Basking in the Glow

February 1, 2010

How is it possible that it is February? I really feel as though we were just talking about the holidays, welcoming in the new year, and making resolutions for 2010. Wow, time moves fast.

Our January change for the One Small Change challenge went so-so. Looking at cutting plastic out of our home completely was really tough, and it made me feel so frustrated with the reliance that we have on it.

At the first part of the month, we evaluated everything in our home that was made of plastic; laundry detergents, condiments, packaging, shampoos, etc. We were able to almost completely eliminate the food items that were packaged in plastic containers, either by choosing a different brand that was made from glass, or by bringing our own containers to the store to be filled. The only place that I got a little stumped with was yogurt, because my children only eat soy yogurt, so we cut it out until I can figure out how to make it at home.


Now here is where the hard part comes in. When we went to eliminate plastic jars for such products as shampoos and detergents, not only could we not find anything in glass containers, but making our own products proved to be a stumbling block, because all of the ingredients that we would need to make these items ourselves are packaged in plastic. This month, I made all of our own detergents, soaps, lip balms, bath products, etc, but for the most part, I could see no reduction in plastic consumption, and unfortunately at times it actually increased.

So, this is where we are, and we have a lot more thinking to do on the subject, and how we can find a way to continue to reduce the plastic that we use. If any of you have been down this road, I would love to hear suggestions that you may have.

For February’s challenge, we are following in the footstep of Linda’s family, and turning off our lights for an entire month. Let me qualify this by saying that we will be using 2 watt night lights in our children’s room, instead of a candle, in order to ensure their safety.

Going a step further, we have mapped out all of the plugs throughout the house, and the appliances that can be unplugged, when not in use. My husband has a lab in our basement, with about 6 computers in it that are almost always on. We talked the other day about how much he really uses each of those at one time, and if it was necessary to keep them all on. Once we got into the discussion, we realized how many appliances are left plugged in, even if in use (or even turned on), and how much electrical waste occurs. I know that it will be tough to do, but we are going to see if we can find a way to unplug everything, and then only plug in when necessary.


So candle light/low light it is. To mark the transition, the boys and I sat down yesterday to decorate votive candle holders. On Saturday night, we had gone out to celebrate my husband’s birthday with a group of friends, and I fell in love with the candle holders that were on our table. Dark red glass, frosted, and sprinkled with what looked like rock salt. It gave a winter snowy effect, and I really wanted to take them home along with our boxed up California rolls. My mind started turning on how to recreate them, and this was our attempt.


We took glue, a clear glass votive candle holder, two jars of colored rock sugar (yep, packaged in plastic, and left over from the holidays. I am thinking that I will have to make my own for the future), a paint brush, and the tops from the last set of yogurt containers that we had before we began the challenge (you don’t need these, just something to pour your glue onto for painting).

This is a super simple project, and each votive takes about 5 minutes start to finish.


Simply paint your votive holder with glue. I prefer an all purpose glue that does not dry clear, which helps to give the glass a frosted look.


Carefully sprinkle the desired amount of colored sugar onto the glue colored votive, and set down to dry.


We had yellow, orange, green and pink sugar, and the boys remarked that they looked like Easter eggs. I suppose that my mind is already gearing up for springtime, and at the rate that time in moving, it should be here any moment.

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbi February 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Hi,

Aren't you afraid that the sugar will melt with the heat of the candle? And as far as using less plastic, if you were to purchase shampoo in large containers and transfer them to smaller glass containers then you would be using less plastic per se (l large container instead of 2 small, etc) this might help.

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AdirondackMama February 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Oh Heather, those votive containers are so pretty. How inventive.

As far as the plastic consumption goes… Do you have a co-op near you where you could fill jars with the supplies that you need for making your concoctions? Or maybe you could get a few friends together to share make a large batch and then just refill the containers that you already have? Or maybe you could just recycle the containers that you use in the process, you know….every little thing helps.

Don't stress about it though, you are doing a great job just by giving it a second thought. So many people don't even do that.

