Showing posts with label Ethical Consumption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ethical Consumption. Show all posts

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Clothing and textiles in the simple living home (Part 2)

Using thrift shops, freecycle and clothing swaps as your main sources for family clothing and home textiles, you can provide the bulk of your family’s needs at little to no cost. The keys to efficiently and successfully using these resources are as follows:

1. Know what you need by keeping an updated list in your wallet or purse at all times. This eliminates unnecessary purchases and prevents you from buying new at the last minute. If you are prepared in advance for coming seasonal weather changes (or growth spurts in children), you’ll have plenty of time to source what will be needed BEFORE you actually need it.

2. Aim for minimalist wardrobes for everyone in the family. Look for basic key pieces that can be worn together (mix and match) to bring the greatest flexibility and the most “bang for your buck”. 

3. Regularly go through closets, drawers and stored clothes (whether off season or the next size for children to grow into) to take stock of wardrobe gaps that need filling. I suggest doing this task monthly or at minimum, seasonally. This helps you to maintain a truly accurate needs list so you can “shop” efficiently in second hand stores or at clothing swaps.

4. Keep your “inventory” well organized at home. If you have several children and can hand clothes down to younger siblings, be vigilant about boxing clothes up and labeling WELL as to what is inside (gender, size and season). Don’t keep too much as this can become a “clutter” liability rather than a clothing asset.

5. Purge regularly. Needs and lifestyles change and children grow. Donate or sell anything no longer useful or serviceable to free up space for incoming (needed) garments.

Supply and demand plays into the household economy as it relates to clothes and textiles. Some items are as rare as “hen’s teeth” (pants for 10 year old boys, for example as most boys wear through their pants with their rough and tumble play). This fact means that boys’ pants might need to be purchased new. Look to seasonal sales and plan ahead so that you never pay full retail price.

Only consider paying full price for quality items that you know you can get many years of use out of (an adult winter coat that will be worn for many years or a child’s coat that can be handed down to younger siblings). Never pay full price for something that is in great supply second hand in your area (such as a child’s t-shirt).

Special occasion garments are often costly budget breakers, but they are very easily sourced second hand. Most of them have been worn once and often, not at all. If you have an upcoming special occasion to attend, be sure to source your clothing early to avoid last minute costly new purchases. Note that dress shoes are also widely available second hand, often with barely a scuff (usually having been worn only once).

Additionally, sheets, towels, curtains, blankets, quilts and aprons are all available through the sources listed above and many thrift stores offer garbage bags full of worn towels selling for just a few dollars. These can be cut up for cleaning clothes or shop rags and eliminate the need for buying expensive and/or disposable cleaning cloths and shop towels. You can also cut up your own worn clothing and linens to be used in this manner for free (the ultimate in recycling). 

Using these three resources wisely and efficiently, home managers can fill nearly every family and household textile need for a fraction of the cost of new, with very little effort. Happy shopping, simple living style!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Clothing and textiles in the simple living home (Part 1)

We all need clothes and outerwear to protect us from the elements, and every home should be stocked with a variety of textiles to help us keep our houses clean and comfortable. The cost of buying new clothing and textiles is staggering, so it makes good sense for any home manager to find thriftier solutions to meet these essential home and family needs. Using creative resourcefulness we can stretch those hard earned dollars until they squeal!

Most communities have at least one charity/thrift shop, which is a home manager’s best, most reliable resource for sourcing a varied selection of clothing and textiles for the home and family. In modern times, excess of all kinds surrounds us, which translates into thrift stores bursting with gently used clothes, outerwear, linens and home goods. It makes no financial sense to buy new when such abundance exists in our communities for pennies on the dollar. The key to sourcing most of your family’s clothing and textiles at a thrift store is to visit it regularly and know when new items are put out (usually early morning before store opening although sometimes, this occurs on specific days only).

Another fantastic clothing and textile resource for home managers is freecycle. This fast growing, FREE, online network provides everyday people with tremendous networking power to share goods no longer needed. Our family loves donating bags of clothing no longer needed directly to people in our community and we greatly appreciate the reciprocal generosity. Freecycle builds strong communities through the sharing that it facilitates and it is a tremendously powerful budget stretcher. I encourage you to set up an online account on your local network to begin using this valuable resource.

Community clothing swaps are another way for people to share and trade clothing and outerwear at no cost. Usually, these events are held annually and are geared toward children’s clothes, as the steady growth of children requires nearly constant wardrobe purging/purchasing. Clothing swaps often take place in community centers, recreation centers or church halls but many women’s groups are now offering clothing swaps as well. If you can’t find a local clothing swap, consider starting one yourself!

To be continued tomorrow ...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dressed simply = simply dressed

As we relaunch the Co-op we thought we'd discuss the everyday matter of clothing, how it fits into our simple living journey, how to be more mindful of reusing, recycling and purchasing our garments.

Have you noticed that when you have too much of something it clouds your mind in the same way as eating too big a meal clouds your digestion? In the pursuit of our simple living goals we may be quick to declutter an unworkable kitchen cupboard, a bathroom cabinet or a pile of paper gathering on the kitchen bench, but what about that area that you face every morning as you begin your day?

A simple wardrobe of clothes that fit you, that suit the tasks and activities you undertake each day, that will stand up to regular washing and the work you do can take you one more step in achieving your goals.

A simple wardrobe will hold clean, folded or hung items that serve you well. For some simple lifers this will include some form of a suit, for others it will be three pairs of jeans and accompanying t-shirts, for others it will be a blend of items across the formality spectrum.

A simple wardrobe won’t include an overstuffed underwear drawer of garments in various stages of dilapidation. It will include a drawer of socks/stockings/tights/long johns suitable for the climate you live in and the work you do each day.

