Amazon Subscribe and Save Review

I am pressed for time. Yeah, right, aren’t we all, but I do work outside the home, and I have a young daughter. I’d rather spend time reading her books than strapping her into the car for a long trip to the grocery or mall. I’ve significantly reduced my time at stores by using Amazon’s new Subscribe and Save program.

I first found it while shopping for diapers. I can tell the store how often/how many packages I want and I never have to think of it again. If I’m running low, I can have the delivery sent early; if I have too much, I can delay or skip a shipment. It is intuitively customizable and can be changed at any time. As if that isn’t enough, there is always free shipping AND the item is 15% off of regular price. I’ve never bought a diaper in a brick and mortar store.

After the success with diapers, I added more and more subscriptions for items I use frequently, from detergent that’s hard to find locally to nutritious whole grains for my baby. I currently subscribe to 14 different items.

As for prices, I have (of course) created a spreadsheet to calculate the prices versus the regular grocery store. As you can see, not every price is better. So I make sure that my subscriptions are those that won the cost war.

What about environmental impact? Well, the UPS guy drives past here every day anyway, so I’m actually saving fuel by not driving to the store as often. That detergent I can’t find easily is at a store that’s a 30-minute drive from my house and would consume about a gallon of gas per trip. And about all the packaging? Well, most quantities are by the case, so they are delivered in the manufacturer’s original packaging. I recycle every bit of the cardboard and packing plastics.

Just a few downsides… while the packaging is recycled, there have been occasions when it’s out of hand. Of note was this package. I was pretty excited when I saw the big box: six feet long, three feet tall, and a foot wide. I thought it was a gift from someone. But no, it was the result of my purchase of a cord channeling kit, with dimensions of 3’ long by two inches wide by half an inch thick. This is a ridiculous waste.

Also, I can’t use manufacturer’s coupons. For things like diapers, this can be up to $5. There should be a place to enter the UPC from these coupons.

I absolutely love the program and would recommend it to anyone.

Trash Reduction – My Household’s Story

I was recently reading an article in No Impact Man about trash.  He recommended saving and then sifting through the garbage produced in one week.  Sounds disgusting.  So I did a mental inventory for a while.  My two-person household had two large, 40-gallon garbage cans.  Each week we filled one, or even both cans!  We started recycling until our town stopped taking anything but aluminum and paper (curbside), reduced the pickup to twice monthly, and charged twice as much.  Somehow we recycled but didn’t seem to produce much less trash.

Three years have passed, and I’ve done a few things. 

  1. I attempt to buy products in little or no packaging.
  2. If not available package-free, I opt for aluminum, glass, and cardboard, all of which I faithfully recycle.
  3. I do not buy fruit that is not in #1 or #2 plastic.  I also almost never buy any other products that are not in these plastics.  While other numbers are recycled, there’s a reason they don’t do it curbside: #1 and #2 are the most easily remanufactured.  Using and recycling other plastics uses more resources.
  4. I take my lunch to work in reusable containers.
  5. For health and environmental reasons, I have almost eliminated fast food from my diet.
  6. I use my own grocery bags.  But y’all knew that already.
  7. I brew my own beer and avoid all the bottles and cardboard (which reminds me I need to brew more beer).

So, for our four-person household, we are down to one medium trash bag weekly and that is counting the fact that we have a baby using disposable diapers (sorry, landfill).  We also have 1-2 bins of recyclables.  The total garbage and recyclables for four people is half of what our garbage was for two people.  That’s ¼ the garbage per person.

I’m not No Impact Woman, but this is a good start, I think.  My goals are to switch the baby to cloth diapers at age one or so; to start composting my food scraps instead of using the garbage disposal in the sink; and to grow/can more of my own food. 

If anybody still reads my blog, I’d appreciate knowing what your tips are.

Dry Cleaning Quandry Solved!

