Last night I had to throw out some spoiled food. There was no good reason for letting the food go bad. A while back I made potato salad for a beach picnic and there were leftovers--maybe enough to eat as a side for one meal each night for a week. Well, I don't like potato salad that much and potato salad doesn't freeze well (or rather, doesn't thaw well!), and I never got around to inviting someone over to help eat it, so it sat until it was too far gone to eat. Then there was the last couple servings of spicy red beans that I just... forgot about. I love beans, so I'm not sure how that happened. There was also some celery, and this came as no surprise to me since probably half of all the food I throw out is celery. Even though I like "ants on a log" for a snack, somehow, I never use celery unless I need it in a recipe. And I don't favor recipes that call for celery.
Growing up, my mom never had to use that cliche phrase about starving children in Africa (note, the phrase--not starvation itself--is the cliche). I loved to eat the food on my plate. And it's always bothered me to see people throwing away food they could save and eat later. So on the occasion when I let food go to waste I feel bad. I feel bad enough that I use tricks to keep it from happening.
--If I make large batches of something freezable, I freeze portions in smaller containers to use for lunches later.
--I pay attention to what amount of food I can reasonably expect to eat in two meals before I start cooking.
--When I'm thinking about what to eat for supper I take stock of leftovers first.
--I grocery shop with a list, and part of my list is always built around what is already in the fridge and waiting to be used.
--If I can't think of something I want to make with something that needs to get eaten, I look on the internet for new recipes to try.
I like to remind myself that I don't throw out that much food after all. And of course, I feel good knowing that when I do have to throw the celery out, it goes into the compost bin rather than the landfill. But even so, I'd like to reach the point of never throwing away food. One thing I've seen people talk about on their blogs is talking pictures of the food they throw away and then reviewing them periodically! Wow, that would really make me feel accountable. I already have a bad conscience about it, so maybe this is just the sort of thing I need to shame me into zero food waste compliance!
You know junk mail can be annoying. You might have heard junk mail creates opportunities for identity theft (those pre-approved credit offers can provide a scammer with just about everything they need to get moving on a new line of credit in your name). Either of those alone are two good reasons to stanch the tide of junk mail in your life.
But did you know junk mail is also an ecological hazard? According to the Smithsonian, millions of trees and billions of gallons of water are used annually to produce that unwanted mail. Further, they claim the majority of junk mail is collected as trash rather than as the recyclable material that it is.
Easy ways to break the chain:
Have you name removed from national mailing lists. (You must renew your registration on this list every five years.) Send your name, address and signature to:
c/o Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
Have your name removed from pre-approved credit offer rolls. Call the opt-out line at:
Notify your current financial institutions and credit card companies that your name is not to be sold or rented. Often they will provide you with a form to do this; if not, call or email.
Many subscription to magazines, catalogs, and organizations offer an easy way to notify them that you do not want your information shared, rented, or sold. If you don't find this option in the enrollment materials, notify them by phone or email that you do not want your information shared, rented, or sold. You can do the same with warranty cards and contributions to causes.
The other day the ambient air temperature in Tallahassee dropped to a pleasant sub-80s in the middle of the day--did you catch that? Well, upon walking in to the house, I noticed that not only was it cooler outside than inside, but the a/c was running. I realized, likewise, that it is nearly always under 80 out by the time we go to bed at night, too, and yet we keep the windows and doors shut and leave the a/c on. Meanwhile, we occasionally bemoan the lack of fresh air circulating. Hence, my latest tip. Pay attention to the weather! If it's cooler outside than inside, consider shutting off the a/c and opening the windows! Simple!
