Waste not

On Memorial Day weekend when many Americans are chowing down and drinking to their hearts’ content, I think a lot about all the food being tossed in the trash can. Think about it for a second. How much of our food goes down the kitchen drain and the garbage disposal? How much goes in those airless plastic bags destined for a landfill?

Quite a bit according to the EPA, which estimates that Americans waste more than 34 million tons of food each year – 14 percent of municipal solid wastes. So when we see those growing landfills we probably need to look in the mirror, and at our dinner plates. Only an estimated 3 percent of our food waste does NOT reach the landfill. Imagine walking into a 90,000 seat football stadium to see it filled with food. That’s what Americans toss away in ONE DAY according to Jonathan Bloom*, author of “American Wasteland.”

In a world with a growing fresh water shortage and a food crisis in a number of regions around the world, perhaps it is time we be a little more mindful about our consumption on the most basic level.

At a loss on where to start? Little things make a big difference:

  • Ordering Fish and Chips? Ask them to leave off the tartar sauce if you don’t usually eat it.
  • Like your water straight-up? Same deal: tell your waiter, “No lemon, please.”
  • French fries: use smaller amounts of ketchup as you eat and add more as you go.
  • Not a fan of the pickle? Ask them to leave it off, or give it to a friend at the table.
  • Don’t hurt your leftover’s feelings: take them home to enjoy later. Traveling? Many hotels have mini-fridges for their guests if you request it. You could keep your leftovers there for the next evening.
  • Freeze! Did you make too much soup or casserole? I do all the time – on purpose. Freeze your leftovers for lunch at work (Pyrex makes great glass 2-cup containers). Bonus: keeping your fridge and freezer half-full (but not packed solid) actually helps it cool more efficiently!

Want a couple “big” ideas?

  • Compost! Read what the EPA has to say about that here. Petition your local government to include composting as a part of the municipal waste management. Seattle does it. So could your town!
  • Open a restaurant! Every item that is returned uneaten could be composted. AND you could feature an “a la carte” menu so people only order the dishes and sides they want. How many people would rather have the salad than the fries? Imagine the cut in waste if we could pick and choose what appeared on our plates!
  • And of course there are the biggies: install a grey water system, plant native plants to your region in your yards, collect your rain water, and so on.

For more tips I have “reblogged” a post by The Frugal Goddess. She has a very practical perspective about food waste. For those less concerned with the world-wide issue of over-consumption The Frugal Goddess also addresses the hit our wallet takes when we waste.  Us Americans waste around 27 percent of the food we purchase, according to Michael Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas*. Maybe we can start to change that figure! It always starts with you!

(*Bloom and Webber quotes referenced via this article by Hugh Collins for AOL.)

Food Waste: Why We Do It and How We Can Stop When I first began studying the art and science of frugality I looked at many lists that claimed to be the top five or ten money wasters. I found that most of the items on the list were mere opinions. But one category stood out as being accurate and useful—the dead waste. These are not spending decisions, but rather mistakes. The parking ti … Read More

via The Frugal Goddess

Here’s your Hypocrite Certificate

There is one thing I can’t stand: people who complain over and over about things and then do nothing about it!

I have this problem sometimes too, but I acknowledge my hypocrisy so I can feel somehow slightly forgiven because I at least know I do it. Not the best excuse–I’m a work in progress–but I am trying. And usually I try to DO things to alleviate my frustrations by altering my behavior.

But man! People at work today. I just couldn’t handle it. It was a weird day in general, but the obvious hypocrisy of two particular women today was so silly and ridiculous that I was left speechless (quite a task)!

This afternoon, my facilities manager Carmen (name changed) was discussing how every workplace seems to deal with the same problem: people are slobs. They leave dirty dishes in the sink for days; they are too lazy to pick up a paper towel they dropped on the floor, or wipe off their crumbs from the break room table. They make disgusting messes in the bathroom and refuse to clean it up. The list goes on.

So here I am talking about this with Carmen and these two other ladies are also very passionately protesting such behavior: “Slobs!” “How inconsiderate.” “Savages!” After a few minutes of their complains (with which I heartily participated), I tried to interject my positive solution: “Well, I guess at some point though we need to move past our frustration and decide to model the proper behavior so other people feel pressured to do the same….” Before I could finish my thought, the two ladies were forcefully shaking their heads. Nope. I don’t think so! their faces said. They wouldn’t do that. “If everyone else breaks the rules, so can we,” they countered.

And that, my friends, is why so many people never find actual solutions to their problems.

