Saturday, November 15, 2014

America Recycles Day

Today we are going to talk about 3 things; recycling, our welfare and convenience. Last year President Obama’s America Recycles Day proclamation, opened with some sustainably vintage facts: “During the First and Second world Wars, Americans showed their patriotism by participating in scrap drives and salvage collections. A committed citizenry gave up their personal typewriters, joined in volunteer efforts to harvest oil-producing peanuts, and donated old tires in a nationwide push to conserve and repurpose resources vital to our common welfare.”

What it meant to recycle back in the early 20th century is much different than what recycling means today. Back then it was about taking kitchen grease, donating it to your local war office and having it sent to a factory where it was broken down and repurposed into ammunitions. A little dark, but it fits the bill for the true meaning of recycling. These days consumers are encouraged to recycle plastics, because let’s face it, plastic is all around us. Without plastic packaging the things we buy would just spill all over the place. All jokes aside, a majority of the food, drinks and products that most Americans buy is wrapped in plastic, unwrapped at home and hopefully tossed in the recycle bin.

But then what? Remember, according to that proclamation recycling our goods is vital to our common welfare. Let me remind you that our welfare is defined as “the state of being happy, healthy, or successful.” So recycling really means convenience, right? Say you walk into a grocery store for an apple and this grocery store individually wraps their apples in plastic for your convenience. It’s been prewashed and ready to eat after you unwrap it, which makes you happy to not have to eat a dirty apple or have to find a place to wash it. It’s healthy because it’s fruit, and feels like success because you’ve just contributed to your healthy eating and it didn’t take too much effort.

The real effort came in making that piece of plastic in the first place, followed by the energy used to recycle it. When you compare the amount of fossil fuels and energy it takes for the convenience of a clean apple versus purchasing an apple just in its skin, giving it a good rinse and then enjoying it, take the second choice. It’s better for the environment.

Don’t get me wrong, I think recycling is great, but don’t give yourself a reason to recycle out of convenience. The 2013 proclamation asks for activism, for “a new generation of environmental stewards.” Today I ask you, can you go without that plastic? Can you do without the conveniences plastic has given us for the sake of being gentler on the environment?

If you are looking for a (excellent) rant about America Recycles Day, visit Tree Hugger.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's a Blogiversary!

Have you noticed it has been quiet around here? Yeah, me too.

I have a confession to make. Last month I almost bagged up The Sunshine Grove, tossed it out and had a vision of starting over. Then a friend of mine pointed out that The Sunshine Grove was an ambiguous place. So ambiguous that it could become anything I wanted it to be. If I wanted to talk about vintage and picking up trash, and sometimes add a book review or two, I could. Why? Because The Sunshine Grove is an extension of me.

Finding the perfect content to blog about took finding me.

To be happy and satisfied with The Sunshine Grove, I needed to put more me in what I wrote. So that is what you will find. I’ll share my adventures (and failures) in being chemical free, low plastic, low waste, and more often than not, freaked out by the facts I learn. I will continue to look at the past for inspiration and ideas for living a greener life, because to me living a vintage life isn't about looking the part, but acting the part. Since I’m a sucker for furry dogs and a good book, I’ll probably share stories about those too.

It is with a hearty thank you to all my readers that I celebrate this 3rd Blogiversary with you. Here’s looking to another year, sharing my sustainably vintage life!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Clean it up!

Six months ago I gave my medicine cabinet an overdue cleaning. Aside from Sustainable Sam complaining that I had too many products lining the shelves, I also knew there were plenty of products filled with chemicals, close to expiration and some that I just no longer used. Sentiments got the best of me, and I kept the majority of the products. I kept thinking I might have a need for the hair products or body lotion, despite my consistent chemical free beauty routine.

This time as I approached my medicine cabinet I meant business. I took every single product off the shelves and evaluated each one; if it was expired, filled with chemicals or if I hadn’t used it since my last medicine cabinet purge, then it was out. I wiped down the shelves and started sorting.

As I placed products back into my medicine cabinet I set the bar high for what I would let back in. All products would need to be as natural as possible, with the majority vegetable based. If it was vegan, organic or gluten it was a bonus. Chemicals that would not be making an appearance would include sulfates, parabens, phthalates, paraffin, mineral oil, and synthetic colors and fragrance.

I started thinking of all the other places beauty products might be hiding that also needed to be tossed out, like my night stand, car and even my desk drawer at work. I made sure to replace these with natural products in glass containers.

Since I’ve been trying my best to reduce waste, I started to think of how products are packaged. Could the container be recycled? Was there excess packaging? Was it made in the US, or even locally? Was it something I could make myself? For the products I made myself, I chose reusable jars when possible or BPA free bottles to hold products in the bath.

Skin care and beauty products shouldn’t cost a fortune, our health or compromise sustainability out of convenience. Magazines, TV and radio advertisements are filled with new ways to get perfect hair, skin, nails, and teeth. The question remains; why do we rely on chemicals for perfection when there are plenty of natural options that work just as well, if not better?

