People Will Not Buy Zero Waste Until They Can Afford It

For those of you who’ve gone on the record and said that going zero waste “isn’t expensive”, I want you to answer two questions:

How much money does your household make in a year, and where do you live?

The answers you give can mean the difference between bamboo and plastic toothbrushes; shrink-wrapped non-organic produce and farmer’s markets; municipal recycling programs or none at all. The answers you give can mean the difference between access to a grocery store period… or being awash in a gray sea of convenience stores.

accessinfographic595 I make well-below the poverty line in annual wages (despite being a college graduate who is overqualified to work in most basic positions), and if I didn’t have family willing to take me in, or a spouse to support me (which he can do in a very limited capacity until I am a legal resident of Canada), I would be homeless. If this makes you uncomfortable, good. I say this to remind you that there are millions of people in my shoes, and worse – we are not merely statistics for you to prattle off at university lectures or on message boards. We are real people, and surprisingly enough, many of us are very concerned about the environment, but our lack of stable work or housing means that most conventional – by US standards – activism is beyond our reach. (And for me as an anarchist, I’m not interested in most reformist activism anyway. I want to see entire institutions burned to the ground, and buying $30 water bottles won’t accomplish that.)

The thing is this: when we talk about zero waste being cheap, who is it cheap for? And where? When we talk about it “saving” the environment (even though personal lifestyles have never won a single victory in the history of eco-justice movements), who’s environment will it be saving?

Part of the reason – actually, the main reason – that I’m pro-littering when it comes to areas dominated by middle- and upper-class people, no matter what region or country, is because this undermines the NIMBYism inherent to much of the mainstream conception of what it means to be environmentally-friendly and “sustainable”. It undermines the stock we put in the very notion of lifestyles at all – for some reason, we have it in our heads that making the right purchases and taking pretty pictures for our blogs is all we’ll ever need to do to reverse climate change. When we blow this particular category of action out of proportion, then of of course caving in and buying a bag of potato chips or cuppa joe in a paper cup feels like you’ve let down the entire world.

In my piece on littering, I recall the history of just how the world’s actual polluters got us to start blaming ourselves for their messes:

…Keep America Beautiful, obviously the first and most influential of the anti-littering movements, was founded by a group of key players in the beverage industry, who were beginning to see bad publicity when their products were turning up on roadsides and in ditches all over the country. […]

So like any good capitalist, these businessmen sought to hand the responsibility over to the unwitting public, rather than deal with the repercussions of their manufacturing practices, or – god forbid – face government regulation. According to them, “People start pollution, [and] people can stop it.”

Zero wasters who want to see an end to the convenience store and what it represents have their hearts in the right place… for the most part. But they fail to perceive and understand the world beyond their own backyard, from the comfort of their chic, urban apartments or mortgaged single-family homes. When I first read Zero Waste Home, there was no mention of who the book was for – though the cover could have told me – and yet, its content assumed that I had access to a Whole Foods, and access to the disposable income to shop there. Among other things.

The ironic part is that I do – and that’s precisely because I don’t make enough to pay rent. If I did, I’d have no money to buy any food with!

To be quite blunt, attempting to do some zero waste shopping here in Vancouver the other day is what spurred this post. I wanted to buy some oil, so I looked at the prices at the two stores I know sell bulk EVOO, and they were phenomenal. $12-15 per 100ml is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a staple that gets used on a near-daily basis. Or how about peanut butter: I could pay $6 for a little over a cup of peanut butter from the grinding machine at WF, or I could buy four times that much for $8 from a local co-op even though it comes in a plastic jar.

It’s a no brainer.

East Vancouver is not a food desert by any means, and for that I’m grateful. But Glendora, the California city where I’ll be living with my mother for a little while, is. There is no walking in Glendora, no curbside pick-up for recyclables, the transit options are pitiful, there is no infrastructure to support bicycling, and the nearest farmer’s market is in the next town over. I will need to get into a car to buy groceries, or I don’t buy groceries at all.

Out of sheer necessity, my zero waste efforts will be curtailed tremendously. I will be throwing recyclable materials in the garbage. But most importantly, I will buy food where it is feasible for me to do so. If that means Stater Bros., then unfortunately, Stater Bros. it is. At least I’m not stuck trying to feed a family from the local 7-Eleven.

What would happen if, every time we were tempted to denigrate ourselves over a single soda can or candy wrapper, we instead decided to remember that millions of people in the US (and Canada) have no choice in the matter? That, instead, we started talking about ways to put an end to food deserts and poverty-stricken communities’ reliance on convenience stores? Or talked about how ridiculous it is that we’re willing to pay $7-8/lb for salad bar cherry tomatoes or hummus because the plastic clamshell or tub would weigh too heavily on our conscience? (To say nothing of how a clamshell of tomatoes gets a more visceral reaction than, for instance, US foreign policy.)

I’m sure some of you are wondering why it is I continue to blog under the term “zero waste”.

Honestly, this is because I still believe in it – nature has no concept of waste, and neither should we. It is the only mark of a truly holistic community of organisms and resources. Just because I believe that most other lifestylers are misguided in their understanding and intentions, I’m not going to give it up.

To me, zero waste is about habits. It’s about fighting capitalist culture through the language of garbage, by-product, and so-called “innovation”. It’s a way to foster healthy boundaries in my work and relationships. It’s a way for me to understand myself as a steward, not an owner, of things. It’s a way to reject the encroachment of consumerism and voyeur culture on my life. It’s a way for me to reject the notion of disposability in every facet of life and society: no person is disposable, no thought or feeling is (or ought to be) disposable, no action is disposable. There is no throwing anything “away”, whether opinions or onion skins, and we need systems – cultural habits – in place to ease their decomposition and re-use.

If zero waste means little more than a hoard of $15 canning jars and an Apartment Therapy house tour, I’m going to go on record to say that you’ve got your priorities all mixed up.

Ecoprinting

Ecoprinting

I took an ecoprinting class last night at the Homestead Junction, a local joint here in Van that is pretty much one of my favorite stores in the world at this point. The class was taught by Caitlin Ffrench, a super nice, tarot-reading, punk-hippie local textile artist who started the class by acknowledging that Vancouver is, in fact, unceded Coast Salish territory, and that whenever we go out foraging for plant material to print with, remember that this is their land.

And then I proceeded to learn about ecoprinting, a technique developed by – if I remember correctly – India Flint from learning about traditional egg-dyeing in eastern Europe.

All in all, the technique is ridiculously simple: soak your fabric in mordant, find yourself some leaves and flowers, arrange them along the fabric as you fold it (so that no part doesn’t have stuff touching it), roll it up very tightly with a stick, wrap it very tightly with string, and stick it in a pot of boiling water for about 15 minutes for every inch in diameter your bundle is. Let rest, cut off the string, unwrap, and voila! A beautiful, utterly unique, and low-tech work of textile art.

Above is my piece, about 24″ square – perfect for furoshiki, for turning into a bag (to collect more plant material in), for wearing, to cut napkins or kerchiefs out of…

What struck me about this technique is just how low-impact and zero waste it is. It’s not wholly non-toxic – natural mordants, while often more or less safe for skin contact, should be disposed of carefully because they are solutions of metals – but it’s as green as fabric-dyeing can possibly get. And about as easy, too.

So I’m going to tell you how to do it!

You’ll need:

  • Water
  • Fabric
  • Mordant (see below)
  • Plant material: leaves, husks, berries, flowers, rinds, bark, etc.
  • A jar or large metal pot that won’t touch food ever again
  • A stick
  • String
  • Heat source

1. Buy or make a mordant.

Some mordants, like alum, need to be purchased, but others you can make yourself. Copper and iron mordants are easy enough to make at home, and I’ve read that you can even use an aluminum pot for your dye bath instead of alum, or just use plants that have a high tannin content – like crushed acorns, oak galls, pomegranate rind, juniper needles and others -as tannin also acts as a mordant.

But for now, we’ll stick to the basic iron/copper mordant.

To make some at home, grab a glass jar, fill it full of nails (for iron) or pennies (for copper; sorry Canadians, you’ll need US pennies), and fill the rest of it with half water and half vinegar. Set it sit until the metal starts to rust and the water starts looking really, really gross when you shake it. Strain out the metal pieces, and the resulting liquid is your mordant!

2. Pre-soak your fabric.

Gather up your fabric and throw it into a container that you can from here on out designate as not food-safe. Cover it with water and add a splash of mordant, letting it sit for a half hour or so.

3. Gather your plant material.

We used what Caitlin provided, which were leaves she’d collected in autumn and stored in a freezer. But green foliage works great too, and she even recommended going to florist shops and asking for their leftovers, especially when it comes to using plants from other climates like Eucalyptus. Leaves, husks, berries, and flowers will all work, assuming they have some kind of pigment to contribute.

4. Arrange your pattern.

Remove your fabric from the mordant, and wring it out. Lay it down on a flat, protected surface, and begin arranging your plant material onto half of the fabric (assuming something wider than 8 or so inches). With leaves, put the top-side facing down. Fold it in half, like a sandwich, and arrange again. Repeat this process of arranging and folding until you’re left with a long strip no wider than your dye container is tall. Arrange your last set of plants along the top of your strip.

5. Tie the bundle.

Grabbing your stick (which also shouldn’t be longer than your container is tall), start at one end of the fabric and wrap very tightly – as tight as you possibly can – around it. The fabric should still be wet, so it won’t loosen so easily if it’s sticking to itself. Then grab your string and wrap it around the fabric, also as tightly as you possibly can. the fabric doesn’t need to be covered with the string exactly, just tightly bound.

6. Prepare the bath.

There are a few ways you can do this part. We did ours in a huge stock pot on a hot plate, and the liquid was just remnants of some of the instructor’s other dye baths – she doesn’t like to waste dye! This is why the fabric turned out gray instead of stayed white. But dye isn’t necessary, and we could very well have used water too – or hell, we could have omitted the water altogether also, since this only requires heat, and not necessarily steam or boiling water.

You can do what we did, and boil your water on the stove or a hot plate, and set your bundle in the bath, and let it sit for about half an hour – roughly 15 minutes for every inch in diameter of your bundle – and remove it when done.

The other method is the one I’m interested in: using a jar. For this, get a heat-resistant jar, throw in your bundle, and cover in boiling water. Screw on the lid, and set aside for two weeks – this is similar to solar dyeing – and remove it when done.

7. Enjoy your beautiful fabric!

Once cool, unwrap your fabric and take a peek. That’s what so wonderful about this method: there’s no telling what you’ll get, and it’s almost impossible to get nothing. Every piece is unique. Caitlin said to let the fabric “rest” for a few hours or overnight before hand washing with dish soap and hanging to dry. After that, feel free to launder as normal.

In conclusion?

Ecoprinting and natural dyeing is freaking rad. It can be done on less than a shoestring budget, accomplished with random junk you find on sidewalks and in parking lots, done with fabric or garments you get at the thrift store (bedsheets, anyone?), and the results are impressive every time.

Oh, and it’s also a damn eco-friendly art form.

Give it a go!
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Furikake Seasoning

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I’ve seen furikake get called ‘the salt and pepper of Japan’, and back in college I learned why. The stuff is delicious and I can’t get enough of it. Asian supermarkets will often carry an amazing and colorful assortment of furikake jars, but finding one with certain ingredients can be frustrating, especially as a vegetarian or vegan. Most varieties contain bonito, shrimp flakes, or some other dehydrated seafood, and sometimes include less desirable ingredients like MSG or anti-caking agents, and they all come with silica packets. Not to mention that the jars, which are small, cost a pretty penny in spite of the simple ingredients.

So what was I to do?

Duh, make my own.

After doing a little research, I’ve hammered out a basic formula that I liked:

Furikake

  • 2 parts dried nori
  • 1 part dried wakame
  • 1 part dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 part sesame seeds (black, white, or both)
  • sea salt, to taste (note that this stuff is meant to be really salty)

In a blender or food processor, process the wakame, shiitake, and salt until they’re a coarse powder. (This will take a while – you may need to use a spice grinder for the wakame.) Add nori in torn pieces and pulse until those are small flakes. Combine with sesame seeds in an airtight container and keep in the fridge. Sprinkle liberally on EVERYTHING. Especially rice balls filled with small dollops of miso-walnut paste.

Now, this is far from being a hard and fast recipe. You can use almost any kind of dried seaweed you’d like, including used kombu. Maybe try this with smoked or black salt – black salt might make it taste a little bit like there are dehydrated pieces of egg in there, which a lot of commercial furikake does have. Try pepper flakes for a spicy kick, or something totally different like Chinese Five Spice. Some recipes even call for a small sprinkle of sugar, but I’m all about savory when it comes to this stuff.

But basically, the moral of the story is: go nuts.

Is it ZW? No, don’t be silly. Unless you’re lucky enough to live someplace where you can get dried sea vegetables in bulk, which I doubt you are. Bags of dried sea veggies last a pretty long-ass time with occasional use, though, and can be put to many more uses than furikake alone. I usually only need to stock up on this stuff once or twice a year. (Which is good for my wallet, too.)

Happy sprinkling!

Signs of the ‘Human Age’

A powerful, but subtle, piece from the NYT (published on my birthday!), complete with photos:

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Welcome to the “Anthropocene” — a new epoch in our planet’s 4.5 billion year history. Thanks to the colossal changes humans have made since the mid-20th century, Earth has now entered a distinct age from the Holocene epoch, which started 11,700 years ago as the ice age thawed. That’s according to an argument made by a team of scientists from the Anthropocene Working Group. Scientists say an epoch ends following an event – like the asteroid that demolished the dinosaurs and ended the late Cretaceous Epoch 66 million years ago – that altered the underlying rock and sedimentary layers so significantly that its remnants can be observed across the globe. In a paper published Thursday in Science, the researcherspresented evidence for why they think mankind’s marks over the past 65 years ushered in a new geological time period.

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Read the rest here.

Manual Monday: Treadle Sewing

So Manual Monday is a project that I’ve been thinking about ever since I bought my breathing hand washer, but what really sealed the deal was a post featured on a favorite blog of mine, wherein the author talks about learning to use a scythe for his volunteer work, the history of it and the sensation of using such an ancient tool.

Manual Monday posts will feature a near-lost bit of technology or methodology for getting something done, or even a more contemporary manual technology – like the aforementioned breathing washer. I’ll reference some of its history, how it was used, and how it is or might be used nowadays. Sound fun? It does to me!

Let’s get started!


man•u•al
1. done, operated, worked, etc., by the hand or hands rather than by an electrical or electronic device


 

I could have done a feature on hand-sewing, which is even more manual than this – but embroidery, sashiko, and other similar skills are all the rage right now, and information on that sort of thing is easy to find.

History

In 1790, the English inventor Thomas Saint invented the first sewing machine design, but he did not successfully advertise or market his invention.[3] His machine was meant to be used on leather and canvas material. It is likely that Saint had a working model but there is no evidence of one; he was a skilled cabinet maker and his device included many practically functional features: an overhanging arm, a feed mechanism (adequate for short lengths of leather), a vertical needle bar, and a looper. […]

In 1804, a sewing machine was built by the Englishmen Thomas Stone and James Henderson, and a machine for embroidering was constructed by John Duncan in Scotland.[5] An Austrian tailor, Josef Madersperger, began developing his first sewing machine in 1807. He presented his first working machine in 1814.

The first practical and widely used sewing machine was invented by Barthélemy Thimonnier, a French tailor, in 1829. His machine sewed straight seams using chain stitch like Saint’s model, and in 1830, he signed a contract with Auguste Ferrand, a mining engineer, who made the requisite drawings and submitted a patent application. The patent for his machine was issued on 17 July 1830, and in the same year, he opened (with partners) the first machine-based clothing manufacturing company in the world to create army uniforms for the French Army. However, the factory was burned down, reportedly by workers fearful of losing their livelihood following the issuing of the patent.[6]

A model of the machine is exhibited at the London Science Museum. The machine is made of wood and uses a barbed needle which passes downward through the cloth to grab the thread and pull it up to form a loop to be locked by the next loop.The first American lockstitch sewing machine was invented by Walter Hunt in 1832.[7] His machine used an eye-pointed needle (with the eye and the point on the same end) carrying the upper thread and a falling shuttle carrying the lower thread. The curved needle moved through the fabric horizontally, leaving the loop as it withdrew. The shuttle passed through the loop, interlocking the thread. The feed let the machine down, requiring the machine to be stopped frequently and reset up. Hunt eventually lost interest in his machine and sold it without bothering to patent it. In 1842, John Greenough patented the first sewing machine in the United States.The British partners Newton and Archibold introduced the eye-pointed needle and the use of two pressing surfaces to keep the pieces of fabric in position, in 1841.[8]

The first machine to combine all the disparate elements of the previous half-century of innovation into the modern sewing machine, was the device built by English inventor John Fisher in 1844, built by Isaac Merritt Singer and Elias Howe in the following years. However, due to the botched filing of Fisher’s patent at the Patent Office, he did not receive due recognition for the modern sewing machine in the legal disputations of priority between the two Americans. […]

Clothing manufacturers were the first sewing machine customers, and used them to produce the first ready-to-wear clothing and shoes. In the 1860s consumers began purchasing them, and the machines—ranging in price from £6 to £15 in Britain depending on features—became very common in middle-class homes. Owners were much more likely to spend free time with their machines to make and mend clothing for their families than to visit friends, and women’s magazines and household guides such as Mrs Beeton’s offered dress patterns and instructions. A sewing machine could produce a man’s shirt in about one hour, compared to 14 1/2 hours by hand.[18]

In 1877 the world’s first crochet machine was invented and patented by Joseph M. Merrow, then-president of what had started in the 1840s as a machine shop to develop specialized machinery for the knitting operations. This crochet machine was the first production overlock sewing machine. The Merrow Machine Company went on to become one of the largest American Manufacturers of overlock sewing machines, and continues to be a global presence in the 21st century as the last American over-lock sewing machine manufacturer.

In 1885 Singer patented the Singer Vibrating Shuttle sewing machine, which used Allen B. Wilson’s idea for a vibrating shuttle and was a better lockstitcher than the oscillating shuttles of the time. Millions of the machines, perhaps the world’s first really practical sewing machine for domestic use, were produced until finally superseded by rotary shuttle machines in the 20th century. Sewing machines continued being made to roughly the same design, with more lavish decoration appearing until well into the 1900s.

The first electric machines were developed by Singer Sewing Co. and introduced in 1889.[19] By the end of the First World War, Singer was offering hand, treadle and electric machines for sale. At first the electric machines were standard machines with a motor strapped on the side, but as more homes gained power, they became more popular and the motor was gradually introduced into the casing.

Treadle machines aren’t found only in history books and antique stores, though: there is exactly one company, Janome, that makes a single model of treadle sewing machine that is currently on the market. Though why buy a clumsy plastic machine for almost $300, when you can buy a used one for a fraction of that which will last for generations?

Public Domain

Public Domain

Technique

Depending on whether you use a modern or vintage treadle machine will determine how you sew. Vintage machines don’t have any fancy settings like modern machines do – like zigzag or button-hole stitches – and many of them don’t even have a reverse setting, allowing you to do just a single, basic, unidirectional stitch. Want to go the other way or secure the end of that stitch? You’ve got to turn the whole piece around, or do it by hand.

The other consideration is, obviously, the treadle itself. There seems to be a groove you fall into with pushing your foot, and figuring that out just takes practice.

Basic overview:

How to thread a vintage machine and check tension:

How to treadle:

How to do freehand quilting with a treadle machine:

One of the things I love about these is just how QUIET they are compared to the roar of powered machines. You can actually have a conversation while sewing!

Feasibility

How feasible would it be to go back to using treadle machines? I think very – there is a thriving market for vintage treadle machines and tables, and not just for decoration. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but from what I’ve seen, it seems to be no steeper than learning to use any other modern machine. The tables themselves are large pieces of furniture, but I see no difference between that and any other kind of surface that you’d need to put your modern machine on anyways. And the modern ones don’t have the benefit of being small, either. the vintage machines seem downright tiny in comparison.

I think for the hobbyist sewer, treadle sewing wouldn’t be much more difficult or inefficient than what we get with our modern machines. If you run a business, though, or do more than a few hours a week, I can see how using the pedal would get tiring after a while.

Further Reading

Interested in learning more about the treadle technology? The history of pre-electricity sewing? Or interested in buying one for yourself? Have some links!

A Few Notes on Oil Pulling, A Few Notes on Oil

Calicut, Kerela

Coconuts being laid out to dry before processing in Kerala. Flickr

If you’re the kind of person to read this blog, you probably know what oil pulling is. But in the off-chance that one of you doesn’t: oil pulling is when you use coconut oil (or some other oil, but coconut is by far the best) like mouthwash. Except you do it for 15-20 minutes instead of 2, and you needn’t do it vigorously at all. Just kind of… move it around between your teeth.

I’ve started doing it this week, and I really like the way my teeth and mouth feel afterwards, but one of the thing that other oil pullers claim just has me face-palming, now that I’ve seen the phenomenon for myself: that the oil/spit wad turns whitish by the time you’re done, and this is because of the “toxins” it’s pulled out.

I gotta say, this is complete bullcrap. Coconut oil is an oil, and if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you’ll be well familiar with another way in which oils are frequently turned white: emulsification. So no, this isn’t a visible sign that you’re detoxing – there’s no proof that this happens when you oil pull anyways – you are literally just making an oil and spit aioli in your mouth. So no need to fret if you accidentally swallow some, no need to start gagging because the idea of reintroducing those “toxins” freaks you out. It just ain’t happening.

The other thing I wanted to note, if someone reading this is interested in trying it out, is be sure the oil is melted before you use it. The texture of a huge wad of cold coconut oil in your mouth is just so wrong that I did gag a couple times with my first go at it. So what I did was scoop some into a metal spoon, hold the spoon over one of the burners on my stove for a few seconds so that the oil melted, and then let the spoon cool down a little bit before taking a gulp.

Want to try it? Here’s how to do it and some of the (empirically proven) benefits: Should You Try Oil Pulling?

A worker and oil-extracting machine in Sri Lanka. Flickr

And a note on coconut oil in general: one of the ways that the oil is produced is with the use of solvents, namely a chemical called hexane: “Conventional coconut oil processors use hexane as a solvent to extract up to 10% more oil than produced with just rotary mills and expellers.” There’s little to fear on the consumer end, though, as hexane evaporates quickly, and it mostly only poses a problem if inhaled. But, from a worker standpoint, working with hexane can be dangerous and result in poisoning. But it’s not just coconut oil that this stuff is used for: “n-Hexane is also used as a solvent in the extraction of oil from seeds (soybean, cottonseed, flaxseed, safflower seed, and others). It is sometimes used as a denaturant for alcohol, and as a cleaning agent in the textile, furniture, and leather industries. It is slowly being replaced with other less toxic solvents.” (Both of these quotes are from Wikipedia.)

From Nutrition.About.com:

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require foods to be tested for hexane levels — probably because the chances you’ll experience any meaningful exposure from food is highly unlikely. You’re much more likely to be exposed to hexane through gasoline fumes, quick-drying glue and cleaning solvents than you are from any amount of foods you eat.

Hexane is a solvent made from crude oil. In the food industry, hexane is used to extract the vegetable oil from plant seeds such as canola, soybeans, sunflowers and corn because it is more efficient and less expensive than squeezing out the oil with presses.

The hexane is removed from the oil before it is bottled and sold, but there is always the potential for some hexane residue to be left in the oil.

The FDA hasn’t established a limit on hexane residues in foods, however it has set limits for residue levels in hops and fish meal protein. Since it isn’t something foods are usually tested for, it’s difficult to know how just how much hexane might be in any foods you buy.

It’s also unknown how much foodborne hexane might cause a problem, although current research indicates it would take magnitudes more hexane than what is possibly found in the diet.

[…]

Hexane is toxic and exposure to large amounts of it can cause neurological damage. This mostly occurs when workers are exposed to hexane at oil refineries and other places where hexane may escape into the air. Current toxicology research focuses on industrial and airborne exposure to hexane, so it’s not clear how much hexane exposure from foods would be dangerous.

The EPA has estimated that consuming less than 0.06 milligrams hexane per kilogram of body weight is probably safe. For a 200-pound person (97.7 kilograms), that would be about 5.8 milligrams per day. A typical diet, even one with a lot of hexane-extracted vegetable oil, would fall very far short of that. For example, the oil in the Swiss study with the most hexane contained 0.13 milligram hexane per kilogram of oil, so a 200-pound person would have to consume over 40 gallons of that oil to even come close to 5.8 milligrams hexane.

Is it difficult to avoid hexane? Most hexane exposure comes through the air, however if you wish to eliminate hexane residues from your diet, you can choose foods that are “100-percent organic” and oils that are expeller-pressed rather than solvent-extracted. Expeller pressing is not as efficient as hexane extraction so oils made this way are going to be more expensive. Keep in mind that labels that state the product is made with organic ingredients may still use ingredients that have been exposed to hexane.

So if you’re going to buy oils, definitely be sure to buy organic or expeller-pressed. Not only is it better for you, but it’s healthier for the workers who have to do all the back-breaking labor to produce those bottles of oil for us. Though if you’re worried more about your and your family’s exposure… well, honestly? I don’t see much of a point if you’vestill got a car that runs on oil. It’d be about as silly as an alcoholic giving up rye because of concerns about alcohol poisoning!

