Friday, February 01, 2008

February Challenge -- Waste Not Want Not

Modern Sculptural Art? -- salvaged spiral notebook wire, awaiting it's next useful application

"When we throw something away, what does 'away' mean? There's no such thing as 'away.' "

This little nugget of wisdom was brought to you by a 35 year old Berkely, CA resident, Ari Derfel, who decided to save the flotsam and jetsam of his life for one full year. These were my sentiments exactly when it came time to pack up and move house last year. I couldn’t just throw stuff away. My real estate agent, the sweetheart that he is, showed understanding but was unaccustomed to anyone turning away the welcoming arms of the 1-800-Got-Junk army -- who advertise themselves as the equivalent of a full-service trash dumpster.

Instead I invested the time and energy to donate to charities and to drop off re-usable materials for recycling.

How did we accumulate so much junk? A friend confided that she was surprised that my husband and I could have accumulated so much, since we aren’t really the “type” to acquire a lot of things. While this is true, we have, over the years, inherited possessions and hand-me-downs from family members, and we are also reluctant to dispose of anything that MAY prove useful one day. Lastly we are wickedly sentimental. If you bought me something atrocious that I really hated, I would probably still have that item several years later. In a box. In the basement. It’s labeled “sentimental hogwash” if you really must know.

What amazes me is that so many of these items that I considered absolute junk sold very well at the garage sale I had last fall. Never having participated in one before I concluded that: 1. garage sale junkies will probably buy just about anything, so long as it is cheap, and 2. Every item you own holds a little piece of your energy. That means getting rid of that item frees up a bit of your energy. Garage sales are great if you have the time and need to pad your wallet a little, but if not then giving your stuff to charity is just as beneficial.

Not only does each of our possessions absorb some slight slice of our time and energy, but as this article about Derfel states, “Each thing we throw away has been produced somewhere, shipped to a store, entered the home, and then is sent somewhere else - using up water, oil and land.”

If you’re a visual learner, have a looksie here. I must say that these images really make a big statement to me, one that numerical facts alone cannot convey.

OK, so you understand that the American way is just not sustainable, right? But the next time you go shopping, I’ll bet you will see something you just really fall in love with, something that you feel makes a statement about your personality or something that you actually feel you need. Whether you need it or you just want it might be a gray area. I know that holds true with me. I happened across an interesting suggestion for creating a “want book,” a place where you can record all those things you think you want or need and come back to them later with a clearer head.

But remember as you lean toward placing that object in your shopping cart that every object is in many ways an energy sink. We aren’t just draining worldly resources, there seems to be some evidence that we are also putting a damper on our own personal well-being:

“Researchers have found that low self-esteem and materialism are not just a correlation, but also a causal relationship where low self esteem increases materialism, and materialism can also create low self-esteem. The[y] also found that as self esteem increases, materialism decreases."

“The word 'believe' is the key here. People believe that buying more and more things will make them happy, when in fact research has shown time and time again that this simply isn't the case. What we do know for sure is that buying more and more unnecessary things is damaging our planet and contributing to global warming." (source)

Here are few suggestions of ways to cut back on the amount of waste we generate. I recommend choosing one of these options to work on for a month. If you like your results, you can always challenge yourself to do more.

  • Remove your name from mailing lists
  • Compost, compost, compost
  • Preferentially purchase items in recyclable containers
  • Look at your bad habits and try to minimize them
  • Shop with a list
  • Before you buy an item, decide on where it will be kept
  • If you don’t absolutely love an item, re-home it
  • For every item you bring in, get rid of two others (donate, garage sale, Craigslist)
  • Catalogue things in a want book before buying them

Labels: , , ,


At February 01, 2008 9:27 PM, Blogger sowbug said...

I would also add this tip:

When shopping, if you want something that's not on your list, put it down, continue shopping, and right before you leave, decide whether you really want it. Better yet, just go home without it. If you really need/want it, you'll go back.

At February 06, 2008 11:08 PM, Blogger ericswan said...

Love the sculpture.

At February 08, 2008 2:46 PM, Blogger Jade said...

Sowbug, thank you so much for elaborating with a tip! Delaying purchases does also work very well. You will always know in a day or two if the item is really as necessary or desirable as you think when you first see it.

Hee hee, thank you ericswan, very sweet of you to mention. :)

At February 12, 2008 6:37 PM, Blogger Hedgewitch said...

love the list.. very constructive. will be challenging myself this month :-)

At February 15, 2008 4:13 PM, Blogger Jade said...

Thank you hedgewitch, I hope the challenge reaps rewards for you.

At February 16, 2008 7:55 AM, Blogger PeakEngineer said...

Nice work, Jade! I agree, it's shocking how much crap we accumulate, even when we think we're doing our part to reduce our footprint. It just creeps in when we don't even realize it!

At February 20, 2008 3:19 PM, Blogger Jade said...

Hi Peak Engineer! I hope you managed to skim some of it off the top recently. It is definitely an ongoing battle.

