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Archive for the ‘Reduce waste’ Category

I need to make another confession. I love potato chips. No, I mean I really love potato chips.  No offense to ramps and spinach and delicious spring strawberries, but super processed potato chips kick ass. Unfortunately, I’m not going to make a case for how potato chips are healthy or particularly sustainable. (They are not!) I’m just going to point out that sometimes (albeit very occasionally) I buy them — and other foods that come in industrial grade plastic bags.

When I first started to look at the garbage my food was making I cut out a lot of processed convenience products. I cut out cereal barsin  their shiny mylar wrappers. I cut out boxed macaroni and cheese. I cut out all frozen fruits and veggies. I cut out packaged cereals. I cut out packaged snack foods like pretzels and tortilla chips. Then life kicked in and I had to bring some of it back. So now, we have packaged snack foods about once a month – mostly pretzels or corn chips, and occasionally we even have potato chips.  And, after a few disasters with granola, we brought back cereal.

I flip between organic packaged cereals that have boxes and non-organic bagged cereal that claim to be greener and the super sugary EnviroKids brand, which if you buy in a bag is both.

Ironically, we have been taught to toss the plastic bags that come from industrially packed food. But in reality, those bags are tough. They are way more reliable that Ziploc bags. And with the help of a simple office clip, they are just as reusable.

I reuse the milky plastic bags from cereal, frozen vegetable bags, Ziploc bags other people give my kids snacks in. Basically, if it’s not greasy or been used for raw chicken, I use it again.

The beauty of those industrial bags is that they are strong. The cereal bags in particular are great. They are durable, clean to start and very versatile. I use them to the freezer and they are particularly great to use to pack for picnics.

One day I will wean the kiddies off the boxed cereal (today B ate my homemade Muesli!) but until that happens, the least I can do is keep the garbage out of the landfill for as long as possible.

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The weather hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been good enough. The weather is no real excuse. The truth is,  I’ve been procrastinating getting back into riding my bike to work habit. But luckily, lots of other people are better at sustaining this great habit. This month is National Bike to Work Month. This week is National Bike To Work Week. And tomorrow, May 20, is National Bike to Work Day!

I’m working from home, but I pledge to get my tires filled and set to make the trek from the heights to midtown next week!

According to National bike commuter data, provided by the American Community Survey, lots more Americans are biking to work – a whopping 44 percent increase over the past 10 years. According to 2009 American Community Survey — Bike Commuter Data, New York is not doing bad as a city of bikers. In 2009, an estimated 22,619 bikers made up of 0.6% of commuters. 75% of these free-wheelers were men and  25% were woman. I’m sure the number has gone up in the last two years.

The number of bikers is about to go up in our household, too. I scored 3 new old bikes from my father’s shed over the last two weeks.

The red bike in the front is a vintage Schwinn racer. So rusty. So cool. It was my brothers when he was in high school. (If you’re reading this David, you can’t have it back!) The two ten speeds belonged to me and my dad. The gold one was the bike I took to Nova Scotia on an American Youth Hostel Bike Trip when I was 16. It’s inconceivable to me now that my mother sent me off to another country at 16. Remember kiddies, we didn’t have cell phones back then. Early on in the trip, the bike leader got hit by a car. We were somewhere outside of Portland Maine. That left eight 16-year-old’s on our own in a campground in Acadia. We were ridiculously boring while we waited unsupervised for our new group leader.

The white bike was my fathers. It’s the bike he was riding the day he stopped to help some lady find her husbands finger. The guy had accidentally cut it off mowing the lawn. My father helped locate it and put it on ice. Then his wife rushed it to the hospital. (Yes, we made jokes about the guy my father gave the finger to.)

Sure, now these dusty, rusty relics are crowding up B’s room. But soon we will all be able to hit the bike path along the river and in Central Park. Maybe National Bike Month will morph into Family Bike Summer. Sounds pretty good to me.

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On September 11, 2000 I was a pregnant, separated mom with a 1- year old baby. My mother used to drive in to the city once a week to babysit for me. When she pulled up that morning to pick up my 14 month old son, she said, “Something weird is going on, one of the twin towers is on fire.”

It was a beautiful bright morning, as most of us  who live in NY remember, and I didn’t think too much about my mom’s comment. The baby was off to have a great time playing on the back porch of my parent’s house on that glorious Indian Summer day.  That’s what I was thinking about as we buckled the squirming boy into his car seat.  The first tower fell as my mother drove my son back over the Georg Washington Bridge. Then the bridge closed and I was alone on this side of the river.

