Friday, July 31, 2015

Plastic Free July, almost gone...

There are only a few hours left of July 2015 and I'm looking at my wee 'dilemma bag' and comparing it to the photo of this time last year.... So have I done any better? Well, yes and no! The amount of stuff looks much the same, but there are differences.

Last year the plastic windows in envelopes never even occurred to me as I wasn't tearing them out (which apparently improves the paper recycling process). I seem to get a ridiculous number of letters from WINZ etc and until my health improves to the point where I no longer need their financial assistance there isn't really a way around those.

I got a different flea treatment for the cat - more packaging at first glance but more months supply... the sort of thing that only evens up over a year rather than picking out a month or two.

Way fewer tablet packets etc. Yes!!! The plaster wrapper was annoying though.

The cassava crisps packet - yup, one last year, one this year! Hey ho... The green tea packet is one I bought a couple of years ago and has finally been finished. I'm trying now to keep tea one of the plastic free zones in my life, at least the teas I drink for pleasure anyway, there are medicinal ones I haven't found a way around as yet. I can get green tea in paper bags or tins and I grow most of my herbal teas now. The chocolate wrapper - that bar was a present and much enjoyed. But I don't buy the plastic wrapped ones for myself and am kicking myself for having bought a few to tuck into presents.

I still haven't solved the miso problem but have found some in a single plastic bag rather than double wrapped! The plastic tubs of it I've found have the recycling numbers on in Japanese so I've no idea whether they can be recycled here or not, so I've decided against buying them for now.

There are probably slightly fewer strips cut off the top of the giant snaplock bags the bulk foods come in from the wholesaler as I've been buying more things in the 3kg bags rather than 1kg. Every little helps and the costs are slightly lower per kg, although requiring a larger initial outlay. There are scraps of plastic bags that had been re-purposed into poi that I had made at Summer Gathering several years ago. As part of my decluttering mission I decided they'd hung around doing nothing for quite long enough and I've reclaimed the stuffing for future craft projects, however the outer layers were beyond being useful again. There is also a plastic cover that was around my latest photobook that I got done - again part of my decluttering!

Then there is the pile of stuff that whilst not single use can't be recycled, my hairbrush, travel toothbrush, an out of date Community Services card, a couple of dvds (again being disposed of as part of the declutter), a deodorant container and a tub I had reused but had then cracked and it isn't recyclable. The deodorant, hair and toothbrushes have all be replaced with non-plastic items. Well okay technically the bristles of both brushes are still plastic/nylon but the handles are bamboo and the bit holding the hair brush bristles is rubber.

This year I've been focusing more on getting rid of/using up things and replacing plastic items as there aren't that many single use plastic items that come in to my life on a regular basis that I can cut back on. I've noticed my shopping habits have really changed though over the last year, when in Wellington recently and going round shops with a far greater range of food than I can buy locally I found myself running my eyes over the shelves looking at first not so much as to what was in the packets etc but what they were made off, when I spotted something glass, paper or tin I then looked to see if it was anything I might need! When I was in our local butcher's shop yesterday with Jane I did the same looking over his shelves of Asian groceries and came away with a glass jar of pickled ginger. I'm a way off finishing the current jar (which is recyclable plastic) but I'd heard a rumour that John was moving down to Auckland and whilst hopefully another butcher will keep the shop open there is no guarantee they'd keep the Asian groceries side of things going. (I'm all for supporting local independent retailers selling local produce even if it is mostly stuff I don't eat myself!)

I'm slowly replacing plastic scoops and measuring spoons that I keep in various jars of dried goods that I use regularly by rummaging through the odds and ends boxes at op/charity shops. When in Auckland I managed to get a metal wide necked funnel for filling jars and a smaller one for bottles. I did also replace my potato shaped veg scrubbing brush, it is plastic but as the last one has lasted me over a decade I figured I could live with that! I've got to the point now where I only have 5 plastic storage tubs in the kitchen for flours and oats, everything else is in glass or ceramics. As they are BPA free, Kiwi made Sistema klip-it tubs they can stay, for now.

Out of curiosity I'll keep my 'dilemma bag' going through August as well as I did last year and see how the end results compare. But it won't stop there, I'll be working on this for the rest of the year that follows. It will be interesting to compare notes by the time July next year comes around and see what else has become 'the norm' and which are the new more challenging aspects. And by then there will no doubt be something else like the envelope windows that hadn't even dawned on me before! Maybe as well as my cloth bags for weighed goods at the healthfood shop I'll have finally got around to making some tulle bags for veggies as we've got a new greengrocers opening up in town tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I've mentioned before my plan to downsize my stuff with the ultimate aim of fitting it all in my room (bar kitchen items) rather than a sizeable amount of it still being 8km away where I used to live, not to mention the stuff still in Scotland! The latter of which will just have to stay put for now, but the nearer stuff in theory at least is possible to get here, once there is space to put it in.

