5 Simple Eco Struggles

I consider myself to be "environmentally contentious".  I try to do my part for sustainability.  At the very least, its a topic that interests me.  Unfortunately, my ideals don't always match my actions.  Even with seemingly simple things, I struggle and fail to do what I know is right.  I like to think that knowing is half the battle and someday I will be able to reconcile all these great ideas with my everyday life.  But this isn't a list of goals so much as a list of "I'm happier with the way it is right now (if not for the guilt) and don't want to change even though I know I should" list.

  1. TAKING LONG HOT SHOWERS - Granted, "long" has gone from 30+ down to around 10+ minutes, but its still several minutes of just standing there wasting hot water.
  2. EATING PACKAGED FOOD - ...usually from all over the globe.  The farmers market is great, but what if I got a hankering for those sheets of toasted nori seaweed?  Chips are practically a dietary staple in this house.  I don't know any local sources for chicken and I'm not about to raise and slaughter my own.  Packaged food appears to be a necessity.
  3. ONLINE SHOPPING - cheaper than the store but it needs to be flown half way around the world just to get here.  Really, this category could just summarize my struggle to pay more for things that aren't made in China. 
  4. TRAVELLING - if I had the money, I would be on a plane right now.  An enormous carbon footprint will hardly deter me from spending summers with family, seeing the wonders of the world, or enjoying some R&R (hopefully in a place where I can eat all that exotic food locally!).
  5. PLASTIC TOYS - we get almost all our toys used.  But, the fact of the matter is that most of the toys we have are plastic and we don't exactly treat them nicely (considering they didn't cost a fortune, I just let the kids have at 'em).  The nagging voice in my head tells me that our playthings should be wooden, require regular upkeep so they last a lifetime, and I shouldn't be letting Ikaika take them to the beach and pummel them on the lava rocks.  


First Family Camping Trip

Camping is something I've always wanted to do with my children.  Growing up, I was a Campfire Girl (even earning a coveted Wahelo Badge) and a summer camp counselor.  I love how the experience can be so enriching, comforting and challenging all at the same time.  To end our summer, we borrowed some camping gear from a friend and headed out to Mahukona.

Although we chose the site more out of desperation/ignorance and the weather was on/off drizzling, I feel like we still got the experience I was going for.  It wasn't a perfect camping trip but it is definitely something we will be doing again.  Next time will hopefully be easier because I have a better grasp on things we truly need (sleeping mats) and things we don't (pajamas).  I also know that the boys can handle more than one day of this action.

The kids helped set up the tent, gather firewood and fished around in the tide pools.  After dark, we all sat around the fire and roasted marshmallows while Mr A told stories about his dad and I told fairy tales.  The boys were enchanted.  I hope camping will become part of our regular family recreation.


A Word on Fast Fashion

Early today I read a very interesting article on Slate.com (an excerpt from the now-on-my-reading-list book: Over-Dressed - the Shockingly High Price of Cheap Fashion) about what happens to our clothes once we are done with them.

For me, reading this was rather embarrassing.  Each time I clucked my tongue at the shame of all that waste, I was slapped in the face with memories of mountains - piles taller than myself - of clothes that I have discarded while still maintaining a full closet.  College sticks out as a notably shameful time.  

I admit that at one not-so-long-ago point in my life I saw my massive collection of clothes as a source of pride.  I appeased my guilt by donating most of my cast-offs to the thrift store rather than simply throwing them away.  I rationalized that if I didn't replenish my wardrobe with fresh items I would end up looking dated and that other people would both notice and care.  

Its hard to shake the fact that a massive wardrobe isn't only culturally acceptable ("can a woman ever have too many shoes?"), its also culturally possible with mark-down sales, outlet malls, and cute-n-cheap retailers (Forever 21, Target, etc).  These fashion retailers are designed to move consumers as quickly as possible to the next thing.  So, am I "expressing myself through what I wear" or simply "wearing what is currently in style"?

But I digress, the reason this article was lodged into my subconscious all morning was the point it made about where old clothes are the most useful.  To my surprise/disbelief/chagrin, its not in the thrift store.  Actually, my Tshirts would be better off in my crafting pile.  My clothes would stand a better chance of not simply becoming waste if I transformed them into something I found useful.

Buying clothes second-hand is a no brainier for me.  Keeping a minimal, functional closet is an on-going project of mine.  But, really evaluating what I'm letting go of is clearly "the next step".  Before I send a bag of couture to Goodwill, I need to ask myself 'can I do something with this?'  'Do I have a need that can be met somehow with this item?'  Disposal is unfortunately one of the responsibilities that comes along with ownership and - when it becomes a pain in the butt (like this) - can serve as a great motivation to acquire less.


