Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Greening Up and Reusing

No resolutions for me this year, just some reflections and ideas for tiny, yet significant changes. 2012 is shaking things up for us, what with the coming addition of a tiny new one with more passports than he'll know what to do with. Like all major life events, there are people out there wanting to sell you a gazillion different things that are really not necessary but which at the time, you don't realize will only turn into clutter. And landfill waste. And that got me thinking about all the ways we could simplify this year, as well as the ways we learned to incorporate simplicity into our lives in 2011. Here are a few of my thoughts.

1) We're going to be those annoying people who cloth diaper.

My Brazilian friends, for whom cloth should be a natural choice, given the exorbitant costs of everything in the country, are, with one exception, horrified about our decision to go cloth. (Don't even get me started on the natural pregnancy thing. Apparently our vaginas were not made for childbirth when you cross the Equator. This, along with breastfeeding, washing one's own clothes and etc might be fat topics for a future post. But I don't have the energy to get THAT fired up right now.)

Poop happens, people. I'm amazed at how often someone will look at me and go, "but cloth diapers? You'll have to WASH them. Ick."

You don't get to your thirties without realizing that nastiness does come out of our bums from time to time. I am okay with rinsing poop out and slapping a new, clean diaper on my baby. I'm sure it will add a bit to my laundry duties, but so will all the spit-up and spilled milk and who-knows-what-else. Unless my health takes a radical turn for the worse, we're not hiring a nanny to take care of the child raising duties, so we'll be in the thick of it, dealing with the bodily fluids and all.

I guess I'm just practical. And if I'm going to have to deal with stink anyhow, I'd rather do it knowing that I'm saving money and being responsible towards our planet.

2) I'm going to continue to shop locally, even if it is occasionally more expensive.

I have a nice stack of canvas shopping bags and, as often as possible, I walk home from the store, thus getting needed exercise and eliminating pollution. Shopping locally also keeps me from buying unnecessary items, merely to make the cost of the taxi worthwhile. If we want to keep the small places in business, we need to be willing to pay the cost.

This was the topic of a discussion while we were in the United States, as we bemoaned the death of the bookstore. We're Amazon people and cheapskates to the core, so it's really hard to plunk down hard cash at the tiny independent store, or even a Barnes & Noble's, when Amazon is carrying it for much, much less. But I have no scruples about spending an hour or two browsing at the store. Which, as we determined, makes me a contributing factor to the death of the bookstore. (Being a compulsive book person, though, I succumbed to impulse purchasing and ended up buying a couple of magazines and this book, which is perfectly spine-chilling in all the right ways.) It's not right to complain about how all the local, family-run places are shutting their doors when we check out the items on the aisles and then buy them off the internet or some other mega-retailer.

3) We're became unashamedly old-fashioned in 2011, and like it.

My father introduced my husband to the glories of old-fashioned safety razors and he's relegated all his old ones to me. Which still counts for being green, I think, even though they're disposable. After all, it seems women use their razors on legs far longer than men are willing to use them on faces! It's also had the added benefit of eliminating the cost and aerosol-ishness of shaving creams, as the badger brush whips up a mean foam on a simple cake of shaving soap that lasts forever.

And we've become aficionados of fountain pens, so much so that it's hard to find a regular pen in the house but there are about 10 bottles of ink in various colors ready to fill a pen. The new models don't a tendency to leak or spurt like older pens might have so they're safe to drop in a purse or work bag. The Lamy Safari pen, in particular, is great because of the affordable price tag, exchangeable nibs and tough exterior that will survive being dropped. I can attest to this!

I don't know if these changes are necessarily cheaper (I'm positive the pens are not!) but they do bring pleasant rituals to our lives and keep us from the throw-away mentality that is so pervasive to our culture. You don't find me losing pens any more, that's for sure! In fact, there's very little we throw out. If an item breaks, I pass it on to someone who knows a handyman or fix it myself. Brazilians still use cobblers and tailors; in some areas, there are even umbrella repairmen. When something breaks, you don't toss it, you get it fixed. I like that.

4) I'm going to be Suzy Homemaker this year, even MORE so than before.

