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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Show Your Plastic Challenge: Week 1

This week, I took Beth Terry (of MyPlasticFreeLife.com)'s Show Your Plastic Challenge. I met Beth last Sunday at a lecture she gave for Science Sundays at the Seymour Center at Long Marine lab, and I was inspired to be more conscious of plastic in my life and begin the process of living without it. You can read a little about Beth and the lecture that I attended here.
I purchased a copy of Beth's book at the lecture last Sunday, and I am LOVING it. She has not only great resources and facts about plastic, but she also includes practical solutions. I will be writing more about her book in future posts.

The challenge is to "Collect all of your own plastic waste, both recyclable and non, for a minimum of one week." I tried my best to do the challenge this past week, but I went home for the weekend (I spend most of the year on campus at UC Santa Cruz) and lost track of a few of the plastic items that I used while out to lunch with family. I also didn't prepare all of my own meals at home, so there were likely a few plastic items that escaped my collection for the week. This upcoming week, I pledge to do better at collecting all plastic that I use.

I posted my challenge results to the Challenge page at My Plastic Free Life (awaiting moderation at the present time), and here's what Week 1 of the Challenge looked like in terms of plastic for Green Gal:

What suggestions would you like from the group to reduce your plastic waste?
  • Specific suggestions for brands for things like reusable glass straws, best types of water bottles and reusable storage containers, and creative ideas for reusing things we have to avoid purchasing new plastic products would be really helpful! Some of these answers might be in Beth's book, which I'm still reading, but if anyone has had experiences with particular brands, please give me your recommendations! Thanks!
List of plastic items you REFUSED this week.
  • plastic lid on fountain soda at various restaurants (who needs 'em?)
  • plastic straw for soda at various restaurants - plastic Starbucks cup for iced latte (used my own mug)
  • plastic knife to open my burrito (unfortunately, did use a plastic fork...)
  • plastic cup for salsa at restaurant (put the salsa from the salsa bar right on my burrito!)
  • a gumball at a restaurant last Sunday
Total number of plastic items in your stash: 17

List of recyclable items
  • Brisk lemonade bottle, PETE #1 - I know this type of plastic can be recycled through the campus recycling facilities, which means I place it with my other recyclables in one of the bins outside my dorm. On looking this up to make sure I was right, I found this: "Plastic containers #1-7 are accepted for recycling. This includes plastic bottles, jars, and tubs. Please rinse, and remove caps or lids before placing in recycling bins. Step on plastic containers to flatten." I had heard that removing caps was a good habit, but it's good to know that the University requests it. (Source: UCSC Environmental Health & Safety website page on Plastic Containers)
  • bell pepper bag - If I ball this up and place it with other bags in one bag, I can recycle it. I know my office has a bag of bags for recycling, so I will add it to that one since I don't have enough of my own bags to recycle it. I double checked online: "Bags must be contained within a plastic bag, no single plastic bags! Bags must be clean, dry and bagged together for recycling. You can place the bags in the mixed recycling bins throughout campus." -- UCSC Environmental Health & Safety page on Plastic Bags )
  • Colgate toothpaste lid - It's the same material as the lid for the lemonade, so I'm gonna go for it and put it with my recycling.
List of non-recyclable items or those you are unsure of
  • Doritos chips bag
  • feminine hygiene waste materials - Truly, it's 17+ items of plastic because obviously I did not collect all of my feminine hygiene-related waste materials this week.
  • plastic coated receipts - I need to start requesting no receipt!
  • Colgate toothpaste container
  • Almond cheese wrapper
  • Miscellaneous pieces of plastic that were in my dorm
  • plastic cling wrap from the bagels I got at the University Center cafe - I have been trying to reuse them when I need to wrap something up.
  • plastic spoon & plastic knife - I will reuse them, at least :/
  • Gum! I just realized that I had a piece of gum yesterday. Totally didn't even think about it! (Find out more about gum and how it is made of plastic here.)
I found out last Sunday that gum is made of plastic. It makes sense, but I was kinda bummed to learn that. I saw this gumball machine at the restaurant where I ate lunch last Sunday, and decided against getting one. But then yesterday, I had a piece of gum with my sister and totally didn't think about it!

