5 zero-waste swaps to reduce food trash

Two weeks ago, National Geographic shared a story about plastic pollution that photographer Randy Olsen has been covering for two years. In his story Planet or Plastic?, Olsen shares pictures that explain how 18 million pounds of plastic end up in our oceans each year. His photos also make it quite clear that discarded plastic wreaks havoc on the populations closest to it. At first glance, the pictures made my heart drop. I wondered if I might have used one of the water bottles pictured. I’ve never lived near a landfill or dumping sites, so plastic pollution hasn’t impacted me like it has people in the parts of India, China and lower-income communities all over the world who do. But at second glance, the pictures made me want to take responsibility.

I’ve known about the zero-waste movement since January. One day while listening to TEDx talks, I ran into a talk from Bea Johnson on how her family has produced almost zero trash in the last 5 years. This blew me away but also opened my eyes to the real problem that trash has become. What I learned since January is that the average American makes 4.4 pounds of trash everyday. This translates to just over 1,600 pounds a year and as a country, we create 254 million of trash yearly. That is enough to trash to reach the moon and back 25 times. If Americans continue to make trash at this rate, it is going to cause major issues for us down the road. China, who has traditionally purchased trash from us, has decided to no longer accept our trash beginning in January 2019. Some east African countries are considering banning second-hand clothing imports from America so to better support their own fashion industries. Things are changing and we need to change too, or else we will likely find ourselves living much closer to our trash and the problems trash brings.

So, how can we change this?

What sort of improvements can one person make?

Well, we can start by looking at the items we use differently. We can look for more sustainable, reusable and less toxic items. We can stop having a “disposable is better” mindset. We can cut back on the chemicals. We can also begin to consider the impact that products we use everyday have the environment.

How can we cut back or avoid products that require drinkable water and create toxic water during processing?

How can we reduce our consumption of animals/animal products that produce harmful gases or need a lot of valuable resources?

 How can we hold our favorite companies accountable for the pollution that they create to earn profit?

How can we reduce our plastic usage and use our money to invest in things that can be reused?

As you can see, these are the questions I have been considering for the last 5 months. And in that time, I had made a lot changes to how I shop, cook and look at everyday items. There is a lot to think about when one first becomes interested in the zero-waste lifestyle. To make things easier, I have shared 5 of my favorite zero-waste swaps that can easily help one kitchen trash. These are items that if utilized can help make huge cuts in the 4.4 pounds each person is said to produce daily. The most ideal situation would be to find these items used or second hand, but the main thing is to get started however possible.

1. tiffin or bento box

Lunch boxes and containers have always been a hot commodity among kids and adults. Even now, I take lunch to work everyday so it’s even important for me, too. I remember my parents purchasing me a new plastic lunch box every year that I was in elementary school. It was usually filled with plastic-wrapped sandwiches, fruits in plastic zipper bags and a plastic straw for my juice box. So throughout my school experience, this equals out to a minimum of 6 lunch boxes (if not more) and pounds of plastic waste that all ended up in a landfill. A great zero waste swap is a stainless steel tiffin or bento box. These containers can be filled with healthy foods and will last for years. One of my favorite food bloggers has been filling her daughter’s Planetbox with goodness for years (check it out with #realnaturalkidslunchbox). This is a swap that will keep on giving (and keep you from running through Target like a madwoman the weekend before school starts looking for a new lunch container for your child) for many years to come. ūüôā

2. utensils

 

Bamboo utensils are a really great zero waste swap. In the US, it is estimated that we throw out billions of pieces of plastic cutlery each year. A study from the San Francisco Bay area found that about 67% of the trash on their streets was made up food packaging waste. We can do a lot better than this by simply using reusable utensils. This is something that I am committed to and although I generally use a metal spoon or fork from home, this bamboo set would go nicely in with any lunchbox or tiffin.

3. drinking straws

Plastic straws are everywhere! According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, Americans use 500, 000, 000 (yes, million!) plastic straws everyday. Even at restaurants that serve food on reusable dishes, they still often times give every patron a plastic straw. These straws never go away. They end up in our oceans, which ends up inside of our sea animals. A simple swap is to purchase a silicone or stainless steel drinking straw, and to also say no to plastic straws. These are easy to clean, easy to carry and will likely save thousands of plastic straws from ending up inside the oceans we so desperately need.

