Archive for February, 2008

A New Neighborhood and an Old Friend

The “Green Blogs” link to your right popped up a few weeks ago without explanation- it’s a collection of recent headlines from a passel of blogs with ecoleanings, and it’s full of interesting stuff- a few project blogs like mine, but also updates from Grist and some environmental news sites. I am a recent addition to their feed, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the neighbors.

Our new “Craft” link is a dear friend’s etsy shop. If you haven’t run across it before, etsy is a marketplace for independent craftspeople- they sell clothing, jewelry, art, beads, stickers, books, paper- it’s overwhelming. Something for every price range and taste, and a large number of people create their art with found and recycled objects, and it’s got an option to only search items from local artists, for that extra sustainable touch. Shopping for specific items can be daunting, but it’s easy to find beauty with their random browsers. My friend designs jewelry with resin work and vintage beads, and it’s just lovely- she always did have good taste.

Hurrah for the handmade! Why it is so much easier to love something you’ve made, or someone made you, or someone just planned and was proud of and created? Emotional investments in things aren’t supposed to be that wholesome, but there’s a pride in work, and considered action that goes into making things that reminds us of so much more than a teapot. Or an earring. So you can cherish the thing for all the right reasons.

Motion, Sickness

The bulk of my move is finished. It was a bit of a nightmare, since I caught some sort of plague last Wednesday, only it wasn’t the quick violent death plague, it was the lingering hacking plague of delirious pain. As I recall, several of my excellent friends actually moved all my stuff- I remember is waving my arms in an attempt to help, and coughing. Then buying them pizza, and trying not to cough on it. But now I’m here, and my Black Death has subsided to a dull headache and scratchy throat, and I can begin my new practically carfree city life of small footprint living!

Except Alexandria won’t let me park my car for good until I get a parking pass, so I had to drive to work today, and I have to drive out to McLean tomorrow and prove I am being paid to work so I can sign my lease so I can prove I live in Alexandria (still) so I can park my car on the street. Then! Then I can live the carfree life!

I haven’t done the green “coming out” to my roommates yet. I think they suspect something- they’ve been warned I am bringing over my composter, so they have to have some idea. But I waited until I was alone to fish a bottle out of the trash to recycle today, and I assume it’s only a matter of time before I get all uppity about running a half load of dishes/laundry and not using drying racks or something.

I like my housemates very much, and I think this is an interesting fact about their living situation prior to my arrival: Between the three of them, they own 1 spoon, and 1 copy of Rock Band. Or at least, I’ve only found 1 spoon in two days of hunting. They’re all well-adjusted young professionals otherwise. I suppose if I bring my composter and silverware over at the same time, I could just sneak in the former and bide my time about it, since they’ll be so happy about being able to eat soup all at the same time finally?

Review: Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies

I’m at home sick today, and generally when I don’t feel well, I want Goldfish. The slightly salty, cheese cracker kind, specifically. I don’t have any, though. They taste best from the big cartons, like the 3-packs at Costco and the gigantic milk-type cartons will do (they start out good but get stale faster than the 3-packs), but I haven’t been to Costco recently, so. I did get a little box of pseudo-Goldfish yesterday, and I’ve had a few for comfort today instead, and I will review those for you.

I annies cheddar bunnieshave a box of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies. They’re like goldfish, in that they are tiny baked cheese crackers, only they look like bunnies, and they are organic. Whole Foods is dangerous and fun, because their snack foods emit the siren call of organicity, and the have the haunting allure of fair tradicousness. This has led me to purchase items like organic pop tarts on several occasions that I am not entirely proud of, although I have determined that their organic poptarts actually taste good, like spices and fruit and flour, as opposed to like sugary cardboard, as a normal poptart does. Still, that is no reason to buy them, since pop tarts probably aren’t real food.

I digress. I bought the Cheddar Bunnies Tuesday due to 1/3 not having goldfish, 1/3 really wanting goldfish, and 1/3 being curious. They taste…fine. Cheesier than Goldfish, but without the necessary salty tang that pleases me. Also, the bunny shape is flat and too intricate, and richer (do I detect more butter?) than the simple baked cheese taste of the Goldfish. It lacks the simple bulbous fish body shape, the crunching of which hollow space is probably 25% of the enjoyment of the fish.

