Friday, June 27, 2008

Highways blow.

Spent the last week in San Diego visiting a friend. It was warm and beachy and sunny, but DAMN if we didn't spend half the time in the car! To go anywhere, even Chipotle for lunch required freeway time. Filling up the tank of my friend's car is an 80 dollar proposition with gas prices what they are, and that has to happen once every three days given how much she drives.

How terribly we designed cities when fossil fuels were cheap! The best a San Diegan (San Diego-an?) can do is ride a motorcycle. Scooters and bikes don't cut it because they won't fair well on highways where the speed of traffic is around 75mph.

I pity the fools who live there and pray I never have to.

Perhaps the craziest thing about it to me was how normal this seemed to everyone there. Ofcourse we have to drive 30 minutes to the mall! I didn't want to preach, but I found it hard to hide my disdain.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some Thoughts

Yes yes, I know I've been an absent blogger. But I was reading this book about "flipping the switch on technology" called Better Off by Eric Brende. I sort of stopped checking e-mail or using the computer for a while. Not because of the book persay, but because it's Summer and all I really do is eat, read, and take care of other people's progeny for pay. I was tired of the computer, and reading about Eric's adventures on a farm in an anabaptist community was so riveting that I didn't WANT to see what was happening out there in the modern world.

I've been considering other eco-thinkers as well. Barbara Kingsolver, Daniel Quinn, various and sundry bloggers...

It occurs to me that among those of us in the environmentalist camp, there are many different points of view. Some think technology will save us, others think technology is our big problem. Some think the most important thing is eating locally while others are more concerned with consumption or oil or mass transit. As I've written before, I'm most worried that environmental responsibility will become only an upper-middle class progressive issue - a way to gain social capital in chic circles while average Americans roll their eyes and continue to buy meat for their kids contained growth hormones. Also: shit. The way I see this happening is by making green living affordable and (fairly) easy. I think it's key we not market it as a luxury, or greenwash the public into buying new stuff just because it's "natural."

What's a good name for those who buy at Big Box stores exclusively and eat mealy watermelons in Winter and go through two rolls of paper towels a week? If I'm progressive are they regressive? If I'm radical are they reactionary? Maybe complacent is a better label. Complacies? Not as good a dismissal as hippie is for me. I'll work on it...

But I digress. Here are some things I should mention quickly that have occured to me/just occured in the last two weeks:

1) Barbara Kingsolver makes a point in her Animal Vegetable Miracle Book that caused me to think: We (and by we, I mean me) get our underwear in a bunch over the price of organic food. I had a whole rant about how the farmer's market was too expensive. Still think it is. But Kingsolver points out that US citizens spend a far smaller percentage of their income on food than any other nation does. She claims that we're buying substandard food because it's cheaper and argues that it's worth an extra dollar or two to eat organic foods: you're helping out the small farmer, the local economy, getting more nutrients, a better taste, and you can rest assured there are no poisons in the food. Yep, she has a point.

2) But then, so does ZeFrank when he damns farmer's markets as the playgrounds of silly vacationers (this is all tongue in cheek, but still spot on):



3) Someone has stolen my composting worms off the porch! The shovel as well! I'm flabbergasted and quite sad. Think of all that good garden compost I lost, not to mention the wormies themselves. A pox on the thief!

4) My veggie plants are kicking butt! I still need to take pics of the garden, but my friend and I will be feasting come August!

More soon. I have recipes to share and rants to impose. I have a funny plumbing story and some haircare/armpit maintenance thoughts. I also have a good list of green bloggy news, but right now my book is calling to me...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gardening Progress / A Local Food Rant


Three weeks ago I helped a good friend plant a veggie garden at her new rented house. We split the cost of seeds (I spent less than 30 bucks), the weeding chores, and the planting. We really haven't a clue what we're doing, but I went over today and sure enough a bunch of lovely seedlings are popping out of the ground:

lettuce
edamame
sugar snap peas
chard
beets
purple carrots
orange carrots
broccoli rabe
peppers
herbs

Pictures of the garden forthcoming!

Then in my little containers at my apartment I've planted basil, tomatoes, and tomatillos! It's so fun to watch things grow, and i've been fertilizing the potted plants with the "tea" from my compost bin (a.k.a. trash juice.) We weren't sophisticated enough this grow season to space out our plantings so they'd mature at different times. Oh well. Next time.

This week I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's book about eating local for a year: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's great! She has some excellent points about the ethics of eating. We don't find it impolite for vegetarians to request non-meat items at dinner, but it's percieved as preachy or nitpicky in our society to ask that our food not travel around the globe to get to us. Eating seasonally is seen as deprivation (I see it that way sometimes, certainly!) Kingsolver writes, "The conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as spiritual error, or even bad manners."

Isn't it more of a deprivation to eat crappy asparagus that's bitter and grimmy outside the 4 weeks (That's IT!) each year it's in season? Or munch on tasteless, mealy apples and tomatoes? Isn't it deprivation that we loose many varieties of seeds each year because of factory farming practice and modification of plant species so that they travel well? Don't get me wrong: I'm not an extremist! I won't stop using spices from Asia. I won't grow wheat on the roof to make my own bread. There are some very real advantages to living in the 21st century. But I will try when it comes to vegetables and fruits to do a better job. Growing my own is a great start, as is supporting local farmers. Dairy is easy to get locally as well. And even if my grains and legumes come from elsewhere, it's still MUCH more environmentally (and economically) sound to purchase and eat whole foods than it is to buy multi-ingredient foods of the processed and boxed variety, which have HUGE footprints. It's cheaper too. And healthier. It's not faster, but I'm not sure what I'd be doing with the time I saved by eating Easy-Mac.

It annoys the HELL out of me when people roll their eyes at me and call me a hippie. Americans have this sense of entitlement. We think we're sophisticated for eating blackberries in the dead of Winter, without regard for what those choices are doing to the rest of the planet and future generations. Catch me in the right mood and I feel this way too. It's irresponsible and sickening. My views aren't radical. They aren't original or groundbreaking; why are things so ass-backward that they're frequently percieved as such?

Seattle



I was out of town last weekend in Seattle for an academic conference. It's a pretty great town: bike lanes, electronic buses, and a monorail makes it a well thought out city for public transit lovers. I especially enjoyed the bus tunnels that took us under intersections so red lights weren't an issue!

In my own green transit life: I've been getting rides from friends WAY too much lately. It has to do with shoe choices. I wear big shoes, and then don't want to walk more than a quarter mile. Ahh, vanity! I've been investigating bike possibilities but I want a used one and haven't found one I like just yet.

Maybe one of the best things about Seattle though, is that it's extremely walkable. Sure, there are a ton of neighboring suburbs that I couldn't walk to, but it's not a huge town at all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Green Blog Roundup #2

I read all the environmentalist blogs so you didn't have to.

No Impact Man offered moral support for a girl with no electricity, declaring that we don't need those appliances anyway! Yeah!

But then, the New York Times shamed the HELL out of me, providing statistical evidence that Americans waste as much as one THIRD of their food while riots are breaking out elsewhere in the world over the food shortage. Read this and stop throwing stuff out ...says the girl who accidentally let a pepper mold in the fridge during the power outage incident. Bah!

Looking for ways to cook all those veggies before you trash them? NYT has ideas on that one too. Too bad they advocate microwaving as the most nutritional option.

OK, moving on. A few weeks ago, Ecogeek ran a post about waiting until 2010 to buy a new car because a bunch of companies are coming out with cool hybrids, electric cars, and the like. Add Nissan to the '10 innovators, apparently. They announced plans for an electric car released in the US. [Sidebar: how the HELL are we a decade into the 21st century already?] [via NPR here, but NYT, Carectomy, and everyone EVER covered this story]

Can't wait that long for cool transport? Consider moving to Japan, where the metro is designed by IKEA. Badass, right? Carectomy raises a good point: why isn't mass transit privately owned? They probably couldn't muck it up any more than the government has.

This whole green thing is becoming successful business. But along with that comes labor issues: The Economist reports that there is a "lack of talent" in the available workforce that's negatively affecting green startups. Erm, isn't 'the lack of talent' in the workforce affecting every industry?

