Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just a quickie...

Hey 'yall.
Its been a while, and unfortunately, I do not have the time for a proper post at this very second. However I have popped on real quick to make a request of all my dedicated fellow Compactors.
It's the home stretch for me (6 weeks left!!!) and I am getting ready to create my fabulous presentation of this project. I would love to be able to include some comments from each of you. If you would like to write just a short blurb summing up your experience with the Compact, you can email or facebook them to me. I would really appreciate it!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

...Another Nun's Treasure

I recently came back in contact with some old friends and, not surprisingly, they've continued to do interesting, worthwhile things with their lives. For instance, Lyanda has this really warm and informative blog called Tangled Nest, undoubtedly a reference to her publicized penchant for birds. I highly recommend it!

Her posting for today was so perfect for The Compact Project, I postponed my other planned topic in favor of sharing Transforming Refuse: Sister Monika's Amazing Market Bag. Enjoy! -k8-

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Cost of Communication

When asked what their favorite or most used electronic is, I would bet a lot of people would answer a cell phone. But have you ever wondered about the impact of this super important device? James Katz, professor of communication and director of Rutgers University's Center for Mobile Communications Studies, says:"Current statistics indicate that two billion people currently have subscriptions for cellular phones... enough phones for one third of the planet's population. In fact, there are some countries with more cell phones than people. In the United States, 66% of the population owns a cell phone: U.S. population stands at 297 million, with 197 million cell phone users. Collectively, people spent 675 billion minutes talking on cell phones in June 2005."

If you take that number, 197,000,000 users, and times it by the 10 gallons of water it takes to make a single cell phone chip it becomes 1,970,000,000. Nearly 2 billion gallons of water that cannot be used for anything else, possibly ever, because the water becomes polluted with acids, chromium, solvents, various metals, and more.

What can we do to stop this though? A few people refraining from buying cell phones doesn't seem like much help, especially since it wont stop the companies from continuing to make the phones. But there are choices: like Hi-Tech Wealth Co.'s TW S116 Solar Mobile Phone, the first solar powered phone. Or like Motorola's new W233 Renew, which is made from recycles water bottles and "offsets the carbon dioxide required to manufacture, distribute and operate the Renew through investments in renewable energy sources and reforestation."

There are even companies coming out to help dispose of phones without putting them in landfills or places where they could do harm to the environment, many of these places can be found through the Chicago Recycling Coalition.

But that doesn't solve the problem of waste water, does it. And honestly, I don't know what does. What I think is that, though communication is important and cell phones are very useful to have around, very few things are worth the waste they cause, not even the phones that cause it.

Cell Phone Culture
Corp Watch
Standford News Service
Green Living Ideas
New York Times

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quick note

Greetings all!
Please pardon the long delay in posts! After Christmas, we also had Chinese New Year and with ramping down and then back up again at work, and the holiday duties in between...well, it didn't leave much time to write.

Even now, I have only a quick moment to ask: did you see the "It Starts at Home" article by Peter Miller in National Geographic? Ironic of course that the print-on-paper magazine so often does articles promoting a "greener" way of life. Still, what it left me with was a profound sense of moving the world by inches. I mean, the writer talks about the trials of everyday problems that the Famn Damily and I tackled ages ago. (And of course that is why we're here trying to Compact!) It was all too clear from the style that Mr. Miller was trying to encourage people with a "its not so bad or hard" approach. Sheesh! How many more times do peopel have to hear "get floresent bulbs"? Seriously, who is still buying incandesents?!

In semi-related news, there is this article on the state of Chinese Consumption (or do a search from Google for "Hard Yards" and check out the cached page). Its striking to think that the wages of skilled workers went from around US$100 a month, up to about US$200/month and are now settling out at about US$120-150/month. There is a tsunami of more factory closings expected due to the droop of consumption in USA and Europe. The gov't here is trying to stimulate domestic buying by kicking off old fashioned building of roads, tracks, dams, etc. However, folks here are *very* conservative. When the going gets tough, people here save...even more than they do when the going is good.

For myself, I am taking a big "wait and see" as well. I mean, on the one hand I actually think the adjustment (both in the Compact sense, and the overspending in The West aspects) is overdue. On the other hand, it is very, very difficult to look at the hardship that is beginnig to span the globe.

Gloomily yours nowadays,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

love vs wins!

In the spirit of the Compact and all things crafty, this year our MS Walk team made homemade valentines out of old magazines and a couple partial sets of old children's card games. Throughout last week and through this upcoming one, various crafty dames have hunkered down at the card table and waved their rubber cement soaked magic wands and POOF! sweet, sassy, sometimes dirty valentines all magically appear. We also made little baggies of condoms and kisses to sell, which we packed in a mysterious box of 1980's Waxtex "microwave bags" which I inherited from my grandmother's estate, and decorated with Old Maid playing cards. "Rollicky Ruth", "Agile Ann", "Ready Freddy"- they all were just made to decorate so!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


This year I gave no Christmas presents at all, not difficult to do since the rest of my family is Jewish. I myself did grow up with big gift exchanges, so I still feel guilty about not finding the perfect gift for everyone. This year I gave big checks to my three adult kids and their spouses, to keep the evil eye of layoffs far from their doors. They should have some of my money now, rather than after I am dead. Another feel-good way to celebrate the "holy days" is to give money to favorite charities. Baby Cleopatra, my granddaughter, received a toy Duc Monkey, because I gave a contribution to the World Wildlife Fund for endgangered animals. At least it is a good excuse to post a picture of her.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

the larkin line

I was so impressed with my siblings this Christmas. Because a couple of us are involved in Larkin's Compact Project, everyone agreed to honor the spirit of the Compact in the family gift-giving.

