becoming an extra part time job. First take a look at it. Get all the dirty laundry out of everyone's room and look at what it consists of. You are likely to see towels that could have been reused, jeans that could be worn again, pants with belts still on them and change in the pockets, and sadly, sometimes even clothes that are still folded from when you washed them before because they were never put away and got mixed up with the dirty ones!

Here are some ways to avoid this mess:
1. Give each person a set of different colored towels and insist they use one until it doesn't feel fresh any more. That should be at least three days. If you see that anyone has left a towel on the floor, hang it up. People get used to an orderly bathroom and will start hanging towels up themselves. Yes, even kids.

2. Jeans and other clothes that are still wearable get thrown into the laundry because they're on the floor. To combat this waste, designate a place in each bedroom for clothes that could be worn again like a chair or a hook behind a door.

3. Have everyone go through their clothes and get rid of excess. It is said that the average person wears 20% of their clothes 80% of the time! You do this because people are more likely to put their clothes away if there is room in the closet.

4. I bought fabric lined laundry baskets for our closets and thought great, now there's somewhere to put all the dirty laundry. Unfortunately, by the time they were full there were loads of laundry to do! So here's the best solution that I have found : one open laundry basket that holds one load. When it's full I wash it, fold it put it away into our drawers and closets and laundry is no longer an issue. Why does this make a difference? Because it is visible! All of the afore mentioned laundry sins can been seen, and it's obvious who is doing it! So they stop.

Give it a try and you'll be amazed. The laundry doesn't pile up and cause you stress or make you feel like you don't have it together because after all I thinks we all ," feel much better when our laundry's done."

One more thought.....
Laundry is not only harming our self esteem but is actually harming our planet. It wastes energy and water and releases harmful detergents into our water supply. When you do launder, use biodegradable detergents like Shaklee or 7th Generation, wash in cold water on the quickest setting possible, hang up whatever items you can, and use Energy Star appliances. As far as "going green" goes, you can make a huge difference here. Good luck and good laundry!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Minimalist Entertaining: Horsdeorves

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to have my friend, Dan come over to visit. I say I was lucky because I used to work with him and I hadn't seen him since last June! (It's amazing how busy we all are.) I knew he'd be coming from work and would be hungry, so I put out some munchies. He remarked that I always put out a spread that looks like it came out of a magazine. I must admit it's true but also quite it's easy!

It's all about balance. The anchor in an horsdeorves spread is the bread. You can use crackers, bread sticks, flat bread etc., but I have found that a sliced baguette looks the best because it isn't crumbly. Next cheeses. It's best to have several types, basically something mild but fancy like smoked cheddar and something intense like a strong French cheese or hot cheese like Sonoma Jack with jalapeno. Then I use at least one sliced meat like salami or smoked salmon. The important thing is to roll the pieces up individually so they are easy for your guests to stab with a fork. Next something pickled. I find pimento stuffed or jalapeno stuffed olives to be interesting and easiest for guests to grab. Some kind of fruit balances the entire group and I usually use grapes because they look so Mediterranean and also serve as a garnish. I always put the bread with the cheese and the meat with the olives and put the grapes around each in bunches.

There are unlimited variations on this theme and if you're expecting a lot of people it is best to create trays that you can store in the fridge and replace as they are eaten up. Just give people their own plates and put some shrimp forks around the food and people are very comfortable helping themselves. I once made ahead three large trays which were actually pizza pans covered in foil and fed 26 hungry people lunch after the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Todd Rundgren - Individualist and Minimalist?

I was thinking about which famous people come across as minimalists and I thought of my favorite musician and techno wizard Todd Rundgren. I once saw him live where he sang and played guitar and piano backed up only by a Macintosh laptop. He’s such a DIY guy too creating his own music, videos, animation, web site, and even his own community: PatroNet . He frequently tours with guys he’s played with in different bands for years including Kasim Sulton, Prarie Prince, and Tony Levin. He has produced and written songs for some of the best musicians ever! Like Patti Smith, Meatloaf, the Psychedelic Furs...... on and on! His accomplishments are far too numerous to describe.

To read more about this amazing guy check out the Todd Rundgren Connection. To join his creative community go to the Patronet web site.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Minimalist’s Composting: Why it’s worth it.

You may have heard that composting is a good thing because food waste that rots in our landfills and creates methane gas that adds to the greenhouse effect, but that’s a lot to take in even for a minimalist. I mean, I’m not a scientist. But, here are some other reasons why I started composting my food waste.

First of all, I cook a fair amount so I create a lot of vegetable scraps. What do I do with them? I can either put them into my garbage disposal and risk clogging it up, (what a pain!), or I can throw them into my kitchen trash bin where they will make everything else in there wet. This means I will eventually have to wash out the bin (work) or I can walk a few steps to my deck and put them into my scrap collector. It’s actually nothing more than a plastic pickle container with a top that I got for free from a pub in our neighborhood. It’s a five gallon bucket like the kind one would paint out of, so it takes a few weeks to fill it up.

