Crocheting Plastic Bags

Like I said, I’ve become addicted to crafting with plastic bags. There is just so much you can do with them and they’re such a nuisance, it just fits.

Let me start by saying, I’m a terrible crocheter. If I had been a mother when crocheting was popular, my kids would have probably been beat in the school yard and then left to freeze. Luckily, plastic bags weren’t around back then, so they’d at least have that going for them. And even luckier, I don’t have kids now to put through that experience. The good news is I am getting better. I tried to learn a few months when I wanted to make a rug out of crocheted bags, I still have that unfinished, but then I was inspired by the bag below, which my grandmother made me for my birthday.

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It has a pocket and a place to hold your keys.

I’m sure you understand my motivation. It’s amazing. Here is the pattern, if you’d like to make your own. She tried to teach my aunt and I, but I wasn’t catching on very quickly, mostly because the stitches all seem the same and it’s like ‘Make two double stitches. OK, I can do that.’ Fifteen minutes later, “OK, I did two. What, I did all that and I only did one?” That and keeping the tension was difficult. Needless to say I didn’t retain anything I learned that day, so I decided to practice with something else.

I found this video:

Here is Part 2 and Part 3. Watch the video to make sure because what she calls single stitches seem to be something else.

Beautiful, right? This video allowed me to watch the same thing over and over without anyone’s patience being at risk, get the stitches down and practice, practice, practice.

It took me about 8 hours to do what she does in like 20 minutes, but I did finish and that’s what is important.

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This flower isn’t great, but I will say it looks better than it does in the pictures. I took a million and it still looks like a hot mess, but it does actually have stuff resembling petals. It took me almost two bags to finish.

Now I’ve learned enough to be able to make some of the bubbles for the bag. Slowly, but surely I guess. And I’ve picked up some crocheting magazines for patterns to do later. There is so much inspiration out there. If you’re not a seasoned crocheter, I would suggest you start with yarn first, make the flowers then make the flowers with the bags, then find something slightly harder then work your way to the bag.

Anyway, have fun, don’t be too hard on yourself and be creative! Feel free to let me know what you’re working on!

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How glass is recycled

I have been gone from this blog for a very, very long time, but I am back to show you this very awesome video. For a while now, I have been badly wanting to make a documentary of sorts about our recycling system. I thought of trying to work with my school-town’s waste management program, which seemed very helpful in the past when I made slideshow,  and follow their every move. From the time someone brought their trash to the curb to the recycling plants (Which depending on the type of recyclable, it could be taken by truck to places on the other side of the US. Yeah, the recycling system, I’ve learned, is very inefficient) and then I would follow the unrecycled trash to landfill. My dream is to someday make this journey a reality on film, but people are so touchy about their trash. Their ashamed and disgusted by it, so they hide. But the huge lengths we go to hide the trash also hides the problem and makes people so blind and unaware they need to do something to change their ways. All this, plus it’s even illegal to take pictures at a landfill, so I figured I should wait until I’m done with school with a clean plate and hopefully some more video experience before trying to tackle this project.

Now this little video is awesome to me because it shows part of the journey I wish document, but also because the market for recycled glass is microscopic. Most recycling programs don’t accept glass and if they do, it might still end up in the landfill, which sucks because glass NEVER EVER, not in a million years, decomposes. But I’m sure the market is small because it takes so much energy to melt down the glass, but this video gives me hope they can come up with an efficient system and it’s just plain cool.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/67692057″>Secrets From The Recycling Plant: How A Used Bottle Becomes A New Bottle</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user3572793″>Planet Money</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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.

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.

How To Be Less Dependent On Gas

I hope that by now I’ve said something to get you at least thinking about trying to use less gas or maybe even determined to use less gas.

Our dependency on gas is just one more weakness that we need to get rid of. It makes us lazy because we walk less and sit more. It keeps separated from our environment because we always have our metal bubble protecting us from the weather, animals, people and the beauty of nature. And it just releases tons of carbon emissions.

The average American uses 500 gallons of gas each year. Compare that to our neighbor, Canada, whose citizens use an average of 310 gallons each year. I know we’re Americans and it’s our right to pollute the planet as much as possible because we ‘earned’ it and all that, but geez, these numbers just seem ridiculous. I also want to show you this lovely graphic, which quickly put it in perspective.

