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An Attempt for the Extreme

In this part of the world, taking a leave from office without any strong reason is not a common practice. And at the age already considered old by some, and already past mid-life by majority, I still am trying to join more fit people for adventures not considered easy.  I did that for the last week of April. Our destination was South Palawan, Philippines, a big group of islands called our last frontier. The foremost reason in our minds was to photograph butterflies in the wild. We are three ladies from Luzon or North of the Philippines. And we have 2 new male companions who are residents of Palawan. We have joined them in another expedition for butterflies last November.  The three of us are in our 40s, 50s and 60s; maybe you already guess which group I belong.  We are not mountaineers, seafarers, or athletes, but we are bonded by our interest for butterflies, unusual trips, photography and lots of fun.  And we enjoy being together.

My lady friends left home before midnight for our 9:00 am plane. I live in Manila so woke up at 4:00 am before going to the Manila Airport. We were fetched at the Palawan airport by one of the companions there; he is responsible for our itinerary. We rode an ordinary bus for 2.5 hours to their family’s cottage in South Palawan. That was our resident for nights we are on shore. Immediately upon arrival we just deposited our big bags, got our backpacks and camera and hurriedly proceeded to our first waterfalls.  In 40 min by an old army jeep we are in front of the Estrella Falls. My two lady companions took an almost mandated dip in the cold cascading pool.  I refrained from doing so, instead I tried looking for the much-advised presence of luxuriously growing hoyas near the falls. To my dismay no hoya at all was found, maybe every vine is already at the hands of collectors. In fact, it was a hoya collector in Hawaii who told me about it, supposedly growing abundantly on the big tree near the falls!

The following morning we got early for our next stop, camping on a beach at the next town, 1.5 hours from the cottage. We attempted to climb the nearest Peak to our campsite, however we lacked enough time for the necessary clearing of the trail. Nobody seemed to have hiked that peak for the last few years. We went back to the campsite to rest for the night. Next day was another enduring hike to the Tabon Caves Complex, where the first human skull in the country was theorized to have lived. We rented a boat to and from Tabon. The trails to the caves are composed of very steep inclines and undulating paths. But the series of stops and deep breaths led to awesome still growing stalactites and stalagmites, plus a myriad of other finds. There are piles of broken clay pots in some cave corners. Mosses and lichens of different colors make some familiar outlines of figures on the walls.  We visited only 6 of the caves and there still are lots. Some are burial caves, others are dwelling caves and others might be for prayers! The famous Glossy Swifts, which make the famous birds‘ nest soup live in one of the caves. They were so close with us that we were able to get their photos in the nest.  Spelunking is not one of my dream adventures, but it was indeed informative, fun and exhilarating.

formations in cave
A cave at Tabon Caves Complex, Palawan

We were finished at 1:00 pm and with just water and little bread our boat proceeded to our main destination, the Nasirik Island, reached at 2.5 hours. The island is small, almost just a boulder mound and a sand bar with beautiful rock formations at one side, pristinely clear waters and two coconut trees. It is very idyllic, looking really like paradise. Our canned goods are already limited, so we dumped our things and one male companion went out to fish for our meals. He was joined by the boat driver and I guess they also had fun looking for fishes to spear.  Imagine, we were really like pirates accidentally landing on an island, who will not eat if we will not fish for food! That was really an awesome experience. We even had the chance to taste different fish species, broiled and stewed! What a wonderful life. That night was spent more for photography than sleep. Astrophotography was done at midnight, the best spot I’ve seen for the Milky Way. The moon setting on the west horizon was eventually ended by the sunrise, the most spectacular scenes I’ve observed.


camping on the beach
Nasirik Island, South Palawan

beach sunset
Sunset at Mangove Point, Narra, Palawan

On the way back to the mainland, we passed by the Double Islands, called such because 2 islands were joined by a sandbar. Another stop was on an undulating white sandbar that is really captivating. Our next 3 days were spent hiking for waterfalls, butterfly chasing, more river crossings and herping or looking for snakes at night in the forest. I am most thankful for these experiences, and cannot ask for more. At least I can do these before my joints complain of arthritis!

beach with boat on shore
Undulating Sandbar, at the Horizon is the Devil’s Peak

secret waterfalls
Secret Waterfalls

8 Steps to Go Plastic-Free

This July, millions of people around the globe from 159 countries will pledge to consume no single-use, throwaway plastic for the entire month during Plastic Free July. Why?

