Sustainability Journal | July 2020

Welcome to Sustainability Journal, where I document what I’m reading, learning, thinking, and doing in the sustainability space.

Personal update: I can’t believe we are more than half way through 2020! Actually I can…2020 has been a darn looong year. We are moving in a few weeks (just a few miles up the road), so life has been super hectic. Community gardening is going to be different soon, so I’m soaking it all up these days. It’ll be a 35 minute bike ride away once we move, so I’m going to try biking over twice a week. Considering that I used to bike that distance to and from work everyday, I don’t know why the prospect is even scary. (“Because you haven’t exercised in 3 months?” Just a thought.) In other news, a study I’ve been working on with colleagues for over a year was just published this week, which was an exciting professional milestone!

An individual action I’m focusing on at the moment: packing mindfully. On the most superficial level, this means not buying any packaging, so we’ve been packing everything in reused boxes, wrapping plates in scarves, stuffing mugs with socks, etc. On the other hand, going through every corner in the house to box everything up – it really did force me to think about how much stuff we own and what we can let go. Some items went to friends who just moved; lots of plants are going to friends, coworkers, and neighbors. (A follower on IG who has never interacted with me stopped by to pick up some plants and shouted through the window: “I really like your account!” – and I felt my real and virtual worlds colliding – a strange and wonderful thing.)

Why don’t I sell? I was asked recently. Hmm, in short – I don’t have it in me. I’ve only tried listing clothes before, and all the photographing, researching how much to price/how to describe it, sharing and re-sharing is just…too much. Frustrated, I ended up sending a few pieces to ThredUp 2 weeks ago; they are selling in no time, and I’ve gotten paid for one item so far – for a grand total of $4.08. So yeeeeeah, gifting it is. Luckily our Buy Nothing group is allowing gifting non-essential items again, and I’ve been able to find new homes for some odds and ends.

Next week I’m going to tackle the giant recycling pile: old textiles, broken kitchen scales and clothes iron, a pot (where the handle literally just. blew. off. during cooking one day #WTF), and a mountain of used batteries, light bulbs, and smoke detectors. Terracycle has been somewhat helpful (we mailed in a 15 year old laptop LOL), but gosh I’m tired just typing up these items. WHY IS SPECIALTY RECYCLING SO HARD TO FIND. (Full rant on that topic here.)

A community action I’ve taken: group zoom! I participated in a community design planning workshop for the Dorchester Food Co-op, and it was an interesting experience. First, I’ve never been a member of any co-op before, so the idea of helping a community/worker-owned grocery store come to life is super exciting. Second, watching architects actually talking to the community about what people want before embarking on a buildout is both bizarre…and makes so much sense! (Boston friends, the co-op is still looking for members to join. You do not need to be a Dorchester resident. The store will hopefully open by late 2021.)

Where I sent my dollars: Sylvanaqua Farms.

I’ve been following Chris Newman @Sylvanaquafarms for a while, and he’s become one of my go-to people to continue learning about the food system. He writes about farming while black/indigenous, history, the pitfalls of white-washed permaculture, etc etc, and I always learn so. freaking. much. He also has an inspiring and ambitious vision to democratize agriculture in the DC/Virginia area, and I encourage you to donate/invest if you can.

Books I’m reading:

Steven Johnson | The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. Found in the pile of books I’m trying to finish/give away before the move, and I have no idea where I got it from. It chronicles the 1854 cholera outbreak in London – part science history, part John Snow biography (the epidemiologist John Snow, not Jon Snow, psssh). Reads like a riveting detective novel and very fitting for our time. (What’s the sustainability angle here you ask? Well, I don’t want to give away the story too much, but in brief – the management of human waste continues to be a public health and environmental challenge, today! Read more about it on the eco-intelligent blog here.)

A thing I’m enamored with: this fried rice recipe. Rice is the perfect vehicle for leftover ingredients, and recipes from the Woks of Life never fail! I linked an egg fried rice recipe, but the site also has recipes for pork/chicken/or vegetable fried rice. (Spoiler alert: they are pretty similar.)

More stuff you should check out:

  • Almost 4 years after The Standing Rock Protests, a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down. This is a big deal, and you can read more about it here and here.
  • Effective Altruism is a movement and philosophy that I…intellectually admire but mostly observe from afar. (We can chat about my feelings another day.) That said, the EA community has put together a list of thoughtful covid donation strategies that you can peruse.
  • @Sarah Robertson-barnes reminds us of how NOT to zero waste on her blog.
  • New mapping analysis showing that twice as many properties in the US may be in dangerous flood zones than previously thought – shocker.
  • More shocking news: “Three years after the [flint water] crisis began, the percentage of third graders in Flint who passed Michigan’s standardized literacy test dropped from 41% to 10%,” 60 Minutes reports.
  • Grist: “Forecast this 4th of July: Fireworks with a chance of lead exposure.” Between the pollution and the noise, can we get rid of fireworks already?
  • The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic has a bunch of great resources up on their website about food & covid. Go learn about policy issues surrounding food donations, how to support local and regional food systems, interesting case studies, and more.

(Header image: Terrine – thrilled about his new perch spot)