Saturday, July 30, 2011

New at No Unsacred Place: Disturbing Miracles

Some reflections on this summer's experiments in organic gardening.  Hint:  it's a jungle in there!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New at No Unsacred Place

Cat has a new post, over at the Pagan Newswire Collective's nature blog, No Unsacred Place, "Not Greener-Than-Thou" on the hazards of trying to build up a repertoire of of environmentally friendly living skills.

(It turns out to be possible to make very expensive organic compost.  Details here.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Join Our Celebration!

It's our birthday! My husband and I are inviting you to party with us.

Today, June 1, 2011, marks the one year anniversary of a personal experiment.  One year ago, my husband and I began an effort to radically reduce one form of our personal pollution—our household's plastic waste. 

We've now spent a full year of trying to cut our plastic consumption.  How did we do? 

Read more at No Unsacred Place

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And that's a wrap!

Over this, the last week of our first year of attempting to eliminate plastic waste in our lives, we generated another 8 oz in recyclable and non-recyclable plastic trash... and discovered a cache of another 2 lbs, 5 oz of packing materials from construction and repair projects around the house. 

Everything, everything around here needs repair!  And everything, everything, seems to come swathed in plastic.  Sometimes, when we need to special order hardware for things around the house, we get just what we ordered, plus a whole lot of plastic packaging.  It can get a little discouraging...

However this does mean we have a final weigh-in of 2 lbs, 13 oz of plastic waste for this last week.  And our grand total for the year that began on June 1, 2010, and ends today, May 31, 2011, weighs in at 30 lbs., 15 oz.

This puts us somewhere between 12% and 18% of the national consumption of plastic, per person.

It has been quite a trip.  (More on that tomorrow, over at No Unsacred Place.)

Things do do better with next year:
  • Advocacy work with individual local and national companies, to get them to stop sending me so much plastic.
  • Buying more of what we need locally, in order to avoid extra waste from shipping (as well as to better support local businesses).
  • Buying less new stuff, period, while cultivating more ways of reusing and repurposing old stuff.
  • Continuing to reduce food waste, and to find ways to encourage sustainable and local agriculture--including our own garden, and perhaps preserving more of our own food.
  • Making more things ourselves in order to reduce packaging and buy local foods--starting with making our own cheese!  (Yom!)
  • Communicating how much fun it is to become more earth-friendly in how we're living.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Almost a Year...

Since April 20, we have generated another 3 pounds, 5 ounces of plastic waste.  This means we're still running at something around 15--17% or so of the national average,  using a conservative estimate.

Actually, some of that plastic--most of it--will be reused.  This month, we replaced windshield washer fluid, Peter had to drink a plastic-jug of noxious stuff prior to a medical test, and we used up a bottle of ammonia.  All those jugs are heavy!

But we have started a garden.  And it turns out that one good poor man's version of a seedling cover, in case of frost, is an HDPE jug with the bottom cut out, and the top put over the seedling to protect it from cold.

So these jugs are actually not yet in the waste--or the recycling--stream--as yet.

More on the garden, as well as some reflections on a year of reducing our plastic use, next time I log on.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fresh Greens

Now that I have about six quarts of washed, tender young dandelion greens, the question is--

Sauteed with garlic, or in a salad?

(The chives are up and doing nicely, too.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Weigh In and Winter Veggie Report

Since March 26, our family has generated another 14 oz. of plastic waste (as always, including the recyclables, given the limitations of that process with plastic).

Two nights ago, I reached a sad landmark: the last of our edible carrots have been used.

Over the winter, the winter keeping systems we fashioned worked very well.  Of the thirty pounds of carrots we laid down in sawdust, we might have lost five in recent weeks to rot--all the rest held up nicely, despite the surface discoloration they had almost from the first.  They remained as crisp and fresh as the day we brought them home up until the last week, when the temperatures took a turn for warm weather at last.

I suspect that, in another, shorter winter, we'd have lost more of them sooner.  But, still, I was impressed by how close to our actual need for carrots thirty pounds turned out to be, and how effective it was to store them in sawdust in the unheated garage.

I was disappointed in the CSA's potatoes--they were very small and dirty, and I found myself reaching for the conventionally-grown local potatoes instead much of the time.  I didn't use them all up, and I think that, instead of stocking up on those, I'll just get more of the local, conventional potatoes next year in their stead.   So instead of thirty pounds of each, I'll probably go for thirty pounds of conventional potatoes... and store more of some of the veggies we couldn't get enough of, like the beets.