A LAB?!?!?! Six computers?!?!?
Do you have a mad scientist on your hands?

Hee Hee.

Jules
http://www.adirondack-mama.com/

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AG Ambroult February 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm

yes…your janruary goal is a tough one. BUt I imagine you are doing the best you can do, and working towards improvement. It's a big undertaing in this, the age of plastic. Those votive holders are beautiful–I never would have thought to glue sugar! They have a gorgeous luminous effect. And I have to commend you and your family on your next challenge! looking forward to seeing more images of life without lights.
(and ps–happy birthday to your husband!)

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Gypsy Forest February 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm

The plastic thing is really frustrating….. yogurt was our biggest regular too, until I began making it… I strain it to make our sour cream most of the time too….. but soy? hmmm….. as far as probiotics, which I am sure is what your after, have you tried water kefir? You can make it yourself and mix it with diluted juice concentrate (available in glass) or with lightly sweetened herbal tea….. we've had good luck getting the kids to drink ours…. I got my water kefir grains on etsy… from a store called wells of health. Good Luck :)

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Andrea February 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm

What a great goal. The food is our stumbling block–you must have much better resources for bulk where you live! I've been using soap nuts for our laundry for about six months and have been very pleased. Laundrytree.com they has plastic-free packaging. You can use "soap nut soak" for other cleaning applications like washing the floor, eliminating other products/packages. My husband uses baking soda and vinegar for washing his hair, and I use baking soda to wash my older son's hair (I still use Dr. Bronner's on the little ones–we bought an enormous jug a few years ago and it lasts forever). I think the baking soda dries my hair out, so I keep switching back to shampoo, but I do want to find a way for the baking soda to work for me as well. (we buy a 50 lb. paper bag of it from a feed store, and use it for many other household cleaning purposes, such as as a scouring powder). The blog fakeplasticfish.com makes a really good point about how it needs to be a gradual process.

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brandy February 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Wow, what a great idea for your Feb. challenge! Love the votives you made. I think it's so great, and KEY, that you got your kids involved.

http://minivanlife.wordpress.com

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kerry February 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Plastic is a tough one. I agree that it needs to be a gradual process and I will be honest, it is one that I try to cut down on, but haven't even come close to what you have already been able to do. I love the idea of low light and unplugging. I look forward to seeing how it goes and it might be an idea for me for March or April. Beautiful candle holders. I love how you prepare and excite the boys with projects. You are so mindful. It must make changes and transitions so much easier for them!

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Earth Mama February 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Love the votives. Im anxious to hear what kind of wattage reduction you can achieve. Do you know how much you presently use in cost and wattage? Plastic really is a tough one. It would be great to live near a health food store with everything in bulk. We are part of a co op where we buy in bulk and meet a truck in a parking lot (shady huh?) and pick up our 25# bags of rice and gluten free flour. Our local health food store also just got a bulk laundry soap dispenser. We just have to bring our container in and fill it.

:)Lisa

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Andrea February 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I love the candle holders! What a fun project for kids.

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Shivayamama February 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm

We burned our candles last night for hours, and we had no problem with either the sugar or the glue melting. Our glass is not overly thick, it did still get hot, but we were fine. I will add that in as a caution though, so thanks for thinking of it.
We do use bulk containers, which is helpful, but I just really want to find a way to clear the plastic out of our lives completely, and right now that just doesn't look like much of a possibility. One step at a time though, right? For now, bulk looks like the best that we have got.

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Ivy February 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Plastic is hard to cut out. Seems like everything comes in plastic these days, and if not the glass containers are cost prohibitive — at least for us. I'm impressed you're cutting out lights in February. I could see this if it were the summer, but February? Good luck to you! Can't wait to hear how it goes.

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Brooke February 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Love the votive candles… so pretty! I commend you for not giving up on the plastic… that would be a hard thing to eliminate completely. And going for the lights off… I LOVE that idea, and hadn't even though of it! My stretch marks look way better in candle light (Ha ha!) Maybe we should do that this month! thanks for the idea.

