Saturday, March 5, 2011

Conscious Consumption

In Birdland one of the first chores of the day is to feed the animals. On weekends, if I sleep too late, Shiva, my tortoiseshell cat picks a ball of yarn from my basket and silently bats it around my bedroom floor creating a spider web of color. This morning was a two-ball morning. I blame it on Shiva, because she is the most social, and most likely to be in my bedroom, but Kali, the basement ghost cat may have had a hand in this art project.

She is coming around. Since her kittens left, she comes upstairs more and more for companionship.

I find Kali and Shiva gently roughhousing. We have frequent conversations, and occasionally she lets me pet her for just an instant before running away.

This morning I was lingering under warm covers. Wouldn’t you? My woodpile has dwindled, but may as well be gone, since all the firewood left is frozen solid in the ice. With this constant bitter cold, the snow still squeaks when you walk on it. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I think if I could chop out blocks of it, they would be so solid I could burn them in the woodstove.

They would make a cold, blue flame before melting. On my walks in town I notice the oak trees are finally releasing their leaves. I notice them because we have a lot in common. They are loath to let go, and keep their brown leaves through the winter. But suddenly, I find the lovely scalloped brown leaves just lying on top of the snow. Like me, oaks know that eventually they have to let go to receive their new gifts, but still they hold on as long as they can.

I’m dreaming of spring and using my indoor time to work on projects—sewing, knitting, and crocheting. I was inspired by something I saw at the Common Ground Food Co-op: reusable bags crocheted from strips of plastic. Plastic shopping bags (and bags for products, like cheese and frozen vegetables) have had me worried for quite a while.

They’re so light that they “float” to the top of the earth when buried, or they sail for miles and miles if released into our Prairie winds. They’ll cause problems wherever they end up—whether it’s high on the branch of a tree or in the boneyard to be carried downstream to eventually float out to sea. For years I’ve used the plastic shopping bags for garbage—have never, ever, bought plastic garbage bags, but am now re-thinking that use. Even filled with my household waste (which is minimal after recycling and composting) they will cause problems by their very permanent nature. Also, I have far more white, two-handled shopping bags than I could ever use for garbage. I finally figured out that the only way to stop them from multiplying in my pantry is to block their entry into my household. At the grocery store, I have to be alert to stop cashiers from bagging my purchases. I try to tell them immediately to please just put my groceries back into the cart (if I’ve forgotten my canvas bags, as I generally do). I’m not above asking them to empty the bags they’ve already filled, if I don’t get to the end of the belt in time.

And yet, I have a bulging oatmeal box full of them. However, after seeing these artful shopping bags at the Co-op, I’ve found a new way to reduce my stockpile. Now, a more generous soul would have simply bought these lovely bags, crocheted, says the sign, by a 17-year old girl, with proceeds going to charity. But I’m a skinflint at heart, and when I see something really cool in a shop, instead of thinking, “I’ll buy that and support that marvelously creative person,” I think “I could make that!”

I went home and used my rotary fabric cutter to slice shopping bags in a variety of colors, then joined the strips and wound them into balls. I’m well into crocheting my first bag, and rather pleased with the results. I’ve also been sewing bags from 40 lb. chicken feed bags, which have suddenly been converted from paper to poly-weave (unrecyclable for all practical purposes). I like to sew, and could probably convert all of my chicken feed (and even cat chow) bags to shopping bags, but I don’t see it as a viable way to deal with yet another source of plastic on its way out to sea.

We need to think carefully about what we consume, and how it is packaged, and how it affects this big blue marble we call home.

Salvage Beauty; Recover Peace; Blessed Be.

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