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Sustainability

Self-Awareness:ssenerawA-fleS

The process of living more sustainably has really changed both my view of the world and myself. Self-awareness on a daily level really makes you aware (ha, pun intended) of how many small micro-decisions make or break habits and outcomes in our life. It’s crazy to compare the amount of self-awareness I have worked to have now from even a year ago, especially compared to a few years ago.

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It’s a weird feeling to be so much more aware of your presence and decisions… I’ve realized that sometimes I don’t really count myself as a physical being more often than not. As if I am standing in a room of people yet feel invisible—like a thought bubble in someone’s head. II am still having troubles really counting myself as a person (as already mentioned) and that includes voicing my opinions and seeing how my actions and decisions affect others. Not that there wasn’t any awareness before, but after going through life on autopilot for so long it really makes the wonders of life exactly that when the blinders are lifted. Another way involves relationships. Instead of making more impulsive decisions, I really think how will this affect my family member, friend, coworker, significant other, etc? These types of decisions can also be geared towards helping my future self. What is my current self doing to help both my future self, and the future Earth?

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Having this sort of internal dialogue does wonders for the mental health. Sitting back and re-assessing situations and in some cases avoiding negative outcomes is a habit I am glad I have started to pick up on. It’s already proving to be better in both the long and short term. It’s allowed me to find more creative ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, avoid, ignore, wonder, so many adjectives to put in here! Seeing the improvement they help create is almost palpable, especially to see how time changes things based on decisions that were made previously.

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Areas of improvement can contain both small and big victories. I opt out of a straw while at a restaurant, doesn’t seem like much in that instant, but is huge for the Earth. If even one single person refused a straw their entire life (or as much as possible) they will make a big difference over time based on how much they don’t use. I’ve noticed it in areas I frequent while exercising. I notice there’s not nearly as much trash to pick up all of the time. I’d say the area now seems to be cleaner longer, and I really don’t think it’s just because of me. It’s the small acts of people passing through that are helping it get better. From the person who decides not to throw their trash out of the window, to picking up trash seen out in the wild, to the person who makes a decision to go with a less wasteful alternative (ex: eating a banana instead of a granola bar since it creates waste with the wrapper, cardboard box they come in). Self-awareness has helped me make less wasteful decisions for this reason alone.

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It’s even been noticed by those around me. My roommates who have different beliefs are even noticing when something can be recycled and are making more of an effort to break down the boxes, rinse out the soda cans, put things that need rinsed out by the sink so they can be processed. A couple friend of mine has even started recycling now. It’s so exciting thinking about how much of a difference people can make, simply because they had started to become more aware.

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Making more informed and knowledgeable decisions has also helped me become aware of how apparent litter/waste is on the ground, near rivers, anywhere that has moving water, and also thinking about where the water feeds to whether it be the sewer, river, or bay. Finding and removing trash from these areas will eliminate it from being put into the rivers and oceans and away from wildlife that can mistake it for food. Nobody wants to be responsible for harming innocent people and animals… but truth be told, each and every one of us have most likely harmed multiple animals from the waste we produce. I don’t want to be a part of that problem anymore. I want to be a part of the solution. These small daily decisions are helping build a foundation of success that cannot quite be measured, but will be noticed. Don’t stop being curious, don’t stop asking questions, and most certainly… don’t stop fighting the good fight.

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Sustainably Yours,

Nicole

organization, Sustainability

Persistence Is Key

Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through the failure. –Aisha Tyler

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            Persistence is key to succeeding at many things in life and living a more sustainable lifestyle is no different. Continual small efforts make the biggest changes and remembering those details and adhering to them are sometimes difficult to maintain. Change is a part of life that is going to happen no matter what. If you’re ready for it, welcoming it, looking for it, avoiding it, don’t see it coming… change is there. Some of it is controlled, other times not so much.

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            As we travel through life we experience our own unique stories and sometimes it takes a tough decision for the greater good. In doing so, it could drastically change our day to day life. It can be a new job, school, relationships, and many other life-altering situations. When this happens, it seems like other aspects of our life can be thrown off.

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            When these changes happen in my life, I notice that some of the better habits I have get tossed to the wayside. When figuring out new time schedules it is difficult to work in when to exercise and keep a consistent healthy diet. Nothing is 100%, but the number of veggies I eat certainly go down when I am switching aspects of my life around.

