Dear this zero waste kick,

So I boarded the train, and I’m never getting off.

I know what you’re thinking…

“Stephanie, do you REALLY care about the environment or are you just a product of your Brooklyn environment?”

I could definitely only be a product of my Brooklyn environment, and that’s fine with me, provided I’m a plastic-free product.Image result for troll meme

Now, let’s review the steps I’ve taken thus far:

Putting the un in unpaper towels, touted as 100% cotton.

This has been a difficult change for me, since I really hate cleaning up food messes. I don’t know, it just grosses me out. I can handle blood, but not food mush. All I want to do is wipe it up, throw away the towel, and be done with it. But if I want to be zero waste, sometimes you’ve got to be willing to get your hands dirty. Like using the same unpaper towel to clean the sink, countertops, and table—just rinsing it between surface wipes. I’m getting used to it every day, but trust me when I say, it’s not an easy change. The lesson? Don’t expect the transition to zero waste to be as simple or as charming as some people make it sound. It’s not.

Remember, you’re doing this for the Earth, not for likes on social media.

Happy toilet, happy bum, happy Earth.

I gave a crap about the Earth when I purchased my first bulk order of Who Gives a Crap toilet paper, made out of 100% recycled paper. First thing’s first, recycled toilet paper is not used toilet paper. Imagine. Recycled toilet paper means it’s made from recycled PAPER, like the kind you don’t wipe your butts with. Don’t believe me? Fine, they also offer TP made from bamboo, which is much less likely to have touched other people’s butts. What’s more, your order ships in packaging that’s completely recyclable…and kinda cute. You’ll see. And fun fact – they also sell forest friendly tissues and paper towels, made with bamboo and sugar cane.

Does making my own toothpaste make me a hippy?

Yeah, so I did that… and I’m not regretting it… yet. The thing is, toothpaste tubes are super hard to recycle because, well, they’re hard to clean. And for plastic to be recycled, it MUST be rinsed, and in some cases, scrubbed. In an effort to avoid using toothpaste tubes all together, I decided to make my own, following this recipe. The ingredients are pretty simple: coconut oil, bentonite clay, cacao, baking soda, peppermint oil, and xylitol (for added sweetness). I want to mention that I did look into toothpaste tablets (that dissolve in your mouth), but nothing out there really convinced me to invest, and besides, DIY is fun. What I’m still deciding is if cutting out fluoride is the right or wrong way to go. There’s a big debate going on about the health risks vs benefits of fluoride. Here’s where I stand as of now: The ratio of fluoride to other ingredients in toothpaste is actually very small, so how much of a hit are my teeth really going to take? Especially when there’s allegedly tiny doses of fluoride in our tap water? I’ve learned that you really have to know your teeth. If your teeth are janky, you might want to stick with fluoride for now, until there’s more data out there on more natural ingredients. Because here’s the thing, there’s not much out there to prove organic ingredients work as well, if not better, than ingredients we are used to seeing in our commercial toothpastes. But I really don’t have the authority to say much more on the subject. I just look forward to brushing my teeth with something I made myself. If you’re interested in diving deeper, though, visit this ex-dentist’s DIY blog. She knows things that I do not.

It’s the little things. 

Honestly, this is so true when it comes to living sustainably. Always having my stainless steel straw in my bag in case I give in to my cold brew cravings. And in that case, my own personal, reusable to-go cup. Beeswax wrappers to store food. Using cotton hankies instead of tissues or napkins. Replacing the plastic floss container with a reusable glass one, and trading traditional floss for silk refills. A big step is to bring your own bags to the grocery store and to say no to the plastic ones (which, I might add, are being banned in certain areas around the world as I write this). This is such an easy step to take, so you really have no excuse. More often that not, grocery stores will sell you reusable bags anywhere between 10 cents to a dollar. Worth the investment. Or just order these.

Upcycling. Recycling. Reusing. Reducing. All that stuff works to help rid the world of unnecessary trash and reduce a global, carbon footprint that gets bigger and bigger every day. Think of it this way: Nobody wants to have big feet. At least in our sustainability scenario, we get to choose. Size zero sound alright?