I have recently decided to be mindful of giving "experience gifts" to friends and family, in an effort to mitigate this adverse accumulating effect in their lives. I'm hoping they will reciprocate.

At February 26, 2008 6:06 AM, Blogger ericswan said...

At June 20, 2008 1:57 AM, Blogger ericswan said...

Chickweed: "When medicine is food and food is medicine"

Commonly known as chickweed, this garden weed is one of my favorite spring salad additions.

The first weekend in May, we took a trip to visit our daughter and granddaughter in Washington state. When taking a walk with our three-year-old granddaughter, I was able to show her chickweed and we began "grazing" on it. Young children tend to crave fresh, enzyme-rich, mineral-laden real food and she was no exception. She couldn’t eat enough of it, consuming several fistfuls of the herb. Since chickweed is one of the most common of weeds and is native to all temperate regions of our planet, I felt it was important to share with you the many uses of this valuable herb.

By Ingri Cassel

Birds and chickens are known to avidly feed on the seeds and leaves of chickweed hence its name, chickweed. The ancient Latin name for it was morsus gallinae which means a morsel or bite for hens. In German it is vogelkraut, the bird plant; in French mouron des oiseaux, a bite or a morsel for the birds; and in Spanish, pamplina de canarios and hierba pajarera, canary food and bird herb.


Chickweed (Stellaria media), also called starweed, is an annual or biennial weed, six to 12 inches in length, with thin, weak stems bearing two "twin" small oval leaves at each joint on opposite sides. It is easy to distinguish between chickweed and other plants of the same genus by the line of hairs running up the stem on one side only, then when it reaches a pair of leaves, the line of hairs continue on the opposite side of the stem. The leaves are succulent, egg-shaped, about a half an inch long and a quarter of an inch wide, pale green and delicate. The small star-like flowers are situated singly in the axils of the upper leaves.

Chickweed grows "wild" in moist areas of fields, in lawns, along roadsides, and in gardens. In some areas it comes out as early as March and continues to grow throughout the fall season. This year our chickweed patch is just beginning to "sprout" (mid-May) after excessive mounds of snow had to melt away.

Nutritional/medicinal qualities

Chickweed is one of the more nutrient-dense weeds readily available for nourishment and medicine. It contains generous amounts of the following minerals: Magnesium, iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, zinc and sodium. It is also high in vitamin C (ascorbates), bioflavinoids, vitamin A, and some of the B-complex vitamins such as niacin.

Chickweed is classified as a demulcent herb, meaning that it soothes and reduces irritations of the mucous membranes. Demulcents coat, shield, lubricate and soothe inflamed tissue while relieving the pain associated with inflammation. It is also classified as an expectorant, acting upon the bronchials and lungs to promote the expulsion of mucous from the respiratory tract. Due to these qualities, European herbalists used chickweed successfully in the treatment of tuberculosis, whooping cough, bronchitis and the common cold and flu.

In the School for Natural Healing textbook written by Dr. John R. Christopher, he states the following:

The demulcent/expectorant herbs are especially valuable in purifying and cleansing the system. Catarrh, or the common cold and its variations, is nature’s signal that the body needs cleansing. It is very often caused by a nutritional shortage of potassium chloride, the element that enables the fibrin to remain in solution in the blood. In inflammatory ailments, the fibrin is released out from the blood into the surrounding tissue causing blockage. No new fibrin can be formed without an adequate supply of potassium chloride, which the body badly needs because it is now thrown out of balance. If the potassium chloride is not available, the body will combine the potassium and chloride stolen from other combinations in the body, such as potassium phosphate (thus robbing the nerves) or calcium chloride (robbing the heart muscle) until the body becomes progressively more out of balance. Since we consume so much sodium chloride (salt) and so little potassium chloride, we add to the problem with our dietary practices. Chickweed, along with other botanicals, provides the necessary elements to put the body back into balance.

According to Louise Hay in her book, Today’s Herbal Health, chickweed is a good blood purifier and useful in treating fevers, all skin ailments and inflammations. Its mucilagenous elements have proven to be valuable for resolving stomach ulcers and inflamed bowels. It can also assist in dissolving plaque in blood vessels as well as other fatty substances in the body. Due its ability to cleanse the blood, it has been used to treat all forms of cancer and tumors. It has been used as a poultice for boils, burns, abrasions, sore eyes and swollen testes. Chickweed has also been recommended as an aid in weight loss.

According to Alma R. Hutchins in her book, Indian Herbology of North America, chickweed is useful in the treatment of liver ailments, bronchitis, pleurisy, coughs, colds, hoarseness, rheumatism, inflammation, weakness of the bowels and stomach, scurvy, and kidney trouble.

Another unusual attribute to chickweed is the transmission and flow of blood to the liver and hepatic veins, making them more pliable and, therefore, assisting the eliminative organs. For an inflamed or ruptured appendix, Dr. Christopher suggests that an infusion or decoction be made from the dried herb and applied in the form of an enema. At the same time, drink the warm infusion (tea) and apply very hot fomentations of the decoction over the site of the appendix.

