Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Going Green

So I've mentioned that I try to live a non-toxic/earth-friendly life. It's not easy, nor am I as strict as I should be. It's not necessarily an organic life, just one that doesn't threaten to kill me with synthetics or chemicals before I get really gray and wrinkly. Plus I have a wife that doesn't exactly see eye-to-eye with me. So here's a breakdown of what I try to do on an inconsistent basis.

  • Recycling: I've gotten recycling down to a basic habit now, to the point where it's almost obsessive. I save all the packaging from drive-thrus, like the bags, and even the plastic lids and straws of the drinks. Not to mention the paper wrapper of the straws. It's amazing once you see all the recyclable stuff that you nonchalantly throw away out of habit what kind of impact we humans can make if we change just a few of our discarding habits. I also take the top part of each pizza box off so I can put it in the recycle bin, since Fort Worth won't accept the dirty part of the pizza box. Since I buy coffee by the pound at Central Market, they give you a wax-lined bag, so I empty that out, shake it to get all the bits out, and put it in the blue bin. Even all plastic bags/packaging gets saved so I can take it to Kroger once a month. Even cereal bags, after I do a quick rinse and dry. Seriously, take a quick glance inside your trash can. I bet at least 25% of its contents are recyclable, but you just never gave a second thought about it. Toilet paper rolls, magazines, empty toothbrush boxes, empty makeup containers, etc, all are recyclable if you just rinse them out. And to save water on that, I put those in the sink after I'm done washing my pots and pans after cooking.
My wife came up with a great idea on how to help us manage our recyclables/trash
situation. We have two trash cans, one white and one green. The green one is the recycle
can, and I reuse the bag that goes in it. I've gone through maybe three (recycled) trash
bags in three months. The trash can uses a biodegradeable bag from Natural Value, so I
don't feel bad about putting "plastic bags" back in the environment.

