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Green Is Good But Sustainability Is Systemic

8 Apr

I don’t talk about sustainability enough on this blog.  The rub of having your masters in sustainability and opening a green business in a city brimming with eco-stewards is that you get all talked out at a certain point.  When you finally do sit sit down to blog, you want to talk about anything else.  This space has become an outlet for all the stuff I love but don’t get to talk about all day:  running and food!

“I feel like I need to commit more time to talk about green living.”

I hate that I even typed that.  What I mean is: I need to commit more time to talk about going beyond green living, into real sustainability.  By no means am I looking down on people who are into green living or use that phrase.  Green is good…great even.  I wish everyone would embrace green lifestyle choices and for the most part, people are pretty happy to jump on the good karma band wagon.  BUT.  And I don’t want to sound pompous when I say this, BUT…to me, the phrase green living has very little meaning.  The phrase itself doesn’t demand self-awareness.  It seems so passive, almost implying that we simply go through our lives and buy products labeled “green” or “eco-friendly” and recycle when it’s convenient and then bask in the awesomeness of our green living.  Understanding sustainability requires us to look beyond packaging and promotions and marketing and our own behaviors/attitudes; it requires us to consider things like social equity and our waste streams and broader systemic implications than just our purchases.  It requires us to think and ask questions and demand answers and improve.  It requires us to walk the walk.  In that spirit, I plan on having more of those conversations in this space.  🙂


We are smack dab in the middle of what I like to call “crunch time” at the new house.  We’ve got an appraisal coming up so we need to make sure that the remodel is 100% completed by early next week.  It has really been a struggle to find some kind of balance, but with or without balance this train isn’t slowing down!  I have started to think beyond what is happening now, trying to plan how I will tackle my new enormous yard.  I have so many ideas, but it’s challenging for me to figure out which ones are realistic based on my level of experience and the fact that I have 2 oaf-ish dogs.I grew up in a small house nestled smack dab in the middle of an acre of land in the suburbs.  I am used to having air to breathe, trees, and room to wander.  For the last 5 years, I’ve had to leave my house to find any of those things, but that is about to change in a big way (see below)!  I mean, if the zoning requirements were different in this borough I could have an self-sufficient farmette with the yard we are moving into.  They don’t allow that in West Homestead however, and green my thumb is not.


our yard now..

photo 4(2)

our new yard…

Before May, my goal is to have a recycling center set up, an herb garden planted, a vegetable garden prepped, some kind of rain harvesting set up, and I will make a composter.  Ambitious, no?

The sky is really the limit as far as composting options go, but after a series of trails and errors I have a general idea of what I want.

I don’t think I’m ready for something quite this permanent yet, but ideally this is what I would like to work up to once I know how I want the yard set up:

To begin, I think I like the one below because it seems like it would be easy for someone with very little interest in using a shovel, rake, or biceps.

If I’m unable to get any cooperation from Christina, I may end up with something a little less fancy like this:

I’m shocked at how much less garbage we put out each week when our kitchen scraps get diverted to make compost!  It’s a gratifying feeling when you make something productive {fertilizer} from literal garbage without spending much money.  Composting is one of the simplest examples of a feedback loop.  We have an endless supply of food waste, which will eventually become an endless supply of fertilizer, which will eventually become an endless supply of vegetables, which then turn back into food waste.  That simple model is at the core of sustainability:  consider how a system works, analyze factors that effect it, and then find a way to close the loop/act on the process to get a beneficial outcome.


Do you compost?

What kind of system works for you?


5 Thing Friday

22 Nov

1.  Ace Hotel Coming To Pittsburgh

Ace Hotel, New York

Ace Hotel, New York

So I read this article in Pittsburgh Magazine about “America’s Coolest Hotel” coming to the ‘burgh.  Well of course I wanted to read more because I’m a geek and turns out this hotel chain is super hip(ster) and there are just a few locations around the world – in swag cities like London, Portland, Paris, and now a revitalized  YMCA in Bakery SquareAce Hotel is known for contextualizing the hotel to the city, so we are all on the edge of our seats wondering how AH will showcase Pittsburgh’s complex industrial history.  Or at least me and other design junkies are.  I also might stay there just for fun because hello – micro-brew and small batch coffee on site?  Chyeah.