K. Nicole [1:51 PM]:
At the dry cleaner today:
K. Nicole [1:52 PM]:
KNH: can I specify to use fewer plastic bags to wrap my clothes?
K. Nicole [1:52 PM]:
Dry Cleaning Dude: uhhhh…
K. Nicole [1:52 PM]:
I think they have to cover the clothes, you know.
K. Nicole [1:53 PM]:
KNH: But could they put more shirts in one bag?
K. Nicole [1:53 PM]:
Dry Cleaning Dude: umm, it’s an automated machine.
K. Nicole [1:53 PM]:
Dry Cleaning Dude: But a lot of people recycle them.
K. Nicole [1:53 PM]:
KNH: Do you know what number of plastic it is (noting bags have no markings)?
K. Nicole [1:54 PM]:
Dry Cleaning Dude: Uh, no. (Idea Light Bulb Comes On) You could just throw them away, too!
ACD [1:54 PM]:
K. Nicole [1:54 PM]:
He was seriously proud to recommend the landfill
ACD [1:54 PM]:
you should copy paste that to your blog 🙂

I Am Not a Vegetarian

Fourteen months ago, I became pregnant. It is a widely known fact that pregnancy wildly affects the senses. I could not stand to be near the rabbit’s litterbox because of the smell (a smell I never could smell before and now cannot smell anymore). I thought root beer tasted like Altoids. And meat tasted…well, tasted OK, but made my stomach turn.

Since then, I’ve read that meats and other easily spoiled foods are one of the biggest triggers of pregnancy sickness. Colloquial stories from message boards support the research. I took meat totally off of the menu and started finding new sources of protein.

Let’s backtrack a little. I was one of the biggest meat eaters I knew. To me, a bologna and cheese sandwich contained bologna and cheese, not bread. I routinely ate entire summer sausages out of hand. I absconded the potato and went for a bigger steak. So this was totally new to me. I was worried that the little person inside me would not have optimal development without animal protein. But I simply could not eat meat.

I was already using FitDay to track my consumption of foods (when I was trying to lose weight before the pregnancy). I tried to balance my diet and ensure I had adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals without meat. I found that I was eating less saturated fat and more healthful vegetables. Almost every day, I obtained 100% RDA of all vitamins from food sources, something I had not done pre-pregnancy and pre-no meat.

A friend of mine had recently become a vegetarian, and she jumped into it completely, even checking for animal-based ingredients in seemingly veg-friendly foods. I respected her decision and admired her all-out commitment but didn’t feel it was right for me. I did know that my food habits were changing. Eating no meat begat better habits in general. For instance, when I was craving food as I did throughout my pregnancy, I was reaching for fruit instead of donuts. I still managed to pack on almost two pounds a week, but at least it wasn’t clogging my arteries!

As my body lifted its meat ban, I had planned to pledge to eat more healthfully, meat or no meat. But the meatless diet was working so well. I was concerned that I might not get enough of the right proteins for the baby unless I ate animal protein. So I incorporated two portions of lean fish per week.

I started to feel really good about my choices. It’s supposedly better for the environment to be a vegetarian due to the lower use of natural resources. I started really watching for local fruits and vegetables and other ways to eat well and help the planet. As an animal lover, I realized that I liked not eating them. Then, when people wondered why a meatatarian like me was piling only veggies on her plate, I carefully told family and friends of my new choice.

“Why would anyone do that?”
“I don’t think that is good for you. You need meat.”
“I hope you come to your senses soon.”
And, my favorite, “that is the stupidest thing I’ve heard.”

I guess I was surprised that everyone cared so much what I ate. My husband is very supportive. I even cook meat for people occasionally, just to make them feel more comfortable. And I continue not to eat much meat. As long as I’m nursing the baby, I will not stop eating animal protein, and I probably won’t stop when she’s finished either. I’m labeled as a “flexitarian” or “pescetarian,” neither of which is exactly great. The terms irritate most true vegetarians and cause only eyerolling among my omnivorous brethren. I’m stuck in a middle that works for me: better for my health, Ainsley’s health, definitely better for the lives of animals I don’t eat(!), and the environment, but still not so strict that a slipup means I will feel like a failure. Unfortunately it’s a middle that not many others appreciate. For some odd reason my dietary blog posts draw more comments- and more ire- than the rest of my posts.

A few thoughts, for the record: I don’t care what you eat. My new diet doesn’t mean I’m silently judging you for having a steak. I haven’t forgotten how enjoyable meat-based foods are; I’m just trying something that I hope will be a permanent, healthful change for me and for my family. I am very supportive of people who can commit to a vegetarian lifestyle, especially in a meat-and-potatoes Midwest.

Any time someone makes a commitment to try to change for the better, isn’t that a good thing?

Praying Mantis Named Yorick

My husband told me he found an enormous praying mantis on our driveway the other day. “It’s about to die,” he said. “It’s barely moving.” He moved it from the driveway to the shelter of the porch. It didn’t move for 24 hours, so he brought it inside to show me the beautiful but dead insect.

