Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Trying Not To Be Such a Stereotype

It is my personal experience that the enviro-field is pretty sex-segregated. On the one hand, you have a lot of women involved in personal environmentalism, the food movement, environmental education, and environmental safety and health of children.

On the other hand, environmental policy and climate science tend to be dominated by men.

I'm interested in both. I try and practice personal environmentalism, but professionally, I'd like to do policy work. Of course the work I'm interested in is more related to environment and international development, which is actually a little less sex-segregated, but even then I can sometimes find myself the lone woman in a room full of men.

This is a pretty novel experience for me. There are a lot of problems with the television industry, but it's not an industry dominated by men. There are women in high levels of power throughout the industry. There are reasonable numbers of senior agents who are women, and there are even more high level women executives within the television networks and studios.

So, this switching fields has taken a little getting used to. And one of the things that I've noticed, repeatedly, is that I sometimes find myself insecure about my knowledge base.

Look, I know I'm smart. And I know that I know a lot. But you can't know everything about all things environment, and I've only been involved in environmental affairs for a couple of years. So often, if I get in a discussion about a subject that I don't consider myself an expert on, I find myself ceding ground to the other party. I mean, what do I know? I don't, really. I don't have a PhD. There are a lot of articles I haven't read. I don't know every idea.

I also assume that other people know more than I do a lot of the time.

But I've noticed that a lot of the men I've conversed with don't shy away from discussing things that they don't know much about. They seem more authoritative and confident, and yet, after a ten minute conversation it becomes clear that they don't know more about the subject than I do.

I've found myself falling into the trap of thinking that I should just keep my thoughts to myself until I've read more, studied more, worked more. I doubt myself and my abilities more than I ever had before.

I know some of this is grad school and the fact that I'm really being challenged, that I'm surrounded by so many brilliant people. But I also never feel this self-doubt when I'm talking to a group of really brilliant women.

I've read enough feminist studies to know that I'm not unique in my feelings of doubt and insecurity. I know that I can't let my insecurities stop me from speaking up; I know that I have to keep pushing myself and believing myself even if I am the sole woman in a room with fifteen other men. But it's easier said than done.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One Year Out

I'm always curious what became of other blogger's sustainability challenges once the challenge ends ... Does Vanessa still use her spray bottle? Which changes has Colin kept, and which has he shed? Has Crunchy peed on her plants recently? Does Megan ever shop recreationally? Does EnviroWoman still exist?

Anyhow, since I'm curious about others, I figured you might be curious about me. It's been almost a year since I finished my non-consumer challenge, and a year since I stopped taking on monthly challenges. So how has my life changed?

Let's go through, challenge by challenge, shall we?

In November of 2007, I committed to my silliest and first challenge: purging my shoe collection. The good news is, I now own only seven pairs of shoes that I wear all the time. The bad news is, because I own so few pairs of shoes, I wear them out quickly. I already have plans to leave some shoes behind here and I will likely have to replace them fairly soon.

The challenge that has fallen most by the wayside is definitely my December of 2007 challenge to not eat fast food or pre-packaged meals. There are a number of reasons for it, including the fact that I have a teeny tiny kitchenette and very few kitchen utensils, but I suppose the main reason is that I got lazy. But I'm hoping that things will change when I move. If not, I may just have to retake the challenge all over again!

In January of 2008 I decided to rid myself of paper towels, kleenex, napkins, toilet paper and tampons. The paper towels are still gone as are the tampons, and I still don't use tp for numero uno when I'm at home. But, I do sometimes slip up and take a napkin if I'm at a restaurant. And I do use the recycled toilet paper to blow my nose because I never really boarded the handkerchief bandwagon.

In February of 2008, I decided to rid myself of my crap. Well, what with the transatlantic move, I now have a lot less stuff. So I'm not too worried about this one anymore.

In March of 2008, I became an armchair activist. I no longer sign e-petitions, or write letters to companies, or do any of those things. On the other hand, my dissertation is essentially about civil society environmental activism, so maybe my research on environmental activism balances out the fact that I don't sign e-petitions? I don't know.

