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The Clothes We Wear

Ayla Dunn Bieber gives us the scoop on clothing, fast-fashion, and the textile industry–and it’s not a good look! Luckily she provides plenty of resources, new ways, of doing things, and inspirational ideas for consuming less…

Hello everyone! Let’s dive right in to another topic…

Another layer to this wasteful mess we humans have created is brought to you by the clothing industry. High water usage; pollution from chemicals used to grow fibers for clothing and chemicals used in dyeing and preparation processes; the incineration and landfill-dumping of massive amounts of unsold clothing. Its clear that this industry, and our consumption habits, need to be seriously looked at.

Some not-so-fun facts to get your wheels turning:

  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt. To put these numbers in perspective, the amount of water needed to make a t-shirt is enough for one person to stay hydrated for 900 days while the amount of water needed to make a pair of jeans is equivalent to hosing down your lawn for 9 hours straight. [1]
  • The production of 1 kilogram of cotton garments uses up to 3 kilograms of chemicals [2]
  • “When people think of trafficking, they often associate it with the sex trade, but about 50% of trafficked victims, including children, are sold into forced labor. It’s taking place in developing countries and parts of Europe where markets and factories go unregulated. The fashion industry is unfortunately rife with trafficked workers and forced labor.” [3]
  • Overall, one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated every second [4] This is due to consumers not recycling their clothes, as well as fashion brands wanting to get rid of leftover stock as a way of preserving product scarcity and brand exclusivity. [5]
  • Up to hundreds of thousands of plastic microfibers get washed out of our synthetic clothes each time we wash them (AND 60% of the clothes produced are made of plastic [6]). These microfibers end up in our water systems and eventually in the ocean (and then into fish and into us!). Please watch this 2.47 minute video on this hidden problem with our synthetic clothes.

 

What needs to be done:

With basically every sustainability topic, the thing that will have the most impact is to BUY/CONSUME LESS. This holds true for clothing too. We need to buy AND throw away less. For the clothes we do have, we need to care for them (repair them and wash them properly) so that they can last as long as possible.

When you want to wear something new – consider borrowing, swapping or thrifting before buying a brand new piece of clothing! Dyeing, cutting, and re-fashioning old clothing are also all ways to breathe life into older clothing. Our friends at The Fiber Craft Studio are hosting a plant dying “cafe” on Friday, April 26th where you can use indigo plant based-dyes to give your clothes a total update.

If buying new:

  • Always ask yourself it is something you really need first
  • Buy quality
  • Consider the fiber it is made out of: hemp, soy silk, linen, organic cotton and wool (depending on how the animals are treated) are good sustainable choices
  • Stay away from: polyester, nylon, acrylic, rayon, modal and non-organic cotton

When you are ready to get rid of clothing:

  • Have a clothing swap with friends (try it seasonally!). We’re hosting one today, Earth Day (April 22nd from 11 AM to 4 PM) at the Hungry Hollow Co-op!
  • Donate to a thrift store
  • Recycle them! Almost 100% of textiles can be recycled
  • Never let clothes and other textiles go into the garbage!

Want more?

Watch You Are What You Wear a 16 minute long Ted Talk

Read Why I’m Boycotting the Clothing Industry Plastic Pollution Coalition

Check out Upcycle That

Read the Consumption Section of Close the Loop

Watch How Your T-Shirt Can Make a Difference 2 minutes long

Check out some great infographics from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

 

Also! Our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op have generously offered this exclusive coupon to readers of The Sustainability Scoop:

 

What are some ways you can breathe new life into old clothing? Let us know in the comments!

