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How to Reduce Electricity Use Part II

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

Nature’s Palette

Our cooking instructor, Eva Szigeti, paints an extraordinary picture of the changing colors in nature’s palette and includes fascinating notes on using plant dyes, including a DIY how-to…

After what felt like an almost never-ending winter, it is a great joy to finally enter the season of budding colors. Snowdrops, violets, and skunk cabbage might be the first signs of spring, but they never quite convince me that the winter is gone for good. It is when the leaves on the trees emerge that I feel assured: there is no way back to winter-land. The change of scenery is usually sudden. With it, nature bursts into color. We leave behind the lifeless shades of grey and brown and celebrate the   soft colors of spring. Shades of fresh green, with occasional dots of color, dominate the landscape. Comforting and calming colors of early spring slowly mature and change. Plants soak up the sunshine and richer colors come to life. The color palette of nature reaches near perfection on a wild flower meadow in June or on a field of wild lupine in July.

As the year progresses, the colors of nature become even more full and rich. The warm shades of the fall landscape bring another visual highlight of the year. The reds, golden yellows, oranges, and rusty browns radiate back the energy of the sun as if to charge us with energy before the world around us fades again into the greyish-brown realm of early winter.

Nature has everything we need, including color. In fact, there were no synthetic dyes until the mid 19th century.  Still, the world of humans had not been colorless. Until then, dyes and pigments came exclusively from nature. Think of old masters: Michelangelo, Botticelli, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Bosch…. They painted with the colors of nature. The fibers of traditional oriental rugs and renaissance tapestries were all dyed with natural materials. So were the luxurious dresses of emperors and empresses of the past. Fabrics of rich colors symbolized status, and their cost was high. Lower classes dressed in browns and grays, shades that were the easiest and cheapest to create.

Dyeing is not unlike cooking. It involves applying heat to extract, in this case, not flavor but color. A large pot is utilized to make a dye bath. The plant material gets simmered in water in order to extract pigments. Then fabric or fiber is immersed in the (warm or cold) colored liquid to absorb the dye. Some dye material might be hiding in your kitchen. Tea, coffee, turmeric, or onion skin all contain pigments that get easily absorbed by natural fiber or fabric. Henna used for tattooing and dyeing hair also creates beautiful rusty reds on fabric.

The process is fun and satisfying. We can start by collecting plant material suitable for dyeing (marigold, goldenrod, black walnut etc.), then we cook the colored brew. If our goal is to create a solid color fabric, we just need to put the textile into the dye bath. Otherwise, we apply our artistic imagination and prepare the fabric by folding it to create pattern. I like to get inspired by the techniques of ancient Japanese Shibori.

When working with plant dyes, we get the satisfaction of knowing that the colors come from renewable resources rather than petroleum.  Natural material such as silk, wool and cotton absorb the dyes well. Although the use of mordants (solutions that act as binding agents) usually results in richer colors, for safety and environmental reasons, I prefer not to use them.

Feel free to experiment. Nature is forgiving. Even unexpected results have their beauty. Sometimes we end up with a color or pattern that is much more beautiful than anything we could have planned. Mother Earth provides everything we need.


Dyeing Cotton Fabric with Annatto

Annatto seeds come from Central and South America. Traditionally, they were used as body paint. Annatto is widely used today as a food coloring.  The orange color of the supermarket cheddar comes from these seeds!

Annatto dye bath produces yellow, golden yellow, orange-yellow, or orange hues, depending on the amount of seeds used, and the weave and thickness of the fabric. Silk and wool can also be successfully dyed with annatto seeds.

  • 1 cup annatto seeds
  • medium piece of cotton fabric or 2-4 cotton bandanas
  • pot and stirring spoon (used exclusively for dyeing)
  • iron for ironing the fabric, rubber bands, string, thread and needle (you may only need one of these, depending on the folding technique you choose)
  • plastic gloves to protect your hands

Choose white or off-white fabric/bandanas for your project. Unbleached fabric will produce deeper color.

Gently simmer the annatto seeds in about a gallon of water for one hour. In the meantime, fold the fabric using one of the Shibori techniques. This is a link to one of many videos showing how to use the Shibori folding techniques. In this video synthetic dyes are used, so please disregard their dyeing instructions.

Gently rinse the folded fabric in lukewarm water, making sure that it is wet throughout. This will assure even absorption of the dye liquid.

Turn off the heat under the pot. The dye liquid can be strained, but leaving seeds in the dye bath during the whole dyeing process will produce richer color.  Put the fabric into the dye bath and let it steep for at least 4 hours or overnight. Take the fabric out of the pot. Rinse under running water and squeeze out excess water. Unfold the fabric and be ready to be surprised! Put out your fabric to dry. Before further use, hand-wash the dyed fabric.

Be Straw Free! Debrief with Sondra and Emily

In February’s Dirt, Sondra Grewe deGraft-Johnson and Emily Selover invited us to join in their pledge to be straw-free for the whole month of March. Did you participate? Here they debrief the challenge and share future goals for the #StrawFreeNPDC movement and the larger sustainability movement!

