The Exciting World of Eating Eco

“I’d be a vegetarian, I just can’t go without my fish tacos man- those are my lifeblood,” –An Acquaintance’s Drunk Uncle at a barbeque.

“You know as a vegan we can’t drink that, they fine it with bone char,” -Much “better” vegan than myself at a friend’s gathering, as I pour myself a glass of wine.

“I feel like a jerk eating this in front of you,” – Guy who didn’t get a text back after the second date, upon digging into a brunch plate of sausage, bacon and scrambled eggs.

So often when we talk about what we choose to eat and why we choose to eat it, the conversation is centered on lack, ongoing without and abstaining from eating things people generally enjoy eating. When we talk about veganism and vegetarianism the conversation so often focuses on meat and dairy, as opposed to the wide variety of foods that people on plant-based diets actually choose to purchase, prepare and eat. I wonder how productive that is- focusing on what’s not eaten- in encouraging people to make changes and shift their diet toward one that is more plant-based, healthy, and sustainable. I mean we even call them dietary restrictions- how appealing is that to join in on?

There is an abundance of plant-based and sustainable options out there- a lot of which pretend to be your favorite animal products. It’s fantastic talking to people who have been vegan for forty years and started out as punk teenagers in the 80’s working to navigate what to eat in a world that had not yet invented protein bars or garden burgers. Talk about lack. They’ll tell you how much easier it is now- now that you can order more than salad out at dinner and buy vegan pizza, mac n’ cheese, and ice cream at major grocery stores.

As a species we know we need to shift what we eat so that we are eating more locally sourced plant-based meals, not only to reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate the impacts of climate but to adapt to the changes we are already experiencing. And I think that transition can be an exciting, creative challenge for us, one that ultimately brings us a bounty of new food options that we have never seen before. Sustenance that is healthier for our bodies and for our planet and that is delicious. Here are a few projects working toward that vision that I find particularly inspiring:

Atomo Coffee

This Seattle based start-up has invested 2.6 billion dollars in developing molecular coffee- coffee made without coffee beans. Caffeinated, tasty, and has the potential to be produced locally!

As coffee is grown at the equator, it travels quite a long way on carbon-emitting planes, ships, and trucks to reach your grocery store. As we are continuously seeing, hotter and dryer summers growing coffee to completion is becoming challenging on designated farmland, forcing farmers to move their fields to higher and cooler elevations, cutting down forests as they go. 250,000 acres of forest are lost every year due to the expansion and relocation of coffee plantations. And our modest coffee habits are more intensive than we might think. If you drink 1.5 cups of coffee a day it takes 14 coffee trees to sustain your habit annually. Now multiply that by every person you know who drinks coffee regularly.

Producing bean-less coffee eliminates this unsustainable race for higher ground. Using lipids, proteins, and carbs of similar structure, like those from watermelon seeds, Atomo is producing coffee indistinguishable from the real deal. And being produced bean-less has other perks as well. Most of the bitterness we experience drinking coffee comes from the roasting process. No beans to roast, no bitter aftertaste! Incredible.

Beyond Meat

If you love cheeseburgers because they don’t taste like black beans or mashed up vegetables, the Impossible Burger is for you! Beyond Meat has been working and expanding for several years to bring consumers delicious, vegan options that look and taste like meat protein.

Seeking out the plant-based compounds equivalent to those found in animal meat, Beyond Meat has expanded beyond their famous Impossible Burger to produce a variety of incredible convincing products including Beyond Beef Ground Beef, Beyond Sausage, and Beyond Beef Crumbles. Their products contain 20 grams of protein per serving and are soy and gluten-free.

Industrial agriculture is responsible for about 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and abstaining from purchasing from these corporations is one of the single most impactful things individuals can do to make a meaningful difference and reduce their personal carbon footprint.

And creative new meat substitutes are coming out all the time. Just this past week, Kentucky Fried Chicken released the Beyond Meat Fried Chicken Bucket at a single location in Atlanta Georgia. It sold out in less than five hours! Let’s see more of that!

Vegan Egg

Follow Your Heart is another company that produces realistic substitutes for animal-based foods we love- specifically in the world of dairy. From vegan mayonnaise to sliced Gouda, to the Vegan Egg, which you can scramble, make into an omelet, or use as an egg substitute in baking. They add black salt to the egg to give it a more realistic taste.

