Washed Up & Adrift

No, the title of this post has nothing to do with me as a person. HA. It does, however, have everything to do with plastic. Duh. πŸ˜‰

Here’s the situation: today, I decided to go for a run, along a new route with a halfway stopping point at a nearby public beach. Context: I live along a large lake in BC so when I say “beach” I’m talking about a freshwater shoreline…the nearest ocean is about a 4-hour car ride from here. That is an important piece of info. Don’t forget it.

When I arrived at the beach, the wind was picking up, creating waves on the surface of the lake and a pretty epic-looking sky. It was one of those stormy winter days where things look and feel chaotic and there’s a buzzy energy in the air. Anybody else get this feeling or is it just me being in a post-run daze?? Well, anyway. The first thing I noticed as I stepped onto the sand and looked down was the color blue. Hm…immediate first thought: “Yay. A bottle cap. My favorite…nahhhhttt!” Turns out, I was wrong, but still sort of right – it was plastic.

However, that seemed to be it! Hooray! A freshwater beach with no litter?! It’s a miracle. I continued my walk (my justification was that I needed a rest break from all that running I was doing) and saw no more obvious plastic. Then, as I was about to leave, a blob of something bobbing along the shoreline caught my eye. At first glance, it might have been a piece of wood by the way it was shaped and its color (yellow) but upon closer inspection…yep, you guessed it! Plastic. This time, in the form of an old bottle, but with the bottom cut off.

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Why am I telling you all of this? Well a) I’m running around a freaking landlocked city on a giant lake and finding plastic. This is where it all starts, people! Haven’t we been over this?? Also b) Both of these items made me stop and think: how did they get here? And why? The shovel seemed obvious: a forgotten toy, left behind on a summer day and buried in the sand over time. Still, someone had to bring it to the beach, use it, then forget about it and not come back for it. Justification (perhaps): “Oh well, it was 50 cents at the dollar store…guess we’ll buy Junior another one.” The bottle? Who knows.Β Perhaps it was a scoop? Or a mooring? It doesn’t really matter because the point is that this bottle clearly was not supposed to be washing up on the shore of this beach, meaning it too was forgotten.

And this is the issue with plastic, right? Because it’s cheap, because there will always be another one of its kind (bottles, shovels, etc…), we have no reason to hold onto it. We forget about our plastic items because they are not unique, and they have no real value. To use plastic is a mindless act. To me, this is so sad, especially in a time when so much of our days are often mindless: we mindlessly consume our food, our social media, our politics, and on and on it goes.

I will always argue that going on a plastic-free diet immediately puts you into a state of full awareness and is an inherently mindful act. By consciously choosing to remove ourselves from the stream of waste, we can actually begin to see plastic for what it is: waste!! In doing so, we also become more deliberate and thoughtful in our subsequent actions: choosing alternative packaging materials; pondering why on earth we got so carried away with plastic toys for kids; using less.

The moral of the story: pick up plastic when you see it, but don’t just chuck it in the recycling bin. Let its story, whatever it is that you make up about it, move you to action, whatever that is (as in: “I found a plastic bottle on the beach and that’s it! We’re done with plastic bottles dammit!!”).

Allow the plastic to make you a more mindful consumer…or at the very least, allow it to fill your brain with all sorts of questions as you huff and puff the few miles back from your wintery, beach-day run. πŸ™‚

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Oh My Pod

I’m having one of those “I’m-so-speechless-to-write-and-I-don’t-know-where-to-start” moments. Ever have them?

Ugh. That’s all I want to say, but I’d like to be a bit more articulate, so here goes.

As predicted, this is a rant on plastic. If you’re not feeling it, I’d suggest leaving now because I’m really digging into this one (i.e. it’s long-winded). Alright then, here we go!

When I see plastic being misused, it makes me want to rage. When I see plastic hurting people, I basically lose my sh*t. When I see companies willingly filling said plastic with poison, all in the name of “cleanliness” I want to throw axes. And when I see people being straight up dumb, it’s enough to send me back to bed and give up for the day. Come on humanity, we’re better than this!!!

