About Me

My photo
Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Big Little Change digest - August, 2013

I am a big fan of the idea that small changes, adopted by many people, can eventually lead to bigger, fundamental, world-wide changes. In mid-July, I started a Facebook group called Big Change by Way of Small Change. The group's description is as follows.

What if every person to ever shop at a grocery store decided to bring their own bags, instead of using the store's paper or plastic? What if every person made it a goal to say something nice to a total stranger every day? What if everyone adopted one homeless animal? What big changes would result from these small acts of reason and good will?

Share your thoughts here and see how far we can get.

Something to think about if you want to recommend this group to other people:

- newcomers are welcome;

- open minds are encouraged;

- this group is NOT political or religious, so any political or religious trolling will be punishable by blocking;

- negative idiots need not apply.

The group's monthly digest is meant to be a kind of summary - a collection of weekly small change challenges and some of the stories by the group's members. Here is our first stab at it.

Weekly small change challenges

- Week 1 - recyclable grocery bags.

My husband and I didn't always bring our own bags, although he started making it a habit before I did, having brought some excellent knitted net bags from France. The main challenge was to make sure that we remembered to bring them with us when going to the grocery store. Because we can both be epically absent-minded, the solution ended up being to accumulate enough bags to keep some both at the house and at the car. That way, even if we forgot to bring them into the store - it was just a quick run out to the car to grab a few before checking out. I also started carrying one of those "fold up REALLY tiny" bags in my purse - and got several, to keep in different purses, because I change them fairly frequently. We have now been paper-or-plastic free for ten years, with very few exceptions.

To combine a good habit with a good deed, make a $25 donation to the World Wildlife Fund, and they'll send you some excellent roomy bags.

- Week 2 - recycling.

I know, I know... Not all areas make it easy or fun to recycle. My favorite is New York state - where you can take your cans and bottles to Wegmans and get paid for doing so. If you have that sort of thing - a recycling reimbursement program - going on in your area, do please use it. As with grocery bags, discipline yourself to throw a bag or a box of recyclables into your car every time you go to the grocery store.

The next best thing is when your trash pick up company helps you out. Some companies offer both the regular trash bins and the recycling bins, which makes recycling very easy. In some cases - as in my area - they don't offer recycling bins BUT they will pick up recyclables in the blue trash bags (you can find them at the grocery store, where they sell all the other trash bags - apparently it's a standard for recognizing a bag of recyclables). So, almost just as easy as a bin - just drag those bags to the curb on trash day.

The last but not the least is when you have to locate a recycling station in your area. Yes, it does require a separate trip. However, there is one huge advantage. I used to make a point to go to the recycling station on those days when I was in a really foul mood. Flinging bottles into the bins and hearing them crash worked better than any therapy ever could. So, think of that and go find your local recycling place.

- Week 3 - noticing things that need to be done and doing them without being asked.

This is a TOUGH one. I know many people who do this brilliantly. And I know many people who struggle with this. Heck, I would be struggling with this, had my parents not made it a habit for me since I was little. I continue cultivating it today, but treating my surroundings the way I treat hidden object games I love to play. It's that carefully nurtured ability to walk into a room and instantly see little messes (that often tend to grow into big messes if you don't watch out). By making a point of noticing things and taking care of them before they become disastrous or just profoundly annoying, I am doing the future me a huge favor. It is also a big hit with me when my husband takes care of something that is bothering me without my having to point it out and ask to fix it.

Even if you are not living with anyone else, this works for just your personal well-being. Small clean-ups and fixes, done regularly, eventually eliminate the need for the dreaded spring cleanings. There is a brilliant book by Peter Walsh called "It's all too much", in which he talks about this very thing - taking your house back from clutter in small, manageable portions. He really understands, how overwhelmed people get with this sort of things, and the book is a great positive boost.

Member stories

"I live in a 55+ community of 930 homes. In October of every year...I write notes/email my neighbors reminding them that our homeless will soon be experiencing cold weather. Warm clothing, coats & blankets will be needed....and I offer to pick up donations and deliver to our local charity. I am amazed each and every year at how many people donate when they're reminded of the need."

