Posted in Environment, Gardening, Lists

Earth Day 2022: Sustainability

I haven’t blogged much lately, but I am committed to my Earth Day environmental check in. 2022 has brought a lot of challenges for me, and well, pretty much everyone else. I still haven’t managed to kick the plastic habit, but I have been taking steps toward living more sustainably. Some have worked out better than others.

Step 1: Mending clothes. I worn second-hand jeans exclusively for over a decade – ever since learning about the environmental cost of producing new denim. I save money and the earth. It’s a win-win. When fitting rooms closed during Covid-19, I wondered what more I could do to prolong the life of my denim. Enter the sewing machine. I learned how to reinforce weak seams and do two types of patches. I haven’t figured out how to do a good hem, but I love how cute these butterfly patches turned out.

2. Native plants: My backyard is often soggy, the side effect development and living near a marsh. With carefully selected native prairie grasses and flowering plants, I turned my sump-pump runoff into a faux riverbed. The rocks redirect the water, sending it away from the lowest part of the yard. These native plants are absolute sponges with deep root. Plus they give me something pretty to look at, pollinators a place for a snack, and my family a place to play bocce or croquet. This was an absolute win. I shopped at Minnesota Native Landscapes, but that won’t help you if you live in say Phoenix, AZ or Cardiff, Wales.

3. I tried toothpaste pellets. I won’t say which brand, but it was a no-go. I was disappointed. I still love the idea of toothpaste in a refillable glass jar. If you have a favorite brand, I’d love a recommendation.

4. Bambody Period Underwear. Maybe this is TMI, but between the plastics, adhesives, and bleach used in traditional feminine hygiene products, I made the switch to more nature friendly products about 8 years ago and FINALLY I have found one worth talking about. Other brands I have tried either fell apart after two washes, fit poorly, were itchy, had a funk, or (again maybe this is TMI) made me sweaty. Bambody is the opposite. They are so soft and comfortable, that I wear them on days I don’t need them. I bought my first pair eighteen months ago. My most recent purchase was two months ago. If I put the same color pairs side by side, you would not be able to tell the difference. No fading, no weird stretching, and best of all no funk or sweat. Click here to see more.

To sum Earth Day 2022: Try the Bambody, add native plants, patches can be cute, and please let me know if you found a decent toothpaste pellet.

These endorsements are entirely my own. I have not received compensation for any product mentioned. However, some items may contain affiliate links.

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, ethics, Food

Earth Day 2020: The Covid-19 edition

Reusable shopping bags are now biohazards. Plant based cleaners don’t necessarily kill viruses. Recycling has stopped in some communities. I’ve had to quickly unlearn habits that took years to master.

It would be so easy to use Covid-19 as an excuse to give myself a pass on taking steps toward sustainability, and to do nothing to recognize the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. And yet the steps I’m taking to protect myself, my family, and my community have brought food and my personal food waste into much sharper focus. That wrinkled red pepper that I once would have composted because no-one would eat it is a precious building block of a stir-fry. That soft apple gets cooked into a quick applesauce. The strawberries my kids thought were over-ripe were perfect for strawberry-lemon cupcakes. The fresh spinach that accidentally froze was fine in soup.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep food fresher longer. I used to buy asparagus to use within 48 hours. But that is too many trips to the grocery store. I kept two pounds fresh for a week by storing the stems in water and ice.

The silicone Stasher bag that the kids no longer use for lunch have proven themselves handy. They are the best way I have found to keep an avocado fresh. When the kids start school again, they won’t get their Stasher bags back. Plus they are dishwasher safe.

I’m not sure who to credit for the tip of storing lemons in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag, but it’s worked like a charm. My sister sent me a box of lemons five weeks ago. The one we used last night was as fresh and juicy as the one we used the day they arrived.

Covid-19 and the accompanying stay at home orders and devastating loss of lives and livelihoods is overwhelming. Someone in my local paper mocked those of us who had to give up our reusable bags as “proof” that those bags were foolish “feel good environmentalism.” Personally, I need those “feel good” moments more than ever during this Covid-19 crisis.

With so much feeling out of my control, trying to reduce my food waste and limiting trips to the grocery ARE actions I can take and, yup, feel good about.

What are your favorite ways to keep food fresher longer and to reduce food waste?

P.S. – Wash your hands.

P.P.S. – I dislike the block editor – Getting pics to line up right takes WAY too long. My newsletter is more aesthetically pleasing. Sign up here.

Posted in Environment, Family life, Uncategorized

Kicking the plastic habit

Ever since a stint living in Germany in the 1990s, I’ve tried to be thoughtful about my use of plastic. Twenty years ago, cashiers didn’t know what to do when I brought my own love_birds_2pkreusable bags to stores. One even called a manager! Could you imagine that happening in 2018? I average one case of plastic bottled water a year. I do keep some in the house (and in the car) in case of emergency, but I never drink it at home (unless there is a drinking water emergency) and I rarely buy water out because I use a refillable water bottle. I buy resealable plastic bags for school supply lists, but lunchboxes I use these sandwich bags and other refillable containers.