No wait: It's not affecting the Hummer advertising peeps, who realize that adults hate the vehicle, so are marketing the cars to future consumers (i.e the under-12 set.) Bloody Hell. [via Carectomy]

Need a pick-me-up after that one? Check out home gardening efforts from Bean Sprouts and ways to eat those weeds from Grist

And finally: Bad Human Blog TOTALLY showed up my pizza!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunday's Binge

I didn't have any power and I was feeling a little fragile. I went to Target for a lantern or something similar and came home with the following:

~Little plastic clips for holding my hair up
~A bathing suit allegedly made from organic cotton from an earth friendly designer
~Method dish washing liquid (I was out)
~Tapered beeswax candles (the lanterns were expensive and battery-powered.)
~A glass candle holder
~Contact solution
~Mineral mascara

Ok, I guess I could have done without most of this stuff. But the clips make my hair very easy to manage, and I do need a suit for a trip to San Diego and another back east this Summer. Better organic than not. Not apologizing for the candles or the dish soap. I am NOT getting rid of dish soap, and I rememberd not to grab the (cheaper!) parafin ones. The mineral mascara rocks! It's thick, but not clumpy, and there isn't any gunk in it. It's funny: I was using all mineral makeup up until this point except for the mascara... which goes on my eyes, so you'd think I'd be most worried about that. Contact solution is a must. I am, however, annoyed that I bought the candle holder. It was 20$ (mislabeled as 4$ and I didn't catch the mishap till I got home.) Also: empty beer and wine bottles work incredibly well in its stead, which I did not know. It'll be returned to the store next trip. A pair of sandals and some adorable high-waist shorts made it all the way to the register, and then I asked the saleswoman to take them back. It was close, though! I need to go with someone. I wouldn't be tempted to cheat if I went with a friend.

Armpit revelations

Up until 3 days ago I was still using the bad deoderant with aluminum and all sorts of muck. Yeah yeah, I know, but natural deodorant smells horrible and doesn't work for me and I think smelling like BO is pretty much the grossest thing ever. So I held out. But then the other morning, as I was brushing my teeth with my baking powder concoction, I had a thought: what if my love affair with baking soda could go even further? I wet my underarms a little, smoothed some baking soda on and went about my day. This was Saturday. I haven't showered since then (it's Summer and I'm lazy), have gardened more than 10 hours in that time, spent a while outdoors, gone on some walks, and my arm pits still don't stink! It's a miracle! Today they got a little sweaty, whereas before they stayed dry even when I was sweaty elsewhere. I don't have any white gunk on my clothes (including two black shirts.)

My point: It actually works better than convention antipersperants, has very little packaging, and won't fill my body with free radicals. Huzzah!

Also: I have power again.

Panic Pickling: What to do to veggies when your power goes out


We're on day three of the power saga. Someone's working on it right now, but it's taking a long long time. Apparently I have only one breaker for the entire apartment, and something shorted out. He has to go through one by one and find which one it is. I started to panic about my carrots and broccoli, because I couldn't eat them fast enough these last few days with all the leftovers I was busy eating. I found a recipe in my awesome veggie cookbook however, for marinated garden vegetables. It said that covered in its cooking liquid, the veggies would last over a month in the fridge. I figure they've got at least a week out in the open, then. This wouldn't work if you had an electric stove, but since I have gas I'm good to go. I tested the carrots out and they're super crunchy and delicious! I bet they'll be awesome cold once that's among the realm of possibility again.

Here's the original recipe:

1 c red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp salt
2 sprigs fresh or 2 tsp dried oregano (I used Thyme because that was what I had)
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 medium carrots, cut into sticks
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
1 onion cut into eights
1/2 c olives, pitted

Put the liquid and the spices in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and cauliflower first and cook for a minute. Then add the other veggies. Cover the pot with a lid, turn off the heat, and let it cool back to room temperature. Then sprinkle with pepper and eat plain, or over salad. You can also put them in a jar with the brining liquid and keep in the fridge for a month or more.

Note: I just used carrots. I have stir fry plans for my other veggies, but had 3 pounds of carrots that were going to die soon. I bet you could experiment with other kinds of veggies and different vinegars in the brine.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Living in the 1800s

For two days now I’ve had no power. My landlord’s phone is "temporarily disconnected" according to the automaton on the other end, the power company insists that power is going into the house just fine, I can’t find a breaker in my apartment or the basement apartment I broke into, and the electrician can’t come until tomorrow. Lovely.

But you know actually, it’s not a very big inconvenience.

Here are my observations:

During the day I don’t miss it at all, because since Earth Day I’ve gotten used to no lights before 9pm. Even after dark last night was kind of cool. Since I was afraid of using all the juice in my computer by watching a movie, or having my phone die if I called a friend to entertain me, I lit a few candles and climbed in bed with a pack of peanut butter sun drops (like M&Ms but ‘natural’) and a Dashiell Hammett novel. The wavering candlelight held right up to the page helped with ambience. I think something like Wilky Collins' The Moonstone or some other book that takes place in a time when there was no electricity would be better; I’ll try and find one for tonight. I read until 10:30 or so, and went to bed.

This morning I woke before 7, because the sun was shining through the window and I didn’t want to waste it. Feeling a bit braver in the light, I went downstairs and opened the door to the apartment beneath. It’s filthy: dishes in the sink, spills all over the floor, beer cans lining the couch, and a smell like old cat liter. No one’s been there for weeks, so I have no idea what’s going on. I searched again for a fuse box and didn’t find one, even in the closets. What I’ve now done is plugged a series of extension cords into the wall in the vacant yuckfest apartment, and flung them up onto my porch where they’re connected to a surge protector. Now I can charge my phone and computer a few times today, but can flip the switch easily on the surge protector after so I don’t mooch a ton of their electricity. I can unplug the whole thing before dark tonight and go again tomorrow if need be.

I’m worried about my fridge. I don’t want to open the door because it’s so tiny and poorly insulated. Then again, it may be hot already in there; should I be trying to eat those foods today? Guess I’m back to no fridge, huh? Now all I need is one of those old candlesticks with a handle to carry around with me and a whalebone corset and it'll be a regular Dickens festival in here!

Another thing --> All of this power outage business has given me a chance to look at the meter when I ordinarily wouldn’t. My metered electricity is 1/6th of what any of the 4 others in my building are. Woot woot! Granted, it's smaller and the others are 2 or 3 bedrooms. Still, it's not THAT much smaller!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Purchases from two weeks ago



Until now, I couldn't upload pictures. I just wanted to post a shot of my thrifted dress and not thrifted (but handmade) ring. Who knew old could look so adorable? Click for a bigger pic.

The Pressure Cooker Rocks My Socks Off!

Another freebie from a friend, I tested out a pressure cooker tonight to cook some soaked black beans and it took about 10 minutes versus the usual 90. Way to be energy efficient with the legumes! Plus the beans were cooked evenly and I didn't have to keep adding water every 20 minutes (my gas stove's temp is a little difficult to control, so simmering isn't really an option.)

There are all these crazy recipes in the manual, but I think that's too advanced for me. I'm a last minute cook: I realize I'm starving and want food in the table in a few minutes. The pressure cooker makes spontaneous, healthful cooking possible.

I am above thrilled about this.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Freebies!

Bitching and moaning really do seem to have their uses! I saw a cool salad spinner thing at a friend's house today, commented that I wanted one, and she said I could have it! Score one for Whiney McWhinerson! I get leaf lettuce every week, but the washing and drying takes FOREVER. If you put it in the fridge wet it gets gloopey. If you leave it out too long it gets wilty. Drying it by hand without paper towels is quite the production. But now with the spinny thingy I just pull a string and it's all dry. No electricity needed.

My lettuce troubles are over. Wahoo!

This brings me to one of my favorite things ever: giving stuff you don't use to other people. A friend admired a belt I hadn't worn in months, and it's hers. Same with books, dresses, scarfs, etc. We all have too much stuff and most of us don't miss it once it's gone anyway. Why not give it to someone who will use it? I'm not talking giving stuff away for all of time; a little indian giving now and then is pretty good too. I'm a firm believer that lending posessions out will make us less attached to them, and that's a step most of us need to make.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Homemade Pizza in Less Time than Dominos

I made a ridiculous whole wheat pizza yesterday in less than 30 minutes. I thought about breaking the rule and ordering, but then I remembered I knew how to make pizza dough really quickly. Now that I live in the middle of nowhere (oh alright, a medium-sized city) the delivery people take to darn long to get here. Making my own takeout is actually faster and WAY cheaper. Also: better for this lovely planet I like so much.

I have a sneaking suspicion this will be the first in a series of DIY takeout recipes I'll be sharing:


Speedy Wheat Pizza Crust:

1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 c whole wheat flour (or white. or a combo)
2/3 c warm water + 2 Tbsp

Stir all but 1 cup of the flour in your Kitchenaid(or better yet, with a spoon and your hands.) Add the rest of the flour gradually to make it a dough. Make sure the dough gets a good knead. Roll it into a ball and cover in a bowl with plastic wrap or a towel (the better option!) for 10 minutes. Then punch down a bit and spread out over a greased cookie sheet.

Put whatever you want on top! I sprinkled the outside of the crust with salt and pepper like the Sink does, then spread a little leftover pasta sauce in the center. For cheese, I went with a combo of mozzarella, havarti, and romano because that's what I had. I also tossed a few almost-dead basil leaves on thereand some black olives.

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or so, until it's all crispy and delicious. And in all seriousness, this was SO yummy! I wish I'd thought to take a picture before I ate the entire thing.

Other plans for this recipe: Cooking the dough plain and covering with fig spread/raspberry jam/lemon curd/cream cheese for a nice breakfast bread thingy.

Cyclists of the World - Unite!