A simple wardrobe will reduce your carbon footprint if it:
  • includes only items that you wear (so they fit and are appropriate) even if some of those items include only the “occasional wear” category; 
  • is planned to curb unnecessary shopping (or making); 
  • is tailored and edited for you thereby reducing the size of the pile to be laundered.
So how do we attain this simple wardrobe? By moving in and decluttering the surplus-to-requirements items, donating those in good condition to your charity of choice and composting those which are too far gone if made of natural fibres. Dress the body that you have today, not the one you are aspiring to in twelve months, dress for the climate that you live in and the work/activities you do. And don’t forget your feet!

Once you have edited your clothing you may be left with a neat rack of clothes on hangers or folded on shelves and in drawers. But what if you find you haven’t made much of a dent? 

There is a wealth of ideas online which suggest practical means for developing an appropriate yet simple wardrobe. Courtney Carver’s popular Project 333 challenges you to live with 33 items for 3 months (a season for many of us). Courtney’s challenge suggests packing away the items not included in your selected 33 which gives you the option to put them back later if you choose.

Capsule wardrobes can, on first glance, look suitable only for the fashion conscious such as the one for women here and the one for men here until you look more closely. A capsule wardrobe is designed to mix and match so a few items will provide you with a range of outfits.

Finally, evaluate what you like to wear. Are comfort, colour, cut priorities? Think a little deeper -- what makes a garment comfortable for you, what colours do you like, what cut (say of jeans) satisfies you the most?

Then, just as you would after clearing out-of-date items from your pantry, make a shopping list to carry with you. It may read something like:
  • pair of jeans (straight cut, navy) 
  • pairs of cotton socks (dark) 
  • pair of cotton pyjamas
This list is your shopping guide, resist buying anything else and/or substituting unless there is a very good reason that meshes with your goals. If it takes three months to save for these or find them so be it. Getting dressed in the morning is about quality over quantity, clothes that fit and maintaining your own look or work uniform. Such a clothing collection would fit in your great grandmother’s bedroom cupboard.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dual Purpose in the Garden

Even though we have a large garden, we still try to apply the permaculture principle of stacking in some of our plant variety selections. Many times it is to save work, and sometimes it saves on space to choose a dual purpose type of plant.  Celeriac or celery root is one, I no longer grow celery, since the celery root is growing all summer anyway, does not require the water that celery does, and a few leaves taken for the kitchen here and there barely make a dent in the crop. Another is hardneck garlic which puts on scapes and gives me a lot of extra garlic for cooking and preserving.

Music garlic scapes
Sometimes we find these gems right under our noses.  What to do with hardneck garlic scapes?  They come on at once and giving them away is about like trying to give away zucchini during August.

garlic scapes for the freezer
My solution to run them through the food processor and freeze them has changed the way I look at my garlic now.  Previously come tomato processing time, I would spend lots of time peeling garlic for roasting for sauce and salsa, and I was always a little worried about using too much of my winter garlic supply.  Now I use the mild scapes for my tomato roasting endeavors.  Chopping would work fine too, but if you have a food processor you can make short work of a lot scapes.  To fully maximize the potential, I freeze the scapes in half pint canning jars.  Initially I froze the scapes in larger quantities and found that once I thawed them out, I needed to use them up fast.  And you know garlic, a little goes a long way.  One cup of chopped scapes seasons a large roasting pan of tomatoes or other vegetables perfectly, and really saves me time too.  No more peeling and chopping, but you do have to remember to thaw out the scapes beforehand. 

What types of stacking have you discovered in your garden or kitchen?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

My Frugal Limits

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Every now and then I hear about a large family with the same food budget as our more avearage size family, or a family in size similar to ours, with a much more modest food budget and I question why I'm not able to be as frugal. I wonder where I am going wrong and I usually sit down committed to read their blog, or the article and learn something. The goal? To reduce our expenditures. I begin reading feeling like I'm doing something wrong, I finish, feeling like I'm doing something very right. You see, we all have to do what is right for our family and I believe, what is kinder and gentler for the earth and those who are more vulnerable. But reading the nitty gritty about what people are willing to compromise on, I actually leave feeling like it is a compomise too far. I'm personally not willing to:

- Shop once a month: access to fresh fruit and veg is too important
- Purchase ready meals or packaged foods with coupons
- Skimp on fruits and vegetables - one blog which which received much attention for being frugal and healthy posted a menu plan which included only 2 fruit and 1 veg a day (most studies recommend a minimum of 5-6 a day)
- Purchase factory produced animal products
- Build a diet around cheap fillers without much nutritional value. For example, a pasta dish served with bread was recommended as a cheap meal. Whereas e may have pasta, but it would be served with a fresh spinach salad and a veg.
- Shop at unethical major corporations

The more I think about it, the more I realize that while I certainly do budget and work hard to stick to it with food, I do see placing priority on green living, simple healthy meals and supporting others (for example by purchasing fairtrade items) as more imporant to me than slashing my budget another $50 or $100 a month. And for somewhere between $300 and $350 a month we purchase:

- Free range eggs from local farms
- All organic animal products
- Fairtrade: sugar, bananas, tea, coffee, mangos, flour and cocoa
- Green cleaning and laundry supplies
- Pet food & litter
- About 50% of our fruits and veg organic
- Enough fruits and veg for 3 fruits and 3 veg (plus a salad) a day
- A locally sourced produce box
- Seeds for our community garden plot

Yes, I could probably shave at least $50 a month off the budget if I changed to what some frugal bloggers recommend. And that $50 would come in handy. But more than that, I want my children, who have experienced malnourishment prior to joining our family through adoption, to continue to make educational and emotional gains that good food has allowed them. I want my hard earned money to tred softly on this earth and help people. I want to invest in our health now, to safeguard us for the future. And if that takes another $50 - $100 a month, I'm really OK with it.

