time to consume: 5 minutes
material: container =polypropylene (PP)
cardstock lid = aluminum foil
time to decompose: container - hundreds of years
label – 2 months
lid – never
A huge THANK YOU for voicing your opinions on the necessity to move out of plastic & metal packaging for organic produce.
On October 5th, 2015, I delivered the petition to the National Organic Standards Board
through their comment platform. It is now available to be viewed by all
members of the board online, and will also be given to them as a hard
We have until October 5th to make our voices heard at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)! The idea is to put the topic of packaging pollution on the agenda of the next, or following meeting of the NOSB, which creates the guidelines followed by the USDA's National Organic Program in the USA.
4 organic bananas
time to consume: 1 week
material: wrapping = transparent stretch film (material undisclosed) tray = PS (polystyrene) labels = adhesive paper
time to biodegrade: paper = 1-3 months plastics = hundreds of years (source :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodegradation) distributor : Market Basket, Demoulas Super Markets, Inc., USA
origin of produce : Columbia
manufacturer of packaging : Cryovac, Sealed Air corp., USA
Organic produce is packaged IN MANY TIMES MORE PLASTIC than conventional produce.
To use the words of the Plastic Pollution Coalition:
"- Plastic never goes away
- Plastic spoils our groundwater
- Plastic attracts other pollutants
- Plastic piles up in the environment
- Plastic poisons our food chain
- Plastic affects human health
- Plastic threatens wild life
- Plastic costs billions to abate"
YET, the consumers probably MOST AWARE of this dire situation, i.e. the consumers making the effort and paying a premium to have a less polluting, more organic/natural lifestyle, are the ones having to consume the MOST PLASTIC when purchasing their food.
The labelling, transportation, traceability and shelf constraints imposed on organic produce especially, result in fruits and vegetables needing to carry labels and protection against the elements and fraud. This function is important, as it allows to build trust between organic producers, distributors and consumers.
However, most of the current materials used in organic packaging (styrofoam, polyethylene, aluminum, etc. - gallery here) are environmentally destructive. Beyond a certain scale, organic producers use packaging machines which have been designed to use specific types of plastic elastic bands / labels / meshes, etc, and have little leverage to change the status quo.
So, how can we act?
In the USA, the production and handling of organic produce is regulated by the USDA's National Organic Program.
This program follows the directions defined by the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board). This is supposedly a grassroots committee which records public comments & concerns. They meet twice a year, and 30 days before each meeting they welcome people's written or oral comments.
The interesting thing about this system is that:
1) The meetings' agendas are defined independently from the public's comments and concerns. There is no reading of public comments during the meetings either. From what I understand, the comments are handed out at the end for who wishes to read them
2) It's almost impossible to find the page where to submit comments; the average number of comments the NOSB receives for each meeting is 1100 (of about 90,000,000 households who "purchase organic food at least sometimes")
3) However, if an issue is brought up enough times in the comments, they might consider putting it on the next agenda
After lengthy phone calls with members of the USDA (who were by the way extremely lovely and patient), here is the info that will allow you to act right now, if you, like me, are concerned by this issue.
- The next meeting of the NOSB is at the end of October 2015
- The comments section for that meeting just opened a few days ago. You have until MONDAY OCTOBER 5th, 2015 to make your voice heard, either in writing or by voice recording.
- GO HERE and click on the COMMENT NOW! blue button at the top right of the page, to demand:
THE PHASING OUT OF PLASTIC PACKAGING FOR ORGANIC PRODUCE
THE OBLIGATION FOR THE ORGANIC INDUSTRY TO INVEST IN TRULY COMPOSTABLE MATERIALS AND HARMLESS TECHNOLOGIES
THE GOVERNMENTAL AND/OR PRIVATE SUPPORT OF MAJOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN ENVIRONMENTALLY BENIGN PACKAGING.
It's polluting and wasteful, and I don't want to spend 8 months of my life dealing with it.
As often in this world, it will take you some energy to fight the system, but if we all do it, we might get results. As to this day, I am practically free of junk mail myself - the one that keeps inundating the house is my husband's (hi, honey!). Let's make it at least useful by using it as an example of how to fight it.
STEP 0: NEVER EVER GIVE YOUR CONTACT INFO TO COMPANIES IF IT IS NOT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY
Whenever someone or some form asks you for your address and email, SSN, birthdate, etc., take the 1 minute it takes to question it. Why do they need your private info? In most cases you have the right to refuse, and only give what is necessary.
Also, always be on the lookout to uncheck the box "I accept to receive promotional offers, etc". online.
STEP 1: OPT-OUT OF CREDIT CARD OFFERS (valid for the USA)
This took care of most financial junk mail for me.
Important thing to know: Complaint Desk checked out www.optoutprescreen.com and "found, buried in the fine print, that Social Security numbers and birth dates are not required.
- Online, simply leave the number and dates off the opt-out form
- By phone, ignore prompts for the number or date and eventually the computer operator continues without it."
STEP 2: ACCUMULATE & SEE WHO YOU ARE DEALING WITH
- Get a box
- Put in there all the junk mail you receive for a few weeks
- Take an hour one morning and set aside all the senders to whom you willingly
gave your contact info - for example your alma mater, clothing brands you naively gave all your information to at the cashier, a local theater or a
journal you subscribed to, a charity you're donating to, etc.
STEP3: CALL & ASK TO BE PLACED ON THE NO MAIL LIST
This works for known senders mentionned above.
To not go crazy and keep track, I log all calling info on paper - no duplicates that way.
Here is a downloadable template (lettersize) to make things easier for you:
Companies who work by purchasing people's private
information lists from big data brokers are more tricky - if you call
the pizza company to complain, you're likely to just speak to a powerless employee whose boss doesn't even know who the parent company purchased the direct mailing list from. One thing you can try is call the highest up possible (headquarters).
Apparently some websites also offer to find these larger sources for you and protect your address. I tested these out today, we'll see how efficient they are: DMA Choice (supposedly takes care of 80% of marketing mail in the US) Catalog Choice Privacy Rights
If any of you guys have tried them, your feedback would be greatly appreciated.
WORD OF THE DAY
This is tedious but is worth the extra-time (few hours vs. 8 months, remember ;)
While waiting for the stuff to stop pouring in, you can always collect the perfectly new and usable business reply enveloppes contained in the junk mail.
Sorry I was away for so long - been in nomadic mode for the past 2 months, with lots of moving in and out - had the internet, but my brain wasn't available to sit down and write.
During these travelling times, I lived out of a suitcase, which I enjoy because it makes me realize how easily I can live without some items, and which objects are absolutely necessary (more on this later).
Also, there was a lot of working in coffee shops.
Being the being that I am, naturally I always try to ask loud and clear for drinks FOR HERE, IN A REAL MUG, IN A REAL CERAMIC MUG PLEASE, several times if necessary. Sometimes I'll ask them to put fruit juice into mugs, if they don't have real glasses made of glass.
Some might argue that real mugs take water & electricity to wash and dry. Sure enough - actually if anyone has studies and numbers to forward me I am very interested in this issue.
The way I think of disposable cups is the following:
- plastic cups take hundreds of years to decompose & are a product of the fossil fuel industry, which I do not wish to support.
- the majority of "paper" cup are lined with polyethylene (PE), also petroleum based, which prevents both composting and recycling [scary to think that very hot drinks are being poured directly in contact with PE before being drunk(?) by us]. Also, paper cups rarely travel without a brand new sleeve of corrugated cardboard, a lid made of plastic (usually #6 = Polystyrene or #7= Other), and/or a stupid straw (#5 = Polypropylene PP)
- "compostable" cups (made from plants, etc) will compost only if they are thrown on a compost pile; good luck with that. I live in a pretty progressive town and composting is still far from being a common sight, especially at the city level. If these cups end up in the regular bin, they'll take as much space as the regular plastic ones (most people, me included, do not always crush), which is a burden on the public waste management system, which is paid for with public (our) money.
- the more we say NO loudly , i.e. express our refusal as customers to be part of the problem, the more companies will have to take our opinion into account, because these material choices will start impacting their own logistics.
- ceramic mugs / glasses can last centuries (millenia!) if properly taken care of.
- getting a drink and producing zero waste is a wonderful feeling.
I try to go to independent local coffee shops instead of (inter)national chains, to encourage local businesses and economies. But it's also important to talk about the big chains, for when they make little moves their impact is huge. So, because Starbucks is the largest coffee house company in the worldand because their employee benefits are not bad, I want to end with this tip for Starbucks customers:
Starbucks has amazing mugs.
Large, comfy, beautifully shaped ceramic mugs.
All you need to do is ask for them.
ps: the interesting context that made me go to Starbucks in the past few weeks (I used to never go), is the gentrification of my neighborhood - yet another problem. Basically, the closest independent coffee shop increased their prices all of a sudden, becoming more expensive (!!), & with no info on how they compensate their employees.
pps: the one problem with the Starbucks mugs is that most of them seem manufactured in China. Making / buying local mugs is not difficult, and I wish there was a push in that direction.
Sugaring is an ancient oriental waxing method using a mix of white sugar, lemon juice, salt and water (plus honey if you feel so enclined).
It was a total pain for years, having to purchase waxing strips from the store (the only ones I can use are full of chemicals, available only in certain countries, and expire/dry up if stored for too long), or gathering the courage to use the noisy, painful electric epilator (here come my army of rotative tweezers, muahaha).
Sugaring proved a pretty perfect alternative:
- all natural ingredients
- either biodegradable or no waste (lemon peel - ideally salt & sugar are bought in the bulk section)
- ingredients available almost everywhere (if you are travelling and have access to a kitchen, no need to carry hair removal tools / strips in your suitcase).
- cheap (enough quantity for half-legs & armpits would cost $0.76 with organic lemons & celtic sea salt - I used regular lemons and the cheapest salt, so it's even less)
- extremely pleasant to use - sweet smell, warm/soft texture, no noise, hurts much less than other methods
- no loose hairs clean-up needed afterwards - just dispose of the wax ball
YES, you have to get the hang of it.
I made 10 small batches before understanding how to get the texture right, but it was SO worth it.
You will find my final recipe below (cause, why not share the joy).
I also suggest watching as many online videos as you can (search for oriental wax, or cire orientale in French), just to understand basics of preparation and waxing technique.
Another few cents: make it cheap if you need to; but getting the best ingredients, even if only applied to your skin, can do not harm, and it will encourage healthy agricultural practices and businesses, for probably less than a dollar.
A warm hug to the three oriental ladies who consulted their moms to help me.
I hope this post will make them want to try it at home again!
________________________________________ ORIENTAL WAX
Ingredients (this is enough for half-legs + armpits):
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- water (just enough to cover the sugar in the pot - water not above the sugar, just wetting all the sugar)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice Cooking Process:
1. put sugar + water + salt in a small pot > stir with a spoon to melt as much as you can (I think this mixes the salt well and prevents to get unmelted grains of sugar in the final mix)
2. put the pot on medium heat > wait until it boils > at this moment add the lemon juice and stir a bit to mix it in
3. let it boil without changing the heat, until it starts changing color > when it is BLOND (not white, not reddish brown), remove from fire
4. pour in a small bowl (make sure the bowl can handle the heat!) > let it cool down until it's really viscous (stir a couple times with a spoon to test) > when it is so viscous that you can almost make one ball with your spoon, it's ready!!! Using the wax:
1. Here is the first big breakthrough that I had after 10 tries:
it's much better to leave the 'base' wax in that bowl as it is, and only take out small balls as you need them when you start waxing. If the 'base' becomes too hard, just warm up the bowl in the double boiler until it softens enough to be scooped out.
2. Scoop out about a tablespoon of the wax. (use a spoon, and help it with your fingers - don't worry, it's sticky but comes off the skin very easily too). It should still be a bit warm (don't burn yourself!!). Tip: dip your fingers quickly into the remaining half-lemon, it prevents the wax from becoming too sticky and then you can start kneading it with your fingers. [Also, in case you scoop it too early, do not panic: the wax will be extra liquid/sticky, but just keep on kneading, and at some point you'll see you can peel it out easily and cleanly.]
3. Kneading: second big breakthrough: DO NOT KNEAD TOO MUCH!!!
You just need a few kneading cycles with your fingers - the wax is transparent at the beginning, it will become more opaque, but don't wait until it's completely opaque (that's too late and you'll just be making salt-water taffy :)
Basically STOP kneading when you feel that you have a soft material that can be spread easily, and is a bit sticky, not totally dry.
4. START HAIR REMOVAL (good tutorial on the gesture at the end of this video) and the wax will actually become perfect AS YOU ARE WAXING. It's handy to have a square of all-natural, unbleached wax paper lying about, for dropping or disposal of the wax ball.
5. IMPORTANT: always keep that partially used half-lemon next to you. Dip your fingers into it to wet them with a bit of lemon juice, when you manipulate the wax. It helps keeping it not too sticky.
WASHING UP: gently warm water will dissolve everything; let the pots, dishes and utensils you used sit in warm water for a bit - the sugar will melt and be very easy to clean afterwards; any remainders of wax on your leg (even the failed experiments that can end up covering half your calf) can be easily washed away under the shower.
A few weeks ago I introduced you to IR4 (Industrial Revolution #4): 10 principles for future design and manufacturing.
Today, here is the first of a series of 'ideal objects', where I either feature objects that already follow the principles of IR4, or imagine what a popular mass-produced item would be if it was IR4 compliant.
