Green Tip #7 Reuse Your Old Calendar!

Some days….

Some days you realize how much daily disorganization can build up, and then you stress eat too many almonds (why does it seem like I’m overindulging always on a Tuesday?). Some days your stomach is full of too many almonds and it makes the afternoon a little harder. Some days you come home from work, crank a youtube playlist, and dance around your apartment until you feel like conquering your commitments.

Some days you realize, yet again, that simple is best. You don’t need to tackle the whole world at this moment, but you can make tiny improvements – for yourself, your surroundings, your relationships.

I get really excited about sharing different green tips with you guys, and I then I end up throwing a bunch of stuff at you all at once. So I am re-committing to making the Tuesday Green Tips simple simple simple – something you can do in ten minutes, day after day, until you don’t even realize how awesomely eco-friendly you are because it seems so natural!

I love beautiful calendars, but I don’t want to contribute to the over-use and abuse of paper in our society. I receive calendars in the mail, and luckily they are printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink. Right now I’m decorating my sparse, somewhat dingy apartment walls with scenes from last year’s calendar. My work gets really fancy calendars and the teachers have no problem letting me take them home once the month is over. The other calendars I have I use instead of contact paper.

Contact paper is… well I don’t know exactly, but I feel like a lot of savvy household ladies use it. I’ve seen it lining kitchen drawers and cupboards, under bathroom sinks, and believe it is sold at places like Target. Lord knows my kitchen cabinets and drawers need all the help they can get. I seem to be able to fling even the least-flingy food into far corners of my apartment.

So I cleaned out the cabinet under my stove and laid down some old calendar pages. It’s a cheerful reminder to try and keep things clean and less flingy…

underneath my stove

[I’m having some computer trouble right now, so as soon as that is resolved I will share some pictures. Thanks for your patience!]

calendar pages barely peeking through all the stuff on top of my shelf. This is real life, people.

Green Tip #6: Turn It Off & Book Winners Announced!

I had a big post prepared to go today, but it didn’t feel right. So instead I thought up the simplest green tip possible. If you aren’t using it – turn it off.

Why do you need to have a room light on if you are not in it?

Why should you leave the tv on if you are running an errand?

Why leave your charger plugged in if you are not charging anything?

Why leave your computer or other office machines on if you are going to bed?

I turn on the light only in the room I am working in. It saves energy and saves me money. Whenever I go out, I make sure everything is turned off or on power save mode. Bill Bryson made a wonderful point in his book At Home: “…is how much energy and other inputs we require now to provide us with the ease and convenience we have all come to expect in our lives. It’s a lot – a shocking amount. Of the total energy produced on Earth since the Industrial Revolution began, half has been consumed in the last twenty years.

I think of this every time I wonder – does it matter if I turn this light off for the fifteen minutes I will be gone? Oh it does.

Congratulations to Lee Ra and Liz! I decided to go with my original plan of giving two books away. Check your inboxes tomorrow for details on how to receive your book. Thank you to all those who participated – your comments were very heartwarming and fun to read.

Green Tip #5 “Prescription for Clean Water” + Garlic Oil

This may seem like a strange subject, but I learned something totally new a few weeks ago and had to share. I don’t have a lot of spare prescription medications floating around my house, in fact I have none, but many people do. And what happens when you no longer need them? Conventionally the tradition has been to flush them down the toilet, along with carnival goldfish with tragically short lifespans and Calvin’s toy boat.

But flushing medications means that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals end up in our ground water. From Michigan Medical and Veterinary Care Facilities, “Pharmaceutical contamination of water has a negative impact on the aquatic ecosystem, including fish, birds and other wildlife…Experts believe that an increase in anti- biotics in water may lead to antibiotic resistance in pathogenic organisms.” That means more superbugs in our food supply and therefore our bodies!

Look for community programs that take back leftover medications or try a website like http://www.disposemymeds.org. Another reason not to flush? It can ruin your septic system through buildup!

