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Welcome to Green Gal's blog, where you'll find stories, recipes, gardening updates, and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems. This blog is written by a young woman entrepreneur who is also a beginning farmer-gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trip Photos Tuesday: Big Basin State Park

Here are some photos from a recent trip to Big Basin Redwoods State Park...

Yeah recycling! They should have a big sign on the trash that says "LANDFILL" with a picture of a landfill. Sometimes guilt and reminders can really help people remember to put their recyclables in the proper bins...

Spotted this in the general store, and was glad to see that Environmental sustainability was one of their core values.


I felt right at home in the redwood forest at Big Basin.

Yeah, banana slugs are pretty much the coolest.

My banana slug brethern!





The view from inside that giant tree pictured above. A little creepy, I must admit!



Hope your Tuesday is sustainably swell!

Monday, July 30, 2012

CTWW: Eating In and Reducing Waste


This week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge on the Reduce Footprints blog was the following open-ended challenge:

This week, suggest a challenge. This can be a repeat of a past challenge, a version of something we've already done or something completely new ... anything which you feel we should address.

And/Or ...

Tell us about something you're struggling with ... a green-living activity which is difficult to adopt in your life.

On my blog post on Wednesday where I posed my challenge idea, I wrote:

I am going to combine the two options this week and choose a challenge that will benefit my wallet as well as the planet. I struggle sometimes with remembering how must waste is generated by eating out. It often feels easier to just buy food for lunch instead of preparing it at home, and stopping by Starbucks often sounds delicious... But most fast food or to-go establishments generate waste--not to mention it costs more money than just eating the food already at home, and it often isn't the healthiest choice. This week, I'll challenge myself to say no to eating out as much as possible... I am living at home until Sunday when I go back to school, so we'll see if I can convince my family to join me!

So, did it work out well? Yes! Did I break the challenge? Yes, once, but let's take a closer look to see how I alleviated the broken challenge...

On Wednesday night, my sister headed off to Big Basin with my dad to go camping, so it was just my mom and I for dinner. She suggested we eat out, but I had just committed to the challenge and wasn't about to break it the first night. I'm supposed to be practicing cooking since I won't have dining hall service this year at school, so we decided to have a cooking class in our own kitchen! I made nachos with bean chips, Daiya cheese, guacamole, and turkey burger cooked with onions, garlic, and mushrooms. We also roasted some sweet peppers with a little olive oil in the oven. All in all, we generated less waste than if we had gone to a restaurant where they give you napkins, wrappers on your food, drinks, straws, etc. And I got to learn how to make an easy meal that is packed with yumminess.

Sweet peppers with a little olive oil sprinkled over them in a baking pan.

Tip from my mom, who learned it from an Italian woman: If you typically wash your mushrooms before cooking them, why not just peel off the outer layer with a knife? Saves water and you don't end up with soggy mushrooms!

We typically cook with coconut oil because it doesn't burn as easily as olive oil and vegetable oil.

The sweet peppers after roasting them in the oven. Yum!

The turkey burger after cooking.

Nachos!

Sweet peppers, roasted and ready to eat!
On Thursday, I took the train and two buses over to Santa Cruz to table at orientation. Lunch was served for free to those who were tabling, so in a way I ate out. However, I had thought ahead and brought my own fork and napkin, as well as my reusable mug and water bottle so I wouldn't have to waste one of their cups (although, they are compostable, but it's better to reuse in the first place). The meal was organic, as well, and delicious! The only waste generated was from the paper plate, which ended up in the compost bin. UCSC is great about having zero-waste events, complete with guides at the waste stations directing people to the correct containers for their waste. (For more on UCSC Zero Waste and our goal of zero waste by 2020, click here!)

Public transportation is the way to go! I was able to get SO much done on the train and bus, and some services has free wi-fi so you can surf the web while you're cruising to your destination!

The deliciously organic meal served at the UCSC Orientation. I brought my own silverware, as well as my own napkin, water bottle, and reusable coffee mug. I was tabling for the UCSC Sustainability Office, so I hope I set a good example for those who stopped by our booth.
That afternoon, my dad and sister swung by Santa Cruz to get me so I could explore Big Basin State Park with them. My sister cooked us pasta with huge shells and then we had a campfire. We roasted marshmellows and made s'mores! I literally ate out that night in the openness of the redwood forest, but only generated waste through the packaging of the s'mores & pasta ingredients and the paper plate for the pasta (which actually ended up becoming air pollution because we burned it in the fire...). I still had my silverware from lunch, so I was able to reuse it for dinner.



Friday, I was at home most of the day. Had my usual cinnamon and sugar toast with Earth Balance and homemade black coffee so breakfast. I think I ate the ramen my sister had cooked but decided not to eat for lunch with an egg cooked in it and lots of hot sauce poured on top. For dinner, I had incredibly yummy enchiladas from Trader Joes. They were frozen, so there was packaging around them, unfortunately.

