Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Eco-Inspiration 2

Stream in Yellowstone NP.  I am so grateful
these places have been preserved for me to enjoy!
It’s that time of the year!  Oh my goodness, how I adore the holidays.  I love hanging out with my lovely family and seeing all my friends from home.  I can’t wait to take another ramble in the woods with my dogs, and bundle up as I walk down the hill toward the creek with my little sister.  I want to drink coffee with my parents while my brother plays guitar and my sister-in-law sings.  These are my holiday memories.  And I have a lot to be thankful for, and so do you!  Feeling a little holiday stressed?  It happens.  So, I thought I would take a few minute and remind you of 5 things for which you should be very thankful!  I know the official holiday of giving thanks has passed, but I thought we could always use a little more gratitude.  Don’t you?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Low Impact Travel: Thanksgiving 2012

I am back from my Thanksgiving travels.  I’m still pretty tired, and have a ton of school stuff to catch up on, as usual I suppose.  This year, travel was especially crazy because ticket prices were so high (ouch), so I took a red-eye flight on Wednesday which got me into Nashville around 5am CST.  I then flew out of Nashville on Saturday at 7am CST.  Quick turn around, and a few very early mornings!  I thought I might reflect on my wanderings and talk about small things we can do to make our travel footprint a little smaller. 

I did some school work in the morning and early afternoon.  The usual.  The boyfriend (hereafter D Lo) picked me up from school right after class, and I went straight away to making brownies for my roomies and my rideshare buddy.  I went through my fridge and tried to pick out the veggies that would go bad before I got home.  I juiced up a carrot, cucumber, chopped a sort of mealy apple, and threw all that in  the blender with some kale, frozen raspberries, and bananas.  D Lo usually avoids my “salad smoothies,” but I think he was counting on missing me, so he drank up, and it was proclaimed “not that bad.”  My lab mate and her boyfriend swung by to pick me up just as the brownies were done and the smoothies were in our bellies.  My lab mate is from the Bay Area, so she just dropped me off at a train station near her house.  I jammed out to podcasts all the way to the airport.  Once there, I got real hungry, and got another smoothie (this one in a plastic container).  A quick jaunt from SFO to LAX, a speedy veggie burger and fries from Burger King (I really love to eat while I travel) and I was on a plane again and on my way to the southern homeland!
Green smoothies are one of my fave snacks.

Travel Dos:
#1à Do make sure and use up your food before you leave home.  Waste not, want not as they say.
#2à Do ride share and ride public transit when you can.  SO MUCH less stressful than dealing with holiday traffic.
#3à Do remember to pack your own snacks.  Things you buy at the airport as so over priced, wrapped in plastic, and usually not that good for you (I’m looking at you Burger King).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reduce: Cook at home [Roasted Eggplant Pesto]

My week. Coffee shop, grade/write, rinse, repeat.

Things have been 100% crazy in my life as of late.  School is really kicking my butt, and I find myself doing something I very rarely do under pressure…shutting down.  For me, one of the top signs I’m really stressed out is poor eating.  I get “too stressed/busy” to cook, and, instead, clean the grout between my tiles after eating a ton of tater tots.  While cleaning that grout can be very rewarding, making meals at home from whole foods is one of the best things we can do for our bodies, and for the environment.

Here is the pitch (it might sound familiar).  When you prepare foods using simple ingredients it become a lot easier to know where those ingredients originate.  I also find it’s a lot easier to avoid unnecessary packaging when I’m cooking from whole foods and simple ingredients.  And, as I really needed someone to remind me this weekend, cooking for yourself really doesn't take that long and is so much more rewarding than ordering a pizza.  Also, it’s just better for you!  I don’t really want this to turn into a nutrition blog, but I am sort of obsessed with nutrition, and if you want to know some cool sites to refer to, let me know in the comments.

Long story short, I want to commemorate the last real meal I cooked before I let stress get the better of me.  This is a simple meal you could make without much effort during the pre-Thanksgiving week.  It also uses lots of ingredients that you can buy with little to no packaging, score!  This Roasted Eggplant Pesto comes from one of my favorite vegan cooking blogs.  For the non-vegans in the house, my boyfriend, a committed omnivore, generally loves things from Susan’s blog.  I doubled the garlic because…that’s what I do.  I also didn't take a picture of the finished product because it just didn't look very photogenic.  Refer to the picture on the original blog.  She really gets its good side.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eco-Inspiration 1

The tip of South Africa, summer 2008.  
I know from experience, as I know many others do, that sometimes it can all seem like too much.  We have so many demands on our time.  Work, school, relationships.  When do I have time to make a difference?  Do I have the energy and means to make the lifestyle changes necessary to bring my actions in line with my values?  The answer a lot of the time, for me at least, is no.  I do not have time to do everything that I feel I should be doing.  I can’t do it all.  I’m not perfect.  And, as I so often try and remind myself, no one is really expecting me to be.  The best we can do for today, is our best.  And on days when I’m feeling like it’s all too much, like my small efforts will never amount to anything, I think of this quotation which was shared with me by my first mentor in ecology:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why "Recycle" is the Least Important "R"

Let’s start off with the obvious.  Recycling is great!  I think that everyone should be doing it as often and for as many products as they can.  However, it’s not always that cut and dry an issue.  I will likely write in the future about specific types of recycling (ex: tech product recycling, plastics more specifically), but I want to take this time to talk about recycling in general.  I hope this post isn’t a huge bummer; I’m going to view it as a good dose of the realness.  You see, the efficiency of recycling really depends on what you are recycling and where you live.