It may not be totally relevant for all of you, but it is a good reminder to think about how you dispose of anything, not only for the environment’s sake but for your own. We all learn in school that any ecosystem is a cyclical feature, so what we put in is what we get out of it. We want good things to come around back to us, not hazardous medical waste or polluted food supplies.

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If you want something good to come back to you, try a new vegetable or preparing your own infused oil. In another variation on the Anatomy of a Salad, I enjoyed this scrumptious, light yet satisfying dinner yesterday.

I bought a bunch of marinated or pickled veggies from the local markets yesterday, some totally unfamiliar. I love to branch out and try new foods anytime, especially when they are allergen-free and super delicious veggies! And it is the preciously short spring fava bean season. I simply shelled and steamed them for a few minutes before tossing them in with the rest of the bunch.

next time less hand and more bean!

I really enjoyed sitting at the kitchen table, shelling these beans while watching the sunset and listening to a Here on Earth podcast. It is these small moments in the kitchen that really make things worthwhile for me: tranquil, present, with the anticipation of really good food.

I drizzled the cabbage with some homemade garlic oil. You don’t need to buy the fancy bottles at the store (or create more recycling with another glass bottle!). I washed out an old sesame oil bottle and poured in some olive oil. I then added about 5 cloves of garlic, sliced, which needed to be used up before my trip to America. I then stored it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight for 7-10 days. Now it is in my fridge and waiting to be drizzled on salads, fish, roasted veggies, and whatever else I can think of! Maybe some gluten-free pasta or the finishing touch on a soup.

You could also personalize your oil by adding herbs like rosemary, oregano, or thyme, or ginger – really whatever flavor suits you! Sometimes the dead simple things are the best.

So, try something new – be it something at the market, making your own oil, or sharing a green tip with a friend. Or for the best of both worlds, share a green tip AND a meal.

Take care,

Kate

Green Tip #4: Reusable Containers & Kindness

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Like last Tuesday, my Green Tip for this week also carries a life lesson, though this one is a bit more involved. I was supposed to fly back to Japan on Saturday, but due to fog and the gods of Air Traffic Control I missed my flight to Narita, which is only a once a day occurrence. That meant I was stuck for 24 hours and would have to miss work on Monday – not an ideal situation. After an hour or so of wanting to mope, I decided I needed to turn things around to make the next 23 much better. I made friends with a woman in the same situation and we decided to share a hotel room and spent a pleasant evening getting to know each other and exploring a bit of Chicago. I also decided to be happy and make lists of what I was grateful for whenever I started to get frumpy about my situation. On the way to our discounted but not complementary hotel room (we got the “distressed passenger rate” ha!), I was rankled that we weren’t put somewhere nearer to the airport, so I started to make a list.

1. I was thankful there was a free shuttle to the hotel and that I was sitting down.

2. Thankful I had a water bottle and could stay hydrated.

3. Thankful I had a travel companion so I wasn’t stuck alone.

4. Thankful I was relatively safe, warm, healthy, and not hungry.

5. Thankful that all a bad day included for me was a missed flight and not something more serious.

It was a simple list but the simple things keep you grounded. I think the reason I wanted to feel sorry for myself was because I had no control over my situation, plus I was a little sad leaving my family. I like to take the initiative always, so lack of control was a hard thing for me to accept, even though I could understand that you can’t hold a plane full of hundreds of people, in a lineup of hundreds of take-offs, for five more minutes. So the only thing we can control is our response to our emotions and situations we find ourselves in. When you are moping about, you deny yourself the chance to find new opportunities. (I think the same applies to food and dietary restrictions.) Our out-of-the-way hotel gave us a ride to the commuter train and I got to have a whole new way to see Chicago and explore Union Station and State Street. I also had a chance to show my new friend some old favorites and we both agreed that we might not have had such a good time had we been alone and unwilling to reach out to someone in a similar situation.