What about you? What is your line when it comes to compromise? Is it only about money, or like me, something more?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How To Start Living Sustainably

written by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

Of late, I have been doing a lot of reflection about why I chose to live more sustainably way back in September 2006.  Not because I want to stop living this lifestyle, but because I have been writing a series of eBooks and needed to remember exactly how and why it started the way it did.

As my personal blog is now quite large, with over 1100 posts, new readers to the blog are finding it difficult to navigate particular subjects.  This is what gave me the idea for the subject of my very first eBook, titled "The Greening of Gavin - My First Year of Living Sustainably".

The research was easy enough.  I read through the first year of my blog, and then wrote the main guts of the book.  However, one thing eluded me, and that was the root cause and the real reason that my green epiphany had such a great impact.  It took me about three days of soul searching to figure out why, and another three days two write the chapter about it, which only ended up being a couple of pages long.  It was very hard work.  That said, I cracked it wide open.

I believe that the impact was so great because leading up to that day of awakening, I was a rampant consumer, stuck in the rat race, getting deeper and deeper into debt, with no end in sight.  I was damaging my self financially, my future, and the future of my planet.  I would buy the next latest and greatest electronic consumer item without real reasons or any thought of the consequences financially and environmentally.

I just had to have it, mainly because I had been programmed that way.  Years of living in the consumer culture had altered the way I behaved, acted, and consumed. Advertising was my master and I was its slave.  All that consumption was playing in the back of my mind, and I had this niggly little feed that something was wrong, but I didn't quite know what.  

I had also become lazy.  Whereby I used to make things like my own beer, a little of my own food, and took pride in construction projects around the home, I had slackened off and just paid for things to be done, because I was too lazy to do it myself.   Due to this consumerism, I knew it would be a very long time before my mortgage on my home would ever be paid off.  I felt very, very lost.

Then I had, what I call my green epiphany, which was a pivotal moment in my life.  I remember it as a true awakening, like I had been shaken from a dream state and slapped silly with a big wet fish.  However, it was only because I was in such an abnormal and sorry state before the documentary, that it was the reason that the experience did have such a transformational effect upon me.  Otherwise, I believe that I would have walked out of the cinema, thought a little, shook off the feeling that I should do something about this climate thingy, and promptly put it in the too hard basket.  Just like everyone else who saw it that day did!

Well, the rest is history.  I did choose to act, and act decisively, albeit not quite in the order that I would green my lifestyle if I had to do it over again.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but when I think about it, I probably wouldn't change a thing.  All of my actions have had a purpose, whether it was a large statement, or made our family feel good that we were actually doing something worthy of our time and effort.

So why the title of this post?  Well, I suppose that I am trying to say is that all it takes is one simple action.  Then another, and another.  It doesn't matter what triggers the initial action, all that does matter is that you start.

All of these actions are small, yet powerful steps towards a larger goal of voluntary simplicity.  You are the one that chooses to live simply, without it being forced upon you.  Kind of like beating the rush that many of us see on the horizon.   

So consuming less or consume ethically, and you find that you will live a more happier life a result. It is certainly the only way I know how to start living sustainably!

How did you start your journey towards voluntary simplicity?  What was your awakening moment?

Saturday, 30 June 2012

In Praise of Craftsmanship

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

Every year in my community, as part of our winter solstice celebrations, we have a gift giving ritual.  We draw names out of a hat six weeks earlier, and hand make a gift. This year, Garry drew me and made me these bellows for my slow combustion stove.  I can't seem to stand still for photos, but you can see my expression when I was given it. 

It is the most beautiful thing.  The wood is smooth and oiled and smells delicious. The brass nozzle is shiny and perfectly proportioned. The leather is soft and attached with a strip of reinforcing leather and rows of painstakingly positioned studs. The handles are rounded and smooth and shaped to fit perfectly in a grasp, and have little wedges holding them at the right angle.  It has my name etched in the front and a sun etched in the back and "Yule 2012" inside the handles.  Every part is beautiful, but then the whole is something more.  Perfectly proportioned, shaped, textured, designed.

And it works. Magnificently Last night it was wet and cold and we had been out late and busy and had no dry kindling. I managed to light a fire with paper and hardwood and my bellows. No kindling.

Stuff. There is Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff, and there is this, and they are at opposite ends of a continuum. My bellows are made from recycled parts, but that's not the point. They are a thing made with craftsmanship, and I think if all our "stuff" was made with craftsmanship, that's all the revolution we need.

Craftsmanship is where design and execution both peak together. It's where a uniquely human big brain creates a concept for a thing that is both beautiful and functional, or maybe beautiful because it is so perfectly functional. And then where our uniquely human opposable thumbs and long life allow the development of enough precision and dexterity and skill to manifest the design. Craftsmanship is where quality comes together with beauty, where thought and skill and attention meet and the result is something that will last and will be treasured for a generation or more.

So this post is in praise of craftsmanship.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Buying local

 Aurora @ Island Dreaming

What does buying local mean to you?

When we go shopping, we try to buy fruit and veg grown by farms in this county or neighboring ones, about a 100 mile radius. We shop in local businesses where we can as opposed to the giant chain multinationals. Why? We believe the slower our money flows back to the global financial system, the more our local area can use it to thrive.

Obviously keeping my fellow Brits in employment ultimately benefits me in times of high unemployment. That said, I know that most of our nations are so heavily indebted to each other, domestic consumption however concerted probably won't make much of a dent. Lack of appetite for exports abroad should everyone do the same spells disaster, we are all so hopelessly interconnected in the global economy for better or worse. I can control only where my own money goes.

My reasons for buying British previously have not been economic but purely environmental. It makes no sense to ship goods from the Far East when they can be shipped just a few hundred miles.The reason those imports are so cheap is often partly due to lack of environmental regulation. So in theory, whilst more expensive, those British goods should be marginally less destructive.