It's national bike to work week. Overseas it's La Semaine du Velib (basically a celebration of Parisian bike culture.) What does that mean?

Stop paying 4$ a gallon for petrol, get off your rear and bike to your jobs! I will not be doing this because 1) I can walk to work in five minutes and 2) I have no bike at present. I will, however, be purchasing a used one this week so i can partake in the fun too.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yarrr, Matey! Damn yer eyes!

It's extraordinarily difficult to type with no depth perception, I find. Why do I have no depth perception, do you ask? Well, I wore old contacts to bed last night and screwed one eye up something awful. It's watery and red and painful if I open it, so I currently have an eyepatch over it, pirate style. [Full Disclosure: I didn't have an eye patch so it's an Hermes scarf tied around my head.] The look is toped off by my glasses, crookedly perched on my nose. Brilliant.

All this trouble could have been avoided if I just got over my vanity and stopped wearing disposable plastic contacts. The earth would thank me and so would my eyeballs. Also: my wallet since I've already purchased the exhorbitantly expensive designer frames and I have to keep buying contacts at 40 bucks a box every month.

Damn yer eyes, indeed.

Saving water (and money) in the kitchen

Yeah, I take shorter showers, but I still use a ton of water. I’ve been thinking about water a lot lately; specifically cooking liquid and how much of that stuff I toss down the drain. So here are a few ideas I had about saving stuff and using it twice:

Using the liquid from steamed veggies as stock to cook dried beans in. Anyone know if I can do the same with pasta water? I have a sneaking suspicion that the starch will mess things up.

Reserve whey after making cheese and use it for bread making. It’ll last a few days in the fridge, but it’s best used right away and still hot. I gave the recipe for this a while ago.

If I boil too much water for tea, use it to poor over the stove and loosen gunk without degreaser. (I suppose you could just boil it again next time, but I’ve been taught that makes bad tea. And you have to heat it twice anyway.)

I clean off a LOT of veggies daily. I can't use the dirt-filled water for much, but maybe I should catch it and use it to soak pots and pans. Or water the plants outside.

Got any other suggestions? I don’t see any money saved because of the set-rate utility thing, but one day I will leave this apartment for greener pastures where it matters. Best get accustomed now.

Teehee

Ok, this isn't really green, but it makes me laugh out loud and I have no idea why. I guess having a roof garden is a pretty green move for nbc... although I bet it wastes a lot of water.

Erm, perhaps the best greenie connection I can make is that NBC's full episode player sucks a LOT LESS recently. I love digital media! I watch all my shows for free, don't accumulate CDs and other plastic thingies, and read a ton of paperless articles. Woohoo!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Green Blog Roundup



I read all the green blogs in the universe so you didn't have to:

Greenies everywhere insist the world would be a better place if gas prices continue to rise. I'm torn on this issue, but there were some interesting points made via Ecogeek's story on saving gas and if it appears in the NYT, it must be true. Although...

NYT doubly sucks recently. First their “green issue” that wasn’t green and now this. [via Gawker and No Impact Man]

On Bean Sprouts Blog I learned what a Broody Hen was and how to avoid it. Also: rhubarb flowers look like the swamp thing.

Better Living reminds us bike riding is a bitch if you’re a woman. Carectomy confirms. [via Better Living and Carectomy]

Scratch that: bike riding is dangerous for all. This poor lad was attacked with an ice scraper [via Capital Times; via via Carectomy (how meta!)]

Celebs are hypocrites when is comes to green stuff. Gawker asks which is worse: Madonna investing in oil or Brangelia flying about on private jets. I love polls! But then: I refuse to eat meat but still wear leather, so who am I to judge?

Oh well, at least Goldie and Kurt are representing! (check out the bike riding duo above)


Image via Bauer Griffin

Words of Wisdom for Summer

School's officially out, so I'll officially be more here. Previously, I felt guilty when writing anything that wouldn't ultimately contribute to an academic paper or conference proposal. No more! I've sat on my ass all day and might do it again tomorrow.

There's some stuffs I learned this week that I need to pass along:

Item 1 --> Although eggshells are good sources of protein for the wormies, do NOT use the shells from hardboiled eggs. Eggie bits stick inside and make the compost bin smell more like subway booger smell of summer than a delicious rainforest.

Item 2 --> Not buying fashion rags is only an effective way to stay consumerist tendencies if you don't then read your friends/strangers/the laundromat's mags. I did, fell in love with Michael Kors gold sandals, dreamt about them, drooled over them, and ultimately had to* go vintage shopping to stop the agony. At least my dress wasn't new, but the ring was...

Item 3 --> Adding a little tea tree oil to the tooth powder recipe makes it yummier and fights germs to boot.

Item 4 --> Ice cold coke is really the best hangover cure ever, and I found a place nearby that sells the Mexican version in a glass bottle so i don't have to feel (as) guilty when I buy it.

*Ok ok, the "had to" is made up. But it felt real at the time.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Falafel for all!

I'm a little obsessed with falafel, but ordering in in this god-forsaken town tastes nothing like pushcart falafel on the streets of NY. A little better is buying one of those boxed mixes from the store and frying your own. Still better is doing it all from scratch. I've included the recipe here because it's an awesome thing to do with dried beans and a few local veggies. Unfortunately, my stove is out so I will have to live vicariously through you all. The best thing about it is that you don't have to cook the beans first: saves you an hour and lots of energy!

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup dried white beans (usually chickpeas)
2 cloves garlic, crushed (used more if you want)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp cumin
a pinch of cayenne or red chili pepper
1 c chopped parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda (my fav!)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (you can use the rest to make hummus to go with this)
Corn oil for frying

Soak beans over night, drain them and then put everything in a food processor except the oil. If you don't have a food processor, just mash the hell out of everything with a mezzaluna and combine it by hand. You want it almost smooth though, so it'll take a while. In a small saucepan (or a deep fryer if you're that connected) heat the oil until water or batter sizzles immediately. Roll the mixture into balls and deep fry on all sides (less than 5 minutes). You can eat them hot or room temperature, over a salad, by themselves, in a pita with lettuce and tomato, but always with tahini.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Banishment!

The wormies have been banished to the front porch. I found some fruit flies in there this morning. Amidst cries of, "oh hell no!" I rushed the whole production outside where it shall remain through the Spring and Summer. Before it gets cold again I can sift through, save the wormies, and reset the whole bin. Until then, banishment. I don't do flying bugs. The worms themselves were a stretch...

More professional worm keepers do things like catch the flies on sticky tape or purchase carnivorous plants. I'm afraid of venus fly traps (anyone see Little Shop of Horrors?) and fly tape is the ultimate yuck festival in my mind, so that's not happening until I can rally some courage.

In other news, I LOVE the smell of my compost bin. Is this strange? It's earthy and wonderful like fresh potting soil or wet concrete. I guess it is a little bizarre considering how yucky the decomposing veggies look in there. But actually, that's rather fascinating as well...like my Kindergarten science project where I watched how fast apples would brown under different conditions.

A Constant Pull!

I purchased quite a few things last weekend. The light-less existence since Earth day has been easy as pie. Not buying fun Spring wardrobe staples isn't so easy. I LOOOOOOOVE clothes and I'm sick of all of mine. I think I am going to have to Buffalo Exchange some soon and pick up a few things at the Vintage Stores around town before I hyperventilate. I'm trying though...

Here's the list of latest purchases.

At Pharmaca (like a natural drug store):
~Almond Lotion
~Mineral Sunscreen
~Un-Waxed Unbleached Floss
~Natural Mouthwash
~Tea Tree Oil
~Three Magazines

Most of those are necessities, so I'll not apologize for them... although I wish they weren't so packaged. I KNOW that I'm supposed to give up print media and only deal with digital. I'm down with that most of the time; I love blogs and news feeds and mp3s more than anyone. However, sometimes all I want is to lounge on the couch with a mojito and a glossy mag. I didn't let myself buy any fashion books because they fuel the consumerist fire in me. Instead, I bought Bust, Gourmet, and Domino (which had the same consumerist effect because there's a bunch of stuff inside I'm coveting for the apartment.)

At the Fabric Store:
~Calico to make super cute napkins out of (it was less than a dollar and since I cut out paper towels I've been using washcloths... which are a little rough)
~Ready made sundress material to make one of those long gorgeous flowy dresses I'm sweating right now (like 17 bucks worth)
~Two yard of gorgeous patterned fabric that i'll be making into something fab ... pillows? art for the walls? a muumuu? who knows.
~BRILLIANT sheer floral print fabric to be turned into curtains next weekend. It set me back 30 bucks, but that's cheaper than ready made curtains and it's so Betsey Johnson/Old Cat Lady! I love gawdy prints right now.

As per usual, the server is sucking and I can't upload the pics. I've been trying for over a week. Will try again tomorrow from my office, where things work more often.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NEW PROJECT RULE! ... and some Youtube for good measure.

Today being Earthday, I didn't allow myself any electricity (baring the computer charger. I NEEEEEEEED it. It is essential. There is a reason I'm not Amish.)