For example, Sarah & Bill gave me & my husband a gift certificate for an evening with them at a fine restaurant. And Aunt Sarah gave my daughter a certificate for an afternoon of yarn shopping and lunch. These gifts are not only valued for the fun experiences, but moreover for the gift of sharing our greatest commodity--time!

My younger brother Don works for the public library AND is completing his degree in Urban Planning. So on a new year's trip down to see him in Portland, I was surprised he'd found the time to make us little jars of homemade salsa & hazelnut chocolate sauce. Yum!

And then my sister Beth was fashionably late with her gifts--literally! She sent us homemade fashions! Taking the spirit of the Compact to a whole new level, Beth silk-screened her own art onto reclaimed shirts for every member of our family. Each shirt even came with a recycled paper tag proclaiming it to be part of the "larkin line" of clothing--check it out!

Reading those tags made my heart swell. Not just with pride for what Larkin started, but for what a little thing like this can do to effect change in others. I was thinking about what this year-long commitment means, really. As in, after a year, do we all just go back to how we used to consume? I'd be curious about what the other Compacters feel about this, but my sense is that it would be impossible for me to go back. It's like I know too much now, or something. I've rethought & reworked my routines, I've seen how it can be done, and usually as well or better. I see how much money and, oddly, time I save overall. I see what a difference it makes. I've simply become too aware & intentional a consumer to ever go back. I think that the only thing that will change for me when the year is over is that I won't be telling myself I "can't" solve my need/want problem with a brand new solution. I'll instead be telling myself I "choose not to" most of the time.

When I think about that, I realize that this is so much bigger than one year, or handmade cards, or super hip reclaimed's a lifestyle change. Isn't the ultimate declaration of faith to live as you would have it be? I just don't want to be part of promoting a consumer-based society. Can't we come up with something new as our country's raison d'etre? -k8-

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Requiem to a Shoe

What do you do with those old sneakers when they have outlived their glory days? I'm not talking nice expensive shoes you wore a few times and don't want any more. I'm talking about the shoes you've had for years, like since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. The fit-like-you've-never-taken-them-off, smell-like-you've-never-taken-them-off, more-hole-than-shoe shoes. Uh-huh, you know what I'm taking about.

I've had these shoes (to the right) for four years, and I wore them right up until the left sole became completely detached from the body. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get rid of them; sure I could just toss them in the trash, but what a waste! Plus, everywhere that accepts donations is restricted to "gently used items," which these shoes most defiantly aren't.

But there is a solution! Nike Reuse-a-Shoe collects old shoes and makes them into tracks and playing fields for schools and communities.
"Clean out your closet, take a peek under the bed and ask your friends and family – chances are, you'll find a few pairs of kicks lying around that have seen better days. When it's time to say goodbye, bring your athletic shoes to any Reuse-A-Shoe drop-off location – there are more than 300 around the world... Keep in mind, an individual person can bring up to 10 pairs of shoes at one time – more might overwhelm our collection bins. If you're not near a drop-off location, you can also mail your worn-out sneakers to our recycling facility – but please, only mail your shoes if you have to, as shipping small numbers of shoes to our facility creates a larger carbon footprint."

Well what about those not-so-gently used clothes, you ask? The picture on the left is of a jacket I have had since 6th grade, that makes it 6 years old, and I got it at a value village, so who knows how old it really is. Having lived through so many years of Seattle rain, frequent falling over, and my more recent interaction with a door jam, it doesn't resemble a nice leather coat anymore, so much as a severely botched experiment. Multiple severely botched experiments. While I am finally resigned to buying a new coat this weekend (at the local Goodwill) I cannot bring myself to toss this one out, at least not in the trash. Retex Northwest, in Mill Creek, Washington accepts donations of "unwanted cloths, shoes, backpacks and other textiles," in any condition. "Collected textiles and shoes are shipped to overseas grading stations where they are sorted by size, season, gender, and condition... then shipped to countries which are experiencing severe shortages of even the most basic clothing. Garments which are no longer wearable can be made into 'rags' or pulled apart and reprocessed into fibers for paper, upholstery, and insulation materials. Cloths which can’t be recycled are composted whenever possible. Less than 5% of the unused clothing will end up as solid waste."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Not your mother's reclaimed art!

I recently spent a day at Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park, taking picture for a photography final. But it got me thinking.... Seattle has this huuuge expanse of land set aside for no reason besides the beauty of artistic form. I wonder how many other cities have this same (or similar) love for artistic form?

Well, there is a place in Portland, Oregon called The Rebuilding Center, which is "a project of Our United Villages, is vibrant resource working to strengthen the environmental, economic, and social fabric of local communities. Founded by volunteers in 1998, The Rebuilding Center is the nation’s largest non-profit reuse center for salvaged construction and remodeling materials." Within the Community Gathering Space at the RC, is a unique project: a three-story tall tree sculpture of trees made from recycled metal and donated objects.

Community Trees, an art installation made by Suri Iron Shop for The Rebuilding Center, "features cob tree trunks topped with branches and leaves crafted from reclaimed metal and household objects donated by community members."

Where else are there works like this? What about the Rebuilding Center, are there places of this sort in your city?

***I must send out props to Dan B. who was the one to bring my attention to this fantastic example of recycling and art. Thank you!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Belated Christmas Catch Up

Happy new year to you all!

Sadly, I spent much of my holiday sick and asleep. Who knew that a human could sleep 18+ hours a day for days on end?!

Be that as it may, we stuck pretty OK-ish to The Compact this year. We had to get a *few* things for the kids...especially the two younger ones who believe in Santa. Still, we mostly made cards and other projects. (Sorry to say that they went out before I could snap shots.)

