Friday, November 4, 2011

blue biker chic

I have a new passion. Its wonderful. I have been toying with the idea of getting a bike since moving to Austin. This and that got in the way (mainly money). Then one day my baggy board shorts wouldn't fit (not easily) and the next day, I had a bike (hello imaginary money). It was just under $700. It's a great Trek seven.two. It's neither city nor mountain bike. Its good on light trails and fine on the street. A few months before getting the bike I bought a helmet (like people who buy a wedding dress before they've got the ring or maybe even the man). The helmet is baby blue. The bike is baby blue. It was meant to be. Got a bike cage for my Klean Kanteen (can you believe the guy tried to get me to buy one of those squeeze bottles?) and a rear light. Later I got a front light and because my hands kept going numb I replaced the grips with Ergon bio cork handlebar grips. I also got a little bell with a pink electra sticker on it - but mostly I just say "on your left" or slow down until I can pass people.

But, back to the awesome bike. It combines so many great things I love and never knew I loved. Its a great way to enjoyably exercise without the bouncing (actually, my head gets jostled instead of my boobs). Its fun. I am really not a thrill junky (I'll quickly wear out the breaks on these hills) but I can ride at a good pace and still enjoy the scenery. I forgot to mention the outdoors. You're outside on a bike. In a neighborhood or on the trail or whatever. Of course, its much more sustainable than driving my car. In Europe and Japan I did not mind mass transit. In the US, its rather icky. Buses and subways over here just make me want to wash my hands. Crazy people talk to you. But on a bike your being eco-concious without the hassle of associating with other people. The best way to arrive at work is after a great mind clearing bike ride. And the best way to get home is back on your bike. I might wake up grumpy, but once I'm on my bike all you think about is whats around you and pedaling. After work, the day's stupidity washes away while you pedal in the now.

Something else I never realized I enjoyed is the challenge biking presents. Austin is a hilly rocky area and that makes for some interesting biking. Personally, I prefer relatively soft, flat trails, but I do enjoy the challenge of getting up the hill and not falling off my bike going over some rocks. It's a great feeling to think: wow, I did that!

I met a cool couple at REI (through my freakish love of Klean Kanteen...) who run the blog Path Less Pedaled and tour around the US (and soon more!) on their bikes. Watching their videos and reading the blog has inspired me to make a trip with either Amtrak and my bike or my car & bike or just bike. South Florida is great for that - drive to a little island, rent a bike, and enjoy the area. Which, is another cool thing about biking: there are so many communities within it. There are easy paved park riders, and commuters, and serious racers, mountain bikers, and of course "kids" who ride without proper protection (lights etc) erratically and give bikers a bad name. You ride on the street and smile or wave when you see someone else on a bike (ok, not the reckless no helmet wearing kids). You never drive a car and think "Hey! Your in a car, I'm in a car, that's cool!". But being a (responsible) biker makes you part of a community.

So far, I've only biked down to and around the lake (and past sxsw), to work (a short two mile-ish trip), down Shoal Creek which runs through downtown, and to Central Market. I look forward to some bigger trips, to getting panniers, maybe a mirror, assorted bags... Maybe build up to biking to a state park? Lending my mom the car....

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chipping away at the waste in my life

Inspired by Beth Terry at My Plastic Free Life I have been attempting to slowly whittle away at the waste in my life. Plastic mostly, but waste in general too. Slowly because I think it would be far too overwhelming to attack everything at once. And, I'm lazy.

Here then, is a list of the little things I've managed to do to eliminate plastic from my life.

Be prepared! I ordered a purse off etsy and I made sure it would be big enough for my Klean Kanteen (although I usually carry that or put a glass bottle in my purse), and have lots of pockets for everything I need. It doesn't look bulky and yet I manage to carry around with me: utensils, a straw, Newman's Own mints (in a tin), kleenex, a pen, reusable bags, a glass water bottle or lunchbot, lip gloss, moisturizer, nail file, my wallet & phone. Seriously, its great.

Water/drink bottles: I would feel lost if I left the house without my Klean Kanteen water bottle or thermos. I am absolutely in love with it. I've taken it on road trips and filled it at airport water fountains and in restaurants. Since I'm always prepared, I never have to buy water.

Utensils: I carry a set of to-go ware bamboo utensils in my purse wherever I go. It has a knife, spoon, fork and chopsticks.