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            Not only are there issues with the external parts of life, the internal dialogue has issues balancing out at times too. Keeping the mental power to not take the lazy way out when tired is more difficult some days than others. I’ve found this is an issue with making decisions that involve being more sustainable and environmentally friendly sometimes too. I’ll admit, I’ve been slipping up. I have gotten the to-go container and haven’t said something when there was an absurd amount of sauce packets put into my bag. I’ve slacked on organizing the recycling as often as I have before, so it takes longer each time, thus making the time it takes to organize it when we take it increases day by day. Those are just a few examples of many, but my point is: Change is difficult to adjust to right away.

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            I also made decisions at the grocery store that lead me to reducing my waste, even though I really wanted nothing more than to eat whatever food item I decided had too much wasteful packaging, or too much of a negative impact on my health. I also did my best to recycle everything I could find possible that would have been thrown out otherwise, and even got the gumption to organize the recycling a time or two. It’s just all about the effort and persistence.

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            Even people who are easily adaptable to new situations have issues adjusting to change. Although it is a great part of life and certainly keeps things interesting, it is how we roll with it that makes the difference. I have had to try and adjust my thinking to realize that change is always lurking around the corner, so there are some things that I need to be more consistent on and focus on making more of a constant part of my life. Sure, the amount of free time we have differs occasionally, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, that’s what keeps life interesting is it not?

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            Basically: Keep your chin up! We all have something we can work on or improve, so don’t let that get you down. Persistence is key, and that is what will really help take us places. Think about the day ahead of you, or even the hour ahead of you if necessary. Just continually work on being the best you and keep the bright side of the future in mind. With the change that has already started and is on its way through my life right now, I am having to remind myself of this constantly. It’s a very helpful way to continue to discover your inner workings and work on strengths and weaknesses. If something makes me nervous, I know it’s something I must do—within reason, of course.

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            The journey is all about growth and experience, finding your ‘new’ and acting upon your passions and goals. Maybe I should go back, look at them, and see if I need to re-evaluate my priorities to align them with my stepping stones to success. I’m also going to have to learn how to better focus my drive and determination to make sure everything I would like to do is getting done. I really enjoy seeing others’ successes on their journeys towards whatever goal(s) they are working towards, it really helps keep me motivated. If you’re ever feeling down, I highly recommend surrounding yourself with people and an environment that makes you happy and find your ‘normal.’ There will always be change, so there are things that we need to take a look at and realize are still the same but will be done in different fashions.

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Keep up the persistence, adjustments to change, ability to keep going, and make sure you do what’s best for you now and in the long run.

Sustainably Yours,

Nicole

Sustainability

Nay the Nay-Sayers

With there being over 7 billion people in the world, it’s pretty obvious that there’s going to be some overlap in human interaction at some point. Let’s face it… we are kind of everywhere lol (which is how we got in this environmental situation in the first place). The opportunities for each and every one of us to live vastly different lifestyles and have different values to match are endless. That being said, everybody may not see/understand why some of us care so much about the environment. Occasionally, picking up trash is ‘beneath’ people who do not value it, as if it’s always someone else’s responsibility. Not only that, but there are even people who knowingly contribute to the litter problem and do not care. How crazy is that?!

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Some people in this world do not understand, or do not WANT to understand why it is so important to not litter, to actively recycle, or put effort into living a more sustainable lifestyle. There are even instances where people are addicted to getting or are comforted by “stuff.” This is why it’s so important that the people who focus on saving/protecting the environment keep their continual efforts up to do exactly that, myself included!

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Efforts to save the Earth are difficult to keep track of… really though, how does one make apparent or show the lack of waste, or track how been using ‘less’ things? The lack of something is a large part of the idea behind the movement. Not having extra, only what you need, and with as little waste as possible left behind—those are a few main components I’ve discovered anyway. This is why some people don’t notice, or it’s easier to look away from the progress people have been making.

