Crappy Month and Wasteful Repairs.

Boy did we have a crappy, wasteful month. People say “shit happens”, but a whole truck load fell on us these past few weeks. Not a pretty picture, I realize ;).

It all started on a Thursday evening.

After a long day of work and dinner time fast approaching, I had been faced with a practically empty refrigerator (I grocery shop on Fridays), and challenged once again to make dinner with the few bits scattered in the refrigerator. I had managed to make the best of the one tomato, chunk of cheese, lonely egg and last cup of flour - and had proudly put together a tomato quiche. (These are my proudest moments in the kitchen: Making something out of “nothing”. I even surprise myself sometimes). But we never not got to savor the pretty quiche that night... My gas range would not turn on. I tried resetting its power, but in vain. I would have to wait until the next morning for further repair action (the service center being closed for the day of course). So there we were: Hungry, kids showered and in PJ's, Scott pacing, 7:30pm and nothing on the table.

Confronted with six hungry desperate eyes, asking “What's for dinner?”, I called in for my 1st takeout pizza ever (I am 36 years old by the way and have been avoiding takeouts, since I started home cooking 18 years ago). I felt all goofy on the phone, not knowing the protocols of ordering a pizza (if there are such things), but I did not forget to request “no Lilliputian table” (you know the white plastic piece in the middle of the pizza to keep the box top from sticking to your toppings). Within 20 minutes the extra large pizza and its extra large box crossed the Zero Waste Home's threshold. Gasp.

Wait! Don't leave the blog yet. While we were gone this summer, our town finally started City Compost (the best "sustainable" thing that has happen to our town since we moved here three years ago). We are now able to compost our meat, fish bones, butter wrappers... and the emergency pizza box. Not that I condone the compostable cardboard takeout container, which in our case only had a useful life of literally 5 minutes (ugh)...

The next morning, I called the service center for the range. After a few questions, they recommended that I call in a repairman. I did. But since labor day weekend was about to start, the repairman could only come on Tuesday.

A few BBQ, salads, and sandwiches later, came Tuesday with the repairman. Then, Wednesday with two repairmen, Thursday with a handyman, Friday with a new repairman, another stove-free weekend, and Monday with a plumber. And on top of all expensive and unexpected gas repair bills, a whole lot of trash: the repairman's takeout soda cup and straw, the repair parts packaging, the broken pieces... And the old gas pipes. Did those get recycled? I did not even ask, too frazzled and mad at our original contractor for screwing up the oven's installation in the first place.

It took a week and a half to get the oven up and running again. And when we thought we were done with repairs, more (completely un-related) problems came... It's as if we had been cursed by the unavoidable powers of Trash Evil.

- Our kitchen sink backed up and in spite of our unclogging efforts, all the original piping from the sink to the sewer had to be replaced. Repair: New copper piping outside, and new ABS piping under the house, glue, caulking, paint and parts... Landfill: Completely clogged metal piping (empty caulking tube is a #2 and went into the recycling)

- Our entertainment center fan stopped working, and without it our sound system is unusable (it gets too hot in its enclosed space under our stairs). Repair: New fan in a cardboard box and plastic packaging. Landfill: Fan parts (I hope to recycle the motor at an e-waste station).

- A corner of our marble counter broke off! Repair: Epoxy putty. Landfill: Double plastic packaging of epoxy putty (packaging within packaging).

- Our hair trimmer for our DYI haircuts broke. Repair: New hair trimmer in cardboard box. Landfill: Plastic parts of hair trimmer (will take the motor to the e-cycling also).

- Then the plastic casing of Scott's beard trimmer broke (No seriously, the hair trimmer just went out - and now the beard trimmer!). Repair: New beard trimmer. Landfill: Plastic part of trimmer and plastic packaging of trimmer (will take the trimmer motor to e-cycling also).

- We noticed our dining chairs scratching the hard wood floors, they needed new pads. Repair: Felt pads on chair bottoms. Landfill: Packaging of felt pads (FYI - The next day I found some in bulk. Bummer!)

- One light bulb went out, then another, and another: that's three light bulbs in one month (and I am trying not to be paranoid here). Repair: Three specialty light bulbs (two in plastic packaging, one in cardboard). Landfill: Three light bulbs and two plastic packages.

- We noticed that some paint had bubbled up on the side of the house. Repair: Sand and paint the siding before the rainy season. Landfill: Sand paper and paint roller.

- I dropped my all purpose shears, the plastic handle completely shattered. Repair: Get a new sturdier pair of shears. Landfill: The broken shears (I could not get the metal off the plastic to recycle the metal).

- We got a flat on a practically new tire, sometimes they are repairable, in this case (because of the location of the puncture on the side of the tire) it was not. Repair: New tire (the tire shop said that they would recycle our old tire...) Landfill: The greasy hand rag (a piece of retired tee-shirt) we used in changing the tire.

- Our remote control ran out of battery (the last disposable batteries we had). Repair: A new pack of AAA rechargeable batteries. Landfill: Plastic packaging of new batteries.

When people now ask me what the packaging the hardest to avoid in a Zero Waste Home is, my answer is: Hands down, home repairs. No doubt about it.

Hardware stores might have some good bulk items: Loose screws by the ounce, loose plumbing parts, irrigation parts, felt pads, cable by the foot, all scattered in different stores around town (oh, do I wish there were all in one place). But they also have some of the worse packaging. Come on Ace and Home Depot, can't you ask your suppliers for alternatives to the plastic packaging everywhere? Do felt pads, batteries, CFL's, and a single tiny junction box cap need to be displayed in this frustratingly-hard-to-open hard shell plastic?

Here's to a better month ahead!