Slowly but surely I've been plodding away a box, drawer, shelf at a time. Some stuff has gone to op/charity shops, some has been gifted on or added to the EcoCentre Trading Table, some clothing simply reclassified as craft material. Granted reclassifying clothing doesn't get rid of it, yet, but it does take up far less room squashed in a bag of material rather than neatly folded up in a drawer or hung in the wardrobe!

I've finally reached the point where thanks to some hanging shelving I can now fit all my clothes in the wardrobe and get rid of a chest of drawers - they are going to a friend in need of furniture. So soon at last I'll be able to have my 'American Cabinet' here, rather than it sitting in the garage in Pukepoto.

It is a very well travelled piece of furniture. It was a wedding present for my grandparents, who were married in the States in 1930, hence it's name. It was a wireless cabinet, but at some point my Grandad removed the wireless and it took on life as a general cupboard. It always used to smell of Grandad's St Bruno tobacco, and as it was where the dominoes and playing cards were kept it was a cupboard I knew well as a child. They moved up and down England and Scotland with it, as I did I, and then finally it came here in 2007, two years after I did. Hopefully it has forgiven me the +2yrs it spent in storage as I got it refurbished once it had reached Auckland.

It is an awkward size and shape, and not the most practical piece of furniture, but no matter what else I might manage to part with in my mission to at least potentially fit into a Tiny House, the cabinet will hopefully manage to stay with me. In my various doodlings of possible floor plans there has always had to be a space for the cabinet along with the Captain's swivel chair, which is also still in Pukepoto. If I can fit other things in too then great, but currently the bottom line of downsizing definitely still includes both of those, I'm hanging on to them 'as long as (I) canst'!

I've now also completed my second photobook - this time my complete set of Yorkshire Friends Holiday School photos from 1986, '88 and '89. Of course now I need to figure out what to do with the photos! I've posted an appeal on the YFHS Facebook page and hopefully someone will want them - a set of the scans is already in the HS archives. I've been slowly re-homing some of my YFCC photos from '87 & '88 (as far as I've got so far!) sending wee bundles off with letters to F/Friends who are in them. It is nice to be writing real letters again, they were such a huge feature of my life back then that it seems appropriate. Tracking down postal addresses (preferably without asking the intended recipient) has been interesting though - I hadn't realized just how many people I don't even have an email address for these days, I always use Facebook to contact them!

So the next step is collect a couple more boxes along with the cabinet. You never know, I might actually manage to reach my goal before I have a deadline of having to move hanging over me! Yeah right...

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Today I came across this article about living with Fibromyalgia. It should be filed under 'Things I wish I'd known +25yrs ago.... ', oh and also things I wish my GP had known! Thankfully these days such things rarely get written off as 'Yuppie flu' and other dismissive names and are taken seriously, even if still not easily diagnosed.

Most of the time over the years it isn't the really severe stuff I have had to deal with, just lots of little things being out of kilter enough to make getting through the day (and night) harder work than it should be. It would've been reassuring to know that whilst not 'normal' by most standards, it at least had an explanation and I wasn't imagining things/cracking up/being pathetic etc. And I most certainly couldn't fix it all by 'pulling myself together'!

Understanding is usually what is needed rather than sympathy, but it is hard to get that when you can't explain what is wrong. It's hard enough to give yourself permission to be less than 100% when you do know why today your body just isn't going to cooperate, let alone for anyone else to. It might be okay tomorrow, but then again it might not. Frustrating at the best of times, and unsurprising that you can get labelled as 'just putting it on'.

Contrary to accepted wisdom when living with any disability, trying to push through it and 'not let it beat you' is usually asking for more trouble. Instead make the most of the good days, but Don't Over-Do It is a far better bet! Unfortunately what constitutes 'too much' can fluctuate wildly, and generally you only figure out how much it is once you've gone past it. I've decided that living life at 60% is far preferable to pushing for 100% and then crashing down to 10% as a result. If some days then work out at 80% then that's fantastic, but far better to plan for lower and occasionally surpass it than always feel as though you're failing to meet your targets. That doesn't do your morale or self-esteem any good whatsoever, and heaven knows we've enough challenges to those without imposing unnecessary extra burdens. Having said this, it is one thing to know this intellectually - living by it all the time can be another matter entirely! It is hard to remember to rest when you still have energy to do more, no matter how much you know you're just borrowing energy from a future day.

The more I learn about fibromyalgia, the more things make sense. It is so reassuring to know that other people have experienced their 'hair hurting', or getting pins and needles in the arm from holding up a book to read, or a dead leg from sitting on a hard surface for 10 minutes! None of which are the sort of thing you'd go to the GP over on their own (or we'd be there every week!), but they add up and affect your quality of life.