To be clear, the world of vegan scrambled eggs is not perfect. When your eating tofu scrambles, egg substitutes your mouth knows they are eggs impersonators. But I think they are great because they open up the door to a world of vegan quiches, omelets, and baking without using applesauce to hold your brownies together. And it’s a great start! In five years it will no doubt be tastier and that what it’s all about- experimenting with new ideas, testing them out, and using what’s good to give more eating options that satisfy our stomachs and our emotional attachment to heaping platters of American breakfast food.

Tidying Up with Your Conscience

In Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, we were asked to re-evaluate our relationship with the space and items in our homes. In the show, the organizational guru travels across the United States helping families de-clutter and reorganize their homes. But this isn’t any ordinary HGTV-esque show, the KonMari Method focuses on the relationship between the energy, the space, and the individual. If you haven’t watched the series, I highly encourage- especially if you’re having a hard time going to sleep, it’s very soothing.

Between the books and the show, Kondo failed to address one major aspect of her process: what do we do with our discarded items? If the goal in tidying is to have a deeper connection to the things in our lives and the spaces we occupy, then that mindset has to begin in the de-cluttering phase. After all, that porcelain doll I hid in the closet of my childhood bedroom is alive, right? And we wouldn’t want to piss her off now, would we?

Click on the links below for tips and tricks on responsible ways to re-home or re-imagine your unwanted items!

Some key take-aways from the series:

  1. It starts and ends with your mindset
    • or as I like to say- if you can’t change your mind, you can’t change anything. If you want to change your habits, you have to first change your way of thinking.
  2. Your home is a sacred place
    • by removing items that don’t spark joy, you can change the entire environment and subsequently, the energy of a space. The energy left in the room is only that which sparks joy.
  3. Your things are alive
    • if you grew up in my generation then Toy Story had us all treating our toys a little better as children, but I think it is innate within us to treat objects with respect. “Just like the gentle shake we use to wake someone up, we can stimulate our belongings by physically moving them, exposing them to fresh air and making them ‘conscious.’”
  4. It’s not discarding- it’s keeping what you love
    • this all goes back to your mindset. We get back the energy we put out into the world so it is important to recognize the difference between discarding items you don’t want, and surrounding yourself with items that purely spark joy in your heart.
  5. Transform your home to transform your life
    • this one sounds a little “Yes Man-esque” but sometimes quippy one-liners just get it right!
    • “Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.”
    • “Pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.” 

Tidying Up with Your Conscience: Papers

The 4 R’s of sustainable living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

REFUSE

Step 1: Stop the Madness

  • Remove your name from mailing lists through DMA Choice– due to high demand there is now a $2 processing fee to have your name removed (yes it is backwards… call your representatives to complain!)

Step 2: Credit Card Solicitation

  • call 1-888-567-8688 or go to Opt Out Prescreen to choose to opt out for 5 years or for life. You can continue to get your banks credit card solicitations by asking to be put on your bank’s “in house” list which is not sold or distributed to other companies

Step 3: Google is the New Phone Book

  • Go to Dex and click on the link toward the bottom of the screen that says “Go from Yellow to Green Opt-Out of Phone Book Delivery”

Step 4: Donation Solicitations

  • If you know what charities you want to support, you can ask them to only send you one donation solicitation a year. Charity Watch has some good pointers on how to go about getting this done

Step 5: Actual Junk Mail

  • From Ecocycle.org- If you’ve had it with companies sending you mailings or promo products you don’t want, there is an option. First, look for any of the following phrases: return service requested, forwarding service requested, address service requested, or change service requested. If you find any of these phrases, write “refused, returned to sender” on the unopened envelope. Mail sent to “Resident,” “Current Resident,” or “Current Occupant” can be refused if it contains one of the above endorsements, or is sent First Class.  When you receive unsolicited promo products, you can mark the envelope “Return to Sender” and put it back in the mail.

Step 6: The Final Mail (Nail) in the Coffin

  • Follow these instructions to finally be free from your pile of papers! Make sure to indicate the following when reaching out to each of these organizations- “Please remove my name and address from your mailing lists and do not rent, sell or trade my name or address.”

Valpak 
1 Valpak Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
1-727-399-3000

https://www.valpak.com/coupons/show/mailinglistsuppression

Have the Valpak mailing label handy and fill in your information exactly as it is printed. If you like coupons but don’t want to receive all that mail, go to http://www.valpak.com to choose and print coupons by geographical location.

Valassis Direct Mail, Inc. 
Consumer Assistance
PO Box 249
Windsor , CT 06095
1-800-437-0479, between 8:30 and 5:00 EST
Unsubscribe from their RedPlum publication here: https://www.redplum.com/tools/redplum-postal-addremove.html

Epsilon Data Services
Abacus Cooperative Databases
abacusoptout@epsilon.com
Send an email with “remove” in the subject line and your full name, including middle initial, and address in the message. If you changed your address over the past six months, include your previous address as well.

REDUCE

This is the part that Marie Kondo has helped you with and the inspiration for this series of blog posts!

REUSE

  • Shred it
    • use as packing filler when shipping items
    • use as basket filler for Easter
    • use to layer your compost
  • Make your own paper!
    • I did this last year for everyone’s tags on their Christmas presents, it was very simple and they could even plant the paper tags instead of throwing them away!
    • You’ll need a blender or food processor, wire mesh (I used a window screen at first) and water. Some optional items could be cookie cutters to shape the paper, flower petals to add texture and design, and seeds to make seed paper.
  • Business Cards
    • I love this idea! Think about it, each piece of junk mail already has your name and all of your contact information- just add some glue or sew it together to make a unique impression!
you can use heavier weight flyers you receive in the mail as the backboard and sew your info from the address on the mail to the front!

RECYCLE

So at first I thought that this section would be rather self-explanatory but it turns out there are some not well-known paper recycling hacks we should all brush up on! I found these tips at Earth911.com

  1. Avoid getting paper wet, as this significantly reduces the recycling market. If your curbside program accepts all materials in the same bin/cart, empty your containers before tossing them in so they don’t drain on your paper. If there’s rain in the forecast, wait until the morning of collection to put your bin at the curb.
  2. If possible, use a black marker to remove sensitive information instead of shredding paper. Ink is easily removed in the recycling process, but shredding paper reduces the fiber lengths, making it more difficult to recycle into new paper.
  3. Verify what types of paper are accepted in your area, as some communities only accept certain grades. Definitely check to see if your community accepts paper lined with plastic, such as frozen food boxes and cartons.
  4. In the case of boxes (cardboard and paperboard), break them down to save room in your recycling bin.

Tidying Up with Your Conscience: Books

The 4 R’s of sustainable living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Refuse

Step #1: someone standing on the corner handing out free books? You probably don’t need it. Books are tough for a lot of people because they are tangible sources of knowledge, creativity and wonder. Most of us can remember where we were when we read a particular book so we assign it sentimental meaning. Next time you find yourself itching to buy that new book, check if your local library has a copy. This will get you in the habit of not holding on to stories you are no longer reading.

Reduce

This is the part that Marie Kondo has helped you with and the inspiration for this series of blog posts!

Reuse

Books are made out of paper, so this section essentially challenges you to get creative with…..paper. I’ve included one of my favorite ways to upcycle books below, but if you’re interested in all the ways you can creatively re-imagine your novels, follow this link!

Book Letter

these make great gifts or decorations for special events!

Recycle

  • Donate to your local Library
  • Locate a “Little Free Library” in your area and share some of your favorites. Don’t have one in your area? Start your own- it’s very simple!
  • BetterWorldBooks
    • Find a donation center near you or mail your donation to them, note that most drop-off bins are located on the eastern half of the United States
  • Textbooks
    • textbooks are published so frequently that there is hardly ever a market for one you’ve used for only a year. So you have 2 choices; sell or recycle
    • SELL: BookScouter, BookByte, Decluttr, Cash4Books, BooksRun, BookFinder, & TextbookRush
    • RECYCLE: Donate to BetterWorldBooks, they do not have the same restrictions as second-hand book stores or Libraries

Tidying Up with Your Conscience: Komono

First I want to explain what exactly “komono” means. Contrary to what I initially thought while watching the show, komono does not mean “everything else that is not paper, clothing, books, or sentimental items”. Komono is the wildcard category that most people have a hard time visually or even verbally organizing. Komono literally means “small things/items” or “accessories” so it helps if we break that down by room, for example “kitchen komono”, “tech komono”, or “bathroom komono”.

