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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Going Ape for Fair Trade Electronics

Hello all and happy Memorial Day. I hope you’re feelin’ groovy and not too traumatized by my last post about turtle noses and plastic straws. Got a new topic for you, one that connects many dots for this blog and gives me mucho hope and confidence in a sustainable future for the us and the apes, who are one.

Fair Trade Electronics

So, you’ve heard of fair trade coffee, right?

And perhaps fair trade chocolate?

Yum!

But how ’bout fair trade electronics??

 

According to internet sources, and the lovely Jane Gooddall (see video), some very key components of electronics come from Chimpanzee and Gorilla habitat in the Democratic Repubic of Congo. Thats over in Africa–(great song), see map below, DRC is in red:

drc
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0e/Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_in_Africa.svg/1084px-Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_in_Africa.svg.png

 It is in this region that Chimpanzees and Gorillas roam wild and free, and where today, large and small scale (artisinal) mining operations are moving in to extract minerals like Cobalt, Tungsten, and “rare Rarth metals” including Coltan, or Tantalite, which are all used in the making of electronic devices.

People are moving into once uninhabited areas in order to make a living through mining–cant blame ’em for that, baby’s gotta eat. Unfortunately, however, an unintended consequence of this migration is habitat destruction and species loss. People even hunt Chimpanzees and Gorillas for eating or selling on the illegal pet trade and bushmeat markets. Sad. Look, this chimp is pouting about it:

chimpy
https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/chimpanzee

Here are some photos of these materials which are essential to the functioning of our electronics and represent much conflict:

Tungsten4_0616
Tungsten: https://www.fairphone.com/de/2016/06/20/fairphone-2-good-vibrations-with-conflict-free-tungsten-2/
coltan
Coltan, or Tantalite: http://www.thecoli.com/threads/lets-discuss-the-potential-of-what-is-the-democratic-republic-of-congo.402272/
cobalt
Cobalt: http://www.thecoli.com/threads/lets-discuss-the-potential-of-what-is-the-democratic-republic-of-congo.402272/

And a photo of a two different Cobolt mining operations, one industrial and one artisanal:

large scale op
Industrial mining site: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2017/06/07/on-site-visit-to-cobalt-mines-in-congo-april-2017/
small scale op
Artisanal mining site: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2017/06/07/on-site-visit-to-cobalt-mines-in-congo-april-2017/

To clarify, the difference between Industrial and Artisanal mining is the Industrial operations are organized by large, often foreign companies, while the Artisanal operations are conducted by individual miners.

There are issues with both levels of operation. Ultimately, not only is land and habitat being ravaged, or at least altered, through the mining process, but also people, child laborers included, are working under dangerous conditions for less than fair wages to supply us with these materials. Here is a video that explains the extractive/mining industry and the perspective of artisanal miners:

For me, the main takeaway from the clip above is from 1:44 til 3:14, a segment which reveals an artisanal Cobalt mine and a discussion with miners about working conditions and wages.

Because they are not part of a company or union, these miners have no representation on the market and often end up getting ripped off by buyers, most often Chinese companies, who buy at low prices and then make a profit, reselling the materials to electronics manufacturers at a 30% markup (statistic provided in video).

The miners, who often enter a mine and stay in there for 2-3 days at a time, feel they are not receiving fair pay, especially considering the profits other people are making off of their labor, the price of finished electronics, and the rate of electronics consumption worldwide. They would like to be paid fairly. I can dig it.

Fairphone

Now, I’m not sure if “fair trade electronics” is an official term, but the concept is there, and leading the way is a Netherlands based company called Fairphone.

Fairphone, founded in 2013, is pioneering the movement towards fair-trade electronics by changing the industry from the inside, providing an ethical alternative to all other cell phones on the market, the Fairphone.

fariphone
https://shop.fairphone.com/?ref=header

Through painstaking research and partnerships with organizations like the Dragonfly Initiative, who advise businesses in the “extractive industry” on sustainable purchasing, Fariphone has made an effort to purchase from with “Conflict-Free” mining operations that do not use child-labor, who pay their workers fairly, and who strive to reduce their environmental imapct.

Although Fairphone does not boast to have a 100% fair phone, they are working towards that goal and at least provide a “fair-er” alternative to other smart phones on the market, creating a demand for fair electronics. Their goal is to promote “positive social and environmental impact[s] from the beginning to end of a phones life cycle” by incorporating long lasting design, fair materials, good working conditions, and promoting reuse and recycling (Fairphone Goals).

So, thats about all I’ve got to say about that. Fairphone is paving the way for all electronics to bear the Fair-Trade certification. If you are considering a new smartphone, consider Fairphone and help build the movement.