The UK is limbering up for both our monarch's Diamond Jubilee and our hosting of the Olympic games this year. The shops are awash with red, white and blue trinkets and goods, the majority of which are of course made overseas. I won't be buying patriotic paraphernalia, but it has raised the broader issue in my mind. Should I be making an effort to buy British?

Do you make a conscious effort to support your own national economies? Why, and how?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Garage Sale

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

We've been de-cluttering and sorting through our home in recent weeks in preparation for a garage sale. With the attitude that if we don't use it or need it there is a pile of unwanted goods in one corner of our living room growing bigger in size as the weeks go by. Any items we don't want to try and recoup some money from we have donated to local opportunity stores. It's a messy time for us, but very cleansing too!

I posted a link to a website I discovered last week on my Facebook business page for the National Garage Sale Trail. (You can click on the image to be taken to the website) I was impressed by this concept in that it involves the entire nation, promotes selling of goods instead of throwing things into landfill and I thought it would be a good incentive to set a date for ours and become involved. Our local shire is participating and they are providing a list of sales registered with the event in our local area.

One lovely reader of my Facebook page interestingly commented that she believed that the 'Garage sale' was 'dying' and that online selling was replacing them. I was surprised by this as the garage sale is alive and well in our local area with some 10 to 20 listings each week in the classifieds of our local paper. Whilst I agree that online selling is popular and Garage sale numbers may lessen over the years I just couldn't imagine them being a thing of the past. Then I started to wonder is it a reflection of the areas we live in or am I personally worried as I love the community feel of a garage sale and don't want to see their numbers diminishing? Are garage sales less common in more suburban areas? Are they more popular in 'country' areas? Are younger generations more keen to sell online than host a sale? Am I alone in that I love a garage sale...having a good rummage...learning about the history of an item from the original owner...and would prefer to view items before purchase and not have to 'bid' for them? Do local councils make it too difficult to hold sales?

I would really love to hear from readers here from all over the world. In relation to your community do you feel that garage sale/yard sale numbers are diminishing and do you imagine that they will lessen as the years go by to be replaced by online selling?

Amanda x

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Treasure What You Have

written by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; 

but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for"
-Epicurus, Greek Philosopher (341 BC - 270 BC)
I found this quote when stumbling through the web the other day, and it got me thinking. I remembered reading about a psychological effect that describes this quote to a tee. It is called the ‘DIDEROT EFFECT'.

Let me explain.  Have you ever purchased something, something you really wanted, only to discover that it made the rest of your stuff seem a bit old and dated?  Rather than accepting some variance in the style against your older possessions, have you then been tempted to upgrade your old and dated stuff? This is called the ‘Diderot Effect’, named after the French philosopher Denis Diderot (1713–84) who first described the effect in an essay titled "Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown".  In this essay he describes how a gift of a brand new scarlet dressing gown leads to unexpected results, nearly making him bankrupt in the process.  

How do you become bankrupt just by receiving a gift of a new, sleek and beautiful scarlet dressing gown (aka smoking jacket).  Well the effect kind of tricks you like this.  Have you ever bought nice new shirt, and thought that your old pants now look shabby against it?  So you go and buy new pants to match, and shoes, and a handbag, and a belt, etc.  You get the picture.  The same can be said for putting a new piece of furniture into a room of existing pieces.  Soon you are shopping at the mall or high street to buy new furniture and fittings to make the original purchase look at home probably to the detriment of your bank account.

The same thing happened to Diderot or so he wrote.  He thought that his new robe looked so nice, that he thought that all the stuff in his apartment looked drab and ordinary against it.  So he bought lots and lots of new and expensive stuff to spruce up his abode, with a big hit on his financial accounts.  In the end he had this to say,
"I was absolute master of my old dressing gown, but I have become a slave to my new one … Beware of the contamination of sudden wealth. The poor man may take his ease without thinking of appearances, but the rich man is always under a strain.”
Between 2001 and 2006, I too was a victim to the Diderot Effect.  I would buy a new stereo system, only to think not long afterwards that I needed a new media player or DVD player to go with it.  The old one was in good working order so I was behaving irrationally.  When I bought a new computer, I would also upgrade the display, even though the one I had was perfectly okay.  Same goes with a lawn mower that I had, which just needed a little TLC, but I dumped it and bought a new one.  My old petrol (gas) can was old and rusty, but still functional, but I bought a new one, and threw the other away with the old mower.  Yes friends, I was wasteful as well.

These are just a few example of being sucked in by consumerism for consumerisms sake.  Today I would call it the 'steak knife effect' after all of those infomercials that start off flogging you one product, but then throw in a whole bunch of other stuff (that you never wanted anyway) just to justify the deal in your mind!

It has taken me a few years since my green epiphany, and a lot of thought after reading a book by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss titled "Affluenzza - When Too Much is Never Enough", but I am no longer influenced by this effect or most advertising for that matter.  I only replace what I need, when the old item is beyond repair, and only after I have gone without it for a few weeks to see if I can get by without it.  Case in point, my clothes dryer that broke a few months back.  You can read about how we adapted in the absence of this so called laundry necessisty on the post on my personal blog titled "Ditching the Clothes Dryer".  This is a classic example of rethinking and changing my behaviours for the better.

My warning to you all is beware the Diderot Effect and get off the consumerist treadmill which will help you stop the upward creep of material desire. Knowing how much is enough is a powerful skill to possess in this, the age of rampant consumerism.  Despite what advertisements tell us, stuff just doesn't satisfy our desire for meaning, and it is a very poor substitute for your sense of self worth within a manipulative and demeaning society.  I don't mean to sound preachy, but it feels to me that consumerism in western society is totally out of control for all the wrong reasons.