This is a graph showing how much gas we use compared to other countries

http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/a-picture-is-worth-gasoline-consumption-per-day-updated.html

No one is really saying it, but Sandy is probably the best indicator of our need to change. Some scientists are saying it’s too late. I’m thinking it probably is, but only because I know that everyone won’t change their habits in a day or even two and that’s what would have to happen. For now, I’ll just be satisfied for the small changes we can make.

Here is a list of 101 ways to use less gas. Everyone, every single one, of us can surely find something on this list.

It includes everything from fueling up in the mornings or evenings, when it’s cooler and the gas evaporates less, to planning all of your shopping to one trip, so you don’t go out a hundred times in one night.

I’ve decided that I am going to take the 2 mile challenge. According to the site, 40 percent of urban travel is two miles or life. I find that a lot of the time this is true. Usually, I ride to school every day, which is 2.5 miles, unless I have to go somewhere after school that isn’t within another mile from the house. I’m going to try to extend that to two. Wish me some strength if you ever find that you have a little extra.

GMO Kick: Part 3- Solutions

The first part of this post is the important part if you want to know how to avoid GMOs. The second part is important part if you want to save the world from GMOs. But if you want the super short version, the picture says it all. Grow your own food even if you can only manage a tiny amount. Look for heirloom seeds, hybrids if you must comprise. Gardening, waiting may be less convenient than just going to the store whenever you need something, but it’s the only way you’ll know for sure what you’re eating.

The problem with GMOs is enough to cause insanity, but I take comfort in knowing that there is something I can do about it, something we can all do about it. Immediately after this comfort I am depressed by the knowledge of how many people are not doing any of these, but then I remind myself that it all starts with the choice of the individual. I am an individual and so are you and we have a choice.

In order to avoid GMOs, try to do the following:

(1) There are two labels that you want to watch out for. USDA (or other agency) certified organic doesn’t ensure much, but it does tell you that you’re looking at something that shouldn’t, at the very least, have GMOs in it. The None GMO Verified seal from the non-GMO project, a non-government group that inspects foods from provider members. View the seal here (http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/non-gmo-project-seal.html).

Unfortunately, neither label is an absolute 100% guarantee that there are no slight traces of GMOs. Nearby GMO crops of the same type you purchase can pollute even organic crops and still be USDA approved as organic.

(2) Almost all corn, and soy crops in the USA and Canada are genetically modified. A lot of cotton is and canola is genetically modified. Avoid those cotton seed and canola oils. Beet sugar can come from genetically modified beets. Unless you’re getting it from an absolutely reliable source then avoid these crops at all costs. Corn and soy is, in some form or another, present in virtually all processed foods. Unless it’s certified organic or a fruit or vegetable, it probably has GMOs in it.

(3) Nearly 80 percent of packaged foods contain GMOs. These need to have one or both of the labels mentioned earlier. Besides causing liver damage, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or corn syrup sweeteners come from GMO corn. Another toxic sweetener, aspartame, is also a GMO.

(4) Realize that the term “natural” on a food product is meaningless for determining an organic or non-GMO food product. It’s simply deceptive marketing.

(5) Non – organic milk and milk products are usually from cows fed GMO corn or soy. Even worse, one-third of commercial milking cows are injected with patented Monsanto GMO growth hormones called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).

If dairy is not labeled organic or grass fed, at least look for a labels that says no hormones or rBGH. Traces of pus or blood from rBGH cows’ udder infections is not nutritious. Meat eaters should avoid factory farm meats that are fed GMOs and injected with antibiotics. Look for organic grass fed.

(6) Avoid packaged cereals unless the logos from section (1) are present. If you have children, train them patiently to not demand those cereals in brightly colored boxes. Most are full of GMOs, even if they say “natural” or appear in health food stores.

Here’s a handy free shopping guide to help you maneuver food aisles without buying GMOs (http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/download.html).’

I got in an interesting debate with a couple of people over an article about whether our food should be GMO labeled. The first guy said started by saying that labeling would raise food prices. I can’t find the article, so I can only tell you the general outline of our conversation. A lady jumped in and said there was nothing wrong with processed foods and she said something about it being the food she trusted to feed her family. I almost vomited then, but I tried to explain what ‘real food’ was and that it was not the twinkies, chips or anything else that has all the nutrients processed out of it like the fast meals that only have to be stuck in the microwave. Just because it’s edible doesn’t mean you should eat it.

