19 April 2016

Cat Waste Part 1

I have 2 cats. They are sweet and snuggly when they want to be. They warm my feet up on chilly winter nights and sometimes even try to eat my phone. They are silly and have their own personalities, just like people. But, man...are they a wasteful bunch.

They can't help it though. I made all of their choices in their lives. So, it's up to me to find something that works for all of us better. The Earth, me, our budget, oh and the kitties.

So, I'm conducting an experiment. I'm making the kitties go zero waste too.

They make a cat food bag every 2 months, 1 large pail of clay cat litter, the dirty cat litter all in a plastic grocery baggie (which have been outlawed from the house), plastic kitty caps, and little bits of carpet from their 2 (yes 2) cat towers. I'm sure that I missed something, but that's still a lot of waste for two little kitties to be producing.

So, I started with the easy stuff. I'm using the kitty caps only when I need to and mostly as a training device for one of my stubborn kitties. I've found that she is learning to only scratch her towers and less on my couch and carpet. When these are gone...oh well. No more caps and I hope we won't need them anymore. It's a little plastic cap that goes over the nail and is secured with glue, much like human women put on their nails by choice. They don't come off until the claws grow out enough to push them off. It lasts about 4 months on my girl. I think I have enough to last the rest of the year if I left them on her consistently.

The cat towers can probably be replaced. They love scratching on those. I think I could take off some of the carpet or just wrap it with some rope to make it last longer. I'd really hate to have to throw it away.

I mentioned the plastic bags are gone. So, I've been putting the clumped dirty litter back into an empty pail for now. It's not quite at the 1/4 mark, but I need to develop a plan for this soon.
I'm looking into burying it in the back part of my property. Basically where nothing is growing... I look at it as a science experiment.  It's definitely going to be interesting.

I don't have much of the clay litter left, so while I'm interested to see how it composts in the ground, I don't have high hopes for this to work very well. I did find a clay clumping litter made by purina that comes in a compostable cardboard container instead of plastic. So that was a step in the right direction at least. But, I think with a little bit more effort I can create a cat waste composting area with different litter. I've seen some people doing this, but not too many. I think I should document my efforts.

I made my first reusable bag from an old dog food bag. It is made from duraflex and it's incredibly strong. I only carry one big bag and it gets the job done. I thought I would make more of these so I started saving them. Now I have about 20 bags hanging out waiting to be turned into more bags. I don't need that many bags. So, I'm trying to find better food for them while looking for a way to keep extra bags out of the landfill.
Most zero waster know about the website terracycle, but not many of them can get into the free shipping status. I joined for 'open farm' dog and cat food bags. I found a supplier a few towns over. I am heading that direction to go see a friend of mine next weekend so I think I will pick up a bag and see what the kitties (and the pups) think of it. I might even be able to talk to the store owner about putting in a bin in the store to send more peoples bags than just mine to be recycled.
The food is ethically sourced and transparent about where all the ingredients come from.
I'm not sure about the price yet though.

All of these things can be kept out of the landfills if we make just a little bit of effort. In finding zero waste products I've found that a lot of them are better quality or better for my pets (or me) and my budget.

Pups...you're next!!

04 April 2016

April Buy Nothing Month

I know it's already a few days into April, but I wanted to tell you about the experiment we're doing this month. (I will also be updating you on how it went at the end of the month in a later post.)We have already slashed a lot of things out of the budget, and we are doing really well. 
But, we have discussed doing more to pay the mortgage off faster.

Historically, mortgages have only been around (as we know them anyways) since the 1930's. People back then didn't really want to borrow money like we do. More and more people borrowed money to buy houses and part of that (not the only part mind you) is that people borrowed more than they should have to buy a bigger house. If they would have bought something smaller then they could have paid it off faster and sold it in a few years so that they could move up to something larger if they needed. Our consumer culture of want it now has made us broke and unhappy. I'd rather come at life from a point of enough. (I might write another post about this later.) If you are interested in the history of mortgages this is a good place to start. 

Here is the break down of our mortgage. We have a 15 year mortgage with a good rate, but it is the biggest payment that we make each month. The payment is 26% of our take home pay. I know you're thinking, "Hey, that's not too bad!" And you would be right-kind of. Dave Ramsey says that, "Limit your monthly payment to 25% or less of your monthly take-home pay. (source)   We are 1% over his suggestion. If we were paying the minimum payment. We haven't been paying the minimum for some time now. For most of 2015 and all of 2016 we have been throwing money at the mortgage. It's going down considerably now. But, its not enough. We are debt free and we want it gone. So, how do you do that?
Well there are a few ways to do it. We brainstormed some ideas. There is no way to make the payment smaller, but we can make the money we send them larger. Here are ways to do that. 