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?

Definitely do-able:
  • Next time I want non-water, I can fill up my water bottle in the dining hall with juice or soda. - Purchase vegetables that are not in plastic wrap.
  • Give reusable feminine hygiene products a try - I saw a post about it on My Plastic Free Life (click here) and reposted it on my Facebook page earlier this week. I guess I should seriously take a good look at it again.
  • Ask that cashiers not print a receipt for me, particularly when they ask (they usually ask at Starbucks, I've noticed).
  • Avoid purchasing items wrapped in cling wrap, and simply don't purchase it for my kitchen. Get reusable containers instead.
  • Actually carry around reusable utensils like I say I will. Maybe get lighter-weight ones or make some kind of carrying case for them so I can easily remember them.
Ideas for the future:
  • Make my own chips using tortillas or potatoes
  • Make my own toothpaste? (I guess I better read this article.)
What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
  • Cling wrap
  • Foods that come wrapped in plastic (I can at least reduce the amount of these I purchase regularly)
What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
  • Toothpaste
  • Dairy-free cheeses (I'm allergic to milk--I suppose I don't NEED dairy free cheese, but on occasion, it is so delicious! Note: This almond cheese pictured below, while delicious, does contain casein, but it's not usually enough dairy to bother me. For vegan cheese options, I highly recommend Daiya brand cheese. Unfortunately, both brands come in plastic containers.)

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
  • Simply not purchase things that are unnecessary when they come wrapped in plastic and wait until I find a non-plastic version of the same item
  • Be willing to give reusable feminine hygiene products a try! (This is definitely going to be a challenge, I think.)
  • Stick to remembering my utensils when I go out.
What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
  • I will look into and purchase some reusable feminine hygiene products this week.
What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
  • It's all about being a conscious consumer and thinking before you order at a restaurant or grab something in the grocery store. I think I might start writing down all of my encounters with plastic in case I forget to hang onto them. That will also force me to consider whether I need that plastic item each time I encounter it!

So are you guys in? You should try the Plastic Challenge, even if you only do it for a week. It really opens your eyes to how often we use and rely on plastic in our lives. If you're wondering what the big deal about plastic is, please take a look at My Plastic Free Life at watch this video of Beth Terry speaking at a TEDx event:

Check back next week for my second week of the plastic challenge! For daily postings, thoughts, and updates, please Like Green Gal on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greenbeangal

Thanks for reading! Stay green, and enjoy your last week of August!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Get Inspired: Beth Terry & Plastic-Free Living at Seymour Center in Santa Cruz

Today has been one of those days where a lot happens and you spend a lot of time doing something awesome, but as a result, your homework just doesn't get done. And I'm more than okay with that.

Beautiful poppies along the road to the Seymour Center.
This afternoon at the Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz, I attended a Science Sunday presentation by Beth Terry, author of the new book Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too and the blog MyPlasticFreeLife.com (formerly known as Fake Plastic Fish). I think it was the first time I met a fellow eco-blogger in person, and I'm looking forward to spending more time on her blog, as well as reading her book. Though the presentation was only 45 minutes long, she somehow managed to explain clearly and convincingly the 9 reasons why personal change matters, particularly as it relates to her experiences living her life with as little plastic as possible.

On the bus ride home, I started reading her book (which I bought and had her sign!), and I can already tell it's going to be not only informative and inspiring, but funny and real. She is a real person doing something that any of us could do if we only stuck with it and kept our reasons alive. I'm inspired by the work she's done, and I really hope that her book takes off and helps to change people's minds about their relationship to plastic.