"I regularly have used the Freecycle group in any area I have lived. This is the formalized practice of something that happens in many college towns--the good stuff goes to the curb, so the newcomers can feather their nests. I have picked up chairs, futons (fumigated and covered afterward, really), toasters, coffeepots, all manner of stuff for the kids, and a dresser over the years. I have divested myself of thousands of pounds of items including vcrs, bikes, old newspapers, books, bricks, railroad ties, plants, furniture, a sideboard, the same futon with two mattresses 25 years later turntables, speakers, and more. And remember--if you donate--research where it goes--there are TONS of for profits acting like non profits out there. And many libraries will take donated media and books for the collection or for sale :D"

"One of the best ways that we have found to reduce the amount of garbage that is hauled away from our curb to the dump is by composting. Try it for a week, and you will likely be surprised about the reduction in your trash. This is especially true if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. There are all kinds of compost bins, from "make your own" to expensive systems. Even if you are an apartment dweller, there are compact composters available."

"Our former neighbour showed us a great thing to do. It's called SAKADO - Sac-a-dos (backpack) and Sac cadeau (gift bag) You fill a backpack with practical stuff (soaps and toiletries, toothbrushes, easily wearable warm clothing for male and female people, socks and underwear, books, watches etc.) which are then distributed to the homeless of all ages as winter kicks in here."

"Here's one thing I do. When I go to Aldi, where you have to put in a quarter to get your cart out of the lockup, I always leave my quarter for the next person. To clarify - Aldi is sort of a warehouse-style discount grocery store. Because they don't have a fancy layout but just stack open boxes on top of one another, their restocking and storage cost is very low, which allows them to pass the savings on to their customers. They also save by not having the traditional shopping cart stalls in the parking lot. Instead, their carts are chained together in one area next to the store. If you want a cart - you release the chain by putting a quarter into a slot on the cart. If you want your quarter back, you bring back the cart, hook it up where it's supposed to go, and then the quarter pops out. This way the store doesn't have to keep extra attendants to run around the parking lot collecting carts. There is also lower risk of stray carts getting damaged by or damaging people's cars. That said, people often do forget to bring change. So, our group member is doing someone a favor AND helping the store at the same time every time she goes grocery shopping there."

"A few months ago, we stopped using traditional cat litter and started using pine pellets and kennel care bedding - recycled cedar mulch. We sprinkle some baking soda at the bottom of the cat boxes, then add the pine pellets, then the cedar. Between them, they keep the smell down very well, the cost is a fraction of the fancy litter AND it can all go into the compost bin. If you have kitties, give it a shot - we've been very happy with the results."

"Here's something small, but helpful to the neighbor you never met...put a generous amount of change in the give a penny containers you see at coffee shops,gas stations and e like...oh and when on a toll road, pay for the person following. Usually causes a chain reaction where no one is actually paying their own toll!"

"I switched our electric supplier to a green (wind and solar) only supplier. If choosing your own electricity supplier is a choice in your area, this is a great and competitive change to make.There was a list of suppliers we could choose in the notice from the gas and electric company - there was an all green supplier (just the one at the moment, although I can't remember their name) they made it easy for me. "

"Here's a small change that [my husband] made many years ago, he buys unbleached coffee filters. It helps the environment and like the man says, they are going to turn brown anyway."

Public Service Announcements

If you are in the Duke Power service area, you might qualify for a free shipment of more energy-efficient light bulbs. We did this - and got a HUGE box, still working on replacing the ones we had. If you are not with Duke, check with whoever is your local electrical company - maybe they have a similar program as well. I didn't realize Duke was doing this until I heard about it on the radio.

If you want to support fair trade while shopping for interesting gifts, here is one place where you can do both. It's called Uncommon Gifts. The "salts of America" and "salts of the world" sets are both AWESOME.

If you want to donate goods, time, or money to a charity but are not sure whether they will go to the right place at the right time - check with Charity Navigator. I've been using it for years, and it is a fantastic database that gives you all the skinny on charity organizations, including how much of their money goes directly to the cause supported by an organization. You can also pick and choose a set of charities and compare them side-by-side.

No comments: