Tag Archives: pulp

Paper chase

Lately, I’ve been putting in a lot of energy into paper. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “[p]aper makes up 28 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW), more than any other material Americans throw away.” Although, according to the hand dryer I used at the rest stop the other day, paper makes up 40 percent of land fills.  I am not sure if MSW does not all end up in landfills, and if that accounts for the disparity in percentages, but, in any case, paper makes up a lot of our waste.  Fortunately, paper seems to be the easiest thing to try and keep out of landfills.  Unfortunately, it also accumulates so quickly! Between the cereal and pasta boxes, mail, business papers, packing and wrapping materials, toilet paper rolls, catalogues and little bits of random paper is tough to keep up with. Even with the outdoor composter and the worm composter (two different systems!) I almost can’t keep up with it. But I am trying.

I am conscientiously trying  to stop using paper as much as possible. Luckily for any future guests, I will not give up toilet paper, but I have stopped using paper napkins and drastically reduced my paper towel consumption.  My mom is not pleased.  And even though I really dislike doing dishes, I no longer buy paper plates.  Admittedly, it took a little while to get accustomed to cloth napkins for daily meals use, but it’s getting less weird with time. I didn’t even have to buy new cloth napkins. I’ve had some for years that sat lonely in the curio cabinet waiting to be used for the three to four dinner parties I might have a year. Now my husband and I use them regularly.

I have also tried to reduce my dry good purchases that come in cardboard boxes such as boxed rice mixes. The cardboard boxes I do end up buying, like cereal and tea boxes, I actually hand shred and take to either of my composters.  I am toying with the idea of making my own pasta.  So far this is ambition and optimism over reality and time, but pasta continues to account for one of my major boxed dry-good purchases, so I will continue to search for a solution.

I save tissue paper for either gift wrapping or packaging for shipped items. In fact, I seek out tissue paper from others. Whenever I am at a present-exchanging event, I go so far as to remove tossed tissue paper from the big plastic garbage bag and fold it up into neat squares that I can save for later.  It’s kind of weird, but most of the tissue is brand new.  People shop at the last minute, grab a gift bag and tissue from the store and “wrap” the present on the way to the party, barely bothering to unfold the tissue paper. I know this to be true because it is my husband’s inevitable method of purchasing gifts.

Mail continues to be a challenge even in this day and age.  I have switched over to paperless on those accounts that allow for it.  I’ve even tried those sites that are supposed to help reduce catalogues and junk mail, but they don’t work. The mail just keeps coming. In any case, I try to machine or hand shred it all, even the catalogues and magazines, to stick in one of my compost bins.  Letter mail gets to be particularly tedious because you have to remove the plastic windows from the envelopes since it won’t compost.  I even put some machine shredded magazines and catalogues aside for future packing material.   The pages are light-weight and colorful and work really well in place of foam peanuts or bubble wrap.

But even with all these efforts, it is still difficult to keep up with the paper.  One time I made recycled paper pots out of shredded cardboard.  They worked brilliantly and next year I plan to make bigger, better pots. But this was one additional use for the excess paper and maybe removed three boxes from the cycle.  There is still so much more.  Neither of my composters can keep up with it and I can only save so much for packing.  I can easily stick it in the recycling, but I feel that this is me being lazy and putting the burden on someone else.  Besides, I am not sure that it will not end up in the landfill anyway and I want to remove it from the system entirely.

Many municipalities have a composting program.  These are wonderful resources for any community, resulting in cheap or free compost for the residents and a convenient place to take your compostable items.  Sadly, my community does not have such a program.  One of the reasons that I took so long to put up this post is that I was sure I would be able to find a composting program in my area that I could dump off my excess paper.  What I found out, instead, is that if there are programs in my area, they don’t accept paper and they charge by the cubic yard to accept your waste.  And the municipal programs in my area restrict the drop-off to residents with purchased stickers, which does not mean me. So annoying.  As often happens when my desire to be both ecologically and financially responsible meet and disagree, I am a crossroads.  Even if I could find a place that accepted paper to compost, I might have to to spend money to get rid of it.