I've already decided that I'm definitely doing her challenge to become more aware of what kinds of plastics I come into contact with everyday, where I can reduce my consumption of them, and how I can find alternatives to plastic. I already started taking pictures of my plastic and plastic-related interactions, starting with the Cold Stone sorbet I bought downtown. The paper cup has a plastic lining on the inside, and the spoon of course is plastic. I'll reuse the spoon until it breaks, and I'll start carrying my own silverware around for those times that I need it.

I plan on writing a more comprehensive article about the presentation and about what Beth is doing for the Sustainability Office newsletter, and since my homework did not get done today yet, I am a little short on time right now. But you can find out more about what awesome work she has been doing at her blog, http://myplasticfreelife.com/, and be on the lookout for a future post with the write-up I'm doing for the newsletter.

Thanks for reading!

Stuff I Think About at 1 AM (& CTWW)

If you've never laid in bed awake, unable to sleep, but smiling and laughing to yourself at how fantastic life is, then I highly recommend allowing yourself to do so next time you catch the life-is-awesome bug. If you're alone, talk to yourself about it. What is it that's so great about now? I know it sounds like something a crazy person would do, but believe me, it helps affirm the goodness of that moment and makes you realize so many things about yourself. At least that's what has happened to me the past two nights.

And just now, as I was unable to sleep, thinking about how bright life is (especially when you get a lot of homework done in a short period of time), I realized that if I was a time-traveller, I would go back in time to 4th grade Green Gal and give her a hug, tell her that she is awesome for being who she is, and that she can do anything she wants. It's not that I wasn't told this myself as a child; I'm certain I was. But the present-day Green Gal wants to remind 4th grade Green Gal how wonderful she is. And because this week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge is about children and how parents can help their children be more sustainable, I would say that my advice is to never stop reminding your children of their ability to achieve greatness, in whatever form their passion leads them. As a child, I got to choose what activities were worth my time. I tried out various sports, but when I decided they weren't fun or interesting anymore, I moved on. My schedule was up to me. Do that with your children--let them lead to what they want to do. That's the only way they'll ever find out what they really love.

Sustainability requires that people be engaged in life and living for something more than money. How do you raise children to care about the planet? First they have to care about life for all of its wonders and joys. You could also pack them waste free lunches and make sure they spend a lot of time outside and take them camping. All of these things are fantastic. But my personal advice is to never force your child to do something they don't find magical (except maybe school... sometimes school doesn't seem magical... but help them find that spark!). If they haven't found what's magical for them, let them explore. Let them be children.

Although, it is 1:30 AM, so perhaps I'm bonkers. I don't know, I just had to write this before I forgot about my midnight burst of joy at life and the ability to talk to myself about visiting my childhood self to tell her that she rocks. If you don't have kids, tell someone you love how much they rock. Don't let them forget that they can do or be anything they want.

Okay, time to try sleeping again. After all, I have to continue saving the world tomorrow (and write a paper for class).

Good night/morning!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sunshine Award

I was pleasantly surprised to come home this evening to find a new comment on my blog, alerting me that I had been nominated for the Sunshine Award by Canopy Avenue! I was delighted and honored, as well as excited because when receiving this award, you are given the task to nominate 10 more blogs for the award!

Here are the award tasks:

1. If you are nominated, you must blog a post linking back to the person/blog that nominated you.
2. You must answer some questions, nominate ten fellow bloggers and link their blogs to the post!
3. You should comment on your nominees’ blogs to let them know you’ve nominated them.

Here are the questions:

1. Who is your favorite philosopher?

Today, Martin Heidegger because I'm reading him in a class in college right now, and because he wrote this: "The threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already affected man in his essence. The rule of Enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth." (The Question Concerning Technology)

Most of the time, though, Thoreau is my favorite. Just open Walden and read a few paragraphs and you'll find out why.

2. What is your favorite number?
It used to be 7, but now that I think about it, I have no reason to like 7. I think I rather like the number 2... one on one conversation is my favorite kind of conversation, and that takes two people.

