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Day 22 of Daily Footprint Project. The numbers about the top three contributors to greenhouse gases emissions have left a permanent imprint in my brain cells. And are fueling my determination to get a bike.

Big step today. I visited the bike shop down the street, in search of a used bike. I refuse to get a new bike. And I don’t want to pay too much for it. The guy at the shop, told me this is a bad time to look for a used bike. All the new Stanford students wiped out his entire inventory at the beginning of school.

Next step: Craigslist.

 

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #22

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower at pool 2
mom:
rinse dishes 3
wash fruit 3
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all ½ day
mom:
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
tea
organic milk
organic orange
organic oatmeal
organic persimmons 2
leftover turkey
Indian bread 1
organic yogurt
mom:
communal:
dinner out Italian restaurant

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
turkey stuffing leftovers
sweet potato puree leftovers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
new boots box
communal:
2 papers
junk mail

Transportation

personal:
mom:
communal:
drive to pool  6 miles
drive to renters’ house 6 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal: 

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Day 21 0f Daily Footprint Project. Yesterday, I wrote an article on, ‘Thanksgiving, a Time to Shop or to Lighten Our Environmental Footprint‘, where I emphatically pronounced my disgust for all shopping conducted under the guise of Black Friday. I held my promise. Did not buy a thing. For myself. Catherine asked if I could give her some money. This was the day when all her friends would be at the mall. She ‘needed’ a new pair of jeans, she had only one pair left that really fit her. She also wanted a rain jacket, and the latest Ugg boots. Heavy duty shopping here. My daughter’s got expensive tastes. I did not want to do her the disservice of overindulging her, but then, I also want to do right by her. After all, she did need a rain jacket, and new boots. And the expensive pair of jeans, she promised she would pay me back with her next paycheck. I did go with her, however, to manage the expected significant cash outflow.

It’s Black Friday And I Am Just a Green Girl Wannabe

Our first stop was J. Crew. They had the perfect jacket. Made in China, great fit. The line to pay, stretched all the way to the back wall. To appease the weary customers, a girl was going around, passing out mini plastic bottles of water. I was thirsty. Still, I declined her offer. I was buying a jacket ‘Made in China’. The least I could do, was to show a bit of fortitude and save one more plastic bottle from joining the Synthetic Sea.

Next was Nieman Marcus, for the jeans. The ones Catherine picked, surprised me with a Made in U.S. label. That meant less miles to transport the prized item, and less carbon back into the air. I am sure it is not so simple, but I will take anything to assuage my guilt.

Last stop, Nordstrom, the fashion temple for designer shoes. The sales racks were overflowing with boots, winter shoes, evening slippers, most of it on the floor. It was towards the end of the day, and hordes of shopping crazy women of all ages had gone through the merchandise. ‘Mommy, are you taking in the scene?‘ Catherine knew what I was thinking. The sight of all these women running around, and grabbing shoes at random, trying them on quick, and then moving on to the next pair, was almost surreal. We had reached the Uggs counter. Uggs are known as much for their Made in Australia cachet label, as for their ultimate comfort. Catherine could not decide. Between grey, black or brown. ‘The black ones, take them, black goes with everything.‘ She checked in the mirror, and decided to go along with my suggestion.

She wanted to stay around at the mall. Had been texting her friends. They wanted to compare their purchases. I drove home, with the receipts tucked into my wallet.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #21

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower 1
mom:
rinse dishes
wash strawberries
wash vegetables
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all day
mom:
communal:
lights
cook soup 1 hour

Food

personal:
tea
organic milk
organic strawberries
organic oatmeal
organic persimmon
mom:
communal:
organic turkey vegetable soup
leftover home baked bread
Italian cheese
leftover green salad

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
squash tart from Thanksgiving dinner (not a big hit!)
one old sweet potato
vegetable peels from soup
leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving dinner

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
junk mail
strawberries plastic baskets and paper carton

Transportation

personal:
drive to mall 4 miles
mom:
communal:
drive to renters’ house 5 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
one jacket made in China
pair of boots made in Australia
jeans made in US
communal:

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Day 20 of Daily Footprint Project. Time to pause and reflect on the changes that took place, or failed to happen. During these twenty days, I became aware of sixteen non green behaviors. The intent was not for me to try to change those necessarily, but to let the process of consciousness take its course. Here is the list (in green, behaviors that I chose to change, or that changed on their own; in red, behaviors that have not changed):