As I was researching local composting programs, I noticed that none of them actually encouraged using paper as composting material.  This was odd to me since I had been giving paper to my worms for quite a while.  I dug a little deeper to see what the deal was.  As to the harms and benefits, I ran across this post which provided a thoughtful answer to the question.  Basically, that guy doesn’t like it.  And his reasons made sense (that while it may compost, it lacks nutrients and may leach toxic chemicals into the compost, especially glossy magazines).  But he also goes on to say that rainwater, animal manure or scraps from produce are also not 100% free of chemicals. He also says that he doesn’t bother with paper because it can be recycled easily.  I tend disagree that just because it can be recycled it is actually getting recycled and that all the recovered material is being sold, but I have to admit I am not basing that on fact, but by a tendency to automatically believe in the inherent inefficiencies of any system. I looked through a few websites pretty thoroughly, including this one about the paper industry to soothe my skepticism.  However, I couldn’t find a straight answer about what percentage of paper that is purposefully recycled and bundled up and sent to a processing plant is actually used as a commodity to produce more paper.  There are only figures about the amount of paper consumed that is recovered, or the amount of paper in landfills,  which isn’t an accurate reflection of what I am after.

So what started out as a righteous, self-congratulatory post about the part I am playing in keeping paper out of landfills became a post full of questions and doubts.  Am I spending too much time thinking about paper? Am I doing the right thing by keeping it out of the landfill and trying to compost it? Does it even matter that I don’t buy pasta in boxes since I can throw it in recycling and have it end up  as a commodity that uses less energy to process than raw wood? I feel like my obsession with paper is kind of like a radish rose–kinda impressive but everyone wonders why the heck anyone would take the time to make a rose out of a radish in the first place. I will have to continue to give this some serious thought and continue to do research. In the mean time, I can always focus on plastic.

Thank you for reading my post.  Don’t forget you can visit my site at http://www.lifeimproved.org for other mind-blowing posts and perspectives–and some fluff.  As always, please feel free to share, quote, praise, and reflect kindly upon my blog!

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Pressed Paper Pots

This year I am actually growing some seedlings inside to transplant outside. I bought these Burpee compostable packs for the job.

20130425-195433.jpg20130425-195451.jpg20130425-195459.jpgThey are cheap, about 15 cents each, and go directly in the ground when you are ready to plant. But as I was looking at them, it occurred to me that they are really just pressed paper. If you’ve ever made home made paper on a screen, you’ll understand what I am talking about.

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If not, let me explain. You can make that thick, fancy textured paper by shredding paper, blending it to pulp, and pouring out onto a screen and pressing out liquid, then letting it dry completely. The paper will end up having the imprint from the screen. I thought surely I could figure out a way to make these. I didn’t know if I would use the screen…that imprint was just the clue that keyed me on to the idea of making these. The trick would be to be able to mold them.

As I normally do with projects I have an inkling for but no clear direction with, I hit the internet. Surprisingly, I really couldn’t find a precise replica of these. At best, I found methods using newspaper “cups” (really, just taking newspaper and making a flat bottomed cup), toilet paper rolls (almost tempted to use this), paper egg cartons (clever but too small, I thought) and eggshells (cute but impractical) . I was fully expecting a paper mache option to mold your own cups or pots, at the very least. Being unsatisfied and having a rudimentary understanding about how to make paper, I stumbled through this on my own.

I took a couple of cardboard boxes out of the recycling and started tearing them up. I then soaked the cardboard.

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While soaking the cardboard, I again researched how to add more structure to the cups. I was afraid that the moment I added water, they would fall apart. I saw some suggestions online about added dryer lint to as a way to make paper. I figured that since it was not paper, it might add firmness to my cups. I went to my dryer and grabbed a thick wad of lint and threw it in my soaking paper. Too late I realized what a bad idea that was…especially if I were actually making paper to give away. My dryer lint is full of cat hair since I have two of the furry little beasts. However, since these were ideally just going in the ground, I was still hopeful the lint–hair and all–would add structure. I added more water and then threw in about a quarter cup of flour on a completely untested theory that it would make the paper harden more (a la paper mâché). I then threw it all in the blender.

