Sunday, May 20, 2007

Greenin' it up

Yesterday was the mother of all yard-work days. The chicken coop is now 99% finished (we just need to get some sand for the floor and lower the perch a bit), and the chickies are happily out of the basement and in their new home. I'd love to show you a picture, but I didn't manage to take any yesterday and today it's raining. (I no longer mind rainy days like I used to, however, because it means I don't have to drag out the sprinkler and water the garden now...)

The main, major project was getting all of our plastic ready to take to the Master Recycler's semi-annual plastic round-up. When we first started collecting plastic for this, we didn't realize that everything needed to be clean and sorted. It makes sense now that we think about it, but it was a big step for us to just start saving all of our plastic so we threw a lot of stuff in that was dirty.

Yesterday morning, we dragged all the bags full of old plastic out to the back yard along with a bucket full of hot soapy water and started to clean and sort. What a job! It was also really eye-opening to discover just how much plastic waste we'd produced over the past nine months (we missed the last round-up, so we've been saving for a looooong time). We weren't 100% diligent about putting everything into the bags to save, so we probably only managed to divert about 75% of our plastic waste out of the trash. We ended up with about 10 garbage bags full of plastic which filled up the entire back of our minivan. It felt great to know that all that plastic was going to find a good home, but it was also a little bit depressing to realize how insidious disposable plastic is in our everyday lives.

We are definitely going to continue to save all our plastic for the next plastic round-up, but I'm hoping that yesterday's experience will help us think about our purchases and how we can reduce all that extraneous plastic from our lives as much as possible. It's difficult, because there aren't a ton of options at the grocery store that don't involve plastic or some other kind of long-living waste like foil packets. The sheer volume of little yogurt and applesauce cups that made it into the recycling have made me think twice before grabbing the snack pack - I try to buy the biggest container and put it into little reusable plastic tubs for the kids to take in their lunch or wherever.

ETA - I should've clarified - we can recycle some plastic curbside, but we're limited to only putting "things with a neck" in our yellow bins. Soon they're going to be including plastic tubs, but this still leaves out heaps and heaps of plastic that's hard to avoid in everyday life - plastic bags, plastic wrap, bottle lids (which can't be left on the bottles because it melts at a different rate and screws everything up), clamshells, numberless hard plastic that toys, etc. come packaged in, those stupid AOL CDs that come in the mail once a month... The Master Recyclers have worked out a deal with a great local company, Agri-plas, that has come up with technology and markets that allow them to recycle nearly every kind of plastic, many of which are almost impossible to recycle through traditional recyclers. It's really very cool!

These days, I try to make green living something I think about all the time. Some things are easier than others, like buying a gigantic pack of washcloths at Costco and using them in the kitchen instead of paper towels, and using boiling water to kill weeds in the driveway instead of Round-Up (well, that would assume that we actually kill the weeds in the driveway, which hasn't been the case at all this spring...). Some things take a bit of a shift in mindset, like taking reusable bags to the grocery store or your own cup to the coffee shop (these are particularly difficult for me since it's almost impossible for me to remember to bring anything besides the children when I leave th house). And some things I'm just not quite ready for, like taking Sydney to school on the bus instead of driving every single day. I'm trying to psych myself up for doing that next year, when Owen's older and more manageable on public transportation. This year, I've found every excuse in the book not to do it - mainly "oops, we should've been on the bus five minutes ago to get there in time...maybe tomorrow."

Knitting green has been a big thing in the magazines this spring. Apparently the new Knit.1 magazine is dedicated to knitting green (and caused quite the controversy on the Socknitters Yahoo! list when somebody took offense at the political stance of the letter from the editor and a couple of the articles), but I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet. I got my latest issue of Yarn Market News yesterday, which had a few articles dedicated to environmental knitting that were enlightening.

I must admit, my green outlook hasn't necessarily been reflected in my own knitting and designing, apart from a few small things (like printing all the patterns for my sock kits double-sided on 100% recycled paper, and ordering a huge mess of Nature's Palette naturally-dyed sock yarn for the GYW shop). I love Blue Sky Organic Cotton and have a pile of organic wool from New Zealand that I have yet to knit up. I love the idea behind SWTC's alternative-fiber yarns, although I haven't knit with many of them because I find them a little bit too scratchy. Bamboo yarn rocks my world. But when it comes down to it, I love my microfiber as much as the next gal and I don't know that knitwear design is ever going to be an uber-green business. But I'm glad that the green-ness that is sweeping the country (at least in some sectors) is starting to touch the yarn industry, and I hope it continues.

I will have to do a photo tour of the garden for you all very soon. My asparagus has finally come up in the skinnies, spindly little spears you've ever seen. They are so cute! We've got a bumper crop of pea plants that really need a trellis soon and our strawberry patch looks like it was built on a toxic waste dump, the plants are so gigantic. And of course the chickens are so incredibly cute right now - they're full-on pullets, with all their feathers and chicken features but in miniature. They are the best pets ever!

Now, I'm back to swatching up some of the big box of Classic Elite yarn that arrived on my doorstep last week. Ironically, all the yarn is green! I really look forward to getting my Classic Elite yarn because it stretches my boundaries a bit. There's always yarn in the box that I would never, ever pick up on my own at the yarn store but for whatever reason turns out to totally float my boat when I swatch it up. Last fall it was Paintbox. This spring, it's Pebbles. Go figure! And, if you were wondering what happened to Pam Allen after she left as editor of Interweave Knits, well, you can find out here. Yay, Pam!


Blogger Yarnhog said...

Wow. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be dedicated enough to wash and sort my plastic recyclables. Fortunately, I don't have to. The city provides us with big recycling cans for plastic, paper, and glass, and we just toss everything in and wheel it out to the curb every other week. A big truck comes by and picks it up, and it all goes to be sorted, washed, and recycled. They also pick up yard waste from separate cans and turn it into mulch, which the city gives away to residents who want it for garden use. The city claims to have cut landfill by 50% doing this. Cool, huh?

3:05 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I enjoy reading your blog and just had to say that these same things have been on my mind lately, too. I just switched to cloth napkins and have been using my handknit dishcloths for a while now. I have intentions of ONLY using my totes instead of grocery bags and bringing along my coffee cups, but like you, I forget! Argh! I keep feeling guilty since it's such a lame excuse... Ah well.

Have you read the book, 'Living the Good Life'? It's a story about a family taking this concept to the extreme---a great read...

4:49 PM  
Blogger lexa said...

I will definitely be keeping an eye on your shop for the new arrival of yarn and patterns! They sound very appealing to me...

All the plastic we use is amazing, isn't it? We recycle, plus I usually keep empty margarine containers and such to use for storing leftovers and such. If I need to get rid of it, it goes into the blue bag!

5:27 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Our recycling is done weekly and picked up at the curb. They only recycle plastics #1 and 2 which is a shame since a lot of the things we use are not in #1 or 2.

I do find that knowing this up front changes how I shop. No single serving anything, always looking for boxes (which can be recycled)and if I need something in a non recycling plastic I buy the biggest size I can use.

6:12 AM  

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