More ideas about less stuff

September 13, 2016

Simple strategies for buying less stuff

From the Better World Handbook: “Everything you own owns you.  Everything you buy, you must maintain, store, repair, clean and perhaps insure.  Our stuff quickly becomes a psychological burden.”

Phew!  And a financial burden too, requiring more money – which means more work and less time for family, friends and fun.

Here are a few more tips to help you buy less stuff:

  1. Fix broken things instead of discarding them: a challenge, I know, in a world where more and more things are designed to be thrown away and replaced. But at the very least, it will be a learning experience!
  2. Figure out ways to reuse stuff, even things designed to be used once. For example, plastic containers and milk bags are great for freezing food.
  3. Borrow things you’ll only need rarely, like tools, movies or trucks. Get to know your neighbours and your library.
  4. Ask yourself: do I really need it? The honest answer is often no.
  5. Take a shopping list, and stick to it; don’t fall prey to clever advertising, fancy displays or colourful packaging.
  6. Avoid impulse purchases because you’ll often regret them later. If you feel the urge, promise yourself you’ll buy it next week – if you still feel the urge.

Less stuff is good for our well-being, our wallets and the planet!

Have you hit Peak Stuff?

September 6, 2016

Simple questions to ask before you buy anything

Earlier this year, an executive of IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, made headlines when he said, “If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit Peak Stuff.”  I fear that may be true for me: the basement storage room is full and the garage is cluttered.

If you’ve hit Peak Stuff, here are 10 quick questions* you can ask yourself the next time you’re tempted to buy something:

  1. Can I find it used?
  2. Will it last a long time?
  3. Is it reusable or at least recyclable?
  4. What are the item and its packaging made from?
  5. How do I dispose of it?
  6. Is it toxic?
  7. What conditions do the workers who made it work under?
  8. How much will it cost to operate and maintain it?
  9. Will my buying it contribute to a better world?
  10. Will it really improve my life?

Consciously evaluating purchases can help us avoid Peak Stuff in our lives.  It’s good for our well-being, our wallets and the planet!

*From the Better World Handbook.

Have you hit Peak Stuff?

August 31, 2016

Simple questions to ask before you buy anything

Earlier this year, an executive of IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, made headlines when he said, “If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit Peak Stuff.”  (I’m wondering if that could be true for me: the basement storage room is full and the garage is cluttered…)

If you’ve hit Peak Stuff, here are 10 quick questions* you can ask yourself the next time you’re tempted to buy something:

  1. Can I find it used?
  2. Will it last a long time?
  3. Is it reusable or at least recyclable?
  4. What are the item and its packaging made from?
  5. How do I dispose of it?
  6. Is it toxic?
  7. What conditions do the workers who made it work under?
  8. How much will it cost to operate and maintain it?
  9. Will my buying it contribute to a better world?
  10. Will it really improve my life?

Consciously evaluating purchases can help us avoid Peak Stuff in our lives.  It’s good for our well-being, our wallets and the planet!

*From the Better World Handbook.

Buy your milk in bags

Milk is a staple of virtually every household, but what type of milk packaging is the most eco-friendly? All three types of milk packaging – jugs, cartons and bags – are recyclable. But unfortunately not all are accepted by all recycling programs.

As well, recycling isn’t a perfect solution: collecting and transporting recyclables costs time, money and fuel – especially when the end destination of those recyclables is half a world away.  Where I live, jugs and cartons are recycled, but in China.  Yep – sorted, baled, stuffed into a container and shipped thousands of kilometres.

So what’s a consumer’s greenest option for milk packaging?

  1. Check with your local solid waste authority to see what’s accepted for recycling, and then choose accordingly. In spite of its shortcomings, recycling is still better than trashing.
  2. Choose the biggest size available; one big jug or carton uses less material than two or more small ones.
  3. If all three types of packaging are recycled where you live, choose plastic bags:
  • they are lighter (less material and less weight to transport)
  • both the outer and inner bags are the same soft plastic as grocery bags so they can be mixed in with them (but inner bags must be well rinsed of residual milk)
  • they may be recycled locally (as they are here in NB) as opposed to being shipped to China; and
  • soft plastics (#4 LDPE) are one of those rare materials that can be perfectly recycled: that is, reprocessed back into the very same types of products over and over again.

Close your fridge door as quickly as possible

Particularly in this season of warmth, it’s worth being reminded of a common sense tip: you can save money and energy by opening your refrigerator as infrequently as possible, opening the door only as widely as necessary and closing it as quickly as possible.

To help remember, imagine your fridge as being full of water.  It comes gushing out each time you open the door.  The more frequently, the wider and the longer you open the door, the more water that ends up on your floor.

Cold air in your fridge is like that water: it’s heavier than warm air, so it comes tumbling out each time the fridge door opens.  And the more cold air that escapes, the more your fridge needs to work to replace it.  That costs energy and money.

