Triumph of the Weeds

Personal Audit II

Here is my personal audit for the past year. I’m going to go into detail about each of these categories in future posts, so I’ll be brief for now.

Health and Hygiene
I switched from disposable to non-disposable options for several health and hygiene items (kleenex–>handkerchiefs, acne pads–>muslin facial cloths and soap, q-tips–>ear syringe (with hydrogen peroxide, water, and rubbing alcohol), tampons and pads–>diva cup). Of the disposables I couldn’t get rid of, I switched to multipurpose products when I could, like Doctor Bronner’s soap which replaces body soap, hand soap, face soap, shampoo, toothpaste, as well as several household cleaning products (more on that later) and vaseline to replace blistex, neosporin, hydrocortisone cream, and rash cream. I started using crystal deodorant which reportedly lasts far far longer than the regular kind; it also doesn’t contain the aluminum chlorohydrates that regular deodorants do. I started using a neti pot, which has done wonders for keeping my nose clear; it’s also supposed to reduce the incidence of colds, but I haven’t been using it long enough to see if that’s true. Other items I may not have replaced yet, but I’ve done some research on them and am contemplating what to do about them.

Hair Dying
I’ve streamed lined this process, replacing the disposable gloves with reusable rubber gloves, wrapping my head only with tin foil (which I later washed and reused) and the t-shirt, and leaving out the plastic bags. I’m also going to skip the paper neckbands.

Not much change here, except since I started using the neti pot, I’ve needed my cold supplies (dayquil, coldeeze, airborne, and visine) an awful lot less. Despite the reports of birth control hormones polluting the water, I’m not willing to give up the nuvaring yet. I’ve also done some some preliminary research about herbal remedies and alternative medicine.

Cleaning Supplies
Huge strides were made in this area this year. I’ve started using Clean House, Clean Planet as a guide, so I’ve replaced my old cleaning products with vinegar, baking soda, Dr. Bronner’s, club soda, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, and salt. I’ve started using recycled, unbleached toilet paper and paper towels; I’ve also reduced the number of paper towels I use by opting for washable rags when I can, and using salad tongs and a scrubbie brush for cleaning up pet messes instead. I’ve reduced the amount of toilet paper I use by using cloth wipes for #1. I also switched from disposable dusters to dusting gloves and from disposable lint brush to a reusable one. I still need to find an alternative to disposable mop pads (perhaps a mop pad that can be laundered and reused) and laundry stain stick (maybe hydrogen peroxide, if I can find a safe container to keep in my purse).

Cat Supplies
I changed my cat from Purina to Newman’s Own Organic brand. I figured that if I was changing my own eating habits, it was only right that I do the same for my cat. When I run out of processed cat treats, I’m going to start using canned salmon instead. Pine litter was already a good choice, so no changes needed there. Cat toothpaste I probably won’t change, because the experts are pretty adamant about no substitutes being made. I’ve looked into non-toxic anti-chew sprays, but I haven’t made one yet.

Office Supplies
This area wasn’t a high priority this year, because nothing I had needed replacing. I intend to start buying recycled paper products when the supplies I have run out. I also need to make a better effort conserving paper. I’ve read that’s it’s possible to refill printer cartridges, but I’ve also read that that can be really messy and not very effective, so I’m just going to continue recycling the used ones for now. Rubbing alcohol and a lint free cloth is supposed to be OK for cleaning computer screens but I haven’t tried it myself. I plan to buy a Giottos AA1900 Large Rocket Blaster to replace the canned air I’ve been using once it runs out. I’m not sure what to do about pens/pencils, tape of all sorts, staples, labels, and paste. I also need to figure out how to stop loosing so many pens, cause otherwise buying “green” ones won’t make a bit of difference.

