Fusible Plastic

Here is what I love and kind of hate about plastic bags. They’re really hard to manage: they take up a lot of room, float around without much encouragement and they’re just annoying, but that makes it fun to deconstruct them and turn them into something else. Fusible plastic, for example.

What you need:

At least 8 bags, but I recommend more in increments of 8- try to get some extra more colorful bags too

Iron

2 long pieces of parchment paper

Of your eight, the majority should be grocery bags or at least the same kind of bag. For my latest run, I used a kitchen bag in the middle because I wasn’t sure how it would compared to others and it still worked out pretty good. That set might have been my best.

Take each bag and fold it down neatly, so all the edges are tucked in. Cut off the seam on the bottom and the handles.

Cut down the side, so you can open it up and lay it flat. Do this with all eight of your bags.

Lay down one sheet of parchment paper and lay down your bags on top. For me, it’s impossible to make all the bags even, but just do the best you can. Make sure if your parchment paper is too short that you’re bags aren’t hanging off the side. Then add your second piece of paper. Also, be prepared for a little bit of a mess because sometimes the ink will melt.

I think the iron does best if it’s set on rayon or the 5 or 6 setting. I would rather you start on too low a setting and work your way up than start too high and ruin the plastic.

The plastic bags can easily get out of line, so the best way to start is melt one end and then work your way over. Once you finish one side, turn it over and work on the other side.

Keep the iron moving constantly. I mean constantly. The plastic tends to shrink and at first I thought I was doing it wrong, but as I kept ironing, I noticed that it was giving the solid feel I was going for. If you can feel the separate layers, you need to keep going.

Before you sew anything, decorate your bag with whatever cute plastic bags you have leftover. These will melt pretty quickly so don’t leave the iron on there for more than a few seconds at a time or you can sew your decorations on. Once I got a method down, I had better luck melting. Mostly I had to work with Wal-Mart bags, but since I hate Wal-Mart,  I did my best to cover up it’s name. For the second time, I just cut the Wal-Mart out and stacked the bags, so the hole wasn’t in the same spot for each bag.

There are tons of things you can do with this fusible plastic. I sewed up the sides, melted  some thing scraps to make handles and made a reusable bag. Because so much of my plastic didn’t turn out the first time, I didn’t have enough to make another one, so we made a pencil pouch.

Fold the bags in half and sew up the sides with right sides together. Then turn the bags inside out.

Fold the bags in half and sew up the sides with right sides together. Then turn the bags inside out.

005 003 004

The material is waterproof and extremely sturdy, so it would make a great beach bag. If you really wanted to. you could sewed it as a lining on a cute bag. These are just the simple things you can do, but there are plenty of awesome ideas that I want to do someday.

Raincoat: Yes, you read that right.

Wallets

Shoes!

Greener Prisons

The prison system is a very inefficient system.  Society and laws are set to bring nothing but a vicious cycle and unnecessary waste. Prisons should be the worst place on earth. I’ve heard of people going out of their way to get in trouble just so they can get a free meal and have a place to stay.  A free ride for criminals is the last thing prison should be. I’ve heard that prison is hell on earth. I think prison systems are interesting, I think the prisoners are interesting, all of it I find quite interesting, so I watch shows about it from time to time. They say it’s the worst place on Earth, yet they keep coming back. I have a “but” coming next time I post, but for now, I have this “but” some people go back just because it’s the easy way out. That shouldn’t be happening and if it does it shouldn’t be supported by the taxpayer’s dollar. It’s prison not a vacation. They shouldn’t have any luxuries. If they do, they should be the ones that pay for it. They shouldn’t be a burden to society. They should be working to pay off their debt to society (I’ll be talking more about this on Monday).

In 1975, it cost a taxpayer $200 to cover their part of the criminal justice budget. Now it cost $1,200. http://www.nonewprisons.org/prisons/ In 2007, states spent more than $49 billion to feed, house, clothe, treat and supervise 2.3 million offenders, the Pew Center on the States reported this year.

