The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

What can YOU do to Help the Gulf? June 23, 2010

Filed under: activism,bicycle,green angst,Lifestyle,sustainability,Tips — Alden @ 4:43 pm
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Are you pissed? Of course you are! When something like this happens, our first inclinations is to just boycott the offending company. Sounds easy right? Just don’t fill your tank at BP. Punish the bastards for their lax safety standards, their laughable contingency plan, their outrageous hubris, their lies about the extent of the oil spill, and even now, their bullying of reporters who have been trying to cover the damn thing.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds to vote with your dollar, not when it comes to BP. As this WSJ article points out, BP’s profit from their stations is just a sliver of their overall billions. Who you really hurt when you boycott their station, are the independent dealers who have long term contracts with the company. And even when you bypass a BP and pull into a Chevron. Guess what? You still might be buying BP oil. It’s all mixed up together and delivered wherever. So much for consumer power.

So what can you actually do to stand up for the pelicans, your grandparents down in Florida, and a better future? Stop buying oil!

Whoa, whoa. Stop buying oil? My goodness that’s impossible!

OK, yes, in the next fifty years, it is impossible to completely get away from gas. But you can try to reduce your consumption. If the average American drove 4.2 miles less a day, we wouldn’t even need offshore drilling. How about that? Only 4.2 miles less a day. You know what that is?

It’s renting a bike at the beach this summer, instead of driving back and forth from your house to the waves. (Bikes make me happy!)

It’s designating one day a week as errand day, and planning accordingly, instead of making lots of little trips. (So much nicer!)

It’s vacationing at the beach that is two hours away, instead of all the way down South. (Screw road trips. Give me the beach NOW.)

It’s skipping the taxi and taking the subway, or better yet, commuting by bike. (Taxis are annoying anyway. Stop honking already!)

It’s picking up your friend(s) on the way to a party and leaving together. (It’s what the popular people do, don’t you know?)

It’s using Netflix instead of going out for a movie. (That sh** is overpriced anyway.)

It’s cooking your own meal at home, with lit candles, instead of eating out. (Now THAT is romantic.)

It’s going out on a sailboat instead of a motor boat or jet skis.

Such little things! Yet they could make a difference. And guess where all these little things are taking you? More time with friends and family, and less time alone in your sad deathbox. Oops, I meant SUV.

You can also use less plastic. Buy glass containers instead of plastic, and buy in bulk. I just love the look of a pretty pantry full of jars, instead of torn boxes and bags. I, for one, wash and reuse my cutlery and work everyday. It’s the little things, y’all.

In the long term, this obviously won’t be enough. We need the infrastructure as a country to support biking, walking, and taking the train, for healthy, fun neighborhoods. But until then, why don’t you get a little exercise in? That bike path is looking pretty good, eh?

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Terribly Beautiful June 21, 2010

Filed under: green angst — Alden @ 8:53 pm
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[via The Guardian]

 

How to Survive a Weekend-Long Assault by Conservatives June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend: The first good beach weekend of the year. An opportunity, thanks to employers who give a half day or the whole day off on Friday, to escape the city and its 90-degree, gritty air for a fresh breeze and fresh seafood.

For this Clean Hippie, it was also an exercise in restraint.

For the weekend I was invited to Cape Cod by my friend John, along with five others. His parents have ramshackle house on a private beach in Orleans, surrounded by a few acres of woods. It was a perfect place for seven people to try to relive their college days. (That means being loud and inappropriate, in case you’re wondering.)

Anyway, knowing the people who were invited, I KNEW going in that I should avoid politics completely. I didn’t want a repeat of last year, when I got completely frustrated with John over his pro-big business views. Well, John is a Green Peace activist compared to some of the people who were there.

John gave me fair warning before I left. “Just to let you know, the three people you are riding up with are very conservative, and very un-pc,” he told me. The implication? Don’t rock the boat.

Friday I left work at 1 and took the train up to South Norwalk in Connecticut , where I was supposed to be picked up. When I came out of the station into the parking lot, I saw a red SUV come around the corner. “Alden!” yelled the passenger, leaning out the window. I waved and it pulled up in front of me. Drew, the driver and John’s friend from high school, got out to open the trunk for me. Drew would prove to be the quiet one of the bunch, a sort of observer to our rantings. In the front seat was Travis, Drew’s coworker. I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name, so I created the mnemonic “Travesty.”  Let’s just call him large and in charge, and leave it at that. I climbed in the back seat with Travesty’s girlfriend Erin, a pretty brunette.

