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Financial Realities vs Waste  RSS feed

 
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Spinning this off from another thread that we were derailing.
The background of what we were saying:

Dan Boone

        Anne Miller wrote:
        I had heard of melting plastic bottles, etc. into bricks so roofing tiles is along those lines.  I don't really have a need for bricks or roof tiles.



    My instant reaction to this is "OMG, I could use an infinite supply of cinder-block-sized bricks to build garden edgings, raised beds, and tree protection structures."

    Of course making them from plastics raises other issues to be considered, including fuel sources, process emissions, and product stability.  All of these have implications for zero-waste thinking, also possibly good solutions, so it's complicated.





    Pearl Sutton
    and, rereading this thread, Dan Boone's comment about making cinder block sized landscaping bricks REALLY appeals to my weird little world... I may be doing that one! I hate seeing waste, can do things like make bricks easy, and have been trying to figure out what I'd like to do for a few areas that need about 12 inch high dirt retaining walls by the driveway.




Then we posted as follows below
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:and, rereading this thread, Dan Boone's comment about making cinder block sized landscaping bricks REALLY appeals to my weird little world... I may be doing that one! I hate seeing waste, can do things like make bricks easy, and have been trying to figure out what I'd like to do for a few areas that need about 12 inch high dirt retaining walls by the driveway.



Oh, if you do, please be sure to share pictures and let us know what you learn about the practicalities of your process!  I would be excited to hear about this and see photos.

I have not tried it yet.  As usual, I have more ideas than time or ambition.

I feel I should point out that on the Paul Wheaton eco scale he puts "contemplating zero waste" and "eliminating 95% of toxic gick" on roughly the same level.  I won't speak for him (in fact I already know we differ) but it's fair to say there are two different ways to look at the "melt a bunch of soft/fragile plastic into a hard/useful structural brick" notion.  My own view is that if you can find a way to do it for a reasonable amount of hassle, with a reasonable amount of energy expenditure, while liberating no unreasonable amount of pollution, you've reduced the erodible "threat surfaces" of all that yucky plastic waste, replacing it with one solid durable useful object that will have a (relative) tiny surface area from which to shed toxins and much less opportunity to break down into forty zillion tiny pieces in your garden soil or somebody else's landfill, river, or ocean. 

But you will still have a (presumably roughly cubical) object made out of toxic gick that sits in your yard shedding some small-but-measurable-by-science amount of toxins into your environment.  I suspect that Paul wouldn't want that at wheaton labs, where he's striving for a very high eco level and would, I think, much prefer the plastic never come onto the property in the first place.  My own ethics suggest that if it's a choice between this, and sending plastics for which I am otherwise responsible "away" (when, truly, there is no "away") that I ought to suck it up and do it.  But maybe the edge of the driveway is indeed better than around my edibles.  And, full acknowledgment, the dilemma does raise the question of why am I responsible for all these plastics?  (Like many in this thread, the answer is partly lifestyle choices that are difficult to unmake, and partly the other people in our lives who are fine with plastics.)
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Pearl Sutton
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Dan Boone wrote:

Pearl Sutton wrote:and, rereading this thread, Dan Boone's comment about making cinder block sized landscaping bricks REALLY appeals to my weird little world... I may be doing that one! I hate seeing waste, can do things like make bricks easy, and have been trying to figure out what I'd like to do for a few areas that need about 12 inch high dirt retaining walls by the driveway.


Oh, if you do, please be sure to share pictures and let us know what you learn about the practicalities of your process!  I would be excited to hear about this and see photos.
I have not tried it yet.  As usual, I have more ideas than time or ambition.

If I do, I'll tell you how it worked :) I too have more ideas than energy, but that is just a cool idea.

I feel I should point out that on the Paul Wheaton eco scale he puts "contemplating zero waste" and "eliminating 95% of toxic gick" on roughly the same level.  I won't speak for him (in fact I already know we differ) but it's fair to say there are two different ways to look at the "melt a bunch of soft/fragile plastic into a hard/useful structural brick" notion.  My own view is that if you can find a way to do it for a reasonable amount of hassle, with a reasonable amount of energy expenditure, while liberating no unreasonable amount of pollution, you've reduced the erodible "threat surfaces" of all that yucky plastic waste, replacing it with one solid durable useful object that will have a (relative) tiny surface area from which to shed toxins and much less opportunity to break down into forty zillion tiny pieces in your garden soil or somebody else's landfill, river, or ocean. 