Among the best my book...was a game I gave the family, "A Kingdom for Keflings." Firstly, it is a very fun little game. You are a giant, helping the Lilliputian-like Keflings build up their town. For kids, it is great because it teaches them about planning (you need to check out blue prints of the buildings the Keflings need, and get the resources lined up) and other fun life skills. Secondly, there is nothing but zeros and ones! I saw a demo version via Xbox Marketplace, checked it out, then downloaded it. No print, poster, or other ads. No discs, packaging, etc. Just entertainment...delivered straight to you, with no extras. Pretty cool!

I'd also like to introduce you all to Akoha...a "play it forward" game. It is a great way to inspire and encourage random acts of kindness, and also certain social messages. Essentially, there are cards that describe a mission to complete...anything from "buy a friend a cup of coffee" to "send drinks to a couple in love" to "donate on hour of your time" and so on. When you do the mission, you give the card to the person/people you're completing it with. They can go online and you can track when, where and how that mission has gone out into the world and reached you. Read all about it at My favorite "play it forward" mission: give someone a compact flouresent a.k.a. "the Al Gore card." (BTW, if you're interested in getting a mission, just send me an email...we can exchange addresses and I'll make you part of one of mine!)

A final holiday reminder (mostly to myself!)...Chinese New Year is right around the corner. While not as consumer-focused as Christmas, we'll still have to be careful. Having said that, I am pretty much resigned to getting some things...sorry! We are having the entire family over and we are simply going to need a few things...even just entertaining things.

All the best!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

from Albuquerque NM

I wanted to share with everyone a thank you card that I made from the Larkin & Kate family Christmas card which was posted on the blog Dec. 15th. I also used another card and some left over paper from another project. Happy New Year. LynnA

Monday, December 29, 2008

Urban Deceit

Urban Outfitters: a haven of the "alternative." Known especially for their artistic t-shirts, this international company flaunts the style that almost all teens and twenty-somethings long for. Even I have gazed longingly through the window at the new and interesting styles that I can only dream of creating myself.

Last night I was at the reunion concert of an awesome local band, Uncommon Knowledge. After the show, my friend went up and complimented the singer/guitarist's shirt. After thanking her, he mentioned that it was from Urban Outfitters.

This reminded me of a few months ago, when I was glancing at an article online and was scandalized by what I read. Not only does the owner of Urban Outfitters contribute to some politicians I find personally objectionable, he holds the classic defeatist attitude toward where he gets his products. The complete article can be found at The Philadelphia Weekly, but here's some pertinent information:

"Yes, says Hayne, nearly all of Urban Outfitters' apparel is manufactured in Third World sewing shops--just like nearly all of the clothing sold in this country. If Urban Outfitters relied on domestic union labor, says Hayne, most of his customers could not afford the price he would have to charge to turn a profit. All things being relative, he says, Urban Outfitters does not contract with any sewing shops that are overtly inhumane or exploitive.

'Years ago I visited one of the factories we work with in India, and there was 500 people standing in a line three people deep stretching around the building,' he recalls. 'I said to the foreman, "What's going on?" He told me they were all applicants for the four positions they had open. I toured that facility and it was reasonably clean--for India. And it was reasonably well-lit--again, for India. And yes, it was mostly young women working there. But it is my understanding that the only other option those women had to feed their families was selling their bodies. So I don't want to hear people from the suburbs with their fat American stomachs telling people in other countries how to run their societies.' "

While I find this funnily ironic, I am also slightly disturbed. Many people I know, including friends and relatives, shop at this store. Do they know where those products are coming from, and do they know how the company spends its profits?

Let this serve as a reminder for us all. When we buy new, we are perpetuating a cycle that we may not want to actually be a part of. Purchase with intention!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Holidays from ABQ, NM.
Kate, loved the photo of the ultimate in recycled holiday cards. I will make it a point to save cardboard and Sharpies for next year, just in case. As for traditional cards, I was wondering if the city would recycle all this shinny cardstock when I noticed a blurb in the newspaper that St. Jude Ranch for Children will turn old holiday cards into new ones. Send card fronts to the organization at 100 St. Jude's St., Boulder City, NV 89006. The program ends February 28. I am all over this idea. I will be keeping some of my cards to create a different card for another occasion. For example, Kate, I am taking your family card and turning it into a thank you card for Dave (your father-in-law and my brother-in-law) and Jim-- I am excited to see how it turns out. I will try to insert a picture in my next post.

Also, I have been searching the web to learn more about the Compact Project. I am not sure what it says about me but I enjoy, usually with eyebrows raised, the ironies of life. On the Freecycle site, there is a tab labeled as "store". Turns out, you can buy *new* stuff on that site displaying the freecycle logo. Well, I guess they have to get revenue somehow, as in the end, nothing is really "free".
Happy New Year. LynnA

Thursday, December 25, 2008

a recession yuletide

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'd like to celebrate this day on the Compact Project by sharing 2 wonderful gifts, one from this year, and one from many years ago.

First off is the BEST homemade Christmas card I have ever received, hands down. And I've made a lot of them...but this one wins the show due to the brilliant simplicity in using corrugated cardboard and a Sharpie marker. The back is done postcard style.
Next up is my very favorite winter hat, made by my sister Beth (who is also a member of Larkin's experiment). The hat is a simple, fun design made from fleece, and she added a rock on the front that she'd had for many years just floating around. The great thing is that Beth made this hat for me maybe 10 years ago now...and it continues to look fabulous and warm my head. Yay for homemade! Ho ho ho!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Compact: Compost

Thanks Mom for that last post, and the question you raised: "I'm wondering how common this is becoming...does your city provide composting services? Seattle composts, so if you pay for yard waste removal with your garbage service, they'll also take & use your food waste." And thank you to Clark for that comment. For those who missed it, he said that in Evanston, IL (outside of Chicago) there is no "kitchen waste" composting and even the composting of yard waste has been discontinued due to "funding, odor, and rodent issues." So, I was wondering how Seattle handles our compost in a way to avoid these issues as much as possible.