 

Thriftily Yours,

Ayla

 

Sources:

1 “8 Little Known Facts About Our Clothing Habits” Planet Aid, Inc., 28 July 2016, www.planetaid.org/blog/8-little-known-facts-about-our-clothing-habits. [Accessed 17 April 2019]

2 “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future – download the report infographics” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 6 Dec. 2017,

https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future-download-the-report-infographics [Accessed 17 April 2019] 3 “The Big Issues Facing Fashion in 2019” Forbes. 16 Jan. 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccasuhrawardi/2019/01/16/the-big-issues-facing-fashion-in- 2019/#3781476323a9 [Accessed 17 April 2019]

4 “A New Textiles Economy: Full Report” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 1 Jan 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf [Accessed 17 April 2019}

5 https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonbird1/2018/09/09/fashions-dirty-little-secret-and-how-its-coming-clean/#6bd9a51d1771

6 https://www.circulardesignguide.com/fibres

Plastic in the Kitchen

Ayla Dunn Bieber unpacks some not-so-fun plastic facts and provides resources for inspiring ways to break free from plastic on both an individual and societal scale…

Plastic is everywhere. Ever feel like your drowning in it? Like you just can’t get away? Well, we do have it bad, but unfortunately our animal friends have it even worse. We are literally drowning our buddies downstream. And get this – tiny pieces of plastic are now even being discovered in human feces [1]. Do I have your attention?

  • Some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions. That’s the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world [3].
  • The main cause for the increase in plastic production is plastic packaging. Plastic packaging made up 42% of all non-fiber plastic produced in 2015, and it also made up 52% of plastics thrown away [2].
  • Nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute around the world. In 2015, Americans purchased about 346 bottles per person [2].
  • Single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill nor are they recycled. A full 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. This is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. By 2050, this could mean there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Choosing to buy products with less packaging or no packaging altogether makes a big difference [3].
We’ve got a real problem on our hands, and it’s expanding so fast that we don’t even know the full reach of its ramifications.
So what can we do? We MUST reduce our plastic consumption! This means changing our habits. Start small, with a change or two and keep adding new ones!

Credit: Anne-Marie Bonneau, zerowastechef.com

 

Here are some tips:
  • Bring your own grocery bags and shopping bags – an obvious one.
  • Just say no to plastic produce bags! Use reusable bags instead (consider making your own out of old material/clothes you don’t wear anymore).
  • Buy in bulk, and bring your own container for your bulk items (jars, bags).
  • Bring your own left-overs containers to restaurants
  • Use re-usable straws
  • Use a re-usable coffee cup
  • Wax wrap – instead of plastic wrap
  • Make your own  ______ (fill in the blank, the options are endless – bread, toothpaste, tortillas…).
  • Re-use the plastic bags you do acquire
  • Use cloth or wax sandwich bags

 

For an amazing list of 50 tips to reduce plastic use, check out this awesome article by the zerowastechef!


Lastly, please take a moment to read these broader picture/longer term ‘REAL’ solutions from the folks at Greenpeace [4]:

  • “Government bans and restrictions for unnecessary and damaging plastic products or activities. Legislative reuse targets.”
  • “Mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and strategies to make producers and companies responsible for the damage plastic causes to our environment, make them accountable for the entire lifecycle and true costs of their products.”
  • “Government and corporate investment in reuse models and new ways to deliver products using less or no packaging.”
  • “Corporate phase-out of production and use of single-use plastic products and throwaway product models.”
  • A shift in dominant public mindsets away from our throwaway culture focused on convenience being equal to disposal, toward a vision of healthy, sustainable and more connected communities.
Let’s do this!

 

Contact ayla@thenatureplace.com or emily@thenatureplace.com to sign up for our Zero Waste Community where we talk about these topics and more, and keep each other motivated to continue to fight the beast.

 

Sources:

Meat: An Exploration, Part II

IN PART II OF AN EXPLORATION INTO REDUCING MEAT CONSUMPTION, AYLA DUNN BIEBER DISCUSSES COMMON ROADBLOCKS TO EATING LESS MEAT, AS WELL AS HELPFUL SOLUTIONS AND TIPS…

Camp parent Lianna Levine Reisner writes:

Our family has chosen not to eat any animal products, first for health reasons, but we are really committed to this holistically because animal agriculture contributes to a huge amount of environmental degradation, from CO2 and methane emissions to land overuse and rainforest deforestation, to water use and water pollution. Meat itself is the worst offender, but poultry, dairy, and eggs are significant as well. Exercising responsibility for climate change on a day-to-day basis is very much related to what we eat, and I feel like I can have more integrity as a climate activist when I align our kitchen with our values.