The following morning I started to get a little sad that I would have to use a vacation day for missing work, taking away one day from a trip home I had planned this summer, but then I did some yoga. There again I chose to make the best out of every possible moment, since I had planned to hit the fitness center but realized I had no luggage and no extra clothes. When I am feeling upset or out of sorts I like to exercise so I can clear out crappy feelings or self-pitying cycles and make room for new, positive inspirations. Doing yoga that morning is when I let go of all the little injustices and decided to make what could be a crappy day into the best day yet. My inspiration? Random Acts of Kindness: Airport Version. After all, who could benefit more from an act of kindness than a stressed-out, travel-worn person in an artificial, indoor, almost-trapped environment?

I had gotten a belated Christmas present of $25 from one of my relatives, and I decided to put it to good use. My first act was the best. After ordering some iced tea from a haggardly overworked and unhappy-looking barista, I put a few extra dollars into the tip jar and asked her to do me a favor. I told her to take $10 from my change and use it on the next person in line, putting the rest into the tip jar. The look of astonishment on her face, and then a softening of the stress lines into a smile, told me that I had just turned her day around – and the act of kindness hadn’t even happened! The best part was that she was transformed not as the direct beneficiary of it but simply by being party to it. And the look she gave me not only transformed her outlook on the day, but filled me with such happiness and gratitude that it instantly negated all the junk I had been dealing with in my own little issue.

Then I bought some mini chocolate bars to hand out as well as a card. I wrote inside “You are special and appreciated. THANK YOU for being wonderful!” and I addressed it anonymously and tucked it away in a busy corner of the airport for someone to find. I thanked two elderly police officers for their service and smiled at as many frazzled travelers as I could. Whenever another frustration popped up I just responded with kindness. Flight delayed? Helped a lady with heavy baggage. Lost paperwork? Left some spare change next to a pay phone (they’re still important, especially when you don’t have an American cell phone or can’t afford one).  Found out my gluten-free meal request didn’t transfer over to my new flight? Handed out another chocolate bar and got a nice handshake in return. Stuck on the tarmac for two hours? Wrote a draft for a blog post. I just kept being kind and all the crappiness and stress rolled right off my shoulders.

In dealing with less than ideal situations, I took control of my emotions with gratitude, because it is hard to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. Then I took control over my circumstances the only way I could: by making others feel happy. And in the process, I felt phenomenal. In O’Hare Airport people – not known as a place to host many great days.

So how does carrying your own containers fit into all of this? Well first, it is an act of kindness to the environment. Part of having food allergies is planning ahead so you’re not stuck in a jam later, but also learning to live without the heaviness or anxiety over where your next meal might come from (and the control issue pops up again). Even before I followed a special diet, I brought containers of my own food through airport security because it was cheaper and it tasted better. Here is the lunch I had packed at the outset of my trip on Saturday – much better than airport snacks or mainstream airport grub from God knows where full of God knows what.

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And any reusable container cuts down on landfill waste, especially during the act of flying, which has a large carbon footprint. I always carry my empty water bottle through security and fill it up (they now have special fountains!) to avoid buying overpriced bottled water.

You can also bring your own takeout containers to restaurants to use for leftovers. Many green-minded businesses encourage this more and more, and I know from my mom’s experience that if you are a regular customer owners are happy to accommodate you. If neither of these is the case – you can still ask! It won’t hurt a thing to try. You can also split entrees to avoid food waste or simply create a restaurant ambiance at home and dine in. Then you definitely have control over what you eat.

And what happened to the remaining kindness money? I used it to buy myself a salad before I got on the plane, since I didn’t know if I would be able to eat any of the on-board meals. Sometimes you need to compromise when you can’t plan ahead or you’re at the end of a very long road with not many choices left. And you often have to show yourself some kindness in order to continue helping others. (In fact, I have a  whole new list of acts to accomplish in the next week and next few months. I may even get a plan together to do one every day!)

