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Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

At the intersection

Just wanted to share a quick anecdote from my day:

This afternoon on my way home from school, I had to wait at an island in the middle of a major intersection near my high school. When I rode up to the island, there was already one other student on a bike and two on their feet. The light took an unusually long amount of time to grant us permission to cross, and during that time, two more kids on bikes and two more pedestrian students arrived. That island was full to the brim with kids taking alternative transportation home. I almost laughed because of how strange it seemed to have an island filled with students going home. But then I realized that it should be like that everyday. If enough kids rode or walked to school, we'd have a serious space/traffic issue (seeing as younger teens tend to use sidewalks and crosswalks and thus traffic islands rather than the street). It would be great to see the sidewalks overflowing with students walking or biking, and while there are a great number who do, the majority drive once they get their licenses or have their parents drive them because they don't realize how easily it truly is to ride.

There does seem to be some change, though. I used to be one of only two girls at the bike racks. Now there are at least four of us who ride everyday and two or three more who ride every once in a while. And it feels like I see more adult commuters on bicycles, but it could be because I'm more aware of it now than I was before.

What changes have you noticed in your community in regards to transportation?

Hope you all had a wonderful Wednesday!
Thanks for reading,
Green Gal

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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
--Albert Camus

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Being prepared--mugs and bags

One of the most annoying things I've found about reducing my consumption of resources is forgetting my travel mug or reusable grocery/shopping bag and having to use up another cup or bag at the store.The reusable grocery bag issue has been addressed all over the internet: leave the bags in the car. Reinforcement is key to remembering this, though. When you're finished unloading the groceries, go right back to your car and stick them into the little flap on the back of the front seats. Do it every time, or else you'll forget them, guaranteed.
Another awesome way to remember the bag is to buy one of those foldable bags that closes in on itself into a little ball. They fit easily into purses, backpacks, glove compartments and some have little clips so you can attach it to the outside of bags (or key rings if you wish!). The two my mom owns are from Whole Foods, but more and more stores are selling them. I got mine at a hair salon!I've never seen the mug issue addressed before, but I've come up with the obvious solution: leave one in the car, along with those bags. Put it somewhere hidden so you won't accidentally take it inside the house when cleaning out the car. (I've made that mistake in my mom's car and she's taken it in without realizing I left it there on purpose!) Leave one in the glove compartment or center console compartment if you have room, or stash it in the trunk or in that little hiding place some cars have in the way back that shuts. You could even stash two or three just to be safe--if you're with friends they can use one, too :)

Again, remember to replace it once you've used it. Pretend like you don't already have one in the car so you won't be tempted to use it every time and increase the risk of leaving it at home. If you have a big purse (or a small mug), you could bring one in your purse (or backpack), too. And if you ride a bike everywhere, definitely leave one in your bag or saddle bag/basket if you have one on your bike. Suggestion: bring one every time you go somewhere--you never know when you'll find yourself in a coffee shop. I try to leave a mug in my school backpack at all times. I often decide spur-of-the-moment to stop by Starbucks on my bike ride home.

And one final note: don't forget that your reusable shopping bags can be used at the thrift store, mall, boutiques, etc. Some stores sell larger ones that work better than the normal sized ones--I have one from Bloomingdales that my step-mom gave me and another that I bought when I saw Cirque du Soleil.

Happy Sunday, everyone!
Green Gal

---

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

-- e.e. cummings

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paper towel-less and an unfortunate car commercial

Paper towel roll on standImage via Wikipedia
Since last Wednesday, I have avoided paper towels almost 100%. I did so because of Reduce Footprint's Change the World Wednesday for last week:

This week, for the entire week, refuse to use paper towels. Yep, 7 days ... no paper towels.
I was in, so starting Wednesday I became very cognizant of paper towels and avoided them at all costs. I was home sick Wednesday and most of Thursday, so I always had a dish cloth/hand towel close at hand to use in place of the paper towels.

On Friday, though, I had to remember not to pull a paper towel from the dispenser in the restroom. I had forgotten to bring a cloth napkin to use, so I had to dry my hands on my sweatshirt.

