Friday, August 7, 2020

And the Moon Rose Over an Open Field


Me in Florida, 2011

I write words for a living.

No, I'm not a writer, as much as 14-year-old me wanted to believe that I could be. Wanted to publish a fantasy novel, one that, had I published it at 14 or at 20, would have followed me as a flaming embarrassment for the rest of my life. I think that would have been okay, but I kind of like what happened better. That I learned to write for myself. That I spent years writing about Tolkien quotes and solo trips, and occasionally my inner thoughts and once about an aardvark (because I'd committed to writing every day and I had nothing to say), and about love (sort of) and finding myself (sort of) and a bunch of environmental posts that I spent way too long researching, the posts that took me five hours and ten people read, the ones that took me five minutes and got thousands of hits. People still read my instructions for riding a Greyhound bus, and sometimes I still miss riding a Greyhound bus, and sometimes I still think about the Greyhound ride to Florida where I stayed up all night and the nervous businessman sat next to me, the one who was supposed to be on an airplane but an ice storm had grounded the flight and his company switched him to the bus instead, and he bribed me with trail mix to sit next to him because he was terrified of riding the bus and he thought I didn't look like a serial killer, and he asked if I liked the music of Sade and gave me his headphones and I listened to her while looking out the dark window. And now every time I listen to Simon and Garfunkel's "America" and the line says, "And the moon rose over an open field," I burst into tears because I think of the moon on the everglades through the Greyhound bus window.

Where was I? That's right, with the words.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Plastic Free July: Trash from Days 18-24

One of my good friends, Baba Yaga, a witch of Slavic folklore, is fond of saying to people as a means of farewell, "Don't get crushed by the existential dread!"

I've been saying this to myself a lot lately.

In the midst of personal crises (helping my mom as she faces a severe injury, and now self-quarantining with a head cold until I can get the results of my Covid test back*) and nationwide nonsense, I find it hard to feel like anything I do matters. I started a blog post on plastic-free swaps and ended up rage-quitting because the change needs to be so, so much bigger, and the amount of effort put into little tiny swaps for little tiny plastic pieces feels so wasted. 

I will return to the blog post one of these days. I'm still cataloguing my plastic. I'm still encouraging others to be mindful of your trash and try to figure out what it's telling you and where you want to head with your eco action. Some days the dread just feels heavier than others. I remind myself that there's nothing wrong with self-care, especially when that manifests as curling up with a library book and a cup of herbal tea that I harvested straight from the garden. 

To do more, I must rest more. Existential dread or not.

*Update: I just heard back and my test was negative! I'm just regular sick!


Below is a list of my trash, but first, some quick links…

10 Ways to Turn Off the Corporate Plastic Pollution Spigot by Zero Waste Chef. Helpful knowledge, petitions to sign, action ideas to effect larger-scale change, and more!

How to NOT Go Zero Waste by Sustainable in the Suburbs. Really good (I mean bad) advice for getting started on your journey.

10 High-Impact Zero Waste Challenge Ideas by Polly Barks. These challenges encourage you to choose the action steps that will create the biggest impact.

• If we want a future in which everyone (regardless of income) has access to good, healthy, nourishing food, we need to invest in farmers who are looking not only to heal the soil but heal their communities. Three incredible farmers are currently fundraising, and every dollar counts. Check out Indy Srinath (L.A.), Amber Tamm Canty (New York) and Sylvanaqua Farms (Virginia). 

Now, onto the trash!

Parchment paper (trash)— Perhaps I will buy biodegradable parchment paper in the future when I am not under active quarantine. What a strange, distant future this is. What is the future? What is the past? What is reality? At least I have bread.  

Dried fruit bag (recycle at store)— This is clean and dry, so I can add it to bag recycling to take to the grocery store. You can normally buy dried fruit in bulk, if you live in a mythical world where there is either no pandemic or you're allowed to bring your own container and also probably if you live on the west coast or something. Maybe I should dry my own fruit instead, from the farmers market. Honestly. I have a dehydrator. It wouldn't be that hard.

Peanut butter seal (recycle at store)— Organic peanut butter comes in tiny jars and we eat a lot!

Sausage wrapping (trash)— Support your local farmer!