1. Get another job. 
I know...you don't have time. Well, we don't either. Both of us are working hard to support our family in different ways. DH works overtime when he can and all of that money is going to the mortgage. 

2. Work overtime at your job (If you can...)
Not every job has overtime that you can work. Some jobs you can only work so many hours and then they will send you home. (I've been there.) The company might want to keep you as a "part-time" employee so you can't work over 38 hours (I'm looking at you CVS!) Or maybe they just don't have enough work to go around. Either way, if you can do overtime-DO IT! It is worth it in the long run. 

Every 2 years DH's job has a mandatory process that has to be done as quickly as possible. Basically it's all hands on deck until it's done. So, we sent all of that money to the mortgage as well. (And we're looking forward to the day that we can keep it all and take a vacation or invest or maybe fix up the old homestead some more.) 
Then there is the overtime that gets offered. Someone wants to go on vacation, so someone has to work. He's working that the weekend of his birthday this year. 

3. Lower your expenses 
This sounds easy to do....But, we're learning its not. We made a budget and took everything out that was discretionary or frivolous. We're paying the utilities, gas, minimal groceries, and we opted to keep our "play money" too. You can do your differently, but those are the only month to month things that have to get paid. 

Buy Nothing New -This is a cool website to check out if you've never heard of this concept.

But, we've taken it a bit further with not buying anything new or new to us this month. It's only for a month and it makes you think about what you are buying and really think about if it is necessary. 
All the money that is in our account that we would have spent on something else, is going to the mortgage instead. Hopefully, we can take a big chunk out of it and lower the time we are slaves to the mortgage company. (and yes, we are slaves to them by giving g up future earnings to pay the bill. Check out this website for a more detailed description of what that means.)
*DH wants me to add that the purpose to him of buy nothing month is not just to delay purchases, but to give you a long enough cooling off period so that you can determine if its necessary in life. So, that you aren't impulse buying. It's a way to train your mind to not 'buy, buy, buy' but, to think and to get used to not buying things all the time. It can also serve to break the habit of mindless buying of stuff. You can use your imagination to see what you can use, that you already own, to fix a problem. 

Maybe we could all do with a little more thought about our finances? Instead of spending like the bill isn't going to come due tomorrow, maybe save like something is going to happen. Because, lets face it, sometime you might want to retire. Or something might happen, like loosing your job or health issues. Wouldn't you be glad to have your mortgage paid off and $100,000 in the bank?

Give it some thought. Maybe you will want to do a buy nothing month too. 

I'll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes on consumption and consumerism. 

"There's this idea that somehow you've got to keep changing things, and as often as possible. Maybe if people just decided not to buy anything for awhile, they'd get a chance to think about what they wanted; what they really liked..." Vivienne Westwood

"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy [stuff] we don't need." From Chuck Palahniuk's book/movie 'Fight Club'

"Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like."
Will Rogers

01 April 2016

Zero waste First (whole) month-March

Ive been doing zero waste for March and I wanted to let you know how its going.When I feel like I have successfully switched my mindset and our family habits to this and it has become second nature, I write goal obtained.

Goal #1-Switch every family member over to using reusable bags

Goal Obtained. I made reusable bags for DH and I already had one but I made myself another one too. I have also made a few reusable bags for some friends. I am trying to spread the zero waste lifestyle to others, without being preachy about it (as my DH says I can get sometimes.) I am trying to take this a step further now by eliminating all plastic bag use from the house. Plastic bags are still in the house but only for cleaning the cat litter. Once those are gone I need to think of a new plan. (I welcome suggestions)

I have stopped using the plastic bags in small garbage cans around the house. I've taken most of the cans away as well. DH still wants the one in the bathroom. I need to address this soon. He is also  addicted to cotton swabs and I don't know what to do with them. Are they compostable? Should they be? I rarely use these at all and since I buy them in the 500 count package and he uses 2 each time he showers that's 30 days X2 used each time=60 a month X 12 months= 240 a year. So a box should last him almost 2 years. Should I worry about this at all? The packaging is recyclable in my area and the paper insert is compostable. Yet, I feel bad for sending all those little swabs to the landfill.

Goal #2- Stop using the plastic bags in the produce section.

Goal Obtained. Every time I have been shopping I have remembered to bring my produce and my reusable bag(s) in with me. Leaving it in the truck or a place I can remember to grab it in the house has helped me a lot with this one. 

DH went to the store once and brought one home and his response was "But its only one." Ugh, I still have to deal with it somehow.  (I took it back to the store and recycled it.) We now have 4 bags in the house. (All brought in by DH...) He says he is reusing them and that's better than recycling them. I told him its better not to use them at all and I was trying to change our habits. He's grumbling about it, so this is obtained by me, but not yet by him. He doesn't shop often so I still call it obtained.

