Plastic Free Update #2

You can read my two previous posts about Plastic Free July below:

I’m Gonna Try ‘Plastic Free July’

Plastic Free Update #1

As mentioned in my previous update, it was harder than expected. Now that it’s late-August, I can confidently say I didn’t do a great Plastic Free July. Below is an overview of the second half of the month:

July 19: McDonalds drink and fries

July 21: McDonalds coffee

July 22: Brough my own bags to the farmers market, but not enough, so I had to use some of theirs. I also got a container of microgreens and bread in a plastic.

Farmers Market Haul

July 23: I got plastic bag and plastic fork that came with my lunch order.

Later that day I dropped off my pile of black plastic take out containers I’ve been hording. There’s a take back program in Toronto, Case Reuse, that sanities and redistributes them to restaurants. So I brought my pile over to them.

July 25: Plastic clingwrap on some veggies that I received in my Too Good to Go order. It’s an app that partners with bakeries, grocers, restaurants to sell food that’s about to spoil at discounts in a sort of goodie bag. So the things I received would have gone to garbage anyways, so at least I was able to divert some of that waste.

July 26: Harvey’s drink with my post work snack of a veggie burger.

July 27: Did groceries and brought my reusable bags, but forgot the bags for my veggies.

July 28: Ordered Freshii for lunch on site, a compostable bowl but plastic lid. Strange…

July 29: A plastic bag came with my Mr.Sub order for lunch on site.

So ended up using single use plastic for more than 50% of the days. Beyond what was listed in the two updates, I’m pretty confident I forgot stuff so the reality could be worst.

Me after looking over my notes and seeing how bad I goofed the challenge. Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

I am proud of some of the things I’ve done. Like I finally got rid of the weird pile of plastic I was hiding from my roommate (although I might have to start a new one, since I saw some ramen bowls in our recycling again).

That’s pretty much the only goal that I achieved. Which is disappointing since I was really confident that I could do better. That why in my original post I added stretch goals, I was really sure that Plastic Free July would challenging but doable.

I could give a bunch of excuses to why I broke my own rules, as well as a challenges. But I can really summaries it as lack of planning and lack of fortitude.

The lack of planning one I’m hoping to fix, for a variety of reasons that aren’t only related to my plastic usage.

But my lack of fortitude is a bit harder. That can’t be solved that with a planner and a To Do list (although it might help). As I suspected in my first post, a lot of the plastic waste is coming from eating take-out. Some of that is due to the nature of my job, which involves a lot of site work and driving. But that doesn’t explain the takeout coffees and after work fries and pop. Those were just me wanting them now instead of waiting until I was at the office or home for a drink and snack.

So although I don’t think I did that well, I do think this is a interesting baseline measurement. Either for future Plastic Free Julys but also for other months. I might track it September and see how it compares. If I was a massive data nerd, I could track it for the next year and make some cool graphs with what type of plastic I’m using and where I put it at end of use. I would love to tell you I’m that kind of person, but I far too forgetful. So don’t look for that in the future.

So what now?

If you are new to Plastic Free July, their website has a lot of decent swaps for reducing plastic waste in the home.

But for the most part just planning a head so you don’t do what I do and impulse buy takeout. That’s better for the environment and ones wallet. I’m too nervous to even look at my bank statements to see how much money I spend this month on take out (minus the reimbursable stuff from work).

In my first post, I mentioned that I wanted to look in to the City of Toronto’s recycling program to learn more about it and maybe lobby for it to include black plastic. I haven’t done that. I still fully intend looking into that and Toronto’s composting program. May I update this post, or write a separate one when I’ve gotten the time to do the research. 

To wrap up, still a bit disappointed in how I did but I think that this was good eye opener that despite thinking I know a lot about waste reduction and plastic alternatives, I don’t fully practise what I preach and can improve.

Did you do Plastic Free July? How was it for you? I would love to read about it in the comments.

Trying to Reclaim My Car

My car’s name is Dorian. Due to the fact that my car is gray. I love her! She’s my first big adult purchase and I use her pretty regularly to, ya know, drive.

I know The Minimalists say to love people, use things but I think I can love both.

But as of late, I’m not treating my car like I love her… Since I moved (back in July 2020), I’ve had some random boxes just sitting in my car because I didn’t want to clutter my apartment. This doesn’t make the clutter go away. And it being out of sight definitely did not made it easier to remember to actively take steps to intergrade or remove the crap from my life. I now totally understand why every decluttering book warns against off site storage. Out of sight, out of mind is a very real phenomenon.

Anyways, my life has recently reached a new, more cluttered point. Earlier this year, my parents moved and put some of my extra stuff into my aunt’s basement, as she still lives close by. I was texting her about something unrelated, and she mentioned I still have many boxes sitting in her basement.

That was a sign that it was time to get the stuff out of her house and take true ownership of my crap.

And oh my! I have soo much crap!! Poor Dorian was struggling as I was driving her home. I truly needed to clear out my car and make her usable. Since it was filled, including the passenger seat with boxes.

Step One was just clearing out the car. It took a couple trips, even while we used a cart to lug stuff up from the parking garage to my unit.

Step Two is looking through the contents of the box. That’s where it got a been a harder. There some stuff that I can declutter but a lot of it is stuff I don’t have space for, but also don’t want to get rid of. The majority of these boxes are are still sitting in boxes in my room as I write this.

But that can’t stay that way. Mostly because I want my room back, but also because I’m moving later this year and I don’t want to waste space in the moving van on stuff I don’t even want to keep.

Step Three has been getting rid of stuff. 

Donation centers have been closed off and on for the better part of a year due to lockdowns in Ontario. Although they are currently open, they are overwhelmed with donations. So the whole system is way less efficient than usual at redistributing donations.