“We’ve been circling the parking lot for like ten minutes,” she told me. Every time we came around, Travis would yell ‘Alden! Alden? Alllden…’ to every girl that came out front. And then Drew was like, ‘Oh, I think I have her number. Let me call her.’ We were like ‘Oh, NOW you tell us.”

One thing I love about long weekends like this with a group of people, is that by the end of your time together, you have at least five inside jokes that get repeated over and over. One of them for Cape Cod was a sort of impromptu celebration of my name, where everyone would just start saying “Alden? Alllden. Alden!” Great ego boost.

So obviously I took John’s advice really seriously, and about an hour into our trip, I saw the news on my phone that BP’s Top Kill strategy might be working. (Of course it failed later.) I piped up with the news. “I don’t see what the big deal is,” Travesty said. It’s leaking, what, 4,000 barrels a day? I mean, that’s not much in the grand scheme of things.”

“Actually,” I said, “it’s about 40,000 barrels a day.”

“Yeah, she’s right, Travis,” Drew said.

“Ok, whatever. I mean, the Georgia Aquarium alone has over 3 million gallons just in its tanks.” (Actually it has 8 million. But who’s quibbling?) There’s so much water in the gulf, will it really affect anything?”

“Travis, honey,” Erin ventured. “It’s already washing up on the shores.”

“Yeah.” I sputtered. “It’s already coating birds and keeping them from flying.”

“Eh well. I mean it’s not that bad. They just showed a hippie cleaning a seal with a toothbrush on TV, and now everyone is all upset. Come on. You know how many seals there are out there?” Obviously Travis was not yet aware that I call myself a Clean Hippie. Well, he would find out.

We all offered some more feeble explanations of how bad it is, but in the end it degenerated into jokes about how God seems to hate New Orleans.I mean, how hard did I want to fight Travesty about this? He obviously has his mind made up about how he wants to view the world, and that is through the lens of “Me is important. Other, not so much.” That includes seals and the Gulf of Mexico, apparently.

It was a nicely timed incident, coming on the heals of my reading a chapter in Happiness Hypothesis on how we have self serving biases. Apparently, when you are talking to people other than judges, they make decisions not rationally by considering all facts but by choosing a position that feels right and then casting around for facts to support that position. When they find a fact, they stop searching.

So how did I get through this weekend? I had to contend with perfect weather – a Cape record high of 75 and sunny, mojitos, free beer, a trip to a local favorite bar with a live band, and delicious seafood. It was hard, let me tell you.

It’s actually funny how little I have changed since my trip to the Cape last summer. Back then I lamented in my post about not sticking to my no-processed-food guns, and eating lobster rolls and fried seafood. Whoops, did it again!

Hey, I’m irrational just like anyone else. I know that factory farming sucks, both for me and the animal, yet when I see maple-drizzled little piggy sausages and bacon, how can I resist? I’m working on it. Are you tired of my guilt ridden posts on eating consciously yet?

When our little group got there on Friday, we were greeted by John, his friend TJ, and Ryan from W&L, both of whom I’ve metbefore. We packed a cooler with beer, threw it in the back of TJ’s huge SUV, and drove the half mile to the beach where we walked out over the dunes to the water. It was a cool, windy night, and Erin and I shivered as the boys tried to get the fire started. Their solution to the sputtering flames? Lots and lots of lighter fluid.

“I’m not going anywhere near those fumes y’all,” I said.

“Whatever, it’ll burn off,” one of the boys said.

I had found an old brown knit cap with a poof on the top and a brim and had pulled it on my head. “Boy, do you look like a hippie now,” John said. I gave him a grin as I wrapped my arms around myself and edged away from the petroleum scented smoke coming from the pit. But once the fire was good and roaring, we settled in for a couple hours of laughing and talking with only the sound of the waves as our soundtrack. I went to bed early that night when we got back, exhausted from the workweek and the long drive up. I could still hear the laughter and calls drifting up from the basement where everyone was playing beerpong, through the thin floor to me as I fell asleep.