(Who knew how amazing beets were going to taste?  These have become my favorite winter vegetable.)

In any case, the potatoes have all begun to sprout now, and there are few, if any that are still usable.  (If I'd already begun gardening, I might have a use for them in the ground... but since I've never grown potatoes, and I have a pretty big learning curve ahead of me as a gardener already this year, I'm going to let that opportunity slip past me this year.)

The local onions also held up well--I've got the last of those in the fridge now, so they won't sprout any more than they already have.  Again, thirty pounds of onions was just about the right amount, and the place we found to hang them seemed to do the trick.

Other things I've learned, about storing vegetables over the winter:
  • Frozen zucchini rocks.  I'd thrown some into the freezer last summer just as an experiment, not thinking I'd enjoy it very much when winter came around.  But I learned that just a handful of chopped, thawed, zucchini, thrown into a spaghetti sauce before serving, brings the taste of summer to a plate of pasta.  I probably froze only two or three pounds of zucchini last summer--I will probably triple that this year.
  • Dilly beans are awesome.  Again, I made this just to see how it would taste.  We found ourselves chopping up the beans and adding them to our lunches--rice and beans--every day until they ran out.  Dilly beans have a lot of flavor, a lot of crispness, and they really made those lunches delicious.  I put up about two pounds of beans last year, but this summer, I hope, again, to double or triple that amount.
  • Zucchini pickles were not worth the trouble.  Despite my childhood memories of how good my mom's were, I won't bother with these again.
  • Pickled cabbage is fantastic! I told myself that this was a waste of time.  After all, local cabbage is not hard to obtain for most of the winter, so making dishes like braised cabbage is easy enough all winter long, right?  Wrong.  I'd reckoned without the exhaustion of a heavy winter teaching load.  While they lasted, the quart jars of pickled cabbage (I used basically a sweet pickle recipe) were among my favorite convenience foods.  All I had to do was open a jar, take out some cabbage with tongs, and put it on a plate.  Voila!  Instant vegetable.  (Fresh cabbage I saved to go into salads, together with sprouts from the windowsill and, once they were available at the winter farmer's market, fresh spinach.)
  • Home-made sauerkraut This was a "funny once."  I've done it.  It's amusing to see how it works.  But the end result is not tasty enough to be worth the effort.
  • Kale kills.  Well, not normal people, of course.  And I love it.  For that matter, so does my husband... but it interferes with his blood thinner, so there will be no more kale at our house.
  • Chard is boring.  At least frozen chard.  Which is too bad, because kale, which isn't so boring, isn't a possibility.  Ah, well.
  • A girl can't have enough frozen blueberries Though frozen raspberries are a second best.  Canned berries, however, are a waste of effort and shelf-space.  (This is not to be confused with the jams and jellies I put up last summer, which were popular with us and made nifty presents, too.)  But those blueberry pancakes and pies were... amazing.
Perhaps the most important discovery, though, was how very possible it is to be a winter locavore, with a little advance preparation, access to the co-op and to the winter farmer's market.  And it didn't feel like deprivation... rather, it helped me to discover a whole seasonal palette of foods I would not have ever noticed, back in the days of year-round grocery-store lettuce salads, frozen peas, and frozen spinach.

And I bet those first real fresh tomatoes are going to taste astonishing, come July.

Peter and I have joined the CSA for this summer, so we'll get to enjoy local eating at its best, having made it through most of the winter on local and seasonal produce.  I think it's going to be a blast.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No Unsacred Place

This is just a quick note; I've joined a new project of the Pagan Newswire Collective, their new nature and Paganism blog, No Unsacred Place

I'll be blogging there on an irregular basis, probably about twice monthly, in a column of my own, Earth Matters.  But there's a host of amazing bloggers who will also be writing regular columns and opinion pieces there, including Ali Lilly (whose project it is, and whose own blog, Meadowsweet and Myrrh, has long been one of my favorites), Heather, of Say the Trees Have Ears, and Ruby Sara, of Pagan Godspell.  In addition to several of my particular favorite writers, there will also be contributions by geologist, environmentalist, and Druid Meical abAwen; by the very talented Pagan writer S.C. Amis; and by the Druid of the sacred in suburbia, John Beckett.