As much as possible, I’ve been avoiding creating a donation pile. My current system is much slower and one that pretty much no one would recommend, due to it being so inefficient.

I’m currently selling cloths and home goods online on a variety of websites (eBay, Depop, Vinted, etc…). Any items that I don’t think have a resale value higher than it’s shipping cost are being posted in my local Buy Nothing group or FB Marketplace.

It’s been a pretty slow process. I’ve gotten faster at taking, editing and uploading product pics. And for the most part people have been coming to me for pickups. Since I work from home most days so I can just pop down to my building’s lobby and do the hand off. So the active time involved isn’t that high.

A bunch of tapes off to their new home

My friends have been really impressed by my patience in this process. Like the one time a no-buy pickup was about an hour late. Or the person that didn’t read when I mentioned three times I wasn’t available until after 12pm show up at 11:30am looking to trade.  

Those have been the most annoying trades, and they are rare instances. The majority of the time, everyone is punctual and extremely nice. Which is the main reasons I’ve been keeping up with it.

But that’s pretty much where I’m at. My Inbound vs Outbound for June (posted late, but better late than never) will better detail where I’ve been diverting my decluttered items.

I really need to pick up the speed. I really want to have my space reclaimed, right in time to pack it all up for the next place in about a month and half.

I’ve also been recording this process in more detail on my phone. So I need to learn how to edit videos and I’ll post that here as a separate update. So look out for that in the coming weeks to months.

Since the cleanout, I vacuumed the car and it was empty for a short period of time… Unfortunately, the car is currently filled with work equipment, a rain coat, and a copy of Pretty Little Liars I found at my local little library. I plan on dealing with that soon…

Plastic Free Update #1

This is an update to my last post (I’m Gonna Try ‘Plastic Free July’) you can read it here.

Not off to a strong start…

Below is a summary of the days were I failed (and, like, two times passed) at Plastic Free July and how:

July 1st: I was sitting in a park with my partner and we both wanted some coffee…

We thought that the café nearby was doing outdoor dining and we could use their mugs. Unfortunately, it was doing take-out only. Knowing this, we still both got an ice coffee and a popsicle.

So in the quest for caffeine, we created two take-out coffee cups and two popsicle plastic bags worth of waste. Also this was place was friggin expensive. We probably should have planned a bit better and brought coffee on the road with us before hanging out.

July 2: Went for a walk after dinner around my neighborhood and stopped by the grocery store. Got toilet paper because we ran out. As well, a pint of strawberries since they are on hella sale. Both items were wrapped in plastic.

July 6: Doing a bit better, I haven’t brought new plastic. I’ve mostly been eating in. I even stopped myself from just getting take-out because I was out of the house running errands.

I’ve used plastic products tho. I’ve finished two dips that were in plastic packaging, which I washed and recycled.

As well, I did have to throw out a bread bag since that isn’t accepted in our recycling system.

July 8: Upside: Got my coffee in my reusable mug. Downside: Second Cup has not fully brought back their Lug-a-Mug program. So my barista had to pour my coffee into a paper cup and pour it into my travel mug.

So the waste was generated even if I didn’t have to throw it out.

After my barista finished pouring my coffee, he showed pictures of the steak with basil chimichurri sauce he made the night before. It looked nice (unfortunately I couldn’t include the pic here).

Later than day, I ordered a donut and pizza for takeout. Both packaged in cardboard. Although the pizza box is too oily to be recycled. Not plastic, but I did break my own rules of not ordering out cause I’m weak willed and hungry.

July 9: I got a coffee from Timmies on my way back from a site for work. I took the drive-through so I couldn’t ask if they would fill my mug.

I will fully admit this plastic waste could have been avoided if I was less lazy and waited till I got home for coffee.

July 10: Went to a small grocer near my house. I brought my own plastic bags from previous trips and used them again. The cashier didn’t noticed.

July 13: Broke down and:

  • got an iced coffee.
  • used plastic bags since I forgot to bring down all my reusable ones from my apartment into my car before I left for the store.
  • bought mushrooms wrapped in plastic since they were on sale, instead of the loose option.

Overall not a good day…

July 14: Got two To-Go containers of Timmies coffee for the client and construction crew I was working with. And I helped myself to a coffee that was in a paper cup, since I forgot my own travel mug.

July 15: Honestly the photo captures how the month is going. But, like, in a bad way…

Changing lives by destroying future generations…

Also it seems that Tim Hortons’ now gives paper straws with orders. This is a very small and somewhat performative step from one of Canada’s larger sources of litter.

So that’s where I am at the halfway mark of Plastic Free July. It turned out to be harder than expected. Mostly due to my own lack of planning. I want to say that it gets better in the second half of the month. But that would be a lie.

Are you doing Plastic Free July? Or do you know of ways that I can stop forgetting my travel mug every time I leave the house? Love to hear about it in the comments below.

I’m Gonna Try ‘Plastic Free July’

I heard about Plastic Free July, last year through Instagram. As the name suggests, the idea is to reduce (ideally eliminate) the use of plastic for the month of July. From there you, hopefully, have developed some habits that you will stick with to reduce your overall plastic consumption long term.

As mentioned in my most recent post, I feel my largest waste generator comes from food waste. I think my largest plastic waste comes from take-out containers. I don’t have the best habits around take-out. They aren’t the worst, but there’s massive room for improvement. I consider take-out a rare treat, but I’m not treating it as such. Particularly this past year, where I justified take-out as supporting small businesses. But also order my meals on delivery apps that take around 30% fees from the restaurants. So how much was I really supporting?

Also, I get my groceries delivered sometimes and plastic bags are an unavoidable part of the process.

