Monthly Archives: August 2011

bare necessities

object peripheries

08 20 11

Here is a diagram I want to keep refining as I go.

It’s a mapping of belonging according to necessity, with the most necessary items in the innermost circle, and the less-necessary ones on the outer peripheries.

Basically, a diagram which would help me organize what I own (and pack my luggage much faster for sure).

For the moment it’s slightly gender biased – or maybe not, you tell me.

cone - ice-cream - paper - wafer

no-waste ice-cream

08 11 11

Today, a micro-subject again.
(even though minuscule in scale, micro-subject can demonstrate great principles).

We’ll be comparing, once more, two ways to do the same thing, with radically different conceptual qualities and environmental impacts: the edible ice-cream cone and the disposable ice-cream cup. A simple choice we make in a split second at the ice-cream store – [‘we’ the spoiled-enough to have and go to such places – if you’re reading me from rural Burkina-Faso, this entry and probably the entirety of this blog is indecent, but maybe that’s the reason I am writing it too].

So yes, when asked ‘cone or cup’, we choose what we’re in the mood for:

Option A: THE CUP

Paper cups at Toscanini’s Ice Cream, Cambridge, MA – original photo by surlygirl

– it’s either paper coated with plastic or wax (i.e. difficult to compost) / or polystyrene foam / or a plastic cup.
– often printed with advertising (an extra industrial step)
– inevitably creates the need for a plastic spoon or several
– quite dumb structurally (holds ice-cream by stopping it with walls)
– after consumption, has to be discarded, overflows the garbage at the JP Licks, fills the landfill, etc.
I am no specialist in CO2 emissions or manufacturing, but cups seem quite energy-intensive with a relatively ugly, polluting ending.

So take a look at the marvellous alternative that sits next to them on the counter:

Option B: THE CONE

A wafer cone – original photo by TheCulinaryGeek

After doing a bit of fascinating research on cones (waffle, sugar, wafer, etc.) – the winner in my view is, hands down, the molded wafer cone.
– made of a mix of flour, starch, sugar, fat, water, shortening and baking powder
– is the result of one process which apparently creates little waste
– is an extra light structure whose shape has only been determined by its ability to carry the weight and droppings of ice-cream – a great piece of engineering (sugar and waffle cones, although quite good themselves, do not reach the same level of refinement when it comes to design).

‘Cone designers refine the waffle pattern and other shape characteristics and make trial batches to find the best design that releases from the mold without burning, breaking, or creating weak spots that won’t hold ice cream or will break when the scoop is applied. The molded cone has a lip around the top that keeps drips contained inside the cone. The row of teeth helps firmly seat the scoop of ice cream and provides added strength where the upper lip of the cone meets the cylindrical base.’
(from How Ice Cream Cone is Made, by Gillian S. Holmes)

Ribs inside a wafer cone – original photo by seanfraga

– can be eaten entirely by a human being after the ice-cream is done with.

There. Isn’t this a brilliant example of good design, providing just what is needed, while having a seemingly benign environmental impact? Packaging turned into food, so old and so essential as an idea.

So, next time you have the choice, do the right thing:
be a cone-(wo)man.

Note 1: I recommend taking a peak at (weird and great).
Note 2: Cones appear to me to be a lesser evil, however they’ll reach perfection only when we can trace all their ingredients to safe and sound production methods. Hopefully this is not wishful thinking.
Note 3: We don’t need to eat ice-cream.

bed bugs - futon - mattress - moving - u-haul


08 08 11

After my move I had to get rid of one western-style mattress.

Aside from being one of the most difficult things to transport – large, heavy to carry and you never know where to grab them -, trying recycling one and you’re in for a treat:

1. mattress manufacturers want to have absolutely no business taking them back for the raw materials (I called)
2. most people are paranoid about bed bugs (understandable)
3. most people are uncomfortable with using another person’s old mattress (probably the most personal piece of ‘furniture’)
4. it is illegal to sell a used mattress in the state I live in (bye bye Craigslist)
5. places such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill very rarely accept them
6. shelters for the homeless welcome mainly single / double size, but not bigger

Therefore, a very likely ending is this one:

So the question is: WHY?
Why do we keep making > selling > using > discarding such inconvenient objects, with a lifecycle which doesn’t loop?

Ok, mattresses are, technically, among the awesomest inventions to put on bed frames, and do whatever you use a mattress for. Which makes them very tricky to renounce to.

2 ideas I’ve been mulling over recently:
Replace the solid king and queen sizes with two halves that can be strapped together with a clever device. That way when you move, you only transport 50% of that inconvenience at the time. Also, the two halves of a couple could each have the firmness they enjoy – say goodbye to compromise!(and couples therapy bills)
‘the traditional style of Japanese bedding consisting of padded mattresses and quilts pliable enough to be folded and stored away’. Heavenly for transporting.

Folded shikibutons and kakebutons – photo by renfield

From personal experience – sleeping for three months on a futon on a wooden floor – the comfort level is pretty high. Not as bouncy as a spring mattress of course, but cushy enough. You do feel the straightness of the floor below you, but nicely buffered, and maybe even good for your back.

Futons in action – photo by Debs

Sleep tight.

paper - PVC - q-tip

the right cotton swab

08 07 11

In my country, most Q-tips come with a plastic stick – white or colored, opaque or translucent.

Q-tips with PVC stick

In the US I discovered an amazing invention: the paper stick.
[amusing historical fact: originally made of wood in the twenties, the sticks became paper in 1958, churned out by british machines that had been producing them for candies]

It seems so beautiful and minimal: just structural enough to be used once, fully compostable, no artificial colors, some even unbleached. Just fulfilling the need it was created for, no more, no less.

Paper stick Q-tips – photograph by DragonWoman

Made me suddenly realize the material overkill (‘unbreakable’?! – it’s a Q-tip!!) and polluting consequences of the former.

A huge environmental gap between 2 almost-identical objects, isn’t it?