A-N-Y-W-A-Y. The crux of the matter is pods. Yes, pods. The trendy, candy-like laundry pod, famous for making kids sick but looking so damn delicious at the same time. Side note: it’s almost like these companies want to poison us, for crying out loud: “Oh golly gee, we never imagined that a product that looks and feels like candy would actually look appetizing to children! Gosh.” <SMH> (Shaking My Head: it’s what the kids are saying these days, right?). I’ll circle back to this point in a minute. For now, a rage on the topic of social media.

Now, I consider myself a fairly avid user of social media and I realize that by publishing this blog post, I am directly benefiting from it existing on the Internet…but I don’t Snap, I can’t say “AF” with a straight face (or even SMH for that matter…I still feel like I’m swearing, somehow), and I will likely never understand why we need puppy dog ears and rabbit whiskers as filter options on photos. *Shrug* So I suppose it’s almost no surprise then that I missed this apparent “social media joke taking the Internet by storm.” Ugh. I can’t even write this down without wanting to vomit, so I’ll let the media take it from here: read and watch THIS and then if you’re still conscious, come on back.

OK. So. Here we have…

  • …an example of people being dumb –> Ryan is going back to bed.
  • …plastic hurting people –> Ryan is throwing axes.
  • …plastic being misused –> Ryan is raging and losing her cool.

I’ll try to keep it together here. O:-)

Besides the fact that it would appear as though humanity is recessing into a click-bait/view-driven, social media craze…let’s talk about the bigger picture here:

The pods.

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Graphic pulled from a recent Consumer Reports article entitled “The problem with laundry detergent pods” linked to in this post. What’s candy and what’s a pod?

Did you watch the news video in that article? Did you pick up on what Dr. Frank LoVecchio (he’s a toxicologist who knows his stuff) said:

“They can cause a burn…to your mouth, your lips, your breathing tube, your feeding tube (your esophagus).”

OK, fine. Ginger also causes a burning-like sensation to your mouth, lips, etc. if eaten in massive quantities all at once but it’s more of a tingling, and it probably won’t kill you, and it’s not an actual, chemical burn. Hm. While you ponder that, how about mulling this next sound byte over…

“The membrane around it, when it dissolves, can cause central nervous system depression.”

Ah…what? Come again? You’re saying the crap holding my poison in, that I’m about to wash my underwear with, is also poison, and can cause central nervous system depression?

Let’s break this down, because I’ll be honest: I have no idea WTH Central Nervous System Depression is, nor do I know what the membranes of these products are composed of…time for some science!

  1. For all the chem nerds out there, I looked it up: the membrane is typically made up of PVA or polyvinyl acid –> a water-soluble synthetic polymer (aka…plaaaaaastic!). It’s apparently “non-toxic” so perhaps my “poison” references are out of line, but it also biodegrades slowly. So there.
  2. Back to Bio 100: the central nervous system (CNS) = the brain and the spinal cord. When these systems are depressed, they slow down. Typically, that isn’t totally bad: sedatives help us calm the f*ck down (come to think of it, maybe I need some CNS depressants…). But in concentrated doses? Oh, ya know, no big deal or anything but your breathing could slow down, your heart rate could slow to a crawl, and uh…all this could lead to delirium or coma.

AND WE STILL WASH OUR CLOTHES WITH THIS SH*T?!?!?!?!?

Yes, yes, they’re touted as saving us money because they’re concentrated. Sure, fine. But what was so bad about learning how to use concentrated liquid detergent? Do we really not have 5 extra seconds to look at lines on a cup? Pfffft…why bother when there’s a pod???

In what other instances have pods ruined this planet? Hmm…K-cups, anyone? When will we wake up to the fact that maybe these hyped, time/money/brain-saving products are actually making us lazier and slowly killing us and our environment?

