Check this out: Seamly.co

Remember how I resolved to buy no new (non-thrifted) clothing this year? Well, I’ve kept to that resolution… except for when it comes to Seamly.co.

I am in love.

Seamly, founded by Kristen Glenn and funded through a Kickstarter campaign, produces sustainable, made-in-the U.S. clothing.

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I don’t remember how I first heard about the company, but when I started flipping through the catalogue, I was immediately in trouble. Over the next few weeks, I haunted the Seamly site. My winter wish list included the Jenny dress, but eventually I settled on the Summer Cardigan. Was I ever glad I did.

The wrap is crazy comfortable, wrinkle free, and it has hidden pockets! It’s my favorite thing to throw on in the morning when I’m not sure what I want to wear. So far I’ve only worn it belted, and I’ve gotten compliments every day.

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I loved it so much I bought another. I do my laundry, wear the dresses immediately, and count down the days until I’ve worn enough other clothing to justify washing the dresses again. The clothes are expensive, but worth every penny. (I hate when people say that. What if I only have $12 and need two new shirts? But, really, these clothes are great). So far, neither dress has pilled, despite several washes. There are no snags, even though one cat has made it her mission to shred every skirt I own.

Oh, have you noticed my weird insecurity about posting photos of myself? Here you go.

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Hmm, you want one with my face?

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I promise, someday I’ll actually remember to ask friends to take pictures of me doing things relevant to this blog. In the meantime, here’s my cat skeptically observing the attempted Summer Cardigan Photo Shoot. The other cat is the clothes shredding culprit.

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I’m curious, what do you think of Seamly? Their clothes are perfect for half of my lifestyle: furious typing at a computer, barhopping with friends, and impromptu interviews (throw on a blazer and I’m good to go). For farming, I wear clothes that are already ragged.

Kale Seeds

Midway through this past brutal winter, I saw what looked like a healthy kale plant emerging from under a cover of snow. Never mind the many days below freezing or the sleet — this plant, harvested in fall, managed to produce new leaves and survive one of the region’s harshest winters in recent memory. In awe of its hardiness, I let the plant grow through spring, flower, and go to seed.

Yesterday I gathered about half of the seed pods and shelled them. Below, see the process in pictures. I’m planning to plant the seeds this fall.

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Have you ever saved seeds? I’ve never done it deliberately before, but every year I get “volunteer” pumpkins jumping out of the compost pile.

Around the Web

Two new jobs, whew. Hopefully I’ll get back into a pattern of regular posting. Until then, here are some interesting things I’ve found around the web.

I can't help but share my favorite sign of spring: fresh garden peas!

I can’t help but share my favorite sign of spring: fresh garden peas!

Maybe a slightly larger, cleaner bouquet...

Maybe a slightly larger, cleaner bouquet…

  • The new app Ripe Near Me shows where free, fresh produce is growing in your neighborhood.

The Sharing Economy

Sharing or selling, what’s the difference?

In a new piece on Medium, Susie Cagle explores the true impacts of the “sharing economy,” which in its current iteration looks more like “disaster capitalism,” she says, than a true effort at equity. Airbnb, Lyft, Ebay and other companies have made millions and billions providing platforms through which people can “share” what they no longer want or need…and profit.

Though the idea of using your excess resources to profit sounds great (more money!), ”… sharing businesses aren’t just creating new income streams from nothing. In “disrupting” even troubled markets — the taxi industry has had this coming for a long time — the glory of the peer economy comes at the expense of other workers’ livelihoods,” Cagle writes.

“…The sharing economy doesn’t build trust — it trades on cultural homogeneity and established social networks both online and in real life. Where it builds new connections, it often replicates old patterns of privileged access for some, and denial for others.”

Some key quotes from the piece:

  • “The best performers in Airbnb are white women and the worst performers are black men. There’s an inherent difference in lived experience. We ignore people of color and low income people.” – Nikki Silvestri, Executive Director, Green for All
  • “Will this just be another expression of an extractive economy? There are some who will be able to share and others who won’t.” – Rashad Robinson, Executive Director, Color of Change
  • “They advertise you can earn “extra cash” – but the underlying issue is, why do you have to do this?” – Veena Dubal, labor researcher

So what is sharing, anyways? When you give, do you always expect something in return?