This post was part of the XOXOrganizing 30 Day Challenge

Monday, September 22, 2014

Waste Less Challenge: Week 4

Since announcing the Waste Less Challenge I’ve been picking up trash every other weekend. I've visited parks, neighborhoods and even the Santa Ana River. Armed with gloves, a bucket, tongs and some friends, I've discovered picking up trash is the most stress free, relaxing volunteering I have been a part of. And I’m not going to stop!

The second Green Bird clean up was held at Maxwell Park in West Anaheim. Between soccer games, birthday parties and the new bike trail, this park is a high traffic area, especially on weekends. Surprisingly the park appeared to be clean. That’s because the majority of the trash was small. Between picking up food wrappers and bottles, we collected cigarette butts, water bottle lids and remnants of broken piƱatas. It was disappointing that most of the trash collected was within feet of the park’s many trashcans which are emptied regularly and are rarely overflowing.

Though in a historic area, Pearson Park and its surrounding neighborhood, has a problem with park visitors abandoning much of their trash after late night gatherings. Heading through the neighborhood we found plenty of trash in the street gutters including paper, food wrappers and of course, cigarette butts. We passed a corner market that sits in the neighborhood that had so much trash in the parking lot and gutter around their store. Left behind were the metal beer tops that had melted into the asphalt and the piles of trash in the alley behind the store that simply didn't fit in our buckets. I just hope the ducks, turtles and birds that live in this park have become good at recognizing the difference between food and trash.

This past weekend I got to take a dip in the Santa Ana River for the first time as part of the Inner Coastal clean up. Though it wasn't really a dip, because the river bed was dry, it was a big deal since I had never set foot in the river since Southern California Rivers are paved in concrete. This happened decades ago so that the rivers couldn't change their course and the water could reach the mouth of the river faster without flooding cities along the way. I was pleasantly surprised to find the bottom of the riverbed was coarse sand sprinkled with sea shells and dried seaweed.

This reminds me of Wall-E
We encountered the typical litter – food packages, cigarette butts and water bottles. There were some articles of clothing which is most likely from the people who make the riverbed their home, but aside from a golf ball, we didn't come across anything too interesting. It was however the first time I came across large amounts of Styrofoam. Not just any Styrofoam, but Styrofoam that was coming apart in pieces. Since I had only ever seen whole Styrofoam I never really understood how fish, birds or turtles could mistake it as food. Holding a piece in my hand, it looked like coral, and definitely is something wildlife would think was food.

There isn't water recreation going on in the river, but many of the runners and cyclists on the river trail parallel to the Santa Ana River expressed their gratitude for the trash pickup with their thank you. I kept hoping some of the runners and cyclists would stop and help pick up trash because it is their bike trail. One cyclist stopped and said, “You guys are everywhere.” I responded, “The trash is everywhere.” Eventually we just had to stop picking up trash, because there was so much of it. At some point you have to say you've picked up enough for today.

Have you picked up your enough for today?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Waste Less Challenge: Week 2

In 1960, plastic was less than one percent of our waste. Today, plastic is everywhere. There’s even an island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. We come in contact with a variety of one time use plastics such as containers and packaging, however more durable, long term use plastics are part of our life. Don’t believe me? Look at your cell phone’s case, the exterior and interior of your car, or even your toothbrush.

Replacing plastic with more sustainable options helps break the consumer culture cycle that insists we need everything to be shiny, new, considerably cheap, and abundant. Generally sustainable options are not shiny, or new. Take bamboo for instance – it is organic so the color is going to vary, and even though bamboo grows quickly, it has to be grown. Sustainable products can be inexpensive and may even be considered cheap, because they are going to break down – naturally.

Replacing plastic items should be done responsibly. If you own something plastic and it still functions, keep it. There’s no need to create unnecessary waste. When you find something plastic that does need replacing, consider plastic alternatives. More and more product options are becoming available made with bamboo, hemp, wood and corn, or even glass or metal. How and where a product is made also impacts how sustainable a product is. Shopping local, where there is a lower carbon footprint based on the transportation alone can make a difference.

 I chose to replace my toothbrush. My old toothbrush had at least 3 different types of plastic. There was the hard plastic that made up the body, the silicone grip, and the bristles. There was no way to take apart these components which made my toothbrush unrecyclable. To be honest I didn’t do a whole lot of research before choosing a sustainable toothbrush. I had seen Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes at Expo West, and then again at a screening of the documentary Urban Fruit, so that was the toothbrush I went with. 

Before I even used my new toothbrush, I knew I was going to be using an eco-friendly product. The paper box and nylon bristles are recyclable, and the wrapper and bamboo handle compostable. They are made in China so they do have a larger carbon footprint based on having to be imported. Their website even shows you ways to dispose of the toothbrush, which tells me that the company cares about their product even after you've used it. 

Since bamboo toothbrushes don’t come in neon colors, I used some washi tape to differentiate between my brush and Sustainable Sam’s brush. I like the bristles – not too hard, not too soft. Sustainable Sam has some texture issues with bamboo and wood utensils, but he’s managed pretty well with the bamboo handle. Since using our bamboo toothbrushes for a few months now, we have noticed some wear to the bottom of the toothbrush where it sits in our toothbrush holder, but otherwise is holding up great.

What did you choose to replace?