Christmas brought me serious kitchen booty, in the form of a pasta maker, ravioli cutter, food processor and cast-iron pans (okay, that last one was my husband's gift, but I'm the one who's going to use it the most!) We already make lots of food at home but I'm upping the ante. I'm tired of the skyrocketing cost of food while the size gradually diminishes. A loaf of bread costs between R$4 and R$6 and has a significantly smaller number of slices than it did a few years ago. With the tiniest bit of forethought, I can make my own loaves that taste better and are kinder to our bodies. And now that we can have fresh pasta at home, we might forgo Italian restaurants all together. Some girlfriends want cooking lessons, so I'm going to try to put together a little bi-lingual cookbook and baking plan that contains meals which are affordable and realistic for the needs of these fun working women.

5) We're going to continue to add to our garden.

One of hubby's Christmas presents was a book on container gardening that has given me a bunch of ideas for how to expand our porch garden. It's so nice to walk out and grab a handful of herbs for a salad or to spice up our scrambled eggs, but I'd really like to take advantage of the climate and the space and grow more edibles.

6) I quit the gym.

It was because of pregnancy. I've seen some pretty awesome spandex one-piece workout suits with cutouts that would rock the bump, but I don't think they were intended for the expectant mother. I've never even seen a pregnant woman in the gym. So I chickened out; already hating the overbearing attention, I couldn't imagine working out under even more scrutiny. Instead, I'm going to utilize the beach more often (free workout stations, walking) and set up a tiny home gym for making sure my arms are strong enough to carry baby for hours at a time.

I would have liked to join up again after Little Bugigangas joins us in May, but there isn't any child care. Middle to upper-class Brazilians in Rio either have full-time family help or nannies, so there's simply no one catering to the weird people like myself who don't have help. Ah, well, ce la vie.

What are your tiny resolutions for this year?


Anonymous said...

The cloth diapers are so cute now. I'm surprised more people aren't using them just for the fashion statement their children could make. -Mom

anne said...

YAY for cloth diapers! I used them for Bethany and Michael- admittedly w/diaper service, as I lived on septic/no washing machine at home, but hey, what w/velcro and all that diaper covers, why not? People are amazingly dumb when it comes to diapers.

shopping locally is best. And I too am trying to not be so dumb about looking at small places and buying from amazon....

the cooking is great. I had a pasta maker for awhile. Ours was inundated w/machine oil, and ruined alot of pasta....some sort of leak or ??...but had another one, which was great! used to make ravioli and all manner of stuff when Bethany was tiny!

Container gardening: you can grow ANYTHING in a container, providing that you keep your soil damp enough. Sweet corn. Tomatoes. SQUASH. IF you can trellis it, you can grow it in something the diameter of a whiskey barrel. Drill holes in the bottom of any large container and it becomes something to live on your porch and grow stuff. gravel or old pottery in bottom, and then dirt (soil)...coffee grounds are great, added to soil, by the by...IF you put a 1/4 to a 1/3 of rock in bottom of any large container and top off w/soil, it works great and drains well.
fruit works too, but have had less experience. STRAWBERRIES love to grow in pea gravel, so I assume they don't need alot of soil underneath...

long post!

HEY, michael got a pen set for christmas, all nubs and stuff -- it's great. Must be a new trend!

Jennie de Mello e Souza said...

I am moving to Brazil in July, outside of Rio, but near enough to come in to shop once in a while.

I am wondering if I should buy a bread-maker, and if they sell whole wheat flour and yeast for a machine there? I can make great white bread (Artisan Bread in 5-Minutes a Day!!) but am not at all confident that I can make my own healthy, high fiber bread without a machine. What do you think?

Thanks for your blog- I am getting some great ideas for what to bring!

--jenna said...

Whole wheat flour is easy to get and so is yeast, but if you have the ability to bring down bulk dry yeast you'll save quite a lot AND it lasts for years in the fridge. Truly.

I knead my dough with an electric mixer equipped with dough hooks and find that works just fine for me. Other people have bread machines and love them. I think it depends on a) your available kitchen space which is often quite small in Brazilian apartments and b) your time requirements. Bread makers DO let you walk away from the process...

For more ideas on what you might want/need when moving here, check out the now-ended but still-online blog of dailyriolife.typepad.com. She was a wealth of info!

Best of luck to you!