Monday, May 28, 2012

Too Many Books

In trying to get ready to move out of my parents' house this summer, I'm being confronted by all the stuff I've accumulated and the wasteful behaviors I've acquired in the last twenty two years. Big area of weakness: my book collection.

I've always loved to read.  My family frequently gave me books for my birthday and Christmas.  Whenever I had money, I bought books, new or used.  My high school hosted a huge used book sale every year.  My book collection grew and grew and grew.  As I grew up, I took more and more pride in how many books I had.

The problem is that I wasn't reading all of the books.  I read a lot of them, but a fair number just sat there.  I didn't have as much time to read as I once had.  I bought books I thought I "should" read.  I bought many books at once, and I would only read one or two before my interest moved on.  I always meant to go back and read the rest.  Sometimes I did.  Sometimes I didn't.

Which leads me to this pile, containing (almost) all of the books in my room that I haven't yet read.  This pile represents wasted money (mine and my family's) and wasted good intention.  I've had some of these books for seven or eight years without reading them.

I've given myself the summer to read as many as I can.  If I read a book, I can keep it.  At the end of the summer, I'll pick 3-5 books that I still intend to read, and I'll donate everything else.  That step will hurt, and I'm dreading it.  I like having stuff.  I like having books around "just in case" I want to read them someday.  But more than that, I want to appreciate the books I've read and love.  The majority of the books above are readily available in bookstores and libraries.  If I want to read them someday, I can get them again.  It's time for me to let these books go.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Small Success: Replacing Tissues

This will be the start of a series: every Thursday I'll post one small step I've made towards less waste in my life.  Generally, it will be something new I've done that week.

This week, cloth tissues! I use tissues a lot (who doesn't?) and they make up a large portion of the non-food waste that I produce.  I made these replacements using old t-shirts.  I started by very exactly cutting out 8.5 inch squares,  and then I just gave up and cut them approximately.  I'm keeping them in an empty tissue box, which I may or may not decorate.  I haven't gotten a receptacle for them yet; right now I have to chuck them across the room into my laundry basket.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Free Entertainment via the Internet

Free and legal, that is.  I'm trying to save money, which means using less money to buy media, but I want to do that while respecting copyright laws.

This post was inspired by discovering that Mur Lafferty is giving away EIGHT novels/novellas for absolutely free during May and June.  The set consists of her five-part Afterlife series plus three other works.  I haven't read anything by Mur before, but I've listened to her wonderful readings on the Escape Pod (more on that in a moment).  I'll store these stories away on my Nook, ready to be consumed when I travel in June.  I also have a pdf copy of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, one of my favorite books, acquired for free during a promotion a couple of years ago. I learned about

Barnes and Noble's website has a section for free ebooks.  A few years back they had about five classic novels available for free each week.  I "bought" as many as I could, and held on to them, which has come in handy now that I have a Nook.  It appears they're having a similar sale at the moment (or they brought it back in a more permanent fashion).  Another source for free ebooks is Project Gutenberg.  Granted, they only provide books that have entered the public domain, but again, if you don't mind reading classics then it's great.

What about audiobooks? I acquire them from LibriVox, an audio version of Project Gutenberg.  Not always the highest quality (look for versions where one person has read the entire book, rather than a different person on every chapter), but hey, they're free.  I adore the readers on my copies of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  Again, only public domain books can be found here.

