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.

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Seasoning Mixes DIY

As most people know, health is a gift that just keeps on giving. Giving homemade seasoning mixes, without all the chemicals usually in traditional mixes, is one easy peesy way to do just that.

You can find different versions, but I found these four from the Mountain Rose blog. They also sell the spices and things for all of these mixes.

Taco Mix:

1/4 cup Chili Powder
1/4 cup Cumin Powder
1 tablespoon Garlic powder
1 tablespoon Onion powder
1 teaspoon Oregano leaf (or oregano leaf powder)
1 teaspoon Paprika with 1/4 cup Himalayan salt or sea salt (optional)
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper

To make: Put all in jar and shake well or mix in a food processor until mixed. Store in an airtight jar for up to six months. Makes approximately 1 cup. To use: sprinkle on ground beef or chicken as you would any store bought taco seasoning. 3 tablespoons is the same as 1 packet of store bought taco seasoning.

Ranch Mix:

1/4 cup dried Parsley leaf
1 Tablespoon Dill leaf
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Basil leaf (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

To Make: Mix all ingredients together in jar or food processor. To make into Ranch Dressing, mix 1 Tablespoon of this mix with 1/3 cup Homemade Mayonaise or Greek Yogurt and 1/4 cup Coconut Milk.

Chili Mix:

1/2 cup Chili powder
1/4 cup Garlic powder
3 tablespoons Onion powder
1/4 cup Oregano leaf
2 tablespoons Paprika powder
1/4 cup Cumin powder
1 tablespoon Thyme leaf

To Make: mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. 1/4 cup of mix = 1 package of store bought chili seasoning.

Pumpkin Mix:

1/4 cup Cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
2 teaspoons Nutmeg powder
2 teaspoons Allspice powder
1/2 teaspoon Clove powder (optional)

To Make: Mix all ingredients and store in airtight container. Use as you would regular pumpkin pie spice. Great in pumpkin cheesecake,  pumpkin pie, spiced pumpkin lattes or coconut flour pumpkin muffins.

To add a little flare, fold a piece of card stock paper or possibly some old Christmas cards in half and staple it on a Ziploc bag. Just make sure you staple above the zip and not below.

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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.

Hidden Advertisment

I took a class this semester called media in a diverse society. It started out kind of boring with the history of radio and TV and all that. Around magazines and books it started to pick up, but maybe that’s because I find those to be more interesting. It pointed out some stuff that I already knew like for each industry there are about four or five major players that own 80 percent of the whole industry, but it still kind of drilled that a little more. Then we got to advertising, which was by far the most interesting thing that we’ve talked about and that I’ve learned about this semester.

I don’t really want it to seem like consumers get to have this victim mentality or like companies are all to blame, but when you don’t even know the rules, it makes it a little harder to play the game. These companies play dirty and we don’t even have a clue. We think we have the freedom of choice, but at every turn the person with the most money is digging into every crevice in our mind and putting their logo, the want for that product, the craving there. And as consumers, we’re totally defenseless because we don’t even know that it’s there.  It’s called subliminal advertising and supposedly it was declared illegal in 1958, but its 2012 and I’m learning about it. When I first read about this in my book it might seem like it wasn’t that big of a deal. It said: it refers to hidden or disguised print and visual messages that allegedly register in the subconscious and fool people into buying products. I was like yeah, okay, sure. It’s kind of like a coca-cola can on the desk. You’re not really paying attention to it, but it’s there and it might kind of make you subconsciously hungry for a coke. Got it. But no. That’s not it. Not entirely, anyway.

I used this video because it had the most examples of what I mean when people say subconscious advertising, when it’s hidden, not just when they put it off to the side. I tried to find a video with more variety of subjects, but it seems the most common subject is sex because it sells. You associate these products with sex, so when you think about it then you also think about the product, too. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, but as long as you get the gist.

This is one of the videos they played for us in class. It an experiment with two people in the ad agency and how they fall prey to subliminal advertising.  I thought it was interesting, but it’s worth noting that the guy who made who did the experiment is Derren Brown and he’s a famous hypnotist, mentalist, etc.