But you will still have a (presumably roughly cubical) object made out of toxic gick that sits in your yard shedding some small-but-measurable-by-science amount of toxins into your environment.


Yeah, that is an issue, and that might make it so when I have energy to do this, I don't. Or I may have found a better option in the free stuff that comes my way category. I'm told the land here reliably produces two crops of rocks a year, so I may end up doing something with rocks. Or bricks or blocks if any show up. or melted glass. But if that little dirt edge doesn't get restrained with something solid, I'm going to end up having to use machinery to level it periodically, and that is a bad option in my eyes. Anything that can be done right needs to be. And some kind of edging is required, I have no energy to keep messing with it for years. I'd honestly prefer bricks or rocks.

  My own ethics suggest that if it's a choice between this, and sending plastics for which I am otherwise responsible "away" (when, truly, there is no "away") that I ought to suck it up and do it.  But maybe the edge of the driveway is indeed better than around my edibles.


I doubt I'd put bricks like that around my edibles. That's not likely at ALL. But the cars, trucks, and tractors are already going by there, it's already not food space in my eyes. And there IS no "away." which is really the problem in the world.

the dilemma does raise the question of why am I responsible for all these plastics?


Oh, I'm NOT!!! I'd be getting the plastic out of the recycle bins. I buy VERY little in plastic. However, getting any out of the waste stream might be good. It sickens me to see what gets thrown out.
Like I said, it's an interesting idea, and I need something there to retain dirt. I'm tossing it in my back pocket, if I don't end up with something I prefer, it might be a viable alternative :) And the waste I see sickens me.

At risk of being rude to Paul, sorry, no insult intended, he is not a physically small, health challenged female doing it basically alone (with 80 year old mom) on a low budget. We have different things we are willing to/required to tolerate to make our lives work. And different parameters of what it needs to do when it's done. One of mine is the driveway has to be smooth enough for a non-powered wheelchair. That means no dirt drifts across it. His is no toxic gick, and that's high on mine, but I HAVE to be able to access my land, even if my health crashes again. And I don't think that's high on his needs/expectations list. I'm hoping I never need it. But I'd be a fool to not design for it. If I do need it, I will not be able to change it at that point. My health has been horrifying since 1996, I'm currently doing well, by my standards, not using my canes often etc. But I also know how fast that can change, and has changed in the past.

I'm hoping bricks show up! Weird things do show up in my world. I hunt them down and drag them home! Anyone got bricks they'd bring me? :)
 
Dan Boone
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

the dilemma does raise the question of why am I responsible for all these plastics?


Oh, I'm NOT!!!



Well, I am.  I buy stuff in plastic packaging because I want/need the stuff, and I buy plastic items (mostly containers, mostly used at garage sales) because they are incredibly cheap and fill some need in my life.  Although this has become rare as I have accumulated more and more heavy metal and crockery and glass containers, to the point where the few things I get in plastic these days are typically very thick and industrial (like food-grade plastic barrels) that will likely last longer than I do before deteriorating into fragments.  But I have a ridiculous hangover in my container garden of plastic garden pots (designed for that purpose and recycled containers repurposed) from when I first started gardening, and many of these are now fragile/deteriorating and making me PAY for my foolishness in bringing them onto the property.  It seemed like a good idea at the time; indeed it may have been a good idea at the time as my alternatives were few/none; but it was not without its costs and I have a significant measure of regret now.

And I live in a household with other people who buy plastic shit willy-nilly and don't see an issue with it.  That's not going to change.  Bottled water, soft drinks, deli salads, whatever.  Heck, I often have to buy fresh veggies in those plastic clamshells if I want to buy them at all; I can't just slag off the people in my family without owning my own behavior.  I'm not willing to eat a more restricted diet in this food desert I live in because of the packaging of the limited selection of stuff that actually is available.  It doesn't, I think, make sense. 

