June 14th, 2010
The Culture of Disposability-Part 2

In doing a bit of research on this topic I discovered a rather ironic twist. It seems that the birth of America’s Disposable culture began right smack dab in the town where I currently reside (for a week more), you guessed it, Troy NY. Here is a bit of history:

Hannah Montague of Troy wearied of having to wash her husband Orlando’s shirts when only the collar was dirty. So one day in 1827, she snipped off a collar, laundered it, and then sewed it back on, creating the world’s first detachable collar. Recognizing the business opportunity stemming from his wife’s ingenuity, Orlando opened a factory overlooking the Hudson that produced collars, dickeys, and cuffs. Soon, factories started making these shirt pieces out of paper. In 1872, 150 million paper shirt collars and cuffs were produced in the U.S., and by 1886 more than 8,000 workers were employed in the trade in Troy alone.

you can read the full article here. I have lived in “collar city” for six years now, never knowing it was the harbinger of a bad, long lasting trend.

So many of you have written with your thoughts and ideas on the matter, and I am excited to see there seems to be a movement of people who want to only own objects that a) have meaning, b) are long lasting and c) contribute to sustainability in some way.

We have figured out that there is much beauty to be had in living minimally. In paring down our clothes (all of mine now fit mostly into a regular sized suitcase), I have learned how greatly it simplifies your whole existence. There are not enough things to overwhelm you, laundry is a breeze, you don’t have too many choices to make when dressing in the morning, and mostly you feel “lighter”, (especially when moving). Think about what it would be like to live as if you were travelling, able to fit most of your belongings into a car. If I get something new, the rule is it has to replace something else.

Some other objects to consider (some have been mentioned in the comments already):

-pens. I have decided to begin using only refillable pens, if you have any suggestions that are good for drawing let me know. A few years ago I was using the rotring Art pen, but I found over time it clogged badly and I had to replace it. I am wondering about the “piston fill converter” for it. I’m willing to give it another go.

-reusable fabric maxi pads. I like these quite well, and there are so many to choose from now.

-many people wrote about Cydwoq shoes. My husband and I wear these as our main footwear (yes they are expensive, we only have a few pairs of shoes to our name). They last for at least ten years, you only need to replace the soles now and then. If you call the company, the phone is often answered by the owner Rafi. Someone also mentioned Trippen shoes from Germany.

-razors. A generous reader is sending my husband a Merkur razor (he had an extra one lying around), lucky for us.

-there are some excellent long lasting items to be had at Mr. Lees General Store and Haberdashery in Vancouver (perfect timing).

-Shepherd’s Dream wool mattresses. Portable, earth friendly, non-toxic, completely sustainable, and they can last a lifetime. These answer all of my needs.


-I love my le creuset dutch oven which I got on sale at Winners many years ago. These pots you can hand down to your grandchildren. I do 99 % of my cooking in it.

-While on the subject of cooking, there is an excellent minimal list of “all the kitchen stuff you need” in the beginning of “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters. Basically I have adopted the same kitchen system. We have three knives that do everything, a bread knife, a large cutting knife and a paring knife. Given the amount of cooking I do (every day) I can tell you it functions beautifully.

a resource to peruse:

-Everett Brogue wrote an ebook called The Art of Being Minimalist. I have only read the 30 page preview, but I like what I saw.

-this is an excellent guide to living plastic free.

keep the ideas coming! I think I’m going to put together a resource guide (once I’m settled that is). All of these suggestions are too good.

Jun 14 2010
5:11 pm
Nahatl Vargas writes:

I totally agree, we recently moved to a different Country so we are much lighter now, no much kitchen sfuff, less clothes, and a bug etc., I loved it.