But anyway: I realized that for most of the day using the lights is completely unnecessary! My apartment is extremely well lit. It's sunny and delightful. However, I augment this pleasant natural glow with those horrible compact fluorescent lights most of the time I'm home. Why???? {Ok Ok, I know they're better for planet earth, but they take forever to warm up and make everyone look as though they're about to be incarcerated.}

This seems silly and wasteful. I have friends who refuse overhead lighting on principle and go about setting mood lighting in their homes through the use of many expensive floor lamps and track lighting. I could just NOT do that, not use lights anymore during the day, and achieve the same fabulous ambience! I could also outfit my tiny reading lamp with a better bulb and use it to light things in the evening (when, lets face it, all I need light for is reading.) I know that candles emit more greenhouse gases than using electricity to light your home, but once in a while some candle light wouldn't hurt in the evenings.

So there we have it, RULE # 3:

I WILL NOT USE ELECTRICITY TO LIGHT MY HOME DURING THE DAYTIME. IN THE EVENING I WILL LIMIT USE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Also: In honor of earthday I want to link to one of my fav Youtube videos, starring Clea Duvall and Leisha Hadley:

Happy Earth Day!

Although I sort of feel like every day has been earth day for me lately, I think I need to do extra stuff today:

1) No mass transit - even though it rocks, it still emits greenhouse gas
2) No turning the lights on today. My only light tonight will be from the incredibly well-lit alley behind the house.
3) No heating food. Only salads and uncooked stuff today so I don't use any gas to warm my tasty vittles.
4) I will wear natural deodorant - which in my experience is a lot like not wearing any at all... which is why I can only do it a day at a time.
5) I will tend to my seedlings o' shame (have I blogged about this yet? Whenever I use disposable cups, I take them home and use them as containers for my indoor seedlings) and plant some more seeds so the little plants will be ready to move outdoors in mid May.
6) I will reaffirm my environmental commitments and make sure I don't lose momentum.
7) Along that vein, I want to adopt a new rule, but I don't know what it should be. Ideas?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

MY ORGAN!!!! (as in music, not kidneys)


It's finally arrived!!! My secret item five from the consumerist binge! Oh how I love it so. It was 45 bucks, and has all these sweet percussion beats (Marumba anyone?) as well as a ton of different insturments it can imitate. It reminds me of my house when I was a kid, which I think is really why I love it. Also: the switches are RAINBOW COLORED! Was there ever a better reason to purchase something? I feel like Salvation Army acquired this at a hippie's estate sale or from a travelling circus troop.

It will brilliantly accompany my genius bass guitar stylings... if only I could play them both at the same time.

My dear friend Angie sacrificed her right knee to help me lug this puppy up the stairs and into my house, which I feel needs mentioning here.

Also: I can't forget to unplug it when not in use! No vampire electronics, especially such a huge one, for this girl!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wormy Worms

My free worms arrived about a week ago. There are A LOT more of them than I thought there'd be. Hot damn. I put them into their little worm home and then went to a friend's house to watch the office. When I came back I took the lid off and checked things out. Some were trying to escape (they do that for the first few days) but most were down in their dirty food home.

Here are some pics of the worm apartment construction:

Step 1) Hole Drilling


Step 2) Laying cardboard bedding
Step 3) Cover that with food matter (no dairy or animal products and very little onions or citrus!)
Step 4) Another Carboard Layer
Step 5) Another food layer
Step 6) Spray the top until it's moist with a water bottle


Step 7) Add the wormies


If you want to know exactly how I did it, check out this guy's wormy blog. There's a video and everything:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spendthrifty!

Today I broke the no-purchasing streak.....AND HOW!

However, I'm pumped about everything and can justify everything (sort of.) So here goes, as per the project rules:

Item 1 = two rubbermaid plastic tubs to house my wormies : The nice man from Nederland is delivering the FREE red wrigler worms for my composting adventures later this week and they needed a home! It only cost 11 bucks for both of them, and that's considerably cheaper than those fancy-pants worm apartments you can buy online. I know plastic is bad news, but I can't get over the perceived impermeability of plastic. If I'm to have worms in my home, the container is going to be escape-proof!

Item 2 = Rechargable batteries. I bought the kind that allegedly last forever. I have no need of batteries except for the digital camera, and it eats through the regular kind. Hopefully this cuts down on my toxic waste considerably. Also: the 4 batteries and the charger weren't any more expensive than regular Duracells! Why is this? Why doesn't everyone use them? Why are normal batteries even legal?

Item 3 = Two cool vintage books from the salvation army. They cost less than two bucks each, and they're AWESOME. One's a chemistry textbook from the 1950s. The pictures are neat. I don't feel bad about this. It already existed! The other is one volume from a set of Woman's Encyclopedia. Entries include things like "Prostitution" and "Body Types." I haven't a clue what year it's from because the front 10 pages are missing, but it's a goldmine of pre-feminism bigotry and backwardness. (here's an excerpt: "some medical men are even beginning to say that morning sickness does not appear when the woman loves her husband and desires her baby.") As a rhetorician, the chance to engage this piece of the not-so-far-past proved too tempting.


Item 4 = Many many seed packets for this Spring's veggie extravaganza. They include but are not limited to: Edamame, Swiss Chard, Purple Carrots, Heirloom Tomatoes, Mesclun Salad Mix, Sugar Snap Peas, and Cantalope. 20 bucks worth will let me feast all Summer! Not apologizing for this one either.


Item 5 is a secret. It's so brilliant that it requires a picture, but it's also large, and I had to leave it at the store until a friend can help me transport the sucker home. I was so excited I did a leaping/wriggling/infinitely toolish dance at the Salvation Army when I saw it and decided to purchase. I landed in a rack of men's shirts and tried to play it off like nothing happened. [SIDEBAR: who knew there was a 25% off discount for students on Wednesdays at Salvation Army? Massive.]

Anyway: I spent less than 100 bucks and bought cool, useful, or ridiculously weird (the final purchase) things either second hand, or utilized for an environmentally friendly purpose. My conscious is clear... ish.

I'll publish the other pics of stuff a bit later. My computer is being a complete git.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hair Processes

I've had two friends donate hair care products to my no shampooing cause. My older sister called worriedly this week to ask if my head smelled. I feel the time has come to deal with the hair issue in complete candor:

I shower everyday. I didn't use to before this no-shampooing thing, but I feel like I need to now keep things copesetic. This doesn't mean I use more water. Before, I showered every other day for 10 minutes. Now it's every day for less than 5. For 6 Days of the week, I wet my hair, massage my scalp, clean my body, and get the hell out. If things are looking too greasy, I use this crazy Mexican method of oil re-distribution where I brush my hair from roots to tips with a washcloth while it's still wet. The excess oil is distributed throughout, making it so I don't really need conditioner and so that the roots aren't a yuck-fest.

On the 7th day (it used to be every 3 or so, but the more I use this method, the longer I can go) I lather up with this awesome Squeaky Green solid shampoo bar a friend gifted me from Lush. It's Sodium Laurel Sulfate free and smells AMAZINGLY herbal. I want to bite in, but I refrain. I shampoo, rinse, and have done with it. It doesn't over-dry my hair so no conditioner is necessary. This has NEVER been the case before: my hair is a wavy, tangly mess! I used to use the baking soda/apple cidar vinegar method on hair washing day, and still do sometimes (apple cidar vinegar makes your hair SOOOOO soft) but I'm currently obsessed with the yummy smell of the shampoo bar, so baking soda's taken a back burner.

Sure, some days I feel like a grossen. But mostly it rocks. And I think it'll only get better.


In other showering news: a friend gave me Pangea Organic Body Wash. It's amazing! And it's produced here in Boulder. I want to guzzle it, but settle for rubbing it all over. Even after I'm out of the shower, I can still smell the yumminess on my skin. I catch myself sniffing myself kind of often....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Greenmarket Annoyance!

Yesterday was the first day of spring that our local Boulder Green Market was open! I was pumped. I love green markets and it's been closed since November. I have a lot of residual guilt about my organic produce delivery because of the many miles the food has to travel in the Winter months, so the onset of Spring and the arrival of local veggies makes me giddy.

Boulder has pretty serious regulations on its green market. For example, all the food and goods sold there must have grown/been made in Boulder County. That's intense! But what it also means is that the food is expensive as HELL! I'd gladly buy food from a farm 50 miles away! It's better than Mexico. And larger farms produce more, which means they can keep their prices down. Some of the vendors grown their wares in backyards! Seriously! This means a lot of work for little product, and therefore high prices. Don't get me wrong: I advocate this kind of argiculture! I have big plans for a friend's backyard this Spring and Summer to do some victory gardening of my own. Still: when the green market, seemingly cutting out the middle man, is more expensive then the grocery store, I've got problems. In NYC is was MUCH cheaper and the produce was better. Here, it's way more expensive and the produce is the same or smaller and more sickly looking.

