Tag Archives: education

Sustainable Living: Big Picture, Baby Goals (Week 7)

I returned from a weekend away to find kale, pepper, carrot, and zucchini sprouts. The terrarium planting worked beautifully! Now, I will wait for more sprouts before transplanting into larger pots.

During our weekend away, my husband and I spent all day and night Saturday loading and hauling lumber from an urban building. The building is being remodeled because the previous business moved to a new location, and the owner is splitting the building into four units for lease. The developer (our connection) had instructed the remodeling crew to toss all the “scrap” lumber into one room, knowing we might want it. He notified us last week that the project is almost complete, and the lumber had to be moved over the weekend or else it would be hauled to the dump. Typically, the lumber would be hauled to the dump without any attempt at allowing someone to reclaim it.

Fortunately, our developer friend recognizes win-win-win scenarios. In this case, he saved on two dumpsters (~$600-1000 for each 30-yard dumpster). We get excellent old-growth hardwood lumber to repurpose. The lumber is about 30 years old, and it’s not even possible to buy this quality of lumber in stores anymore because all the old-growth forests have been cut. The environment benefits from decreased cutting and waste. The only cost to us is gas to haul, time, and toil. In the last few years, we have benefitted greatly from this practice by adding several room additions to our houses at little to no cost. Thus, it is well worth the cost. (Also, my husband experiences no greater joy than encountering a beautiful piece of wood and transforming it into a work of functional or aesthetic art.)

Unfortunately, we couldn’t take all the lumber. About one dumpster full will go into the trash heap, which I consider tragic. My husband said the lumber will take many years to decompose. I wish more people would be proactive in trying to prevent construction waste. Last summer, we collected two 20-foot U-Hauls full of lumber (and other useful material) from the building that the business I mentioned previously moved into. We took all we could and watched as six 30-yard dumpsters were filled with mostly reusable material and hauled to the dump. I suspect we did not witness all of them. My husband told me that he has seen thousands of tons of useable material go to the dump in his 30 years as a carpenter. He always felt bad about it but rarely had the ability to load, haul, and store it himself.

For the sake of expediency in reconstruction or demolition, no one is ever asked to collect and sort the material for repurposing. I would like to see and will work toward a law that forces contractors, businesses, or waste companies to hire someone to collect, sort, repurpose, or sell the useable material from construction jobs. Just as we need a network for collecting and redistributing food waste, we will need a network of people and businesses to deal with construction waste in a less destructive manner.

What do you think? Any ideas for how to preserve more construction waste? Please share your trash rescue experiences. I’d love to hear about them!

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Sustainable Living: Big Picture, Baby Goals (Week 3)

Spring has suddenly sprung, which has swiveled my sustainable priorities toward planting. In keeping to this week’s goal, I spent a lot of time sifting through The Homemade Pantry. I soon realized that I need to establish a household infrastructure from which to prepare, manage, and store our homemade stock: a variety of glass storage containers, some new cooking tools, a chest freezer, and most importantly, as much homegrown food as possible. After all, I decided I want to make my own granola, popcorn snacks, vanilla extract, toaster pastries, cereal bars, frozen pizzas, ketchup, salsa, salad dressings, and mayo. That list is but the beginning of a longer list of foods I want to make myself. Thus, next week’s goal is to decide what I will grow and how I will grow it.

I continue to be amazed at the inspiration flooding in from unexpected sources. A magical phenomenon emerges when one sets her intentions in a positive direction. For me, this intention-setting started last summer when I visited Peaceful Hearts Ranch in Temecula, California. It’s strange that riding a wild mustang can teach us about the strength of our intentions, but it’s true nonetheless. From Cochina the horse and Kedra the trainer, I learned that my intentions are strong, but my patience is weak, as demonstrated through my breathing. My impatience causes anxiety in the horse, which disrupts the path toward my intentions. I just can’t get over what a wonderful experience that was, so I reflect on it often. It brought me to my current mindset of setting manageable goals, breathing deep and steady until little by little my lifestyle is transformed. BUT I never anticipated how much good company I would encounter along the way!

In addition to the people I carry with me spiritually (like my brother the vegan, daughter the yogi/minimalist, and others too numerous to list), I encounter new people every week traveling parallel journeys. The latter are also too numerous to name, and in sticking to manageability (lest I become overexcited and have to take a lap around the block to calm myself), I want to mention one such encounter from yesterday. One of my students (hello and thank you!) approached me before class with a book, The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller, M.D., containing everything I need to create my daily nutrient checklist I mentioned in a previous post. Prior to learning of my weekly goals and blog, this student spoke to me during a topic workshop about writing her research paper on planning for a sustainable life. (The Law of Attraction is truly amazing, isn’t it?!) Although I can’t take credit for her initial interest in the topic, I wonder what the effect of my enthusiasm for it will be. Her purpose is a noble one: why not learn everything I can about sustainable living now, so I can apply it throughout my life. If I’d only had the knowledge, direction, and maturity at that age (20 years ago), where would I be today?! I was so out of tune then, and so the law of attraction was not working for me. But now, to be in the right place at the right time for at least one young person to start now and take it all the way through, and to consider the people she will influence!!! Aaaahh! (I think I’ll take that lap now!) This experience fits right in with my intention to make young people (including students) my number one priority and my intention to live sustainably. Covering multiple purposes simultaneously is so rewarding!

As for my weekly goal, I’ve made some decisions about infrastructure that I will work on in the coming weeks. With garage sale season upon me, I will pick up as many secondhand containers and cooking tools as I can. I will look into purchasing a chest freezer. I started saving (and asked others to save) egg shells in which I plan to start my seeds. My goal for this week is to decide what and how to plant. Having the added complication of two households at the moment (which will be a topic of another post), the planning is not simple.

Thanks for reading and circulating the inspiration!

Withstanding the Walkers of the World

A few years ago, I made a decision to make students my top priority despite the inevitable and constant political noise around us. Students are the reason I started teaching, and they will remain the reason I stay teaching. Period.

One of my students informed me that an instructor in another class asked all his students to watch their instructors for behavioral changes during this budget crisis. As observed here and in other comments, the prevailing expectation is that teachers will become distracted, leading to a reduction in teaching quality. My hope is that us teachers won’t succumb to threats from the latest bully in our midst because he is neither the first nor the last.

Let the Walkers of the world wield their whimsical words of the week to secure their precious re-elections. A commitment to students is a long-term one, of which politicians know little. A quick review of history reveals that at any given time, some insane minority has managed to gain power over the majority, subjecting them to rules of the most ridiculous kind. Alas, one doesn’t even have to read to learn of this tragic historical redundancy. As I have recently done, one can easily obtain movies like Martin Luther, Roots, The Poisoner’s Handbook, Lincoln, The Butler… . Of course, this majority always claims that their way is the only rational way, although the contradictions are clear. (E.g., slaves are like cattle, yet humans may breed with them. Yes, this was accepted as perfectly rational. In fact, it was seen as “God’s way” for more than a hundred years!!)

I hope this interruption of our regularly scheduled programming in educational excellence is temporary. As in wiping-his-feet-on-the-rug-on-his-way-out-the-door temporary while teachers stay the course for their students as they always do. Unfortunately, the rug is our state this time, and as Kunte Kinte so aptly demonstrated, we should never forget our roots and never fail to pass on our traditional public education values. We still hold the power to pass these values on to our students, no matter what the political sway of the day may be. We need to show our young people that we will not allow this bully to hold us down.

More later…