At the end of 2017, my resolution to reduce plastic use was all-encompassing with plans to revolutionize my lifestyle! To fully embrace the art of slow living!... A lifestyle which, according to some of the Instagram accounts I follow, looks like an existence bedecked with lavender garlands, white linens, and old-fashioned bottles of frothy milk. Basically, I'd made plans to live a fantasy not a sustainable reality. Plans that quickly ran up against a couple toddler-sized roadblocks that shall remain nameless, although the biggest roadblock actually proved to be the kind of plastic packaging I suddenly noticed EVERYTHING we consume comes in. (As for that, here is a brilliant piece by Renee Peters of Model 4 Green Living about her own monthlong attempt to cut plastic out of her life.) So, despite those challenges and despite the setbacks, I'm proud that I still made a few small changes to my daily crazy.
Or... is the word "proud" when these changes (listed below) were soooooo easy to make that it counted more as a shift in awareness than willpower or effort? I emphasize the ease of these particular changes for two reasons: yes, I want to entice others to cut out single-use plastic, but, also, I sincerely hope I don't come across as holier-than-thou in these sustainable pursuits of mine! What I hope I come across as is what I am: a totally ordinary but concerned mommy with all the limitations of time and energy that come along with that role. Basically, if I can do it, anyone can! And, whether you're an ordinary, exhausted, and often bedraggled mommy with nary a clean linen in sight or not, once you become aware of the scope of our planet's plastic catastrophe, you do begin to feel icky using and tossing products made of plastic. Even recycling is problematic these days! Overall, I'm learning these changes are a learning process. I still have many goals for 2019, but as for 2018 here are 5 simple, easy changes that have become part of my daily or nearly daily life, and that I think could be achievable for anyone! Click on the pics for a direct link to purchase these reusable goodies from Amazon. For a more comprehensive list of resolutions, check out Eco Cult's 50 Sustainable Resolutions for 2016 here!
1. Reusable Dryer Balls
I promised these changes were super duper easy, so let's start with the easiest of all! $8 wool balls that you simply let lie in your dryer. Added bonus: my kids think gathering them back up after running a load through the dryer and having a few of the balls inevitably tangle up in the sheets is FUN. So you're not using and disposing of single dryer sheets any longer, all without having to do a single thing once you've made the initial purchase. (FYI I bought my reusable dryer balls last year for $8.99 and still have four usable ones left! And we do a lotttt of laundry in these parts. )
2. Reusable Straws
Actually, did I claim switching from Bounce to dryer balls was the easiest switch? Well, reusable straws might tie with that first change. I did accidentally purchase glass straws my first time however. Be warned, those shattered in the sink and made me realize they were dangerous to give to tots. If you're a mom (or as embarrassingly clumsy as I am), consider silicon straws. They come in bright colors, and my kids love them! I know some people need straws, but if you're not one of those people, and I doubt most of the people who use 500 million straws a day are, consider making this easy switch and keep a couple colorful silicon straws in your cutlery drawer or your purse.
3. Reusable Cotton Pads
This switch was originally the most challenging only because it was hard to keep track of those slippery little suckers. (Sorry to plagiarize a phrase, but I just rewatched Pretty Woman and it's on my brain, because I Googled it to see if other women felt like it held up surprisingly well in the #MeToo era, which I'm happy to say they did! Because of Julia Roberts! I recommend it! However, less watchable is the new Broadway musical version, which ugh... there are no words... or Julia Roberts. I mean, why? Whyyy resurrect this tired story of materialism making everything better??? Anyway, this is a rant for another day.) Well, a way around the issue of keeping track of the slippery guys finally occurred to me: keep the box the pads come in for storage, so I can keep track of them! I then hang up the little laundry bag they come with next to my own laundry bag and toss the little bag in with the big one when it's full. That keeps them all together in the wash! I rarely paint my nails these days, so I can understand if people want to use the cotton, disposable kind for harsher chemicals or does the scent wash off? If anyone has used them for both makeup removal and nail polish removal and had success, I'd love to know in the comments below!
4. Reusable Menstrual Cup
Here's where I'm really going to harp on what a 2.5 children-having-married-to-a-corporate-guy-ordinary-basic lady I am, because I know SO MANY women, who continue to be grossed out by the idea of menstrual cups and think they're only for die-hard environmentalists who live on remote islands and don't use shampoo or something. (Or [insert your image of the perfect environmentalist here]). However, if someone as basic as me is using them, I hope more women get inspired to use them as well. I had the same hangups all my friends have until I decided to go ahead and give one a whirl as part of my whole self-education in sustainability. No, I didn't want to mess with my vajajay, either, which is the number one worry I hear from my friends: that there's something icky about the whole idea. I too feared it would be gross or messy. It's not. It's liberating. You become less grossed out by your own body, which is as it should be. It takes a sec to master the whole breaking the seal thing, but only a sec, and if you're careful and slow with learning how the seal works, it's not particularly messy or different from the tampon... er procedure, either. I also know tampons contain toxic chemicals, but I was more concerned with how many tampons a woman uses in her life and tosses-- about 11,000. That's expensive for you and expensive for the environment.