Saturday morning, same routine as Friday. Picked up some Indian bread at the farmers' market (read more about that here), and for dinner, I broke the challenge by getting In-N-Out. However, I tried something out there that I was glad to see worked. Knowing that it's easy to blow through 9358 napkins and that I always crave the satisfaction quenching my thirst with soda in one of their disposable cups (burgers and water just sounds boring to me, but I suppose I should just get over it), I brought my own cloth napkin and a glass from home to fill up with soda. Fortunately, the cashier barely blinked an eye when I asked if I could use my glass cup instead of theirs. He had no problems with it, and I figured I could just show someone my receipt if they thought I was stealing their precious sodas. It worked well, and the only waste I generated personally was from the fries container, burger wrapper, and some leftover french fry food waste. No straw, no cup, no napkins!

You can see my 2-year-old cousin's water cup in the background. It seems so natural for babies to carry around reusable water and milk containers, yet as they get older, we start replacing those reusable containers with disposable soda cans and water bottles. Once they outgrow their sippy cups, just graduate them to a reusable water bottle and reusable mug for their favorite drinks, and don't encourage disposable habits, or soda, for that matter... I usually don't drink soda, but on occasion it sounds more refreshing to me than water. I really should work on going completely soda-free... I don't like chemicals!

Yesterday, I had toast and coffee for breakfast yet again, and then enjoyed lunch at my grandma's house (be on the lookout for an upcoming post about the great sustainably minded things my grandma has been doing at home to reduce paper towel and plastic waste!). For dinner, I had dining hall food since I'm back at school now. I did bring my own napkin, though, and ate all the food on my plate to avoid any food waste.



I have today and tomorrow to continue with my challenge, but I don't think it will be difficult. I have the dining hall and some snacks in my room to feed me. I can't wait to see what the new challenge will be on Wednesday, and I look forward to reading everyone else's posts about how their challenge was for them this week!

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Some Thoughts on Buying (and Living) Locally

This morning, my family and I went to our town's downtown farmers' market to enjoy the company of our community, enjoy the fresh air and fresh produce, and to get a knife sharpened at one of the booths. I also was able to snap some photos for the green tips guide I'm editing for the City.


After we dropped off the knife to be sharpened at one end of the market, we wandered back down to Main Street and explored an art gallery, which sells locally crafted art, paintings, and jewelry. I observed that the jewelry prices were all at least $40, which seemed high to me. Then I realized that in order for a local artist to make a living selling jewelry and in order to use fine quality materials, that is the true cost. I'm so used to prices you might see at big chain stores where the jewelry is made in China out of cheap materials. Though I stopped buying lots of jewelry awhile back, realizing this made me want to be selective and thoughtful the next time I do want to get some jewelry. Most of the different jewelry displays had information about the artist, so I could easily find out more about the jewelry, where the products come from (how far the raw materials have to travel to the artist), and how local the artist really is. As I think about it now, I'm realizing that the best kinds of local jewelry would contain locally sourced materials, like leathers and fibers, and use recycled metals that ended up in this area from some other use and were repurposed into jewelry.

Buying local, high quality products is a huge part of sustainability not only because it requires fewer miles to travel to me, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but it also stimulates the local economy and the products last longer and don't need to be replaced all the time. Having a strong local economy helps sustain the community and city programs and city projects that allow for a higher quality of living. All of this helps to sustain a thriving community and life for those who live here.

Speaking of buying locally, here is a fabulous entry by One Green Generation about what it means to Live Locally. Her ten steps are Going slow, Being neighborly, Working locally, Volunteering locally, Supporting local businesses, Supporting a local barter economy, Supporting local (green) infrastructure, Going to community events, Eating locally, and Finding your own way. I highly recommend checking it out--we can all find ways to live more locally and truly engage with our communities in meaningful ways.


As we wandered back into the market, we saw a stall selling gluten-free Roti Bread and Spinach Besan Pura. My mom is gluten-free and my whole family is dairy-free, so they were the perfect snack (see a photo of them below that includes an ingredients list). Plus, they have protein, so they can be considered a complete meal. The company is based in a city only 15 miles from where I live, so it certainly is local. We bought one package of each (unfortunately they come in plastic bags), said no thank you to the plastic bag the merchant offered us, packed them in a reusable bag, and continued walking through the market. I snapped some final photos, sampled some delicious peaches, and we headed home.


I heated the spinach bread in some coconut oil in a pan on the stove with sea salt and it was pretty tasty. I added some Widow Maker hot sauce to give it some extra flavor. I haven't tried the roti bread yet, but it looks like it will taste similar to the spinach bread. Anyone have any suggestions for ways to prepare the bread with other things to make it more exciting?



Here are some more photos from the market today:







Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

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All photos in this post are property of Green Gal. If you would like to repost them on your own site, please include photo credit and a link back to this post. Thank you!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Photo Friday: Backyard Garden

My sister and mom have been growing and nurturing our backyard garden this summer, and I am always amazed when I go out there to see the growth that can occur over just a few days. We have tomatoes, watermelons, pumpkins, corn, squash, sunflowers, strawberries, and myriad different flowers thriving and brightening up our backyard. Here are some recent photos of the beautiful sanctuary of life existing right here at home.











