The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

For a Green Apartment in NYC – Check out Green Depot August 4, 2010

After my lovely farmers market cooking class on Sunday, I had the afternoon to waste and it occurred to me it was a perfect opportunity to check out the Green Depot.

And…. there goes my budget for the month. How could I get so excited about a place that sells paint, cleaning supplies, building supplies, and baby stuff? I don’t know, but I did.

I needed to figure out why I keep killing my herbs, so I bought a guide called Organic Crops in Pots. I wanted to learn more about running our itty-bitty household in a green way, so I bought make your place, an adorable, bite-size, hand-written treasure trove of recipes for face-wash, cleaners, salves, and even natural pain relief. I wanted to find a better way to mark my herbs (once I succeed in raising them) than plastic spoons, so I bought adorable up-cycled markers made from vintage silverware. I wanted to be able to keep the outlet in my room off as much as possible, save energy, and get off the coal-powered grid just a little bit, so I bought a solar-powered battery pack that will charge up during the day, and charge up my phone at night as I sleep. I wanted to figure out what to do about my brand new organic white sheets, which are rapidly becoming a casualty of hot NYC nights. (Read: I sweat a lot. TMI? Whatever.) so I bought Oxy-boost for my laundry, in lieu of bleach. I wanted to tackle our pre-war bathroom without using that caustic stuff, Comet, so I had a long discussion with Patricia and she recommended Green Depot’s own bathroom cleaner, whose bottle I can refill over and over because they have it “on tap.” Finally, I wanted to figure out what to do about all the food scraps we toss in the garbage every week. So I picked up a guide to composting in NYC, and will be carefully considering my options in the next month. (Compost in the apartment? Drop it off at a garden? Give up?) In case I decide to go forward with it, they have the most classic and un-hippie-like compost pales in silver and white.

I walked away with a $147 bill, I’m not kidding. The most expensive item by far was the solar-powered charger, at $55. Was it worth it? Ehhhh, maybe. If I turn off my electricity except when I’m running the air conditioning or my hair dryer, I could probably make up the difference within a few months. Also, it’s just cool.

When I left, I walked west from Green Depot’s spot on Bowery, and found myself smack dab in the middle of the Soho shopping district, where every store front is filled with dresses, purses, and shoes. “Don’t look don’t look don’t look don’t look,” I told myself. “Just make it through without stepping in a store.”

I made it through ok. But what does it say about my priorities that I will pay $150 for herb-growing supplies, solar powered chargers, and green cleaning supplies, but not a cute dress? (Which, by the way, I have far too many of.) I think it says my priorities are firmly in the right place.

 

A Country Wedding July 16, 2010

My friend Irene is an amazing woman.

When we were in high school, while I was off spending my whole allowance on Abercrombie clothes, Irene would head over to Goodwill on the first Saturday of every month, it being the 50% off day and all. That just blew my mind – Goodwill is cheap enough, but half off too?? And she would put together the cutest outfits from all that junk.

Fast forward five years and Irene is getting married. No wedding planner for this girl – she’s got a huge network of family in friends all living within 20 minutes, and she took full advantage. She had a family member take the pictures, another do hair and makeup, another bake the wedding cake, and another bake cupcakes. She designed her own invitations, save the dates, and programs, and had her sister who works at Kinkos print them up. She even put out matching Sodoku, word search, and Mad Libs with the programs at the service. We had a great time filling in the Mad Libs with dirty words for Irene and Anthony to enjoy later.

After the wedding everyone drove out to the Jorden farm, where friends on four wheelers directed parking. The pouring rain from the morning had eased somewhat, and all the ladies had changed into flip flops and the men into short sleeved shirts and shorts. It was a good thing it was casual too, my hair was a hot mess in the humidity.

Having green as the color scheme made everything easier too. At midnight the night before the wedding, a band of friends and family were hanging green lanterns from the ceiling of the tent and cutting greenery from the side of the road to put in the vases. A family friend stayed up until four AM early in the week hand peeling tomatoes for the salsa. Family and friends even stole all the chairs from a firehouse and classrooms around the town (to be returned, I’m assuming) and covered them with white covers. The tables had green burlap sack. My favorite part, of course, were the mason jars Irene had been slowly collecting over the months. I used mine over and over – first for beer, then for alcoholic snow cones, then for wine, then for liquor.

At the edge of the tents was a home made corn hole game that kept the kids and the grownups alike busy. As night descended over the farm, fireworks smuggled up from South Carolina exploded in the sky. The tables were put away and in their place popped up a mini city of tents.

Two of the boys grabbed their guitars from home and plugged them at the barn to jam out. We finished the night sitting around, sipping beer, reminiscing about high school and dancing like hippies to guitar riffs.

I don’t think Irene had sustainability in mind at her wedding. After all, it was catered by a delicious but conventional barbecue joint, and there were plenty of plastic cups and styrene plates available from the caterers and beer trailer. (That’s right, there was a beer trailer. MADNESS.)