The famous herbalist Juliette de Baïracli Levy said the following about chickweed in her book, The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable :

Chickweed is one of the herbs most praised by Turkish gypsies, not only for its edible qualities but also its potent medicinal properties, as it contains many of the soothing and tonic powers of slippery elm. The whole plant is used. It is a highly tonic herb for the entire digestive system, and a remedy for all stomach ailments. Externally it makes an important eye lotion and an ointment for rheumatic inflammations and stiff joints....All animals should be encouraged to feed upon it; but sheep must be prevented from over-gorging themselves, especially lambs, or severe digestive upset can follow owing to the richness of this herb...It is an important tonic for poultry and all birds, especially caged birds. Dose: Several handfuls per animal per day. Eye lotion: one handful brewed in ¾ pint of water.


The following story reveals the value of chickweed in the treatment of serious skin ailments:

At one of Dr. Christopher’s lectures, a woman brought a bundle to the front, a little baby all wrapped up. She unwrapped the bundle and, as she did, eczema scalings flew up all around and dusted Dr. Christopher’s dark suit. The baby was simply covered with eczema; he described it as horrible to see. The family had adopted the baby six months previous, and it was entirely covered with the scaling, evidently from birth. The family had employed the usual doctor, a pediatrician, and a skin specialist, but no one could do a thing for the little sufferer.

Dr. Christopher told the mother to fill a bassinet with warm Chickweed tea and to bathe the baby, pouring the tea over the head that could not be submerged. The mother was also to give Chickweed tea internally, in small amounts.

Within just a matter of days, the baby began to improve, and after a week or two, the eczema disappeared completely, though the child had suffered with it so many months.

~Dr. Christopher’s Natural Healing Newsletter, Volume 6, No. 5

As the experience above shows, chickweed is specific for skin ailments. For abrasions, eruptions, itching, hives and inflamed skin conditions (even cancerous sores), bathe the skin with chickweed tea, or make a poultice of the fresh herb.

For immediate first aid, the fresh herb is crushed and applied directly to the afflicted area, covering it with a washed leaf (lettuce or cabbage will do), and holding it in place with a bandage. The application should be changed every three or four hours, or when it begins to dry out, replacing the poultice with another batch of freshly crushed chickweed. In addition to these external applications, it is good to drink two to three cups of chickweed tea daily and eat it fresh in a salad or steamed as a vegetable to hasten healing. Chickweed can be added to soups and stews, tasting similar to spinach when cooked.

If it is not convenient to apply the fresh herb due to the season or being in a large city, chickweed ointment makes a good substitute. The simplest way to make chickweed ointment is to take one pound of fresh chickweed chopped in a food processor, put the chickweed in a deep baking dish (non-aluminum), add 24 oz. of virgin olive oil and two ounces of beeswax. Cover the baking dish and place in the oven for three hours at 200 degrees F. Strain through a fine wire mesh or cheese cloth, place into small jars, allow to cool and cap. If this is not possible, you can purchase Dr. Christopher’s original formulas from or The product name is "Itch Ointment".

My first experience in using chickweed medicinally was last year at this time when I came home from Virginia and Don was experiencing a strange sore on his calf. The "wound" had not been triggered by a recent trauma but appeared to be a past wound that had scabbed over leaving foreign elements (gravel, dirt) inside his leg tissue. Don wanted to ignore it and while I was busy with catch-up work, the wound turned serious. It was red and angry, emanating heat, clearly infected, and worsening daily. I wasn’t thinking clearly so I consulted with a kindred spirit who has the same herbal healing background and philosophy I have on health and healing. She took one look at it and got out her chickweed and plantain ointments. She put on a generous portion of each and bandaged up the penny-sized wound that was inflamed to the size of a half dollar. The cooling effect was nearly instantaneous. Since we had plenty of chickweed and plantain in our yard, subsequent treatments were with masticated plantain and chickweed poultices. Chickweed was added to our salads and carrot juice along with plenty of vitamin C consumed daily. As soon as the wound was on the mend, Don switched to chickweed and plantain ointments.

Dr. Christopher suggests adding chickweed to a "green drink" which is made by adding fresh comfrey leaves and other mild tasting herbs to apple or pineapple juice and blending it up in a blender. He also offers a recipe for "Chickweed Salad Dressing": Blend together a large handful of chickweed, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of cold-pressed, unrefined oil, the juice of a lemon, powdered dulse, Bragg’s Aminos and cayenne to taste. Its shelf life in the refrigerator is about a week.

There are so many ways to use this common garden "pest" in your diet and medicine cabinet that I have simply highlighted the most common applications of chickweed.

With economic collapse on the horizon, it is becoming more imperative that we learn how to use the weeds growing all around us for both food and medicine

At June 20, 2008 8:31 AM, Blogger Jade said...

Thanks ericswan. You rock! You know I nibbled on some the other day just to see what it tastes like. I know chickens/ducks can eat it and that they enjoy it. We have quite a bit of it around here. I appreciate the info! :)


Post a Comment

<< Home