I don’t think I ever got my point across. The guy kept saying stuff like everything was technically a GMO. He called the process of cross-pollination and selective breeding the same as genetically modifying in a lab. He had several classes in bioengineering to thank for this. The lady at some point said that GMOs were needed to feed  the world. I told her that we didn’t need them and even if we did, they are not the answer. I didn’t have the health evidence that I do now, I couldn’t find anything more than probable health complications, and I’m not sure what exactly I told her, but it was more or less my gut instinct. They can’t be good because of how unnatural they are. Her response was that if I didn’t recommend GMOs then what was my solution to world hunger? It was a good question. If someone is going to complain about the answer someone else came up with then they better have a different answer. My answer is less convenient, but it’s still an option. I typed up my response on a word document because I couldn’t do it all at once, so I needed to save it and that’s why I still have it. Here is what I said:

Well first I’ll say that it’s not a snap your finger and it’s done answer. There are many things that have to change if we are to have a sustainable way of feeding people. GMOs are a short term answer for a long term problem. Because there are many things that have to change in our food system, I don’t have all the answers and they won’t be as in depth as they need to be because I’d need a novel in order to cover it all. Second, my answers aren’t something I can do by myself. It can only work if people are willing to work together. Third, it is my personal belief that the Earth doesn’t belong to us. Us as in people, as in people currently living on the planet and us as in humans in general. We’re sharing it with animals, insects, plants, everything else (which no matter how much we modify food we can’t live without. Our success depends on theirs so we should try harder to keep them around) and we’re borrowing it from the generations that are coming after us. People think that they can live whatever kind of life they want and never have any consequences and that just isn’t the case. Nature is not the problem. Humans are the problem. That being said there are a couple of major problems. Overpopulation is a problem. At some point it will be impossible to feed everyone. If we don’t run out of food then we’ll run out of clean water and air. We need to realize that and the sooner the better. Another problem is the meat industry. Cows were meant to eat grass and only grass despite what those big corporations tell you about their healthy diet of corn, soy and whatever else. Over 70 percent of the corn we use today is fed to cows. The other 30 percent is fed to humans, pigs and poultry. If we went back to feeding cows grass then it would free up the space of the corn that we’re feeding them and also the space of feedlot. Not only that, but we wouldn’t be polluting the water with our huge amounts of cow crap. Cow dung is actually supposed to help fertilize soil. The way our system is set up with cows here and crops over here and more specifically that most farmers grow corn and only corn is that the soil isn’t being fertilized properly. Chemical fertilizers aren’t fixing that and can’t fix it. If there are no nutrients in the soil then we can’t grow anything. GMOs won’t fix this.

They aren’t just growing extra corn to feed corn, but they’re putting it in gas. Is that something people should do if the world was starving?

We are actually overproducing food. The world produces enough grain to feed every person at least 3,500 calories a day. http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/spring01/denlinger/problems.html  Some say more than 40 percent of food produced in America isn’t eaten, which makes that about 29 million tons of food waste and that they say can fill the Rose Bowl every three days. Food scraps make up 17 percent of our waste in landfills. It seems to me that if we really cared about those hungry people we would at least stop taking more than our fair share and throwing it away.

http://www.culinate.com/articles/features/wasted_food

Once I read an article that said a quarter of the food sent to Africa was wasted because it went bad before it even got there. The problem isn’t growing the stuff; it’s getting it to its destination.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/weekinreview/18martin.html?pagewanted=all

That’s my first suggestion. Stop wasting. My next would be to start growing our own food. Everyone can grow something even if it’s having a cherry tomato plant or a blueberry bush, every little bit helps keep pressure off the food system, which means they don’t have to take such drastic measures to feed everyone. Also supporting local farmers help. This doesn’t help people in Africa where it’s dry and nearly impossible to grow things, but what we don’t use can be sent to help them.

http://www.naturalnews.com/025699_food_garden_life.html

I have read several articles that claim and have proof of the idea that medium sized organic and non-organic farms are the answer. They can produce more than the giant corporations who are responsible for the all the processed foods.

http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=8764

As far as what real food is, as simply as I can put it is fruits and vegetables. That’s my definition, but here’s a better one. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/magazine/28nutritionism.t.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=pollan+happy+meals

Because I’m no expert and I wrote this late, late last night so I’m sure it’s poorly written at best I’m going to suggest a couple of things. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I’ve heard really good things about it. It should show just what these corporations that you’re trusting to feed your children will do in order to take your next dollar. There is a movie, but it’s horrible and does nothing to explain anything so don’t watch it. Folks, this ain’t normal by Joel Salatin. This book does a good job explaining what is wrong with the current food system. Food, Inc. is a movie. If nothing else watch this movie. It will change the whole way that you see food and it’s only a couple of hours as opposed to a whole book.