So to sum it all up, Treasure What You Have.  It will save your bank balance, and might just save a few resources in this ever declining, resource strapped, finite planet of ours.

Have you succumbed to this effect and regretted it later on?  How did it make you feel?

Thursday, 15 March 2012


 By Aurora@Island Dreaming

This months project has been soap, led by the example of a good friend. So excited have I been by the knowledge that I can make yet another necessity of life at home from three simple ingredients, that I made two batches and have been melting them down and adding things to them, just to see what can be done. Exercising my creativity and personal preference, in this instance, to make a soap that soothes, or at the very least does not irritate, my problem skin.

I am not what you might call traditionally creative – I am no artist, unlike many of my relatives. I have long loved the idea of setting out as a creator of musical works, as a dancer, as a sculptor, as a creative force, putting in my 10,000 hours of hard slog to then reap and sow the rewards of mastery. But I am a tinkerer and have never found anything to so catch my imagination that I could invest 10,000 hours in it. Yet I create in many ways – I am not artistic, but creative.

There was a time when not only did I not create, but I consumed with abandon. It was a short period of my life where I came to have disposable credit and the marketplace was eager to furnish me with worldly goods - in every flavour of synthetic vanilla that I could handle. The consumer economy does a nice line in convincing us that we can have the perfect life, if we just buy x. And then the new improved version of x a few months later. But ultimately everything that is mass produced is designed with an average imaginary customer in mind.

I never did find a mass produced soap that didn't inflame my skin. I never found the perfect sofa to fit in our small lounge. I still to this day would love to find the perfect pair of jeans, but I know that they will have to be made, not bought. The mass market can furnish us amply with things that almost meet our true needs. If you have unlimited time and money, then your chances of finding a match between need and product offered increases, but for the rest of us we often make do; and we may be called to compromise not just our personal tastes and preferences, but our ethics also. Whilst the market for 'ethical' goods expands, it is still hard to furnish the necessities of life from its offerings; and whilst the pursuit of perfection is futile, the reality of flimsy or poorly designed products can be infuriating.

As consumers of raw materials, as creators of finished products, we ultimately arrive at something more meaningful and more personal - if often roughly hewn - than the mass produced could ever offer. As salvagers and renovators we reject synthetic vanilla and one size fits all to find the best imperfect solutions we can. We use what we have to create something worthwhile. We make do, in the very best sense; and it is inherently rewarding.

I am almost over soap, for the time being at least (and we now have enough to ride out a few years cleanly!). There is sauerkraut fermenting on the side, making best use of an extra cabbage picked up for pennies last week. This is weighed down by a demijohn of pomegranate wine made from bottled juice that was on offer. There are bath bombs waiting to be wrapped and given as gifts and a pile of DIY and craft books stacked high on the solid side table that was once a wobbly chest of drawers. It isn't artistic, it isn't beautifully staged, but it is a very creative space.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Value of Stuff

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

I went to a garage sale this morning, and it has been going round in my head all day. "Are you moving", I asked, just by way of being friendly. "Yes", she said, "My ex has already moved out. Half this stuff is his."  Huge piles of stuff out on the footpath to be collected for the tip. Huge, unsorted, unloved piles and bags of stuff for sale. So much that it was hard to get enthusiastic about finding a bargain amongst it all.

Sometimes I like garage sales - I rarely shop for stuff anywhere else but op shops and garage sales. Second hand, ironically, doesn't usually mean worse quality. Often I can find beautiful quality things that have already stood the test of time. A lovely old damask tablecloth. A big, heavy china mixing bowl.  A bread baking tin already well seasoned. A garden fork made from real steel. A pair of real Birkenstock sandals. A "Made in Italy" woolen winter coat. A fishing rod that will make a great birthday gift.

Sometimes garage sales are nostalgic and wistful, when people are moving on from a stage of life that has memories.  Sometimes they are headlong and precipitate, when people are clearing decks and launching off into a new adventure. Sometimes they are even tawdry and tacky, when people shop as retail therapy, and end up with piles of junk that no-one, not even they really want at all.

But sometimes there are sad stories of stuff once desired, shopped for, bought, but in the end worth nothing. She sold us some weights that were his for $1. "Serve him right," she said, "for leaving me with all this stuff to get rid of."

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Frugal Angst

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Spring cleaning is a good time to purge, and for me it is a good time to reassess my hoarding frugal re-purposing strategies. My parents were adults during the Depression and WWII when rationing was necessary. Subsequently, everything was saved. I grew up watching my mom wash and dry plastic bags for re-use. So much so, it is second nature for me to just automatically save everything that comes my way. My hubby is the same way, socks beyond repair become grease rags, coffee cans can hold nuts and bolts, and old jeans can become patching material for new jeans.

I'm in the camp though that I don't think I can ever get enough canning jars since I use them so much. The collection above is about a day and half worth of scratch cooking from the freezer and pantry. So I of course save all my jars, and use my rusty rings and used lids for freezer storage items. These are destined to go back to storage for summer time preservation.

Lately though, I have been going through lots of stuff I have saved, you know, like magazines I can't live without etc. Straddling the old way of information gleaning and the Internet has been giving me conniptions. I find comfort in my old quilt magazines, but I know if I needed a patchwork pattern I would never even begin to look through 25 years of magazines - I would consult one of my quilt books or just draft my own pattern. I donated them to a senior center where at least the photos of quilts would bring joy a few more times to someone. I no longer had that need. My quilt bucket list is already too long... . For me letting go is the hard part. Saving something for someday, some doomer scenario or just plain to save it is one of my bad habits.

So systematically I am retraining myself, to not save every useful container that comes my way. Our waste stream is pretty small, since we don't really purchase much, but still, I think I have enough yogurt containers for now. Besides magazines I went through our storage areas and recycled all those yogurt and sour cream containers that are just too useful. Keeping back a storage box of each is enough I think.

