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The Future of Armchair Activism

IMG_1024.JPGGreetings from quarantine.  I would first like to say that I hope whoever is reading this staying healthy and doing the best they can in these extraordinary circumstances.  If you are working right now, thank you for everything you do.  If you are staying home, thank you for keeping us safe.  I have not been taking lockdown particularly well myself, but I felt the need to write this.

The following call to action is for those who are ready and able to take those actions.  Those with the privilege of savings, safety, and free-time have the opportunity to step up and speak out during this crisis.  Although everyone’s chief concern is obviously stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus, we must awaken to the fact that certain people will use this time to their advantage–and ultimately our detriment.

In Naomi Klein’s 2007 book “The Shock Doctrine”, she shows how governments and other organizations exploit national crises to push through changes that would have been unimaginable in previous circumstances, while the public is distracted by the crisis at hand.  This theory, often referred to as disaster capitalism, intrigued me when I learned about it a month ago, and I was struck when I saw it playing out before my eyes.

There have been a lot of hopeful posts circulating about clear water in the canals in Venice, clear skies over New Delhi, and wild animals taking over city streets in the absence of traffic.  Amidst these encouraging signs, the Trump administration has distributed millions in relief funds to the oil and gas industries and, shockingly (or perhaps not), the EPA announced last week that they will be suspending all environmental standards during the crisis.  This means there will be no testing for water or air pollution, and no monitoring of polluting facilities, all because of the extraordinary circumstances of the coronavirus.

On top of these rollbacks, the temporary policy has no specified end date, and gives the EPA no right to intervene in the event of an emergency.  The door is wide open for violators to avoid punishment.  To put it bluntly, he Environmental Protection Agency can no longer protect the environment.

And how did I hear about this?  This past Sunday, I got a sponsored post from the Sierra Club about it on Facebook, asking for support.  The new policy came out last Thursday, and I have barely heard a peep from the environmental community about this, much less the mainstream media.

The horrible irony in all of this?  Exposure to air pollution makes us more vulnerable to COVID-19.

On a more local level, the Williams Pipeline, a long contested energy project that would bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to the New York Harbor via an underwater pipeline, is on the verge of moving ahead despite minimal public input.  In addition to creating harmful disturbances to the local marine ecosystem, and posing threats to human health, the project would deepen the area’s reliance on fossil fuels, as well as being extremely expensive–the current estimation is just under $1B.

National Grid, a proponent of the pipeline, previously placed a moratorium on new gas hookups in the NYC area until the pipeline was approved after the project failed to acquire a water quality permit from the state.  They were subsequently fined $36M for “abuse of its customers”.

National Grid held a number of public meetings in March over Zoom about the project, in place of in-person meetings at Brooklyn Borough Hall.  These were unadvertised, and though many local residents attended virtually, people signed up to speak out against the pipeline were not given the time they were promised and some were skipped entirely.

A quick note on National Grid: while writing this article, I learned that they have also been trying to push through permits for a second pipeline during the crisis, the Metropolitan Natural Gas Reliability Project (also known as the North Brooklyn Pipeline).  This project would also bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania, and would run underneath a densely populated area of Williamsburg.

I had been planning to attend these meetings in person, as well as participating in demonstrations with the Stop the Williams’ Pipeline coalition.  It is frustrating to not be able to protest in this way, but it begs a bigger question: what does environmental activism look like in the time of COVID-19?

I have long discouraged others from participating in campaigns only as “armchair activists”.  While bringing attention to problems on social media is a net good, there is so much more to activism than what you see on Instagram.  Taking direct action, showing up at town meetings, talking to others about the issues, protesting, signing petitions, exercising voting rights, living by example–these are the cornerstones of effective activism.

I still believe that “it means something to physically show up,” as I wrote in an article about last year’s climate march.  Now that we have been barred from doing so, and the times we are required to are fraught with dangerous health impacts (just look at the recent Wisconsin elections), we must restrategize and reframe what activism means in the environmental movement.

Now is the time to plug into activist networks and get on mailing lists to stay informed.  This is a good way to learn about the work of non-profits, and to see if you want to get more involved with a cause in the future.  These groups have their ear to the ground on the issues and are a great starting point if you want to get involved but aren’t sure how.  Normally, environmental non-profits offer access to a variety of community events, learning opportunities, and actions you can take to make an impact.  Most of these have moved online at this point, in the form of petitions, virtual meetings, and messages to share with your network on social media.