I also wanted to mention the importance of recycling E-waste. According to a video I saw on facebook, only about 15% of electronics are recycled. That is not very much. Considering how much work goes into extracting the materials that go into our electronics, considering that little children and chimpanzee are suffering in order to bring us the latest version of the Iphone, the least we can do is make an effort to discard our electronics correctly, ie make sure they are recycled, not junked in the trash. There is actually gold in our electronics, are we really going to throw gold into the garbage?! Times, they are a changin. Those 49er gold-miners must be rolling in their graves.

Now, I realize electronic waste recycling is not easy or convenient. I don’t know of any city that provides municipal electronic waste collection, so that leaves it to you and me, the consumers, to go the extra mile to bring our electronic waste to an e-waste recycler. That takes effort, I know, its annoying. But its our responsability, and perhaps the price we have to pay for all the work that goes in on the front end to bring us relatively cheap electronics (considering the labor and environmental costs that go into production).

Ok, off the soap box.

Recycle your electronics. Don’t let me find them on the ground or I will make art with them.

Waste
Ground Score E-Waste Art
E-waste Art
More ground-score E-waste art

Cheers to progress, peace, and love, and a happy day to you,

KB

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!

 

Organics – What to buy and what you can let slide

Hello readers!

Happy Monday and day after Earth Day, 2018.

I’d like to make a special shout out to all the new people and/or robots who have begun to follow this blog and to acknowledge those who have been following from the get go. Thank you for joining and welcome aboard!

In other news, today I wanted to share some information presented this weekend on The Food Chain Radio Program about grocery shopping and organics. Ultimately, the show provided a list of fruits and veggies that are more and less important to buy organic. Meaning, there are some fruits and veggies we can save money on by buying the non-organic option without worrying too much about ingesting chemicals. Phew and woo hoo!

Here are the lists, courtesy of The Environmental Working Group:

The Dirty Dozen (bakers dozen, that is)

–Produce containing high levels of pesticide residues, even after being rinsed and peeled. Good idea to buy the organic versions of these fruits and veggies.

Notice most of these items have thin skins, aka more permeable to pesticides. And note that the pesticides found on non-organic versions of these are linked to brain damage and cancer, are outlawed in many European countries, and yet are approved by the US Government*. Wonderful.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers
  13. Hot peppers

The Clean 15

–Produce containing minimal levels of pesticide residues when grown conventionally. Aka, we can buy these products non-organic without worrying too much.

Notice most of these have thick skins or shells which protect the part you eat from contact with the pesticides.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn**
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas**
  8. Asperagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydews
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantalopes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

**Sweet corn, papayas, and summer squash are often genetically modified crops, so if you want to avoid being part of the “greatest global experiment known to mankind” (quote from acupuncturist Jenny Johnston of Santa Cruz), best to go organic with these crops. Note I did acupuncture as a groupon deal just to try it out. It was ok.

Parting Thoughts

All in all, I was very relieved to come across these lists, espeicially the Clean 15, since I’ve been busting my own balls paying pretty much double for organic avocadoes, broccoli, onions, etc. over the years. Recently canned from my latest job, I’m now watching my spending a bit more. Que conundrum:

In general, I like to buy only organic products on principle, to “vote with my dollar” as they say, to support farmers who have gone out of their way to certify themselves and adopt safer and more sustainable growing practices. Yes, its more expensive, but I figure I’d rather feed myself good food and maintain my health than spend money on anything else.

Cool Like Ghandi
https://www.zazzle.com/ghandi_be_the_change_classic_round_sticker-217041640643772530

Anyway, I cant help but wonder: if we all buy non-organic, Clean 15 produce, how will this impact the agricultural market?

Conventional farmers will continue as is, while farmers who grow organic produce will be out of luck, unable to compete with the low prices of non-organic produce.

By selecting non-organic options, we as consumers are telling farmers that we value cheap food and that it is ok to use harmful chemicals on our food. Thats what “voting with your dollar” means to me, by the way. When you buy something, you are supporting someone and encouraging them to keep on keepin’ on.

It is important to note that produce on the Clean 15 list still did test positive for pesticide residues, just not at the high levels of the Dirty Dozen. Pesticides do have environmental and health impacts which someone is going to pay for down the line, either through medical bills or contaminated water or another Dust Bowl, something like that.

By buying organic, we are telling farmers that we value organic farming and the extra efforts they are taking to build a sustainble food system. Buying organic today, even though it is more expensive, will encourage all farmers to adopt safer and more sustainable growing practices and prices will eventually even out. I’m no economist, but I’m pretty sure thats how supply and demand works.

I’ve seen it happen with organic strawberries in Santa Cruz. I was surprised and a bit delighted last year to see the organic and non-organic strawberries pretty much the same price.

All that being said, we can only do what we can do. I’m probably going to start going non-organic for the Clean 15, but definitely going to opt for organics when it comes to the dirty dozen. Our health is all we’ve got, some say.

I hope this post helps you make up your mind as well.

Thank you for reading and wishing you all the best this week and beyond,

Kelly B

Santa Cruz
Try frolicking this week, will ya? Photo taken at Santa Cruz Harbor.