New Things

I may or may not make it through this semester, but there is a strategy to surviving some things and it’s basically taking it one thing at a time.

I have some awesome sounding classes this time around. One being Natural History; it’s a science class basically about identifying different organisms and environments of those organisms. The teacher is awesome and seems to have similar beliefs, which is always fun because a lot of people just think I’m crazy, which is fine, but a bit boring at times. His teaching assistant, who teaches the labs is a peach and quite frankly a bit weird, but that’s why I like her. We’re going to get to watch squirrels. It doesn’t get much more interesting than that. Although, the safety presentation she gave us did sound a bit like we might die, but dying while watching squirrels couldn’t be the worst death ever, right?

My other favorite class, Environment and Society, is off to a fascinating start and I’ll give you a loose version of why.

On the syllabus, my professor states that we shouldn’t wear perfumes, lotion, cologne or other strong smelling, chemically stuff because he’s super sensitive to the chemicals. This is interesting to me because my grandmother, mother and I, less than the first two but it’ll probably get worse, are highly sensitive to those chemical things. Then he starts talking about site called Oak Ridge that became to site to build hydrogen bombs for the Manhattan Project in 1942. It went from hydrogen bombs to nuclear bombs. The whole town’s economy runs off this place. Around the ’70s, the managers kind of realized the mercury, 2.4 million pounds to be exact, used from their hydrogen bomb making days is unaccounted for. Basically, they had thrown it into the nearest creek and eventually won itself a spot on the Superfund list. The plant and government covered it up and it wasn’t until five or so years later when an intern started digging around and exposed it. Unfortunately, like most environmental problems, the people were in denial and they didn’t panic and the class discussed why that may of been, but that’s a different thing.

People were getting sick, cancer, ALS, to name a couple of things that were happening. A doctor had moved there and started connect the dots to poisoning from working in the plant. He was bullied by the plant and town, but he continued to help the patients that came to him. Eventually, he left with over $300,000 in legal fees. Some time later, my professor started to work there as an intern. In the middle of internship, he came into work and saw that he office had been taped off as radioactive. When he talked to the boss, the boss told him everything was fine and not to worry. Needless to say, he never went back to the office. Eventually, he had to start seeing the doctor had started uncovering the connection between the factory and health problems. My professor suffers from a variety of health issues, including his allergy to chemical smells, which includes cleaners and air fresheners and other things that are impossible to get away from, and a thyroid problem.

It’s all very interesting because I’ve never encountered someone else with the sensitivity to chemical smells and how he got them was also very interesting.

I’m thinking those two classes will keep me alive through the semester. I hope.

Resoluting

It’s that time again. It’s hard to believe that I started this blog a year ago. It never got to the point that I wanted that point where I would call it a success. That’s a bummer, I won’t lie, but I learned a ton. I’m not sure the future of this blog, but I think it’ll be what I first meant it to be and that was a upcycling DIY blog, but we’ll have to see. For now I’d like to say thank you to all the people who have been following me through the good and the bad, the positive and negative. And to my mom who read even the crummiest of posts and who made everything I’ve done possible.

And so it’s time for my favorite time of the year, New Years. The time that makes me feel a bit hopeful because it makes me feel like if I really try, I can make the change I’ve always wanted to. Last year I wanted to be able to run a 5k. That soooo did not happen. It’s pathetic, but I’ve got a new plan. And I did make it through the apocalypse, so that’s something.

This year I will make the following resolutions:

  1. I will only have one Dr. Pepper. I need to explain this. I didn’t actually resolute to not drink soda, and it’s not like I drank it all the time, but maybe a couple a year or so, but I wanted to be healthier and stop supporting evil corporations and it just kind of happened. I may have had a few sips here and there, but it was so long ago and since I didn’t actually resolute, I don’t know for sure if I ever had one or not, but I’m pretty sure a full pop bottle was never in my hand. For the last few months, I’ve been craving my poison of choice like something terrible and it’s been EVERYWHERE. Every family occasion, every junk food machine (luckily, when my willpower just happened to slip, I never seemed to have any money), every party, everywhere I turn it’s been there just within my reach. I was so close and I had been so good for so long that I just couldn’t give up the willpower. So this week or maybe when school starts, whenever I get a chance that poison is mine, but then that’s it. For another year.
  2. I’m not giving up on my dreams of being able to run a 5k. I’ve tried several programs and one of two things happens. A, there are too many people at the gym and just can’t get up the courage to look like such a loser. Or B, I start to run and then I realize how much of a loser I am because I can’t even make it to the certain point before I start gasping for air, so I just quit before I give too many people a change to notice. I don’t have enough patience with myself and I need to get over it or I’ll never be able to run a stupid 5k.
  3. Ride my bike more. There are a few reasons why I don’t ride my bike everywhere. I won’t bore you with them, but I’m hoping to find some answers out there on this great World Wide Web.
  4. Write down every good thing that happens on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. I’ve seen this idea floating around. It’s kind of cheesy, but kind of cool. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep up because every time I get a monthly, weekly, daily calendar I can’t even keep up with flipping the thing, but that’s what new year’s is about…trying new things. Then at the end of the year, you take out all of the notes and read them all.
  5. I think…I’m going to keep a journal. I’ve never been able to keep up with it and I’ve never really wanted to, but I think way, way too much and instead of just keeping those thoughts locked up tight, I think it would be healthier to at least get them out somewhere. Plus, I think it will help me get out of deadening writer’s block rut.