View from the front yard of my childhood home.  I love this
place with all my being.
I'm going to start off with the latter, that where you live impacts how efficient a choice recycling is for you and your household.  As you probably know, not all recycling programs are created equal.  I have experienced both ends of the recycling support spectrum in my life.  I grew up on a farm in south central Kentucky, and, to this day, there is no infrastructure for recycling where my parents live.  Luckily, when I was growing up, my father’s 45 minute commute took him right past a recycling facility, and about once a month we loaded all our glass and aluminum (I don’t think they took plastics) into my Dad’s car.  While this worked for us, most of our neighbors had no means of getting their recyclables to the distant facility, and now that my father has moved to a much closer job (10 minute commute, he is so happy!) my parents are without a means to recycle.  On the other end of things, after moving to California, I’ve been lucky enough to live in two cities that take their recycling very seriously:  Long Beach and Davis.  Despite this, when I was researching this post I found that some things which I had been able to recycle in Long Beach (ex: Styrofoam, soymilk cartons) are not accepted here in Davis.  Oops, looks like all that washing out of my roommate’s fast food containers has been for not.    

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reduce: Make your own eye make-up remover

When I started this blog, I had big plans of putting awesome peer reviewed, scientific literature into each and every post.  PhD school is too real ya’ll, and that’s not going to happen.  I will be writing solid scientific posts weekly or biweekly, depending on how things go.  I have some good topics planned, and I think you (and I!) will learn a lot.  In the interim between those posts, I’m going to post some content structured around one of the oldest green concepts:  reduce, reuse, recycle.  The focus will be on the first two because, for reasons I will explain in depth later, I think these are the most important.  Each of these posts will be about things I've done, and my reasoning for doing them.  
Back story.  I showed up to my new graduate program fresh off of three previous years of crazy (getting my Master’s Degree) and a 2 month long camping/road trip…so basically I looked a little busted and I didn't care.  There is a well documented relationship between time in graduate school and how much you worry about how you look (view the graph here), and all these fresh faced new graduate students looked SO nice.  What happened?  Did they not get the memo?  In any case, years of social conditioning dictated I step up my personal up-keep regime.  Jokes aside, it needed to happen anyway, and it has made me feel good to actually look in the mirror in the mornings (I literally hadn't looked in a mirror in weeks while writing my M.S. thesis).
My uniform for the summer.  Not pictured, my buddy's socks
and sandals combo (she is also a graduate student)

I’m still a make-up minimalist, but over the past month or so I have managed to throw a little moisturizer, blush, and mascara on in the mornings.  After about a week, I added “eye make-up remover” to the grocery list.  That Saturday, post farmer's market, I found the item in the grocery store and DANG.  I know I haven’t purchased this product in years but when did it get so expensive?  Then I looked at all the ingredients.  What the heck was some of this stuff?  I have really sensitive skin and a really thin pocket book, so I passed on the store bought stuff.  The older I get, the more I realize that a lot of my “green living” decisions also save me tons of money. 

So, what makes homemade a greener option?  Let’s look at what goes into this project, then revisit this question at the end.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mission Statement: Humans in an Ecosystem Context

In Olympic NP about to bond with a Doug Fir

Well hello!  You are here, and I’m so glad.  I love reading blogs for two reasons.  First, I might literally be the nosiest person alive and I love to hear people’s stories.  I feel we can learn so much by looking at the experiences of others.  Second, I love the freedom of information that comes with blogs, but, as a lover of critical thinking (who isn’t really?) I also love reading an entry and thinking “that’s crazy talk.”  For this second reason, I’ve always been a little hesitant to start my own blog.  I do a whole lot of crazy talking.  But I think I have finally settled on a topic about which I can mad gab with some authority. 

The idea of viewing myself in an ecosystem context was born a few years ago when I was attempting to read Jim Merkel’s book Radical Simplicity.  He talks about equitable living and how much land space would be available to support each human life if the productive land on Earth was shared equally (spoiler alert, it isn’t).  That was about 4.5 acres*.  These 4.5 acres would have to produce everything to meet an individual’s needs:  food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc.  At this point, I wasn’t too freaked out by the idea.  I like to share and I live a pretty simple life, so 4 acres should be more than enough for me!  Then Merkel points out the obvious flaw in this plan… that’s for 4 acres for each human.  Just people.  My mind was literally blown.  What about the orangutans (my faves), walruses, clown fish, fruit flies, and guava trees!  How many resources should we be leaving for them?  I literally couldn’t believe I had never thought about this.  Certainly, my personal choices have been influenced by social justice and environmental issues, but seeing the two paired in such an explicit way was shocking.  What was a little hippie-ecologist to do?!