Saturday, October 25, 2014

I know this isn’t sexy or funny, but just this once read to the end

Ok, I’m going to be that person, the dreaded friend that finds a cause and drives you crazy about it, and yes I want you to go crazy and get on the band wagon with me. I have spent my entire time home waffling back and forth about what I was going to do, how I was going to do this. Ok, ok what is “this”?  I want you to be conscious of the plastics you are using. Now, please don’t stop reading, I know this isn’t sexy or funny, but just this once read to the end and maybe you will think the next time you buy or use something plastic. Please…just this once all the way. 
When we were away this year traveling in the US water system, Cuba and Mexico we had the opportunity to explore areas that were not part of the normal tourist destinations. I love to take pictures and I love to blog, so often I would go to snap shots leaving out the bad and ugly. One day it hit me, most of the ugly is plastic, not metal, not paper, but plastic. Bags, there were plastic bags everywhere, water bottles, pop lids, drinking straws, you name it we saw it. At first my reaction was one of being superior, lamenting in my mind about how we reduce, reuse, and recycle at home, how could these people be so disrespectful of the environment. Sadly, in the beginning I wrote the littering off to the economy and lack of awareness, how small minded and prejudice of me. I am embarrassed. Then the more I traveled, there more I learned, the more I realised that we are just as responsible as everyone else, we use vast amounts of plastic everyday, in every way in our lives and it is our responsibility to help alleviate the problem of plastic pollution. 

Plastic is found everywhere these days and I mean everywhere. Did you know that you might even be chewing on plastic in the form of gum? Plastic is in many of our hygiene products, think toothpaste and face scrubs (micro-pellets used as abrasive). We package with plastic, sip on it, wrap with it, eat with it, the list goes on and on. While plastics are touted as recycled, the reality is that they are “down cycled” I learned that a plastic milk carton can never be recycled into another carton, it can only be made into a lower-quality item like plastic lumber, which can’t be recycled.We need to become aware of every plastic item we use and take a moment to think of how we can find an alternative solution.
How big is our plastic problem? Of the 30 million tons of plastic waste generated in the US in 2009, only 7% was recovered for recycling. This plastic waste ends up in landfills, beaches, rivers and oceans and contributes to such devastating problems as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex of garbage the size of a continent where plastic outnumbers plankton. Plus, most plastic is made from oil. Oil and water just don’t mix. Now I’m no scientist but the idea of a trash vortex swirling in the North Pacific Ocean grosses me out. The patch is made up of among other things, high concentrations of  plastics trapped by currents. A similar patch of floating plastic debris is found in the Atlantic Ocean. 

So, while we were home this summer I tried, sometime successfully and often not so successfully to reduce my use of plastics, alas, the important thing was I tried. Wow was it hard. I vowed to always bring my own grocery bags to the store, not use plastic produce bags, sometimes to the ire of the cashier and fleeting moments of embarrassment at holding up grocery lines. If I forgot my bags, I searched for boxes that were not always available, and often borrowed from my always organised shopping partner Susie. BTW why do they rip down boxes? Why do they sell plastic reusable bags, why not cloth?  

I cringed when I found out I had to give up my favourite face wash because it was full of micro pellets along the plastic bottle it is packaged in, for good old soap. Body washes have gone to the wayside also. I changed from liquid laundry soap, my touted saviour of whiteness, for powder because of the box only to my dismay to find a plastic measuring cup inside, what’s with that? I’m sure that my letter of complaint will gather a response. 

I have “mostly” quiet successfully given up the use of plastic wrap in the kitchen. Wax paper is enjoying a comeback for me, I have been reusing glass bottles, use mason jars (though I did buy the reusable plastic lids) I have been reusing old plastic again and again when it’s not being reheated. I will take any tricks you have to help me. 

Marc was embarrassed when I pulled out my own silverware in a restaurant the other day, but as he said, he got over it. Drinking a fountain pop with no straw sucked, pun intended. There is no more buying in water bottles, I am trying to enforce only using my own mug at Timmies. Small steps. It takes a lot of time and energy in the beginning, but I think we are getting ahold of this and can only get better at reducing our plastic use daily.