Sondra: You’d think that eliminating a small piece of plastic from your daily life would be pretty easy, but actually it’s not as easy as you might think. In March, I joined the NPDC challenge to use zero plastic straws for the entire month (and hopefully, beyond). I knew it would pose a bit of challenge for me, since I eat out a few times per week and those occasions are generally where straws come into my life. In fact, the amount and frequency of people eating out and eating on the go has really been on the rise over the past 10 or 20 years, and has contributed to single-use plastic being so pervasive in our society.

Most of the month was a success. I would say that during a regular month, before attempting to reduce my straw usage, I probably would have used about 12 straws in a month. This month, I would say I encountered about 3. Being proactive and speaking up about my wish to not have a straw worked well in places where you take your food to go. I actually bought a pack of paper straws for desperate instances where having a straw avoids major inconveniences (Hello, I had to try a Playa Bowls smoothie when they first opened!). In sit down restaurants it could be more tricky, as sometimes they bring water with a straw IN IT to you BEFORE you have a chance to say anything. But overall the majority of March went well.

At the end of March I traveled to see my family in Kentucky. On the way home from the airport, we stopped at a family-owned Italian restaurant and were placed with the friendliest of servers. When I explained my straw situation and shared my awareness with him, I thought I had finally hit the jackpot of servers. He was so excited! He agreed that he was trying to reduce his plastic use as well.

My first round of water was great – no straw, no problem. But, when he brought us refills, guess what was in the glass?!! A big, ugly straw. And in those situations, what can you do? The straw has already been used. Here I am, trying to be an example to others and yet, as I sipped my drink, I felt like the biggest hypocrite. But I realized when you are dining out, you have so little control.

So lesson one from this month – try to eat out less. Thus, more control. Lesson two – don’t be hard on yourself! Celebrate the good you are doing, don’t dwell on the negatives. I can be thankful for every opportunity I have to share my straw mission with other people, like in the case of the server in Kentucky, who really liked the idea. Lesson three- Try to increase awareness of our own habits that get us in trouble. The server was beyond friendly, he had all the Southern hospitality you would expect, but his habits were so ingrained and sometimes human error comes in to play. Those habits and routines we all have are what we each need to challenge day after day until they disappear. We have to train ourselves to make new, better habits! I’m trying to be more conscious of all my plastic consumption and think about what I can do to reduce it in every place and in every way.

Emily: Yes! To Sondra’s point about having less control–you’re relying on other people’s memory and like she said, servers have so many things to keep track of! I had a similar experience. I was out with a couple friends and we all made a point to tell the server, “no straws please”. “Oh yeah! I like that! Have you guys seen the turtle video?”, the server asked, referring to a very graphic viral video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nostril. We all agreed about how horrible it was, and the server even noted that he was a vegan. But when the waters arrived at the table…they all had straws!!!

Giving straws to patrons in restaurants is a customary practice in many places (I realized this once I started paying attention). So customary that it seems to be second nature and servers do it completely out of habit, even when we request otherwise AND have full conversations about it with them! And who can blame them? They have to be on top of so many details at any given time! When we were debriefing this experience, I realized that perhaps we need to take bigger action than just asking for a strawless drink. Perhaps it would be more effective to speak to the owners and managers directly about shifting their establishment’s straw policy. Maybe if servers asked first, “would you like a straw?” more people would say ‘no thanks’ and we would eliminate the issue of getting a straw we did not want before even having the chance to deny it. It would be a win-win for everyone, not only on the environmental front, but also, what owner doesn’t want to save some money by eliminating a cost that’s often unnecessary?

I actually did a bit of research on this and found a statistic from Ardvark (a paper straw company who advocates that restaurants provide straws only on request). They found that, restaurants “that offer straws on demand reduce straw consumption by 40%, diminishing the increased cost of switching to paper straws and allowing restaurants to save money while saving the planet.” Basically, they’re advocating that not only should restaurants only offer straws upon request, but when they do offer straws, they should be paper ones. I like that! The way I see it, as soon as restaurant runs out of their last plastic straw, they should be restocking in paper straws only.

I’ve been getting really fired up about beginning a grassroots campaign in my community to get restaurants to be more straw aware! They could even display signs with their straw policy and why they have it, to spread even more awareness. Hey Dirt Reader, Do you know restaurant owners in your local community? Would you be comfortable speaking up to your local business association or chamber of commerce about a new local straw policy? Who’s with me!?

Sondra and Emily: Here’s what we can take away from all this: We can’t despair and we can’t give up, despite how discouraging it can be to see a straw in your own or someone else’s glass. We have to remember it’s a process and it starts with all of us educating others! Even just telling those closest to us can start the trend. Sondra’s husband Kobi has been declining straws in her company and we can only hope he is doing it when he’s at work as well. Emily’s friends are all afraid [in a good way :P] to even say the word ‘straw’ around her. In addition, we have to get back to the motto of our childhood – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. It’s a topic for a whole other time, but we’ll leave you with these hope-inducing ideas from Green Peace Australia for even more R’s than just the classic three. On that note, Happy Earth Day to all and we hope you’ll continue on this straw free journey with us!