4. produce bags

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE grocery shopping. Up until recently, I never thought twice about placing every ounce of my fresh produce inside of a plastic produce bag. Because I buy lots of produce, a single trip to the grocery store could result in my using 10 or more of these in one trip! These bags never get used again and end up in the landfill quite quickly. A great solution to this is to purchase reusable produce bags. They are a one-time purchase and can prevent the need to use plastic produce bags ever again. Also, since I’m a grocery shopping pro, let me share an awesome tip. Please know that every piece of produce doesn’t need a bag. But these reusable ones are a great option for the produce that does.

5. glass jars

If you’ve noticed a trend yet, most zero-waste swaps simply require going back to what worked before we learned to simply use things once and throw them out. If your grandparents were like mine, they kept Mason jars around to use for food storage, drinking out of and for growing plants. Mason jars are fashionable now and are associated with all things southern, but when it comes down to it, they are great for storage and meal prep. I use them to hold salads, water, smoothies, soups, oatmeal, quinoa and veggie “bowls” and so many other foods. I also store my dried beans and grains. It looks great and I don’t have to buy a new one every time one gets discolored, starts to hold smells or looks old. I also don’t have to worry about anything in the jars interfering with my hormones.

If you decide to try any of these items, please let me know how things turn out for you. Small changes equal big results over time.¬† I am excited to hear about how incorporating these reusables saves you time, money & makes our planet a greener place. If you are interested in learning more about the zero-waste lifestyle, be sure to follow the following IGers: @zerowastehome, @zerowastechica, @going.zero.waste and @zero.waste.collective. I’ve learned so much from following each of these people/accounts.

Thanks for reading,

Brittany

 

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Real Food, Less Fake: Purple Sweet Potatoes

Today, I’m highlighting a really wonderful food that can be added to your diet today. The food that I’m talking about is none of other than the sweet potato, but more specifically, yellow-fleshed and purple-fleshed varieties.

The first time I came in contact with a yellow-fleshed sweet potato (also known as a Japanese sweet potato) was around 5 years ago when I was in college. I visited a multicultural church with some friends and their potluck-style lunch after church included all kinds of foods from around the world. Growing up in a church that spans 6 continents meant that I was really never nervous about trying new foods in this setting, but this sweet potato that was yellow on the inside really threw me off. When I tasted it, I was completely blown away. How could something this good exist and no one had ever told me? It was so delicious that I had another helping.

My first time having a purple-fleshed sweet potato was just a couple¬†years¬†ago. My local Sprouts Farmer’s Market introduced them¬†and I was so intrigued because of the experience I had with the Japanese sweet potato a few years before. When I took it home and baked it, I added just a tiny bit of butter and enjoyed it plain. It was so filling and beautiful that I knew it had to be added to my list of foods to buy on a regular basis.¬†

Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

In general, potatoes are one of the most satiating foods that exist in any category. According to the study, The Satiety Index of Common Foods,¬† potatoes outperform all other foods when it comes to how full they make people feel. If you have ever eaten a potato, you know how filling they are. Many people are afraid of eating potatoes because they are considered carbohydrates (which many people still fear), but they are also plants, meaning that they are inherently much healthier than any “foods” we can create or process. They are a great asset to a plant-based diet, especially for those on a budget.

Sweet potatoes are also full of many vitamins and minerals. Just one cup of baked sweet potato can contain a week’s worth of Vitamin A and around half of your daily value of Vitamin C and manganese. It can also contains a¬†quarter of your daily value of dietary fiber and potassium, and just under one-fifth of the copper.

And lastly, Japanese sweet potatoes are one of the primary foods in the diet of some of the longest-living people in the world. In 2005, Okinawa, Japan (along with the Seventh-day Adventist population of Loma Linda, California, the male centenarians of Sardinia, Italy and the elders of Nicoya, Costa Rica and Ikaria, Greece) was identified as a Blue Zone. According to¬†Dan Buettner, Blue Zones are essentially the areas around the world where people live the longest. The people of Okinawa, Japan have a very unique way of living that contributes to their long lives and their diet is one of the factors that makes them incredibly unique. For starters, they eat a 96% whole food, plant-based diet. I don’t know about you, but as someone who adds kale into EVERYTHING (smoothies, spaghetti, juice, muffins, etc.) as I fight to get enough veggies in each day, I am highly impressed by that number. Around 69% of their diet consists of purple and orange sweet potato. In whole, they eat a diet of sweet potatoes, beans, different varieties of soy including tofu and miso, as well as stir-fried vegetables. Pork and fish (around 1% of their diet) are eaten sparingly, with the aforementioned foods making up their daily diet. They also incorporate many medicinal herbs such as mugwort, ginger and turmeric on the daily basis for their healing properties.

According to BlueZones.com, Okinawans who follow the traditional diet have much better health outcomes than Americans. They are 5.5 times less likely to die from breast cancer, have 6-12 times fewer heart disease deaths, 7 times fewer prostate cancer deaths and 2-3 times fewer colon cancer deaths. The elderly population there also experiences much lower instances of dementia than people in most places. If adding more of their plant-based staples can help improve our numbers this way, it is definitely worth consideration.

Recipe Suggestion

My absolute favorite way to eat purple sweet potato is to make sweet potato salad. Potato salad was a staple in my family growing up. My mom & aunts always added russet potatoes, boiled eggs, mayonnaise, relish, celery salt and a variety of spices to make this mouth-watering side dish. Now that I try to eat more a plant-based diet, I wanted a more nutrient-dense version of this food that I love. When I went searching, I knew that Jene√© from the website SweetPotatoSoul.com would have something good. She, too, is a Georgia peach and knows how important potato salad is to¬†a Southern dinner table. She added a new twist on this recipe that I absolutely love. In her recipe, Jene√© uses vegan mayonnaise, white AND orange sweet potatoes as well as all the right seasonings & spices. I decided to make this at home a few months back, but I added a purple-fleshed sweet potato to the mix. At first, my husband turned his nose up a my tri-color sweet potato salad. He didn’t think it looked too appetizing, but after one bite, he took the bowl from my hands and smiled. This is when I know that my food is really good. We ate the entire bowl in three days (so much for a week long meal prep!) and it was undoubtedly the item I was most excited to eat in my lunch. I encourage you to give her recipe a try and add some purple sweet potatoes in, too. You won’t regret it.

If you decide to have purple sweet potatoes for the first time, please tell me how you liked them. If you have eaten them before, I would love to hear about how you serve them. And if you have any questions, please leave them below in the Comments section. I’d love to keep our dialogue going. As always, thanks for reading.

In pursuit of greener foods,

Brittany

Websites & Articles:

Blue Zone Exploration: Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa Centenarian Study

Self NutritionData: Sweet Potato

Study: A satiety index of common foods

Sweet Potato Salad (vegan)

The Okinawa Diet: Eating & Living to 100

Why I Am Blogging Again…

Hello friends,

I hope that you are doing well and are having a prosperous new year thus far. I had big hopes for 2018 and I must say that the year has gotten off to a great start for me. In this blog post, I want to share why I’m blogging again after a long hiatus.

This year makes 6 years that I have been in the blogging space. I ventured into blogging back in 2012 as a way to share my spiritual journey, as well as the information and resources that were shared with me with the world. Blogging has helped me to make friends & acquaintances in other countries, learn from others, and from what readers have shared, bless people that I will never meet.

Over the last couple years, I have struggled to find balance between blogging, working & being in a relationship. This was when teaching, getting to know my now husband and settling into a new area were really my focus. I simply didn’t make much time for writing. Now that my life is a bit more settled, I am back because I feel that blogging regularly will be good practice in building consistency. One of my best friends, who I’ll call “A,” continually reminds me that all of my health & fitness goals are on the other side of consistency. I believe that she is right.

However, consistency isn’t the only reason I am blogging again. I am back because I believe that I have interests that others might share. In the past few years, the¬† words “healthy,” “green” and “sustainable” have all come to mean a whole lot more to me. I am committed to taking care of myself, inspiring those around me to take care of themselves and caring for the planet that we inhabit. There are so many people who do not have much knowledge in these areas and I hope to be able to share what I have learned through this blog.

And lastly, I am blogging because I believe that it is a great way to allow those that I don’t get to talk to regularly get to know me better. I am a deep thinker but also an over thinker who tends to be very introverted. I am in my own head a lot and I have discovered that this is both good and bad. I want to share more of who I truly am with those around me.