Pearl I also think you make some really good points about making your life work on a low budget.  I could drive two hours each way and buy those same veggies at Whole Foods and bring them home in a paper sack, but (a) I can't afford the gasoline or the triple-retail price of the veggies, and (b) in avoiding the plastic waste I'll burn more petroleum than is embodied in the plastic, so I'm not sure it's a net ethical positive even if I was rich enough to do it.  I sometimes feel there's a strain of rich-people condescension in some corners of the permaculture movement.  It's utterly possible to be a perfect permie peasant (a gert) if you're blessed with sufficient land and health and able-bodiedness and past history of cultivation to have all your  food systems in place, but failing that, you can't live a life free of toxins eating perfect organic food unless you are really rich.  And sometimes people who are really rich and do spend a ton of money on stuff like plastics-free food storage and serving gear come across as if they are sneering at the less-than-perfect peasants who can't afford to eliminate every scrap of plastic from their domestic arrangements.  I don't think it's conscious or intended; I think it's just privilege.  The cost of eliminating risk (from toxins or anything else) increases on a curve; and some people get into an obsessive "I want to eliminate every last bit of risk" mode than only rich people could ever manage, because poor people are like "I'm out ... if I had that kind of money, I'd have bought a new tractor" long before they ever get there.

Pearl Sutton wrote:I'm hoping bricks show up! Weird things do show up in my world. I hunt them down and drag them home! Anyone got bricks they'd bring me? :)



I am still waiting for a truckload of glass bricks to fall into my lap!  I live in bad hailstorm country; I am never going to get a decent greenhouse unless I can engineer it to withstand some pretty serious severe weather.  And with new glass brick going for eight bucks a brick, it's out of my league.  But I'm hoping for the right deal on a bunch of used/demolition/cruddy ones...
 
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Would bottle bricks work for you?



On topic, everyone here uses a computer or phone and most use a car of some kind, yet I have encountered condemnation and snobbery over material choices here.
That said, I have profited from being challenged to try more natural solutions.

I'm city located and NOT keeping or bringing home materials is my challenge.
I have concluded that I'm more motivated to be independent of employment than ecologically sustainable.
Fortunately, these goals are largely in sync.
Reducing waste is low hanging fruit in both cases.

Here is what one guy that has no access to recycling does:

https://www.instructables.com/id/TRASH-ROCKS-Eliminate-Unrecyclable-Trash/
 
Pearl Sutton
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Dan Boone wrote:
I buy stuff in plastic packaging because I want/need the stuff, and I buy plastic items (mostly containers, mostly used at garage sales) because they are incredibly cheap and fill some need in my life.

 
I recycle/reuse other people's trash for the same reason.

the few things I get in plastic these days are typically very thick and industrial (like food-grade plastic barrels) that will likely last longer than I do before deteriorating into fragments. 

 
One of  the wisest things I ever read about plastics is that they are great for some uses, but single use disposable items is NOT what they are good for. My opinion is things like IBC's and barrels are useful, things like cheap water bottles are not.

But I have a ridiculous hangover in my container garden of plastic garden pots (designed for that purpose and recycled containers repurposed) from when I first started gardening, and many of these are now fragile/deteriorating and making me PAY for my foolishness in bringing them onto the property.  It seemed like a good idea at the time; indeed it may have been a good idea at the time as my alternatives were few/none; but it was not without its costs and I have a significant measure of regret now.

 
I may end up at your stage of regret at some point. I try to choose pretty carefully what I bring in, and watch it for deterioration, and send it back to the recycle bins I found them in before they run amok. But I may end up regretting what I'm doing. Currently it's my best option.

And I live in a household with other people who buy plastic shit willy-nilly and don't see an issue with it.  That's not going to change.  Bottled water, soft drinks, deli salads, whatever.  Heck, I often have to buy fresh veggies in those plastic clamshells if I want to buy them at all; I can't just slag off the people in my family without owning my own behavior.  I'm not willing to eat a more restricted diet in this food desert I live in because of the packaging of the limited selection of stuff that actually is available.  It doesn't, I think, make sense.


We don't buy it willy nilly, and we try to choose well what does get bought in plastic. A LOT of why I'm getting things growing is so we don't have to MAKE that choice. Design our lives better from the ground up, so it's not required in the first place. But, there are only two of us (me and mom) so it's pretty easy to keep current stuff under control. A larger household with differing goals is a different issue.