With China’s announcement that they will no longer accept the world’s plastic for recycling, I’m looking for more plastic alternatives.  I’ll share a few things I currently do, a few changes I’ve started to implement, and a few wishes. I’d love to know how YOU reduce plastic.

WHAT I DO (in addition to those above):hk048-sap

  1. refuse straws
  2. use glass containers for storage
  3. skip plastic in home decor items
  4. seek out clothing and other fabrics made from recycled water bottles. If you are in the market for a new purse or backpack, I love Haiku bags. I recently bought a second one – not because the first wore out, but because after 6 years, I wanted a different pattern.
  5. shop the farmer’s markets. Less packaging = less plastic.

WHAT CHANGES I’M MAKING NOW:

  1. Switching back to bar soap. This one hurts. I love body wash and hate slimy soap, but I love our planet enough that I’m giving up the bottle.
  2. Bamboo toothbrushes.

MY WISH LIST: (Can you help?)

  1. Alternative to plastic wrap in the kitchen. I want something to protect oddly shaped food (say cut avocados) from the air and to cover bowls of rising bread dough.
  2. A peanut and tree-nut allergy safe place for buying food in bulk. Every single place I’ve seen has potential for cross contamination and I won’t risk my daughter’s life.
  3. plastic free toothpaste.
  4. Lip balm in non-plastic container.
  5. antiperspirant in non-plastic container.

I would love to hear ideas and suggestions from you. How do you reduce plastic in your life? I’m on the lookout for new ideas.

Posted in Environment, Family life, First Friday Five, Gardening

First Friday 5 Cheap ways to help the Environment

To celebrate Earth Day that falls later this month, I’m sharing Five Cheap Ways to Help the Environment. No fooling in this post.  I love when being green helps me save some green.

  1. Make your own foamy soap. I used to pay $3-5 dollars per bottle for luxurious foaming soap in the bathrooms. Now I spend less than $3 per year for three sinks. soapHow? I ran across this recipe a few years ago. Now I buy scented dish detergent at Dollar Tree, mix 3 Tablespoons of it with 2/3 cups warm water and voila. I refilled the same container for two years, although, I confess I recently splurged for more stylish bottle that has the fill lines marked right on it. I save money and reduce packaging.
  2. Forget buying special potassium rich fertilizer for your roses. Feed them banana peels instead. You can chop them up and scatter them up top or bury the peels. I heard this from an avid gardener, but here’s some online info.
  3. Compost. Depending how much space and waste material you have, you can go big or keep it small. Either way, composting reduces the waste stream and helps your other plants grow strong and healthy. Your local Cooperative Extension Service is a terrific resource for practical information whether you live in an urban apartment or on rural acreage.
  4. Use a reusable shopping tote. Some stores, like Target, take five cents off your purchase for each bag you bring. Those pennies add up almost as fast as those plastic bags full of plastic bags used to.
  5. Take care of those jeans you bought secondhand. I wear jeans almost every day so the news that some washes are not so environmentally friendly was a tough blow. I also used to wear out at least one pair a year. Unfortunately, the brand that fits me best costs over $120/pair when new. The brand that fits second best is about $80/pair new. If I shop at consignment shops in the nicer parts of town, I can get those brands for about $20, sometimes with the original tags. When Tommy Hilfiger said he never washed his jeans, I was intrigued. For the past 18 months, I’ve pretty much stopped washing my jeans, unless they get too dirty to spot clean. I air them out after wearing and pop them in the freezer for a day or two once a month. I have significantly cut back on my overall laundry – saving time, electricity, water and detergent. Even better, the fibers stay strong. I haven’t had a single rip appear since I started doing this, which means I haven’t had to buy a $20 replacement.

Do you do any of these thing to be green and save green? How do they work for you? As for me, I saved so much money with this post, I think I’ll treat myself to a new book.

Posted in Books, On Writing, Writing

Another year

Another year has come and gone. I reached one of my writing goals–to have another book in contract–but missed another–polishing a work in progress.  That’s okay.  I have a new year ahead of me full of opportunity.

I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. Not only did they tend to be way too lofty (lose 10 pounds, write a best seller) but also lacked concrete steps.  By February, I failed to make good on the promise of a year.

The arrival of a new wall calendar still offers me opportunities for a fresh start.  A few years ago, I committed to having a smaller environmental footprint. Although that phrase smacks of over ambition, I found ways to make it work by looking for small shifts in my behavior.  I committed to composting coffee grounds and banana peels. Now, composting is routine and throw out less garbage.  When I learned the plastic beads in cosmetics and soaps end up in the ocean, I stopped purchasing polluting products.  This year, my goal is to learn more about my local eco-system since I know little about Minnesota and how my life choices influence the land of 10,000 lakes.

Professionally, I’m challenging myself to write a short story and have it ready for publication by the end of the year.  A slow writer like me is at a disadvantage in the current market which favors frequent publication.  Since it is year-long process, I have broken it down into small steps, but I’m not ready to share those.

Do you make resolutions or is January first just another day?