Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Simplicity Connection's Top Ten Tips for Simplifying the Holidays

1.   Set limits. Be it monetary, culinary or time management, before the season gets into full swing decide how much you’re willing to put up with (and how much is really worth it!)
2.   Stop. Take some time for yourself and just be without worrying about the societal pressures of the season.
3.   Mute the TV. How many times can you hear “Every kiss begins with Kay” before losing your mind? (for me it was 2.) Why not just remove torturous jingles from the equation?
4.   Reconnect with the joy of handmade. It really is the thought that counts in this season but buying something just to cross a name off your list usually ends up with the giver overspending and the givee politely pretending they really don’t hate it. With a little bit of time and research everyone can find a creative gift project. (Start with the list on p. 76 of The Simplicity Connection!)
5.   Be practical (with gift giving). A book of stamps or a gift certificate to the vet may not be the sexiest gifts, but you know they’re more likely to be used (and appreciated) in the long run and not end up in the junk drawer with the 1990s Furby, the pogs and the Tamagotchi pets.
6.   Order online. If you still want to give capitalism a boost, reconsider the trip to the mall and let your fingers do the walking and ordering. Why truck it to a store, just so you can truck it home? If you can, choose ground shipping instead of air shipping: it’s 6 times more fuel-efficient.
7.   Cut calories. How many years in a row is your New Year’s resolution going to be “lose the 15 pounds I put on over the holidays?” This year, before the trays of food go out on the table, consider donating part of your meal to someone who needs the calories more than you do.
8.   Try the $100 holiday. Consider putting a cap on the amount everyone spends. (That’s not $100 a piece, that’s $100 total!) Read Bill McKibben’s Hundred Dollar Holiday for tips and inspiration on how to make it happen.
9.   Cut the waste. A quarter of American trash is generated between Thanksgiving and New Years’ Day. Why not use reusable gift boxes, bags and wrapping instead of 1-time use paper that heads straight to the landfill :30 after unwrapping?
10.   Rent a living tree. Why not try the ultimate in tree-recycling by not even cutting it down in the first place.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Doc Review: Tapped (2009)

The documentary Tapped will make you never want to drink a plastic bottle of water again. You think, a bottle of water is pure, clean and safe, when in reality, that water is barely tested for safety and the plastic bottle it comes in poses its own hazards. Truth is that municipal water supplies are often safer than bottled water (municipal supplies are tested many times A DAY. Bottled water asks the company to voluntarily test for safety, and is only 1 person at the FDA oversees billions of bottles of produced water).

Eighty million bottles of water are consumed in America every day….30 million of those end up in landfills (all of them can and should be recycled).Currently (STILL) only 11 states have deposit laws. It remains true that those states recycle more than all other states (in fact Michigan the state with the 10 cent deposit has a  97% return rate). Why aren't bottle deposit laws mandatory in every state? This is another case of allowing companies to not take responsibility for their products. Think the oil crisis is just $4 a gallon for gas? It takes  714 million gallons of oil to make just the BOTTLES we drink from every year. (that's enough to power 100,000 cars).

From extracting and manufacturing; to safety after ingestion; to the waste and health hazards of disposal, this documentary proves that every step of bottled water is an unnecessary excess.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

And onward...

Nothing makes me happier than the fact that the world’s longest election cycle is over. And while some are trying to downplay it by saying that we’re in for 4 more years of the same (same President, same parties in control of the House and Senate) there are some small but important changes that I hope and believe will make a difference.
1) Elizabeth Warren defeating Scott Brown in Massachusetts. No one should be caught unaware of my girl-crush, but if you’re not on board with her, just watch any one of her Daily Show interviews and you’ll fall in love with her no nonsense, rational approach to fiscal responsibility. Cutting out essential programs is not going to fix the budget, but getting Congress (and ordinary Americans) to live within their means will.
2) Big money doesn’t always buy you an election. With billions spent by Romeny (and specifically the Koch Brothers) and McMahon in Connecticut, it’s nice to know that money can’t buy everything. Oh but it was nice of them to stimulate the economy like that for a while.
3) Another Independent in the Senate. Maybe it’s just me, but I like the idea of people publicly keeping themselves open to other ideas. Maine’s previous Senator (Republican Olympia Snowe) often voted outside of her party line, but her successor (Angus King) is showing up unattached to any party. Here’s hoping he and Bernie Sanders (IND-VT) start a trend.
4) Hate, fear-mongering and slander aren’t cool and women kicked ass. Tammy Duckworth winning in Illinois (after Joe Walsh repeatedly belittled her military service), Claire McCaskill besting Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in Missouri, Joe Donnelly beating Richard “pregnancy from rape is a gift from God” Mourdock.
5) Love is love. Gay marriage was finally approved in Maine and Maryland. Minnesota turned down an initiative to redefine their constitutional definition of marriage (as 1 man, 1 woman) and Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay Senator was elected in Wisconsin, beating a 4-time incumbent!

The beauty contest is over, now it’s time to do something with the prizes. I’m praying that no longer having the fear of losing a second term will allow this administration to truly move forward on the environment and financial recovery. I really have hope that progress and bold changes can happen, but only if the Republicans can drop the "I'm taking my ball and going home" mentality. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

If everyone grabbed a bucket...

