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

“Foot in Mouth” syndrome and the “Curse of Considerate Clarification”


I’ve been told a few times that I make people think exactly what I didn’t want them to think. Let me explain. For some reason, in addition to putting my foot in my mouth by accident, I manage to make others suspicious of hidden agendas in my words because of the very things I say.

Here’s a stunning example of “Foot in Mouth” syndrome:

I was at the art opening of a gifted photographer last night. We had been students together in graduate school. During our visit, I recalled that he had recently been married. I was preparing to ask how things were going when I recalled a previous experience with the same artist. Not three years earlier I asked, “How’s Suzzy?” after having met his girlfriend weeks before. He awkwardly replied, “We’re not together any more.” UG! The artist–being a quiet man–had nothing left to say, and I–dumbfounded–had nothing to say either. The next three years were filled with many uncomfortable visits in which I could never establish a good speaking rapport with this nice man.

So, here I am preparing to ask after his new wife, thinking, Oh dear, what if they didn’t get married or they’re divorced or something? I didn’t want to have the awkward silence again. All these thoughts were spinning in my mind as I said, “So, are you still married?”  Still?!  STILL!!!!???? Not, “How’s your wife?” or “How is it being a newlywed?” or “I heard you got hitched. How’d it go?”  Nope. STILL. I can’t believe myself sometimes. Perhaps I should strike the word from my vocabulary. Luckily he chuckled and said they had been married just a few months, and I backed out of it by joking I had no faith in marriage apparently. My husband comforted me later by saying it was nothing, but there it was. My foot. My mouth. Not what I had hoped to eat that night. I only had room for cereal when I got home after that feast.

And then there is the “Curse of Considerate Clarification,” or the 3-C problem as I call it:

I think I learned from my mother to be very mindful of my words–how were they making others feel, how do they sound to others? I have become very sensitive to peoples’ expressions, responses and actions in reply to my words, which often sends me in a day-long analysis of where I went wrong or where they misunderstood. This is very exhausting.  Changing the way you think is hard, but I’m trying to change the habit. Especially since my consideration for others has back-fired in my face.

Like last night. It didn’t backfire, but nearly so. Jake and I went out to dinner at a great Mexican-Irish restaurant (yup–and it’s an awesome pairing). The five-year-old joint is just a half block down the street from the New York favorite Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which had just opened. Naturally the barbecue restaurant was packed every day. And we were benefiting, as here we were eating at this very popular place without waiting for a table. Surprised I asked the manager who seated us, “So, have you noticed your business dropping due to the new place down the street?” Immediately, as I glanced at the numerous empty tables I thought Oh crap, she might think that I think they are losing business, or that they are too slow for a Saturday! Quick! Tell her that’s not what you meant! So I said, “Oh! I hope you didn’t think I meant you guys would be losing business to them. I’m sure you won’t be affected–it being such a different market.” The manager smiled, agreed by citing how busy they had been thirty minutes before, and then went to seat another couple. I was relieved! It is this kind of situation that so many times has prompted the reply: “Well, I didn’t think you meant that originally, but now that you brought it up that’s exactly what I’m going to think.” Go figure!

What I’ve learned is that I need to trust that others will ask me to clarify what I meant if they took it negatively. I should hope they will consider my character and intent. I should also remember to pause before I speak to think of what I want to say.

But finally, if I feel like I need to clarify, I can avoid the 3-C problem by restating. Instead of: “I hope I didn’t make you think…” I can say: “Let me clarify. What I meant to say was…” or “That didn’t sound right, let me rephrase that.” By rephrasing what I say I remove the possibility that the listener will suspect me of ill-intent or veiled malice. I certainly won’t wind up prompting them to doubt my intentions! And perhaps with any luck I will spare myself a little exhaustive worry!


I married myself

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My body and I have arguments. Pretty much every day. They go something like this:

Emotions: I want chocolate.

Logic: No you don’t. You shouldn’t eat it. It’ll upset your stomach and you’ll gain weight.