But even if she wasn’t actually thinking “What is the most eco-friendly way to pull this off?” I still consider it mykind of wedding: hand-made, thoughtful, and genuine. It wasn’t pretentious, or wasteful, or extravagant. As usual, Irene looked at her budget and created her way around it with joy and laughter. All anyone could say was “That was a really good wedding.”

Congratulations Irene!

 

Here Come the Hipsters! June 28, 2010

I didn’t really know much about hipsters until I moved to New York, but this slick graphic summarizes them quite nicely.

[via Ffffound!]

 

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

Filed under: activism,bicycle,green angst,Lifestyle,sustainability,Tips — Alden @ 4:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

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?

 

Oil is the problem. Is B-Cycle the solution? June 18, 2010

 

Rain rain go away, come again anoth- oh, f*** it. June 11, 2010

Filed under: bicycle,Lifestyle,New York — Alden @ 7:54 pm
Tags: , , , ,

“If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain….”

Yesterday I woke up at 6 am with a slight hangover. The night before I went on a charity cruise with my friend who works at Deutsche Bank. (Think: a lot of bankers and their girlfriends and wives, drinking too much) Good times had by all, but I might have drank a bit much.

The forecast said cool and foggy, but it wasn’t raining anymore. My bike was still at work, so I decided, why not? I gulped down some water, stuffed some clothes in my backpack, strapped it securely on my back, and set off on a jog down to work. It was only four miles, though jogging with a backpack takes some getting used to. I’ve seen other people doing it before on my ride home and wanted to try it.

I jogged past my usual turnaround point and down a path I had never seen before that curved an arc out over the water in a sort of bridge, then through some beautiful landscape work with roses and tall grasses. I decided I would definitely do it again next time I had left my bike at work. Why ever take the subway?

When I finished up with work at the end of the day, I popped down to the gym to pull on a pair of shorts underneath my t-shirt dress (don’t want to flash the masses!) grabbed my helmet, and went to the garage to get my bike.

As I unlocked it from the rack, I looked up to see the first fat drops of rain streaking the window. It took me about 3 seconds to decide that I would ride home anyway. I didn’t have an umbrella, and I wasn’t about to take a taxi, so either way I would get soaked. The night before I had taken a taxi because I needed to run home and change before the cruise, and the traffic was a royal pain. So I strapped on my helmet and wheeled out into rain.

At first I shivered as the drops came faster and faster and  I waited for the light to change at the West Side Highway. I kept my bike far away from the street so I could avoid puddles being splashed up from the cars moving past.

Once I crossed the street, though, things got pleasant. There were plenty of other cyclists and joggers out and I warmed up as I pedaled north past the piers. My t-shirt dress was already pushing it a little as far as being see-through, but now I – along with plenty of other female joggers – were engaged in a full on wet t-shirt contest. Luckily we all had on sports bras too. Sorry boys.

The bike path home from work takes me under the highway overpass for about a half mile, which gave me a reprieve from the rain. Usually it’s just cyclists, but today there were plenty of pedestrians standing underneath: joggers fiddling with their iPods, a young guy leaning against one of the huge columns smoking a cigarette, a middle-aged couple holding hands, and mother with her two little girls sitting on a blanket, all gazing out at the rain that fell on the soccer fields, the landscaped paths, and beyond that the Hudson. The basketball players continued their game, shielded by the concrete humming with cars a hundred feet above.

As I approached the end where the path curves toward the Hudson and out from underneath the highway, several cyclists were stopped to wait it out. “Sissies!” I called out playfully. One guy looked up at me as I said this but I was already gone, back out in the rain.

In the east over Jersey the clouds had parted to reveal a blue sky. I splashed through muddy rivulets of water pouring off Riverside Park, not really caring whether I got muddy at this point.

Another cyclist pulled abreast of me. “I was just cleaning off my glasses!” he said, smiling. It was the guy from under the overpass! I started laughing as he pulled away, and just then the rain slowed and stopped, and the sun came out.

I took a different route home. Instead of cutting up into Riverside park, I went straight, which took me on a pretty new path. It was another path that went out over the water, with nautical themed lights and freshly varnished wooden railings. (I just love the care that NYC puts into its parks, it never gets old.) By the time I got home, the birds were having a field day, and my t-shirt dress was starting to dry.

“Hi Phillipe!” I called out to the my doorman. “Hey Alden,” he said, always with a smile. He helped me lift my bike up the steps into the lobby.

“I don’t know how you ride in those heels,” he said, looking at my espadrilles. “It’s better than walking in heels,” I told him.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right!”

I took the elevator upstairs to my apartment, saying hello to the cats as I stowed my bike in my room. I poured myself a glass of wine, and settled into read with Luca sitting on my lap and Matteo watching me from on top of a pile of magazines.

Life is good.

 

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.