And, on the topic of cooling--we keep the thermostat set at a slightly warm 80 F while we're home, 84 while
we're at work. This is per the power company's instructions on how much
you can let it warm up over the work day and still see a net savings in
electricity usage (taking into account the extra power it takes to
reduce it to--as opposed to maintain it at--your desired temperature). I haven't seen enough summer time utility bills since I've lived here to corroborate this, but I have used the same premise for winter time heating in cold climates and it proved to save a good 10% on the heating bills. If you're serious about this method of using less power--for your budget or for the environment--it may pay off to invest in a digital programmable thermostat (in some areas, utility companies subsidize this--my old house was able to upgrade to one for about $50).
It's almost time! At 8 tonight (Eastern Time) the North Pole will be closer to the sun than at any other time this year! Known as the Summer Solstice, this relative position of Earth to Sun heralds the official beginning of Summer.
Of course, if you live here in Tallahassee, it seems like it already started and tonight is more of a symbol or reminder than anything else... But growing up, I lived in a climate where the rains didn't end until around the 4th of July (and picked up again in time for Halloween for another nine full months of misty cloud cover and intermittent rain), so the first day of summer was more like a promise and it meant a lot. There, real summer was the time when the winds picked up heavy from the north and the sun came out at least half the days. As much as I can tell so far, summer here is the time when, um, it's really hot and there are a lot of crepe myrtles in bloom, fleas invade, and the water in the Gulf is too hot to swim in. But as of yet, I still think this is a fair trade for a winter sky full of sun.
My co-worker was recently lamenting how many paper towels she goes through a day at work and decided to bring a cloth napkin to work with her. If only everyone would make that choice!
But if you aren't ready to do without papertowels altogether, consider buying the type that are perforated into smaller "half sheet" sections. I, for one, never need a full size paper towel to dry my hands. If you find you can't get by without the super-sized extra-absorbent heavy duty ones, consider keeping two types on hand--one for the big jobs, one for the small jobs.
And while you're at it, consider buying unbleached versions when they're available. The standard bleaching process contributes chemical pollutants to air, soil and water, and leaves dioxin--a carcinogen--as a byproduct in the paper towels themselves.
Here's a totally random tip for making your life a tad more green.
You know those plastic gravity tubes? The ones that stand upright on their lid, which is usually a flip top? I think they're most commonly used for things like lotions and hair goop, but I've also seen them used for kitchen herb pastes and various other things. I know they're a great way to dispense small amounts of whatever, and they're much more portable that pump dispensers and all.
But do you ever get annoyed that you can't squeeze the last of the contents out? If you do, you need this neat trick that Ann taught me: When gravity has done what it can't and you can't force any more product out, but you know it's in there, you can laterally cut open the tube. (Regular craft or kitchen scissors work fine for this task.) This gives you easy access to the contents, and you can use the top portion as a "lid" for the tube until it's truly empty.
At first I thought this was a little extreme, but a few weeks ago my abused hands really needed some lotion and only had a depleted squeeze tube. I went ahead and cut it open more out of necessity than ecological concern. And it turned out I had a couple weeks worth of lotion left that I would've thrown out otherwise! Who knew?
Give it try! Save yourself a couple bucks here and there, throw away less of what
you buy, and use less packaging, all with one cut!
Recently my mom mentioned that she's challenging herself to read every book that's ever won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The idea didn't initially inspire me to try the same, but it did pique my curiosity enough that I looked up the list of winners. But as I went through the list I realized some of my favorite books plus other works by some of my favorite novelists are on the list. I also noticed that I really like every book I've read from the list. So, without going all gung-ho and prioritizing these titles, I did decide to embark on a similar endeavor. I don't plan to set a date to complete the list by, nor am I drawing up a reading schedule. (Although I did take a minute to figure out that if I were to read one per month it would take me well over six years to complete this task!) Since I noticed I haven't read any of the winners from the 1970s, maybe
I'll start there. Or maybe not. Like I said, I am not taking the
disciplined approach. I'd be happy to take your recommendations of up to, say, three top picks from the "have yet to read" section. For now, what I am going to do is insert a winner into my reading here and there and keep track! So, to get started...
Books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction that I have read:
The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton (1921)
The Good Earth Pearl S. Buck (1932)
Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell (1937)
The Yearling Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1939)
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck (1940)
The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway (1953)
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee (1961)
A Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole (1981)
The Color Purple Alice Walker (1983)
Beloved Toni Morrison (1988)
The Shipping News E. Annie Proulx (1994)
Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides ( 2003)
Books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction that I think I read but can't remember anything about:
A Death in the Family James Agee (1958)
Tales of the South Pacific James A. Michener (1948)
Books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction that I have yet to read:
2008 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
2007 The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2006 March by Geraldine Brooks
2005 Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2004 The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2002 Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2001 The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
2000 Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
1999 The Hoursby Michael Cunningham
1998 American Pastoral by Philip Roth
1997 Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
1996 Independence Day by Richard Ford
1995 The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
1993 A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
1992 A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
1991 Rabbit At Rest by John Updike
1990 The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
1989 Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
1987 A Summons To Memphis by Peter Taylor
1986 Lonesome Dove by Larry Mcmurtry
1985 Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
1984 Ironweed by William Kennedy
1982 Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
1980 The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
1979 The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
1978 Elbow Room: Stories by James Alan Mcpherson
1977 No award was given.
1976 Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
1975 The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
1974 No award was given.
1973 The Optimist's Daughter (large Print) by Eudora Welty
1972 Angle of Repose by Wallace Earle Stegner
1971 No award was given.
1970 The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford by Jean Stafford
1969 House Made of Dawn by N Scott Momaday
1968 The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
1967 The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
1966 The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter by Katherine Anne Porter
1965 The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
1964 No award was given.
1963 The Reivers: A Reminiscence by William Faulkner
1962 The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
1960 Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
1959 The Travels of Jaimie Mcpheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor
1957 No award was given.
1956 Andersonville by Mackinlay Kantor
1955 A Fable by William Faulkner
1954 No award was given.
1952 The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II by Herman Wouk
1951 The Town by Conrad Richter
1950 The Way West by A B Guthrie
1949 Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens
1947 All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
1946 No award was given.
1945 A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
1944 Journey in the Dark by Martin Flavin
1943 Dragon's Teeth I by Upton Sinclair
1942 In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow
1941 No award was given.
1938 The Late George Apley by John Phillips Marquand
1936 Honey in the Horn by Harold Lenoir Davis
1935 Now in November by Josephine W. Johnson
1934 Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller
1933 The Store by Thomas Stribling
1931 Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes
1930 Laughing Boy by Oliver Lafarge
1929 Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin
1928 The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
1927 Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield
1926 Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
1925 So Big by Edna Ferber
1924 The Able Mclaughlins by Margaret Wilson
1923 One of Ours by Willa Silbert Cather
1922 Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
1920 No award was given.
1919 The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
1918 His Family by Ernest Poole
According to the latest post on the "Green Living" forum at Blogiversity, those little "PLU" stickers you see on your fruits and vegetables at the grocery store aren't just there to help the cashier identify them. They also store valuable information about the methods used to grow the item. Here's the breakdown: Four digits indicate a conventionally grown item (uses chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides). Five digits beginning with "9" indicates organically grown (grown without chemicals). Begins with "8" indicates an item is genetically modified and not organic. For more on why you might consider going organic, go check out the forum post!
This coming Sunday is Mother's Day. My mom lives something like 3000 miles away, so I won't be spending any face time with her, but I'll definitely have some phone time with her on Sunday. And before that (hopefully tonight) I'll be creating a mom-worthy card. I'm thinking it'll be a floral collage, but I may go with a pen and ink drawing. Of course, the card will be accompanied by a letter. For my last living grandma I'll do the same. This is one of the send-a-card holidays that I really like sending cards for, maybe in part because the card-sending duties are limited or maybe because it has greater personal significance for me. Whatever the reason, even with cards sent out, I know on Sunday I'll be feeling nostalgic for the years my brothers and I lived with our mom and "surprised" her with crepe breakfasts.