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When seeing one of us pick up trash out in the wild, occasionally we get weird looks. There’s even been instances where I’ve been laughed at, not directly, but have overheard it. It still sticks with me… and sometimes when I’m in that area I’m still a bit hesitant to pick up litter. I dislike that so much, it’s one off-handed comment someone made that they probably don’t even remember, yet I can’t get it off of my mind sometimes. I find this comparable to making fun of someone for working in a restaurant or a place they go to for service, yet they make fun of them for making it possible to have their wants and/or needs met. Who does that really help? Why would somebody make fun of/be rude to someone who is actively helping them?

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For this, I will claim there are some people I will never understand. Just because somebody is doing something different… let them be. As long as they’re not actively hurting anyone or anything, what harm is being done? Either way we cannot let it control our actions. I need to work on not letting it bother me as much, because the greater good is more important. Who knows, maybe these people will one day change their mind as to how they feel about what we do and will adopt some aspects of the lifestyle. Every little bit helps! We can’t let what other people think/say control our actions. Each day is a new opportunity for us to make ourselves happy and letting what others may think get in the way of that seems a bit antiquated. Life is too short to be anything but happy. By “naying the nay-sayers” there’s no being rude or mean, but by working towards our goals in living a more sustainable lifestyle no matter what anyone says.  Keep on believing, and don’t let anyone make you feel silly for doing something for the greater good.

Sustainably Yours,

Nicole

P.S.:

I’ve been posting on SustainabiliMe for over two months now and have been learning and trying to improve as I go on (as we all do). Something I have been trying to do work on recently is better communicating/showing both my personality and theme of this blog.

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My goal for SusM is for this to be an open platform that cultivates and invites conversation, positive and progressive change, and ideas that we can discuss to better our lives and sustainable practices. After all this is a lifestyle blog… It’s literally about what I have been experiencing on my journey to a sustainable lifestyle, and ways I’ve found to alter my habits to leave less of a mark. I don’t want to just feel like I’m reporting something or like I’m an expert in the field. It’s just important enough that all of us humans learn how to more efficiently and effectively live our lives. We all go to the store, we all get paid from work, etc… this is just another part of life I think is an important skill to have under a person’s belt.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my little corner of the internet, and I really hope that you can learn something from reading this—and I hope to learn something from you, as I believe that there is always a bit of knowledge that we can learn from everybody.

Sustainability

Fast Food/Restaurant Blues

This day and age we are all in, everybody is busy. There are plenty of modern luxuries that can help make our lives a bit easier or are simply for pure enjoyment. One that I wanted to focus on this week is fast food/eating out/to-go eating. There is no way around it sometimes due to traveling, business meetings, forgetting lunch, going out to eat with friends, or simply because you enjoy something and are craving it.

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Although it is not the eco-friendliest habit, cooking at home for every single meal of every single day can be overwhelming, and even boring. People are busy, occasionally there’s simply no time to have a home cooked meal! Supporting local businesses is always a plus, too! Reducing the amount of times you go out by at least once a week, or if you don’t go all that often once a month will make a substantial impact over time. I try to reduce my intake to once a week personally, but of course there are those that outliers where it doesn’t happen occasionally. Life isn’t always black and white, so don’t feel too bad about ending up in a gray area. As long as your body is getting the nutrients it needs, because that is important too!

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Let’s Get Down to Business!

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Plastic Straws: Do you really need them? If you question the cleanliness of the glass that you are drinking from, why are you about to eat the food that comes from their kitchen? If the worry lies in the cleanliness of their drink dispensing machines, I don’t think a straw will help you in that department either. Milkshakes you are unable to do this with of course but do your best to either not open the straw, or if you get handed one for a to-go option, just simply say you do not need it and hand it back. It may seem like one straw here or there, but over time it WILL make a difference!

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Napkins: Yes, we all tend to need something to wipe our face off with when eating food. But—reduction is key. Do you really need that stack of them for one meal? Reducing the quantity, you take to the amount you will actually use most definitely makes an impact.

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Plastic Cutlery: If it’s the only means you have then by all means, go for it! If that food is coming back to the house with you, do you really need it? Some even bring a set of silverware for on-the-go usage… something I should begin to do myself.

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Sauce Packets: Sauce can sometimes make or break the meal you are about to enjoy. If it’s ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, ranch, soy sauce, etc. and you’re bringing home a pick-up order it’s not necessary to create this extra waste. The food residue makes them unable to be recycled, and what are they even made of anyway? Plastic? Some type of aluminum? If anyone knows more about this, feel free to elaborate!