:::And now we get to where I was about to totally derail the other thread:::

Pearl I also think you make some really good points about making your life work on a low budget.  I could drive two hours each way and buy those same veggies at Whole Foods and bring them home in a paper sack, but (a) I can't afford the gasoline or the triple-retail price of the veggies, and (b) in avoiding the plastic waste I'll burn more petroleum than is embodied in the plastic, so I'm not sure it's a net ethical positive even if I was rich enough to do it.


Exactly!! There are goals, preferences, and reality. Reality is I can't do that either. This is why I am going the direction I am right now. My goal is no toxins. My preferences are as few toxins as possible. My reality is low income at the moment.

I sometimes feel there's a strain of rich-people condescension in some corners of the permaculture movement.  It's utterly possible to be a perfect permie peasant (a gert) if you're blessed with sufficient land and health and able-bodiedness and past history of cultivation to have all your food systems in place, but failing that, you can't live a life free of toxins eating perfect organic food unless you are really rich.  And sometimes people who are really rich and do spend a ton of money on stuff like plastics-free food storage and serving gear come across as if they are sneering at the less-than-perfect peasants who can't afford to eliminate every scrap of plastic from their domestic arrangements.  I don't think it's conscious or intended; I think it's just privilege.  The cost of eliminating risk (from toxins or anything else) increases on a curve; and some people get into an obsessive "I want to eliminate every last bit of risk" mode than only rich people could ever manage, because poor people are like "I'm out ... if I had that kind of money, I'd have bought a new tractor" long before they ever get there.


(I personally really dislike the word privilege, I think it's really being over used these days.)
What I see in what you say is a variant of Paul Wheaton's eco scale. https://www.permies.com/t/3069/a/41858/the-wheaton-eco-scale.jpg I LOVE that scale, to me it is a visual of one of the scales we all live on. But it's only one. The Eco-scale. We all have a multitude of scales we live on, including our relationships with other people, with animals, with jobs, with medical preferences, with our health, with our diet, and with our finances. (And so many more!) The best part of Paul's scale for me is the things at the top, Observations 1 & 2. Other people who are ahead or behind you on the scale are approved or disapproved of. We get annoyed at people who are far behind us, we feel like we are being sneered at by people ahead of us, or they are just crazy weird. The reality is we are all where we are on all of our scales. There is no one scale we all can be charted on. Where I am at on my toxin removal scale is intertwined with where I am on my financial scale, which ties into where I am on my job scale, and where you are on you "converting your household to less waste" scale. The reactions to people above and below us on the scales is human nature, unfortunately. No group has a monopoly on it. Everyone does it to one extent or another.

As a less than perfect peasant, I dig in the recycle bins, where the people who are at the stage they know the plastic needs to do something besides get trashed put their stuff. I consider it a resource, to be harvested for my own use. I use where they are to get me where I want to be. One of these days I'll have all my food stored in glass. Today, it's too heavy for me to move some things if they are in glass, and the plastic things I like the size and shape of are free. So that's where I am. Later maybe I'll be farther along, either in health, finances, or I will have accumulated enough glass in sizes I can deal with to put all my food stuff in.

As a person designing/building a house, I look at the serious passive house people, and I take the concepts and modify them down to what I can afford to do. There's a school of thought in the sub-passive house world called "the good enough" house, where you do the 95% that is easy to do in all the areas if you think about it more than is usual, and a bit more where you can, and you call it good, realizing you are 8 miles above a basic tract house at that point. An example there is windows: super cheap ones leak a LOT of air; average double paned from Lowe's leak a lot less, but still leak; the next real step up in air leakage is about 4x the price. I'm stopping at average, and putting in excellent shuttering, curtains, and air flow systems designed to account for the fact my windows will leak air. My systems are function stacked, they are doing other things also, so it's an affordable solution to the issue. If I get rich, I'll change out to the great windows. But I'm not starting there, I can't.

It seems to me we, as humans, get all snarled up in either "I can't do enough about it, so I just won't do anything" or "I will throw enough money at it to make it go away, or at least get out of my sight." I like to walk the line of learning what I CAN do, right now, today, and doing it, and keeping in mind the design of what I want to be doing in the future, and shifting toward it as I can. To me it's a systems design thing, and that is what attracts me to permaculture, the living system design that is the pattern of what you work toward. And you start work on a permaculture design by looking at the goals, the preferences, and the reality of the land you are working on. I think we need to look at all of that with the rest of our lives too. Do I do it perfectly? Hell no! But I'm on a scale someplace, and trying to move up it.

