Changing things up a bit

I’ve blogged for years. Literally years – more than a decade, less than a quarter of a century. And while I love blogging, I haven’t been great at self-promotion; it isn’t a strength of mine. I have no problem with promoting others and therein is my epiphany moment.

I have explored a variety of platforms and have decided to publish a bi-weekly newsletter about sustainability for every day life. And I will be scouring the internet to find people who are doing interesting things in sustainability – recycling, upcycling, reusing, growing, foraging, teaching, sharing – whatever it is that is being done to creatively find ways to live responsibly; because I love interviewing people and I love sharing their stories.

If you know someone or ARE a person who is doing something good for the planet CONTACT ME – I would love to talk with you, interview you, share your good works with the world.

Email me at: Natalia@serroc.com and use “Changing things up a bit” in the subject line. Let me know what you are doing, what part of the world (time zone) you are in and whether you prefer a phone call or Zoom or an email list of questions for your interview…and I will answer you to schedule an interview about what you are doing and how it benefits the world. And it will go in my newsletter, and get promoted and shared. Helps you, helps me, and inspires others to do what they can, to make the world a better place (hopefully).

Got kids?

If you have kids, then you probably have a chunk of closet/drawer space filled with clothes your kids have already outgrown, but are still good. Maybe you’ve thought about recycling them or donating them. Here’s one more choice for you: It is called “Rockets of Awesome” and it is a kid’s clothing subscription box service, that also has a program called “Rockets Reverse” which lets you send the clothing that the kids have outgrown back for store credit.

The Rockets of Awesome subscription lets you preview the selections, and if you (or rather – if the kid) doesn’t like some of the clothes, they can be returned in the box they arrived in.

The Rockets Reverse is for “worn” clothing (aka used) that is in good shape and you get to return that stuff for store credit – and it doesn’t have to be their brand of clothes being “Reversed” …so it is a win/win for those growing kids and the best part (according to kids I have asked) is that the clothes are “cool” and “fun”.

Currently this company only ships to the Continental USA (sorry guys and gals – if you are in other parts of the USA and the world).

Got more questions about “Rockets of Awesome? Here is the link to their FAQs – CLICK HERE.

2021 – Is this YOUR year?

Every January is met with hopes and resolutions to be better, more prosperous, happier… after watching the world scramble during a pandemic (and spending a lot of time reading about previous pandemics) my “zen of living smaller” approach to this new year is just this: “Waste Less“.

I will count this new year as successful if I can just do that one thing – to waste less.

What will I waste less of?

  • Time – mostly the time spent worrying about things I have no control over;
  • Food – I will challenge myself to be more creative with what I have in the pantry;
  • Trash and Garbage – (if you are wondering what the difference is – in my mind trash is anything that cannot be composted) make sure that I compost what I can when I can and diligently separate recyclables from the regular trash;
  • Opportunity – I will take the plunge when opportunities arise after reasonable risk assessment, instead of sitting in analysis paralysis.

If I can accomplish even a little of “Waste Less” – I will count this year successful. I have a long To Do list for 2021 – things I want to write, things I want to paint, a new business I want to establish and grow (curious? go see it at http://www.shadowgirlcoffee.com ) and another round of decluttering and reorganizing plus I think I want to paint the interior of our home and I need to get this year’s garden started.

In the meantime, I vow to write more here…and to bake more bread (a comfort food in our home). Hope your 2021 is filled with what you need and some of what you want.

Bread is love!

Peace out.

Do you like greek yogurt?

Did you know that you can “make” greek style yogurt by simply buying regular unflavored yogurt (usually under $5 for a huge 32 ounce container) and draining the whey from it.

How?

I use cheese cloth and a strainer in a bowl, putting the regular unflavored yogurt in the cheese cloth in the strainer and in the bowl, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. I save the whey (the liquid) to use in baking.

The remaining yogurt is rich and thick (like the Greek Yogurt you buy in individual containers!) and ready for your jams, or toppings or fresh fruit or whatever toppings you like.

If you leave the yogurt to drain a little longer, you wind up with a sort of farmer’s cheese (like cream cheese but with a tang to it). I will do this when I want a cheesy spread for crackers of toasted bread.

You can add a variety of flavorings, like roasted garlic or chopped chives – if you like savory; or cinnamon if you like sweet.

I use the whey when I make no-knead bread or when I am making waffles or pancakes.