Partially, we can thank the war on drugs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot stupid things came from this ‘war.’ I won’t go into all of them, but the enforcing of these laws takes money. A lot of it and this extra money often come from social programs that do more good than prison. I don’t doubt for a split second that these drug related offenses shouldn’t have some kind of punishment especially for those who sell to kids, but also for those who sell or make them and even those who use them. But non-violent offenders shouldn’t be put with violent offenders. It creates a whole array of avoidable problems. If we ever want to solve a problem that arrangement has got to go. Whatever it cost to put them in the government’s custody, whatever the cost of damage should be what it cost them to get out. Instead of putting them in jail or prison to soak up more money they should have to work off the cost. Drug dealing, stealing, anything like that is usually just a way that people can make easy money. For whatever reason, maybe they couldn’t find a decent paying job or maybe they just didn’t want to have to work harder, they turn to crime. Making them work would show them A, they can make the money if the work enough, B, it may give them a new skill set that they use next time they need work, and C, they should stay out of trouble because they don’t want to have to do that kind of work again. The intensity of the work could depend on the seriousness of the crime.

Some studies are suggesting that environmental issues, not the nurture from the nature vs. nurture part of the debate, effect crime rates. It’s been pointed out several times about the poorer neighborhoods often having more landfills, pollution pumping factories, etc. The pollution is now being pointed at for because the toxic chemicals coming from these places may be responsible for learning disabilities and behavior problems.

The fact is that with our current system no one is winning. I used to think that it was their choice and it landed them in prison. Was that my problem? No. At least it shouldn’t be, but our society, all of us, is having a hand in creating this problem. Making criminals be responsible for their own actions seems like a reasonable answer, but it’s condemning them to a vicious cycle.  Society helped them give in and now we have to get them out.

The overpopulation of prisons is a social problem, but their extreme waste creates environmental ones, too. Alabama is one of the states that have had waste management issues. Their overpopulated prison generated twice as much waste than the local water treatment plant could handle. The results were extremely high levels of toxic ammonia, fecal coliform, viruses, and parasites into local streams and rivers. When raw sewage hit clean water, it sucked up the available dissolved oxygen to aid decomposition. That led to asphyxiation of aquatic plants and animals that depended on that oxygen.

California has had a host of problems. Since 2000, eight of California’s 33 prisons have had major water pollution citations.

The disgusting list goes on and on.

We can’t fix the social or environmental problem in a day, but here are some systems that are working to fix their environmental problems.

This article features Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Washington. It talks about their compost, they compost 100 percent of their food wastes, raise bees, grow organic tomatoes and lettuce and recycle shoe scraps and have it turned into playground turf.

A convicted murderer is pictured turning the compost, a former drug addict and attempted robbery convict is in charge of the bees.

Cedar Creek, in the heart of a forest, feels more like an outdoor retreat than institutional lockup. Most of the 400 inmates are in a work program, putting in six to eight hours a day.

Cedar Creek uses 250,000 fewer gallons of water a year, saves $6,000 to $8,400 annually on garbage bills and avoided a $1.4 million sewage treatment plant upgrade.

Indiana Department of Corrections installed water boilers that run on waste wood chips, and built a wind turbine at one prison that generates about 10 kilowatts an hour and saves $2,280 a year.

North Carolina’s Department of Corrections switched to chemical-free cleaners and vegetable-based inks. This summer, because of a water shortage, inmates converted 50-gallon pickle barrels into small cisterns that capture rainwater.

Under a state mandate to reduce energy use, the Oregon Department of Corrections replaced old appliances with energy-efficient ones, installed solar water heaters and used a geothermal well to heat water. It also modified washing machines so they could reuse rinse water to wash about a million pounds of clothes a month.

At Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, Ore., inmates recycle scraps from old prison blues to make diaper bags for women’s shelters and dog beds for animal shelters.

Some prisons are alternative energy collection with solar and wind power.

Although most of these changes are being made to save money, I’m still thankful for all these improvements. Would I rather there be less people in prisons? Yeah, I would. I don’t think that change is even close to being made yet, so for now I’ll be content with these. I also think that we could be doing a lot better.

The Cost of Eating Meat

Here’s the thing:  June 24-30 is animal abuse awareness week. I did not know this and therefore am unprepared, content wise, emotionally and mentally. I’ve been thinking about covering this topic for a while, but haven’t really known where to start or how to get across everything that I want to. Since there is no time like the present, I will try to do my best to get some decent posts out about this subject.  I’m not vegetarian and I am certainly not vegan. I wish I could be. If no one cooked for me or if only I cooked for myself then I could do it no problem. Yeah, sometimes I would crave it, but I’ve craved donuts for years now and will power is an amazing thing. I can’t force the people I live with to rearrange their lives around mine. At restaurants there are very, very few options for vegetarians and no options for vegans. My favorite dishes I can no longer eat, but I can’t replace it with anything that is hardly considered a meal. If I’m lucky I can find a boring quesadilla. Sometimes I’m lucky and I can just get my favorite salad with an interesting dressing and just ask for no meat, but sometimes that even goes wrong and I find little bits of chicken from where they forgot and at the last second picked the pieces out.