Straws: I bought a set of stainless steel straws and I keep one in my purse for those drinks that just need a straw (Thai iced tea, fresh juice). I actually prefer the glass straws (glass production is less labor intensive than steel) and I have some of those at home.

Soap: I am now using solid soap for my hands and body and only have liquid soap for dishes and laundry. And my face, but I intend to replace that with a bar once its done. I might use soap nuts for the laundry or make my own. I can refill my Dr. Bronner's soap bottle at Whole Foods and use that for dishes. Once the shampoo is gone I will get a bar for that too. A Wild Soap Bar (which is local) makes some shampoo/body bars, while Lush and several other companies make exclusive shampoo bars. There is also the "no-poo" method where you wash your hair with a mixture of baking soda and water, and rinse with diluted vinegar. I'm looking forward to finding a bar of soap that will work for my face, body and hair and getting rid of some of the clutter in the bathroom. Bonus: solid soap bars are no problem to carry through on planes! Update: I currently buy good quality natural soap and just use that on my face and body and once or twice on my hair.

Toothpaste: I had been using Tom's of Maine toothpaste as it was fairly environmentally responsible and came in an aluminum container, but as they have moved to plastic tubes I've decided to make my own. Beth Terry actually has a great post on it with all sorts of plastic free options. I made a batch yesterday with coconut oil, baking soda, stevia & essential oils. Not bad, but the keep in mind the consistency will vary depending on the temperature in your home. I tried using cinnamon and clove essential oils for my first batch but there wasn't much flavour, I am now using ginger and orange extract which tastes better. My favourite thing about homemade toothpaste is that is rinses right out and I can immediately eat or drink what I want without it being effected by the toothpaste flavour.

Deodorant: I gave up antiperspirant long ago. Sweating is good for you. It gets out the toxins. I don't mind it, just the smell. I tried natural deodorants from the store and none really worked. Straight up baking soda on your pits is supposed to be great, but it gave me a rash. I spritzed alcohol on my underarms for awhile (in a reused eyeglass cleaner spritzer) but that stopped working. I use the salt crystal (as do my dad and brother) which works mostly but not always. Currently I'm using the crystal and then dusting a mixture of baking soda and corn starch on top of that. It seems to work. I'm sure other people would have an easier time, but working outdoors in Texas (and just being a sweaty person) makes it tough. Unfortunately, it seems shaving helps with the smell, but no matter how I shave I irritate my skin. Got to fix that.

Eggs: I only buy eggs in compressed paper containers because if it doesn't get recycled it'll biodegrade.

Toothbrush: I buy preserve brand toothbrushes from Whole Foods which you can either recycle where #5 recycling is allowed or send back to the company. They're made from recycled yogurt containers.

Lady products: I love love love my lunapads. Check out my write up on them. They are the most comfortable thing ever. One of these days I'll do something permanent so I can get rid of the birth control plastic.

Lube: Coconut oil is the best! Ya gotta be in a committed relationship (not condom compatible) but it totally rocks. I don't have half the problems like I used to once I got natural on my stuff.

Grains and spices: I buy them in bulk, its cheaper! byo bag or spice jar or glass container. Bonus: you only get the amount you need.

Lotion: I tried coconut oil for awhile on my face but it was not thick enough. Olive oil is actually pretty good. Currently I'm using a body oil from Badger Balm but I might replace it with something homemade. Badger sells all sorts of balms in tins (bug repellant, muscle rub, lip balm, moisturizer) so I plan on going away from water based lotions. Give them a minute to absorb and they're great.

Cooking: I avoid teflon (the debate rages on, but I'll just be safe and avoid it) and use metal or wooden cooking utensils. When used right cast iron is totally non-stick. Used right, by the way means heat up the pan, add oil, and let the food cook until its developed a "crust" (fish, pancakes, egg).

Clothes: Trying to buy clothes only made from natural fibers. I had thought recycled plastic clothes might be a good option, but apparently lint from synthetic clothes can end up in the oceans (I guess thats a duh) and as insignificant as it seems, I'd like to avoid adding more plastic to the collection thats already out there.

Napkins: I use clothe napkins at home which saves my pants & paper towels :)

Cotton Balls: I got the cutest little reusable flannel rounds to use in place of cotton balls off I love etsy. If there is ever anything you need, look on etsy. I keep them in a cute glass jar and put them in a mesh bag until they're used up.

