YERTmama checks in with garbage on the homefront…

YERT mama checking in… confessing to some trash-making on the home front in Louisville, whilst the remaining explorers make out across Minneapolis in search of green drinks, BagE-Wash and bees…

When I got dropped off of the road part of YERT, I knew that being trash-free would become a bigger challenge – mainly due to food preparation since, suddenly, all the packaging that the three of us had mostly managed to avoid (by not finishing people’s cartons of milk or OJ, or boxes of cereal, etc) I would now be coming face to face with in my mom’s own fridge. I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve been a little frustrated but, seriously, what do you do with a kitchen full of already packaged food? Not waste it, surely?

“Mom,” I’d said, pointing to her little under-counter bin, “this garbage bag is going to last us until the baby is born. So don’t throw anything in there that you don’t want hanging around for the next 2 months.” She’d just looked at me, big eyes. “OK.” she’d said. I’d had a feeling it might take a few days to catch on. I did pull a couple of banana peels, a few pieces of junk mail and the occasional kleenex out of there but for the most part, and no thanks to my tirades and nagging, Mom started getting the hang of it. It has been 3 weeks.

I was hoping that we wouldn’t have to take garbage out…I really was. But, I am not kidding, the trash had started to stink. I couldn’t figure it out since all we’d been putting in there was plastic, plastic and plastic. And waxed food cartons that had been washed very well. This morning I found the culprit – a disposable diaper. Yum. We had a little visitor a few days ago who isn’t quite potty trained yet and I hadn’t told his sweet mama that we were trying to keep the same garbage until July.

It’s not her fault. Anyway, I was fooling myself if I thought I could keep packing the refuse down to make that bag last another week, much less another month. So, regrettably, Mom and I took the garbage out, and took video to record the unhappy event. I have to say, though, I am so proud of mom for her efforts!! We have only one very small bag of garbage, compared to 3 BIG bags of recycling going out tomorrow, and that is a BIG change. I wonder if the garbage men will notice? Almost makes me want to get up at 6:00 am just to watch them them scratch their heads in wonder at how we manage…but not quite…

AND, yesterday, Mom turned in her gas powered lawnmower for $50 at the recycling facility in Louisville and then we went to the hardware store to pick her up an electric, battery-operated lawn mower (for which she also got a $50 rebate. She’s hoping it will pay for itself in saved gas costs, and she feels good about not polluting or using oil), and today we bought a few more CFL (Compact Flourescent) bulbs. Next on the agenda…. could it be that Mom is considering retiring her old van and buying a Prius???

Maybe Ben’s not showering in 12 dys makes up for the amount of garbage that is filling the trash here at home…

YERT mama checking in on the site…and just noticing from the shower checker that YERT daddy has not taken a shower in 12 dys.
I can honestly say that I left the road part of the trip just in time.

I have been home for just about 10 dys now. Last weekend, I accompanied my brother Tony and his wife Heather here in Louisville as they picked up red wrigglers (worms!) from Breaking Grounds (related to Heine Bros Fair Trade Organic Coffee). Tony and Heather were the first people to buy worms from the newly established compost/wormery, along with another Louisville lady. I interviewed Brian B, the new worm wrangler, and got a first hand look at worm eggs which i had never studied so closely before. I hope to start volunteering on Sundays, bringing worms to the ignorant masses…

At home, we are finding the NO GARBAGE challenge to be nearly impossible. Firstly, we have a lot of food to use up in Mom’s fridge and cabinets that is highly packaged and, secondly, there are certain things that Mom cannot get on board with yet. I have to learn to be gentle or this will be fruitless. She did not sign on for the YERT experience. Hiding her papertowels and kleenexes and chiding her for flushing the toilet is, so far, not charming her. I have got to be more creative and maybe come up with a way of making NO TRASH more fun.

So far, I think it is mainly annoying. For both of us. I just didn’t realize how much easier it is to make no trash when you are all 3 dedicated and you are eating out half the time and not absorbing the waste that comes from restaurant food…or from the households that are so kindly offering us to partake in their juice, milk and cereal…

…To be continued…

Day 300: YERT Mama leaving to make her nest…

Yesterday while we were driving around in the car, Ben announced, “Day 300!”

Day 300. Man. When we started this trip, I wasn’t even sure that I would make it past Day 30. The idea of driving non-stop around the country with 2 dudes for a year (one of them my husband), with no home and one pair of shoes apiece (ok i also had flip flops, but they take up almost no room), interviewing strangers to see how America fares in the new and improved effort to live sustainably in a basically disposable culture…well, it seemed a gargantuan task, to say the least. I really had no idea what to expect. One of my brothers believed I would NOT make it, and was surprised every time I called him from the road. Well-meaning friends assured me many times that they would not think less of me if I left the trip before its end. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. And the only reason I’m leaving now is because I have a new mission: motherhood.