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Careful if you add lint, the stuff tends to wind around the blades kind of like the underside of a vacuum. When done blending, I then had a bowl of really awful looking stuff.

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It felt really gross. Kids would probably love this project.

As I mentioned above, the biggest challenge I faced was how to make pot shapes that I considered big enough plant in. The best solution I could come up with was using these silicone cupcake molds. They were a lot smaller than I would have wanted, but I figured that seedlings don’t get too big before you stick them in the ground. (Based on this thinking, I don’s know why i insisted the egg carton was too small… maybe I just wanted to make pressed paper pots.) I figured that the silicone would peel easily from the dried paper and I wasn’t bringing other waste into the mix. If I hadn’t gone with those, I would have tried to use plastic cups… as long as I was recycling them (saving them from the trash to reuse and/or continued to use them afterwards.) If you go out and buy the plastic cups for the sole purpose of making these and then toss them out afterwards, you’re defeating the purpose of making recycled projects and should just use the plastic cups as planters directly.

The first couple cups I tried to make free form by pressing small sections onto the mold. But then I figured out that I could just use an empty mold to squeegee out the water and help shape the mold I was working on. I made sure to apply to pulp thickly to avoid thin spots and proved enough support.

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The entire process was a bit labor intensive, but in the end I was hopeful. My husband, on the other hand, was very skeptical. I started to blog right away about these, even as my little cups sat there all soggy and sad looking. I told him that I felt confident that they would dry…but I honestly had no idea what would happen once I added dirt and water.

Sure enough, the cups dried beautifully in about three days. I would have liked to have left them outside in the warm sun to dry faster, but it’s April in Illinois, and warm sun is scarce. I might have tried baking them to dry them out more quickly, but I remembered the hairy lint and knew that would be a smelly, bad idea.

Alas, I have not really provided a precise recipe or method, either. More like an idea and a plan. I would love feedback if anyone out there plays around with the idea. I don’t know if the flour and lint are necessary, but I feel that they helped make a sturdier end-product.

It is important for me to consider how cost effective these projects are. But the costs are not all measured in money. I would attempt this project again because I saved money, and found a good use of waste materials, and produced something using no emissions.

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I am going to plant them and report back how well they hold up! I hope to soon show you pictures of little seedlings!

The Actual Juice Experiment–Part 2

By Wednesday, my husband was ready to tap out. This is where we reveal a secret. He has Crohn’s. He had done a lot of research on whether this was healthy for him. Normally he is not supposed to eat a lot of fiber, but with the juicer, the roughage is left out, so he was excited that this could be a way to get all those nutrients he felt he was missing. But but by Wednesday he was feeling light headed, nauseated, and with an upset stomach. Basically all the signs of a Crohn’s flare-up. Or…the third day of a juice fast. I thought that, perhaps, he was consuming too much citrus because many recipes call for lemons and oranges. He had a bad experience with Mai Tais on our last trip to Maui and the acid content was a big factor.

We discussed options and he decided not to risk it. Even the small amount of protein he had been supplementing with was not enough for him. He stated that he would be eating real food, but nothing doctored or processed. No oils or salt or added sugar. He immediately took out two beautiful, plump, perfect chicken breasts to defrost. I put some lemon zest, fresh rosemary and mustard powder and left them to marinade. When I cooked them later that night, my mouth watered a bit. The constant refrain that has gone through my head throughout this whole thing is “maybe just one bite…” And seriously, if my husband had offered, I would have taken him up on it. He didn’t offer.

I had an apple, a couple of stalks of celery and a banana through out Wednesday as snacks. Believe me, if it weren’t for the possibility of eating real fruit–crunching on something–I don’t know that I would have gotten through the first part of the week.

On Thursday morning, I felt good. Tired, maybe. Excited that this was almost my last day of juicing. Oh–did I forget to mention? This was now officially a 5 (and 1/3) day “reboot.” Life was about to get in the way on Saturday and it would have been impractical to do on Saturday. I received great news that an event I was going to attend Thursday evening was cancelled due to heavy rains and flooding. I mean, it wasn’t great that there was flooding, but that I wasn’t going to be tempted by pizza and whatever else they had planned for dinner.