Misc Kitchen/Household Supplies
I switched from regular light bulbs to CFLs, as has everyone else by now. I plan to get usb rechargeable batteries when I run out of the batteries I have. In the kitchen, I stopped using paper napkins, opting to use a handkerchief instead. I’ve continued to reuse plastic baggies as much as I can. There are some reusable options that I have yet to explore, though, and I’ve heard that there are waxed paper baggies to replace the plastic ones should they run out. I’ve opted to replace saran wrap with tin foil when I can and have looked into alternatives like corn husks (or other leaves) for wrapping food. I’ve reused tin foil as much as I can, and bought a silicone baking sheet to cut down even more.

Utility Use
I’ve gained a much greater awareness of my utility use over the past year. I’ve started to air dry my laundry, unplug my electronics when I’m not using them, and take military showers. I also developed a very rudimentary grey water system, catching shower and sink water in order to flush the toilet. When I was living in my own apartment, I didn’t use heat or ac unless I absolutely couldn’t stand it and let the toilet “mellow.” Since I’ve moved into a town house with 2 other girls, I have less control over the utility use, so I can’t do those things, but I’ve been doing the best I can. Since the water is metered in the townhouse, it’s been cost effective enough for me to buy a low flow showerhead. I’ve also covered the windows in my room this winter, but I don’t know how much that’s going to cut down on the gas usage.

This area was not a high priority for me this year, mostly because I haven’t had to replace any of my clothes. I’ve looked into more sustainable clothing options and it looks like they are very expensive and difficult to find. There are also so many factors involved in the production of clothes that it’s a real challenge to determine whether clothing is completely sustainably made. For now, I’m trying to make the clothes I have last as long as I can, and plan to buy clothes second hand when things need replacing. I also intend to learn how to mend clothes as well as make socks and sweaters and such by hand.

Travel and Transportation
The gas crisis meant that I drove less this year than I normally do. I didn’t take any RoadTrips, worked from home when I could and basically didn’t drive unless I absolutely had to. I plan to buy a bike as soon as I can afford it. I’d like to use public transit and Amtrak more, but they usually are incredibly inconvenient or wouldn’t take me where I want to go.

I moved from one suburb to another this year (and I will be moving again in the fall) and I’m still renting, so nothing much changed in this regard.

Waste Production
By switching to reusables and buying fewer packaged foods, I’ve significantly reduced the amount of wasted I’ve produced. I also got more savvy about repurposing my trash items before throwing them out. I started composting, so most of my food scraps, paper, vacuum dust etc were also eliminated from my garbage.

I made vast improvements in this realm, switching from packaged foods and fast food/take out to home cooked foods. I started switching to local and organic rather than conventional foods and started eating more whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. I also vastly reduced the amount of meat I ate, though that was mostly because of economics. In the next year, I intend to start integrate eating pasture raised meat back into my diet though I will probably continue to consume less meat as I have in the past. I’ve started experimenting in making basics from scratch like yogurt and bread.

I lost about 50 pounds this year and my BMI is now down to 32. I’m technically still obese though. I haven’t had another doctors appointment yet, so I don’t now if any of my other stats have changed.

Since changing the type of products that I use, I’ve found that 90% of the inventory of most stores hold nothing of interest to me anymore. Also, I have to shop less for household goods now that I’ve switched to reusables. I’ve been shopping most at the farmer’s market, Whole Foods, natural health food stores, REI, and the thrift stores.

I’ve moved from Greenville to Raleigh. Even though this is also temporary, I’ve made attempts to become more involved in the community by attending events at REI, Whole Foods, and the library. I’m also getting to know and hang out with my roommates a bit.


Personal Audit I

Here is a breakdown of my personal habits and commonly used items at the start of the year, before I decided to change. This is just to see where I was starting this journey from and to later use as a frame of reference to see how far I’ve come.