Sunny Day Orangsicles

Today was one of those amazing, beautiful, sunny, not (too) windy days in Waimea.  Days like today almost totally make up for the 2 months of summer that we spent suffering through freezing near-hurricane conditions.  Almost.

Mr A went back to work this week and the boys are starting their respective educational activities next week, so we are all adjusting the the change of pace - "getting back in the groove".  Today we took a walk into town and ran some errands, stopped at the park, then came home and ate our lunch outside because it was just that nice.  I gave the boys some homemade popsicles as a snack.


1/2 C orange juice
1/2 C soy milk
5 drops vanilla cream stevia

Mix, pour into molds and freeze.

This soy milk was the first in a series of experiments with making milk alternatives at home in order to avoid unnecessary ingredients and superfluous packaging.  This soy milk tastes fine but its too troublesome to make on a long term basis and Mr A isn't convinced that soy should be our primary alternative to dairy.  I've already pinned a brown rice milk recipe to try next week.
Oh, the exciting life of a homemaker!


Back to MAC Recycle Program

Did you know that MAC cosmetics will accept their packaging back in a recycling program they call Back to MAC???

I didn't...but now I do!  I don't exactly blast through make up but I am running out of a few essentials.  Has anyone tried MAC?  Any recommendations?


Thrift Store Shopping Success

Shopping at thrift stores makes good sense.  It diverts waste from the landfill, giving new life to discarded but otherwise perfectly useful objects.  It (usually) saves money with steep markdowns on items comparable to their mall-bought counterparts.  It supports the somewhat subversive idea that we don't need more stuff - and lets companies know (indirectly) that we don't support their excessive manufacturing of the same cheap crap.

So - if it saves money and the environment - why doesn't everyone do it?  

Unfortunately, second-hand shopping can't seem to shake the stigma of being for "poor" people.  
"I can't find anything in that mess!"  
"It smells funny."  
"It's all junk."
(all of the above have come out of my own husbands mouth)

I've said before that my family treats thrift store shopping like an NCAA Division I sport.  If you aren't hitting at least 3 Goodwill, you might as well just stay home.  My most recent thrifting experience with my parents was a smashing success.  I came back to Hawaii with a suitcase full of Ann Taylor cashmere cardigans, JCrew t shirts, Banana Republic dress slacks, and beautiful Ecco shoes.  All this and more for less than half of what I paid for one bra at Victoria's Secret in the Mall of America.     

Here are some tips for getting the most out of second hand stores:

  1. MAKE A LIST!  This will prevent you from feeling completely overwhelmed in the face of all those choices.  The more specific the better.  If your list (like mine) says "lightweight striped sweater" then head straight for your size on the sweater rack and look for stripes.  Having a list eliminates a lot of useless browsing (and many unnecessary purchases).
  2. KNOW THE SALE SCHEDULE!  I wanted to hit Goodwill the moment I got off the plane.  But my mother, being better versed on second-hand Seattle, informed me that it would be wiser to wait until the next day, when certain color tags were on sale.  Major outfits usually post a calendar.  For smaller joints, like the local church shop, ask the volunteers about upcoming sales or special events.
  3. KNOW THE RETURN POLICY!  If you can easily return items, then buying questionable items might not be a big deal.  If there's a no return policy (usually the case with consignment stores) then seriously scrutinize your purchases (and for godsakes, try it on!)
  4. HIT MORE THAN ONE STORE!  You might not find everything on your list at the first store.  But that doesn't mean it's a lost cause.  Don't run to Wal Mart in defeat, try another store, maybe in a different part of town.  Unless you need that item right now, this exercise in delayed gratification will probably do you some good.
  5. BIG CITIES = BIG CHOICES!  As a general rule of thumb, I find it easier to thrift for specific things in larger cities.  I can poke around the stores here on this rather small, underpopulated island with limited success, but am almost guaranteed to score the same elusive item in a mainland metropolis.


Photo Dump from Our Recent Trip

getting "whatever he wants" at the Build-A-Bear Workshop
can't help it - I love the leash 
cousins sweating like crazy @ Como Zoo
Mussman Dairy Farm
I was guilt-ed into letting him go by his aunts (who clearly don't know better)
after the train started moving, he began bawling and didn't stop until it was over.
Riverfest in Lacrosse, WI
Aunty Beth lets me eat ice cream cones
Mmm...SO worth it!
but mommy has to draw the line somewhere 
visiting Grandma and Grandpa at Sacred Heart 
 lucked out with an extra empty seat on this flight!
Estes Park, Co.  the weather is not unlike Waimea
taking a stream-side stroll after 6am Starbucks run
he was the "yay bearer" - a wedding trend that I'm sure is going to start catching on
you wouldn't know it, but she cage fights
best wedding I've ever been fortunate enough to attend
(her dress has pockets.  very fabulous)
then Koa fell in love, too