Zero Waste Strategies, Guitar-Tap Dance Collaboration, and Street Performing

Hello all…happy belated Groundhogs Day to all you ‘mericans and early Valentine’s Day to my fellow romantics!

Today I have some reflections on Zero Waste Living for you plus some tap dance related news and a bonus plant fact.

As some of you may know, I’ve been obsessed with garbage for a long time…see me and garbage through the years (cue love song: how sweet it is).

 

 

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I’m not sure what this fixation says about me psychologically–a topic for deeper exploration, I suppose–but I do know where this interest has led me, and that is to explore Zero Waste Lifestyle options in an effort to reduce personal waste production.

Its all about “baby steps.”

This year I experimented with a few different dental floss options (Dr. Mercola is the new favorite, works best, comes in cardboard container, thanks Mamãe), switched over to a new deodorant that can be bought in bulk and comes in a glass jar (Meow Meow Tweet), bought “bees-wrap” to replace saran wrap, or “cling-film” as our UK friends call it, and both invested in a reusable-collapsible to-go container design I’ve been playing with for years…and found one that gets the job done (Sea-To-Summit “Seal and Go Set”).

I also continued to use my To-Go Ware (bamboo utensil set), which I carry around religiously, also introducing metal straws to the mix, enjoyed the soft feel of cloth hankies to dab away tears and runny noses, brought my own totes and produce bags when grocery shopping, and went on with what is probably my 5th year of using the Diva Cup, a reusable menstrual cup which has enabled me to live pad and tampon free all this time. Not only has the cup prevented a lot of garbage and exposure to chemicals, but it as also saved a lot of time and money since I never have to buy pads or tampons anymore. Oh yeah, I also started making my own toothpaste using a simple recipe, eliminating toothpaste associated garbage which tends to be difficult to recycle and of course carry a reusable waterbottle so I don’t have to buy plastic ones on the go.

Apologies for all this talk about me, but as Henry David Thoreau, my historical crush put it:

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.” (Walden)

If you’re curious about any of the topics mentioned above, please ask and I’ll be glad to elaborate.

Reflecting on the areas I can still reduce waste, the first things that comes to mind are to-go cups (for coffee and smoothies/juices) and to-go food containers (for take-out and nuts).

Deeper observation is needed to further analyze my garbage footprint and see where improvements can be made.

What about you?

Food for thought.

Moving on, I wanted also to share some musical projects that have been happening.

Tap Dance-Guitar Collaboration

 

 

That was me and a friend playing around with time and sounds at the American Tap Dance Foundation. More to come!

In other tap dancing news, Gregory Hines, legendary tap dancer who was most prominent in the 1980’s and ’90s and know for collaborating with male ballerino Mikhail Baryshnikov among other things, has been honored by the USPS by being put on a postage stamp. Woot!

Here is a video from the dedication ceremony, held at Symphony Space in Manhattan last Monday. The dancers are Barbara Duffy, Michelle Dorrance, Mikela Lerman, and Ayodele Casel, dancing a piece choreographed by Gregory Hines.

 

As far as street performing goes, I wanted to write a little about that world of experience.

Street Performing in NYC

Metropolitan Ave Station, Brooklyn
Busking in Brooklyn

I have been doing this. I started last year and had the most fun dancing with my then-roommate, Martina the Ballerina. I find street performing to be a good way to work through the nerves of performing, receive feedback, and practice playing loudly, plus it give me somewhere to play other than my bedroom with less pressure than open-mics. When I street-perform (aka “Busk”), I either play guitar, acoustic or electric (acoustic is less cumbersome), or tap dance (either to recorded music, a metronome, or with nothing). The goal is to combine tap dancing and guitar, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet other than stomping out 1-2-3-4 beats.

Thought I’d have more to say about that but turns out no. Just wanted to introduce the topic.

Ok, last 2 things. I wanted to mention a novel product idea that I encountered last year at a craft fair. It was this guy:

Simmer Guy
Simmer Guy at American Feild Trade-show Summer 2018

Simmer is a tomato sauce that comes in smaller package than other sauces on the market. It is meant to be a solution to moldy tomato sauce, which often happens when a single person opens a jar o’sauce. Even though his packaging is plastic, I thought it was clever to address the issue of portion sizes and food waste in packaging. He also had great sample spoons made out of cardboard instead of plastic. If any of you are thinking about giving out food samples, consider these.

Non-plastic sample spoons
Plastic-free sample spoon, great idea!

Finally, a plant fact for you that I learned at work. Ficus, a common house-plant, is a fig plant! I didn’t know that but it makes sense.

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 12.23.26 PM

According to Tina DeSanto of The World is Your Dumpster, also my co-worker at Verdant Gardens, Ficus binnendijkii ‘Alii’ is more commonly known as Alii ficus or banana-leaf ficus. Originally from the Philippines and south east Asia, this tree was originally cultivated in Hawaii and has been in the industry about 10 years, the name Alii means chief in Hawaiian and ficus in Latin means fig.
And finally finally, a dream catcher I made out of plastic bags and odds and ends I’ve collected in the past few months from life and litter.
Garbage Dream Catcher
Garbage Dream Catcher
Thats all folks!
Stay groovy,
KB
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Inspiration to give up plastic straws for good: Turtle Noses

Hello Dear Readers,

I saw this video a few weeks back and have been wanting to share because I found it so…striking, but hesitated because its pretty icky. If you needed a reason to forgo plastic straws, here you go. Now when I see plastic straws, I think of this clip.