In terms of packaging, there aren’t that many bunnies in the box, compared to the glut of fish available at Costco. Buying a big box of fish is more efficient, waste-wise. The three-pack at Costco has a recyclable outside box and three plastic inner bags, and this has a tiny recyclable box of recycled cardboard, and a small plastic inner bag. Per bunny, I produce more waste that I would per fish.

On the upside, since the bunnies aren’t as tempting, I don’t eat too many of them and ruin my dinner.

Really, this is all a matter of taste- but if you like the salty, crunchy fish, you might not like Annie’s Organic attempts. I should go back to Costco to fulfill my true cheese cracker desires, but first, I should take some aspirin and go back to bed.

Progress: None

Except for the multicolored mold colony growing on my abandoned compost- they’re making great progress. It appears they’re about to progress from the agricultural age to the industrial age, though, so I should get all deus ex cleaning soon (wonder if they’ve invented literary traditions yet?).

So, when I said last week or so that all I needed to do was find some “live” dirt, I a) realized that here in DC, I have no dirt that I’m technically allowed to dig in, and b) started putting my life into boxes, limiting my time and energy to dress up like a ninja and dig a few handfuls out near the parking lot. Though actually, if I really wanted to be subtle about that, I should probably dress as a gardener.

I’m going to go ahead and declare this Compost Failure February. The stuff is gross enough that I just need to dump it, clean out the bin, and move it this weekend, then start over again.

Meanwhile, I haven’t had much time to put up some stuff, but here are a few quick links so I can get my blog on before I go set more things in more boxes.

1)The governor of Maryland is sponsoring a bill that would limit the state’s carbon emissions to 90% of something by 2050. That sounds nice, in the vaguest sense of nice. I heart lowering carbon emissions and all, but a bill that just says they should be lowered? All that is, is a bunch of dead trees and hot air. More concrete plans, please, MD legislature? I do wish to be impressed.

2)You know how those fashion industry types are all concerned about the planet and stuff, in between when they’re telling us to buy new clothing every 2-3 months? A show at the London Fashion week highlighted designers making ethically produced clothes– based on the principles of fair trade, sustainable fabrics and dyes, “timelessness”, and recycling fabrics. Estethica had hits and misses, (misses! har!), but most of their clothes were much more tastefully nice than the vast majority of fashion week freakiness. At their website you can look through the different designers and collections (I’ll highlight the ‘colouring changing knickers‘- my my. not exactly my ‘favourites’, but they have a certain cachet). It’s not exactly as sustainable as the Salvation Army, or making it yourself (with stuff from the Salvation Army!), but it’s better than fashion types usually do.

(get my blog on? argh. long day.)

How was your Valentine’s Day?

Mine was pretty good, thanks! The Gentleman Friend and I decided to do our celebrating tomorrow- we’re cooking together.  A movie may or may not be involved. Tonight, I can get ready for my construction site inspection (architecture school field trips are sweet) and munch on the loaf of bread the GF baked me earlier this week.

In honor of both the GF and the day, here’s an article on the more sustainable flower farms in Colombia (his country of extraction, more or less). They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day so much- instead, Feb 14th is the “International Day of Flower Workers”, since about 100,000 Colombians grow about a billion dollars worth of flowers for export every year. A new program called “Floraverde” is providing these flower farms with a chance to certify themselves in social standards for their workers and environmental standards for their growing operation- and it’s catching on. They’re still working on the whole right to organize labor thing, but over 40% of their farms are now certified with the program since 2003, or are in the process of certification.

I’m excited about the Valentine’s Day when my Gentleman Friend can buy me flowers and know that he’s buying a product that wasn’t grown with dangerous chemical pesticides, and wasn’t transported long distances to him by dirty fuels, and the proceeds of which purchase go back to be invested with the people who produced them in the first place, to help grow everybody’s economy. For now, I’m happier without them. Well, ok, sometimes they do help when he’s got some explaining to do, but still.

Let me know how sustainably yours went!

Party On, Potomac Primary People

Hey, Virginia, Maryland, and denizens of DC! Somebody wants to hear what you’ve got to say. Go vote today. It counts.

UPDATE: I voted today, and it was totally awesome. You should try it.

