Environment

Repurposing

I haven’t written a blog post about a “green” subject in a while.  Michelle and I have been busy reusing, and repurposing cabinets that came from her parent’s kitchen.  They recently gutted and redid their kitchen, and graciously offered the cabinets to us.  We couldn’t make use of all of them, but we have found useful homes and purposes for everything we did take.  Storage in our master bathroom is, shall we say, minimal.  We have intentions to redo the whole bathroom, but we have to retire some debt first.  (adoption is expensive!) So, Michelle had the great idea to reuse a kitchen cabinet in the bathroom and have it mounted above the toilet and then I would build some shelves both for inside the cabinet and between the cabinet and the nearby walls. (9 inches on either side of the cabinet) Now before you assume that we just screwed a kitchen cabinet to the wall, let me tell you that NO project that involves my wife is EVER that simple. First she decided to paint it.  She did a fabulous job, and the design she came up with for the front evokes that spa like feeling.  When we first attempted to hang it, we realized that it was simply too deep. It was 12 inches deep and that really made it feel like you were sitting in a cave when you had to do your business.  So….what to do?  I got out the table saw and cut the back of it off!  It was a little more complicated than that, but it worked.  I made a new back for the cabinet, and mounted some pieces specifically so it would be strong enough, and it looks great!   We didn’t discard the back of the cabinet, because it is deep enough that I can easily make a spice rack or something else useful from it.  I also hung two cabinets in the laundry room.  They also required some trimming on the table saw, but they also turned out great.  What makes me really pleased with the whole thing is we kept a bunch of stuff from ending up in the landfill AND we ended up with cabinets that were much nicer than we could afford to purchase for where we used them.  Everybody wins!  So thanks very much Marvin and Donna!

On a completely different subject, Michelle got a call from some potential adoptive parents who were asking about The Adoption Center of Choice, whom we used.  This couple has had four failed adoptions….four.  They were calling to ask if it was true that the Adoption Center of Choice actually did not make us pay for the failed adoption we experienced.  It is true!  While I wouldn’t wish for anyone to have to go through a failed adoption, going through it AND losing your money would make it even more painful.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think adoption is about money.  But, had we lost all our money with the first adoption, we simply would not have had enough left to do it again.  I was joking with Michelle the other day and said, “Well honey, I’ve always been a little different……our son was my mid-life crisis.”  For what we spent I could have had a cool sports car, or hair plugs, and liposuction, or any number of more typical male mid life crisis things.  I’m here to tell you guys, my way is the way to go.  No car, girlfriend or medical procedure can give you as much joy as you experience when you come home and he sees you and starts to wave his arms and legs and squeal with delight as you come to say hi and pick him up.  If I could bottle that feeling and sell it, I’d never have to work again.

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Categories: Adoption, DIY, Environment, Parenting, Recycling | 1 Comment

Simple pleasures

For any of you who have followed my blog for any period of time you know that I’m a closet environmentalist. I’m not out there spiking logs, or doing anything to hurt others, but I do remind folks when they are missing the easy and obvious opportunities to be more green.  Sometimes it feels like I’m spitting into the wind as I drive to work on trash day and see stuff in the garbage can that is recyclable with the recycling bin sitting next to the trash can. Then there are the little glimmers of hope like what happened yesterday.  A friend who has, as a course of her profession, quite a bit of “swag” (free stuff to give to clients) brought by a number of items and left them in front of our garage.  I knew where they came from because of the ads on them, but I wasn’t quite sure why they were there.  I called Michelle and she said that, “Emily knew you’d be upset with her if she threw them out, and thought we could repurpose this stuff pretty easily.”  She was right.  I emptied the boxes, and put them out for recycling and I’m pondering what to do with 12 mirrors that have Botox ads on them. Either  Michelle or I will figure out something.  It made me smile that my little crusade for a more eco-conscious mindset amongst my friends and family
has had an impact. If we all did just a little bit more than we do now, it would work like compound interest.  It can’t be a bad thing to keep stuff out of the landfill that can be reused.