“Oh *&#@!,” Carlton eloquently said. The “dead” bug started moving in his hand! We realized that it was moving more due to being in the warm of indoors. But what to do? Keep it? It was surely dying due to old age and the climate combined. We put a plastic box over it and decided to decide after watching a movie.

We came upstairs to Sunny barking at something. The mantis had escaped the container and was on the carpet, flaring its wings at the little beast barking at it. We rushed to help the mantis with her forearms tangled in carpet fibers. I found a spare aquarium (no surprise there) and we protected the mantis from our many predator pets. Carlton made a dish of water for her and I googled what mantises eat. But where to find live bugs this time of year?

Amy’s house after dinner! We’d been at a fundraiser dinner and talked about the mantis on the way home. The best part was that none of the three of us questioned the silliness of caring about feeding a dying wild bug. We gathered carcasses and even a live spider or two into a bag.

We put it all in the aquarium, and while the mantis turned her head to look at us inquisitively, she displayed no interest in food. I even used a chopstick to nudge a live spider under her nose. She looked at it, but made no move at all. She was almost dead. As expected, she died within three days. She didn’t eat or drink anything. She knew it was the right time to go, and she died without being squished by a car or something.

I’ve always had a soft spot for living things, especially sentient ones. When I was a child, my parents bought me Pets in a Jar and I devoured the book. Even bugs I never collected were fascinating. I gained so much respect for caring for them and knowing what they needed (that book even made me think planaria infecting my aquaria were cool).  I still have the book.  My dad and I looked at earthworms in his garden, watching them wriggle in my hands before I set them free.

My subscription to Ranger Rick ensured a steady stream of new creatures and new knowledge.  I loved them all- even slugs, especially spiders- and I still don’t kill spiders in my home.  And not only is all of this true, it’s one of the things I really like about myself.

So alas, poor mantis, we barely knew ye, but we enjoyed meeting you and hopefully you enjoyed having food and water as you shuffled off this mortal coil.

Shakespeare + bugs.  Up next: Britney haiku.

Saving Money and Gas and Time and the Planet: Carpooling

As usual, there’s a nerdy spreadsheet to visually aid! I was very conservative on my estimates for fuel economy (I usually am at 29-31mpg). The first column also includes the miles of the commute- first, the daily miles if I don’t carpool, then the daily miles if I do. My carpool means I actually backtrack about 7 miles, so I wanted to be sure to include that increased distance in the calculations.

I have a relatively short commute, but look at the savings for carpooling and Working From Home (WFH)! That’s $181 in my pocket, and a reduction of fossil fuel consumption by 58 gallons. This spreadsheet only accounts for my savings; my carpool partner, who does not WFH, saves $85 and 28 gallons of fossil fuel. On top of these savings is another benefit: I’ve met a new person and we have some great conversations during the commute.

Imagine if everyone tried this…fewer cars, less congestion; less stress for the driver due to decreased congestion, less stress for rider- no driving! I am using my extra cash as my annual contribution to the South Side Animal Shelter.

My company has a carpool message board, but there’s one for Indianapolis as well. Give it a try!

Stay Back 500 Feet or Else

I drove to the North side Monday for my doctor’s appointments, so I had some time to be irritated by the vehicles on the road. Am I the only one who hates these things? Those stickers say “STAY BACK 500 FEET” and “NOT LIABLE FOR DAMAGE.”

Ok, first of all, 500 feet at 10 mph is not the same as at 60 mph. If I even tried to stay back that far on city streets, someone would rear-end me out of crazy, annoyed spite. Second, what if the truck is going 60 mph on the highway? The debris shower doesn’t stay neatly in one lane. Must all three lanes stay back 500 feet? And what if the oafish truck is crawling along under the speed limit? Is anyone allowed to pass?

And while I’m at it, how can they say they aren’t liable for damage? At least the black truck had netting over the gravel, but many trucks don’t, and they spit gravel, dirt, rocks, twigs all over the road and in a shower over vehicles with the slightest wind. May I put a sticker on my car that says “not responsible for speeding, I had too much coffee and have a lead foot?” or “not liable for crashing into your car, I have road rage issues?” I must also note that these silly stickers cannot even be read unless one is within 100 feet of these noise-and-air-pollution-belching trucks.

If I leave debris at the side of the road and someone else has to deal with it, I have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines. These trucks litter all kinds of junk all over the road. I’m guessing these inconsiderate companies are forking over tons of extra cash for all of the punctured tires and the state-financed road cleanup crews. HA HA HA

Finally, I think I’ll buy thousands of these and stick it on everyone’s car, then have everyone go five mph right in front of one of these blasted trucks. Let the gridlock commence!