What are you doing to celebrate?
From time to time I check in at the No Impact Man blog to see what's new. Something new-to-me on my latest visit is his April 21st post on recent work by journalist Michael Pollan (whom I've blogged about before).The post has a solid exposition of Pollan's thoughts on the current environmental crisis and is filled with lots of good details, and then continues on to explain where No Impact Man disagrees with Pollan's bottom line (roughly, that the environmental crisis is really a crisis of character!). As No Impact man moves in to the critique portion, he has a paragraph that starts
"No one I know wants to throw a plastic cup away every time they drink a
coffee. Or to toss a plastic bag. Or to feel like their living
comfortably will cost the earth."
He goes on with his hypothesis that inaction is more of a paralysis caused by lack of knowledge of how to change. Which sounds nice. But apparently No Impact Man has yet to meet my cashier at Publix last night.
While I was waiting in line the cashier and the customer ahead of me were talking about bagging options and the cashier said she heard people want to make plastic bags illegal and get rid of them unless you pay for them. The customer she was talking to gave her a disinterested look, but I said, "Oh, you know, they did that in Ireland around 2003!" Then the cashier told me that's ridiculous because how would she know how many bags it would take and how much to charge the customer?! I said something like, "Yeah..." and then added that I heard that in Ireland* people did adjust after a couple months and started bringing their own bags without too much fuss. To which the cashier explained that people who shop at Publix are soo-oo-oo stubborn that they freak out when the look of the labels on the deli items change. I agreed that people get ten to get stuck in their ways, and then said something vague like "Well... at least the people who do choose to bring their own bags are doing something to keep all those bags out of the landfills, eh?..." By then I was all checked out and with my groceries bagged up in my reuseable bag so we said goodnight and parted ways.
All in all it was a pleasant exchange, and from the loose transcription here you might not know it, but the truth is that my cashier expressed her complete lack of interest and/or awareness of the purpose behind trying to move away from throw-away plastics. What I mean is, it wasn't a "I don't know how to make this change" or "This change is hard or inconvenient" issue. It was more like a "What problem with plastic?" kind of issue.
I didn't really do much to "inform" her either, but, I mean, come on Publix! You sell reusble bags for a buck and give out free decals promoting them--couldn't you at least educate your cashiers on how to up-sell them?! Maybe they would feel like No Impact Man--that they don't like giving out bags that are just going to be thrown away. And unlike the people No Impact Man knows who don't want to cause harm but don't know how not to, maybe they'd even feel empowered!
About Ireland: My bff lived there as a nanny when the change was happening. She said some of the key points to the success of weaning shoppers off plastic bags was the prevalence of quality and inexpensive reusable options available at every checkstand, and the fact that the selling price for a plastic bag was relatively high in comparison. Something like, pay a quarter for a disposable plastic bag or a dollar for sturdy reusable bag (in euros, though!). And, if I had more time right now, I would research the results that law had and post them, because I remember reading about them after then law had been in place for some time, and the reduction of plastic in landfills was truly impressive!
In honor of Earth Day, here are five every-day suggestions for earth-friendlier living, plus one plug for the green forums at Blogiversity.
- Don’t dispose of non-biodegradable chemicals down the storm drain. In most municipalities, water that enters storm drains is not treated before being discharged. What that means is any chemicals you put down the drain can re-enter the waterways to pollute groundwater, rivers, etc. Contact your county or city waste utilities to find appropriate disposal methods for products like paint, paint thinner, motor oil, or lawn and garden chemicals.
Seek out alternatives to using landfills. Landfills threaten groundwater when rain filters through the decomposing debris and carries toxins away with it. Even seemingly innocuous materials like paper contribute to this when dioxins (leftover in the paper from the process of whitening or dying paper during its manufacture) or lead (still found in printing ink) come into play. One easy alternative: Make use of local recycling facilities.
