20 days in, plus toys
June 20, 2011|Posted in: Uncategorized
Isn’t that still life pretty? It’s the Teflon pots and pans, plus plastic utensils, that I’m giving away. (The picnic basket, wire chicken and canning kettle are just keeping them company for a few days.) I spent part of Saturday reseasoning some cast iron that I had used, then let sit, and then someone soaked it in water and it rusted horribly. Not pretty at all. Now I have three cast iron skillets of different sizes sitting in my oven with a light coat of olive oil, awaiting the next cooking opportunity. I got all three of them from Freecycle, by the way. Which means they cost me $0: my favorite price.
I’ve been thinking about long-term changes and what that means to my family. As it happens, we are days away from closing escrow on a house up in the Russian River Valley, deep in the heart of wine country. It’s a small house (650 square feet!), with its own cesspool, right on a creek that leads to the river, which flows right to Jenner and the Pacific Ocean. It’s on a private road, which means no garbage service. We have to be very careful what flows out of the house and out into the yard (watershed). We need to make it a “green” house — as off-grid and zero-waste as possible. Taking the Plastic Purge here, in our rented city digs, is one way for us to get ready to live plastic- and toxin-free, when we eventually move up north (weekends and summers, until the Boy graduates, and then permanent residence).
Not everyone can do that, I know, and frankly, we never thought we’d ever own a house, much less get to live so much greener. But now we need to be ready to live without making a lot of trash. We have to consider what cleaning or household product we use so it won’t go down the drain and kill off our beneficial bacteria in the cesspool, or flow into the creek and river and kill the spawning salmon and steelhead. We’re looking at major composting, solar panels, gray water systems, energy-efficient insulation for heat and cooling, and best methods for all manner of things, from what we’ll eat and how we’ll heat the home, to what sources we’ll use to refurbish and build. Reuse, renew, scavenge, and recycle… all of those will play a heavy role in the fixing-up of the house. That’s a lot to think about, and it’s a very exciting time for the Tracey-Park-Rodrigues-Romero clan.
The Plastic Purge: It’s a dry run to see how (easy? hard) it is to live with fewer plastics in our lives.
So — here’s a different thought for the day. Our Boy is 13 and doesn’t play with toys much anymore. He plays baseball and practices kung fu, rides a skateboard and a bicycle. But his Lego and Bionicle days are over. That’s a blessed relief, because it’s hard to purge plastics when the Lego company sends a new catalog every month, and all of their items are plastic. Every item is also considerably sheathed and swathed in plastic, plus plastic wrap, inside a box with plastic…argh! I could say the exact same thing about Barbie. In fact, the Toys R Us flyer in the Sunday paper is a frightening nightmare of plastic. It seems that toys are not often made of wood or cloth anymore. When my daughters were younger, they loved the American Girl dolls. I spent a lot of time sewing clothes and pillows and quilts for the dolls, but they also had their plastic “food” and accessories. We used to get the Hearthsong catalog, which has wooden, fiber and cloth toys — pricey but somewhat more organic.
Since my kids have grown out of toys, and their entertainment now seems to be electronics, movies and friends, I don’t have the toy debate to argue here. So what do you parents of younger children do as far as plastic in toys? Are you concerned about lead or BPA in plastics? Do you limit your child’s exposure? How do you dispose of plastic toys that your kids no longer play with — or have demolished? I’d be interested to hear from parents who are in the thick of it right now. What choices do you make for your children’s playthings? Please post a comment. Thanks!
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.