In April of 2008, I started taking public transit to work. It was an ordeal. I had to walk two miles to the subway and then take the subway to the bus. It turned my 20 minute commute into an hour-plus commute. Now? I don't own a car, I rarely even take public transit, and my carbon footprint has plummeted accordingly. But, as I remarked to Chile yesterday, this is more a function of the city I live in, than anything else. And as it should be, because, as I've mentioned before, living car-free should not be a challenge. (Though if you do want to take a car-free challenge, now is your chance to join Chile and friends.)

In May of 2008, I decided to try out the local food thang. While I quickly gave up on being a total locavore (I have a bad need for mangoes), I still enjoy shopping at farmers' markets and aim to buy local at the supermarket.

In June of 2008, I decided to give more of myself. Well, now that I'm in school again, I have zero money. So I don't give money really at all ever, but I do try and give of myself in other ways ... helping friends, reading other people's essays, etc.

And in July, I reached the zenith of my eco-nuttiness by going pseudo freegan with Megan! But once July ended, I promptly said no thank you to freeganism and I don't anticipate ever going back.

And finally, of course, there was my one year challenge to not buy any new stuff. And a year out ... well, I have bought some new stuff: new shoes, socks, undergarments, some other clothes, an external hard drive or two (one got stolen), some books. But mostly, I've stuck to buying used: used dishes, kitchen utensils and a TV for my apartment, I found a totally awesome winter coat for 5 pounds at a charity shop, and I tried as much as I could to buy used books. When I traveled, I've shopped a lot less than I used to, opting to use my photos as souvenirs instead. Given that I have very little money, I haven't had much of an opportunity to splurge much, and I've made good use of the library, borrowed things from friends, and done without a lot of other things.

So over all, I need to get back in gear with the cooking. I need to re-kick my addiction to Diet Coke. I need to work more on ridding myself of wasteful plastic. And one day, ONE DAY, I shall compost.

But over all, I am maybe not doing so bad.

I'll keep you updated.

Monday, July 27, 2009

So How Is Your Dissertation Going, Ruchi?


I have a recommendation for anyone undertaking an MSc dissertation. Don't pick a trendy topic. Just don't. Because, see, you'll think it's a good idea because it's trendy, but then what will happen is that your topic will constantly be in the news and you won't ever get time away from your frickin dissertation. I think I have it bad what with the Copenhagen COP being mentioned every other day, but my friend B is writing about U.S. health care and there is REALLY no getting away from that. Not even on Facebook.

Anyhow, I finished a rough draft of my dissertation two weeks ago, and here is my second piece of advice for anyone undertaking an MSc dissertation. Don't finish the rough draft 7 weeks in advance. You might think you're being oh so smart and awesome and then you will realize that your will to do any more work has completely vanished and instead you spend your time doing ... honestly you don't even know what you do with your time, you just know that you seem to have very little of it. The other day, I sat in my room at my computer forcing myself to work. I finished the day with one paragraph to show for the day's work.

Also, and this has nothing to do with my dissertation or maybe it does, I don't know, I've been sleeping on the floor for the past few weeks. Because I have developed some weird insomnia that is associated with my bed. I know, it is very strange. But I've also established, that technically speaking, a bed is not actually a "need."

I have been blogging a lot in my head lately. Mostly rantalicious posts about uh, cap and trade, the environmental social movement, people who think we can solve all our problems by simply putting a price on carbon, and the construction going on in my library.

Then I've failed to write them, because well, rantalicious posts are exhausting. And I'm too busy being a puddle of inertia on the floor of my room because I can't sleep on my bed.

But, dear readers, I aim to please. So if there is a particular rant that you are dying to hear, let me know and I shall try to provide in a timely fashion. We can call it Arduous on Demand.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Surrendering To Vanity

I give in.

I'm sorry. I can't hack it.

Since January, when I went vegetarian, and then flexitarian (or lonely vegetarian as Honda termed it) I have gained 10 pounds.

I have tried upping my protein. I have eaten beans and lentils and beans and lentils and nuts.

