On the way home from yesterday’s interminable visit to the Mayo, I dropped by a friend’s shop in mid-town Phoenix, a serendipitous little brainchild that morphed from a nonprofit thrift store to a wonderful design, clothing, art, and gift store featuring nothing but sustainable crafts and products. More about my friend Loral later: I’d like to feature her in Funny’s “Entrepreneurs” series.
Meanwhile, check out what she sold me!
This gorgeous purse is made of a 1970s leather skirt. Remember how we used to make purses out of jeans and denim skirts? Well, the crafter who designed this, Shannon Wallace, came across a buttery-soft purple (♥love!♥) leather skirt and used it to build this wonderful, incredibly lightweight bag. It has a silken lining, and the skirt’s pockets morph into handy exterior pouches for the bag. It’s actually reversible—you can turn it inside out and have the wild fabric lining on the outside. But being a sucker for purple, I’ll probably keep it this way. The gaudy flower is detachable; I’m thinking I may move it to one of the handles.
KJG and I came across it while we were doing the Willo Neighborhood Tour–my friend’s shop is in darkest Willo, and so of course she had a booth for the tour. I was going to pick it up when we finished the tour, but we both pooped out a distance from the booths. Hence, the visit to retrieve the purse, not quite on the way home from the Mayo, which from downtown Phoenix is halfway to Payson.
So while I was exploring Loral’s shop, she showed me this amazing patch of wood cellulose and cotton, called a Skoy cloth.
It is said to substitute for not one, not two, but 15 rolls of paper towels! You get it wet and use it as a kitchen rag/sponge, and supposedly you’ll never have to use another paper towel as long as you live. Loral said she tried one and was convinced. Well…nothing would do, of course, but what I had to have one of those.
Amazingly, the thing actually works as advertised! Maybe better than advertised. I just tried it on the kitchen counter, which once again had acquired a fine haze of olive oil and dirt, and by golly, the tiles are shining. It also cleaned the brightwork around the sink better than I’ve managed in many a moon—with no special products.
Visiting Loral’s shop and imbibing her enthusiasm for sustainability left me thinking about ways that I might waste less paper, use less gasoline, spread fewer chemicals around, live a little lighter on the asphalt-covered land.
Pretty soon the City is going to stop picking up the garbage in the alleys, instead inflicting yet another barrel on residents to roll out to the front curb and requiring everyone to dump their bulk trash in their front yards. My plan is to get rid of the blue recycling barrel at that time, since I don’t have room to store two big barrels in the garage and there’s noplace in the yard I wish to grace with an extra garbage bin.
To accomplish that, I hope to start producing a lot less recyclable trash than I’ve been doing. So…have begun thinking about how to live a less trash-intensive lifestyle. The trick would be to avoid bringing stuff into the house that has to be thrown out or recycled. Among the strategies that come to mind:
• Use cloth bags or reuse plastic bags for grocery shopping and small sundries from hardware stores, drugstores, and the like.
• Buy products in bulk. Even if something comes in plastic and cardboard, obviously if you can buy a larger store of the product, one package is better than a half-dozen.
• Buy food at farmer’s markets and other local merchants who use minimal packaging.
• Cancel newspapers; read news online instead.
• Read books on a Kindle or similar hardware.
• Substitute ordinary household products such as vinegar and baking soda, often available in bulk, for commercial chemicals. Package them in your own reusable squirt bottles.
• Use steam, not a mop and harsh chemicals, to clean.
That’s just a few ideas. Many folks have made an art of low-impact living and can offer more and better strategies. But it’s a start.
With Trader Joe’s and now even Safeway peddling “green” reusable shopping bags, it’s surprising that Americans haven’t discovered the wonderful string bags we used to see in England. I had a couple of them, which would roll up and hide in a tiny corner of a bag, briefcase, or pocket. None of the shopkeepers up and down the streets, to whom one repaired every day or two because one’s flat didn’t have a refrigerator large enough to hold a week’s worth of groceries (nor did one have a car to carry that much stuff in, anyway), ever imagined handing out paper or plastic bags to customers. That you would bring your own bags was a given.
The beauty of the string bag is that it expands almost indefinitely. I could easily fit two or three days’ worth of goods in just one of them. Two would hold a lot of food.
Amazon offers a couple that resemble the version the English carried around: This one from EuroSac…
And one from Simple Ecology that comes in colors and costs two and a half bucks less.
And there’s a variant designed with a shoulder sling, also from Eurosac…
Any of these will hold a lot of stuff and take up hardly any space in your purse, briefcase, or car trunk.
Costco, my primary source of groceries, household products, and casual clothing, already eschews bags. But they pack your stuff in cardboard boxes, which take up a lot of space in the trash bin and are a nuisance. They’re too heavy to lift out of the cart, so I have to unpack each one, repack it into the plastic bins in the back of the van, and then once home unpack and carry the stuff indoors one, two, or three pieces at a time. My plan, then, is to get a bunch of string or fabric shopping bags, ask the Costco staff to pack the junk in those, and let Costco keep the cardboard. Maybe if enough of us do that, Costco will ask their suppliers to ship in less wasteful containers.
Maybe we can all use less wasteful containers!