We should also make an effort to read local papers and listen to local radio stations.  A lot of environmental policies created at the state and local level, as well as localized problems, would never be reported on if not for these organizations.  You’re just not going to get any info on your local landfill from the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal.  Paying attention to local issues keeps you in the loop when there’s a town meeting to attend (virtually, for now) or a reason to write in to the local editorial board.

And that’s not the only writing to be done.  Public comments on major projects are a great opportunity to have your voice heard on an issue you care about, and can usually be submitted electronically.  The Stop The Williams’ Pipeline Coalition, for examply, has been sending out comment prompts in phases to their supporters that guide them to write in to voice their concerns.

Then there is the tried and true call-your-representatives-or-so-help-me-God approach.  Your representatives in state and national legislating bodies are supposed to answer to YOU, the voters, so your input matters.  Does this EPA thing sound crazy to you?  Call or write to your reps.  Let them know that you are paying attention and you want to see these issues addressed.

On that same note, if you become aware of something that is not being covered by news outlets, write to them too!  You, as a reader of a publication, can make suggestions about what should be reported on.

I also encourage you to speak up about issues you care about on social media.  Bringing consistent awareness to issues in your posts will help spread the word where traditional media can’t (or won’t).  Make sure to certify that the information you post is accurate so that you don’t spread false information.

I am still learning as I go with all of this, and I’d like to invite you to learn with me.  I will be posting over the next few weeks about what my activism looks like right now in the hopes that it might inspire you to get involved too.  If you have an action you’ve taken that you’d like me to highlight here, please get in touch at thewhiteheronproject@gmail.com.  I would love to bring more voices to this conversation.

Below are a list of resources for upcoming actions in relation to some of the issues I addressed above:

Voice your opinion on the Williams Pipeline here:

stopthewilliamspipeline.org/sendcomment

Join Patagonia Bowery, Surfrider NYC, and Sane Energy Project for a townhall (TONIGHT at 7pm) to educate yourself on the Williams Pipeline Project and how you can help:

breakitdownthewilliamspipeline.splashthat.com

Patagonia Action Works, for virtual skill-based volunteering and petition signing:

patagonia.com/actionworks

Get involved with your local Extinction Rebellion chapter for climate action and education:

rebellion.global/branches

Find your local 350 chapter, a coalition of environmental non-profits and activists:

350.org

Find and contact your representatives:

house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

senate.gov/senators/index.htm

nyassembly.gov/mem (NY only)

nysenate.gov/senators-committees (NY only)

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Practical Minimalism: Change Your Mindset To Reduce Your Waste

IMG_3228Minimalism is an inherent component of any low waste journey.  I have never directly addressed it on this blog because in my mind the two are inseparable, but I think it is valuable to focus on this one subject, especially today, which is Black Friday.

I would not describe myself as a Minimalist per se.  I am not a writer with a pristine grey-scale only blog, a pristine house with 2 pieces of furniture, and a crisp wardrobe of mostly black basics.  The image of minimalism in most of our heads is a product of marketing, and is an aspirational aesthetic with the usual subliminal messaging: minimalism is morally superior; you are not minimalist enough (and, therefore, not good enough); minimalism is the answer to everything.

To me, minimalism is a way of operating that shifts how you view your possessions and relationships.  In the words of The Minimalists, it is placing importance on the things that “add value” to your life, and letting go of the things that don’t.

So what does this have to do with waste?  We produce and consume an unbelievable amount of stuff every year, much of which is made to be tossed immediately after use.

Is it ethical to bring something into your life with the intention of discarding it?

The key word here is intention.  To live with intention is to live deliberately–to choose to bring things into your life that add value to you, to pursue relationships with people that make you feel like you can be your true self.

Low waste minimalism takes this intention in a new direction, to consider the materials in our homes.  How does plastic waste add value to your life?  What is more important to you: the convenience of packaged goods, or the damage they do the your health and the environment?  I am increasingly concerned with the latter, but for certain things, like medication, I still find it valuable to go with traditional packaging, even though it creates waste.

Identifying what is important to you is what drives a shift in mindset toward minimalism.  If having a brand new phone is not important to you, then don’t buy one.  Here’s a personal example: it’s important to me to eat healthy and fresh foods, so I am willing to shell out a little extra cash for them each week.

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Healthy food, like the groceries in the picture, is important to me, so I am willing to pay a little extra for it.