I found a great list of ways to reduce plastic use and have attached it here. Please just one thing, do one thing. Love your crazy friend Linda 

  1. Check your gum! Yup! Gum was originally made from tree sap a natural rubber, but when scientists created synthetic rubber, they began to replace the natural rubber in most gum. You could be chewing on plastic. While it is possible to recycle your gum yuck, it may be best to skip it and its plastic packaging. Whew, this ones was an easy one, done.
  2. Check out your tooth paste
  3. And the micro beads in your face scrubs
  4. At the grocery store:
    1. Bring your own cloth bags to the grocery store (or any store)! Three great things to say, “Thanks, but no thanks, no bags needed," “paper not plastic,” or  “do you have any boxes?”
    2. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables not bagged or wrapped in plastic, also skip the produce bag. Buy or make some reusable produce bags, however, avoid buying those bags made from nylon or polyester because they're also made from plastic. 
    3. Buy bread from bakeries that are packaged in paper bags.
    4. Buy laundry detergent in boxes, not liquid in plastic containers. Cardboard can be more easily recycled and made into more products than plastic.It also won’t sit for year upon year in landfills. 
    5. Buy eggs in reusable paper containers not styrofoam. 
    6. Get your cheese and sliced meats from the deli and place it in your own container (glass or a plastic one that you already have, don't waste what you already have)! Or get it wrapped in paper.
    7. Buy food like rice, pasta, beans, nuts, cereal and granola in bulk and bring your own containers, or paper bags saving both money and unnecessary packaging. Stores have various methods for deducting the container weight so simply check with customer service before filling your container. Also, many cotton bags have their weights printed on their tags so they can simply be deducted at the checkout. 
    8. Reuse containers; You can buy a variety of prepared foods in glass jars instead of plastic ones, including spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, salsa and applesauce, just to name a few. Instead of throwing these away or recycling them, reuse the jars to store food or take them with you when you’re buying bulk foods.
    9. Buy tortilla chips packaged in paper bags.
    10. Buy bulk coffee packaged in paper or in cans, or bring your own bags. STOP USING DISPOSABLE SINGLE SERVING THROW AWAYS!
    11. Buy milk in paper cartons. Canada has a real problem here.
    12. Don't buy convenience foods packages in plastic
    13. Don't buy beverages bottles in plastic. Glass is great.
    14. Skip the frozen food section; Frozen foods offer both convenience and plenty of plastic packaging — even those eco-friendly packaged items made from cardboard are actually coated in a thin layer of plastic. While giving up frozen food can be difficult, there are benefits besides the obvious environmental ones: You'll be eating fewer processed foods and avoiding the chemicals in their plastic packaging.

3. At work, out and about
  1. Carry your own reusable steel or ceramic beverage container. 
  2. Don't get to-go coffee or hot drinks. Your drink lid and cup will live on for over 100 years! The lids and lining are plastic. Bring your own or ask for a ceramic, reusable cup. Reusable bottles and cups Bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, and these bottles require 47 millions gallons of oil to produce, according to Food and Water Watch. By simply refilling a reusable bottle, you’ll prevent some of these plastic bottles from ending up in landfills and oceans — but don’t stop there. Bring a reusable cup to coffee shops and ask the barista to fill it up, and keep a mug at your desk instead of using plastic, paper or Styrofoam cups. The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups a year so you’ll be preventing a lot of unnecessary waste.
  3. When ordering drinks, say "no straw please!” One of the easiest ways to keep plastic out of the landfill is to refuse plastic straws. Simply inform your waiter or waitress that you don't need one, and make sure to specify this when ordering at a drive-thru. Purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw. 
  4. Use real silverware instead of plastic. I threw some in our glove box and  my purse!
  5. Use a reusable cloth bag or old fashioned steel lunch box to carry your lunch to work. Instead of packing snacks and sandwiches in bags, put them in reusable containers you have at home, or try lunch accessories like. You can also opt for fresh fruit instead of single-serving fruit cups, and buy items like yogurt and pudding in bulk and simply put a portion in a reusable dish for lunch.
4. Around the house
  1. Clean with baking soda and vinegar instead of cleaners packaged in plastic There's no need for multiple plastic bottles of tile cleaner, toilet cleaner and window cleaner if you have a few basics on hand like baking soda and vinegar.
  2. Package your leftovers in containers like corning ware or store foods in glass containers. Reuse bottles that you purchased something in like pasta sauce, jams.
  3. Do not use air fresheners. Light a candle or incense instead
  4. Buy bar soap, not liquid body wash
  5. Line small trash bins in your house with paper bags
  6. Compost your trash, reduce your use of plastic trash bags
  7. Use cloth rags for clean up around the house, no paper towels – reduces your trash and need for trash bags. When we were growing up my mother never used paper towel and she was a clean freak. I can do this. 
  8. Don't use plastic baggies. If you need to keep things like half an onion (happens to us all the time)! Use aluminium or waxy paper.
  9. Use cloth napkins. They feel nice and reduce your waste and use of plastic trash bags. We did this on the boat long before we thought of it as environmental. It kept trash down, they felt nice and it was fun. We used colourful bandanas 
  10. Don't use plastic cutting boards. Use wood or glass
  11. Use baby bottles made of glass. 
  12. Use stainless steel sippy cups for kids.
  13. Buy cloth diapers. Many great varieties available and better for your baby. We fill a super bowl size hole every day with disposal diapers that will leach toxins into the environment for centuries to come.Use cloth diapersAccording to the EPA, 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the U.S. each year. Plus, it takes about 80,000 pounds of plastic and more than 200,000 trees a year to manufacture disposable diapers for American babies alone. By simply switching to cloth diapers, you'll not only reduce your baby's carbon footprint, you'll also save money.
  14. Buy CDs packaged in cardboard sleeves or buy your music online.
  15. Use junk mail and other paper to stuff into big packages to ship instead of bubble wrap or air filled plastic.
  16. Use rechargeable batteries to reduce buying batteries packaged in plastic.