Speaking of other simple pleasures, I had a birthday this past Sunday and was feeling pretty icky. Evidently my body adapted to Vicodin quite  quickly and even though I was only taking it at rates less than what the Dr. indicated was appropriate, when I stopped taking it on Saturday my body let me know it was unhappy on Sunday. So, Sunday wasn’t a bad day, I just didn’t feel good.  Monday my situation was much the same, but  when I got home, seeing Logan helped me forget my issues.  Then, the little guy gave me the best belated birthday gift ever, he laughed out loud for the first time. It was positively contagious. As I laughed because of his laugh, it made him laugh more.  Who needs pain medication when you have that kind of medicine?!?! 

I don’t often talk about my relationship with Michelle here, but she knows me better than anyone.  One of the symptoms of Vicodin withdrawl is that it can induce panic attacks. I’ve had them before and they are no fun at all.  Last night I felt like I was close to having one, and Michelle suggested that we do something creative in order to keep it at bay and help me feel better.  I’m sure the neighbors thought we were loons, but we were outside in the dark, me up on a ladder wearing an ear mounted LED flashlight (Thanks Marvin and Donna, it works great!) and Michelle on the ground stringing fishing line so a Clematis could use it to climb the house. Because of Michelle’s care and thoughtfulness
I not only avoided the panic attack, but felt good about what we did.  She is one in a million, and I’m fortunate to be able to share my life with her.
Thanks Michelle.  I love you. (even though she never reads my blog)

Categories: Adoption, Environment, Happiness, Recycling | 3 Comments

Double standards that relate to age, and cool diapers.

When Logan was born, all of the clothes we had for him were too big.  We had to get preemie size stuff for him even thought he wasn’t a premie. Well, the little guy has an appetite, and we did an unofficial weigh in today.  (sat him on the bathroom scale)  He is over 11 lbs now.  He was born 6 weeks and one day ago at 6lbs 11 oz.  One of the outfits we have for him is actually probably going to be too small for him in another week or two. Hence the injustice.  When the little guy gains weight it is a good thing.  When I gain it is a lack of willpower.  Oh well.  I’m actually not gaining weight, but no one is proud of me when I do.   At this rate, he’ll be wearing my clothes by the time he is two.

New subject, diapers….discuss.  Michelle and I have struggled with just exactly which way to go on the subject of diapers.   When Logan was born, we pretty much had no choice because all the eco-friendly diapers were too large even at their smallest size for him.  Now that he is getting bigger, we are moving into the range where we have options.   The local Whole Foods has two choices, Seventh Generation and 365 brand.  We’ve done our homework  (I know, me, doing research on something, shocking!) and we have chosen to use G-Diapers.  Why GDiapers over the other brands you ask? Well, the primary reason is because of the unique way you can dispose of GDiapers. They are made with the absorbent material being a form of wood pulp. No, they don’t collect all the pencil shavings from elementary schools all over the world. The pulp is soft, comfy and surprisingly absorbent. It is contained within these little “sleeves” (think really big sanitary pads for women). The sleeves/pads go inside a plastic like liner. It is not plastic, but rather a breathable material. The liner snaps into a pant like thing that is roughly the shape of a conventional disposable diaper. So much for the description. Why are they different? You can take the pad out and flush it down the toilet! They give you a plastic stirring stick, and I know it sounds a little gross, but you stir the pad in the toilet until the outside of the pad breaks open, and then you can flush the whole thing. For those of you who are REALLY hard core, you can compost the wet ones, but not the dirty ones. (yes I am considering composting the wet ones.) This cuts down dramatically on the quantity of trash our home produces. No they don’t clog the pipes. Really, when you stop to think about it, stirring a diaper and flushing it is no more disgusting than putting a dirty diaper in a container and letting it steep there for a week until trash day. I only have to deal with the smell once. No solution is perfect, and just like with regular diapers, GDiapers have their drawbacks. If the extent of the “deposit” is more than the GDiaper can handle, then you will likely have to launder the liner and the pants. But, the flip side is that if your conventional diaper is overcome by the workload, you’ll still have additional laundry to do. Yes, GDiapers are a little bit more expensive than disposables, but if you consider the cost of a Diaper Genie and those expensive refill cartridges for it, I don’t see that it is dramatically different. Just like with my car, I realize this may not be the least expensive way to go, but eco-friendly diapers are an endeavor I would like to support. Disposables last about 500 years in a landfill. GDiapers last about 90 days if you compost them. If you flush them, they become sludge in a sewage treatment plant, and that is often sold as fertilizer, so they go back to the soil Personally, that sounds like a better solution to me.