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SugarMama February 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I love the votives. I have so much of that sugar from a set my mum bought me – sounds like a great and easy project for my young kiddos!

As far as the plastic goes – you made a big effort which deserves commending. But as far as I'm concerned, let go of the worry about a few plastic items and focus your energy now on changes that will have a bigger impact. I'm sure you'll find them!

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Shivayamama February 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm

You know, it is funny because it almost feels like a selfish challenge. I LOVE candlelight, especially in the winter, and we have so much beeswax to make our own that I am hoping that it will be a way to reduce light, and enjoy a warm glow. I think that the really huge challenge will be unplugging everything, and having to turn it on only when needed. I know that will drive us nuts for a little bit :)

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Shivayamama February 1, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Lisa, that is really interesting, because we do that as well (with the grain co-op), and I do think that really helps us out as well. We basically do not have to worry about any grains being packaged in plastic. I think that there are still always going to be plastic somewhere in packaged foods, and I am not sure that I could ever get rid of that; like in cereal boxes, or chips. We have decided to try and make our own granola, or not buy snacks, but that will not be realistic all of the time. It is just a battle :)

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Shivayamama February 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm

We will still be using our TV, and our electrical appliances, we will just be using them in candlelight. I wanted to take things one step at a time. I want to shut off the lights, and unplug the appliances when they are not in immediate use, but I am not going to be turning off the electricity. The work that both Joel and I do does not really allow for that to happen, but since we feel that we use so much electricity for our work, then we thought that a good way to offset it would be try and drastically reduce our electrical consumption through out lighting, and through trying to unplug.
Oh how I wish that I could live without electricity. I really just do not see that happening :)

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renee February 1, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Linda's idea was definitely one of my favorites. We have talked about perhaps doing it more towards summer when we have longer days. (and tricky cause I have to work at night.)
Isn't the plastic thing just awful! Did you make your own laundry detergent? That is something I really want to do, but never considered that the bulk supplies may all come in plastic too. Well, still, if you have any recipes or resources I would be interested to know…
50's! I'm just glad we are staying in the upper 30's.

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mary February 1, 2010 at 5:09 pm

wow, you are amazing! I am a lover of goat yogurt and not sure I could live without it… I would love to learn to make yogurt. (I have the recipe, just need to get on it!) The plastic elimination is something I have been trying to do for a while, but there are those bits (like you said) that just seem to appear in packaging, etc. that are frustrating for sure! Those votives are gorgeous. I will have to try that as we have the same rock sugar left over from the holidays as well…

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liveoncejuicy February 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm

What beautiful candles! I bet if the sugar does melt, it would make some kind of lovely pattern.

I'm not sure if someone suggested this, but here's a shampoo and conditioner alternative that wouldn't take plastic. You can wash your hair with baking soda and rinse it with apple cider vinegar. The soda comes, of course, in a paper box, and the vinegar can be bought easily in a glass bottle. You'd probably still have a plastic lid, but that's a huge reduction. Just keep two glasses in the bathroom, along with the soda and vinegar. Put a couple of tablespoons of soda in one, and about 1/2 a cup of vinegar in the other before your shower. Mix the soda with enough water to make a paste and scrub into your scalp. Rinse well. Mix the vinegar with about 1/2 cup water (warm, the vinegar will be cold down your back otherwise…brrr!) and pour over your hair. Let it sit for a few minutes then rinse.

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Andrea February 1, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Having recently done the whole "unplug" thing, I think you'll be amazed at the difference. I blogged about it not long ago…reduced my electric bill by 58%!

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Audra February 1, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I make our laundry detergent from a bar of laundry soap, borax, and washing soda. All these are packaged in paper or cardboard so that would eliminate some plastic. I started making it to save money and reduce scents that we were allergic to. We replaced all plastic storage containers and dishes/glasses a few years ago and have never looked back.

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Its_Lily February 1, 2010 at 7:27 pm

What a great post, Heather. The votive holders are beautiful and the fact that they're so easy to make is an added bonus.