I used this video last because it’s interesting, but it’s just a different version of the first video, except it talks only about McDonalds.

Eating Fuel

My last post talked about how to use less gas, which had a link to an article that had a lot of tips, but it forgot to mention one important thing and that was food.

I read a book not that long ago called Animal, Vegetable Miracle about a family who gardened and tried to live local for a year. The following information/numbers I received from that book.

One thing that most people don’t consider when they calculate their gas consumption is their food. Four hundred gallons per citizen in one year goes toward agriculture. That’s a hefty 17 percent. Tractors, combines, harvesters, irrigations, sprayers, tillers, balers and other petroleum ticks are all taken into account for this calculation. Synthetic fertilizers are also petroleum based.

And considering all of that, the growing process only takes one-fifth of that 400 gallons.

The average meal, consisting of only food grown in America, travels over 1,500 miles. This number doesn’t include the energy consumed drying, cutting, sorting, baking, packaging (plastic is a petroleum product) warehousing and refrigeration.

The energy that we actually get from these foods is a far cry from the energy that it took to actually get it to our plates.

If you don’t think just drinking straight gas would be a good solution then I have a proposition. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.

There are many arguments against local food systems. One is that we are helping to support third world countries. Who is giving these arguments? It certainly isn’t the farmers from those countries, but those humble, kind, loving, innocent, caring CEO from those loving, do good, multi-billion/million dollar corporations that are known for the money they donate to charities. Developed nations promote domestic overproduction of commodity crops that are sold on the international market at well below market value, weakening those fragile economies. This drives farmers to get a job, decreasing agricultural output of that country, which forces them to end up buying those same commodity crops that put them in that position. They will no longer be farm owners, but will become farm laborers. Not to mention the miles of deforestation that will occur. These countries will now be poorer and will own less giving corporations the muscle to do the dirty work in the poorest conditions; environmental policies and human rights out the window.

What does exporting and importing really accomplish anyway? The U.S. exports 1.1 million pounds of potatoes, but it imports 1.4 million pounds of potatoes!!!! What kind of logic is that?! www.viacampesina.org

At first glance, industrial/unhealthy/processed food seems cheaper than organic/healthy/unprocessed food. But we pay for it and not just in health or environmental ways, but in the pocket book, in taxes. Twenty-two billion dollars in taxes are paid for the agricultural fuel, $3 billion for the farm bill, which goes to corporations and not small farms, $10 billion for food related illnesses, $17 billion in chemical clean-up costs (I don’t even want to know how much we paid for the oil spill clean-up), $8 billion for collateral costs of pesticide use, and last, but not least, $20 billion in nutrients lost in soil erosion. That is $80 billion in subsidies, approximately $725 per household not including the price of our ‘cheap’ food.

Organic practices build the soil using manure and cover crops, eliminate herbicides and pesticides by using biological pest controls. Not to mention true organic farms use less packaging and distribute closer to their farms. In Oklahoma we don’t even have to pay tax for food that was sold on the same farm that it was grown.

So, how can we buy food with less gas?

Become a locavore. Like I mentioned earlier, if every family in America ate one local meal a week (food made within 100 miles) then we could save 1.1 million gallons of gas. If this isn’t possible then start as close as you can and work your way out. Check the Community Supported Agriculture site and check for co-ops in your area. Farmer’s Markets are also a great place to find local food.

The Eat Well Guide is also a great site to help find local food from farms, restaurants, CSAs and more.

Gardening is probably the most gas efficient thing you can do. If done right, it doesn’t take any pesticides, fertilizers or gasoline to grow your own food. If you don’t have enough space, community gardens are a great alternative.

If neither of those things are options, then eating seasonally is the next best option. When we eat out of season foods, we are eating foods that have been shipped thousands of miles because they’re coming from places with different climates. These foods are often processed to keep them from going bad on the ride. They’re not as fresh and have lost much of the nutrients on the car ride. If nothing else, when that particular food you can’t give up is in season, make sure you buy it local instead of buying the same food from 3000 miles away.