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

Yes S.I.R.!

Hey everybody! I recently took out an ad about Be Nice. on a fabulous new internet radio station: S.I.R.  and I do believe the blog will be having some new visitors sometime soon!

Hello S.I.R. listeners!

Welcome to Be Nice.! So glad to have you here. Hang around, check it out! The pages at the top are full of the origins of this project. Subscribe at the right and you’ll get posts right in your email or on your Twitter/Facebook account!

It might seem ironic for a blog on civility and “niceness” to be a fan of the boundary-pushing stories and oeuvre of the fabulous Kevin Smith, but think again! This ain’t the 1950s! (I mean, McCarthyism and Jim Crow laws weren’t very nice — we probably shouldn’t idolize all of the 50s….) Being nice isn’t about the suppression of language or ideas. Being nice is about your intent, how your actions and thoughts affect others, and about being forthright and sincere. And that is what Kevin Smith and his friends do. In my opinion, their candid conversations make this world a better place!

Swearing and candid talks on sex, excrement, relationships and society are never out of reach of the Be Nice. project (and if you have spoken with me personally, you know it’s not out of reach for me either)! And while this blog also hits on more sober topics in life, you can always find what you need when you ask for it!

So! To my loyal readers and my new readers:

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO READ ABOUT?

Send me your questions!
What topics do you want me to address?
What issues make you sweat? Let’s dissect them here?!
Want to weigh in on a topic? Send me your stories and I’ll throw my two cents in (I know, cheap, but I’m a broke artist so it’s all you get!)!
Need some perspective from a totally unqualified somebody? I’m your girl!

Send me your letters (via the “Contact” page above) or comment to your heart’s delight on my blog! I want to hear from YOU!

Special thanks go to S.I.R. for giving me the opportunity to share my project with their listeners. Thanks!

So happy for YOU

Eeyore is a Trademarked/Copywritten character of Disney. This image source: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/disney/images/1348371/title/eeyore-fanart

My three-year old nephew is in the stage where he’s learning to monitor his own behavior – namely self-control. After not getting his way at Grandma’s house the other afternoon, Cruz launched into an adorable, yet fairly familiar, “Eeyore” phase. He moped, he sighed, he pouted. Head down, lip out… there was no way this three-year old was going to budge from his gloomy disposition. My mother saw it as an opportunity. She knelt to the ground, looked at Cruz and said, “Now Cruz I know you’re upset, and that’s okay. But let me ask you something. Do you want to be a sad little boy or do you want to be a happy little boy?” He looked up at his Grandma and said, “Happy.” Mom replied, “Well then all you have to do is put a smile on your face and go be happy.” It was that simple. Instantly his frown changed to a grin, and he trotted away to go have fun again – a real life Christopher Robin.

Could it be that easy? Can we just decide to be happy? For the most part, I say yes. In the face of tremendous pain and discomfort, human beings find reasons to smile as surely as they need air to breathe. It is not that we are incapable of being happy. It’s just difficult to feel happy sometimes.

Often it is difficult for people to find joy within their lives, and it can be even harder to celebrate the happiness of others. When confronted with the good fortune of their friends and colleagues many people prefer to remain securely in their “Eeyore” phase, rather than give in to the good feelings resonating from their companions. After all, isn’t it safer to be in the dredges of their misery – a place safe and familiar? Why feel joy for someone else, when they feel none for themselves? If anything, they feel resentment, right? Won’t it just make them more acutely aware of their misfortunes by rejoicing in the goodness within others’ lives?

Not really.

In this economic climate, it is difficult for even the most seasoned professional to procure suitable professional employment. Most artists participate in a constant battle with their esteem and determination in their attempts to access better professional opportunities for themselves. It could be easy to become resentful of others’ successes. But what good would that do for any of us?

A colleague of mine just received a coveted position at an excellent educational institution in the Northeast: a two-year visiting professor position in art. Having received his MFA in 2010 at the same institution I received mine, his invitation to teach at this school was a beacon of light to those in our field. Surely there will be a few of his colleagues or acquaintances who secretly grumble with envy and resentment, but the majority of us met the news with great enthusiasm. A “win” for him is a “win” for all of us.

And for some of us (er… ahem… ME), it was like our own dreams had come true. When I heard the news, I could not stand still! I was like a child – clapping my hands, bounding through my apartment with unfettered exuberance. That night it didn’t matter that I still worked a mind-numbing data entry job. I didn’t feel an ounce of resentment or jealousy. I felt hope, because someone I knew had just received the kind of news we all dream of getting: a job in our field!

Like my little (nearly!) four-year old nephew, we have a choice. We can decide to be happy. We might not always get our way, but we always have control over our perspective.

Think of it as good karma. Think of it as good manners. Whatever works for you; be happy for others.

After all, when it’s your turn to share your good news you’ll want everyone to be happy for your good fortune too!

The US and abroad!

Aside

Thanks to the supporters of the Kickstarter project for Be Nice., the pamphlets have now been distributed to 23 states within the US as well as Italy, England, and Canada!

Thanks everyone!

If you received a brochure or postcard from the project, and live in a state that isn’t orange on this map, let me know and I’ll add you to the list!!!

My goal is to get the pamphlets in every one of the 50 states and as many countries as possible!

Yay Nice!

Make yours @ BigHugeLabs.com

You’re just too nice. Seriously.

Last month, in an interview with Liz Clancy Lerner of AllOverAlbany.com, I was asked a question I don’t very often consider:

Can someone be too nice?

Simple answer: Yes.

You know the type: people-pleasing tendencies, lacks self-confidence or an autonomous behavioral compass, and – the obvious one – a doormat. An “emotional tampon” (gross analogy – my apologies, but true don’t you think?).

I hear this one sometimes.... (Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-g-uk/4370496415/)

Last week a friend of mine described his frustration with his neighbor. “Tom” can’t really stand “Sheila.” Sheila is a daddy’s girl with all the entitlements that go along with it. Seriously spoiled, Sheila has no idea how lucky she is, or how nice she has it. Worst of all, she doesn’t make any effort to develop herself financially even with her dad’s support. And this rubs Tom the wrong way – he made his own way in life, and it irks him that someone can be so lucky and so completely ungrateful and complacent.

For some reason whenever Sheila needs something done around the house, she asks Tom for help. Now, I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t a “crush” thing. I think it is more of a “substitute daddy-figure when the real dad isn’t around” type of thing. It started innocently enough. When her car was having problems, Tom tinkered with it trying to figure what was wrong. When it had to go to the shop, he’d allow her to come on grocery trips with him instead of making her walk the few blocks to a nearby store.

Sheila doesn’t ask for help anymore. She tells Tom what to do. “Hey, you’re going to need to come over Saturday and fix my sink.” (Reminder: Tom is not a relative, boyfriend, or landlord. Just a neighbor. They don’t hang out as friends.) What did Tom do? Well, he was miffed for sure. And he had plans to hang with one of his buddies on Saturday. He canceled them. When he told Sheila that, she didn’t seem embarrassed or upset he had canceled his plans for her either, and she certainly didn’t make an apology for inconveniencing him or offer an alternative time/date.

What’s more, she doesn’t ever thank him. She complains about how tough her life is, how uncool her dad is (the dad that is her virtual lifestyle paycheck). When Tom’s buddies try to suggest maybe she should make it up to Tom (with baking, or money perhaps), she becomes indignant. At that point her gratitude is a fast retort to flatter her own bruised ego and to save face with Tom’s friends.

And this never ends. Even though it makes Tom angry, he feels trapped. After all, he is her neighbor, her dad is absent and can’t help all of the time, and he does know a lot of handyman skills.

In my estimation, Tom is too nice to Sheila. But perhaps not for the reason some might suspect. Doing nice things for neighbors is what being “neighborly” is all about. My neighbor is elderly, so we do the yard work, snow removal and occasionally grab things for her from the store in inclement weather. It is the “nice” thing to do. And doing nice things without expectation of repayment is a good habit to be in, assuming you are not doing it all the time to your own detriment.

The problem with Tom and Sheila is the lack of gratitude and appreciation on Sheila’s part, which is further complicated by Tom’s inability to meaningfully confront Sheila. Though he suggests a return on his time investment (perhaps bake him some cookies, or give him gas money when he drives her around), he does not cut off his assistance when she doesn’t follow through on reimbursement. Her promises are empty, and his confrontations are on an equally weak foundation.

Tom is becoming more and more irritated with Sheila. As his friend, I offer my sympathies but I also feel like Tom is making his own bed. I believe many of his frustrations lie with his inability to be assertive to Sheila, where before they were attributed solely to her actions.

The lesson here is not necessarily to keep tabs, but to be aware. If you find yourself giving (of your time, attention, funds, or efforts) over and over to the same person without any meaningful return to your investment, perhaps it is time to question your generosity. If the act of giving brings you joy (as doing things for my elderly neighbor does me — plus it’s good karma for when I’m older!), that could be enough. But if you feel your resentment growing, address the problem and be prepared to follow through on the removal of your generosity if the person continues to abuse it. Otherwise you may end up resenting yourself too.

And the Backers are…

A BIG thank you goes out to all those who supported the Be Nice. Guide to Farting and Pooping Kickstarter fundraiser!

Below are the names of the fifty-two supporters that pledged funds to help me reach (and exceed!) my $300 goal.

THANK YOU ALL!

M. Eliot Payne
AshleyABishop
Heather Carroll
Oren Krimchansky
Shawn Stanley
John Iovine
Sarah Gable
Greg Beck
Sarah Elizabeth Hemm
Catie Riley
Peter C. Harris
Superjudge
Shelly
Gail Vachon
Steven
Wusster
Lisa
Lindsey Bathke
Liz Noonan
Annette
Kirsten
Denise Winiski
vetters
Mark Bieraugel
karrie
Angie Hadley
Ben Hunold
Marie Bannister
Yaminay Chaudhri
Meaghan O’Connell
Apt Blue
Eileen2000
angrywarhol
Samantha Patterson
Meagan Haberman-Ducey
Andrea Miller Bard
Jennifer Noland
Jonathan Beer
Jas Mowgood
Jennifer Beaven
Richard Nolan Jr
Liz Lerner
Rosaura Johnson
Alexandra Davis
Suzanne Boatenreiter
Heather Middleton
Faythe Levine
Matt Barrett
Linda Baxter
Gabe Gentry
Katie
CJevic

Fully Funded!

Today is a very happy day! I am pleased to share that the Kickstarter fundraiser for the printing and distribution of the Be Nice. Guide to Farting and Pooping brochure was SUCCESSFUL!

Thanks to the generous support of 52 Backers – and a number of people who spread the word – the project received $543! The original goal was beat by almost 15o bucks! I am so thrilled, so elated, I cannot begin to express it! THANK YOU!

What this means is that the project will be available to many more people and the extra funds will go to more printing and/or a few other ideas I have currently shaping in my mind. Your enjoyment and support of this project is a blessing, and something that gives me joy on a daily basis. Thank you for letting the work be a part of your life!

🙂