Waste

My DOT

I was at a networking event tonight (hosted by my fabulous old friends at Sustainable Brands) and was asked to wear a DOT, a blue button where I’d write my commitment to ‘Do One Thing’ for the world. At first I thought, holy shit are you copying my GGG website because that’s legit what I’m trying to get people to do, and then I realized the event was also hosted by Saatchi S who has been doing DOT since 2006 when they started it with WalMart. In 2006 I was still traipsing around Australia and had a belly button ring (truth).

Then I thought, ugh I already do a lot of things (biking to work, composting, reusing, going organic/local/fair trade/ethically-made), you want me to add another thing!? I told them I couldn’t do it, I was already the most sustainable person in the room (that may have been the wine talking..). I quickly realized I was full of crap and that we can all Do One (more) Thing. My buddy Mike had a really good one, to smile at 3 strangers a day. Spreading cosmic happiness human to human. Another gem came from my friend Jess (who side note is the most fun human I’ve ever met), who is going to buy clothing and things second-hand (craigslist, buffalo exchange, etc.).

I settled on ‘buy less packaged goods’. I’m going to make an effort to go to the amazing grocery stores out here that sell things in bulk (Rainbow, Berkeley Bowl, even isles in WFs) and bring my reusable bags, pouches, and tupperware to stock up. I’m also going to get my reusable salad bowl back out of storage. In truth I stopped bring it around SF because all takeaway containers here have to be compostable  vs. the styrofoam in NYC. I know however that producing and breaking down those compostable takeaway containers uses energy, water, and resources and I could just as easily bring my own bowl/container. I’m also going to continue to stalk the most incredible grocery store/idea of all times, In.gredients, based in Austin, to see if they’ll let me open one for them in SF. Ingredients is an entire grocery store that only sells things in bulk. Bring your own milk jug, juice container, jar for olive oil, granola bar bag, etc. Incredible, f’ing incredible. In.gredients, please come to SF, I will work for you for free.

That’s my DOT for now. What’s yours?

You can always message me if you need inspiration: gudergoesgreen@gmail.com!

in.gredients

Another Leg-Powered Vacation: Our Patagonian Honeymoon

We did it again. Except this time we hiked (there were some bicycles-through a vineyard and tandem style through Santiago). After a few days touring Santiago, we hiked through the Lake District in the northern part of Patagonia in Chile, for a week. It was so. freaking. amazing.

We were in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park and we went with a guide through One Seed Expeditions. One Seed was simply the best. They employ all local guides, we stayed with local people, and their basic goal is to eradicate poverty by employing people through tourism. It was also a no-waste trip (the food was made by our local hosts and they make it or killed it themselves). One house had built their own hydro-electric dam, and no one anywhere near us had a car. They had legs, and horses. We ate a lamb a few hours after it was killed (yes I ate a lamb – talk about sustainable meat though!), and they handmade everything (the butter, the honey, the bread). It was some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten…oh take me back. People + Environment, this was my kind of vacation! 

I think the pictures tell the best story but I’ll give you some highlights: dinner in the German inspired village of Puerto Varas before the hike; a motorized row-boat ride across the Emerald Lake (after a 2 hour van ride, this hour boat ride, and 6 hours of hiking we finally reached the first house!); hiking to the top of a mountain up to a volcano – I felt like we were in National Geographic/only humans in the world; our honeymoon suite tent (I almost cried from exhaustion in it one night but took a nap instead); all the unbelievably gorgeous lakes!; the honey, the butter, the bread, the cake; the warm Chilean people; digging our own holes in natural hot springs next to the lake; and a relaxing adventure to Valpariso when we returned!

Luckily Simon and I find intimacy/happiness when we’re supporting each other through things. This may have not been the most relaxing honeymoon (if I did it again I’d add two days at the end to just sit on a beach!), it was the absolute perfect one for us to celebrate the first week of our marriage.

Thank you Chile, and thank you One Seed for the best honeymoon we could have imagined!

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There is a Styrofoam Hummer at SFO

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There is life-size and detailed Hummer made of Styrofoam at San Francisco International Airport. It symbolizes all the excess and waste in our society; I get it.

It’s part of The Art of Recology Exhibition now in terminal 3, and there until October.

As you may know I’m a little obsessed with Recology (80% waste diversion rate in SF thanks to them! Municipal composting!), and one program I absolutely love is their artists in residence program. Artists (like the one that made the styro-hummer) make all of their pieces out of things found in the dump. There are dresses, paintings, sculptures, the works. Check it out! This one in particular was my favorite because I hate Styrofoam. HATE it. It doesn’t breakdown for over 500+ years, produces toxic chemicals when it’s being formed, and breaks up all tiny and fucks with ocean life. I think it’s actually illegal in SF (oh how I love this city!).

