Category Archives: Green Living

New Directions. (Almost.)

Hello, Readers.

I know. You’re probably not there anymore because my last post was 4 whole months ago.

That’s ok though, because over the last 4 months, I’ve been doing important research for this space and discovering the real reason why I titled this environment-focused blog, “Welcome to the Good Life,” when I started it back in the spring of 2009. Ok not really. But, since June 1 of this year, I’ve lived a lifestyle that is incredibly environmentally considerate, but also one that has made me the happiest I’ve ever been. In other words, I’ve learned that it’s easy to “be green,” and what’s more: it’s actually pretty fun.

If you know me, I know what you’re thinking. The incredible boyfriend, awesome apartment, living in a very liberal and enviro-minded community, and having a job at an influential environmental non-profit helps with all of that, but I have recently discovered that this new found [non-college] environmentally friendly life I’m living, aside from making me happy,  also made me the healthiest, skinniest, most resourceful, and still frugal…. ever!

This picture doesn't really have to do with anything except me being happy. And hiking.

A while ago, I thought that I could just abandon my blog because Sam and I are so busy hiking, biking, skiing, canoeing… and ok, watching some TV, too (if you haven’t watched How I Met Your Mother, you really should. It’s hilarious.) on any of our free time post 5 o’clock. But, the blog has been slowly taunting me. I’ll think of a fun post idea or experience something funny or thought-provoking that I just can’t help but want to put in my blog. So anyway, today I gave in. While I’m not expecting anyone to read this, I’m also not expecting this post to be any good. So there.

Here’s why I wanted to write though.

This weekend I did so many things that were “normal” (aka I wasn’t doing them out of any strained environmental obligation), but that were so awesome and the kind of things I always hoped I would do but wasn’t sure if I actually would.

We: home-made really cute Christmas wrapping paper from paper bags, paint, and potatoes (carved into stamps shaped like Christmas trees, bells, bows, etc.). I made delicious (and beautiful!) roasted root vegetables for dinner from the CSA, we went back country skiing to enjoy the breathtaking winter scenery (picture: snow draped over every branch, nice sunset, powdery snow, etc.).

…and then other boring stuff like cleaning our apartment, making chocolate-walnut toffee (somewhat unsuccessfully, I hate to say) and movie-watching (Inception), which are all boring things that are actually incredibly satisfying and not particularly boring, except to write/read about.

ANYWAY, I don’t really know what to do with this space now that I’m back because very few are interested in hearing me go on about how lucky I am (except maybe you, Mom. Hi… I know you’re reading this…), but I do think I’ve gained some interesting insight on healthy/happy living that I look forward to sharing.

Ok, so I’ll take that thought and chew on it for a while (that, and some Christmas cookies and mediocre toffee) and get back to all… (one?)… of you with my “new directions.”

Ahhhhhh…. it feels good to be back!

Tagged ,

Biking for fresh, local food

Last week's CSA loot- it was pretty funny trying to bike home with my bag that full!

Hello everyone!

I hope your summers are going well. ‘Tis the season for fresh zucchini and sweet tomatoes… so you know mine is. 🙂

Anyway, this September 11,  hundreds of Madison and Dane County residents, Sam, and I will bike 62 miles to raise money for the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, a group that brings  fresh, organic food from local farms to low income families in the community.

I am really excited both for the cause and the ride (read: the food breaks). MACSAC does wonderful things in the name of creating a sustainable, local food system in Dane County… and that’s an issue I’m really excited to support.

Here are some links to learn more about it or bike yourself.

Finally, participants are urged to fundraise for the coalition, so if you support the cause, you should check out the links below and pitch in whatever you can. We’ll really appreciate it!

**If you want to donate to our ride, I would encourage you to check out this page!

Thanks!

Jenny (and Sam)

Tagged , , , ,

My Green Life: The Introduction

My last real post was June 24th. That’s a long time for the blogging world, but for me personally, that seems like a lifetime ago. (And in some ways, it was.)

Even though this blog so far has been about my green living in general, I have titled this post, “The Introduction” because I feel as though my adult life began sometime in late June, and that’s what requires an introduction.

I promise future posts will be a bit more directly eco-focused, but for my friends, family, and anyone else who cares about the more exciting aspects of my personal life… you should stay tuned.

Chapter One:

(Just kidding, I hope it won’t really be that long.)

It all starts with Clean Wisconsin, an environmental non-profit in downtown Madison.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had the most awesome internship there last semester. I learned a great deal about writing, media, how to present clean energy and the environment to a non-agreeing and/or political audience, how much a dedicated group of people can actually accomplish, and also how to deal with the failures that occasionally occur. More importantly, I gained confidence in myself as an almost-college grad and in my ability to write and communicate about the environment. For these lessons, I largely have my supervisors, Amanda Wegner and Sam Weis, to thank.