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Plastic Bags: If your order is not complex and can be carried to your destination then by all means skip out on this product! If you have to use them and your local grocery store or recycling center accepts them, please take them there. Or you could even bring your own to pick up anything that won’t cause destruction to it.

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Recycling what you can: Occasionally food is given in ways that some parts can be recycled, but not the entirety of it. For instance, if food is given in a paper bag. The containers may not be recyclable, but the bag could. One way I try to combat this is by tearing parts off that can be recycled… Such as pizza boxes. The bottom part may not be able to be recycled, but the top part can be removed and recycled with cardboard. It’s the small details that add up the most!

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These are just a few different items that are able to be reduced. If you use them, try to reuse or recycle them if possible! If you think of any other alternatives or a better method of reducing, reusing, or recycling food on the go, please feel free to share them below!

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Remember: YOU ARE IMPORTANT. YOU MATTER. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

 

Sustainably Yours,

Nicole

recycling, Sustainability, Uncategorized

Recycling Habit Changes: Then to Now

“Practice makes perfect” –I’m sure most people have heard this quote at least once—or a million times in their life.  Well… I’ll add another time to that list because that’s exactly what this blog post is about. J This week I’ll be elaborating on how my recycling habits have changed over time, usually resulting in a much more pleasant time to be had by all: me, my SO who helps me sort it when we take it to the recycling center, and the employees at the recycling center who have to sort out everybody’s recycling to make sure it’s placed correctly.

Here are some before and after’s that I felt were noteworthy:

BEFORE: I used to stare at the two weeks (sometimes more) of unsorted recycling with a distant look in my eyes, trying to recruit roommates/my SO to help me organize it, while knowing full well I will most likely end up having to organize most of it myself. Even offering to make breakfast didn’t work either! It used to take an hour or more to sort through it all before we even left the house to then organize it even further at the recycling center.

AFTER: Every few days, or when noticeably getting messy, I organize the recycling in about 5 minutes. Recruiting to finalize the organization before taking it to the recycling center is NOT a chore, and my SO/one of my roommates doesn’t mind jumping in to help when it’s recycling day. Overall MAYBE takes 15 mins… I’ll take it!

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BEFORE: Again we used to keep it in a disheveled pile that amounted to just that. Taking it out to the car was almost a nightmare! Multiple trips for something we ultimately should have been making in one, two tops just wasn’t working out.

AFTER: Now I use current recycling to organize the rest of the recycling. I’ve touched on this before, but it has helped tremendously for organizing and transporting it to the recycling center. Using boxes to put cans in, old six-pack carriers to put glass objects in, etc. The organization of it changes each time, which I personally think puts a bit of a fun spin on it. It’s like real-world Tetris!

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BEFORE: When at the recycling center we would sort of just guess when we put the items in the bins. Yes there were the obvious green, clear, brown glass, cans, cardboard, etc. but the plastics are where it gets tricky. There’s Plastics # 1-7, and in some areas certain #’s go into different bins. It all depends on the area you live in, so YMMV on that one. We just kind of put things where we thought they went and hoped for the best. This was not the best plan of action because it ended up creating more work for the people who worked there. We weren’t trying to do any malicious harm of course, but sometimes ignorance is not bliss.

AFTER: Before taking the recycling to the center, we organize it into categories by number. We simply drop it in the appropriate numbered bins because according to the signs they are supposed to go in those respective bins. We learn more about the recycling center and how it works each time we go thanks to the people who work there.

Employees are always close by and are intuitive in asking if anyone needs help when people are unsure of where to place something. It’s so nice to have approachable people to help when needed because not only is it good for the environment, but it’s always nice to know you’re helping make someone’s job/day go a bit smoother. We of course have more to learn and will get better as time goes on, but it’s nice knowing how far we have come.

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BEFORE: When already at the facility we would remove the lids from the bottles/jugs as we were placing them in the appropriate bins. This would take up more time and occasionally mess up the flow of others trying to organize their recycling if it was a busier day.

AFTER: We take the caps off of containers as they are put into the recycling at home. It saves so much time in the long run because the caps can easily be removed on the walk to put the item in the bin.