One last thing, yes GDiapers work. We’ve had Logan on them for a couple of days now and have had no unpleasant surprises. As I stare at the sleeping face of my handsome little guy, it just seems like the right thing to do to make decisions that have the potential to make the world he inherits just a tiny bit better. OH……he smiled at me today for the first time. Not a passing gas smile either, it was a legitimate smile. It amazes me how such a little thing can make your day.

PS. he was just about to let out a fuss a second ago, and I reached over and rubbed his chest and belly (one hand covers both) and he stopped squirming, and quieted down and is now sound asleep. No one ever told me before I became a dad that there are all these little amazing moments that are better than the best antidepressant.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Adoption, Environment, Happiness, Parenting, Recycling | Leave a comment

An eventful week.

Call it what you will, but it seems as though forces larger than Michelle and I are involved in this little adventure of ours.   The adoption agency called Wednesday to ask if we would allow ourselves to be considered for a child.  They don’t normally call us so as to avoid the whole roller coaster of emotions phenomenon that goes on when you know your profile has been submitted to a birth mother.  In this case we were called for two reasons 1) there is no information about the father, and 2) the baby is bi-racial.  The only one of those two that concerns me is that there is no info on the father.  The child’s mother was dating this man, and the relationship has since ended.  That is some pretty sketchy info upon which to base a major life decision, but there are other mitigating circumstances I have yet to share with you my good reader.

Something about the whole proposition felt better when we were told that the birth mother is in Indiana.  The birth mother also has another child who does very well in school.  The birth mom has also been receiving proper pre-natal care, and we have no reason to be concerned about any drug use.

This whole experience thus far has been a lesson for me in learning to make decisions based upon what information I have rather than my norm which would be to gather as much information exists on the subject, and read it all before even considering the decision.  Normally that is a pretty reasonable way to conduct your life, but the flip side to doing that is you tend to ignore gut feelings and intuition in favor of facts.  When you have fewer facts and your intuition is rusty, it makes things a bit challenging.

I do have to say that the whole thing taking place in Indiana gives me a bit of a warm fuzzy.  The fact that the mom’s other child is doing well in school is a good thing. This time we’re not dealing with premies, drug use, schizophrenia in the family, none of those things.  Whew.

As with all the other times this has happened, nothing is assured at this point.  We have simply granted permission for our profile to be submitted to this birth mother.  The baby is due August 22nd, and is a boy. The agency told us we might expect a decision as early as today 8/1/08

It has been an eventful week. A fraternity brother of mine came to visit (Flounder for those of you who know and care) and brought his two boys (13 and 11). The younger turned 11 on Wednesday, but evidently the Memphis heat got the better of him and he spent the evening getting sick, so his birthday festivities were postponed. On Thursday we all went to my favorite BBQ place here in Memphis, the Germantown Commissary. Eleven year old kids are seldom calm and sedate, and this little guy was no exception, but his fidgeting caused him to whack his tooth on the side support of a metal chair and chip his front tooth. Somehow I don’t think he will have a particularly fond memory of his time in Memphis. Flounder and company departed this morning, just before our heat index is predicted to hit 110. Coward. 😉

Other items of interest: I have been encouraging Michelle to get back into her painting / drawing / insert artistic activity here. She has in the past year painted more than in the previous 17 years we have spent together. I’ve been impressed by all of it, but of course she is her own biggest critic. Well, she must be enjoying it and think it is at least passably good because she has started moving forward with plans to participate in the Collierville Mulberry festival this October by having her own art booth. She plans to have paintings, and, if it works out, at least one possibly several light boxes. (basically a piece of art illuminated from behind.) In my opinion she is at her best when she is engaged in some artistic pursuit. She enjoys doing it, and I am ridiculously proud of what she creates. So, even if this little adventure is not a commercial success, there are other ways to determine worth.