Warning, this video contains “harsh” language and nauseating content.

 

Here is another disturbing video with a turtle with a plastic FORK stuck in their nose. Forking fork fork this is not acceptible folks.

https://www.earthtouchnews.com/environmental-crime/pollution/first-a-straw-now-a-fork-turtles-are-choking-on-our-plastic-trash/

On a positive note, in my recent travels to California, I learned that San Francisco has banned plastic straws and many other cities are hopping on board. Woo hoo! We are evolving.

And in Texas, I ate at a restaurant called Youngbloods which provided straws only upon request, and those straws were paper straws, which worked quite well. If you own a food establishment or use straws at home, check out AARDVARK straws for an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws. Amazon sells them in smaller quantities.

Paper Straws
Paper gtraws, great alternative to plastic straws.

 

Another alternative to plastic straws, if you like to use straws regularly, is metal or bamboo straws. Here is a link to The Package Free shop, based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which provides a variety of reusable products, including a few different re-usable straw options.

Now, I haven’t found any of those big straws used for smoothies and my beloved bubble tea (see below) but I will say, they are quite re-usable and rinse-able. Just takes a bit of habit shifting to remember to hang onto your straw and bring it when you know you’re going to get a drink while you’re out. I am working on that. Takes diligence, man.

Plastic Straws
Big plastic straws can be re-used, an easy way to reduce plastic waste if you can remember

Sometimes I add one of those straws to my To Go Ware bamboo utensil kit so I have it when a straw moment strikes.

Re-usable Bamboo Utensils, alternative to plastic
Great re-usable alternative to plastic utensils, a straw can fit in there too…. https://www.to-goware.com/product-repeat-utensil-set-141?color=cayenne

Love the bamboo utensils by the way, haven’t used many plastic utensils since I got mine 4 or 5 years ago.

Well, that about sums up my thoughts on plastic straws. Something I’m really noticing these days as I’m making an effort to live a “Zero waste lifestyle” is how proactive I need to be when ordering food. For example, on a recent flight I ordered a tea and received not only my cup of tea, but also a plastic cup with tea-accoutrements in it, including…dun-dun-dun….a little plastic stirring straw. I saw it and instantly got hit with the turtle-nostril image. Whabam!

Moving forward, I’m training myself to ask questions about packaging before I order food. It is a work in progress. Now the mission is to figure out a way to phrase things without coming across as self-righteous, annoying, or doom and gloomy.

Any advice?

All the best,

Kelly B

Photo booth
Shout out to Amanda and non-photoshop photo editing. Much love y’all!

 

Apes and Palm Oil: How YOU can save orangutans with your groceries

Hello All,

Back when I was at the goat farm in Tenessee, I took an online class taught by Jane Gooddall through a program called Masterclass. The class was about conservation and chimpanzee behavior and was a-ok. If you’re into chimpanzees and want to learn about conservation through a fireside chat-like series with Jane Gooddall, I’d highly recommend this class.

The main highlight for me was being able to connect with other ape enthusiasts through the class’ forum. I even bought a painting from one of my classmates, a New Zeland based artist named Deborah Moss. The piece I bought is similar to this one:

painting by Deborah Moss
Mixed Media Painting by Deborah Moss https://www.deborahmossart.com/recent-works.html

One really cool thing about Deborah Moss is her business model. In honor of my purchase, Deborah planted a native tree, an act which supports ecological health and gives back to the planet. Oh so nice! For me, you, her, the bees…and everyone!

In case you are curious, Deborah planted a Kowhai tree which is native to New Zeland and produces yellow flowers, which birds and pollinators love. See below:

Kowhai Nat Geo
New Zeland Native Kowhai Tree, courtesy of https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/kowhai/

So lovely. Thank you Deborah!

Now, for my main point:

Apes and Palm Oil: How YOU can save orangutans with your groceries.

Through Masterclass, I was also able to connect with Mandy Lee, an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher from Taiwan who had some interesting knowledge to share about apes and palm oil plantations. I was able to find out a little more through a personal interview.

Reforestation project in Malaysia
Mandy Lee Reforesting with APE Malaysia

Interview with Mandy from Masterclass

First let me start by summarizing the issue surrounding Orangutans and Palm Oil. For a more in depth explaination, please visit The 12 Days of Peatmas.

Here is my brief explanation of the situation at hand:

Orangutans, the gingerest of the Great Apes, are native to Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests. Besides zoos, this is their only home in the whole wide world. See map below:

Indonesia and Malaysia
Indonesia and Malaysia https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/peatmasday2/indonesiaandmalaysia/

Orangutans spend most of their time up in the trees, which is why deforestation is so threatening to their survival. No trees=no food+no home for orangutans, and no home=no more orangutans. Easy math.

biosprit-subventionen-indonesien
Orangutan Refugee https://theirturn.net/2015/04/02/sustainable-palm-oil/

So, why deforest the only place in the world where Orangutans live?