I think people who eat meat are selfish. No matter what the reason is. I’m selfish. And I hate it. I hate being selfish, but as long as I choose to pick people’s feelings over lives then I guess that is a hate I’ll have to try not to choke myself with.

With that being said I’m not going to be your traditional vegetarian/vegan. I’d like to be, but A) that would make me a hypocrite because I eat meat and B) it’s highly unrealistic for me to expect that no matter what logic I try to show you or pictures I show you, you will decide to never touch another animal product as long as you should live. Instead, I’m going to beg you to give me just a few more minutes of your time, so that I can share with you some reasons that you should just eat LESS meat if not give it up entirely.

Money Cost. There is different variations to these experiments. What city you’re shopping in, how much you eat, etc. I didn’t use any pro-vegetarian sites for this argument because I figure they have a reason to be biased. Some said you could save money and some said it was more expensive. I think the deciding factor is exactly what you’re buying. That fake meat stuff, or dairy substitutes I think are what make a vegetarian diet more expensive. Also, if you think of how much money you could end up spending on hospital bills due to unhealthy habits then there really is no comparison.

When comparing just fruits, vegetables, and nuts to meat, the savings are pretty noticeable.

Cost/lb Corn- .043

Soybeans-.093

Wheat-.086

Peanuts-.021

Pork-.069

Beef-1.228

Broilers-.471

Milk-.206

http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/55529/2/lusk%20-%20current.pdf

http://20somethingfinance.com/cost-of-vegetarian-diet/

Humanitarian Cost.

Twenty million people will die this year as a result of malnutrition. If Americans reduced their intake of meat by 10%, 100 million more people could be fed by the land that was freed. Only 20% of the corn grown in the U.S. is eaten by people. The other 80% is fed to livestock. Ninety-five percent of the oats grown in the U.S. is fed to livestock. By cycling grain through livestock, 90% of protein is wasted. Forty thousand  pounds of potatoes can be grown on one acre, but only 250 pounds of beef can be produced on that same acre and fifty-six percent of our land is devoted to beef production. Sixteen pounds of grain and soybeans are needed to produce one pound of edible flesh from feedlot beef.  Just to point out, grass-fed beef still takes land to grow, but they feed off the land that they are on instead of needing additional land to grow grain.

Percentage of US farmland devoted to beef production: 56
http://www.consumercide.com/js/index.php/food-supply/39-necessarily-vegetarian/379-how-to-win-an-argument-with-a-meat-eater

Health Costs

Vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease heart disease, colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers, diabetes, obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure). This could be attributed to the fact that the vegetarian diet usually involves a diet low in fat and high in fiber. These affects could be negated when their diet is high in fat or includes excessive amounts of fatty snack foods or fried foods.

There are many benefits of eating meat. It does have things that we need, but these aren’t things that can’t be found non-meat food.  For the most part, these things include protein, zinc, and B vitamins. All of which can be found in several different kinds of vegetables.

Calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies can arise in a vegan diet, but surprisingly study participants did not suffer from osteoporosis which typically related to inadequate intakes of these micro-nutrients.

Not only are vegetables healthier in way of nutrients, but they also don’t require waste or antibiotics to be streamed into our water supply. Which can then lead to our food supply. Ever hear of a recall of produce because E. Coli? You can thank the meat industry. Because the animals are always crammed together, diseases run rampant throughout the feedlots. Antibiotics are used. Those antibiotics are in our food and water supply and are now contributing to antibiotic resistant strings of bacteria.

Environmental Costs.

Worldwide, over 284 million tons of meat was consumed. As Americans, we eat 8 ounces a day which is twice the global average. As Americans, we also represent about 5% of the world population, but as we process and consume 10 billion animals a year, we are representing about 15% of the meat consumption.

About 30% of the ice-free land is dedicated to the meat industry and gives off 1/5 of the greenhouse gases which is more than transportation.