I went on a diet. I counted calories. I cut out beer.

But I still craved sweets and snacks and cheese and chips. I would eat and eat and eat and still go to bed hungry.

I announced to my friend B that I was going on a body cleanse for a few days and only eating fruit and vegetables.

She told me not to be ridiculous, and said that maybe I should try eating fish or poultry again once a day.

So I did.

And lo! my cravings went away and my appetite returned to normal.

So, I'm sorry. It looks like I'm going back to eating fish or poultry once a day.

Unless anyone has any bright ideas.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wherein Our Heroine Gets Carried Off By the Wind

Um, how the hell did it become late July already? What is going on here?!!


In just over five weeks, I will turn in my dissertation.

In just over five weeks, I will be leaving London.

In just over five weeks, my stuff will be packed up, and I will be living out of a suitcase.


Yes, I'm leaving London. At least for now. The current plan seems to be to go to New York by way of India. Yes, I'm aware that India is not *technically* on the way to New York. But homeland, and more importantly, family calls ... and so off I shall go.

I've been behind on my blog reading and writing, but today I read Green Bean's post about her small home.

And it made me reflect, once again on my stuff.

When I was in college, I took pride in the fact that I had very little in the way of stuff. I felt like it was important for a person to only have as much stuff as could fit in the back of a Honda Civic. That was how a young person was supposed to live. Rootless, free as a bird, able to take off on a whim.

Then I moved to Los Angeles. And though I assumed that my vagabond lifestyle would somewhat continue, I instead developed these awful things.


I lived in one ghetto apartment next to, I am not making this up, a bona-fide drug dealer. One time, we came home and there were helicopters above and about five or six police cars on the street.

Also, the roof leaked and the balcony in the master bedroom tilted so that rainwater would spill over into the room, and we had to evacuate our rooms several times so that the carpet could be pulled up and dried so we would't get mold. So what I'm saying is that this apartment was maybe not the most awesome place in the world.

Nevertheless, I continued to live there. For FIVE years. Because I was lazy. And I had started to acquire stuff. More stuff than one could fit in a Honda Civic. I owned a FRIDGE, for God's sake. Moving was a bitch. Plus, all my stuff was there, the walls were decorated, my room felt properly kitted out. For all its faults, this place was home.

After five years, I was finally persuaded to move. I moved into a much NICER neighborhood, painted it, decorated it, bought more new stuff, and decided I loved my place too much and was going to live in it until the day I died.

Except, that I didn't. Because I got rid of most of my stuff, got on a plane to London, and ended up in a room the size of a postage stamp with two suitcases.

I am glad I didn't acquire a whole bunch of stuff in London. Because frankly, it's going to make moving much easier.

But I also realize that without all that stuff, there is a feeling of impermanence. Although I love London and seriously considered staying here, I never felt that I was really much more than a traveler to these parts.

And yes, there are many reasons for that, but I'll tell you what. Never underestimate the power of stuff. To weigh you down, yes, but also to anchor you and to settle you.

I have stuff therefore I am.

Without my stuff, I always felt more like I was in a hotel than in my own home. Meanwhile, I still seem to suffer under the delusion that my home is still waiting for me in Los Angeles. The walls still painted turquoise and brown, the crumbs in the papasan still needing to be vacuumed.

No matter that I got rid of the papasan. And the bed. And the futon. And the fridge. And the CAR.

So, in a few weeks, this girl who lacks the weight of any substantial possessions shall take flight once again. To India, and then for a couple months, to New York.

Now, you know me, I'm not big on the consumerism, but I do wonder if I'll have to buy a lot more stuff before I ever feel like I'm truly at home again. I do wonder if somewhere there is a balance between weighted down and feather-light.

In the mean time, when people ask me where home is, I'll likely answer as per usual, "Los Angeles." It may not be where I lay my head, but it's where I once I owned a fridge.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Healthy Food Porn Carnival

So, last week, I asked why so much food porn found on the eco-blogosphere and the web in general was unhealthy porn. I got a lot of responses, many which argued that healthy food just doesn't look as good photographed. That people like to read posts about desserts ... people noted that their dessert posts are some of their posts with the most page views.

