CBC's The Hour recently completed their challenge for Canadians to do "One Million Acts of Green". Kudos to all participants. This challenge is still ongoing. For more information check it out here.

The new challenge for Canada, is to reach Two Million Acts of Green. According to the website, they are hoping to reach this new goal by summer. Many businesses and individuals are participating in this effort. Good luck to all. If interested in learning more click here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.... oops, I meant the milk man, the bread man, the Fuller brush man & the sheeny man!

As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, there was a milk man, a bread man, a Fuller brush man and a sheeny man. The first two are pretty self-explanatory.

The third was a door-to-door salesman who sold brooms, mops, brushes etc.

Now for those unfamiliar with the last name, this was the man who used come down the alley with his horse and cart (yes, this was in the city) and collect the things that you wanted to get rid of, instead of throwing in the garbage. He is the connection to reuse in the 3Rs of recycling. Anything and everything that might have been junk was welcomed by the sheeny man.

The above picture is from the Walkerville Times collection of Ford City photos.

As kids we couldn't wait for him to come down the alley on Saturdays. We would listen for the clopping of the horse, his call of Sheeny Man and I think he might have had a bell also. Mostly, we waited because we wanted to see the horse. My husband had a different experience with the Sheeny Man. He lived in an area that didn't have alleys, so when the man came to the neighbourhood he just went down the street. Randy also told me that they had a man that would come through the neighbourhood to sharpen knives. So as you can see, things did not go to waste.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that local Essex County artist Ron Suchiu has done several paintings to commemorate the Sheeny Man. Totally impressed! These paintings show the relationship between the Sheeny Man and the neighborhood.

As I've said before, it didn't seem like there was as much, OK, I know there wasn't as much waste. Some of this was because our milk bottles and pop bottles did not end up in the garbage unless they were broken. Some was because the Sheeny Man would come by and collect a lot of what might have been thrown into the garbage if it wasn't donated to the Salvation Army. I guess another reason might just be because things were made in a way where it was cheaper to repair than replace. Also, products were packaged much differently. Individual packaging was very rare.

Looking back on the past, it really doesn't seem that bad. I don't think things were that much behind the times. In fact, I think we were more conscientious and less likely to waste back then. It would be good if we can get to a place in our lives where we realize that sometimes the old way, is the better way.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The things that used to come in reusable containers might surprise you!

When I was a little girl, it was important to start keeping a hope chest. For those not familiar with the term, it was a collection of items that you saved for when you got married. I always wanted one like the picture but we didn't have a lot of money, so I just used one of my dresser drawers. My collection started with food items that came in reusable containers. Think it's funny! Wait until you hear about the items that were common way back when.

Peanut butter and jam used to come in glass jars that were actually glasses. My first set of glasses came from saving the peanut butter jars in the late 1960s. They were large tumblers and had a pink & white art deco design. I used them when I left home in the 70s and I still had them when I got married in 1986. Another set of glasses that I still have packed away someplace, have a small stem with a gold & white pattern. Some of those glasses were really cool. Plus they were practical. They didn't need to be recycled because they were reusable.

Not only were there glasses in all shapes, sizes and decorations but I have thermal bowls, glasses and cups that were distributed in the 1960s by the Borden Company. Remember Elsie the Cow? I have one of those too! These bowls were filled with cottage cheese. They have reusable plastic lids and were very durable. Obviously, since I still have some 40 years later and still use them.

Kraft used to have peanut butter in decorative jars (sculpted glass), some even had slits in the lids to use as banks. I still have some of these jars, there were several different styles of teddy; some were plain, some he wore a bow tie, I think there was even a girl teddy jar. (Right after I typed this, I went and checked mine, yes one is plain and one has a bow tie) My jars were all clear glass. I don't know if someone painted the one in the picture or if it actually came that way. Either way you get the general idea of what it looked like.

Regardless of how you want to look at this, it was a pretty good marketing idea and it was good for the environment. There aren't many items sold today that come in reusable containers. Wow, all this talk about food made me hungry. Grabbed some cottage cheese to eat while typing but unfortunately, it's from one of those plastic tubs that will have to be RECYCLED! Oh well, c'est la vie!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Other changes that have created more garbage over the years

Changes, changes and more changes. That always seems to be the way of the future, not the way of the past. In one of my earlier posts I mentioned how some things in the area had changed, specifically the introduction of fast-food restaurants to the area, and the effect they had on waste.