The Vicinity of My Head

From recently inside my head, two quick follow-ups, then a review of external bits:

First, still on the fence about buying into Valentine’s day? Reuter’s has a dampening article on the child labor and human trafficking that go into producing much of the world’s cocoa, harsh chemicals dumped on roses and inhaled by farm workers, and those crazy war diamonds. Get off the fence and try something else! If the dear heart’s heart is set on chocolate, check out fair trade chocolate options. (My head? It is now salivating.)

Second, Mike Bloomberg is chastising the US government for promoting corn ethanol as a viable fuel. Sure, it’s interesting because I talked about it yesterday (sensing a pattern in this post?), but Bloomberg has also been flirting with running for president this year. Fred Thompson has already shown us the pitfalls of merely flirting with the idea, though, and the rash (yes, rash) of interesting primary action will probably make late entries into the race less interesting by comparison. But the loud green mayor of NY seems to want to make his voice heard on the national stage, and if he’s got a message like this, let’s hear some more.

Finally, let us turn our heads to my shampoo (masculine types are dismissed, unless they’re looking for tips on how to smell not so, well, dude-like).

avalon organics shampooI’ve been trying out a few ecofriendly shampoos, and it’s been a rough process. Literally. Whole Foods brand grapefruit shampoo and conditioner left my hair feeling unwashed and unconditioned. Plus, they smell sickly-sweet. Avalon Organics has a Lavender shampoo and conditioner that smell good- like real lavender, not the fake lavender scent. Their shampoo takes a lot of work to lather (it’s not my water’s fault) and their conditioner, while promising to nourish, leaves my hair brittle even when I let it sit a while. If you like the smell, the lack of animal testing, and the “100% vegetarian ingredients”, give the shampoo a try and avoid the conditioner- though the latter might work better for you if your hair is short or oily.

trader joes conditionerReally, though, you can skip the other two brands altogether and check out Trader Joe’s store brand. Their conditioner actually conditions– and I’ve got long, curly, slightly dry hair, so that’s a tough proposition. It’s $2 a bottle, smells fantastic, wasn’t tested on animals, and it’s got mostly organic ingredients. It does contain a couple parabens, which haven’t been proven to cause breast cancer in anything. Natural health people add an ominous “yet” to that statement. Avalon Organics consciously avoids them, but hey: Avalon Organics hasn’t produced a working conditioner yet, so. I’ll keep testing. (If you can’t wait for me to come up with another suggestion, try the comments at Green as a Thistle‘s similar post.)

Biofuels Backlash, But Wait

It should probably tell me something that my most popular post so far has been about Valentine’s day and looooove, but I’m going to ponder that later and talk about biofuels now. A new study by the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy adds up the total life cycle impact of crop biofuels- like corn and whatever else is grown specifically on converted or agricultural land to make fuel, not food- is actually worse than fossil fuels in terms of carbon production. Yup, apparently ethanol is bad (please remove corn subsidies already, Washington?).

So if biofuels- or at least the ones we’re growing now- are such a bad idea, how come we didn’t notice before? Partly it was due to a failure to predict the effect of converting huge areas of land from food production to fuel production- drives up food prices worldwide, and invokes deforestation and land clearing to create new agricultural land to grow more of the displaced food crops or the new fuel crops- which tend to be heavily subsidized, thus very profitable.

The NYT article on the studies doesn’t heavily emphasize the different types of biofuels used as energy resources, so it’s easy to come away with the impression that all biofuels are bad.  Not so! The Nature Conservency interviews an author on the paper, Joe Fargione:

Although there is no silver bullet to solve climate change, there are many silver BBs. Biofuels can be a silver BB if produced without requiring additional land to be converted from native habitats to agriculture. For example, biofuels can be made from waste from agriculture and forests, and from native grasses and woody biomass grown on marginal lands unsuitable for crop production.

We not only have to consider how we produce biomass, but how we convert it to energy. Producing liquid transportation fuels may not be the most efficient way to use the energy contained in biomass.

I’ve added my emphasis. Europe is trying to fix the newly-discovered ill effects of their plans to increase biofuel use by maintaining that it must not come from former rainforests, and no word on how the US will change it’s recently passed ethanol provisions in the 2007 Energy Bill. Energy policy should go back to the drawing board, to maximize research funding for waste biofuels, and seriously, no more corn ethanol subsidies, not even if you call it a tax cut! Pretty please?