Jun 14 2010
7:19 pm
Prudence writes:

Sustainability is a great opportunity for creativity – this no longer works as its primary purpose, what can I use it for? Any number of items make fabulous planters: boots, helmets, anything that can have a drain hole added and will hold soil. Just about anything can be incorporated into a mural or decorative motif. The absolute best book for inspiration is Remake it Home http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780500514849/Remake-it-Home

Jun 15 2010
6:33 am
Simone writes:

This has really kept my mind occupied. Earlier this week I was thinking about weddings (in general) and I thought about a weddingdress I once saw made from paper. I thought it was brilliant. And I was thinking about jewelery for the occasion. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an artist apply goldleaf to your skin here and there (maybe stick on a few swarovski crystals to make it interesting) and that all these things would function just for this one extraordinary day.
Maybe have a bouquet of edible organic flowers and have them strewn over the salad at diner?
And that the only durable reminder of the entire thing would be your weddingring (a simple gold band of course not these insane heaps of huge diamonds).
And it would be like a art-happening in that sense.
Would that be in opposition to living life durable and aware? Because it does have something poetic to me.

Jun 15 2010
10:34 am
Ashley writes:

These posts are right up my alley. I second using Pyrex, Le Creuset, and a few good knives. These were all on my wedding gift list and I even received some awesome vintage Pyrex. I will use them all for a lifetime.

As for shoes, I really love Camper (http://www.camper.com/) for their longevity, variety of styles, and “twins” shoes, which are non-symmetrical pairs. Camper was an early supporter of the slow food movement. There’s even a little drawing on the History page of the website that says, “If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.” You can read more about their social projects and sustainability efforts there.

I also have a couple pairs of Dansko shoes (http://www.dansko.com/) that have lasted forever. Most of their clog styles are APMA certified–great for those who spend long hours on their feet. Under the About page, there is a section called “Our Footprint” that outlines their many sustainability and social project initiatives.

For the things I must or choose to purchase new, I am trying to vote with my dollars for items that will last a long time and make a minimal environmental impact.

Jun 15 2010
10:46 am
chelsea writes:

does anyone here know of long lasting shoes that are not made of leather? i’m vegan and i am very interested in a shoe that lasts a long time because all my shoes fall apart in a very short amount of time. i am loving the all the leather shoe designs and the idea that they will last but i don’t know what type of material that’s vegan that would also last.

Jun 15 2010
10:55 am
nora writes:

just to mention another idea: flewmarkets and so called “vintage” products.
In Germany where I live it’s a very trend to wear and use vintage and antique products/clothes/etc.
In general I absoluetly like this idea for reasons here already mentioned ( a thing with it’s own history etc…)
BUT I see here, and it would be interesting if there’s a similar development in US/Canada/elsewhere), a developement not in the idea of sustainability or disposability, but a fashion trend.
Everyone needs an “eames chair” now, an old dress, vintage leather bags… Does anybody know what I mean? (sorry for my english)

Jun 15 2010
12:26 pm
Ashley writes:


Some of the Keen Footwear (www.keenfootwear.com) line is vegan, but not all–I have had good luck with these shoes and my husband only wears this brand because they are so comfortable.

A good resource for you might be PETA’s shopping guide for vegan companies, which includes lots of places to find shoes. Here’s the link: http://www.peta.org/living/alt1.asp

Jun 15 2010
2:51 pm
S.O. writes:

I highly recommend using a Diva Cup instead of pads or tampons (reusable or not). Check it out at http://www.divacup.com

Jun 15 2010
3:58 pm
simone writes:

Through Roz Savage’s TED talk on solo ocean rowing and plastics in the ocean, I started to think more about this subject. It lead me to another interesting blog called Fake Plastic Fish, a woman in Oakland CA trying to live (and accumulate) less plastic, most of it packaging that is immediately disposed of. She has a lot of great resources too:
I can’t vouch for their durability yet, but I’m switching to all reusable produce bags:
Also, checking out getting a yogurt maker as I hate throwing away all of those containers.
And yes to the entire post about having less stuff and making do. I so love nesting and filling my house with beauty and comfort but I can’t stand taking care of so many things.

Jun 15 2010
4:13 pm
Ilsevan der Meer, the Netherlands writes:

Dear Keri, Please pay a visit to my dear friend Gretha´s webiste: http://www.321-water.com!

You probably know all about the massive impact bottled water has on the environment and you want to do something about it.

So does Gretha. That’s why she has invented 321 Water.

This beautifully designed, re-usable water bottle has a unique plunger mechanism with a built-in filter, so you can fill it from any tap to produce fresh, filtered water.