I had a rehearsal for drama after school on Friday and my team was working outside, under some trees by the lunch tables. One of the biggest fears people have in common at my school is the fear of being pooped on by those ridiculous sea gulls (hello, we do not live near a beach where are you coming from?) that flock in to eat all the trash left over by careless students. After lunch, people duck and cover and steer clear of the open quad for fear that they will be targeted and forced to endure the torment and embarrassment that comes with getting bird poop on your head. Fortunately, in my three years and one month of high school, I have never once been targeted (oh, I've been pooped on in other places, just not at school where the embarrassment is far harder to endure). But on Friday, I was unfortunately a little too close to some pavement that had been chosen as a designated landing zone. Some bird up in the sky pooped and the poop bounced upon contact with the cement, flying over and landing on my unfortunately-sandaled shoe. I rushed to the bathroom (as any normal person who's just been attacked would do) and pulled a paper towel right out of that dispenser. I wet it, soaped it up and scrubbed my poor bare foot and sandal strap. Then I realized what I'd done--but there was no way to avoid it, aside from be disgusting and let it sit there until I got home. Strike one.

Then over the weekend at one point, I mindlessly grabbed a paper towel after washing my hands. Strike two.

Monday, Tuesday and today I brought a cloth napkin in my lunch, so when I washed my hands I only needed to reach inside my lunch bag and pull it out. I felt a little conspicuous pulling out an orange and brown cloth napkin to dry my hands--teenagers can be viciously critical and I'm sure those who saw me wondered what was wrong with me. But I used it and completely avoided those pesky paper towels that have somehow hijacked our minds and made it very difficult to remember not to use them. Once or twice I didn't have my lunch bag with me and had to wipe my wet hands on my shorts or t-shirt.

But I've realized that it is not impossible to go without paper towels. Of course, there are those occasions when necessity makes it far more feasible to use them, but I've decided that I'm going to take this challenge beyond its one week goal and integrate it into my life. Perhaps I'll be more outgoing about it and be proud of my cloth napkins. Maybe it will make people think twice about those paper towels. I'm really glad I attempted this challenge and I'm sure glad I didn't get three strikes!

---

Two nights ago while watching the season premiere of House, I saw a commercial that made me seething mad. I wish I had taken better note of which car company it was, but perhaps one of you readers will know so I can write them a letter.

The commercial begins with a man on a bike, obviously commuting to or from work, in the rain. He's struggling and looks miserable and they've made him out to be a dork. Then, they show a man on a segway trying to get through a crowded sidewalk, showing the difficulties of alternative transportation. A narrator begins speaking, saying how people are trying to contribute, but that it is much too difficult to ride your bike or choose a segway to conserve energy. Instead, the narrator implies, you should buy our hybrid/electric/whatchamacallit type of car to really make an impact, the cool way.

If they were really a company that cared about the environment (which few car companies could ever really make me believe because they're fundamentally based on people driving and using up some sort of energy source), they would embrace every aspect of trying to make a difference and then include themselves in that group, rather than make fun of or point out the difficulties of BETTER ways to save resources. Biking is always going to be better than driving because it takes way less maintenance, resources or energy to make and work. Don't make fun of those who are making a difference--you just isolated a huge group of people who may have been possible consumers for you. Anyone who rides their bike to work is going to be offended or put off--aren't those the people you want buying your "green" car? People who care about the environment? I wish I knew what car company it was so I could say, "way to go, 'car company'! You're pretty bad at marketing to the right audience."

I hope I'm not the only person who noticed this. Please tell me other people have their consumer radars on and spotted this poor marketing. I know many of you who care about the planet don't watch television, so of course you wouldn't have seen it (I'm getting there...it's just that NCIS is much too good of a show to give up!), but for those of you who do, please keep your eyes open for this commercial and let me know what you think (and who it is).

Have a good rest of your week everyone!
Thanks for reading,
Green Gal

---

The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies.
--Al Gore

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A nagging question and a new addition to our garage

Noah's bagels.JPGImage by Simon Miller via Flickr
Long time no posts, eh? Well I'm going to try and post more regularly--how's once a week sound for a starting challenge?

