Friday, October 8, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

I couldn't help but be amused by Alison's post over at the Green Phone Booth the other day on her borderline pathological aversion to wasting food. Alison writes that her dislike of wasting food has led her to eat when she's not hungry, ignore sell by dates, and otherwise risk serving friends and family a delicious serving of pollo y coli.

Personally, I feel Alison's pain. I hate wasting food as well. AND I do think that, in many cases, those sell by dates ARE ridiculously short. Come on. Eggs last forever. And that guacamole isn't actually BAD, it's just oxidized. You can cut the mold off that piece of cheese and the rest of it should be fine. Ditto for that bread.

I think we are a little too paranoid about our food spoiling.

BUT, at a certain point, you have to let go and throw that rotten food out.

So what do you do?

Well, I, like Alison, have a compost bin. So at least I can take some comfort in knowing that my rotten food isn't going into the dumpster.

Composting is better than sending food to the landfill. But better still would be to reduce: reduce my food waste, reduce my food bought and produced.

Except ....


First of all, we are a two person household. Which means that, frankly, a small tub of hummus can last two weeks and that's if I eat a good amount of hummus every day. Sometimes, I don't want to eat the SAME THING every day. But, I do love hummus, and I like having it around to put on my sandwiches, and to snack on with carrots.

Second of all, my boyfriend receives free lunch at work. So any leftovers get eaten by me. Who is one small person. The other day, my boyfriend came home, and we made some quick pasta with veggies that had been sitting in the fridge for a week. All part and parcel of my continual efforts to not waste. He proceeded to not eat his dinner because apparently he had eaten a few brownies at work. Of course this irritated me, because what is he, six?! Does he not get that eating a few brownies will spoil his appetite for dinner?

Now obviously, I would prefer that he eat pasta with veggies instead of brownies. However, from a food waste perspective, I kind of feel like either way food would have been wasted. Either there would have been left over brownie, because I suspect that his office is awash with dessert on a regular basis, or left over spaghetti. As it was, I ate his spaghetti the next day for lunch.

My point is this: not wasting food is hard. We should all learn to meal plan, eat leftovers, and cook a few recipes that essentially allow you to dump all leftovers in one big pot, but at the end of the day, some food may still go to waste. At those times, all we can do is compost, and give thanks that we are so fortunate as to live in a land of plentiful food. And yell at our boyfriend for eating too many brownies.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is Guilt Good For You?

Recently, Crunchy Chicken posted about an article in the New York Times about guilty eco-nuts: those that were doing their best to go green, yet still felt guilty about their transgressions.

Crunchy argued that guilt was unproductive, and that when we feel guilty, we should examine our guilt. Are we committing "eco-sins" out of laziness? Are we just making excuses? Or are our reasons for committing said eco-sin really valid? If they are, Crunchy argues that we should let the guilt go.

When I first read this, it sounded like a very reasonable argument. What is the point of guilt anyway?

And then I started thinking about it ...

I remembered this article in The Washington Post (hat tip Charles) about how going green in one area often makes people feel that they have the moral license to go un-green in other areas. It's like eco-nut off-setting: if you're really diligent about composting, then it's okay to waste food. If you drive a hybrid, it's okay to drive instead of walk. Sometimes the off-setting isn't even that related: for instance, bringing your own plastic bags might be used to offset driving an SUV.

So it's not surprising that researchers are finding a rebound effect when it comes to energy efficient appliances. It goes something like this: Zev buys energy efficient appliances, Zev ends up saving money on his electricity bill, so Zev decides to use his savings to buy a new HDTV.

The end result is that our efforts to "go green" may be having next to no effect.

Which brings us back to guilt.

Maybe guilt isn't so bad after all. Maybe that constant nagging guilt I feel: when I use a paper cup (minor guilt) or when I fly in an airplane (major guilt) is actually more productive than I thought. Maybe that guilt is reminding me that there really are no eco-nut off-sets. That composting does not give me allowance to waste food. Nor does taking public transit to work give me allowance to fly.

I still might waste food. Or fly. But I feel guilty about it. I realize that every action matters. That one "good" action does not just balance out a "bad one." That I have no moral license.

So maybe guilt isn't so bad for you after all.

What do you think?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Random Friday

Hi guys. Happy October!! I really can't believe that 2010 is nine months over. Where did the time go?

In any case, I'm happy to be back here blogging semi-regularly after taking much of the year off. And I hope to be blogging even more this month. (This is sort of a side note, but looking at my blog I realized that my inability to blog for much of this year may have had something to do with my initial reluctance to blog about my boyfriend. I'm not really one to blog too much about my personal life, but I realize that it's really frickin hard to write blog posts day after day without including him since you know, I live with him and he's in my life and is now part of the whole nutty adventure. Which isn't to say that I want this blog to be a big huge schmoop fest. In fact I really don't want that. But it's now much easier to blog when I feel comfortable talking about how we watched a movie and had a conversation. ANYWAY.)

Oh wait! One more side note! One of my favoritist bloggers in the whole world is blogging again! So go read Green Bean's post about channeling her inner Jamie Oliver and welcome her back to the blog world! No, but wait! First read the rest of my post, and THEN go to the Green Phone Booth.

I'm sorry. I would say I had too much caffeine, but so far this morning, it's only been 1.5 cups of tea.

Okay, anyway, I'll let you get to more exciting things on the internet in a minute, but I wanted to give you a taste of some of the things I'll be blogging about in October.

1) Mattress shopping. Yes, we finally bought a new mattress. And after the weeks of freaking research, I now consider myself a God damn eco-mattress expert so I figure I should share. So expect a post, or perhaps three on the topic. I probably have enough to say.

2) Thrift store comparisons. I visited three thrift stores in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood. I'll let you know my thoughts.

3) Riot for Austerity! Well sort of. I decided that I'm a really competitive person (you think?). And as such, I accomplish more when I have goals I'm trying to hit. Right now I'm doing pretty good about trash, electricity use, car use, etc, but there are areas where I backslide simply because I'm not accountable to anyone. For instance, I've been using paper towels at work. And I've gotten lazy and am sort of throwing whatever in the bathroom trash instead of separating out the compostables (tissues) from the recyclables (toilet paper tubes) from the garbage. I bought a TV that can be set so that when it powers off, it doesn't suck any stand-by power from the outlet, but I haven't figured out the setting. Stuff like that. So I'm going to track my trash, electricity, car use, food consumption, and durable good consumption this month and see how I do.

4) Talking about how I'm an eco-hypocrite! Because I am one! See above: not sorting trash. But also I sin in many, many, many, MANY other ways. I would like you to know this. Because frankly, I don't know if it is just me, but I tend to assume that all eco-bloggers are perfect and never buy plastic, and never slip up and have to buy bottled water, and always buy bulk, organic, local food, etc, etc, etc. This may be true of other bloggers but it is NOT TRUE OF ME. I am a HUGE hypocrite. HUGE. Bigger than huge. I just think you should know.

All right. That's all for today, but hope you're looking forward to this month of posting. I know I am. Have a happy Friday, and, well, this is random, but if you need a good cry, watch this: