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Monday, September 01, 2014

Beware the grocery bag wars

foldablebags on flickr.com
Our summer travels took us to the Pacific Northwest recently; it's not an area we're unfamiliar with, having had a home there for 30-some years. But my, oh, my, how fast the changes come. Stepping into a grocery store to stock up the rig, we were startled to find a "no plastic bags," law had gone into effect in Thurston County. No more "T-shirt" bags; bring your own "reusable bags," carry your stuff out naked, or pay a nickel each for a store-provided paper bag.

Having been in the area for several weeks now, I can't say that this RVer has adjusted to this new way of thinking. We've had a few of our own reusable bags for some time – they're really great, says my inner handyman, when carrying a few tools up on the roof when working on the rig, instead of the whole tool box. I find 'em handy, too, when carrying empty gallon bottles around when I refill those same bottles with artesian well water. But my memory doesn't always serve when I hit the local grocery store, and on approaching the register, find myself grousing about not having anything to carry the goods out with.

For some reason, I also find myself bristling at how much more it costs. No, I have yet to buy a paper bag at the market, but I can tell you, that in our RV, those plastic grocery store bags are just the right size for lining our two RV trash receptacles. It's not that I'm really cheap—well, not overly so, anyway—it's just that finding a replacement plastic liner for those trash cans has been difficult. In fact, the closest equivalent to the old grocery store bag comes in a box of about 100, costs over two bucks, and is just too darn big for the trash can. And thin! The blessed things tear so easily.

If the wisdom of this law was to prevent plastic bags for tying up landfill space, I think they've got a loser from my camp. The plastic bags I have to buy now are about two times more surface area than the old grocery bags; and to keep the trash from getting loose and creating even more problems, I find we often have to double bag them.

Yeah, I like the reusable bags in some respects. They're easier to carry greater loads in. They have "alternative" uses like I've already mentioned. At the same time, shopper beware. Many reusable bags contain lead in the "paint," and that lead can, yes indeed, slough off into your food. Aside from that, when the reusable guys wear out, and you send them to the landfill, the lead from these bags can find its way into your local water supply.

Finally, for those who do use the reusables, be careful what you pack. If meat juice from your purchases leaks and permeates the bag, nasty bacteria can get from the bag back into your fresh, unsealed purchases like veggies. Double wrap your meat purchases (more plastic!) and be sure to frequently launder you reusable bags. Preferably with bleach to kill the bugs. And for heavens sakes, don't line your RV trash baskets with these reusable bags—you could become the leader of lead pollution.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Protect those expensive batteries

They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Here's the RVer's corollary: A battery in the box is worth at least two in the junk pile. Eh? If your rig doesn't provide "inside storage" for your house batteries, leaving them out in the weather, unprotected can be most unprofitable. A lot of older travel trailers have the house battery sit up near the hitch, well exposed to the elements.

What could the problem be? Exposure to the elements just ain't the greatest thing from the electrics. First, battery terminal connectors will oxidize at a much faster rate. Oxidized connectors make for resistance to electrical flow, and that's a real problem when you're trying to charge your battery--you want the best flow possible.

But there's more: Road debris, tree leaves and needles, et al, can take up residence on the top of the battery. Add a little water and you have the makings for electrical current leakage. Yes, for real, a small amount of juice can begin to flow from the battery posts across the medium you're growing on the battery. Even small amounts can add up, reducing the available amount of juice for your use, and eventually killing off the battery.

So take the big plunge: Invest in a battery box to protect your leaded investment. For less than $15 a pop you too can liberate your 'lectrics from the fear of exposure.