So what do you think, is frugality causing more hoarding? Or is it a necessary evil of frugality to have lots of stuff?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

How Much To Sweat the Small Stuff

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

I have taken to getting a cup of takeaway coffee on my way to work lately. I used to always just make a cup myself, but the café  has the best skinny latté. It's a little treat I really enjoy, and it took me a shamefully long time to actually realise how many takeaway coffee cups I was throwing away. I live near a small country town. I didn't want to make a fuss or stand out by bringing in my own cup. I was in denial until one day I went to empty the waste basket under my desk, and it was full of paper cups.  

So I'm very much in love with my new KeepCup, and the local café loves it too. Being a total cheapskate, it took a deep breath to spend that much on a cup, but it just works and my frugal side only regrets money wasted on junk, not money spent on things that work.

Usually I take my lunch to work too, or buy it at the local café. Most days, this is my lunch packaging.

But I got caught up in town the other day, and had to buy a quick take-away lunch from the supermarket.  It amazed me the quantity of packaging.  If I did this every day for a year.... 

It adds up.  Each little bit seems reasonable, but it adds up. 

I do believe it is counterproductive to get all moralistic and purist about the small stuff. It just creates the kind of culture that normal, fallible, doing-their-best mortals feel excluded from. But at the same time, the small things like takeaway coffee in a reuseable cup, or a lunch box that doesn't require plastic wrap, often involve no real sacrifices at all. They're the low hanging green fruit. It's just a bit hard to see them sometimes. 

Saturday, 4 February 2012


by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

I am currently writing this blog post in a hotel in Sydney far away from my home in ONC (Our Nation's Capital). It is the last weekend before the end of school holidays, so my children and I thought we'd come up to our nation's largest city and have some fun.

I love Sydney. I enjoy many of the things this city has to offer. I even enjoy the hustle and bustle! I have come here often for work and for pleasure and some pivotal moments of my life have happened here.

One of those moments was a talk I attended during the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House in 2009. That talk was presented by Germaine Greer on "Freedom".

Freedom, I believe, is a deeply personal state. *My* state of freedom would be different to others who may seemingly occupy that same state. I believe its because freedom is the ability to act in accordance to one's own values. Ergo, this means that oppression is (according to GG) when one is compelled to act in accordance with a set of values that is not their own.

If freedom is a deeply personal state, and if we are to operate as a "free society" then freedom is something that needs to be negotiated and redefined at all levels. Perhaps a key part of that negotiation and redefinition is to respect all people's values and not use fear to compel them to act in ways that do not fit into their value system.

That talk was huge for me because its when I believe I started to ask deeper questions regarding consumerism.

Are the companies who produce, and governments who ensure that there are goods for us to buy respect our values? Or do they try to instil fear and anxiety to compel us to buy what we do not want?

Is consumerism a form of social control?

Am I (and my community) living in accordance to my (and our) values?

Anyway, lots of deep thoughts for me at the moment, so I thought I'd leave you with this image I found in flickr:

"Freedom is a Toilet Tissue" Photo by Russell Higgs <-- click to read Russell's story about this photo.

I wish you all a good weekend!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Pondering the Concept of Intellectual Property

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Writing my own blog has often caused me to ponder the concept of intellectual property, and who profits from it. I don't really have any answers. I'm just using this co-operative blog post to ruminate on some of the questions, and hoping to hear what some of you have to say.

My most recent preoccupation with the concept has come about because of a hot sauce recipe. I have a recipe for jalapeno green sauce, and later adapted it using red cayenne peppers. A few years ago, I was experimenting using Habanero chiles. Now, a few years before that, I'd bought a bottle of Habanero hot sauce in Belize, and was so impressed with it that I'd saved the ingredient list from the label. Using a combination of the original recipe techniques and ingredients from the list, then a few tweaks here and there in subsequent years, and I finally have a pretty, tasty hot sauce.

I made a double batch of the stuff this past summer - so I could give some as Christmas gifts. I made up a label for the bottles, and wanted to show them off on my blog. As I did that,  I debated about posting the recipe (in fact, a first draft of the recipe was there, on an old post. I went back and deleted it for now). I started my blog in order to share my recipes with my family. But I've done searches on-line, and nothing like my current hot sauce recipe shows up anywhere. However, and maybe you've noticed the same phenomenon, there's a recipe for Belize-style Habanero hot sauce using carrots that shows up multiple times, especially in quite a few recipe compilation websites. Someone somewhere developed and posted that Habanero carrot recipe, but there's now no way to track it back to who and where it started. Admit it, despite saying your blog is copyrighted, don't re-post without permission, yada yada yada, you really can't put the Genie back in the bottle. Once you post something nowadays it's common property.

Those recipe compilation sites have advertising, so someone somewhere is profiting from the intellectual property of others. I don't really mind someone making a batch of hot sauce for their own use, but I don't know if I want my hot sauce recipe to be common knowledge. Realistically, I probably never will go into commercial production of it, but I don't think I want that option taken from me.

Maybe 25 years ago, I ripped a recipe for One-Hour French Bread out of a newspaper. I don't even remember which one - I just have the ripped and yellowed clipping. It's a great recipe - one of the earliest ones I shared on my own blog, and again on this one. It's been interesting watching where and how it turns up out there on the world wide web. Sometimes someone links back to my blog, sometimes they'll cite it as Sadge's bread recipe. Occasionally, I find it's been copied and re-posted wrong - one blogger left out the rising time, so anyone using that post is going to have a tasty doorstop. The photo is on Pinterest, as are a few more of my posts (which I really don't mind, since that site links back to my blog, and I like the additional traffic). Sometimes it's a bit of a pain watermarking my photos, but at least the name of my blog is out there when someone re-posts a photo.

I crochet, so wonder about patterns too. I made some potholders from a pattern in an old book, and realized it was wrong - the first one turned out lopsided. I made the necessary corrections to make them turn out square, and have since used my corrected pattern a few more times. My last set are finally getting pretty worn, so I'll be making some new ones soon. When they're finished, I'll post a photo, but can I post the corrected version of the pattern, and call it mine? Can I post the pattern at all?

Copyright law is so confusing, and I want to do the right thing. I inherited some really old crochet and knit pattern booklets - the oldest is from 1916. Can I scan and share some of those? How about Victory ones from WWII?  Old Workbasket booklets? Patterns I bought in the 1970's? Most everything is certainly out of print by now, but does someone still hold the copyright?

I've seen vintage Aunt Martha's embroidery patterns posted on-line, but some of those same ones are still for sale in my local craft store. Is that sort of thing ok? I know there's something about so many years have passed, but then something else about if it's been renewed, or is still in print. If I buy a pattern from someone, can I then make and sell the things I've made? Does it make a difference if it's at my local farmer's market or in an on-line store? Can the pattern-designer set and enforce a limit on how many I make?

And what about my own writings elsewhere? I've been a writer on this co-op since the beginning. I've seen quite a few co-writers come and go over the years. I wonder, does everyone still have access to the posts they wrote, or did the administrators take their names off the permissions list? Will I still have access to my own work if I quit? For the most part, I research and write different things here than on my own blog. What if I'd like to put some of the older posts on my own blog? Should I copy and post them, and have them in two places? Should I just delete them here, or put a "this post has moved" notice in their place?

And I don't even want to start in regarding the music business - debates and enforcement of that issue has been on-going for decades. As I said in the beginning, I don't have any answers. These are just some things I've been thinking about. Your thoughts?

Thursday, 22 December 2011


By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Here in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice is upon us. After today, the sun begins its return to our part of the world. Most of the religious traditions and festivals that are celebrated around this time celebrate a light returning in the midst of barren darkness. In the depths of winter, there is nothing so welcome; and for many people, this has been a winter (and a year) of extraordinary darkness.

This next bit might sound like a certain Monty Python sketch, bear with me, but I had a relatively impoverished childhood compared with most of my peers. I wore secondhand clothes, got secondhand Christmas presents, ate the same few frugal meal variations everyday. We always seemed to be one misstep away from disaster at any given moment. We lived in a house that was in urgent need of renovation, with no space heating and which regularly hosted an open house for any passing north sea gale. I was happy enough and it stood me in good stead - my bent towards simple living is probably a yearning to go back to the uncomplicated nature of this time.

We didn't have a TV for many years as the license fee was an expensive annual cost that couldn't be justified. I didn't particularly suffer in myself because of this - after all, we had an excellent library, a beautiful old record player and vinyl collection that I still miss dearly and a charity shop jigsaw  puzzle habit that bordered on addiction. It did mark me out as odd from my classmates however, as all they seemed to talk about was whatever had been on TV the night before. Soaps and cartoons were a conversational currency that I didn't have access to and it was isolating.

When a close family friend turned up on our doorstep one Christmas Eve bearing a Christmas card and a tin of biscuits, I was delighted. They were 'posh biscuits' from one of our more upmarket food retailers. A little luxury. My Christmas was made, what a lovely thought. Then we opened the card, and it was clear there was more to it than a tin of biscuits. A TV license stamp book full of stamps (not an inconsiderable amount of money) ready to be traded in for a TV license. Saved up over months, bit by bit, because someone thought that they could make our Christmas. The actual license was the least of it - the sentiments expressed by such a generous act to this day fill me with warmth and joy.

For all of our anti-consumption  rhetoric, money can buy happiness sometimes. It can take care of those most basic needs that are the foundation of everything that comes after. Sometimes it can be used to express our love and appreciation. But that link between the gift and the sentiment is too often broken or clouded. Our annual Christmas consumption fests are often driven by guilt - where gifts and money stand in for time together and caring, or to make up for our perceived social inadequacies. Often gifts are merely given because of social pressures and 'good manners' - you simply have to buy gifts for certain people, it is the done thing.

Those social pressures are hard to overcome; and at this time of year, by all means do what you have to do to make your holidays run smoothly. But in the midst of it all, perhaps find one place where you can put a little time and money and make a huge difference. It will make you feel good (the least of reasons to do it) and you might genuinely make someone's Christmas. Be creative. If you can make a huge financial gesture, by all means do it if it is well placed. But if you can babysit someone's children for a few hours so that they can do their shop in peace, then throw your all into it; if you can volunteer at a homeless shelter for a few hours, if you can donate a few tins of 'posh biscuits' to your local food bank, if you can buy someone who would not expect it from you a food hamper, or something they really really need but cannot afford, put your money there. Help someone weatherize their house. Buy someone a patio garden kit. Reestablish that vital link between gift giving and filling genuine needs and inspiring warmth and good cheer.

Now is the darkest time of the year in these parts. Shine your light wherever you can. Happy holidays.

Friday, 21 October 2011

some thoughts on the value of food

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Thank you for your comments and thoughts the other week on the cost and wastage of food (here).  I was going to focus on ways to limit the waste of food in our households this time around, but I'd like to share a few thoughts that stem from your comments.

thoughts on food

We all seem to agree that when we pay and/or labor more for our food, we're far less likely to waste it.  I, for one, am guilty of occasionally wasting store-bought bread that's gone stale. It doesn't happen very often, as I normally bake our bread, and only rarely need to buy it.  And I don't actually throw it away, it goes to my neighbors' chickens.  But it does happen: we occasionally waste store-bought bread gone stale.

