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Category Archives: Green Angst
It’s not like it came as a surprise.
Vacations are inherently fraught for a healthy eater, especially one coddled in the bosom of New York City’s foodie and health-conscious culture. (We may not be L.A. or San Fran, but we have plenty of displaced citizens from the West Coast who have brought their OCD health tendencies along.)
In NYC, it’s OK to be a conscious carnivore who eats only organic and avoids bread-based foods 90% of the time. (Ouch, I really am that girl.) But once you leave the Island of Everything, choices narrow as fast as a five-lane highway exit onto a unpaved country road. When you leave, you have to pick your food battles.
So, I decided this weekend that during my time in Cape Cod, I would focus on the conscious carnivore aspect of my drive to healthier and more eco-friendly eating. After all, it’s not like I can request my hosts serve only organic food, or even drive me to the grocery store to stock up for myself. And when you’re on vacation, the temptations of bread beckon from every delicious, authentic corner. Lobster rolls, local beer, pulled pork sammiches with a side of corn bread. How could I say no to everything? So conscious carnivore it was.
Once I explained what being a conscious carnivore is to my friend J, whose house we were staying at, he actually was very accommodating. Well, in between making fun of me by asking if I knew where my peach, lobster salad, and corn came from. So cute.
So, yeah, I made a lot of exceptions. Just like I do every time I visit the Cape. But Saturday was either worse than before, or just at a time where by body was even less equipped to handle it.
Another song I love in the genre of floaty French synth, the title of this song means, “The Sand.” It’s an appropriate song for the bittersweet last weekend of summer at the beach, non?
It started with a snack of an english muffin with butter and Stonewall Kitchen jam while I waited for everyone else to get up. Then brunch was ricotta-stuffed French toast. (“Do eggs count?” “Yes.” “You know that French toast has egg on it, right?” “Shut up, I do what I can.” Munch, munch. “This is so good.”)
Lunch was clam chowder and a local beer. More organic beer followed–I had bought my own six pack to avoid drinking Bud Light–until dinner at a famous local joint called Arnold’s. I decided I was full of beer, so after ordering a basket full of fried clams, which came with fries, I added a large soda. That’s right, I filled up a large cup full of diet coke, eight hours after I had gotten in a serious debate about the merits of Bloomberg’s soda proposition with the resident insufferable Republican. (I think it’s genius. The psych major at the table agreed.)
It just seemed appropriate. I was on vacation, at the beach, eating fried items. Why not wash it down with soda?
I could tell I had made a mistake before dinner was even over. I leaned my head on J’s shoulder and mumbled that I shouldn’t have eaten so much. When we got back to the house, I buried myself in a novel so I could forget how bad I felt. I felt like a soda-soaked, deep-fried dead clam.
See, the thing is, I used to have heartburn in college. Heartburn can be brought on by a variety of things, including acidic foods, carb- and sugar-heavy foods, alcohol and laying horizontally after eating. In college, I would go out drinking, fix myself a smorgasbord of food from the sorority table which included cookies, icing and soda, and then pass out horizontally. The next morning I would awake to a sensation that if you’ve never had a heart attack, feels like it could be one. The rest of the day would be spent in front of a Law & Order marathon.
After I graduated and converted to health food, my acid reflux vanished. Bam. Lifestyle changes, FTW. But now it was more than three years later, I had imbibed soda and lots of fried food, and I was very, very unhappy. While everyone amicably chatted around me in the living room, I sank further and further into the couch cushions. I finally excused myself into my bedroom so I could chew two Tums, curl into a fetal position around the intense pain in my abdomen and esophagus, and sleep fitfully until this morning.
Even 10 hours later, my stomach still felt sore, like it had been given an extremely intense workout, which I guess was true. I haven’t had soda in more than a year. And that much fried food and bread and sugar in one day? No wonder my body was screaming at me. “Hellooo, what the hell is this stuff? Where is the real food?”
That is the downside of going healthy. If you are successful at it and you truly change your lifestyle to cut out sugar, dairy, gluten, fried foods, soda, alcohol or whatever else is on your “not healthy” list, when you do give in to temptation and stuff it down your gullet, your body will not know what to do. And you will pay in any number of ways. Luckily I suffered in the most un-embarrassing way possible, but today J talked about his ex who knew she was lactose intolerant and would eat a bunch of pizza, and how unpleasant that was for anyone near her. Ick.