Anyway, my plan for Plastic Free July is to reduce my waste by doing the following:

  • No take out. There are more restaurants that are switching to cardboard packaging. But for the month, lets assume that all restaurants are using plastic;
  • As little plastic wrapping in the food I buy. I do live in a city with bulk foods stores, and its farmers market season. Two that are walking distance from my house. So this should be relatively achievable if I do some planning;
  • Donate the black plastic I’m hoarding. I don’t think my roommate knows that I sometimes take her black plastic take-out contains out of our recycling bins and add them to a hidden pile of take-out containers I plan on donating. The City of Toronto doesn’t accept black plastic in its recycling system and I don’t want her wishcycling. There are a non-profits that reusing them, as well as programs that specifically will redistribute black plastic take-out containers to restaurants in the City. So my plan is to get my weird little pile of take-out contains out of the house and somewhere, where ideally, they will be reused again before becoming trash. I also will bring my plastic bags to one of the groceries stores near my house that has a recycling/takeback program.
  • Write to the City of Toronto and ask to improve the recycling system to accept Black plastic (I understand their sorting machines cant see it, but I could be wrong) and other types of plastic waste. Or put a By-Law in place that bands the sale of black plastic take-out contains to restaurants in Toronto’s. Or something like that. I know that second idea would never happen, since it’s impossible to enforce. But maybe more education to restaurant owners about plastic and Styrofoam containers. And encourage them to order other biodegradable materials. I don’t really know. I need to some research before I write to my City Councilor.

My stretch goal, if I have time. Go out on a walk and pick up garbage. I see people on the internet that do it and I admire them. But I also think its kinda gross, and bad for my back.

I’m also making excuses. So I want to give it a try at least once. If I hate the process, I have a valid reason not to do it again. If it’s not bad or if I have fun, maybe it will be something I incorporate into my regular routine.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Looking at this list, it feels really reasonable. Almost like stuff I should be doing already as someone that claims to care about the environment. I’ve got the next four weeks to find out if it’s as easy as I think it will be.

The thing that will ensure that this month is successful is planning, which is something I’m terrible at in my personal life. My professional life involves a lot of planning, so I feels like I use up that energy that by the time I clock out at the end of the day. But for July, I will take the ten minutes to plan my meals for the week, so I don’t break down and order take-out. From there we’ll be golden! Or at least I hope so.

This month may also lead me to discover that I generate waste in other areas of my life. As listed above, I am working on the assumption that most of my plastic waste is generated around food. So this will be interesting to see if that is actually the case or not.

Have you heard of Plastic Free July before? Is it something that you want to try this month? The website does have an challenge with tips and guides if you are looking for ways to reduce your plastic waste. I signed up and might share some of their tips in update posts. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Three Month Update – Worm Compost Edition

This post might come as a bit of a surprise. Three month update? That’s because it’s the first time I’m mentioning it here on the blog.

I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learnt as I started this process and I think this is the best spot for it. I was debating doing it on Instagram where I original posted my adventures. But I have more to talk about than Insta will let me write.

So worm composting?

Worm composting or more technically, vermicomposting, is using worms to break down organic matter into “casing”, or better known as worm poop.

The reasons I was interested in trying it out are the following:

  • It’s faster than traditional home composting. Based on what I was reading, it takes weeks instead of months for the waste to breakdown.
  • It seemed better suited for food waste than traditional composting, which is mostly recommended for yard waste.
  • It doesn’t involve buying stuff like bokashi composting to add in for it to work.
  • The few Youtubers and blogs that I looked at actually kept their bins inside of the home. Assuming a heathy bin, the environment should be odorless. If you look worm composters online, there are some cute options that are actually a bench with the trays for food built in.

But, like, why?

As mentioned a bit in the areas above, I was attracted to the idea of vermicomposting because of the turnaround time to have a usable product. Also I live in a apartment building, I don’t have the space for normal composting.

In general, food is the largest waste generator in my life. My apartment isn’t really well set up to encourage composting (we have a municipal composting collection bins but there’s room for improvement). But beyond my apartment, I also don’t trust the City of Toronto composting program. Full disclosure: I’ve done no research on it, I just can’t wrap my head around them wanting us to put our organics in plastic bags for it to be collected.

So it feels bad to be cooking and throwing so much organic to waste. I haven’t been able to divert all my food waste, but I’m happy that some is being moved from the municipal system and I get to be more control of the process.

How’s the bin been going?

I won’t lie… The start was a little shaky. I started with 15 worms back in March. Keeping them outside unless I knew the weather was going to drop to freezing temps. My bin started with paper, a few dead plants, and some of my roommates rabbit’s poop. Sorta hoped that the poop being added would maybe help boost the temperature. (Fun fact: fresh animal poop is pretty warm since it’s filled with microbial activity. Typically, it’s recommended to wait, like, a day before adding it to compost bins since it could overheat the system).

I probably should have kept them indoors that this point. Worms are most active at temperatures of 15C (Americans, you can do the conversion yourself, but like thick hoodie weather). March doesn’t really hit those temperatures as often as you’d hope. Especially with the wind chill. I’m pretty sure I did lose some of them to the cold, and in general they weren’t doing anything.

I ended up buying another 50 worms in late April/early May. Since it was becoming increasingly more apparent that my bin wasn’t active. Since the few worms that were still left couldn’t worm through the small amounts of food I was giving them at this point.

Things got a lot more exciting after that point and I also learn a few things which I will put in a numbered list. Eat your heart-out Buzzfeed and Jenny Nicholson.

1. Worms f*ck

I don’t believe a lot of people think about how worms procreate. I certainly didn’t before I was reading a book about worm composting (Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof and Jonne Olszewski, great book if you want to start vermicomposting). The book has a chapter that covers the topic in more detail. But the ideal that if you cut a worm in half, and due to them having five hearts will make two worms is completely wrong. That will just kill the worm.

