Monday, May 2, 2011

No plastic revolution!

Here I am months after my week+ of total abstinence from purchasing plastic. Did it do any good? I don't know. I know a few people started using reusable shopping bags. The city still seems ambivalent about getting stores and restaurants to stop handing out plastic bags. People know I personally don't want plastic bags and packaging in my life, but did I really inform anyone about what affect it's having on their lives?

My sister just called me yesterday very upset about something she saw on the news about BPA's in most things we use and consume. That's the thing I talked about in an early blog that acts like estrogen and interrupts reproductive systems. Got something called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? There's a good chance some BPA's were involved in setting you up for that at an early age. It's in baby formula containers, cans, bottles, recyclable containers, your car, your computer - and get this - receipts. Plastic isn't just hard to decompose - it harms our bodies, especially when we're young, vulnerable and dependent on someone else to keep us safe.

This list of what BPA's do to us goes on and on at:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Community cleanup project

Recently, I misplaced my bike, so I was walking everywhere. It's amazing how walking slows life down, and makes us notice the details. Unfortunately, a detail I've noticed is that every time I leave my house or the bus, I immediately find a plastic bag on the ground. Within the next block, I have that bag filled with other garbage from peoples' yards. Even on my bike, I stop along my way and pick up garbage to deposit in the next can I pass.

I walked from work to the co-op on Monday, and was dismayed to see a disgusting sea of trash on the river bank under the 3rd street bridge in Corvallis. Plastic bags were everywhere in the grass. We wonder how bags and plastics get into our oceans? Well, look at the picture on this blog and wonder no more. So, yesterday, I snagged a colleague to protect me from the drunk guys in the park and went down there to clean it up. Once we got there, the source was pretty clear. In the darkness above my head in the photo are a bunch of people huddled under the bridge. Great, that means there are greater social implications to the garbage problem, not just people being careless. Don't get me started on that.

So, what are we going to do about it? Start a fun community project! Yeehaw! All you do is take yourself, your family, a scout troop, a school class and clean up some garbage. Look on Zoom over to your town and into the spot where you picked up the garbage, get the latitude and longitude of exactly where you were, and send them to me. Tell me the date you did it, who did it, and how many pieces of garbage you picked up ( I will add it to my map online (, and we can track where people are picking up garbage in the community. You can even send a picture to be posted as an attachment to the map and give us a visual of the garbage and/or your group doing something great for the environment. Remember to be safe. Wear gloves, if you're a germa-phobe, but let's get out there and clean some things up!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night...

...when I rode into work this morning. It's still so dark outside, I can't see anything out of my office window. As many people know, I've launched a car-free lifestyle since July. Granted, my husband still owns a car, and I do ride in it sometimes, but in general, I'm getting around on foot, by bike or on the bus. Sometimes, I even get my husband and my daughter to do the same. It's been fun in the late summer, warm, light out. Often, I have take more scenic routes to or from work just to enjoy being out in the sun. This month, of course, the days started getting shorter. I had to steal my husband's headband work light to use as a headlight for my bike. That solved the darkness issue. Then, it got very cold, so I had to get some fingerless glove/mitten things. And now, the ultimate challenge - the rain. It's pretty intimidating at first. The idea of getting to work wet and cold in the morning doesn't appeal. I rode the bus the first half of this week, glad for the shelter and warm friendly faces on the bus.

(On an aside: there's a sweet old man on the bus who it turns out just rides it around and around all day to have someone to talk to).

But, I had to strengthen my resolve, get my act together and brave the storm on my bike. I went to Fred Meyer and got some super cozy rain clothes (50% off!). The pants are lined and padded and they have lots of zipped pockets to keep stuff dry. This morning, I put my work clothes in a water-proofed reusable bag my husband scored when he did some work at an eco-construction company (, and I headed off into the stormy darkness. It had occurred to me that I might want to ride without my glasses, but a blog I read from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (, said that glasses help keep the raindrops out of your eyes. And, well, yes that is true.

I have to say that it was a much more aerobic workout this morning, because I was in a hurry to get out of the wet and dark. I felt pretty studly walking into work with my slick biking clothes that went "squick, squick" when I walked. Then, I ducked into a bathroom stall like Superman to emerge in my jeans and "Save a tree for a better future" t-shirt. Of course, when I walked into the bathroom, I saw that someone had left the faucet on, which prompted an exhasperated, "Oh, who would do that?" But, so far, it's been an invigorating morning. The rain and the night have been conquered, at least for today. Hopefully, my bike chain won't rust in the many hours while I'm at work. It would be great if the bike chain fairy would stop by and squirt it with a shot of W-D 40. If it gets some rust, and my ride home is difficult, I'm sure I won't forget that part again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's been about a month since I've posted. Have I had writer's block? Did I run out of interesting things to say? On the contrary. I've had so many interesting experiences, I couldn't even keep up with them all.

First, we moved into Corvallis from Albany, OR. I had been riding the bus or working from home, since I sold my car in July. Now, I live just 3.6 miles from work. It's a five minute bus ride with a 15 minute walk or a 20 minute bike ride. My husband still has his car, which is new, small and gets great gas mileage. He feels like he almost never has to get gas unless we take a trip to Portland or something.

The really awesome thing is that there is a co-op grocery store within biking distance of my house, and another within walking distance from my office! I can ride or walk to get local organic and bulk foods. I keep reusable containers in my backpack and mesh produce bags in my purse, and I can stop by the co-op on my way home from work, or just take a ride there with my husband or kid and get whatever we need - without buying any plastic! People often come up and ask me how to use the bulk foods and reusable container system and whether or not they should invest in the mesh bags for their produce. I show them how to get cheese, tofu, peanut butter, cereal, frozen fruit - just about everything all in reusable containers.

So, the thing is that I'm feeling in a little bit of a bubble now. I can sort of tune out the rest of the community who doesn't shop local, organic and non-plastic. Until I go to Albertson's or K-Mart or something. Then, I get a little depressed. It's in places like that where I think, "This is what it's like in the rest of the country, or even the rest of my town. People are clueless - just buying up crap, because it's what's there." It's not even cheaper. We've been shocked how much money we save now that we don't pay for packaging. And, my idea of buying reusable bags from each store and passing them out to customers has developed a hitch, because the only store with a reasonably-sized reusable bag is Fred Meyer. Theirs are awesome, and many of their customers are using them. Safeway, Albertson's and K-mart just have wimpy little bags that are like a vague nod at being environmentally friendly. I'm contemplating buying Fred Meyer bags and handing them out at the other stores. I didn't want to do that, because I wanted the stores to feel like I was advertising for them, but they're making it pretty impossible to get behind any of their choices. I don't think people would accept home-made bags, but I might try that. I'm going to have to start writing letters to the stores, I guess.

Advocating for a cleaner life is becoming a second - oh wait third, oh wait fourth job. I feel like so many people in Corvallis are conscientious and "green" that it's almost harder to get things done for those who aren't.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cereal Killer

So, the point of contention in our household with the no plastic thing is cereal. My husband and daughter live on cereal. My husband is trying to point out that his brand of cereal comes in a mostly recycled box. Another brand, claims to be saving packaging, by making the box bigger and giving you more cereal. Please, can't we be smarter than that? LOL

For the record, I never tell my family, "No, you can't buy that, it's packaged in plastic." They just feel guilty if they do, because they know too much about it. My husband is wrestling with adjusting his diet to a point where his stomach and insomnia issues disappear, so packaging isn't the biggest worry of his right now. However, if his gluten free, dairy free coconut ice cream comes in a total plastic free container, everyone is happy.

Anyway, down to the point - cereal. As No Impact Man points out, you want what's in the box, but you have to buy the box and the plastic bag in the box to get it. Even then, you don't get very much of it, so you have to do it at least once a week, if not more, depending on your family's cereal addiction. So, our new solution: homemade granola. It takes me back to my wilderness girl days when cereal was a nutty crunchy adventure concocted by my earth-mama grandmother and "cookies" were the clumps that formed in the granola jar. Yumm-ee!

We have to use gluten free oats, but for those who don't, oats can be found in the bulk section, so you can bring your own reusable container for them. Yay! All of the other ingredients can be gotten in bulk too. It's so earth-friendly and more economic! It gives new meaning to the term "granola girl." The recipe is below, starting with the simplest basics and then leading to some extra wild and wonderful suggestions. Beware, that this is really good cereal, and pretty packed with good stuff as well as some calories, so enjoy in moderation.

Basic granola:

4 cups oats
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup

Mix all the stuff together until the oats are coated with sticky goo, spread on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and bake at 250 degrees for about 25 min. Everything will be shiny, but the oats should feel dry, and the nuts should be roasted to your taste. Let cool, but not all the way (or your cereal will never come off the sheet), and put into a reusable container, preferably a glass jar.