Cleaners: I clean just about everything with baking soda or vinegar (yeah... in a plastic bottle. Got to work on that one). Sometimes I use hydrogen peroxide. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are supposed to be just as effective as bleach in killing staph and other harmful bacteria. The only problem I have here are unreliable spray bottles.

Cleaning: I got a cool wooden scrub brush for dishes, I'm waiting until I can afford a wooden toilet bowl brush, a friend got me some cute reusable clothe wipes to clean surfaces with and I'm waiting to buy a cute red Thai made broom. Hey, if you buy cute cleaning supplies, cleaning is more fun! I also use natural celulose sponges for the dishes and old socks/clothes to clean dirtier surfaces.

Bags: I bring my own produce & grocery bags to the store. I always carry a compact bag in my purse so I don't even need at a bag at the mall/hardware store/etc. I intend to make a bread bag big enough for a loaf of ciabatta. Toss them in the wash occasionally to avoid germs.

Spreadable butter: I found a recipe online where you blend 1/2 cup oil and a stick of butter to make it spreadable. I put it in a Bonne Maman jelly jar and its been working great. I've also been thinking of getting a butter bell crock... thing.

Fast Food/Eating out: I try to avoid fast food - or eating anywhere where the food is not served on reusable plates with reusable utensils - but when I do eat it, I use my Klean Kanteen, tell the server "no straw", and try to bring my own container for leftovers or the food itself. Lunchbots or to-go ware tiffins are great for leftovers.

Needs improvement:
I need to work on meat, frozen fruit and vegetables. I should be able to get meat from the butcher counter at Whole Foods in my container, I just haven't tried yet. (Update: brought a sturdy container and managed to get meat put in it) I'm not sure how I could affordably stock frozen fruit for smoothies and keep vegetables on hand. I think its going to involve planning. I've got to learn how to plan meals so fresh vegetables get used and don't go bad.
I need to try to make my own almond milk & yogurt. Yogurt is supposed to be easy, but will almond milk be cost effective?
Austin doesn't compost, and I no longer live close enough to Whole Foods to bring them my veggie scraps. I've thought about a worm compost bin. I feel bad sending compostable scraps to the landfill where they'll never amount to anything.
Ice cream. Well, no one's perfect.
Allergy pills: dare I try the neti pot? Will it work?
Tissues: can hankies handle allergy season? Update: they almost can! I should probably make more. Old t-shirts work great, and you don't need to hem them.

Challenges: Its hard enough not bringing in plastic on my own, but what do I do about plastic from other people? There is a well meaning customer who twice now has bought me a cold bottle of water and said "stay hydrated" running off before I could refuse it. Gifts can be a challenge although I do my best to let everyone know I am trying to acquire no new plastic. Buying things online can sometimes be hard. Whenever I buy something online I say "please package it without bubble wrap, not in a poly envelope. For some reason, someone from ebay still sent me fabric in a poly envelope. Um, because fabric is not waterproof? My other biggest challenge is things I no longer use, but hate to throw away. I don't want some of these damn sample lotions anymore, but without a recycle symbol they're doomed for the trash!

One might wonder; Why eliminate plastic at all? Its so wonderful! Where would we be without plastic? What would I type on? I do accept that plastic plays a useful role in modern society, but also that it has far exceeded that role. Prosthetics are great, disposable spoons are not. Drilling for oil to make plastics can either lead to toxic oil spills, or endless wars (either we are fighting for oil, or someone else is. It cannnot be denied that like gold, blood has been shed to aquire and own it). Even if you responsibly throw your spoon/straw/bag in the trash it can quite easily blow out of a dump truck or landfill and make its way to the nearest waterway. Floating plastic looks very similar to jelly fish and for this reason it has caused many birds and turtles to die when their stomachs are filled with plastic. Of course, the typical answer to all of this is: Why not just recycle it? Unfortunately, in order to make something new you cannot use 100% recycled plastic. Even recycled plastic products require virgin petroleum, thus continuing the cycle. Plus, how often is a batch of recyclables trashed due to a bottle cap that shouldn't be there jamming the machine, or some dirty take out boxes causing the whole batch of recyclables to be tossed.

The point is, plastic may have its place, but we passed that place long ago, and have just become lazy. I am not scientifically minded nor am I likely to list statistics on how many turtles die from bag pollution, nor how many gallons of water are tainted from oil drilling or plastic manufacturing, or how many people have died trying to secure an oil field. I've been to the dump and seen the trash blowing around, I've gone to the beach and filled up bags of trash, and passed more trash than I could collect. I feel guilty when I go on a hike and do not collect trash. Frankly, that's good enough for me.

