the intersection of creation and destruction

Jacques Derrida, the “father” of “deconstruction,” has fascinated me ever since I learned about him in literary theory. Before he died in 2004, the French philosopher did a charming interview for a documentary in which he cracked a joke about close reading when his small home library was questioned, saying something like, “I haven’t read many books, but I’ve read a few very closely.”

I believe in creating. I believe in constructing.

Destroying and destructing aren’t in my idealist vocabulary, and this has caused some deep questioning for me and my “zero waste” pledge. Between the declaration of what I’m *not* going to do to harm the planet, and an increasingly urgent need to point out what is *wrong* – the recent death of Alton Sterling weighing particularly heavy on my heart at the moment – I’m conflicted about my purpose. Am I supposed to invite you to my cozy alternative shelter, or do I go about “fixing” the broken home we share by reforming its offending parts?

The intersection of these beliefs – righteous anger at evil and an idealist insistence on

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making a plan for the first full week of PFJ

to all my darlings: Happy Plastic Free July! to my U.S. members, Happy 4th of July as well!

now that we’re a few days into the month, it might be a good time to strengthen our goals and make a plan for the week. as with developing most positive habits, being prepared is key. with any luck, you might be enjoying a holiday today, but will be back to the grind tomorrow.

so let’s make a plan: what are you taking for lunch this week? got dinner plans? how about staying caffeinated and hydrated on the go without resorting to a “disposable” take-out cup? before bed tonight, take a moment to decide how you’ll avoid plastic once you get busy.

i’m actually spending most of the day today on such plans. as you know, i’ve been a road warrior the last two and a half weeks, and now i’m all tripped out! i was so lucky to get back-to-back vacations, see new places, and spend quality time with friends and family, but now it’s time to find my trusty routines again. i’m looking

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day one: plastic free july / byob

morning, darlings, and happy july!

today is the first day of our participation in plastic free july. if you’re not signed up yet, make sure to set your intention at

to start, let’s refuse the plastic water bottle, and even the plastic-lined paper cup, using BYOB: bring your own bottle. my go-to bottle is a mason jar; you’ve seen me use it for water on the go, and even for things like lemonade and tea. sometimes, i use a stainless steel coffee mug, too. every time you remember to use your own bottle, you send a message that you refuse SUPs – single-use plastic that serve us for a brief moment only to live forever emitting greenhouse gases and clogging the oceans. it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. 

speaking of the ocean, that’s where i’ve been lucky to be this week: in santa rosa beach, florida for an annual family reunion. much like my recent visit to rocky mountain national park, this trip connects me to nature in a way that makes

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PicMonkey Collage(1)

plastic free july prep: how to bulk shop in five easy steps

As the seriousness of climate change casts a shadow across the globe, it also throws into relief a collective of do-ers ready to take action. Some of them are the die-hard downshifters and zero-wasters I’ve already mentioned. Still others, though, take more minor steps, like spending one month out of the year without plastic. Sign up to join us in Plastic Free July! (link at the bottom of this post).

You can participate in whatever way you choose, but this last week of June is a great time to think about what approach would work best for your lifestyle. I recommend doing nothing at first other than simply noticing the plastic in your life. Chances are, you’ll see food shopping as a major source of packaging, so today I offer one possible activity for you to try: shopping in bulk! My dear friend Susan came to visit recently and asked me to teach her how to do just that. She lives in Owensboro, Kentucky, where there aren’t as many options, and I’m sure it may be foreign to many of you

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inspiration from the rockies

I auditioned for an improv troupe once. It didn’t go well. Normally, I like scripted lines. I like the opportunity to revise.

Even so, I’m sharing a very spontaneous message in my latest vlog. I’m letting you see me get all sappy and passionate about ol’ mother earth in a short video I’m calling “inspiration from the rockies.” The courage to let this out – and to do it so imperfectly – is most likely brought to you by Brene Brown, whose books have encouraged me to loosen up a little. (I’m sure I’ll be mentioning those books again in an upcoming series about burnout recovery, but, for now, suffice it to say: her words are a salve for the disease of perfectionism.)

But could you do me a favor in return? Would you go to your trash can and tell me one item that’s in there?

Or, if that feels too invasive, there’s a much simpler question – multiple choice even! – at the end of the video, and I’d greatly appreciate your response there, too.

Either way, I’m so glad to be

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road trippin’ baggage 

it is 6:30am in our fanciest hotel and I just woke everyone up answering the door for room service coffee. luxury often comes with a side of guilt.
preparing for my first big trip since going “zero waste” took a different kind of brain power. it meant anticipating the challenges in at least six different cities, with different weather, lodging and dining. i have shared my experience packing clothes (video below), but i haven’t indulged my struggles with other essentials.

i learned.

i lugged along a giant burlap bag filled with more reusable shopping bags, produce bags, and, most notably, glass jars and containers. it was heavy.

every time we packed the trunk – SEVEN TIMES – we had to Tetris our suitcases and then shove the glass-filled, burlap bag onto the heap. I never once used ANYTHING in that bag. in fact, along the way, I shed other containers I had packed in my backpack and added them to that stash. it got heavier.

in my defense, the bags and containers were for a huge shopping trip i had planned to the first zero

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grocery “haulternative”

Hauls. Eew.

The concept is to show off what one buys, and the general public recoils at the ugly thought. Despite this criticism, however, haul videos are quite popular on YouTube, a place that is quickly becoming like a second home to me. The rise of the “haulternative” – a video in the same style as these rambling lists of possessions, but presumably without participation in the same cycle – is heartening to me. I’m noticing more and more “vloggers” showing off how minimal they could be, and how they acquired their possessions secondhand. The system they subvert is the one that resulted in the deaths of over a thousand people in 2013 at a Bangladesh complex cranking out “fast fashion”; thus, the Fashion Revolution was born. Later, I’ll be posting more about the fashion side of going zero waste.

Today, I want to talk about a type of haul video that I’m more inclined to support, and I even think of my version of it as a “haulternative.” We all have to eat! Groceries are a necessity. And while location and

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book review: zero waste home by bea johnson 

This feels like a bit like the end of a beginning.

Two weeks and five uploads in, YouTube is treating me well. I’m having a great time sharing a little piece of myself and riding the learning curve; I’m hyped about at least two different worlds: the creative world of brainstorming, filming, editing, and critique, and the socially/environmentally conscious world of exposing problems, thinking critically, making choices, and raising awareness. In both, I’m meeting super cool peeps.

And then there are the high-level thinkers and shakers I’m “meeting” through reading their work. In this third and final installment of my first YouTube series on Zero Waste Resources, I’m reviewing Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home. 

If you’re following my journey, I just want to say thank you! It ain’t easy being green at going green! ❤️

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when going plastic-free is uncomfortable

I had the distinct pleasure of attending a Reuse Summit in my beloved Louisville on Friday. The symposium was well-organized, the attendees were welcoming, and the speakers were the kind of public servants one aspires to be. Focusing on “reuse” as an isolated component of sustainability was refreshing, and I really enjoyed being in “student mode,” taking notes and asking questions.

The summit focused on governmental approaches to environmentalism, but their emphasis on partnership (it was provided, after all, by the Partnership for a Green City) is equally applicable to a civilian life. Sustainable practices like re-use are made much simpler, for example, when one participates in the community through patronizing libraries, ride share programs, tool banks, etc.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my first vlog, where I share my thoughts about the intersection (and often conflict) between grand societal steps and tiny citizen steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Do you reuse items, or rely on recycling and donating? Would you like to hear more about what I learned at the Reuse Summit?

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how-to guides for going plastic-free and zero waste

The second installment of “Zero Waste Resources” is up, and embedded below.

It’s a weird time to join the Zero Waste “community” (more on that problematic term later). On the one hand, the tracks have been laid. We have pioneers who have tread before us to bring a modern and urgent update to the old “waste not, want not” proverb. I talk about two guides that do that just that in this video: Beth Terry and Amy Korst.

On the other hand, while those crusaders have led the way for a small global community, I’d hardly say it’s hit mainstream. There are, to those of us “in” the community, already cliches about how to reduce your waste. It’s kind of branded, and a little too exclusive. If my audience is already turned on to zero waste practices, I’d rather find those gray areas to engage them. But if my audience is just starting out on this journey, I’ll begin with the basics.

So, tell me: who are you? Are you well-versed in ZW? Are you new to the term? Do you think there’s

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going zero waste at a vegan festival

I’m not truly “zero waste.” I’m not truly “vegan.” But I bend toward those phrases, arching like a flower finding the sun.

I could have waited to bring you along on my journey. I could have settled everything, found most of the answers, and showcased what a nonplussed sustainable lifestyle looks like. But I like plussed. I like complexity. So, I invite you into the crooks of all my question marks as I figure this stuff out.

Recently, I invited you along to the First Annual Bluegrass VegFest at Apocalypse Brew Works in Louisville, KY. I’m so lucky to have all these options in my city, and am eternally grateful to V-Grits for hosting. I did what I could – in that moment, on that day – to reduce and document my waste. Watch my struggle here:

***Have you tried reducing your waste at a festival? Did you fare better or worse than I did?

Also: please comment below if you have suggestions on composting a Dixie cup, or on being brave enough to ask for alternatives to plastic packaging. 😉


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i have an idea

designs that waste nothing (IMA talk)


The Indianapolis Museum of Art – the place I fantasize about escaping to any time I have a bad day – published the video below a few years ago, but I just discovered it from The Minimalist Ninja.

The talk is very encouraging because it identifies creators who are as devoted to their fields as they are to sustainability; both speakers value quality, which is so refreshing and contemporary. To hear, for example, fashion designer Timo Rissanen talk about the need for beauty gives me hope. We can, I think, borrow the tricks of pre-Industrial homesteaders, but we can also maintain our modernity and thirst for innovation.

And it’s so cool to see what People for Urban Progress, led by Michael Bricker, is up to. A few years ago, I purchased a postcard of the artwork pictured above, merely because I loved its message and found it so relevant to the writing process; it hangs in my office and my students often stop to read it. Little did I know it was so close to my heart in so many ways! (And

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the darling m. on YouTube: zero waste resources

Triumph! Achievement unlocked! I am now on YouTube.

In my first video ever, I suggest some background reading on climate change and sustainability: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, and The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard.

Please comment over on YouTube if you have different ideas about how to respond to climate change, or if you have more recommendations for books and documentaries.

In the second installment, coming soon, I will be narrowing in on books about going plastic-free and zero waste, specially. My plan for the channel is to continue exploring those lifestyles and their relationship to our planet. This net includes smaller fish, too, though, like one’s personal sustainability.

***What topics would you like to watch me cover?***

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being plastic-free is a great way to reduce:

1. meat and dairy consumption

2. participation in the culture of busy

4. extravagant spending

5. ecological guilt

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So, I know I said I was going to shut up about food for a while in my last post. And I am. Drafts are already awaiting revision! I have one on the politics of plastic-free, another on sustainable fashion, and another on DIY household product recipes. Which would you like to read first?

In the meantime, just one more about food, okay?

Initially, I expressed my sense of defeat in the face of bread products, like buns and tortillas. But the champion in me fixated on a solution. For that next week, I’d just make my own damn tortillas. This is not something I’ve ever done before. I don’t scratch bake. I don’t really bake at all, certainly not basics like bread. But I found this tortilla recipe from an apparently awesome fellow plastic-free adventurer that seemed simple enough, and that made a batch big enough to inspire a week’s worth of recipes, beginning with FAJITAS. Though I eat Mexican-inspired dishes at home and on-the-go like, constantly, I’ve never made fajitas at home.

Here’s what my experience looked like, from the

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cat bag

when game night was its own game

The roomies and I scheduled a low-key game night for this past Saturday – a chance to indulge in wordplay with close friends, and introduce them to our new puppy. (That’s Edie up there, peacefully sleeping on our way home from the shelter.)

What a wonderful test of my plastic-free powers! I thought. Bestie Deena was in charge of the wine, fiance Matt of a tasty potato side dish, so I declared my intent to prepare an entrée plastic-free. This will be simple. In my years as a vegetarian (oh yeah, I’ve tried to be sly about this, but you can bet there’s a post coming on this uncomfortable subject), I’ve accumulated a file folder full of produce-based recipes that should make going plastic-free a piece of dairy-free cake.

A few months ago, I pulled out Crackling Cauliflower from Eating Bird Food and was impressed by how easy it was to prepare – and the roomies died over it, claiming it was one of the best things I’ve ever made. So: score. I confidently trekked to our fave Kroger with my short

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challenge jar

the challenge to live plastic-free

We live on a finite planet. Its days are numbered, not unlike our own.
That bit of knowledge is heavy. It can make us apathetic, complacent, and self-destructive. Sometimes, when we learn about (or simply remember) our own mortality or the world’s impermanence, it scares us, so we turn away. We hop back on the treadmill and don’t dare look too far ahead or too far behind. And sometimes that’s okay; it keeps us sane.

But sometimes, when we remember our mortality, it ignites passion. It’s why we seek greatness, why we work for posterity, and why we want to find an optimal way to live – to find the extremes of our health and our creativity. Not only to find a personal philosophy, but to enact it, to give it a pulse. We suddenly have the courage to face the sense of overwhelm – this is all so ephemeral! – and open up our senses, connecting to individual and collective purposes. We’re brave, going down into the basement to feed the Babadook.

Small acts like eating, I think, are the best defense

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