And kudos to SFO for displaying art exhibits in the terminals. Yet another reason why I’m never leaving SF.

A Zero-Waste & Local Wedding

Well, I got married in March. It was absolutely the best day of my life, surrounded by 70 of our favorite people. Throughout the planning process (all 2.5 months of it) we worked super hard to make sure we had no waste and were minimizing our purchases. Man the wedding ‘industry’ tells you to buy all sorts of shit and it’s kind of hard not to get swept up in it…maybe I do need personalized stationary, a photobooth, and paper lanterns that we set free into the sky. To be honest, taking the minimalist approach also saved us a ton of money.

Here’s some simple things we did (and of course we didn’t get it all right!):

-Online invitations. Yep, nothing printed! I designed it in InDesign, we emailed it out, & people emailed back a yes or no. Simon also made us a great website w/ more details (www.letsbuildafort.com). (See below, free)

-We made sure the location, The Stable Cafe, had composting. The food (Jennifer’s Lunch) was so amazing that there was barely anything left and the catering staff took what was left home!

-Our centerpieces were terrariums rented from the amazing Lila B ($100 total), pieces of free driftwood our friend Shannon found on the beach (she was our wedding designer!), butcher paper that was then recycled, and all of our dishware/napkins/the tent/heat lamps were rented and returned  after.

-Edible favors! Amazing muffins, croissants, pastries, and surprise baked goods from our favorite local place: Craftsman & Wolves. They were packaged in compostable thin brown bags (total spent on favors less than $200).

-Groom & Groomsman had upcycled boutonnieres (Thanks Anna!)

-Reused old wood to write signage on (free)

-Reused an old window pane for seating assignments ($20 supply store)

-Bridesmaids could pick their own dress and one of them reused (1 free!)!

-We didn’t do any decorations – the cafe already had twinkle lights, trees, plants and that was good enough for us! (Free)

-All local and organic food. (Our plates were only $120/person for passed appetizers, bus snacks, chicken/steak/vegetarian options -and EVERYTHING was organic and local!)

-All local wine. With Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River so close, how could we not! Also all local beer except my Dad requested a 30 pack of Coors Light (seriously).

-Our favorite local pies & local legend blue bottle coffee

-We all walked to our after-party at Mission Bowling Club

-Thank you post-cards (save a whole envelope, recycled, soy ink!) from our favorite SF designer, Notify.

-Our rings had no gems or diamonds (conflict free) and were made by a local designer out of gold (mine) and stainless steel (Simon’s)

Eco-fails:

-I bought a new dress. I looked at a lot of reused options (actually tried to get the dress I loved/wore reused but couldn’t find it) and looked at upcycled options but in the end fell in love with my Claire Pettinbone. I also bought new earrings from an NYC boutique and new shoes from Anthropologie. I reused my grandmother’s purse.

-We took the entire wedding party on a cocktail-hour bus tour of San Francisco for 2 hours. Definitely better than doing cabs or something but we could have just stayed put and not put those bus GHGs into the atmosphere. Again, it was totally worth it. It was one of my favorite parts of the wedding and the first time to SF & to the Pacific for many of our family members!

-We had Shannon pick up and make sunflower bouquets from the SF flower market. They were very simple and incredibly gorgeous (and we composted them), and I don’t regret it, I just loved them.

-Groomsman all bought a new shirt and Simon bought a new vest and tie.

-We had a ‘sign in chair’ but also printed a postcard of ourselves and each person that came to the wedding and had them write notes on them. That, one menu for each of the 6 tables, and pieces of paper that Shannon wrote table numbers on were the only paper we used.

Enjoy the pics below and feel free to ask any questions about any of the above choices!

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Perhaps an eco baby gift?

Leah (yes the Leah who wrote about period cups) is preggers!! I’m super excited for her and her hubby and my mind obviously went straight to baby gifts. We sent them a few PeopleTowels in the mail (honestly, who doesn’t need a PeopleTowel) because I’ve heard babies are messy and then we put together this gem:

 

Things started off good; I found a Burt’s Bees Baby Bee set while at Target. I’ve been iffy on Burt’s since they were bought by Clorox, but still use a few of their products with positive GoodGuide ratings. This set contained no parabens, no fragrances, no sulfates, no phthalates, no petrochemicals. It was certified cruelty-free AND the tray was made from potato starch and the box is 60% post-consumer content. It also seemed to contain all of those things you need for a baby (diaper cream, baby shampoo, you know).

I was feeling pretty good until I took a tour down the baby clothing isle and ended up with this adorable duck face baby towel. I probably should have bought a similar organic cotton version online (if I was being truly eco) but the thing was so damn cute. I made up for it by then heading to my new favorite reuse center SCRAP. I LOVE this place. It only sells reused crafty things and it also is a non-profit that focuses on getting art donations to low-income schools and teachers. I browsed around and found half a roll of yellow wrapping paper and a cute wicker baby carriage (I also bought a hurricane candle holder, several items to make a jewelry board, another basket, and a hangy thing with hooks and the total was $6).  I got home, wrapped everything together with some twine that was once on a present of mine, made a card out of recycled paper (scroll style, sweet right), and felt pretty smug about myself.

