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Archive for the category “Anecdotes”

How I Turned my Garbage Can into a Compost Bin

I just got published in my school paper! Here’s the article.

As Morris students, most of us can agree that we dig sustainability in its many diverse forms, whether it be the feeling of pride acquired when gazing at wind turbines, growing free food with the organic garden club or trying to go to the bathroom in Imholte to use their water conserving toilets. My passion has lately been trying to live without creating garbage, which I’ve been working on for the past seven months. While I’m hardly one hundred percent successful in this endeavor, I’ve found that the key to living without pads, paper plates and the plastic wrapping surrounding cheese is not about convenience, time or money, but willingness to examine conventional habits and trying out new manners of existence.

In short, living waste-free is possible. 

The first challenge to overcome was how to define waste. Energy and water waste seemed like too much to consider on top of physical waste, so I focus on anything that could eventually end up in a landfill.
How do I do this? The age old three Rs help me out greatly; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. However, I have almost completely eliminated recycling as well, which, in my mind, has the danger of merely becoming an excuse to throw more things away.

I have found that there are two main areas that are easiest to reduce waste in: food and  toiletries. I converted my boxed and packaged life into a pantry of root vegetables and stunning glass jars filled with bulk goods, which are mostly from the Pomme de Terre Food Co-op. This is where I get my baking goods, rice, pasta, oatmeal, coffee, other bulk goods and some fresh produce. I can also return egg cartons to the Co-op, which are then returned to local farmers for reuse. La Tienda and Willie’s also carry produce without packaging, as does the local Farmers’ Market from June to September. During the summer, I grew a large amount of food in the Student Organic Garden as well. Unpackaged food often requires a bit more time to prepare, but I’ve found that baking bread and cooking large amounts of food on weekends makes for a peaceful way to spend time with friends and creates ample leftovers for the next few days.

If you have baking soda and Dr. Bronner’s soap, you’re set for all the cleaners you could ever imagine, whether that be hair, teeth or toilet bowls. Liquid Dr. Bronner’s soap is sold at the Co-op in bulk, as is baking soda. There are also a surprising amount of alternatives to objects with planned obsolescence that can easily be found online, such as compostable toothbrushes, toothpaste that comes in tablet form with recyclable packaging, bar shampoo, reusable feminine products and spray deodorant in recyclable cans. There are plenty of others out there who are determined to curb the flow of trash that we create every day with unthinking ease.

With the great strides that have been taken in renewable energy here, it is time to turn our attention to what happens with our waste and what we can do to reduce and even eliminate it, on both individual and institutional levels.

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Let us be Inspired by Vegetables

This past spring, the farmer market venders gathered in the paneled meeting room of the library. Among others were apostolic women in graceful skirts, fathers with children in tow and a pierced man with the word peanut tattooed upon his neck gathered together to discuss market business for the upcoming season. I was at the meeting for my own work with an organization called Morris Healthy Eating, a group that is trying to change the food environment of our town to make healthy eating an easy option. This makes fresh and local produce a top priority. Ergo, we work closely with the twenty-two venders of our proud farmers market.

After the meeting, we had lunch together. I pulled out my own plate and silverware, as the paper plates that were being passed around would be in violation of my endeavor. Some strange looks followed my actions and my closest neighbor, Audrey, a woman who just started up a small farm north of town, inquired about my plate.

“Well, I’m trying to eliminate my waste.” I said, somewhat sheepishly. Was is pretentious to be bringing my own plate everywhere? It was certainly was bulky.

To my surprise, Audrey was incredibly supportive about the no waste thing, even going on to wonder how she could implement similar ideas into her business. She also offered to package food from her farm for me in reusable bags.

Thus began my love affair with the farmer’s market.

During the summer, I got the majority of my food from venders who would fill up my miscellaneous jars and bags with tomatoes, chard, spinach, bread, eggs and even pasta. I was also busy with the student organic garden club, where I was able to grow more of my own food.

It was surprising to me how much living with minimal waste has become a community event. I have met more people, have formed relationships and had conversations with this adventure than I ever imagined. Cheesy though that may sound. It still is shocking to me how interested people are in following my progress and wanting to help, or even change a few of their own habits.

Plus, the food is delicious. To quote a friend, “Let us be inspired by vegetables.”

Foodlums

What is a foodlum?

A foodlum is not unlike a hoodlum, not in the conventional sense, but is a person who is fed up with convention, who tries to change a flawed system, who decides to live in a manner that defies the mainstream, corporate hoo-ha.

Foodlums are gorilla gardeners, dumpster divers, consumers of organic, local and free-range foods.

Foodlums scorn the fast foods of the world and take pride in their skill at cutting up vegetables, their usage of woks and crockpots and their recipe literacy.

Foodlums are savers of seeds, defenders of small scale farmers, activists at the very root level.

Foodlums are people like us, saving the world one calabash at a time.

Turning our backs to McDonalds, we proudly sponser our farmers' market.

Stationed at the town days to help folks learn about Morris Healthy Eating, we were across the way from some wonderful henna hippies. Henna tattoos were inevidable.

Preach or Teach?

“When I go back home, and I see how much people waste, it kinda makes me sick. But my parents are fifty, and I’m twenty, so I’m not going to try and make them change.”

These are the words of my friend Dan. And this poses a bothersome problem for me. How can I communicate about creating waste without offending everyone?

On one hand, I completely agree with the idea of respecting people who are older, who have more experience and who probably know a heck of a lot more than I do about a plethora of things. It freaks me out to even think about telling an elder that they are in the wrong, and I’m right. Plus, that makes me sound like a pretentious, unrealistic hooligan. And who is going to listen to a self-righteous rascal, let alone amend their lifestyle due to one? On the other hand, I know that creating garbage when garbageless options are available is wrong. I know that creating waste just because it is how you have always gone about life, just because it is convenient and just because everyone else does it, is wrong.

I also loath the preachers of this planet who can’t hold a conversation because they are continuously trying to convert you.

Therefore, I find that the only possible solution is to live in a manner that is as transparent as can be. To lead by example, if you will. If others want to jump on board, I’ll exclaim WAHOO! If not, let’s be friends anyway.

How Red Glasses Led to a Green Lifestyle

My buddy Naomi and I have the same glasses. They are red, unique in a world of bespectacled people. “You two have the same glasses” other friends say, looking at us with wonder-eyes. They have known us for two years, and notice just now. We chuckle.

While our friendship may have been built upon those red frames, we fortunately have more in common than our choice of spectacles. One might say that we see things eye to eye. So when Naomi was inspired to live for a year without creating any physical waste, I was all for it. A casual conversation in the back of a lecture hall between classes was all it took for us to settle upon the hows and whats of our new lifestyle. In very basic terms, we decided that if something would end up in a landfill, we wouldn’t use it. That was several months ago. We are now a full six months into the project.

Our motto: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In that order.

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