Finally, I should probably add that I am not a dirty hippy. My teeth are as clean as they've ever been, my skin looks as good as it is going to without microdermabrasion, and my clothes are clean. My hair is crazy but honestly, when has it not been? It actually looked its best when I was putting cornstarch in it for the shingles.

I'd like to apologize to the grammarians that shudder at my blatant disregard for the proper use of a colon,
semi colon or any other grammar rules for that matter.
I swear I tried to double space after the period, I just don't know what happene

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Constant Companion

This post is horribly overdue. I fell in love over a year ago and failed to post about it.

Here's the back ground. When I was working at Sea World I always brought a "spill-proof" stainless steel mug filled with tea to work. Generic brand. It had some kind of screwy cover to make it spill-proof (didn't work) which would eventually get all gunked up (tea residue, dirt). But! I could get out a screw driver and take it apart to clean it. Woo! It wasn't insulated -I could feel the temperature of the drink through it. The guys at work would often thoughtlessly lay it on the dash of the golfcart and then my tea would be gone (thanks!). Also, those guys were gross. They were often sick, and I don't know if they ever covered their mouth. So, here they are hacking all over the place and there's my cup, getting germs all over the exposed mouth part.

So, I needed something better. I had been reading the waterbottle reviews over at and was waffling between Klean Kanteens and Sigg bottles. Sigg had such pretty designs but Klean Kanteen got a lot of good reviews. I think I had also been looking for sippy cups (not for me!! For some friend I guess!!) and Klean Kanteen was winning out. Their winning features? A wide mouth that is easy to clean and is easy to toss ice cubes into, and pure stainless steel interior with no lining - that was a major failing point for Sigg. You can't leave liquids in it for a long time, and you can't put acidic drinks like applejuice in it. Oh, and you should clean it with special tabs. Oh, and it turns out their bpa liner wasn't bpa free. But now it is - really!

Now, I was also searching for a new travel mug. I had certain requirements. It had to be leakproof, I wanted the mouth piece to be covered so germ-boys couldn't nastify it, it had to be sturdy, easy to clean and earth friendly. And that, is how I eventually met and fell in love with Klean Kanteen.

I bought it with two lids; the regular steel topped lid and the cafe cap which is like a regular travel mug top. One for tossing in my bag and turning the bottle into a thermos, and one for drinking on the go. No, the cafe cap is not leakproof, but it is
incredibly easy to clean. There are just two little parts that easily come apart. If I want it to be leakproof I put on the regular cap. No big deal. As a thermos it does an excellent job. I would come to work at Sea World some time between 4 or 6 and during the freeze in the spring of '010 it kept my tea pipping hot. It keeps liquids so hot I always add a few ice cubes in with my tea. It goes with me everywhere. Its been to the beach, to New York, Pennsylvania and now Texas. I take it through airport security empty and fill it up on the other side either with water or with tea at Starbucks. If I leave the house, it leaves the house. If I'm on a road trip and its become empty, it goes into the restaurant with me.

The wide mouth on the thermos (Klean Kanteens come in two "mouth" sizes. Wide and classic) makes it especially easy to pour in a drink from another cup. This comes in handy if you don't want to ask the waitress to fill it for you.

Of course, you know how it is, sometimes a girl has needs one kanteen just can't satisfy. Enter the 40oz classic.

You see, the insulated bottle tops out at 20oz, and I drink way more than that. Especially when I'm out playing at Canaveral National Seashore which, by the way, is a dry beach. No waterfountains, no showers, no bottle machines, nothing but a chemical toilet. In a word, the way a beach is supposed to be.
And the very important fact that the "classic" klean Kanteens come in a wide array of colours. Currently the insulated does not. Plain brushed steel isn't me. You can choose to buy your Klean Kanteen with either the classic cap or sports cap (shown here with the dust cover up). I bought my 40ozer with both. Like the cafe cap, the sports cap is not leak proof. But hey, be aware and carry both. Since classic Klean Kanteens are not insulated they do sweat. I've wrapped the 40ozer in a bandanna or stuck it in a sock. For their 27ozers my mom found some old neoprene beer cozies and repurposed them for her & my brother's kanteens. Klean Kanteen does sell built brand cozies, but since they are made from petroleum based neoprene, I do not recommend them. (yes, my mom's is made from neoprene but it is being reused from the days when we didn't know it was bad) You can find all sorts of great handmade cozies on etsy though!