*Health and Hygiene
-Acne pads
-Mouthwash strips
-Body soap
-Diaper rash cream
-Liquid Bandage
-Bug spray
-Foot lotion
-Tampons and pads
-Rubbing alcohol
-Hydrogen peroxide

*Hair Dying Supplies:
-Disposable gloves
-Paper neckband


Cleaning Supplies:
-Disposable floor mops pads
-Plug in air freshener
-Spray air freshener
-Laundry stain stick
-Laundry spot cleaner
-Laundry detergent
-Disposable Lint brush
-Dish washer detergent
-Paper towels
-Toilet paper
-Toilet cleaner
-All purpose cleaner
-Disposable dusters

Cat Supplies
-Anti chew spray
-Cat toothpaste
-Cat litter
-Cat food
-Cat treats

Office Supplies
-Canned Air
-Cleaning Wipes for computer
-Printer ink
-Paper Clips
-Thumb tacks
-Scotch tape
-Duct tape
-Packing tape

Misc Household Supplies
-Light bulbs

Kitchen Supplies
-Plastic baggies
-Saran wrap
-Tin foil

Utility Use
-Water: my water’s not metered, so I’m not sure exactly how much water I’ve used in the past, but according to the USGS, the average American uses 80-100 gal/day.
-Electricity: According to my utility bill, I averaged using 9 kwhr/day.

Note: I don’t have a washer and dryer so I use a laundry mat (1 load/week), so my utility bill and water use don’t reflect that.

I’m most comfortable in t-shirts and jeans, so that’s usually what I ended up wearing day in and day out, except when circumstances dictate otherwise. Most of my clothes come from Walmart; my fancier clothes I bought in places like Lane Bryant or department stores. Shoes-wise, I’ve got sneakers, Crocs (Birkenstock before), flats and heels. And a pair of combat boots.

Travel and Transportation
I’ve got a Toyota Corolla, which has about the best mileage around for a regular car. On average, I drive around 10-20 miles per day to get to work/school and I get about 25 miles/gal in town, 37 miles/gal on the interstates. I’m an avid traveler, both by car and by plane (though that’s been curtailed a lot due to the post 9/11 restrictions). I’d say that I use approximately 1 gal a day to account for the occasional longer trip.

Growing up, my family lived in various houses in various suburbs. In high school and college, I lived in the dorms, and since graduating, I’ve lived in apartments, also in the suburbs. My ability to make changes to my apartment is naturally very limited and my choice of a new apartment tends to be dictated by location and price, not sustainable building or maintenance practices.

Waste Production
I’ve done the basic reduce, reuse, recycle thing since it became in vogue in the early 90s. I’ve also practiced re-purposing, though not as much as my mother, grandmother, or great grandmother. Like everyone else in my family, I suffer from a tendency to be a pack rat, acquiring things (particularly freebies) I turn out not to need and which later need to be disposed of.

Again, I didn’t calculate the amount of trash that I was producing, but according to the Clean Air Council, the average American produces
4.39 pounds of trash/day.


I hate to cook, so I’ve relied on packaged foods, easy mixes, fast food, and take out as much as possible. I’ve also usually opted for low fat and low calorie versions. I’m a regular old omnivore; I tried on numerous occasions to give up meat, but discovered that I loved it too much to do so. On the brighter side, I think I’ve probably consumed slightly less soda and junk food and slightly more fruits and vegetables than the average American, though that’s not saying much.

(As of January of this year) I’ve got a BMI of 40, which falls into the obese (cut off is 30), though fortunately, I’ve never looked like I weighed as much as I do. I’ve never had any major health problems, though my blood pressure and blood glucose level are borderline.

I hate shopping with a passion, but when I do, I usually go to Walmart as a default. In general, I’ve tended to prefer big name stores to smaller ones, and aside from the big purchase items, primarily used price and then quality to guide purchasing decisions.

I have moved around a fair amount in my life and I anticipating making several more moves before settling down (maybe), and for this reason, I’ve tended not to feel a real connection with the communities that I’m a part of (with the exception of high school and college, which are by nature transient). As a result, I’ve been shamefully uninformed about local politics and the communities I’ve lived in in general.