I always knew I lived on an island. But when I heard the bridge was closed and that my baby and my parents were on the other side of the river, I really understood it with a deep fear.

Before 911, I was fanatical about eating organic. I was convinced that the pesticides in conventional food were going to harm my baby and my unborn baby. I remember sitting and watching the second tower fall on tv and thinking, maybe my obsession over organic food was not that important.

This morning, I was going to post about a pot of hanging lettuce I bought at the farmer’s market and t how expensive the asparagus at Inwood Farmer’s Market was this week. I had the whole post written and was just about to upload the photo and hit publish. But then, I head on the radio that Osama Bin Laden was killed and  that people were cheering in the street. And I felt sick.

When I started this blog, (my second wave of learning how to eat differently) I was making the choice as a political and environmental statement. I am afraid that the world is being destroyed by industrial farming and pollution. But today,  while the minutia of the cost of my asparagus seemed trivial, the fact that we as species are chosing so many different self-destructive paths felt overwhelming. Will Osama Bin Laden’s death mean my children are in less danger of a terrorist attack? Will it mean that soldier’s in Afghanistan’s mom  will sleep more soundly tonight? And how is this going to bridge the gap between two sides of the world who believe in their heart they are right?

If these men were still children their moms would make them shake hands and get over it. You may say this is oversimplified (because I know it is) but in its essence the principal remains true — death and killing should not be an option, let alone a solution. But hey, I also think believe in my heart that should just stop making Styrofoam and quit feeding animals sterilized garbage.

I am, in my heart, selfish. I want to live. I want my children to have world to live in. And I’m afraid, maybe not for the choices our leaders are making for us — because I believe that Barack Obama is a good man with the good of the country at heart — but for the way we are being herded into teams. The “our evil” and the “their evil.”  It’s just not that easy.  Tonight, when I checked on my pot of lettuce, I paused to wonder, and hope, is there a mom in Kabul, tending a garden and trying to figure out how to do things differently too.

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Day 2 of the juice fast. This is the third or fourth year I’ve attempted at fasting twice a year. Every time it gets a little easier. It’s not that I am not hungry, I’m hungry. But the hunger doesn’t distress me in the way it did the first time. I’ve taught my mind that my body will survive if I intake nutrition in this way. Although, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that by the end of each day – which is now – I’m not exhausted and distracted and hating the whole thing.

Making juice makes waste. In the past I’ve lamented the pounds and pounds of  fiber that my 20-year-old juicer spits into it’s yellowing plastic bucket.  I’ve discovered, from experience, that 3 days of home-made juice waste is too much for my worms to handle. But this year, I will happily pack the pounds of pulp off to the Inwood Greenmarket. I’d say it’s at least a half a garbage can I’m keeping out of the landfill!

A juice fast requires that you intake juice about 6 times a day. In an attempt to have better juice, save money, and not have to use a multitude of plastic cups,  I also carry juice to work. Normally I bring my mid-morning juice meal. Today I brought a green juice, a carrot beet juice and an apple juice. And thanks to my scoby master at the Table of Promise, my first batch of kombucha is also ready. So I also brought three bottles of  home-made kombucha – one for me and one for each of my kombucha-loving friends K and E.   All together I was lugging 6 glass jars.

As I heaved my bag off the escalator to get onto the subway, I thought, these jars may be more sustainable –but man they were heavy. The same amount of juice  in plastic would have been much more manageable. Sure I know that one of the reasons people use plastic is because it’s lighter. But I’ve rarely had the experience of lugging glass. I’ve been demonizing plastic for almost a year now. And I’m not changing my position. But in that moment, I had a visceral understanding of why plastic was invented.

My jars of juice were delicious. But  I was mostly extremely excited to share my kombucha with K and E. K and E however were not as excited as I expected. In fact, they were downright skeptical about my kombucha.

“Are you sure I’m not going to get sick?” K asked suspiciously.

I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t really thought about it.

“No,” I said, trying not to look defensive. She slid her bottle a little closer to her. She looked to E and I could tell, they were both thinking that home made kombucha was one of my crazy ideas.

I opened the bottle and it didn’t fizz.

K sniffed her bottle, pretending not to be repulsed.

I took a sip.

“It doesn’t taste like Kombucha,” I said. I was disappointed.

K took a reluctant sip. She tried not to make a face.

“Should I open mine?” E asked. I gave her a sip of my bottle.

It was not the delicious multi-colored bottles we normally guzzle when we fast.

“Maybe it needs to ferment a bit more,” K suggested. She gently pushed her bottle away. E did the same.

“It tastes a bit  like vinegar,” I said taking another gulp. I was starving. “I like vinegar.”