Water Bottle Avalanche

From page: Wall Street Journal has become my periodical of choice for many reasons. This editorial is just one more reason. I have heard that beverage containers are the USA’s biggest landfill contributor, but I could never find the source to cite it.

It seems that we’re addicted to water bottles. I thought the comparison to cigarettes was especially clever; we use the bottles as status symbols, and as something to do with our hands. I’ll admit that I buy the bottles, but they are washed and reused for weeks before being recycled. Not trashed- recycled.

Lifestraw in UseIn the comments to the article, it’s clear that some people didn’t get the point; they continued to talk about their icky tap water. Indiana tap water, so rich with limestone that it seems little rocks might fall out of the faucet, isn’t the tastiest, but it is safe and we are fortunate to live in a country where access to safe drinking water is considered a right, not a privilege. Contrast the picture above with the picture to the left– just a few of the billion people who don’t have clean drinking water.

It seems a little “let them eat cake” to waltz around and trash container that could be reused, recycled, or just plain not bought at all. It’s time to wake up and behave like we might actually care about those billion people.

Gas Prices are High – Hooray!

No, I’m not to-ta-lly crazy. Just mostly.

And sure, the news in this article is difficult to bear for some. I am especially compassionate for the working poor, who see few choices but many obstacles to being able to pay bills. And for those whose industry makes them at the whim of fuel prices, such as taxi drivers.

But for those of us living happily in our urban sprawl, buying ever larger SUVs or even sedans with plain old bad fuel economy, the joke is on us. And it’s nice to hear people trying to economize (finally). And the last time the gas prices shot up- in about 2001 or so- it sparked many consumers to look at more efficient vehicles. The push for green has led to more alt fuel vehicles than ever, and even to traditional gasoline cars with more petite frames and more efficient engines.

Let’s just say that you think global warming is a big conspiracy. Fine. But what would it hurt to consume less? It means more money to donate to other causes…even if the “cause” is a new stereo for yourself.

No, I’m not riding my bike to work. But I am carpooling. No, my car isn’t the most efficient on the road. But I refused to buy a vehicle that wasn’t alt fuel.

10 Green Ideas

In homage to tomorrow’s Earth Day Indiana. Some of these I’m doing well, but most are aspirations for the future.

  1. Think of alternate transportation. Drive an alt fuel vehicle; look for a carpool; collate errands into one trip. For example, I always grocery-shop on my way home so that I don’t waste fuel on a separate trip.
  2. Think about what you eat. First: Is it overpackaged/overprocessed? Was it grown locally? Buy at farmer’s markets. Better yet, grow your own. Second: eat fast-food and quick food (I’m thinking of my work’s cafeteria as well as drive-throughs) less. Bring your own in a reusable container, especially beverages. Beverage containers are one of the worst offenders for waste. Make your own coffee in the morning instead of giving the coffee shop all your money, anyway.
  3. Think about what you toss. Can you recycle it? Try curbside if you’re too lazy to find a center (like I am). And if you think recycling is just a waste of energy in and of itself…
  4. Think about what you buy. How long will you use it? Is it an impulse that I don’t need at all? Can I buy a container that uses earth-friendly packaging?
  5. Think about containers. I use three canvas bags for my groceries each week to avoid using the petrochemical bags at the store. If I do need extra bags, I then reuse them at home for garbage or cat/bunny litter.
  6. Rethink your periodical intake. We used to receive 30 magazines monthly, then feel guilty about not reading them. We’e cut the list in half and now read the WSJ to replace almost all other news sources; the paper is reused as bunny litter liners/shredded litter.
  7. Be lazy with your lawncare. Less fertilizer = less mowing = fewer bags of grass to pitch.
  8. Turn down your HVAC use. Use shades to cut summer heat; open windows at night; use fans. In winter, put on a sweater and pile on the blankets! This tip saves money too.
  9. Become a vampire. OK, nobody does this as well as I, but… turn off some lights. Do you need to have every light used at all times? Do your cleaning/ironing activities while it’s still daylight (if possible), then read/use the computer with a small desklight.
  10. Stop killing things, if at all possible. Pesticides/herbicides have lots of negative effects. Keep your counters clean with water/low-impact cleaners to avoid bugs coming into your house. Weed the lawn by keeping the grass healthy and pulling weeds as needed.

I’m not perfect by any stretch. But I’m really trying to be conscientious. And for those who don’t care about being green: does it hurt anything if you try?