For hundreds of years, we existed on this planet, wearing clothes, and keeping them clean with completely benign ingredients. Now we’re being told and convinced that we need uber concentrated, stinky, fluorescent-colored liquids to effectively remove stains and keep our whites whiter. I used to intern at Seventh Generation, a popular green cleaning products/baby diapers/laundry detergΒ company and it was there that I learned of the many falsehoods spread by mainstream laundry detergent companies. Your whitest whites? Not actually getting cleaner: they’re just full of artificial brighteners to make it look like your clothes are clean. The scent? Does nothing except make you feel as though your clothes are clean. Side note: I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during consumer focus groups analyzing scent associates with feelings of cleanliness. Oh and the concentrated dose? Sure, it saves us money and we use less of this stuff – Seventh Gen has a 4x concentrated liquid detergent that is a dream (ahem: I’m biased). However…if something is already toxic to begin with, it just gets more toxic the further you concentrate it. Even innocuous ingredients become toxic with concentration! It’s why we’re advised to use caution when applying things like essential oils to our skin, and why taking too many vitamins can actually be bad for your health…because they are concentrated.

So why, oh why, are we allowing P&G to tell us we need products that look like candy, are wrapped in plastic, are toxic, and are reported by the media as needing to be stored “up high and out of their reach” (with respect to children)? Why are we voluntarily washing our clothes, the things that touch our skin all damn day, with this stuff?!

I am aware, now more than ever, how convenience is really messing things up these days. We are sacrificing our bodies and our planet to save a few minutes and a few dollars, but where are we ending up? More hurried than ever, more depressed, and not necessarily any richer. Is it really going to take seeing grown-ass adults chew through plastic laundry pods for us to finally put the brakes on?

</rant>

Klosin’ Out the Year with Kimchi!

In an effort to marry my love of food with my passion for ranting about plastic, and to end 2017 on a yummy high note, I give you:

Kimchi.

Yes. Kimchi!

Sure, you can buy it in giant plastic tubs at grocery stores the world over, and yes, it will no doubt be tasty, but you guys!

It is so cheap, and so simple to make. Plus, it’s a cure-all. Having a bad day? Make some kimchi. Pissed off at the state of the current US White House Administration? Squeeze the bejesus out of some kimchi. Need to meditate more? Kimchi! And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway…anything packaged in glass is, in my mind, way more delish than something shrouded in a veil of polyethylene terephthalate.

Other benefits:

  • The main ingredients (Napa cabbage, carrots, daikon radish) can typically be found at farmers markets this time of year. Local produce! Hooray!
  • All the other ingredients can be found at any grocery store, large or small. Psst: supporting small, one-of-a-kind grocers is kind of cool. Just sayin’.
  • The glass. The glass! You could pick up a flat of brand-spankin new Ball jars or you could hit up the nearest thrift store and get 3 for $.75 like I did. Either way, I will love you forever and your kimchi will, too. Because it has feelings. πŸ˜†
  • Your gut will be so stoked to receive all the amazing benefits from this fermented delight. Google it, and trust. The stinkiness is worth it!

So what are you waiting for? There’s only one day left in 2017. Are you going to spend it sitting around wishing you had gotten your hands on some homemade kimchi? Or are you going to go out, get the stuff, and squeeze some cabbage in celebration of a new year?

In case you need a boost, check out my go-to recipe. Let me know what you think!

I made mine 4 days ago (thank you fermentation!), so I’ll be coasting into 2018 with a happy gut and a plastic-feee stash of colorful yumminess. πŸ€“ Cheers to the new year!

Fresh-Pressed Madness

“What can we do?”

This was matter-of-factly stated to me by a conscious human, at a health-foods store (Lower Mainland, BC) in regards to the scourge of plastic plaguing the aisles of our grocery stores, the coffee cups we sip from, and the bottles we house our water, juice, and sodas in.