So what can you expect me to talk about here on The Green Pursuit? I plan to build this blog around 5 different domains that I think truly encompass what it means to be healthy, sustainable and green. The 5 domains are food, green living, health, service and faith. When I dive into green living, for example, I’ll be discussing non-toxic product swaps, minimalism, zero-waste swaps, thrifting and how to lighten one’s ecological footprint. And of course there is much more to share.

I am excited to see where this blog goes and the people it connects me to. If you are interested in the topics I shared, please don’t hesitate to follow my blog. I plan to share new content here weekly and I hope that you’ll tune in.

In pursuit of all things green,

Brittany

5 self-care tips to combat anxiety

Hi friends,

I hope that you are well. And I hope that your year is starting well. Can you believe that the first month of the year is practically over? This year is moving quickly.¬†I’m coming to you today to address something that many of us have experienced at one point or another. It creeps up out of nowhere and rears its ugly head, oftentimes leaving us in tears, feeling frazzled and scared. This monster is called anxiety.

In the last year of my life, I have had to battle anxiety linked to stress. As someone who can only remember one anxiety attack in the first 25+ years of life, this was something that confused me. However, I was fortunate to quickly find some self-care tips that have helped me tremendously. Scroll down to learn more.

Write scriptures & affirmations

I was home one weekend back in December on the phone with my fianc√© and I felt my anxiety try to pull a surprise attack. I let him know what was happening and decided to get off the phone. I felt tears coming and did not fight them, while quickly pulling out my journal and Bible. I began to write down every scripture I could find about peace and mental health.¬†Although my journal was soaked with tears, I quickly realized that which every scripture I wrote, I felt the weight lifting. In total, I jotted down¬†around seven scriptures before I felt calm. In that moment, the power of God’s word was more real to me than ever. I went on with my day, which meant going to¬†church where I was able to worship God. This worship was a soothing balm to my weary mind just when I needed it. There are several websites that make compilations of these scriptures if you find yourself wanting to read or write them as well.

Pray out loud

Another great strategy I have is praying audibly. This has been especially helpful for me when I have been feeling anxious while driving in the car. Heavy traffic and long commutes are so bad for me. I learned this in the car one day after work, while driving to go handle something for my wedding that had to be done by 6 pm. I was driving for over an hour when I finally began to cry. I had a lot on my mind and I finally started to feel it. I turned off the radio and began praying to God for relief of these feelings. I reminded God what His word said about keeping me in perfect peace. I thanked Him for his ability to do this and for the sound mind He had given me and I thanked Him for being my safe place. The longer I prayed, the less anxiety I felt. After a few minutes, I was back to normal.

Take an hour long, uninterrupted bath

As someone who¬†has always found joy in doing something productive, the last few years have been about learning to relax. My roommate still tells me that I don’t know how to rest. Even when¬†I don’t feel well, I find myself reading, watching something educational, etc. However, I have learned that relaxing helps to keep my anxiety at bay. One of my favorite ways to relax is to simply take a hot bath for an hour. This means phone off, light music, essential oils and dim light. There’s nothing significant about the amount of time, except the fact that it is my time and no one else’s. This bath always leaves me feeling refreshed physically, mentally and emotionally.

Set strict “no work” hours

I am a recovering¬†workaholic. I have been in my job at ungodly hours consumed in work. And for someone like me, this is easy because I love to work. However, I’ve learned that too much work creates real issues. I have always subscribed to the idea of the Sabbath, because God rested for 24 hours on day 7 while creating the Earth. If it’s good enough for Him, it is good enough for me. But I’ve realized that just resting during Sabbath hours is just the minimum. In order to keep my anxiety low, I need to leave work at a decent hour daily, go home and do something for me. This could be sitting down and eating a healthy dinner, exercising, watching a show I like, reading a chapter in a book, reading my¬†Bible, listening to a podcast or talking¬†on the phone. It doesn’t matter what I do. What matters is¬†that I do not give my entire day to someone else’s dream. I matter more.

