December 28, 2008

Made it through the gift season

December holds four birthdays, Chanukkah, Yule/Solstice and the big giftmas.
I survived and managed to gift everyone who needed one.
Planting trees was big this year through
One recipient was so happy they planted 10 more as a gift to the planet.

My not-so-inner-hippy was pleased.

I was choosing between a floral arrangement (very planet unfriendly- roses from where?) and this. I decided the recipients were either savvy enough or had their own inner-hippy ready to be channeled, or simply were not wanting things to care for, store and keep up with.

For the physical gifts, such as for my young nieces, Sweetie and Kiddo, I used 6 square feet of wrapping, half of that reused.
I don't have to seek out that one different roll of paper this year.
I actually have too much paper at once.
I see drawer/shelf lining in my future.

December 8, 2008

John Lennon and life examined

I've said on boards that I had my last hamburger when John Lennon was alive. I don't remember the exact date I put the cow = sentient life equation together, so in the sadness of memory today, I also thank Lennon for pushing people to look at why they do things the way they do...and offering options. It pushed me to look at what I thought was basic, eating, and make it a statement of my own beliefs.
I try not to push it on others. I will answer questions, share recipes and hints.
I do think that the reliance on animals for food has gotten out of hand.
Who orders a 3.5 oz steak at a restaurant?

But Lennon was an icon for me. I had a brother old enough to remember the Beatles clearly, and a stepmother with the full catalog. For a young teen, his words and stances were heady stuff.
It's trite, perhaps, but we can give peace a chance, because invasion sure isn't working out.
I probably would not have read Mao without Lennon, although I had read Marx by then. And I'm slogging through Trotsky now. Ugh.
I was intensely interested in Utopian ideals and communities, and reading the dry formulas they sprang from was eye opening.
I also give his soul mate, Yoko kudos for forcing her concept of art on the mass public.
She might sound somewhat like a tortured goat, but you have to ask WHY people would express themselves this way.

Ono chose a companion for Lennon while they were separated in the 1970s. May Pang is now peddling a book about John's "Lost Weekend" and her relationship with him.
I can't even begin to understand how one woman could "choose" the woman her husband was to have an affair with..and I can't comprehend why a man would go along with it.
But I can wonder how on earth that other woman can trade on a dead man so many years later.

What I'd like to see is more musicians and artists with a holy anger like Lennon's making a mark.
So, no choice to balance but some homework:
Who has that sacred rage that you love? Franti? RATM? Dead Prez?
Who is speaking truth to power in an obseved way that makes even the pop world take note?

October 9, 2008

Continuing car free and food issues

Looks like the old dependable car is in need of far more repair than it is worth.

So the Sweetie and I will continue with being car free for a while longer.
I last wrote about groceries, and my interim fix is to grab a bag of groceries when convenient, or if I'm out and about with a wheeled friend.
Cat food and litter are definitely "borrowed transport" items.

Living in a 'burb, I have a lot of grocery choices: two traditional store, one of which is remotely affordable, two natural foods stores in the neighboring 'burb, but the travel time gets really long, so I hit Vitamin Cottage when I'm in that area. Whole Paycheck is out of my league for a good while.
Walking in Downtown Denver, where homeless and high rent flats rub shoulders, I noticed there are no real grocery stores, or even the stripped down market concept aside from a couple foodie-porn places.

So what if I lived there? Would I have to trek out to a grocery close to the rail line (Broadway and Alameda) ?
Would I have to pay the $10 home delivery charge for Shop at Home?

I ran a cross an abstract for a study on food outlets near high schools in the United States:

which basically says that lower income and non white majority schools have more junk nearby, negating school food policies.
What that also says is that lower income areas have less healthy options.

Or how about we feed our people before we buy bullets?

Look in any trash bin outside and marvel at the food we waste.

August 31, 2008

Groceries while carless

No deep questions today, just a bit o' reflection.
I'm procrastinating getting groceries because I have to do it on the bus.
Suddenly car-light looks like a lot of car!
Luckily, I don't need too much, and I plan on keeping it that way, so a hefty backpack will have to do.
Add my fading enthusiasm for plastic containers, and well, I could be in for a workout.
But that's OK, work should use up some stored calories.
I have two choices of close by groceries, both the same chain. One has the ever-tempting Taco Bell in the parking lot. That's the shorter ride, too, but the store is less well maintained.
Well, off to strap on the pedometer for grins and giggles.
How much does one hippie walk while fetching groceries?
I'll let you know.
And while I'm off, can someone recommend the best grocery cart for urban freaks?