My husband decided that he didn’t need breakfast juice and the thought of going through all that clean up for just one little glass of juice was annoying. I seriously considered just eating an apple. In the end, I decided to go ahead and make juice, since I was blogging about it. This forum is like truth serum and helps keep a person honest. Damn you people. Since it was just me on Thursday morning, I made up my own juice sans recipe, and it was totally delicious. See…my husband should trust me more. I had my breakfast and felt satisfied and fairly alert afterwards.

As I was getting ready on Thursday morning, I thought my body looked slimmer. The scale showed that I lost about four pounds. I was still waiting desperately for that skin “glow” people talk about. I don’t know if I will get there in just five days, or maybe I just don’t have glowy skin.

For lunch, I had an extra serving because my husband couldn’t get away…so I had his juice. It was nice and filling, and used my last beet. I really liked the beet-based juices. Not only do beets provide beautiful color, but they provide wonderful sweetness. I bet my husband was not sad to have missed it.

After lunch, I didn’t feel tired, but I also did not feel energetic. And I still felt very unsatisfied. I munched on an apple, which helped the littlest bit. I had run out of bananas by then which was really sad. Bananas are filling and sweet.

I set out a nice piece of salmon for my husband’s dinner. The juice recipe I was using for myself for dinner called for ginger, lemon, and parsley, among other things. So I juiced those first and poured a little over the fish. I sure would have liked to have tried it. I stuck it in the oven and made the rest of my juice, which had a giant green apple, celery, red leaf lettuce and cucumber in addition to the above. I also threw in the rest of my fennel since it was green, too. The green juices are my least favorite. They make me feel like I am drinking pesto. Usually the green recipes go all green, with cumbersome or celery and kale and spinach and stuff. Unfortunately, when you throw greens in most juices to try and cover them up, it make it a really unattractive puce color.

My husband decided not to drink any juice because he felt Crohn-sy. By this point he was pretty much done and finally admitted it. So, instead he ate that luscious piece of salmon on a bed of whole wheat pasta, topped with fresh parsley. I just kept telling myself I only had one more day. One. More. Day. How do people do this for longer ( beach Veg*n I am thinking of you!) ? It’s so boring.

Since my husband was not participating in this any more, I decided not to go to the store and stock up on additional fruits and veggies. I felt I had plenty of fruits and veggies I could cobble together to stick it through one more day: two oranges, five red delicious apples, romaine lettuce, a dozen carrots, several stalks of celery, a thumb of ginger, and a lime. Totally do-able.

TGIF!

On Friday morning I separated my remaining fruit and veggies into three piles: Breakfast was two apples, one orange, one lime, and four carrots, Lunch was one apple, four carrots, one orange, and Dinner was two apples, one thumb ginger, four carrots, four stalks of celery. My romaine had gone bad so I could not use it. Darn. It was going to be an orange kind of day since the carrots were going to be the base of each of my meals that day…but it sure was pretty. And pretty delicious. The carrot-orange combos are pretty good.

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Since I only had to make juice for me, I was able to pull about a pint glass of juice from each grouping. I had a a few celery stalks that I saved as a snack since I knew that it would be tough to make it the whole day without having something crunchy. They were total life savers and helped get me through that late afternoon snack attack phase. My husband asked during lunch on Friday afternoon if I was finally feeling that burst of energy I was supposed to feel after the 4th day. I had to think about this. I did not feel tired, but I did not feel full of energy either. I would have to say that I, perhaps, felt more alert than normal, especially in the afternoons.

Friday evening was fairly anticlimactic. I had no special juice recipe to celebrate with, and probably the least tasty juice combo of the day. 20130419-215142.jpg
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Also, my dinner plans for Saturday were cancelled due to some freak weather issues, so I had no giant bowl of pasta to look forward to. I suppose I could have committed to another two days since my original conflict was gone… but I don’t think a person should be so wishy-washy.

Anyhow, the whole thing just kind of fizzled to an end rather unenthusiastically. But my husband was proud of me…and he kept saying so as he ate his normal, delicious curries shrimp dinner. 20130419-215503.jpg

By late evening these are all I had left of that massive pile of produce I had at the beginning.
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But I was already thinking of all the delicious, firm things I could eat. Midnight counts as Saturday, right?