The next morning I woke up at nine feeling rested and refreshed. I poured myself a glass of water and wandered out onto the back porch, where the sun rose in a yellow orb above the dunes. I was greeted by a chorus of birdsong and a soft breeze. Inspired, I popped inside for a beach towel and laid it down on the porch. I stood at the edge facing east, and went through the first yoga series, appropriately called “Sun Salutation.” I was stiff, but I quickly loosened in cool air as I stretched and moved through my positions. I never do yoga by myself, but it was a perfect hour for it. By the time I heard people moving around and talking inside I was feeling limber so I joined everyone for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast.

We spent the day at the beach, naturally. The water in Cape Cod is numbingly cold, but I’m a big believer in the therapeutic properties of salt water, so I finally screwed up the courage, let out a banshee yell and sprinted into the water, plunging headfirst into the waves. I was numb when I emerged, but feeling good. We actually saw little groups of seals pass by. “Someone should get Alden a toothbrush,” Travesty quipped. Thanks dude.

When the idea popped into our heads Saturday night that we should go to the bar, all of us were several beers in. The boys had been playing a frisbee game called Kan Jam in the fading light while the girls, including John’s cousin Anne who had just joined us, perched on the railing to watch. Every once in a while one of they guys would shout, “Nancy! Beer me!” and I would toss a Bud Light to them. (They called me Nancy after Nancy Pelosi.)

After yanking on some presentable clothing, we went to Land Ho, where we all ordered draught beers. That is, except for Travesty. He walked over to us carrying a martini with three olives with such a serious “I’m James Bond” look on his face I barely contained my laughter. Especially since just an hour before he had been wrestling with the other guys in a cross between a drunk bear and a sumo wrestler.

Someone ordered tequila shots for everyone. We tossed them back and I quickly bit down on my lime with a shudder. As I pulled it from my mouth, I heard a cough and felt a thick spray of tequila on my face.

I turned to see where it had come from, and there stood Travesty gazing at me with what only can be described as no expression at all. “What the hell is wrong with you??” I yelled at him, totally losing my zen.

“Woah, Alden,” Erin said. “He didn’t mean it.”

“Uh, can someone hand me a napkin?” an unfortunate bystander said. Behind me, another girl who the boys had been chatting up at the bar stormed off, yelling about tequila on her face.

Meanwhile, Erin and Travesty had exited the bar. I didn’t find out until later that Erin was outside bawling, she was so upset at my reaction. Whoops. Travesty came in later and apologized, and I accepted his apology. I didn’t dwell on it, instead launching myself onto the dance floor with Ryan for another hour.

When we got back to the house we heated up queso for some chips which we ate out on the back porch. Our conversation degenerated into an argument about whether Americans are too stupid to decide what to feed themselves.

If Travesty showed an enormous amount of ignorance, TJ boasted an enormous reservoir of facts and figures about the ridiculousness of unions, the percentage of crimes in Arizona that are attributed to Hispanics, the number of jobs lost versus gained by shifts to a greener economy, and on and on and on. Smart kid. His arguments were convincing, even if the logic seemed to be all off. I struggled, knowing my own biases, to give his arguments for Arizona’s new law a fair shake. TJ did not return the favor, instead he would all but stop up his ears and say “Lalala, I can’t hear liberals!”

One point of contention was the impending soda tax and the ban on salt in NYC restaurants. I think the ban on salt is stupid. The reason Americans eat too much sodium is that they eat too much processed foods.  But anyway, even though I told TJ this over and over, “Yes, TJ, I agree with you. Yes, it’s stupid,” he still couldn’t get it through his skull that I’m not a crazy liberal who kowtows to every Democratic initiative. He also didn’t believe me when I told him that a cheeseburger is cheaper in this country than a head of broccoli. I tried to abbreviate Michael Pollan’s argument about corn subsidies, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with TJ. He literally said, “I don’t believe you.” My goodness.

John repeatedly entreated me to “Just let it go.” And Travesty stood up in anger and told me I should just move to Europe if I hate America so much. (The next day he would argue that landfills are good because they create jobs.) Drew just shook his head at me, Don’t bother. I looked down at the chip dripping with yellow fake cheese in my hand, set it down, and retreated inside to a corner of the living room. I sat, reading another chapter of Happiness Hypothesis about the Buddhist exhortation to break worldly attachments. That nothing is really that important. Man, that book is good. As I read I felt my heart rate slow, I relaxed into the old crocheted chair. The book also extolls the wonderful effects of meditation on happiness, so I decided I needed to meditate as soon as possible. Finally, with my calm restored, I got up and went to bed. I still had the icky, hypocritical taste of chips and queso in my mouth though.