3. What is your favorite animal?
The Black bear -- I've seen three in person in my life, in the wild (well, if you count Yosemite as wild). They are awesome, and seeing them always gives me a sense of wonder and respect for nature.

4. What are your Facebook and Twitter URLs?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greenbeangal
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lissygreenbean

5. What is your favorite time of the day?
Early morning, when you have the whole day ahead of you to create your day and experience life

6. What was your favorite vacation?
Camping with some friends from college one weekend through the recreation department. It was through the rec's leadership program, so we learned about leadership and how to plan for camping as we camped. I was with my best friends, and we had so much good, nature-induced fun.

7. What is your favorite physical activity?
Hiking! (On campus, around lakes, with a backpack on my back, anywhere!)

8. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
Black coffee, brewed at home, in the morning

9. What is your favorite flower?

10. What is your passion?
Inspiring others to be inspired with whatever they're passionate about, and particularly, helping others to recognize the value of nature in their lives.

Okay, and now for the nominations! Drum roll, please!

1. Reduce Footprints
I love love love the community that this blog has fostered. I probably would not still be blogging during summer school if it weren't for the sense of community I have gained from the Change the World Wednesday Challenges she puts on each week. So many of the things I have integrated in my daily life related to sustainability have come directly from experiencing these challenges and reading others' suggestions. Thank you for all that you do!

2. Blue Jay Barrens
Back in high school when I was pretty active in posting to my blog, I somehow came across this blog. I love learning details about natural beings everytime I visit it. Steve always responds and often posts his thoughts to my blog posts, and it's always so great to see what he thinks about the stuff I'm saying. I wish I had detailed knowledge about natural history, so I live vicariously through this blog and sometimes pick up a little knowledge when I visit. I also love the photos!

3. Canoe in the Mist
On days when life gets really loud and filled with technology, visiting Canoe in the Mist is such a way to refresh the spirit. Great quotes and poems, and such great reminders for truly engaging with life.

4. Give a Girl a Fig
I love the photos and thoughts she posts. Even when I don't have time to read a full post, the pictures inspire me and the quotes she often posts are wonderful. This is one of those blogs where you can read about experiences and not simply scroll through a list of theoretical musings on environmentalism. Blogs like this are my favorite kinds of blogs--where you can live through someone else's experience, learn, and enjoy the stunning photos!

5. A Broad Abroad
If you're looking for a hilarious read about traveling in another country as a student, this is THE blog to check out. Though she's since returned from Copenhagen, I highly recommend reading her archived posts from her experience studying abroad. I also happen to know the author, which perhaps makes the blog posts that much funnier. Really, check it out--it's great writing.

6. Down to Earth
To put it simply, I am always reminded of the need to slow down and live simply when I visit this blog. I need to visit this blog more often, I think.

7. Eggs in my pocket, A Needle in my Hand
As someone who grew up in the suburbs but has spent enough time in the country to know how lovely it can be, reading this blog makes me want to live out in the country. Fortunately, since I can't do that right now, I can read through the posts and live through her photographs and experiences. Great content, and always worth reading!

8. Beyond the Fields We Know
Talk about beautiful nature photography. I could scroll through these posts all day...

9. Enchanted Mama
Even more stunning photography, so many colors... and the photos are huge! They're also photos of life and childhood, and they give you hope that some people are raising their kids to explore and live outside of the scary realm of technology that so many children are growing up bound within.

10. Farmgirl Fare
I love this farm and country life blog for the animal photos, yummy recipes, and various musings on life. As with Eggs in my pocket (#7), I can live vicariously through this blogger's experiences in the country, without having to do the work!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

CTWW: Creatively Saving Water

I should really be reading Paradise Lost, but I figure if I spend 30 minutes writing this post right now, it will actually be written. The homework will get finished because it has to, but updating this blog is not mandatory. However, I really love the connections I've made through it and the interesting things I've learned from readers and from reading other bloggers, so I'm making it one of my priorities. That being said, some weeks, you may hear nothing from Green Gal, but I'll be back when school work slows down. Ok, now for the post!