You also have to concentrate on each moment, being thankful for the time we are given and making the most out of every opportunity. When I was sprinting through terminal K trying to make my original Tokyo flight, I looked like an idiot. I was trying to run with two bags and my pants were also a little loose. So I was balancing a bag in one hand and clutching my pants in a desperate attempt to keep them up, fully aware of how foolish I looked and wishing for once that my pants were tighter. And I thought, man, someday when I am not so bitter about it, this is going to make a great story. I didn’t know “someday” would be the next day, and I have to thank you for that. It didn’t feel very funny at the time, but I knew I could turn the whole situation into a positive story to share with you all here. So thank you for reading and helping me create a space of inspiration, gratitude, kindness, good food, and earthly communal living.

Tuesday Green Tip #3: One Cup Method

Can I give you some life tips AND green tips?

Life tip: Don’t eat too many duck eggs.

Life tip: Don’t think you have defeated jet lag after four days.

Life tip: Don’t roast beets in tin foil without a pan underneath.

Life tip: Don’t add a glass pan underneath hot roasting beets and then place it on your mom’s fancy stove that is neither electrical or glass but some flat fancy surface because the pan will EXPLODE all over the kitchen while you are making dinner. (More on this later)

Continue reading

Green Tip #2: Air Dry Your Laundry!

About 6% of total energy consumption goes toward dryers and the process of drying clothes. Hanging your clothes out to dry, especially nice things like dress shirts, will actually keep them in better condition because there is less handling involved. AND, hanging clothes out to dry usually reduces the need for ironing! Just use non-metal hangers so there is no chance of rust. Sun also acts as a natural bleach, eliminating the need for harsh chemicals that will eventually pollute the ground water or your body through skin absorption!

Project Laundry List has a feature that will let you calculate home much money you can save if you line-dry.

Care2 has a bunch of tips for making your entire laundry process more energy efficient.

No clue how to hang your clothes to dry? Wikihow has step-by-step instructions and awesome tips! Everything you need know about any type of laundry or linen.

Hanging inside and outside

Happy Hanging!

And Happy Birthday Joe!

Tuesday Green Tip #1: Reusable Bags!

Hey everyone! A few of you have requested more eco-friendly tips, so I am starting Tuesday’s Green Tips to help you make easy changes to a planet-happy lifestyle. My first one? The reusable bag!

I’m a bit of a reusable bag fiend. I like to collect really cute ones. I always have one with me : rolled up in a purse, in my backpack for school, my desk at work, in the trunk of my car (when I had one). At first I forgot once and a while on my way to the grocery store, but I left reminder notes and hung the bags on my front door and eventually it became a habit: keys, wallet, reusable bag, cell phone, check! Once and a while I STILL manage to forget a bag, so I just buy a new reusable bag and then gift it to a friend, neighbor, shelter, person-in-need, or whomever could use it!

Having a reusable bag will eliminate a lot of paper and plastic waste. Here are a few short facts about plastic bag waste!

Plastic bags are a waste of resources

It is estimated that 12 billion barrels of oil and 14 million trees are required to produce the 380 billion plastic bags Americans consume each year.[1] Each bag has an average life span of 12 minutes[2] before it is thrown away, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste[3]. Oil is a non-renewable energy source, and plastic bags do not biodegrade, rather they are broken down into particles that pollute soil and water and are taxing and difficult to clean up.

 

Recycling plastic bags is inefficient

Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled.[4] Moreover, the process of recycling plastic bags costs city and state governments large amounts of money and is grossly inefficient. According to the Sierra Club, it costs $4,000 dollars to recycle one ton of plastic bags, which can be resold for only $32.60.[5]  According to the Clean Air Council, “The state of California spends about 25 million dollars sending plastic bags to landfill each year, and another 8.5 million dollars to remove littered bags from streets.”[6] At a time when states such as California are facing enormous debt and cutting costs, it seems prudent to eliminate such wasteful practices before eliminating essential services like teachers and public workers.