There are a ton of resources about this on the web, but I really like Brighter Green’s research and position papers. I also just came across this report which summarizes the environmental benefits achieved by one school district in California that has dramatically reduced the meat and dairy in their meals. It’s worth reading to see how much the district’s footprint has been reduced by this one, relatively simple change!

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you for your input and resources Lianna!

 

Keeping the conversation going from last month’s Dirt

Last night, Emily Selover and I facilitated our first meeting in a three-month series on Sustainability, which we are calling Community Exchange, held at the Hungry Hollow Co-op. This month’s topic was ‘reducing our meat consumption’. We talked about roadblocks, challenges, and hesitations to reducing meat-eating; and then about tools, strategies, and resources to help us moving forward. I wanted to share some of the highlights in hopes they might resonate/help with your own exploration of the topic.

 

Roadblocks/Challenges/Hesitations:

  • Convenience of cooking meat – ‘it’s what I know/what’s easiest’
  • Partners not being on board – the need to cook separate meals
  • Breaking family habits/traditions
  • Time/need to pre-plan
  • Worry that I won’t feel full
  • Not being in touch with the process of meat production on a visceral level (it is easy to buy a clean piece of meat pre-packaged in the store)

Tools/Strategies:

  • Pre-plan your meals for the week and take your meals/recipe lists with you to the store
  • Get inspired to broaden your veggie-based repertoire (use Pinterest, share cookbooks, get together with friends for a recipe exchange)
  • Focus on reducing by creating manageable goals
  • Substitute a percentage of the meat that would normally be in your meal with a meat-free alternative (slowly weaning yourself off the reliance on meat while incorporating new recipes)
  • Work on legislation to tax beef, move subsidies away from the meat industry, etc.
  • Think about learning more about processing road-kill (there’s lots to read about and plenty of great arguments for this mode of meat-consumption—though it might seem wild to think about at first)
  • Join a Zero-Waste community for support/ideas/friends to cook with/people to do activism work with (look no further – Emily and I are starting one! Shoot us your email address if you want to join)

 

Endless thanks for being on this journey together and for all your efforts toward sustainability!

Ayla

 

Meat: An Exploration

Ayla Dunn Bieber tackles the subject of meat consumption and how reducing it is the best way to fight climate change…

Meat: it is a hot topic. Below we will be looking strictly at the environmental impacts of eating meat. Spoiler alert – It’s a doozy!

All of the text that I’ve highlighted in green below was taken directly from https://veganuary.com/why/environment/. I found their website hugely informative and well sited and wanted to provide you with direct quotes.

image source: www.gotdrought.info

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, farmed animals contribute 14.5 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than every car, plane, truck and train on the planet. [1]

The largest single cause of deforestation is agriculture. [2] Meaning, due to our global meat demand, we are cutting down the earth’s rainforests to clear more land to either graze game (mostly cattle) or grow crops to feed these animals. We’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests every year – that’s equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute. [3]

Humans have wiped out 60 percent of animal populations since 1970, with many scientists believing we are in the era of a sixth mass extinction, and the first to be caused by a species. [4]

The three leading causes of this unprecedented massacre are:
-Destruction of habitats, largely to create farmland
-Wild animals being eaten
-Fishing [4]

In fact, agriculture and over-exploitation (including fishing) are significantly greater threats to biodiversity than climate change. [5] Quite simply, eating animal products is destroying our wildlife.

When you read these statistics, how do you feel?

I felt shocked, disgusted, admittedly skeptical, and then ultimately, horrified. Truth be told, I’d been hearing whispers of information like this for some time. But, I chose to look the other way as I very much enjoyed eating meat and felt like my body needed it. That all changed abruptly a few weeks ago, when I got together with a few members of our camp Administration to watch the film “Cowspiracy”.

After watching this film (which did spark debate within the scientific community around how the filmmakers quantified and calculated GHG emissions), I could not ignore the elephant in the room any longer. Though the UN’s 14.5% estimate (the first quote in this article) is likely more accurate than the higher emissions percentage suggested by “Cowspiracy”, the truth is still overwhelmingly clear: WE MUST REDUCE OUR MEAT CONSUMPTION. It is clear that it is the single biggest thing we, as individuals, can do to reduce climate change.