So back to financial realities vs waste. I am at "gather other people's trash as a resource" on some scale someplace. So I put energy into doing it as effectively as I can, and mixing it with my other systems that mitigate the damage as much as possible. If I make plastic bricks, I will be using them in an already designated toxic zone (the driveway) and I will make them out of as well chosen plastic as I can find, and put on the exterior the most effective sealant I can. And if and when I can replace them, at least the blocks will degrade less messily where they end up going. And if I can come up with something higher on my scale before I get to these things, I will happily bypass them.

So my questions to others who read this is: Where are you on your own financial realities vs waste? Where would you like to be? Do you have a plan to get there? Are you taking steps to minimize the damage along the way?

 
Dan Boone
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Exactly!! There are goals, preferences, and reality. Reality is I can't do that either. This is why I am going the direction I am right now. My goal is no toxins. My preferences are as few toxins as possible. My reality is low income at the moment.



That's a great way of putting it!  I differ in worldview enough that I have to express it another way, though.  Everything we do has both a cost and a benefit, including toxin-reduction.  And chemicals we consider toxins (a) cannot be eliminated entirely to the last molecule at any reasonable cost nor (b) do am I convinced they need to be, since even the most deadly poison is harmless if your body encounters only a few molecules of it now and then ("the dose makes the poison").  But the cost of avoiding/removing/eliminating toxins goes up on a sharp geometric curve the closer you get to zero.  It's much easier/cheaper to get rid of the first 10% of the pollutants and poisons in your life than it is the next 10%, and so forth; with that last 10% being incredibly difficult! We all know this.  Which is why, if you're income constrained, it makes sense to stop and think sometimes: does it make sense to incur costs in this area of my life to avoid/reduce another lower level of toxins when I might profitably invest that money in some other area where I could avoid/reduce more?  That's why it doesn't make sense to drive four hours round trip to Whole Foods to buy veggies that aren't packaged in plastic. 

But we all know rich people who don't account for externalities who think that trip does make sense.  "OMG, I don't want to bring plastic onto my property, I'll burn all this oil out on the highway where I don't have to breath my own exhaust, to avoid that."

Pearl Sutton wrote:
(I personally really dislike the word privilege, I think it's really being over used these days.)



That's totally fair, and I agree with you.  But it can be useful.  You knew at once what I meant, didn't you?


Pearl Sutton wrote:What I see in what you say is a variant of Paul Wheaton's Eco Scale. https://www.permies.com/t/3069/a/41858/the-wheaton-eco-scale.jpg I LOVE that scale, to me it is a visual of one of the scales we all live on. But it's only one. The Eco-scale. We all have a multitude of scales we live on, including our relationships with other people, with animals, with jobs, with medical preferences, with our health, with our diet, and with our finances. (And so many more!) The best part of Paul's scale for me is the things at the top, Observations 1 & 2. Other people who are ahead or behind you on the scale are approved or disapproved of. We get annoyed at people who are far behind us, we feel like we are being sneered at by people ahead of us, or they are just crazy weird. The reality is we are all where we are on all of our scales. There is no one scale we all can be charted on. Where I am at on my toxin removal scale is intertwined with where I am on my financial scale, which ties into where I am on my job scale, and where you are on you "converting your household to less waste" scale. The reactions to people above and below us on the scales is human nature, unfortunately. No group has a monopoly on it. Everyone does it to one extent or another.