Goal #3 Stop junk from coming into the house

This one has been hard to fix.  I already blogged about what I did to remove myself and DH from lists. It has lessened a bit, but it is hard to tell after only 2 months. Some times it takes awhile to see the difference when you unsubscribe from lists like this. 
I did hear about an app called paperkarma that is supposed to help with everything except "current resident" mailers. I have started using that and I will report back on how well that works. I also called the local insurance company to request that I be removed from their mailings. 
Unfortunately, junk mail is still coming into the house. This is an ongoing battle though. I fear I will be fighting it for a long time. I wonder what the mail man would do if I took up the mail box? Is it a law that we have to have one? I don't want that stuff!! 

Goal #4 Compost all paper that does come into the house.

I feel like Im half way there with this one. 

I was hoping that this would be less than it was, but there is still a lot of paper coming into this house.(see above.) The shredder is backlogged right now, so I have a pile on top of the cat cabinet to shred as soon as I can take the full bin out to the compost. I need to go do that, but the snow that came down  this month has hampered my efforts on this front a little bit. (Also, gearing up for spring...chicks I'm looking at you!)

Getting DH to do this one is a bit cumbersome. He puts receipts in the trash still and I have to fish them out. (which since there is no food waste there isn't that big of a deal now.) I try to remind him about it and tell him to just set it on the cat cabinet since I can just shred when I have some extra time to sit there. I figured that since a compost pile needs a lot of 'brown' that the paper will fill that void for me really well. We will see next year if the compost is better for the garden. But, either way I'm saving this paper from the landfill. 

Goal #5 Shop at the Co-op in town for bulk items

Goal Obtained. I have been shopping at the co-op. I made bulk bags to use there. I love it they have bulk bins for most everything they also sell bulk castile soap, laundry soap, honey, peanut butter and some oils I havent tried yet. 
They have produce as well. Im looking for somewhere with an olive bar now. So many places have them in other cities, but I'm still looking here. Maybe I could find one further away that would be OK too, because I only need them every few months since I'm the only one who eats them.

This is a picture of what I got the first trip to the co-op. I had everything in my small bags, but when I got home I put it in these jars. I bought a bit more than would fit, but I think that is just going to take some time on my part. DH absolutely loved the granola that I bought us. I ate it with milk a few times. He liked it in the yogurt best.  I tried that and it was really good. I'm going to try a different flavor next and see if he likes it too, or if we should just stick to this one.

I buy potatoes in a 50b sack. This is all of them. They last a good long while. I bought this so I can see them all better and they hopefully won't go bad as fast. The bag on the left of the potatoes is what they came in, and it is just a paper. So I could compost it or recycle it. I recycled it this time. 

I also am doing a bit of shopping at the regular grocery store for produce in my mesh bags. The little stickers on the fruit irk me though. And there are still some things we use that come in bottles or glass jars. Yeast is a big one, but we buy the large glass jar instead of the little paper packets. There is always a way to lessen the waste if you bulk buy things you use a lot. I thought the yeast would go bad before we used it all up, but it doesn't. We had it for a year at least in the fridge. 

Goal #6 Switch to "ReUsies" instead of plastic storage bags. 

Goal Obtained. I bought 2 small zippered and one large zippered reusable snack bags. In addition to the 2 small and one large velcro ones I already have I think I can say that I'm covered for those now. I have not yet them used too much yet, but DH needs them for grapes and snack type things. Although I'm not buying as much of those things anymore. Either way, I'm prepared. I have been zipping up the cheese block in it. Its staying fresher than it would just out. It's actually working pretty well. I might buy a few more of these when we have kids. I could see using a lot more of them then. 

Goal #7 Stop using disposable head razors.

This is still up in the air. All the things are there for DH to use, but he hasn't done it yet. He wants to know why it's such a big deal. I think that when everything else is running like a well oiled machine I might be able to get him to switch. Until then, he is using the 15 heads he has still. They last him 4-6 months each so it might be awhile. I'm OK with that. I don't want to rush him if he isn't ready. I haven't said anything else about it. He knows my thoughts and wishes on the subject.
I use my epilator for my hair. I thought if I was willing to use a diva cup and/or reusable pads that he could try this.

Goal #8 Get more serious about composting.