Lastly, we are kicking around the idea of building a “living wall”.The back of our home faces south and gets remarkably hot in the summer time. The idea of a living wall is to construct an aesthetically pleasing support that allows us to mount living plants vertically.Picture a raised garden bed and then mentally stand it on end and you sort of get a visual of what we intend.The idea is to plant drought tolerant plants in it and include some sort of automated watering system. Why do this you ask? Well, our bedroom is on the south side of the house, and it gets mighty warm in the summer. If we put the living wall outside our bedroom and constructed it so that it was big enough that it provided shade for the brick of that south side wall, then our a/c bills would be reduced, the heat transfer from the bricks would be reduced, and we’d have done something kinda snazzy. As I said, we are in the idea stage, but I thought it was a pretty cool idea and so I toss it out there for your consideration. Discuss.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Adoption, DIY, Environment | 2 Comments

The impact just one person can make.

I’ve written before about my near obsession with recycling and making smart little decisions that combine to make a bigger impact on the environment.  Well, I have to thank my brother in law for his vote of confidence in me, because it was a recent email from him that caused me to realize that I do have an impact on those around me.
He had received one of those emails we’ve all seen that are “the sky is falling” type emails claiming you must act quickly or some biblical horror will befall you.  This particular one dealt with the fact that CFL (compact florescent lights) contain mercury.  I don’t want to minimize the situation, yes they contain mercury, and yes mercury is dangerous.  The important lesson we should all learn here is that like most everything else the bulbs can be recycled when they fail.  Please please please do NOT throw them in the trash.  As of last week, Home Depot announced that they will be accepting spent CFLs at their stores for proper recycling…FOR FREE. Props to Home Depot for helping the cause.  Kudos to the marketing guy at Home Depot who realized that if you have a recycling option for the bulbs, where is Joe Consumer likely to go when that bulb burns out and he has to replace it?

Back to my original and larger subject, the impact one person can make.  When my brother in law received that email, he sent it to me and asked if it was true.  I responded, and he forwarded it to the entire laundry list of people who had received the original email.  I’ve  also caused my brother in law to start to think differently about what can be recycled.  He complained to me the other day that he needs two recycle bins now.  That is a good problem to have.

I’ve impacted my wife’s thinking as well.  She quietly tolerates my eco ideas and rarely comments.  A couple of weeks ago I set up my first vermicomposting bin in the garage.  I figured I would keep it out of sight and make sure the little worms got our organic scraps so they would be happy and I would reduce our impact in another way.  Well, she surprised me by saving the potato peelings on a paper towel for the worms the other day.  She asked me if the stale bread should go to the worms or the compost bin, and asked what kinds of things she can put in the worm bin.

My wife and I have been talking about what to do in the baby’s room as far as decorations etc.  Of course we will need to paint.  Naturally, I want to use zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paint.  We were discussing paint colors etc with my sister in law and I started talking about VOCs.  She (my sister in law) rolled her eyes in a dismissive way.  My wife told me later that she had been pulled aside by her sister and asked if she thought that VOCs were really something to pay attention to or if it was just me being a hippie.  Michelle said it only makes sense when given a choice to do the things that exposes you to fewer cancer causing agents.   When you go to a restaurant, if you’re a non-smoker, do you ask to sit in the smoking section? I’ll bet the answer is no.  This is an equivalent situation.  Sure zero VOC paint is more expensive, but not by a lot.  Back to the point, one person influenced the thinking of several others.

The impact I’ve made certainly isn’t world changing, but it is encouraging to see that others do pay attention  to the stuff I share about recycling and the environment.  So, the next time you decide to throw your Coke can in the trash at the grocery store rather than take it home with you and put in the recycle bin pause for a moment and consider who might be watching what you do and learning from it.   If we all make just a few better choices each day, the world becomes a better place every day.

Categories: Environment, Self improvement | Leave a comment

How much is too much?

Let me just start by saying that I am not unbiased on the subject of recycling. I recycle everything I can. That admission out of the way, let me relate something that happened the other day and solicit your thoughts. I was at a friends’ house and helping to clean up after dinner. The normal practice is to set the recyclables next to the sink and then someone takes them out to the recycle bin after dinner. (normally I do that) It just so happens that the paper towel roll ran out while the cleanup process was going on, and someone opened the door to throw it in the garbage under the sink. I reached and grabbed the roll and said, “That is recyclable, I’ll take it out when I take out the rest.” The response I received was, “Oh good grief, now you’re going too far.” My question is, since I was going out to the bin anyway, and the tube was indeed recyclable, was I going too far? I realize not many people recycle as much as I do, but this wasn’t costing this person any money, time or effort. I don’t know, I just felt odd about the whole thing. Why should we throw something in a landfill when we can use it again and save resources, fuel etc in the process? It would make my day if someone, anyone who reads this, as a result of reading it decides to recycle something they normally wouldn’t and posts a comment to that effect. A toilet paper tube, a box from your mac and cheese, your junk mail, the newspaper….anything. We should be working toward a mindset of recycling that stuff just like we do bottles and cans. It does make a difference, and it takes so little effort. Thanks for reading.