So the next time you open your fridge, imagine that it’s full of water and act accordingly.  Your fridge will thank you by using less energy!

Taking back the only thing that is truly ours

If poverty is having less than you need, many of us live in a new kind of poverty brought on by the demands of our hurried, frenzied world: time poverty.  I came across that phrase recently in The Better World Handbook (New Society Publishers).

From the book: “The quest to “have it all” has programmed us to have overscheduled, frazzled, harried lives where we run from place to place without much sense of where we are going.  Stretching ourselves too thinly sucks out the meaning of daily experiences.”  It’s not very good for the planet either.

The authors suggest, “We must learn to think, feel, communicate and experience the world beyond the confines of material possessions.  We must commit to leading lives fuelled by compassion and love rather than by consumption and personal gain.”

In other words, if life is a treadmill where the cost of accumulating all our stuff is time poverty, perhaps it’s worth reassessing our priorities: slowing down and consuming less; relaxing, living and laughing more.  Aspiring to less stuff and more time.  Better for us, better for the planet.

Something to think about this vacation season!

Sunscreen is as much a part of summer as ice cream is. But have you ever paused to wonder just what’s in that stuff you put on your skin? (I’m definitely wondering, given what it does to my shirt collars and sleeves.)

Do a bit of research and you quickly realize that finding the very best sunscreen is a complicated affair. Perhaps the simplest, clearest advice comes from David Suzuki’s Queen of Green: choose a sunscreen that:

  • Is well rated by the Environmental Working Group
  • Offers broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays
  • Is free of toxic materials, particularly oxybenzone and retinyl palmate (a form of vitamin A)
  • Is a cream, not a spray or powder
  • Offers SPF 30 protection (lower is not enough, higher offers negligible extra protection)

(Of course, the best protection comes from covering up with a good hat and clothing, and avoiding the midday sun altogether.)

Enjoy this summer with safe, effective, eco-friendly sunscreen!

Keep cool with less AC

June 21, 2016

How to stay cool and reduce your air conditioning bill

Finally, summer – most people’s favourite season – is here.  But how quickly our weather transitions from pleasant to hot, and we find ourselves turning on the air conditioning!

In many places, more electricity is used on hot summer days than in the cold of winter.  Much of that peak power comes from fossil fuels, and much of it is used for air conditioning.  (Yes, there is a certain irony about that fact.)  So reducing our use of air conditioning is a great way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are four ways to do just that:

  • Install blinds, shades or curtains, and keep them closed when sunlight is most intense. Retractable awnings work well too, and still allow light in.
  • Open windows in the evening to take advantage of overnight coolness; close them before you leave in the morning to keep things cool as long as possible.
  • When air conditioning becomes necessary, nudge the thermostat up a few degrees and invite everyone to dress lightly. (Already this summer, I’ve been chilly in over-conditioned buildings.) Even then, use the AC as sparingly as possible.
  • Longer term: plant trees strategically to provide shade plus free natural cooling; some good advice here. (‘Aha’ fact: exposed dark asphalt gets very hot and heats the surrounding air, so consider planting trees to shade paved areas too.)

Don’t overheat this summer – but by using less air conditioning, you’ll help prevent the planet from overheating.

For fun and food, build a bean tepee

Everyone – kid and former kid – loves a secret place!  So why not build a bean tepee in your backyard?

It’s simple: all you need are a few poles and some string to build a frame – easy instructions here. (Igloos and other creative designs are possible too, depending on how elaborate a frame you’d like to build.)

Then plant some pole bean or pea seeds at the base of each pole and water.  Watch as your plants grow, wind their way up the poles and close in the walls.

 

Presto: a fun play place for anyone, with the bonus of delicious fresh veggies!

Thanks to Don Ross for this Green Idea!

‘An Inconvenient Truth’ ten years on

I still get goosebumps when I think back to April 9, 2007.

I had just arrived at the Nashville Hilton to attend a training session led by former US Vice President Al Gore.  Knowing that Mr. Gore would kick things off with a live presentation of his newly-famous slideshow, I claimed myself a front-row-centre seat in the hotel ballroom.

The place was buzzing with anticipation as the MC went through her opening remarks.  Then, with a quick glance to the side of the room, she announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Honourable Al Gore” – and in walked the former VP.

For the next 90 minutes, I and 200 other trainees from around the world sat mesmerized as he presented his Oscar-winning slideshow about our climate crisis.  I introduced myself at a reception later that evening, and this photo was taken.  And two days later I came home and changed my life and my career.  For me, it was an epiphanal experience.

Gore
Yesterday, May 24, marked the tenth anniversary of the release of “An Inconvenient Truth”, the documentary that awakened the world to climate change.  Much has happened over the past decade – both convenient and inconvenient – but much remains to be done.

Even as we take heart in the progress made, may each of us face forward with renewed resolve to solve our climate crisis: to make changes in our own lives, and to demand action of our political leaders, regardless of political affiliation.