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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Zero Waste Class Parties

Our daughter's stunningly-excellent third grade teacher recently sent out a request to parents to help him become zero waste for class parties. I, like an idiot, said yes. An idiot because I knew the trail would lead me right to Target and Ikea, places I tend to avoid at all costs.

Target had some great little melamine plates, fairly cheap metal forks and spoons, and acrylic juice glasses that should do nicely. I hated to go with plastic, but didn't see any way around it, and at least it will be used for years. (We did a similar thing with our picnic gear for our weekly neighborhood picnic, and now we are waste-free, which is a great feeling.) I am hard on the trail of some cheap cloth napkins to complete the set.

The teacher and I worked out that whatever parents volunteer to host the party now also pop the dishes in the washer and return. (I bought a basket to put it all in to make it easier.) I volunteered to handle the napkins. Hopefully it will inspire other classrooms to do the same.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Missing Sock

I've been thinking a lot recently about my motivations for living a more sustainable life. I started out not really in this camp--drove me nuts then I married John at my advanced age of 33 and he would frown with a superior look that we should get rid of all our Teflon, or that we shouldn't ScotchGuard our new furniture. Not to mention the fact that he washed out and reused plastic bags. Yuck. It was startling how often he was right, however, as verdicts about things like Teflon and ScotchGuard just keep piling up.

When we reached a boiling point over the constant stream of negative news about the environment and we started, and all the research that we amassed behind it, something subtly began to shift. I started making changes not from guilt, but because it's, underneath it all, kinda fun. (And we hope that that spirit gets to people through Planetfesto.) The best way to describe it is that it's similar to that part of my brain that gets lit up after I find the sock that has been missing for months and put the pair finally back together. I wake up excited to go to the farmers' market not because I know that I should, but that it feeds my soul in a way that I find unexpectedly delightful. There is something so connected, and deeply friendly, about looking down at your plate and knowing about almost everything on it--the farmer that grew the corn, the stories about the lamb that you heard from the rancher, that you've picked berries in the field from which the blackberries came from. There's an equal delight that we now have a hard time finding a plastic bag in the house, or that I usually get better mileage in my Prius than John does in his (although that seems to be changing, damn him...). I also love that the kids know where food comes from, get great delight in feeding our worms and hearing the latest news from the eccentric worm guy at the farmers' market, and want to know where something comes from before they eat it.

OK, enough. But I did want to let you know that this is actually getting fun...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Nirvana on an Organic Farm

We just spent the weekend at Emandal, a family camp started in 1908 on an organic farm near Willits, 130 miles north of San Francisco. It's a collection of rustic cabins (read outhouses--but they flush) on the banks of the Eel River. The swimming in the river is fantastic, but best of all, the food is out of this world and all comes from right outside the kitchen door. We had lots of tomotoes, corn, freshly baked bread, pizza from the stone oven in the garden with fresh basil, and lots of ice cream and milk donated by Delilah the cow (who you can help milk twice a day). Chickens, pigs, goats, and even an ostrich complete the farm casting. Wonderful staff, very relaxing, great for kids. They even run weeklong camps for schools for kids to come and work on the farm and learn more about sustainable food and living.

Count us in for next year!

Three Stone Hearth

For those of us who live in the East Bay, I've found a really nice resource, Three Stone Hearth (or as our droll nanny likes to call it "Three Stoner Hearth"). It's completely crunchy (in a charming sort of way) organic, prepared food co-op located in Berkeley. It's hidden away nearly under the University Avenue overpass...right at the foot of the pedastrian footbridge over 80.

The way it works is that a couple of the owners of the nonprofit, along with a set of volunteers, cook an interesting array of foods weekly from very local, organic farmers and then sell it to the public. It's not cheap, but it is the highest quality and delicious. You can also buy unpasturized milk, eggs from chickens who live running around in pastures, and a few other essentials. You can order from them in advance, or can drop in on Wednesday at 5 to see what extras they have available for sale.

They also make a killer fermented Lavender drink that is quite yummy.

The Ball Jar

So now we are trotting home from the Farmers' Market laden with our reusable shopping bags filled with produce in little cotton, how the hell do you store it all?

John has always been a big fan of mason jars--those ubiquitious, one, two, and four cup glass jars with metal sealing tops and rings usually used for canning. We have started to use them more widely than ever. We pop produce that needs to be in the fridge into them. Easy to clean, no plastic yuck-factor transfer. Not very big, however. On the bigger, but not totally perfect scale, are the pyrex glass containers with plastic lids we got at the grocery store. They hold a lot and are airtight, but I do try to hand wash the plastic lid. We are searching for the right containers for the bread we buy at Acme without bags, and for lettuce other large-format veggies.

I recently saw Julia who mentioned some cool little containers she had tracked down at Crate & Barrell that are 100% glass. They are 2 cups in volume and and flatter to fit stuff that won't go into a jar. I just got some...not totally convinced that they are air tight enough to prevent food from taking on other fridge odors, but we'll see.

We had the amazing problem the other night of trying to find a plastic bag for something and not having ONE in the house. A "problem" we've never confronted before...