The 4 R’s of sustainable living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

REFUSE

When I started working my first 9 to 5, I was flabbergasted by all of the little trinkets everyone had on their desks- it was like walking into a Happy Meal museum for adults. After a few weeks of working there I realized that these tiny relics were taking over our office because every business has “flare” or more accurately “door prizes” to keep potential clients thinking about them or talking about them. When I was new at my company, I had a hard time turning down these items because I felt it would be rude. One year into the job, I finally found my voice and it turned out that most people were annoyed by the trinkets. So here are a few tips for turning down unwanted swag:

  1. Say “No” Before You Go
    • If you are hosting an event, ask people to leave their swag at home and to only bring what is necessary
    • In the event that this is not possible, make sure that door prize-like items are always optional and not every person is given one without their consent
  2. Communicate with Friends & Family
    1. If someone you now or love is going on a trip and they usually bring you back something, ask them to instead send you a specific picture of them doing something or even of the item that made them think of you. It helps family and friends if you explain to them why you don’t want them to bring you something back- you could express your interest in downsizing and living minimally, tell them about your sustainability efforts, etc. It’s important to include them in on your solution so they don’t feel like they are the problem
  3. Be Prepared
    • Bring a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, napkin, utensils, etc. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to grab that novelty squirt bottle that you never actually needed but were too thirsty to pass up

And if you are out shopping or something catches your eye, ask yourself these 7 questions:

  1. Do I need it?
  2. Can I use something else?
  3. Do I have something similar used for a similar purpose?
  4. Will this be used at least 5 times?
  5. Is this good quality and will it last?
  6. Do I support how and where it was made?
  7. Will this bring joy into my life?

REDUCE

REUSE

There is so much to cover in this section that my best word of advice for you would be to Google “upcycle or DIY ___________” and then whatever item it is you’d like to re-purpose. Here are some really cool projects I found online:

RECYCLE

  • Electronics
    • FreeCycle
    • Computers for Schools
    • World Computer Exchange
    • Earth911
  • Furniture
    • Habitat for Humanity
  • Household Items
  • Garden & Garage

Upcycle Old Jeans

Explore some of these DIY projects to upcycle old jeans!

Simple Chic Bag

Make your own durable lunch bag by following these simple steps!

Hair Bows

Get creative and be as fancy or as simple as you want!

A WHALE

Get your sewing machine out of storage because this whale is adorable

Wine Bag

Simple. Useful. What else are you supposed to do with white jeans…?

Need even more ideas?

Levis Strauss has come up with some fun and interesting ways to re-imagine your jeans

Upcyle Underwear

  1. Compost: if you purchase 100% cotton underwear then just cut the tags, the elastic waistband, and then cut up the natural material into smaller squares so it can breakdown faster in the bin
  2. Cleaning rags from softer material or scrubbies from harsher material
  3. Stuffing: cut up material and use as stuffing in pillows or pet beds (you can do this with socks too, dogs especially would like a dirty sock of yours to sleep with!)
Use old clothes to stuff a floor pouf, pillow, or dog bed!

Bonus! Scrunchie: okay this one is a little weird but underwear in good condition would make a great hair tie!

Upcycle Old Bras

How to Prolong the Life of your Bra

Before you recycle or upcycle your bras, make sure you’re caring for them properly to get the most out of your undergarment. Get the tips here!

How to Recycle Gently Used Bras

  • The Bra Recyclers take back gently used bras and donates them back into communities in need. You can drop them off at their location in Arizona or mail them
  • Bras for a Cause is a nonprofit that helps women restore their self-image after breast cancer surgery

How to Upcycle

Swimsuit

photo courtesy of AllDayChic
The best option in my opinion!

Support Your Garden

Stockings, old bathing suits and bras make great supports for heavy fruit in the garden!

Add Support to a Top

Photo courtesy of A Beautiful Mess (linked above)
For all my big-busted babes, this one is for you!

Unique Upcycle

Bra Purse

Not really my style but you can downplay to fit your needs

Pet Ball

Self-explanatory

Upcycle Old Socks

Dryer Balls

just add tennis balls or roll them into themselves and sew them shut!

Cleaning Rag

fits like a glove!

Potpourri

fill & then close with a rubberband or hand sew!

Find small items

place a sock over the hose part of your vacuum cleaner to pick up small items that have fallen on the ground

Sock Bun

need I say more?

