Here we are in the middle of April so I thought I’d give an update on how my New Year Evolutions are going. 

Reduce Plastic

This one has been going pretty well and combines nicely with the buy quality/buy less/buy nothing goals. I have been refraining from buying things I don’t need like more cycling jerseys. Just like regular clothes, cycling kit has new designs every year and my email box has been inundated with New Kit Designs Sale! emails. But I already have more jerseys than I need and they are all made of synthetic fiber (plastic). My willpower almost crashed though when I saw one with vegetables all over it and another with a chicken riding a bike. Even now as I tell you about them I want them so very badly. Stupid capitalism.

Coffee grinder

In February our coffee grinder started to die. Sometimes it would work and sometimes, nothing. We tried to figure out if we could fix it, but the casing was all sealed up with no way to get in there and see what was up. So the search began for a replacement that was not plastic. We ended up getting a cute little hand cranked grinder made of wood and stainless steel with stainless steel blades. Even our careful research left us disappointed because when it arrived and we opened the compartment you put the beans in, we discovered the compartment is plastic. Overall though it felt like a win since it is only a small amount of plastic, the grinder is high quality and will last forever, and it doesn’t use electricity. Technically, we should have given up the coffee, but James and I both love good coffee and buy only fair trade, shade grown organic. Still it has an environmental toll, and maybe that’s an evolution for future consideration.

Personal and Household Energy Footprint

I made it biking through the winter! Spring cycling is turning out to be its own challenge. How does one dress for 35F in the morning and 60F on the way home? Not to mention an entire week of cold rain. And I thought the wind in October was bad, turns out wind in spring is worse. One day I biked home in 17 mph winds with gusts of up to 30 mph and it was not a tailwind!

I had a dentist appointment a couple weeks ago and thought of biking there but it was raining and I caved in and took the car since I would be back before James needed it to get to work. It was the first time I have driven since last summer, though I have been in a car a few times. We are doing ok on our goal to drive only 3,000 miles. We have driven more miles at this point than we should have to keep on track, but with the weather getting warmer I am expecting there will be fewer car miles and more bike miles when it comes to errands.

I am also really making an effort to take shorter showers. Oh how I love long, scalding hot showers. But they are bad in terms of both water usage and energy usage. I am aiming for 5 minutes. Some days I make it, most days it’s more like 6-7 minutes. But I am getting better at it and feel good about it, not to mention the lower water and gas bill is nice too. So I don’t feel entirely deprived of a leisurely hot shower, I allow myself the luxury on Saturdays after a long bike ride. And you know what? Even though these showers are longer, they aren’t that much longer, more like 7-8 minutes instead of the 10+ they used to be. And in comparison to the weekday showers, it does feel completely decadent. James is a master at short showers. His showers are so short I sometimes don’t even realize he took one. Maybe one of these days I will manage to be a good at it as he is.

Food Preservation

 I haven’t learned how to make anything but sauerkraut yet. I am planning on trying to make a ginger or turmeric bug though that we can use to make our own natural bubbling soda. We don’t drink Coke or Pepsi or even sparkling water so making our own fermented soda will be a fun treat. I did find out about a book called Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning that I am going to get my hands on. So stay tuned. 

Take a Foraging Class

I’ve had two separate emails about two different foraging classes and planned to do them both. However, due to COVID, the classes are restricted to only 10 people and I did not act fast enough and both were sold out less than a week later. Lesson learned on that one. 

All is not lost on the foraging front however. There are some things I can forage because I already know what they are. I have learned that one can make dandelion jelly from dandelion flowers and that it tastes kind of like honey. You can also make jelly with wild violets and those have a mild berry flavor. Neither of these is blooming here yet, and that’s good because it gives me time to plan! I will need a lot of flowers. 

I seem to recall last spring discovering a little pocket park filled with dandelion flowers and no grass. Clearly an area that does not get sprayed. I am going to go find that neighborhood park this evening and take a good look at it to see if it might be my dandelion flower source and whether it also has violets in it. If all else fails, I will put up an ask on my neighborhood Buy Nothing group and ask if I can come pick dandelions and violets out of peoples’ yards. I will let y’all know how it goes!

Community and Speaking Out

I have become a regular attendee of my neighborhood green committee. It’s mostly been me being quiet and getting to know everyone because I joined int he middle of what are clearly regular plans being implemented. I will be taking part in clean up day this coming weekend. I got the committee to put Plastic Free July on the calendar. I just learned there is a compost week in May so I am going to bring that up at the meeting later this week.

I have also been writing real letters/emails to representatives and not just clicking on Sign the Petition buttons. I also Tweeted Secretary Pete early on about the infrastructure plan requesting attention be given to taking cars off the road and expanding public and active transit.

My county wants to expand one of its maintenance facilities in a neighborhood that has experienced racism and environmental pollution. The expansion of their existing facility will add more pollution and another 400 parking spaces for cars. They are right next to a bike greenway, bus lines, and a metro rail station. I bike by the facility every day to and from work and the traffic is already bad. The neighborhood wants to the buy property the county is planning to use for its expansion and turn it into an organic food garden. It’s probably no surprise I sent emails in support of the organic garden.