Save your money, put in a teeny bit of effort and still enjoy healthy yogurt (in all its forms).

Shelter in place

If you are sheltering in place or just trying to maintain social distance, now is a good time to review your emergency plans.

What? You don’t have an emergency plan?

Whether you live on a fault line, in a blizzard prone area or flood zone, or in an area that gets hurricanes and/or tornadoes – in otherwords wherever you live – you should have an emergency plan.

That means:

  1. Figuring out where you will go, should the order to evacuate be issued. You should identify at least two alternatives: one that you know how to get to if you have to walk; and your first choice if your transportation is usable.
  2. Figuring out how you will get there (what if you cannot use your car? no buses?)
  3. Figuring out what to bring. This will depend on what you (and your family and pets) can carry. At the very least you should have your identification in something that is waterproof. If you can have a “bug out” back pack ready to go, all the better – make sure you put copies of all your important documents and prescriptions in a waterproof container in the bag.

For example, I have a foldable wagon that I will use if I have to walk with my pets to evacuate. I have a carrier for the cat, and the dog has a back pack that he will wear to carry some stuff too. I’ll have my backpack and then additional water and food in the wagon with the cat in her carrier.

If we need to evacuate and can use the car, all of that except the cat and dog, will go in the trunk. Dog in the back seat, cat up front with me. Hubby in his car filled with his stuff and our extra food/water. We know where we will meet up and caravan out to our safe spot.

When figuring out what to bring with you, make sure you roll any of your clothes into a plastic sealable bag in your backpack – you’ll use those plastic bags for a variety of things should you have to go to a shelter. The added benefit is that if it is raining, you will have dry clothes at the end of the trip. 🙂


Also now is a good time to review your other emergency plans. If you have a family, have a few fire drills… so everyone remembers what to do. And has some practice.

Double check the smoke alarms and the carbon dioxide alarm. Take this time to also unplug unused appliances and check the water taps for leaks.

Be safe and be ready!

Oil – The Tangled Web

One of the greatest challenges we have as a planet, is to divest ourselves of our dependence on oil. And it is naive to think that we can simply stop drilling and transfer our energy needs to solar and wind, and other alternative sources of energy – because oil is much, much more than an energy source. 

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Oil and its byproducts are used in so many other ways that it can boggle the mind! In an article from Earth Science Week, meant to be used as a classroom study guide we see this alarming statistic:

“…an April 2007 nationwide online survey revealed that 72 percent of the American public does not know that conventional plastic is made from petroleum products, primarily oil.”

A while ago I wrote a scifi/speculative fiction story “Not With A Bang But With A Whimper”. The premise?  What if, in trying to  rid the world of plastics, someone weaponized plastic eating bacteria and it got lose? 

There is, in fact, research being done on bacteria that will eat plastic as a means to reduce the plastic pollution that is ubiquitous now. You can read about this in these articles:

Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles

Plastic Eating Bacteria

There is also research being done to genetically engineer bacteria to eat garbage and create plastics (so that we continue to have plastic, just not made from oil) see article here:  Genetically Engineered Bacteria Turn Garbage to Plastic .

But what can we do to reduce plastics and our dependence on oil, over and above its use as fuel?

Well that is where we come to the tangled web. Because petroleum (oil) is used currently in over 6000 products, many of which you probably wouldn’t ever guess. We all know our homes are rife with plastics – combs, glasses, upholstery, the jar of petroleum jelly that sits in most medicine cabinets, utensils, clothing and more.  

But did you realize that it is also in: aspirin, shampoo, deodorant, glue, ink, dyes, candles, crayons, soft contact lenses, detergents, antiseptics, rubbing alcohol, perfumes and anesthetics?

There is a more comprehensive list of the “everyday” items at WHGBETC.com , though by no means a complete list.  Just take a moment to think about how many of these items are in your homes, vehicles, and workplaces.

Now think of what you would have to do or find to replace these items with something that is not made of or with petroleum products. Not so easy, is it?

We cannot simply quit buying plastic bottles of water, and think we’ve done our part in reducing the amount of plastic in the world.  

Recycling helps, see the article in Scientific American: Has Recycling Lived Up To Its Promises  and this article by the Plastic Industry: The Potential of Recycled Plastics.  

The bottom line is that education, awareness, and actively looking for alternatives to the plastics we use, will bring us farther along to the goal of less dependence on oil.  And yes, it will cost us more in the short term, but in the larger picture we will be leaving less of a mess for our children and their children. That is an investment I am willing to make.