I'm a nut about unplugging and turning off anything electrical when it's not being specifically used. The t.v. (which is rarely used) and the radio are both plugged into a serge protector strip that is turned off at the power source whenever they're not being used, which is most of the time. Even the microwave is unplugged when not in use. The only things that are constantly plugged in are the furnace, the refrigerator and a clock in my bedroom. Otherwise, it's all unplugged. My friends and family are used to it now, but they thought I was a little wierd at first….that is, until I told them what my electric bill runs per month. haha…..who else has a $27 monthly budget plan for their electric? And all that money I'm saving? It's all mine to do with as I please.

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Kelly February 1, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Those candle holders turned out really nice! I bet they will be pretty all lit up. I'm interested to hear how the month of no light goes. You aren't doing any lightbulbs so only using the sun/candles? What about television/computers in the evening hours?

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eliz~ so wabi sabi February 1, 2010 at 7:49 pm

the votive holders are so lovely…and your February step is inspiring (as usual for you). I think as with most things there is a balance to be found…once we set our intentions on these changes that subtly shifts energy into the direction that supports our intention…eventually the world catches up. It's up to us to get the ball rolling with a little kick in the right direction or a small step. I have a feeling that you will now find more and more of the products you use in other packaging in time….and that might be a while but when you find them you'll remember this seed that you planted.

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Francesca February 1, 2010 at 8:32 pm

This is all very inspiring, and I'm very impressed by your achievements and plans. We often have power failures in winter time, which last for several hours and days even, and it's never been too easy. I'll be very interested in learning something from your month!

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samthehamsmom February 1, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I love the candle holders~they are beautiful! Great job~ I am leary of candles being that the boys are mild pyromaniacs at times, and CAN NOT BE TRUSTED…I also have 2 rambunctious little kitties who knock over everything in their fits of wrestling matches, so I will refrain from the candles, but will definitely decrease the usage of lights…thanks for the tips~Laura

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maeghan February 1, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Wow what a great inspiration. I will be anxious to see how it all turns out. I am not so sure that I could be that brave.

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kendra February 1, 2010 at 10:11 pm

i am so impressed with your changes = they are not small!!! and of course you have spring on your mind with rhythm of the home production!

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lily boot February 1, 2010 at 10:16 pm

you picked a lovely month to start your candle use! Today is Candlemas when the Catholic and Anglican churchs bless the candles for use over the coming year :-) It is also St. Brigid's day and she is said to bring the first light of spring. So I see good things for your candles this February. The votives are very pretty. I'm keen to hear how it goes knitting and reading and stitching in candle light. I know our ancestors did it, but I've often wondered how on earth they saw well enough. As for plastic – I agree with all of the above – tough work to eliminate it. But I do think that the buying in bulk is probably the best way to reduce if not replace. Good luck Heather – I admire your dedication :-)

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Hip Mountain Mama February 1, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I bet it was hard to not buy plastics! I have been so conscious of buying this past month and realized how much comes in plastic…crazy! I look forward to hearing how your lights out for Feb goes! Should be nice and cozy eating and reading by candle light!
Suzy

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Ivy February 1, 2010 at 10:40 pm

For shampoo and conditioner, have you checked out Lush? They are pricey, but they have shampoo bars and solid conditioner that doesn't have any packaging–plus it's amazing for the hair. Mine has never looked so good as when I use theirs.

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larissa February 1, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Love your sparkle-y votives. turning off all the lights and appliances is a very big change – good for you. we try to use less in the evenings but with three kiddos doing homework and reading in three different rooms the best we can do is just make sure all the bathroom and hallway lights are off. I need to figure out how to get NPR without power – i'm addicted. I just read your sunday serenity post – so much goodness. Thank you for sharing – i just tried the baking soda for deodorant – can't believe i didn't know that! Thanks so much!

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Jennifer February 1, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I am so impressed with your challenge! I cannot wait to hear how well you succeed and how much it changes your lives. I've recently begun turning the lights down more at night to see if we sleep better as a household, and I believe we all fall asleep much more quickly.