However, if toxicity does bother you, consider this: if you wouldn't put a tampon in your mouth, why put those chemicals in your vagina? Same body! At any rate, some of my friends prefer the Luna cup. I prefer the Diva. Here's another bonus: I was at the pool with a friend who hadn't had kids yet. She's a swimming instructor and one day I noticed she was wearing shorts in the pool. Her flow was really heavy she explained and she didn't want to risk... you know... anything, because as anyone knows with a heavy flow, tampons are limited in their effectiveness. "Oh my God, you have to try a Diva cup," I told her. "You can wear bikinis again. And white pants! You don't have to worry about accidents." It was like those tampon commercials only way grislier and wayyyyy more liberating! Her life changed, my life changed. Trust me: go get yourself a cup!!! Take ownership of your body and your flow and your impact on the planet! Just all good things! If you get inspired by anything on this list, I hope it's this, because, really, tampons are some bs. (That is, unless you have a medical issue that disallows use of a cup! I'm only talking about the women who have a choice.)
5. Reusable Water Bottle
This one became a concern when my sister who's a water scientist and professor-- or a fluvial geomorphologist as it took me years to learn to say-- informed me that most tap water is actually better quality than bottled water! (It was such a shock I wrote a haibun about it which was published at Every Day Poetry, which now no longer exists online, sigh, so allow me to plug my book real quick, because it's the only place you can read it now.) If you live in Flint, Michigan, bad tap water continues to be a problem, which is some more bs for a different day, but anyway you might be surprised at the quality of the free water flowing from your own tap! Here in Philly, because of taste issues, we filter our tap water with a Brita, but overall I'm in love with my 'Swell bottle! It's so easy to carry around and it keeps my water cold even on a hot day!
Wearing all thrifted clothes from eBay or Greene Street Consignment. Another change! I LOVE thrifting!
These were all such simple changes that involved a couple small initial purchases-- most of which meant investments in reusable objects that were priced under $10! And there's plenty more changes I can make in that price-point! For example, I only recently learned there are small amounts of plastic in teabags after beginning to follow 1 Million Women on Instagram, so my Christmas present to myself this year was a tea strainer. That might sound like a lame self-gift, but I really love my evening cup of tea and I think it will add another element of grace to the nightly ritual.
I'd love to keep on adding changes from here well past 2018, 2019, and off into a better future for all. Have you guys heard of the 1 Million Women Movement? It's all about (mostly but not exclusively) women around the world making these kind of small daily changes in how our households are run, because these small changes when done on a larger scale can affect nearly 17% of greenhouse emissions! What are some changes you'd like to make in 2019? Any ideas you'd add to this list?
Temperatures are dropping and 'tis the season... no, wait! Not that yet! Bad brain! Gahh! I am not ready for that kind of cold yet, brrr humbug, although we definitely do seem to have Christmas on the brain around here already. My 5-year-old is a mini-Lorelai, obsessed with snow & kitsch, while temperate fall might be my new favorite season. I love curling up indoors (because I want to, not because I have to) either on my couch with a cup of tea and a book or lying on the faux-fur rug in my office-closet, pretending to organize/ list things to my Poshmark closet, while really I'm listening to hilarious or informative or scary podcasts. (Or to My Dad Wrote a Porno, which somehow manages to be its own unique decoction of all three adjectives.)
So here's what's keeping me & my cozy cup of tea company this fall. What would you add to this list? Be sure to comment and let me know!
1. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
'Tis definitely the season for Practical Magic, so the list must start here! Hallowe'en is almost here, and soooo many of my girlfriends & fellow bloggers have been posting about their favorite movie. I can't believe I only recently saw it!! (I think I had to rent it on Amazon Prime. It was available to stream on Netflix for a while but no longer is. At first I hated how they change up their availability so frequently, but now I love a leaving-Netflix list just as much as seasonal book lists! On that note: must see Big Eyes before October 25, gah!)
Anyway, I'd never seen this movie somehow, even though I've always had a thing for blue-eyed Irishmen. (It's little wonder I married one!) Aidan Quinn is adorable in the movie, as is the whole spectacular cast featuring a who's who of great actresses: Dianne Weist, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Evan Rachel Wood, Stockard Channing, Camilla Belle, and, one of my all-time favorite character actresses, Margo Martindale. So yes, the movie is definitely movie magic, but guess what? The book is even magicker! Well, it's just slightly different enough that I'm not going to actually compare them. The book has the kind of warm, wise, gorgeous prose that you almost feel you could dip into your tea like a crumpet and let it melt in your mouth. That's all to say: if you love the movie, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!! (Let me know if you do so and agree!)