Or, you could also say 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

Farm animals produce 16.6 billion tons of excrement per year. That is more than a million pounds per second (that’s 60 times as much as is produced by the world’s human population.) For the UN, animal agriculture is a leading case of water pollution.

Farm animals and water needed to irrigate the crops to feed them are responsible for consuming 240 trillion gallons per year or 7.5 million gallons per second.

It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie of animal protein as it does to make one calorie of plant protein.

The meat industry is also responsible for soil erosion, 40 billion tons per year to be exact.

http://www.alternet.org/environment/137737/13_breathtaking_effects_of_cutting_back_on_meat/

All is not lost though. Click here for some solutions.

Chapter 3: Walking the Walk

Previous Chapters: one and two.

Chapter 3: Walking the Walk

                        Last night, Angus went knocking on Death’s door and he was welcomed with open arms. The struggle had gone on for weeks, but finally Angus has been relieved. Since there is nothing left of his red body, we’re having more of a ceremony than a burial. Where would we even bury a body anyway? Any place here would be a disgrace. Most around here deserve better than that.

Hardly anyone showed because they are tired of being confronted by what they are trying to avoid. Ever since I had met Angus in the dumpster, he was bitter about the end he knew would come. He lost his hope of being rescued when he left the city. I realize that I have lost hope. The trash around here has tried to convince me that it’s hopeless and I have let them.

Fiona was at the funeral and afterwards she comes up to me.

“Hey. I haven’t seen you around in a while,” I say.

“Yeah, I’ve been doing some thinking,” she responds. “You were right. Not about people coming to get us because that is obviously never going to happen, but about being such an optimist. We shouldn’t accept our fate. We may not be rescued by someone else, but we can still rescue ourselves. We can go to the recycling center. We can have a new life. Angus’ death helped me realize that I don’t want to die here. I would rather die trying to get out then to die here.”

“Wow, I didn’t see this coming,” I pause to consider the idea, “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“Are you kidding? You would rather putrefy in this God forsaken place then just take a chance? If you stay here you will die. You talked to Polly; no one comes here. If you want to get out, you have to get yourself out,” she says, each word getting louder.

I consider what she has said then shake my head.

“I can’t. For me it’s the opposite of what you’ve said. I’m only a spoon. I’m not smart like you. I know that if I try to get out then I will die, but if I wait someone could come.” I say still hopeful.

“God. If you would take some of that belief you have in other people that care nothing about you and invest it in yourself, you could be a lot more productive. But whatever, it’s your choice. I’ll be leaving for the recycling center in a couple of days, so when you decide to stop being a coward come and find me,” she tells me.

She leaves me stunned and all I can do is watch her go. There was no point in me chasing after her, so I just went back to the bag I had found and started to live in. She is right. I am a coward and she probably is also right about no one coming to save me. If I want a chance then I’ll have to fight for it because no one else is going to give it to me.  That’s all life has been shouting at me since the day I was made. She is right. The question is will I have the courage to do anything about it.

I look across the mountain of waste that is viewable from my bag; most of it is lost forever. I still have the ability to change my situation, but in a few months I’ll be so broken I won’t even be able to turn my head from the mountain. I realize now that I would much rather be dead than being a miserable rot. I won’t give myself time to second guess, but there is something I need to do first.

I start to ascend the mountains on the way to the island that Fiona had brought me to a few weeks ago. At the peak of the mountain, I immediately spot Polly who now looked so much worse. She may not be able to decompose, but she is now broken into many more pieces. Even as I stand before her, she doesn’t look up.

“Polly,” I say quietly.

Her eyes rise slowly and lock with mine. They are lifeless.

“Fiona and I are going to try and escape. We’re going to the recycling center. I want you to come with us,” I say, still quiet.

She says nothing and she gives no indication that she will even consider my proposal.

“We may not make it. We probably won’t. But I would rather die out there with hope than die in here like we are right now,” I say.

I stop to let what I’ve said soak in. She gives no response.

“We’ll be leaving tomorrow morning. I desperately hope you will meet and come with us,” I say and leave her to consider my offer.

I wake up to the sound of birds crying. Sometimes I wish they would cry for justice for us, but even if they were, no one is around to hear them.  I groan in contempt for what I hope is the last time. I don’t have to walk far before I see Fiona; even from far away I can see her screen beaming with delight. I rush to her and hug her as if my life depends on it. It does depend on her.