Withtout being graphic, to reproduce, worms do it, secrete a mucus to lay eggs. From there little worms are born.

2. Watering your worms, isn’t dissimilar to watering your plants

I definitely messed up the humidity levels for my bin for most of the time I’ve had the bin. Worms like high humidity (like 80% if I remember correctly), or to have your contents are the wetness of a rung out sponge.

I was really worried about my bin drying out, since the leaves at the top would be dry, I would be spraying the top almost daily to with water to try to keep the moisture up. 

If you own a house plant, you know the dangers of overwatering your plant. You see the top later is dry, so you assume the whole thing is, and ends up drowning the plant. I was doing something similar. It wasn’t till I dug down to the bottom of my bin (which isn’t deep, I just don’t like disturbing the worms) that I noticed how wet the whole thing was.

This level of humidity also was a breeding grown for other bugs (safe for to the worms, but gross). I ended up with (and still have) a lot of mites in my bin. No cute, and I rather not have them completing for the food.

When I discovered that, I was glad the bin was outside since it had gotten flies and in general wasn’t great to open up.

To fix it, I did tip my bin to the drainage hole I put in to get rid of some water, but also added a lot more paper to try to suck up the extra liquid.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

3. Carbon emissions bad, carbon to the bin good

In a traditional, non-worm compost bin, you need a combination of nitrogen and carbon to make the environment for the organics to break down. (https://www.livescience.com/63559-composting.html) I don’t know why I thought that a worm bin would be different? Too much nitrogen from food waste can create ammonia, mold and just mess up the environment of your bin.

I’m still trying to get the right ratio but I’ve been adding a bunch of paper into it when I add food waste. I keep a small collection of brown paper bags and paper from packages that come in, cut them up and add them to the bin. I can only imagine what my roommate thinks when I’m sitting at the table cutting up strips of paper since we don’t own a shredder.

4. Don’t over feed them

This also should have been more obvious to me than it was. At the beginning I just really wanted to give them food and if they had more food they will want to reproduce and then I will have more worms to eat more food.

Worms eat about half they weight a day, so once you have a lot of worms you can get a lot of food waste taken care of. But I didn’t have a lot of worms, and just giving them more and more food that wasn’t doing anything.

Especially since I was messing up the carbon levels to, so all I had was a bunch of food just sitting in there being extra gross. Like the carbon issue mentioned above, I’m still figuring out the right amount and frequency to feed them. This is mostly just me going into the bin every few days and see if stuff looks broken down. For a while I was tracking what and when I was added to the bin. But I quickly gave up because I kept forgetting to fill it out. It’s probably not a bad idea and most of the resources I read before starting recommended it. So that’s a do as I say, not as a do type of situation.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

That’s pretty much it. Let me know if you have any questions. When I’ve talked about the worm bin to my friends and family, they’ve been polite, but visibly confused about the process and the motivation. But it’s been a fun thing to work on and I’m just starting to reach the point where I can start getting the castings, and putting it on my garden. Which is really exciting!

BOOK REVIEW: Project 333 by Courtney Carver

I’ve heard of Project 333 a few times over the years, so I was really surprised to find that this book was published March 2020. The concept of Project 333 is very simple. You only wear a combination 33 items of clothing (included shoes and accessories) for 3 months.

Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge that Proves Less Really is So Much More is the second book by Courtney Carver. She’s been featuring Project 333 on her blog for a few years and this book is an extension of the concept (about ten years after she started it). Which explains why I’ve heard of it before. Some Minimalist YouTubers I watch have mentioned the book and author before.

The book is a tad slow to start. It takes until Chapter 11 before she officially introduces the rules of Project 333. The majority of the chapters before were about her journey with finding minimalism and answering a lot of the questions people typical have about the project. The book does assume you sorta understand the high level concept of the project before introducing it. I think that the rules should have been introduced sooner then the FAQ .

The idea, as mentioned at the top, only wearing 33 items of clothing for a period of 3 months. There are some exemptions, such as wedding ring/sentimental jewelry, workout gear, under garments, lounge wear (only to be worn exclusively at home. Leggings you wear out to do groceries or whatever count to your 33 items), and work uniforms.

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

She has more that 33 items, as some items are seasonal. That’s why the project is three months, to match the seasons. But she has way less that 132 items, since most of her closet carries over.

After the chapter with the rules and looking at her closet, the book goes a bit more ‘woo woo’ or metaphysical about the larger knock on effects of having a small closet. Lots talk about mediation, the joys of quiet moments, not having to clean as much, downsizing. The standard package of a minimalism book. Although she made no comments about losing weight, and she was pro renting. So 4/6 minimalism tropes isn’t bad.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I don’t know if it will be everyone’s cup of tea, since it’s a rather repetitive. I can also imagine her tone of her writing wouldn’t be everyone’s favorite (you can tell she was a blogger first). There were moments as I was reading I was going back and forth on if I enjoyed the style or not.

If you are looking exclusively for the rules of Project 333, her website (https://bemorewithless.com/project-333-challenge/) is definitely the resource for you.

The book was a light quick read filled with 80’s pop references and generally has feel good motivational vibe.

Photo by Alena Shekhovtcova on Pexels.com

I feel for the author, her book was published at a really bad time to start the Project. Since most people have been working from home since publication. In general clothing and fashion haven’t been a main priority for most people. 

Although it will be interesting to see how that effects peoples clothing choices. I know for me, I’ve been wearing around the same 30 items. But that’s because I’ve been living in sweatpants and hoodies, unless I have to go to site or have a cameras-on zoom meeting. Imagine a worst version of what a typical university student would wear during exams, but for the past year and a half. 

When reading the book I was thinking I would do the project and see how I feel about it. Last weekend I was planning on going through my closet and sort what I want to keep, since I was inspired by the book. But I made scones and took at nap instead.

The next recommended start time is September 1st, so I have the summer and maybe slight return to pre-covid times to help me plan my choices. If I do it, I’ll do my best to document and report back on how I feel about it. I can also start in July or any other time. I have some other decluttering projects I want to tackle in the immediate term, but I do want to circle back and try this.

BOOK REVIEW: New Minimalism by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici

New Minimalism is written by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici. It was published in 2018, after their blog and consulting service of the same name grew in popularity.

This books angle in the minimalism landscape is including a sustainable lens for how to declutter.

The majority of the book explains the standard why minimalism is good for you and how to declutter your house. Their method is sorta similar to the KonMarie method by Marie Kondo, bring all similar items from a categories together and sort from there.

The differences are the categories, and for the clothes and home décor sections, the first step should be to pick your 5 favorited items that you definitely want to keep. That will help you visualize your personal style and guide you through your maybes. Which I think is a good idea, particularly when it’s your first round of full house decluttering.

They also mentioned the four archetypes of people that are starting their minimalism journey and which categories will be hardest for them and some tips to help. I think this section could have been fleshed out more. They mentioned their experience with their clients and I would have liked to hear more about that and the timeline of the whole thing.  

The archetypes are as follows:

  • Connected: They wants to keep things from loved ones and are very sentimental about their items.
  • Practical: They want to keep stuff because it might be useful one day.
  • Energetic : They take on a lot of projects and hobbies. Then they don’t want to get rid of any of it, even though it’s unlikely they will complete it.
  • Frugal: Keep items because of the money they spend on it. Or the idea the item may increase in value.
Image Source: New Minimalism

There’s actual mentions of therapy! It was a one off sentence in an anecdote but I appreciate that they mentioned a client being in therapy that helping them figure out why they held on to certain items.

So many books, and even this book in previous chapters, mention a client just “eventually coming to the realization” on something massive. I guess it can happen that way, but I think that those types of stories really gloss over the work a individual has to do to get to that point. They just seem to think minimalism will solved everything in a dudes life.

I wish they had gone deeper on that or clients that didn’t do therapy but came to figured out their hurdles. Like more on though process to get there.

The last portion of the book was about interior design, they include 12 design tips/elements to incorporate into your final design when your done. I won’t go into them. But they made sense: use existing storage before buying more. Your drawers should be only filled to the point you can open and close them with one hand. Find a home for everything.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

I wished that this book had gone a bit deeper in the route of sustainability. They encouraged donating instead of throwing away and using more simple “natural” cleaning products. I don’t remember 2018 that well but I believe that we were more evolved in the eco and decluttering world by then.  They mentioned very briefly donating to more specific originations than just your local Goodwill but don’t explained why (ps: The big places get too overwhelmed with donations and end up trashing most of it).

I did quickly look at their blog, and it seems like nothing has been published since they released the guided journal extension for this book in 2020. A few of the articles touched on items directly mentioned in this book.

Image Source New Minimalism

Overall I just found this book under developed and I would just suggest taking 10 minutes looking through their blog posts and you will probably find all the important parts of this book.

Not to end on a bad note, the book had a lot of pictures of interior spaces, and I really liked them. There was colour, and nice, natural materials. Which is sometimes lacking when you think of minimalist décor. So that was nice to look at when you got to a end of a chapter.

Book Review: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

I was originally going to skip this book. I had seen some of the sponsored videos from a number of the eco lifestyles Youtubers (and Legal Eagle) and I wasn’t interested. I don’t really like Bill Gates. I appreciate that he does a fuck ton more philanthropy than any other Billionaire, but I don’t think that makes him a hero.

I ended up watching an unsponsored book review by Kristen Leo. I really enjoyed it, and I would recommend you watch it. She complained about how much he talked about concrete and fertilizer. Hi, my name is Zoe. My interests include knitting, crochet, concrete, and fertilizer. 

So I placed a hold on the book at the library, since I don’t think Bill needs my $. And here we are.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

Right off the bat, the introduction and a large majority of this book is pretty pretentious. Gates was talking about how, in 2015, people were asking him to disinvest in oil and he was like ‘nah’ until 2019. And we are supposed to be impressed that he did it? (Also, I don’t know when in 2019. It’s possible he saw Covid-19 spreading in China and dumped his oil stocks, anticipating a price crash due to possible shut downs. However, I have zero evidence to back that up.) Either way, although he does do a lot of charity and investments in riskier start ups, the dude is a product of ~Capitalism~.

So don’t get fooled by the fact that Billy Boy looks like your coworker who will try to dance in the lunchroom the latest Fortnight dance his grandkids taught him. He likely dumped his oil stocks because he suspected they would lose value, or because he was writing a book about the Climate and it would be bad public relations if he was still invested in oil at that point. I don’t know for sure, but I really wasn’t as impressed by this story of him not doing the bad thing as I think he was.

It was also weird how proud he sounded in the first few chapters about not being interested nor wanting to invest in green projects for a number of years, yet would attend meetings with experts. I just don’t understand the logic of why he would waste everyone’s time like that. Those experts and the likes could have used that time to further their work or have meetings with actual possible investors.

Anyways…

At one point later in the book, he calls out myths of people who don’t want to disinvest from oil… seems a bit close to home, Bill. It seems an awful lot like what he was doing less than two years ago.

