Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Easter eggs dyes

Here's a great article suggesting ways to dye easter eggs using materials you (probably) already have around the house. A great way to use or reuse some food items creatively, and avoid buying a box of premade dyes and the packaging that goes along with them.

Mail failure

A few weeks ago, I received a magazine offer for a children's magazine. My mother-in-law ordered a magazine for my child as a gift a few months ago, and since then both she and I have received numerous offers for more magazines. As if ordering one magazine means you probably really want ten more.

At the time that I received this offer I was in the beginning stages of learning how to get off of mailing lists. I've since found that there are quick and easy ways of getting off of the automated credit card and insurance offers, and it is easy to get out of the catalogue loop (though just as easy, unfortunately, to get right back in).

However, there is not, to my knowledge, a centralized database that allows you to get off of all magazine subscription offer lists or charity lists.

On the day that I received the offer for the hip new children's magazine, I searched and searched and searched the offer for a phone number to call to get myself off of their list. No luck. So I took the return mailer and wrote, in large, bold letters, NO THANK YOU, and, TAKE ME OFF OF YOUR MAILING LIST, PLEASE!!!

Flash back to the present. Today, I received in the mail a big, shrink-wrapped collection of stuff addressed to my son. Inside was a big world map, a poster, an envelop full of activity materials, and, hidden among the flashy swag, a magazine. Oh, and also an invoice. For the magazine I asked specifically not to receive.

My guess is that the process is automated, and that when they received their offer back a machine read the bar code on the offer and entered my son's name as an acceptance of the offer. How disconcerting that not only do these offers provide no easy way to refuse and avoid future repeat offers, but even the snail mail refusal just generated more waste in my home.

The good news is that there was a phone number on the invoice, and I was able to speak to an actual person about the matter. I regret to say that I was grumpier than I meant to be toward the poor man on the other end of the line, who I assume is in no way responsible for the policies that annoy me. I achieved, after about six weeks, success of a convoluted sort. He said I could ignore the bill and that they would--drum roll, please--take me off of their mailing list.

And as a bonus, I get to keep the junk, shrink-wrap and all.

An update

The fr(ECO)logy project is in full force...at home. I have been continuing to collect my reusable stuff. So far this year we haven't sent anything to recycling, and have had about one small garbage bag per week to set at the curb. The back of our garage is filling up with recyclables, but I'm also working hard on ways to reuse these resources.

My first job has been to tackle the paper piles, and, of course, to reduce the amount of paper coming in. I've taken steps to reduce the amount of junk mail sent to me, as that is the main source of paper in this house. Using what remains, I am making homemade paper, boxes, beads, and mosaics and collages with paper. I'll share the details of these projects soon.

I've fallen behind in the online portion of the project, so this post is just here to let anyone interested know that the project is still on, and to let you know I'll be working on keeping the blogs updated more regularly now that some of the logistical details of the project are getting ironed out.

If there is one thing I have learned so far it is that there is a lot of junk even in a home occupied by relatively eco-conscious people who don't buy a lot of stuff. There is so much emphasis on recycling that the reduce and reuse parts of the equation often don't get the respect that they deserve. Reduction is clearly the key even when you are trying to reuse useful objects. How many plastic bags can a person reuse between grocery store trips? I have one single glossy catalogue I've been using for beading making and collage projects. It is unbelievable how much can be made from this single catalogue. It would take just a few minutes to call the companies that send these things to get off of their mailing lists--I'm finding that most of these companies are more than happy to honor these requests. How much easier it is, though, to thumb through them--or not--before tossing them in the garbage or recycling piles. Before making the calls, I was getting three or four catalogues per week, but I know people who get ten or twenty every week.

At my most overwhelmed moments, I've toyed with the idea of logging all of the stuff coming in, but only keeping the portion I know I can use in the near future. But having junk accumulating in my home is a constant visual and physical reminder of the consequences of waste and overconsumption. It is incentive to creatively reduce and reuse. I will probably give myself a small break by donating some stuff to my son's preschool for art projects. Donated objects will certainly be reused at least once, and the preschool is always in need of supplies. The more donated items they receive, the less they need to buy for projects. The only negative aspect of this is that donated recyclable objects may be less likely to get recycled once they are covered with glue and glitter and paint. These items are put to good use, though, and there are many non-recyclable items, or items that can't be easily recycled, like waxed cardboard milk cartons and little bits of metal and plastic food packaging, that can have a second life before hitting the landfill.

Now back to making paper.