Plastic pollution clogs our oceans, rivers and waterways; it endangers wildlife; and this pollution has made its way into our food chain. If we continue on our current trajectory, by 2050 we may have more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Such sobering facts propel us to take action. But where to start? If you’re like most people, just thinking back on how much single-use plastic you consumed today alone, you may wonder how you can possibly avoid using the stuff for an entire month.

These steps will help.

1. Conduct an audit. You don’t know if you have a problem if you don’t measure it. Think of dieting. You may stand on a scale to determine if you’ve gained a lot of weight. (“I weigh what?!”) Here, you’ll measure your plastic diet. (“I threw out how many coffee cups?!” And yes, those are lined with plastic.) Once you know where to focus your efforts, you can search for replacements.

2. Refuse the big offenders. The Plastic Free July website refers to single-use plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws as the “TOP 4.” Replace these items with reusables: shopping bags made of natural fibers; metal or glass water bottles; and a ceramic mug or metal thermos. If you enjoy or need to drink with a straw, you can find reusable metal or glass straws in stores and online.

food in reusable bulk shopping containers
Be sure to have stores weigh your jars before you fill them so the cashier can deduct the jar weight when you pay. Photo by Anne Marie Bonneau

3. Build up your reusable arsenal. Next you’ll cut more single-use plastic such as plastic produce bags. I applaud the worldwide plastic shopping bag bans, but most people stuff their reusable shopping bags with piles of plastic produce bags. You can make your own cloth produce bags or you can buy them. And if you need only a few onions or a couple of lemons, for example, you can skip the bag entirely.

4. Eat real food. If you cut the plastic, you cut processed food and eat the real stuff. As a bonus, real food tastes better than processed. You don’t need to cook for hours every day to eat well. As Julia Child said, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.

fresh farmers market haul
Photo by Anne Marie Bonneau

5. Forgot your own mug to bring to the cafe? Ask for a real one. Want your favorite take-out restaurant to put your food in a container for you? Hand the vessel over, ask your server to put the food in it and give detailed instructions about how to do that and why.

6. Replace the Big Three personal-care products:

• Toothpaste. Let me first say that I am not a dentist. I make homemade toothpaste and homemade tooth powder. In a pinch, I’ll use plain baking soda.
• Deodorant. My homemade deodorant works extremely well and you need only a little bit. It consists of baking soda and cornstarch, with coconut oil as a delivery agent.
• Shampoo. Use a shampoo bar or baking soda, followed by a vinegar rinse. If you dislike how those leave your hair, look for shampoo and conditioner in bulk where you live.

7. Don’t go insane. Once you decide to go plastic-free, you will see plastic everywhere. That’s because it is everywhere. You may start to feel disheartened and hopeless and wonder what’s the point. Birds eat the stuff and die, turtles get entangled in it and die, seals become trapped in old plastic fishing nets and die, fish (which we eat) are full of it and die (when we eat them). WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!

But for a moment, just imagine if millions of us worked together to tackle the plastic pollution problem. That would make a huge difference. The good news? That’s what happens during Plastic Free July! And many people continue with the challenge for the rest of the year.

8. Do your best. Don't beat yourself up if you fall short. You will fall short. Just keep trying. It's called a challenge for a reason. However, cutting the plastic is easier than most people realize.

Earth Day 2018: Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Many of us strive to reduce our carbon footprint year-round by moderating our water usage, energy usage, recycling, and more. However, with Earth Day just around the corner, you might be inclined to boost your current routine or perform a completely new Earth-friendly act in tribute of the day. Or you may be completely new to the idea of green living. Whatever the case may be, Earth Day is a wonderful time to start thinking about what you can do to make a difference today, throughout 2018, and beyond.

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Photos by  Pexels

What You Should Know About Your Carbon Footprint

Understanding and calculating your carbon footprint is actually quite a complicated process. Everything that you do, use, and consume has an impact on your personal carbon footprint. Think about every time you drive, how you heat your house, and what you have for dinner and how you cook it — all of these actions make an impact on the Earth in some way.