Summer

I need to head out to the garden I manage (as my newish part-time job), but instead of getting ready, I’m sitting on my bed with the fan blowing in my face and thinking big overwhelming thoughts about what it means to be a human in the world.

How exactly are we supposed to build community and be there for each other when our jobs force us to break down communities by mindlessly following the rules and acquiescing to our superiors?

The other night I cried at the kitchen table about writing and feeling like I’m letting my dream of a writing career slip away. I’ve been applying for writing jobs and internships for two years now, with mixed success. I’ve certainly been published in some great outlets, but none of the big names paid. I’ve been rejected for every journalism internship and job I’ve applied to, save one where I was interrogated about my past (and okay, current) as an activist in an impromptu 6 p.m. phone interview.

Let me be clear. My dream isn’t dying. I’m going through a rough patch, which was always to be expected. Still, I feel a little lost and adrift.

I’m frustrated with trying to find my way in a world where adults are simultaneously supportive and disparaging of us Millennials. We’re encouraged to pursue our dreams, but then if we do, we’re self-absorbed and not thinking about the future. We take on unpaid internships because that’s how we’re supposed to break into “careers,” only to find that all the entry-level jobs in our fields require 3-5 years paid, full-time experience. Oh, and we’re supposed to have opinions and be energetic and throw ourselves into creating change… except if we want to pay our bills, we have to shut up and fit ourselves into the existing bureaucracy. So yes, stand up for what’s “right,” but don’t, because then you won’t have a job (calling out the bureaucratic bullshit at any big nonprofit isn’t going to get you very far) or a livelihood or a future in the field that you chose…

Gah.

I think it’s the onset of summer and the flood of new graduates into the job market that’s really making my head spin. I’m feeling incredibly small and worthless and insecure, conflicted about my love for stereotypical environmentalist hobbies and passions, frustrated with my intense introversion and the challenges it poses for journalism, and scared about ever being able to consistently support myself, never mind other humans. I’m terrified that the work I love (journalism, urban agriculture) is harming people more than helping. (Google “urban gardening problems” and you’ll find plenty of very important critiques of young white people deciding they’re going to transform communities). I’m terrified that to do the work I love, I’ll have to work for groups I don’t support and think are harmful – big box stores, for example, or chain restaurants crowding out local businesses. And also, to an extent, huge non-profits.

The nice thing about having a blog is that I can explore these ideas, and sometimes people actually read and comment on them. So instead of silly, half-assed posts, I’m going to publish things I actually think have some value and importance. It’s what drives me to write, after all. Forgive me if not everything follows the “zero waste” theme. I created it when I was told that I needed a brand to succeed as a writer, and since I do have readers here I don’t want to switch to another website and I also really can’t afford to purchase another domain name. Plus, I like a lot of the ideas that zero waste conveys.

Anyways, I really do need to get ready for work. As always, please post your thoughts in the comments. At some point I’d like to start posting guest blogs. Let me know if there’s something you’d like to write, or something you’re working on you’d like to see featured.

- C

 

Tutorial: Re-grow Your Herbs Indoors

Spring has sprung and the garden is clearly growing, but many herbs haven’t quite gotten themselves into gear. If you’re hoping for a more bountiful harvest, want to fill in some garden space, or would just like more greenery in your home, this how-to is for you. Bonus: you’ll never have to buy herbs from the grocery store again.

Though most herbs will regrow from cut stems, I’m using sage, mint, and oregano for this tutorial.

Step 1: Cut a handful of stems from a healthy, established herb plant, leaving enough length to place in a vase or glass with a few leaves left above water. You can buy an herb plant a local nursery if there aren’t any growing in your yard.

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Step 2: Using scissors, cut all but the topmost leaves off the plant, leaving the stems bare. Definitely make sure you use scissors and not your hands – you’ll be less likely to damage the stem. I started off with my hands and broke a couple of oregano branches before I figured things out.