But, by far, Rob had the best response. He very convincingly argued:
No one wants to see a pic of a sexy carrot being thoughtfully dipped in bowl of Ranch Dressing when there are sexy pics of pie. That is like asking to compare Nekkid pics of Sarah Palin and Margaret Thatcher.

My head just exploded by how many weirdos are now going to be searching my blog in search of Palin/Thatcher porn.

Anyhoo, so I pissed some people off, and have unleashed weirdos on my blog site with my constant references to porn. But I also managed to get some healthy recipes from many of my favorite bloggers! Which I think balances everything else out. Here are the sexy healthy meals:

The Crunchy Chicken has a delicious plate of garden scramble cooking up for ya. This is not only a healthy dish, but also a tasty way to clean out your fridge.

The Mindful Momma has not one but FOUR healthy ideas for you. The Indonesian red rice salad sounds particularly appetizing to me.

Abbie writes in defense of pie, but she also drums up some fresh and delicious tzatziki which is a particular favorite of mine. Which reminds me: we were in Istanbul last month, and the yogurt there is HEAVENLY. The Turks swear that they are the ones famous for the yogurt we call "Greek yogurt," and I have to say, after inhaling yogurt the entire trip, I'm going to side with the Turks on this.

Rob keeps up the Middle-Eastern theme with his Kousa Mahshi, a stuffed squash dish from Syria. Looks awesome!

Old Novice again offers you a selection of healthy meals including her delectable looking pizza!

Beany, or I should say, Mr. Beany, cooks up a healthy and yummy Monday night dinner of stir fry. I LOVE stir fry. I think I could live on it, and Mr. Beany's sure looks good. Plus, it seems like another good way to clean out the fridge!

ScienceMama whips up a nice light tomato and corn salad that is toddler approved! Sounds like the perfect salad for a hot July evening.

And the amazing Green Bean stirs up some sexy soup for all y'all. It's called Friendship Soup on account of how much she loves me even though I'm difficult! (Kidding, that's not why it's called Friendship Soup, but I do like the name.)

Thanks to everyone who contributed! I can't wait to try out these healthy, fun recipes!! And if I missed anyone, please let me know.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Food Porn, Hold the Porn

Here is my entry for my little healthy food carnival. I'm posting the carnival on Friday, so you still have time to write a post! Also, if you have written a post, make sure that you've either indicated that in the comments of my post introducing the carnival, or you can do so in the comments of this post.

Anyway, here is my recipe for rajma which is one of my favorite Indian dishes. It tastes a bit like chili. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures because I suck, but if you visualize cooked kidney beans and tomato bits ... that is what it looks like. I hope your visualization of my food porn is making you horny, I mean hungry.

The recipe involves a slow cooker, and this is why. Indian food is delicious and healthy but often takes AGES beyond ages to simmer on the stove. If you wait to cook Indian food until you come home from work, you will not end up eating until 10pm at the earliest. The slow cooker is your friend.

2 cups kidney beans
6 cups water in slowcooker (depending on what setting you have it on)
1 medium onion
2 medium tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 bit of ginger
1 tablespoon salt
sprinkling pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp coriander

The night before:
Chop the tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger. Fry the onions. Then put in a tupperware and set in fridge.

Throw your tupperware into slow cooker. Add kidney beans, water, salt, pepper, cayenne, garam masala, turmeric.

Turn slow cooker on. The first time you do it, it's helpful if you won't be gone for more than a few hours at a time so you can check on the water level since the amount of water that evaporates can differ from slowcooker to slowcooker. Once you have the hang of it though, you can leave the rajma for as long as you want. In fact, in India the rajma cooks for 24 hours so feel free to let it go 12 hours or however long you're out of the house. (It's done when it's got about the same consistency of chili. So it shouldn't be too watery, but it also shouldn't have all the water drained of it either.)