I do hope you guys have a happy New Year and feel free to leave a comment about your resolutions.

Happy Holidays

Yesterday was Christmas. Yesterday it snowed. My family had a lovely day and last weekend we saw my mom’s side of the family, which was great. Since I’ve started this journey, I’ve gotten nothing but support from my family. I’ve learned so much over the past year about the environment and about appreciating my family. All of them, make me want to do better. Be more creative, to work harder to do things even though they’re less convenient and to just generally carry on even though I don’t think it makes much difference, which is the hardest thing for me to do.

This weekend was full of upcycling and crafting while keeping the environment in mind.

We made reindeer ornaments out of corks.

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And bottle cap ornaments…out of bottle caps, which we had to cram seven people into a bottle cap size circle to go into the bottom bottle cap. We haven’t exactly finished that.

Everyone, even the guys, were totally on board with these crafts, which is interesting because when my aunt and I try to get them to do stuff at home it doesn’t work out quite as well. But there they were like Martin Stuarts!

I got a solder from my grandma and an awesome upcycling books book from my aunt.

My great aunt made me a lamp from a glass coke bottle that she found in the lake and popcorn bucket from the theater (I don’t think it was used).

028 And she made adorable bird feeders for my mom and aunt made from terracotta and old license plates.

My mom got me cruise control added to my car, which is a gift that keeps on giving and a ‘keep it green’ shirt  and more love than one could ever hope for.

I appreciate all the effort my family goes into caring about the things that I care about.

Waste-free holiday

I hate to be so bahumbug about one of my and most people’s favorite holiday, but it’s a fact. Christmas is the most wasteful holiday.

According to recycleworks.org, from thanksgiving to new years’, our household waste increases by more than 25 percent. With everything from added food waste, to wrapping, packaging, it adds up to over 1 million tons a week going into a landfill.

Half the paper used in America is used to wrap products. And the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold in America (so this doesn’t include the cards not sold that are thrown away) could fill a football field for up to 10 stories.

If everyone reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, it would add up to enough to tie a bow around the planet. How’s that for a Christmas present to us and the Earth?

Food waste is also one of the biggest waste contributors. Food waste makes up to a quarter of the garbage thrown away during Thanksgiving and New Year’s. A household of four could save an average $100-$125 by reducing food waste.

The good news is that both of these problems have solutions.

To address our overconsumption of paper:

  1. Save wrapping paper this year to use for next year. It takes a bit of effort and patience from everyone involved because everyone has to wait while you carefully unwrap your presents.
  2. Use recycled paper products. Recycled cards, wrapping paper, bags, etc. And you could always send an e-card, instead of paper. If everyone sent one less card we could save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
  3. Use alternatives to the conventional wrapping paper. Newspapers, reusable bags (which is a gift in itself and it keeps on giving), use bags or used boxes, paper bags from the store, fabric, (fabric is harder to rip to shred, which makes it easier to reuse) jars or cans (mixes are adorable in jars), I will also tell you, unashamedly, that part of my parents gifts were wrapped in Pringle’s cans. Let your creativity run wild and feel no shame.
  4. Upcycle your paper. Most of these things are super easy. Gifts bags made from newspaper or wrapping paper, bows made from any kind of paper, paper confetti (we used brown packing paper and some used wrapping paper that wasn’t in such good shape and shredded with a paper shredder).
    Step 8

    Bows made from wrapping paper.

    Paper shred/confetti

    Packing confetti made from shipping paper and old wrapping paper

And for our waste of food? Mostly it has to do with planning ahead. Planning portion sizes, what people tend to eat more or less of, how you plan to store it, etc.

