Recycled from the Internet.

Recently I saw a Facebook post by a woman who, while at the beach, picked up three (large) bags of trash with her family. Another woman who works as a cashier at Walgreens, said she started to ask customers buying two or three items if they wanted a bag and reported that when asked, many customers didn’t take a bag. Judging by the number of comments and “likes” on these two posts, people were inspired.

While certainly not to the level of David Sedaris or the aforementioned hero, when I go for my morning walk, I usually manage to pick up at least four pieces of trash around the park. When I do, I always hope that people see me. Not because I want a pat on the back for it, but because I hope if they see me do it, they might do it too. I like to think that good deeds are contagious.

What if we all just dedicated 5 minutes a day to our old pal Earth? Whether it’s tossing an abandoned plastic water bottle in the recycle bin or coming up with small ideas that can make a huge difference like these, we all have the power to create change:

 

image001

Meatless Monday: Gardein Meatless Meatballs and Pasta Sauce.

Have you tried the Gardein Meatless Meatballs? I’ve tried other veggie meatballs and so far these are my faves. And they have them at the Target right by our house!

With15 grams of protein per serving, there’s something about the spiciness (maybe fennel?) that tricks your mouth into thinking it’s a real honest to goodness freakin’ meatball!

Simmer them up in some marinara (I like this Victoria stuff but you do you). The rest of my family likes a few Banza noodles with it (more protein!), but I’m usually a straight “meat”balls-and-sauce girl. Add a salad. And BAM! you’ve got yourself a delicious meatless Monday meal.

I couldn’t get much easier than this. Unless, I guess if you had a robot simmer them for you. But that would be silly.

HipstamaticPhoto-555881682.556993

 

Skip the Tub: How to Make Crockpot Yogurt in 7 Simple Steps.

We’re big yogurt eaters in my family and for a long time I was buying two big tubs a week. I hated seeing all of that plastic come into our house week after week (even though it got recycled). I remembered hearing that you could make yogurt in a crockpot, so I decided to give it a whirl.

After watching approximately 8 billion YouTube videos, and reading an equal number of blog posts on the subject matter, I attempted my first batch. “Attempted” being the key word; it was a big fail. The happy lady in the video made it look so easy!?!? She SAID it was SO EASY?!?!? After reading approximately 3 million more blogs (and comments!), I realized that my crockpot temperature at “low” was not the same as the YouTuber’s crockpot temperature at low. I borrowed my neighbor’s meat thermometer to check the temps (using water) and it turned out mine needed to be on high for the first step, not low. I tried again—and success! YUM! You guys, homemade yogurt is soooooo yummy! And no poopy plastic tubs (unless you decide to store yours in a plastic tub that you saved from your last store-bought yogurt like I do).

Here’s how I made my crockpot yogurt. (First things first: I have the Rival® Crock Pot® Stoneware Slow Cooker, Model #3351. It’s pretty old, but still works like a charm. Don’t have a slow cooker? I can almost guarantee you’ll find one at the local thrift shop or neighborhood garage sale.)

  1. Pour 1/2 gal milk in crockpot (we’re trying to save plastic here so buy whatever brand that comes in cardboard containers. I like Sweet Meadows Farms).
  2. Turn the crockpot on HIGH for 3 hours. Temp should get somewhere between 170-190 degrees, so it’s a good idea to calibrate with water and a meat (or candy) thermometer ahead of time to make sure that’s what your crockpot is at HIGH.
  3. Turn off and unplug crockpot and let sit for 2 hours. After two hours, temp should be 110-ish degrees.
  4. Add 1/4 cup or so of starter. The starter is just any plain yogurt. You can start with a little container you get from the store. Just make sure it’s plain and says that it contains live active cultures (I used Chobani). Once you make your first batch of yogurt, you can set aside 1/4 cup to use as a starter for your next batch. One more thing about starter: I usually set mine by the crockpot at step #3, so it gets to room temperature by the time I have to add it. I have no idea if this is necessary or why I started doing that. Maybe I read it in one of the 8 million blog posts I read.
  5. Swaddle your crockpot like a little baby. I use a heavier large bath towel and just completely wrap the crockpot (while in the base–make sure it’s unplugged!) and let it sit 8-12 hours.
  6. Strain your yogurt to desired thickness. I place a steamer on top of a bowl then put a large square I cut from an old pillowcase or t-shirt over/in the steamer. Then I spoon the yogurt into that. You can let it sit in the fridge like that anywhere from one to four hours. The longer it strains, the thicker the yogurt. The bowl will be filled with whey that you can use in cooking or smoothies if you’re ambitious (I put it on our dog’s food sometimes too). If you forget about your yogurt in the fridge and it gets over-strained and thicker than you want it, you can always stir some whey back in to thin it out.
  7. Serve with toppings of choice. My favorite is a tiny touch of honey, sliced bananas and chopped walnuts. YUM!

