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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.

current-tiny-backyard

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?

 

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Earth Week Giveaway!!

16 Apr

It’s Earth Week – the week leading up to Earth Day on April 22nd.

Do you have anything fun for planned to help your local community?

Start composting
Commit to recycling
Pick up trash in your neighborhood
Plant a tree
Bike or walk instead of drive
Talk to people about climate change
Conserve energy – use cold water to do your laundry, hang clothing to dry, shut off lights!
Use cloth diapers
Reuse instead of create refuse
Campaign for green initiatives

You don’t have to save the world, you just have to do one or two things. If everyone does one or two things, that DOES add up to change. And when people start seeing change, it makes them want to see MORE change.

One of the biggest changes that I’ve made in the last year is embracing the idea of “reuse.” After starting a cloth diaper service with my family, it helped me put things into perspective. Disposable diapers are the perfect example of planned obsolescence: this describes a product which was produced and manufactured with the intention of it having limited use. It is produced so that you have to throw it away and buy a new one. Disposable diapers are used one time and then dumped into a landfill with BILLIONS of other diapers. The millions and millions of resources and dollars that go into producing disposables each year is literally a waste. Reusable diapers (aka cloth diapers) are produced so that they can be washed and reused over and over again. They use less resources. The contain fewer harmful materials. They lessen a family’s carbon footprint with every reuse.

So that got me thinking about what other stuff I throw away. If you look through your garbage can right now, I can guarantee the majority of what’s in there is packaging. Packaging from stuff you buy, stuff you eat, stuff that comes with your clothes and shoes, just stuff. Just packaging. In 2011, I was buying ziplock baggies almost every time I went to the grocery store. They were the easiest thing to dump snacks and lunches into. I used them to organize things: paperclips, change, nuts and bolts, nails, nail polish, hair ties, etc. In 2012, I really started thinking about how much stuff we throw away, where it comes from, and how we can cut down. It occurred to me that our main issue is packaging.

I started collecting containers of all shapes and sizes. I knew I wanted all of my food to be stored in BPA-free containers. I washed out glass jars from pasta sauces and apple sauces and pickles, boiled them all, and stuck them in my pantry. I invested in some BPA-free glass Snapware containers and I recycled all the Gladware and miscellaneous containers I had collected which weren’t BPA-free. I cringe every time I see someone heat up leftovers in one of those plastic containers that Chinese food comes in. That low grade of plastic is full of chemicals which break down before we even use them. It leaches into our food, ESPECIALLY when its heated in a microwave. Not for me.

So here’s a chance for you to make a positive change in your food storage.

BPA-FREE CONTAINER GIVEAWAY (courtesy of Mira Brands)

Mira2

Mira Brands has given me the opportunity to test out their new line of stainless steel, food-grade, BPA-free containers.  I used them all week long for my lunches and for storing some yummy fruit at home.  Both of these thumbs are pointing to the sky, people.  They kept out the smells, kept my food fresh, were conveniently sized, and durable.  I dropped one which was full of strawberries and cottage cheese, and that lid stayed put!   If you’re looking for something larger, there are also larger ones, which are available through their Amazon store) Just knowing that they are free of toxic materials like BPA, phthalates, PVC, and lead made me feel confident in my container.

Mira is giving one lucky Sole For The Soul (SFTS) reader their own set of stainless steel containers!  The giveaway begins right now and runs until Sunday at 5:00 p.m. EST.  Then, a winner will be chosen by random draw.

Here’s how to enter:

1.  Leave a comment on this post about something awesome you are going to do for Earth Day/Earth Week.

2.  Like SOLE For The Soul on Facebook by clicking here.  If you all ready like SFTS on Facebook, leave a separate comment telling me you are all ready a fan.

The winner will be announced on Monday.  Good luck!!  🙂

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

BPA-Free + Balanced Bites

9 Apr

This week, I knew I had to get serious about eating better.  I feel like I’ve been making healthier choices, but I don’t think I’m eating enough.

For example, on Monday I ate a banana after my run along with 2 whole wheat Wasa crackers with almond butter.  I was feeling pretty good and I felt confident about the lunch I packed.

Mira1

How cute are these little containers that MiraBrands sent me to test out?  Keep an eye because next week I’ll be doing a giveaway and one lucky reader will get a set of their own!  The containers are food-grade  stainless steel and the lids are LDPE #4 (non-toxic) plastic.  Both are free of BPA, phthalates, PVC, and lead.  You can read more about why I chose BPA-free containers here.

Lunch was perhaps too simple:

Strawberries

1 cup of strawberries….and 2 cans of drained tuna with just a small dab of light mayo and black pepper

Tuna

Believe it, the larger container held 2 cans of tuna with room to spare.  Not only was I impressed by the capacity, but also the fact that at no point during the morning did I SMELL tuna.  Those lids locked pretty darn tight and passed my tuna test.  🙂

I had packed 3 hard-boiled eggs for added protein, but then I realized that they were getting to be around 2 weeks old.  While I scoff in the face of expiration dates on uncooked eggs, cooked eggs are a little bit more susceptible to salmonella.  I didn’t want to risk it, so no eggs for me.  I believe this oversight was where my self-sabotage began.

When I got home from work, I immediately popped 3 porkchops into a balsamic, agave-maple, and olive oil marinate for an hour.  Then, I roasted some brussells sprouts in garlic and broiled the pork chops.  Everything was just eh.  The porkchops didn’t have enough time to really get much flavor and I just didn’t feel full.

By 8 pm I had a pounding headache and checked my calorie counting app only to discover that I had consumer less than 700 calories for the day.  So, I drank a few beers and fell into a deep sleep.

I think that today went a tad bit better, and I’m hoping that by Saturday I can find some kind of non-coffee-induced energy balance.  I know that clean eating falls in the middle of the spectrum, somewhere between starvation and over-indulgence.  I just have to find a way to avoid the extremes.  AKA the story of my life.

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