I bought a new and larger compost pail that I now keep under the sink in the kitchen. We are composting more than ever before. I mentioned in goal #4 about the paper composting. It does not go into the same pail, but it ends up in the same place. The compost pail lin stainless steel and has a carbon filter on top to minimize smells. I used to take the compost out to the chickens and pick up what they would not eat. Now I try to only give the chickens what I know they will eat and put the rest in the composter. It's hard some days to remember to separate it. But if I don't it all goes to the composter and I throw them some sunflower seeds and some meal worms which they love anyways.
I'm also composting the dog/cat hair that gets clipped or brushed out. The hair and dust from the vacuum gets tossed out the back door, or if I'm headed out after I vacuum then I take it with me.DH even asked me if nail clippings were allowed in the compost bin. I told him yes and he avoided a bit more going into the waste stream. He's catching on fast!

Now I just need to remember to turn it more often. *sigh*

 Goal #9 Switch to using handkerchiefs instead of tissue.

I must admit I still haven't started this one. I can't very well give DH a hard time about the razor blades if I can't even deal with my nose right? I am in much the same boat. We have 7 6 boxes of tissue to go through. So, as soon as that is finished I'm starting this one. I am even carrying my hankie in my purse now though. I did use it once while I was out and about. An older gentleman smiled at me and showed me his hankie. 

Goal #10 Stop my trash service.

While I did talk to DH about this, we are nowhere near the point we can do this. We are still making about a 13 gallon bag of trash a month. It hopefully will lessen as we go through the things that we have already bought and are using up. I am hoping to get down to a half a bag of trash next month and then to a 1/4th and an 1/8th and so on until we are just putting a couple small things in a jar.

The trash company took my recycling as trash and made me so mad. So, I called them and they had nothing to say about it. NOTHING!! They didn't even care. I really have a bee in my bonnet about the trash service and I am looking for a way to recycle another way. 

Since I did accomplish 3 out of 10 goals in the first month I was thinking about adding a new one to the list. We will just keep on with the numbers. 

Goal #11 Make our own bread from scratch. 

DH is a wonderful bread maker and we already make our own pizza dough. I'm wondering if we can make the bread dough and freeze it in batches so that I can thaw it out and bake it when we need it. Or I could just get him to make it and we could freeze the finished loaves while we eat one fresh one. When he makes the honey bread he makes 3 loaves at a time. It usually takes us a week to make it through a loaf of bread. Maybe I could stretch 3 loaves to cover a whole month. 

He did make some orange rolls for us and we took them over to a friend's house to have a gathering with 2 other families. We brought back about 4 out of 20. They did not last us long, and I have still not bought bread from the store. I haven't missed it. DH hasn't mentioned it so I guess he hasn't either. 

Some other things that I did this month that were not on the goal list, but I thought needed to be addressed. And a few things I've been thinking about for my March zero waste. 

I bought a bamboo utensil set for DH to take to work and one for me to have in the truck. I also got a that compost bucket for inside that I mentioned, so I can recycle these plastic yogurt containers Ive been using.  I used the utensil set for the first time at one of my quilt meetings. Some ladies looked at me a bit funny, but they know I'm odd so they didn't say anything about it. I asked DH how his was going and he said it was a bit harder since he has to go clean it right after he eats and apparently the sink is down a few flights of stairs. He's still doing it, so maybe he's thinking about the extra exercise he's getting. 
I also ordered some foaming soap dispensers for the bathroom. I put castile soap in them and fill the rest up with water. The bottle for the castile soap is also recyclable in my area and it takes so long to go through it. I also have found that my co-op sells castile soap, in many different smells, in the bulk section. I need to get a bottle for that. Should I use glass or plastic for that?
We've been using the castile soap in the peppermint flavor and DH commented on how much he liked it so I think I will stick to that for us. I might play with the smells in the kitchen one later.

I also wonder if I put a shampoo dispenser in the shower if I could fill it with castile soap and have my DH use it. He is still using the head and shoulders shampoo. He doesn't have nor has he ever had dandruff, but he thinks he needs to use it. I did buy some organic shampoo made with tee tree oil for him (I thought maybe he just likes that tingle.) and he hasn't complained about it yet, but he hasn't told me that he likes it either.

So this is where I am so far on my zero waste journey. I hope that you will join me in my endeavors. It takes a bit of effort at first just to change your habits. I've read that it takes 21 days to change a habit. I'm taking baby steps for the health of our bodies, our family, our home, and our planet.

For the while month of Feburary and up to March 13th we filled one bag of trash. And 2 grocery bags full of cat poop. (I feel like this is pretty good. But I want to see if we can do better.)

After March 13th, we filled another 1/2 a trash bag. I have been trying to use up the things that come in bottles that I've found a zero waste alternative for so I'm thinking that this will go down in April. It's probably going to go out this weekend because I had to put some chicken bones in there and I don't want it to stink up my house.
And yes, before you ask  I made stock with the bones and leftover meat and let the dogs eat some of the bones after they were used to make stock. Some things just have to go sometimes. All in all I am feeling pretty pleased with my progress. :)