As I downed my own bottle,  K and E watched unsure if they should be horrified  they tried to go back to our non-kombucha conversation.

But, the kombucha, had a mind of it’s own. Every time I opened my mouth to join in the chatter, my words were prefaced by a loud, vinegary, unladylike belch.

We broke into hysterics. 

I will go back to my scoby drawing board and try to make another batch of kombucha. But the moral of the story, next time I bring a treat to my friends,  I’m bringing cookies — they’re light and not gassy.

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Tuesday night I posted about making Muesli. The next morning, my musings on Muesli felt so very trite when I heard on the BBC news that nuclear waste had contaminated the water supply in Tokyo. According to the BBC, “Radioactive iodine levels in some areas were twice the recommended safe level.” They’re warning that the water is not safe for kids to drink.

Oh my god.

This particular piece of the disaster in Japan strikes at a very old fear for me. My parents were  “no nukes”  since the 70s . At least that’s as long as I can remember them being publicly vocal about their opposition to Indian Point – our own neighborhood Nuclear reactor on our own local geologic fault.

As a child I was at first terrorized by the thought of impending nuclear winter and then desensitized.  I remember thinking recently people have been making a fuss and worrying about Indian Point since I was a toddler.  There’s nothing to worry about.  Not true.

For me, in addition to being horrified and terrified that my worst nightmare is happening to the entire country of Japan, it also made me less upset that I paid $24 dollars for two bags of greens and tub of organic, grass-fed yogurt on Saturday. That food may have cost me more money but it cost the planet less energy.

Eating home-made muesli or locally sourced canned tomatoes  or sticker shock farmer’s market greens won’t prevent  more nuclear disasters. But if we can change how we consume energy — and how much — we can start to change our driving need for energy sources.

We are taught to want. We are told every day to want whatever we want whenever we want it. We are taught that we are entitled to a good life of plenty. We drive to the farmers market. We turn the lights on during the day. We don’t shut down our computers. We buy bananas from Ecuador.

I’m picking on things I actually still do to make my point, which is simple. We don’t need to figure out how to make safer nuclear reactors, we need to consume less energy.

What I am trying to do comes down to a daily self evaluation  – to make a conscious choice to be mindful of what I buy, what I do, how I behave. To think about the impact my life has on the world.  make changes to my life to minimize that impact more and more every day.

I want to use less energy to live a healthier lifestyle. I want it for myself. I want it for my kids. And I want it for the planet. New York is the Tokyo of North America. That nuclear waste may not have hit our reservoirs yet, but for me at least,  it’s hitting home.

Protest Indian Point and Nuclear Energy in general. If it’s not safe, it’s not an option.Learn more from the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Indian Point Campaign . Or read the  Clearwater’s call for Indian Point to be closed and decommissioned – not relicensed.

Here’s a frightening little snippet from Clearwater’s argument:

“In 2008, Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory published a report that stated that a “magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake … destined to originate from the Ramapo Fault Zone” was statistically overdue and would cause hundreds, or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Located at the convergence of two fault lines, a recent US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) report revealed that, in fact, Indian Point reactor 3 has the highest risk of earthquake damage of the 104 active US nuclear plants.”

What’s your little difference?

Over the last year,  I’ve been focusing on learning how to eat greener in order to lighten my impact on the world.  But as a “symbolic” act of solidarity with the world, I want to teach the kids to not turn on the lights during the day. What I’ll  ask them is this : “Why turn on the bathroom light to brush your teeth in the morning if you already have the sun shining brightly?”

What else can we do to move away from our fuel hungry habits and live less-impactful lives?  I’m looking for little things, the “pennies in our pocket” of our environmental waste.  Share your thoughts with me here.

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Crunchy. And burnt.

Attempt number two at Mark Bittman’s recipe for easy granola failed. Well, it didn’t exactly fail. But it’s definitely crispy around the edges. Don’t be fooled by the picture — the burnt bits look a lot like raisins. But in this case, looks are deceiving. It’s not going to pass the kid test. Which was the point — I need to find a way to lose revise their go-to breakfast of boxed cereal. Organic Fruit Loops or Cheerios. Lots of packaging and who am I kidding. It’s just processed food.

I did eat this granola however — this morning for breakfast. My mouth is watering thinking about it. A little plain Yogurt and a dab of honey. Yum. Still if anyone has a foolproof method for making granola — especially one that allows the oatmeal to stick together in little delicious chunks — send it along.

