Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Poly-Toxic What?!

Today I applied the second and final coat of polyurethane to Paul's first "big boy" bed.  Jon and I have made almost all of the furniture in our home so I have applied gallons of this polyurethane.  Since the urethane is oil-based, I have always used the foam brushes.  Sadly, I used these cheap throw away brushes because years ago when we first started this hobby, Jon and I had very little extra cash, and the foam brushes were cheap, convenient, and didn't require mineral spirits for clean up.  At the start of this project I decided to break that habit of using the foam brushes and purchase a durable, reusable brush.  I was a bit hesitant to spend the $10.00 on a single brush compared to the $.28 foam brush, but I bit the bullet and purchased it.  I was apprehensive because I didn't feel confident enough to clean the brush properly so it could be used again.  Thankfully we already had a can of mineral spirits at home that I could use.

So...I'm brushing the first coat feeling good about my new brush choice, until I started thinking about the polyurethane.  I stopped mid-stroke with my gloves all sticky, my breathing mask starting to loosen, as polyurethane dripped off the brush onto the sheet below..."what is this polyurethane anyway?!"  These are the thoughts that went racing through my head at that moment:
-I have to wear a breathing mask because the fumes are toxic...
-The bed will be left in the garage for at least a month so it can "cure and air out" so it's not off-gassing in my son's bedroom...
-I have to use Mineral Spirits (whatever that is) to clean the brush...
-Mineral Spirits is considered hazardous waste so I have to store it until the next hazardous waste pickup happens, whenever that is...
-I need to keep the used Mineral Spirits in a separate container so I am expanding my "shrine" of chemicals that I am storing in the garage, and who knows if those are all sealed 100%...
-What's in the polyurethane and mineral spirits; how are those chemicals extracted; what environmental impacts are there when making these products...
-I can't recycle an empty polyurethane can because of the chemical residue so it ends up in the landfill even though the can is recyclable material...
-If I'm not supposed to breathe the fumes, what about my eyes & skin---are they "taking in" these toxins...

I took a shallow breath in the mask and was relieved to find that I only have enough polyurethane for this one project which means there won't be leftovers!  I have officially decided that a more environmentally safe product will be used on the next project.  Finding out what that product is exactly will require a bit of research, but I'm up for the challenge.  And hey, who knows, maybe I can make my own product!!

Christmas Blues

Yesterday and today I cleaned up the gift opening chaos...packaging material.  Such a dreaded but necessary task in every household at this time of year.  Each year I get depressed while breaking down boxes, removing packaging tape, folding tissue paper for reuse later on, registering products for warranties, salvaging bows and ribbons, folding gift bags, and removing all of those small plastic fasteners and twisty ties.  Keep in mind that we live in Oregon and our families live in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  About 95% of our gifts are shipped here so we're certainly going to have a lot more packaging than others.  Here is a snapshot of some of the packaging, but there is a lot more!  Many of the gifts we receive are directly shipped from stores but we don't bother wrapping them in colorful paper.  While this picture may show a lot, what you don't see are all of the popped plastic pillows and the amount of wrapping paper that is crammed in that one box.  We still haven't removed all of our presents from their original packaging, and we're still waiting to receive some gifts in the mail.  If all of the holiday packaging material was in one pile, it would most likely be twice this much.  *sigh*

Years ago I would have felt okay recycling everything---even all of those tiny plastic fasteners used on almost all kids' toys.  How exciting---no waste!!!!  So I would pat myself on the back while I placed the cardboard at the curb and the plastic bits in containers to take to the recycling center.  My perceptions have changed so much since then.  Now I look at this pile and shake my head.  We are a family of 3 who take the time to sort everything and recycle it.  I can't help but wonder how many families don't recycle.  Recycling is the smallest portion of this equation too.  What about the lifecycle of this material?  And then there's the whole topic of excess packaging in general!  And what about the transportation impacts with making the products and mailing them to our home?  And do I want to even touch the topic of need vs. want?

I go in circles thinking about this system of waste that has been created.  How can I get out of it?  Well, that's quite the challenge.  Too much to reflect on for this entry.

And now it begins...

After much poking and prodding from my husband & friends, I am beginning this blog.  This blog is about living simply and using what we have efficiently.  There are no step by step instructions on how to live a simple life, it is a journey that requires a lot of observation, critical thinking, and willingness to change habits.  My aim in life is to live a happy and fulfilling life without stomping all over the natural environment.  I currently live in the city on a medium size lot of about 7,000 sq. feet with my husband, 2 year old son, a cat, and 2 beehives.  Routinely I am asking myself what I can do without and how to get the same quality of life by using less.  As disposable things run out in our household, I make a conscious decision on whether to replace the item, and if it needs replacing, the most efficient and environmentally responsible choice.  Thinking in these terms takes training.  I may be shy of 28 years old, but I have years of mindless consumerism conditioned into my brain.  I am the first to admit that I am a hypocrite and not on a straight path.  I regress into old ways at times, but find myself steering back in the right direction when I see something on a daily walk, have a thought-provoking discussion with a friend, read a pamphlet or article about an environmental topic, or by my husband nudging me with the next "project."  I hope whoever reads this, finds the posts insightful as well as entertaining.

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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