Competing Priorities


Today I want to address the problem I have with all of the different issues competing for priority.   Do you buy locally produced or imported organic?  Fairtrade or the cheapest available?  What about produce that is cheaper per kilo if it is already bagged in plastic?

Clearly, this the best.  Grown without pesticides within 100 metres of my kitchen and no packaging.

005Unfortunately, we cannot produce everything ourselves, hence my opening question.

Some bloggers are very clear in their strategy and I admire them for their single-mindedness.  However, I do not not want to be quite as fanatical on any one particular issue but rather to approach the things we do buy with a more holistic view.

Here are some that I read:

Zero Waste Home – as the title suggests
My Plastic Free Life – as per the title
Frugal Queen – frugality first

I have tried to minimise the plastics that we use, particularly single-use items, for many years.

This is one of our stainless steel drink bottles.  I am not saying that we always take our own drinks or that I never buy drinks in plastic bottles.  However, we have got rid of the 15 or so plastic drink bottles that we had acquired over the years and I studiously avoid collecting any more from corporate events and the like.

004These are some glass storage jars in my pantry, albeit with plastic lids.  They are old coffee jars which came from my mother.  I do use plastic screw top containers as well in my pantry.  While it would be nice to have everything stored in glass, I would prefer to re-use something I already have than go out and buy more things.  I do not see a significant health risk in storing dry goods in plastic food-grade containers.

006I do try to use glass containers rather than plastic for heating and cooking in the microwave.

007Despite my best efforts not to acquire any plastic bags over the past 10 years we still have some.  They are used for various purposes, washed and re-used over and over again.  Here are some hanging out to dry.

2012-04-21 05I buy a lot of our dry goods from bulk bins and store some of them in large plastic buckets.  Here is my new storage cupboard showing the buckets as well as the boxes of plastic bottles that The Duke uses when bottling his home-brew.  There will be doors on the cupboard once they are finished being painted.

First and foremost my strategy is to buy only what we really need.  If you remove excess consumption from your lifestyle then you eliminate a lot of waste immediately.

I buy as much as possible from bulk bins and am constantly looking to source less wasteful options for everything I purchase.  However, I know that quite a lot of this is imported.  The upside is that dried beans for example, weigh less than the equivalent in canned beans, therefore the transport costs (petroleum products) are reduced.

I source meat and fresh produce as locally as possible to reduce ‘food miles’ but do not set arbitrary limits, such as the 100 Mile Diet.  This concept began as a blog in 2005 by 2 Canadians.  I cannot find the original blog but this link explains it.  The idea is excellent and it reminds as all to consider the source of our food.

I take my own containers to the butcher to eliminate plastic bags from that source.

I have reusable mesh bags for buying fruit and vegetables and pay mostly pay the extra for loose produce.

Why organic?  Read here to see which fresh foods are likely to retain the most pesticides.  Consider growing your own if possible or buying organic of at least some of ‘the dirty dozen’.  I do not necessarily follow all of my own advice on this one but intend to re-double my efforts.

Fairtrade?  Coffee – always.  Chocolate – rarely bought so I have not been so diligent.

What about you?  Are any or all of these issues important to you?  How do you decide what is a priority for you?

Shopping – Green, Ethical, Sustainable, Organic, Fair-trade, Local

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How do you balance the competing priorities when you shop?  This is a question with which I constantly wrestle.

While meandering through blogland I found this gem of a post at Little Eco Footprints.  If you are concerned about the impact of your shopping habits I would strongly recommend that you read this and also the very wise comments.

Buying ‘green’ products may salve your conscience but it is not enough to just toss a few green cleaning products in your trolley and assume that all will be well.  Where were they made?  How much transport was involved in getting them to your supermarket?  Are they really ‘green’?

I think the priority should be to reduce consumption because everything, yes, EVERY single thing that you buy has been manufactured and that process uses resources and produces greenhouse gases.

While we can and do produce some of our own food there are still many things which I have to buy.  My priorities are to buy things as local as possible and with the minimum of packaging and preferably recyclable packaging.  Organic is not particularly high on my radar. Here is a reason why.

Today while I was shopping I saw a tin of organic kidney beans that were product of USA.  There is nothing wrong with produce from USA if that is where you live.  However, these beans had been processed, canned and then transported halfway around the world.  I can buy dried kidney beans at Simply Good in Morayfield.  This is a family-owned local business where I can put my purchases in recycled paper bags that I bring from home.  See a previous post for more detail.  Even if the beans happen to be imported there is much less weight/packaging to transport a 25kg bag of dried beans than individual steel cans of processed beans.

I try to buy some things second-hand and also re-home things that I no longer need.  For this I generally use my local Freecycle group.  Freecycle is a fantastic concept which was born in Tuscon, Arizona and is now a world-wide phenomenon where people can give away almost anything (there are rules).

Good quality items, which can cost a little more are also my preferred option as they have a longer life and are much more ‘green’ in the long run than something that gets used/worn a few times before it breaks or wears out and is then discarded to landfill.

What are your priorities? How do you decide?  Have you tried to reduce your overall consumption?


Crisp, Clean Sheets

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There is nothing I like better than to slide into a bed freshly made with crisp, cotton sheets.  No matter how cold it gets I cannot bear the thought of flannelette sheets.  ‘Squiffy’ is my description for flannelette sheets.

I bought 2 new sets of bed linen from Blessed Earth yesterday.  They are organic cotton and just wonderful to sleep on.  We already have one set so when I saw that the 50% sale was happening it was a great opportunity to get some more.  I think that most of their business is online but I am spoiled as the shop is right here in Maleny.

There is no excess packaging either.  The flat sheet is folded around a piece of plain cardboard and they come in a cotton bag made from the same fabric as the sheets.  Each purchase is packed in a cotton carrier bag with ‘Blessed Earth’ printed on the side.  I will be proud to add this bag to my collection which I use for my shopping.

Here are the new sheets freshly washed and hanging on the line.

Then folded up and ready to go in the linen cupboard.

Now, with 3 sets of linen for our bed it will be quite a while before I need to buy any more.