Did you say no to straws during the month of March? How’d it go? We’d love to hear your experiences!!!

Garbage Can Challenge – March Update

Ayla Dunn Bieber sparks some spring-time momentum in the realm of sustainability and calls us all to join in the fun…

Happy Vernal Equinox, everyone!! Spring is [sort of?] in the air and I am beginning to feel it. I don’t know about you, but spring is always an exciting time of year for me. I often feel invigorated and inspired to try new things. This includes a Garbage Can Challenge project I wanted to share. Before writing to you next I plan on trying, and hopefully perfecting, making my own tortilla chips. I have noticed lately this is an item I buy way more often than I’d like to and – you guessed it – the bag is not recyclable (in your average recycling program, at least; there are some programs out there that do recycle these bags). Regardless, as we’ve been talking about: if you can make something from scratch with ingredients that are packaged sustainably (i.e. bought in bulk), rather than buy the product in packaging (even if that packaging can be recycled), the former is the more sustainable choice!

From what I have read, to make tortilla chips you need to start by making homemade tortillas. Once you’ve got the tortillas, making the chips is quite simple. Most recipes I found started with store bought tortillas packaged in plastic, which for me defeats the purpose.

Here is a basic tortilla recipe I am going to try. The one change I’m planning to make is to wrap the dough in beeswax paper rather than plastic wrap while it rests. Hoping this will work!

Then, here is the tortilla chip recipe I am going to try. Planning on using avocado oil (a good high heat oil) to fry with.

Have any of you ventured into chip making? I’d love to hear your successes and/or challenges!

Another way to *spring* into sustainability is to connect with others and create some momentum together. Keep America Beautiful, an organization started in 1953 to bring awareness to waste and recycling, launched their annual clean up season today–the first day of spring. Its called the Great American Clean Up:

“The Great American Cleanup, which marks its 20th year in 2018, engages more than 5 million volunteers and participants, on average, every year to create a positive and lasting impact. At Keep America Beautiful, we work to inspire people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment through programs like the Great American Cleanup.”

“The Great American Cleanup social media theme – #cleanYOURblock – is a call-to-action to engage more volunteers and participants in public space cleanup, beautification and recycling events conducted by Keep America Beautiful affiliates nationwide. Once an individual becomes a Great American Cleanup volunteer with their local Keep America Beautiful affiliate or partner, our goal is that they will be inspired to take that experience home to organize a similar, smaller-scale event in their own neighborhood … even on their own block.”

Cleanups are taking place across the country in the coming weeks! Here in Rockland, Keep Rockland Beautiful is hosting many cleanups within the county.

You can find contact information for your closest affiliate here and, most of the time, anyone who wants to participate can just show up to a cleanup–or start your own in your neighborhood. It’s spring! Let’s get out together and make some movement!

One last thing I wanted to share was an article I read a few months back by one of my favorite authors, Ann Patchett. Published in the NYTimes, it’s called My Year of No Shopping. This is certainly another way at it! Just stop consuming altogether. Easier said than done, but boy did I find this article intriguing. Maybe next year? Anyone in?

By the way, Daniel, Odelia and I are holding pretty steady with our garbage goal this month (with possibly a bit of room for improvement). Chip bags–you’ve got to go!

Happy SPRINGing into action everyone!

Until next time,

Ayla

Be Straw Free!

Sondra Grewe deGraft-Johnson and Emily Selover invite us all to join in saying ‘no, thanks!’ to plastic drinking straws for the entire month of March, and hopefully beyond…

Hey All!

Ayla and Daniel’s lingering questions about how to choose sustainability in a word that prioritizes plastic, especially when in the midst of life’s challenges, got us thinking and got us inspired. We’re here to propose a simple way that you can reduce your waste, increase your mindfulness, gently educate others, and build your own momentum in creating a life with less plastic….

JOIN US IN SAYING ‘NO, THANKS’ TO ALL PLASTIC DRINKING STRAWS FOR ALL OF MARCH!

Its as simple as that! When getting a drink to go, don’t grab a straw. When ordering a drink at a restaurant or requesting a round of waters, just make sure you add, “no straws, please”! As soon as you start to pay attention to plastic straws, you’ll notice just how ever-present they are – and it’s a little scary (you can read some facts and figures here). But it’s also a great exercise in mindfulness and its an empowering one too! You can keep track of how many straws you deny, and you’ll know exactly the difference you’re making :). Plus, spread the word to friends and family, and watch your simple choice have a ripple effect. We’re even making little cards to put at the end of our table when we go to a restaurant that will say “no straw, please!”, hoping that these will spark conversation and pre-empt any unwelcome straws from ending up in our drinks. We are so excited to have fun with this idea! Will you join us?

We’ll be sharing our straw free escapades on social media with the hashtag #bestrawfreeNPDC and hope you’ll follow along and share your own experiences as well.

Cheers!
Sondra and Emily