I suppose the trick for me will be focusing each of my blogging projects appropriately.  I don't think that will actually be so difficult, in fact; Quaker Pagan Reflections will likely stay focused mainly on what's fairly obviously spiritual material, whether Pagan or Quaker in outward form.  Chestnut House I will probably refocus to be quite practical, focusing even more on the nuts and bolts of living as plastic-free and non-polluting a life as I can.  And the newer space, Earth Matters, I think will lend itself more to the hows and whys of environmentalism, and perhaps (my fingers are crossed) to a few interviews with local farmers, activists, and environmentalists of various sorts.

If you head over to Earth Matters at the moment, you will find two posts ready and waiting for you.  But do take the time to explore the rest of the site, too; there's a lot of talent assembled there at the moment.  And for anyone who loves this planet of ours, listening to so many wise voices for change should be a real pleasure.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Three Weeks' Report and Stubborn Plastic Packaging

Over the past three weeks, since March 5, we have generated 7 oz. of plastic waste (trash and recycling combined) between the two of us.

Now we're talking.  That's getting somewhere!

Things I have yet to find a way to work around or do without in the world of plastic:

  1. Cooking oil bottles.  I can't convince myself that using more imported olive oil is actually better for the planet than the plastic ubiquitous to vegetable oil bottles.  And gallon bottles are so much thicker than the smaller ones that there is no appreciable reduction in plastic waste to buying in bulk.  Alas.  I'm still waiting for inspiration to strike on that one.
  2. Hand lotion.  I don't use much--the extra large bottles I bought two years ago, before moving into Chestnut House, just ran out this winter.  And I do use lotions and salves packed in metal (Bag Balm, Burt's Bees, and so on) on my hands.  But my face, too, gets very dry in the New England winter, and I can't use those on my face.  Shampoo I can do without, but lotion for my skin in mid-winter, not so much.
  3. Sanitary Pads.  None of the organic-cotton, eco-friendly alternatives quite work for me.  The fact that my job does not permit me to use a bathroom whenever I wish makes this surprisingly difficult--not the only place I've found where modern life gets in the way of doing an environmentally-friendly thing. For the moment, I'm sticking with a brand that is composed of paper, and packaged in a thin layer of plastic.
  4. Plastic wrapping around locally produced meat and cheese.  This, I may eventually be able to do something about by learning to make my own cheese.  (No, I'm not kidding--I think this may be fun, in fact, and a way to have affordable and sustainably-produced cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and maybe one day even cheddar.)
  5. Bottle caps and can liners.  Even glass bottles come with  plastic caps, and cans are generally lined with plastic these days... as are coffee bag liners, but those we can avoid if we plan ahead and bring our own bag or jar. 
  6. Ammonia and bleach bottles.  We're sparing with both--ammonia is what we use to disinfect things like handkerchiefs and rags that have been used in funky bacterial-contaminated cleanups, and bleach is used to sanitize brewing equipment and the occasional countertop--but we do use them.  Since we do not use hot water for our laundry, we need something to sanitize with from time to time.  (Bleach, the more toxic substance, lasts almost forever.  Ammonia we go through more quickly.)

Overall, though, we've settled into a groove around plastic avoidance here.  We're not avoiding everything, and we do make mistakes.  But on the whole, this part of trying to live a more environmentally friendly life is becoming habit, and much easier than I'd have supposed last June, when we began the experiment.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Deepening Into Impurity: The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

Lots of plastic waste since our last report--though the majority of it was old and will be recyclable.  Still, in only two weeks, we added 2 lbs 5 oz of plastic to the waste stream.

Some of that is a result of deepening into impurity.  And that, I think, is actually a good thing.

Most religions have a set of teachings on ritual purity.  The notion that something is impure automatically sets it apart from what is considered to be right and good in many cases.  And I'm aware that one trend, in environmental books and blogging, is toward pure and extreme forms of personal change.  Colin Beavan attempts to become, not, "Less Impact Man" but "No Impact Man."  Beth Terry attempts to live a life entirely free from plastic.  Novella Carpenter attempts to feed herself entirely from the food she grows herself, in her urban garden.

There is something in the American psyche that likes extremes.  We want to see, not energy conservation, but living entirely off the grid, in a solar-powered eco-pod.  We want to eat not simply less meat and local food that is in season, but food grown in skyscraper farms, or city dwellers who feed themselves solely from the produce they grow in their own front yards.