It’s the most stylish way to stay healthy and hydrated whilst reducing the use of fossil fuels, carbon emissions and waste associated with drinking bottled water.

Check it out!

Kindest regards from the Netherlands, Ilse

Jun 15 2010
4:46 pm
Kate writes:

I recently remembered my mom’s frequent cry “Don’t use my Gingher’s” and my husband bought me a pair for my birthday. Lovely high quality scissors that you can take apart and have sharpened. (My mom had big silver ones and the cool stork ones. Just google Gingher.)

And we’re toying with the idea of buying a device to make seltzer water at home….(we make “cocktails” of seltzer water and bitters – it’s delicious and a good antidote if you’re trying to kick the Diet Coke Beast) Still haven’t decided on which product sounds best….

Jun 15 2010
5:29 pm
Simone writes:

For vegan shoes I would recommend Birky’s by Birkenstock, a plastic shell (all right that is so/so) with the famous and comfortable cork footbed loose inside.
You can buy the footbeds seperately from the shoes when they wear out (because they wear out faster than the shell). I had a pair and they lasted me for four years of daily use (because they were sooooooooooo comfortable). Not everybody likes how they look though.

Jun 15 2010
11:55 pm
brittney writes:

when in vancouver, where i too have recently moved (well, the sunshine coast, which is known for its amount of artists, a 40min ferry ride from horseshoe bay to be exact) make sure to make a trip up to whistler to see the austrian passivhaus which was donated to the city of whistler during the olympics. vancouver is attempting to becoming the greenest city in north america (and possibly one of the greenest in the world) by 2030. i’ve been to many talks and seminars during the globe and buildex conventions about their sustainable technologies, developments, etc. also, be sure to check out the chief.. it’s quite the hike but fantastic nonetheless

have you read the book ‘sleeping naked is green’ about a torontonian woman than tried to do a new green change a day for a year. and the 100 mile diet of course. and locavore is def worth reading as well. as is ecoholic, a guide to leading a more ecofriendly life… http://www.ecoholic.ca/

as s.o. mentioned the diva cup is a great step in the right direction. i’ve been using it for a couple of months now and absolutely love it.

Jun 16 2010
12:00 am
brittney writes:

oh, another great link i’d love to send your way… http://www.ediblecommunities.com/vancouver/
& the recommendation of watching’s bbc’s future of food 3 part series.

Jun 16 2010
9:24 am
nina writes:

I continue to be reminded here of Renate Stendahl’s biography of Gertrude Stein, minimalist to the core. I can’t find it — think it left on one of my book purges, but the pictures have stayed with me. “Gertie” wore the same suit/uniform in most of them and the same lace-up men’s shoes. Her home in Paris was sparsely furnished, but the walls of course were filled to the ceilings with amazing artwork by some of the world’s most renowned artists, many of whom stopped by to chat. It may seem like I’m going off topic here, but I think it’s fitting because it is evidence that this quest for sustainability and quality over quantity certainly makes more space in our lives for the good stuff, the stuff that really matters. Just think, if Gertie had been the type to rush to the market to stuff her bags with bargain-day finds, she just might have missed that sitting with Picasso. So thanks for the reminder of what seems to be my over-and-over-again a-ha moment.

Jun 16 2010
11:34 am
Folkscallmejonny writes:

Keri, would you like to go “Negative Shopping”? Fill your rucksack with some books, CDs, clothes etc that you no longer need till it’s good and heavy. Head off to your usual shopping destination and distribute your wares to charity shops, passers by, even retail shops. Enjoy the feeling as your rucksack gets lighter and lighter.

Jun 16 2010
5:25 pm
Bummble writes:

I second the suggestion for getting a Divacup/Menstrual cup.
Not only is it much cheaper, no waste etc, but they’re also (once you’re used to them) much more practical and comfortable; for most people they even reduce menstrual cramps significantly.

Jun 17 2010
2:58 am
Lulu writes:

I visited the USA for the first time earlier this year and i was shocked to see how much food people waste! I come from one of the poorer areas of South Africa, and I have grown up in a culture of never wasting any food, ever. When food starts to go off, for example, bananas, we freeze them and later turn them into banana bread.