  1. Cut down on shopping
  2. Remembering the reusable grocery bags
  3. Diminish use of paper towels, saran wrap, aluminum foil
  4. Subscribe to Green Dimes
  5. Bring my own cup at coffee shop
  6. Start composting
  7. Cut down on food waste
  8. Use dryer less
  9. Get a bike and start biking instead of driving
  10. Unplug appliances
  11. Limit takeout
  12. Shop to farmers’ market more often
  13. Bring my own containers to bulk and deli sections
  14. Replace ‘hazardous cosmetics’ with green alternatives
  15. Replace toxic household cleaning products with green products
  16. Set green limits on children’s behavior (less driving their car, less laundry, less dryer, turning off light and appliances, not throwing away food leftovers)

I wonder if the list would have been different, had I done my research earlier, on the ‘Top Three Green Actions to Reduce Your Ecological Footprint‘. Staring at these three percentage numbers, really gave me a much clearer picture of priorities. Getting a bike is no longer an abstract consideration, but rather something I need to, want to do. Focusing on that one item makes it a manageable goal, and I can start planning the details of how to get there. And not worry so much about addressing all the other red things on the list.

Turning my attention to the green items on the list, I had to wonder, why was I energized to make some of those changes and not others? Of particular interest, are number 14 and 15. In both cases, I had to spend a significant amount of time researching the best options, shopping for the new products, and physically removing the old products. I could feel the drive. My personal health was at stake, and I had a direct interest in taking action. In contrast, all of the other items only affect me indirectly. It is a matter of global versus personal matters. In order to get mobilized for these less directly relevant actions, my mind has to step in, and I need to go through an elaborate intellectual gymnastics. It requires more work, and more outside reinforcements to make up for the lack of natural energy. This is probably the most significant finding to date for this project:

People are more likely to make behavioral changes when they feel personally threatened into action. In the case of climate change, the problem is not felt directly, but rather as a vague global threat. The intellectual translation that is needed, to turn climate change into a personal problem, relegates it to the ‘I should’ category, as opposed to the ‘I have to take action’ priority pile.

What are some practical implications? I can think of two.

First, is the need to make climate change risks as personally relevant as possible, not in an abstract, intellectual manner as is currently the case, but in a direct, immediate way, linking them to people’s everyday concerns. Going back to the voters’ poll results I highlighted in The Inconvenient Truth About America, the environment is way behind the war in Irak, national security, health care, immigration, and economy/jobs, in terms of Americans’ top concerns. Of those, health, jobs, and economy are very personal and can be linked to environmental action. Rather than trying to motivate individuals with high goals such as saving the planet for future generations, a more effective strategy is to entice them with direct personal benefits from green lifestyle changes:

  1. personal health, including children’s health
  2. financial gains
  3. job opportunities

Inciting people to drive less, not because it’s good for the environment, but rather because walking and biking more, could help them lose weight, and be in better health, is the perfect example. Darmok just wrote a great post about the rising epidemic of obesity in America. And today’s San Francisco Chronicle features an article on new research from Stanford Medical School, showing that people who use a pedometer are more motivated to walk than those who don’t. Rather than asking people to drive less, maybe a better strategy would be to ask them to start walking more, and launch block competitions of who walked most in the neighborhood this week, using pedometers.

Second, is the acknowledgment of the reality of climate change as a global problem, requiring global solutions. Rather than chastising people for not changing their lifestyles, maybe we should look at their non action as indicative of the reality of the problem. It strikes me that I can so easily motivate myself to work on finding global solutions to the problem, while at the same time, having an incredibly hard time making personal changes, even as simple as getting a bike, for instance. The media gave Al Gore a very hard time for the same thing. Here is a man who has done a phenomenal job in the service of the environment, and yet has been said to have a poor record as a green citizen. Maybe we are assigning responsibility where it does not belong, and we are pursuing impossible goals by trying to inspire individuals to initiate personal changes on their own. What I am suggesting instead, is a shift, towards placing responsibility in the hands of policy makers. Climate change solutions are akin to building infrastructures at the federal, state, and municipal levels. No roads, bridges, or railroads would be built if it was not for the state’s intervention. Those are jobs that are just too big for individual or private initiatives. Same thing with climate change remediation.