For me, one of the most impactful lines in the movie was last one: ‘You can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat, period’. Daniel and I had begun the conversation about our own meat consumption before the movie, but the pace of our decision making quickened that night. The next day we began our meat-consumption-reduction. So far we have cut out most meat entirely, eating a small amount of chicken or fish (about once a week) and occasionally eating dairy.

I still have a lot to learn and I encourage each of you to dig in with me, if you haven’t already. Let’s continue to educate ourselves so we can be the effective environmentalists we want to be.

A place to start: consider cutting your meat (especially beef) consumption in half. This is a great goal to begin with in this new year!

Our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op are offering the coupon below to give readers a discount on produce as we transition towards more plant-centered consumption! Just present your coupon at checkout to receive the discount.

Please share your thoughts and information on this topic. Like all sustainability efforts, it is key that we are in this work together!

 

Until next time,

Ayla

 

1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Tackling climate change through livestock: a global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities’, 2013 http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3437e.pdf [Accessed 1 December 2018]
2 ‘Forest conversion’, World Wildlife Fund http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/deforestation/deforestation_causes/forest_conversion/ [Accessed 1 December 2018]
3 ‘Deforestation: overview’, World Wildlife Fund https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation [Accessed 1 December 2018]
4 Damian Carrington, ‘Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds’ The Guardian, 30 Oct 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/30/humanity-wiped-out-animals-since-1970-major-report-finds [Accessed 1 December 2018]
5 Jessica Aldred, ‘Agriculture and overuse greater threats to wildlife than climate change – study’, The Guardian, 10 Aug 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/10/agriculture-and-overuse-greater-threats-to-wildlife-than-climate-change-study [Accessed 1 December 2018]

How to Reduce Electricity Use Part II (Resources Galore!)

Ayla Dunn Bieber recommends some resources for energy conservation and websites that show you how to choose your electric supplier. Chock-full of practicality…

Hello all,

While we may not have them every night, Daniel, Odelia, and I have been enjoying our candle-lit dinners immensely. My awareness about turning lights off when I’m moving rooms (or not turning them on at all during the day) has been satisfying, and I’ve switched to doing all laundry using cold water. I’ve also programmed our thermostats to ensure we’re not wasting energy while we’re not home, nor at night when we are cozy in bed. I have some self-judgement that I wasn’t paying more attention to these things before now, but all we can do is continually do better, right?

How is your electricity reduction going? Are there changes you have tried to make?

I wanted to share a few more links to websites with easy and practical information about energy conservation for further tips and inspiration:

Another way to have an impact around sustainable energy is to choose your electric supplier. While we don’t have a say in our electricity distributors (specific companies that own and maintain the poles and wires that get to our homes), we can choose where our electricity comes from (including making greener choices – i.e. wind, solar, hydroelectric).

I was recently directed to NYS Power to Choose by my gas and electric distributor (Orange and Rockland) and was happy to see that once you put in your zip code the site easily compares electric supplier’s rates in your area and tells you if they are green and how so. I found a few sites (there seem to be several) doing a similar thing in NJ (Power2Switch and Choose Energy). Daniel and I chose a new green supplier, which I not only feel better about morally, but which will also save us money too!

I hope you’ve enjoyed our foray into this electrifying topic ;). I can’t wait to explore a different sustainability theme with you all next month. Until then… stay warm (but not too warm) on these cold winter nights.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the ‘20% off candles’ in December’s Dirt that our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op have offered in conjunction with our energy reduction efforts these past two months! Offer expires January 15th!

Powering down for now,
Ayla

How to Reduce Electricity Use (It’s more fun than you’d think!)

Ayla Dunn Bieber [candle]lights the way toward more conscious energy use in our homes, with tips and activities to help your family reduce your electricity use (and your monthly bill!)…

What better time to talk about energy use (specifically, electricity use) than just after turning the clocks back, when our homes seem darker so much earlier! Personally, I go through phases of being more conscious about my electricity use. I am happy to say that lately I have been in a more aware phase, and even more so after doing research for this ‘scoop’!

So, let’s get into it: “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if every American replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR light bulb, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year, we would save more than $600 million in energy costs in a year, and we would reduce greenhouse gases emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road” [source].

What?! Sobering, right? And inspiring!

Here are some fun and easy things you can do at home to 1) increase your family’s attention around your electricity use, and 2) take concrete steps toward energy reduction. I’m so excited to forge some new habits together!

  • Have an electricity free day! Your power doesn’t have to be out to experience the magic this can bring. In fact, we’d like to do it together! NPDC declares Sunday, Nov. 25th a shared electricity-free day! Send us pictures of what your family does with your day (perhaps a picture of your candlelit dinner table?). This is a wonderful way to jump-start bringing attention to your electricity use. Are there certain lights you instinctively turn on when they aren’t actually needed? Do you turn off the lights every time you leave a room? Are there certain lights you leave on all the time? Bringing awareness is the first step toward making long term changes.
  • Get crafty by creating light switch covers to help remind you and your family to turn the lights off! Climatekids NASA has a fun template, but the sky is the limit. Use a design that fits your family!
  • Learn what electronic items in your home are sucking energy while they are powered off!! This is a HUGE one. Here is an informative article on how to identify these items and what to do! If you don’t have time to read the article, the short of it is that we need to either unplug devices (including cell phone chargers and computers) when not in use, or for areas in your home that you have several things plugged in, use a ‘smart power strip‘ that knows when a device is off and shuts down electricity to it. This can save you from all the bending and reaching each time you need to turn your computer on or off etc).
  • Make a commitment to eat dinner only by candle-light – for a night, a week, a month… a year… (who doesn’t love a candlelit dinner!?)

We also love supporting our local co-op, The Hungry Hollow Co-op. When they heard we were writing about energy conservation, they wanted to offer an exclusive deal to our Dirt readers (!!). Stop in and present the coupon (found in November’s issue) for 20% off on a purchase of candles this winter!

I’m so excited to hear how you and your family have fun with this topic! Please keep me posted.

Signing off and shutting down,
Ayla

Waste Not, Want Not Part II – What to do with food waste

Ayla Dunn Bieber serves up some science on food waste decomposition and points us in the direction of great resources for composting – even where space is limited…

In the last installment of our Sustainability Scoop we looked at some pretty crazy numbers regarding how much food is wasted in our country and some of the harsh effects this is having on our planet. A huge issue is that food waste that is thrown “away” gets trapped in landfills and produces methane gas – a greenhouse gas that the Environmental Defense Fund states is 84 times more potent than CO2 in the short term! You may ask: if rotting food in landfills produces methane gas, does rotting food in a compost pile do the same? The answer is NO! Thank goodness!

Here’s why:

  • Food waste that gets buried in landfills goes through a process called anaerobic decomposition or digestion, due to the lack of oxygen in the landfill. This means that the microorganisms that break down the buried organic material don’t need oxygen to survive. An unfortunate byproduct of their decomposition process is methane.
  • Food waste in properly aerated compost containers is exposed to oxygen, and thus undergoes aerobic decomposition. The little microbes that carry out this process use oxygen to do so and don’t produce methane as a byproduct – hurrah! In fact, the main byproducts of this process can be taken up immediately by plants. Bonus: if properly aerated, compost shouldn’t smell (unlike a landfill).

This is only ONE reason why composting is preferable over sending food to the landfill, but I think its a good enough one to start with. So, let’s not waste anymore time! Let’s get down to business and get composting!

If you live somewhere where you don’t have space to compost, you AREN’T off the hook. The easiest way to still compost is to set up a compost bowl or container in your freezer (use it as an excuse to clean out your freezer – if your freezer is anything like mine, it could use some TLC) and then take your bucket each week (or however often if fills up) to your closest Food Scrap Collection location. Here is a link to NYC locations. For those outside of the city, ask a friend who has a compost system if you can give them your scraps or check with a local farm/garden about their options. Also, most farmers markets have receptacles – check your local market today!

If you are interested in starting your own compost system, here is a beautifully laid out resource.

For those already composting – celebrate the good work you’re doing for our planet! For me, the next step is reduce, reduce, reduce.

