Monday, February 27, 2012

Single-handedly Destroying the Environment :(

I have a confession to make: my husband and I have committed a glaring act of environmental vandalism. It was definitely NOT intentional but, every time I think about it, I break into a cold sweat of remorse and guilt.

We had a new reverse cycle air-conditioning system installed at the end of 2008 and we love it. At the time of installation I asked the contractor what I needed to do in the way of maintenance and was told that I didn't need to do a thing. Lovely. I read the instruction booklet which had no mention of maintenance either. Lovely.

Over the summer and, particularly last Saturday when the temperature soared, the air-conditioner seemed to be struggling, as well as making a lot of noise. We were running it at the maximum we could. We ended up moving outside to our rumpus room where it was cooler but left the air-conditioner on in the vain hope that as the sun set the system would improve. I could almost see the emissions pouring into the atmosphere by that point and felt a little sick.

Finally, my husband and I admitted we had a problem and would have to call in a repairman. Not something we could really afford after having had to have a termite treatment recently. *cringe* First, however, I wanted to check the manual again. Just as I remembered, there was nothing. This time, however, I went to the trouble-shooting section which suggested cleaning the air intake grille. We had nothing to lose so we did and it was FILTHY. I'm surprised we hadn't all died of some sort of bronchial malfunction! We replaced the grille, turned it on and waited. It was still on maximum and, pretty soon, the house became ARCTIC. Furthermore, the fan noise was almost non-existent, even on high.

I'm glad we were able to fix the problem and I can assure Mother Nature that we'll be cleaning the air intake grille on a very regular basis from now on. I just wish we'd known to do it sooner.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pollyanna's Glad Game

I was never much into Pollyanna as a child. As an adult, however, I love it. In particular the Hayley Mills movie version. In my younger adult years I was a cynic. In many ways I still am but I no longer think it's cute, cool or fashionable to be that way. Simply put I feel better within myself when I try to find the joy in life. It doesn't always work but I try. Most nights as I drift off to sleep I try to rehash my day and think of all that I'm grateful for. It really does sound "Pollyanna -ish" but it's incredibly effective.

Some days I don't think I'm going to find much so I try to keep it basic. Before I know it I've find five things I was grateful for in the first two hours of being up. For example, I list things we take for granted such as hot and cold running sanitised water, gas, electricity, enough money to pay for those things, fresh and diverse food, safety, freedom, free education for BOTH my children, a reliable car, technology, entertainment, literacy ... you get the picture. It is a huge reality check.

As well as being a huge reality check it keeps me focused on what we're trying to achieve. I'm fully aware that there are people who don't have the basics that I have. As I've written before, by an accident of birth, I've ended up in an affluent first world country in a middle-class home. There are a lot of people out there who don't share my advantages. I don't want someone I don't even know half way across the world to suffer unnecessarily on my account. Footprints is really hard sometimes and an absolute can of worms but I plan to continue this journey. I know what we do makes very little difference in the big picture but, if we can't share my blessings, the least we can do is try to not make someone else's life more difficult.


Monday, February 20, 2012

A Razak formal dress

Teenage Daughter's formal is coming up at the end of April. She mentioned to me that, in keeping with Footprints, she wanted to begin her dress search in second-hand shops. I knew that we probably needed to shop somewhat upmarket from the Salvos so I compiled a list of designer recycle shops in the more affluent parts of town.

Last Saturday our hunt began. We left home with the list of shops and started at the one furthest from our home. It was a tiny shop on Archer St at North Adelaide, Designer Recycle Boutique. Teenage Daughter went straight to the long dresses and found two to try on, one of which was kind of what she wanted. She tried on that one first and she took away, not only my breath, but that of the saleslady. She looked stunning in it! When she showed Husband later, it had the same effect on him. Even Teenage Son, who can be a tough critic, gave a one word response, along the lines of, "Nice." High praise!