 I’ve been reading a book about World War II lately (“December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World by Craig Shirley) and it’s interesting to compare the 1940s mentality of disaster with today’s. In the 40s, Americans were told to ration items (gas, sugar, steel, panty hose…) in order to support the war effort. They were told to participate in black out drills so the enemy couldn’t discern targets (like, what? The Johnson’s lawn jockey? But I digress…). They were told to carpool, plant victory gardens, to ‘use it up, make it do or do without’. They raced to get to recruitment centers and were upset when they were deemed unfit for service because they were too old or too married. These were the hardships of the 40s, but the thing is, Americans did them all. And willingly. Its an interesting comparison to today, where we have all these luxuries that we take for granted and no one asks us to cut back or go without (Could you imagine George W. Bush asking Americans to cut back on sugar after 9/11? LOLOLOLROFLROFLROFL…sorry, I lost the plot there for a minute…I’m back). I just wonder how many Americans will take a moment this week and say ‘no latte for me today, I’m making a donation to the Red Cross instead.’ If everyone grabbed a bucket, the water would be gone from the flood zone. (pick any flood zone you want, it doesn’t have to be the one Sandy caused, because there will be another flood next year. In Iowa, in Nashville, in New Orleans, in Manila…somewhere.) And I can guarantee you that pick 2 flood victims and the one with the more simplified life is coping a lot better than the one who can’t charge their iPhone to play Angry Birds or order take out or watch Netflix.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cabin Dispatch: Who doesn't love the dump?

Oh the dump! How I love the dump. It’s the mark of a true Mainer is how much you love the dump. And well, we don’t really call it the “dump” anymore; it has a nice euphemistic name called “Transfer Station”. How lovely. As in “I am transferring my crap to the dump.” But it’s so much more than a hole in the ground where everyone drops their dirty diapers and cat litter. Turn to the right, and that’s where you can drop off everything that is recyclable: glass, plastic, paper. Give the nice man a few dollars and they’ll let you drop off 3 cubic yards of lawn clipping and leaves. Head west-ish and there’s the wood pile (“No pressure treated wood in the wood pile” the marquee exclaims.) Head around the building and there’s old windows, toilets, and a “take or leave” pile all for free! We’re nothing but resourceful up here. And all for the low price of $5 a year. What? $5??? (In California, my sewer and trash bill is at least $26… per MONTH.) Politics aside, all Mainers can agree on one thing, we love the dump. (though some of us haven’t grasped the concept of bottle deposit yet! Nickels! Everywhere beside the road!)
Yard waste goes here...

Old windows go here...
Paper recycling all packed up and ready to go.
Stop pressuring the wood!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Welcome to the New Normal

 While I’m certainly glad everyone is taking Hurricane Sandy seriously, it poses a bigger question… how prepared are we? There’s little doubt that this storm will cause billions in damages, but if we’re already in a pit of budget despair, how will we be able to make up for new crises? The coffers are empty. We have no cautious plan of recovery. On an individual level, simplicity is the only way we can prepare for disasters. How ready are you to live without electricity? Or running water? or have to go without Twitter/Facebook/Instagram for a day or two? Training yourself to manage these tests in times of sunshine makes dealing with them in times of crisis less of an inconvenience. Yes, extreme weather events suck; they never seem to get our memos, but we are the ones to blame for the climate crisis. We are the ones who haven’t erred on the side of caution with our coal and oil consumption. We have no one to blame but ourselves, so now we just have to sit back and wait to see the outcome.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pinterest Roundup

Time for another edition of Pinterest Roundup, let's see what those crazy designers on the interwebs have come up with this week!

Replenish is a cleaning product company that is rethinking how they sell their products. Instead of shipping cleansers that are 90% water to retailers, they sell a reusable spray top and an active ingredient bottom that clicks on, that includes 3 refills. When your 3 environmentally safe refills are empty, unclick the bottom and attach a full new one.

There’s some backlash for this one (“What if the barista sneezes and doesn’t wash his hands!!!”), well if you’re thinking like that, maybe you shouldn’t  leave the house. Here, this is just a more sustainable and creative solution to one-use plastic knives.

Another concept design winner (but sadly not available yet) is the Off Door Handle—going out? As you get to your door, built into the door handle is a switch that either turns out all your lights, shuts your gas off, or shuts down all plugs and the gas. No need to go running around unplugging or shutting off power strips, one switch and it’s a full power down.

I never could figure out how people could hold themselves up on a bike with a toddler strapped to the back (I have enough trouble remaining upright with my backpack on), but the Bike-Stroller is like a reverse tricycle—mom/dad gets a workout, baby gets a ride (yes, they both should be wearing helmets.) Probably not a good street ride, but around the track or on suburban sidewalks, this seems genius.

The key to my decorating secret (because I know you were wondering) is dual function and modularity. If one product has 2 useful functions and is able to be easily moved, it goes on the list immediately. The Fold-Out Ottoman bed is just that. Closed up, it hides a single guest bed under the cover of a foot rest. What will they think of next!