Several classmates have mentioned that they enjoyed hearing about some of the items from the past, so I've been thinking more about what has changed. Styrofoam and plastic bags came to mind.

Throughout my youth and my first job, which was in the cafeteria at the K-mart on Huron Line (now Zellers -- which used to be across the street where Canadian Tire is now), I cannot recall any plastic bags other than garbage bags. Every thing was put in a paper bag. Sometimes, really big bags, sometimes little bags -- but all were paper.

The cafeteria used Chinet plates and paper cups for coffee (although I think styrofoam was introduced at some point). When you had a take out order, it went into a lightweight cardboard box or was simply on the paper plate with foil wrapped around it. Even Chinese food was in paper containers. Not much in the way of styrofoam at all.

Then all of a sudden it was everywhere. Styrofoam that is. Plates, cups, containers, little shipping nuggets. Just about anything related to take-out used styrofoam. Pizza however, always used cardboard.

Beverages were another story. Plastic didn't appear until maybe the late 70s in big bottles. Pop bottles were always made of glass, clear or green, maybe the odd brown bottle with something other than beer for contents. Plus you could get money back for them. Every kids dream, collect the bottles and turn them in. Cans weren't very popular at that time. That's been within the last three decades.

Most of the food containers were either glass or cans. When I was in grade school, way back in the 60s, we had a milk program just like the schools today. But our milk containers were way cooler than what you seen with the decorated cartons today. We actually had little milk bottles. They had cardboard pull-tabs and were sooooo cute. Just like the bigger milk bottles only smaller. Yes, we had a milk man, a bread man, the Fuller Brush man and a sheeny man. But that's a completely different post to come.

Even bread didn't come in a plastic bag. It was cello-wrapped, come to think of it sandwiches were in that same material. I remember the kitchen at K-mart had a hot plate to seal the cello-wrap after they made the sandwiches.

Plastic grew in convenience and waste. Unfortunately, this material does not decompose well. It takes forever for it to break down. That's the problem, but even that is slowly changing. Researchers including some in Canada are working on bio-degradable plastic bags. It would be great if this is successful because I hesitate to get rid of these bags since I know they only end up in landfills. The bottom part of bathroom closet is overflowing with all these plastic bags. After all you can only reuse so many. In some ways they're like rabbits, they just keep multiplying. Only difference, rabbits are cute!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Recycling has gone to the toys! And the clothes and whatever....

Recycling ideas as well as waste. A recent news article on Fox 2 News indicated that one of the dolls discontinued by Mattel is being brought back to life in an effort to keep costs down. The toy in the news clip was PJ Sparkles created in 1988.

An article from the Wall Street Journal Marketing & Media dated March 3, 2009 explains the reason behind this and other toy manufacturers' decisions. It is titled Toy Makers Reach Into Product Attic.

There were many toys that were perfectly good but discontinued. Granted they might not have had tons of bells and whistles to make them super-contemporary; but kids need to use their imaginations and simple toys are one of the best ways to accomplish this. By bringing back pre-existing designs companies are reintroducing good products that were discarded, possibly too early, to new generations. By doing this, they keep design costs down and perhaps eliminate some of the waste that comes with producing a new design.

The interesting part to the concept is that it reaffirms the old saying "Everything that goes around, comes around" or "What's old is new again". No matter how you look at it, retro can be a good thing. Get back to basics. Forget about always being the better or the best, do what works. It could be a cost-saver and it could be good for the environment as well.

Another example of what I call variant-recycling (because it doesn't deal with waste) is shown with Vintage Clothing. A number of posts on this topic can be seen on Infashuation. Again, there was a recent article (click here) in the Windsor Star about the trends in clothing and referred to those who bargained shopped in the resale stores etc., as Recessionistas. Cute term!

Another way to recycle old clothing, if you are so inclined, is to use the fabric from old clothes to make something new. You definitely end up with one-of-a-kind designs because no one else will have that particular material. It can be fun! I just wish I had the time and energy to do it again.

Yet another use for old fabric was very common when I was a kid; people used to make quilts, potholders and hooked rugs from left over material. I recently found a Chatelaine article (August 2007) that dealt with this specific topic. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the article online. But, a group of women in Newfoundland have created a cottage industry by creating hooked rugs.
Each one different from the next; each one telling a story about the history of the area. The photo shown is by Deanne Fitzpatrick (featured in the article) titled Safe in the Harbour.

A lost craft perhaps, but hey, why not give something different a try. You might just be surprised by what you created and at the same time have done something good to help reduce waste.