Bottom line: I;m glad we have one, but think it's too regulated to be economically viable for those of us who aren't so solvent.

March's Financial Breakdown

Uggh! Again, I have been absent far too long. Jury duty, a sprained wrist, and thesis corrections are all to blame. Also: laziness. This post was supposed to be up on the 31st, but better a week late than never, right?

The following is my month of savings in spreadsheet form:




I also have a breakdown of what I've spent on what. I don't know if anyone cares, but I do. I spent a ton. I need to stop going out...

Rent/Utilities = $700

Phone Bill = 62$

Dining out/Coffee at environmentally responsible establishments (organic, local, no waste, etc.) = $200.34

Dining Out/Coffee at conventional restaurants = $69.13

Delivery/Takeout Food (stuff that required packaging...although all these were sandwiches wrapped in paper, so that's not tooooo bad) = $57.38

Alcoholic Beverages that were local/organic/unpackaged/etc = $72.32

Alcoholic Beverages that were not (I really like Stoli... and it's from Russia...) = $58.50

Buying nonessential goods = $0 !!!!! Woohoo

Buying personal care/essential items = 11$ (mostly toothpaste supplies and baking soda in bulk)

Groceries = $144.71

Gifts = 26$ from American Apparel

Electronic Media = $14.01

TOTAL = 1404.39$

Money left over for debt reduction = 146$..... not great. Must do better in April.


*A note about calcuations: I let myself off the hook if it was a party/at another person's house/someone treated me. Because I have no idea how much that stuff cost or where they got it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Green Clean


It's Spring Cleaning Time! Not only because it's my Spring Break at present, but also because during the thesis writing (It's DONE!) my house turned into a sty. I mean, really... it was a total yuck fest. Last spring I used some Method cleaner, but there was also some serious bleach involved. I used disposable cleaning wipes, swiffer carpet sweeper pads, disposable mopping pads and a ton of paper towels. This year, no thanks.

Here's what I've done:

~Cleaned out the now plugged-in fridge with vinegar, baking soda and Borax combined in an old Method spray bottle.
~Stopped my sink drain with a jar lid and 'bleached' it with white vinegar made into a paste with baking soda. Then scrubbed it with water mixed with lavender oil. To make every smell fresh, I stuck half a lemon in the garbage disposal and turned it on.
~Scrubbed the wood floors with a combo of vinegar and water. All I have to accomplish this is a swiffer wet. How wasteful! But since I already have it, I think it's more wasteful not to use it. I did, however, stick the swiffer wet in my washing machine with a load of rags so I could use it again on the bathroom floor.
~Peeled up my FLOR carpet squares and scrubbed them by hand in the sink with regular dish soap and warm water. I used a toothbrush on stains.
~Used the borax/vinegar/baking soda/water cleaner in the bathroon too for the floor, toilet, and sink.
~Took all the area rugs outside and beat them the old fashioned way (well ok, with a broom. I don't have one of those rug beater thingies.)
~Went through my clothes and things, setting aside what I no longer need/what doesn't fit. I'll try to pawn things off on friends next week, and what they don't want will go to Goodwill.
~Brought my 5 zillion magazines to the office at school so other people can read them too.
~Cleaned the grimmy window sills (which have been bombarded with snow and grossness all Winter since there is no storm window) with Method grapefruit cleaner.
~Boiled water and poured it all over my stove. Let it sit a bit, and them scrubbed all the cast iron bits in the sink to get the grease off. Finished up with method grapefruit surface cleaner.
~Left all the windows open to get rid of the rather vinegary smell.
~Used Method shower cleaner on the shower. It was never very dirty anyway, but I'd like it to sparkle a little more. Ideas?

Hooray for not spending any money on cleaning because I already had the stuff! Hooray for not buying those Clorox surface cleaning wipes or paper towels or bleach pens or Swiffer sheets or Comet toilet cleaner! Normally after cleaning the house my bathroom garbage can is entirely filled with used towels and cleaning pads. No more! I keep cleaning rags seperate from the kitchen ones and when one gets too dirty, it gets dropped into the jar of vinegar to soak. Once I'm all done for the day, i send them all through the Wonder Wash and voila! Good as new. Rags only get disgusting if you let them lay about for weeks without cleaning them.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Don't Print - Save $ and a tree


The thesis has been in control this past week. But NO MORE! I e-mailed that sucker 5 minutes ago and am free forever. Well ok, for a week until I need to do corrections. Still - it's something.

It is 112 pages at present. That's a pretty hefty document and old me would have printed it out 5 or 6 times to mark it all up and make corrections. I work better in hard copies. However, new me sucked it up and made edits on the screen. My advisor will be making corrections onscreen too, so hopefully the only actual copy I'll have to print will be the final version for binding.

How much money is this saving me? Well, I've burned through my allotted number of prints at school. Now they're 10 cents each. That's 11.20$ just for one draft alone, and I tend to print a lot of them.

I will try for the remainder of the semester to read articles for class onscreen as well. I can't guarantee this, because at some point my eyes may start to bleed. Still, if you figure I'll not be printing 200 pages each week for the rest of the semester, that's 1000 pages. That's 1/90th of an average-sized tree and less money spent on the stacks of articles swiftly taking over my apartment. Articles i'll probably never read again, I might add.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two Confessions and Some Bragging

1) The fridge has been plugged back in as of last evening. I started to worry about my Swiss Chard and life is too short to worry about the health of one's vegetables. In my mind, wasting food I've already purchased is worse than using electricity for assuring it isn't wasted. So there you have it.

2) It is time to disclose the daily water war that goes on in my building: It's a house that's been converted into 5 apartments, so the shower situation is a little... precarious. If I don't get in by 8am, the undergrads wake their sorry asses up en mass after 9 and bombard the shower till there's no hot water left. At that point it's hit or miss: If someone needs to wash a mug I'm blasted with frigid water, but if no one uses their sink while I'm in the shower, all is well. Now I don't know how or why the water heater acts this way, but it has a hierarchy system. If you turn up the hot water, it assumes you're the priority and gives you the warm water rather than giving it to the other twit. Sweet victory is yours for 30 seconds until the aforementioned twit ups their water use too and you're left in the cold again. This can go back and forth for minutes until the last person who ups the hot water before the knob is turned all the way wins and gets all the hot water. If you're dealing with an experienced opponent however, the water war doesn't end there, oh no. It continues because when the other person turns the water off completely, the winner gets scalded. Then they turn the water on full blast, and the person freezes.

You see where I'm going with this... it's childish and wasteful and it can last for 30 minutes if both parties are determined to make the other suffer. Sometimes I indulge. I feel I'm owed a nice warm shower since I've been up since 5 working and they went to bed around 5, boozing. And winning can be sooooo satisfying.

Ok, now is the time for the bragging:

I did NOT engage my opponent in the water war this morning! I shivered and washed the soap off and hopped out of the shower lickety split. Euphoria (or maybe it was just hypothermia) washed over me as I lept across the apartment to find a clean towel. My concern for the enviroment had won over my vindictive nature! (If you know me, you'll know this is a significant moment in my fiesty history.)

Furthering the bragging vein, I still haven't bought ANYTHING! It's been a month! I was feeling the burn last night while gazing at gorgeous spring dresses, but it's less than the pain I usually feel around this time of year. Wahooey!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

In Which I Discuss Baking Soda... Yet Again.

I've been thinking about this for a few weeks, and then commenter Dani brought it up too: Where does all this Baking Soda I'm swiftly becoming obsessed with come from? Is it natural? How is it produced? Transported? Etc. These are good questions, and not ones that are easy to find the answers to. Production and consumption cycles have grown so complex that sometimes we think we're making the green choice and it turns out not to be so. I'm still backing Baking soda though, and here's why:

Baking Soda is Soduim Bicarbonite (NaCO3) and it does exist in nature. People used to mine for it (or actually the soda ash, aka ore trona, which is quite plentiful in the US.) Now we create a more purified version by fusing stuff (Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Chloride, Ammonia and Carbon Dioxide) in a lab. Yes, the process does emit CO2 into the air, but apparently no more than any other factory-produced good (which is practically everything.) Baking Soda can also be made by another method because 'trona' is plentiful here. In the other common method, one dissolves the trona in water and injects it with CO2. Natural Gas is used in the process, as is a small amount of ammonia, but far less of either is used in bicarb production than in the production of say, bleach or drano or ammonia itself. The majority of the Baking Soda for the whole world is produced in this country, so at least it doesn't have to travel too far! In other parts of the world it's made with limestone and brine.

Church and Dwight is the father company of Arm & Hammer, which is the brand I'm using because it's what I have right now. I've always hated Church and Dwight as a company, but this is because the ad agency I used to work for dealt with them constantly. They were stingy and stodgy, an old-school company weary of any innovation and slow to pay their bills. Then again, baking soda hasn’t changed much over the years so maybe they’re right not to budge. And I shouldn't let my interpersonal conflicts with their employees color this post too much!

