Setting the Record Straight

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but I figure that now’s a good a time as any. I don’t want readers to get the wrong impression about this blog. I never intended for Zero Waste Millennial to be inspirational, cheery, topical, or political in only the blandest “write your congressman and shop fair trade” sense. Life is hard, messy, and ugly. We humans have done a lot of damage to our environment and each other, and I am under no delusions that any one thing, or even a whole buffet of things, can ever give us the green utopia most of us so desperately want. Scaling back, paring down, and simplifying our lives just makes sense. It’s not about saving the world.

On my About page, I have a little tongue-in-cheek list of what I do here, called The ZWM Promise. Let’s go through them one by one.

1. This blog will never be lifestyle porn.

What is lifestyle porn? It’s basically uncomfortably detailed accounts, accompanied by way-too-many photos, of random people’s lives, homes, and the crap that they own. Lifestyle porn is how marketers sell stuff to you that you don’t want or need: they show you a gadget, and then they show you beautiful people loitering about that gadget or using it, smiling and laughing, and just generally having a better time than you. Your brain begins thinking that maybe, if you owned that gadget too, then you’d be smiling and beautiful and having a good time too. It’s a perpetual motion machine of unmet consumerist desire and FOMO. I want no part of it.

2. This blog will never be marketable.

I will never try and sell your attention or your clicks for money. I will never accept money or products in exchange for reviewing them; I will never affiliate myself with one of the leading corporate entities responsible for the destruction of local economies, for globalization and fossil-fueled powered freight traffic constantly shuffling between the States and China, and who is famous for having one of the most uniquely inhumane working environments in the US; moreover, the tone of this blog will never be warm and comforting enough to make you want to buy anything. I want to keep you on your toes, I want to make you feel the full breadth of human emotion in response to real things going on outside the bubble of your life and the lives of all the other bloggers you follow… and disappointment in particular doesn’t often make for a good motivator to go shopping.

3. I will always support my claims with facts.

If I tell you to stop using Facebook, or if I tell you that your middle-class American lifestyle is among the top 5 perpetrators of climate change and biosphere collapse, then I’m going to back those up with facts. I want you to believe me – that is, assuming you’re the rare sort of person who is actually convinced by silly things like facts.

4. I will not stop talking about biosphere collapse, resource depletion, and peak energy.

I won’t. If that makes you uncomfortable, then unfollow me and go look at more lifestyle porn.

5. This blog will not shy away from difficult discussions, but it won’t be afraid to have fun sometimes too.

While I don’t care one whit about my reader’s personal comfort zones, I do still care about having fun, and giving myself the breathing room to enjoy small things in life. For instance, discovering that I could use frozen sweet potato instead of banana in chocolate smoothies was nice – I haven’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater yet and still like finding ways to make my food just a little more local when I can.

One of the most important things we have to learn, if we’re to take ecological destruction and lowering glass ceilings and flattening EROEIs seriously, is how to entertain more than one emotional state at once. Happiness and sadness can coexist in us quite readily; there’s no rulebook anywhere that says you can’t feel both without being overcome with guilt. Guilt, moreover, as a chronic state of mind is hideously useless, and actually pretty counterproductive – it twists our perspective into seeing everything and anything as a potential bogeyman or a potential savior. You might recall just how much ink has been spilled in the world of fiction on characters who are trying to assuage their guilt.

We don’t need to be puritans – in fact, we probably shouldn’t. The point of no return for catastrophic climate change, biosphere collapse, and sustainable technology passed a long time ago. Everything now is farts in the wind. I mean really! How long did it take for us to get from 300ppm to 400? A small handful of years, and global emissions continue to climb. We’re SOL – it’s time we got over it, started saying goodbye to the rhinos and bears and fish, and quit Facebook already.

The ability to find happiness in the direst of straights has served humanity well for as long as we’ve been around. Love, beauty, silliness, skill – we can enjoy these things no matter what. We can enjoy them even though we know that things have gone to pot, and that we all are very much complicit in it doing so.

What I’m Reading: A Friday Link Roundup

Breathe less… or ban cars: cities have radically different responses to pollution – The Guardian
Coming as a surprise to no one, when faced with a choice between continuing to permit the use of cars or allowing residents to breathe freely, many cities would prefer to tell people not to breathe.

The Office Needs a Typewriter Revolution – Low-Tech Magazine
A very thoughtful, thoroughly researched piece on the history of the modern office and office equipment. It makes suggestions on ways in which it might be possible to return to a more analog and mechanical office experience, or at least greatly reduce energy consumption in the information-based workplace.

Smartphone users trust strangers less: New research – Journalist’s Resource
Smartphone use is officially linked with distrust of strangers, neighbors, and people of different backgrounds. Causation is not specifically established, but based on my own anecdotal evidence, it’s likely.

The Embarrassments of Chronocentrism – The Archdruid Report
In this post from a few weeks ago, Greer explains how the myth of liberal progress – that human life is destined to always get better, fairer, and more complex – is a complete fabrication by parties interested in reducing history to a series of caricatures that serves to prop up their vision of an unlikely future. (Read the latest blog post if you want a real kick in the teeth.)

And a sobering quote for the difficult times ahead:

Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied.

What I’m Reading: A Friday Link Roundup

PVDSA’s Garish May Production Collapse – Caracas Chronicles
Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., Venezuela’s state-owned petroleum and gas company, has taken a hit to their daily oil production to the tune of 120,000 barrels. As the article states, this means that they “just declined by an amount similar to an entire (if small) petrostate’s production, in just one month.” The country is in crisis mode, complete with food shortages and rioting. At this rate, Venezuela could run out of oil within a few years.

Cows  on Antibiotics Release More Methane – Conservation Magazine
“Antibiotic use and overuse in livestock has long been controversial, as it has been linked to antibiotic resistance in humans. Livestock are regularly given antibiotics to keep them healthy in overcrowded or unsanitary conditions, or even to boost their growth. Now, a study published recently in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B has documented for the first time that antibiotics given to cows also increase the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from cow dung.”

Design For The One Percent – Jacobin
Jacobin on the role of “starchitects” like Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid and their works in a world full of government corruption, sketchy labor practices, and tremendous income inequality.

The dot on my forehead: how we understand the crisis is part of the crisis – Bayo Akomolafe
A Nigerian psychologist and activist on being participants in crises instead of observers: “It was something I heard one dissident professor say when I was an undergraduate studying psychology in a Nigerian university. He didn’t quite say it; he whispered it. When the white men came, they brought us schools and the bible, he intoned. And then we gave them our own stories. That colonial Faustian pact made us orphans in the world, erasing the sky and the lands and the mountains we had learned to speak with, and replacing that intimacy with the more appropriate gesture of staring at them through the microscope. Through the interstices of a ledger. Through the plot device of development and prosperity for all.”

The SNAP of Doom – The Daily Impact
Apparently SNAP/EBT benefits have not been going out to all of its intended recipients lately, and the mainstream news is not reporting this. Millions of Americans are just a few SNAP dollars away from a full-blown famine, and regardless of whether you think this is some grand conspiracy or simply the terrible result of a few cascading computer failures, this really does nicely illustrate just how few clothes the emperor is wearing. (As for a question of how do we feed people when the government can’t or won’t? Three words: Food Not Bombs!)

Coffee Capsules Are Terrible For The Environment, Still — Raxa Collective

Way back when, early last year, we thought for sure this company was going to respond seriously to the challenge posed by the fun-yet-serious viral campaign highlighting its environmental atrocities. Many people we know and love use these machines or machines like them. These friends are generally serious devotees of the capsule machines due to their convenience. […]

via Coffee Capsules Are Terrible For The Environment, Still — Raxa Collective

While it’s easy to elevate the K-cup into this symbol of everything people like me like to hate, the Keurig is merely a symptom of a much bigger, deeper problem: the glorification of convenience at the expense of literally everything else.