The Actual Juice Experiment- Part 1

It was a slow start to the experiment.  By the time we got done with some errands, including grocery shopping for the impressive array of produce, it was basically Sunday evening. We excitedly got home and picked our “meal”, which I decided should have beets in it. My husband hates beets. Now, I didn’t pick beets because I was being cruel, but because my husband kept saying that he was hopeful that this was a way he could finally consume those veggies that are really good for you, but that he can’t stomach–even delicately steamed and deliciously prepared by his talented wife. So I chose something with beets.

The recipe called for one beet, four carrots, two cups kale, one cup spinach, two apples and a thumb of ginger. It was interesting. The color was beautiful but the smell was very green. Surprisingly, the flavor was nice. The ginger was key here and I don’t know if we would have had as positive of a start without it. Unlike a fine wine, you don’t want to inhale too much.
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We “ate” early, like around 5:00 pm, which meant we had aaaaaalllllll night to think about how unsatisfied we were. I ended up eating two bananas. Hey, Joe from Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead ate fruit, too, so it’s okay. I also drank several cups of tea. My husband had some crackers with peanut butter and a banana. I noticed I burped a lot. By 11:00 pm I was starving and more than ready to go to bed. I was thinking about food, a lot.

Monday was the first full day of juicing. I was nervous. Just look at how much I bitched about measly six hours the night before. But I did not wake up particularly hungry, which I thought was a good sign.

I persevered and stuck with my juice… and fruit. I had a banana after breakfast and an apple after dinner. I also had a “snack” juice and a “dessert” juice, which is recommended from the rebooting program. I was proud of myself.  Food stared me in the face all day. Particularly this one can of soup. I just imagined it being all nice and warm and chunky. I really liked looking at it, almost so I could have a goal to work towards, thinking, “I get to eat this when this is all over,” Which was nuts because I wouldn’t normally eat canned soup, and it certainly wouldn’t be the thing I would want to eat above all else.  But for whatever reason it called to me.

Below are a couple of samples of our “meals, ” which were then reduced to less than two pint glasses each time.

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By 10:00 pm on Monday I was starving! My stomach was rumbling and had been all day. Hunger or digestion? I dunno. I was also a little nauseated. My husband ate various sources of protein throughout the day: eggs, chicken, tuna. I  resented him a little. But he was worked out that night, so I gave him some slack.

I drank a lot of water but still felt sluggish throughout the day and I was sooo thirsty. I also had a bit of a head ache. Any physical was activity was draining. Basically, all the text book side effects, except the body odor, of course.

Tuesday, dawned earlier than anticipated once I realized that I needed to attend a fundraiser breakfast. It was torture. I still made a juice in the morning and counted on eating just fruit at the breakfast. And I figured orange juice was okay.

The breakfast went swimmingly. Well…except for the scrambled eggs I ate. But I could only take a little bit of fruit because I was one of the first to pass it around. And eggs are mushy any way. But so good. So good. I still count this a win because I did not eat the Danish, donuts, bacon, and hash browns. I also attended another meeting that afternoon where skittles, milk duds and cookies were passed around. I easily passed those up…but I did grab a diet coke. For some reason this really annoyed my husband who considered the diet coke more egregious that the eggs. Really?

My husband and I constantly asked each other how we were feeling. It was like couples therapy. And should I talk about the gross stuff? Well, let me put it this way, don’t be surprised when because you drink a lot of deep, intense color, a lot of deep, intense color comes out.  The beets are particularly shocking.

On Tuesday evening we went on three mile walk, something we always try and do if the weather is nice. My husband was wiped out after the walk. I felt okay. I think the calorie difference was really starting to affect him. While he was supplementing somewhat with sources of protein, he was still consuming substantially fewer calories.

The first part of the week was challenging but exciting.  All these experiences were fairly new to us, with new tastes and colors and veggies we don’t normally consume.  Check back in a couple of days from now to see how the rest of the week went.  I’ll eventually set up another page with the recipes we used, too.  But adding them here might have made this post too long!