My city is in the process of planning a major reconstruction of one of the busiest streets in town. They are required to make their various plans public and open for comment. And I commented! One of the plans doesn’t even have any bike lanes which goes against the city’s own climate and transportation goals. I chose the plan that gave most of the street space to pedestrians, protected bike lanes and dedicated bus-only lanes and only a single lane each direction to car traffic. Then I made some extra comments about health and safety and climate change and the city’s own stated goals and how this was their chance to be bold and make the goals reality instead of just paying them lip service. 

I also made a monetary donation to Honor the Earth, a local nonprofit run by Winona LaDuke, who are, among other things, fighting the Enbridge line 3 oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. My congressional representative I am proud to say is Ilhan Omar and she is one of the sponsors on a bill making its way through committee in Congress that would permanently stop the pipeline. I emailed her to thank her and let he know I support her efforts. 

Assessment

Overall, I think the evolutions are off to a good beginning. I’m learning stuff, I’m resisting stuff, I’m speaking out, I am overcoming my shyness and being ok with feeling awkward with people I don’t know—stepping outside the comfort zone! It’s terrifying and exhilarating all at once. Sometimes I feel like an idiot, sometimes I feel amazing. But always I am glad I made the effort. I’m evolving!

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9 thoughts on “An Evolutionary Update

  1. What a great job you’re doing! And I hear your comment about how sometimes you feel like you’re an idiot and sometimes amazing. LOL

    Your coffee comment is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. So far, we are still consuming coffee regularly (but we do reuse the grounds once, now), bird-friendly and no slave-trade and organic here too, but I know that’s something on our “before too long” list (not the “soon” list). The water usage. And the transport.

    We still haven’t gotten our pasta plans underway but we have eliminated one more regularly purchased packaged item from our grocery shopping. Of course that does mean buying ingredients in packages, but they don’t add up as quickly in the bins as it does to buy the finished products, and it also makes you think more about everything you eat because you will have to labour to replace it. 😉

    And we’ve found a way to buy a much larger container of maple syrup rather than a bunch of 1L bottles, so that’s an improvement too. (Not sure if you get maple syrup where you are, but we use it as a sugar substitute for nearly everythiing, including in that precious coffee!)

    1. Wow you are doing fantastic BIP! The coffee is so hard. There is always coffee in the faculty and staff breakroom here and I usually get a cup once or twice a week, but since it is neither organic nor shade grown I have managed to stop myself from taking my cup with me when I go put interlibrary loan books in the outgoing mail box. I’m not sure when I will be ready to begin cutting back at home. I will need an alternative breakfast drink. I have tried tea before and I just don’t like it well enough to actually want to drink it at breakfast.

      Buying ingredients is more containers unless you have the option to get all or most of them in bulk, but you are right that the ingredients last longer than just buying the single finished product. It does indeed make you think more about how and what you are eating and, I think, less likely to waste anything since it takes so much effort.

      A 1L bottle of Maple syrup! That must last a while. Yes we get local maple syrup here and can buy it in bulk (we’ve even considered tapping our own maple tree but I don’t think we’d get enough sap to make the resulting work for the syrup worth it). But we also sometimes buy at the farmers market and they use glass so even if the bottle is small we don’t feel so bad about it and often reuse it for something else. We use maple syrup for a sugar substitute too though we drink our coffee unsweetened. Keep up the good work!

  2. I see you have made so much progress on your plans, congratulations! I’d be curious to learn more about this dandelion jelly, we do have a lot of those here. I know that edible flowers are all the rage on top of fancy salads to make them more interesting and instagram-worthy but I have never tasted them myself.

    1. Thank you smithereens! I am trying! There are lots of recipes for dandelion jelly if you do a Google search. I’m planning on making a low sugar one which requires Pomona’s Pectin and the calcium packet that comes with it because flower jelly has almost no acidity. So I am in search of pectin right now and hope I can find it soon because the dandelions are starting to bloom in the sunny warm places. Dandelion flowers and violets sprinkled on a salad really don’t add any flavor, but the doo look pretty 🙂

  3. I wish I could give you some of our violets!

    I think you’re doing wonderfully well on these evolutions. Especially joining groups and writing emails – those things are challenging to do!

    My current focus is on food waste, trying not to overbuy, using up tidbits, and composting what we can’t use. It’s always a challenge.

    1. Add some of your violets to a salad Laila. You can eat both the flowers and the fresh greens raw.

      And thank you! It’s hard some days to motivate myself and/or find the time, but there’s too much at stake to do nothing.

      Food waste is a big deal! Well done on your efforts! It’s fun trying to figure out how to use all the tidbits, creativity in action!

    1. Jeanne, dandelions and violets are both edible, greens and flowers and you don’t even need to cook them. Liven up a salad with some dandelion flower petals of violet flowers. And pick the young greens of both to add in as well. Free food in your own yard! 🙂

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