So there you have it: the IR4 Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker.
I am not endorsed by Converse.
I chose this shoe because it is a great example of a simply made, daily item which is manufactured in great quantities - internet claims that 750 to 800 million pairs have been sold worldwide [when you quickly search for these number online]. Also important to note, it is a vegan shoe!
So, tons of potential: a few changes in its manufacturing process could have a big material and human impact.
The pair I own has the following characteristics:
- made in Vietnam
- cotton canvas upper
- cotton canvas lining
- natural rubber sole
- metal eyelets
-synthetic shoelaces (polyester?)
From the multiple pairs I have worn out, the shoe gives in at the junction between the sole and the upper. The eyelets are intact but have to be thrown away.
Its IR4 counterpart, would be something like this:
- made in USA (or your local country)
- undyed hemp canvas upper (grown in the USA)
- undyed hemp muslin lining (grown in the USA)
- natural guayule rubber sole (grown in the USA)
- embroidered eyelets made of undyed hemp thread (grown in the USA)
- undyed hemp shoelaces
Nothing mined. Local crops which require zero or low inputs of water & pesticides. Completely biodegradable. Super strong.
Regular jeans are probably the most widespread, mendable item still owned in the western world. By 'regular' jeans, I mean: made of strong, non-stretch cotton twill.
Unsurprisingly, the current mending renaissance is happening big time through the denim world. Check out the beautiful repair
corner of the japanese clothing brand Kapital, or the mending gallery from the stitcher Darn and Dusted.
This made me think about a major principle of the repair/re-use economy (if we ever manage to create one): it just can't exist if the objects exchanged are not of the best quality. Things cannot and will not be repaired if they aren't sturdy enough to handle that repair, and/or if their beauty and quality isn't worth the time it will take to mend them. One more reason to acquire thoughtfully, and encourage the making of good goods.
Current repair happening in the home shop:
LEFT LEG repaired by the people at our dry-cleaning place - with a sewing machine, for $10.
RIGHT LEG repaired by yours truly - by hand, with love.
LEFT LEG FRONT: almost exactly matching thread - wow
LEFT LEG BACK: denim patch (probably less comfortable, but strong)
RIGHT LEG FRONT: cotton thread colors available in the house
note: the big black stitches are temporary basting holding an unfinished patch above the knee
RIGHT LEG BACK: the soft, double cotton canvas patch.
Still working on an extra patch covering the thigh.
Can I just warmly express how enjoyable an activity this kind of mending is?
The stitch isn't complicated, you make progress fast, and the peaceful rhythm of stitching is absolutely calming. I used this sashiko tutorial.
After reading some excellent pages on minimalist wardrobe websites such as Into-Mind, Project 333 and Un-Fancy (thanks to a friend who pointed them to me), I have finally decided to take stock of my wardrobe.
The goal being (and this is totally personal):
1) identifying useful-successful garments and understanding why, so as to make better informed acquisitions in the future
2) identifying useless-unsuccessful garments and understanding why, and then getting them out of the house by donating or selling them
3) understanding the minimum number of garments I can function with
It was a scary thought.
Like diving into a messy pile of reasonned vs. impulse purchases, more or less successful attempts at a redefinition of myself, things that had just accumulated and never got worn, things that had gotten overly overly worn, items I was clinging on for the wrong reasons, and a heavy sprinkle of memories.
On the other hand I knew I had been pretty good (verging on the obsessive) in the past few years about buying ethically and locally made clothes, and mostly natural fibers.
To make the process less daunting I made it playful: got all the draft paper I could put my hands on at home, cut it into cards, and sat in front of the wardrobe with a pen.
Made a card for each item of clothing I had, with the same 5 pieces of information:
- LITTLE SKETCH
- PLACE OF MANUFACTURING
I figure that once all created, the cards will be a useful tool to sort through the wardrobe (put them all on a table, start sorting)
This made me realize how crucial the information on the inside labels is (and also how some brands get away with never telling you where the clothes are made). It's a tricky one because I dislike labels intensely: very often they itch, are made of a synthetic material different from the clothes themselves, and are stitched inside a garment's seam (so if you want to remove them you'll need to close a hole afterwards). Food for thought - form to be improved.
Also, there were items I couldn't find a name for('hum, this is too thin to be a sweater, too structured to be a t-shirt, too light to be worn over other clothes, too full of zippers to be worn under clothes, gosh what is it?' - surprise surprise, it never got worn).
Still in the process of compiling all that info.
More wardrobe-editing posts to follow.