Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Tools of the Trade

Reducing needless consumption is one of my goals for the next year. If I step back and think about whether I really need to buy something, I often decide against it. Sometimes simply delaying a purchase accomplishes the same thing by reducing impulse buys that will clutter my home and a landfill someday. But there are times when purchasing something that will help reduce my consumption of resources in the future or is reusable seems worthwhile. So my current wish list of items to help me live a little greener each day follows. The criteria is that each item must help me to reduce or reuse resources in some way. Bonus if I can hit the first two Rs in one shot!

1. Indoor clothes line. Apartment living (and New England winters) means that an outdoor clothesline is out of the question. But I've read about how the enormous amount of energy a clothes dryer uses here (a good source for information on how much electricity various appliances use and how to reduce the electricity that you are using). So even though we don't pay for the electricity that powers our dryer, I've been feeling rather guilty about using it. I do try to limit the amount of time it's on, clean out the lint after each use, etc., but there's a lot of coal a'burning for me to get my clothes dry. A nice indoor drying contraption like this or this would be fabulous.

2. Cloth napkins. I have a set of four cloth napkins that I picked up on a clearance rack a few years ago. Since then, I've become a firm believer in the gracious simplicity of using cloth napkins for every meal and abandoning the waste of yet another disposable paper product. (Will I be able to go the next step and use these someday?) I'm all for making do without more stuff, but I do think that another set of cloth napkins would be a worthwhile investment. For those who sew, whipping up a few napkins with fabric scraps would be a good way to get a charmingly eclectic set of napkins. Until I invest in a sewing machine (yet another skill I'd like to learn...), this set made by artisans in Nepal or a few of these will be on my wish list. Not only are these cloth napkins reusable, they reduce consumption of paper products, and are fairly traded.

3. Coffee carafe. After reading a recent Easy Green tip about the electricity used to keep brewed coffee warm in the pot, the little orange light on my Krups coffee maker has been taunting me every time I walk past it. A good solution seems to be pouring the coffee into a thermos carafe like this one after it's brewed, so I can turn the pot off but still enjoy a hot cup of joe.

4. Produce bags. I have the canvas and hemp shopping bags under control, and I've successfully established the habit of making sure that I always have them with me in case I make a purchase. I need to work on establishing my husband's habit a bit more, however. As evidenced by the cupboard pictured to the left, we still have a long way to go as a household. Nevertheless, it's time for me to move on to advanced bag reduction by cutting out some of those pesky thin, plastic bags used for produce. When buying produce like apples or corn on the cob, it's easy to do without a bag altogether. But for items like greens and mushrooms, for example, a bag is necessary to contain the veggies and keep the moisture separate from my other stuff. I found these reusable produce bags which look like they'd do the job well.

5. Bike. Since this is a wish list, I might as well add one biggie that would make a real dent in reducing my ecological footprint: a bicycle. I've wanted one for awhile but have been somewhat apprehensive about riding on the mean streets of Boston. For short trips that are just beyond convenient walking distance, though, a bike with a basket would be a worthwhile investment. Bill McKibben said it well:
Our task is to demonstrate that to live simply is more elegant, more satisfying, and more pleasurable than consumer society. It doesn’t work to just tell people to get out of their cars to save the upper atmosphere. Instead we need to encourage them to ride a bike. It’s elegant. It’s fun. It makes you feel better.


  • At 9:07 PM, Blogger breadchick said…

    I LOVE my indoor drying rack. With the exception of one load (towels and underwear because I just can't stand "crunchy" towels and stiff underwear) we dry all our clothes on the drying rack. I think it easier on the colours as well. We also wash all our clothes in cold water, use the shortest cycle, and bought a washer that uses "spritz" rinse vs full tub full rinse. I know what you mean about the bicycle in Boston apprehension. MBH and I would love to bicycle to the Frommagios in Cambridge but even with the bike lane, it would be taking our lives into our own hands.

  • At 11:26 PM, Blogger Andrea Rusin said…

    I have an unholy collection of cloth napkins. Do you sew? Get two yards of two coordinating/interesting fabrics. If the fabric is 45" wide, you can get 2 side by side 17" sguares the wide way and 4 the long way. The 10" strip left over can become a table runner. Cut your squares. Lay them right sides together. Sew 3.5 sides up; turn right side out and press. I don't even hand-sew the open end. I just top stitch the whole thing... and 8 napkins have appeared, for about $12. They make great presents, too.

    The table runner needs to have triangle-shaped ends and interfacing to be useful. But that's not too much trouble.

    All of this makes a great housewarming gift, too -and no one besides us has to know how little it cost ;)

  • At 11:28 PM, Blogger Andrea Rusin said…

    Oh for heavens sake. I read more carefully and discover that you already SAID you don't have a sewing machine. Drop me an e-mail and I'll send you a set of napkins. Really. It's SO no trouble. Call it a Christmas gift for all your heartfelt blogging.

  • At 12:51 AM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    Didn't mean to ruin your coffee -- for the record, I noticed the problem, but have not taken the next step myself. (The solar electricity makes me a little lazy in that regard.) BUT I could easily do with a manual drip pot IF I could find one that would let me heat and pour in the WHOLE pot, then walk away. Most manual drip makers only handle a cup or three of water at a time. Sigh.

    As for the bike, there is a mind set change that can take place as you learn to drive a bike versus ride it. Have a look at this entry from Car Free Family's Blog about how he learned to drive his bike around cars. This is the basic premise, and he mentions several good books.

    In the end, see if there is an American League of Cyclists chapter near you, and take a Road I cycling course. This is essentially what CarFree Fam is talking about in his piece . .

    Good luck -- and thanks for the plug, even if it was as a bringer-of-guilt (grin)

  • At 5:49 AM, Anonymous An American in Europe said…

    Random observation from my experience for you:

    Drying racks are quite common in Europe. Only established households have clothes dryers.


    Does anyone have any guidance on the practicality between cloth nappies (diapers) and disposables? My wife and I are keen to try cloth so advice would be appreciated . . .

  • At 8:55 AM, Blogger Andrea Rusin said…

    We used cloth diapers exclusively. The only times I broke down and used disposables was when we travelled. They're really not a lot of extra trouble. You'll need probably 40 or so, if your baby is young. And a really good diaper pail. And easy access to laundry. But once you have those, it's no big deal. Just put a plastic bag in the diaper bag when you go out for a while; store wet or worse diapers in that and deal with them when you get home. I did do diaper-laundry almost every day, but there was a brief phase when I had two in diapers. Do it. Really!

  • At 5:06 PM, Blogger Laurie said…

    I like those reusable produce bags. I might have to get some. My problem is that I have not conquered the memory part of taking the bags to the store or the market or the co-op. And I get very, very irritated at myself every time I forget. Sometimes this translates into juggling my purchases to the car assuring everyone, no, no, it's okay...

  • At 11:03 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    I've had the same problem. I ended up buying a few extra bags so that I can keep a couple in my car. Otherwise, I wind up in a store with ten items, no bag, and a stubborn attitude about not leaving the store with a plastic bag.


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