I found the answer at

"City staffers deliver residential compostable material to the Cedar Grove plant north of Everett (Cedar Grove staff manages the collection for commercial operations). After initially collecting in the tipping room (where truckloads are unloaded), materials travel along a conveyor belt, where metal and plastics are removed. The waste is then formed into piles and covered.

Cedar Grove uses GoreTM Cover Membrane Laminate Technology, a system of specialized covers, and regularly monitors temperature and moisture in the compost heaps. The high heat achieved in Cedar Grove's large-scale processing kills any weeds and pathogens, and also meets the standards for organic certification. After the two-stage heat aging process (approximately 21 and 30-45 days respectively), bagged compost is aged for an additional 18 months to ensure quality. Bulk compost is aged 6 to 12 months.

Finally, the bags of organic compost are delivered to stores around Seattle, where residents can purchase the natural fertilizer for use in their own yards. For homeowners, landscapers, gardeners, organizations like Seattle Tilth, and others, this would-be waste has become a wonderful resource!"

And from an article in The Seattle Times, I learned something very interesting. In San Fransisco, the birthplace of the Compact, they had composting nearly perfected as far back as 2003. " waste travels a 150-mile loop from restaurant to composting facility to vineyard and back. 'We're closing the nutrient loop and keeping food from just wasting in a landfill,' said Jack Macy, who runs San Francisco's food-recycling program."

I encourage Compacters and Compact followers alike to look into their city's compost program and find out how they can help to reduce in this fundamental way. If your city does not offer composting, starting your own program is easy. Many ways of composting can be found at

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Creativity

I love that post about touring a paper factory in China, especially hearing that they were busy making our Independence Day party supplies...oh, the irony!

His colleague's comment about the napkins being so unsanitary made me think about how there are still so many people who will, without a thought, grab for the paper napkins & towels all day long. Dab the side of the mouth, toss the paper. Wipe up a slight drip, toss the paper. And this is paper that can't be recycled. Cloth napkins are SO easy to come by & way more effective for nearly any job. Thrift stores are always full of colorful napkins and kitchen towels. And napkins are about the easiest thing to sew out of any absorbent fabric.

Question. I'm wondering how common this is becoming...does your city provide composting services? Seattle composts, so if you pay for yard waste removal with your garbage service, they'll also take & use your food waste. I love that. It also gives you something more productive to do with those dirty paper napkins & towels...they may not be recyclable, but they are compostable (depending on what you cleaned up).

On a related paper-saving note, we took our Christmas cards to a new level this year. We usually make our own, so this time, in honor of Larkin's Compact Project we set a rule: make them with only supplies we already have around the house--buy nothing. Luckily, we're a crafty family, so we had plenty of supplies to work with. I have the remainder of a box of 500 recycled #10 envelopes, so we started with the assumption that this would be our card size & worked out from there. It also had to be a simple design, as we send over 50 cards to family & friends scattered around the world. I think they turned out nice. If you haven't received yours yet, act surprised when you get it! -k8-

Paper, Paper everwhere...not a scrap to note!

Greetings all,

What can I say? The headline is a lie. If anything, there was more paper and scraps to note down War & Peace...about a hundred million times. You see, I had an opportunity to visit two giant paper, stationary and playing card presses in central China. It is hard to describe the scale here, folks. To say "huge" would be to compare the pulp plant to a skyscraper...but it is bigger by far. More like a half-mile city block. To say "big" would be to compare the presses to a bus...but they were bigger too. More like a convoy. To say "lengthy" would be to compare the cutting, assembly and packaging lines to a walk in the park. But it took over two hours for each fast-paced tour.

And here is what I kept thinking through the whole thing: What a lot of waste! Take the legal pads being spun off at several thousand an hour. Imagine them going to all those stationary stores, and into people's briefcases and meetings. They get whipped out and a thought or two is scribbled on them, likely transferred to an email and...tragedy of tragedies...thrown away. I can't escape this image of a giant beast who gobbles up and later excretes giant loads of yellow...yellow...yellow...gunk.

As interesting was the "party" division that was part of the tour. They were spinning off napkins for July 4th. Beyond the irony of communist China supplying the mountain of Independence Day cups, napkins, hats, etc. was the delicious comment of my Chinese colleague, "I'll never use another paper napkin!" "Why?" I puzzled. "This is just so unsanitary!" I could see his operating room it ain't.

What was just as interesting was when I got back from my trip, it turns out my daughter was learning about the paper process too. For homework she cut up a bunch of paper and soaked it in water for three days, then took that cellulose soup to school. Everyone then turned their mushy mess into another sheet of rough paper. It got me may be easier to re-use that scrap than I thought and I'm going to give it a try. Stay tuned!

Anyway, perhaps noting the scale of the production will help you scale your consumption. For me, around my house and even in our office, we re-use paper a lot. We take envelopes and cut them for notes. We turn paper over and re-print on it for internal purposes, or at least cut it up for scratch paper. I hope that you are considering something similar! For beyond the "no buying" objectives...I try to use the "no waste" rule. After all, who wants to get that yellow stream all over them? (Oh, how I love puns...sorry to gross anyone out!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

on the hunt!

hi guys! what a busy time of the year! does anyone have any ideas about where a girl could get some used/recycled curtain rods or perhaps some advice about how to make some that will actually stay up with the curtains on them? my attempts have all failed!

i am fighting the vast temptation of getting a ride to ace hardware (who by the way are cooperatively owned!) and whipping out the visa, but it is so cold and the curtains need to go up soon!

muchas gracias in advance for any and all advice! happy homemade holidays everybody!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hey Y'all!