“Is Polly coming?” I ask hopefully.

Her face fell. “No. This morning some more trash trucks came in and the island was buried. She is stuck. There is really no hope for her now.”

She saw the guilt covering my face.

“You tried to get her to come. She had already made her decision then. If she had already decided to come then she wouldn’t have been on the island anyway. There is nothing you could have done,” she says pulling me toward the entrance of the landfill.

Miles stand between us and our destination.

We are now almost there, but it’s about to get far more dangerous. We hear a horrid screeching of a trash trucks coming our way. We start to run, but it is already too late. We get thrown to the ground, pounded into the top layers of trash. The sound is deafening; it’s like being at the bottom of hundreds of waterfalls. Fiona yells something at me, but I can’t hear her. I feel like I’m being broken in half. An eternity goes by, but finally, it’s over. Fortunately, I’m not packed in the trash and I can start to wiggle my way out. When I reach the top, I see Fiona standing. I am thoroughly relieved, but I am noticing a crack splitting her face.

“What happened?” I ask rushing to her.

“Well, I managed to stay on top by wiggling my way up layer by layer instead of waiting and letting trap me at the bottom. It came with a price because it all fell directly on me instead of letting the upper layer take some of the blows,” she cackles from her microphone.

“Come on we need go before they come back.”

As we walk, she has to continuously wipe the chemicals off because they’re blinding her only eye as they poor down her face.

We have made it outside the gates that have surrounded us for all this time. We are met with deserted land. Spaceless, timeless, but we hear the noise from the busy streets even as they are so far away. We run towards that noise as if its energy is what will keep us alive; the noise guides like the North Star. I stop just before we are within the drivers’ view.

“Wait! Won’t they thinks unnatural for us to be up and walking around,” I ask with sudden panic.

She, once again, bursts into laughter. I’m really tired of that.

“You’re still so pathetic. Haven’t I convinced you already? No one cares about us. All that,” she waves behind her, “what we just came from, the pollution, the smells, the health problems, all of it has been happening right under their noses. They haven’t noticed and if they have then they don’t care. They’re busy. They have no time to care about anything, but their own problems. I assure you, they’re not going to notice a couple of pieces of ‘misplaced’ litter.”

That settles that. Once again, believing in people has made me an idiot.

Cars are backed up, bumper to bumper and the traffic is going nowhere. We choke on the obnoxious fumes. It’s deafening, but we decide that it was the best time to move since the cars weren’t moving. We walk across the lanes of cars, slowly, but somewhat safely. The light turns green and it doesn’t take much to realize that we’re out of time. I quickly move to the middle of the lane, so that I won’t be stuck where the tires were. Fiona was not as lucky though. I turn in horror to see just as a set of tires roll over her and I hear her frame crack.

“Fiona!” I cry running to her. I barely escape my own set of tires, but I get to her and drag her to the middle of the lane. We can wait until the traffic dies down and get across safely.

The light turns red which is our only chance we have to make it. I haul her to the curb where we both collapse. I have never been so afraid in my life. The recycling center is only 50 feet away; its sign is a beacon. Fiona is not in good shape, but I know we can make it.

“It’s not too far. We can get there. Come on,” I say as I gather all my courage and strength to get both Fiona and myself there.

I knew she couldn’t make it without my help. We limp towards the recycling center; with each step it seems to get farther and farther away. People crowd the sidewalks and we can’t go fast enough to avoid meeting the bottom of someone’s shoe. We move over and hug the wall that lines the sidewalk.  Fiona hobbled nearest to the wall and I was closest to the dangerous elements. Almost there. Five feet away, but Fiona has to stop. She’s leaking everywhere. I move over to let her have some breathing room which is the biggest mistake I could have made. Someone steps on me. Fiona was right. I don’t even think they noticed and I know for sure that they didn’t check if I was okay. I look back and realize that my handle is hanging on by a thread.

“You have to go. You have to make it,” I tell her.

“So do you! We’re almost there,” she yells trying to be heard over all the ruckus.

“Alright, come on,” I say pulling myself up.

Fiona makes it and I feel a wave of relief and I give myself permission to stop. One of us made it. That is good enough. I lie down and close my eyes. I feel pressure and a rush as I am picked up. My eyes jerk open and I find myself being put into a receptacle full of trash.

“No!” I start to yell and thrash with new found energy.

I made it all this way and it was all for nothing. Even until this moment I was naïve enough to believe that people would care.  I fall on a pile of plastic. Not unlike the dumpster, the smell was overwhelming; I feel just like I did then. It’s the worst feeling, knowing I was wrong.

“What’s happening?” I ask disoriented.

“Welcome to the recycling bins. It’s where you go when someone realizes your potential,” said a plastic bottle.

I sigh with relief. I am home.

Short Story Chapter 1: A Rude Awakening

I had to write a short story for my creative writing class. I had written a vignette not too long ago and I used the same character, but I didn’t have enough space to do anything too major, so I just saved it for the short story assignment. I hate authors that leave you hanging and dying until the next book comes out. It’s just plain mean, but for once I now have that power. My chapter endings aren’t that much of cliff hanger, but I’ll only be posting one chapter a day cause I can. Anyways, enjoy.

Chapter 1: A Rude Awakening

Hello, my name is Dixie and I’m a white plastic spoon. About two months ago, I was waiting in a bag on the shelves of a giant store with my 99 siblings. There were thousands of families like ours and we were waiting to be adopted out. A nice young family with a mom and dad, a baby girl and school-aged son came and looked at all of us.

“Hey! Hey! Pick me, pick me,” all of us would cry as people came down our aisle.

My family and I had been waiting for months, but now finally our time was here.

“They picked us. We can finally be loved and fulfill our purpose! We can live happily ever after,” we cried in excitement.

Little did we know that our dreams would become our nightmare. It was an ordinary Friday night and my siblings and I were just laying on the cupboard shelf like we normally we do when all of a sudden the door to the cupboard was opened and a blinding light came flooding in. One might have been angered by the startling sight, but we knew it could only mean one thing…we were going to be used! We started cheering as the man whose apartment we were staying in picked us up.

Party decorations were strewn about. It was obviously a child’s birthday. A dash of bright blue with a splash of yellow, the sight of Wolverine and the smell of pizza were so strong they could have made one hazy. The party had yet to start and the apartment was empty besides the four family members, so one could easily hear the busy streets, honking horns below on the New York streets.

The man, who the lady usually called Mark, grabbed a handful of us and tossed us in a cup. There we would wait to finally fulfill our destiny. One by one my siblings were picked out, used, but they never came back. Finally it got down to just a couple of us. We all stood tall and smiled as big as we could, trying to be that perfect pick. But the music stopped and so did deafening sound of kids yelling. The apartment emptied just as it was about to be my turn. I yelled for people to come back, but no one listened. Another day maybe.

Mark called out, “Hey, Lucy, what do you want me to do with these leftover spoons? Keep them for another time or just throw them away?”

Our ears perked up and our handles straightened so much we thought we might snap.

Lucy peered around the corner and replied, “Just throw them away. It’s too much space taken up and hassle for just a couple of spoons.”

Mark picked us up and threw us into another bag filled with dirty plates, half eaten pizza slices and melted ice cream. I was appeased by the taste of ice cream. I love ice cream, but then the bag got dark and the sounds of the street got louder. It was earsplitting.

“Where are we going?” I cried. I tried to cower in the bag, blend in with my surroundings, anything that I could do to delay my untimely demise. It was too late; there was no one there to care or to save me. They threw me into the dumpster. It stunk like rotting food, dirty diapers, beer, and cigarettes. It was the most disgusting combination of smells; it was worse than anything, anyone could have ever imagined.

“What’s happening?” I asked slightly taken aback by the smell.

“Welcome to the dumpster. It’s where you go when you outlive your usefulness and no one wants you anymore,” said a mope piece of lettuce.

The smell was so awful that it was making me dizzy, so I couldn’t focus on what he was saying.

“What’s happening?” I asked again.

“You’ve been thrown away. Get used to it, it’s only going to get worse from here,” said a symphony of beef cuts still perfectly wrapped.

‘This must be a dream,’ I thought.

I closed my eyes for several seconds, hoping that when I opened them I would be back safe in the cupboard. When I opened my eyes, it was a rude awakening. The smell was there, the hopeless faces were still there, and I was still there.

They look perfectly useful to me, so why were they in the trash, I wondered.

“Why are you guys here? You don’t look useless?” I asked.