At night, when you come home:
Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan. Add the coriander and cumin and toast until they turn brown but not burnt. (Not super easy to do. I often end up heating the frying pan, and then once the coriander and cumin go in, taking the frying pan off the heat, as the heat of the frying pan is sufficient.)

Then throw the oil/coriander/cumin into the slow cooker. Stir up a little and you're good to go.

ETA: I was asked an important question in the comments. I use DRY kidney beans not canned. Also, I forgot to mention but I've read websites that say you always have to quick soak kidney beans, and boil them to get rid of toxins before cooking. I have to admit I've never done this, so maybe I've been flirting with death all my life. Does anyone have any opinions on this?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What Are Your Five Favorite Green Reads?

I've got some gift cards to burn, so I wanna know: what are your five favorite green reads and why?

Here are some of my favorites:

The End of Food by Paul Roberts offers an incisive look into the food industry. Read my review here.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Recently, I feel a little over Michael Pollan ... In Defense of Food wasn't nearly as good, and then there was that embarrassing incident where he and Alice Waters apparently demanded to put together a list of locavore approved chefs for the White House (turns out the old chef was a quiet locavore himself and the Obamas kept him.) I think I'm not the only one who thinks Pollan is sooooo last year's slow foodie, but, Omnivore's Dilemma is good stuff. And besides, you never forget your first love. Here's a post about the book.

Break Through by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. Back when I first read Break Through it was like my eyes had been opened for the first time. How is it, I thought, that no one else was saying what Michael and Ted are saying? Then I went back to university and realized plenty of people are saying what Michael and Ted are saying, but many of them are doing so in academic journals that your average enviro doesn't read. I keep hoping that will change, and when my former professor publishes his next book, I'm so making all y'all read it. But for now, here's a post about Break Through.

Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte, which reminds me that I really have to read Royte's latest book. If it's anything like Garbage Land, it'll be worth a read as Royte somehow managed to make something as mundane as trash seem downright exciting. Here's a review by Green Bean.

Reducing Poverty and Sustaining The Environment edited by Stephen Bass, Hannah Reid, David Satterthwaite and Paul Steele. Technically this is more of an academic book, but it's really not. It's extremely readable and there are super cool and inspiring case studies from all over the world about how communities managed to develop sustainable solutions that bettered human livelihoods. Plus each case study is pretty short which is good for the people with short attention spans. Check it out.

Anyway, those are some of the books I've read and enjoyed. I eagerly await your lists.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Because The Rough Draft of My Dissertation is Due Monday

What better way to procrastinate than a meme that I stole from Beany?

A - Age: 30

B - Bed size: Double

C - Chore you hate: Doing dishes

D - Dog's name: I'm apathetic about pets. Like, they're fine, I guess, but I really just don't know how to relate to them.

E - Essential start your day item: 7 cups of tea. Okay, that might be a SLIGHT exaggeration.

F - Favorite color: Blue? I guess?

G - Gold or Silver or Platinum: Depends on my mood.

H - Height: 5'3"

I - Instruments you play: Piano, badly. And eventually I will learn guitar.

J - Job title: Penniless Student

K - Kid(s): None

L - Living arrangements: Dorm room the size of a postage stamp.

M - Mom's name: Mummy (Well that's what I call her anyway)

N - Nicknames: Ruchi is actually a nickname itself. Sort of. Sometimes people shorten it further to Roo or Ruch.

O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: I think once maybe for asthma?

P - Pet Peeve: When office mates don't shut file cabinets or desk drawers.

Q - Quote from a movie: "Toe pick."

R - Right handed or left handed: Right

S - Siblings: One

T - Time you wake up: I'm a student. So anytime between 8 am and noon.

U- Underwear: Pants. Knickers. Briefs. What am I supposed to put here?

V - Vegetable you dislike: Erm, I can't really think of one right now though I am sure there are some I dislike.

W - Ways you run late: I have a bad sense of how long it will take to get somewhere so I am frequently late.

X - X-rays you've had: I don't know... several on my teeth. On my foot ... I can't remember where else.