I've got a bone to pick with a lady at my local Noah's New York bagels. She won't let me reuse a Noah's bag that once held other bagels. I know it isn't her fault that there are regulations to protect companies from getting sued for contaminated food, but she's the only one at that store who follows that rule. Every other employee lets me reuse my bags and they've come to accept it (at first they couldn't understand why I wouldn't just want a new one, but now they see the point).

Of course I understand she wants to follow the regulations, but here's my issue: How is reusing a bag any different than bringing my own mug and filling it with coffee? I could just as easily contaminate my cup and then turn around and sue them (which is utterly ridiculous and should not be allowed) as do the same with a bag. If anyone has any valid reasons as to what the difference is, please let me know. It has been bothering me (even though I still use my old bag each time I go in there--as long as she isn't working!).

---

Our city is starting a new recycling program October 1st and today we received our new recycling bin! We jumped with joy, took pictures, and read the new manual. Before, we'd just put all our recyclables into a blue bag and then put that in with the trash. Now, our precious recyclables have their very own exclusive can and don't have to share a bin with that nasty garbage! Woohoo! (Although I just realized that that means there will be yet another truck--that makes three--that will be driving around in the mornings. Bummer for the atmosphere!) 

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It's been a crazy few days with a head cold, sore throat and stuffed up nose, but I'm hangin' in there. Check out my new Twitter feed in the right hand column for my latest happenings. Follow me and I'll follow you!

Another post is coming your way on Wednesday, when I'll be discussing Reduce Footprints most recent Change the World Wednesday challenge and how I managed to stick with it everyday--almost.

See you Wednesday,
Green Gal

---

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
-- Crowfoot quote

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Climate Prosperity Citizens

I promised to blog about the discussion I had with Bill Radulovich and others about the new internship program I am going to be involved in, so here it is:

After school this afternoon, I rode my bike down the street to Starbucks. I was to meet with Bill Radulovich and Mark Jones (who is the web designer) at 3:15, and when I arrived a few minutes early, they were in line for their drinks. We sat at a large square table there and discussed what schools I'm interested in for next year and began to briefly enter the topic of the internship and the Climate Prosperity Citizens organization that Mr. Rad (what a great nickname!) is heading. My close friend (and fellow actor in the theater department at our school) Taylor arrived just as Mr. Rad was beginning to discuss they big why of the organization. People have been living with their "stuff" and in having this "stuff," they drain the environment of its resources and basically trash the land, he said. The idea behind climate prosperity is having sustainability while also being able to have our things--this means changing the way we get things and changing perhaps what things we value or want.

Mr. Rad put it this way: prosperous living + a healthy environment = climate prosperityTaylor entered into the discussion and mentioned her passion for dancing. Mr. Rad's daughter Danica (completing her degree at UCLA) is also a dancer, so he used the connection to launch into her role in the internship Taylor and I are interested in being a part of.

Danica will be our editor. We will be contributors to the website of this "grassroots" group, along with many others. Anything we find of interest or relevance to the organization--basically information on how to run a green household or be a green student--we will submit to the wiki-style website for evaluation and posting. It can be a link, a video, a blog post from our own experience, an article, a website--anything. There are many different categories to submit to--and endless possibilities for new ones. The major categories are clothing, energy and transportation, food, health and beauty, shelter and maintenance, and waste and water management. Within each are more specific categories; for example, under waste and water management is conservation and under that plastic and water.

Somewhere during this discussion, my other friend Julia arrived and listened to what will most likely become something she will be involved in through her senior year and college, along with Taylor, I, and many others. It is so very exciting. So exciting that I've already submitted something to the site--the first "Green Gal Tip" I ever posted to this very blog.On another note, the Climate Prosperity Citizens (CPC) organization sure is going places. The group's got contacts everywhere--Argentina, Ghana, England, across the states--and Mr. Rad hopes it will spread to all languages and reaches of the world. It's your one stop shop for how to run a green household or be environmentally-conscious. In the near future, he expects the number of interns to grow to the 5,000s or 10,000s and that the editors will continue to grow until we have a pyramid of people checking the content on the website, making sure its valid and relevant.

Although it's now small and its contributors are located in the East Bay, as the information starts getting added (and once we spread to the Facebook community and network from there) and our connects broaden, this website will be huge.