Being deliberate about your consumption is the first step toward reducing waste.

Teach yourself to turn a critical eye toward advertising and societal messaging.  Why do you feel like you have to buy something?  Who profits off of your purchase?  Who suffers from it?  Are you going to throw it out after a month? A few minutes?  More so than buying fancy reusables or shopping at expensive bulk stores, being intentional about your purchases is the the most effective and accessible way to reduce your waste.

This takes a bit of practice, but after a while it becomes second nature.  One question I ask myself when making major purchases is this: if I wait a month, will I still want this item?  After a month, if I still believe the item will add value to my life, I start considering my options for buying it.

I am willing to wait and think about potential purchases because I believe happiness cannot be derived from buying new things.  It’s like a sugar high.  You feel great for a while, but then crash back down to the place you started.  A minimalist mindset asks you to look past this initial excitement and see the truth of what you do or do not need.  Experiences, making memories with the people you love, learning new things, doing things that bring you joy–these are the keys to long lasting happiness.

The other side of minimalism is letting go of the things that do not serve you.  And to be clear, I do not condone throwing things out because you don’t want them anymore.  That pile of clothes in the back of your closet that you never wear is a great example.  Donating them makes them available to someone in need.  If they are too damaged to be donated, find a drop off location for textile recycling so they can be made into insulation or even new clothes.  Whenever possible, avoid the landfill and find avenues to give your old possessions a new life.

Letting go is about creating an environment for yourself in which you can thrive.  If you feel clutter creeping up around your house and stressing you out, it’s time for a garage sale.  If your friends make you feel terrible, seek out more supportive people.  In the wise words of Marie Kondo, it’s about keeping the things that “bring you joy” close.

Paring down your possessions also has an effect on how you interact with them.  If you only have a few pairs of shoes, you are more likely to invest in shoe polish, clean them when they get dirty, and take them to a cobbler to get repaired.  Going through this extra effort to care for your possessions increases their longevity, which keeps you from a) buying new things, and b) sending them to the landfill.

So, this Black Friday, consider a minimalist approach.  Resist the sales and promotions for just a moment, and discern what you truly need.  To have the greatest impact this holiday season, and throughout the year, be a deliberate rather than impulsive consumer.  Your wallet, and the planet, will thank you.

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Treat Yourself With These Plastic Free DIYs

CDD18813-D00E-49C1-9242-D30CEEEF3D02Worn out from the Student Climate Strike and International Cleanup Day this past weekend?  ME TOO.  This activism thing takes a lot of physical and emotional energy and sometimes you need to unwind.  One of my favorite ways to do that is to pamper myself with a spa day!

But you’ll find no sheet masks in cutesy packaging, no pore strips, and no disposable plastic bottles of soap in my self-care arsenal–almost everything I need can be found in my kitchen.

Because I make my own products, I know what goes in them, so I’m not exposed to harsh chemicals regularly, and I save money.  Plus, learning to make what I need to take care of myself has been incredibly empowering.  Now when I have a problem, I think less about what I “need” to buy and more about how I can create a solution with what I already have.

Below are some of my favorite self care rituals that make me feel sparkly clean and refreshed.  All the ingredients can be bought in bulk or plastic free packaging.

Bentonite Clay Mask

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Bentonite clay is one of my favorite discoveries from my zero waste journey.  This stuff works wonders for your skin, and is a great way to clear your pores.  It usually comes in powder form, and has been shown to have many detoxifying properties.  Here’s some more information about how it works, and its uses if you’re curious.

To make a simple bentonite clay mask, stir together a teaspoon of the clay and enough water to make a paste-like, spreadable texture.  You can substitute apple cider vinegar for water if you like, but the mask will be a lot stronger, so take care to take it off quickly.  Spread the mask on your face and leave on for 5-10 minutes, or until clay hardens.  Wipe it off your face with a warm washcloth.  If you leave it too long, it may make your face a bit red and splotchy (this is what it does to me, I can’t speak for everyone) so be careful about applying this mask before you go out somewhere.

Sugar Scrub

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This scrub is so easy to make, it now baffles me to see sugar scrubs for sale in stores.  It’s just coconut oil and white (or cane) sugar.   Dish out two tablespoons of sugar and add enough coconut oil to make a paste texture.  Apply to skin in the shower, because it can get messy.  This is a great thing to do before you shave your legs, as it makes them super soft.  You can also use coffee grounds instead of sugar.  Simply rescue some grounds from the coffee machine before they get thrown out and save in the fridge until you make the scrub.  I estimate these would last 2-3 days before going bad.