P.S. At least I’m not going this far…….yet.

Categories: Environment, Recycling | Leave a comment

Eco info

In my adult life I’ve always been sort of a closet hippie. (a bald one, but still a hippie) Since moving to the south it has gotten worse or better depending on your perspective. I had a compost pile in KY, but only used it for yard waste. I have a compost container here in TN and I compost kitchen scraps as well as yard waste. I’m also a bit of a recycling fanatic.

With those confessions out of the way, I thought it might be worth a blog post to introduce some of the websites and sources of info I have used to bring myself to the frame of mind where I decided that recycling and the other things I do are not just a treehugger’s duty, but legitimately a good thing for the planet, and our country. I am going to stay away from political discussion because that tends to cause people to glaze over and not listen to content….as does the term hippie and treehugger…..oh well.

It is a proven fact that it takes a significantly reduced amount of resources to convert recycled material to new as opposed to creating all new from raw materials. In the case of aluminum, the refining of bauxite is quite energy intensive. It takes 95% less energy to turn your used Bud Light can into a new one than to make one from ore.

Fact 1

The average American used 650 pounds of paper each year. 100 MILLION TONS of wood could be saved each year if all that paper was actually recycled.

Fact 2

About 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet our recycling rate is only 28%.

Fact 3

Americans use 2.5 MILLION plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away …

Fact 4

Every month Americans throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper (think: Empire State Building). All these jars are recyclable!

Fact 5

Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year! Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s twice the size of Texas and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. It’s also 80 percent plastic, and weighs in at 3.5 million tons.

Fact 6

Recycling one ton (about 2,000 pounds) of paper saves 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil (enough to run the average car for 1,260 mile), 4,100 kilowatts of energy (enough power for the average home for six months), 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space, and 60 pounds of pollution.

Fact 7

The 17 trees saved by recycling a ton of paper can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year.

Fact 8

If all our newspapers were recycled, we could save about 250 MILLION trees each year! If every American recycled just one-tenth (that’s one out of ten) of their newspapers, we could save about 25 MILLION trees a year.

Fact 9

More than 20,000,000 Hershey’s Kisses are wrapped each day, using 133 square miles of aluminum foil. Believe it not, ALL that foil is recyclable, but not may people realize it so most it goes in the trash!

Fact 10

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours – or the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline. In spite of this, Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every three months!

Fact 11

A typical family consumes 182 gallons of pop (aka soda), 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk, and 26 gallons of bottled water a year. That’s a lot of containers – make sure they’re recycled!

Sources:
A Recycling Revolution
Ecocycle
Clearwater

New subject: I would love to be able to thumb my nose at the power company because I was able to meet all my electricity needs from solar and / or wind power. Unfortunately I am not made of money. Solar power has been out of the reach of most of us because of its cost. I read something today that gives me hope. There is a company called Sunrgi

They have come up with a revolutionary design for a solar panel. They say the best ideas are the simple ones, and this one is one of those “Duh” <smack yourself in the forehead> kind of ideas. They use magnifying glasses to focus the sunlight on a much smaller area of much more efficient solar cells. The solar cells are what make solar panels expensive. How cool is that?

Ok, enough preaching. If you are interested in learning more about this kind of stuff, then I encourage you to check out some of the links I’ve placed over in the sidebar. —>

Most of these sites are on bookmarked on my pc and I visit them regularly. If you find or know of one that I might like, I would really appreciate it if you would post it in the comments. I promise not to come to your house and critique your carbon footprint.

(yes I am proud of the fact that I regularly fill two recycle bins a week and my garbage can is almost always less than half full.) 🙂

Categories: Environment, Self improvement | 3 Comments

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