Given the magnitude of behavioral changes that are expected from millions of people, shouldn’t green psychology play more of a role in the search for climate change solutions? Only through a real understanding of the dynamics at play in the collective and individual psyche, can we develop environmental strategies that will succeed in eliciting the full cooperation of all people.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #20

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower at pool 2
mom:
rinse dishes
wash raspberries
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on half day
microwave takeout soup
mom:
cook omelet
toast bread
communal:
lights
microwave oatmeal for guest

Food

personal:
tea
organic milk
organic chocolate
organic raspberries
organic oatmeal
organic yogurt
two pieces of organic bread
leftover takeout soup
organic persimmons
fruit tart at farmers’ market
mom:
two organic egg omelet
organic raspberries
restaurant lunch
pastry at farmers’ market
communal:
organic oatmeal for guest

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
soup carton
mom:
raspberries plastic box
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
junk mail
yogurt container (reuse)

Transportation

personal:
drive to orthodontist 4 miles
mom:
drive to daughter’s college 80 miles
communal:
drive to pool 6 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

 

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Day 19 of Daily Footprint Project. The paper recycling basket keeps filling up.

All That Paper’s Got to Go

The newspapers, I take responsibility for. Reading the papers in the morning gives me great pleasure, and I am not ready to let that indulgence go. At least, not yet. What troubles me is all the junk mail. Several times, I have discussed with Prad, my intention of registering with Green Dimes. Prad thinks the city already has a similar program, and why pay the $15 to Green Dimes? Well, I went on the city’s website and they do not have such a thing. Still, Prad thinks I have not gone far enough in my investigation. I should be calling and talk to a live body.

The result is, my resolve has waned, and I have given up on the whole junk mail bit. This morning, though, the basket came back into my field of consciousness. Flouting me with its pile of useless junk mail, that serves no purpose at all other than being a source of disagreement between me and husband. Shall I dare Prad and go ahead, pay the $15 to Green Dimes?

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #19

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower 1
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:
wash vegetables

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on half day
mom:
communal:
lights
stir fry zucchinis
stir fry fish

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic oranges
tea
organic milk
organic chocolate
organic raspberries
mom:
Starbucks fruit and cheese platter for Little Sister
Whole Foods takeout mashed potatoes for Little Sister
lunch out at restaurant with Little Sister
communal:
fried organic zucchinis
fried wild fish with mushrooms

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
raspberries plastic box
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
gave old clothes to Little Sister’s family
communal:
2 papers
junk mail

Transportation

personal:
mom:
communal:
drive Little Sister to Turkey Trot 12 miles (stop at Starbucks on the way)
drive to restaurant 4 miles (stop at Whole Foods on the way)

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

Read Full Post »

Day 18 of Daily Footprint Project. It’s been sitting by the fireplace. Daring me with its unopened carton. Must have been a week already.

All the Reasons Why We Still Have Not Installed the Composter

Our new Feelgood composter. Prad ordered it. ‘Now you put it together.’ Of course, I have got a good excuse. I had gum surgery on Monday, and I have been feeling lousy. The few days before that, I was too busy, and the composter did not even make it once on my daily to do list. Plus, shouldn’t Prad take care of it anyway? I thought he would be the one in charge, in the composting department. He usually likes that kind of stuff. I know what he is thinking. ‘It’s about time you walk your talk. I have done enough as it is. Let’s see if you come through here.’ I am being tested on the authenticity of my declared green-ness.

The truth is, I love blogging about green psychology and green living. It comes easy to me. And I am seduced by the idea of composting, of returning what comes from the earth, back to the earth. It feels so right, poetic almost. Taking the box outside, unpacking the composter, assembling it, now, that’s another story. I can always find something better to do. Why is it so difficult for me to translate my intention into action?

I am happy with my life the way it is right now. The prospect of the satisfaction from composting does not outweigh the inconvenience of having to put it together. If someone else did it for me, I would use it, as long as it does not require too much extra effort. I think of all the greenies who are going to read this, and I anticipate their judgment. If it was not for the blog, I would definitely keep all this business to myself. I feel ashamed. No, I need to remember, the main thing is to be honest.