Talk to someone you trust

Everyone should have a safe place to take their thoughts and feelings. Humans are likened to a steaming pot that has a lid on it. If the lid is not lifted, it will explode from the pressure. When I felt myself under pressure, I was blessed to have people who encouraged me to get help. With the encouragement of my fianc√©, my sister and a counselor friend of mine (Love you, Courtney!), I saw a therapist for the first time in October. My therapist has been the single best investment I have made into myself in a very long time. She has taught me to give myself credit for things, to look at situations differently and that my feelings about certain situations are valid. She has also helped me to not cripple those around me by pouring all of my feelings into them. My family and friends love me deeply, but they are not trained to handle any of the problems I was having. It would have likely hurt them to help me. Many of us walk around with wounds that we don’t even know we have until they are discovered by someone who has been trained to help heal us. Forget about what other people may think and do what will help you live an abundant life.¬†If you have ever considered talking to a therapist, I would highly recommend doing it.

If anxiety has found its way into your life, it doesn’t have to stay there. Give these tips a try and let me know in the Comments if they are of any value to you.

Until next time,

Brittany

5 things I wish someone told me about college

“…we should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.‚ÄĚ – Thomas Edison

If you are reading this, congrats¬†are in order because you are likely a new high school graduate! So congratulations! I hope that graduation was wonderful and a worth every sacrifice you made to finish high school. As someone who has graduated high school, undergraduate and is hoping to be graduating again in the next couple years, I know how important this time in life is for you. There are so many choices to be made, things to ponder and situations arising every day as you prepare for your next step in life. If you are going to college/university, you have a lot to figure out. From solidifying your major, choosing living spaces and roommates, selecting courses, sending in final paperwork and actually getting to school, you’ll need to get a lot done before fall semester begins. When coming in contact with high school graduates this summer, I automatically began to impart what I wish someone had told me before I started college. There were many people giving me good advice, but for some reason, some of these things didn’t seem to make it to me. So, I will be giving you 5 things I wish someone told me about college. This post is long, but please read until the end. Let’s get started.

Read the Drop/Add policy

Unlike high school, changing or dropping courses is no simple feat. Back when I was in high school, changing classes was as simple as speaking to the counselor or having your parents come in for a meeting. Even now as a middle school teacher, I’m always amazed at the ease with which students can switch teams or classes with their parent’s help. However, college does not work this way. Most colleges have something called a Drop/Add policy. This policy is what will tell you when it is too late to get out of a class and what your subsequent grade will be if you drop – or get out of – it. For example, let’s say you get into Philosophy 101 and you realize that you are in way over your head after taking the first exam. If you check the Drop/Add policy, you’ll find out whether you’ll receive a grade of W (withdrawn) or if it is too late to get out of the course. You’ll also want to find out how long you can stay in the course before you are permanently charged and if your school has any special policies for if you want to retake a course. Some other great questions to ask are:¬†

Does my school have a repeat-to-replace policy?

How many credit hours do I need to be full-time?

Do we use a plus/minus grade scale or a standard grade scale used in most high schools?

Take care of your yourself

Every year of college is busy, but none as hectic as your freshmen year. With all of your new classes, friends, assignments and social activities, it is very easy to let yourself go. Overeating in the cafeteria, staying up late and waking up early and eating whatever you can find are a perfect combination for unhealthy weight gain. A 2012 study conducted at Auburn University found that almost 70% of students gain weight in college. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Commit to these 3 things for better self care.

Eat well.¬†Yes, the ice cream machine and toppings bar in the cafeteria looks very appealing, but do you need it?¬†If you have a meal plan, find the healthy alternatives. Almost every cafeteria I’ve seen has a salad bar with lots of fresh veggies, fruits and lean meats. Go for those meals that you will keep you full longer and feeling good. If you have your own kitchen and are into cooking, there are some great meal prep options for college students on a budget. Give them a try.¬†

Exercise. If your college is anything like my alma mater, it has a beautiful recreation center. If your school does indeed have one, guess what? You’re paying for it. Every semester, my school charged me over $100 for the recreation center. If you think about it, that’s a built-in gym membership. Many recreation centers are open 24 hours a day so you can get your work out on whenever you want. If you prefer outdoor or team workouts, see if your school has intramural sports teams. They are a ton of fun and a great way to meet people. If you don’t make time to work out, there are other ways to burn calories. Instead of catching the shuttle, walk. Instead of driving to campus, ride a bike. Just don’t be sedentary. Endorphins are good for your brain. ūüôā¬†

Be kind to yourself. You are in a brand new place with a brand new goal. You have never been to college before, so you will make mistakes. College is supposed to be harder than high school, even if you did extremely well in high school. You may not make comparable grades right away, but you can if you stay perseverant. Study and work hard, but when your body tells you to relax, do it. Take breaks, watch a movie, read books, nap, do your favorite hobby and just love on yourself. The responsibilities will still be there when you get done, and we all work better without stress.