In a 1993 business report, I found out a bunch of cool stuff about the company. It started including wildlife picture cards in boxes of Baking Soda in 1888 to raise awareness about endangered species. How cool! In 1908 Church & Dwight began using recycled paper in their boxes! Who knew anyone recycled back then? In 1990 they hired an executive to define their environmental policy – something other companies swiftly copied to get in onboard the trend train. Apparently, C&D focuses on ‘beginning of the pipe’ pollution prevention, rather than ‘end of the pipe’ pollution clean-up, which is music to my ears. However, the rest of the business report reads more like a PR document than a concrete explanation of how the company functions in a green way. This makes sense. Green means money, after all. C&D donates quite a bit of cash to environmental education and stewardship. They also focus the report on how Sodium Bicarbonate could be used by other businesses to lessen their environmental impact since it is a cleaning agent without any toxins, and one that actually helps our municipal water supply when it’s poured down the drain (the how was lost on me in the technical prose.) The process of production itself was not addressed, although they do highlight the safety of their workers as top priority. This omission could be due to the fact that the report I read was from 15 years ago – not as much emphasis was placed on carbon footprints back then, so companies weren’t expected to reveal theirs. See the full report here . The C&D website itself talks about products and tips for using them, but doesn't include any other company info so this is all I got.

For those who do not like supporting large companies, there are small natural food companies that make Baking Soda too, although it seems they're more expensive.

In Short: the production of Baking Soda isn't carbon neutral, but it has a much smaller production footprint than other cleaning products I researched. Perhaps more importantly though, it comes in a box and it's nontoxic. Throughout its entire product lifecycle, it's the best option I've found thus far.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Killing the Fridge


I've been notably absent the past few days. Thesis-writing is taking over.

Taking a writing break to report on the latest phase of the project: Killing the Fridge.

Average household fridges use a little over 1000 Kilowatts of energy per year, which costs about 90$ . The fridge sucks the most energy in your home according to the US Department of Energy (assuming you don't have something ridiculous like a spa pump in the backyard.) I know 90 bucks isn't a ton, but it's better than nothing. And over the course of a lifetime, it adds up.

The door to my kitchen is remarkably narrow so my fridge is tiny anyway; anything larger wouldn't fit in the room. Still, it's a huge electricity waster. The temperature gauge is shot, so if I don't open the door for a few days everything freezes because it gets too cold inside. I've been doing without a freezer for more than a year since every time I defrost the thing it's filled with hard ice again within a day. While taking a hatchet to the ice block can be good for stress on occasion, it's just not worth it on a regular basis. The insulation around the door is practically disintegrating from age, so I'm sure the cold air seeps out (unfortunately, not quick enough to not freeze anything kept on the top shelf.) It's age is also a problem because refrigerators get more efficient each year and mine is at least 20 years old.

When you think about it, I don't eat much that needs refrigeration anyway: Butter for baking, but that lasts a few weeks at room temperature. So do eggs (those, I've started buying a few at a time from a house down the street that has chickens in the backyard.) I need milk for making cheese, but I boil that. I'll just have to buy dairy the same day I'm planning on getting crafty. What do I get from cold veggies anyway? I just cook them later to warm them back up. I'm a little concerned about lettuce wilting and the like, but i'll try to keep it in water to delay the process. When I make yogurt, I'm worried about that spoiling. Still, I can always deposit stuff in the fridge in my office. It's working constantly whether I put crap in there or not. The biggest anticipated problem is that I get two weeks worth of produce at one time in my delivery and I might not be able to eat it all before it goes bad.

Still, if the experiment doesn't work I can always plug the sucker back in later in the week. Tonight i'll be baking something with the last of my heavy cream and pulling the plug.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

No Shampoo Update

Well, the deed is done. It looks normal. Smells normal. Will I soon be liberated from frizzy, chemical-filled hair? I hope so!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not Shampooing?

I have crap hair. It's long, coarse, tangly, not straight or curly but a big wavy mess. When I go to the hair salon however, everyone just goes on and on about how great it is. They make it look perfect by gunking it with 16 pounds of chemical crud (all available for purchase) and blasting it with hot air until it cowers in submission. When I do my own hair, this is not the case. I don't have any of the tools or any of the gunk. Inevitably it looks amazing when I'm planning on sitting at home munching on cheetos, and when I need it to be stellar it insists on looking like doo doo.

The reason I'm telling you this is to get the point across that I DON'T CARE ABOUT MY HAIR. Sure, it's better than being bald, but in the grand scheme of things I'm willing to let my (lack of) hair care go pretty early in this whole green-my-life experiment.

Shampoo has a chemical (Soduim Lauryl Sulfate) that's designed to look foamy. That's all it's supposed to do, because people like foam. Well, it's linked to cancer and it's way too harsh for hair anyway, so the natural oils that protect our hair are washed down the drain and our body goes into overdrive to produce more. Enter oily hair after 1.5 days without shampoo. Unacceptable.

Shampoo is out! I've returned my very expensive Paul MItchel Shampoo and Conditioner to the store because I'm convinced it actually makes my hair dirtier and at present am using up the last of my travel-sized Mario Badescu natural shampoo and conditioner. There are those who insist that I should stop cleaning my hair all together and, after a few weeks of yuck, it'll look the best it's ever looked and start to clean itself. While I don't think these people are lying in an attempt to make everyone smell/look horrible, I'm not brave enough for this yet. I need to gradually work up to something like never cleaning my scalp again. Instead, my new baking soda and vinegar obsession is being tested on the bod itself, and tomorrow AM I'm trying the following shampoo method, courtesy of Nature Moms (not that I am one)...

Dissolve 1 Tbsp of baking soda in enough water to make a paste. Apply to roots only and let it chill for a minute or two. Then massage your scalp with your fingers to loosen the gunk. Rinse the bakind soda out and pour a mixture of 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar and water over the ends of your hair. Let it sit a minute and then rinse.

Hopefully it works! I think I'll miss the yummy smelling stuff, though. I'll just have to get really really good smelling, natural body soap bars and inhale those instead.

If this experiment works, I won't have to buy 29$ worth of Shampoo and Conditioner each month, which rocks. I may have to start carting in 4-ton boxes of baking soda, though.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Week's Worth of Food Stuffs


Thought I'd write out my average week of food consumption. The first three days are actually from this week, the last few are just average days. As you can see, I do not eat make the green-EST choices, but I'm doing better than I ever have previously. Seemed more fun than writing my thesis...

Sunday:

~Organic/Local/Windpowered/NO-Waste AMAZING Brunch at The Kitchen: Toffee Pecan French Toast and Locally made Bahkti Soy Chai. Even the table water at the Kitchen is from a local spring
~Apple with Almond Butter
~Pasta (I made it from scratch, which is really easy for one person but a lot harder once you up the quantity) with ricotta cheese (also made by me earlier in the week) and broccoli (I get organic produce delivery)
~Marshmallows dipped in hot chocolate (they were allegedly 'handcrafted by a spanish confectioner', which means they travelled a long way before they were gifted to me for Christmas)

Monday:

~Asiago bagel with veggie cream cheese (on Mondays the head of our department brings free bagels in from Einsteins)
~Grapefruit
~Spinach and Artichoke Dip I made with fresh veggies, some cheese, and Veganaise. Sprouted Grain Tortilla Chips (I just crisped them in the oven) and carrot sticks for dipping
~Stir-Fry (Broccoli, Mushrooms, Yellow Peppers, Tomatoes, carrots, and Garlic) over brown rice with Bragg's (like soy sauce but yummier and way better for you. Plus the glass bottle makes an awesome spray bottle for cleaning when you're done)

Tuesday:

~Homemade Wheat Bread with PB & Jam
~Pinto Bean Dip (dried beans slow cooked till smushy w/garlic, lemon juice, parsley from a friend's garden and cumin) with carrots to dip
~Weird chocolate-y beet cupcakes (I realize this sounds gross, but it's mega-yum. I'll post the recipe later once I get it just right)
~Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Mash
~Quorn-brand faux chicken breast chopped up over greens (it's made from fungus, not soy and even though it's frozen, there's no plastic in the packaging. Also: it's really really tasty.)