Sound easy so far right? What about when it is full?

Well, we have some big wooden containers left over from when we planted some pine trees in our yard in the fall so I dump the scraps in there. Then I mix them with the leaves I raked up in the fall and whatever potting soil I have around. We have had a really cold, wet spring this year here in Portland, but it is slowly breaking down into compost.

Some people say they have trouble with wild critters getting into this stuff and I’m sure I have had a few masked bandits, (city raccoons) , help themselves. But Ox the Boxer makes her presence pretty well known in the backyard which keeps a handle on it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Banning Plastic Bags - Let's Get Started!

I am starting to do some research about how to think globally and act locally in regard to banning plastic bags. I have emailed our local Office of City Commissioner Sam Adams.

I have also done some more research and have found that there is a global movement to ban plastic bags. It's not just a "Portland Hippy Thing." So please join me and contact your local city officials. These movements seem to start there. iKea has all but stopped using them. They started charging a nominal fee for the bags and reduced plastic bag use by 90%. Details are here:

This is significant as iKea is a global retailer. Hats off to them! I will continue to inform my readers about what we can do to force this change in our own cities. Until then, you can at least reduce your consumption by using cloth bags to shop, reuse bags for produce, and use biodegradable dog and cat waste bags, available at Urban Lease and Treat.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Minimalist's Birthday

I found a great web site I'd like to share with my readers. It's all about reducing the amount of plastic we use. Check it out. It's really worth it.

You know it's funny, plastic was a wonder when it was first developed. Remember the line in Mrs. Robinson when the old guy tells a young Dustin Hoffman, "I have one word for you son, plastics."? Well he was right. Plastics will be around long after we are and they have been very useful. But one of the problems that we have living in the corporate world that we have to deal with today is that there is no common sense. If plastics are no longer beneficial, use something else!

But you know how they work. They don't want to make any changes because that might cost them money. They'd rather spend the money selling us their plastic tubs of whatever, rather than retool their factories, (where ever they are!)

Quite frankly, when asked, "paper or plastic?" I want to scream, "Why is plastic an option?" If I can buy biodegradable plastic bags for my dog's poop, why doesn't our government just outlaw non biodegradable plastic bags? Why do consumers have to do everything? I'm sick of voting with my dollar! Aren't you? I think it's time we tell our government to do their job. Please leave a comment if you want to help me in this effort. I'm going to start with plastic bags and go on from there. San Francisco has almost done it. See:

I would love to hear your ideas. This is America. We don't have to stand for this nonsense!

If you're concerned about plastic as I am, read these sites:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Minimalist’s Issues with Traveling Garbage

I met my sister and niece in Las Vegas to watch her in a cheer leading competition. We had a great time but I was distracted by all the garbage we created! I guess I really am obsessed with garbage because I think I generated more garbage in one week end than I would in a month at home! It was disgusting!

Of course it was all packaging, the thing that is choking our planet. Here’s how it went: on the airplane I was given two snacks in foil packets and a drink in a plastic cup. I couldn’t recycle the newspaper I was reading either. I tried to leave it in the pouch in the seat in front of me and was scolded by the flight attendant. (Remember when they used to be young and cute and always said, “Have a nice Day?”)

Then there were the plastic cups in the hotel room.

We went to see Elton John’s Red Piano Show which was wonderful. Unfortunately, every time we got another glass of wine from the concession stand there was another plastic cup. We asked if we could reuse the same ones and were told no with a condescending look. My sister thought she might reuse the cups at her house in her hot tub since they said Caesar's on them and were kind of cute but the idea of carrying them around all night soon lost it’s appeal.

Back at our hotel room we opted for extra towels and no maid service to save on sheet washing, vacuuming, and human energy. We reused the same plastic cups all weekend too. I even painted watercolors with one. But Las Vegas is having a water issue right now so there were the water bottles we threw away. Again, where were we to recycle them in a hotel? At least we made sure we turned off the lights and unplugged the hair appliances when we weren’t in the room.

Of course, everything we bought came with a plastic bag.

When we went to the Orleans Arena. There were thousands of cheerleaders everywhere and they had strewn litter all over the place. ( Not our team!) That was really sad.

On the way home: more plastic cups, foil wrappers, and a newspaper, (not recycled.)

Although, we had a great time, I came home with a whole list of new concerns about garbage and the tourist industry. So bare with me, I’m going to have to rant about garbage for at least five more posts. At least, my beautiful niece saw all of the small things we adults tried to do to be green and I know she took it all in.

I hate plastic! I found a great blog on the subject. Check it out!
And this....