*face-palm*

In the moment, I was so flabbergasted that a fully aware person would adopt such a defeatist attitude, that I could find nothing to respond with except a sarcastic, “Ha! Yeah…what can we do?” πŸ™„

Of course, after mulling this over for the next 45 minutes in the car, I thought of a number of smarter, more edgy retorts and it made me realize something: I need to get better at speaking my mind, in the moment, as it happens. Regardless of what the other party will think of me, regardless of what I’ll sound like and regardless of how it comes out of my mouth. What I wanted to and should have said, to this person toting a single-use coffee cup and a plastic bottle of cold-pressed juice:

  • What can we do? Well for starters, we can bring our own coffee mugs?!
  • What can we do? Hm!! Maybe since you’re sitting here anyway, just hanging out, why not ask for your juice to stay in and make them use a reusable cup, just like I did! See?!”
  • What can we do? Ask the manager why there are no bulk food options and advocate for more of that!
  • What can we do? Well…we can stop shopping at this place and start DIYing the sh*t out of our kitchen.

But what can we do if all we really want is convenience and to sort of care but not really, because we’d rather have the thing than not? Well…then there’s really nothing we can do with that mindset.

Ask, and you shall receive: it took a few questions and maybe a minute more of my time, but by asking and questioning and generally not going with the flow, I had my juice, single-use-plastic-free…and it was delicious. We have to stop being so complacent, people!! Stir the pot!!

And PS – Nature’s Fare, will you please give your customers options for sit-in dining?! Don’t assume we all want it to-go. Ask us (your customers) questions! πŸ˜‘

</rant>

Bottled Water Twofer

It’s been a while since I actually ranted about plastic, so how ’bout a twofer? The subject matter? Bottled water…my favorite! Companies profiting off of suckers thinking they’re getting a product that’s something other than plain, ‘ole tap water. *sigh* Let’s go in chronological order, beginning with an unexpected post-Halloween find…

On a recent walk down my street here in beautiful BC, I unearthed what I assumed was a horrible prank, then quickly realized that no, in all seriousness, a bottled water company actually found a way to profit off a holiday explicitly known for candy consumption. It would appear that Nestle has figured out how scare the hell out of us environmentalists…good one, Nestle! Ya really gave me a scare there! >.<

Somehow, I’ve found a way to accept the fact that we have turned Halloween into an individually-packaged nightmare, but this is taking it a beeeeet too far. Nestle, WTF are you thinking? Why? Seriously, why?! Cut. It. Out. You’re making our job as plastic-pollution fighters unnecessarily difficult. And to be frank, are kids actually going bananas for bottled water in their Halloween haul? Somehow, I doubt it. Cue the eye roll.

I suppose one could argue that at least I was outside, getting some fresh air, and stretching my legs when I ran into this spooky bottle…so OK, silver lining. NEXT.

Fast-forward a few days to today, and we find ourselves in Harrison Hot Springs, BC. Also a beautiful place here in oh-Canada; stunning, in fact. Google Map it!

As an aside, can someone remind me what year it is? It’s actually 2017, right? …

…so why, why, why are hotels still offering up bottled water like it ain’t no thang? Come ON?!

There are many hilarious ironies about this water, most notably:

  • The price. HA!! For real? This coupled with the fact that about 10 steps away resides a sink with perfectly clean tap water flowing freely out of it is basically a recipe for please-excuse-me-while-I go-bang-my-head-against-something.
  • The fact that to the right and to the left of this display (not totally pictured) are durable, reusable options in the form of glassware and ceramic coffee mugs. Your ability to drink water does not rest on cracking the plastic seal on a plastic bottle, people! Just lift the dang glass to the spout and turn the tap on!

Ugh. Ugh, I say! This should not be happening anymore. We know better. The companies that make this water (Nestle and Great Canadian Water Company, I am so staring daggers at you!) know better. The hotels and parents that buy this water should know better (more daggers, Harrison Hot Springs…). Can we all just stop pretending like we have no idea that plastic is ruining the planet, admit plastic is actually ruining the planet, and evolve beyond the stupid plastic water bottle? Nathaniel Wyeth, I’m sure you were a great guy and all and you probably had no idea your invention of PET plastic would bite us so hard in the ass…but well, it did. Sigh.