This week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge is to "conserve water by not wasting it. Consider every drop which typically gets poured down the drain and find creative uses for it. Examine your water use and see where, and how, you can make improvements."

When I heard what the challenge was, I started thinking about ways that water is used that we don't always see or think about. Here are some thoughts I had on creative ways to reduce water use that we often forget about. Turning off the water when brushing your teeth is something you can see, and so for those of us who are conscious of water use, it's easy to remember. But here are some actions we can take that don't always remind us of the water use associated with them, and a few that do directly remind us of water, but which have become so habitual that we forget the water waste associated with them can be eliminated:

  • Reuse your dishes and cups in your home throughout the course of the day. Every time you grab a new plate, it's one more thing that will require water use in the dishwasher. The longer it takes to fill up the dishwasher (or the more times you wash dishes if you don't have a dishwasher), the more water you're using. Reduce water consumption by remembering which glass was yours that morning, and instead of reaching for another mug or plate, reuse the one from earlier. Only run the dishwasher with a full load to also save water and energy.
  • Wear clothes more than once if you can, such as jeans and sweaters that tend to not get dirty as easily. The same principle applies to this one as the dishes one--the fewer times you fill up the washing machine, the fewer times you have to run it. And always remember to wash your clothes with a full load to save water and energy.
  • Finish your glass of water instead of dumping it down the drain. I see this happen at restaurants and at home. You fill up your glass, but at that moment you aren't really thirsty enough to keep drinking it. Solution: only fill up your glass with as much water or juice as you want, and then drink all of it. Your body could probably use the extra fluids anyway, especially during the summer. If you really can't drink it and it's water, feed it to a plant.
  • Wash your hair less often. I know that when I take a shower and wash my hair, that shower ends up being way longer than when I don't wash my hair. This solves two issues: the over-shampooing of our hair, which makes it actually more oily and unhealthy, and water waste. To learn more about going no 'poo, or stopping or reducing the amount of chemical shampoo we apply to our hair, check out this link.
There are probably hundreds of other ways to reduce water waste in our everyday lives, and I am curious to see what other CTWW readers have come up with. Thanks for reading!

How are you reducing water use in your everyday life?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

CTWW: Catalogue & Replace Toxic Products

The challenge for this week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge is...

This week take a look at your yard for toxic and/or non-environmentally-friendly materials. For example, does your garden hose contain lead? Is the pool, yard toys (slides, swings, doll houses, etc.) made of plastic? How about buckets, tools, garden pots .... or window netting for insects ... are they made of harmful plastic? Identify the materials used for the things you have in your yard and then, make plans to replace those items with Eco-friendly, safe versions. NOTE: we're not asking you to run out and replace everything in your yard ... but simply to evaluate items and replace as you can or deem fitting.

Or ...

Don't have a yard, patio, etc.? Then your challenge is to look indoors. Focus on one room and do the same ... identify any harmful, non-Eco-friendly materials and make plans to replace them. This might include paint with harmful ingredients or a plastic shower curtain. Other ideas include plastic decor, light bulbs, etc.

When I first read the challenge, I thought "oh man, but I'm living in a dorm!" Then I realized that doesn't excuse me from owning things that could be replaced with more environmentally friendly/healthy things or paying attention to my surroundings. So, I accept the challenge and will take a look at the things I own that are so necessary to my life that I brought them along with me for summer session--those things I come in contact with daily, and thus should be the healthiest things I own! So it actually works out well. I also challenge myself to take note of what other things on this campus are made of and where improvements could be made. If I find things that really concern me, I will bring them to the attention of those who can make decisions about replacing them with better alternatives. Love this challenge! Let's see if I can handle blogging about it + 12 units of summer classes + studying for the GRE + editing a green guide. I can so do this!

Are you going to join us in changing the world?

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