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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why Starting this Blog Was One of the Best Decisions I Ever Made

Starting this blog 3 years ago was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. I didn't quite realize how important the blog would be to my life or that it would become a valuable place for me to explore my writing style, learn innumerable new sustainable lifestyle tips, and truly hone in on what I’m passionate about.
Green Gal on her way to high school a few years ago.

Around the same time that I started the Green Gal blog, I also started a literature blog called perennial Thoughts. My whole life I figured I’d study literature, and I was right. But I also figured I’d go on to become an English teacher or a writer of fiction. In eighth grade health class we had to create a timeline for our lives, and on mine I put that by age 25 I would have published my first book. I figured it would be creative writing, or something fictional. I participated in NanoWriMo a few years in high school and joined the school’s writing club. I wrote for our local Patch back when no one else knew what Patch was (and I actually got that job because our local editor came across this blog!). All roads seemed to lead to a career in writing and literature.

But while the literature blog remained mostly stagnant over the years, Green Gal took off, gathering followers and continuing to be a place for me to write about what inspired me. Just writing blogs about experiences made them that much more interesting and educational for me, and as I look back on the blog posts I wrote in high school, I’m sort of amazed at how well my passion came through my writing and how young I was when I was writing some of my favorite posts. Thinking about high school students now from my position as a junior at a university, I wish I saw more high school-aged bloggers in the green blogosphere. I’m sure they’re out there, but at least in the neck of the green blogosphere where I journey, I haven’t come across them. I always thought of environmental activism as my hobby and literature as my career path. But the passion I had and still do have for literature has ended up being more of the hobby, and environmental activism and behavior change appears to be the career path.

Yes, I’m studying English literature, so on my transcripts it appears that my career path is literature. But if you glance at my resume, it’s clear what the real career path is becoming. Why stick with literature, then? Literature classes teach you more about writing well than they do about anything else. Because every class requires that you write for the majority of your assignments, you get good at it. Critical thinking and reading are also major components of studying literature; it just happens that the things you’re thinking and reading critically are literature, which for me makes it interesting and fun. Writing is a necessary, transferrable skill that everyone should continue to develop throughout life. It’s how we communicate and how we persuade, and environmental activism is all about persuasion. I also love the concept of storytelling and persuading people through painting a written picture and infusing it with the colors of passion and education. Good writing also leads to well-reasoned thinking and speaking, other skills necessary for working with people and trying to develop more sustainable communities and encourage conscious lifestyles.


But back to why this blog was one of the best decisions I ever made: Right now in my internship with the UCSC Sustainability Office, I am responsible for, in addition to many other things, updating the office blog, which I introduced to our office last year, and for helping other interns in our office learn the art of storytelling so they, too, can post blogs that people want to read. Without the experience of creating my own blog and figuring out through trial and error what people want to read versus what they don’t want to read, I would never have thought to create a blog for our office or think that I had any knowledge in the field of marketing a good story. Having the background of this blog and the marketing experience is part of what made me a good candidate for an education and outreach leadership position. It also helped me realize that I can actually do this as a career. At this point, I’m planning on graduating early and applying for the Community Development masters program at UC Davis. I may also apply to UC Berkeley’s new Master of Development Practice program. If you know of other great masters programs with similar focuses in California, please let me know! I hope to get my masters in a field like one of these and go on to work for universities in their sustainability offices, or perhaps for cities or nonprofits, helping to develop and support sustainable communities.


Additionally, I realized the other day while glancing through my old Change the World Wednesday blog responses that so many of the sustainable practices that have become a part of my life and consciousness were discovered through reading other blogs’ tips and through exploring different challenges and approaches and discussing them on this blog. I’m glad I’m back on here, reading others’ blogs and engaging in the CTWW challenges (if you've never heard of CTWW, click here). I can’t wait to discover some new sustainable lifestyle habits to work on.

I suppose I’m writing this blog post (while riding the Highway 17 bus to Santa Cruz) to say thank you to everyone who’s read and supported my blog over the years and to those whose blogs have inspired me to make better decisions for the planet. Without your support, I may not have continued to explore my non-academic writing style or even write about my experiences, which always helps solidify them and make them more meaningful for me.

I’m curious how much of an impact blogging has had on other green bloggers. I see some blogs where it appears that their authors must practically blog for a living or else set aside sacred time everyday or a few times a week to post good content. I’ve been trying this summer to stay active in the blog world, but I am certain my post frequency will be reduced once I start summer classes on Monday (combined with working, editing a green guide, and studying for the GRE—yikes!).  Despite the periods of time when I’m too busy to post, I am glad that I continue to come back here to explore and process my thoughts and experiences through the art of blogging.

I’ll end this post with a quotation that has been on the sidebar of my blog for some time. I love this quote because it is full of truth (by that I mean that you read it and it just makes sense, one of those “Yes, exactly!” quotes) and relates to not only behavior change and habits, but also perspectives on life and the ways in which we can take a thought and make it into a reality by letting the idea work itself out in our heads so often that it becomes indelible. May your inspired ideas, new behavior change strategies, and personal sustainable lifestyle choices walk through your minds over and over until they become as much a part of you and your reality as the ground beneath  your feet and the physical paths you walk each day.  

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
--
Henry David Thoreau

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