Let me take on my marketing hat for a second. What I am voicing is a very real pain. I want to be green, but I need some help. Will someone, please, make green easy on me? Set things up for me, hold my hand as I undertake the heroic task of greening my life.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #18

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower 1
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:
run full load dishwasher

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all day
mom:
heat cream of wheat
microwave half potato
broil steak
fry bokchoy
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic oranges
tea
organic milk
organic chocolate
organic raspberries
mom:
cream of wheat with organic milk
organic raspberries
organic buffalo steak
organic half potato
organic baby bokchoy
communal:
dinner out

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
raspberries plastic box
mom:
most of cream of wheat (leftover from breakfast)
paper wrapper for steak
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
rotten sweet potato
old half potato

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
plastic milk bottle

Transportation

personal:
mom:
communal:
drive to electronics store 2 miles
drive to restaurant 4 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
phone for Little Sister’s family
communal:

Read Full Post »

Day 17 of Daily Footprint Project. The memory of last week’s toxic attack, motivated me to take action before Esperanza’s visit today. Esperanza is our cleaning lady. I have been talking for a long time, about greening our household cleaning products. Talking, writing about, but no action. Last week, the air in the house after Esperanza came, got the best of my lungs. I had to open all the windows, to let in the fresh air, and give my burning throat and lungs a rest. For months now, I have been suffering from a chronic cough, and asthma like symptoms. Same with Catherine. Both she and I have been to several doctors, and tried inhalers and various medicines, with no results. Finally, I got motivated into action. Prad dismissed my concerns, and tried to dissuade me. ‘All these people using those products, and nobody has gotten sick. You are overreacting.‘ I did not listen to him. I was on a mission.

First, let me say this, it is not easy getting a straight answer on cleaning products. I had to go through quite a few dead venues, before I found the information I was looking for. First, I started with TreeHugger. Then made my way to the Household Products Database. Very thorough and scientific, but it failed to give me the straight answers I was looking for. How bad were the commercial products I was currently using? Which brands would they recommend as perfectly safe? Along the way, I came across several places advocating making my own cleaning products. I finally landed on an article from Organic Consumers that gave me the answers I was looking for.

Now I am a poster girl for Seventh Generation. I purchased the whole line at Whole Foods. Laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, dishwasher detergent, glass cleaner, all purpose cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, shower cleaner, and kitchen cleaner. For furniture, I got the Earth Friendly Furniture Polish. But there are quite a few other brands out there that would do just as good of a job.

When Cleaning House Turns Toxic

Above is a picture of all the stuff I had to get rid off. In good conscience, I could not throw it into the garbage. For now, it has been relegated to our garage, waiting for our next trip to the recycling center.

Esperanza left. And I am enjoying not smelling anything, for a change.

The household cleaning products industry is huge. I am imagining all the women, the children, the houses that keep being intoxicated, over and over again, by these everyday products. Lulled into the false reassurance of advertisements touting the benefit of a clean smelling house. What is clean smelling anyway?

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #17

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower 1
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:
run full load dishwasher

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave soup 2’
microwave leftover pasta
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all day
mom:
heat cream of wheat
broil steak
communal:
lights
cook bokchoy in wok
boil water for pasta
fry pasta in wok

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic apple sauce
tea
organic milk
takeout bean soup from Whole Foods
organic chocolate
raspberries
leftover pasta
mom:
cream of wheat with organic milk
organic grapes
communal:
stir fried bokchoy
organic pasta with Italian prosciutto and fresh mozarella

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
raspberries plastic box
mom:
most of cream of wheat (leftover from breakfast)
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
two hardened half bread loaves
old household cleaning products (to wait for city collection of toxic products)
soup carton

Recycling

personal:
three sheets of paper
mom:
communal:
2 papers
milk carton

Transportation

personal:
mom:
communal:
drive to Whole Foods 5 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:
Seventh Generation cleaning products

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Day 16 of Daily Footprint Project. Major overhaul of my bathroom closet. I spent a few more hours going through the Skin Deep database, and perusing Whole Foods Health and Beauty Section. The verdict: the two villains below will have to go, to make room for Aubrey Organics.

The Hidden Environmental Costs of Greener Choices

Next comes the question, of what to do with those two? Prad said he will finish up the Lubriderm. The Neutrogena Facial Cleanser is going to the trash. Not a big deal, it would have ended up there anyway. Only about three ounces of the cleanser will end up being ‘wasted’.

No, the bigger issue is, what happens when one decides to phase out big items such as energy inefficient appliances, or old cars and trucks, in favor of new greener alternatives? Prad’s answer is that all that stuff gets recycled, or ends up being reused by people in developing countries. I do not buy his argument.

First, what does recycle means? What is the energy cost of recycling? How much of the products is recyclable? What happens to the end waste? I touched on that last question in a series of articles inspired from ‘The Digital Dump‘ documentary.

Second, the whole point is to put an end to the use of these environmentally unfriendly goods, not to pass them on to somebody else.