I'm sorry it's been so long. I have been very busy in the last couple weeks, with school, work, school, musical auditions, school, college applications, and reading Hamlet.... for school. Yes, this is the life.

While reading the food article posted by Chris a thought struck me. Organic food is tasty, more so perhaps than .... other food with the sense of well being it gives you being even better, knowing you are both helping the environment and avoiding those nasty chemicals. And local organic food is even better, as Chris said: reducing the "giant carbon footprint"... and how more local can you get than your own back yard? (Or front yard, side yard, patio... etc.)

Of course, you say, it is nearly Winter and what silly person tries to grow anything in the snow/wet/cold? It is much easier to drive down to the national chain superstore a few miles away. Of course it is! But we are not doing this for easy: We are doing this for change.

That being said, feel free to check out this website devoted to gardening in the fall and winter.

And for those of you who are still unwilling to get down on your knees in the snow and freeze your hands off for the sake of a few carrots (and believe me, I understand!), check out this introduction to planter gardening in winter.

Happy Gardening! ~Larkin

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Greetings all,

I thought these articles on local food were interesting, and thought you might like them too. (click headline for full story)

Thoreau observed that humans are happily designed in such a way that the distance they can cover in a day's walking means that were they to spend every day hiking in a different direction from their homestead, it would take a lifetime to get to know every corner of their surround

Any region can use a patron saint, and in England's West Country, that saint is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (aka Hugh Fearlessly Eats-It-All). One of Britain's top TV chefs, Fearnley-Whittingstall is on a near-holy mission to return to the land. He had his first success with a show called "A Cook on the Wild Side," in which he traveled around cooking up game and wild plants on his camping stove.

A truly organic restaurant today needs a field of local suppliers. What good is an organic carrot or blueberry with a giant carbon footprint? Just as farmers' markets are spreading, so too is local-mindedness in restaurants. It's not just about carbon, but a deeper connectedness between people and land.

The kind of self-reliance a household would have known before the advent of processed and packaged foods, when good husbandry included knowledge of how to process food oneself, is precisely what Fearnley-Whittingstall is trying to revive.

The cows and pigs dotting these flat green plains in the southern Netherlands create a bucolic landscape. But looked at through the lens of greenhouse gas accounting, they are living smokestacks, spewing methane emissions into the air.

That is why a group of farmers-turned-environmentalists here at a smelly but impeccably clean research farm have a new take on making a silk purse from a sow's ear: They cook manure from their 3,000 pigs to capture the methane trapped within it, and then use the gas to make electricity for the local power grid.

Rising in the fields of the environmentally conscious Netherlands, the Sterksel project is a rare example of fledgling efforts to mitigate the heavy emissions from livestock. But much more needs to be done, scientists say, as more and more people are eating more meat around the world.

Hello Larkin and fellow bloggers:

By way of introduction, my name is Lynn and I am married to John (Larkin's grandfather's younger :-) brother). We live in Albuquerque, NM. I have intrepidly joined the group and I anticipate and look forward to many challenges in the endeavor to reduce clutter, recycle, and learn to live more sustainably. Just today, I was at Office Max buying envelopes (for 15% off) & I thought, how would you not buy envelopes for a year? I shop some at thrift stores and I have never seen envelopes. However, John found this wonderful, old lamp at Thrift Town once and he rewired it and I use it on my desk. Having said that, we are "good consumers," if you know what I mean, and I will be challenged by the road ahead. I have already started to think differently in terms of purchases. This holiday season we will be giving some homemade treats, but alas, they will be in new Tupperware (did you guys know they still make Tupperware!); what can I say, I got to start somewhere. Also, we will be sending out hand made cards (a project I started last summer). In summary, I must say, that I am all for buying new underwear, as Larkin mentioned we could do in one of her posts. Larkin, I admire your “Senior Project” and I will acquire inspiration from you in the months ahead. Mas tarde. lynna

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What an first post!

Greetings all,

Thanks to Larkin for allowing me to post my thoughts here. I hope they are interesting to her readers, and that they spark good and fruitful discussion.

First, a bit about why I'm interested in blogging here. Second, a bit of background. Third, some thoughts on "me + Compacting."

First, I'm interested in blogging in the hopes that I'll get some helpful advice! Yep, my family and I need it. When reading about how the Compact Movement got started, I saw something of us. Hopefully you all have too, and we can learn from each other. The thing that rang true for us was that we too are fed up with recycling and other fixes that seem to fall way short. While we've tried our best, we'd still really would like some support and advice from others in changing "The Way It Is."

Second, as you read the posts, you should know a few things about me and us. We're a family of five, and we live in Hong Kong. We already feel "on the path" with The Movement...even if we do give ourselves certain slack. For example, we have never owned a new car. We mostly take public transport, even though we do have a car. I can count the number of pieces of new furniture we've bought in 15+ years of marriage on two hands and still have fingers left. We go clothes shopping about every two years. We pretty much eat at home and cook our own. We do our best to go local and organic.
I wish I could say all of this was because we're so dedicated. Honestly, a lot of it is simple necessity. For example, we eat organic and local because eating food from China is just plain scary. For example, who wants to risk melmine poisoning? As for buying clothes, there aren't always the right sizes around here. (Being Caucasian, I'm a bit larger than you're average Asian, you see.)

Finally, we've been saving quite diligently for a house and for the kids' educations.
So, in the end, I guess we're what's being called "frugalistas*." Considering our location - Central Command for The World's Factory - it is also interesting to compare and contrast the attitudes we run up against all the time. Some of our friends are equally frugal and concerned. Others are still dropping litter from their car windows. Its also interesting to be working with the world's factory workers and see how they live, hear their aspirations and what they think about the products they are making. I hope to share insights and information here! Finally, some initial thoughts on compacting: Its hard. Especially knowing what to do! For example, we have birthday parties for the kids. This year, after getting piles of junk that A) we knew was made of bad materials B) wouldn't really be played with and C) don't have space for, we thought about saying "no presents, please." However, that raised all sorts of questions and problems. "How will the kids feel when they don't get any gifts?" "What will the other parents do anyway?" (i.e. Will they listen?) "If we accept the gifts, can we give them away somehow? And how will the kids feel if they have to give them up?"

Also, I should admit my weaknesses. I said we allow ourselves some slack! For me... I love games. Video games. I do my best to wring every penny from them, but I often buy them somewhat impulsively. I also love coffee. Starbucks coffee. I don't know what I'd do without a little walk and Starbucks break. I am on the quest for the perfect hat. I have more than one (meaning...more than I have heads for), but still wind up getting them from time to time anyway.
I am also on a quest for the perfect messenger bag. (And doesn't ruin the clothes shopping assertion above!) Seriously, these are among the tougher challenges I'll be facing in order to further decrease consumption!

Thanks and happy reading.

("frugalista, defined as “a person who lives a frugal lifestyle but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying secondhand, growing own produce, etc." On Language, by William Safire)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Orion Strikes Back, Again

I'm in love. Head over heels, gaga, goofy-faced-floppy-legs-gaited in love with Orion Magazine. If you have a few minutes, do check out this article about the famous* Crying Indian ad campaign.

*Made famous once Kate expressed her incredulity a few years ago when I said I had never seen it...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Story of Stuff

--from kate--
I have Larkin's gramps to thank for bringing this excellent video to my attention. I encourage all readers to invest just 20 minutes watching this entertaining and enlightening piece. It explains more clearly than anything else I've found why movements such as The Compact are absolutely critical to the survival of our species and our planet. Recycling simply isn't enough; we each need to be doing more...or less, depending on how you look at it.

Watch on, citizens!
Or here:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I had a dream

I must say, these last couple weeks have been quite a boom. This humble little project has come so far. Yet I wonder, is it far enough? I have high hopes for us, but I sometimes wonder if it all really matters. I wonder if the day will come, be it in a year or ten years, when I too will be just another of the mindless mass strolling along downtown, indulging my senses with rich Italian leather and delicate French lace.

But that is the point, or the anti-point, isn't it? We are here to change all that. It isn't a dream anymore, We have ripples swirling out from our little pebble: a "free-cycle" program beginning in California, international readership, and even those who cannot bring themselves to join us are still inspired by our existence.

This is not a dream. We are not just making changes: we are the change.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Going it alone, together

Hello Larkin and beyond!

I don't know how y'all feel, but here's my bit of brutal honesty:  I'm scared witless (insert your own age and/or audience appropriate adjective there) about the coming decades.  As I walk to work, forgoing the apparent convenience of my car; as I pack my own lunch, forgoing the apparent convenience of the Taco del Mar located a mere forty yards from my library; as I turn off unused lights throughout the house, forgoing the very real convenience of being able to see toys strewn like caltrops across the floor, I have the very real and foreboding sense that this effort is all for naught.

But then, ahhhh... then I happen to come across a bit of beauty and clarity such as the following article of Bill McKibben's in the most recent issue of Orion magazine.  In it, McKibben directly addresses this malaise that is bound to fall on individuals who are concerned enough (or insane enough?) to try to change the course of an entire economy and culture.

So if you, like me, need an occasional pick-me-up, keep this McKibben article tucked in a handy, easy to reach spot.  The medicine cabinet, perhaps? 

Is Capitalism on its way out?

I'm sure we are all concerned about the economy. Nothing much has changed for me, except I've lost about 1/3 of the value of 457K account. But I figure that I won't need that money. When I retire with my generous pension, that money will be for my grandchildren's college tuition anyway. Or not-- the pension fund will be bankrupt, and the 457K account worth nothing at all. All my kids will be jobless and homeless, and move in with me, and we will grow our own vegetables in the back yard. We'll Watch that wonderful movie "You can't Take it with You" over and over. Now I'm worried-- should I join the consumer economy big time? Help turn a Red Friday to a Black Friday?

Here's the deal. I pay off my credit card every month. I drive a car for over 10 years; only go to the mall about once every ten years (for entertainment purposes only); I get all my books at the public library; I buy as well as donate to the Goodwill. When people say "where did you get the cute coat", I am proud to say where I got it. When my daughter was little, I once bought her a Gunnie Sax dress at Value Village, and wrapped it up in a Nordstrom's gift box for Christmas. (She figured it out, and thought I was a real scrooge.)

Now I am worried about the economy. Maybe I should go out a buy a new American car. New furniture. Appliances. A big screen TV. Christmas presents for all my distant relatives.

Or is this the end of Capitalism-- as Lenin, or was it Marx said, "one step forward, two steps back"-- Should "the people" own the banks and the means of production.

Help! I don't understand this at all.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Down the Path (to Recovery?)

I casually joined The Compact, to support my niece Larkin's senior project. Sure, I meant it, but I didn't really pause to consider the implications. What would I need to do differently, really?

I've been enjoying how the answers have been presenting themselves: each new purchase or SAO (stuff acquisition opportunity) now must pass through The Compact Filter. This means I have even more little voices in my head, saying, "Do you really need that?" and "Can't you make that?" and "Hey, that's probably on Craigslist!" and so on.

And then, there are the new pick up/put down moments. I'm standing in the store picking up one, two, three things I think I'm about to buy, and then it hits me-- knock it off! Put it back! You can make that instead! You don't need that!