  • I use those reusable bags to go grocery shopping. I like to go shopping for different things at Target, Central Market, Sprouts and Kroger. My wife hates making multiple trips, so I just go with her to Target to get her stuff and maybe a few things I know I can't get anywhere else or cheaper. Bottled water, while bad in concept, is a good thing to get there. I know, I should just get my own reusable bottle and refill it with tap water, but my wife hates the taste of tap water here. I won't get her to change of that front. So if we at least recycle everything in that case of water, it's ok, right? At Sprouts and Kroger they give you a 5-cent credit for each bag you bring in. So I go to Central Market to get my toiletries and frozen fruit and organic milk and organic coffee (french roast, yum...)since it's a Texas company, and Sprouts for my cleaning supplies and whatever I can't find at CM. Then Kroger to recycle my plastic, and for cheap wine and beer.
  • Cleaning: I use a few products for multiple applications. For cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom, I use Holy Cow products. The surface cleaner is a good way to get rid of easy messes, but the concentrated cleaner is the real workhorse, getting rid of oven scum, that burnt stuff you get on the stove, and even soap scum in the bathroom. I don't really have to scrub, but if I do, I usually get some Biokleen Soy Scrub for the job, especially in the porcelain sink we have. It's great! It also works very well in the toilet, shower and sinks. For glass, it's the Holy Cow glass cleaner, which is infinitely better than Windex and it doesn't have that awful smell! It gets that mess off my bathroom mirrors in just the first wipe after a minute of soaking, and that's great! Also works great on my inside part of my car's windows. Another note about the Holy Cow cleaners: they do great on stains on carpet and fabrics. I had a stain on my upholstery of my car (near the windshield, next to the steering wheel), and after a couple of squirts and sitting time, it wiped off with only a trace of the stain left! Another application and it was gone! For dishes, I use Biokleen's Dishwashing Liquid and Automatic Dishwasher Detergent. The soap is good, but I seem to need more of it than my previous Dawn. And powder for the dishwasher is very good; I don't even need to completely fill the dispensers for it to be effective, plus it smells great! All of these products are non-toxic AND biodegradeable, which is awesome. Once a month I'll disinfect with Clorox's kitchen sanitizer, but then quickly follow it with Holy Cow. Oh, and for intemittent touch ups, baking soda and vinegar are great! I've used that combo to clean my kitchen sink. Just sprinkle some soda in there, brush with your dish brush, sprinkle some vinegar to get that fizz action, and wipe and rinse! Works great! Lemons work great, too!
  • Laundry: I use three main products: Ecover's Delicate Wash for my dark clothing and delicates. Biokleen's Laundry Liquid for the rest, with the Oxygen Bleach for whites and extra dirty items. Finally, I use Penguin Sport Wash for my golf shirts, athletic shorts and other tech fabrics. All of these are biodegradeable and safe for marine life. I do not use fabric softener. Instead, I use about 1/2 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle, and those dryer balls in the dryer. Softener as we know it, like Bounce or Downy, add toxic waxes, chemicals and bonding agents to our fabrics and skin. I don't have a problem with static, except in one of our blankets, but it's polyester, so of course it's clingy. The vinegar works great to get rid of residue left by the detergents, so all you get is a clean garment that still smells great.
  • Self: For the shower, I use Dr. Bronner's Magic soap, both liquid and bar. The liquid is for the poof, and the bar is for my pits and other stuff. I use the Peppermint scent. It is very concentrated, so much that I only need about 8 drops to use for the entire shower, which is way less than when I used Dial for Men. I've had my bottle almost three months, and I need to get a new one by next week. And that's only the 16oz. size! It's non-toxic and made with organic oils. But here's the kicker: It's great for CLEANING, too! I use it to mop my floors, and it works great! Seriously! I can also use it as a shampoo if in a pinch. Read the bottle, and while it may creep you out at times, it gives different possible uses for the soap. Many people on different message boards come up with great uses all the time, so the possibilities are endless! I also use Lily of the Desert's Aloe 80 Daily Shampoo, which I chose because it's a Texas company! I used to use Whole Foods' mint wash and shampoos, but after reading that they were laced with 1,4 dioxane, I decided to spend a bit more money for my safety. Dr. Bronner's soap and the Aloe 80 Shampoo are great products, but I wish the soap would do a better job of keeping my skin moisturized. Oh well, that's why I use Lily of the Desert's Aloe 80 Lavender Lotion. For my face, I've used Jason's Red Elements for oily skin, but I can't find it anymore, so I've been trying Aubrey Organics' oily skin facewash, but I don't like it; it doesn't lather, and it's too creamy for my taste, so I don't feel as if I'm getting clean. I do use a face scrub by Queen Helene to counteract that, and it's as good as my former staple from Clinique for Men. I still use Clinique for Men's aloe shave gel and aftershave, as well as a daily moisturizer, but once I'm out of those, I'm getting new stuff from Jason and Alba. For toothpase, I've turned to Tom's of Maine's Spearmint Whole Care paste. It works great, and smells great, too! I also use their waxed, unscented floss, as well. Oh, back to shaving, I use the Preserve Double Razor, which is made from a recycled plastic handle and is recyclable. It's not as good as my old Mach 4 Turbo, but I deal with it, and it's a lot cheaper! For deodorant, I use a mix of Arm & Hammer's unscented anti-perspirant (just two strokes for protection), then follow up with Jason's Tea Tree deodorant for scent goodness. And for my hair, I use Davines No. 2 Mat Moulding Gesso for Wizards, which is a non-shiny paste that does wonders for my style, plus even though it's not all-natural, it is non-toxic. Oh, and I take "Navy" showers, which means I turn off the water during my soaping, shampooing, etc., and only turn it on to rinse. Saves me a few gallons a day, I'd guess.
  • Everything else: Well, I don't use lights. I maybe have one lamp on if it's night time, but Jennifer seems to think that we live in the dark, so she likes things bright. She turns on lights all the time, even in the bathroom, where we have a huge window that lets in plenty of light. Oh well, I guess we just offset each other. We do use CFLs for all our lighting, except in the kitchen where we have those floodlights but I don't use them. I just use our CFL-equipped dining room lights instead. I can't use ceiling fans because Jennifer doesn't like the way they whip her hair in her face, so unfortunately we use a lot of A/C. Good thing it's cooler now. I drive slower now to save on fuel, and turn off my car when waiting for a train or at the drive-thru. I go out the front door instead of the garage to avoid using the garage door opener.
I'm sure I can think of many other things that I do in my daily habits that help the earth in their own little way, but I can't remember right now. I'm sure some of this (or all of it) seems excessive and expensive, but I don't buy much product; it's really pretty plentiful, especially the shower soap and grooming products. And with the Biokleen stuff, yeah, it's more expensive, but it's concentrated, and the laundry liquid is very concentrated. It says 64 loads, but I keep count and I'm on #65 with about 5 more loads left in the bottle!