  1. This site, love food, hate waste, is site teaching about food waste and how to cut down. The statistics are based from the UK, but the principles can be applied anywhere. It helps with planning portion, storing and recipes so you can use the same ingredients in a different recipe.
  2. You can also donate it. I feel a little iffy about this sometimes, but if you can find a homeless shelter who will take unpackaged food then why not?
  3. Have a potluck. Everyone bring a dish and take home the leftovers.
  4. Embrace the leftovers. I’m not a big fan of leftovers, but some things like pie can never be eaten too many times. I try to just think of everything as leftover pie.
  5. Compost your plain, raw fruits and veggies.

The main thing is to be aware of the waste and take it into a count when planning your holiday festivities. Feel free to leave a comment on how you plan to cut down waste during the holiday season.

Stress-free Holidays?

I can’t sleep. I’m mentally exhausted, but my brain keeps going and I can’t sleep. I haven’t posted in a while. Partly because I’ve been busy making Christmas presents, partly because I’ve been busy learning to be a drone in society. That’s all school really is, you know? This post started out as a horribly pessimistic post, but then just writing was already making me feel better, so I’m going to talk about something else.

My mother, God bless her, is doing a loose no-spend December plan. It started out that she wasn’t going to buy anything at all. She was going to have all her Christmas shopping done, all her food stocked, everything she needed to enjoy the holiday without being bogged down by commercialism. She wanted these holidays to be fun, not stressful. Sounds good, right? Then she realized stressing out about not being able to buy anything wasn’t fun, so she decided to buy from locally-owned stores or as locally as possible. This means supporting our local restaurants, local hair and nail salons (which we seem to have a ton of and luckily our trusty hair dresser just so happens to be apart of a local place) local stores, which we don’t have a ton of, but that’s why she got her shopping done early. Her gift ideas are also noteworthy, but I can’t say until after Christmas.

We’re not a huge town, so we don’t have too many options. Most people go to a bigger city that is about an hour from here, which hurts the local economy even more. Companies decide to locate in cities based on how companies like them are being supported in that particular city. Because people always go to another city to buy stuff, our mall, (yeah, we actually had a real mall. It didn’t have very much stuff, but still, it’s something) is about to close. It’s kind of official according to my inside source. And that sucks. But anyway. Limited gas and perishable items are all she’s buying. And I gotta say, I’m proud of her. When I first started all this recycle more, waste less, consume less nonsense, she just jumped on board. No questions asked. And the way she raised me got me to the place where I could have the…I guess I would say the mental ability to comprehend such a life that doesn’t revolve around stuff. I’m a pretty lucky gal.

I am following in my mother’s footsteps with her no spend December plan. I did the last of my Christmas shopping on Monday (from a used book store, which should count even though it’s not my home economy), but it was for my angel tree people, which are a couple of senior citizens who are spending their Christmas in nursing home. I thought I could make the exception. Usually, I go way overboard because the thought of these people, who just ask for something so small and simple like socks or a book of crosswords or something, not getting anything breaks my heart. This year I curbed back and I guess I’m happy with that. So far, everyone else’s gifts are made, which I’m extremely happy about. I can’t give you the DIYs just yet because then they would know what it is and that would ruin the surprise. We’re having a small Christmas, not a lot of gifts, not a lot of waste, but we’ll be with family and that’s what matters.

I hope you all are having a stress-free holiday. Feel free to give your ideas for a waste-free holiday!

Black Friday: Part 2

This video shows some good news and it shows some bad new. This guy is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Adbuster Magazine, which is Canada-based magazine that explores the relationship between consumerism and the many psychological, environmental or culture problems we may have because of it. I’ve never read it, but I’m very interested in it just from looking around on their website. The lady is a CNN anchor, who has a bit of a problem.  Before she even announces the guy, she is already laughing. That’s the bad news. It shows just how far we have to come. America is the land of the consumerist. It’s the American Dream to consume as much as we can. Her attitude is disheartening, but Kalle handles it quite well. He’s not offended and he does his best to talk over her rudeness. The good news is that he even got this air-time in the first place. Many channels wouldn’t even let his commercial air and the fact that many Americans have the same attitude as the anchor, it really is awesome that anyone gave him the time of day. Some of the people who saw this reacted the same as the anchor, but the people who have heard something about it before may let it sink in a little longer before they push it out of their minds until the next time they hear about it. It takes time, but this was a good step.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and have a great Green Friday.

Black Friday

Here it comes. The worst day of the year. Black Friday.