In some ways, this is a good thing: people who commit to dramatic demonstrations of personal change can be deeply inspiring.  They have been for me, at any rate.

But on another level, it turns a personal, social, and even a spiritual witness into a kind of contest: doing all your own laundry on a bicycle-powered washing-machine is cool, but if you get caught using an electric toothbrush, you're busted--you lose.

It's interesting to me how open the writers I mentioned above are about their own struggles with this.  Colin Beavan ultimately concluded that, useful as the "No Impact" experiment can be, finding ways to reach out and have a positive impact is more important still.  Beth Terry wrote of being willing to say "screw the plastic"--at least temporarily--when it came to medical supplies for her ailing mother during a crisis.  And Novella Carpenter ultimately decided that the best use of an urban garden is not to provide total sustenance for a single person, but to be the heart of a community of city-dwellers willing to share food, friendship, and skills with one another.

Purity is a pretty trivial obsession, in the context of all the competing demands to do good in the world.

That's not a rationalization: it's a reality.  There are many forms of good, in the world of environmentalism, as well as in other areas of spiritual and ethical concern.  When we forget that, we can become parodies of ourselves, and self-defeating.

As when many environmentalists responded to Colin Beavan's project with anger.  By focusing on personal change, wasn't he invalidating social and political action?

As when Bill McKibben's advocated for the restoration of solar cells to the roof of the White House--removed by Ronald Reagan, their restoration now makes a symbolic statement, at least, around the importance of renewable energy and the reduction of our carbon footprint as a nation.

A statement some found issue with, as distracting from the far more attainable goal of conservation.  Wouldn't a clothesline on the roof of the White House be a better statement?

I'm not kidding.  This was a small but serious controversy this past year.  And I just don't get it: I think it's pretty clear we need conservation and renewable energy both; we need personal change and social activism both.

I think we like our progress perfect, even if that means unachievable and abstract, not the product of compromise and learning curves, effort and mistakes.  We act as though purity, not change and growth, was the most important variable.

My environmentalism is not perfect.  It's damned important to me... but it's full of contradictions, errors, and changes in my understanding.

The spark that got me making major changes was my concern around plastic, and that has not changed.  But as I've eliminated single-use plastic from my life, and cut back dramatically on what plastic waste I generate, that concern has widened to embrace a whole series of environmental concerns: concerns with waste production generally, with deforestation, with climate change and with the environmental (and human, and animal) costs of factory farming.

If I were pure in my concern around plastic, I'd be fine with eating factory farmed turkey sausage--provided it was packaged in cardboard, without a plastic liner.

Yes, that product exists, and it has been a staple in our house for some time now.  I just can't bring myself to buy it anymore.

Instead, I've found local sources of chicken and turkeys--and I just may try my hand at cooking a goose or a duck one day soon, too.  When I know the farmer, and I know they are farming sustainably, I feel good about buying from them.

But I haven't (yet) found a way to obtain that food without at least one layer of plastic wrapping.  Weigh the costs of factory farming--the pollution of air and water, the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the cruelty to the animals, the dehumanization of the "farmers" who work in that system, and the petrochemicals required to process and transport that food to my plate--and that plastic bag starts to look pretty small.

Nonetheless, it makes my witness against plastic imperfect, impure.  My growing awareness of the importance of sustainable agriculture has compromised my original principle of seeking to eliminate plastic waste from my life entirely.

And I'm OK with that.  Because whoever said that "the perfect is the enemy of the good" was right.  If we wait until we completely understand all the implications of all of our actions to begin to seek change, we will never begin at all.  And if we cleave to some sterile notion of perfection, defending the purity of our acts against new insights whenever they may compete with our original inspirations, we will lose the chance to deepen into a wiser, more powerful witness.

I am deepening into my environmental witness as the months go by.  I feel clearer about the root of it all the time.  Purity seems like a distraction to me, and I have a lot to do.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fun in the Sun: New England Style

While I mostly hang up the clothes indoors in winter, I like to wait until there's a sunny day to hang the sheets up outside--both because sheets are awkward to hang in the space I have indoors, and because they smell so good when they dry that way.

Even my dog approves.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sinful Lettuce?

Can lettuce be sinful?  What if you eat it at a Quaker retreat?