So. Now I know. Fried food and carbs are officially off the list of items I can eat in large amounts. Soda may be completely stricken from my diet, forever.
But I guess that is OK. After all, that’s what I wanted, right?
I’m a big fan of EcoSalon, so I was honored to be able to contribute this story to their blog:
Last year I decide to “green” my birth control.
My decision stemmed from a combination of concerns—OK, guilt—related to how I was keeping myself baby-free. Some environmental drawbacks of birth control are obvious: I cringed every time I tossed an empty blister pack and its handy plastic case in the trash (my pharmacy isn’t into the idea of giving me just the blister pack so I can reuse the case-I’ve asked).
But that wasn’t my main concern. I had read in Scientific American that every time I peed, I was flushing synthetic estrogen down the pipes, to a water treatment plant that does not treat for hormones, and out into the waterways where it was doing disturbing things to the reproductive parts of fish.
It turns out that the main culprit in the cancer-causing levels of estrogen in our water is our agricultural system, but at the time, I wanted to do right by my aquatic friends and other people who would eventually be drinking water with the estrogen that passed through my body. (Nice image, right?)
And there were other, more selfish reasons I wanted to discontinue my use of hormones.
To read the rest, head over to EcoSalon.
Coral necklaces. Fur. IKEA furniture.
We all know you shouldn’t buy these things. Coral is rapidly dying from ocean acidification and changing climate conditions without our harvesting it for jewelry. While I don’t include “animal rights activist” among my list of self-identifiers, it’s hard to get fur that is consciously raised like the meat at the farmers market. And IKEA furniture is both the progenitor and creator of a disposable economy of waste.
But what if you already own these things from before you went through your sustainable awakening?
I have all these things and more, items that I’m not necessarily proud of, attractive detritus from typical status-seeking American consumption. I don’t want to spend the money and resources to replace it. Is it more sustainable to set an example by purging my closet of nice leather boots, fur coats and strip-mined jewelry? Or is it better to hang on to the long-lasting pieces and accept that life is a journey? I would say the latter.
Or I could just be deluding myself. I really like my fierce, red coral necklace from Vienna that seems as if it would prick the fingers that try to touch my neck. Even if I rarely wear it except on those rare occasions where it’s both below freezing and it’s an appropriate occasion, I still like to bury my face in my mother’s silver fox fur coat from the 80’s (thankfully back in style and divested of its démodé bunch sleeves). Though, the fur coat warrants a whole other discussion that you can find in this Elephant Journal post. IKEA furniture, well, my apartment came furnished with it. I’ve filled out the rest of my space with used and antique, real wood pieces, but the table and Murphy bed are square and center.
What are my options? I could:
A) Forget the whole thing and buy whatever strikes my fancy. Fortunately I’ve outgrown that.
B) Put a minimal amount of effort into finding locally-made, sustainable items, when convenient, and keep the old stuff. Easy, but not exactly thoughtful.
C) Do a partial purge to get my closet down to the minimum viable possessions, and put effort into thoughtful purchases in the future. That means continue to wear everything from leather boots to fur coats to conventional jewelry.
D) Purge my closet of anything that isn’t sustainable. This would mean taking some to consignment stores and Goodwill, and throwing the rest that isn’t fit for consumption out, thus contributing to waste, but living a model lifestyle moving forward. Also, that would be expensive.
I choose C. But tell me: What are your thoughts?
One of the biggest source of angst for urban greenies? The do-I-recycle-this problem.
Confronted with an odd item whose recyclability is questioned, a responsible citizen will do one of three things:
- Err on the side of sending less to the landfill, and put it in the recycling
- Err on the side of not messing up the recycling process, and put it in the trash
- Know, either from a quick look up on her phone/laptop, or from memorization, where it goes, and treat it appropriately
Do you do the third option? I know I don’t. And I hardly feel guilty about it. I mean, come on, the system is too damn complicated. But I’m going to try to break it down a bit.
This guide I’m about to put up is blatantly lifted from the little paper pamphlets the city distributes. However, having it online is twice as nice, right? I’ve simplified it here for easy memorization, but you can find more details at the NYC.gov website.
Recyclables in NYC come in two categories:
1. Paper and cardboard
2. Containers, metal, glass, plastic, and beverage cartons (Take note! That milk/orange juice carton goes HERE, not in the paper/cardboard pile! Misconception #1 cleared up.)