However, I would never, ever waste the bread I bake, which costs far more than the store-bought kind both in terms of money - as it's made with a variety of organic flours and seeds, and baking increases my electricity bill, and in terms of time - to mix, knead, wait for the dough to rise, and bake.  The money, effort and time I spend baking the bread my family eats is not something I'm willing to compromise on, as I believe they're all an investment in our health, and the health of our planet.  Plus, the result is fragrant and precious bread that is eaten to the very last crumb - fresh or stale (we'll talk about how to use stale bread in a different post).  But the stale store-bought bread?  That I toss.  I toss it because I didn't pay much for it, because it's not very healthy, and because it doesn't taste very good.  I toss it, in other words, because that cheap bread wrapped in plastic that I picked from the shelf in a consumeristic logic is not worth trying to save and make something out of.

I think this is the root of the problem: since when has food been (culturally) devalued so much as to become expendable?   What happened to the concept of food as something precious that nourishes our body and souls?  I say "souls" because food is not just about a bunch of nutrients that we gulp down, it is also a matter of taste, and consuming food is a daily ritual that connects us with the land and the people who produce our subsistance, and the loved ones with whom we share it around the table.  I suspect that the fact that food has become cheap stuff that we pick from the shelf, often unaware of where it comes from, has something to do with the fact that from precious, food has become expendable, and liable to be wasted in colossal amounts.  What do you think?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Taking Stock

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

I don't mean the stock we use for cooking - though we do make bone broth, chicken stock and vegetable stock concentrate at home to cook with, and I can post about that another time!

Living with a large family, on a farm, we tend to accumulate 'stuff' - not through excessive shopping habits, just by keeping what we do have - reusing jars and plant pots, saving hand-me-downs for younger children, etc.

We have recently been changing the way we store things.  The children gave up their unloved old cubby house, which created an instant gardening shed for me!  I was able to sort through all the pots, tools and hose fittings which I previously kept on a table in a dark corner of the shed.  I parted with some of the pots for other gardeners to re-use.  I found that we had a lot of mis-matched hose fittings, but not really a spare full set to fit our tap size, so I bought a nice brass set in the hope that it will outlast the plastic ones which don't seem to cope with our high UV levels here.  With all the spiders sent on their way and everything sorted into piles and open crates, I felt much less overwhelmed by our gardening paraphanalia (bits and pieces collected over nearly 20 years of playing in the dirt)!

The same week, my husband finished constructing a 6m x 3m shed that we'd salvaged from someone's backyard a year ago.  Finally the kids' bikes could be moved from the lean-to at the front of the milking shed, and all their sports gear and outdoor toys could be moved out of the corner of the shed too.  We found some broken toys and outgrown items lingering in the bottom of the drawers and crates - so here was another good chance for a clean out!

And in the very same week we were moving things around and now have storage space for our pantry items.  So I've been taking stock off all our stored food (we order much of our food in bulk every 6 months), the preserving jars (empty and full), emergency supplies for cyclone season (like candles, matches, water, tinned food, etc), and even our camping supplies, clothes stored for the youngest two children (outgrown by the older ones), out-of-season clothes of mine and other 'stored' items.

I hardly know what to do with all this extra space we suddenly have - it's a little overwhelming!  I'm trying to organise our new spaces in an ordered manner so that clutter doesn't build up (I was glad to find that with all the re-arranging there wasn't very much we didn't use - unlike my 9 year old's bedroom last month which we realised was housing bags full of outgrown clothing and toys!).

It seems like this year Spring really is time for 'out with the old' for us, and I'm so grateful for the new spaces (at last) and creative storage options.  Now, if only the rain would stop I'd get back out there and tidy up the old shed, with it's newly emptied corners...

Do you have any storage tips?  How do you balance re-using (pots, baling twine, kids' clothes), and clutter?  Does Springtime see you cleaning up and sorting out too?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Spending to make up for parenting

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

I'm posting this a little late. I've had such a busy week with my kids. It was the last week of school holidays in my little part of Oz. I had managed to take a week off work to be with my kids. Its been a wonderful week. We have spent much of the time swimming, going to taekwondo, and being with friends.

Anyway, today, I thought I'd share an older post of mine from my personal blog which was the very antithesis of what I have been doing this week. Its certainly made me smile and I know many out there can relate....
Spending to make up for parenting - 15 May 2009
Now that I'm on leave from work (2nd full day at home!), I've looked around my home and noticed... that my kids have gotten a hell of a lot of toys from me the last few weeks.

Its amazing how when I'm under pressure, I revert back to my old consumerist ways and use spending as a way to make up for what I see as shortfalls in my parenting. See, I know that all my kids want really want is my time and attention.. and when I fail to give it to them, then I feel that the only way I can make up for it is by spending on them.

...and the thing is I didn't even know I was doing it!! Times like these when I realise how far I have to go in this journey to be an empowered and rational consumer - one who joyfully consumes rather than one who consumes to assuage feelings of guilt and anxiety.

The thing is... I don't even know why I should feel so guilty! I know that I can't do it all (unlike Rosie the Riveter below) and that I am doing my best. But that's the rational side of me talking and as I said, my recent spending spree was not rational.
(image from

Funny enough, when I look back I can also see that I was also doing some positive things during those hectic times. I juggled my workload so I can be home to put the children to bed, I made sure we still had breakfast together and for the 2 nights when I ended up working all night, the children went to their grandparents and got plenty of attention there. And despite that I disregarded the value of the positive things and still fell back on using money as my way of showing my children I love them.

So this weekend, I'll be spending some time on myself and letting go of my feelings of guilt... to accept that hectic times will occur and that I do not need to spend in order to make up for my lessened time with the children.
(Image from Tsheko's photostream - displayed here under a General Attribution Licence)

So here's to a quiet and reflective weekend. I wish you the same. :)