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).

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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
Advertisements

There’s a Gnome in my Pumpkin; DIY Toothpaste

Hello All, Happy Weekend and Happy Fall!

In recognition of the passage of time and seasons, lets take a moment to admire this pumpkin with a heart on it …

Magic Pumpkin of Berlin
HeART of Gatow –WWOOF Berlin, September 2016

Can you spot the pumpkin I am referring to?

Right there on the bottom row, right side, third pumpkin in. You see it?

Bingo!…a pumpkin with a heart-shaped “blemish” on it’s skin.

An Autumn Miracle, or the work of a garden gnome? Its tough to say…

German Gnome, Gatow
German Gnome, potential windmill squatter and pumpkin artist

Until recently, I believed the heart to be some sort of miracle, like the image of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich. What else could explain it? Well, then I stumbled upon a book about gnomes which illuminated a new possibility:

Perhaps this was not a “natural occurrence”, the “hand of God”, or “magic”, but instead the clever, whimsical handiwork of a garden gnome who had been living in the windmill on the property.

Gnomes are known to occupy windmills from time to time, and this pumpkin was grown in close proximity to a windmill, the one pictured blow in fact.

Windmühle
Windmühle, WWOOF Berlin Fall 2016

So it could very well have been a gnome.

Oh nature.

It is my love of nature that inspires this next topic, please enjoy.

Zero Waste Living

As some of you may know, garbage is an issue close to my heart.

Lunchlady on Liberty
South Carolina, Golden Bear Cruise 2016

It all started in college. Yep, went to college, fell in love with garbage.

DSCF1261

Its taken me a while, but this year I finally made it a goal to adopt a Zero Waste lifestyle. I am inspired by two ladies: Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home and Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers and The Package Free Shop, both women have written extensively on the topic of Zero Waste Living and rely heavily on glamour shots for advertising.

Aside from eliminating plastic utensils and straws (cept the jumbo ones for bubble tea) by switching to Geico…I mean To Go Ware and Simply Straws, I have two recent developments in my Zero Waste game I’d like to share with you in case you were looking for a nudge:

Dental Floss

I bought a fancy dental floss called Dental Lace that is made of silk and comes in a refillable glass container. The idea behind this product is that the natural fibers are better for you to slobber all over and the refillable glass containers reduce the waste associated with plastic dental floss containers. I will continue using the fancy dental floss for these reasons, but will admit the floss breaks easier than what I am used to.

DIY Toothpaste

Most excitingly, and actually the whole reason for this post, is DIY toothpaste. I ran out of toothpaste and decided to make my own to elimiate toothpaste tubes from my waste stream. Using a recipe I found on a zero waste lifestyle blog called Trash is for Tossers, I am quite satisfied with this DIY alternative.

The recipe is simple:

2 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 tablespoon baking soda,  10-15 drops mint or other essential oil

Tastes a little salty and does not froth, fluxuates between solid and liquid depending on temperature, but all in all, I’d say this toothpaste works great and is a suitable alternative to packaged toothpase. I put mine in a jar leftover from home-made jam my gramma sent me. Yummmm.

Now, go forth and brush!

xo

KB

P.S. For all you tap dancing enthusiasts out there, some tap dancing education for you: an interview with Brenda Buffalino, tap master, maybe the first lady to popularize ladies tap dancing in flat shoes as opposed to high heels (must fact check for you), founder of the tap school I am attending. Thanks Brenda! Follow link below for interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcWIM6EWw2Y

 

 

 

 

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