How Keith And Bob Taught Me There Are More Important Things Than the Environment

(A helpful post from some of my more enthusiastic party guests last night.)

1) In fifty years we’ll all be dead, so why not enjoy the world now

2) Compost on my porch smells bad

3) Because We Can

4) If Others Have Chosen Not to Conserve Resources By Now, They’re Ours…to Burn

5) I Like Driving Fast

6) I Have to Compensate for Small Boobs/Penis

7) Penguins Are Useless Animals Anyway

8) Oil Tastes Good, Especially When the Middle East is on Fire

9) Sleeping With All the Lights on Keeps Dick Cheney Away

10) Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

11) PS Don’t Forget to Log Out of wordpress when you invite people over

 

One Week to Valentin- whaaat?!

I can already feel the swell of righteous anger- I know, I know. Valentine’s Day is a dreadful prospect for everyone involved. You’re either under pressure to come up with something really special- flowers! roses! diamonds! dinner reservations! all of the above!- for your snuggly-pumpkin, or scared and wondering if your snookie-poo is coming to come through with something really special for you, or if you haven’t got a cuddle-woogums then, well, you’re cranky. About this time of year, I start hearing the anti-establishment rants from males of my aquaintance- Valentine’s Day is created by advertisers to convince women that we have to buy them things and then they get mad at us when we don’t and everything’s pink and those candy hearts are gross and I hate it and etc.

They’re right, except for the candy hearts thing. Apparently the greeting card industry has an award named for the lady who invented the Valentine’s day card. And now they’re capitalizing on haters by selling Anti-Valentine’s day cards! Genius!

Plus, all this shiny red waste. Big packages for little waxy chocolates, plastic wrap, cheaply-made toys, forests of obnoxious cards, tons and tons of dying flowers shipped all over at exorbitant prices…and all the hippies crying green ecotears. Why are we making love so unsustainable?

Some go so far as to declare their non-participation in this non-event: I will not bow to the follies of popular culture, I above the red and pink pressures. Works perfectly if you’re single, but you try explaining to your wimbly-bipple that you’re not going to be extra-sweet to him/her/it for one little day just because somebody had the gall to suggest that you do so. (Here’s a helpful tip: this will always go poorly for you. If it doesn’t go poorly for you, dump him/her/it and look for someone with a backbone.)

Me, I like Valentine’s Day. I’m looking forward to it. I think you’d like Valentine’s Day, too, if we made a few rules for it. Here’s my proposal:

1 ) No gross, over-processed red and pink-wrapped chocolates/candies. “Gift Food” is not a gift, nor is it food. Try making something actually tasty.

2 ) No stuffed animals (ok, unless it’s your best friend from forever and you compete to see who can come up with the most ridiculous one even though she always wins, even the year you found the purple snake with heart spots, because of that one vibrating pink lion…).

3 ) No store-bought cards. “I Love You” doesn’t count if it was written by a committee, mass produced, and purchased. (Try making a pop-up card. Fun, and demonstrative, and just think of all the things you can…never mind.)

4 ) Both halves of the couple must plan nice things for their hunnie-muffins.

5 ) If you do buy jewelry, don’t symbolize your love with a product of bloodshed, underpaid sweat, and intestinal delivery. Go vintage, or fair-trade, or lab-grown, or recycled, or at least certified. And similarly with flowers- why are you killing so many pretty things to tell her she’s pretty? Get her a live plant if you can (let her kill it). But really,

6 ) You don’t need to spend money at all. This is about love, and celebrating strong relationships, and taking the time to appreciate having your puddle-widgkins. So do that in a way that’s just for the two of you, and not for Hallmark/Godiva/DeBeer’s, also. Two’s company, three’s just wrong.

7 ) Call your parents and grandparents.

8 ) If you haven’t found your ookle-dumpling yet, see 7). Then don’t take it so personally (statistically you’ll find your mumbly-cupcake someday, and it’s not like angst makes you more attractive, unless you’re one of those people), take a deep breath, and go hang out with cool people and do fun things.

What do you think? A dash of anti-consumerism, a pinch of anti-advertisements, and a shot of self-confidence makes Valentine’s more sustainable, and maybe even bearable.


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virescent.blog (at ) gmail.com

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