Or, interested in saying “screw it” to the whole production process? You can try making your hand-pressed oil at home with a few basic kitchen tools!

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE

There’s no place like home. It’s where we live, work and dream. It’s our sanctuary and our refuge. We can love them or hate them. It can be just for the night or for the rest of our lives. But whoever we may be, we all have a place we call home.THIS MUST BE THE PLACE is a series of short films that explore the idea of home; what makes them, how they represent us, why we need them.

Artist John Coffer had it all. A good-paying job, a nice house with a swimming pool, a sports car, and everything else you commonly associate with a “successful” life.

But over 25 years ago he gave it all up for a hand-built house with no power and a hand-drawn well.

Why? Watch the inspiring video to hear him tell his story.

Blurb from Walden Labs. Watch the video here.

Interview: “Of Limits and Growth: The Rise of Global Sustainable Development in the Twentieth Century”

This is a podcast episode from the New Books Network, which is a series of podcasts that interview authors of interesting new books in just about every field imaginable.

The featured book in this episode, Of Limits and Growth: The Rise of Global Sustainable Development in the Twentieth Century, is about something that the vast majority of western environmentalists (yo, zero wasters, you’re very guilty here too) are either willingly or unwittingly ignorant of: the historical relationship between monied western countries and those in the developing world in terms of the 20th century environmentalist push.

Just to sort of set the scene for this history, the modern environmentalist movement, and even the World Wildlife Fund, was founded by a prominent eugenicist and colonialist. 

So if you’re interested in “””sustainability””” or whatever, please for the love of kale, listen to the podcast. Or better, get the book.

Today, sustainability is all the rage.  But when and why did the idea of sustainable development emerge, and how has its meaning changed over time?

Stephen Macekura’s new book, Of Limits and Growth: The Rise of Global Sustainable Development in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2015) explores this question by connecting three of the most important aspects of the twentieth century: decolonization, the rise of environmentalism, and the pursuit of economic development and modernization in the Third World.  Macekura, who is an Assistant Professor of International Studies at Indiana University, demonstrates how environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attempted to promote environmental protection in the post-colonial world, then, after failing to do so, challenged the economic development approaches of the United States, World Bank, and United Nations.  The book reveals how environmental activists initially conceived of “sustainable development” as a way to link environmental protection with Third World concerns about equality and justice in the global economy, but how, over time, the phrase’s meaning moved far away from this initial conception.

In addition to exploring the idea of “sustainable development,” Macekura also examines the growth and limits of the environmental movement’s power. He pays close attention to how international political disputes have scuttled major global treaties over issues such as climate change; he also documents the evolution of international development politics and policy since 1945. In sum, Of Limits and Growth offers a new history of sustainability by elucidating the global origins of environmental activism, the ways in which environmental activists challenged development approaches worldwide, and how environmental non-state actors reshaped the United States’ and World Bank’s development policies.

On Wrapping Presents Without Tape

I’m back in LA for the holidays! It’s sunny and… warm. Don’t ask how this born and bred Angelino came to appreciate icy winters, but I do, and I can’t wait to head back up north to have me some longer nights and colder temperatures.

Due to a bunch of unforeseen circumstances that suck, I’ve spent the last 7 months in Canada while my stuff sat on a shrink-wrapped skid in Oregon. I’ve got my old N64 console packed away in there, and it’ll be nothing short of a miracle if it still works by the time I’m allowed to legally move myself to Vancouver, thanks to the building’s complete lack of climate control during the frigid winter or blazing summer heat of the high desert.

The other thing that got packed away, however, was my Xmas wrapping supplies; namely my cloth gift bags and muslin furoshiki cloths made for me by a friend. I may get around to a fabric store to replace them, but I might not, either. So this year I pretty much intend on doing all my wrapping in newspaper and jute garden twine.

You know, sort of like how things were done before tape came along. (Psst- plastic tape has only been in common use for less than 80 years.)

So, resolved to wrap with paper and twine like the good old days – though really, the concept of everyone hiding presents behind a jacket of pressed wood pulp for every occasion is really not that old of a tradition either – I looked into techniques for wrapping without tape.

So here are a few videos featuring some tricks:

The only problem with trying to do ZW gift-wrapping? You always give yourself away at Secret Santas. :P