How to Put it Out
Rinse your containers before you put them in the recycling.
Paper/cardboard goes in green bins
Containers, etc. go in blue bins
If you are not lucky enough to live in a building where your super or maintenance crew take care of it for you, you need to put it all out in clear bags. I still haven’t figured out where to buy those. If you do, could you let me know? (@PoppyNYC says Costco. I know that I couldn’t find them at Duane Reade.)
You can totally crush up anything you want to save space. It doesn’t matter.
What’s OK, and What is Not
OK: White paper, colored paper, glossy paper, staples that are in that paper, mail and envelopes, wrapping paper (Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!), boxes, tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cardboard from product packaging, paper bags, cardboard egg cartons, newspapers, magazines and catalogs, phone books and softcover books
Not OK: Spiral binding on paper notebooks (annoying, but true), soiled paper (including your greasy pizza boxes), waxed or plastic-coated paper, hardcover books, napkins, paper towels, tissues
OK: Cans, pet food, empty aerosol cans, dried out paint cans, aluminum foil and aluminum trays, metal furniture, bottles, jars, jugs, milk and juice cartons, appliances with more than 50% metal
Not OK: Deli and yogurt containers, plastic toys, cups (I’m going to say, “Oops” on all those), plastic bags, plastic wrap, styrofoam, mirrors, lightbulbs ceramics, glassware, anything that is not a bottle or jug, batteries, caps and lids
Bonus: What to Do With Stuff
This can include books, clothing, computers, electronics, furniture, housewares and kitchen items. Go to nyc.gov/stuffexchange and look it up. Or just stick it on Freecycle and watch it get claimed in a matter of five seconds. Seriously, those people will take anything.
There! I know that cleared some things up for me, and I hope it did for you too.
But guess what? If you don’t live in NYC, this is all useless for you, because it’s different everywhere! Oh, don’t you love our modern recycling system?
Just in case you need a refresher on the basics of living consciously: my latest “green” post over at personal finance site LearnVest.com:
Trends. They seduce us into buying a hot item, only to leave us a year later with an emptier wallet and a useless widget.
But there’s one trend we at LearnVest can get behind: conscious consumerism.
At its most basic level, buying consciously just means taking a couple of extra seconds to consider each purchase. It’s a way to buy healthier food, keep your home free of clutter and keep your budget intact…
Read the rest at LearnVest!
Walking down the middle of an empty Third Avenue yesterday was so bizarre. I’m not sure this picture fully conveys it. We were half waiting for Will Smith to pop out, being chased by wolves.
Meanwhile, fifteen minutes earlier, I was in a car trying to get back into the city from New Jersey, torn between being jubilant about Summer Streets existing (though this was its last weekend), and cursing its existence for adding an extra half hour onto our ride.
“This is why people don’t have cars in the city,” someone commented. Perhaps it is a giant plot by environmentalists to make it impossible to own a car in the city. Or perhaps it’s just a chance to give the city a more laid-back, suburban feel for a day.
What do you think? Is City Streets amazing or just annoying?
Two things I learned about the Salvation Army by Union Square:
1. It does not have air conditioning.
2. It does not have dressing rooms.
Can we say miserable? It was 103 degrees in Manhattan when I found myself gathering what looked to be unwashed clothing off the racks in the depressingly dingy Salvation Army. When the sales lady told me I could “go to that corner to try it on there,” I stared at her for a moment, feeling first disgust at the visual of my crouching behind a rack, getting nekkid for used clothing. Then I felt guilty for being so snobby. Finally I settled on just being exhausted. At this point I was wandering around the store in the same pair of black heels I had worn all week, fantasizing about my Rainbow flip-flops and an air-conditioned department store with three-way mirrors.
It is impossible to find a matching bottom and top to a bikini at Salvation Army. All of them are missing the bottoms! Why? Actually, don’t answer that question. I don’t want to know. As my friend kindly pointed out this weekend, despite all my hand wringing about buying used underwear, buying a used bikini is about as bad. Oh, couldn’t she have left me ignorant on this fact?
I took my finds home (seven items for $35!) to my apartment to pack for my weekend away in Vermont, and realized I didn’t have time to do any wash. I peered at everything, looking for bedbugs, and then — resigned to my fate — stuffed it all in my duffel.