Plastic bag (recycle at store)

Tortilla seals (recycle at store)

Tortilla chip bag (trash)— I fell behind on making Zach's snacks this week, so he filled in the cracks with a bag of chips and a jar of salsa. I may or may not have sneaked several chips as well. 

Floss (trash)— I might possibly maybe order some silk floss sometime in the undetermined future.

Receipts (trash)

Tofu packaging (recycle at store once cleaned)— I have made tofu from scratch before, but so far I've had no luck finding bulk soybeans in the Midwest! Why is this? I can bike five minutes from my house and see soybean fields with no end in sight, and yet I haven't found a store here that carries the actual beans! #governmentconspiracy #noactuallyitis

Half-and-half carton (recycle)— I learned that our city does accept these kinds of cartons for recycling! Not everywhere does, though, so be sure to check your regulations.

Butter wrappers (trash)— For the aforementioned bread.

Packing tape (trash)— This was the lone piece of plastic on a 48-roll pack of Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. So I'd say that's pretty good. 

Cheese wrapper (trash)— So many quesadillas.


Updated goals for this month:

1. Don't get Covid. *(Update: Managed to meet this goal better than I expected!)

2. Get well from the cold.

3. Use points 1 and 2 to be able to actually visit my injured mother again.

4. Figure out where to buy silk floss.

5. Write one blog post (it's currently half-finished after I rage-quit).

6. Make a list of zero-waste swaps and resources to research later when I'm not so physically and emotionally exhausted.

7. Write one email asking a brand to take responsibility for its plastic packaging.

8. Eat more bread.

Want to support my work? You can send a few bucks via my Ko-Fi page, or check out my illustration work for sale on Zazzle. Thanks!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Plastic Free July: Trash from Days 11-17

I'll be honest: it's been a pretty bad week. Between an allergic reaction to a wasp sting on my ankle that made it impossible for me to walk or stand, to spending a lot of time at my mom's house helping out after she broke her collarbone, it's one of those weeks that is just never-ending exhaustion and annoyance and the occasional emotional breakdown. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Plastic Free July: Trash from the First 10 Days

Even though I officially started Plastic Free July a little late, fortunately I had the foresight to start saving my plastic trash on the first. So, I now have 10 days' worth of plastic trash to analyze!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Plastic Free July: 10 Zero Waste Blogs to Check Out

Okay so this photo has nothing to do with the post, but I like it anyway.

If you're looking for some good reading this July, use these 10 blogs as a starting point! I'll admit that I don't listen to podcasts or watch videos very much, so feel free to chime in with ones you've found helpful!

Polly Barks- One of my favorite bloggers because she's always thinking beyond the individual— she encourages large-scale problem-solving and challenges you to use your privilege, knowledge, and skills to help others! Also check out her excellent book, More Than a Plastic Bag, which just came out.

Sensible Sustainability- Yue takes huge amounts of information and presents it in manageable chunks, while still showing the nuance and complexity of environmental issues. If you're interested in the larger implications of zero waste, this is a great place to start.

Fat Change- Mariah covers a wide range of environmental topics, with an emphasis on how environmentalism fits into real life.

Zero Waste Chef- With a focus on avoiding food waste, Anne-Marie is funny, practical, and deeply encouraging. I've learned so much from her! (Also, if you're one of the many who started a sourdough during quarantine, you'll find a lot of useful tips here.)

Old World New- Tips and sponsored content with a focus on eco-friendly fashion, parenting, and Black-owned businesses.

Litterless- Although Celia isn't blogging anymore, she still keeps her website up to date with bulk shopping options and a treasure trove of nuts-and-bolts tips for living plastic-free.

The Daily Greens- Accessible and encouraging, Abbey focuses on practical steps for a lower-waste life.

Sustainable in the Suburbs- Sarah blogs about eco-friendly life with children in a "cookie-cutter neighborhood." A great resource for families, especially those who live in (you guessed it) the suburbs!

Rob Greenfield- This environmental activists engages in extreme life experiments to prove important points about the way we live on the earth. Great for anyone wanting to stretch themselves beyond the easy swaps. 

Leah Stella Payne- Interviews, recipes, and practical tips for cutting your waste.

What are your favorite environmental blogs/Instagrams/YouTube channels/podcasts?