During this time and as a result of what I was learning (in school and at Clean Wisconsin), I started to question what I wanted with my post-grad plans and ended up making some crazy direction-changes and landed in Madison permanently. While I certainly never expected to be here, the lures of a strong environmental and socially progressive community, paired with proximity to fun adventures, good entertainment and, unexpectedly, my new boyfriend… Sam Weis… keep me here happily.

During my first few weeks in Madison after moving back from Minneapolis, I struggled to find a job and ensure my conscious (and Mom) that I’d done the right thing. Meanwhile, Sam and I hung out everyday and immediately connected. All these changes were exciting, but tainted by the fact that there was relatively low permanence to me being here because I had no roots here, place to live, or source of income.

Then, on June 25th I was offered a full-time job at Clean Wisconsin as the Membership Assistant, meaning that I get to talk to members, thank them for donations, get them involved, and help recruit new members (among other things). Then things really started to come together. Although it’s not the communications position I ideally wanted, I’m still working for an environmental cause, and even working to convince others why they should care about the environment. (And… I’m also working for a paycheck. Which is good.)

Questions I had upon coming here were almost entirely answered in such a short amount of time: Would things with Sam turn out to be as great as I (we) thought they would be? Would I find a job? Would I stay in Madison after this summer? Would I like it here?

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

So, long story… not-that-short, I am now sitting in Sam and my flat on Madison’s east side, still sweaty from the bike ride home from work, typing this post, happy as could be. Sam and I have had a summer packed full of fun stuff that I’ve always wanted to do when picturing my pseudo-outdoorsy, environmentally-friendly life… going to Lake Superior and Devil’s Lake, hiking around the Porcupine Mountains, making driftwood bonfires on the beach, taking late night bike rides, pitching a hammock between two trees somewhere in Madison, cooking delicious foods…

Anyway, this was long and unsolicited, but I’m really excited about having a place of my/our own and finally getting to write about “green living” when dorm rooms, easy mac, and absent recycling collection are out of the picture. I’m excited about implementing all these green-living tips that I’ve come across during the Environmental Studies program at school … and getting to write about them!

Well, I’m excited about a lot of things.

Finally, just in case you, like me, are trying to figure out what to do with your CSA share this week (eggplant, peppers, basil, carrots, onion, broccoli) here’s a great, simple, & yummy Thai recipe I found. (Except add more spicy stuff and any other veggies you need to get rid of!)

More to come soon!

-Jenny

Tagged ,

HORAY!!

What am I so happy about, you may ask?

No, it’s not the Twins’ performance in their 3 game series against the Brewers, or the fact that it’s at least 10 degrees hotter in my apartment than the outside world (and it was 86 on Wednesday…), but what I AM happy about is that I GOT A JOB TODAY!!

What. a. relief.

Seriously, there’s a limited number of days a girl can eat “legume marinara” (i.e. frozen peas, canned garbanzos, with $0.99 store-brand marinara on top. Microwaved.). I’ll be working at Clean Wisconsin, where I was fortunate to intern this semester, which is super awesome. I am so thrilled about it.

Anyway, my environmental musings of late have been more focused on enjoying what we’ve got, instead of  being upset about what we don’t or afraid of we’re about to lose, per my usual. I like the ability to shift focus between these three things and I also really like appreciating all that Wisconsin has as far as untamed, green, beautiful wilderness goes.

I’ve got another trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula planned this weekend, hopefully with some hiking and fishing and plenty of beach-walking penned in. Then, off to the office on Monday!

More educational and stimulating posts (and pictures) to come!

Happy summertime,

Jenny

Tagged ,

Eco-Facts Labels: Rapanui Genius

“It’s not that people don’t care, they just don’t know.”

This is what a Rapanui Clothing rep says about “unethical clothing.”

So, how unethical are our clothes?

I was pretty disappointed both with my lack of knowledge and (once again) with our purchasing practices when I looked into it. From water and chemical use, water pollution, fiber choice, bleaching, dyeing, finishing and shipping of our clothing… each step of the process has its own environmental implications and dangers. While this is true of many industries, it is also true that there are other options.

So what are they?

Consignment, to begin, really is a GREAT option. It requires a bit more patience and persistence, but it can REALLY pay off. Not just in the sense that you can find clothes at no additional polluting cost, but it pays off in the sense that these clothes come to you at a FRACTION of the original cost!

Aside from pre-made clothes, imagine a company with 110% transparency. They tell you where, how, and with what resources their products are made. They make environmental puns, educate customers, and are super hip.

These are rare, to be sure. Many have tried, many have gotten stuck somewhere around 75% transparency. It might be all sunshine and rainbows… until you get to the fine print.