Let us know about your composting journey in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time,
Ayla

Waste Not, Want Not…

Ayla Dunn Bieber kicks of this year’s Sustainability Scoop series by diving in to the topic of food waste…

For me, September brings a sharpened focus that rides in with the crisp autumn air.

Our out-breath of summer has begun to shift and we can commit (or re-commit) to what we would like to incorporate into our new year-round schedules. It’s a great time to make a New-Year’s resolution; and what better subject to choose than sustainability? I hope you’re with me!

If you are just joining us, last year’s cycle of The Sustainability Scoop focused on my family’s efforts to reduce our physical trash waste, honing in on plastic and excess packaging (you can read more here).

This year, The Sustainability Scoop widens its scope and will look at other areas in which much work is needed to continue our efforts toward sustainability.  Our theme for our September and October posts will be on Food Waste.

Did you know:

  • “The US Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 – 40 percent of our country’s food supply ends up as food waste. With the USDA estimating that one in six Americans lacks a secure supply of food on their table, this is especially concerning.”1
  • “Recent studies have found that between 20 – 25 percent of disposed trash is food waste. When food waste is buried in landfills, it decomposes and generates methane gas, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. These sites are the third largest source of methane in the US.”1

When I read these statistics I took a huge gulp and felt very unsettled. Up until recently, I was one of the many people who think, ‘Oh, what’s a little food mixed in with the garbage? It will help the rest of the trash break down.’ This statement is NOT TRUE, folks! In addition to the harmful methane gas produced by decomposing food waste in landfills, there is also an incredibly large sustainability issue with the amount of energy it takes to produce the food in the first place, which is then lost. The solution to this dire problem then seems twofold: reducing the amount of food waste we produce by being more conscious of the amount we purchase and about using the food we buy, while also diverting the food we do not consume away from landfills and into composting systems where some of its energy and nutrients are able to be recaptured.

Helpful Tips:

  • Label your food when you put it in the fridge! I, for one, am overly cautious about how long something has been in the fridge. If there is any question as to whether something has gone bad, I air on the side of ‘safety’ and compost it. This, paired with that fact that I always think I will remember what date I cooked something on and then never can, is a recipe for FOOD WASTE. I have thought of putting a piece of tape on containers of leftovers and writing the day they were cooked on it, but haven’t done it as that tape feels wasteful too! A new idea that came to me this morning was to use the whiteboard I already have on my fridge to keep track of the date I put food in (specifically for leftovers and things of that nature). For things like milk, just take a sharpie and write the date you opened it right on it.
  • Here is a link to a great article of reducing food waste at home!

What tricks/tips do you have to REDUCE food waste? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

In our next issue we’ll talk about why rotting food in a properly aerated compost does not produce methane gas, and where to compost if you don’t have space to make your own. Stay tuned!

1: Edible Jersey Fall 2018, Edition Number 58. If you have a copy, read page 14 or click here to get informed about what all NJ schools are doing to reduce food waste within the school system. It is really inspiring!

Sustainably yours,
Ayla

Garbage Can Challenge – May Update and Sign Off

Ayla Dunn Bieber tells of a fowl plastic encounter, shares some bright sustainability spots, and signs off for the summer…

There has been a steady hum of busy birds around our house these past few weeks: nests being built, eggs being laid, baby birds being fed. We are lucky that a family of robins has graced us with their presence the past few years and has built a nest in a bush next to our garden! It’s at the perfect height to catches glimpses at their progress as we walk by.

True story: A few weeks ago, Odelia and I were walking by the robin’s nest to check on it’s perfect blue eggs, when we noticed the mama bird looked to be in distress. We waited and watched and quickly noticed that her leg was caught in something! She was frantically trying to get her foot freed as she flapped and struggled. I got as close as I could, without disturbing her more, to try to see what she was caught on. Sure enough… you guessed it, folks… it was a strip of PLASTIC! Determined to help this mama bird, Odelia and I ran into the house to get a glove and pair of scissors. Just as my hand neared the scared bird, she took one last plunge and freed herself!