Emotions: See, I want chocolate. My body wants it. I NEED it.

Logic: No, your body wants it because YOU thought about sweets, but if we ate it we wouldn’t enjoy it and we would feel guilty after eating it. Don’t have the chocolate, you’ll just regret it…. Have fruit instead.

Emotions: Forget fruit! chocolate chocolate chocolate chocolate….. What reasons can I think of to have chocolate? Hmmm…. I’m stressed. I just went to the doctor. I’m PMS-ing. I am tired. I had a bad day. I feel like it.

Body: Sounds good. Chocolate.

And then, I eat chocolate.  90% of the time I regret it.

The arguments started in my early twenties. I was in college and as I gained weight year after year with processed food and drinking on the weekends, my digestive system decided to revolt. So in 2004 I went through this unplanned 2 year process of cleaning out all the crap in my life: negative friendships, unhealthy eating habits, personal setbacks. It was hard, but at the end of it I was 65 pounds lighter, in a healthy relationship (he’s now my husband), had rewarding friendships, was doing what I love (art and writing), and was 75% less affected by my digestive condition.

And then I went to grad school. And I moved 1000 miles from my family. And then came: emotional eating. I gained back 10 pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, and it’s not bad. But if you were always chubby and you got down to a size that was smaller than you were in junior high, you really don’t want to go back. And that’s where the battle is: I want two things. To eat crap from time to time, and to stay thin. Over and over, I fight with temptation. And sometimes, I lose.

Being a newlywed I think about the elements of a life-long commitment a lot. Why is it that I can commit to another person for my entire life, but when it comes to committing to myself for even 3 weeks, I balk? I could chalk this lack of self-commitment up to a heap of things: external rewards are easier to come by than internal rewards, a brownie can’t hug me, and it’s easier to have fun with cake or my husband than to exercise control by a living a consistently healthy lifestyle. Regardless of the reasons, I recently realized my personal expectations were pretty ridiculous.

With food and exercise, I haven’t allowed myself any leniency. My eating rules have been so rigid, I could have never succeeded at them for life. They’re just too hard (things my body physically protests : sugar, alcohol, sulfites, MSG, nitrates, fried or spicy foods, high amounts of fat, enriched carbs, dairy, caffeine, green/black tea, and–yes– chocolate)!

I am aware that being married for a lifetime means I will experience disappointment, heartache, and pain. I know we’ll each slip up somehow. But I adjust for these things by acknowledging that we aren’t perfect. We each might take an appreciative look at a cute guy/girl who walks by. We might make flirtatious conversation with the opposite sex. We will likely take pleasure knowing “I still got it!” when we get hit on. I know I do! And that’s okay. I have learned from my grandparents that a little leniency and a little innocent “sinning” goes a long way for marital bliss. Like my grandma says (her qualifications? Married almost 60 years, faithful loving couple, raised 7 kids): Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you’re dead. You can look, just never touch!

So I have adopted a better attitude. I am marrying myself.

If I marry myself, I commit to loving myself in spite of all those things that bug or disappoint me. I accept that my desires, interests, and needs will change over time. I offer myself compassion and leniency, support and encouragement. I commit to staying healthy physically and mentally so that I can continue to find myself attractive. I am dedicated to balancing my needs against the needs of others. I put the love I have for me above the love I have for my family (I can’t do much for others if I secretly loathe myself–and loving myself well also means disallowing myself to become a jerk or egotistical).

I commit to the up’s and down’s that I’ll have over the years. I’ll exercise regularly for awhile, but there will come a month where I don’t get to the gym as often. I will remind myself that marriages take work. I can’t just lose 65 pounds and stop trying, just like I can’t be faithful before my wedding day and then “drop the act” (as so many do) once the ring is on the finger.

I am committed to make this relationship work, so I have to keep working at it. Forever. Because just like I don’t know what great things are lying ahead for me and Jake, I also will be pleasantly surprised at what’s lying ahead for me and my body and mind!


Thanks for reading.