One major thing he mentioned was that this is the "bottom-up" approach to change. We've been learning about this concept in my AP Human Geography class and it's great to see it in action. The larger group that the CPC is affiliated with is the Climate Prosperity Alliance (which actually will be represented in Copenhagen this December to negotiate the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol). The Climate Prosperity Alliance is a top-down method--where the influence and change is coming from the big corporations and public influences (they're focus is technology and bringing green technology to developing countries and making it a more prevalent energy source, etc.). The CPC comes from the citizens--and largely from the youth (as Mr. Rad said, the future of the world). We contribute this information, integrate it into our lives as we are submitting it and reading it, and as we do so change the culture and the habits of our culture. I totally agree with the bottom-up method because my personal belief is that its the culture that needs to change to really make a difference.

We finished up the discussion by taking a look at the website and going through the submitting process. Once we've submitted and been involved for a certain amount of time, we will be promoted to Editor. From there, we will continue to rise in the evaluation pyramid until we reach a Platinum standard of intern. Not only will we gain this recognition, during the process of obtaining it, we will gain such valuable experience and knowledge to take with us for the rest of our lives.

Tomorrow night is a Focus Group meeting with the whole group of CPCitizens and we will be discussing ways to make the website better and learning the ropes of the site. Can't wait to get started :)

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

---

Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
-- Henry Van Dyke

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mainstream Evidence

It's always encouraging to see mainstream evidence of environmental concern. Real Simple magazine's Daily Finds email newsletter has lately been encouraging meatless meals. While they are also trying to support a healthier diet, there is of course the environmental sensitivity aspect.

Here are some articles from their website:

3 Reasons to Cut Down on Meat

6 Meatless Meals (for Meat Lovers)

25 Vegetarian Main-Course Recipes

Are You Scared of Tofu?

And, of course, they have a countless number of meatless (and vegan!) recipes on their website.

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This Wednesday I'm meeting with Mr. Bill Radulovich to discuss a "Green Student" internship. I'll post more about it after Wednesday. I'm riding my bike there after school and I've invited the other students who are attending to ride along with me. I'll let you know if anyone joins me :)

Have a great Labor Day!
Green Gal

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Busy, busy, busy!

With school starting, I've been so busy lately that I have again neglected my blog. For this post, I just have some quick links and factoids that you may find interesting:

-- Check out the WILD Foundation's World Wilderness Congress:
Also known as WILD9 (http://wild9.org/), [the WILD Foundation's World Wilderness Congress] is the longest running environmental forum and occurs once every four years. This year's conference will be held the week of November 6th in Merida, Mexico, and will feature speakers Jane Goodall, Stephan Harding, and Pav Dukhdev...it will address the first ever international agreement on Wilderness between U.S., Canadian and Mexican agencies.
Sounds informational, inspiring and very much along the lines of what I write about here on Green Gal. For more information, please visit their website at http://wild9.org/.


-- Need another reason to reduce, reuse & conserve? Look no further: Pacific Ocean garbage patch worries researchers


-- I'm in week 10 of not using shampoo and boy, is my hair gross. Those who've had the misfortune of patting my head have been given an explanation of my endeavor to use no shampoo (lest they think my hair is gross for no reason). According to what I've read, I have two more weeks of gross before my scalp is settled and used to producing less oils. With this heat I really should be washing it everyday, but I'm on such a routine of washing it every other day. It doesn't look gross, it just feels gross. This is not to deter you from trying it out--I recommend it. It takes a little getting used to and there's no lovely lathering feeling when you wash your hair. But, it's easier to comb, looks pretty, and should return to a more normal state in a few weeks. I will let you know when I get to a stable point.

-- I may begin an internship sort of deal with the Climate Prosperity Project. If all goes as planned, I will have access to a wikipage designed for students like me to post ways to be a green student. Details have not been arranged, but it sounds like an excellent idea. I will definitely link it to my blog once it's up and running. For more information on the Climate Prosperity Project, check out my blog about "The Road to Climate Prosperity" eFair 2009.


That's all for now.
I'll post more when I have the chance.

Thanks for reading,
Green Gal

P.S. I've ridden my bike to school every day of this school year! That's six days of using my own physical energy to bring myself somewhere! :)

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