Let’s move on beyond the introduction of the book. The tone of the writing is incredibly weird. Maybe this would be better as an audiobook. The writing is very informal, so it might sound less wrong in audio form. The book is written like a white mommy blogger turned New York Times bestseller’s debut self-help book. It gets a tad less painful as the book progresses and he focuses on the topic at hand, but his weird writing style will surprise you throughout. Example: when he talks about farts in the chapter about cows and factory farming. He mentions farts, and talks about enjoying saying the word fart far more often than needed.

The cows are judging you Bill… – Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Gates was right in commenting that reducing vehicle and air travel will not be the things that will stop emissions and prevent the Climate Crisis. This was proven last year when the world was as close to stopped as it will probably ever get. In 2020, global emissions dropped 5% – from around 51 to 48 billion equivalent tonnes of CO2. 

The rest of the book goes into each of the largest polluting sectors and suggests some ideas or technological advances that may reduce emissions.

Given Gates’ background, it’s no surprise that the book is all about emerging tech that can hopefully solve all our problems. But maybe instead of improving our technology, we can also work on reducing our needs overall (when I say our, I mean developed countries that have benefited from all the activities that emit carbon).

Despite Kristin Leo mentioning that Gates talked about concrete for too long, I personally found the materials chapter (particularly concrete) too short and vague. He mentioned carbon capture a number of times throughout the book and never really explained what it is. He went into so much detail about nuclear fusion and fission (which was relevant for one chapter), but added no details about carbon capture, like what it is and how it could improve the energy and construction/concrete industries.

One of the things that horrified me the most in this book was the suggestion that if we are behind schedule on dropping emissions, the worst case scenario is that scientists can geo-engineer the clouds to artificially cool the earth, which could buy us a few extra years. He does then admit it’s a bad idea. IF IT’S A BAD IDEA, WHY IS IT IN YOUR BOOK?

This just reinforces my feeling about the book being detailed in areas that don’t matter and vague in areas that might.

My friend Lillian edited this post for me and pointed out that Gates probably added geo-engineering into the book to sound cool and he wants to reminds the reader that he’s smart and hip. I agree with her assessment.  

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

I really didn’t like the way they cited sources in this book, it’s not MLA or the style guides that have the numbers after the concept so you can easily find the source. The back of the book is just a list of the chapters and sources. Not very intuitive if you wanted to look into the things he discussed in more detail.

He rarely discussed lifestyle changes. This does make sense, since lifestyle change has the smallest of small impacts on emissions compared to industry. But even then, his lifestyle suggestions don’t even feel as strong as they should. I think the most he suggested was LED lights and reducing meat consumption. Also to lobby. In this section he mentioned that he used to underestimate the power of Lobbying and wished he did it sooner with Microsoft.

The government basically prevented him from creating a monopoly. He pretty much admitted in that chapter that he wished he used his money and resources at the time to prevent that from happening. Why am I supposed to take this author seriously?

To conclude. I would give this book like 1.5/5 stars. It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read but I’ve read so many better books that touch on industry and the effects on the planet (The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard and Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter are both mostly about consumer goods but I really enjoyed them, there’s also my last book review of A Good War, specifically about Canada). Overall, I don’t believe that Bill Gates was the best person to deliver the message about emerging green tech, but maybe this book is a decent intro for tech bros to understand the Climate Crisis. Maybe there’s a small chance they will take some action.

Below are a bunch of things that I found more interesting than Bill Gates’ book. If you are going to waste time, I would strongly suggest any of these instead of giving more of your attention to a billionaire.

Article:

The Guardian – Bill Gates: ‘Carbon neutrality in a decade is a fairytale. Why peddle fantasies?’

Podcasts:

99Percent Invisible – Built on Sand

99Percent Invisible – The First Straw

Freakonomics – Two (Totally Opposite) Ways to Save the Planet

YouTube Videos

Kristen Leo – The AUDACITY of Bill Gates’s new book

My Green Closet – Which Ethical Brand has the Best Quality? 👕 Fabric, Fit, Price, Sustainability & Ethics of 5 Tees

Slidebean – Beyond Meat vs Impossible Foods: a fight to take away my steak

Sustainably Vegan – 100 ZERO WASTE SWAPS YOU HAVE TO TRY

The Story of Stuff Project – The Story of Stuff

NPR – Is Recycling Worth it Anymore? The Truth is Complicated

Although a bit on the intense side, particularly if you don’t like the sight of blood: Seaspiracy on Netflix

Book Review: A Good War by Seth Klein

Back in January 2021, I was walking down a sidewalk getting my lunch while I was on site for my job. I passed a cute book shop (Great Escape Bookstore check it out if you’re in Toronto), and they had a sign and A Good War on display. I saw the big ass windmill, Canada, climate and I was in. I immediately DM’ed the shop to buy a copy since they were closed due to Covid restrictions for Wave 2.

Going in, I was expecting the book to be all about green energy in Canada. I will tell you right now, it is not. I would have known if I read the back before buying the book. But let me tell ya, I was confused in the introduction when Klein was talking about the World Wars. Anyways…

The book’s main thesis is that we are in a Climate Emergency and as a nation we should be treating it as such and get our shit together similar to what they did in World War II.

Klein focuses on the different players, individual people, communities, corporations, and (for the largest part) the Government.

Photo by Lachlan Ross on Pexels.com

It took me forever to read this book. Since there’s a lot of information in it, I had to take a lot of breaks. Between reading this and seeing climate and Covid stuff on all my social media, I was just getting a tad overwhelmed and melancholic. Thus this review is being posted four months – and one pandemic wave – later.

In general, I enjoyed the book. Most of the books I’ve read on the climate are about the USA, so it was refreshing and more relevant to read about the place I live. Klein was also really conscious to include Indigenous voices and their Governance throughout. Again, this isn’t something you see if you aren’t reading a book about Canada. 