Want to support my work? You can send a few bucks via my Ko-Fi page, or check out my illustration work for sale on Zazzle. Thanks!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Plastic Free July: Why Is Plastic So Bad?

An illustration of my roommate's cat checking out my plastic-free farmers market haul

(Read all Plastic Free July posts here.)

As you may have noticed, there is a lot going on in the world right now. We as humans can only keep up with a couple things at a time, and it may seem a bit weird to try to care about plastic pollution at this particular moment. 

But I wanted to do a quick run-down of the reasons that I'm doing #plasticfreeJuly, and why I believe that plastic matters, especially now.

1. Plastic factories are harmful to people. In the U.S., plastic is manufactured in incredibly polluting factories, negatively affecting the communities around them with respiratory issues and cancer. See this article and this one for more about "Cancer Alley" in Louisiana. Factories are overwhelmingly placed in communities of color, so plastic is a racial issue. And speaking of racism…

2. Our plastic trash harms people in other countries. The U.S. sends a huge amount of plastic waste (supposedly for recycling) to other countries, where it creates huge health and safety hazards and often isn't recycled at all. Read more about that process here.

3. Plastic harms wildlife. Plastic never decomposes, but it does degrade, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. These, along with microplastics (threads of polyester, microbeads from cosmetic products, etc.), wash into waterways and are eaten by fish and small creatures, sometimes starving them because their bodies can't process it.

Although plastic has improved our lives in countless ways, especially in the medical field and for accessibility (and I'm particularly grateful for plastic technology in backpacking gear, too), the vast majority of plastic goods— polyester and flatware, microbeads and bottles— could be scaled back significantly. If we only used plastic where it was really important, the waste would be easier to deal with and the need for factories would go down. We can be part of making that happen.

What motivates you to reduce your plastic waste?


Want to support my work? You can send a few bucks via my Ko-Fi page, or check out my illustration work for sale on Zazzle. Thanks!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Plastic-Free July: A Late Start

Hello friends!

July definitely sneaked up on me this year, and I realized a bit too late that Plastic-Free July— an international month-long challenge to refuse single-use plastics— was already underway. No matter, though, I'm doing my own version of the challenge anyway!

If you want to play along at home, here's my basic process: 

1: Start collecting all the plastic waste that I accumulate in one spot.

2. At the end of each week, catalogue all the plastic and analyze where it came from, how it can be reused or recycled, and whether or not I can avoid it in the first place.

3. Start making a couple swaps to reduce some of the plastic. (For instance, I want to make produce bags so we can buy fruit loose instead of bagged.)

4. Challenge myself to make some of the harder swaps. 

This week I'm focusing on just collecting plastic, without any shame or blame or change of habits, to see what I end up with. Next week, I'll start focusing on changing my habits to reduce it.

I'll be sharing tips, info, and helpful articles about plastic both here and on my Facebook page, as well as posting about my plastic consumption and what I learn along the way. It's going to be a weird challenge with all the Covid stuff going on, but I'll do my best!

Would you like to do the challenge with me? If so, leave a comment below so we can cheer each other on!


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Notes from a Civil Rights Movement

Dear Black friends,

I love you, am listening to you, grieve with you, and support you. I repent of my silence and my apathy, and promise to dive into the hard work of unlearning the white supremacist script I've read all my life, and to fight alongside you. Your lives, your success, your flourishing, and your right to joy matter.

Love, Lisa


Dear white friends,

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Six Ways to Help Mitigate Flooding

Frontier Park, St. Charles, 2017

A couple weekends ago, the St. Louis area experienced a flash flood caused by an ungodly amount of rain falling all at once. The ground couldn't hold it, the storm drains got overwhelmed, and three inches of water gushed up from the drain into Zach's and my basement, destroying a whole lot of our roommate's stuff. Our house smelled like wet cardboard for a week, and it got me thinking about flooding.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thoughts from a Pandemic

When I was a child, and we were studying the Great Depression in homeschool, I realized that I knew someone who had lived through it: my Great Aunt Goldie. The next time we visited her, I asked her what it was like to live through that time, as the images of bread lines and scrappy children from my schoolbook flashed through my head. I leaned forward, eager to hear all her amazing stories.