I see a lot of appliances on the curbside and I know there are a number of reasons for this. Appliances are made much cheaper than they used to be. They are often designed with a lifespan as short as 10 years and can break down even sooner. The cost to diagnose and repair an issue can be so high in terms of parts and labour that people are inclined to purchase new than repair. The good news is that we can fix appliances ourselves (this requires a bit of bravery and some technical skill in operating basic hand tools and practicing safety).
I once had a relatively new washing machine that stopped pumping. It was taking Sears an unreasonable amount of time to get to my house to do the repair, so I fixed it myself for free. The problem turned out to be a quarter stuck in the intake of the pump, which I found by disconnecting the hose. I removed the quarter and the unit was back in service again.
A more recent washing machine had stopped supplying hot and mixed-temperature water. I diagnosed and fixed the problem using YouTube videos (these videos are terrific for boosting confidence and overcoming fear). In this situation, the hot water intake valve had ceased which normally opens to let hot water in. Interestingly, the cause of the problem was the degradation of cheap connection hoses with fittings made of steel rather than brass. Iron filings had clogged the intake screen. I was able to clean out the screen but the intake valve (a solenoid) was no longer operational. I sourced a replacement mixing valve assembly for $100.00 (see photo below) and bought some better quality hoses for another $50.00. My washing machine has been working ever since!
In the Toronto, Canada area where I live, appliance parts can be sourced from “Reliable Parts” and similar warehouses. I’ve saved thousands of dollars sourcing parts from “Pool & Hot Tub Depot” of London, Ontario and doing my own repairs on my hot tub. I’ve sourced replacement parts for my barbecue from “Grill Spot”, also here in Canada. I’ve had recent success with a US supplier called “Repair Clinic'' for a lawn mower part which crossed the border and arrived at my doorstep in two days (they also supply parts for major appliances). Repair Clinic has a good blog article of their own on Appliance Repair. Here is a link:
We live in times when climate change is on the news several times each week. We hear about the climate emergency and the impending doom with the threat of floods. We see an increasing number of weather events and catastrophic damage. We pat ourselves on the back for building new environmentally friendly skyscrapers, while failing to see them multiply. We burn fossil fuel at an ever-escalating rate and come up with creative ways to penalize consumers for carbon dioxide emissions through tax mechanisms without ever actually reducing emissions. And all the while, we are so focused on the futility of “carbon”, that we are distracted and completely failing as a society to improve on some of the more manageable environmental challenges. Among these is recycling and waste reduction.
I took a pic of the baby food section in the grocery store yesterday. There is a small selection of baby food in recyclable jars, but look at the massive selection in mixed-material pouches which we have absolutely no program in place to recycle. What was wrong with the jars? Oh, I forgot, they are heavier, so more carbon dioxide in transportation and shipping cost. But these are going directly to landfill! I also see milk and juice containers with a plastic spout rather than the traditional cardboard spout that could be formed by the consumer. Mixed-material containers are more difficult to recycle and also generate plastic waste.
As consumers, it may feel as if we don’t have much of a choice when we look on the store shelves. However, we can write to companies who are creating problems for us. We can do an internet search and figure out who the CEO is. We can also write to elected government officials and let them know how we feel. This can help guide policy making. Simple policies enacted by our government can help correct packaging problems and environmental outcomes. A well-worded letter goes a long way.
What if every consumer took one hour to write a letter about a product that is going in the wrong direction in terms of its packaging? In the past, I’ve written to Colgate-Palmolive about their non-recyclable deodorant applicators. They brushed me off with a reply explaining how awesome they are and already doing everything they can. However, I brought the issue to their attention at least and hopefully got them thinking about it.
I’m going to write to “Personnelle Baby” and “Baby Gourmet” to complain about their baby food packaging. “Mott’s” is another company that has switched to the non-recyclable pouches in the adult food isles and will get a similar letter from me. Note that “Heinz” is the only baby food product on the store shelf with traditional recyclable packaging. WTG Heinz! Sadly, Heinz’ loss of market share on this shelf, in comparison to products which are exasperating an environmental problem, is astounding and should be alarming to everyone.
Of course, to some extent, the other power we can exercise as consumers is the ability to refuse to buy products with problematic packaging.
I joined a poetry group on Facebook a while back and posted the occasional poem. Sometimes I’d get a “like”, and if I was lucky, maybe even two. Still, I enjoyed reading peoples' posts, and was inspired to write more of my own poetry. While most people POST poetry, some people REQUEST poetry to soothe an aching heart. Sometimes it is for a bad dumping; other times for the loss of a loved one. The people in the group usually respond with something comforting. . .