Fear and hookworms

from Wikimedia commons and Radiolab.org

Did I tell you I work a boring job? It’s good, don’t get me wrong. Benefits, decent pay for a recession. But it’s dull. Data entry. Is that all I have to say? I think so.  While I’m staring into my computer for those 40 weekly hours, I listen to my IPod and try not to think about the irreparable damage I’m doing to my eardrums. Recently I’ve become a huge fan of podcasts, and today listened for the first time to WNYC – Radiolab. On September 25, 2009 they did a segment on parasites (link to their page is here). I didn’t think I would like the subject, but ended up totally fascinated. Particularly I was interested in the story of Jasper Lawrence who suffered from ridiculous allergies which progressively worsened. Jasper tried everything it seemed, until he learned about the beneficial effects hookworms could have on illnesses like his. Determined to alleviate his pain, Jasper exposed his body to quite possibly the most disgusting environment imaginable so he could contract a healthy dose of hookworms. I won’t go into further detail–you can listen to the (free) podcast if you want to hear it! But within less than a year, Jasper went from allergy-attack victim (to the point of hospitalization), to nearly allergy-free!

The theory behind this “Helminthic Therapy” is that these little critters evolved with us, living in our digestive tracts where they could sustain themselves, and in turn offer us a little balance down there. But then we went and got all clean. You know: sanitation systems, clean water, bathing more than once every few weeks; and we ended our relationship with the sweet little parasite. Of course, back then it wasn’t so sweet–too much of them caused anemia, fatigue, malnourishment, and other issues. But what scientists have found is that these tiny guys may be the answer, or a very very effective treatment, to many disorders including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, allergies, asthma, IBS, lupus, and MS to name a few. The podcast asks, “Why aren’t people knocking down the doors of these treatment organizations to get some help?!” and one of the many reasons is the very old, but ever-new: fear.

And that’s what I’m writing about here. How many times has “fear” been the reason we haven’t done something? Something that would make us happy, make us feel better, solve a problem. I’m not just talking about infecting ourselves with hookworms either. Was there ever a person you were attracted to that you didn’t ask out on a date, for fear of being shot down? Or a job you didn’t apply for, because you didn’t know what you would do if you actually got it? There are so many reasons we generate for why we shouldn’t do something, and so few we acknowledge for why we should. And often, when we let fear rule our lives, we continue living in unhappy circumstances, being something we’re not, or being suppressed by some sort of liability (like Jasper’s allergies).

A good way to decide how to respond to fear is to ask yourself:

1. Are these fears based in anything tangible and logical? Do they have validity?

2. What are the odds that the “fear” would actually occur?

3. Is it a “safe” risk?

4. Will your actions hurt anyone in the process of being achieved?

5. What is worse: staying where you are now, or taking a risk and going for what makes you afraid?

Depending on your answers to these questions, you may be in a good position to make that move that causes you so much anxiety. Sometimes, however, the option isn’t worth the risk. But if I had an immune disorder, I think I’d take the hookworms.

Gicky but good

I was thinking about good-doing. There are endless ways to do good things. But then I thought of things I don’t necessarily want to do because they seem gicky (gross + icky) to me. So, selfishly I shall post them here for you brave souls that can handle big needles and big surgery and for those of you with all your vaccinations who love the outdoors and being all generous and stuff (me, well, I do a few of them, but I hate hate hate needles! Eeek!).

Give blood.

Give plasma.

Give bone marrow.

Become an organ donor

Donate your body to science.

Adopt a highway (I don’t want to imagine what people find doing that job).

Keep a community or personal garden (I personally love to play around in the dirt, but I imagine my sister might not be such a fan).

And here are some not so gicky, but I thought of them while writing….

Offer your skills and expertise.

Donate your hair to locks of love.

Give your undivided attention. (To your children, lover, friend, neighbor, or relative.)

Volunteer in your community. (A great resource for this is idealist.org.)

  • senior citizens home
  • youth programs
  • local co-op
  • food bank
  • homeless shelter
  • animal shelter
  • community center
  • run for city counsel or go to the meetings  

Give your time.

Don’t have time? Donate your money, clothes, old dishes, food and unused appliances.

I bet each of you already do some of these things, so pat-pat-pat yourself on the back!


© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Be Nice. to the environment and yourselves

There are a lot of ways to be nice to people. And we’ve heard a lot about being nice to the planet. Here’s one unavoidable reason we need to start thinking about our waste and our purchases that contribute to it:

“Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic. Are We?”  is an article that tells of the numerous ways plastic is in our bodies and in our food supply. There is an island in the Pacific made of floating plastic twice the size of Texas and growing. Tiny confetti-sized pieces of plastic float around (more numerous than the plankton the fish eat in oceans) and are eaten by fish, which are in turn eaten by humans. These little plastic pieces disrupt our endocrine and reproductive cycles (among many other things).  It’s a long (and depressing) article, but worth the read (spread the word forward too!!!!).

Once you’re done reading, do the whole world a favor and:

  1. Buy some canvas re-usable grocery bags,  & keep them in the car to use them for shopping. They make carrying groceries easier actually and you often get a 5 cent credit for each bag you use.
  2. Buy reusable glass containers (Anchor brand makes some) instead of plastic reusable.
  3. Look in your pantry and grocery list and cease buying individually wrapped food items. Dole out the servings yourself into reusable packaging! It’s easy and saves a lot of packaging that will be around 3 times as long as we will.
  4. Check out the Green Bag Lady  site and you can learn how to make your own bag or win a bag in a giveaway–and you can donate old fabric for the making of more bags!

Thanks for reading!


© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.