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BEFORE: The recycling was CRAZY huge after two weeks. It was a tedious task to organize/take it, and originally not as fun to do so. If we skipped a week and waited three weeks, oh boy no thank you! We would still take it of course, but it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable.

AFTER: Now we are making more responsible choices to reduce the amount of recycling we take in the first place. Prior I mentioned we usually take it after two weeks because it was piling up, but now three weeks can go by and it’s still manageable. This is in part to it being organized already so it doesn’t take up as much space, but even after the recycling was organized prior you could tell there was much more taken each time.

Really there is no fully streamlined and efficient way of recycling… you’ve just got to take things as they come. With anything it gets easier over time. Making decisions to reduce the amount of recycling produced is ultimately the goal. I like to take a look at the recycling as we are organizing it and noting what produces lots of waste and seeing if there are ways we can reduce or even completely cut something out. Sometimes that means finding a less wasteful alternative, other times it means to stop using certain products completely. Other times there’s occasions where multiple friends are over for games/celebrations and there’s so much recycling that time. Life is fluid so be mindful of your use, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself too.

Sustainably Yours,

Nicole

Sustainability, Uncategorized

Hobbies: Enjoy Your Life While Loving The Earth

First and foremost, I would like to state that I am NOT trying to tell people what hobbies they should/shouldn’t do.  I am simply stating some hobbies that I enjoy and are decently eco-friendly.

I do recommend to anyone who has a hobby that creates/produces waste to analyze it and realize where waste is created, and see if they can reduce it, upcycle it, reuse it, recycle it… well you get the idea!

The world is such a big place, which is great because that means there are so many facets of life to be explored if desired. A thought that I enjoy entertaining would have to be about how no matter what, it is not possible to know everything that there is in the world. In my corner of the world, I really enjoy doing different physical activities to help my mind and body sync.

Running/walking would have to be the highest up there on a list of exercises I enjoy. There’s nothing better than a breath of fresh air. Growing up I was always running. I did it in Middle School, High School, and part of college before being medically disqualified. The gym is great, and I enjoy lifting some weights OR THE STAIR STEPPER on occasion but running is where my heart’s at. It took a long time for me to be able to say that again, but I’m proud to do so!

Yoga is an activity I’d put off way too long to start doing! I ran competitively for 8 years and didn’t start yoga until 4ish years after…now I love it so much! Neck/shoulder yoga sessions make the body feel in ways that words cannot describe. Yoga is such a stress-relieving activity that helps both your body and mind slow down, even if just for the duration of the session. Focusing on your breathing is a part of it, and taking gradual deep breaths is something I know I need to improve on.

These next two I’m combining because more often than not they cross paths. I really enjoy shuffling…and playing with my kitten. I’m still a beginner in the shuffling world, but my oh my is it such a beautiful way to express your enjoyment for music. The two intersect as I often shuffle when my kitten tries to ambush me and attack my legs while walking (typical cat things… I think his ‘Adult Cat’ factory settings are kicking in, haha). All jokes aside, I do love to run around with a stringy toy of his and uncontrollably giggle while he tries to catch it.

Physical activities are not the only spice of life worth enjoying—there are plenty of other things I enjoy such as singing, drawing, surfing Reddit, and my most expensive hobby by default: cooking. Besides bills, that’s what the largest portion of my income goes to.

Hobbies I would LOVE to start would be: meditation, reading more books, wire wrapping, taking more/better photos, and creating music.

Who knows what hobbies will be a part of my lifestyle in a month, year, 3 years, and so on. The point of hobbies is to enjoy them, and hey who knows… maybe end up making some money from them one day.

The main point of this is: enjoy what you do and make it the most “You” it can be. That’s the best part about it! Just make sure to keep a thoughtful eye on the waste produced from it and see if there are ways it can be improved. I don’t know you, but I’m sure you’re quite an intelligent human… so you’ll be able to figure something out. 🙂 For the Greater Good. We CAN do this!