I agree with you about there being a bunch of different scales, and them being intertwined, but differently for different people.  However, I think the negative reactions I'm talking about are more than that, which is why I did -- carefully and with malice aforethought -- deploy the word privilege.  I think few would deny that there's a strain of thinking in permaculture that we are gonna save the world with this stuff.  And the disapproval for people not high enough on the scale is not just "human nature" but informed by this notion that "we are trying to save the world and YOU ARE NOT HELPING!" Which is fine as far as it goes, but when it collides with the geometric scale of cost for getting rid of that last iota of toxins (especially when we are down in that quantum of "a few molecules" where the compounds are difficult to even measure and in "dose makes the poison" terms it's hard to make an argument that the stuff is even toxic, so we are only avoiding them because of the precautionary principle anyway) then having rich people appear to forget that not everybody is rich and being shouty and sneery with their "YOU ARE NOT HELPING" when I'm just trying to scrounge up a plastic tub to keep the moles out of my tomato roots so that I can grow a tomato that isn't green and square and soaked in ethylene gas, yeah it gets old.  And I don't think it's just the eco-scale stuff.  I do think privilege plays a part.  Because I am making the call that having the blue food grade plastic that the calf-feed cubes were distributed in on my property and near my tomato roots is putting less toxins into my life (and into the broader world) than buying truck-farmed tomatoes grown with pesticides half a continent away, which is the only other option I can afford.  And invariably someone will say "Why don't you just go to the farmer's market or buy organic?" as if I didn't (a) live in a food desert where every effort at functioning farmers markets fails and (b) could afford the gasoline to reach the kind of premium supermarkets where organic is available.

Meanwhile, to get fully back on topic, I took that calf feed tub out of the waste stream for ... however long they last, I have not had one disintegrate on me yet.  Other people's garbage; specifically, a old rancher with a heart problem having a "living estate sale" who had a whole pile of them marked "free, take all you want."  My SUV smelled like cow shit for the rest of the summer, but it was totally worth it.


Pearl Sutton wrote:One of these days I'll have all my food stored in glass. Today, it's too heavy for me to move some things if they are in glass, and the plastic things I like the size and shape of are free. So that's where I am. Later maybe I'll be farther along, either in health, finances, or I will have accumulated enough glass in sizes I can deal with to put all my food stuff in.



Ha!  I am on that journey too.  I have a midden/pile of empty plastic dollar store screw top quart plastic cannisters no longer in use, looking for a future use or home.  (I like to give stuff away in them, especially to people who I don't particularly like.)  Because I keep finding antique blue Atlas-type wire-bale or screw-top-with-ceramic-insert canning jars (in sizes from pint to half-gallon) at garage sales for a dollar.  And I bought a whole bag of replacement food-grade silicone gaskets from eBay/China to replace the old natural rubber seals they used to have on the wire-bale jars.  So, slowly, I move to glass. 

Pearl Sutton wrote:As a person designing/building a house, I look at the serious passive house people, and I take the concepts and modify them down to what I can afford to do. There's a school of thought in the sub-passive house world called "the good enough" house, where you do the 95% that is easy to do in all the areas if you think about it more than is usual, and a bit more where you can, and you call it good, realizing you are 8 miles above a basic tract house at that point. An example there is windows: super cheap ones leak a LOT of air; average double paned from Lowe's leak a lot less, but still leak; the next real step up in air leakage is about 4x the price. I'm stopping at average, and putting in excellent shuttering, curtains, and air flow systems designed to account for the fact my windows will leak air. My systems are function stacked, they are doing other things also, so it's an affordable solution to the issue. If I get rich, I'll change out to the great windows. But I'm not starting there, I can't.



House I live in has original 1974 windows and enough other issues that windows are not going to get to the top of the priority list any time soon.  My wife doesn't mind leaking air during the summer cooling season (and it's her house) but come winter when she starts feeling drafts she gets very obsessive about winterizing the windows on an individual basis with winterizing kits and lots of tape.  I'm talking a treatment that would make an Egyptian mummy proud.  Rather than fight it, I've just worked it into my "other people's waste streams" routine -- you would be amazed how many unused winterizing supplies go for fifty cents or a buck during the middle of a hot summer at garage sales.  This year I got one of those huge twenty dollar kits full of that microthin clear film that you tape up and shrink with a hair dryer; I hate the stuff because it's a fragile one-season solution at best, sometimes it's a one-blizzard solution if humidity starts to peel the tape.  But I paid fifty cents for it and it will make her happy and we will definitely save more than fifty cents in unburnt natural gas during however long it stays up.  I couldn't justify buying it as a new product, but as a waste stream intervention?  I'm fine with it.