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Step 3: Place the plants in a vase filled with water and wait for them to root. You should see snaky tendrils (the new root system) in a few days! Finally, plant them up to the leaves in garden soil and water regularly for the first few weeks until the new plants are established.

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Remember the leaves we discarded when stripping the stems? Now’s the time to rinse and eat. Here’s a meal you can make with fresh mint, oregano, and sage.

- side: Sautéed Baby Bella Mushrooms with Sage

- main: Pizza with fresh oregano

drink: Mojitos!

Announcing a Revamp

In the spirit of making this blog more useful and informative, I’m creating new categories of posts. Read on below to see how the blog’s topics will be transformed.

What’s Cooking?

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All things food, including zero waste recipes, ways to reuse kitchen scraps, and time saving ideas for the kitchen.

Around the Web

A revamped Friday Five, “Around the Web” will look at environmental and social sustainability initiatives as they appear online. I’ll also curate ethical living ideas from various websites.

The Edible Yard

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Watch as I transform my small townhouse’s grassy spaces into places of food production.

Zero Waste Fashion

Exploring the world of ethical fashion and beauty – easy ways to stay on-trend, good, and green.

Do-It-Yourself

DIY cleaning products, creative projects, and more.

Zero Waste Inspiration

A catch-all for the amazing and innovative things real people are doing! (Want to be featured? Know a friend? Email zerowastegirl@gmail.com).

Lightbulbs

What’s a blog without a silly category? “Lightbulbs” are posts like “Doubts” and “Urban Gardens” – analysis and musings that don’t quite fit in any of the other categories.

Urban Agriculture is a Force to be Reckoned With

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Ever since the days warmed up, I’ve been spending all of my time outside. I have a new job working at an urban garden, and it started me thinking about different, more social ways of going zero waste. Namely, I’ve been thinking about urban agriculture. The process of growing and distributing food in an urban (aka highly populated) place, urban agriculture combines a couple of my interests and also offers promising solutions to a variety of the problems facing us today.

A Brief History

While urban agriculture is currently trendy, historically food production has been the domain of the poor. It is on the backs of farmers that cities were built, because farmers produced the surpluses of food that allowed for the accumulation of wealth. And before the rise of quick, easy transportation during the Industrial Revolution, food had to be grown close to home. Most urban spaces integrated government, trade, housing, and the production of food.

Urban agriculture has existed for as long as humans have had cities, and cities have pretty much existed for so long as humans have had agriculture. (There are some great books on the rise of agriculture – I recommend the classic Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond and Tom Standage’s An Edible History of Humanity to start with). Historical references to urban agriculture include the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

In the United States, a country founded by farmers, urban agriculture has been present ever since and even though farms moved to rural spaces. During the Great Depression, families cultivated relief gardens. During World War II, the government pushed for victory gardens, and families produced more of their food at home than they have ever since. Lately, the media has been abuzz with stories of urban agriculture in Detroit, and more and more cities are beginning to support urban agricultural initiatives. Google “urban garden” or “urban farm” with the name of any major city, and you’ll find at least a handful of startups.

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But What Does Urban Agriculture Do?

As much as I love digging in the dirt, I’m interested in the practical social aspects of greening urban spaces. Yes, gardens grow food. I think that’s awesome, and it’s the primary reason I continue to plant things. However, too frequently urban agriculture is discussed primarily in terms of environmental sustainability. I write a zero waste blog, so obviously sustainability is very high on my list of priorities. Still, what about the people doing the gardening? Besides improving diet, exercise, and access to green spaces (all important), what does urban agriculture do?

People come together in the garden. You don’t need a common language to practice horticulture, and you don’t need common values, either. When you’re planting radish seeds, your thoughts about Obamacare or abortion become secondary to the work. And so it makes sense that urban gardens can be used as remediation tools for issues as varied as race relations and gender violence. You have to trust someone when you’re growing food together, and the garden forces that trust. It’s never quite clear what curveball the next week’s weather will bring, and as anyone cultivating plants knows, you always have to be on your toes.