One day a fellow posted a note that said, “Does anyone have a poem for Palestine?” A guy responded with a snide comment suggesting that "Palestinians are terrorists”. Then another guy quickly followed with an extremely hurtful anti-Palestinian poem with some effort put into the rhyming couplets. I felt the viciousness of the stab through my own heart. I jumped in and politely told both responders what I thought of their comments. Of course, the individuals responded back, telling me to chill and piss-off. I reported the incident to the group administrator, but it was too late. Sadly, the individual left the group.
I couldn’t believe the ignorance of the one responder, and the anger and seething hatred of the second, along with the blatant prejudice of both of them on a POETRY page that is supposed to be a SAFE place for everyone. Why are these two pricks so quick to attack a fellow when all he wanted was a poem for his people? So I started thinking: these are two extremely ignorant, arrogant, angry, racist people. But what about the rest of us? How have our views been shaped and how do we see Palestinians and Palestine?
Does anyone love Adam Sandler as I do? He is hilarious and entertaining. Certainly an easy guy to love. I was watching his film “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” a while back and thought about the imagery being used and the bend being imposed on the audience. The Israel-Palestine conflict is used in a way that is uncomfortably funny, but: are the scenes TRULY funny if we THINK for a moment about them? Maybe movies like this shape how we think about people we don’t really know. Maybe we are being exposed to biases disguised as comedy and portrayed as fact. We are being channeled to one side of thinking. This isn’t just about ONE MOVIE either; it is many movies. And it is the way stories have been related to us in Canada and the USA through television shows and the news media for decades. We are so infected with a one-sided view that we can't see it is the Palestinians who are being terrorized and violated, and not a single person in the world is doing ANYTHING to peacefully stop it...
I have since come to know the individual who was asking for a “Poem for Palestine”. He is a young fellow, studying at a university in Gaza when he can scrape together enough money to attend. He needs to come up with $500.00 (US equivalent) for tuition and is lucky to make $5.00 in one day helping his friend with a construction project. He is confined within the Israeli fence around Gaza and often feels depressed with the living conditions there. Though he loves Gaza and his people, he feels imprisoned with absolutely no opportunity, no future to look forward to, and no hope for improvement. He would like to travel the world beyond Gaza and feel free. He wants to be an actor someday.
He is a young man with hopes and dreams like all of us and does not deserve to be caged indefinitely in Gaza, or rudely shunned by a couple of ignorant fucks on a poetry page - just because he is Palestinian. Instead he should be proud to be Palestinian and have the world's support. I am proud of him for using art to lift the spirits of his people in terrible times.
What a pain in the ass when plastic buckles snap! These cheap little buckles are so convenient when they work, but render an item useless when they break (i.e. a knapsack, belt buckle, etc.). I wish someone would come up with a better design or a different type of plastic so they last longer. Today I noticed the buckle on my dog's "gentle leader" broke. I'm sure it was because of the cold temperature. This was a disaster because without the gentle leader, he could easily pull a locomotive from Mississauga to Toronto without even trying. And if he were to see a squirrel, he could lurch forward with enough force to pull my arm off. Anyway here is a fast fix. I cut the broken plastic buckle off and replaced it with a steel quick link which I bought as a pack at the dollar store.
When living paycheck to paycheck, there are strategies that can help minimize debt. As an environmental guy, I also want to reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose whenever I can. Re-use stores such as Value Village, Thrift Shop, and Goodwill are helpful for clothing and other needful things, keeping money in the wallet and fill out of landfill. It is also helpful to be able to fix things. Too many times I have seen bicycles, for example, on the curbside for the sake of someone's inability to repair (or pay for the repair) of a flat tire.
In the photo below I have shown a Swifter which at first seemed broken beyond repair. I wrapped an interior plastic tube (supplied with the Swifter for aesthetics) with packing tape to make it snug against the inside walls and reinforce the broken joint. Then I glued the joint and wrapped the exterior with Technical Tape. For me, Technical Tape is the new “MacGyver” go-to when duct tape isn’t adequate or appropriate.
A while back I fixed a few tears in my BBQ cover with Technical Tape. I also sewed on new Velcro straps to replace the old ones that had torn off. This cover may be due for replacement soon but I’ve been able to get another few years out of it and I’ll keep extending its life as long as I can.
Lastly, I seem to accumulate a lot of Zip-lock type bags. These are expensive! So I wash and reuse them. I may not necessarily want to use them for food again, but they are great for organizing hardware, keeping screws and spare parts together.
I set up bins in my main bathroom to try to divert even more material from landfill than in my kitchen alone. Bathroom recyclables typically include cardboard toilet tissue rolls, cardboard containers (i.e. for soap, toothpaste, Kleenex, etc.) and plastic containers stamped with a recognized recycle symbol (i.e. spent shampoo bottles, and other products). The organic bin is for discarded tissue. Pretty much everything else is some sort of waste for which we do not have diversion programs in place. I call this the “Landfill” bin as a reminder of where the material is going if I can’t separate it for diversion. I hope that product suppliers are motivated to continue engineering containers and applicators to facilitate recycling.