Needless to say, we bought it. I mentioned that I was happy to buy new shoes but that the dress would look great with a pair of black stilettos I have which Teenage Daughter covets. She tried it on again at home with said shoes and wants to borrow them for the occasion.

On the way home she looked at the label which read Razak. That certainly rang a bell for me. I thought he may have been one of the Rundle Street East designers. A check on the internet when we got home confirmed it. It was an added bonus to think that the dress was designed by a local. I'm not sure where his stuff is made but I'm still happy that the dress she chose was one of his.

Razak Designs

A definite triumph for Footprints!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Great Produce Swap of 2012

Teenage Daughter had a study group here on Sunday. One girl arrived with a bag of home-grown tomatoes for me. It was a lovely gesture but I had only just harvested quite a number from our own vegie patch that very morning. Needless to say, the girls got bruchetta for lunch! I found out later that the girl who brought me the tomatoes had also had bruchetta for breakfast.

Later, the parents arrived to do pick up and one of the mothers came with a huge container of home-grown peaches for us other parents to pick through. In the end, I collected some peaches, passed on the tomatoes from my daughter's friend to the peach bearer and gave some of our home-grown cucumbers to all the parents. It was a fruitful exchange. (No pun intended.)

The next day I had one of the peaches. I can write, unreservedly, that it was the juiciest, tastiest peach I've ever eaten. Yummo!


Monday, February 13, 2012

It's Valentine's Day everyday

A while back I asked my husband if we were going to bother to exchange Valentine's Day gifts to which he replied, "No need, it's Valentine's Day everyday in our house." Hmm. Thus the decision was made. I can take or leave it these days. It has its merits, though, and it can be a lot of fun looking for that perfect gift or card for the person you love.

I like to give my husband and two children a little something on Valentine's Day. Whilst I'm reasonably demonstrative, I'm just not romantic. So, this is my chance to spoil them a little. I didn't have to worry about my husband this year since, as well as the fact that it's Valentine's Day everyday, he won't be around today or this evening. So, what to give my children instead of the usual unethical stuff I used to buy? I opted for a small bag of locally made chocolate. I've put a few onto two of the pretty plates I bought a little while ago and covered each plate with a cloth serviette, on top of which I've laid a red heart cut from some card I had in the cupboard. They're waiting at their places at the table for when the children get home from school. I think they look pretty cool.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. I hope it's full of love and romance.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"In the driest state, on the driest continent..."

Those of us who have lived in South Australia for any period of time know that water is a precious resource. Even when we're not in drought it's not to be wasted. So, why oh why does the water usage on my bill keep creeping up???

I've been so pleased with the cutbacks we've managed to make to our electricity consumption but am at a loss to explain why the water usage has been on the increase over the past six months. I can only think of two factors which may have changed. Everything else is equal. The dishwasher and washing machine are being run in the same manner they have been for several years so it's not that. In fact, I've tried to cutback by trialling shorter cycles on both. My husband and I haven't increased our shower times; we're even using a four-minute timer. That leaves the length of Teenage Daughter's and Teenage Son's showers. The former has a lot of hair to wash and condition, and when one adds leg and underarm shaving into the mix, her showers can be long. Teenage Son hasn't been showering for that long, having preferred baths when he was younger. Once in the shower, he has a tendency to use the time to improve his singing skills. He's not singing Bohemian Rhapsody but he can still spend quite some time in there. He also tends to be a keen observer and I would not be surprised if he stood there watching some fascinating aspect of water flow and how to alter its course. This is speculation, of course.

The other reason for the last three month's increase could well be our veggie patch, which requires water several times a week in the heat. Whilst I don't like the idea of using a lot of water, I have to say that we are growing the best tasting cucumbers and tomatoes I've ever eaten. My taste buds have an orgiastic experience every time I pop one of our cherry tomatoes into my mouth.