2. UnF*ck Your Brain
This summer I had a couple odd interactions that left me discombobulated, which led me to believe, despite my official grownup card as a mommy of two, that there was room for personal growth and boundary-setting in my life. (Especially true for me now that I'm living in a huge apartment complex where my neighbors number in the thousands, and I'm having to become a pro at small talk. Never one of my strengths.) Seeking guidance, I stumbled onto "Drama & Toxic People", my first UnF*ck Your Brain episode by the inimitable Kara, who might be gorgeously unique but whom I will still compare to Cheryl Strayed, because I love their advice equally-- albeit for different reasons.
They both exude warmth and wisdom, but I think Cheryl's podcast Dear Sugar is more about exploring relationships with others, while Kara's podcast is a primer on how to have a more constructive, positive, and powerful relationship with yourself. (Oh, and how to set boundaries like a boss! Feeling so much more empowered since I started listening!) Each episode is more life-changing than the last. Also, both Cheryl and Kara (much like the queen Oprah herself) effortlessly exude that magical aura of best friendship. Both are perfect, comforting listening whether in my car or "organizing" my office-- aka hiding from my little ones at night when I'm off the clock and my husband's home and my babies still haven't gotten the memo that it's Daddy's turn to play ponies. Still working on that boundary-setting... it's harder to do with people you love to pieces, but I feel 100% more empowered in every other aspect of my life!
3. Life By the Cup by Zhena Muzyka
I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I picked this up at the library both for the cover photo-- tea! Flowers! Happy-looking hands!-- as for the blurbs on the back. Gloria Steinem says of Life by the Cup, "[It's] a true story that stretches from single motherhood and hard times through unique personal success. Pour a cup of tea, open to the first page, and find a friend who will teach you: Your hopes are a form of planning." It's due back at the library soon, and I can't wait to start it just as soon as I finish up my current read (or rec #9 further down this list)!
4. My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgaraff and Georgia Hardstark
Or maybe I should make rec #4 Dear Sugar with Cheryl Strayed for the more faint of heart, which I might be myself? I haven't decided. Although... on the other hand, that kind of neurotic, funny, self-aware banter and feminist-friendly inner debate is exactly what makes My Favorite Murder compulsive listening. Although, on the third hand, (is there a third hand???), I'm streaming American Horror Story, and that might be all the horrified sensations I can endure for a while. If you're into funny horror, and it is almost Hallowe'en after all, then go for it! If you're a little squeamish or find shows like American Horror Story as stomach-churning to watch as I do, you've been warned! This pod is the aural equivalent of that show. These witty LA dames paint a grisly, vivid, but still somehow fun (or maybe the word is campy?) picture!
I5. Climate Justice by Mary Robinson & The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh (together)
Early this fall, I had what I guess I'd call a stroke of life-changing luck. I happened to pick up Climate Justice and The Art of Living from the library at roughly the same time & had the brainwave of reading both...together! So I, like many, find that climate change as a topic gives me hives. However, I do also agree with former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, who pointed out recently in a Guardian piece that "feeling this is too big for me" is just plain "not useful".
It didn't change how anxious the topic can make me feel, until I hit on this solution: if you're as freaked out as I am by climate change, you might want to try what I did. A chapter of Mary's, followed by a soothing, meditative chapter by Hanh (see below). Not only do they both write in similarly warm and friendly styles, dripping with wisdom and experience-- and I do seem to like my information to be tendered to me by best friends, see rec #2-- but Buddhist monk Hanh is just as passionate about sustainability and about caring for the Earth and all the humans on it as Robinson is. In fact, both short books, when read together in this way, felt almost like a dialogue about the ways in which inner care mimics caring for others and the Earth itself. I'd like to write a separate post about this experience, so I'll stop here. But suffice it to say: this tandem read was life-changing, eye-opening, and in general a perfect, heartening (vs. frightening) match!