Seek out community

Being in a new environment can be incredible, but it can also bring upon a lot of stress and new opportunities to explore the world. And for many of you, this will be your first time living away from your family and support system. It is very important for you to find a community of people who share your goals, beliefs and dreams so that you can have a new support system. This is especially important for Christians. When I was in college, I was blessed to be apart of not only on-campus Bible studies, but apart of ministries in local churches. These groups of women (and sometimes men) helped me through some difficult times and helped me to keep strong faith in Jesus. Seek out community groups, small groups, on-campus Bible studies or even organizations on your school’s campus to be apart of because no man (or woman) is an island.

GPA, GPA, GPA! 

This one is so important, I had to say it three times. GPA. Also known as Grade Point Average. Also known as a major determining factor for your life after college. Many people who attend college think that social time is what matters most at the beginning. Staying out late, attending social events and hanging out with friends. Now realistically, most people will do this while in school, but it’s very important to keep your priorities straight. Your first year’s GPA will determine whether you spend the next three years working to maintain it or working to pull it up. As college goes on, classes only get harder and your responsibilities become greater. Also, many scholarships depend on your GPA. In the state of Georgia, students who maintain a 3.0 average and meet some other requirements can go to state schools with tuition and books covered. This could be the difference between paying thousands of dollars in students loans when you graduate, or being able to immediately do the things you love after graduation, like traveling, buying a home or starting a family. College is not high school and your grades now have financial implications so take things seriously.

Safety first 

When you get to college, there will be a lot of changes for you, especially if you live away from your parent’s home. If this is the case, it means that your safety will no longer be something your parents can guarantee. You will need to make choices that help you to stay as safe as possible. Here are¬†a few ways to stay safe.

Traveling and transportation. If you find yourself in a situation with friends who are ever unable to drive, do not ride with them. The same goes for times where you may be on campus and don’t feel safe walking home alone. There are many options available for transportation that are much safer. Whether it be calling a ride from Uber or Lyft, or even contacting Campus Security for a police escort (a service you pay for). Think about the implications of your choices and if taking a chance is really worth it.¬†

Social settings. If you find yourself out and about in a social setting where food and drinks are out, which is common, be very careful about leaving drinks out. Recently I saw a thread of tweets on Twitter from a pastor who shared his story of having his drink drugged. This is not something that only happens to women; it can happen to anyone. Be aware of your surroundings and for added safety, go everywhere in groups as much as possible. 

Intimate settings. This last section is probably the most difficult for me to write about because it is so extremely important. College is a place where many people will live without physical boundaries. ¬†As a believer in Jesus Christ, I will always advocate living a sex-less, abstinent lifestyle until marriage. I believe that this is God’s will for our lives and serves to protect us from heartache, pregnancy, diseases and emotional ties, until we are united with a spouse. This is, in my opinion, the best way to experience life and love. And as someone who has been abstinent for many years, I am very much looking forward to experiencing this intimacy with my soon-t0-be husband¬†next year after our wedding. Everyone does not believe this or subscribe to this belief system so I will say the following: if you find yourself desiring¬†to be intimate with another person and you make that very important choice, please protect yourself. It does not matter if someone looks healthy or clean, and it does not matter if they tell you they are STD-free. Never engage in any sexual act unless you are using protection.¬†The emotional connections created from sex can be broken with the blood of Jesus, but the physical implications can be much harder to erase.¬†

I hope that this post has been helpful and I pray that it reaches every student who needs to read it. College will be an incredible season of growth for you, but it all depends on choices.¬†Please be wise. ūüôā¬†If you are heading to college, please share on your favorite piece of advice in the Comments section. If you have already been to college, please share a piece of advice you would give to new college students in the Comments section.

All the best,

Brittany