Friday, September 28, 2007


I just had to share this video, even though it's totally bootleg and filmed from a camcorder in front of a TV. I loved Rocko's Modern Life when I was a kid.

So I work in an office building in midtown Manhattan and we don't recycle. I hate it. Think about it: what is the majority of garbage created in an office building? PAPER! Easily recyclable paper! I asked the building manager and he said there is no program in place. So I emailed accounts payable, just to be sure that we're not paying for a program that we're not using.

I often work until 7 or 8 in the evening, so I'm here when the cleaning lady comes and I can verify that all the garbage, even the recyclables goes in the same trash bag. I'm not ok with this.

So I'm going to see if I can start a recycling program for my building. It's 2007! Shouldn't this be mandatory? Updates on my progress to follow.

And now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Toss our throw-away culture

Check this article from the Toronto Star. It's worth a full read. Reporter Tyler Hamilton cuts right to our wasteful lunch habits in the first paragraph. Plastic utensils, styrofoam to-go boxes, paper bags all languishing in the garbage, destined for the landfil because we're too lazy to pack our lunch.

Since I work in Manhattan, I started bringing my lunch because I was hemorrhaging cash by buying everyday. Now I get the added bonus of producing less waste with my PBJ along with the $10/day saved.

But it's not just lunch leftovers that are causing our landfils to overflow. It's pretty much everything we buy. Think about it - is all that flashy packaging really necessary? NO. So it's worth it to write a letter or call the companies that you purchase from regularly and complain about the packaging. Chances are, all that plastic and styrofoam is costing them a lot of money as well. As Hamilton puts it, "Kids toys are the worst – an endless struggle with plastic film, polystyrene foam and plastic ties, all tightly glued, stapled and knotted to a recyclable cardboard structure that's so mangled in the end it never reaches a blue box." He even goes one step further to suggest that legislation to limit the percentage of packaging in product volume should be considered. And I think that's awesome.

If you're looking for something to write your representative about, why not start with this?

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Write your representative

OK, I admit it: I've never written to my representatives in Congress. I don't even know who my rep is in the House (although, to be fare, I did just move). It's just not something I thought about doing. This Consumerist post was just what I needed to hear. It makes it so easy to just grab a pen and write your rep. I mean, how are they supposed to know what we want if we don't tell them?

"Members of Congress work for you. Without your votes, they won't stay in office. They go to great lengths to cultivate a positive relationship with you, their boss. Very few people take the time to write to a Member of Congress, so the few that do carry a disproportionate influence.

Fifteen minutes is well worth the time to influence a $2 trillion enterprise."

Oh and by the way, you can find your representative in the House here and in the Senate here.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The idea of limited energy

In my job, I have to read a LOT - magazines, newspapers, online news services - you name it. It's actually what helped me decide to begin this blog and try to change the way I live my life because for the first time, I was spending a significant amount of time every day learning about what's going on in the world. And while I definitely do recommend getting a subscription to a newsweekly like Time or Newsweek and catching the evening news when you get the chance, no one should have to spend as much time as I do with mass media. Yowza.

ANYWAY, in my daily media deluge, I came across this article on MSN. It's a pretty straightforward way for people (especially the car-owning, suburban type) to use less energy. Here is an excerpt:

"I’ve found it helpful to think of my energy use like I think of money — there’s a limited amount of it, and I have to plan how I’m going to use it. Should I mow the lawn this week? Maybe it can wait until next week. How can I make my trip to town go as far as possible? Budget your energy and see how well you’ve done at the end of the week. It’s best to judge by kilowatts used and gallons of gasoline consumed. At the beginning of the week check the meter and your gasoline gauge and then record the use from there."

I've never really thought about it like this before, but I guess I've been doing little things like this for a while. It started in college, when I had like no money and needed to make everythink last longer. My old rule of washing my jeans after each wearing was quickly forgotten and I started using the same drinking glass all day long (rinsing after each use, obvs) instead of getting a new one each time I got thirsty.

The section on sharing is a particularly good one. Get more done in less time by relying on friends and neighbors. When I had a car, I crammed my friends inside for a grocery store/beer run and we all got what we needed. When I no longer had a car, my friends returned the favor.

It's not so hard to make nice with our planet. One little change precedes the next, at least that's the hope anyway.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Let's get specific

Being a good human is not something I can accomplish immediately. In fact, I don't know if I can ever classify myself as "good" without sounding pretentious. So instead I'm striving to be a better human than I currently am. This is what I will do to get there:

Be Nice.
Sometimes I'm a bitch. That's not ok. I'm going to hold my tongue more often and be polite to strangers and send flowers to my grandmother. People appreciate niceness.

Go One Step Further.
That's part of this blog's purpose. Discovering new worthwile goals and writing about them is not the same as doing them. Yes, I recycle, but I can just as easily reduce what I use in the first place and make even more of an impact. Sure, I dropped some change in that homeless woman's cup the other day, but I'm not at the food pantry doling out green beans to the people waiting in line.

Appreciate the Goodness in Others.
I can't and certainly don't want to do it all alone. Finding examples will help me figure out what I can do. Like that One Laptop Per Child program. That's pretty cool.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, however, I think it's a pretty good start.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Charity begins at home

Charity is important. Giving to those in need feels good. But I have some misgivings about charitable giving. Like why the hell are there so damn many charities in the first place? I can't even figure out what issues matter most to me, let alone which organizations I want to give to.

I used to send $20/month to Greenpeace, but I recently stopped because I have no idea what my donations were being used to finance. What does Greenpeace actually do?

So here's a goal: find a charity whose endeavors I believe in and donate as much as I can. The second part is going to be hard because I'm fresh out of college and my living room furniture consists of a chair, but I know that comparatively, I'm way better off than most.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

A Brief History of Labor Day

Labor Day, aka The Last Real Weekend of the Summer, never used to be about heading down to the shore and having a barbeque. For a really interesting, in-depth look, check out this article from Forbes. Here's the Reader's Digest version from the History Channel Website:

"On May 11, 1894, workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago struck to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. They sought support from their union led by Eugene V. Debs and on June 26 the American Railroad Union called a boycott of all Pullman railway cars. Within days, 50,000 rail workers complied and railroad traffic out of Chicago came to a halt. On July 4, President Grover Cleveland dispatched troops to Chicago. Much rioting and bloodshed ensued, but the government's actions broke the strike and the boycott soon collapsed. Debs and three other union officials were jailed for disobeying the injunction. The strike brought worker's rights to the public eye and Congress declared, in 1894, that the first Monday in September would be the holiday for workers, known as Labor Day."

I think it's interesting that the entire country has forgotten about what Labor Day is really about, especially since worker injustices just keep piling up even today. Do you shop at Wal-Mart? STOP IT. I haven't shopped there in years, and not just because there isn't one in New York City. Check out this website and watch this movie if you don't know what I'm talking about. Ugh this deserves a special post all to itself.

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Saturday, September 1, 2007

What it's all about

Of all the titles I carry, (girlfriend, sister, renter, etc.) the one I want to be better at is Human. I spend a lot of time trying to make my own life better and sometimes, usually when I'm lying awake at night, it hits me that I'm not doing anything to make anyone else's life better.

I'm not ok with that.

So what do I do about it? Well I plan to do a lot about it. I'm kinda fuzzy on the details right now, and that's ok, because I'll work it out as I go. This blog comes in as a sort of motivational tool. I would definitely feel like a tool if I come in here with big aspirations about changing the world and then don't do anything worth posting about. Public shame is a pretty good motivator, I guess. Plus, if I'm a better human, then it stands to reason that I'll be a better everything else, right?

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