I was at Woolman Hill this past weekend, a beautiful antique farmhouse and outbuildings operated by local Quakers for various retreats.  They're quite eco-conscious, with many reminders about conserving heat and electricity, and carefully planned low-waste meals with vegetarian options on everything.

It was a wonderful retreat.  (In between spiritual challenges, I even got in a bit of snowshoeing with friends in the sub-zero cold.)  And as usual, the food was amazing.

And... sinful.  I felt downright odd about the daily offerings of salad, grapefruit, and oranges!  I did eat them, however, and they were delicious!  Particularly since Peter and I have been slipping gently ever-deeper into a locally and seasonally-based diet.

Oh, we eat salads--of shredded cabbage, cold-stored carrots, and sprouts from the windowsill.  (Our indoor lettuce in the window-boxes, after a long hiatus, seems to be growing again, too.)  And lately, since attending the local Winterfare sponsored by our community's branch of CISA, we've had the most amazing winter keeping radishes to add as well.

But fresh greens?  Citrus?  It felt scandalous.  (And, as I said, tasted delicious.)

I don't mean to imply that I have room to criticize Woolman Hill.  Given the number of people who pass through their doors--many of them clearly with carbon footprints far less than mine--they do a wonderful job balancing out the ethics of environmentalism with the economics of staying available as a resource.  I'm not trying to imply anything else.

But I really was struck by how established my habit of local and seasonal produce has become.  A year ago, I would have thought it silly to hesitate over a bowl of greens.  This year, while I did enjoy them as a treat, I'm too aware of the cost to the earth of even organically raised winter lettuce and greens to buy them in a store.  (Virtually all organic lettuce sold in the winter, according to Michael Pollan of The Omnivore's Dilemma, is grown in Arizona--and not only is there a large carbon footprint involved in shipping the greens to us across country, but the land there is so unsuitable for such agriculture that all the organic inputs--manure and compost--must be trucked in at a distance too.  Moreover, the intense industrial scale of this "organic" agriculture is helping to drain the aquifer--a truly non-renewable resource.)

I'm not saying this in order to be self-righteous, actually.  I'm commenting on it because eating what's in season and what's sustainable has turned out to be so easy to do that I now do it without a second thought.

It's the deviations from that rule that make me think twice now.

I'm sure there are a thousand things that I'm doing, even now, that are not in the planet's best interest.  But I am encouraged that change doesn't actually hurt, once you find a way to make it.  And I'm looking forward to more of it.

(And, OK, yeah.  I'm also looking forward to the breaks and treats--like this weekend's citrus and salads--when they come.  Because they will be treats, and not thoughtless squanderings.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ugly Carrots

I posted recently about some of our efforts to continue to eat locally over the winter.  We bought shares in a local organic winter CSA in the fall, and I made one last stop at a farmstand, and brought home:
  • eight pounds of beets
  • two or three pounds of turnips, leeks, and rutabagas
  • sixty pounds of potatoes 
  • twenty pounds of onions
  • fifteen or so pounds of butternut squash, and
  • thirty pounds of carrots.

We had to work hard and think fast to store all that food.  Peter built us a keeping bin for the potatoes, and we found a cool place for the onions.  But the carrots were a puzzler.

We eventually opted to store them in a box in the garage, laid between layers of damp sawdust

Here they are, about six weeks later.  Hideous, aren't they?

The blackening is not dirt.  The discoloration seems to be of the carrot itself.  And yet, they are still firm and crisp, and there is no sign of mildew in the sawdust itself.  And, in fact, when peeled, these ugly carrots clean up real nice:

We've been eating them for weeks now.  They seem absolutely fine--as tasty as any carrots I've ever eaten.

Who knows if this storage strategy will get us through the really cold weather still to come?  But for the moment, we're finding ways to eat locally, at least in terms of eggs, cheese, milk, and veggies.

Even in the dark of the year.

How 'bout them ugly carrots?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our 1 lb, 3 oz Holiday for Six

The New Year's Eve festivities are over, the last of the apple and pumpkin pies have been eaten, and the in-laws have headed home to Ohio again.  My daughter and her fiance will depart tomorrow morning, and on the next day, Peter and I will head back to work.

Over the last nine days, six people have feasted, laughed, given and received gifts, and generally enjoyed ourselves in a pretty typical American holiday.  (Though technically, Peter and I are Pagan, and only my mother-in-law is Christian, we all enjoy merry-making together.)  I'm not sure how much weight I've put on, but it's likely some; in addition to the pies and turkey, there were mounds of Christmas cookies, platters and boxes of chocolates, truffles, and fudge, and a big double-chocolate birthday cake for Peter.