The consolidation of local specialty stores into huge, “big box” multinationals.

The growing hostility towards use of the general internet browser, to be replaced with tightly controlled and corporate app environments.

The mass apathy and acceptance of corporate surveillance for the sake of being sold “better” products, or government surveillance for the sake of leading “safer” lives.

The advent and wide adoption of the disposable utensil that doesn’t need washing, to coincide with the mass movement away from reusable food packaging. Or hell, food that doesn’t even need you to prepare it.

Fertilizing the hell out of depleted land (with fertilizer made from fossil fuels) instead of nursing what little topsoil we have left, because restorative farming isn’t compatible with monocropping enterprises. Monocropping enterprises that allow meat industry CAFOs to function, by the way, and whose ethanol allows us to continue to squeeze just that much more energy from our every gallon of gasoline…

Keurig is an easy scapegoat, but making the K-cup recyclable or even compostable is still far from a sufficient solution.

When Soap Makes the Difference

La Paz Group

Sundara is a soap making operation in Mumbai that collects bar soap waste from hotels and recycles it for underprivileged children who cannot afford to buy soap. PHOTO: Sundara Sundara is a soap making operation in Mumbai that collects bar soap waste from hotels and recycles it for underprivileged children who cannot afford to buy soap. PHOTO: Sundara

Ever wondered what happens to the barely used soaps that you leave behind in hotel rooms? Think they get reused? We’ve got bad news – they don’t. In fact they are normally tossed away, cluttering our already crowded landfills. Sundara, a soap making operation in Mumbai has a neat solution to this problem. They collect bar soap waste from hotels, sanitize and recycle it and distribute the new soaps to underprivileged children and adults who cannot afford soap. To date they have regular soap distributions reaching over 6,000 underprivileged children and adults in Mumbai slums. They have also saved thousands of kilograms of waste from going to landfills in the process.

And it started with a University of Michigan graduate…

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Bicycling 103

Zero Waste Millennial

Well, looks like Bike Month is just about over. In my last two posts (101 and 102), I compiled links on buying bikes, riding bikes, keeping your bikes safe, and keeping you safe on your bike. In this last post, I’ll talk about the most hardcore stuff you can do on a bike.

Going Car-less

As I say on my About page, I don’t have a car, and owning a bike is really the only way that I’ve been able to do that. My current ride is a single-speed Pure Fix, and I love it. It’s perfect for riding around town, doing grocery runs, and navigating light street traffic. It’s also very affordable as far as this style of bike goes, though you can still get cheaper. Schwinn, for example, has a similar style for a similar price (the “Racer”), and they have simple comfort bikes for closer…

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Bicycling 102

Zero Waste Millennial

I’m doing this series of linkspam posts in honor of Bike Month! My previous entry had links to articles concerning the basics: how to shop for a bike, the difference between styles, how to size yourself, basic maintenance and riding skills. This one is going to assume that you have a bike already and want to do a little more than the occasional weekend ride to the park.

Bicycling 102: Further Integration

Locking Methods

Inclement Weather

Take Your Riding to the Next Level

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Biycling 101

Seeing as how May is National Bike Month in the states, I thought I’d space out these old guides between today and next thursday in lieu of a general Throwback Thursday. Cheers and happy pedaling!

Zero Waste Millennial

Bicycling! The environmentalist’s wet dream– and with good reason, too. Studies say bicycling regularly helps you sleep better, get sick less often, you inhale less pollution than passengers in cars and buses, and that riders get approximately 3,000 miles to the “gallon”. I don’t believe a more energy efficient vehicle even exists.

As some of you know, I don’t have a car. In fact, I don’t even have a license yet. (I will be getting that this year, but I don’t expect to be using it much.) Now, the real reason is that I can’t afford a car, but the point is that I don’t care. There isn’t a single fantasy of adulthood that I’ve had, aside from roadtrips, that featured me owning a vehicle. Cars are expensive, high-maintenance, gross, and more trouble than they’re worth, in my opinion, and so long as I’m in an urban area I don’t ever expect…

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