Y - Yummy food you make: I make a really good chicken murgh masala. I also make a nice rajma, and aloo sabzi and other Indian food. I also make a very nice vegetarian lasagna. Basically, I'm a reasonable cook when I can be bothered to cook which is rare these days.

Z - Zoo favorite: San Diego.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Delicate Balance

July's Green Mom's Carnival (yes kids, apparently we are already in July, I am as shocked as you are) is about food and how it matters and stuff.

I am sure you will see plenty of really beautiful posts about food and how it should be local and organic and slow and it's more delicious that way, and people will wax poetic about the cherry cobbler and homemade ice-cream they all had last night and there will be plenty of splashy pictures of food porn.

For the record, I really enjoy said posts. I have, in fact, been known to whine when my favorite bloggers neglect to put up pictures of delicious food porn.

But, I am also on a diet.

See, I gained about five or six pounds while studying for exams (I call it my revision gut) and while I think I still look okay, I think I'm happier and healthier when I am five or six pounds lighter. It's not a big deal, and I've actually already lost a couple pounds since exams ended, but the last few pounds are proving a little stubborn so I think a diet might be called for.

Since I've started the diet, I've started becoming more aware of the levels of food porn on the internet and the health merits of some of this food. A lot of environmentalists are also foodies and they love producing home-made slow cooked meals of delicious goodness. A lot of people talk about how organic goods are healthier for you and the environment. These things are all true. But the thing is, even a homemade chocolate chip cookie made with local, organic, fair trade ingredients? At the end of the day, it's still a chocolate chip cookie.

I'm not trying to be holier than thou. I'm not anti-cookie. I'm not Captain Health... last night I had a pizza for dinner. And in fact, I think that the majority of eco-bloggers, including the foodies, probably eat very healthy meals most of the time. It's just that the healthy meals are boring to blog about. Who wants to read your blog post about your boiled eggs and a side salad? Who wants to see your recipe for homemade lavendar ice-cream? Everyone.

Which means that while peoples LIVES are probably balanced, our blogs are perhaps less so. And again, it's not a big deal, but we environmental bloggers are mostly well aware of maldistribution of food throughout the world. We're aware of the twin problems of obesity and uner-nutrition that, ironically, go hand in hand. So it's a little odd that our blogs, mine included, don't seem to reflect this awareness that much.

I guess what I'm trying to say is ... perhaps we all should sit back a little and assess our food posts a little more. Are they balanced? Do they really reflect the meals we eat? Are they overly tilted towards dessert posts?

Because if they aren't reflective of our general eating habits, we can create a false impression. I remember reading not too long ago someone commenting on one of Crunchy's posts (though I can't remember which post or who the commenter was.) The commenter essentially mentioned that she felt increasingly alienated from eco-bloggers because a lot of the posts were about organic and local food, and then the food produced was an apple pie. She said that she felt that though she didn't use organic ingredients all the time, the food she cooked using store-bought frozen vegetables was healthier for her than the organic desserts eco-bloggers seemed to be eating all the time. Now again, I personally don't believe most food bloggers actually eat apple pie every day, but if all you blog about is dessert, it's kind of a fair point.

So to this end, I am going to go all meta-carnival on you. If you would like, write a blog post of a healthy diet-friendly meal on your blog by next Wednesday. It can be super complex, or it could be as simple as a fresh salad. I'll compile the posts and put them up on my blog next Friday. That way we can all enjoy some nice, healthy recipes for the rest of the summer.

And um, if I haven't made this super-duper clear, I am not at all against posts about cookies, pies, cakes, or what have you. I am just pro-balance-in-food-blogging. Also, you will have noticed I did not link to anyone's food posts. This is because I'm not singling anyone out. I think the food post culture is somewhat systemic in the eco-blogosphere. I too, have been extremely guilty of writing long posts about gingerbread cookies, and very few posts about healthy food. If you disagree with my assessment that food posts are somewhat unbalanced, I encourage and welcome your comments.