What"s Under Your Boat?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sell, Rent, Store, A Year Later And Where Our Decisions Have Taken Us

So, many times I have read the questions on the sailing blogs, Facebook groups, and cruising forums that ask, should I sell everything and move on board? Or, rent our house to transition? What about my things? The years and years of accumulation? What do I do with aunt Gladys silver bowl? Jacob’s grade one art work? Grandma’s marble top dresser that I have lugged around for years and been keeping out of obligation, not because I liked the piece? There is a lot of preparation and stress that went into making these decisions, but mostly for me, they were emotional decisions. So, a year later, I want to look back to where our decisions have taken us. 

Getting organised: Or what we did first in a nut shell.  We sold the house, sold the business, sold the contents, mostly, stored minimal treasures, we whittled our belongings down to the necessities. The plan was to cruise for five years with sporadic visits. What happened was I got homesick, ok, that's another story, and if you knew me, you probably wouldn’t have believed it, but I did. I wanted to come home and see my kids and granddaughter. Now, because of other unexpected factors, we have been home for five months.

We are now, yeah! Preparing to leave again, so one year later, three countries, one fantastic cruising season, one trip home, this is what I’ve learnt. 

  1. I wished that I had, had the opportunity to seriously cruise for a period of time, before all our decisions became a fait d’accoplis. Not because I wouldn’t have gone, I definitely would, it is just that the experience of previous cruising would have made me plan better, or differently and I would have known what to expect. We weren’t ignorant to sailing, we were ignorant to cruising, big difference. 
  2. I would still sell my house, a good financial decision for us, but I missed a place to call home and I wish we had planned a for space to come home to. Family and friends are wonderful, but life goes on for both them and you. You don’t want to be hanging around like stinky fish and after living alone on the boat with just hubby I relished my privacy, long lazy morning coffee, uninterrupted afternoons of wine and books. All I have to say is that I am very thankful to good friends that were kind enough and generous enough to rent us a fully furnished private space for us to call ours. We did end up buying some property while we were home, to build a small summer cottage. Which leads me to my next insight
  3. I don’t miss work, but I miss the money. I would have stored more and prepared for a return had I known. Many things I kept, I now know that they were just things, but some things I got rid of I wish I had kept, like a car. If you stay home for any extended time, rentals are crazy, we come from Manitoulin Island, Northern Ontario and a car for a few months was a necessity. Also, we found that replacing household items is expensive and because we are not working buying huge amounts of stuff that previously we had accumulated over years seems out of this world. Squabbling over a $10 rake, versus a $12 rake would have seemed ludicrous a year ago.  
  4. I love and miss my kids and enjoyed all our time together, but I did learn that after the initial first weeks of “boy I missed you and gee mom, I missed your apple pie," they are adults and didn't need me 24/7.  Hell, I think they are happy to see me go, so they can go back to doing their own thing without my watchful eye, but with one caveat 
  5. Communication: before we left Bell Canada rattled my chain, I know I am company bashing, but after spending my whole adult life, giving them my money I am done, so we left with no cell phone coverage. We purchased a track phone to use in the US, but, we couldn’t phone cell phone long distance and our kids are in Canada with cell phones so that didn’t work so well. There was limited communication in Cuba, Mexico no problems. We actually got used to no phones and liked that we didn’t have a phone bill. The internet is easy accessible so we had Skype, magic jack, Facebook,  all was good from our end. The bottom line for others was that if there was an emergency, we were hard to reach quickly, also, sometimes the kids just have to talk to you, not a day from now or on a grainy screen. We need to do better about having a phone for emergencies. Sometimes a mom just has to be a mom and be there to listen. 

Honestly, I don’t know what is right for you, your family, your money situation, your adventure. I can only reflect on how it’s working out for us.  The most important thing I learnt is that even though we didn’t do everything perfect, we can go back and correct the choices we made to enhance our cruising lifestyle and still have the freedom to go home comfortably. That's another thing, after coming home for an extended period has only made me want to be back on the water and cruising even more.  November 12, DevOcean here I come.