Sustainability Journal | Jan 2021

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

Is it still a true Northeast winter if you don’t throw out your back shoveling snow? I think not!

We got less snow than expected on Monday, but half of it turned into heavy icy slush on Tuesday, so I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with my trusty foam roller and heating pad. (We do own a small electric snow blower, but it’s not quite powerful enough to cut through slush for hours at a time. These are the rare and fleeting moments that make me wish we owned a gas-powered snow blower! DAMN YOU FOSSIL FUELS FOR BEING GOOD AT THINGS.)

Besides the noisy snow blowers, this past month has been quiet, figuratively speaking. I’ve been taking a break from the (self-imposed) baking madness in December, tackling some decluttering and sewing projects, and planning our garden for the spring. If you are on Instagram, I’ve been posting a weekly eco action you can take on Mondays, and I’d love for you to join me! (Past actions are saved in highlights.)

An individual action I’m focusing on at the moment: streamlining my cleaning routine.

This sounds pretty trivial, alas I do spend a decent amount of time cleaning every week (pet hair and kitty litter seem to reproduce everywhere all on their own!) so it has a lot of practical implications. With cleaning (and many other things, such as personal care or home decor), my ideal is to figure out something that works and stick to it. (Seeing some people’s bathroom cabinet with 26 different half-empty products as they test out what works best for what season gives me so much unexplained anxiety.)

For whatever reason, I’m just really struggling with cleaning products lately (as you might have guessed from my last post). The dish soap I got at our refill store a few months ago isn’t good at cutting through grease so I end up using a lot just to wash a few things. The laundry powder typically works ok, but it being “not the most powerful detergent” + tap water being so cold this time of the year sometimes result in a load of laundry that’s not completely clean. I had to run 3 cycles recently to get the fire pit smell out of a winter jacket, which was so frustrating! Anyway, all my cleaning tools are failing me lately, and I’m just dying to find something eco-friendly that works, doesn’t cost a lot of money or ruin the machines. (DIY recipes can damage appliances! More on that here and here.)

A community action I’ve taken: seed sharing! I was inspired by Sarah Roberson Barnes‘s seed swap post on Instagram, and decided to do a mini seed sharing thing on my own! I showed what I have in Instagram stories last weekend, and several people took up on my offer! They are now in route to a few different states in the country – such a nice way to connect with people in these isolating times.

Books I’m reading:

Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson | All We can Save. “A collection of provocative and illuminating essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement.” So good!

Eula Biss | Having and Being Had. In this collection of short essays/reflections/exchanges, poet Eula Biss explores capitalism by going beyond the literal meanings of words, objects or concepts that you may never have thought twice: citizens, Great America, IKEA furniture, and Pokemon cards. It’s a thought provoking examination of wealth, class, property, and work through seemingly banal daily observations.

Where I sent my dollars: Chinese Progressive Association, The Prison Book Project

CPA and several other local organizations have been working extra hard to support the Chinese communities through COVID, including running a recent fundraising campaign to support Chinatown restaurants. Chinese New Year is typically the busiest season for Chinese restaurants, but they have been suffering from steep drops in business since the very beginning of the pandemic. (The news of COVID started spreading at the end of last year’s Chinese New Year celebration, so this is the second year some Chinese restaurants are losing out on their big revenue generator.) If there is a Chinese spot you love in your community, please support them by ordering takeout and gift cards!

The Prison Book Project is a local grassroot organization (based on Quincy, MA), and they have been sending free books to prisons since the early 70s. Many of the books serve practical purposes (GED study guides, dictionaries, and legal books); others provide political education and spiritual nourishment. During COVID, you can donate money, or purchase titles specifically requested by incarcerated folks through the organization’s wish lists. (I love that there is an Amazon option and two local bookstore options, and the ordering process is very easy in both cases. Amazon ships the books directly to Quincy, and the two local booksellers coordinate with the organization on pickup.)

More stuff you should check out:

  • I found a 3-part NYTimes Wirecutter series on green cleaning super informative (and funny). It’s from 2016, but still very relevant (see above re. cleaning struggles). Check them out here, here, and here.
  • I finally read this open letter from “10+ Indigenous leaders: Regenerative Agriculture & Permaculture offer narrow solutions to the climate crisis”. You should too!
  • This EconTalk interview with Adam Minter on the “secondhand industry” was truly one of the most fascinating things I’ve heard in a while. (Did you know there is a mega billion-dollar industry on rags? I did not!)
  • The Vote Climate US PAC released the 117th Congress Climate Scorecard. Check it out and contact your relevant reps!
  • If you have not kept up with the slew of climate executive orders the new administration has signed, here is a roundup.