Wednesday:

~Valencia Oranges & Skim Chai (in my own jar)
~Homemade Saag Paneer over rice (or, my bastardized version, at least)
~Curried Lentils
~Steamed Broccoli & Cabbage
~Chocolate Beet Cupcakes
~Pilfered snacks from the house where I babysit (most likely vanilla soy milk, pears, and natural cheese puffs)
~Baked Tofu with Thai Peanut Sauce and rice
~Local Boulder Beer at Pub Quiz Night

Thursday:

~PG Tips Tea
~Homemade Bread with PB & J
~Oranges, Kiwi, and Mango Fruit Salad (these come in the produce delivery)
~Leftover Stir Fry from Monday
~Beet & Buttermilk Cheese Salad (I made the cheese) with Balsalmic Dressing
~Potato Leek Soup (I bought this and added some chunks of potato to it)
~More Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

Friday:

~Lemon Loaf Cake & Tea
~Apple
~Huge salad with carrots, fake chicken, tomatoes, and Amy's Organic Ranch
~Leftover bean dip spooned into lettuce leaves
~Leftover Saag Paneer
~Happy Hour at Jills with the department (veggie nachos, margharita pizza and a vodka tonic)
~Falafel-stuffed yellow peppers

Saturday:

~Irish slow-cook oatmeal with rasp jam and apples
~Tea and lemon cake
~Steamed Broccoli
~Store bought wheat pasta with romano cheese and artichokes
~Arugula with Balsalmic Vinagrette
~Bahkti Chai at a coffee shop

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Composting Saga


So I really really really want to compost! {Sidebar: It's interesting how my desires have moved from "I need a better haircut and a new Diane Von Furstenberg Dress" to "I need a bucket of worms deposited in my kitchen" in the last few weeks} Our burgeoning landfills are handled horribly, so that even the organic garbage we toss in there doesn't break down as it should because air doesn't get to it. I also want the composted castings stuff for my container garden experiments which should commence in a few weeks! However, I don't want to spend the money on it.

I'm worried I will kill the worms by way of neglect if I do vermicomposting. Using drums for composting outdoors might work out better for me, but they're like 200 dollars each! And there's always the possibility that the undergrads who live in the apartments below will dispose of an old keg in there/use it as a toilet/etc. I suppose I could construct a bin myself from wood, but it'd be stinky and the raccoons might get to it.

So presently, I'm just not composting and feel crap about it. Most of my garbage could be composted because I eat so many fruits and veggies and I'm not buying anything but food since I started this project!

I investigated Boulder's waste management situation and found that we have a composting drop-off location in town. Since I don't have a car however, it's a little far for me to haul my compostables. I have a friend whose apartment complex has a composting bin, and I suppose I could carry my veggie scraps there... but frankly that seems like a lot of work.

So I decided to buy some red wrigler worms and get to business using any cast-off plastic bin my friends would give me. Enter Craigslist - where I found someone in Nederland (the incredibly crunchy town up the mountain) who is willing to give me enough worms to get started for free! HOW COOL IS THAT? Now all I need is a ride up there to get them and someone's old plastic storage container to get started. I'll keep you posted on how this works!

Oh god, starting to panic about actually having to touch worms......

More Deaths? No Thanks!

This morning I was reading an article in the economist about the link between pollution and premature death. According to people qualified to make such claims, a delayed response to global warming (which is advocated by corporations who want to make money from fossil fuels as long as possible and then sweep in with a 25th hour solution to make even more money) would be VERY costly in terms of human loss of life. If we continue to consume at our current rate, by 2030 the ozone pollution alone will result in four times more deaths! YOW!

[via The Economist]

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Slipup!

I feel morally compelled to admit that last night I bought a takeout sandwich. Didn't even think about it until this morning. The sandwich was wrapped in paper, but at least it's paper and not plastic I'm throwing out! And at least it was purchased from a local business.

Still, I need to be more cognizant!

DIY Tooth Powder

More investigating of the toothpaste situation has led to the following recipe. The Myrr powder and peppermint oil I found at the natural drug store (it's Boulder. We have more of those than the regular kind.) I've whipped up a batch and stashed it in a little glass jar with a lid. Then, I just wet my toothbrush and dunk it in the powder. I know peppermint doesn't really make my mouth cleaner and it's only in my head, but I don't care. I bet if I stuck a vanilla bean in there it'd be just as delicious as my old Crest brand...

Tooth Powder:

Three Parts Baking Soda (whitens teeth)
One part Salt (polishes teeth)
A few drops of Peppermint Oil (tastes yummy)
Myrr Powder (kills germies)

Price = 10.48$ for a lb of Myrr powder (this will be enough for years of tooth brushing! Hope it doesn't go bad), 3.55$ for 1 oz of peppermint oil (again, enough for more than a year)

Old Crest Price = 3.74$ per tube x 6 tubes a year = 22.44$

Hooray! My version is much cheaper and doesn't fill the landfills with all that plastic!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bah!

Reading this has gotten me into a tizzy! The New York Times reviews a book called Gusher of Lies in which Robert Bryce completely discounts our need for energy independence and pokes holes in all the potential energy solutions people are working on. We'll be dependent on oil for the next 30-50 years, he says, and who cares anyway? Ethanol and Wind Power are too expensive and so they don't offer real solutions. And I partially agree with this: Ethanol gives us less energy than gasoline, wastes a TON of water, takes up quite a bit of agricultural land, and emits more pollutants in the air. Solar power's too unpredictable since we can't store it.

Ok, but isn't he missing the point entirely? The fact remains that we'll be out of fossil fuels soon. Who cares? I'd say everyone will at that point if we haven't come up with solutions. We need to develop these energy technologies and transform the way our society is structured. Admittedly, electric cars and bio-diesel aren't enough! But abandoning them altogether is ridiculous. We need to work to find ways of storing solar power or electricity (which Bryce does advocate, I believe.) We need to build communities where cars are not a necessity. We need to transform our economy into one that doesn't depend on robot-like consumption of goods designed to be discarded. We need to make wind power cheaper and better.

Who cares? Robert Bryce will care when we've run out of places to put our waste and start storing it in his backyard. He'll care when the price of oil (which he claims is the same as it's always been in real dollars) skyrockets because of scarcity and only the extremely wealthy can afford to get anywhere or do anything. He'll care when our oil dependence starts dictating foreign policy and folks start dying. Oh wait... that's already happened.

Has anyone read the whole book? I've read only an excerpt and reviews because my thesis is the be all and end all at present. It's going on the list, though.

Watch THE STORY OF STUFF...


if you haven't already! I was feeling a little sorry for myself this evening, sitting at home writing my thesis and wondering what I'm going to wear for a birthday party tomorrow since I can't buy anything new. Then I watched Annie Leonard's 20-minute flash video, The Story of Stuff. Hadn't seen it in a while and it re-invigorated me [Thanks Ginna for suggesting I rewatch!]. It's just so insulting the way companies treat us: we're consumers - nothing more. I dove into my closet and found three dresses I've literally never worn since I've purchased them. There are two tops in there I've never donned either, all cute and all suitable for a night out. What is WRONG with me? I have plenty to wear!

Watch for a reality check here

Chai to go

This morning I needed a little pick-me-up after too vigorous of a Thursday night out. I headed over to the coffee shop on the corner and ordered an iced soy chai. I was certain to use my own water bottle, which gets a thumbs up. However, what I really wanted was hot chai and I was too freaked out by the warm-liquids-in-plastic factor to get it. I use a 'safe' plastic water bottle (meaning one that doesn't have PS, PVC, or Polycarbonate), but I'm still wary. I also have my glass jar I cart around with me, but with hot stuff I nearly scald myself when I try to touch it. So, here's the plan I devised today:

I have a ton of socks with holes in the toe. Since I haven't a clue how to darn them, they end up in the garbage ordinarily. Instead, the new resourceful me can cut off the tube part of the sock and use it as a cozy for my glass jar. It'll work the same way those cardboard ones do at Starbucks but without the extra waste! I'm really quite proud of myself for this brilliant plan, although I'm sure hundreds of others have figured out the trick first.

The best part about bringing your own jar? You get money off your coffee (or in my case tea)! This is true at Starbucks and Celestial Seasonings and well as some of the smaller coffee shops around Boulder. Hooray for the green choice saving some dough! Admittedly it's only a few cents, but it's something.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Libraries? How Novel!

As a grad student, I spend a great deal of time in the library. I owe CU's Librarian my firstborn child in overdue book fees (ok ok, only 128$ according to the bill I got today.) Something I never do, however, is check out a book for pleasure from the library. If I want to read for fun instead of for school I buy books on Amazon. Not sure why I make this distinction. Maybe when reading a book cover to cover rather than quickly skimming for facts I care about newness, shininess, and cleanliness?

But no more! The no more crap rule applies to books too. I love books, so this one will be tough. But like clothes, even though I truly enjoy and value them, partially my purchase of books is just to have another status symbol. Everyone does this, right? You want people to see the "right" books at your house when they come over for dinner so they think you're deep and brilliant. Ewwwwww. We humans can be so lame! If we really are what we own as a bunch of pessimistic 20th century theorists say, my worth is dwindling significantly. I prefer my Nana's logic: You can't take it with you (when you die, that is.)

Today I returned a number of overdue academic works and checked out a Dashiel Hammett novel. It has writing in the margin which i find really annoying, but it isn't another 13 dollars down the tube for something I'll probably read one time.

PS: The irony of talking about saving money while I have accrued 128 dollars in avoidable late fees is not lost on me. I'm trying to get better...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Energy (IN)efficient Homes


Fair Warning: This one is a tome!