Ok, I'm done.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Our contract with Sprint is up. We're on a family plan with 700 minutes plus data plus text (with limits) for about $130/mo. But since I'm not in an office all day and can't get free wi-fi where I spend most of my time, it's time to upgrade to a smartphone. Sprint has offered me the new customer deals on phones, plus free shipping, no upgrade charge, and an unlimited family data plan for the same price. Pretty good. I think I'm going to use T-Mobile as leverage to get Sprint to offer a better deal on phones. Since Jennifer has a computer at work that she can check her mail on, and I don't, she doesn't need a smartphone, but she likes sending pictures back and forth, so we need a data plan for her. My only sticking point is that the reception in Jen's office is crappy. No one can get service in there, but her co-worker's phone can at least get enough signal to receive calls, although he has to go out to the hall to answer. He's on Verizon, and the other band director is on AT&T, same deal. So no one really wins the reception battle.

I'm looking at the BlackBerry Curve 8330, which by all accounts is awesome. But I'm concerned about its browser. There's been many a time when I've been out and about and realized I forgot to set TiVo to record something. The beauty of TiVo (at least one thing) is that you can schedule recordings online. But rumor has it that the browser in the BlackBerry is awful, and I'm afraid it may not render TiVo's site well enough to allow me to schedule. I can do it on the iPhone, which is great, but AT&T isn't an option due to the expense of the iPhone's data plan, plus activation fee and hassle of new accounts and stuff. I've also started looking at the Instinct, but I had a Samsung phone before and it sucked major balls. Now, it wasn't near the level of the Instinct, but I get the feeling that Samsung phones aren't the best quality. So if I want to stay on Sprint and get a good smartphone, the Curve is for me.

The only problem now is actually getting to demo one. Jen and I went into the Sprint store tonight, but their Curve didn't have the browser activated, and the Instinct was slow. Plus they were about to close, so I'll try again tomorrow.

On another note, this Saturday marks the last day of drumline. Kind of sad, really, given the amount of time and work these kids have invested. Hopefully it will pay off for them. They compete in the Lone Star Drumline Contest hosted by Marcus HS at Lewisville's stadium. It's a great contest and many top groups from around the state attend. It's the only time every year these kids get credit for what they're doing. Sure, all the marching band contests are fun, but there's no real Percussion category like there is at DCI. The book is good and the kids have been doing this show for almost four months now. The only problem is that they have new drill (without the band, the old drill wouldn't work well), and I hope it doesn't affect their hands. Rehearsals have been like pulling teeth this week, but they insisted back in August that they wanted to do this, so we're holding them accountable. They got fourth last year in their class, which is very respectable considering the groups they were against. So wish us luck! We're taking both JV and Varsity lines, so it's going to be a LONG day. Show up at 8:30, JV performs at noon-ish, back at 1, Varsity shows up at 2, leave at 6, perform at 9ish, home by midnite. Long day.

And don't get me started on not being able to golf this weekend. :(

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

So it's been a while. Sue me. I've been on Facebook too much to really care about this thing, and besides, a LOT has happened since March of 2007. We moved out of our rent house, got screwed on the deposit, and moved into a one bedroom apartment in Keller to save money for a house. Moved out of said apartment in August and into our house in N. FW/Keller! I'm still teaching percussion lessons and assisting with the Keller High School band program. I really am loving life right now.

I'm also still very much an avid golfer. I've improved greatly in this year and a half since my last post, and even upgraded some (all) of my equipment. I've broken 90 twice and am now a consistent sub-100 player. Nice.

Another thing that's changed is my purchasing/eating/consuming habits. I try to go organic now whenever possible, but with my crazy schedule, I always end up gaining weight in the fall. Now that marching band/drumline is about over I can start getting home at a decent hour to cook more often. I also use non-toxic cleaning supplies (Bio-Kleen and Holy Cow), laundry (Bio-Kleen), and toiletries (Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, Tom's of Maine toothpaste, Aubrey Organics facewash or JASON facewah, JASON deodorant in conjunction with Arm & Hammer unscented anti-perspirant). But my favorite thing in the world with my new habits is organic coffee and milk. Yum. More on that in another post.

Promise. Really.