Other ideas: sesame seeds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried apricots, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds (the best granola has them all at the same time!)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Impact Man

The other night, my family and I watched the film "No Impact Man." We thought it was going to be a spoof about a guy who is over the edge with trying to be eco-positive to the point of driving away his family. It turned out to be a documentary about a writer who challenges himself to one year with zero environmental impact from his family, living in New York City. They gave up all motorized transportation and started walking and riding bikes, stopped using plastic of any kind, bought only local, fresh, organic foods, became vegetarian and starting a worm, composting bin in their apartment. Ok, that's mostly stuff I already do. Many people in Corvallis and Portland are on that track. After being on this path for a few months, he decided they should also give up television, toilet paper and electricity. Life became like camping in a tiny New York apartment. People got angry at them for being "unsanitary." But, they made it through the year without getting sick or losing their jobs or endangering their child. You can read more about this experiment at: The movie is also pretty fun and inspiring to watch. For me, it was great, because now I can say to my family, "at least I let you use toilet paper."

Our big challenge right now is getting rid of stuff. We've massively downsized from our big historic house in Albany to a little house in Corvallis. Wow, moving is wasteful! Plastic abstinence went out the window for the weekend of moving, that's for sure! I had to make a trade-off, because my green bamboo flooring I chose to install in our new home office was wrapped in plastic. Oh what a wonderful treat, when you unwrap it though! I had no idea bamboo had such an amazing smell. It's like a cedar forest - or maybe a bamboo forest? And it looks great too.

What I've learned through this move is that despite the fact that we have been living simply, buying used clothes and furniture or making our own, we've still accumulated too much stuff! Of the three R's, we've got the "reuse" and "recycle" down, but the reduce part is what we have to work on now. Freecycle, Craiglist, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, watch out, here we come!

On a positive note, I was able to ride my bike to work today. We've moved to Corvallis, 3.6 miles from my work just in time for national bike commute to work week. Yes! It feels great! High five, No Impact Man!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Today, I was the bag lady. I got dragged a little begrudgingly to the store this morning, because we were out of cereal. I perked up walking through the door though, because there was a big rack of nice reusable bags for 99 cents each. I bought ten, got some cereal and dog food, and went to stand outside the door to hand out the bags. The responses were so interesting! The first guy was so shocked and happy. He had a plastic bag partially full of groceries and his other arm was awkwardly juggling some sort of small appliance in a box. He immediately stopped and tried to wrestle the appliance into the bag, so I helped him, and then he had long, handy straps to help him carry it more comfortably. He was very happy. Most of the people were really happy to get a nice free bag. Some of the people also asked for the mesh produce bags I was holding. Some people said no. Some were very suspicious. It's funny how jaded people get by the fact that everything in our society is supposedly for a profit or a scam. A few people had their own bags, and I thanked and praised them for remembering them. When I gave one guy a bag, he said, "Why?" I said, "Because I want you to use it." He held up his plastic bags and said, "At least I saved a tree." I spared him the lecture.

After giving away my last bag at the Albany store, I went home, got dressed and drove into Corvallis to do the same thing there. I bought twenty bags this time. My poor husband is sure this is going to break us, but I have to admit that it makes me feel great, and the more people rain on my parade, the more likely I am to need to do it some more.

Corvallis was more open to the bags, and many people there were walking in with their reusable bags and boxes. People were so excited to get reusable bags. They couldn't believe they were free. Several people said, "You're giving me something free? Sure, I'll take anything that's free!" One lady said, "Well, what's the catch?" No catch. "I mean, what's the gimmick?" No gimmick. Just next time you come to the store, please use it. A few people said, "No thank you," going into the store, but when they came out of the store, they said, "You're really just giving these to people for free?" Yes. "Okay, then, thanks, I do want one." Awesome. One lady thought the bag was so nice, she wanted to use it to carry things to her classroom at school, not for groceries. That's not really the point, but oh well. At least she won't be using plastic bags for that I guess.

The last bag is always the hardest for me, because I really feel like just this random lady standing there with a bag, suddenly offering it to an unsuspecting shopper. Who knows where it came from? Luckily, it feels stranger to me than it does to them. The last bag I gave in Corvallis was to a teenaged boy. I was worried he wouldn't take it, because a couple of young guys had been cheeky about not taking bags and intentionally coming back out carrying arms full of plastic bags to "show" me. But, he looked amazed, like I had given him a hug or something. When I was done, I just started walking down the street with that giddy happy feeling of randomly brightening the day of thirty total strangers (and the people who watched from their cars and cafe tables). It's a good way to bounce back from the things that weigh a person down.