I got closer to the nest and realized the robin had used this piece of plastic, weaving it among the twigs, to build her nest (not uncommon). I pulled the piece that was not compactly woven within the nest out and had a sinking feeling. It took me a while to figure out what kind of plastic it was, later realizing it was a shred of plastic material from an old tarp. This is an item I would not have thought of as ‘unsustainable’, but as it goes, once my eyes have been on the lookout, I have since seen more of these same shreds of plastic littered around other places as well. This story has a happy ending thought, as the eggs hatched and we have been enjoying watching the baby birds being fed worms and getting bigger! This is sadly not always the case. Let’s use this story to inspire more awareness and action. It’s certainly got me thinking about tarps, for one thing…Do any of you have/use any tarp alternatives? I will be doing some research on canvas tarps!

Sustainability is catching on all around us, in new spaces and in exciting ways. It is becoming hip, which while it can be annoying because we have to watch out for ‘green washing’, definitely has it perks. More people are getting on board every day, in ways big and small. Our favorite restaurant in Nyack, O’Donoghue’s, just switched to paper straws. This is huge, because when one business makes a move, more are bound to follow! Are you seeing any broader changes around you?

Camp is right around the corner and we have some new things planned for this summer with sustainability in mind. Here is a sneak peak of a couple:

We will be partnering with Green Camps, an organization that’s ‘leading the environmental sustainability movement among camps in the U.S. and Canada.’ We’ll be increasing our camp programming around ways that we all can make small changes that help our Earth, both at camp and at home. We’ll also be working towards a Leave No Trace Youth Program accreditation, as we continue to educate campers in the Leave No Trace ethic and the fundamentals of stewardship.

I’m so looking forward to seeing all of these efforts in action and to partnering with all of our camp families to really make a difference!

Through all of the ups and downs of this garbage can challenge, it has been an honor to take this journey with you this year. My hope moving forward is to hold tightly to what I have learned and continue the process of changing habits towards increased sustainability in our home. I know our family can do better than our 1/2 can of garbage per month, where we have remained for the later half of the challenge. May this summer bring your family, and mine, a little breathing room to try some new sustainable choices!

With sustainability ever on my mind, I sign off for now…
Ayla

 

Garbage Can Challenge – April Update

Ayla Dunn Bieber gets frank about her challenges and encourages us all to rally in the name of Earth Day…

Well….Spring was not as ‘in the air’ as I had excitedly pronounced in last month’s Dirt, was it? I hope you all stayed warm and are as excited as I am to finally be seeing some real signs of spring. One of my favorite signs is the faint red hue on the trees tops (and the pink on the cherry trees) as the buds plump up, hinting at what is to come!

I’d been stressing about writing this month because, truth be told, I didn’t do my homework: there were no home made tortilla chips created in the Dunn Bieber household this month. Daniel said, “Well, just tell everyone that you didn’t do it. People love hearing when other people fail.” I laughed, but in truth, I agree. I think as important as sharing our successes is, sharing our challenges (better word than ‘failures’!) is of equal value.

My mantra to get over this hump: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Don’t give up. I’ve been experiencing that the first time you try a new sustainable choice is usually the hardest. Once you get the kinks out and don’t need to rely so heavily on reading directions, getting set up, and potentially buying materials/ingredients you might need, things really do move along and can get folded into your current routine. If you do get beyond the start-up and make a permanent change, that is awesome. Contrarily, some choices might not be right for you at the time that you try them out, and its okay to let them fall by the wayside to be picked up another time. I guess the chip making was on the slightly more complex end of the spectrum (for me) and didn’t quite make the cut…yet. I do hope to try the idea out again though and see if I can bring it into my routine.

Is there a sustainability-related action you’ve been thinking about trying that hasn’t made it past the idea phase? Commiserate with me in the comments section below 🙂

In other news, an important day for sustainability is coming up!

I’ve been thinking about Earth Day and so grateful for the intentionality this day brings. It both  increases awareness and gathers people to take action. I encourage you to do a quick google search for Earth Day activities in your area and if there isn’t something that catches your eye, come up with something your family can do to mark the day! To spark some ideas, here is a great resource from The National Geographic Kids called: Tips for Protecting the Earth.

This is the last month of the Garbage Can Challenge for the year (final post coming in next month’s Dirt). Let’s all do our extra best to REDUCE, reuse and recycle this month!

Ayla