Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Low Impact Travel: Going to the Snow

My feet in my snowshoes!
I think, a lot of times, people perceive a ecology-centered lifestyle (or green...I'm never really sure what terminology to use) as being restrictive.  It's not an outlandish conclusion to come to, really.  Essentially, when making decisions in an ecosystem context, you're thinking not just about yourself, but the system in which you live.  In that framework, sometimes the easiest, most convenient, or even funnest option isn't the very best choice.  This can seem like, well, a bummer.  However, I think you will find that with a little effort and proper prior planning you can still enjoy the activities you love!  I'll give you an example of an adventure I went on with some lady-ecologists this past weekend.

Monday, February 4, 2013

EcoNews Round-up: Feb. 4, 2013

I figured it was time again to share some of the science news I've been crunching on this last week or so.  Note, not every story occurred in the last calendar week.  Graduate student here, so I'm usually just a little bit behind the times.

I thought this graphic from the original article bore repeating.
Even scientists love LOL Cats.
First, I'd like to share two stories about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, privilege in the world of science.  This particular conversation about privilege in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering  and mathematics) was started with an article about privilege in the marine sciences and followed up by this insightful article about how access to these fields is sometimes closed to students before they even get to college.  I think the former article does a good job defining privilege and charting out some general territory where it can come into play once you are on your path to a scientific career.  If you are interested in reading about diversity in the sciences, I would suggest Dr. Kate Clancy's blog over at Scientific American or the always amusing Dr. Isis (a pseudonym!) over here.  The latter article, in my opinion, gets much more at the heart of the diversity problem in STEM professions.

My example of my own experience of privilege is always this:  When I was in 3rd grade, or maybe 4th, I was working on some math homework.  It was some sort of word problem, I don't remember the details.  I asked my mother to help me (sign of privilege numbero uno!) and instead of just helping me with that one word problem, she explained to 8/9 year-old me how to set up a simple algebraic equation to get the correct answer.  I recall being really annoyed with her at the time for not directly answering my question, but dang.  I am sure that my current position as a scientist is thanks to a million little interactions like this one.  I am privileged beyond belief, and I thank the authors of these two articles for pointing this out, and pushing scientists to think about these issues!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Reduce/Reuse: DIY Salad Dressings

As most of my friends and relations can tell you, I'm a very easy going person.  But, there are a few things in this big world that make me squirm.  One of them (as I'm sure you have already gathered) is excessive waste in all its forms.  Another big thing that really makes me go "squee" and have a mini-internal crisis is paying a lot of money for something I know costs very little to produce.  And when these two pet peeves team up, I'm very likely to vote with my dollars and refuse to buy a product.  So, last week, this is how the scenario went down:

Stage 1: Realization- It's Saturday, grocery shopping day, and we are totally out of salad dressing.  Unluckily, all the available options at [insert the name of your local chain grocery here]:  (1) Are packaged in plastic, (2) Contain high fructose corn syrup, (3) Don't have 1 or 2 but do cost more than 5 dollars.
Stage 2:  Moral and economic dilemma!- I sweat, I ask D Lo to make a decision, I get frustrated and say I need time to think about it.*
Stage 3: Denial- I don't buy salad dressing and end up mooching off my roommate for the week, because she already bought it, so even if I have an issue with it...it's there...   
Stage 4:  Acceptance- The next Saturday, I resolve to pay a little more and buy dressing in a glass jar from the Co-op, because I'm lucky and I have that option.  I shell out $5 for a 12oz jar of dressing.
Stage 5:  A) It's delicious!- Eat my yummy dressing until I return to Stage 1, or B) It's super gross!- I paid 5 dollars, and I'm super disappointed in the product, but I soldier through because...you know...it cost 5 bucks!
Stage 6:  Overcoming Resistance- Resistance is the force that keeps you from doing things that you really want to do/know you really should be doing.  Every time I bought that 5 dollar bottle (or just bought the plastic, high fructose version because I am a poor graduate student), I knew there was a better way. 

*This is the part where I always feel INSANE.  Am I the only person who has a moral crisis over salad dressing?

And this, friends, is really why I wanted to start this blog.  I know there are other people out there who really want to make some changes in their lives, but they don't because they think it will be too hard/expensive/time consuming.  I totally feel you; I deal with that feeling daily.  What always helps me is reading a blog or talking to a friend who tells me how simple and fun these changes can be.  So, here is another small solution to our big ol' ecological problems.  And, in this case, the solution takes about as much time as comparing the labels on your standard store bought salad dressings!