In the granola, I used the honey we bought at the farmer’s market on Saturday. We are not a honey only family — we still use refined sugar — but we do use a lot of honey. I bought a gallon jar for $38. If you think about how much one of those plastic honey bears costs in the grocery store, this is a bargain. Good honey really tastes better. And the honey man said that it would keep for while. We were worried about the honey crystallizing but he assured us that as long as we kept it room temperature that wouldn’t happen. Another perk is that some believe eating local honey every day can help with seasonal allergies.

Here’s a paragraph from Discovery Health that explains it all in more detail.

“The idea behind eating honey is kind of like gradually vaccinating the body against allergens, a process called immunotherapy. Honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when flowers and grasses are in bloom. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating honey should make the body accustomed to their presence and decrease the chance an immune system response like the release of histamine will occur

Since the concentration of pollen spores found in honey is low — compared to, say, sniffing a flower directly — then the production of antibodies shouldn’t trigger symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. Ideally, the honey-eater won’t have any reaction at all.”

I other news, it looks like Sunchips has relaunched a quieter version of their compostable bag. According to PackWorld lots of consumers’ (225) posted stories requesting “a quieter compostable bag for the SunChips brand snack chip”  They also point out that Frito Lay Facebook page shows a picture of the new pack, with the words, “We heard you. Introducing our new quieter 100% compostable bag.”

Of course, everyone who tried (like me!) knows that bag wasn’t compostable the first time — I’m not going to fall for that again. Sorry kids.

Still trying to call Primizie back to see if I can get some clarity on those canned tomatoes. But yesterday work was a bear — pretty much back to back meetings all day. I ran out of the house early, forgot my lunch and ended up having to hit Pret it for all my meals. Normally, I rinse out paper soup cup and plastic spoons, but I have to confess, I was so tired I threw it all out.  I guess, you could say I had a garbage slip. I’m only reporting it because I don’t want to get complacent and start giving in to the ease of the disposable. Reuse and recycle aren’t always easy. But I want to be the person who makes the right choice — even if that makes me the weirdo garbage-hoarder eating burnt granola on Madison Avenue.

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Despite my former pesky problems,  my worm bin is doing great. Today, I lifted up the top strata and found a rich, beautiful layer of compost dotted with egg shells (which seem to be the last to decompose) and thick with fat happy, wriggly worms. Finally, my battle with the fruit flies seems to be at a truce. But, I have happy news for anyone in the neighborhood (or TriBeCa or the Village) who wants to compost but isn’t into worms.

Starting next weekend, March 5th to be exact, the Greenmarkets in Inwood, Greenwich Village and TriBeCa will join Union Square Greenmarket and begin to collect compostable kitchen scraps.  During this temporary pilot program Greenmarket groupies in these neighborhoods will be able to drop off fruit and vegetable scraps to be hauled away to  to facility to become compost.

This is good news for anyone in these neighborhood who wants to compost but isn’t quite ready to be roomies with rollie pollies or worms. (Come on — they never hog the shower!)

In case you don’t know, according to the GrowNY food comprises about 17% of NYC’s waste stream. Food when it’s composted turns back into nutrients that can enrich soil, but when it’s sent a landfill it costs the city money to dispose  and can create greenhouse gas emissions.  It’s a literal waste.

I’ve blogged about the impact of composting before, but I want to remind myself and everyone that this is an easy way to make a difference  and for those of us who live near these Saturday Greenmarkets, it just got easier.

What can you compost: (from GrowNY)

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Non-greasy food scraps or leftovers (rice, pasta, bread, cereal, etc.)
  • Coffee grounds & filters, tea bags
  • Hair and nails (animal or human), egg and nut shells
  • Cut or dried flowers, houseplants and potting soil

Meat, chicken, fish, greasy food scraps, fat, oil, dairy, dog or cat feces, kitty litter, coal or charcoal, coconuts, diseased and/or insect-infested houseplants or soil are all no-nos.

If holding on to scraps until Saturday sounds messy, here’s the trick —  you throw it all in a bag in the freezer or the fridge and it minimizes the ick factor.

The pilot will only run until June 30, 2011.  If it’s a success, it will become permanent and other markets will adopt the program. I want to find out what success means. I’ll call around on Monday and see if I can find out. I also believe that fresh compost from this program will be available for purchase in these markets — but again, I need to confirm whether or not this is true.

Here’s a list of the Greenmarkets who will be participating in the program:

  • The Inwood Greenmarkets on Isham Street
  • The Abingdon Square Greenmarket on Hudson and Eight Avenue, between West 12th & Bethune streets
  • The TriBeCa Greenmarket on Greenwich Street, between Chambers and Duane streets

Note: According to GrowNY you can also drop off compost at these Greenmarkets:

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