I'm really happy that you broke these issues out into a stand-alone thread.  It wasn't fair what we were doing to that other one.  But I do think it's a crucial discussion.  There is a ridiculously huge amount of waste material being generated in our society at all levels, and sort of by definition it's mixed (or just inherently is) pollution depending on how you look at it.  I do feel there's a tendency for wealthier permies to argue for, or follow and adopt as a lifestyle, a sort of "get it off me! get it away from me!" approach to all that waste.  And I do understand that urge.  But much of that waste is also resource.  And I believe passionately that the principles of permaculture not only have room for, but actively demand, using those resources where it makes sense.  Poorer permies are, I think, forced to this realization fairly naturally; we look around for what's available instead of rejecting all that is distasteful and then reaching for our wallets to fill the resulting resource-voids. 

Do we sometimes learn hard lessons the hard way in the process?  I certainly did, when it comes to using flimsy plastic buckets as garden tubs; I'll be picking up those fragments for the rest of my life.  So I'm not saying to do it mindlessly.  But I think it has to be done, and I know that anyway it will be done regardless of what I think.

P.S.  I am eternally grateful that somebody here on Permies (I know longer remember who or in what thread) warned me about landscape fabrics, plastic carpet, plastic-weave dogfood bags, and all the other plastic woven textiles that often get used for mulch or other outdoor purposes but which eventually wind up disintegrating in the soil as horrible wads of plastic fibers.  I never made that mistake and don't have that problem anywhere on my property.
 
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This is why I love this site, I came here to learn about growing food, I’m learning so much more. This conversation has been great, I’m not sure what more I can add to it.

I think a scale for this sort of thing makes a lot of sense. Dan makes a lot of sense when saying removing the first 10% of gunk in your life is easier than the next and then you get into diminishing returns. Also I like this line:

Dan Boone wrote:But much of that waste is also resource.  And I believe passionately that the principles of permaculture not only have room for, but actively demand, using those resources where it makes sense.



I had a moment of “get it off me” when it comes to plastic stuff in my life just last week. I was thinking that we probably shouldn’t be using plastic cooking utensils. Then bought new metal or bamboo ones to replace them. Looking at it like it’s on a scale, that action wouldn’t be as high on the scale as replacing those items with ones bought at a flea market. Or finding them in another person’s bin. I had the financial means for it in the moment and didn’t think much past it. I was also more concerned with not having plastic stuff leach into my food, than contributing to waste streams. I would have went further, and replaced our tupperware, plastic wrap, food bags, toddler’s sippy cups, etc with non-plastic stuff. But there I would have been spending a lot, so have stalled on that. And after reading through this thread, I won’t just buy new replacements.

Continuing to think of this as a scale, I don’t think I’m at the level Pearl is with going through other people’s recycling bins. I’m not trying to say anything bad about it, and actually in the context of this discussion, it seems like the right thing to do. You’re turning a waste output into a useful input. I know that in my brain, but I have a hard time convincing myself to do that. I’m still trying to convince myself to pick up the bags of leaves that will be appearing on the side of the road very soon. I’m sorry to say that stigma is holding me back on that.

Thanks for this discussion, it’s given me a lot to think about.

Also, as an aside, a “living estate sale” sounds surreal and awkward. But makes a lot of sense. 
 
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Jeffrey Carlson wrote:I’m still trying to convince myself to pick up the bags of leaves that will be appearing on the side of the road very soon. I’m sorry to say that stigma is holding me back on that.



I can't do that either, although I mourn the waste when I see those bags.  Partly it's the extreme taboo against trespassing that exists in these parts; you don't set a foot onto property not your own, not for any reason, not unless you're going up the center of the driveway to knock on the door.  And that taboo is enforced with dogs and firearms.  The other part is my own hangups about what I might find in the bags beside leaves: dead animals, cat litter, trash ... mostly it would be things I could pick out or compost, but the risk of surprise grossness is an additional deterrent for me. 

Dumpster "diving" I am happy to do, if the dumpster is in a parking lot or other public-access place and nobody much is around.  But I wouldn't literally get into one for anything short of major treasure.  I'm tall and have long arms, I do walk-by visual inspections and snag treasures from anywhere in the upper half without much difficulty.  I would need a small athletic minion to do any actual diving.  Damn my decision not to have children!  (Can children be rented?)