Our holiday waste, posing by the tree.
So my waistline may be showing the effects of over-consumption for a while.  How about our plastic tally?

The answer is, we weigh in today at a somewhat portly 1 lb. 3 oz. for the holiday as a whole.

Certainly, the amount of plastic waste we generated seemed more than usual.  Not only were there more of us in the house than usual, but we also had plenty of gift and goodie packaging: plastic trays protecting the gourmet chocolates, packing material for the wonderful new Japanese knives for my kitchen, and plastic bags for holiday treat ingredients I might have found a way to make myself, had I not begun the week with a head cold: a bag for the stuffing mix I went with (instead of the bread cubes I had been assiduously collecting over the last month) and for the confectioners sugar to frost my husband's cake.

However, it is also true that everyone seemed to make a real effort to avoid excessive waste and consumerism.  My daughter wrapped everyone's gifts in brown paper and hemp twine; the gift she gave me--a vast array of herbs and spices she obtained from the spice importer where she works--she went out of her way to obtain without so much as a plastic jar lid.  The number of gifts we gave this year was probably smaller than in past years... but it didn't seem to chill our enjoyment any.  And finally, many of the gifts Peter and I gave were from thrift or antique stores--no new production, and no new waste, and the recipients seemed to enjoy them just the same. 

Mostly people seemed to take the "house rules" on plastic use with a sense of humor.  There was a certain amount of poking fun of my refusal to do anything that would generate any single-use plastic trash--including refusing my fortune cookie when we went out for Chinese food--and my compulsion to swoop up whatever plastic waste anyone else produced, to include in the tally.

But there were also some thoughtful and respectful conversations about how to lessen our impact on the earth.  My daughter and her fiance, who brought us delicious fresh oysters from the Cape, where they live, made a point of gathering all the shells to return to the ocean again.  Apparently, oyster beds become depleted if this is not done, because oysters build their beds on top of the old shells of dead oysters.  Without the shells, this cycle is incomplete, and the oysters suffer.  (I never knew that!)  When my daughter's friend stopped in with a vitamin water today, my daughter calmly explained why she should not actually drop her finished bottle into our recycling.  "My mom's like, Super Anti-Plastic Woman these days," she explained.  And this led to a conversation about the implications of downcycling (as opposed to real recycling, such as glass and aluminum are suited for) and of how small changes have led to bigger ones for us, in a satisfying way.

It turns out my daughter makes her own shampoo, and also uses baking soda in place of detergent.  We traded notes on our fascination with organic gardening, making sprouts in the kitchen, and the ethics of eating meat.

And while she normally does use an electric dryer at a laundromat for her clothes, she hung at least one load up to dry in our house this week.  Not her favorite practice, but she did it willingly, without complaint.

Of course, trying to integrate family life, with or without a holiday, into any kind of oddball obsession--which, objectively, I guess our plastic fast could be considered--can become obnoxious or absurd pretty fast.

There were some comical moments as we attempted to minimize our footprint.  The wonderful local turkey I ordered turned out not only to have been packaged in plastic, but to have a plastic bit inserted to hold the drumsticks, and one of those pop-out timers embedded in it before purchase.  Who knew? 

And while dining with my parents, at the seafood restaurant that is the approximate halfway point between their home and ours, I first forgot to specify no straw in my water glass... and then, when I requested a refill, and asked, if the waitress were not going to reuse my same glass, could she please be sure not to bring a straw?  And in response, the poor beleagered waitress brought everyone a fresh round of waters... in disposable plastic cups.

They're in the tally.  It's all there, right down to the packaging on the emergency medications for our dog from two nights ago.

One pound, three ounces: the weight of a holiday in our house.

As she headed out the door, for one last evening with friends from high school, my daughter asked me how the tally compares with an average three week period around here.  (After all, there were six of us here!)

Our bichon inspects the holiday plastic tally.
The answer is?  Actually, not too shabbily.  Our average, over six months, would imply we'd use a little bit more: about one pound, six ounces.  So, while a good month might see us generating a good deal less, and there certainly was more plastic being tossed around the house than we usually have, on the whole, our family did a nice job keeping an eye on our impact... and still managed to have some good eats, and some good times.

Happy New Year, everyone!