The term “carbon footprint” has to do with what are called greenhouse gases and their expulsion into the atmosphere. These gases include methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and more. When we participate in acts like driving, eating meat, and burning fuels to heat our homes, we’re adding more of these gases into the atmosphere. As a result, these compounds have a strong effect on the heating and cooling of our planet that takes place in the atmosphere. Although in many cases it’s impossible to completely stop these activities, it is feasible to cut back on excess energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

What You Can Do This Earth Day

Check Out Your Diet

First and foremost, meat is one of the biggest ways you can drastically cut down your carbon footprint. The production of meat products uses massive amounts of water and feed, and the animal itself produces methane that affects the environment. Fertilizers that contain nitrogen are used to grow feed for the animals, and this releases a huge amount of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. The water necessary to maintain cattle is incredible: It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat. Only 25 gallons of water is required to grow a pound of many fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Support Sustainable Companies

Simply taking a look at how you spend your money can also make a large impact on the environment. I highly suggest that you research companies that you support to find out what kind of efforts they are making towards a greener planet. Wasteful companies that don’t actively recycle, use safe ingredients for the Earth, or simply employ production tactics that expel more greenhouse gases than they are able to counteract are businesses that you should think twice about supporting.

In addition, many companies like to give the appearance of a natural or green product when in actuality, their product has a negative impact on the Earth — this is called greenwashing. Doing your research on a company — about the way they give back to the planet and their transparency around processes — can truly help you make informed decisions about sustainable businesses.

Think About How You Travel

Most of us rely on cars and planes to get wherever we need to go. It is simply a necessary mode of transportation that many of us don’t have any alternative to, which is completely understandable. However, there are instances for all of us where we could travel in a different way, but we don’t simply out of convenience. This Earth Day, if you can use your scooter, bicycle, or even just walk to get where you need to, I implore you do to so. If each of us chooses to travel differently, even for just one day a year (hopefully you can try for more), we can cut back immensely on our carbon footprints.

The most effective way to incite change in yourself and others is to get involved in discussions about the planet. Openly talking about things like global warming invites others to come up with new ideas about how we can collectively lower our carbon footprint. If you’d like to do what you can to make a difference to the planet this Earth Day, get involved in your community and see what other people around you are doing to start a trend of change.

4 Ways to Be More Mindful When Using Your Smartphone

Raise your hand if any of the following examples sound familiar. When the alarm goes off in the morning, you pick up your smartphone to see if any texts have come in overnight. Or, when you’re standing in line at the grocery store, you try to catch up with a few emails. Even when Mother Nature is at her best with an amazing rainbow or sunset, your first thought is to capture the moment on Instagram.

If your hand is in the air (and your smartphone in the other), it might be time to examine your relationship with your phone. If you are ready to use it more intentionally and deliberately rather than out of force of habit, the following tips can help you to do just that.

friends sharing smartphone at restaurant
Photo by Shutterstock

Keep It Out of Sight

A great way to reduce your digital distraction is to keep your smartphone in another room or hidden place for a good portion of the day. When you’re trying to finish a project for work, put your phone in your backpack or purse, and when you’re painting the guest bedroom, keep your smartphone out in the kitchen where you won’t be tempted to check your texts.

Ironically, you can use your smartphone to help you reduce your smartphone use — start by downloading the Forest app from the iTunes store. The app allows you to 'plant a seed' that will gradually flourish and grow into a tree if you leave your phone alone.

Create Rules for Yourself

If you have kids, you probably have rules that dictate how much screen time they can have. Now it’s time to do the same for yourself. Come up with a list of times and places when using your phone is absolutely forbidden and stick with it. For example, when you’re at dinner with friends or family, out walking or hiking, cozied up on the couch watching a movie, or when you wake up in the middle of the night. As a bonus, you will be such a great role model, your kids will certainly notice that you’re following your own smartphone rules and they may be inspired to do the same.

Invest in a Phone That Features Great Connectivity

For those moments when you want to quickly connect with a friend or share a live stream event with your family, your smartphone should cooperate and allow you to do so easily and unobtrusively. In order to use your smartphone time as effortlessly as possible, consider upgrading to one of the newest models. For example, the iPhone 8 features LTE Advanced and Wi-Fi calling, as well as a 12MP camera and 7MP FaceTime HD Camera. Thanks to its fast and reliable connectivity, the days of wasting time searching for a signal will be over. You can whip out your smartphone while relaxing on the beach, send out a 60-second live stream to your folks showing them the awesome waves and blue sky, and then put the phone away and get back to living in the moment.

Create Smartphone-Free Zones at Home

Another way to cut down on your constant smartphone use is to ban it from certain rooms in your home. The bedroom is an ideal place to go cold turkey with your phone. Ideally, your room should be a sanctuary where you rest and relax, not obsessively check emails or text your BFF when you should be sleeping. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, spring for a good old-fashioned AM/FM clock instead and keep your smartphone on the charger in the family room overnight. If you’re used to waking up with music playing on your smartphone, you can set the alarm to your favorite local station and wake up with the help of some lively tunes.

Smartphones are definitely handy little devices. They just don’t need to be in our hands all of the time. By keeping it out of sight and unused at certain times of the day, and making sure that your phone has a great signal for when you do need to use it, you can cut back on your constant cell phone use and get back to living life in the moment.


Alison Stanton has been a freelance writer for the past 18 years. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Alison thoroughly enjoys writing about a wide variety of people and topics. When she is not writing, Alison can be found hanging out with her family—which includes three wonderful rescue dogs—and sipping a caffeinated beverage from Starbucks.

Celebrate Earth Day Every Day With These Eco-Friendly Challenges

April is upon us and soon,Earth Day and Arbor Day will follow. We must look beyond these two days to show our appreciation of the Earth: Every day should be Earth Day! One of the many ways we can help protect the environment is to take control of our consumption. It is actually our rampant consumption that is harming the Earth. From the endless amounts of stuff we buy and throw away to our reliance on single-use convenience plastic to the constant need to upgrade to the latest device, it is time to take a step back and reflect on how our personal actions the other days of the year is helping or endangering the Earth.

With that, I want to highlight a few projects that will help change the way you think about consumption. I always encourage my readers over at The Do Something Project to take on projects for themselves as a way to learn and take on habits. Last month, we covered ways to practice a more minimalist approach to the closet. This month is all about being kinder to the planet.

#PlasticFreeChallenge

By now you’ve probably seen the many news reports and startling statistics about plastic pollution. Sadly, our reliance on plastic is destroying our bodies, animal and marine life, and destroying the earth. This year, the Earth Day Network is running a campaign for a World Without Plastic Pollution. It’s using Earth Day 2018 to elevate the issue of plastic pollution to a global audience.

I encourage you to pledge and commit to reducing the use of plastic in your life. No, it’s not easy, but small changes multiplied by millions of people will make an impact. Take the #PlasticFreeChallenge and challenge yourself to skip the plastic and find a more eco-friendly alternative. This can be as simple as bringing your own reusable water bottle everywhere you go, asking for “no straw” in your drinks and bringing your reusable bags when grocery shopping. Doing a challenge like this is an eye opening experience. While we may not be able to do away with plastic completely, it’s important to take on new habits so that the next Earth Day is one that has less plastic pollution. Head to My Plastic Free Life for ways to reduce plastic and of course check #plasticfreechallenge across your social media platforms to find ideas on plastic alternatives and for a community of helpful individuals.

 reusable-plastic-free-water-compressed
Switch to a reusable, plastic free water bottle.

#ZeroWasteChallenge

The next challenge is all about reducing waste. The idea is to reduce the amount of waste you produce by following the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot as championed by Zero Waste Home. The goal is to send as few items to the landfill as possible. Due to rampant production and consumption we send a lot of items to the landfill when they still have a lot of life to them. The goal of the #ZeroWasteChallenge is to reduce the amount of waste you generate given where you are in the world and what resources are available to you.

The first R is to Refuse. Commit to refusing things you do not need. These can be free stuff such as giveaways, tsotchkes, pens, unwanted mail, extra plastic bags, etc.
The second R to Reduce is to figure out areas in your life that you can simplify. When you simplify and declutter, you’ll know exactly what you have and be less likely to purchase duplicate items. Keep a shopping list and reduce the amount of times you go shopping.
The third R is Reuse as much of what you have instead. Swap disposables for reusables like switching from paper towels to cloth towels, plastic bag to a reusable tote, plastic utensils to actual silverware. Take a look at what you have already. An old jar can be used as a to-go cup, a container for bulk goods, or a food storage container.
The fourth R is Recycle. Get to know your town’s recycling policies. Recycle what you throw out. Try to reduce plastic use as plastic rarely gets recycled.
The last R is for Rot. Create or find a compost system that works for your home. By composting natural items like fruit, vegetables, egg peels, and more you keep these items out of the landfill and back to the soil where they will enrich the environment.