The coolest thing has been the blooming creativity. For example, I need to replace/enlarge my pitiful porch. I had been looking for used lumber on Craigslist, and felt discouraged when finding limited or odd/short pieces. Then - aha! - I thought of how lovely a mosaic of various widths could be, sort of parquet style, especially when resurfaced with a (used) planer. I don't think I would have considered that design if I'd just gone out and plunked down the bucks for a pile of virgin Doug Fir. Plus, after I've been telling people about this thing my niece got me into, a coworker learned that another coworker was offing the 500-600 sq. feet of redwood decking, which she had just replaced with a composite deck. Another coworker in the Ag Dept offered access to the industrial planer if I need it. Then we brainstormed about getting a staff-based "freecycle" type listserve going, so staff could all share their no-longer-loved treasures! Love that networking.

Another example is the beautiful gallon of "cafe latte" colored paint we recently found at our Habitat for Humanity Restore. $8!! We bought it and painted our office that night-- yes, the one I'm sitting in right now. Doesn't it look great? Well, take my word for it. Anyway, I'm just saying I would not have ordered this custom color at full cost, and the "treasure hunt" of finding it new/used made it that much more satisfying.

Finally, my favorite: Larkin and I are lobbying our whole family to celebrate Christmas this year with used, made, and repurposed gifts, experiences, or charitable contributions in others' names. I create intricate drawings, and despite encouragement, have not taken the leap to mass produce them or share it in a useful way. Now, with this challenge, I finally made a plan to get my own home art production going, using mostly used and some new materials, starting with some silk-screening. I will use the products as gifts, and in support of local causes in which I'm involved. It's scary and exciting, and I'm glad I'm finally jumping off.

When I signed on, I didn't know just what I would do to change my ways to embrace this idea. I am really enjoying these unfolding discoveries. So, thanks, Larkin, for pushing me over the edge!


--from Larkin--

Last night I went to a concert at my school: the showcase of all the bands made up of students. All the bands were super good. While I have always been amazed at how high schoolers manage to all look similar even when they don't actually look the same, I was struck by the sameness more than ever before. The show was attended by the very cool people, and I don't mean the blond, preppy, party-girls that everyone is supposed to idolize. I'm talking about the indie-rocker types: the boys who wear skinny jeans and spike their hair, the girls who dye their hair and ride skateboards. These kids who seem to be rebelling against the system, but they all end up looking practically the same.

Today at work I came across a book while shelving in the 600s. It is called Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers, by Alissa Quart. Focusing on not only the consumerism of pop-culture, but the ways teens find to resist it, this book promises to provide many excellent examples of why our movement is so important. While I know many follow the Compact for the environmental factors, that is only part of it. This movement is also about breaking down the overwhelming corporatism of our society.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

a moral economy

--from kate--

I'm reading a good book that, though published in 2003, is very timely. I've checked "The Soul of Capitalism" out from the library 3 times now trying to get it finished!

The author's contention is basically that America reached the goal of capitalism sometime in the '50s, but didn't recognize it as such and continued on an upward assent when we should have, as a nation & as a culture, started tapering off and switching from "achieve & accumulate" mode into "sustain & maintain" mode.

I think that's the back-pedalling a lot of people are doing (not just us Compacters)...trying to take the emphasis off producing, or accumulating, or earning more. Instead, we're reusing, simplifying, requiring less. When I combine the ideas I've been reading about with the ideals of the Compact Project, they're a great fit. If enough of us work to reverse the upward trend of consumerism & material need, perhaps we can bring American society & economics back to a place where we can "live simply so others may simply live." It would seem that with our president-elect poised to promote some fundamental changes in this country, the time could not be more ripe!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Compact for Cleopatra

I have a new granddaughter in Brooklyn whose name is Cleopatra. Cleo's mother bought or borrowed a used baby stroller, changing table, baby swing, baby chair, basinette, even a breast pump, early in her pregnancy. In Brooklyn people don't hang on to stuff long, because they don't have any space in their tiny apartments. She did buy new diapers-- expensive but breathable and very absorbant. I never understood why disposable diapers were more carbon friendly than washable, and I can't imagine why anyone would ever have to buy any new outfits for a baby, since babies outgrow their things so fast and can be passed on in perfect condition to the next baby.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

an addendum

For some reason, Christine's other moniker did not appear when I posted, but you should know that she really truly is the original "One Man Band".

use it all!

My friend Christine, a.k.a. is amazing! She can learn how make or do anything in no time flat then teach you how to do it better not long after. As of late, she has embarked upon a great project of turning crappy old junkmail into beautiful real mail you can't wait to receive. Old fashion magazines? Last years calendars? BAM! They are now stunning envelopes beckoning you to write to old friends, maybe even new ones if you've had your coffee and are feeling frisky! Pesky advertisements cluttering your mailbox, hiding your precious REAL mail? NO MORE! KAPOW! Fantastic collaged postcards with more depth and beauty than any corporate exec could ever have imbued upon the images! I feel so inspired! I have one frog calender transformed into envelopes for my holiday card sales- I was so happy to NOT BUY new envelopes and just make the special size I needed from "junk" around the house!

Man, I want me to write to me!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reclaimed Yarn

--from Larkin--

Hey guys, and thanks Mom, that was a great post!

Well as for me, I've got yarn on the brain. With Christmas coming up I am currently working on two gifts (hint: they're large and soft and lie across your bed) with two more waiting in the wings. And I am pleased to announce that all but one of them is made entirely of used yarn. The best place to get bulk yarn (or random small balls of texture yarn) is the Goodwill. Also at the Goodwill, any thrift shop, or the back of your closet are wonderful, yet horrible, sweaters just begging to be unraveled and re-knitted or crocheted. I recommend looking for bulky sweaters for this "reclaiming," though thin yarn can be very interesting to work with as well.