Sincerely,

Stephanie (a.k.a. a brain-washed Brooklynite)

 

P.S. Looking for inspiration?

Blogs:

Trash is for Tossers

Oh, The Things We’ll Make

Online markets:

Package Free

Who Gives a Crap?

Tushy

Zero Waste Store

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Dear Lip-pickers Anonymous,

Confession: I pick my lips. And not just absentmindedly. I mean I really pick at them. Until they bleed. I have no definitive reason for why I do this, only that it’s a nervous habit, brought about by… who knows? Sometimes, I’m not thinking of anything at all. I just…pick. My husband will ask me, “Are you anxious?” No, why? “You’re picking your lip.” Half the time, I’m not. Actually, that’s not true. I’m always anxious, but no more than usual when I reach up to expertly peel the top layer of skin off my poor, mistreated lips.

I’ve been picking my lips since I was, gosh, 8? And every time I leave them bleeding, puffy, and tortured, I think to myself, That’s it. No more. But there’s always more, isn’t there? As is any habit, it’s hard to break. It’s a compulsion, a product of neurosis. I mentally and physically cannot help it. And if we’re being honest, I haven’t tried that hard to stop. Why? Because it’s just too easy to say, OK this is the last time. 

This is my last cigarette. 

My last drink.

Our last fight. 

I’m gonna get better after this one…last… 

And the people around us know we’re fooling ourselves…all the while fooling themselves too. We’re a society of addiction. Whether it’s cigarettes, Marvel movies, or lip-picking, we can’t stop. Just give us more one more Iron Man movie. Just one. That’s it. And when the Avengers fizzle out, some other huge franchise will take its place. And Fast and Furious will still be going strong…somehow…

That’s humanity for you. Beautiful, isn’t it? And addiction has been the villain since the beginning. Adam, Eve, and the apple? Addiction to curiosity.

And I’m addicted to runaway trains. Let’s get back on track.

Maybe I pick my lip because I’m perpetually losing focus and picking at the tiny irregularities of skin that no one notices except me brings me back. To the present. OR it allows me an escape. I’ve noticed that when I pick my lip, my mind goes blank and I have trouble focusing on what’s in front of me. If I’m having a conversation, I zone out. Half my attention is elsewhere. And I make this weird lip-picking face that made the kids in my 5th grade class laugh (I wish I could say with me).

18 years. That’s a long time. It will be quite a habit to break, but the day will come. If there’s any consolation, it’s that I’m not alone in this. There’s a whole community of lip-pickers out there. All dead-set on breaking their bad habit but waiting for the “right time.”

That right time is now…

…she says whilst picking her lip.

Sincerely,

A hopeless lip-picker

Dear Coffee,

I wish I knew how to quit you.

And not because you’re addicting. But because you throw my system way out of whack and yet I pretend I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think we can both agree you are the culprit.

Every day, around 4pm, my blood sugar drops…exponentially. Though manageable, until I find something to eat pronto, I suffer from symptoms of anything from wooziness, to rubbery limbs, to anxiety. If nothing else, it’s inconvenient. And yet, I continue my caffeinated shenanigans. You know what I think it is? It’s living in New York City, where coffee is so damn good, and accessible. And so damn good. Not to mention, my husband prides himself as being a coffee connoisseur. So basically coffee is everywhere, weaved into the very fabric of my life.

I think that if I stopped drinking coffee every morning and every night on the weekends as I am right now (literally right now), my heart wouldn’t beat so fast, I wouldn’t be so tired all the time, I wouldn’t be so irritable, and my blood sugar wouldn’t fluctuate like it does. Seems the solution is simple.

One day I’ll suppose I’ll garner enough conviction to boycott the bean, but for now, all I can do is pretend I have any incentive whatsoever.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

To the concept of friendship,

I thought I would have more to say on this topic given what went down this weekend. But now I’m just sitting here, staring at my computer, dumbfounded by the fact that I really do have nothing to say. Ironically, I think that speaks to what I’d say if I did have something to say.

Let’s try this…

I once thought a friend was forever. And by “once,” I mean last week. Then two of my—who I would have called—close friends visited New York (the city in which I live) and didn’t tell me. I found out the way most people find out anything these days—on social media. Huh, alright then. I’ll spare you the details of my insecurities, but I spent the next day or so brooding over the possibility that maybe I just wasn’t all that likeable, an idea I’d never been comfortable with.

Here’s the thing… Ever since I moved to NYC, I’ve lost touch with a lot of friends. Not all of my friends, but a lot of them. ‘Course, it’s a two-way street. It’s not like I’m ghosting their texts. They just aren’t sending any. And to be honest, that’s fine with me. Having to keep up a virtual relationship stresses me out. Besides, I’m usually under this assumption that regardless of how often we keep in contact over the phone, our friendship will pick up right where it left off when we’re reunited. Apparently, not everyone vibes with that.

So I grabbed coffee with one of these friends on Sunday before she headed back home. I insisted. How could she be in New York and I not see her? To me, that’s absurd, but I digress. Before we parted, I asked her if I had done anything to upset her, that could perhaps explain why she hadn’t reached out to make plans. She shook her head, shrugged. That would have to suffice as my answer. Ok, so I hadn’t done anything wrong, and yet…

I’m not writing this to vent. I’m writing this because this shit happens all the time. To everyone. People suck. Friends suck. I suck. But, listen, and I know this sounds crazy, but we get to choose the people we want in our lives. We get to choose in what relationships we invest our energy. So my friends ditched me, and not just forgot-to-ask-me-if-I-wanted-anything-from-Starbucks-ditched me. No, these two friends sent a message, and given that, I can now do one of two things: 1) Do whatever it takes to win back their favor despite there being allegedly no reason for their shiftiness or 2) think Huh, alright then and take my energy elsewhere. Think about it – that’s two less people I have to feel guilty about not keeping in touch with. It’s great. Not to mention, I win back more energy to spread around the friends who put energy into me. Why waste another second trying to mend something that doesn’t want to be mended? Why not instead pour myself into relationships that fill me up? Relationships that can withstand time and distance? Those are the friends I want in my life. And I have friends like that. Every single one of them deserves my time and my energy. You all know who you are. ❤ So yeah, what went down—or didn’t—this weekend, it sucks. And sure, it had me real low all day on Sunday. But look what came out of it. Insight. Appreciation. And a mantra that really, really suits me. Huh, alright then. My mom agrees.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Dear Boston,

If I have a voice, it’s in Boston. Where it’s cold. Where there’s almost always a reason to cozy up under a blanket in front of a fire. Where it’s old, musty, and dusted with history. Where ghosts walk the streets. Where people go to ground themselves. Tucked away from the rest of the country. Where coffee is warm and oysters are chilled. Where the wind whips in from the harbor, making you remember things you have no business remembering. White sails. Sturdy ships. Second-hand dinghys. Blue coats. Red collars, standing up against the gusts. You see it, too, don’t you?

It’s impossible not to. Here, under the intelligent eye of Boston.

 

 

Dear Whoever Wants to Listen,

I’ve been living in New York City for three months. I can’t believe it either. Three months in the Big Apple has seemed like a long time. I’ve had my ups. I’ve had my downs, but regardless of this prolonged and sometimes nauseating rollercoaster ride, I know I’ll look back on my residency in NYC and be glad I did it. Is it lonely? Sometimes. Is it scary? Not really. Is it exciting? Definitely. I’ve learned a lot, not just about myself, but about people. We humans? We’re WEIRD. But I love that. The other day, I saw a guy about my age walking a pig. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen a whole manner of strange pets being walked. On my way to work, I passed a woman holding a leash, the end of which was wrapped tightly around the shell of a turtle. A turtle. Already, after three months, I’ve become accustomed to these kinds of oddities. People wearing the entire rainbow of colors and more. Old men shouting obscenities on the subway because that’s just what you do. I’ve been graced with songs by would-be artists and singers on my way home from work. They’re always gone just as fast as they came. I’ve been late getting to the office in the morning because a woman, after boarding the train, promptly began to undress herself, right there in front of all those people too proud to admit that this was going to be the best part of their day. The train stood still until the authorities arrived to remove her. She’d had enough “removing” for one day, don’t you think?