Challenge yourself by completing a waste audit. Take a peek into the kind of trash that you produce and find ways to reduce it. The alternatives are there, but we must look for them. Find more ideas on how to reduce waste using #ZeroWaste across all social media platforms.

 reusable-unpackaged-produce-zero-waste
Opt for un-packaged vegetables, skip the plastic bag and reuse a cloth bag for smaller items.

#BuyNothingNew

Consider this, each time you buy something new, a resource has to be extracted from the Earth to make it. It goes through a production process that may not be environmentally friendly. For many of us in the Western world, we don’t see the harmful effects of all of this production and disposal because all we see are beautifully packaged products in beautifully designed shelves. For this particular project, consider buying nothing new. What does this mean? It means being creative. It means refusing the impulse buys and reusing something to its end. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the next model, to upgrade, but what if we just reuse and recycle existing products first. By following a Buy Nothing New Challenge, you’ll be questioning need versus want, you’ll be searching for clever alternatives and you’ll start recognizing how strong the pull of advertising and marketing is. How does one do a successful Buy Nothing New Challenge?

• Avoid stores where you are more likely to purchase something. This may mean skipping the mall or department stores.
• Unsubscribe from marketing emails and opt-out of magazines and catalogs.
• Make a list of what you need.
• Take a look in your home first to see if you may already own something similar.
• Ask family and friends to borrow certain items.
• Check Craigslist, Facebook, eBay, NextDoor, and your local thrift stores to find secondhand alternatives

By buying nothing new, you extend the life of old objects and you save them from the landfill. It also saves money and reduces home clutter.

I encourage you to try these challenges for a week or a month. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish and how much of an impact you are making. We all benefit from a healthy environment so it’s important that we try to do our part today and every day. It doesn't have to be perfect, we just have to Start and Do Something!

Meal Planning To Shrink Our Ecological Footprint

vegetarian meal

Photo by Adobe Stock/okkijan2010

It’s been a little longer than I anticipated, but I’m back for another blog post for the month of March! And with this post, it’s time to unpack the experiments with my weekly meat consumption. In my last blog post, I not only laid out the goals I had for reducing my ecological footprint, but I also listed four concrete steps on how I’d start to do that. For the last couple months, I’ve worked on the first goal: reducing how much meat I eat. Now it’s time to share how it all went….

Meal Planning

Why was it important to me to lessen my meat consumption? According to the Global Footprint Network (the main source I’ve been using after taking the Ecological Footprint Test), nine percent of our anthropogenic carbon emissions (emissions due to human activity) is due to global livestock processing. Animal agriculture takes a large toll on resources (water, land, food), and depending on where you live, it can take a lot of transportation (and carbon emissions) to ship meat across the country. Even trying one new vegetarian recipe per week, or per month could help put us on the path to a more sustainable planet.

To reduce my meat consumption, my plan was to first track how much meat I ate on an average weekly basis, before going out of my way to decrease it, just to give myself a feel as to where I was starting. Once I recorded that, I planned to slowly reduce the amount of meat each week based on that number. My goal was to eat four meals (or less) with meat in them each week. The process of meeting that goal was slow-going, but it really made me think more about how I planned my meals. And ultimately, that planning reaped some positive rewards.

tofu

Photo by Adobe Stock/Brent Hofacker

Experimenting in the Kitchen

In my first week, I noticed that meat was sprinkled throughout my diet a lot more than I had anticipated; usually, I ate meat in a meal at least once a day. It was in the small meals I didn’t think about: soups, stir-frys, salad toppings…. Even though it wasn’t the main ingredient, it still found its way into my meals. And mainly that was because I was relying on it as my source of protein, obviously. I knew that the chicken on my salad couldn’t be removed without finding a suitable substitute that offered protein to keep me energized across the day.