The lady had nothing to say after this. That left me with only one person to worry about, but interestingly enough just happened to work in the meat industry. He, of course, said what I said about the meat industry wasn’t true. Some of those people who work in the meat industry think they’re saints. Trying to argue with that wouldn’t have done any good, so I moved onto his next point, which was if the food were rotting before they got to the recipients, what could be better than growing the food where the recipients are? It’s a good point, but if GMOs are going to kill them anyway then what’s the point of that? Also, road infrastructure isn’t like it is here where we have roads to take you where you want to go. Harvesting and transporting would still be a problem. I’m sure we could still be discussing the subject now, but I said that we may have to agree to disagree and gave my last response. I don’t let things go, so as long as someone says something then I’ll say something back. Luckily, this guy was the bigger person and he let us go.

GMO Kick: Part 2

Genetically Modified Organisms won’t feed the world because as I’ve pointed out, they’re killing the world. They’re creating superweeds and tumors, but killing insects, which we would absolutely have to have if we ever woke up and went back to our old ways, (find out why they’re important here) and they’re killing diversity in crops, animals and in the end they will be killing us in a way where it will be impossible to deny the reason behind it. And just for my own curiosity, I did a quick search to see what the trends were for some diseases and conditions. Autism, obesity, stillbirths, diabetes, depression are all things with growing numbers on or within a few years after 1990. It may be a coincidence, I didn’t spend too much time on it, just a quick glance at a few graphs, but it’s not a good sign. Sadly, there are people and it would seem that the majority of the people who even know about GMOs think that they’re helpful and it is what will save the world from dying of hunger. Africa seems like the poster child for world hunger, so I did some digging to see what they’re current situation is.There is a lot of conflicting statements In July 2011, there was this article and it says that most parts of Africa have resisted GMOs since the very beginning and Monsanto has been bullying them into trying them. Ethiopia tried to grow flour once, but refused to try it ever again. Ethiopia is accepting cotton, but with precaution we’re not seeing anywhere in America, and all other GMO products are illegal EVEN IN A CRISIS. The problem for them “is its unpredictability. There is no guarantee as to what is going to happen. What if it kills insects which are very important? Gene’s has evolutionary characteristics. So what if it changes the original characteristics permanently after years?” But even if they’re in one of the poorest countries in the world, they’re still pushing for the right to have to know what they’re eating. It’s amazing. This article goes on and on about how GMOs are not the solution to Africa’s problems. They know what GMOs have done to the farmers in India and what the health effects supposedly are.

I want to point out one more thing. I’ve struggled my whole life not to be this overly pessimistic, conspiracy theorist person that people always laugh at and gets called crazy. There were times when I heard someone say something about it being a conspiracy and I could actually see it being true. It seemed so black and white. Maybe I am crazy. I’ll let you decide, but this problem to me is black and white when I see who is and who is not eating this stuff.

Now, I’m looking from the point of view of the company and people who are trying to sell the stuff, so try not take what I’m saying the wrong way. The primary people who are buying GMOs are usually considered to be poor, unhealthy and considered a burden on the rest of the society. There are several articles I’ve read throughout my research for this post that suggest that elites are more knowledgeable about the difference between organic and non-organic then they’re letting on. Here are the links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/food-politics-white-house_b_543798.html

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/09/report-monsanto-man-mitt-romney-eats-organic

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/10/09/ge-food-supporters-insist-organic-foods.aspx

And then we have this: Up until 5:40 or so there isn’t a whole lot happening. They’re just chasing around Bill Gates, but after that is a little interesting. Also, the audio was a little hard for me to understand what they were saying, but they’re talking about the doomsday seedvault.  And definitely stick around till around 8 minutes. And then you can think about all that you know about Bill Gates and what he promotes and it might give you a bit of a different perspective.