Since I love Klean Kanteen so much (why? because they're a good company! They bottles are ethically made [yeah, in China, fugetaboutit] and the company belongs to 1% for the planet) I bought a 27oz for my mom, dad, little brother and boyfriend. I also bought the sippy cup for my friend's baby and a thermos for another friend. You know what my mom
and boyfriend said? "Do you own stock in this company?" Ha. I gave my dad his filled with iced tea. I'm actually using the boyfriend's since he doesn't really - but I bought it for his bike cage (they fit!) so its there for when he goes out again. I'm hoping other people will see them using their awesome bottles and will want one for their own.

You might be wondering, why? Whats wrong with water bottles? Well, that is a whole blog post in itself. Suffice to say; plastic is not always recycled and when it even gets in the bin, it still isn't always recycled. Secondly, plastic is made from petroleum, bp was just drilling for the oil we wanted to make our bottles with. As long as I'm using petroleum, aren't I also to blame? Lastly (for now) your not just drinking out of pure delicious oil, there's all sorts of fun chemicals in that bottle to hold it together, and they don't just stay in the bottle.

Although I'm usually fine just holding my kanteen by the loop in the cap, sometimes I want to hike ("hike" strolling through the woods is hiking right?) hands free. I didn't like the options available at reuseit or Klean Kanteen at the time (virgin petroleum products) but luckily I found a really cool sling through Luckily reuseit & Klean Kanteen have since added it to their site. I like it because its made from 99% recycled content, rolls into a pouch, and and has a little pocket on the side for my iPhone or wallet. There's even a place on the strap for a pen or chopsticks & chapstick. My 40oz (with sock) and insulated & classic fit in it fine. Lately on my walks around Town Lake I've actually been carrying my Kanteen & using the sling to carry my pstyle, iPhone & a snack or whatever. Oh, don't take it into the beach with you. It will take forever to get the sand out of those little pockets. I'd post a picture of the sling in action but I may have met my blogger limit....

So, if your still drinking from disposable or plastic water bottles what are you waiting for? Sure they cost a bit up front, but you'll be saving money by no longer buying disposable water bottles. If your using a plastic reusable water bottle, do you feel comfortable leaving it in your hot car all day? I know nothing will leach into my Klean Kanteen if I leave it in the car - I even got their stainless steel cap just for that reason. No plastic to leach into my water.

By the way, they do make a great sippy cup. Check out their facebook page or flicker account for some cute pictures of kids drinking out of the sports cap or sippy cap. They're sturdy enough to last through all the crap kids put their stuff through. I would suggest getting a strap to attach it to a stroller since I hear many parents have lost theirs due to kids propensity for throwing things. Seriously though, plastic contains hormones that may lead to early puberty. Who wants to deal with that any earlier than you have to?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I've made an amazing revelation; I like exercise.
A revelation so amazing I've decided to once again take up the pen, er keyboard, and blog about it.
I've always loved the kind of exercise that involves hiking around in the woods or playing at the beach, but now I've found that the indoor stuff isn't so bad either. I'm going to chalk this up partially to my techno/rhythm/80's/electronic radio station on Pandora. How can you not want to exercise when your'e listening to "Move it move it" or "I've got the power". But also, its because I know I'm moving closer to achieving my new years resolution. Plus, you know, chemicals and all that. Serotonin and whatnot. The elliptical in the apartment's work out room is a big help. I can move at a good pace without jarring my joints and bouncing my bits.

So, that's it. Exercise good. Make happy.
Also, it makes my legs tired.

Oh, and why am I doing this when I could just take the yoplait diet or lemonaide cleanse or maybe the cabbage diet? Because, frankly, I am weak. No way I could diet. Food and I get along well, we like each other. I like it, and it likes my butt. This way its a win-win situation. I get to eat what I consider reasonably healthy (salads but with ranch dressing & olives, chips & guac, freak'n carbs, the occasional cookie...), and I get all sorts of happy chemicals buzzing around by exercising. And, I get to keep my current pants.

Ooh, you know what else I consider part of a healthy diet? The very rare good ol' American (former)drive-through binge. The other week I ate at Huts (which is an Austin icon) and had a hamburger, basket of fries and a delicious chunky strawberry shake with whipped cream and a cherry on top. Of course, the only hard part is not doing that again for awhile...

which is more important? i.e. which would you choose at the exclusion of the other?