I would like to suggest a third alternative. Taking the example of cars, most of the attention, currently, is on manufacturing new hybrid or electric cars. Much less sexy, but just as, if not more necessary, in my mind, is an approach that focuses on refurbishing existing cars to bring them to new acceptable energy standards. Autobloggreen just featured Pioneer Conversions, a small company that specializes in electrifying existing cars. Because of scale, the costs involved are high, and out of reach for most people. But the important thing is, the technology exists. There is also the biodiesel option.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #16

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower 1
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave soup 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all day
mom:
toaster 2’
communal:
lights
cook salad in wok
boil water for pasta

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmons
tea
organic milk
takeout bean soup from Whole Foods
organic apple sauce
organic chocolate
mom:
two toasts
hot chocolate
organic grapes
communal:
fresh organic mushroom whole wheat pasta with leftover chicken
braised organic salad

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
half used tube of Neutrogena cleanser
mom:
one uneaten toast
half of hot chocolate
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
two plastic bags
plastic container from leftover takeout chicken

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
milk carton

Transportation

personal:
drive to orthodontist, stop at Whole Foods 5 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping

personal:
365 body lotion, shampoo and conditioner
Audrey Organics moisturizer and cleanser
mom:
communal:

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Day 15 of Daily Footprint Project. The day for round two of gum surgery. Oh, joy! I am to eat only soft food for the next few days. Fortunately, there is Whole Foods and its well stocked deli section.

Why should I cook if I don’t have to?

The split pea soup with ham struck my fancy. I filled up the biggest size carton. Prad did the calculation. Per ounce, it is really the best deal.

As of late, I am relying more and more on Whole Foods and other outside cookeries to supplement our menus. With the children less and less home for our family dinners, cooking has lost some of its appeal. In fact, it has become a chore, that detracts from other creative activities I’ d much rather be doing. Blogging, exploring ideas for green ventures are where my heart is for now.

I may be happy away from the kitchen, but what does that do for the environment? The image of the throw away soup carton is haunting me. With each take out, I add to the landfill pile. I could go around the problem, by bringing my own containers. I have never seen anyone do it, but maybe I could start a trend. Actually, it would be kind of cool to see what people say. The more I think about it, I totally dig the idea.

Until I get a bike – number one on my green to do list – , there is also the issue of driving to get the soup. I can rationalize by thinking that I would need to drive anyway to buy the ingredients to make the soup. The answer to that one is twofold: one, get a bike, two, plan better and make less trips to the grocery store. Even more ambitious, would be to also cultivate my own vegetables. I am learning to be practical, however, and to consider only what I know myself capable of sustaining in the long run. Gardening is just not my thing. Better scrap that idea.

There is a third problem with relying on take out. Food sourcing. I give up any control on the types of ingredients that are being used. Same when I eat out at a restaurant. In both cases, I am abdicating my responsibility as a responsible consumer, leaving it to others to decide what goes into my food. Once you start, this kind of logic can be crazy making, and realistically, I am not going to give up eating out. Still, there is some truth in the thought, and maybe reason for a compromise. Like air traveling, the idea is not to give up such indulgences altogether. More sensible, is to limit them to special occasions, and make them the exceptions rather than the norm.

I can think of one good argument for not cooking in my kitchen. Foodpooling, as in carpooling. I just made up the word. It is much more efficient to cook for hundreds of people at once, as is the case for Whole Foods, than to each cook our separate meals. I am not aware of any study on the topic, but I am ready to bet that the energy saved must be substantial.

To summarize, if I manage to bike to the grocery store, and bring my own containers, I will come out pretty clean here.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #15

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower 1
full load laundry
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:
run full dishwasher

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave soup 4’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on half day
full load laundry washer & dryer
mom:
communal:
lights
run full dishwasher

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmons
tea
organic milk
takeout split pea soup from Whole Foods
organic apple sauce
organic chocolate
mom:
organic apples
communal:

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
five day leftover chicken soup

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
milk carton
glass jar apple sauce

Transportation

personal:
drive to orthodontist 5 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

Read Full Post »

Day 14 of Daily Footprint Project. I was in a hurry, and needed to get some more apples for our fruit basket.

What Happened to the Apples?

I could have gone to the farmers’ market earlier, but did not get a chance. There is this local apple grower who sells all kinds of unusual apples, each week. Too much to do. How come I am always rushing? Instead, I went to Whole Foods, and circled the produce section, in search of the perfect apple. I counted nine kinds of apples. Jonagold. Granny Smith. Honeycrisp. Gala. Braeburn. Pink Lady. Golden Delicious. Red Delicious. Fuji. I knew all of them, and none enthused me. Today, I wanted a real apple, like the ones from my childhood, all weird looking with spots on them, bugs inside sometimes even, not too crunchy, not too soft, and a full bodied sweetness I can’t bear to remember, so good it was. I seriously considered going home without my apples? Again I went around, trying to decide which ones I could settle for. Out of desperation, I picked some boring Golden Delicious, still too green in my opinion. At least, the kids would have apples to munch on.

This week, I have had the privilege to meet with two conservation specialists. Both told me similar stories, about the loss of diversity for some of our most common fruit and vegetables. Apples are at the forefront of a biodiversity war apparently, and a race to keep alive the thousands of varieties still existing. In the introduction to his 2005 report, Kanin Routson, from Northern Arizona University, provides a useful perspective on the magnitude of the problem:

‘The industrialization of agriculture has replaced the subsistence farms and their associated diversity with huge monocultural fields planted in a handful of high yielding crop varieties. Horticultural crops are no exception. In his book, ‘The Nomenclature of the Apple’, W. H. Ragan lists over 14,000 named apple varieties referenced in US literature between 1804 and 1904. Today the apple has been reduced to around 90 commercial varieties, with a handful of varieties, namely Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Gala and Fuji making up about 90% of commercial apple production. In the modern version of Ragan’s work, ‘The Fruit Berry and Nut Inventory’, Kent Whealy lists about 1500 apple varieties that are currently available through US nurseries, many of which have been developed through modern fruit breeding. That suggests as much as a 93% loss in apple variety availability in the U. S. over one to two centuries.’

I am mourning the loss of the apples. Even more so, I grieve the attitude from the general population. Most of my fellow Americans are perfectly happy with two, three at the most, varieties of apples. The red one, the green one, and the yellow one. Preferably well calibrated and shiny, to emulate the newness of industrial objects, straight out of an assembly line. Show them a real apple, and they will not touch it. The newer generations have been conditioned to eat with their eyes, according to an artificial aesthetic, that has nothing to do with the goodness of nature.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #14

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
showers at pool 2
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:
run full dishwasher

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on half day
mom:
communal:
lights
run full dishwasher

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmons
tea
organic milk
dinner restaurant salad, fish, seafood, coffee, wine
mom:
take out sushi and chicken salad from Whole Foods
organic apples
communal:

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
2 milk cartons
plastic bottle sparkling water

Transportation

personal:
drive to pool 6 miles
mom:
communal:
drive to restaurant 5 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

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Day 13 of Daily Footprint Project. I am amazed at the change. The desire to shop has totally left me.

Nurturing In a Consumerist Culture

What has not stopped, is the need to nurture my children. My daughter is sixteen. And I still want to indulge her with sweetness, once in a while. She resists, she pushes me away, she is an independent soul who wants to fly away from the nest. ‘I’ve got a life’ is one of her favorite phrases . Other than making food for her, one of the few concrete ways, that I can still give to her, is to go shopping with her.

Today, was the Green Festival in San Francisco. May she come with me, and bring some of her friends along, to go look for a party dress, she wondered? Four girls and I all got into the Prius, and off we were. I, to my green event, they, to the downtown mall. She called to ask me, should she get the $140 dress or the $240 one. The most expensive one was the right color, but then she wondered, that was a lot of money. I met her and her friends, back at the mall. Happy, with their hands full of shopping bags. I was happy too. Four teenage girls, giggling away, marveling at their purchases, and entertaining me with their small talk on the way back in the car. It had been a while, since I had enjoyed such lightness.

Of course, I ask myself the question, could I find other ways to share moments with my daughter? and to give to her? I can hear the voices of some of my 100% green friends. You should . . . , you should . . . , each one with a different idea, a different version of how they were able to pull it off with their own children. Sweet moments with their sixteen year old that did not blemish their green conscience. I know, and I wish I could do the same. Right now, it is not so easy.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #13

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower 1
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on half day
mom:
communal:
lights
cook crepes on stove

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmons
tea
organic milk
falafel wrap at Green Festival
water in recyclable plastic cup
dinner out at friends’ house
mom:
crepes
gave money to the kids to get their own dinner
communal:

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
two shopping bags from expedition
paper magazines and flyers from Green Festival
communal:
2 papers

Transportation

personal:
mom:
communal:
drive to San Francisco 72 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
two dresses, made in?
communal:
flowers from Whole Foods for dinner host

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