Sustainability Project: June 2019

As I wrote sometime last month, I would like to keep up with the sustainability swaps, and do about one a month. It turned out I did something different than I was thinking about, as I ran out of coffee. Since this post is about coffee, I have to admit something: I have a Keurig.

I bought it a few years ago, after breaking every glass coffee pot I tried to make it work with. I don’t know why I have this problem, but I will also say that I am the only person in the house who drinks coffee from home on a regular basis, so most of the time, if I made a pot, it would go to waste anyway.

Now, of course, I wish I didn’t buy a Keurig. I was weak and annoyed at spending so much money buying single cups of coffee from various shops. But I feel terrible about all the plastic K-cups that go into the landfill. And I did try the kind of K-cup that allow you to peel off plastic part, and then that portion goes into the recycling, but it wasn’t great.

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This is the variety pack!

So after some searching, I found this company: Tayst. The beans are sustainably sourced and the pods themselves are 100% compostable!

The only downside to this plan is that I do not yet have a compost area, as when I bought my house, the backyard was paved. I do have a small front yard, and since coffee is good for plants, and I only drink about three cups of coffee a week at home (most is at work), I am wondering if I can’t literally just bury these little suckers and let them feed the tree that lives there? I plan to try this and see how long it takes them to break down. A possibly fun experiment?

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Just adding this photo of Samir from 7 years ago for fun–but note I still have the same coffee cup!

Meat-Free May: Week 3

We are into the third week of Meat-Free May! I am still feeling good and have not eaten meat nor wanted to eat meat. I do have a few health updates that may or may not be related. Because I was at the doctor’s this morning for my annual, I know I lost two pounds. Also my blood pressure, which has never been a concern of mine, was 118/75, so now it is even less of a concern (previously had been 120/80). At some point this week, I remembered that in the past when I was vegetarian or vegan for years-long stretches, I became deficient in vitamin B12, so I did start taking that as a precaution.

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Hiking in the woods near our house!

This week I ate out a lot, but forgot to take photos every single time! We went hiking, biking, went to a show at my son’s school, and I went to a concert and spent a lot of time hanging out with horses. One night I ate Chinese food out at a fancy place. We had an assortment of things, but my favorite was Shao Kao Fu, which is seitan with mushrooms and peanuts. I also ate Thai food out with my family, and had Massaman Curry with tofu and vegetables. And finally I had Italian food out with my family, and I had eggplant rollatini.

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These were actually really good!

I’m trying to remember what I ate this week at home and mostly failing. There were a ton of my favorite salad: kale, avocado, cucumber, tahini, and hemp seeds. I made orange seitan with broccoli for the family one day. And I finally got to try jackfruit, which I’ve been curious about for some time. It came four cakes to a pack, so I made them all, and ate two on successive days for lunch. I liked the jackfruit, even though I’ve not into crabcakes that much. I would definitely be interested to try jackfruit in a different format!

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This was my favorite thing I’ve made in a long time, and I ate it two days in a row!

Meat-Free May: Week 1

It hasn’t been a full week yet, but since I didn’t take notes and am liable to forget, I thought I would check-in how I did for week 1 of Meat-Free May. In short, it went well! Meaning, of course, I didn’t eat any meat, and I felt fine and wasn’t craving it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I generally eat the same two things for breakfast and lunch every day: cereal with almond milk and a banana and kale salad and a peanut butter sandwich. My only weekday deviation was an egg salad with carrots and chips one day, as I was at the DMV all morning and didn’t want to bring my lunch with my.

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Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs: a yummy study in contradictions!

One night for dinner we had spaghetti and meatballs. Having two young kids, this is a staple at our house. They were hesitant when I told them the meatballs might taste differently because they were not meat, but they not only ate everything I gave them, but asked for seconds!

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They ate all this and asked for seconds! And yes, I let them eat in front of the TV, but in my defense, we were watching Kiki’s Delivery Service!

Another meal I put together at home was ready-made Indian stuff, also from Trader Joe’s. It was chana masala (chickpeas with tomato and spices), palak paneer (cheese cubes with spinach puree), and garlic naan (flatbread). This was too much for my older son, so I also made him frozen fish fingers. My younger son is a much more adventurous eater and proclaimed it “spicy, but not too spicy.”

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I was hungry and started eating before taking the photo!

Over the weekend, as predicted, I ate out twice. For lunch Saturday, we had pizza. For dinner Saturday, we went to a large food truck festival called the Queens Night Market. I was walking around and eating too much to take photos, but we mostly all shared everything. We had corn on the cob, a rice cake with eggplant and tomato puree on top, a corn cake with tofu and vegetables cooked into it, a spiralized potato with cheddar seasoning, and fried ice cream. I have to admit that I was nervous there would be no vegetarian options there, but there were plenty. I plan to go back many times this season!