In fact, a UC Davis paper lists some of the positive social impacts of urban agriculture, including creating safe spaces, reducing blight, community development/building social capital, education and youth development opportunities, and cross-generational and cultural integration.

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It’s incredible to watch the social changes happen in real time. The group I work for has garden education classes, so a lot of the people are coming out to garden for the first time. It’s wonderful to see people realize their own power when their first seeds sprout, and then again when they harvest their first produce. It’s alternatively encouraging, charming, hilarious, and inspiring to hear the conversations going on around the space – you never know what topic you’ll stumble into. Most of the volunteers are college students, but the people taking classes come from a huge variety of backgrounds. We’re next to a highly trafficked path, so members of the public stop by on a regular basis to ask what we’re doing… and sometimes they get involved.

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This piece is intentionally brief. I’m planning to write more, and I’m looking for scholarly resources. My inner geek is attempting a literature review. Email me! Zerowastegirl@gmail.com. I’m specifically interested in urban agriculture’s impacts on gender and race relations.

Oh, and feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about urban agriculture.

P.S. It’s easier than it looks to start your own garden, no matter your space. If you have a south facing window, you probably have enough light to grow salad greens in a flower box. And it’s a great conversation starter with the neighbors.

I’ll make a tutorial soon.

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For Earth Day, a new ‘R’ – Renovation

I started trying to reduce my waste at the absolute worst time. After college, a few friends and I decided to move into my grandparents’ former home, which was still filled with their possessions and in disrepair. With no jobs lined up and plenty of free time on our hands, we traded our first year’s rent in exchange for fixing up the place.

Although it took some time before we could move in, today we are happily settled (though we are still renovating). Our kitchen is tiled, the walls are painted, and most of the light fixtures are in working order. The house feels like home. It took a lot to get there…

Read the full post on DIY Renovation at DC Ecowomen.

Taking on…the Basement

There are saw blades hanging from the ceiling, old rusty nails piled in a corner, and odd metal instruments that are apparently called vises but look like torture devices. And there are definitely spiders hanging out in the cracks and corners.

The set of a horror movie? Nope. Welcome to my basement.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m living in a house I’m renting from my parents. It belonged to my grandparents previously, and all in all has been in my family for over fifty years. We’ve accumulated a lot of stuff, and in the basement, the stuff has accumulated a lot of dust. My grandfather was a bricklayer and a very handy guy, and he was also thrifty. Over time, he accumulated the equivalent of a hardware store.

As my grandfather’s health deteriorated, the basement moved into disarray. My dad (rightfully so) was reluctant to toss out any of the old tools, nails, and other hardware. I thought he was silly, but after almost two years of living in the space and dealing with home repairs, I’m grateful we have so many supplies. Still, they need better organization.

When I started sorting through the accumulation, I kept finding things I had no idea we had. Two rolls of twine?! Damn, why did I buy any for the garden? Chicken wire, a hand saw, lightbulbs, screws, nails, washers, light plates, a drill, several different sets of wrenches… It’s overwhelming. I may finally be able to distinguish between a phillips and a flathead screwdriver, and I can navigate Home Depot, but the combination of old, out-of-style hardware, useful items, and rusted junk makes my head spin.

As I’m going through and sorting things for future use, I’ve created a couple of piles.

1. To sort and store aka “I know what this is! And I can/will use it!”

2. Obvious junk. (An old VCR that won’t turn on, a used florescent light tube, and two giant bags of bills and receipts from the ’80s). Remember to practice responsible recycling, y’all.

3. Will never use aka “Give to Dad.”

4. WTF? aka “Ask Dad.”

My poor father. Hey, at least I’m finally learning what a washer (the metal kind, not the clothes washing kind) is for.

Pile #4 is smaller thanks to this helpful resource. The pictures on the site were created for teaching people English, but they work just as well for teaching people like me what the funny metal things do.

As time consuming and frustrating as sorting and decluttering can be, I like learning new things. I’ll probably never get into carpentry, but at least I can do basic home repairs. Oh, and I might even end up with enough space for a work bench / grow light setup for starting seeds. Wouldn’t that be great?!

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