Tidying Up with Your Conscience: Clothing

The 4 R’s of sustainable living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

REFUSE

I have to get this out of my system before I get too far into this: only buy what you need and what will outlast fads, borrow from friends or family, buy secondhand when possible, and if you absolutely must- buy ethical and impeccably well made (to last!).

In the DC area? Check out some of my favorite consignment shops here!

REDUCE

This is the part that Marie Kondo has helped you with and the inspiration for this series of blog posts!

REUSE

If you are not a DIY-er please just skip ahead to “RECYCLE”- I don’t want to lose you with terms like “hand sew” or “hot glue”. If you’re up for the challenge…. proceed with caution. This section is reserved for items of clothing that may not be suitable for donation but still have value, either practical or sentimental. Time to get creative….

RECYCLE

After all that hard work downsizing, you now have a pile of perfectly good clothes that no longer bring you joy, congratulations. If you’re reading this, then you’ve already decided that you want to responsibly dispose of or donate the items you no longer want. What I hope you’ll get out of this, is the framework to accurately and efficiently decipher which second-hand stores or re-sellers are prioritizing responsible resource re-allocation. Some general ideas to look into in your area are non-profits, community resource groups, and consignment stores.

The Non-profit Leaders

For some of us, donation centers are the easiest and most responsible place to re-home discarded clothing items. Let’s start with the big wigs…

Take for example Goodwill, which has a CharityWatch Rating of A. I have identified 3 important aspects of responsible and worthwhile giving: Community Impact, Sustainability, & Economic Impact

Community Impact

  • job training and support services to help people overcome challenges to build skills, find jobs, and grow their careers
  • GoodProspects is an online program of Goodwill where people seeking jobs or exploring careers can get advice from people that have worked in the field in which they are interested
  • Goodwill has hired nearly 1,800 veterans and military family members and has served nearly 100,000 more with job training and placement services and announced in 2013 that they are in the process of engaging 3,000 women veterans

Sustainability

  • in 2010, Goodwill launched the Donate Movement to demonstrate the value that donated goods have for people and the planet
  • Goodwill’s vision for the Donate icon is a universal reminder to ‘recycle’ through responsible donation, helping provide opportunities for others while diverting usable items from landfills

Economic Impact

  • in 2015, the group served more than 37 million people, with more than 312,000 people placed into employment
  • more than 87 percent of the collective revenue from the sale of donated goods at Goodwill organizations supports and grows their critical community-based programs and services

Community Resource Groups

Family & Friends

  • Hand-me-ups!
    • before you give your clothes to strangers, considering passing them on to a family member or a friend. This way you can ensure that your items will be loved and could even hold some sentimental value for the person you’re passing it on to
  • Get Social! Clothing Swaps as ladies night or wine night!
    • why wait for a holiday to do a white elephant gift exchange? As the seasons change, you can invite your friends to bring their “donation clothes” for a clothing swap!

Free Community Exchange

  • Buy Nothing Project
    • Buy Nothing is a movement that offers people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors
    • I cannot sing BN’s praises loudly enough. This online gifting community has brought me friends in my neighborhood, help when I need it, and an opportunity to give back to the people who make my community such a unique place to live
  • FreeCycle
    • The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,315 groups with 9,264,726 members around the world, and next door to you. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods
  • Nextdoor
    • Nextdoor is more than just a marketplace for you to exchange items with your neighbors, it’s also a platform to exchange information within your community. This is a great place to go if you have questions about local donation options or second-hand stores in the area

Make $$$ Thrift & Consignment

  • ThredUp
    • ThredUp is a fashion resale website for consumers to buy and sell secondhand clothing online. ThredUP is part of a larger Collaborative Consumption movement, which encourages consumers to live in a more collective, sharing economy
  • Etsy
    • Etsy is an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. These items fall under a wide range of categories, including jewelry, bags, clothing, home décor and furniture, toys, art, as well as craft supplies and tools
    • Etsy is a better option for those of you who may be interested in upcycling your old items and starting a small side-hustle. If that sounds like you, check out this *guide to starting your own store*
    • Sustainability: Etsy is a leader when it comes to stewardship for the environment. Check out their progressive initiatives here
  • Miscellaneous- feel free to explore these other options:
    • FB Marketplace
    • Ebay & Craigslist
    • Let Go
    • PoshMark
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