In the news

Yesterday 12/11/2019 Los Angeles approved an ordinance to allow Tiny Houses in back yards to be considered Accesory Dwelling Units (ADU)!

The ordinance permits movable tiny homes as permissable and permanently habitable ADUs. See full story here: http://www.tinyhomeindustryassociation.org/la-gives-green-light-to-moveable-tiny-homes-as-adus

This also states that there is no minimum lot size for the tiny home. This is a wonderful development just in time for the holidays!

Please read the entire ordinance at the URL listed above for all details.

Here’s hoping that this will ease up some of the housing crisis in the Los Angeles area…and perhaps prevent some folks from being entirely homeless.

If you live in Los Angeles and plan to have a Tiny Home as an ADU, please contact me (natalia@idea-storm.com) I’d love to interview you!

Could you live only on what you foraged or grew, for an entire year?

On November 11th, 2019,  Rob Greenfield will have successfully lived an entire year on foods he either grew himself or foraged himself.  100 % of what went into his mouth had to have been grown by him or personally harvested/foraged by him.  No gifts of food, no bin diving, and no food purchases of any kind except seeds or seedlings.

Think about that a moment.

That includes small things we take for granted like salt, pepper, and oil. For all the details on his self-imposed definitions of foraging and growing his own foods read his Food Freedom Rules.

He took a year to prepare for this venture, including moving to Orlando, Florida where he could grow food year round, living in a tiny home parked in a friend’s yard.   And setting up three hives of rescued bees (for more  information on where he got the rescued bees click on this link to see a video about Dennis, the Bee Guy).

He will, of course, have a book out next year sharing the details of his experiences over the year of being completely responsible for his food production.

In an article on Mother Nature Network written by Lindsey Reynolds, Greenfield is quoted as saying:

“When I went into this project, there was no failing,” says Greenfield. “I wanted to see if it was possible to step away from our globalized, industrialized food system today, to step away from restaurants and grocery stores. I’ve never met anyone who has done it in a modern society, so I didn’t know if it was possible because we are so far removed from our most basic resources.”

Mr. Greenfield is no stranger to sustainability experiments. As the self-proclaimed “adventurer, environmental activist, humanitarian, and dude making a difference (…) dedicated to leading the way to a more sustainable and just world.” Some of you reading this may remember him from “The Food Waste Fiasco” campaign – or his TED talk about that.

 

Personally, I have been interested in this topic of self-sufficiency with regards to food for a long time and for a number of reasons. 

Some were purely selfish, I live in an earthquake prone area (I lived in Northern California during the Loma Prieta quake in 1989) and I go hiking a lot (which means I could potentially get lost one of these days) so I pay attention to plants that grow wild and are edible in my area, just in case. 

Some of my reasons are more global – sustainable practices benefit the world at large, the climate, and help to manage limited resources. In many places in the world, this approach to living is the only approach there is; to live on what you yourself have grown or foraged.

And, we, in the United States have grown very far removed from the source of all of the products we consume, whether they are edibles or other product types. I think this distance from the source of our foods is a part of the reason that there has been such an interest in Prepping; Homesteading and Off Grid living. We have a subculture of self-sufficiency. 

And so, I challenge you to a short exercise, consider it a thought experiment. I won’t make this an apocalyptic scenario, just a series of questions. 

Ready?

  1. If you had to find a source of water within walking distance of where you live (even if it might require purification), could you?
  2. If you had to forage for food (plants, fruits, berries, leaves), do you know what is edible in your neighborhood and when it is in season?
  3. If you had to find a source of naturally occurring salt or a source of salt that you could personally process in order to use, could you?

In consideration of our easy access to these things normally, imagine what would happen if suddenly we could not turn on the faucet and have clean water; go to the grocery store and purchase fruits and vegetables or buy a container of salt. 

Not everyone lives with access to a yard, but you may have access to a community garden (or you might organize one). You might have a balcony or a roof top where you can grow some of your own foods. You probably have a Farmer’s Market, where you can purchase foods grown locally. 

We don’t need to make as drastic a change as Rob Greenfield, but we can make small changes to our consumption. And maybe if enough of us make small changes, it will amount to a big change in our collective use of resources.  

For more information on foraging edible plants in North America check out these books:

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman  

Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer

Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by  Samuel Thayer

Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons