Shredded Paper Lowers Its Recycling Potential.

Today I read that shredding paper shortens its fibers and renders it useful for creating toilet paper but not other papers like printer paper. See this link for a reference on shredded paper.

I developed the habit of shredding everything in my office including envelopes. I would then dutifully dump it into a brown paper grocery bag and walk it to the paper recycling bin. The new protocol will be to only shred what is confidential. I’m not even sure that shredded paper does more harm than good. I want to avoid what the NY Times called “aspirational recycling” where you put it in the bin and hope it is either recyclable or some person or machine will remove it if it isn’t. Because of purity standards, contamination can lead to rejection of and landfilling of entire batches of recycled goods.

This article Chinese Paper Contamination says that Chinese standards are now .5 percent contaminated before rejection. So, throwing in food or plastic or pizza boxes is going to render all the recycling as landfill. Perhaps shredded paper will add to that problem. Plastic coated coffee cups, milk containers coated with wax or plastic, juice boxes unfortunately definitely will contaminate the batch.

Zero-waste Lifestyle – First Steps: Use your own cup and save 10 cents at Starbucks

I recently discovered Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home.  I ordered the book thru the library (of course) and have been reading her blog Zero Waste Home and watched some of the many videos related to this concept on Youtube.  I took the first small step today by bringing my Yeti cup.  I had read that coffee cups are not recyclable because they have both plastic and paper.


It was a pleasant surprise when I saw that I got ten cents off for bringing my own cup.  I look at this as an all-around win.  I get the coffee, get the savings, don’t throw out a cup into a landfill, and have a better container to drink my coffee in.  It stays hot longer.  It transports more easily.

In other small steps –

  • I unplugged the small refrigerator in the basement.  It contains some soda, but I really don’t drink soda and certainly don’t need to use the energy to cool it.  If I want to drink something I can walk up a flight of stairs and get water.
  • I raised the humidity level on the dehumidifier from 35 to 50 which should still inhibit mold growth but use less energy.
  • I measured the water temperature in my hot water heater.  It was 125.  120 F should be enough to kill Legionella without wasting energy or risking scalds.
  • I began to use the Mason Jars to store food instead of in essentially open bags.  I hope that will preserve it (hazelnuts) and lead to less waste.
  • The past couple of days I’ve been using plastic utensils that go into the dishwasher for my lunch at work.  I’ve also been bringing hankies instead of using paper napkins and today I retrieved my two bandanas from the storage area to use for this purpose.

I found the concept of waste reduction appealing.  Lately, with the political chaos, I’ve felt like things were more out of control than usual and I felt that if I could reduce my own use, carbon footprint, and waste production I was taking at least some small but tangible step towards regaining control.

I don’t plan to be “zero-waste” and I think few people will.  I do plan though to be more aware of what I use and what I discard.

A more scientific way to estimate calories and lose weight

Over the past 5 days I lost 1.1 pounds. The reason I find this exciting is that I finally developed a rational plan to determine how much I should eat.

First I looked up my resting energy from Apple Health. It averages 1900 calories

Then I subtracted 500 which should give me a weight loss of 1 pound a week. That is 1400 calories per day

Then I look at my active calories on the health app. I add 1/2 the calories it lists. I’ve always found that if I eat back my calories burned I don’t lose weight even if I subtract 500 per day.

For example today I’ve burned 673 so I can add 335. If I want to splurge I make myself walk or run twice the calories it puts me over. This not only lets me splurge without guilt but also makes me think twice about doing it. On Tuesday I had to walk 5 Km to eat an ice cream sandwich

I use Happy Scale to track my weight using the 10-day moving average.

So far it’s been accurate. I don’t mind restraint but restraint without results was demoralizing.

My First Full Week of Bicyclomuting

I present my observations and impressions about bicycle commuting in the south hills of Pittsburgh PA.

I commuted from my house to my office and back including three side trips to various stores using my 1980’s Cannondale for a full week.  I was lucky enough to miss all the heavy rain though I biked in some drizzle.  Bicycling around the South Hills of Pittsburgh isn’t the easiest commute.  The hills really are something to contend with.  I found I either was in my lowest or highest gear almost all the time.  Literally only about 25% of the trip could remotely be considered level.  Here are my observations:

  1. The laws of physics simply do not apply:
    1. Despite what scientists have told us, it is possible to ride uphill in both directions.
    2. You become invisible to most motorists.  Drivers can be looking right at you when you have the right of way.  You can make direct eye contact and enter the intersection.  They will then begin to turn directly into you.  Only then do you become visible again.  At that point they will have an involuntary reaction of depressing their horn.  For a really long time.
    3. Humans in Pittsburgh that are somehow able to see you will find you irresistibly annoying.  Many people will yell, point at you as if they have never seen a bicycle and then display their middle finger to you.  You do not need to actually be doing anything to elicit this response.  Your mere existence seems to elicit hate hormones.
  2. It is possible to avoid almost every major road if you are willing to ride longer and climb more.  That was a tradeoff I was happy to make.  My drive to work is 1.2 miles but my bicycle commute is 2.2.  Even so, my normal commute is 17 minutes and cycling added only 5 minutes onto the time.
  3. Fenders are mandatory and not an option.  On the day of drizzle I was lucky enough to be wearing a rain slicker and that absorbed the worst of the road spray.

I must admit that the experience was an overall positive even despite the caveats above.  Most drivers are beyond courteous.  They gave me a wide berth and they cheerfully waved me by, even when they didn’t have to.  I felt like I saw things I usually miss on the way.  I felt more awake both before and after work.  I became more mindful of my activities before and after work.  I had to plan my trips and minimize unnecessary trips.