This is something we need to continue to work on, obviously, to get to the bottom of the problem and sort it out.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Receiving presents

I wrote a lot in the lead up to Christmas about the dilemma of trying to remain ethical when it came to selecting presents but, at the same time, actually pleasing people with the gifts we gave them. My focus was solely on that and I didn't even think about receiving. I knew the people in my immediate family, who are doing Footprints with me, would select ethical gifts but it took me completely by surprise the number of extended family and friends that came on-board.

Not everything made in Australia is made ethically and not everything made in China is made unethically. However, it is easier to know how things are manufactured here and we have workplace standards that have to be met. Consequently, it is pleasing to receive things made locally. One of my best friends gave me some locally made pamper products. The same friend gave me chocolate for my birthday but looked into the company before buying. My father gave us Kiva gift vouchers for Christmas and gave me the same for my birthday. It was quite exciting to receive an email from Kiva, within hours of choosing a recipient, to say that the person now had enough money to fund their venture. Here's a link to Kiva if you don't know anything about it and would like to.

I'm citing Christmas and my birthday in a kind of mash up because they're so close together it's hard to remember what I got for which. Some of the other things I remember were some lovely little gifts from Oxfam, being taken op shopping, being taken to the movies to see the midnight screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show and receiving a lovely handmade card from a dear friend who managed to find the time to do so in the middle of writing up her PhD.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Only Shopping I Enjoy!

It's summer now, although one wouldn't think it to look or walk outside today. It was really hot around the new year and it became clear to me that, while t-shirts, singlets and shorts are okay for around the house, I needed some weather appropriate clothing if I intended to venture out. What I needed were sundresses, blouses or skirts. Where to go was a no-brainer: the Salvos! For the last seven or eight years, secondhand shops have been my first place to try to find what I need, in most cases. That wasn't something I had to change on the Footprints Project. Prior, it was about thrift and thrill. It's still about the thrill of the hunt but it's also about not being part of the potentially unethical chain of supply and demand.

And so it was that on the last day of the year I found myself with seven sundresses draped over my arm walking into the fitting room of our local Salvos shop. Out of the seven, two fitted well and suited me. I also grabbed a blouse without trying it on, which, fortunately, also fitted. 

Two weeks later it was my birthday and Teenage Daughter took me "op shopping" as my present. This time we tried a shop we hadn't been to before, Savers, which is run by the Diabetic Society. It is the size of a warehouse and sells EVERYTHING. It was almost too overwhelming but we picked over sundresses, skirts and blouses until I found about five skirts I liked. Two must be my magic number because that's how many fitted me and I liked on. On the way to the checkout I noticed eight dessert plates which matched some larger plates I bought at the Salvos several years ago. I couldn't resist, thinking they may make cute little gifts with some homemade chocolates or biscuits sitting on them. If I don't get that creative, I have eight really pretty little plates which I'm sure won't go to waste.

I really dislike summer but, being able to go and about in my lovely new sundresses and skirts eases the pain somewhat.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Byte of the rotten Apple

Oh dear! I saw on the news last night that Apple Inc has come under fire for using a company with a bad human rights record to make their products. I'm saddened and angered but not surprised. I'm particularly annoyed because we're a family that prefers Apple products. So where does that leave us, particularly in light of the lifestyle we're trying to lead?

One of the things we've talked about is what to do if we simply can't get something ethically or secondhand. The conclusion we reached was to buy the best possible quality products in those situations in order to not have to replace them as often. Perhaps Apple has used one of the worst factories in China but I doubt they're the only one. I further doubt any technology companies are using worker friendly factories. Sounds like a massive cop-out, huh? It's not. What I'm leading to is that I could change companies in the future and maybe I will - I don't know yet. However, if the products I buy aren't as good as Apple ones and don't last as long am I being complicit in the whole supply/demand/treat your workers like shit thing more often? Is that more preferable? (These are probably rhetorical questions!)

So far, our Apple products seem to have stood the test of time. That being the case, maybe going secondhand next time may be the best option if it's an option. We could still buy Apple but not be part of the supply/demand cycle. I don't know how plentiful secondhand Apple products are and I'm hoping we don't need to find out for quite some time.