The Not So Sustainable Shave

…an update on The Sustainable Shave

My bit of irony for the last few weeks has been life without my electric razor – the subject of my last post. The electric razor was the star of the show, the hero, my savior from a life of scraggly scruffiness.

It was ranked #2 on my list of things-not-very-sustainable-but-I-don’t-care-I’m-keeping-them-anyway, or TNVSBIDCIKTA.

Somehow my beloved electric razor got dropped, thrown, kicked, or drop-kicked against something. Unaware, I started up the right (my right, your left) side of my face and got about halfway up the cheek by the time I felt the pain and realized something wasn’t right.

My screen had a sizable hole, big enough to leave a small series of vertical, reddish-hued streaks on my poor, unsuspecting cheek.

The hole rendered the razor useless. If it was on one edge or the other I could work around it and, in the past, in times of crisis not unlike the current situation, I’ve been known to do just that until I could get a replacement screen. It’s a tricky, delicate operation, not for the faint of heart. But I’m no coward (notwithstanding the fact that I’m still squeamish about the idea of using a straight razor – that’s just common sense!) and have plenty of manly tolerance for pain. A nick or two here and there is good for the constitution, builds character. But a hole in the middle of the screen – that’s another story. There’s no skirting the issue. There’s no getting around it. I’m stuck.

Having suffered the week-long, emotionally-scarring ordeal involving letting my facial hair grow, I wasn’t anxious to repeat that particular episode. Wal-Mart might have a replacement screen, or they might not. It’s a one hour drive just to find out. I could call, but I’ve been down that road before and learned Wal-Mart employees will say whatever they think you want to hear just to get you off the phone. Call me cynical.

I could order a new screen online, but it’ll take a few days to get here, maybe as long as a week. I don’t have that kind of time.

So I bought the cheapest triple-blade disposables available at the local grocery store, spending $3.47 plus tax for four razors and buying myself some time. Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to weigh the options again…

I hate the idea of throwing disposable razors in the trash. But I’m actually enjoying the process of lathering up and shaving. The electric razor seemed impersonal by comparison.

I’m undecided… Lip balm’s still firmly ensconced at #1 on the TNVSBIDCIKTA list, but #2’s up for grabs.


The Sustainable Shave

Inspired by Kosmos 9’s series of posts titled War of the Sexes, I let my facial hair grow. It’s something I’d been thinking about for a while but hadn’t gotten around to.

I was curious to know what it’d feel like having never let it grow for more than a few days at a time. Ever. “It’ll be interesting,” I told my wife when she wrinkled her nose a little.

As a teenager I hated disposable razors, cutting my face more often than I care to remember. Borrowing my older brother’s electric razor convinced me they were the best (meaning safer and less painful) way to shave. In the twenty some-odd years since I’ve owned two electric razors. About once a year I have to buy a new blade and screen, which usually costs about $15.

In my quest to be as sustainable as possible I’ve pondered various ways to shave without electricity and without disposable razors. The answer from a long-term sustainability perspective is an old-fashioned straight razor sharpened daily with a leather strop. However, being squeamish about having a long, super-sharp blade near my throat held by my own unsteady hand, my overactive imagination conjures ghastly images best not described here.

Watching guys on YouTube demonstrate how to shave with a straight razor gives me the willies. One guy in particular jokes about the scar on his cheek – a result of his inexperience. So that’s the learning curve? You know you’ve got it when you no longer carve deep gouges in your face?

Besides the safety issue, good quality straight razors and accoutrements are expensive. Better (meaning safer and less painful) to simply let the beard and mustache grow.

There’s also something a little rebellious about the idea of letting it grow. It’s like when I was a teenager in the late 80’s and simply didn’t cut my hair. I wasn’t trying to be stylish or rebellious, I was just too lazy (or too broke) to get a haircut. But as an added bonus Mom, Dad, and all my teachers hated it. Today I have the luxury of being a little rebellious. At this point in my life there’s nothing (I thought,) short of my wife’s discreet nose-wrinkling to stop me from letting it all hang out. So to speak.

So I let it grow.

And the results are in:

  • the kids looked at me funny
  • the wife tried not to laugh (thanks for the effort, Dear)
  • my friends pretended not to see
  • now I know why my dad always said we were part Indian
  • I’m genetically barred from growing a full beard and little more than a Hitler-esque mustache

And as a result of the results, the experiment lasted a week.

Seven days’ worth of No Impact grooming was all I could stand. I don’t consider it a failed experiment though, because now I’ve got one more thing definitively added to the list of “things not very sustainable but I don’t care I’m keeping ’em anyway.” The list so far:

  1. Lip balm
  2. Electric razor

Topping my wife’s list: chocolate. I’d love to know what’s on your list.


We’re talking about moving back to the city. One city in particular, with a population of 100,000 people. Two and a half years ago we moved out of a much bigger city to find peace and solitude, which we found. So now we’re thinking about moving back?

Noise, trash, vehicle exhaust. Crime.

But also year-round farmer’s markets and bike-friendly streets in a progressive community supporting a university. I imagine a panacea. We’d go down to one car and park it, bicycling instead to the library, the market, the park. We’d find and befriend like-minded people. Writers, creatives, entrepreneurs, home-schoolers, minimalists, simplicity and sustainability seekers…

I remember my college days, cerebral times when my brain was on fire and profundities flowed like water. How interesting it’d be to go there again. What kind of creative endeavors could I create then, surrounded by and fed by other creative minds excited and energized by their own creative pursuits?