2.  Serial Killer Christmas Cards


I recently discovered another Pittsburgh blogger – OhHonestlyErin – who seems to have a dry, off-beat sense of humor like myself.  She posted a link to her Etsy shop the other day, where she features her serial killer greeting cards.  I think these are surprisingly fun and hysterical!  I will definitely be buying some of her Valentine’s.

3.  Our house is done!

photo 2(1)

More on this over the next few days as well, but yay!!!  Everything is perfect and we haven’t even put on the finishing touches…or decorations.  haha I promise my walls aren’t normally so cold.

4.  Jace & Si’s Turkey Safety Video

You’re welcome.

5.  Dinner Partayyyyyyyy

Thursday was completely consumed with fretting over and prepping for our very first dinner party.  I am working on a full recap for over the weekend, but just know that I was totally in my element.  I feel like I did my Bubba proud!  Yes, this is my actual grandmother in a photo taken (obviously) on her wedding day.  She was a master entertainer and I remember growing up attending lavish parties.  In fact, one time my cousins and I served hors d’oeuvres on roller skates to guests!  The thing that makes me smile the most about the picture is that when she got married, she couldn’t even boil an egg!


5 Thing Friday

2 Aug

1.  Since Christina and I will have flipped our second house on Tuesday, we decided it was time to upgrade to a better house.  We’ll be slumming it here until further notice:


I wish.  Except I’m almost sure this building is haunted.  Liberty and I made it a point to pass by this place, The Carnegie Library of Homestead, yesterday during our walk.  It got me thinking that I might want to rejoin the athletic club.  They offer no-contract memberships, where you can pay month to month for $35 a month.  This includes access to the pool and all group classes (which are mostly geared towards Silver Sneakers).  Still, its quite a deal and they do have some really nice equipment.

2.  I’m like practically a farmer now.


Last night, when we got home from working on the rental house I noticed that my jalapenos were starting to get these dark patches on them.  I assume that means they are ready to be picked, considering they are approximately 3 inches long.  I’ve still got around 4 peppers not quite ready to pick, so if I messed up it won’t be a total loss.

3.  This morning was my first attempt at a kale smoothie.


It was delicious, but I won’t be sharing the recipe until I like it better.  The kale was not quite processed enough and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the yogurt/almond milk base that I used.

4.  The Great Race offers a free running clinic for racers, which I of course signed up for.  I am excited to head down there tomorrow and find out what kind of running shoes I should buy.  I know my current shoes are the reason for my horrible shin splints and I’ve put off getting new ones until I can talk to someone about my pronation.

5.  All week long, I’ve been taking one of the dogs with me on my runs/walks.  It has made all the difference in the world.  It’s so much better than running with another person – different paces can present problems and I prefer solitude.  My little buddies go at my pace and stop when I want to stop and take breaks when I want to take breaks.  Their enthusiasm and excitement never wavers.  And honestly, I’ve taken far less walking breaks this week because I can see how much they love to keep going.  On top of all these reasons, its good for them.  They are cooped up inside most of the time, aside from running at the dog park every other week or playing with each other in the backyard.  It’s been a great change for everyone!


Weekend Round-Up

3 Jun

It was a really busy weekend around these parts!! Amazing what you can get accomplished when your internet goes out and a tech can’t come in until Monday.

On Saturday, we headed over to East Liberty to the farmer’s market:

I had gotten an email talking about all the yummy local product expected in over the weekend, so I was pretty excited.  I ended up getting some carrots, a tomato, asparagus, green onions, rhubarb, red potatoes, beets, some green leaf lettuce starts and some jalapeno pepper plants all for $16!!


Around 11:00, my family arrived to spend some quality time with the puppies.  Everyone is so active now, I promise to write a whelping update this week to show you how much they’ve grown!


Mid-afternoon, we headed to Little Miss E (my cousin’s daughter)’s 4th birthday pirate party.  We had little brother CO in tow, and luckily he and my brother were able to hang out amongst all the littler kids.  They have only hung out a few times because they live so far away, but I was really happy to see how well they get along!  They had a lot of fun decapitating a pirate pinata after the kids ravaged it of its candy.

On the way home, we spotted a pop-up carnival and I suggested we make a quick stop.  Since there were three of us, we decided that we would go on three of the big rides and then leave.  Good enough for us!


Then, we headed over to the baseball field to pick up almost-not-little brother CJ. We got there just in time to see him pitch the last inning.  He is a baseball extraordinaire, in fact he’s the league’s best catcher and as of right now he’s leading the state in home runs.  Apparently all the pitching practice in the driveway has been paying off because he struck out all three people that were up to bat that last inning!