Sustainably Yours,

Nicole

Sustainability, Uncategorized

Grocery Shopping: A Necessary Evil

How can we reduce our waste at the grocery store? Every couple of weeks or so we’ve got to re-up our food supply. No matter what, we’ve got to eat. If we lived in a perfect world we would all go to our gardens and bring ingredients for our meal, but unfortunately apartment living doesn’t allow that luxury most of the time. So, we shall do the next best thing available and shop for our supplies at the grocery store. Last time we went to the store, we changed up some of our selections and the way we used our items to reduce our waste.

Big Breakthrough:

Previously I had written about the types of meat that we purchase occasionally. Reducing the amount of meat we eat has really helped reduce the carbon footprint we leave, along with the other obvious benefits of not eating as much meat. This past time at the store we went with the Tofurkey instead of the sausage. We also did not get any lunch meat. Usually we always get it because it makes a good lunch at work, but we were just a few minutes after the deli closed. That’s okay though, these past couple of weeks have really been a learning/adapting experience without it.

Usually I just throw together a sandwich and a side for lunch and call it a day. Now that I’ve been forced to be more creative, it has made me think about my meals at work further in advance. Sometimes I’ll make some extra food to put in a container to easily grab the next day or so. Or I’ll just not be too lazy to cut up vegetables for a salad, and now I am more responsive to making an actual meal in the morning in addition to my breakfast. I even used to use it as an excuse to sleep in a bit later, because making a sandwich is quick and easy. It’s helped me get my internal clock regulated as the time I go in to work fluctuates and throws me off. At this point I feel like I could continue to not get lunch meat and be completely fine. We shall see what the future holds as to whether I continue to get it or not. The money used to purchase the lunch meat could really go towards other things we need, or even be saved!

Decisions, Decisions:

My love for the Earth/environment has officially trumped my love for Ramen noodles. Those packets are SO wasteful! The outer plastic wrapping, cardboard box the packets are in, the noodle plastic covering, and the waste from the container the seasoning is served in: No more! Seeing how much waste was produced from Ramen alone always made me really sad. My SO and I decided to swear off the ramen… It was a guilty pleasure to be able to have so much of something that did not cost much. On the bright side we save about $2 that we can re-allocate to other less wasteful products.

After a few days I had accepted my fate of no longer eating them and realized I can most certainly get along just fine without them. I could feel differences in my body from when I was eating them up to now and I feel so different, a good different! This has also inspired me to really take a look at what we have and what we can make with it. We primarily get the same groceries each time we go, so it’s easy to get into a rut and make the same things over and over. Nobody wants to eat the same thing day in and day out.

Best of times, worst of times:

            This will sound a bit contradictory at first, but both portion control and eating more of what I have has really helped me reduce my food waste. Portion control is helpful in so many ways it’s crazy! It helps food last longer as the proper serving sizes are being eaten, assures we are not overeating our daily intake, and it’s great for your budget! If food is eaten in its proper portions it will last longer. This means you will have to buy less over time and in the long run will save money! Who doesn’t like that?!

Eating more of what I have is something I am improving on, yet still seeking ways to improve. A few of the ways I’ve been practicing this is by making sure I actually eat all of my leftovers instead of just making new food or not eating them at all and letting it go bad. It feels great to not have to cook and just go to the fridge, find something, and warm it up. To do this means you have to have dedication to finish what you’ve started, even if you don’t necessarily want to. Another way of eating more of what you have is to eat more of the vegetables you get! Recently I’ve started to eat more of the stalk of broccoli than I used to ever enjoy before. Now I love chopping up broccoli stalks and putting it in salads, stir fry, and other meals! Trying to cut closer to the parts of vegetables you are removing will help conserve the ones you have, but only do it if it’s acceptable to do so! If you’re just cutting the top of a bell pepper off, try and cut it as little as possible. If you’re trying to cut off a questionable part of a vegetable… well that’s up to you!

It’s still a weird feeling to be questioning and analyzing every decision I make because I am becoming more aware of how much I have been mindlessly consuming. It’s often overwhelming, and sometimes seemingly paralyzing. Reminding myself that it just takes continuous small effort and baby steps of improvement helps when my mind feels frazzled about it. It’s not a hobby, not a habit, it’s a lifestyle change. Sometimes those changes do become your hobbies, but you know what I mean! J I look forward to searching for more ways to reduce my grocery waste.

Sustainably yours,

Nicole