Acne Treatments

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I have two acne treatments I do regularly.  The first is just tea tree oil, which has been found to be just as effective against acne as benzoyl peroxide.  I dab on a tiny bit to problem spots each night until they clear up.  If that doesn’t work, I up the ante–I make a paste of a 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and a tiny bit of water, and dab it on the spot.  This will get dry and crumbly 20 minutes, so after that I wash it off.  This dries out spots so much that they usually clear up in 24 hours after the baking soda treatment.

Oil Cleansing

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This is a great one for the winter months when your skin needs lots of hydration.  The biggest mistake people make (ehem, I made) with oil cleansing is starting with an oil that’s too heavy.  The idea is that the oil you apply dissolves oil in your skin, but using the wrong one, or too much oil, just feels gross.  I would recommend grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, or jojoba oil.  To try the oil cleansing method, apply the oil as you would a face wash, working it into the skin.  Then, apply a hot washcloth to skin for 30 seconds before using it to wipe off any excess.  This helps open your pores so the oil can dissolve what’s in there.  After that, apply your moisturizer (I use jojoba oil) to lock in the hydration.

Bubble Bath

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Taking a bath is my favorite way to relax when I’ve been super busy.  And you don’t need to buy bubble bath in a bottle to make it sudsy!  I have been making this old fashioned bubble bath recipe for years, but I sometimes just use a bit of lavender castile soap (pictured above), because it smells so good.


There you have it! As always, I don’t endorse a particular brand of any of these products, I’m just showing you what I have on hand.  Let me know if you try any of these in the comments!

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I Want YOU To Come To The Climate Strike

87DE3A0E-C0FF-4AE4-AB23-E206DF6C15B2As many of you know, the Student Climate Strike is this Friday. This global protest is meant to send a resounding message to world leaders about what the youth want for their future. Whether you are already planning to go, or are on the fence, I hope this post will motivate you to join us on the 20th.

When I was a kid, I was terrified of environmental problems. Hearing about global warming was enough to make me shut down, and scramble to do/think about anything else. Change is hard enough when you’re a kid, but hearing the predictions about how the earth would change for the worse really freaked me out. Besides, I figured the adults would take care of it.

Obviously, that did not happen, and now, we find ourselves in the midst of the crisis we thought would come further down the road. Now, I’m an adult. What will I tell the younger generations if I don’t stand up for an inhabitable world today?

But why protest? What is the point of waving signs around and yelling chants and slogans? Does marching in the streets actually do anything?

I protest because I know it means something to physically show up. Not just retweeting something someone else said or using a particular hashtag. This is not the time for armchair activism. I want to physically be there to support the youth leading the Climate Strike. I want to show them that I am taking them and their future seriously.  I want to listen to what they have to say.  I want to show the people around me how important this is to me. That I would drop everything to stand up for the only home we have.

I protest for this stuff because I can’t think of anything more important right now. We don’t get to have dreams for the future when the future is in jeopardy.  In business, politics, sports, entertainment, science, across all sectors, if we don’t have clean air, clean water, or food to eat, nothing can happen. If we are constantly rebuilding from natural disasters, we can’t make progress.  This is about the survival of the human race.

 

So please, won’t you join us.  If you are unable to, please support the people who will leave work or school later this week.  For those who are striking, thank you for your courage and your integrity.  It will be an honor to stand among you on Friday. I’ll see you in the streets.

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How To Plastic Free Your Laundry

67A09B9C-31A1-4D88-B1FD-6C1D4EC79F7AI have gotten a lot of questions in recent weeks about what I do for laundry: How can you clean your clothes and keep things plastic free?  There are a lot of angles to consider, so let’s dive right in.

Micro Waste Prevention

To start this conversation, we of course have to talk about microplastics.  All clothing sheds fibers from the moment it’s made, but for synthetic fabrics (polyester, nylon, spandex, elasticine, and more) this is an environmental and health concern.  Microplastics from washing machines drain into our waterways, and there have even been studies showing that there are microplastics in most bottled water.

The first step the preventing this micro waste is to simply wash your clothes less.  Re-wear as much as you can, and only wash if it stinks, or has real stains on it.  Your clothes will hold up longer, and you will use less water because you wash less frequently.  When you do need new clothes, try to find second hand clothes made with natural fibers, like cotton, hemp, wool, cashmere, linen, silk, and bamboo.

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Photo by Lisa Cohn

I also recommend getting a bag to catch microplastics, like the Guppy Friend, which I have recently started using.  Put in as many of your synthetic garments as you can fit without over stuffing the bag, and dispose of the microplastics after you wash in the trash.

Do You Need To Dry Your Clothes?

The answer is probably not.  Most of the world gets by just fine air-drying their clothes–using dryers for everything seems to be a uniquely American pastime.  Besides, you can save energy and money by skipping the dryer.  Set up a clothes line in your backyard for the warmer months, and invest in a clothes rack to dry clothes indoors (or in apartments).

Laundry Soap

There are a lot of options for low waste washing products, but if you can’t find any of these in your neck of the woods, don’t sweat it.  Opt for fragrance free laundry soap with all natural ingredients and make sure to properly recycle the bottle afterward—make sure it’s clean and dry when it goes in the bin, and the cap is off.  Caps are usually made with #7 plastic, which cannot be recycled in most jurisdictions because it is usually a combination of plastic materials.  (If this is as frustrating to you as it is to me, check this out: Envision Hands is a non profit in Australia that collects plastic caps to be made into prosthetic limbs for those who need them, free of charge.  Send them caps or donate to their GoFundMe to support them, or try to find an organization that will take caps in your area.)

Soap nuts are a great way to start, and you can order them online fairly easily. You put 5-6 in a little cloth bag, and throw it in with the wash.  Soap nuts are used in traditional soap making, and have many of the properties of soap on their own when you put them in water.  You can also boil them to make your own liquid soap.  I will admit that I stopped using them last summer because I wasn’t convinced that my clothes were getting clean, but they work for some people.  I also never tried making the liquid soap myself, which I may do in the future.

Old school laundry powder is also a great option.  It’s easy and cheap to make your own, too. Here is a recipe I found that looks good.  I have never tried making this, but some people swear by it.

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This last option is the lazy route, and it is the one I’ve stuck with the longest because it’s easy.  I just use castile soap as laundry detergent, and refill my old Dr. Bronner’s bottle at my local bulk store.  The store I go to also sells laundry specific soap in bulk, but I use Dr. Bronners for other stuff around the house (including bubble baths and cleaning spray) so the minimalist in me tends toward buying the more versatile product. (If you don’t have castile soap in your life, this is your sign to get some.  It works for everything.  It’s amazing.  I promise.)

Extra Tips

If you have clothes with lots of stains, throw in a 1/4 cup of white vinegar with your load.  And if you are looking for an alternative to dryer sheets, try reusable wool dryer balls, which can be found online and sometimes at farmers markets.  Fabric softener is a hoax, as far as I can tell.

I hope this was helpful! If you still have questions about laundry, send them in.  Let me know if you try any of these methods in the comments!

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Plastic Free Plant Milk

DE3F6188-6991-4F75-AE16-F805997C0165.jpegI have found, through attempting to reduce my waste, that it is far easier to find plastic free plant based foods than it is to get meat, butter, and milk without plastic.  There are a few returnable bottle schemes for milk cropping up here and there, but those usually come with plastic lids that don’t get recycled.  So as a result, I’ve taken to making my own milk, at home, out of plants.

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but that’s so much work. Who has the time?”  I thought the same thing before I tried making it myself, but it honestly doesn’t take that long and the result is so delicious that you’ll be wondering why you didn’t make it before.

Yes, I could have just bought plant milk from the store, but unfortunately these usually come in tetra paks.  Not only are these made with plastic, but because of the compound material used for the container (layers of plastic, paper, and sometimes metal foil) they are very rarely recycled.  Stop throwing these in the recycling bin until you’ve called your local waste management facility to see if they can actually take them.

So what goes into plant milk?  Well, first of all, nuts are an obvious choice.  They have lots of healthy fats and protein, and make great milk, BUT it takes a lot of water to grow them.  I do not make almond milk because most almonds available to me are grown in drought stricken California, and I don’t want to exacerbate that situation by increasing demand for almonds.

For a while I moved to oat milk, which is delicious, but can honestly get a bit chalky after a day or so.  The great thing about oats is you can get a pound of them for less than $1.20 (in NYC)…but the chalkiness?

One day, it dawned on me that I could combine my ingredients.  I didn’t have to make milk with just cashews, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, or even oats alone.  I could make a blend–half oats and half nuts.  That way I would get the best of both: I would save money and water by using oats, and I would get the flavor and creaminess of nuts without going through them as quickly.

So that’s become my routine.  My favorite blends so far are cashews and oats, closely followed by hazelnuts and oats.  This recipe, however, applies to whatever blend (or non-blend) you fancy.  It will still work.*

*I have never had success with rice milk.  Do not attempt this recipe with rice!

Before we get on with the recipe, a few tips:

Straining the Milk

You can use any cloth with a loose enough weave to strain the milk, so please do not feel like you have to buy a nut milk bag to get the job done.  Linen or cheese cloth works great for this.  I’ve even heard of people using a t-shirt.

Save the Pulp

Don’t throw out the pulp!  You can add it to oatmeal, smoothies, and most baked goods.  It will last in the fridge for 3-4 days, and in the freezer for a few months.  Those plants worked hard to grow, don’t just throw them out!


Plastic Free Plant Milk

Ingredients:

1 cup oats or nuts (or both), dry

3-4 cups water

1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1 tbsp maple or agave syrup (optional)

1 medjool date, pitted (optional)

pinch of salt (optional)

1. Pour the oats/nuts into a container and cover with water.  Let soak for at least 6 hours.  Soaking the night before is a great option.

2. Pour out the soaked oats/nuts into a mesh strainer and rinse.  Add these and the water to a blender.  (Add less water if you want it creamier, or more if you want it thinner.)  If you want to add any of the optional items to your milk, add them now.  Blend for about a minute on high.

3. Strain the milk by pouring the mixture into your strainer of choice and squeezing out all the liquid over a bowl.  If using a cloth, rest a large metal pasta strainer over the bowl and lay the cloth over it.  After pouring the mixture in, gather the corners and twist the cloth to squeeze out the milk.  You may have to do this in batches to keep the pulp from spewing out the ends of the cloth.  (Not that I would know anything about that.)

4. Refrigerate the milk and enjoy for the next 4 days.  This milk has no preservatives, so it won’t keep forever like the mysterious shelf stable plant milks at the grocery store.  Reserve the pulp in a container for later use.


Did you try this recipe? How did it go?  Tell me about it in the comments!

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Self Care For Environmental Activists

F627320A-D529-413D-8D05-08F5CA446BB0.jpegSelf care is quite the buzz word these days.  The beauty industry is currently doing back-flips so you buy their face masks thinking they will improve your emotional state.  “Live your best life” and all that.  That’s not what this post is about.  I’m talking about the deeply emotional work of taking care of yourself on a daily basis.

This becomes incredibly difficult when the work you’re doing involves trying to solve one of the world’s problems.  For me, writing this blog, that means spreading the word to change the way people think about their role in the climate crisis.  I want people to know that we all have opportunities to make an impact.  I want to spread love for the earth and hope for the future.

But this is taxing.  I research climate, waste, and conservation issues in a lot of my spare time, and I’ll be honest–most of the news is not good.  People talk about the climate crisis like an impending apocalypse.  And while I do whole-heartedly support instilling a sense of urgency, (because this IS an actual emergency, and it’s happening now) constantly absorbing that negative information is not healthy.  This is why I’ve taken a step back from the blog in the past couple weeks.  I know regular posting schedules are fashionable and all, but my well-being is more important to me.

I am also aware of the massive privilege I have to be able to take breaks from thinking about this crisis, and I understand that some of what I write in this post will not resonate with everyone.  I write about climate and waste issues because I want to use the privilege I have (like having free time and a computer) to do some good.  Below is a list of what I do to reset when I feel the need to do so.


Self Care for Environmental Activists

And everyone else freaked out by the climate crisis.

Take a break.

Step away from your computer, get off social media, and do something else.  Give yourself some time off from worrying and stressing.  For me this often means taking a day off from checking the news, or going on Instagram, where I follow a lot of bloggers and organizations that talk about environmental issues.  On these days, I try to consume content that has nothing to do with the climate crisis, and do things that I’ve been meaning to do, like laundry, cleaning my room, running errands, etc.  These kinds of activities clear my mind and lower my potential for anxiety in the future.

Go outside.

Being out in nature is super therapeutic.  Getting to wander in natural places is my favorite way to experience them, even if I’m just walking around a park in the city.  Make a point to spend time in the great outdoors: climb a mountain, go to the beach, go for a run on a trail, lay in a park and watch the clouds go by.  Besides making you calmer and happier, being in nature helps you remember why it’s important to advocate for the planet.

