Triumph of the Weeds

February 1, 2016, 4:45 am
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I am nearing the end of my residency and am preparing for a major move yet again. I will be working on revamping this blog in the upcoming months, so look forward to lots of changes, including more regular posting.


About this blog
February 1, 2016, 4:34 am
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A professional class cosmopolitan ex-suburbanite living in the twilight of the American industrial empire exploration of the sustainability movement, permaculture, food studies, cooking, gardening, crafting, DIY, spirituality, health, medicine, and homesteading in Wyoming.

October 28, 2013, 9:49 pm
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So four year hiatus, but I am back. Now that I’ve graduated and am now living in Wyoming, I hope to be able to update somewhat regularly.

2nd two years of  school required me to put most of my belongings in storage and essentially live on the road. A lot of my sustainable practices either had to be put on hold or regressed, most significant of all from scratch cooking with SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients. I regained the weight I had lost and then some. Now that I have my own kitchen again, the weight is thankfully starting to come off. It’s a very educational (and also disgusting experience) to eat the “typical American diet” again after having weaned yourself off it.

Practices that I was able to hang on to:

-Air drying clothes rather than using a dryer

-Dr. Bronner’s soap as primary toiletry and cleaning product

-Handkerchiefs instead of kleenex

So in my spare time, I plan to resume cooking, gardening, crafting, and all the other assorted elements of the sustainable lifestyle. I hope to detail my progress and results on this blog. I also plan for this blog to be a place to discuss the deep thinking issues in the sustainability movement.

Tiny Choices
February 18, 2009, 10:04 pm
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Tiny Choices, as the name implies, is a green blog that focuses on the little things anyone can do that add up to big changes. It’s a philosophy that I also share. Recently, I filled out their survey. Here are my responses:

Vital statistics (name, age, location, link to website/blog)?
Liz; 28; Raleigh, NC;

How do you reside (apartment or house, roommates)?
I’m renting a townhouse with 2 roommates.

Are your housing decisions dictated by choice or necessity? Please explain.
By necessity. I’m in transition between grad school and med school and this was the best temporary accommodations I could find on craigslist.

How do you travel (transit, car, etc)? Are your travel decisions dictated by choice or necessity? Please explain.
Mostly by car, though I’m planning on getting a bike soon. This is by necessity. Raleigh does have public transit but it’s not set up to make it easy to get to any of the places I need to go.

Tell us about a Tiny Choice you’ve made in your life.
Using reusable bags rather than the plastic ones was one of the first things I did. It did take a while to remember to take them into the store with me, but after that, it’s one of the easiest things you can do. And I’m so happy not to have the mounting pile of plastic bags taking over my closet anymore!

What is the one environmental dilemma you personally struggle the most with?
I love the freedom and independence of having a car, which I’m loathe to give up despite the emissions that driving causes.

What is one Tiny Choice you can make in that direction?
Getting a bike will really help cut down my driving around town. I’ve also contemplated using Amtrak for long distance traveling when possible.

What is the one environmental Tiny Choice you make that people question (in either a positive educational or a negative hassle way) you the most about?
I’ve started using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper (just for #1 at the moment). I haven’t told anyone in real life about this, but I imagine that a lot of people I know would feel uneasy about that.

What is the one environmental Tiny Choice you would like every single person to adopt?
I’d like everyone to start thinking more about their resource use and to consider in each instance whether the end result is really worth the resources expended. I think that all other changes result from becoming more conscious of one’s actions.

Do you feel like you make sacrifices for environmentalism? Please explain.
I make a few sacrifices. I kind of miss taking long showers and that hot out of the dryer feel that my clothes used to get, but these are minor. Major sacrifices can be effective in the short term, but I’m trying to do is create a more sustainable lifestyle and that’s not going to work if I feel deprived. It’s the destructive practices that one has no particular attachment to but does anyway because of cultural inertia that should be the focus of one’s efforts.

Are you generally: optimistic, pessimistic, neutral about environmentalism and the future?
I’m ambivalent. I sometimes feel like things are so overwhelming, but I choose to have hope because to fall into despair will only compound our problems.

New Year’s Day Slow Food Event
January 21, 2009, 7:11 pm
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On New Year’s Day, I went to a dinner at the Triangle Slow Food chapter. There was the traditional hoppin’ john and collard greens, as well as cornbread, regular bread, and piccalli (a kind of relish), and sweet potato pie and it was all very good. Oh, and the family sitting next to me brought a country ham and they gave me a sample. It was interesting; it kind of had the consistency of lox sort of.

I now know that I like collard greens, though I think that of the greens I’ve tasted so far, my favorite is kale.

The Slow Food movement is meant to be the antithesis of fast food. It was started in Italy in the 80s, by chef Carlo Petrini who protested the opening of the Mickey D’s by the Spanish Steps in Rome but then decided that rather than getting mad he should get even. The movement has since spread to many countries around the world, including the US. The movement is concerned with promoting organic, local, sustainable foods as well as the pleasures of meals and eating, etc.