I wasn’t always anti- capitalism, corporations, money, greed, commercialism type. I was to some extent, but it was more because I was compassionate and wanted to help others and I could see that when I was focused on getting more stuff, I wasn’t as focused on giving as I wanted to be. But then I started working at K-mart. That’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that I had two training days when nobody, I repeat nobody, was even there, so I really didn’t learn much or get that much experience, but then my first official day was…Black Friday. It was horrendous. And I thought I was going to die. I obviously made it, but not without learning a valuable life lesson. People yelled at me all day long. Was it my fault that the stuff wasn’t ringing up the price it was supposed to? I didn’t think so, but I suppose that it was my fault for not going fast enough. I cried that day. I had not a foggy clue what I was doing, but I kept going.

On that Black Friday I saw a darkness of people’s souls that I had never seen and am crushed to see year after year. And not just because they yelled at me, but it just brought out the worst in people. And I don’t even know why. I’m all for saving money, but what do they need so bad that they need to pepper spray people and even kill people? The list of injuries and deaths go on and on and most of the stories say the people just kept going even though people were getting trampled on.

And here’s something rich, when a Wal-Mart employee died from asphyxiation, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fined them $7,000 for inadequate crowd management. That’s it. SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS for WAL-MART and they didn’t even want to pay it. Wal-Mart, a multi-billion dollar company wouldn’t even pay a few measly dollars when its ridiculous sale got someone killed.

Instead, it set up a fund for the victims and paid some money to non-profits and agreed to do better on crowd management. Ridiculous.

And it’s getting worse. Stores are starting their sales on Thanksgiving. The one time of the year that people will think about what they are thankful for instead of what they ‘need’ is being ruined by greed. People are being pulled away from their families for this reason. It has been ruining the Christmas spirit for years. It just isn’t right.

Christmas is about the greatest gift of all, when God sent his son to Earth, so that he could grow up and give his life, so that we could be forgiven for our sins. It’s not about that any more. It’s great that people want to go out and get their friends, families, whoever, the best present, but if I were one the people I keep hearing about were worried so much about then I would say, ‘please, don’t even bother. I will be fine.’ Some people may be shopping for themselves. And that’s even worse.

I don’t even want to think about the damage this holiday ritual does to the Earth with the extra gas used to get in and out of the parking lot to everything that is thrown away that doesn’t need to be.

So let us protest this great movement of selfishness by:

  1. Hand-making a gift- I’m doing this and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I’m taking things out of the trash instead of putting them in. I’m putting a lot more effort into these gifts than I would have if I had just went to the store and bought it. I’ll end up buying a few things a few things. The internet is your oyster when it comes to upcycling and you can find practically anything in the trash. If you find a run of the mill craft think of different materials that you can find in the trash or from what you already have.
  2. Gift a service you can do yourself- car wash, babysitting, yard work or a massage. What better way to show someone you care than to give up some of your time to do something that you hate or don’t like to do for someone else.
  3. Gift services at locally-owned business- car tune-up, house cleaning, salon visit
  4. Gift a class together- If you have someone is your life that you need to spend more time with, why not give them a class membership to an art class, exercise class, cooking class or some other type of thing that the person or both of you like to do.
  5. Gift a membership- local nonprofit, gym, charity group
  6. Donate in someone’s name- charities, fundraisers, causes
  7. Gift a meal at a locally-owned restaurant
  8. Buy gifts from a locally-owned business- If you’re going to buy something, why not spend keep the money local. Out of every $100 spent at local businesses, $45 stays in the local economy. Out of every $100 spent at chain stores, everything but $14 leaves the local economy. They usually say to shop at small businesses on Saturday, but why not just take a look around a small shop and see what kind of deals they’re having?
  9. Buy used from thrift shops or used music and book stores- I found my favorite book at a used book store and it was pretty much the best day ever. It didn’t have any marks on it or anything and I got for half the price. Paperbackswap.com is a book trading site. As you trade your books you get credits and then you use the credits to get a different book. The person shipping the book has to pay shipping, but otherwise it’s free. The site also has a place to swap CDs and DVDs. Amazon also has a selection of used merchandise, but I would suggest looking at your local thrift stores before resorting to that. You can find some real treasures there.
  10. Use cash, not credit to avoid contributing to bank profits.
  11. Boycott stores with striking workers and support picketers- Wal-mart workers are finally starting to get tired working for no respect from their bosses or from consumers. As mindful consumers, we should give them our respect and help if we can.

Let’s make Black Friday the new Green Friday by working together to consume less junk.