I love the Kiwi Facebook support group I've joined for the supportive community that readily chips in with 'Yes, me too!' whenever anyone asks 'Does anyone else get....' and shares experiences of various medical options and coping mechanisms etc. It makes such a difference to have people who understand what you're going through, but also understands that each of us has our own peculiar combination of symptoms and what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. Anyone who tries telling someone that they can't possibly have/do/experience something with Fibro/CFS/ME etc is quickly shut down by the admins, that kind of comment isn't helpful, it isn't kind, and it certainly isn't necessary.

So, having got quite a bit ticked off my to do list today, and whilst someone else is cooking tea (yay!) I'm now going to relax, and read my book for a bit because I suspect I'm pretty close to having used up my spoons for the day, and it's only 5pm!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Plastic Free July - half way through

I've been away for the last 10 days and not been online much so this is a bit of a catch up...

I got to Day 6 of PFJ and was rather smuggly looking at the empty (plastic) bag that I had sitting in my room designated to hold what single use plastic I couldn't avoid this month. At the time I was tearing out the windows from envelopes so the paper could be better recycled, I was about to head to the bin with them when it sank in that the windows couldn't be recycled as part of the envelopes as they were plastic! D'oh.... So in the bag they went.

I was getting my stuff ready to go away and decided that 10 days of the travel toothbrush that I had been using was too long. It was an aeroplane freebie and for some reason the cover never stays on properly as a handle when using it. Whilst once or twice is okay for brushing my teeth with something I can barely grip I wasn't prepared to go that long, so finally my travel toothbrush got upgraded to a bamboo one too. I was about to chuck the old one and thought well it was hardly single use, but it can't be recycled so in the bag it went.

Similarly my old hairbrush went in, now finally replaced with a bamboo one even if I did have to grit my teeth and buy it in The Body Shop. Having boycotted them since L'Oreal bought them out that was a battle of ethics but it was the only place I could find a non-plastic handle. And then there's the deodorant casing - I've been using my homemade coconut oil & lavender hand cream for deodorant for a few weeks now and so far so good (it soaks into the skin quicker than my kawakawa balm, so it doesn't end up on my clothes), whether it will work through summer remains to be seen.

Not looking quite so empty now then, that bag... When I got back I also added in the accumulated packets and other bits and bobs I'd very diligently hung on to as I travelled. Not quite diligently enough though, when I was at the usual cafe stop on the bus home I was putting the packet the teabag was in in their rubbish when it dawned on me that it wasn't just paper, but plastic lined. Damn. So that means there should be two of those in there - one for each trip. Also on the way down I thought the long journey was the perfect time to consume a chocolate bar given to me, which despite being Whittaker's was in a plastic wrapper, grrr. I'd very conscientiously refilled my flask with green tea in Auckland at Joanne & Oscar's before they took me to the airport so I wouldn't have to drink black tea on the plane or get a plastic glass of water, but totally forgot about PFJ when they offered me a bag of cassava crisps! I refused the lollies later with some contrition.

So what else is in there: several blister packs from tablets (still can't avoid that one unfortunately - the one medication I have come off was the only one that came in a recyclable tub!); the packet and backing off a sticking plaster; the snipped off bits from cutting open a couple of plastic bags; a wee tub I'd reused (I think it had been a takeaway sauce pottle J&O had acquired) to put baking soda in for washing my hair whilst away but it had cracked and isn't recyclable; a bag that had had dried figs in bought before I made my cloth bags for bulk foods from the healthfood shop, and a packet that had genmai tea in it I'd bought a couple of years ago.

Overall though not a bad collection given the bulk of it in terms of weight is stuff I've replaced with non-plastic and don't intend to buy again if I can avoid it. It has certainly been a lot easier this time around as I've done a lot of the thinking and have got into the habit of deliberately avoiding more plastic year round. I have cloth bags for weigh-out goods, I have beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm/gladwrap, I have a metal travel flask as well as metal water bottle, I have a much better idea of what products can be bought in non-plastic packaging and a bunch of recipes I've got into the habit of making that cut out bought plastic wrapped foods such as crackers and snack bars etc.

Over recent months I've got a lot better at making sure all food plastic bags get washed out and put in the recycling - I might not be buying stuff packed like that but I'm not the only one doing shopping around here!

I've also been replacing and/or getting rid of various other plastic items in my life that don't need to be there. Anything still usable by someone else has been passed on, there's no point throwing away stuff that is still useful even if it is plastic! I'd just rather have alternatives around at home, it makes me more conscious of the plastic I do still use when it stands out more. Having a big clearout and reorganization of my clothes a few weeks back meant I could take all my plastic hangers to the SPCA shop for them to use!

I can't imagine ever getting to the point of no plastic in my life, but I can certainly reduce it towards essentials only where there isn't a viable alternative (technology for a start!).One thing I realized recently though is that whilst I've got pretty good at avoiding plastic for myself I need to be a bit more on to it when it comes to things I buy or use for others - it finally dawned on me that when I'm making Phyllis' meals I don't have to use the individually wrapped cheese slices just because she would, I can slice or grate the big block! So she's getting through far fewer of those these days which is a step in the right direction.

Now to see how well the rest of the month goes...