I’ve been curious to know more about the movement, especially since, even after reading what I could find on the net, it wasn’t clear to me exactly what the Slow Food actually does, aside from the chapters periodically putting on dinners. The one interesting thing that I did glean was Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, which is a program that identifies and promotes traditional and heritage foods and dishes that are in danger of extinction, as it were.

Well, at the dinner I attended, I discovered that the reason it doesn’t seem like Slow Food does much, at least in the US, is because the US Slow Food movement doesn’t really have much direction at present. Whereas in other countries, there are long established food traditions, the US is much newer and has developed concurrently with the industrialization of food. In other countries, the American diet is what Slow Food members are trying to protect their own foods against. The American Slow Food has the challenge of trying to tease apart what is worthy of protecting and promoting and what is not. The speakers did say that American Slow Food is going to be more politically and socially active in the future, though, and work for food justice, so that sounds promising.

Though the speakers didn’t mention it, I hope and assume that this focus on food justice involves expanding the demographics of the movement. The one thing that struck me about this dinner was how nearly everyone in attendance was white and (I think) upper middle class. And the few who weren’t white appeared to have a white spouse. There were no black folk in attendance at all. In other words, the attendance at the event did not reflect the demographics of the Triangle area. And this is just one event at one chapter, but I found it really troubling, particularly since hoppin’ john was a dish that originally came from Africa and the speakers specifically mentioned that the version of the hoppin’ john that we had was closer to the original dish than the version that is commonly eaten today. It really made me wonder exactly whose food traditions we were trying to preserve and whether this was an example of cultural appropriation and whether anyone else there registered the cognitive dissonance. I also think I understand why these food movements come across as elitist, if people just like me are the only people involved. If the American Slow Food Movement gets serious, I think it’s going to have to actively reach out all walks of life and also address the darker parts of American history while exploring American food heritage. For instance, Native American food traditions are probably in most need of preserving and they are most in need because of the extensive damage that White Americans inflicted upon them, particularly by trying to break down Native American cultures and impose the dominant culture in their places. And yet, a lot of Native American food traditions have also been incorporated into the dominant culture and are considered quintessentially American today (much like with the hoppin’ john originally from Africa). I’d really like to see American Slow Food address the full scope of food traditions in the US and the histories behind them.

Easy Changes I Made Without Even Trying
November 4, 2008, 11:18 am
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*Using handkerchiefs instead of kleenex: Looking at my trash, I realized that a significant portion of of what I threw away was kleenex. Years ago, when I first started playing the flute, my mom gave me a stack of handkerchiefs to use for cleaning. I had only ever used 2 of them and the rest were still good as new. Considering that kleenex-for-blowing-your-nose was a deliberate marketing ploy to sell more tissues, I decided that there was no reason to continue buying kleenex for that purpose. Now, hygiene is a valid concern, but since I usually blow my nose a few times on a tissue before throwing it away, I figure it’s no different to use one handkerchief a day and then toss it in with the laundry. Your mileage may vary.

*Using reusable bags instead of disposable ones: I learned from my mom the many, many purposes of shopping bags: trash, packing, sorting, storage, etc. But even with all the repurposing, my stash of shopping bags threatened to engulf my apartment. So I decided to embrace the reusable shopping bag. Because reusable shopping bags are in now, everyone and their cousing is selling them. Don’t buy them unless your heart is set on the design. I had a tote bag gathering dust in the back of my closet; my mom has over a dozen at her own home. Tote bags are one of the most common freebies available at fairs, conventions, and conferences. Chances are some one you know has a couple to spare or you will have an opportunity to pick up one for free soon. If you’re into crochet, you can even make a reusable tote out of plastic bags. And don’t forget that you can also reuse produce bags if they’re still in good shape.

*Reducing Electricity Usage: I started doing all the things my dad always scolded me for not doing, like turning off the lights when I’m not using them. I also refrained from using heat and air conditioning unless I absolutely needed to, opting for layers and and fans instead (It helps that I live in a temperate climate). Instead of using the dryer to dry my clothes, I hung them up to dry; now, I had to dry my clothes inside, because my apartment complex doesn’t allow residents to dry outside, so it’s not as nice as it could be, but it still works. After reading about vampire electronics, I left little used appliances like my microwave unplugged unless I needed it. All my electronics were already hooked up to one surge protector, so it was easy to switch that off when I go out of the house.

*Reducing Water Usage: I’m an avid fan of long showers, so this was a little difficult for me, but I tried to keep my showers as short as possible. I also adopted a “military shower,” that is, turning the water off when soaping up. I scrap my dirty dishes and pop them straight into the dishwasher instead of rinsing. Finally, I started following the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” Not for everyone, but it works for me.