Look for corn products that are labeled “non-GMO”. GMO corn threatens the biodiversity of corn overall when GMO genes cross-pollinate with more old-fashioned strains in neighboring areas. Biodiversity within single crops is crucial to preventing disasters like Ireland’s potato famine. The trend towards GMO crops is also suspected to be a factor in the recent dramatic decline of multiple pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Shift away from factory-farmed meat, dairy, and eggs that rely on antibiotics and hormones. These substances, fed to livestock and poultry, make their way into run-off, ultimately polluting both soil and groundwater. Additionally, many leading biologists now link artificially high levels of estrogen in waterways to the declining reproductive abilities of various species of wildlife. Finally, these substances also make their way from the food you eat into your body, which in turn bears the burden of eliminating them. Most, if not all, major American grocery chains now stock options free of added hormones and antibiotic.
Conserve energy and resources by using the simple everyday techniques popularized in the oil crisis of the late 1970s: Turn out the lights when you leave a room. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater. Don’t use the extra rinse or hot air dry features on the dishwasher. Don’t stand in front of the fridge with the door open. Wash full loads of laundry and use a clothesline in place of the dryer. Combine errands in the car rather than making multiple short trips. Take a bike ride for those emergency runs to the grocery store. If you find yourself in the position to do so, extend those habits into bigger leaps: Live near the places you shop, work and play. Consider a commuter carpool. Shop local. Invest in energy-efficient appliances. Buy green-energy credits if your utilities offer them.
And, as promised, the gratuitous plug!
- If you are looking for others in the Blogiversity community who are thinking about similar things why not go check out the forums? The forums are a great place to share your knowledge, opinions, and questions on various topics--including... (wait for it...) greener living!
What are you doing this Earth Day (April 22nd)? If you're interested in energy efficient building and remodeling, bio-appropriate landscaping, and other ways you can make your home, office, or yard more earth-friendly, you may be interested in checking out the Capital Region Green Products Fair and Trade Show that's scheduled to take place at the Leon County Civic Center. For more details, view the pdf included here.
Product Fair Flyer.pdf
Already have plans for celebrating Earth Day 2008? Why not share them over at Blogiversity's Environmental forum?
You can buy a pound of dried small red beans for around a buck. I do it all the time. But what do you do with them when you get them home? Here's an old stand-by for me.
After soaking and cooking the beans (use the directions on the bag if you don't know how), take about half out of the pan and freeze them for later use. That leaves about 3 cups in the pan.
In a separate pan, sauté one lonely clove of garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil for a second (or a minute). Add a small spoonful of "Italian Seasoning" or just use oregano and a couple big spoonfuls of chili powder (whatever type you like, but it should have cumin in it or this won't taste as good). Sauté all this another minute. Then add a small can of tomato sauce or two or three chopped tomatoes if they're in season and yummy. Cook all this for about ten minutes at a simmer. Add salt to taste (although this ups your ingredients, but who really counts salt? Or oil for that matter?) Add the beans you already cooked and cook all of this for another ten minutes. I like to eat this with jalapeño cornbread and (of course) rice. This makes enough for about three of four if you serve it with sides.
You might notice there's no meat involved. Try it that way first--you might like it that way and it's certainly lower in cholesterol (which makes it better for you). If you don't like it that way, I'm pretty sure sausage is the classic meat addendum to red beans.
Play a Game, Fill a Bowl of Rice
Do you know about freerice.com? If you don't, click on the image below and check it out! But be forewarned, it can be slightly addictive!
When I was in school, lengthy threads about the Free Rice game started showing up on a list serve frequented by my Applied Linguistics colleagues--I believe people thought of it sort of like a way to procrastinate, but without the usual levels of guilt. Procrastinating is "bad" but if you're increasing your vocabulary, helping feed people, and theorizing about the corpus and programming behind it? Not so bad...
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