Tuesday, April 08, 2014

sharing concerns

Over the last few weeks I've been seeing links on facebook about Cherice's eco-lent blog posts and mentally bookmarking them to read when my head felt more up to it. Well finally I've got a to-it and very glad I did. Many of the issues she raises over the weeks are ones I've grappled with myself over the years, not least of which being the one about wanting to get the word out but not be seen as patronising, preachy or morally setting yourself above others with how far you've got down a particular path vs sharing your journey and hopefully encouraging others in the same direction.

One issue where our lives differ enormously is the issue of transport - I'm a non-driver, and I haven't even owned a bicycle since my teens, although I did have the use of one for four years when I first moved up here. I rely heavily on Shanks' pony and public transport. Which is all very well when you are reasonably fit and healthy, but a bit of a bummer when your legs/head conspire against you and make going beyond the end of the drive something that is as daunting as bagging Munros rather than taking a nice gentle stroll along the road.

So over the last couple of months I have been heavily dependent upon those who can and do drive to get anywhere. Usually I try to tie in with folk heading in the same direction at the same time, or who can combine picking me up/dropping me off with some other activity that takes the car out, but it isn't always possible. I am extremely grateful to my cluster of friends willing to be taxi drivers to assorted appointments. I'm hoping that it won't be long again before I can at least walk one way, if not both. Over recent years I've ummed and ahhed about investing in an electric bicycle, but I'd need to feel a lot more confident on the pavement before I even considered anything on the road! There is a lot more to be taken into account that simple lack of energy at present.

Not going out much certainly has made me more conscious again of my consumer habits - despite myself I'd drifted into using our now out of town (well 'out of town' if walking, more 'edge of town' in a car!) supermarket, mainly because when I took over doing the main shopping for a while last year that was where I could easily get a lift/bus to, or more to the point home again. But neither of us have been there yet this year, and it hasn't really been much of an inconvenience. Some things I've gone back to paying somewhat more for in town, others I've simply lived without. So far that hasn't been a big deal, but then I have had reasonable stocks of some things to work through in the house. I keep a close eye on my spending and slight changes in eating habits have meant it hasn't made any major financial difference overall. It has been a timely reminder to support our local small businesses, it very much being a case of use them or lose them around here.

But the focus of Cherice's blog posts that really gave me a kick back on track was that of plastics. I have been trying to reduce the amount of plastic in my life for some time, which I'm sure I've blogged about before (note to self - one day get around to adding tags to posts to make specific past ones easier to find again!). However I know that for some things I'd been going more for the cheaper options (usually from the supermarket) as finances have been more limited - a case of balancing ethics; diet vs my use of plastic. It is a tricky one at times, but having made the dietary changes (eg using more coconut oil, and a lot less margarine. Marion would approve!) and it become the norm now, I've got to the point where I'm willing to pay a few dollars more for the coconut oil to get it in glass jars from the health food shop, than get the plastic tubs in the supermarket. Especially as the larger jars are a decent size and can be reused as storage jars!

There are many reasons for ditching plastic; health, environmental concerns around oil extraction, peak oil, production pollution and waste disposal and so on. The latter has recently made the news with the amount of plastic waste complicating the efforts to find the missing flight MH370, maybe that will change some of the minds that images of plastic ingested by seabirds doesn't.

But back to the concerns around plastics and food. The big nasty is BPA (Cherice has handily listed the research links!) which is so accepted now as being a nasty that many items are now labeled 'BPA free'. I have a number of Sistema storage tubs which have the double bonus of being BPA free and Kiwi made, but they are still plastic and being BPA free doesn't mitigate the other factors. Being an inveterate recycler and having never quite lost many habits of being a penniless student, my 'tupperware' collection is mostly old margarine tubs etc. This has the advantage of being easily replaced and is no great loss to leave behind when moving house, let alone half way around the world. But it has to be said I have tended to use things beyond what is probably 'safe' - once they are scratched, cracked and old the plastic starts to deteriorate and then there are no guarantees of being 'food safe' anymore. And as for those plastic supposedly microwavable containers that do strange things when the tomato sauce of baked beans or tinned spaghetti (not for my consumption, but still...) is heated up in them, well I probably don't want to know and I'm fairly sure I shouldn't carry on using them afterwards! I really must remember to use a proper dish next time, but those things get eaten so rarely in this household it is easy to forget... yet again. We use very little tinned food (most of the tins used each week are cat food!), so at least any exposure to nasties on that front is limited, well for the humans anyway. I'm wondering now about the assortment of marg tubs etc out in the potting shed used under pots of new seedlings, what start in life am I giving my veggies if they've drunk from disintegrating plastic? And what effect might that then have on us? Time for a clear out methinks.

One of my friends locally is starting to replace all her plastic tubs with glass containers, albeit with plastic lids, even for use in the freezer. Financially that isn't an option for me just now, but I'm sure more leftovers could end up in jam jars in the fridge rather than plastic tubs, or more often use bowls with a shower cap type cover or plate over them. But it has to be said, they just don't stack as well and when one of you has limited eyesight it tends to be an accident waiting to happen. Something to work on.

So this last week I've topped up all the glass jars of dried fruit, nuts, pulses etc that I buy in bulk from our local wholesaler so that less is sitting around in the plastic snaplock bags of unknown plastics number. I've finally gotten around to digging out some more preserving jars from the garage for the extra items I've bought. If nothing else the jars in the pantry are way more convenient than the cupboard where I keep my stash of bulk supplies! Some tatty looking containers have hit the recycling pile and that potting shed is about to get a clear out...

Right, time to think about energy consumption next!


Cherice Bock said...

Hey Anna! I'm glad my posts have been inspirational, and glad to have a co-conspirator in becoming more ecologically responsible. It's so great that you can generally use public transportation to get places! This is harder with kids and in a small American suburb, but the fact that there IS now a bus that goes around town and I have NEVER used it is very sad.

I was also thinking about the plastic gardening containers as I planted seeds recently. I wonder if there are good alternatives? I also wonder how much impact this has, since there's lots of dirt in between the plant and the plastic? It seems like the amount of time something is in the plastic makes a difference, too, so if it's only in the container a few weeks, maybe it's not enough time for too much plastic seepage, I don't know. It would be something good to research. Let me know if you find any answers!

Anna Dunford said...

It was the fact that the water the plants drinks comes from rather old margarine tubs (under the plant pots)that are faded and often cracking having been out in the sun that got me thinking, after all if we want water bottles to be BPA free etc then surely we should be giving our seedlings the same sort of protection? The actual plant pots are designed to be used outdoors in all weathers and generally last years without degenerating. I've always preferred old fashioned terracotta pots, but that has tended to be about aesthetics as much as anything. However to switch over completely would be massively expensive... maybe a case of investing in a few each year! I've used toilet roll inners and newspaper pots for some seedlings as you can plant those in the ground complete, but have started to wonder about the glues and inks that are used these days? There's always something isn't there!!!