Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is Not Shopping Sustainable?

A lot of times when a person engages in a one-year challenge, it's assumed to be a stunt. A stunt that cannot be continued over the long term.

When I began my non-shopping challenge I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up, but I assumed that it would be hard to continue for more than a year.

However, two and a half years after I started this challenge, I'm beginning to believe not shopping is a fairly sustainable option.

Sort of.

Let me explain. I still rarely shop. When I do, I engage in throes of agony. Do I really, really, REALLY need this shirt? I know it's only $20, but do I really need it? Do I love it? Will I wear it a lot?

Most of the time I don't need or love the shirt enough to deal with the ensuing guilt. So I exit the store sad and empty-handed.

But I still need to, you know, wear clothes. And clothes wear out. Weight fluctuates. Put simply, one cannot just rely on one's wardrobe from 3+ years ago.

Enter my friends.

See, most of my friends still shop. They're not shoppers, per se. They don't go to the mall every weekend. They aren't competing with Carrie Bradshaw for number of shoes. But still. They do buy new clothes and then they have old clothes that they want to get rid of.

So they give them to me.

In the past year, I've revamped my wardrobe simply by going through my friends' Goodwill bags. The white and black cardigans I wear everyday? Came from my friends. The black ballet flats? My sister. Those nice work pants? Yup, that once belonged to a friend.

So, yeah, I can continue to update my wardrobe and not shop ... with a little help from my friends. It's not a sustainable life for everybody ... obviously if all my friends were like me and never shopped and wore their clothes until they were falling apart, I wouldn't be able to pick up new clothes from their Goodwill bags. And every so often, I do cave, and buy that $20 shirt from Banana.

But the truth is, I need fewer clothes than I ever thought before I started this challenge.

So, not shopping. Sorta sustainable. At least for me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Building Up My Cooking Muscles

As most of you know because I whine endlessly about it, I hate to cook.

But I like food.

And honestly there is nothing about the cooking process that I inherently dislike. It's just that I don't think I'm a great cook, it is time consuming, and it involves constant grocery shopping. It's just easier for me in many ways to say, "Screw it," and just go out to eat.

But eating out isn't sustainable in a number of ways. And frankly, I know that I don't want to always be the person who doesn't know how to cook. I don't want to be feeding my children (if and when I have them) microwave dinners because I don't know how to cook. I want to be able to cook. I recognize the value of the skill.

And that's why I'm making a concerted effort to cook at home more. Sometimes, dinner is pretty simple. Last night, we had grilled chicken and a salad. Sometimes, I'm up for something more complex. But I realize that ultimately, I just have to stop whining and DO it.

Cooking is like working out. At first it sucks, and you're terrible and you feel gross afterwards. But after a while, it gets easier and you actually enjoy it. (So I'm told. I'm also horrible at working out.)

So, we're starting small. Baby steps. Simple things. And hoping that one day, I'll have built up those cooking muscles and have a lovely repertoire of recipes I make well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eating Healthier for Me and the Planet

As regular readers of this blog may be aware, I have high cholesterol issues. My father passed away at a relatively young age from a heart attack so there is a clear genetic component here. In fact, when I was in college and a vegetarian, I had my cholesterol tested and it was around 270. I still remember my doctor's disbelief to this day. "This is a vegetarian's cholesterol level?!!"

She quickly decided that, clearly, I needed to be on medication. Stat. And so, at the tender age of twenty, I was put on cholesterol drugs.

However, I was unsure myself whether or not this was really the right course of action. Starting cholesterol medication at twenty meant I could be taking these drugs for sixty plus years. Many of these drugs simply haven't been around that long. In addition, I knew I couldn't be on the drugs when I was pregnant or breast feeding. So, to me, it seemed like I should at least try to see if I could lower my cholesterol without drugs. (I should note at this time that I am talking about the right course of action for MYSELF. I would personally rather not take the drugs, but I'm not saying that others should not or that it may not be the right choice for someone else.)

And I found that by changing my diet, I was, in fact, able to lower my cholesterol levels. By eating healthier, I got my cholesterol down to a manageable level.

No drugs needed.

But while I was in graduate school, I really let go of many of my good eating habits. And though I've gotten better about my eating while un(der)employed, and though I've started running more regularly, I'm really nervous that my cholesterol has spiked and that my doctor is going to recommend the drugs again.

In fact, I have a physical scheduled in a couple weeks, and whenever I think about it, I get a little freaked out. What if, what if, what if, what if?

The thing is, I know better. I *really* know better. I know that if I followed our friend Michael Pollan's food rules I could not only reduce my environmental impact, but I could also keep my cholesterol under control.

I'm hoping desperately that my cholesterol levels are not out of control. But if they are on the high side, I hope I use that knowledge as a wake-up call. Hell, even if they are on the lower side, I could still use a wake-up call. 

Because I know that it is not inevitable that I suffer from heart disease. And by eating healthier, I can both help the planet and myself.