That was until I spent an hour researching D-Limonene.  I figured I should check GoodGuide before I actually gave them the present, and while most of the BB products I use score an 8 in health, several of the items in the Baby Bee box were at a 4 (environment and social categories were high so overall scores were 6). Crap. The reason was the same in each category: D-Limonene, a completely natural ingredient found in lemons (which is why I hate that meaningless word natural!). I read EPA reports, Scorecard summaries, and in my opinion the research is sketchy and it seems pretty harmless. It hasn’t really been proven to do anything bad. And, many doctors and naturopaths recommended ingesting it for cancer prevention, as a digestive aid, and to treat gallstones. It’s found in almost every food that has a citrus flavor (gum, pudding, OJ) and the EPA classifies it as low-toxicity. The best summary article can be found here.

I still gave Leah the present and will let her make the choice on whether to return it, but I did mentally kick myself for not pulling out the GoodGuide app at Target and figuring all of this out before purchasing it. I think this also just goes to show that no matter how hard you try, you very often will not get it all right.

I’m in love with our new table.

People seem to think that the eco-friendly option is always the more expensive one. I’m sure this stems from years ago when anything organic or Fair Trade was 50% more (side note market demand is starting to really even some things out!).

One eco-friendly item that isn’t more expensive than its regular counterpart: our fabulous new kitchen table. I was strolling through SF’s Indie-mart, a mecca for the local/eco minded, and came across J and his shop The Dirt Floor Studio. My breath caught as I slid my fingers across a reddish-brown farm table with dark knots, wide beams, exposed screw heads, and bench seats. I fell in love, but it looked like something I could never afford. I have a phobia of talking to any sales-type person if I know I can’t buy what they’re selling. However, for this table, I pushed my limits. We didn’t talk dollars. We talked reclaimed wood, reuse, and how he could make something to fit any budget. (Any budget I thought? Even a recent grad student’s?!). I took his card.

He seemed so nice and honest that I found myself working up the nerve to call him a few days later. I paced around the apartment waiting for dollar signs that would crush my dream of owning this or a similar table. I researched similar reclaimed tables at Pottery Barn and at antique stores and the prices for one bench SEAT started at $549 (the same size table at Pottery Barn would have been $2200). Our budget was about $600, crap.

I panicked as I told him this over the phone, but all I heard was ‘ok, I can work with that.’ YES! We chatted further – he could get less fancy reclaimed wood and joinery; there is a way. We had another phone call and a few emails as I saw pictures of his work and pointed out things I liked. This all led straight back to the original table I saw. After one of our chats, J told me he would sell us THE farm table for $700 with the two benches included. He also lowered the table and expanded the benches for no additional cost to fit with our space and the style we had in mind.

Less than a week later, we had this gorgeous piece of art to light up our living room. The wood came from an old barn in Nevada, he built it by hand, and though ours has a polyurethane seal because it is a soft wood, many of his tables instead are finished with a hot linseed oil soak, multiple rubs of Tung oil with a beeswax top rub. So, buy local, buy reused, chat with the artist. The result can be incredibly unique.

Starting the Week Off Right- GGG 1st Giveaway!

In addition to sharing green tips, I’m now in a fun place where I can share some of my favorite green items! We’re starting off small, but have even more great green gifts coming down the line this fall.

For our first giveaway we have two sets (2 in each set) of awesome on-the-go alternatives to paper towels, PeopleTowels.

I use mine ALL the time, as a place to dry my hands in the kitchen, bathroom at work, and as a napkin/spill remedy (I spill a lot…).

PeopleTowels are not only absorbant, convenient, and colorful, they are also 100% Organic cotton (thus compostable) and Fair Trade Certified (my favorite certification!). I am giving away two of these PeopleTowels 2 Packs (in Sustain, Not a Tree, Blue, and Celebrate Earth Day Everyday prints).

To enter: tweet this article and let me know the one simple step you are going to take this September to be green. Make sure to cc @Gudergoesgreen! No Twitter? Then post a comment with your simple green step below.  I’ll announce a winner by Sept. 1!

A Move Made Green

We have moved, yet again. This time (luckily) we only moved across town, instead of across the country. While I have no tips for moving across country except to not ship anything breakable, ever, I do have some easy ways to stay green if you’re moving somewhere close by.