Anyway, I don’t do this too often, but I wanted to take the opportunity to recognize Rapanui Clothing company for their excellent environmental stewardship and retail ethics! I wish them the very best of success because well, imagine the potential if everyone announced things like,

This Organic Hoody was made in a wind-powered, Fairwear Foundation audited factory and is printed on 100% Organic Cotton. Embroidered and hand-finished on the Isle of Wight.

Cool, I know. But they don’t stop there:

Specifications

Certified 100% Organic Cotton 3-ply fleece hoody (310g/m2) / Fairwear Foundation Audited / Low Carbon / Hand printed & finished in the UK / Cool wash, Hang dry

Hang dry is right!

Anyway, thanks Rapanui for being such a good role model.

Here’s to being aware,

Jenny

PS: they’re on Twitter!

Tagged ,

Curveball

You may have noticed by now that I didn’t make it through my month of consecutive writing.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it, but life has been doing crazy things to me lately, and keeping up with the blog proved to be too tough during this time. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. On Sunday, May 16 I graduated from college and moved home.

2. That Wednesday I went to LA for the week to celebrate my sister’s graduation and wedding shower.

3. I returned to Minneapolis on the following Sunday, May 22 and decided to move back to Madison to find a job, try out financial independence, and explore Wisconsin’s beautiful outdoors on the weekends.

4. Last week I looked for jobs and tied some loose ends with school things.

5. Friday, May 28 I went to Ontonagon, MI to explore a teeny-tiny bit of the shores of Lake Superior and Porcupine Mountains.

6. Today (Wednesday, June 2) I sit on my bed in my apartment JOB SEARCHING!

Given recent (and unexpected) changes in my life, I think a new angle for this blog is in order. While I would love my dream of environmental communications to come true, I recognize that this is currently: a. incredibly vague, and b. likely unavailable given my, er…. limited, career history.

So instead, the focus of this space will be to provide insight on how a broke, young, semi-inexperienced environmentalist will attempt to pay the bills and better the environment in the process, whether I work for a directly environmental cause or not.

My current cause: job searching.

Stay tuned!

Jenny

Tagged

Lessons from Grammy

There are so many things I love about my Mom.

She’s been my emotional rock since I can remember, she’s a wonderful cook, a knowledgeable gardener, she’s the inspiration for my sense of adventure, and she’s my friend.

As I’ve grown up and been away from her though, I’ve noticed more similarities in myself to her, and coincidentally, similarities of both of us to her Mom, my Grammy.

She had to get it from someone, right?

Grammy died in March 2007, but I have SO many fond memories of her, and ones that have only improved since she’s been gone. Since then, I’ve realized how much more she and I would have to talk about now, aside from my silly gymnastics meets and school projects like we used to.

Anyway, the first time I read much Thoreau was when I took Bill Cronon’s American Environmental History class last year. I’d read it and think of my Grammy the whole time. Finally I told my Mom how much it reminded me of her and she informed me that Grammy loved Thoreau.

Of course she did, what was I thinking?

Grammy lived up in the woods in northern Wisconsin and my favorite memories with her are trips to the lake and long walks in the woods. Thoreau, I’m sure, was speaking of her when he wrote:

“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks–who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING. […] No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God.”

Well, or genetics? My Mom and I have spent good amounts of time honing our sauntering abilities, I must say.

Next, when I learned in ecology last year that humans are not separate from nature, but just one part of it – I couldn’t help but think of Grammy’s respect and admiration for this idea. Thoreau thought the same.

“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil–to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.”

Finally, aside from Grammy in a nature sense, I also remember her in a very social sense. She was always donning her quirky silver charm jewelry, pink lipstick, and shoving colorful barrettes in a mess of red hair. (Katie and I would ditch our dress up stash in search of this jewelry box). She’d be off to cocktails and bridge parties… God, I wish I could hear her talk about life and politics now. I bet it was awesome. Anyway, Grammy would agree with Thoreau on this one:

“Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”

I have an email from her freshman year of college – I’d been telling her about my classes, to which she responded:

“Yes, you are taking quite a variety of courses!  Talk about an education!  Your math course sounds like a problem solving course. Problem solving is something this world very much needs.”

Amen to that.

Anyway, this is such a short and inadequate description of her. The point is, she was such a fun, spirited, and wise woman, and remembering her makes me think of my Mom and it brings so many good memories to mind. I have so much to thank them both for, and I hope I am able to shed a similar sense of adventure, reverence for nature, and wisdom in my own life, and for my children someday.

(sigh) Back to studying.

I love you Mom!

-Jenny

Tagged ,

Environmentalists love practicality

Coal plants and vehicle emissions polluting our air? Advocate for a switch to renewables and expanded public transit.

Mangos taste like cardboard in January? Pick a preserved or more seasonal fruit.

Beef industry polluting our water? Cut down on meat consumption.

200,000 gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from the sea floor? Take it as [yet another] a warning sign of our dangerous addiction to oil.

………………………………

No one likes a doomsayer, and I’m not trying to be one. But my morning news today certainly did nothing to cure the Monday morning blues.

Really, it makes me quite overwhelmed.

When we can’t pass a climate bill for the life of us and Sarah Palin takes this opportunity to advocate for increased domestic drilling, I get a little bit riled up.

[Deep breath.]

The only thing I can do now is remember that my choices make a difference, and hope that you remember this too.

I recall why I don’t mind living without air conditioning and can opt not to buy products that have too much packaging. I recall that biking this summer means fitness, extra cash in my pocket and it means that I think we can change our culture to rely less on our cars. It reminds me to be a voice for climate bills and renewable energy legislation and an advocate for responsible businesses.

So, today, I will advocate for a few things (this is as much a reminder to me as anyone else):

  1. Read the news. Be aware, and get freaked out because it’s motivating (once you pick your jaw up off the floor).
  2. Then read this. It made me feel better.
  3. Call your senator about the Climate Bill (won’t take more than 5 min and is super easy.)
  4. Pick a few things and stick to them. “10 ways to help the environment” lists are everywhere. But here’s one I like. (Annnnd here’s a vastly extended version.)
  5. Once you make the changes and save money, feel healthier, breathe better, and are happier as a result, tell your friends!

Get set, go.

-Jenny

Tagged , ,

Blogathon 2010: I think they made it for me

Here’s the thing.

I’m really busy.

So, when I read on twitter about this year’s Blogathon where you post everyday for a month, I was skeptical. This month I will do many things, some of which include:

  1. Attend my last classes, study and take my last exams, procrastinate on my last papers, and stress about my grades for the last time.
  2. Then I will graduate from college.
  3. I will move out of my apartment and…..drum roll…. back into my Mom’s house!!!
  4. I will search for jobs, and hope that I’ll find something challenging, socially progressive, and meaningful – that I happen to be good at.
  5. I will learn what it’s like to be in a long-distance normal relationship. (For the first time in 4 years.)
  6. Maybe I’ll even stop living like a college student (i.e. eat foods that cost more than $0.80 per serving, drink only on weekends less, have an income, have a vacuum, and exercise.)

On top of my busy schedule of turning my whole life upside down, this blog is usually reserved for environment-related thoughts. How will that work? How am I supposed to write about the environment everyday for a month?

Madison is pretty nice these days.

But then, when I thought about it, I realized that, A. it might be really cool to have a record of all those things and, B. how could I worry about writing about the environment for a month when I want to write about the environment for a living?

So here I am.

These posts may end up being a little more on the “personal side” of the blogging spectrum than you’re used to if you’re a Welcome to the Good Life regular (I’m not sure if those exist). But I’m pretty sure I’ll work in “being green” somehow because, well, it’s really important to me.

Anyway, it’s 8:59 in the morning and I literally just heard a loud, “WA-HOOOO!!” from outside of my window. Why, you ask?

Today is the Mifflin Street Block Party in Madison. It’s where everyone wakes up at 7 a.m. to start drinking, makes their way to Mifflin Street, and then…. no one really knows from there. Since I traveled so much this semester, I’m excited to just be in town for an “I go to college at Madison” type event. I know, I’m running a little late, but the taste of toothpaste and Bud Light don’t go well together, so I’m holding off for a while.

So yeah, that’s the deal. I am excited about this challenge, and I am excited to see how I feel about life when June 1 rolls around and it’s all different.

Happy Saturday and stop back tomorrow!

-Jenny

Oh, and here’s the list of the other bloggers who are participating. Check em out! (Or, type #Blog2010 into the search on Twitter).

Tagged , , ,

Stuff. Part 2: paper receipts version.

Something was recently brought to my attention that has to do with stuff… of the useless and wasteful variety.

Paper receipts.

In addition to being tricky to spell, these pesky non-recycleable pieces of paper consume barrels and barrels of oil and literally hundreds of thousands of trees every year (more specific stats here). Did I mention that they’re not even recyclable?

My friends at softwareadvice.com are working on advocating for all electronic receipts, saying,

We think paper receipts are a wasteful vestige of the last millennium. There is no reason – legal or otherwise – why consumers or retailers need paper receipts. Electronic receipts are completely valid and far more efficient. Not to mention, the production of paper receipts do some real damage to our environment.

But I really liked what one commenter had to say:

I bought a doughnut, and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut. I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut, man, I’ll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut… end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this.

Anyway, I think this is a really interesting and applicable campaign that fits nicely with the blog I mentioned in my original “Stuff.” post about how we can vote with our purchases and that we should be vocal about our preferences (i.e. telling the manager to look into this receipt issue.) Online banking is efficient, and a few dozen little paper receipts clogging up my wallet, backpack and life are not.

Check out this post to learn more and take their poll.

Cheers,

Jenny

Tagged , , ,