The way we build homes now is incredibly inefficient in comparison with even 100 years ago. For the greater thesis project on neighborhood design, I'm reading this amazing book called Vernacular Architecture by Henri Glassie. It explores the connection between the way humans organize their lives and the way their houses are built. So in Ireland 50 years ago for example, homes had thatched roofs. You would ask your neighborhood thatcher to come and take care of business for you. This was something that had to be repaired often and different members of the community were responsible for different portions of the home creation. Homes were as 'green' as you could get since the materials used to make them were local. They were also energy efficient since they were built to jive with their surroundings.

Now of course, homes aren't built for a specific person's needs. They're designed detached from people altogether. Profit is the number one goal. Materials are shipped in from all over the world and shoddy construction seems the norm. Developers won't even take the time to situate the home on the lot in the best way or have windows facing the proper direction! According to the government's energy-saving website, as much as 30 percent of the energy our homes use is wasted through drafts and lack of insulation.

I have thatched roof cottage envy! I've expressed before my displeasure at how disconnected I am from my stuff. The same rings true for my home. I want to be able to build my dwelling, assure it meets my needs and it holds true to my environmental principles, but I can't. I don't know how and I don't have any friends who know how either. This is a lifegoal of mine, but I haven't the time or the money at present.

What I can do is make simple modifications to my house to up the efficiency a bit. I have the draftiest house in the world. It's essentially a glorified studio, but has 5 windows! This is great for light and I don't have to use lamps until after 6 pm, but my little radiator has to work constantly to keep the place warm. If I turn it off, the house is an icebox within the hour! In my bathroom, there's a vent that is basically a hole in the wall. There's plastic flap over it, but it doesn't close all the way. Great for summer; horrible in Winter. Condensation freezes there some mornings! On three sides of my home, the walls are cinder block covered in wallboard with NO insulation at all. If I'm ever too hot, all I need to do is touch them and I'm freezing again.

I managed the following yesterday:

1) I taped the stupid bathroom flap shut with packing tape. Much toastier environment to dry off after a shower! I notice a difference already.
2) Armed with cardboard cutouts and white duct tape (to match my white walls and window) I pasted the cardboard where my window unit AC is to stop the draft a bit. The AC unit does have those stupid accordian flap thingies, but it's really thin plastic between me and the outdoors. Not enough.
3) I took down my silly gauze curtain from the window in my bed area and hung a blanket up instead to try and trap some warm air on this side. It looks hideous but i'll work on making a better curtain later.
4) In the kitchen, I duct taped my two windows at the seams. It's perhaps a little too Anthrax-scare for comfort, but I won't be opening them for another month at least since they lead into the courtyard where the undergrads who inhabit the other apartments in my house have beer pong matches nightly. It's too loud to warrant the windows' use until summer heat demands it. I realize they make weatherstripping for this sort of thing, but I'm too cheap to buy it.
5) There's a place under my front door where air gets in. I've taken a long, skinny strip of cardboard, covered it with the white duct tape so it's camoflaged, and taped a little flap to the bottom of my door so that there's less of a hole.

This was all Free, since I already had the stuff. Hopefully it will cut down a bit on the amount of fuel used to heat my home!

[Image via A Picassa Album ]

Junk Mail is ruining my resolve!

In the last few days, I've received catalogs from Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Free People, Victoria's Secret and J Crew. It makes it difficult to not want to purchase fun new spring clothes when I see how adorable they are! Catalogs are also hideously wasteful since even if the catalogs are printed on recycled paper, most are not recyclable. I've made the decision to stop my junk mail!

Green Dimes will do it for me, but it costs 20 dollars! No thanks. Instead, here's a DIY checklist:

1) Contact the Direct Marketing Association . You can either remove your name from their list altogether, or pick and choose which businesses you don't want to hear from.
2) Call the 1-800 Number on the back of catalogs you no longer wish to receive and ask to be removed from the mailing list.
3) Go to Catalog Choice and for free, opt out of the catalogs you don't want to receive anymore.
4) To stop all those credit card come-ons (which, as an indebted young person, make up the majority of my mail) go to Opt Out Prescreen and take your name off that list. If you ever want a new card, you can apply the old-fashioned way.

Two Baking Soda Experiments From This Morning


Experiment #1:
I have long hair and it clogs the shower drain sometimes. Like right now. But instead of dragging my butt to target, spending my hard-earned cash on toxic chemicals, probably buying a bunch of other crud as well that I have no need for, and coming back to pollute the water supply, I tried a different way. I dumped baking soda down the drain, poured some vinegar in there too, watched it sizzle, and then dumped hot water down after 15 minutes or so.

Yeah yeah yeah, you say. So did it work?

Well, not really. The amount of water that stockpiles when I shower has lessened... but it's still clogged. Me thinks this is a multiple tries sort of thing. And then, instead of letting it get bad again maybe i'll do it once every two weeks or so.

Experiment #2:
I ran out of my girly vanilla mint Crest toothpaste this morning. Yes, I could slice open the tube and get the last remnants and I will tomorrow, but I was on a baking soda kick. I used baking soda and water to brush my teeth. This works really well. Teeth feel and look clean. I miss the minty-fresh taste my mouth gets with the chemically version, though. Maybe i'll get over this. Or maybe there's a way to infuse the toothpaste with mint leaves? I know Toms of Maine has a minty version, but I'm still saddened by the amount of packaging involved, so i'll keep trying to make my own and keep you abreast of the mouth-cleansing developments.

The Consequences in Cash?: A big bottle of organic white vinegar costs me less than 1.89$, and a big box of baking soda is also less than 2 bucks. Drano would set me back 5 bucks, and new toothpaste is 3.25$ (my fun kind, anyway.) Total Savings = 4.25$-ish

I think I'll buy myself an organic soy latte!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Need another excuse to stop buying crap? you'll get thinner

...or at least that's what Peter Walsh claims in his "Does this Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?" Book

Does this sound familiar:

“All of us deal constantly with the urge to consume more,'’ he writes. “We spend too much, we buy too much, and we eat too much. In the same way we surround ourselves with so much clutter, we overwhelm our bodies with caloric clutter consisting mainly of sugar and fat.” - via Tara Parker-Hope's NYT Health Blog

One thing I strongly disagree with is his insistance that you trash the clutter. Why not give it away? Why not repurpose? Still, the gist of the argument is that less stuff makes you happier and thinner, and I am down with that. Also: richer, I might add.

PET PEEVE: Paying for "Safer" Water


If another person tells me to stop drinking from the water fountain because it’s dirty I think I’m going to beat them to death with their Aquafina bottles! YES I KNOW IT’S DIRTY! But until middle class citizens insist it be clean – and do so by using the tap – it won’t be! Unless you’ve been living in a cave you’ve heard about how evil bottled water is, but since I still see it EVERYWHERE I feel ok about posting this. What's that advertising adage about repetition, repetition, repetition?...

The water in Boulder tastes great, as did it in NYC. Bottled water isn’t just environmentally irresponsible; it’s less safe and WAY more expensive.

Facts that get under my skin:

1) The HEATH MYTH: A ton of the bottled water out there is just taken from municipal water supplies and then filtered. Even the spring water is clearly affected by our global pollution – no ecosystem goes untouched by human irresponsibility!
2) THE TOXINS: The plastics used in water bottles are made to be disposable – meaning that the chemicals leech into the water. This gets worse if we try to do the right thing by reusing the bottles or if they’re exposed to the sun (in say, the back of a hot car.)
3) THE TRAVEL: Shipping water is RIDICULOUS in places that have their own water supply! Why would we allow the extra production and transportation costs? Take the trendy Fiji Water, for example. Yes, that sticker on the bottle is pretty, but FIJI?? REALLY? Do you know how far away Fiji is? In fact, it’s far away locale is one of the marketing ploys the company uses, as though ANYWHERE on this planet has escaped pollution and degradation at human hands. For those who argue that Fiji Water is helping an impoverished economy, don’t fool yourself. Yes, all things considered they are a fairly responsible company (now) and make attempts to give back to their workforce, but this is largely in response to the P.R. problem they encountered a while back when it was pointed out that half of the citizens of Fiji didn’t have reliable drinking water. Fiji Water claims to be Carbon Neutral in 2008. Not buying it. You can’t negate the greenhouse gases emitted during production and transportation by buying carbon credits!
4) The GREENWASHING: Just because Evian spring water comes from nature originally (like all water...) doesn’t mean it’s Green, as their advertisements of naked women flailing about in snowdrifts would have you imagine. NO bottled water is the green choice!
5) The WASTE: For those who recycle their water bottles, that’s fabulous. But not enough. Companies are trying to cut down on the amount of plastic used in the bottles. Still not enough. Over 30 MILLION plastic water bottles end up in the landfill EVERY DAY!
6) The COST: Turning on the tap costs pennies. Drinking from a fountain is free (for you anyway.) If the additives in tap water freak you out, get a filter! Still cheaper then the 5-10 cents per ounce depending on brand you pay for the bottled variety. Even buying a metal water bottle (the SIGG bottles are mega-cute but pricey – around 20 bucks) pays for itself in a few weeks if you were a tried and true bottled water addict before.

Sign the Take Back the Tap Pledge !