The next morning I got up with a new resolve. I set myself up on the back porch again to do yoga, and when I finished, I sat cross-legged and meditated for 15 minutes, listening to bird song, feeling the warm sun on my face, and repeating the words “Gratitude” to myself. What shouldn’t I be grateful for? How could I let a couple of die-hard conservatives ruin such a beautiful weekend? At the end of my meditation, I felt completely reset and refreshed, and ready for a day at the beach, with or without political rants. Most everyone else went to get a huge breakfast at a diner, but I opted to stay behind, having discovered all the ingredients for a smoothie were already in the fridge and freezer. Score!

We spent another day at the beach, getting nice and brown/red under the warm Cape sun and dunking ourselves in the water. I just wanted to wash the tequila out of my hair, to be honest. At one point, as I laid on the beach with TJ, Erin, Ryan, and Drew, and Ryan, the political debate started up again. I engaged for a couple minutes, then just gave up. TJ continued to cite examples of democratic stupidity. “He’s still going, isn’t he?” I mumbled to Ryan 15 minutes later.

“I heard that,” TJ said from his beach chair. He went back to ranting to Erin and Drew. I just sighed and flipped over, staring at the blue sky above.

For dinner we went to Arnold’s, a fried seafood mecca. I opted for steamers, fried Maryland Oysters, and a diet soda. I took three sips of the soda and dumped it. It didn’t even taste good to me anymore. Despite that small moment of lucidity, by the time I was done stuffing my face with fried food, I felt sick. Everyone was so lethargic when we got back, we all passed out by 10 pm.

The next day I woke up at 6:30 in the morning. Ryan joined me on the porch, quietly sipping coffee and gazing out at the shore while I went through my Sun Salutation, and then he good-naturedly agreed to meditate with me for ten minutes. I thought that was really nice of him. I completed my perfect morning with another homemade smoothie, and a refreshing shower in the outdoors in a little wooden and slate stall John’s dad built.

Overall I would say it was a good weekend, despite all the contention. I feel rested and restored, and – most importantly – brown from the sun. I shook hands with Travesty when he left, though I wouldn’t say we are going to be friends. I gave Erin and Drew a hug goodbye, and I’m now finally Facebook friends with TJ. My opinion of Ryan and John soared, as they seemed to be sane voices among the crazy. They may not be liberals, but at least they seemed to have brains.

And that, my friends, is how I survived a weekend among the enemy.

Bonus: the funniest video ever that was our weekend soundtrack. You better believe we did the Fork in the Garbage Disposal over and over.

 

UGH I’m never taking a Taxi Again. EVER. May 28, 2010

Last weekend I booked a bus down to Baltimore to visit the fam. It was scheduled to leave at 7:15 from Penn Station, so I left work at 6:15, went up to my apartment, and got my stuff together to go.

Usually I’m a pretty on-the-ball sort of gal, but for some reason I found myself being pretty spacey. I poured myself some juice and thoughtfully drank it while looking at the skyline out of my apartment window. I gazed about my room, checking for anything I forgot. I took some time to pet Matteo. I mean, how could I not? He’s so adorable when he dumps himself on the floor and looks at me for a belly rub. By the time I got out the door, it was 6:50. Ack!

The definition of insanity is trying something over and over and expecting to get a different result. Well, obviously I’m insane. I’ve had this idea in my head that taxis are faster. That if I’m late, I should just wave my hand at a cab and go. Why do I think this? Taxis always end up getting snarled in traffic, and because they are snarled in traffic, they end up costing you at least six times as much as taking the subway.

Anyway, taking a taxi seems like it’s so much easier, especially when you have a suitcase, a garment bag, and a big tote to contend with. So I waved my arm at a taxi, dumped my stuff in the back, and climbed in. “33rd and 7th Avenue, please.” I pulled my new sunglasses (post about those coming!) down over my eyes and opened up my kindle on my iPhone to read.

The traffic started almost immediately. Fifteen minutes later and we were still in the 70’s. I tried to be zen and just read, but it was getting close. At the 60’s, it was past 7:00. At Columbus circle, the young Indian driver said, “Can I drop you off at Times Square?”