First, you do not need bubble wrap, newspaper, or any packaging materials that will just end up in the trash. Use your clothes instead! I wrapped every glass, dish, picture frame, and even Nana’s china platters in clothes, towels, and sheets that were already coming along. It saves you a ton of excess material waste and cost, is easier, and as long as you are not shipping the boxes (nothing survives shipping no matter how you wrap it), it stays safe. 100% of the items we moved across town wrapped in clothes made it perfectly intact. To wrap a glass, I like to use a T-shirt. I stick one sleeve inside the glass, then roll the it up. I put jeans or pants in the bottom and top of the box with layers of these T-shirted dishes inside.

 

 

 

 

 

We also buy bankers boxes that can be reused over and over again instead of shipping boxes. While the previous bankers boxes didn’t make it across country (you can’t ship them because of the handles/top), we used our last ones for 3 moves and storage and know we’ll get a lot of use out of these new ones too. They are 65% post-consumer recycled (the good kind remember!) at Staples. We also labeled them generically as ‘bathroom, bedroom, living room, storage, or kitchen’ as there is almost no chance next time you move you’ll put the same exact things in each box, but you can easily put items from the same room in each box. If you’re moving across town or driving to another state you don’t really need to know what exactly is in each box, only where you should put it. The bankers boxes also fold and unfold for easy storage. We also used reusable bags, boxes, and suitcases that we had around the house and are proud to say we only used 1 garbage bag (I’ve seen some people move with ALL garbage bags) that we then promptly put into our garbage bin to reuse!

Moving is also a perfect time for purging and donating what you don’t need to your local reuse center – in our case GoodWill. Those pants you’re saving to wear for that one special occasion that hasn’t happened in 3 years, the shoes that don’t go with anything, and even that frying pan that you bought at Target for $10 but don’t use because you were given really nice pans as a gift – they all will be put to great use by others!

Finally day-of details. Instead of borrowing friends cars and moving things piecemeal, we rented a UHaul for $20 and moved everything in one shot (less gas = less pollution = less GHGs). We also hired day laborers from SF Day Labor, a worker-led nonprofit that allows those with barriers to employment (language, education, prior life choices, etc) a place to come together and organize. The nonprofit pays the workers 100% of the dollars we gave them (they keep themselves afloat through grants and private funding), and the workers were fantastic (and cheap!). Two movers for 3 hours each was only $100 total and it felt great to be able to employ a fellow San Franciscan who really wanted to work. Check into these type of organizations (another larger one in SF is Delancy Street which employees only ex-convicts), as you get really reliable people trying to turn their lives around. What better way to support the sustainability of your city or town?

Swing and a Miss: Compostable Sponges Suck.

A friend told me that she tired out Leah’s ‘cup’ and had a hard time with it, but didn’t want to comment about something ‘not working’. I told her to comment away because the things that don’t work are the ones we need to focus our energy on! Sometimes you might need a different explanation, and often the product itself still needs a little tweaking, but that’s how we’ll get to real change. Learning and trying things, seeing how they work, and advocating to make them better. I do try pretty hard to find something that does work in a ‘green category’ before I post, but I often go through a few losers on the way.

One such category is coming up all losers. I still haven’t found a compostable sponge that doesn’t suck. Sponges are one of those annoying trash items that I know must have a suitable green option. I envision all the sponges I’ve used in my lifetime sitting in a landfill in Pennsylvania (because that’s where NYC ships their trash), and it irks me. But, I’ve gone through a few of these bad boys and they’re all completely useless. They tend to absorb water and can clean things that don’t have any build up on them, but a dirty pan after it’s been in the oven, no chance. Or the pot we used to cook rice (I know I need a rice cooker), scrubbed and scrubbed; still nothing.

I’ve tried microfiber, I tried this adorable gem from a farmer’s co-op (thanks Mary!), and I’ve tried Trader Joe’s cellulose sponges. Fine to clean off a non-sticky item, but when it comes to the hard stuff (even if I soak it), fail, fail, fail.

The search will continue and I hope to post an update someday. If anyone finds something that works, let me know!

More Info on Plastic Bag Bans

For those of you more interested in the plastic bag problem, the BBC just published a recent article explaining the different approaches countries are taking to respond to this issue. While some countries (and US cities) have gone the complete ban route, others (like Ireland) have opted for a heavy levy that is adjusted on per capita plastic bag use, and has raised $99 million for their Environmental Fund. I think both paths have merit and it’s a good study to see the different results.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you’ve switched to ‘compostable bags’ make sure you live in an area that has municipal composting, otherwise the bags won’t break down! If you’re using them to send to landfills or in your own backyard, pick ones that say biodegradable so that they will break down with simple exposure to air and time.

There is also a lifecycle assessment at the end of the report (but be wary, you can often get an LCA to say whatever you want it to), that notes paper bags are often just as damaging if they aren’t reused and recycled (we use ours as recycling bags 4-5 times before sending them with the recycling). I mentioned this in my last post, but make sure you don’t buy more reusable bags than you need, as everything has a footprint!

Happy learning!

 

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