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Imene February 1, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Lovely votives. So your challenge is to turn the lights off, I love the idea…not sure how that would work with my TV lover of a husband ;o)

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jessica February 2, 2010 at 1:26 am

This month I'm really looking at appliance usage and the 'plugged in' items around here. I love the idea of candles for light–I think I'll make more use of my candles these days!

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nicola February 2, 2010 at 1:43 am

i love the votives!
i commend you on your january challenge and your honesty. after a year battling staph infections, i cannot give up plastics. in fact, i have an appreciation for being able to contain infectious waste to prevent spread among other previously banned-from-our-house items.
i make our yogurt. have you tried simply replacing the regular milk products with soy milk products? one small tub of store bought yogurt will make quite a few homemade batches. i found this link through a quick google search and i am certain you could find one that suits you. http://veganseat.wordpress.com/2008/04/03/a-recip
warmly,
nicola
http:///whichname.blogspot.com

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Valarie February 2, 2010 at 2:31 am

There is nothing better than candle light and the votives are fabulous. I was so surprised to discover that giving up plastic was so difficult. It's sad when you have people that don't want to use plastic and the manufacturers only see and use plastic. Thank you for this awareness. I'm sure there are some solutions for this. Everything in little steps. You had the intention and I believe that is the very beginning to the changes you would like to see. I'm so inspired by your discussions on electricity. This is an area I think we could look at as well. Thanks again for all of the awareness. Truly some things to think and act on. Be Well.

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Beth Curtin February 2, 2010 at 2:51 am

This is a wonderful idea. I can see my little boy licking the sugar on the votive candles when my back is turned, though! Beth

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Julia B February 2, 2010 at 4:10 am

My only suggestion to further reduce the plastic containers that EVERYTHING seems to come in, is to lean towards multi purpose products…so castille soap which can be used for nearly everything, for example, would reduce the need for so many products (cleaners, soaps, shampoos, etc), and in turn, so many plastic bottles. .
as would the use of alternative products such as baking soda, cornstarch, salt, etc. (as you are already doing!)….its a tough one!

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shelle February 2, 2010 at 3:19 pm

What if all of us who would like to see less plastic in the world were more vocal towards the companies who use and produce plastics?
I know I quietly bring my own bags, and use my purchasing power as my voice, maybe that is not being noticed for what it is… and how does the movement against plastic become more mainstream? When our library stopped offering plastic bags I heard patrons complaining because, how were they supposed to bring their books home!
I am frustrated by the lack of shops in the Denver area for bulk products, WF has limited selection often it is old, and Vitamin Cottage prepacks everything!
Good luck with unplugging.

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Kimberly February 2, 2010 at 7:54 pm

The baking soda & vinegar for shampoo & conditioner really work great–no plastic & all natural, too!

I sewed up a variety of cloth drawstring bags to use for shopping. I use them for all the produce instead of the plastic bags & for all my bulk purchases. My store does big bulk bins and so I scoop what I need into the cloth bags. At home I transfer them into my glass jars to store the foods. It works great and no waste.

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Sarah February 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Are you able to purchase soy yogurt in large containers? At least that way it is one container vs. many. I use Lush shampoo which comes in bar form and has no packaging. They come with an aluminum tin for travel purposes and I have noticed they last much longer than traditional shampoo.

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Sandra Tirado February 3, 2010 at 1:47 am

I'm new to your site and love it! Gives me so much to ponder and ideas to implement. Great post. Are your detergent, soap, lip balm, bath products, etc. recipes posted anywhere? I'm obsessed with making chemical-free cleaning products this year.

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Adrie February 3, 2010 at 4:08 pm

This should be called "One Huge Change" ! Wow. It is very hard to start the de-plasticing process – don't lose heart. I'm sure you know this, but No Impact Man has a lot of good recommendations for getting rid of plastic, and also life after turning off the electric. Best of luck to you!

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