August 23, 2008


When I was younger, "paper or plastic?" became a common question.
In the interest of saving trees, people promoted plastic bags.
If only we'd skipped directly to reusable bags then.
There is so much focus on bags, that we forget the rafts of polymers we have everywhere else.
Own a bottle of shampoo?
What's your computer casing? Or your telephone?
Even waxed paper is really lined with a plastic.
Some cars are plastics.
I signed a pledge about two years ago to refrain from buying bottled water.
I used a Lexan bottle. Bisophenol A. Yay. So I saved up and got a Sigg.
I now have brightly colored craft storage with stickers all over the outside.

So I knew, intellectually, that the average house has loads of plastic.
I've been using up plastic-packaged goods in the bathroom. I felt like I was starting to see a difference. Wooden soap dish, bars of shampoo and conditioner, liquid soap bought by the half gallon and diluted (Dilute, dilute, dilute, OK!)

Then I cleaned in the kitchen today, a put off for many months clear-out.
Wow. And gross.

I buy a lot of groceries in bulk, which means plastic bags when you don't take your own containers.
I reuse the deli-style containers until a fatal crack develops. I was happy to see how many glass jars I had in use.
But I have a lot of plastic, some of it rather high quality.
Some will get donated to whichever of my three charities calls next.
Some I will keep because the size is convenient, but I will be eying glass canisters for the contents.
I want to donate whole the plastic is still high quality, so that someone will get good use out of it.
I also had lots of plastic bags of a few ounces of this and a few cups of that.
Now I have a lot of labeled jars, and this looks better to me.

What small change would you like to make in how you live?

August 19, 2008

What would you do?

Alright, I don't think I have a vast audience, yet, but I'd like to see if I can get a reader or two engaged.
I'll post a dilema and ask you for your coice, and how you got there.

Here goes:

A book store has two copies of a book you really want.
One copy, soft cover, has damage on a few pages, bcause we all look though books we are considering, and is full price.
The next copy is hard cover and about the same price through on the bargin table.
You pick up the hardcover and at checkout discover someone has swapped the price sticker.

What do you do, and why?

August 17, 2008

Is every choice either/or?

I don't think every choice has a perfect answer, and I doubt that every choice is either/or.
I think that why you make your choices, or avoid them, leads you to your best answer of the moment.
For example, let's say a person, Sam, is standing in the grocery and that person has organic agriculture as an ideal. But, Sam has recently started reading about food miles.
So Sam is standing in a less than perfect suburban grocery store looking at organic strawberries from six states away and conventional strawberries from within a 200-mile radius.
Prices are similar, freshness appears similar.
What does Sam do? Does she select the organic that used a good amount of gasoline to arrive, or the more local crop grown with fertilizers and pesticides?
Is there another option?
I say there is. Unless Sam has to have strawberries for something, look at what else is on offer. Organic, in-state peaches? Local raspberries?
Sam picks up the local conventionally-grown berries and drops them in her basket.
She believes that cutting down on the transportation is more important than the cropland use.

Personally, I'd look for the most local fruit available, allowing for my undeveloped appreciation of most melons.
Berries rule, but peaches are blessings.

The local farmers market has a particular vendor who is inclined to be less than truthful about his products.
He's also got better prices.
Do I boycott him for passing Washington cherries off as Western Slope Colorado cherries, or do I just pay a lot of attention?
Depends. Is the West Slope fruit grower at the market that week? Are his prices in line with the questionable vendor?
If so, Forte Farms will get my hard earned money.
If not, well, I value the farmers market concert over the grocery where Sam is picking over berries. I might pay more at Forte (and I plan to buy a box of frozen cherries at the end of season). I might skip cherries if it is not the end of season.
But, I might decide that week that any fresh fruit is better than none, and the peaches are not in yet.
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit? --Woody Guthrie

Balance what choices?

Welcome to Balance Your Choices, I'm glad you are here.

I have been imagining this blog for a couple of years and finally took the plunge.
I spend an inordinate amount of time calculating the ethical cost of living in a consumer society, and balancing Choice A against Choice B or C or D.
I cheat, and buy second hand, repurpose items and generally do the fussy greenie dance that is living in the industrialized world.

What I discovered is I have to rank my ethics. Gulp. How do you chose which ethical stance is more important than another?
I had to deconstruct WHY I make the choices I do.
So, me.
I'm fortyish, vegetarian, pretty crunchy, would love to experiment with an urban offgrid home one day. I walk or use public transportation. I bring my own bags 99.9 percent of the time, including produce bags.

I've been blessed to moderate a vegetarian board since 1999 over at, and that experience has been helpful in molding the decision process when I have a choice between, say, leather or nylon for shoes.

So, again , welcome to Balance Your Choices.