Jeffrey Carlson wrote:Also, as an aside, a “living estate sale” sounds surreal and awkward. But makes a lot of sense. 



Yup.  A lot of old ranchers have them when they are ready to sell the cows and move somewhere closer to the grandkids.  They have barns full of tools and crap that's worth a lot of money and frequently there's some kid with a sentimental attachment to the land so they aren't selling that, but they can't leave it all sitting in unattended buildings either. 

The other version I see is when the person having the "living estate sale" is clearly suffering from heart or lung disease and runs the whole sale from a chair, with helpers.  That's always surreal and sad, but it seems to be motivated by a "getting my affairs in order" impulse.
 
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First, I'm really enjoying this thread. I'm probably not as good at reusing things as I should be, but stuff gives me anxiety.

Second, I think a living estate sale is an excellent idea. We don't do it that way in our family exactly, but we all purge and pass along things prior to our deaths. I don't want to leave that burden to my children. Fortunately, I'm in the process of selling my home and moving out of state, so I'm taking this time to divide up anything the kids want. My kids and my ex are all setting up house, so most everything is wanted, the rest gets donated. I dislike selling to the public. I would rather give it away.

I get frustrated with my kids who are not at the same level as me, but I try to remember that if I spend all my time annoyed with them over this stuff, I won't have time to enjoy them. Life is too short.
 
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There are two particular waste areas that bother me in our household that I have had to try to find balance with.

My husband orders a lot of motor parts for his business, so we end up with the packaging.  I reuse or recycle the plastic and cardboard where I can, but there is still other packaging waste.  I just try to remind myself that the mail truck comes anyway so at least we arent wasting gas running to the store.  Also, his workshop is at home so there is no work commute.  I dont like the package waste, but the reality is we need income and there are some positives at least.

The other area is my chickens.  I have to get the "cheap feed" at Tractor Supply in the plastic bags.  I can at least reuse the package as trash bags (they can hold the other package trash🙄) for trash and recycling.  The cost of organic feed is out of my reach.  I try to look for the reality vs financial factor as my chickens have a huge run and get to free range several hours a day so they can supplement their diet with good stuff.  I have friends who freeze and save their kitchen waste for me (mostly produce and bread) and they are supplemented with stale bread and wilted produce that are left end of week from a friend who volunteers at the food pantry. I figure although I cant get them the better feed, the other parts help balance out.  Also important is they can have happy chicken lives more so than if I just bought high quality eggs vs even having the birds.  I wouldnt know what the commercial birds really ate anyway, even if I could buy high end meat and eggs.  They also provide toward bug patrol, fertilizer and entertainment.

I have really enjoyed the discussion on these financial and waste threads.  There are a lot of important areas to examine.  Thank you for all the ideas.

 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:
One of  the wisest things I ever read about plastics is that they are great for some uses, but single use disposable items is NOT what they are good for. My opinion is things like IBC's and barrels are useful, things like cheap water bottles are not.



True, in my opinion.  And this is a real good thread, with one major theme being useful plastic manufactured things and plastic packaging.  Anybody know of a good North American public movement to dial-down our societal acceptance of plastic packaging?  (Please provide online links if you know of something well organized.  I’d like to 1. learn; 2) dialogue and share what I’ve learned how to do.)

China has been the major recipient of recyclable materials — metals, paper, cardboard, glass, and plastic.  But the Chinese are now forbidding shipments of recyclables from Canada and the U.S. if the separation (purity) isn’t something like 98% complete.  And that’s complicated by the fact that many blister-wrapped retail items are sold in a package that’s part cardboard and part plastic.  It’s causing huge problems for community/regional recycling systems globally.

When I find a used or throwaway metal container of a size I can use (and “food safe” ones only, for garden and food related uses), I acquire it… I buy it if it’s cheap enough.  I try to avoid plastics by buying screws, nuts, bolts in bulk, by taking home foods we can’t grow in cloth bags, not plastic.  Etc.  But when I buy some needed small hand tools, or replacement parts for vehicles, machines & equipment, partial-plastic packaging can be unavoidable.

I’d think that in the non-food realms, many items & kits could be delivered in cardboard packaging, with the retailer simply having a unit of the item on display (secured in place for anti-shoplift reasons).
 
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