 

Plastic bag fees work

San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Ireland have implemented successful plastic bag fees, ranging from 5 to 17 cents in America and 37 euro cents in Ireland. Fees are ONLY required if a person does not bring their own bag. In Washington, D.C., one month’s revenue from fees, $150,000, was used to clean up the Anacostia River. Ireland experienced a 90% reduction in plastic bag use since implementing the plastic bag fee in 2001.[7] China banned plastic bags and saved 1.6 billion tons of oil with an 80% compliance rate. [8]

Single-use bag fees cover both plastic and paper bags, encouraging people to bring their own bags from home and eliminating a huge source of waste and money drain.

Plastic bag fees DO NOT negatively affect low-income individuals and families

Lower-income communities, in fact all communities, already pay for plastic bags or single-use bags through taxes and increased food and retail prices, all from absorbing the cost of cleaning up after single-use bag pollution. These communities also often have the worst plastic bag litter, and “every bag fee policy currently under consideration at the local and state level would either subsidize reusable bags for low-income residents or exempt low-income residents from paying the fees.”[9]

 

Plastic bags are one of the biggest sources of pollution, especially for the ocean

“Plastic trash entangles, suffocates, and poisons at least 267 animal species worldwide.”[10] It is estimated that 80% of all marine litter is plastic, which never biodegrades. Rather, “when the small particles from photodegraded plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins like PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans.”[11] So it is not only the animals that suffer, but ultimately humans polluting our own food sources.

A plastic bag fee will CREATE revenue, not hinder it.

In addition to the outright cost for city and state governments, also bourn by the consumer through taxes, retailers suffer out-of-pocket costs from single-use bags, which is also transferred to the consumer through higher prices. It costs the city of San Francisco 17 cents to clean up each plastic bag[12], the city of San Jose $3 million per year to unclog drains filled with plastic bag litter[13], and retailers factor in 2 to 5 cents for each plastic bag and 5 to 23 cents for each paper bag for consumer prices, which can add an extra $30 per year per person.[14] Eliminating our use of single use bags will save individuals, retailers, and governments millions of dollars each year, as well as lower carbon emissions, save on resources, and be kinder to our environment in general: “Bags clog storm drains and recycling equipment, costing cities millions, and bag litter lowers property values and degrades recreational areas.”[15] We will all save money, resources, the health of humans and animals, and overall improve our quality of life if we eliminate our false dependence on single-use bags at the cost of literally pennies on the dollar.


[1] Lem, Erin. “The Truth Behind Plastic Bags.” Care2 – Largest Online Community for Healthy and Green Living, Human Rights and Animal Welfare. Care2.com, 29 June 2011. Web. 01 Feb. 2012. <http://www.care2.com/greenliving/the-truth-behind-plastic-bags.html&gt;.

[2] “Myths Vs. Facts Regarding Single Use Bag Bans And Fees.” Www.projectgreenbag.com. Web. 1 Feb. 2012. <Myths Vs. Facts Regarding Single Use Bag Bans And Fees>.

 [3] Clean Air Council. (2009, May). Why Plastic Bag Fees Work.

 [4] Bushnell, K. Plastic Bags: What About Recycling Them? The Sierra Club. Retrieved June 2010 from http://www.sierraclub.org/sustainable_consumption/articles/bags2.asp

[5] Ibid

[6] Why Plastic Bag Fees Work

[7] Lem, “The Truth Behind Plastic Bags.”

[8] Pasternack, Alex. “As U.S. Cities Waver on Plastic Bag Tax, China’s Bag Ban Saved 1.6 Million Tons of Oil.” TreeHugger. Discovery Communications, LLC, 9 June 2009. Web. 01 Feb. 2012. <http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/as-us-cities-waver-on-plastic-bag-tax-chinas-bag-ban-saved-16-million-tons-of-oil.html&gt;.

[9] “Myths vs. Facts Regarding Single Use Bag Bans And Fees”, projectgreenbag.com

[10] Ibid

[11] Bushnell, K.

[12] Ibid

[13] “Myths vs. Facts”

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid