Where there is a will there is a way

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bea Johnson's Zero Waste home video

See Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Tips

See an article about the Johnson family's lifestyle.

Clean Bin Project movie (funny)

The Clean Bin Project - Trailer from Grant Baldwin Videography on Vimeo.

I so love this!

From Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

No waste, no new stuff
Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin cycled the Pacific Coast in 2007 and noticed two things: There was lots of garbage, and they didn’t miss their “stuff” back home. Thus was born The Clean Bin Project, their competition to see who could buy no new “stuff” and create the least amount of waste in a year.

Rustemeyer says giving up chips and crackers was the hardest part of the project for her — think of all that packaging — but there were definitely humorous moments. “We had some funny interactions with waiters trying to explain why we didn’t want plastic. Eventually, Grant said he had a plastic allergy.” Although they buy stuff now (the project ended July 1, 2009), their waste is still low: just a small trashcan’s worth every few months.

Today, Baldwin and Rustemeyer are inspiring people with their comedic eco-documentary. “We’d seen so many environmental films that left us feeling hopeless, so we wanted to show that living zero waste can actually be fun.” Rustemeyer says that anyone can dramatically reduce their waste and help the planet. “Just start with one change, and when that becomes a habit, you can move on to the next one.”

FITE organization, make a microloan and help correct the world imbalance


"FITE is a global empowerment platform powered by Kiva.org, the nonprofit leader in microfinance, that is designed to foster Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship for women in the developing world. Our mission is to provide women entrepreneurs access to small loans that will help them start or grow a business; and to help educate the public at large about the benefits of empowering women entrepreneurs so that they “can hold up their half of the sky.” In just the first 2 years, we aim to help at least 25,000 women in this capacity. Leading thinkers in social development, including the World Bank, hail investing in women as “smart economics,” an untapped resource that can help solve many of the problems we see in our world today. Indeed, lending to women produces a positive ripple effect of improved health, education, and welfare for all household members.

"And yet, investments in women are not being made. Women are traditionally more likely to be denied a loan by a bank, and often face high levels of financial discrimination. More than 70% of people who live below the poverty line are women.

"FITE aims to change that, and is recruiting partners who are invested in creating change for women and communities around the globe.

"Dermalogica, the world’s preeminent professional skin care brand, is the founding partner for FITE, and has invested all the research and development to make FITE possible. From supporting creation of the platform, to being the first partner to create a retail connection with its FITE products, to rallying its tribe of over 100,000 successful women entrepreneurs worldwide to join FITE, Dermalogica has helped make the vision of FITE a reality.

"We hope more brands will join us! FITE is an open platform, where any company, organization or individual who wants to activate change for women and communities can get involved, make a measureable impact, and be recognized for their work.

"FITE promotes gender equality, stimulates local economies and empowers women to become active, involved and powerful change makers.

"For more information on one of our inspirations to launch the FITE program, see Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn’s informative book, Half the Sky. You can also watch Sheryl WuDunn’s talk at the TED Conference. (TOP)

HOW TO MAKE JONES "MUSH" (Ground wheat porridge)

We cooked alot more than this at a time in the Jones family, but this should cook enough mush for a modern small family. If not, cook more next time!
1 Grind wheat yourself, using an electric or hand-grinder. You will use 2 cups of ground wheat, 1 part wheat to 3 parts water.

I don't bother separating out the white flour, but for "real mush" you would sift out the flour and cook the rest for the porridge. That's what we always had growing up - just the rough outer part of the wheat. It was pretty rough, but very healthy. Now if you keep it simple and leave in the white flour, it's "luxury mush"!
2 Boil 6 cups of water on a medium sized pot on the stove, adding a pinch of salt.

3 When the water starts to boil, sprinkle in the 2 cups of ground wheat a little at a time so the boiling water surrounds the falling bits and there is no clumping. Whisk while you add.

4 After the mush is in, don't let it boil over. Turn it down. Cook for about 10 minutes. (You can leave a lid on it slightly ajar, and go get ready in the mornings. )

It's easy! It does need some time to cool as it took some energy to cook it. Dish it out into bowls and top with sugar and milk.

Make your life easier - after you've cooked mush, leave the pot to soak full of water in the sink and it will be easy to clean later.

Growing up with the Joneses
When I was growing up my family saved money by cooking wheat porridge every morning to feed to the hordes (8 kids). Not the usual porridge eaten now - my parents had a big old grinder/separator our basement. They would grind wheat that they had purchased in bulk. There were large wooden drawers where flour would be separated from the outer skin of the wheat, the white flour. Our morning porridge consisted entirely of this rough ground up outer hull, cooked on the stove, then eaten with milk and sugar.

It was a very rough porridge to eat, but cheap, very healthy as it is rich in vitamins* (and of course fibre). We didn't mind at all, but when our cousins who would come and visit they weren't used to it and they would cry at having to eat it. (I found out years later that my mother, not being raised as tough as my father, would feed us mush and get us out the door to school, then make herself something different for breakfast.)

Nowadays I think it's pretty cool. Sometimes for a change my parents would make porridge out of ground corn, "corn mush", or "white mush" which I loved (made out of wheat but not the hull?). My parents are Mormon, and in their community, due to their scientific and do-it-yourself nature, they are basically food storage experts. I can't tell you all the bean and grain varieties we had (along with canned fruit and vegetables), they had an inventory list on the computer to keep track of their stores. Mormons encourage their people to have a one year supply of food at all times in case of possible emergency or hard times, and my parents actually did it.

Anyways, I occasionally grind up some wheat kernels and make mush. It's "luxury" mush, I keep the white flour in it. I use a little antique hand grinder originally used for coffee that I found in a junk shop and restored, about the size of a jewellery box. The ground wheat comes out in a small drawer at the bottom. Unlike sensitive modern contraptions, this simpler metal grinder design is robust and still works.

Our family had such a cool experience with it recently, where I ground up some mush and fed it to everyone for breakfast when we were having a few days of cash shortage. Instead of playing around with money that was allocated for other purposes (spending money we didn't have) I baked a few loaves of bread instead of buying it, and made mush instead of buying breakfast cereal. It was such a cool thing to do something myself, with my hands. Calming to grind it, and sprinkle the ground wheat into the frothing boiling water boiling on the stove as my father had taught me. Such things are greatly underrated.

*My mother always said it was rich in Vitamin E. I just looked it up, and it's not only rich in Vitamin E but has many others including B vitamins (folate, niacin, thiamin B6), calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorous, potassium, protein, selenium and zinc. Wheat germ also contains phytosterols which lower cholesterol, promoting good heart health. And of course, lots of fibre!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tux Paint for kids to learn computer skills

Ok, if you're going to encourage artistic abilities in children, take them to a forest or a beach, then give them paint, or anything real to work with. They don't need a computer for that. But Tux Paint is awesome for teaching them to use a computer.

Tux Paint is a free program made for kids by programmers who donated their time ("open source"). Apparently the penguin is a Linux symbol (Linux is an alternative operating system to Windows). It is full of cool effects and paint-brushes packaged for use by children. Although children definitely can create art with it, it's a great teacher for using computers. It's very rewarding to use that mouse, as when you do there are sound effects, and really cool things happen visually. Also, when you use Tux Paint Stamps (a separate download), the name of the animal of often stated, or the sound they make.

There are Earths, Moons, bubbles, bricks, trains, tracks, trees, foliage brushes, colours, triangles, flowers, cats that run if you happen to drag the mouse instead of click. The first image above was done by my five-year old daughter Troy, independently, as her little 3-year old brother watched with joy. The one below he did by himself, he just loves to use the tools and is far less representational than his big sister. But he becomes fully absorbed, and wants to "paint" all the time now. Better than watching TV!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Concentrate on this - designs I wish to remember.

Havaiana jandal ad
I saw this plastered on the back of a bus. Man I love that illustration style!

I saw this on a t-shirt worn by a man on the bus. I kept trying to peek at it - the design was so good! Swirls but with the coordination of celtic crossing of the lines. (I want to dive into celtic design now.)

I love the use of different hues for different letters.
I am seriously ready to learn specific new aspects of designs.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reusing Plastic Curry Takeaway Containers

Sagar Indian restaurant in Birkenhead makes a mean curry. So much so that we go there once in awhile, despite it costing money, and for me, the guilt of creating more plastic waste. The plastic containers we get our food in (picture me walking out with a plastic bag of plastic containers) are reusable, and I use them all the time for lunches. (I actually get a great feeling, but the way, about very durable plastic reusable containers, for the environment - so much better than disposable.) Eventually these curry containers crack though, and they must be recycled, for perhaps only one more use as jacket stuffing? Far better to avoid.

So, it was not perfect, but one step better when I was brave enough to take a handle of our million plastic takeaway containers back to the restaurant to ask them to refill instead of using new.

The biggest problem was communicating to the lady who took our order. I hesitantly whipped out the stack and asked her if we could reuse them "for the environment". She didn't understand and explained they always used new, quality containers. I started to explain how plastic is often only reused once, and it was better to reuse, but she still looked confused. Finally my intelligent step-daughter, sick of the conversation going round in circles, stated "she doesn't want there to be any more plastic on the Earth" and the lady suddenly understood.

What's more, she was willing to give it a go - and I didn't end up with another giant stack of containers (and guilt over what "on earth" to do with them).

I am so far now from the usual way of thinking that I have a hard time understanding what people don't understand! Thanks clever Savannah.

Going Bananas

When I posted the entire article from Good Magazine about fair trade bananas, I was still processing the information. I immediately realized its significance of knowledge, but bombarded my connections with the entire article I had learned it from. Now if I was going to process it and communicate it to others, I would probably say:

Did you know that...common bananas are produced using a pesticide which causes sterility and birth defects for the banana workers that have to work with it.

Also that there is an alternative, fair trade banana you can buy, "All Good Bananas", distributed by the same guy that sells Phoenix Organics (the ads have cartoon illustrations showing all the nasties you aren't buying in the drink).

But with my husband, I first explained that the farming techniques people use now to mass-produce one species (monoculture) also leave it vulnerable to disease. (There aren't many varieties with various resistances to disease, if one area gets it they can all get it.)
In fact the kind of banana everyone eats now is a different cultivated variety as the last one became plagued by a disease.

There is a pesticide that works very well to deliver us perfectly disease-free bananas to our supermarkets, it just sterilizes the people that apply it to the banana root (people who live in poorer countries who can't fight back) and sometimes causes their wives, to give birth to children with extreme birth defects. The company that created the pesticide knows this, the big banana companies like Dole, know it, but they choose to use it. Isn't that disgusting? I wish I had always known. I never would have supported that decision. Never.

What am I going to do about it? Not much, but as much as a little wife in New Zealand with an education from Canada can do - write a few letters and boycott "regular" bananas. Tell my friends about it. The letters would be to my local supermarket, and to Dole (why not). Now we know!

This is the book (see image) that has made the story about bananas known, which was represented in Good magazine's recent issue (Issue 17). It is called Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles, by Harriet Lamb. (She ran into a lady who had given birth to a child effected by the poison her husband used at work and it started her entire venture. BTW her child was too ill to live for long.)

Here is the website for All Good Bananas, the section for finding a store near you! (But Pak 'n Save does have them.)


PS I did it! Emailed Dole to express my views, emailed Pak 'n Save to say thanks, and emailed my local fruit & veg shop to ask them to supply fairtrade bananas. Feels good.