“We’re past our expiration date. No one will even consider us if we’re expired even if we’re still perfectly fine. The store owners threw us out. We’re hoping to get rescued though. There is a group of people called the freegans or people who limit their participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. They usually bargain, trade or extreme cases, dumpster dive for what they want. They embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, conformity, and greed. We hear about freegans who dumpster dive for food all the time and we’re hoping they’ll see how useful we really are.”

“Is there any hope for me?” I asked.

“Not unless, a group comes around that is into upcycling,” they replied in harmony.

“What’s upcycling,” I asked.

“Upcycling or giving everyday products a new life and purpose. I’ve heard of people who fold wrappers into a certain way that make them into a chain and eventually it makes a purse. Or people who take wine corks and make corkboards. Different things like that,” they replied.

“So what’s your name?” I asked.

“Our name is Angus,” they replied.

So that’s how we got here and that’s what has happened up until this moment. It’s the morning after I was thrown away. We’re still waiting and I have a tortuous headache. But, oh, oh no I hear a trash truck. Beeping, oh that horrid beeping.

We cry, “Some of are still good. Donate us, recycle us, repurpose us!” No one is listening, they’re taking us anyway, but we don’t stop crying. Our cries hovered in the city.  The people of this country seem to be too lazy to save us or don’t care enough to see our worth.

We’re not giving up until we draw our last breath. For some that will be thousands of years, for some just a few months, but we can’t give up. The trash truck dumps into the landfill. It smells worse than the dumpster; almost 1000 times worse. Most of the new trash and I land with our faces down in the goop. We turn around and look up. All that surrounds us is mountains, valleys, oceans of hopelessness.

Simply Clean

How ironic is it that cleaners are often made with the dirtiest ingredients. Toxins, chemicals are making their way onto surfaces that you eat on, clean on and surfaces that in general are places that you want safe.

The cost of using commercial cleaners runs high. It has costs for the economical, environmental, and personal stand points.  The list below names all ingredients in most everyday cleaners that you should avoid at all possible. Below that list is another list of recipes that people can use to make their own cleaning solutions.

Corrosives. Avoid products labeled “Danger. Corrosive.” Corrosives include some of the most dangerous chemicals in the home, such as lye, hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, and sulfuric acid — the active agents in many drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and toilet cleaners. These chemicals can burn the skin, cause internal burns if ingested, and explode if used incorrectly.

Ammonia. As I’ve started researching eco-friendly household cleaners, I’ve noticed that ammonia is in some of the recipes. Ammonia is found in home recipes and commercial products.  It’s less dangerous in small amounts, but it is a strong eye and lung irritant and should particularly be avoided by anyone with asthma or other lung sensitivities. In large doses it can scar corneas and cause chemical burns on lungs and skin. In the environment it causes Eutrophication which generally promotes excessive plant growth and decay, favors certain weedy species over others, and is likely to cause severe reductions in water quality. In aquatic environments, enhanced growth of choking aquatic vegetation or algal blooms disrupt normal functioning of the ecosystem, causing problems such as a lack of oxygen in the water, needed for fish and other aquatic life to survive. The water then becomes cloudy, colored a shade of green, yellow, brown, or red. When ammonia reaches the soil surface, it usually reacts with water in the soil and is converted into its ionic form, ammonium and absorbs to the soil. The ammonium in the soil eventually disassociates or is nitrified into nitrite or nitrate by nitrifying bacteria, releasing H+ ions into the soil. If not taken up by biomass and converted to methane, the surplus H+ ions eventually lead to the formation of an acidic soil environment. The nitrogen left over in the soil will either be taken up by plants, stored in the soil, returned to the atmosphere, or will be removed from the soil in runoff or leaching. An ecosystem is a natural system consisting of plants, animal, and other microorganisms functioning together in a balanced relationship. Combinations of the problems mentioned above could make changes in the ecosystems. When changes in ecosystems occur, the natural balance of a system is disrupted and fragile plant and animal species can be replaced by non-native species. The disruption of an ecosystem can cause it to adapt by changing (positive or negative outcome), or a disruption may lead to the extinction of the ecosystem. http://ammoniabmp.colostate.edu/link%20pages/impacts%20of%20ammonia.html