What else? I’ve learned how to make pourover coffee. That’s exciting! I’m drinking a cup now in fact, brewed from the last bit of Stumptown beans we had left in the cupboard. Never fear; I bought more this afternoon. I’ve participated in my first Ramadan… That’s right, I’ve come to know the beauty of fasting. And it wasn’t without difficulty. Strangely enough, it was easier in the beginning. As the month wore on, however, I grew increasingly frustrated at not having the freedom to grab a bagel from the shop just downstairs whenever I wanted—at having to watch my coworkers down cold brews in the morning as I looked on envious.

Side note: Everybody stop using plastic straws. They’re bad for the environment. Paper straws are the new thing. Get on that train. 

Anyway, Eid (the end of Ramadan) is Friday and I’m feeling a mix of both disappointment and relief. The first because it has made a ritual out of dinners at home (iftar), sitting down at 8:00pm to eat the well-deserved food and gulp down as much water and coffee as you can knowing tomorrow is another day of fasting. And the second because…well, food is food. I feel I say that, though, with much more ceremony than I might have been able to before. Food isn’t just food. It’s a gift. Sustenance. An avenue by which we connect with our neighbors. An opportunity, and most importantly, a privilege. I don’t know hunger like some people do, but this should have given me a taste nonetheless (ironic pun recognized but unintended). It’s a great exercise, too, in checking your ego—forcing it to submit to a will reminiscent of that which is beyond our own paltry existence, and not it’s own. Not to mention, I learned a lot about food in the process—where it comes from, what makes it halal, how it affects my body, etc. Milk for instance, you gotta be careful with that. Meat? Just…know where you’re getting it from. Fruit, I buy mostly organic. I guess the same goes for vegetables. Is it more expensive? Yes, but that’s an expense I’m willing to make. Do I still eat out too much? Most definitely.

What else? I paid for a gym membership. Have I been? Nope. But you better believe I’m staying on top of those membership fees just in case I have it in me one day. To be fair, I haven’t been eating. Can you expect me to work out after a whole day of no food? Some people can do it. Me? Nah.

Anyway, long story short… I’m still alive, taking my life day by day, and at night, tucking my baby blanket close to my heart and pretending I’m a kid again and my mom is in the next room. I can’t imagine that ever going away. Just today I texted my mom that I missed home. And she said: “Home misses you too, sweet Steph. But Home is also in awe of your independence!” And then added: “Natural progression – barf”

And to that I say, Natural progression, shmatural shrogression. 

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Dear the Ghost Living in My Heart,

You’re angry with me—disappointed maybe. You see your potential, circumscribed within the confines of the human host you occupy. I’d give anything to set you free, for your sake and mine. But at what cost? Death of the host. Is that the price of true transcendence? I recognize that humanity fears death—more than anything; it’s sort of a conditioned response, isn’t it? Fear of the unknown. What happens after death? Nothing? Is there more? Which of these questions does religion seek to answer? Where can I get some of that? Does it cost anything? Doesn’t everything?

In the meantime, how would you like a taste of your true potential? I think something like that only comes from taking a leap, though—a big leap. I can’t tell you what will happen, but I assure you we can expect to face beautiful consequences. Besides, what is growth without suffering? Being human is fun!

So… what kind of daring leap shall we take? Move somewhere far away? Quit our job regardless of whether or not we have another lined up? Travel somewhere for a few weeks? Be completely and totally honest with everyone around us? All of the above?! How about this? I imagine you’re capable of giving “signs,” right? You’re a part of me after all. You must maintain some kind of influence. I propose this: Give me a sign. Show me want you want out of this short life. Being that you’re in touch with what’s most existentially significant, I trust you to choose wisely. I’m relying on you, because my measly little human brain doesn’t have the best track record at the moment. But my heart? That’s a different story.

Let’s see what you’ve got.

Sincerely,

Stephanie