I also stuffed in my duffel a few items from the Goodwill Annapolis. When I was visiting last weekend, I made my sister drive me there for a shopping trip. She was absolutely no help at all. She spent the whole shopping trip picking out the ugliest atrocities she could find and running up to me saying, “YOU HAVE TO BUY THIS.” Then, she made fun of what I actually bought. Thanks, sis.
Grey striped Forever21 T-shirt, So this outfit to the left is what I changed into for the ride up to Vermont on Friday. When I told my friend Liz that I had just gone shopping today at the Salvation Army, and no, I did not wash most of the clothing, she said, “Ewww! We are washing everything as soon as we arrive.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the shirt I was wearing at the very moment, rubbing shoulders with her, was unwashed as well.
But it wasn’t all bad. Once I told my decidedly un-green friends about the challenge, they wanted to hear about the other challenges too. Their reactions ranged from, “That is impossible,” (purging plastic) to “Gross, really?” (carrying around one’s trash). It sparked a whole conversation about composting, waste reduction, etc. By the end of the weekend, half of our inside jokes involved environmental issues. “Fracking” became the term for anything we didn’t like. As in, “Dude, don’t frack it, OK?” I feel like a scored a point for Mama Earth this weekend.
We did, in fact, put all of my clothing straight in the wash when we arrived, including the Chuck Taylors that had the inside soles inexplicably ripped out. Actually, when it came to the Chucks, I scrubbed them out with soap and water, dumped hand sanitizer inside, and then put them in the washing machine. No athlete’s foot for me, thanks!
I’m happy to report that I made it through the weekend just fine. I went tramping through the woods, sported two different bikinis in the hot tub, went to a civilized brunch, and even had separate sleepwear for bed. In fact, one purple dress is a new favorite. But I cheated for shoes and my purse. It is just impossible to find anything presentable or non-blister-inducing when it comes to accessories.
I would like to end with a message for Salvation Army: I will pay a few more dollars for clothing. Just please, get some air conditioning. And a changing room. Even a curtain would be a nice start. Please?
And here’s a message for you: Donate to Grist!
People who have discovered the world of sustainability usually follow a sequence of steps:
1. OMG! The world is falling apart and I need to live sustainably!
2. How the heck do I do that?
3. This is impossible.
4. Cool! I found this awesome green product!
5. Oh wow. There are lots of awesome green products. How do I choose?
6. Eek! Half of my “green” products aren’t green at all. The bastards.
7. OK, I think I have my favorite green products that I can trust.
7. You know what? I need to stop buying “green” products, and just stop buying so much stuff in general.
8. I am completely above consumerism, and haven’t brought a new piece of plastic into my home for two years.
I would consider step eight something like sustainability nirvana – oft sought after, rarely achieved, and only for the extremely dedicated.
For the rest of we green strivers, I present an article I put together for LearnVest that goes into extreme detail about the best green cleaners. Armed with a ton of research, we chose our favorite cleaners that are cheap and eco-friendly. It may not be as virtuous as scrubbing with nothing but lemon and baking soda in every corner, but it’s pretty darn close.
To see the rest of the chart, click here.
Over on Eco-Salon, Anna Brones tries to tease out the underlying thought behind the idea that knowing how to cook and bake – and knowing how to do it well – is somehow anti-feminism and “domestic.”
When I hear the word “domestic” it evokes a woman who has nothing to offer beyond cooking and cleaning. I may know how to whip up a mean plate of mashed potatoes, but that certainly doesn’t define me any more than knowing how to apply eyeshadow does. Cooking is just a fact of life, or should be. It shouldn’t be held up as something that’s only for people who have nothing better to do with their time.
Why can’t we come up with another word for knowing how to cook from scratch? How about, instead of saying, “You’re so domestic,” every time your friend arrives to your party with a batch of made-from-scratch tartines, you just say, “Wow, you’re such a skilled pastry chef!” Or maybe, “I’m impressed that you’ve learned how to cook so well, even with your impressive career as well!”or just, “This is really delicious. Thanks!”
Perhaps, ten years down the road, we can even swing the pendulum back to cooking being mundane, democratic, and an every-day affair. I actually look forward to the day when I show up to a potluck with a bowl of delicious, fluffy, fattening mashed potatoes, and my friends shrug because they all know how to do the same thing, and maybe even do it better.