Sunday was pretty low-key.  We finished up some projects around the house that have been lingering, like finally installing the overhead light in the living room.  Now, we just have to touch up the plaster and pick out a new paint color!


The doodles got their first taste of grownie food!  This picture doesn’t even do the mess that was made any justice.


Dinner was organic pierogies with sour cream and green onions from the market.


My DIY Life

12 Jul

I decided not to leave a Wordless Wednesday post yesterday, since I’ve left you wordless for an entire month.

You’re welcome.

Instead, I thought today I would leave you a pictorial evolution of our kitchen renovation.

Let me preface this post by saying that we purchased our house 3 years ago.  Since then, we have completely remodeled our master bedroom, bathroom and laundry room (which included the addition of a powder room).  Our living room and kitchen are the two most-used spaces in our house.  While this would prompt some people to remodel those rooms first, I have been petrified of losing the use of either.  We performed several small updates to them and it has been sufficient until recently.

When we moved in, this is 360° what we were working with.

There were clearly some important issues that needed to be addressed.

1. Lighting – The only natural light in the kitchen comes from this small window above the sink and the back door, which is partially visible through the laundry room.  There is a small light in the fan above the stove and a single ceiling panel in the middle of the room.

2.  Flooring – The laminate flooring was extremely worn, with a few places worn almost completely through.  Several corners were peeling up and it made the kitchen feel dirty even when it was spic-and-span.  Frustrating.

3.  Skin – This room was covered in mushroom backsplash.  Why? Why? Why? Why x 102957820958? Why x INFINITY? Then the wood paneling.  As far as the eye can see.  It was like living in our very own coffin.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  Because the laundry room is a converted porch, there is a window next to the fridge that looks into wood-panel lined room with a rickety old washer and dryer.  Needless to say, despite what we would gain in natural light, we kept the blinds closed most of the time.

The first thing we decided to upgrade happened because God looked down on us and said – your fridge should have died 15 years ago.  It’s time.  We happened to be trolling CraigsList for a refrigerator when a woman posted hers for $100.  There wasn’t a thing wrong with it, she was just going through a divorce and updated her kitchen.   Score.

Then, still sailing off our our outrageous CraigsList luck and dedication, we scored another amazing find.  A gas stove in perfect condition, just $50.  The family selling it: a set up of empty-nesters, dad works for a kitchen supply company and gets awesome discounts on purchases for his home, so they update to stainless steel.  We snagged a matching dishwasher from them for just $50 the same night.  Niiiiiice!

Then, we were in full-scale remodel mode.  The master bedroom had been completed, so the laundry room (which had become a huge shared closet for us while we were without closets) began immediately.  The kitchen was used as a giant storage space for the furniture from the second floor, but we did manage to use some of the leftover paint from the upstairs project.  1 can Amazon Recycled paint (Tawny Beige), purchased at Construction Junction $14.

These two nuggets were not very happy that week:

Then again, neither were we.

During a Black Friday (November) sale at Lowe’s, we found some snap and lock laminate flooring at $.63/square foot.  Total: $157.50

No sooner did we get the reno done (December), then we had to pack up our lives and move back to Slippery Rock, PA (January).  She♥ finished her Bachelor’s and I started earning my Master’s in Sustainability.  We parted with our house for a year, during which time a family rented from us.  We moved out the same day they moved in.  VERY hectic 24 hours, I assure you.

But we managed to get the floors laid the few days before they moved in and I snagged this picture later in the week when we stopped to give them some spare keys:

When we moved back in (the following January), it was like living in a brand new house!  Amazing!!  Although, it was funny to see what things we wish we had done differently.  (There are a few issues with the floors and some drywall that needs patching elsewhere in the house.)

When we got back, our focus was launching our company.  Now, things are moving right along and we have decided to update completely.  So far, we’ve only put in around $400, once all tools, appliances, and miscellaneous expenses have been calculated.

The last few weeks, we have been pulling down the wood panelling and the drop ceilings.  I’m so excited to see what we can find as far as drywall goes, and I’m already scouting Construction Junction for new cabinets.  Fingers crossed!!

Here’s where things stand as of this morning:

We’ve come a long way from these days:

But we’ve got a long way to go ♥

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