</rant>

Full Circle Muffins

Today in Kelowna, the sun decided to hide. Rather than also hide (under the covers) I decided to seize the day and make something bright, colorful, and delicious. Or rather, two something’s…both fitting all those criteria.

Having spent just about my entire life living in places that experience a dramatic drop in sunshine as the winter months progress, you’d think I’d be used to the shorter days and endless snow. I’m not. One of the ways I cope πŸ˜‰ is by bringing the sunshine into my “office,” aka kitchen, via vibrant, refreshing juices. The beauty you see below was a combo of beet, carrot, apple, lemon, and ginger. Mm mm!

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has been consumed and our thirst quenched, there's always this question about what to do with the leftover pulp. We compost in our house so that's the easy answer…but looking at the pile of fluffy carrot pulp, and the deep, rich red that only a beet can leave behind, it seems almost a waste even to put this vibrant content in the compost! How do we squeeze more goodness out of this stuff?

<<<<<<<<<<<<
t! After some Googling, I came across a recipe that not only exceeded expectations, but was simple and all the stuff that went into the muffins was 100% good-for-ya. πŸ‘ŠπŸΌ

OK, so let’s recap: we’ve already made pure, unadulterated juice…and now we get to make no-nonsense, healthy muffins that also taste uhhhhmazing. Can you say…winning?!

The clincher? I did have a little extra pulp after all, that didn’t go into muffins. Instead of throwing it in the compost, I gave it to my backyard hens, who promptly inhaled most of it, and stomped the rest into the dirt, effectively becoming mini composters. They are the best. Why don’t we all have chickens?

This is what I mean by full-circle: I make juice from fresh, from-the-earth produce. I bake the pulp into muffins, using eggs that my chickens provide me, along with a medley of other ingredients. I feed the leftover pulp to those same chickens, who eat it, producing more delicious, healthy eggs, and who also dig it into the earth, producing rich, composted soil for me to grow fresh, from-the-earth produce. Don’t you see?! It’s the ciiirrrrcle of life! πŸ˜†

Imagine if we all lived like this most of the time…a world full of juice, muffins, chickens, eggs, and lush, vibrant soil. It would be bliss, I tell ya!

Conquer the Cloud

Do you ever wake up on the absolute wrong side of the bed? Like, you’re so far over that you might as well just go back, curl up, and wait for tomorrow? Everything sucks, the world sucks, why am I even bothering, I’m tired, achy, and grumpy…and it’s raining. Ugh! Life!

And then…and then. It’s like the universe at large sees your plight and hands you a little ray of sunshine as if to remind you that the world is not a giant, dark cloud of doom and gloom…and that there’s actually quite a lot to be happy about. Goodness is out there, and we can shake ourselves out of our funk. I feel like I’m writing about this concept a lot these days: this idea of getting ourselves out of our collective funks and doing something, anything, to move forward instead of taking 10 steps backward. Not staying in the doom and gloom. This journey through the world of plastic pollution and the general life journey, is teaching me that it’s a constant practice/battle/struggle/opportunity for improvement. And that some of the best lessons and best practices are ones we didn’t even consciously learn.

Cue Robert Fulghum.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. Snappy, irritable, and cold…three of my least favorite adjectives. Then, I opened my email up and there was a note from my Dad, with a reminder of an old book we’ve read many times and one I had totally forgotten about. It was the ray of sunshine I needed. Consider this ray of sunshine passed on to you, dear reader!

The synopsis, from my Dad: “…basically a series of statements about how the practical stuff you learn when you are very young (i.e., sharing, caring, sticking together, etc.) carries over through the rest of your life.

Enjoy. πŸ™‚

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN
by Robert Fulghum

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

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