I am still attempting to slowing swap out environmentally unsustainable habits for more sustainable ones, but as time goes on, this grows more difficult, as I am running out of ideas. Please send me ideas, if you have them!
For this month, I wanted to work on my use (or over-use) of paper towels. I am well aware that I use too many paper towels, and, once again, I think the problem is I was taught to clean using exclusively paper towels. Before this swap, I probably used a roll of paper towels a week!
In my efforts to cut down, I purchased reusable bamboo towels. I bought these over a month ago, and have only used about three each of the smooth and scrubby type. It says they can be washed in a washing machine, but I haven’t done that. I just wash in the kitchen sink until they look really disgusting, and then use for a final gross task and then throw them out. Usually this final gross task is my cat vomiting up a hairball. I imagine these two rolls will last about a year, which is a significant reduction in the amount of single-use paper in my house.
I’m not sure if this is my fourth or fifth time of playing the Minimalism Game, and it was probably the most challenging so far. Usually, I try to have a plan before the month starts, and I’ll focus on certain things, like kitchen cabinets I haven’t opened in three years, or the back room in the basement that everyone except me and the cat are afraid of. This month, I didn’t have a plan, but I did have a bunch of weekend plans. Since the weekends are usually when I would do most of this, and one long weekend I was camping for three days, I imagined horrific defeat. But somehow, I did it!
Some things I noticed this time: Usually I get rid of a ton of books, both from myself and my kids. But I went through so many last time that I could only muster up one book that I thought I would never read (and I’ve had it since the 1980s). I usually go through my kids books, but Nadim is just learning to read, so even the most infant-centered books will be helpful this school year. I also want to get the kids a new bookshelf, since the one they have now is the one I got from my parents when I was 17 (almost 30 years ago) and the legs are falling off. My mom bought it at Ames (a store that doesn’t exist anymore) for $20 and I guess it’s lasted way longer than anyone would have imagined. So when I do buy them a new bookcase, we will definitely go through every single book then.
I also wanted to completely clean out my shed, but because of it being a busy month and going out to the shed seems to require more effort than just looking through drawers, I only got rid of a few garden items. We are about to undertake a massive backyard renovation, so I will eventually do that anyway.
Will I play the Minimalism Game again? I think so. March and September seem like good defaults, so I will probably stick to that schedule.
As I wrote sometime last month, I would like to keep up with the sustainability swaps, and do about one a month. It turned out I did something different than I was thinking about, as I ran out of coffee. Since this post is about coffee, I have to admit something: I have a Keurig.
I bought it a few years ago, after breaking every glass coffee pot I tried to make it work with. I don’t know why I have this problem, but I will also say that I am the only person in the house who drinks coffee from home on a regular basis, so most of the time, if I made a pot, it would go to waste anyway.
Now, of course, I wish I didn’t buy a Keurig. I was weak and annoyed at spending so much money buying single cups of coffee from various shops. But I feel terrible about all the plastic K-cups that go into the landfill. And I did try the kind of K-cup that allow you to peel off plastic part, and then that portion goes into the recycling, but it wasn’t great.
So after some searching, I found this company: Tayst. The beans are sustainably sourced and the pods themselves are 100% compostable!
The only downside to this plan is that I do not yet have a compost area, as when I bought my house, the backyard was paved. I do have a small front yard, and since coffee is good for plants, and I only drink about three cups of coffee a week at home (most is at work), I am wondering if I can’t literally just bury these little suckers and let them feed the tree that lives there? I plan to try this and see how long it takes them to break down. A possibly fun experiment?
We are into the third week of Meat-Free May! I am still feeling good and have not eaten meat nor wanted to eat meat. I do have a few health updates that may or may not be related. Because I was at the doctor’s this morning for my annual, I know I lost two pounds. Also my blood pressure, which has never been a concern of mine, was 118/75, so now it is even less of a concern (previously had been 120/80). At some point this week, I remembered that in the past when I was vegetarian or vegan for years-long stretches, I became deficient in vitamin B12, so I did start taking that as a precaution.