I have no interest in history, so pretty much all the information about World War II was new to me.

At a high level, I do agree that we are in an emergency/war against carbon emissions and we all should be acting as such. I don’t fully agree with the details of some of Klein’s methods, but I see how he got there.

One thing I wish was a bit more explicit in the conclusion was what the reader should be doing after reading this book. I finished it up and was like, now what? Now I have all this information and nothing to do with it. The clerk at the bookstore, who sold me my copy, told me about how much she enjoyed it and how she was sending letters to our MPs to convince them to take action. I guess this is the main thing we need to do. A lot of the big changes needed won’t be done unless forced to. Examples: purchasing electric vehicles, not fracking, reducing energy consumption in buildings.

I work in existing buildings, so I do want to talk to my boss and see what we can do to be pushing our clients towards more resilient, less oil/natural gas dependent equipment replacements. That might be a hard sell, since gas is currently cheaper than electricity (in Ontario, it is different in other provinces). I’ll update if there’s anything worth reporting on that front.

Photo by Lukas Rodriguez on Pexels.com

I would recommend this book. I found Klein’s suggestions and vision for a sustainable future way more realistic and rooted than Voluntary Simplicity (Link to review), which was basically living in a commune.

Below is a list of the ideas  that I found the most interesting, in case you aren’t going to read the book or want a little preview:

  • Use terms such as ’Climate Crisis’ or ’Climate Emergency’ instead of ‘climate change’ or ’global warming’ like The Guardian started to do in 2019. It puts into focus that this is a pressing issue that should be addressed instead of sounding like a passive item.
  • The government could make Green Bonds, similar to Victory Bonds, which would help raise capital for massive green infrastructure projects, but provide slow yet predictable yields for the investors.
  • The level of infrastructure change is going to be massive. Do you know how much of your day-to-day life relies on oil and natural gas? A metric fuck tonne: your car, your house/apartment, your take-out containers. This will be a complicated process that will require not only more (and new) jobs but lots of money. It will be worth spending because most people enjoy being alive. Also, not screwing over future generations would be cool.
  • Creating new Crown Corporations like they did in the war to keep companies competitive in tenders. (Ex. If there are 1-3 companies that can do a thing, they will bid high cause they know they can get away with it, since exclusivity. A crown corp would bid fair because why would the government want to screw the government, and keep other companies staying competitive). Or to do the stuff that was just too cost-prohibitive for other companies to take on. I really enjoyed this part of the book, maybe because the tendering process is part of my job, but also because I didn’t know that was something that was done during WWII. Again don’t know if I agree with the idea but still interested in the suggestion.
  • A Crown Corporation to buy the old GM plant in Oshawa, and turn it into a factory making electric Canada Post vehicles. See Green Jobs Oshawa for more information on the group working to lobby for that.
  • Oil companies = evil. That’s not how it was described in the book, but that’s the short and dirty version. Oil companies are destroying our environment and not paying enough taxes to do it. Klein suggested either upping their tax rate (similar to what other countries have done) or expropriating it and turning it into a Crown Corporation. I personally think taxing makes more sense, but that may cause the companies to bail on Alberta. Which means we (more like the government or something) should be working on transitioning those workers into a job that isn’t oil based.
  • AKA: the Green New Deal, like the resolution AOC proposed in the State but here and tailored to our landscape.
  • In order to prevent CO2 emissions rising to dangerous levels, everyone needs to be involved. Not as a suggestion, but as a requirement. Every Canadian did something to help in the war effort in WWII, either as direct support to the war efforts, or due to rationing, recycling, and general cutbacks to one’s lifestyles. That needs to happen, particularly to the 1%. We are the 1% of the world, so we should be doing more, but the 1% of our country should be doing the most, since we are in this mess because of ~Capitalism~.
  • The previous point – and most of the suggestions in the book – will require government (mostly Federal) intervention. I don’t love that this is what we need to rely on, because it would be nice to think that people/corporations can do the correct thing if simply asked to. But this past year (2020) has proven that you can’t expect anyone, even your government, to do anything.

We are totally fucked…

Photo by kien virak on Pexels.com

I really admire Klein’s optimism throughout the book. It’s not in your face, but he does seem to believe the best in people. He believes the government, with enough public support, will do what is needed to prevent the climate, and life as we know it, from collapsing. The book did include an epilogue about the Government’s response to Covid-19, and you can tell it was written early in the pandemic. It mentioned strong mask compliance, CERB, and a glimmer of hope for a vaccine. I’m writing this in Wave Three, with both a vaccine shortage, a bunch of empty vaccine appointments for 70+, and no paid sick days. It feels like every level of Government has abandoned us.

Klein did mention in the book that he would keep an updated epilogue on his website. I looked for it but  couldn’t find it. I’m not sure if it was because of the website formatting on my tablet or not. But I would be interested in reading it.

As mentioned before, the main actionable item from the book is letting the Government know that reducing emissions and addressing the Climate Crisis should be a top priority item. Below I’ve put a letter you can send to your government representative to show we care. This letter was heavily adapted (ie mostly copied) from the one found here, on the David Suzuki Foundation page. I also liked this one from Greenpeace.

Dear [Prime Minister Trudeau, or your Member of Parliament],

As Parliament prepares for Budget 2021 and beyond, let’s ensure that the pandemic recovery is green and just, benefitting people and the planet. Every day when I see the news, I see either Covid-19, the climate crisis, or the housing crisis. This budget is the best opportunity to make the environment, sustainability, and resilience keys part of the Countries recovery plan.

I urge you to invest in measures that support communities and create jobs while setting Canada on track to: 

-Reduce carbon pollution to limit warming to 1.5 C and enable Canada to do its fair share to contribute to a livable climate. A few suggestions are:

  • increasing taxation on oil, fossil fuels and eventually slowing/stopping oil and natural gas production;
  • reducing subitizes for animal agriculture and reinvesting it in plant agriculture;
  • More grants/tax cuts for retrofitting homes and offices to assist in transition off oil/natural gas heating. Generally increasing the number of grants and/or tax rebates for energy, and water efficiencies retrofits. 

-Address the biodiversity crisis by protecting, restoring and investing in nature as the foundation of our health, economy and well-being, and reforming industries that interact with it. I’m not sure if this is within the scope of the Federal Government power, but a good start would be to prevent the Ontario Provincial Government from developing protected wetlands in Pickering.

-An end to the use of single-use plastics. Growth of a circular economy, and improve our domestic recycling programs. We reply too often on sending our ‘recycling’ to other countries, instead of dealing with our own messes. 

Budget 2021 must also invest in upgrading the core environmental functions of government necessary to support a green recovery, like chemicals management, pesticide regulation and environmental law enforcement.

Canada’s COVID-19 response and recovery plan must also uphold these principles for a just recovery: 

-Put people’s health and well-being first. No exceptions. 

-Strengthen the social safety net and provide relief directly to people. This past year has shown that providing directly to the people is much more effective than to companies.

-Build solidarity and equity across communities, generations and borders. 

-Uphold Indigenous rights and work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples. 

We don’t have to choose between managing the pandemic and creating a sustainable future. If we don’t get significantly more proactive about reducing Carbon emissions and reducing our collective environmental impact, viruses such as the one we just lived through may be the norm. Which you may not be alive to see happen but I will. So will the generation of kids who already don’t know what the bottom half of a stranger’s face looks like since they don’t have any memories from before this Pandemic.  

All this to say, that pandemic recovery, and Canada’s sustainable future are inseparable issues, and the upcoming budget is the time to take steps for both issues.

Will you commit to supporting budget measures that enable Canada to build a clean-energy economy swiftly and justly?

Sincerely,

[your name will go here]

[your email address will go here], [your location will go here]

That’s pretty much the post. A bit of a departure from what I was planning on reading and reviewing on this blog. But I found the topic really interesting. April is Earth Month so this, and the book I’m currently reading might create a Climate Crisis theme for the blog.

Did any of the ideas that Klein mentioned resonate with you? I would love to hear it in the comments below. 

BOOK REVIEW: Voluntary Simplicity (2nd Edition) by Duane Elgin

autumn boots walking on wet wooden logs

As I was reading thing book I was complaining to pretty much anyone that would let me about how boring it was. They would ask why I’m bothering with it? I said I wanted to finish it so I had content for the blog. Now that I’m done, I can confidently say that the approximately 8 hours that I invested reading this book wasn’t worth it!

Voluntary Simplicity is a fantastic combination of being both boring and extremely pretentious. I went into this book with the intention of liking it. It was mentioned in The Story of Stuff, that I read over Christmas. I loved that book so I was hoping that this book would live up to the hype.

It did not…

Photo by Maksim Romashkin on Pexels.com

The thesis of the book is that everyone should reduce their level of consumerism and live more simply as a way to reduce their environmental impact. Sorta like everyone should be working to reaching ‘One Planet’ levels of consumption/way of living (If you’ve never taken the test, you should, the data is interesting and it explains the concept more).

In the introduction, he explained that living simple isn’t the same thing as poverty. I don’t love the way that he worded that portion, but it’s about how voluntary you are to the simplicity that impacts how much joy and longevity you will get out of it.

After that, there is over 75 pages of testimony’s about how great the voluntary simplicity lifestyle is, and it was so pretentious. It was like when you’re on a first date and you both just ordered appetizers. And that’s when you find out the person sitting across from you is the worst stereotypical of a vegan investment banker. That level of pretentious, self indulgent righteousness.

I can’t even say it gets better after that potion. The whole book is very repetitive. Chapter 5 got a tad better, there was a list of the negative impacts associated with over consumption. I enjoyed reading it the first time I saw it, then I saw a variation two more times. Same with the list of quotes for the major religions/philosophies that would support the idea of simple, sustainable living that I read in three chapters.

This book would have been better as mediocre content for a blog. There are so many  lists and quotes, that would have not been so boring or noticeable if they were spread out over numerous posts.

Here is one example that I screenshot:

The only part of the book I remember/thought about after finishing, is that one of the challenges of achieving a sustainable sociality is a lack of a “collective promise of the future”. Pretty much everyone is working on a different vision of how they want the future to look. Which makes it harder to work on the big societal/intuitional changes that the world (let be honest, first world countries) need to do to ensure we don’t destroy the planet as we know it. Unfortunately the idea it not developed much beyond what I just mentioned.

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

The author listed some interesting concepts of what they believe the way of the future should be. Smaller, cohabitation communities close to farm land/food sources. I agree with the high level idea of a sense of community as a pillar of sustainability. However, I believe that their vision for sustainable communities don’t hold up if you think about it too hard. I don’t want to get into much detail about it since they didn’t really either.

The book doesn’t give you much information on how to actually go through the process of simplifying. It’s just a lot of Philosophy 101 mumbo jumbo with the words like environment or sustainability thrown in to make it ~spicy~. Ultimately, I believe that addressing overconsumption is a great way an individual can reduce their environmental impacts. I don’t think this book was the way to deliver that message. Also, that just a small piece of the puzzle of how we can try to solve the climate crisis.

PS. I read some reviews and they mention that the first edition is much better and the rewrites ruined the book. I will take their word for it, and I will not be reading the first edition to compare.