Treat yourself.

Reward yourself for all your hard work!  Pamper yourself by cooking your favorite meal (or dessert!), relaxing in a hot bath, or watching your favorite movie.  Treat yourself to a good night’s sleep to set yourself up for a great following day.  A little joy goes a long way toward improving your overall outlook and mood, and will put you in a better position to continue the important work you’re doing.

Talk it out.

Don’t keep your climate crisis worries to yourself.  Talk to others about them, especially the things that freak you out the most.  By expressing your concerns, you shift their weight to a shared burden instead of ones that you feel like you must bear by yourself.  I’m not suggesting you ask other people to solve problems for you, but just talking to someone about them will make you feel better, and may provide new insights that will help you do your work.


I hope this helps someone out there get through their day.  My proverbial office door is always open, and I’m happy to lend an ear if you need someone to chat with.  Thank you, as always, for fighting for our planet.

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Easy Plastic Free Smoothie Bowls

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Hello everyone! I’ve got another recipe for you today that I’ve been developing the past few months.  I love smoothies and smoothie bowls but they’re often so expensive if you buy them out, and often come in plastic cups or bowls, respectively.  Around here, that’s a no go.

The alternative is to make your own.  Below are two variations on the same recipe, which has a banana base.  (If you don’t like bananas, these probably aren’t for you.)  Frozen bananas make a wonderful, creamy base when blended, which means you only have to add a few other ingredients to have a completed bowl.  For a plain banana bowl, just omit the other ingredients.

I also add oats to my smoothie bowls.  Why?  Because as much as I would love to sit and eat fruit all day, I have to go out and do things, so I need food that will keep me full while I’m out in the world.  I add as much oats as I would put in my morning oatmeal, so for me this works as a breakfast when it’s too hot out to even think about turning on the stove.

Check out the recipes below!  And remember: even if you can’t get all the ingredients in bulk, you are still reducing waste by not eating out.  Every effort matters!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Bowl

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Ingredients

2 frozen bananas

2-3 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2 cup oats

water

1. The night before, put the oats in a glass jar, fill with water and cover.  When you’re ready to make your smoothie bowl, strain the oats and add to blender.

2. Put bananas, peanut butter, and cocoa powder in blender.  Blend and be patient–you will probably have to scrape down the sides of your blender several times before you get a good creamy texture.  Add small amounts of water as you go to loosen things up if your blender is stubborn like mine.

3. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Top with chocolate chips, coconut flakes, chia seeds, nuts, dried fruits, or anything you have on hand that you think would taste good!


Simple Green Bowl

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Ingredients

2 frozen bananas

1/2 cup oats

dark leafy greens like spinach or kale

water

1. The night before, put the oats in a glass jar, fill with water and cover.  When you’re ready to make your smoothie bowl, strain the oats and add to blender.

2. Add bananas to blender.  Rinse the greens, and pack as much as you want into the blender.  There’s no exact measurement on the greens because I usually don’t measure, and besides, you really can’t go wrong.  This is a great way to get your greens for the day!

3. Blend, scraping down the sides and adding water as needed.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add toppings!


Notes

  • You can easily make either of these into a regular smoothie by adding enough water or plant milk to make it a drinkable.
  • I appreciate the natural sweetness of the bananas, but if they’re not sweet enough for you, add a spoonful of honey, maple syrup, or add 1 pitted medjool date to the blender with the rest.
  • Try other nut butters, too–sunflower seed butter is one of my favorites for all types of blended treats for its super creamy texture.
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How To Survive Plastic Free July

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Happy Plastic Free July to all!  We are now a week into the challenge–congratulations for making it this far!  For those who have maybe ignored it for a day or two or are frustrated with where you’re at, this is your call in to reset and try again.

As you become more aware of the ubiquity of plastic, it is very natural to become overwhelmed.  How could we allow a material that takes centuries to break down to permeate every corner of our lives?  How does refusing a bag at the store save plastic if the bag is already in the store?  What can I, a single person, possibly do to solve this massive problem?

I had an experience a few years ago where I walked into a Wegman’s (my favorite chain grocery store) and was flabbergasted by the amount of plastic in there.  I got a headache walking around, looking at all the “future trash” in the isles.  I had been in grocery stores before of course, but in this moment the reality of problem hit me hard.  I am still learning to manage my own overwhelm in the face of this issue.  When your worldview is changing it will not always be easy or pleasant.