Nowadays there is an over-abundance in meat substitution recipes on blogs and social media sites. I didn’t have to look far. One of the foods I ventured into to substitute chicken in some of my meals was tofu. It’s usually the first food people think of, but it was always a food that… honestly grossed me out a bit. But since college, I’ve begun to be more curious about it, as one of my best friends and roommate of four years was a vegetarian. I saw her cooking tofu in ways I hadn’t thought about and incorporating vegetables and protein sources in replace of meat. So when I went to the grocery store to pick up some tofu, this time I didn’t feel as intimidated.

I had read about how people can make tofu in ways that appealed to pickier eaters. For me, my problem was the texture. I didn’t want to bite down on a soggy, wet piece of tofu in my salad or soup. What was great was that there was a selection of different firmnesses in the store that I could choose from; as a beginner, I bought the “extra-firm” kind, so it wouldn’t easily fall apart on me.

After experimenting several times with tofu, I found that my favorite way to incorporate it into my dishes was by chopping it into sugar cube-sized blocks; tossing it in sesame oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds; and cooking the batch in the oven. They came out warm and crispy with a great flavor, and I threw them into stir-frys, homemade miso soup, and Buddha bowls. I found I didn’t miss the sautéed chicken when the tofu was seasoned and cooked like this.

Another protein source I utilized more were seeds and nuts — particularly chia seeds and almonds. As I planned my meals, I naturally started drifting into better portion control, measuring out my servings instead of heaping things into bowls willy-nilly. It was necessary when I used nuts as a protein source, since that also comes with higher fat content. I utilized chia seeds in smoothies, oatmeal, parfaits, and even soups. My favorite was a butternut squash soup I made, which I thickened with chia seeds. Suffice to say, that kept me full for hours.

olive oil over salad

Photo by Getty Images/InaTs

 Results and Reflection

There were several challenges throughout these weeks, however. I found that some days, and some weeks, were easier to plan and track and stay true to than others. Some weeks were filled with long work days, busy nights, and hustling weekends, and when I couldn’t find the time to meal prep, my easy way out was to grab some protein through meat. I bought chicken rice soup, defrosted and baked chicken or turkey, or ate out and got meat in my meal. It was easy and didn’t make me think much about the process. Other times, my vegetarian dishes flopped — badly. The first time I tried to make miso soup, my tofu started falling apart, my miso-to-water ratio was off, and I added way too much zucchini as an added ingredient, which made the soup taste less like miso and more like flavorless, soggy veggies. The natural solution, I decided, was to change my go-to protein substitute. One of the fun substitutes I found was homemade nuggets made from chickpeas, vegetables, and coated in bread crumbs and baked. If I had those instead of processed chicken nuggets, then even on my busier weeks, I could know that I’m eating homemade, vegetarian “fast food.”

Besides realizing that this change of eating would require more planning, I found that ultimately there were many more rewards than setbacks. I’m in a fortunate position where my job requires me to be researching and reading and learning about food, nutrition, and health, but I loved how the information I found was easily accessible to everyone. I just had to find the time to sit down, read, take some notes, and experiment. And when I found a dish that worked for me, it was a triumphant feeling. Throughout this whole process, I would’ve been much more lost without the internet to guide me. I was increasingly thankful to all the pioneer cooks, bakers, and experimenters who provided so many meatless, colorful, and nutritious recipes to try — which in turn encouraged me to experiment with what I was learning. Plus, my grocery bills dropped when I bought beans, produce, nuts, and tofu instead of pounds of meat every week — which for a recent college grad is definitely an incentive.

As the weeks continued, I found that I was spending less time worrying or analyzing my meals and instead just doing it; it was becoming a habit to decrease my meat. By the end, I was able to successfully decrease my meat intake to four meals a weeks, and sometimes I went a week without any meat at all, which was an exciting milestone for me. I think the biggest thing I realized with researching these recipes was that it’s not the end of the world if I have to give up some meat-filled meals. Food is such an intrinsic part of our lives and our cultures and our histories that sometimes it’s hard to say good-bye to something we’ve known all our lives. But I’m looking forward to experiencing and sharing new recipes and ways of living. And if I take it in baby steps, I think it won’t feel like I’m giving something up — rather, that I’m gaining something better.