Finally, podcasts from the Escape Artists group provide a fabulous source of new fiction.   I found Escape Pod's 100th episode three years ago, although I don't remember how I found it.  Every week they post an audio rendition of a science fiction short story (35-50 minutes long), and they release a pdf copy of the stories once per month.  And it's all for free, although they request donations so that they can offer competitive pay to their authors and readers.  Escape Artists also offers a weekly fantasy story at PodCastle, and a horror story at PseudoPod

My primary method for discovering these sites has been through reading blogs or simply by googling "free _____" (audio books, for example - generic terms are best).  I listen to Pandora for my free music fix; I use the free version of the service at the moment but I'm probably going to switch to the paid subscription soon (a few dollars per month will get rid of the ads, which drive me crazy).  I also subscribe to streaming Netflix.  So not everything can be both free and legal.  Still, as shown above, a little effort yields quite a few options that fit both categories.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Graduation Woes

I've left a lot of waste in my wake this week.  Very little of it was directly my fault, but much of it could have been avoided with a little more backbone on my part.  Pretty much all of the trash came from graduation parties, both mine last Sunday and my friend's yesterday.

I did not purchase the items that became trash at my party, nor was I aware of their purchase until I came downstairs on Sunday to find a plethora of "Congratulations 2012 Graduate" party supplies strewn around our kitchen, living room, and deck.  Balloons were everywhere.  At least I made it in time to nix the idea of hanging shiny streamer things from the ceiling; they'll probably make a reappearance at my sister's party next year though.  The cupcake wrappers, tiered cupcake holder, plates, napkins, and cups were all disposable as well.  Some of the utensils were also plastic, but we didn't have enough in the cabinet so some people were forced to use our usual metal silverware. At least it was something.

So I didn't purchase these disposable items, but what does their presence say about my ability to communicate with my family, particularly my mom ?  I've been talking a little bit with her over the last year or so about my desire to reduce my environmental impact, but clearly it wasn't enough.  We have most of the items we would have needed to minimize the trash created at the party.  We don't have enough cloth napkins or suitable replacements for cupcake liners, but we have basically everything else. I could have talked to her more, and told her not to get balloons or ceiling decorations.  I could have suggested that we use the "outdoor" party plates and cups that we bought when I was little (they are plastic, but reusable at least).  I could have told her to just stick with cookies, and not worry about the cupcakes.  But I didn't talk to her, and so I began my post-undergrad life with several bags of trash created in my name.

At my friend's party, I failed to refuse, refuse, refuse.  His mother had also purchased Grad 2012 paraphernalia, removing the plastic shrink-wrap from a multitude of disposable items while we got ready for dinner.  I was several hours from home, hungry (and staying overnight), and couldn't bring myself to ask for a reusable plate or glass.  I didn't want to be rude or seem ungrateful, so I smiled and ate despite my dismay at my own actions.  I'm still in awe of those who can simply refuse to eat, or who bring their own dishes to events.  Or even those who can simply ask for a non-disposable option.  The experience underlined an area I know I need to work on, but for an introvert who usually tries her best not to make waves, it's going to be hard work.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Waste Less, Grad!

Testing, Testing! Is this thing on?

The idea of this blog has been bouncing around in my mind for months now, so I figure I might as well put it out there.  Over the last year, I've felt convicted to try to reduce the amount of waste in my life.  I'll talk about the background of some of this in the future, but basically, I realized there's a lot of waste in my life.

I waste money.  I waste time.  I waste brain power. 

I waste plastic, paper, and other resources.  I waste energy.  I waste food. 

I'm tired of this trash, and I want to get rid of it.

My initial inspiration came from the book of Genesis, and the first task given to humanity, which was to care for the garden of Eden.  I've since been inspired by Miser Mom, The Zero Waste Home, my hermanita (unrelated and actually older than me), and countless others whom I've met and whose blogs I have read over the last year.

My goal is to have this blog be a way of sharing my journey towards less waste in my life.  The tone of my writing from now until August will probably be somewhat different than what will show up come September.  I'll be starting my five-to-seven-year journey towards a PhD this Autumn.  In pursuit of that goal, I'll be moving from my parents' suburban house, where I'm living for the summer, to an apartment in the big city.  I'm spending the summer preparing for the move and trying to convince my parents that I'm not insane.  In the Fall, I'll switch to dealing with waste in the city while trying to survive graduate school.  That, I hope, will be the primary function of my blog going forward.

So hello Blogosphere! Here I come!