Monday, August 29, 2011

The silliness of hankerchiefs, and other thoughts

Growing up, my dad always carried a handkerchief around with him. Yep, he still does, and he still blows his nose on it. I always thought it was quaint, and cute, and a little repulsive. When you carry around a handkerchief that's been used, you're carrying snot in your pocket. Why not carry feces, too? Except, I was reading over the weekend about someone else's zero waste project (more about that later) and it struck me that I find handkerchiefs weird but I don't find the idea of wiping my nose on my gloves during the winter to be nasty. (If you've ever been in true cold, you know that your nose runs all the time. Might as well face up to it--haha--and wipe it off.) Furthermore, how is it less weird to wipe my nose on a dead tree than a bit of cloth? It's certainly less wasteful. So I tried it. And it turns out to be not weird at all. I've got an old bandanna which I haven't used in years, but it's soft and it doesn't take up any room in my bag. So far, no weirdness and I don't feel any less "clean" for carrying it around.
This morning I was musing about the fact that, when you have a few nice things but not enough that they're commonplace in your home, you really want to take care of them. Shane and I, despite our expectations, received an expensive but really nice knife set as a wedding present from a group of family members. (A friend who went to culinary school said, "Treat those well and you'll be able to pass them on to your children or grandchildren. That's a good, quality brand.") Since nice knives are never supposed to go in the dishwasher, ours don't. In fact, if they've just been used for vegetables we don't do more than rinse and wipe them off. No need for soap, since there isn't any worry about cross-contamination or anything. The reason this crossed my mind earlier is because I was taking my lunch dishes over to the sink to clean and I thought, why do I need to wash these out? They weren't very dirty (one held grapes, the other piroshke) and they didn't have any contamination from meat. Did they really need more than a rinse? I decided no. The dish soap at work (which I didn't bring in) isn't eco-friendly, so who knows what is in it. Plus, the less we use that's less money to spend on soap and fewer resources used cleaning dishes unnecessarily. How many times could we avoid the work and hassle of cleaning things? Like cups used once for water? (I have one cup that sits on my desk for water. I clean out the tea mugs regularly, though, because of the milk I use.) How many fewer times per year would we need to run our dishwashers if we reused our dishes when they don't absolutely have to be cleaned? I admit, I don't always do this at home. Sometimes I'll get out a plate for dinner and, once the food's on it, realize that I could have simply re-used my toast plate from earlier. Zero waste isn't just about getting rid of garbage, it's also about trying to get the inefficiencies out of our lives. I call cleaning things that don't really need to be cleaned inefficient, don't you? Much better to spend that time with Shane, or walking the dog, or teasing the cat.
I've also started dumping stale or "leftover" water into my watering can to use on the plants, rather than dumping it down the drain. There's something about our hard water that creates a film on water that's been heated and it's extremely unappetizing. It also gets worse the longer the water is heated. (You should also see what it does to tea....) So I don't simply re-heat the water in the pot. But the plants don't care, so that's how I reuse it. Even noodle water, or the water I've been using to blanch veggies before freezing, is good for plants. It's been helping me water my garden, and providing whatever nutrients it's leeched out of my food to my other food-producing plants.
I made this granola recipe the other day (minus the seeds because I plain old forgot them), and it's pretty amazing tasting. Not only that, but it only took minutes to make. It was almost zero-waste--I found everything I needed except the spices and honey in the bulk section (honey in a glass jar, though, which I can return), and I didn't see a need for parchment paper. (The granola came right off the pan without it, no worries.) Since I was making sort of open-face, toasted sandwiches for myself that night for dinner, I doubled up on the oven and got two things for the heat of one. Awesome. I'm just storing it in a big glass container on the counter, and it's going pretty fast. My favorite way to eat this so far has been over yogurt with some dried fruit on top. A 2-cup serving in one of my Pyrex containers kept me feeling full from breakfast time (around 6:30 this morning) to noon. Definitely a keeper.

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