Jun 17 2010
2:08 pm
Marta writes:

Just the mention of wool mattresses brought me down memory lane. I used to sleep in one of those when I was younger (and I’m only 25) when I visited my grandma in rural Spain. Every summer she would tear them open to wash and I remember the heaps of wool lying on bedsheets outside the house during the process. She would then sew the mattresses together again and we brought them back upstairs. But in all truth, they were the most uncomfortable thing to sleep in, particularly in winter, when paired with heavy woolen blankets. You would just sink in the middle of the bed and couldn’t move from your spot all night, waking up with a sore back. As my gradma often reminds me, some younger people tend to idealize things from the past that they never had to live through-she’s a woman who thinks the greatest creation of mankind is the washing-machine. Going back to the mattress story, the whole family was really happy when my grandma could finally buy more modern ones. However, when I saw the heap of old wool burning on the evening of the day the new mattresses came I couldn’t help buy cry. Another little bit of the old times was gone.

Jun 17 2010
3:41 pm
martine writes:

Hi, very thought provoking post.
I dropped my Le Creuset and cracked it and the enamel is chipping off and cannot bear to dispose of it so am keeping it to do fibre dying. I so wanted to hand it down to my kids, it is one of my most long standing possessions, over 25 years.
thanks for sharing

Jun 18 2010
4:54 pm
Micheline writes:

Loints of Holland are also very nice and environmentally friendly shoes, lasting forever (which is a pity because they have so manu nice models).

Jun 19 2010
7:29 pm
Karma writes:

I’m 56.

When my Mom, who is now 90, was in her early menstruation years, she used ripped up old bed sheets for kotex pads. They hadn’t invented the disposables yet.

After reviewing this post, I see that we have come full circle back to using reusable fabric for kotex pads.

Good stuff.

If I was still menstruating, I would give both the pads and the divacup a try.

Really good to see this happening.!

Jun 22 2010
1:32 am
Isabelle writes:

These felt tip pens –

are refillable (like fountain pens) and you can also replace the nib when they get worn. The best part is that I love to draw with them!

Jun 28 2010
3:38 pm
Brianna writes:

So excited to see these posts… our family is on the same path. It becomes overwhelming easily, looking around the house at all the unnecessary “stuff” and all the disposable products. What to replace first (whichever runs out or breaks first, I guess), which to just remove from our life completely, and how to do it all… right now I’m trying to figure out how to freeze food without plastic. Glass jars tend to break, in my experience, and that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.

I for one would really appreciate specifics on exactly which clothes you kept and why.

I’m trying to decide on a raincoat right now–a necessity here in rainy Vancouver, as you’ll soon discover! I want something that will last ages and also look good. Not so easy.

Jun 28 2010
4:02 pm
Brianna writes:

Another thing I’m having a tough time figuring out: a shower curtain. My cheap plastic one is moldy and almost dead. What to replace that with? Hmmm.

Jul 5 2010
9:35 am
paula writes:

i have a linen/something blend that is intended to go over a plastic liner but it works fine on its own and when it starts to get a little mildewy i just put it through the wash. it’s lasted for years.

Jul 5 2010
9:38 am
paula writes:

also, i’ve realized that buying clothes at a thrift store is a good way to get quality clothes that will last. if they still look good after being used, you can bet they will continue to hold up.

and where else can you get high quality brands for $1-$5.

and this truly is recycling.

Jul 10 2010
9:56 pm
sunny writes:

that is soo cool and intresting

Jul 18 2010
2:58 pm
moyra writes:

I love the idea of a resource for all this. And I have to add (if its not in there already) eco scrubbies – to use for washing up instead of cheap rubbish spongey scratchy things that wear out very quickly… http://3191.visualblogging.com/archives/11518_1443007713/345463
we too are against plastic and for simple living. though I find the decluttering is a constant work in progress

Aug 13 2010
5:03 pm
Jo writes:

Some other good places to visit: Aurora Shoes make shoes to last and will service and repair their shoes http://www.aurorashoeco.com/index.html
Ideas for waste free living http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/ There’s plenty of food for thought in the Tips section.

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