Bleach. For the reasons noted elsewhere, but primarily for its toxic fumes. Effects range from coughing and chest pain to water retention in the lungs.  Chlorine irritates the skin, the eyes, and the respiratory system. Human health effects associated with breathing or otherwise consuming small amounts of chlorine over long periods of time are not known.  They are currently under investigation.  Some studies show that workers develop adverse effects from repeat inhalation exposure to chlorine, but others do not.  Laboratory studies show that repeat exposure to chlorine in air can adversely affect the immune system, the blood, the heart, and the respiratory system of animals. Chlorine dissolves when mixed with water.  It can also escape from water and enter air under certain conditions.  Most direct releases of chlorine to the environment are to air and to surface water.  Once in air or in water, chlorine reacts with other chemicals.  It combines with inorganic material in water to form chloride salts.  It combines with organic material in water to form chlorinated organic chemicals.  Because of its reactivity chlorine is not likely to move through the ground and enter groundwater. http://www.epa.gov/chemfact/f_chlori.txt

Phosphates. Phosphates are naturally occurring minerals used in automatic dishwashing detergents as a water softener. When released back into the environment, phosphates can cause algae blooms in lakes and ponds that kill aquatic life. Look for phosphate-free dishwashing detergents, try a homemade recipe of half borax and half washing soda (a more alkaline form of baking soda), or skip the dishwasher and use a dishpan and regular dish soap instead.

Petroleum products. Many surfactants (cleaning agents) are refined petroleum products that are linked with health problems and require environmentally harsh methods to extract and distill. A few specific ones to avoid: diethylene glycol, nonylphenol ethoxylate, and butyl cellosolve.

If you still need more proof or just want more information check the Household Products Database — part of the Specialized Information Services of the National Library of Medicine — a vast compendium of common household products that includes the potential health effects. Just go to http://hpd.nlm.nih.gov and click on the category of the product you’re interested in.

Below, I have some solutions to daily cleaning problems. The only thing on this list that I know for sure works (because we do it at home) is using vinegar as a deodorizer. To me there is nothing worse than the smell of vinegar, but I can’t deny that it gets rid of even the worst smells, besides the smell of vinegar, but eventually goes away and until then I just avoid the area.

 All-Purpose Cleaning Spray:

For countertops, sinks, toilets, and for spot cleaning floors
Mix 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Spray and scrub.
For really tough soap scum or mineral deposits, warm the solution first, spray, and let sit before scrubbing, or use straight vinegar (but avoid straight vinegar on tile grout – it can cause the grout to break down).

Bathtub / Sink Scrub:

In a bowl, make a paste with baking soda, a squirt of your dish soap*, and a squeeze of lemon, to the consistency of frosting. Dip cloth or sponge into paste and scrub.
For really stubborn grime, allow to sit 10-15 minutes before rinsing.

Mirror & Glass Cleaner:

2 tsp vinegar
1 quart water
Mix in a spray bottle. Spray on mirror or glass, and wipe clean with old newspaper. (The ink doesn’t smear, and it leaves no lint!)

Floor Cleaner:

1/4 Cup dish soap*
1/2 Cup white vinegar or lemon juice
2 gallons warm water
Combine in sink or large bucket, and use with mop.
You can use this on any floor, unless the manufacturer has specified to avoid all detergents.

Some other tips:

• Don’t use vinegar on marble – it can damage the surface.
• If you’re concerned about the smell of vinegar, you can always add a few drops of essential oil to your mix, but know that the odor of vinegar disappears as it evaporates.
• Vinegar is a disinfectant, but for raw chicken juice and other clean-ups involving bacteria, you will want something more powerful, like hydrogen peroxide. Read more.
• For really dirty toilets, you can shake in some baking soda in addition to using the all-purpose cleaning spray, and add a little lemon juice, too, if you like.
• If you don’t want to cut up fresh lemons, keep a squeeze bottle of lemon juice in your fridge. You can buy this, or make it yourself by squeezing some lemons ahead of time. If you buy it, make sure it only contains 100% lemon juice, with no added oils or essences.
• Use 100% cotton microfiber cloths for your cleaning – they will not leave lint behind, and you can throw them in the wash afterward and re-use them.

*About dish soap: when you purchase dish soap at the store, look for words like biodegradable, septic-safe, and non-toxic. Don’t buy anything that contains petroleum distillates or phosphates. If you don’t want to make your own stuff or need a cleaner that’s not on the list then Seventh Generation and Earth Friendly Products are a couple of good companies that make eco-friendly products. http://simpleorganic.net/easy-recipes-for-natural-homemade-cleaners/