This week I ate out a lot, but forgot to take photos every single time! We went hiking, biking, went to a show at my son’s school, and I went to a concert and spent a lot of time hanging out with horses. One night I ate Chinese food out at a fancy place. We had an assortment of things, but my favorite was Shao Kao Fu, which is seitan with mushrooms and peanuts. I also ate Thai food out with my family, and had Massaman Curry with tofu and vegetables. And finally I had Italian food out with my family, and I had eggplant rollatini.
I’m trying to remember what I ate this week at home and mostly failing. There were a ton of my favorite salad: kale, avocado, cucumber, tahini, and hemp seeds. I made orange seitan with broccoli for the family one day. And I finally got to try jackfruit, which I’ve been curious about for some time. It came four cakes to a pack, so I made them all, and ate two on successive days for lunch. I liked the jackfruit, even though I’ve not into crabcakes that much. I would definitely be interested to try jackfruit in a different format!
It hasn’t been a full week yet, but since I didn’t take notes and am liable to forget, I thought I would check-in how I did for week 1 of Meat-Free May. In short, it went well! Meaning, of course, I didn’t eat any meat, and I felt fine and wasn’t craving it.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I generally eat the same two things for breakfast and lunch every day: cereal with almond milk and a banana and kale salad and a peanut butter sandwich. My only weekday deviation was an egg salad with carrots and chips one day, as I was at the DMV all morning and didn’t want to bring my lunch with my.
One night for dinner we had spaghetti and meatballs. Having two young kids, this is a staple at our house. They were hesitant when I told them the meatballs might taste differently because they were not meat, but they not only ate everything I gave them, but asked for seconds!
Another meal I put together at home was ready-made Indian stuff, also from Trader Joe’s. It was chana masala (chickpeas with tomato and spices), palak paneer (cheese cubes with spinach puree), and garlic naan (flatbread). This was too much for my older son, so I also made him frozen fish fingers. My younger son is a much more adventurous eater and proclaimed it “spicy, but not too spicy.”
Over the weekend, as predicted, I ate out twice. For lunch Saturday, we had pizza. For dinner Saturday, we went to a large food truck festival called the Queens Night Market. I was walking around and eating too much to take photos, but we mostly all shared everything. We had corn on the cob, a rice cake with eggplant and tomato puree on top, a corn cake with tofu and vegetables cooked into it, a spiralized potato with cheddar seasoning, and fried ice cream. I have to admit that I was nervous there would be no vegetarian options there, but there were plenty. I plan to go back many times this season!
Because of the way the days fell on the calendar this month, there are five weeks to this month-long project of sustainability swaps. I was happy to do one more swap than I originally intended! For the first week, I stopped using plastic water bottles, for the second, I stopped using plastic utensils, for the third, I stopped using first-use paper products, for the fourth, I stopped using sandwich wraps.
This week’s swap is dryer sheets! The internet has a ton of information (whether it’s true or false, I am uncertain) on why dryer sheets are bad for you. I am undecided on that for myself, but the focus of this project is to swap out single-use products for multi-use products. Thus, balls!
These wool dryer balls were bought in Trader Joe’s, but there are tons of similar products available elsewhere in person or online. Obviously, they don’t have a smell, and I’m not into my clothing smelling like a flower enough to go out and get essential oils to put on them. But they do seem to make the clothing fluffy and also reduce drying time, thus saving electricity. I recommend them!
Last month, I played the Minimalism Game, which was fun and also a relief when it’s over. I will definitely do it again in the future, maybe next March, maybe this September. But I’m taking at least a month or two break from decluttering. However, I do have an idea for another month-long project, and it’s appropriate to do in April, the month of Earth Day.
For this month, I intend to start being more ecological in my choices. In order to make sure these are changes that last, I am going to concentrate on changing one habit a week. For this first week of April, I will focus on beverages. In the past, I have attempted to bring a water bottle with me/never buy plastic water bottles, but for this month I’m promising myself I will not buy a single plastic bottle. That means if I am out somewhere and forget my bottle, I have to drink from a fountain or find some other solution.
And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about straws! I thought about buying a metal or bamboo re-usable straw, but I don’t really like drinking from straws anyway, so I will just forgo all straws!