And while I must go now, so as to do math homework, I shall return! Meanwhile, I welcome all members to write beautiful things in my absence.

Happy Halloween, one and all!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Goodbye, cable TV!

--from Kate--
Yeah, so Larkin roped me in. Now it's time to put my fingers where my mouth is (huh?) and write about my experiences thus far joining the Compact Project.

Anyone who knows me knows that I wasn't really that far from making this leap. I'm a believer in reusing goods that still have life in them, and I've run my household in that way ever since I've had one to run. I can thank my mom for instilling much of that ethic, I'm sure. Plus I find I can be much more creative in fashion & decor when I'm not restricted by the walls of each store. It's all at the goodwill/garage sale/2nd hand shop. They're like the melting pots of consumerism. Just one example? Our daily dishware collection is all fine china. But each plate, saucer, and bowl is different from the other. Whenever I need new dishes, it's simple & inexpensive to add to the collection. And all the patterns are so pretty & varied. But I've been doing that for years. What's changed since joining?

Hmmm...I've opted to give experiences instead of goods for a couple of birthday gifts. Another difference is when I had to buy something new recently. I put a great deal more consideration into the purchase than I otherwise would have. I bought it as a result of the simplifying I'm trying to do...that "calm-pact" part of the effort. After a long period of waiting for the other decision-maker in my home to think about it, we chose to discontinue our cable tv service. The cable appeared 2 years ago, as it's done for one month every 4 years so that we could watch the World Cup before discreetly going away. Until 2006, when, for reasons that aren't pertinent to this blog, it didn't go away.

Back to the purchase though, since this cable business has been in the works for a good while. Our phone service was bundled with the cable, so we eliminated our land line, too. We have cell phones, and I decided to subscribe to Skype so that we can make free calls from our computer to anywhere in N America. For this I needed a microphone, and that's the purchase I made. Since by then I had joined the Compact, I considered buying used, but given how inexpensive they are, I figured it was an unreasonable risk to buy something non-returnable. See? I applied the fair & reasonable rule that Larkin outlined in one of her posts! I guess simplifying can mean dealing with some complications at the outset to achieve the end.

I'm proud of Larkin for choosing this as her senior project; it's a brave experiment for any American, but perhaps especially a teen. If anyone else is willing to give this a try, email Larkin. All who join are given writing capability on this blog, and are encouraged to share their own experiences with keeping to the guidelines of the Compact. Even a short paragraph on occasion is of great help to Larkin, and certainly of interest to us all!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Old to New

--from Larkin--

Last Friday there was no school, so I took a trip to the Ballard neighborhood Goodwill . I must say, I do like thrift stores.

One of the sweaters I bought, a housecoat style, didn't have any buttons or a clasp. So when I got home, I broke out the sculpey clay and made a shawl pin like the ones I have seen in many yarn stores. The store-bought ones are always so expensive, but here is one very simple, very cost efficient pin on my "new" sweater.

Not content with stopping at just one pin, I was able to make many other sculpey creations, so my Christmas presents are officially underway! I also found 3 bags of different yarns, so those will undoubtedly end up as someones knitted gifts.

Meanwhile, I'd like to welcome my mom, Kate, and our friend over in Spokane, Mark. Both have joined The Compact Project and have been given blogging rights here. Look for posts coming soon from them, as well as Tina and Beth.

Thanks for joining me, everyone. Maybe your decisions will inspire other friends and family to make this same commitment. Come's fun and challenging!

Friday, October 3, 2008

I am not alone!

--from Larkin--

Responses to my initial email are coming in, and what responses they are! I already have two people who have accepted the challenge to join me in opting out of the consumer loop. I want to give a warm welcome to Beth and Tina, who have each been given blogging rights here. We can all look forward to entries from them very soon. Thanks for joining me!

If you'd like to get in on this fun and challenging experiment, it's not too late! Just because you can't buy new goods, doesn't mean you can't get your retail fix. Think second hand and vintage shops. Think local artisans. Think sewing and crafty things. Think barter/trade.

And you can still buy new experiences: restaurants, shows, trips. Recently, rather than buying my bff a "thing" for her birthday, I took her out for sushi. We had a great time together, and that time was more fun and valuable than anything else I could have given her.

If anyone out there is thinking that you could almost try this experiment, except that there are times when you just have to purchase can still join! When there is no other option but buying new (for a car part or special hiking gear or whatever), you just have to apply the reasonable rule. Do I really need to have this? Is there any reasonable way to get it used, or can I maybe barter for it? The main thing is that you think it through, consider all the possibilities, and then make an informed, intentional choice.

Anyway, thanks for all the emails of support and encouragement. I'm still hoping my mom will join this experiment, as she has been a strong supporter of this effort all along. Come on, mom! You almost never buy new stuff anyway--it would be easy for you! : )

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Year of the Compact

I am beginning the Compact on September 3rd, the first day of my final year of high school, as my senior project.

The Compact is a movement which began a few years ago in San Francisco. The official goals are:

1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global, environmental, and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc.

2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er)

3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

I am doing this in a personal effort to fight the environmental and social effects of mass production and corporatization. By agreeing to this pact, I vow to not buy anything new for a year.

There are, of course, exceptions, such as food, hygiene products, and underwear...because who really wants to buy those things used? When it is impossible not to purchase new, apply the fair and reasonable standard. Also, for those who are creatively inclined, materials to make things (fabric, yarn, art supplies, etc.) may be purchased new. And in those cases, it is encouraged to shop locally from small businesses whenever possible.

Throughout my senior year, I will be blogging on my progress and findings in various subject areas (fashion, entertainment, required school books, etc.). Part of my experiment here, though, is to encourage others to join The Compact with me and blog their findings as well. Those interested in joining me or learning more are welcome to email me at