Survival during this month of abstaining from single use plastic is TOUGH.  More than anything though, it’s about mindset.  I’ve got some tips below to keep you on course for the rest of the month, or whenever you want to avoid plastics.  Best of luck to all!

1. It’s the habits that count.

Everyone on Instragram throws around these infographics at the beginning of Plastic Free July that show you “15 Ways to Avoid Plastic”.  Whoa!  That’s a lot of things to keep track of!  When you’re just starting out, it can be super frustrating–you learn about these things you’re supposed to be doing to help the earth but you can’t keep track of them all and you get so discouraged you don’t do any of them.

Breathe.  You can’t change your lifestyle overnight, so don’t try to.  In the end, the consistency with which you do a few things will have more of an impact over time than trying to do everything at once.  Pick something you want to change for a week: bring a reusable water bottle with you when you leave the house, keep a shopping bag in your backpack or your car, practice saying “no” to straws when you eat out.  Change one thing, and you’ll have a foundation on which to change other things in your life.  You’ve done it before, so you know you can do it again.

2. You are part of a movement.

When you avoid plastics, it’s easy to feel like a lone warrior fighting a battle that most people don’t care about.  But that’s just not true.  Plastic Free July is a testament to just how many people care about the planet enough to change how they live.

When you start attempting to be plastic free, people notice.  When you say you don’t want something because it comes in plastic, when you bring your own bottle, when you talk about plastic pollution, you are an agent of cultural change.  If you do your thing and don’t force others to change, they will take notice and ask questions and reconsider things for themselves.  Since I started making changes in my life (and writing this blog) I have seen the ripple effects of my actions in the people around me.  Seeing them make changes motivates me to keep going.  Talk openly about Plastic Free July, and refuse plastic with pride–you never know who you’ll impact by doing so.

3. The cards are stacked against us by a small group of companies.

Ah, capitalism.  She’s always lurking in the background, isn’t she?  It is widely known that major companies who use plastic packaging are the source of anti-littering campaigns, which put the responsibility of waste management on the consumer.  We must now turn the tide and demand that the PRODUCERS of the plastic take responsibility for their actions and stop flooding the world with garbage.

Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Nestle are the three biggest producers of plastic trash, according to a report from Greenpeace and Break Free From Plastic.  You can, and should, refuse to buy their products, but we must also take our activism to the next level by joining campaigns to hold them accountable.  Sign petitions, call your representatives, and protest for this stuff.  Take some of the burden off yourself and remember that big business got us into this mess.

4. Remember why you started.

Maybe you’re doing this for the turtles.  Maybe you’re passionate about microplastics.  Maybe you’re a concerned citizen wondering what will happen when the landfill is full.  Maybe you’re doing this because this is one of the few things in the climate crisis that you can fully grasp and process (me).

Whatever the reason, remember it. Hold it tightly when you’re at the store tempted by plastic wrapped treats. Remember it when people look at you funny for bringing your own container.  Remind yourself every day, and tell other people why you’re doing it.  You are making the world a better place.  Don’t forget.

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Homemade Lemonade

IMG_3474As we come into the summer months, the temptation to buy bottled drinks to cool down becomes unavoidable–unless you have other options.  This lemonade is a great way to ward off those cravings, without the responsibility that comes with making a more labor-intensive drink like ginger beer or kombucha.  It’s one of the easiest and cheapest things to make, and can easily be made plastic free.

 

The recipe below makes 24oz of lemonade, which is what I typically make for one or two people.  If you’re feeding a crowd or want to have more on hand, double the recipe and use a pitcher to store it.  Come to the plastic free side, we have lemonade!


Homemade Lemonade

You’ll need:

24oz jar (pasta sauce sized)

1 lemon

tap water

2-3 tbsp sugar

Directions:

1. Juice the lemon. If you don’t like pulp, strain it out at this point.  About a quarter cup is all you need.

2. Pour lemon juice into your container, and fill most of the way with water.

3. Add the sugar.  I start out with 2 heaping tablespoons and go from there.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved, and taste it.  Add more sugar or water if desired.

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That’s it!  Store it in the fridge to keep it nice and cold.  You can add extras to it like mint or berries if you’re feeling fancy.

Don’t forget to do something with the peels!  You can make candied lemon peels, infuse vinegar to make delicious smelling cleaner, freeze the zest to use later, and, of course, compost them.  Get creative!