“Aimlessness does not mean doing nothing. It means not putting something in front of you to chase after. When we remove the objects of our craving and desires, we discover that happiness and freedom are available to us right here in the present moment.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now
6. My Dad Wrote a Porno
It feels a bit perverse to follow the wise words of a Buddhist monk with this rec, but that also squares with the cock-eyed universe this British pod inhabits. Really, what can I say about My Dad Wrote a Porno, that isn't better said by Jamie, James, and Alice, a trio of insanely funny best friends, who have made sexual innuendo an art and who come together once a week... (oh God, now I'm doing it! Forgive my choice of words.) They... er... gather together once a week to read a chapter of Jamie's father's would-be erotic, but actually hilarious and anatomically-inaccurate, book. The trio have such powerful group charisma, the kind only true, old friends possess, that you feel like you're in on the greatest in-joke ever. One of the extra "footnotes" episodes, which features famous fans like Daisy Ridley, had Ridley of Star Wars fame wistfully wishing the trio could be her friends, too! Something about the title turns off American audiences, but it's honestly much more innocent than erotic in its completely (and truly hilariously) inaccurate portrayal of what human sexuality is. Comedians Rachel Bloom and Thomas Middleditch number among the pod's biggest fans, too!
7. The Witch Elm by Tana French
There's a new Tana French book in time for Hallowe'en! There's a new Tana French book in time for Hallowe'en! I think that's about all I need to say about that. To the uninitiated in the realm of creepy, page-turning Tana French's brilliant mind, start with Edgar-award winning In the Woods. That is, if you're in the market for a creepy, brilliant, unputdownable page-turner, and who isn't this time of year?
Very cozy: each episode of Criminal is the listening equivalent of a blockbuster film. Very creepy (to say the least): before even the #MeToo movement revealed how indifferent our culture has been about sexual assault and harassment, Criminal introduced me to the fact that rape kits are back-logged by the thousands. However, it also introduced me to housewife-turned-P.I. Sheila Wysocki, who decided to become a private detective twenty years after her college roommate was raped and murdered and the crimes remained unsolved...until Sheila came along!!! For as many awful people that there are out there, Criminal also tells stories about true life heroes and heroines as well. It's not all grim, either. I really enjoyed a recent episode about how prevalent airplane highjackings were back in the day. It was like listening to a Scorsese movie in thirty minutes. In fact, each 30-minute episode feels as cinematic, thrilling, informative, and interesting as is whole seasons of S-Town or Serial. I just love it. Also, if you're interested in the topic of housewives who become private detectives, This American Life also did an episode on the phenomenon.
9. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
I haven't read another Hardy book since Tess of the D'Urbervilles took my heart from its chest, filleted it neatly, and left all the bits that were nostalgic for the old days in little pieces on the ground. (If things are bad now, it sounds beyond horrible to have been a woman back then.) Later, I avoided Hardy, because I loved and laughed at him throughout the comic genius novel that is Cold, Comfort Farm far too much. (BTW Cold Comfort Farm, a send-up of Hardy's late Victorian long-winded prose style and über-melancholy, pastoral heroines, could make any cozy, fall list. It's the definition of home-making coziness with its solid, sensible, adorable heroine and a makeover of a cozy, English cottage to boot.) However, despite all that, I'm giving Hardy another crack, because the movie showed me Hardy's range extends beyond the unbearably tragic and the ridiculously dramatic. Bathsheba Everdene, ridiculous name notwithstanding-- although she completely acknowledges how ridiculous her name is. I think Hardy does have a sense of humor!!-- is a tough, smart, feminist heroine. The love story is satisfying, even if, because this is Hardy, there has to be a tragic side plot. I watched the movie first, but there's so much there about human nature that I had to read the book, too. So far, it does not disappoint! And after all, fall is the perfect time to grapple with love and feminism in the English countryside.
FYI speaking of Aidan Quinn (see my first rec!), the crown has passed to my next screen crush, Mattias Schoenarts, who stars in Far From the Madding Crowd (see above), and is being called the Belgian Brando. You have to see this movie in addition to reading the book! I'm keeping my streaming suggestions for another list, but I couldn't resist this one... you won't even need a cup of tea. Matthias brings the heat is what I'm saying. (Joking.) (Kind of.)
10. Jam Session on Channel 33
One of my friends, hearing that I liked pop culture podcasts, recently recommended The Read to me. I started listening to it and realized it reminded me of Jam Session but with many more mentions of people of color. I had heard of some but not all the celebrities they were mentioning, and it opened my eyes to how white-centric my consumption of pop culture has become. I think that could be its own post, but if you enjoy smart, chatty podcasts about pop culture either Jam Session or The Read are excellent. Jam Session has also introduced me to fantastic pop culture I was unaware of-- I started reading Liane Moriarty's books on Amanda Dobbins' rec! Moriarty's books are much more clever and meatier than their pastel covers suggest and ALL of them could make this list. I've now read/ devoured most of them barring her newest release Nine Perfect Strangers about a health resort that is potentially less idyllic than it seems. It's available now for pre-order. I can't wait!
If you love these kind of book lists as much as I do, here are a few more for you to peruse at Pop Sugar, at HuffPo, at Elle, at Bookish, at Vulture, and at Vogue. What's on your fall reading/ listening list?