“Times Square? Uh, that’s nine blocks from my destination. No. You can’t.”

“Well, it’s just that Time’s Square is now closed to traffic, so I will have to go around.”

I looked at him for a moment, supremely annoyed at him and New York City. I was mad at what in the moment I perceived at his idiocy – hello, why not tell me this earlier? I was mad at New York traffic (caused by all the people who were in all the other taxis). And I was mad at NYC for putting in the pedestrian area at Times Square.  And then it clicked. If I had been looking in at my predicament from the outside, I would have clucked and said, “You stupid fossil-fuel burning, environment trasher. You wouldn’t have this problem if you had taken the subway. Serves you right that you have to go around one of the best initiatives New York City has done in a while. Maybe next time you’ll avoid a cab.” In short, I was being a total hypocrite.

I was still annoyed though.

“Let me off here,” I ordered. “No, here. I mean pull over. Like, now.”

The taxi cab driver seemed confused, but managed to make it to the curb. I jumped out to grab my stuff and leaned in to hand him some money.

“Excuse me,” he started.

I looked at him. “Yeah?”

“You, uh, you look,” he gestured at his face, “very pretty with your, uh,”

“I’M LATE.”

“Sorry,” he said, withdrawing. I slammed the door and marched away to the subway. I immediately felt bad. That poor guy was just trying to give me a compliment, and here I was, being a typical New York biotch. That is not me.

So I am not going to take a taxi again. I know it’s going to be hard. At three in the morning, after I’ve been drinking and my eyelids are closing, there is nothing I want more than someone to drop  me off at my front door. But taxis not only spew carbon, they honk all the time, they play a game of chicken with pedestrians and cyclists and other taxis, and they make the air in New York taste like grit. Not to mention the unnecessary expense of paying $20 to go fifty blocks when you could pay $2.50.

After I got on the subway and took it three stops to Penn Station, I just barely made my bus, thank goodness. No more taxis for Alden!

 

Did you actually think Horizon Organic Milk was a family owned farm? May 14, 2010

Filed under: Food,green angst — Alden @ 3:25 pm

Here’s a nifty breakdown of which giant food processors own your favorite organic snackies. Interesting, right?

 

Two shopping trips a year? Impressive. April 26, 2010

Filed under: green angst,Green fashion — Alden @ 10:54 pm

The lovely lady over at The Zero Waste home describes her amazing efforts to keep her closet minimal. She puts my pithy little closet clean out to shame! She shops only twice a year, owns only 6 pairs of shoes… it really is inspiring. Let’s be clear, it does take a little bit of work. She goes to the library beforehand to look at fashion magazines and get a sense of what she wants, and also keeps an excel sheet of everything she’s worn out and needs to replace in the past 6 months.

Would you ever be able to do this?

 

Seeking Pleasure is a Losing Proposition April 11, 2010

Filed under: green angst,shoutout,Tips — Alden @ 5:06 pm
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Elephant Journal is one of my favorite blogs. Even if you don’t practice yoga, it’s packed with insightful articles that urge you to live more mindfully. If you don’t hear that word often, “mindful,” you might take it literally: heedful, conscious. But in the yoga sense of the word, it means slowing down to enjoy the moment, makes choices thoughtfully, appreciating the joy and beauty that is in your life everyday.

I succumb to pleasure often, especially when it comes to food. I love tasty things, and often scarf down chocolate without savoring it. So I think I – and most Americans – could benefit from a careful reading of this article, which I’ve edited down here for you:

We all have desires for pleasures that are always enticing us… But we don’t have enough time and money to pursue them all. We think that if we have enough money, we will pursue all pleasures, fulfill all our desires and be happy. But interestingly, the pleasures are innumerable and never get over.  The number of pizzas we can consume is only limited by our stomach, not by the taste buds or pizza makers.

We don’t consume, we are consumed.

Desires never get over by pursuing them, but only by our conscious effort to get over them. Sure, if you eat five mega-size pizzas in one sitting, you may seem to have gotten over it. Or maybe not! It is your stomach rebelling, the tongue could still have had more of the taste! The desire never subsides on its own.

Desires are like the fire, the more ghee (butter) of pleasures you put in it, the stronger it grows. All the addicts of the world (addicted to anything – ice-cream, alcohol, drugs, sex, work, limelight …) will tell you that…

Read the rest here.