So I still eat meat; I’m not sure if I will ever decide to become a full-time vegetarian or vegan (but kudos to those who do!) But I’m excited that this experiment put me on the right track. With this blog post, thus concludes my conscious tracking of meat. Hopefully, this will settle into more of a habit (fingers crossed!) as I move into the next goal for shrinking my ecological footprint: my garbage waste. Truthfully, this is the biggest goal to meet for myself. I will be detailing more about this in the next blog post. For now, I hope this post inspires you to try a new meatless dish this week. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with cooking new creations!


Want to start this series from the beginning? Learn more about my ecological footprint journey in Tracking Our Ecological Footprint.

Work Sustainability into Your Long-Term Financial Planning

Saving the planet is no easy task. While insurmountable piles of trash and plastic pollute our natural landscapes and wildlife, companies keep producing what seems like infinite contaminating products and packaging. In a consumer-driven economy, however, one way for citizens to voice their opinion is to put their money where their values are.  

Though it might seem like an impossible task, you can make a difference. When you compare your contribution to the billions of other people on this planet, it may not seem likely, but if you consider how much trash your household alone contributes, you will realize that cutting down on your non-biodegradable trash and environmentally harmful products will, in fact, increase your sustainability and make a positive impact on the planet. Here are some ways to incorporate these goals into your financial planning.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Plan Out Home Upgrades

We spend a lot of our time at home, so it makes sense that this is the best place to start with some changes. While making improvements to your house is not easy or cheap, making the right improvements can both raise the value of your home and benefit the planet.

Solar panels are an example of a long-term investment that is expensive upfront, but they are generally worth it in the long run, both economically and environmentally. On average, solar panels cost $20,000 upfront, however, many states offer incentives that generally cut the cost in half and you get monetary benefits, like tax cuts, making up for just about all of the expenses. Plus, if you count the money you will save on energy bills, they will likely save you as much or more money than you paid for them.

Another home improvement is investing in a compost system, which will dramatically reduce the amount of trash you throw out. You can put biodegradable material such as fruits, vegetables, paper bags, as well as any product marked for compost or biodegradable. Investing in a compost can be a great first step for green living

Invest in Your Values

The next step for sustainability is to keep it in mind when purchasing items around your house. Except for food and other biodegradable necessities, try to only buy items that you can keep for a longer period of time. Obviously, this includes buying real kitchenware instead of plastic, but should also expand into every room, and even into home makeovers.

Think about the sustainability of all objects in your house, including furniture. When buying new furniture, try buying local or used. You can shop at furniture recycling stores, Craigslist, and even Facebook Market. This way, you give a second life to a piece of furniture that might otherwise have gotten thrown away, you don’t accumulate any unnecessary packaging or shipping. Plus, this can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and you can still end up with high-quality furniture.

If you’d prefer not to buy used furniture, shopping local is always another great option. Not only will this support your local economy, but the quality of the furniture will almost certainly be higher than mass-manufactured products. Shopping locally will still give you the benefits of using less packaging and reducing shipping costs.

Of course, not everything can be bought used nor is available locally. Mattresses, for example, should not be bought used in order to avoid bed bugs and other unsanitary threats. For these cases, you will need to do more research. If you are looking to buy an eco-friendly mattress, you should look for one made in the U.S., and you can look into organic mattresses that don’t have have the harmful chemicals

Make Eco-Friendly Purchases

Sometimes long-term planning is all about the smaller details. Much like investing in solar panels, sometimes you need to spend more money in the short term in order to buy less and save more in the future. To do this, find brands that use less packaging, don’t test on animals, and use natural products free of harmful components.

Beauty products in particular can contain harmful chemicals which you then put directly on your face. However, there are plenty of popular brands that don’t test on animals, as well as newer brands that use organic and chemical-free ingredients.

You can also get more creative when buying things that last longer instead of things you'll have to throw out. For example, instead of Ziploc bags, you can buy Bee’s Wrap. Bee’s wraps are an eco-friendly and sustainable seal for your food that can replace Ziploc bags in your kitchen. They are a cloth made with beeswax that you seal using the warmth of your hands. It is completely reusable, as you can wash it with soap and water after using it, and it can cover anything from fruits and vegetables to snacks and lunch meals.

By making similar purchases that keep sustainability in mind, you can gravitate towards a waste-free household and cut your ecological footprint. Whenever you can, forego wasteful packaging and be smart about your energy consumption. Little by little, these actions will add up and make an impact on the environment, and at the very least, you’ll know you’re doing your part to solve the problem, not contributing to it.