That’s it! Once you make crockpot yogurt a few times, it’s super easy—pinky swear! It mostly just sits so the hardest part is timing it so you’re around the few times you need to pay attention to it.

You should try it. (Bonus: It makes a great gift too. And you can get rid of some of those glass jars you’ve got cluttering your kitchen cupboards. I mean, not that I would know anything about THAT.)

27540092_10157571636374815_4450656885227440740_n

27459647_10157571636579815_8633608559715106735_n

Before You Pitch the Plastic: 5 Ideas for When You Can’t Recycle.

2015-Gimme-5-Bin-A580Sadly, not all cities have a plastic recycling program. If this is the case for you, and you can’t bear to toss those tubs and bottles in the trash, here are a few options:

  1. Choose Wisely: The best option by far! If you have two good brand choices and one’s packaged in cardboard, and one in plastic, pick the cardboard. I’m a big fan of voting with your dollars. If we all make a conscious effort to shop this way, I’m pretty sure we’ll see a bigger effort by companies to use more earth-friendly packaging.
  2. Get With the Program: There are a few great resources beyond your city that can help you recycle the unrecycleable. Gimme 5 Program offers recycling for #5 plastics if it isn’t offered in your area (search drop off locations here). Or, send your plastic in the mail to be recycled (but then there’s that whole fossil-fuel-for-shipping-vs.-throwing-away  debate). TerraCycle and Earth911 are some other great resources.
  3. Leftovers, good! Landfill, bad!: Of course using those pesky plastic tubs for food storage is a no-brainer. But think outside your home. Have someone over for dinner? Send them home with leftovers! Churches and community centers often offer free meals to the not-so-fortunate. Ask if they could use a few containers to offer take-home meals for the home bound.
  4. Bulk Up: Plastic cottage cheese containers and peanut butter jars are the perfect size for bulk food items like nuts, rolled oats and special flours (when you only need a cup or two for a recipe). You can designate them specifically for bulk by writing the container weight on them in permanent marker and set them aside so they’re ready for a grab-and-go on your way out the door. I wrote about bulk food here.
  5. Get Crafty: When it comes to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” reuse is my least favorite. I mean, you’re just postponing the inevitable landfill—UNLESS by reusing it, you eliminate the need to purchase something else that could end up in the landfill. Plastic tubs are great for planting (you can poke holes in the bottom and use the top for drainage plate). They’re perfect for storing kids’ craft supplies, small toys, bird food… And if you’re still up to your eyeballs, you can ask your local teachers, Boys’ and Girls’ Club, or after school programs if they have a need. If your neighborhood or community has a Facebook group, start there. Need more inspiration? Check out these ideas for plastic water bottles!

If you have a great idea for things you can’t recycle, leave it in the comments. And help me turn my plastic frown upside-down!

Don’t Have a Cow: 3 Meatless Monday Motivators

I grew up Catholic and remember how it felt like such a giant sacrifice to not eat meat on Fridays. OMG, we have to have FISH (which, HELLO, is technically meat)?!?!? CHEESE PIZZA?!?!? THE HORROR!!!