 

 

Sustainability Project Week 5

Because of the way the days fell on the calendar this month, there are five weeks to this month-long project of sustainability swaps. I was happy to do one more swap than I originally intended! For the first week, I stopped using plastic water bottles, for the second, I stopped using plastic utensils, for the third, I stopped using first-use paper products, for the fourth, I stopped using sandwich wraps.

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There were four balls in this pack I got from Trader Joe’s for about $6.50.

This week’s swap is dryer sheets! The internet has a ton of information (whether it’s true or false, I am uncertain) on why dryer sheets are bad for you. I am undecided on that for myself, but the focus of this project is to swap out single-use products for multi-use products. Thus, balls!

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My older son impersonating a fly and showing the size of the dryer balls.

These wool dryer balls were bought in Trader Joe’s, but there are tons of similar products available elsewhere in person or online. Obviously, they don’t have a smell, and I’m not into my clothing smelling like a flower enough to go out and get essential oils to put on them. But they do seem to make the clothing fluffy and also reduce drying time, thus saving electricity. I recommend them!

Another Month-Long Project

Last month, I played the Minimalism Game, which was fun and also a relief when it’s over. I will definitely do it again in the future, maybe next March, maybe this September. But I’m taking at least a month or two break from decluttering. However, I do have an idea for another month-long project, and it’s appropriate to do in April, the month of Earth Day.

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These two are part of the reason I want to adopt more sustainable habits.

For this month, I intend to start being more ecological in my choices. In order to make sure these are changes that last, I am going to concentrate on changing one habit a week. For this first week of April, I will focus on beverages. In the past, I have attempted to bring a water bottle with me/never buy plastic water bottles, but for this month I’m promising myself I will not buy a single plastic bottle. That means if I am out somewhere and forget my bottle, I have to drink from a fountain or find some other solution.

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My reusable water bottle (with Buffy the Vampire Slayer decal) at work, enjoying the view of NYC.

And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about straws! I thought about buying a metal or bamboo re-usable straw, but I don’t really like drinking from straws anyway, so I will just forgo all straws!

On Minimizing When You Have Kids

Upon realizing my kids have too many toys, my usual course of action is to go through them while the kids are at their grandmother’s house. The older kid (8 years) has never noticed anything. The younger (4 years) still laments certain things from two or more years ago that I didn’t think he was capable of remembering.

So for this month’s minimizing game, I decided to include them. Like all kids who watch YouTube, they are into anything called a “challenge.” And I have to admit, I did bribe them. I told them that for every 25 items they chose to let go of, I would buy them one new item (at the $5 store). They are all in!

Now, I will relate a tale from my own youth (early 20s, anyway) on why you should always let people minimize their own items. When my parents retired, they almost immediately got bored and sad that they weren’t making anymore money. They needed a money-making hobby, and chose eBay as the means to the end. They would go to garage sales and auctions to find stuff to sell, but occasionally they would want to sell something from their very own house, even from their very own daughter.

I was sort of fascinated with my parents ingenuity, and followed their eBay career, looking at new items and bids at least once a day. Then, this Voltron popped up:

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Samir is hiding behind Voltron, Defender of the Universe!

I was furious! That was mine! I called immediately and yelled at my poor mother, who only knew I had moved and didn’t take it with me. She had no idea the amount of emotional attachment I have to Voltron! I still remember being 12 and saving up every week what money I made mucking stalls at the horse stable to buy it, lion by lion.

Obviously, as the Voltron is still living with me today, I managed to retrieve it, and this story has a happy ending. But lesson learned. As much as you want to toss everything, it’s always better to let people decide on their own belongings!

Reading for a Snowy Day

The weather yesterday in New York City was great if you love snow and cold and wind and want a day off from school but terrible if you hate the snow and cold and wind and have to work from home while supervising two small children. I find myself in the latter group, of course!

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The younger and I watching the husband and elder son shovel. I didn’t want to let him outside because of the 50-mile-an-hour winds (he’s only 29 pounds)!

Being on a conference call while people are demanding juice and Peppa Pig videos is pretty tough, and trying to get through almost a full day inside with minimal screen time while you are working on your day job stuff is tougher. While I was making dinner, I had them clean up about 50 pounds worth of Legos, race tracks, puzzles, and the like. However, during the day the whole house was a minefield of toys.

But, we got through it, and today schools are open again, and while we deliberately went in late to avoid the rush, getting there was not totally terrible. In any case, I wanted to make my first book, New Blood, free for yesterday for snowed-in reading. But, in the stress and insanity of the day, I forgot to announce it. In the spirit of better late than never, it’s free today as well. Please feel free to download your copy here!