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5 Thing Friday

11 Apr

All week I’ve been reading about cool things and this is where I dump them:

1.  Beers Of The Burgh Festival – This weekend is the inaugural Beers of the Burgh Festival, which will be held in Lawrenceville and showcases over 30 local craft brewers.  General admission is sold out, but you can still purchase VIP tickets!

 

2.  40 Towns Create Land Bank – I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS FOR A LONG TIME.  Finally.  Finally some action on blighted properties in my community.  If you aren’t aware of what happens when a region is dependent on a single industry (ahem, steel) and then all the industry packs up and leaves:  blight.  Empty, rotting houses and overgrown brush in abandoned lots, riddled with garbage.  An analysis done by local municipalities found that:

“20,077 vacant lots and 7,158 parcels with blighted structures that cost local governments more than $10.7 million a year in direct municipal services, such as police, fire and code enforcement. They also account for nearly $8.7 million in lost annual tax revenue. But the biggest drain was on neighboring non-blighted properties, which the report found suffered a total loss of between $218 million and $247 million in property values.”

Some Pittsburgh neighborhoods were hit harder than others, but the creation of this land bank is huge!  To me, it may mean that we are finally able to combat blight and attract a more stable tax base to effected areas.  Some people oppose these types of strategies because it gives government control over private property.  I, on the other hand, stare at abandoned buildings all day long.  In my opinion, if you aren’t able or willing to fix up your janky property then you shouldn’t have it to begin with.  The boroughs’ hands are tied because the properties ultimately belong to someone – and many times those people can’t be found or don’t want to be found.  The borough has to deal with the problems associated with the property but can’t actually do anything about it.  A land bank would allow municipalities to generate tax income, sell properties, attract new property developers, and to improve the overall aesthetic of a neighborhood.    That is HUGE for boroughs like Homestead and Braddock.

 

3.  16 Ways To Kick Plastic – This is a quick read but it’s got some great ideas on how to use less plastic.  My 2 favorite ones are: 1) Just say no to disposable straws, carry a few BPA-free reusable ones with you 2) Bring your own doggy-bag container when you go to a restaurant.

 

4.  Cyclocable Bike Lifts In Pittsburgh?! – This is basically exactly what I need to become an avid adequate let’s just go with cyclist.  If it’s good enough for Norway, it’s good enough for me.  DON’T JUDGE ME PEOPLE.  THOSE HILLS ARE NO JOKE.  Somehow I doubt that even Bill Peduto could make this one happen.

 

5.  Check out this list of 42 Flowers You Can Eat…I can’t see myself throwing chrysanthimums on my salad but hey the list also includes herbs and spices.  If I’m every stranded in the wilderness somewhere (LIKE FRICK PARK because my God I get all turned around on those trails), I will be able to survive.  Or maybe someday I will be go all rogue with my cooking and makes virgin tear soup with hibiscus garnish.  Ew.

 

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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?

 

Tricks & Treats

1 Nov

For the first time in many a year, I had a very sober Halloween!  Oh, growing up is so much fun.  Instead of dressing up like a skank or a meatloaf (yes, I dressed up as a meatloaf one year), I enjoyed some Thursday Night Football at home and watched Christina finish painting my living room.

Disclaimer:  While I was much heavier in 2008, I tied half a dozen sweatshirts/pants around my torso to make myself appear like a lumpy meatloaf for this costume!

meatloaf2008

Halloween 2008

Yes, I am a meatloaf in pan.  And yes, I have a gravy cape made out of hideous thrifted curtains.  Amazeeeeeballs.

Anhoo….

I’ve been doing a really great job staying on track with food as of lately.  I’ve been cooking delicious, healthy things and snacking smart!  I know I talk a lot on this blog about the importance of where food comes from (ethically sourced/grown/local), what it contains (chemicals, GMOs, etc.), but there is another side to it as well.  It makes me absolutely sick to think about how much food I used to throw away, for no other reason than I was too lazy to store it properly.

Here are some of the week’s note-worthy dinners with a few tricks (no, not the Halloween kind) thrown in the mix!

On Tuesday we had Crockpot Beef Tacos (cooked in a yummy adobo-based sauce) and Spanish Rice. We ended up eating this beef for lunches over the next 2 days.  I will share the recipe here in a few days!

crockpotbeeftacos

I only needed 2 peppers out of a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  Buying a whole can, using just 2, and then throwing the rest out is just plain wasteful so here’s my little tip:  Puree the remaining peppers in the food processor. Then, freeze it in a log shape.  That way, I can just cut from the log as needed for future recipes!

ChipotleAdoboPuree

Also, remember when I saved big on tortillas using coupons?   I had used the fajita size wraps long ago, but the taco size tortillas were still lingering in my freezer.  I HATE how defrosted bread products taste.  Something about the composition changes and they just taste old.  Solution:  Wrap the stack of frozen tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave on defrost setting until they are thawed.  By adding the extra moisture back into the product during the thaw, it keeps the fresh gummy-like consistency that it had when I first bought it!  Winning.  I even got Miss Picky Pants’ approval on the taste/quality of the taco shells.  Let me tell you, she would freak out if she knew they were way back from May!

On Wednesday we had this Sweet Potato, Black Bean, & Chicken Chili.

BB.SPChili

This recipe called for just 1 T. tomato paste, so I of course wanted to save the leftover tomato paste.  At one point in my life, I was buying a can of tomato paste every week, because I would toss it after using a tablespoon! I cringe even thinking about that now.  Instead of freezing it in a log, I scooped out tablespoon size dallops, froze them on a cookie sheet, and then transferred them to storage bag. (Sorry for the poor quality, I only thought to take a pic after they were frozen, so the moisture is all condensed on the bag.)

tomatopaste

So those are my tips on freezing and storing commonly used items!  It’s just as important to make sure that you make the most out of the things you buy as it is to make sure that you buy local, organic, and ethically made products.

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