As I got older, I started enjoying meat less. Honestly, at the beginning, it wasn’t even about compassion for the animals or protecting the earth, meat just kinda grossed me out.

But then I started learning what meat production (especially factory farming) does to our planet and became more aware about how we’re raising and treating the animals that feed us, and I decided I would try to do better. Here are a few convincing motivators for eating more plants and less meat:

  1. This video:

2. Carbon footprints:

Beef = 26.61 kg

Lamb = 25.58 kg

Pork = 5.77 kg

Chicken = 3.65 kg

Fish = 3.49 kg

Eggs = 3.46 kg

Fruits & Veggies (from heated greenhouse) = 2.13 kg

Tree Nuts = 1.2 kg

Field Grown Veggies = .37 kg

(The moral?: If you want to lessen your environmental impact and still eat meat, choose fish or chicken.)

3. This book.

51HVyQfhcIL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

First of all, if you haven’t read any of Jonathan Safron Foer’s books (like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or Everything Is Illuminated), I highly recommend. I was already a Safran Foer fan before Eating Animals.

Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, Eating Animals is difficult to read at times. I often teared up about how awful we humans are reading passage after passage to my husband before falling asleep at night (in hindsight, not the best bedtime reading). Yes, I have read articles and seen documentaries about factory farming. But none of them moved me the way this book did. This book is what pushed me over the edge to a mostly plant-based diet (still hanging on to eggs, dairy, fish and the occasional piece of chicken). It should be required reading for everyone. Not a reader? Maybe you’d prefer it in movie form instead (I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m guessing it can’t be as good as then book).

You don’t have to go completely vegan overnight. If you’re a meat lover, try starting with Meatless Monday. Or, maybe commit to buying ethically farmed beef and pork (look for words like “pasture-raised or grass fed.” (Yes, it costs a lot more but that might help you eat less!)

You can make a difference with just little steps. WE can make a difference.

Skip the Plastic: 4 Tips to Help You Start Your Cloth Bag Habit.

ripe banana in white knitted bag
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Often when I’m using my reusable bags, a cashier or shopper will say to me, “I wish I’d remember my cloth bags when I went shopping.”

Been there. Said that.

As with any positive behavior, you’re trying to turn into habit, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a while to find your cloth-bag groove. But I know you will. And soon you’ll be toting your cloth bag like some sort of cloth bag rock star. Need a little nudge? Try these simple tricks:

  1. Keep Them Where You’ll See Them – Are your cloth bags buried in the closet? Unless you’re shopping on the closet floor, this is not helpful. You want to make them as visible and convenient to grab as possible. I keep my bags on a hook by our back door. Some people like to keep them in their car (I tried that for a while but I kept forgetting to put them back in the car after I emptied them). Got a plan to go grocery shopping in the morning? Put them by your wallet/phone/purse the night before.
  2. Add it to Your List – If you’re a list maker, put “BRING BAGS” on the top of your grocery list. You may not check it before heading out the door, but the very act of writing it down (or putting it in your phone) will help you remember.
  3. Find Ones You Love – Let’s face it, you can have 800 reusable bags and all the good intention to use them, but if they all suck, you’ll leave them at home, so find ones you like. For general grocery shopping, I like a good boxy bag that stands up on its own for easy bagging. If I’m walking to the store to just pick up a few things, I prefer a looser one with a long shoulder strap.
  4. Treat Yo’ Self – Set up a little reward system. If you remember your bags, buy yourself a little treat while you’re at the store. No bags, no treat! (Side note: Some argue that treats don’t help form habits. If they don’t motivate you, consider it a treat for the planet.) If your store offers a bag discount, ask for it in change and collect it in a jar at home—those nickels add up!

 

If you don’t think shopping with reusable cloth bags will make an iota of difference, consider this: When others see you do it, they might be inspired to do it too. And what if so many people start doing it, the grocery store stops offering plastic bags all together (applause, applause!

If you forget your bag, don’t beat yourself up (just pick paper over plastic) and give it some time. Before you know it, you’ll have this habit in the bag (sorry).