Sunday, February 4, 2007

The consumption of consumption

We have been sick in my house. Especially my son. We are on Day 10 of the Great fr(ECO)logy Household Illness. For Days 1-9, the poor kid spent 18 hours of each day sleeping fitfully, and the remaining 6 hours staring blankly at Mama, requesting lots of make-me-better kisses, requesting food then charmingly refusing to eat it, drinking juice and tea and water, and taking medicine. At all times, I was to be no more than one inch away. Today, some improvement: I have had as much as 20 minutes at a time without physical contact with my son, and though he is now sleeping next to me again he is doing so without needing me to hold him with at least one arm, so I am able to type. Also, he's been eating bananas.

You can imagine how very little time I've had to work on being fr(ECO)logical. I have, however, had very much time to think. And remind myself of how bad television can be.

One of the things I have been thinking about but have not had the free hands to write about is the amount of stuff that has entered my home to treat or comfort my child. We have four empty and more nearly empty bottles of medicine (not because we are overdosing the poor kid; we were just scraping the bottom of a few bottles). We have bought and consumed several gallons of orange juice--the only thing with calories my son would consume for much of the week. We have bought and consumed three six-packs of ginger ale--partly a bribe for my son at medicine time, but also for me as I began to catch the tired-of-sitting-on-the-couch bug, and then the whatever-my-son-has bug. We have bought and consumed 2 boxes of popsicles.

I'm sure we could have been more conservative. I could have foregone the ginger ale. I could have squeezed the orange juice from actual oranges. I could have made popsicles in the popsicle molds we already own. I could have done all of this with my feet, I guess, or one-handed with one of those Mrs. Incredible stretchy arms from my perch on the cuddle-with-Mama-couch. Could have, but didn't.

Another thing we did not do was get take-out, though I was tempted a couple of times. I also resisted the desire to put my son in the car to get out of the house and hit a drive-through coffee place a couple of times. Going out for a drive or to get drive-through coffee is not something I normally do, but neither is taking care of a sick child. Once upon a time I had a child who rarely got sick. Now he has spent 10 days of his young life ailing.

Regarding coffee: I left the house only once during the week, to take the kid to the doctor. On the way back, I figured I'd stop to get coffee beans, since we were already out of the house, we were out of coffee, the place was on the way home, and the kid was having a relatively fever- and delirium-free moment. Also thought I could bribe him to eat something--anything--by offering him a yummy pastry. No luck. I bought the pastry but the kid refused to eat it. Just kept trying to feed it to me. Poor guy must have really been sick.

The problem with getting coffee was I forgot the coffee bean bag I had planned to reuse. And my coffee mug. No, I didn't have to get coffee as well as beans. I could have made myself coffee with the beans when I got home. But they give you a big discount on coffee when you buy beans. And did I mention I have been chained to a couch and a sick kid who keeps asking pathetically to cuddle with Mama and opens his eyes every time I shift positions to make sure I'm not going anywhere?

So I needed the coffee. Here was the dilemma: drive the mile home to get the bag and coffee mug and then the mile back to get the coffee? Or just stop and deal with the waste? I chose to just stop and deal with the extra bag and cup. More convenient; less gas and time. I'm going to stash the extra bag in my car so I won't be faced with that part of the dilemma next time. And let me know if you think of a good use for a disposable coffee cup.

Regarding the title of this post: to call my son's ailment "consumption" is overdramatic, obviously. More likely it's the flu. And I am afraid I am about to find out that the only thing worse than being well while taking care of a very sick child is being very sick while taking care of a well child.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Friday morning garbage round-up

It's garbage day again. This week we have nothing in the recycling bins. We have one tall kitchen bag full of garbage. The garbage is mainly used tissues, plastic food wrapping, and a couple of plastic food bags. It's nice, particularly when I know a few simple changes could reduce the garbage level even more. I know I could replace the tissues with cloth, for example (though the tissues were all used by my son, who refused the soft cloth I offered him and insists on using each tissue no more than once). So that leaves plastic food wrapping, i.e., the stuff that food comes wrapped in, not the kind people sometimes buy in a box to wrap their food in. I've had trouble thinking of anything to do with most of this, and it can't be recycled. Plastic bags, of course, have the potential for reuse. I am saving most plastic bags, and throwing them out only when they are falling apart. Many are the biodegradable produce bags from my local natural grocery.

I have also been throwing away chip bags, though, and a fr(ECO)logue commenter noted that these could be reused to hold other food. Of course they could, and if I am really supposed to be saving anything I can conceivably reuse I should be keeping them. Especially those that are heavier and not slimy-greasy. I think I have not done this because I already have so many plastic bags to reuse. An overabundance of resources and not enough stuff to do with them. This means I have to get more creative. Or cheat and get more food to store in them.

Overall, though, great victories on the garbage front. Meanwhile, my paper and other reuse piles and bags collect in the laundry room and garage. I have only succeeded in minor bits of reuse so far. On Sunday I began organizing the piles a bit to try to create a more manageable system. I planned to gather some tools for reuse on Monday (to make paper and to create some things from the glass beer and soda bottles we are accumulating). Then my son got very sick and I've been basically couch-bound taking care of him. Maybe next week...

While chip bags and plastic wrap pose my main garbage dilemma, drink containers are the main reuse pile issue. I haven't tried to make paper yet, but this seems like a relatively simple solution for the paper piles. But bags of glass beer and soda bottles, and, this week, orange juice cartons are accumulating, with no obvious simple in-house solution.

Except, of course, not to buy them. I don't need chips, or beer, or soda, and I could squeeze orange juice from actual oranges if I wanted to. In fact, it is more often my husband who buys the chips and drinks. I could ask him not to. I could refuse to drink from the containers. But this is side-stepping the larger issue. Of course reduction is a great option, and every bit of reduction helps, but mine is not the only household bringing in glass or plastic drink containers and chip bags, and I am not about to convince a few million people to give up their wine and coke. And Cheetos. So the question becomes, are we doing the best we can to reduce the impact of drink and snack containers on the environment?