Look for the rest of the Green Moms' Carnival on July 13th hosted by Alline of Milkweed Mercantile. By the way, congrats to Alline on the opening of her eco-inn!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sleeping Naked Is Green

You always remember your first. Blog crush that is. My first was probably No Impact Man. I remember reading his blog, and thinking that was incredible to read about someone so committed to the environment. As I took up blogging, I also took up more blog reading. After No Impact Man came Crunchy Chicken. And soon thereafter came Green As a Thistle, a blog by Vanessa Farquharson about her challengicious adventures in living greenly.

Those were heady days ... can it be almost two years ago? I was in my blog honeymoon phase where I read blogs day in and day out, almost amazed at this brand new eco-world that had opened up in front of me. In other ways, the life I had carefully constructed was slowly falling apart. Striking writers picketed outside my office building. The boy in my life was wandering around the Asian subcontinent. I had just become an instant environmentalist due to a bit on the Colbert Report about cashmere goats.

It is possible, in retrospect, that I was cracking up.

These blogs were my lifeline at the time. As I attempted to replot my journey, I consistently turned, every day to the bloggy universe for inspiration. And few blogs resonated more than Vanessa's.

Vanessa, I felt, was like me. And not just because we were the same age. Or because we both lived alone. Or that neither of us had kids in an eco-universe filled with green moms. It was more than that. We both had the same sense of self-deprecating humor. The same, "Oh my God, am I really turning into that dirty hippie?!" flashes of self-awareness. Yes, Vanessa, was a lot like me. Except with better hair.

I adored her blog, shamefully stealing her often ingenious green ideas (see her makeshift bidet.) But most of all, I loved the sense of humor she brought to living greenly. You got the sense, reading her blog, that Vanessa knew she was an eco-nut and revelled in her nuttiness. When her challenge ended, and her daily posting stopped, I mourned along with many of her blog fans.

So when Vanessa published a book, I knew it was a must-read. Of course, it had to wait until after I finished exams, but I finally got around to reading the book last week. Before I started, I briefly wondered whether I'd find the book boring. After all, I've read the entire contents of Vanessa's blog. Would it simply be a rehashing of the blog? A greatest hits collection of posts?

I am happy to report, that in fact, Sleeping Naked is Green is a fun, enjoyable read with very little overlap between book and blog. The blog is a collection of Vanessa's 366 eco-changes. It's more technical and the better read if you need an eco-tip. The book, by contrast, is about Vanessa's personal journey as she embarks on her eco-year. In many ways, Sleeping Naked is Green can be seen as Vanessa's love letter to the environment. It's the story of the lengths a girl with an addiction to Veuve Clicquot is willing to go to in the name of Mother Earth.

Much of Vanessa's journey will be familiar to any eco-blogger. The competitive desire to be the "greenest of them all." The guilt complex associated with screwing up and buying a bottle of water. The "OMFG, my diva cup is stuck and I'm going to have to go to the E.R" freak out. The admonishments from your mom that you're never going to get married if you continue to look like a dirty hippie. As well as the gradual realization that you are having a positive impact on your friends and family. That in your own small way, you are playing your part.

Here's what I recommend. First, if you haven't already, read Vanessa's blog. The whole challenge-filled year from start to finish. Take notes, steal eco-tips, and enjoy. Then, read the book and get the scoop on the personal journey behind the challengicious year. But do it in this order. It's much better that way. Reading the blog and then the book is akin to listening to an album and then watching the VH1 special "Behind the Music." You don't fully appreciate the musician's personal struggles if you don't know the album. Luckily, Vanessa's journey is a lot more pleasant than that of Amy Winehouse's.

As I finished the book, I couldn't help but reflect upon how both of our eco-journeys changed our lives. I think both Vanessa and I were at crossroads in our lives when we began our environmental challenges. Two years later, I think we would both agree that our lives have substantially changed for the better. By engaging in some crazy shenanigans to save the planet, we somehow wound up saving ourselves.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yes, I'm Back

Will have a post on my vacation tomorrow most likely.

But first, I have a question for you. Those of you with four eyes, do you have a good solution for homemade glasses cleaner?