Two words:

 PALM OIL

dun dun dun…..

Palm Oil comes from Palm Oil Nut Trees, and is an ingredient used in an ever increasing percentage of food and cosmetic products on the market today. Over 50% according to most sources.

Below is a display of some common products containing Palm Oil. For a more comprehensive list, click here. Then, check out this page for a list of sneaky Palm Oil synonmyns that you will also find on food labels (eg. Palmolein, Octyl Palmitate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Elaeis Guineensis).

products containing palm oil
https://rctom.hbs.org/submission/from-chocolate-ice-cream-to-deforestation-in-borneo/

My hope is that you will use this information to make informed decisions when you are grocery shopping and avoid products that contain palm oil for the sake of conservation. I’m saying bye bye to Nutella for this reason**tear**

So, palm oil is in everything, what’s the problem?

Unfortunately for orangutans (and other species), the fertile soil and climate of the rainforest habitat provides excellent growing conditions for palm oil nut trees, which look like this:

Palm Oil Nut Tree
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/295478425525656633/

Coupled with the inexpensive price of land in Indonesia and Malaysia, this makes orangutan habitat an ideal location for palm oil nut tree plantations, see what was once  a dense patch of forest, now cleared, below:

Palm Oil Nut Tree Plantation
Oil palm plantation at the border of intact forest. Jambi – Indonesia, 2011. ©Center For International Forestry Research/Iddy Farmer

Fueled by a desire to make major moo-lah, farmers and large corporations (like Nestlé)* have thus begun to buy up and develop large expanses of orangutan habitat, clear-cutting and burning existing forest to make way for palm oil nut tree plantations without a care in the world for environmental impacts including habitat and species destruction. Bravo industry. Love the short-sighted, linear thinking. Just great.

Luckily, there are some companies taking strides to promote “sustainably harvested palm oil,” partnering with farmers who engage in less destructive growing practices. Unfortunately, according to some sources, the regulations are difficult to enforce and not 100% trustworthy.

Similar to the Organics label, this is a matter of trusting the government and regulatory agencies to do their job…which we all know is like trusting your brother to flush the toilet after #2…sometimes he does it, sometimes he don’t.

Regardless, if you are buying a product containing palm oil, look for these labels, for at least these companies are making an effort to be perceived as sustainable and furthering the movement, one would hope:

Green Palm Certification
Green Palm Certification https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/peatmasdayseven-2/

 

RSPO
Sustainable Palm Oil Label https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/peatmasdayseven-2/

*For the record, Nestlé has taken strides towards sustainability after some “bad press” exposed their destructive Palm-oil related practices. You can read all about their newfound sustainability efforts on their website. Keep in mind this is information Nestlé is writing about itself.

And now, a little about Mandy Lee, my Masterclass-mate, the inspiration for this article…

At 30 years old, Mandy, a freelance translator and English teacher in Taiwan, was feeling the push to “do something meaningful” wither her life and decided to pursue a lifelong passion for wildlife by volunteering with APE Malaysia, which she found via online research.

Through the 28 day program called “Orangutan Encounters,” Mandy split her time between working on enrichment activities for rescued Orangutans at Zoo Negara, learning about their incredible intelligence and behaviors, and planting trees at the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Borneo.

During her time at the zoo, Mandy had a bandage on one of her fingers and had an amzing interaction with one of the orangutans, who recognized her finger as being hurt and kissed her own finger while pointing to Mandy’s. If that is not a symbol of empathy, a true sign of intelligence, I dont know what is!

At the Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary, Mandy’s group helped plant trees to restore land that has been damaged by Palm Oil production, ensuring a home for orangutans and other unique critters now and into the future.

Me and my teamates at the project site
Mandy and fellow volunteers in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Reforesting for Orangutans (photo provided by Mandy)
Organizing Saplings for Tree Planting
Volunteers organizing saplings for tree planting (Photo provided by Mandy Lee)

 

What a wonderful and meaningful way to vacation! Thank you for sharing your story Mandy!

The following are links to more information about Apes and Palm Oil, provided by Mandy:

APE Malaysia Volunteer Program

http://www.apemalaysia.com

Palm Oil Consumer Action

https://www.facebook.com/PalmOilConsumerAction/

Orangutan Project

https://www.facebook.com/projectorangutan/ 

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)

https://www.facebook.com/sunbear.bsbcc/?ref=br_rs

I also wanted to note that after her volunteer experience, aside from becoming more conscious of palm oil and avoiding products that contain it, Mandy has been inspired to live a more sustainable lifestyle. She has given up plastic straws and switched to re-usable food wrapping products like bees-wrap, replacing the need for single-use products like saran wrap. So cool Mandy, way to go!

Ok, that’s about it for now. Let me know if you have any questions or comments! This is a deep issue and I’d be happy to explore the topic more.

I will leave you with a photo: me, bundled up at the beach in New York in March. Miss you, California!

The Rockaway
Beach attire in New York, Spring 2018