If we did move, it’d be a Grand Adventure. That’s what I’d tell my kids. That’s what I told them when we moved to the country – “it’s an exciting adventure, new discoveries around every corner.” And it was.

I love where we are. It’s a recreation destination, more heavily populated from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but otherwise, we’ve got it pretty much to ourselves. Even during the summer it’s not too crowded. Scenic views, nature, wildlife; it’s beautiful.

Here I have the window open and in wafts fresh air and the sound of bird calls. There’s no smell of exhaust or sound of some teenager’s booming car stereo. No sirens.

But it can get lonely out here in the wintertime. The season’s changing, weather’s turning colder, and we extroverts will soon be looking for companionship beyond ourselves.

There’s so much potential in a city.

There’s potential here too, it’s just of a different kind. We’re torn. Back and forth we go, stay or not stay, stay or not stay.

Dilemmas, dilemmas…

Lip Balm

The back pocket on a pair of jeans.

Image via Wikipedia

What’s in your pockets?

I’ve talked to people who have never used lip balm in their entire lives. What strange lives they must lead.

When I was a young boy watching my dad empty his pockets to undress for bed at night, his pockets always contained coins, a small pocket knife, and Chap Stick.

When I, as an adult, leave the house, I never leave without my wallet, cell phone, and Chap Stick. I don’t need the cell phone, but carry it for convenience. I do need my wallet since it holds my driver’s license and other necessities. But do I need the lip balm?

I’ve carried Chap Stick since my earliest days. It was in my pocket when I got on the bus to go to grade school, middle school, and high school, when I drove myself to college and my first job interview. Lip balm is an indispensable part of my everyday existence. It’s always been with me.

I wonder what life would be like without it. If I threw it out the window while driving along the highway, how long before I started to lick my lips in a pavlovian response, worsening the problem, but unable to avoid doing so? How long before I succumbed to the urge to stop at the first convenience store I come to and replace it?

Think about things you carry around. How many of your habitual daily routines are a necessary part of your existence, and how many are just habitual routines you do because you’ve always done them?

One of these days while driving down the highway I’ll chuck my lip balm out the window and find out once and for all what life’s like without it. What strange life will I lead then?

The $5 Bread Maker

As part of an effort to reduce our dependency on the local grocery store, a few years ago I decided I wanted a bread maker.

As a family we consumed quite a bit of bread and I thought by making our own we might save a few dollars and have better quality bread. I’d never owned or used one, but they seemed easy enough to operate. Throw the ingredients in, set the timer, and a few hours later, out comes wholesome, nutritious, economical bread. What could be simpler than that?

The idea became an obsession. At one point I was anxious enough to set out on the one hour round-trip journey to Wal-Mart to buy a new one. Thankfully, reason and sound judgment won out – meaning Vicki talked me out of it.

Craigslist had plenty of bread machines advertised, ranging in price from $10 to $100. One day I found an advertisement offering a Panasonic Bread Bakery listed on Craigslist in a city about an hour from home for $5. I called, made arrangements to pick it up, and drove forty-five miles one way to get it.

The seller was apologetic about a sizeable dent in the front of the machine and the fact that he had no manual. He said his wife had used the machine once or twice, but the bread it produced was “too crusty.” He was speaking my language. I like crusty bread. Five minutes worth of small talk later, he was $5 richer and I was the proud owner of a dented bread machine.

As soon as I got back home it took about ten minutes to Google the make and model and find a manual for that exact bread maker.

Using the standard ingredients, our first loaves of bread were excellent. I kept a log of various recipes I tried for the first two dozen loaves or so. When I had to leave home for a few days on a work-related jaunt somewhere and Vicki took over bread-making responsibilities, my detailed log went out the window while she played.

And the bread got better and better. Soon we bought a grain mill and bulk grains and started grinding our own flour. Within a few months we were making just about all of our meals from scratch.

That dented bread maker revolutionized our diets. It led to us experimenting with things we otherwise never would’ve tried. It’s funny how something so seemingly insignificant can so drastically alter one’s life.

The Bottomless Water Bottle

Years ago we bought four of these reusable, recyclable water bottles for about $7 each.

At the time I thought they were expensive. In retrospect, they were among the best investments I’ve ever made for the environment, for my health, and for our bank account.

How so? It’s simple. I fill this water bottle straight from the tap in the morning and drink from it all day, filling it up whenever it gets low. When I leave the house, this water bottle goes with me. On the road, it’s easy to find places to fill it up.

Because I carry my water bottle wherever I go, I drink from it. I don’t get the urge to stop at a convenience store and by a 320z. plastic or styrofoam cup of something syrupy and carbonated.

When I’m thirsty, I drink water. Water’s good for me. Water’s free, or nearly so. Reusable water bottles are the ultimate in simplicity.

Tap water, incidentally, gets a bad rap. We hear about impurities and so on, but who’s badmouthing tap water? Companies that sell water filtration systems and bottled water are. Come to think of it, anybody who wants to sell any kind of drink would want you to think your tap water is tainted.

The Story of Bottled Water tells that story more succinctly and better than I can.

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