It hasn’t always been easy, with 3 of us tightly packed into our little Ford Escape Hybrid, juggling schedules, roadmaps, phone calls, emails, our psycho 10-CD factory-installed Navigational system, not to mention differing ideas about who & what should not be missed in any given state. We have different personalities, we three. Different preferences, patience levels, tolerances, judgments, thoughts about how things should be done, levels of perfectionism, ways of communicating…We haven’t always seen eye to eye. But I will say that this has provided us a pretty cool opportunity to learn how to navigate our own personal roadmaps…

I think we’ve shared from the beginning a sort of blind trust that humanity is basically good and that, given the chance, (the knowledge, the awareness of HOW to change, and what is out there) people will begin to do the right thing, and our children and grandchildren will have the chance to know how connected we are to every living thing on this planet, and there will be something left of beauty to sustain them.

I am so inspired by Mark and Ben, still – to see them work so endlessly, and to still be so driven after 9 1/2 months of solid work. I am so inspired by the people we have met along the way and the hundreds of blogs and websites we have become acquainted with since Your Environmental Road Trip began. I can hardly keep up with it all, there is so much going on out right now in this push to be green and learn to live sustainably. What an amazing wave of waking up! I had no idea when we left how big a wave we would all be riding. In every single state without exception we have found people caring deeply, working hard, thinking creatively, and making changes that are being reflected in government and legislature and even big corporations. Greenwashing does happen, sure it does, but this trip is making me believe that it won’t hold a candle to the real movement that is washing over us, which is Truth, and which will carry us into a brighter, cleaner, healthier future if we let it.

I am leaving the Road part of YERT for the boys to finish but I will continue the journey in Louisville, preparing for a completely different set of challenges. There are many things which have been made somewhat easy on the trip but which will be harder in “real life” (ie: garbage). I am very thankful to the boys for being gentlemen to me since I’ve been pregnant. I am honored to have been part of these last 10 months, and to have now the opportunity to raise a child who will hopefully benefit from everything we’ve learned.

Here we go. Babysteps to a better way of Life. Bon Voyage, boys, be safe! We will keep the green fires burning….and be sure that the waste smoke is being used for something…

Day 291: NYC: mamablog: Green showers!!

…ahhh…home. the smell of the subway, the roar of the…Nothing like setting foot on the train after being on the road smashed into a car with two boys for 9 months…actually, nothing like it at all. Amazing how fast things seem like you never left them.

Julie here, just checking in, relaying that the female(s) of Your Environmental Road Trip are still kicking and breathing. Singing, actually. Baby is getting her first glimpses of what Mama really does..and she seems to like it pretty well. Can’t blame her as, in my opinion, the vibrations that rock the walls daily of NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program on 2nd Avenue are nothing less than delicious, to even the most tested of ears, much less tiny, developing, new ones.

A little backstory: I negotiated with the boys for this week of work, singing in NYC, before we ever left Pittsburgh back in July, and have been looking forward to it fiercely ever since. (side note* this little baby was conceived on the only day on this trip that Ben and I actually sang together, performing a musical reading for a friend in LA back in October. I’m just saying.) Not surprising that everything feels just fine.

The boys have been working their patooties off getting the new website off the ground in flying colors, chasing interviews all over Manhattan, scrambling around the city shooting b-roll, while I sit on the edge of my chair in the rehearsal room with several other singer/actors, learning music and remembering what it feels like to soar. Happy. Free. And yesterday was simply gorgeous, 70’s and breezy… I went window shopping near Union Square just to see what people are wearing these days and i had to laugh bc everything looks maternity! All girls are wearing frocks! hahaha i fit right in. Except for my shoes. 🙁 I found a spot on a bench and watched the people for hours…

Today is going to be amazing. My dear friend, Erin Crosby, is throwing us a green baby shower! at her apartment in Brooklyn, and I am told she has gone to many lengths to make this as different as possible from the 9 months we have spent in the car with same clothes, same shoes, same equipment, same each other… We have asked that everyone bring something 2nd hand, rather than something new, NO PLASTIC, Pls! and that it be “wrapped” in something completely reusable, and she has done her best to be sure that people are thinking creatively. I can’t wait to see what people have come up with, and I am so so grateful to her for pulling this off. Plus, I can’t wait to feel like a pretty girl again. Ugggh. For literally the first time in months, I will be wearing something other than dirty sneakers.

In short, I am giddy with anticipation and thanking in advance Erin, all my friends who are meeting us today, NYU, and my YERT boys for letting me have this window where I get to remember the joy of being a girl…greenly…before I leave this tour to learn how to be a green mom. Stay tuned…we’ll let you know how it goes.

Day 280: NY: spending hours in Ithaca…

Gorgeous spring day in the Fingerlakes.
All 3 of us got outside for some good morning exercise in the fresh air before heading in to Ithaca to meet with Steve Burke, President of the Board of Ithaca Hours at his cool little shop, Small World Music. Talked about some of the challenges of using local currency as well as the benefits, and why Ithaca seems to be a hotbed for forward thinking. Steve told us that people in Ithaca, besides being well-educated, generally do NOT watch TV.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

We bought some local music from Steve and even used one of our Berkshares (gorgeous local currency from Great Barrington, MA) as part payment, and then Ben, Mark & I shared some killer vegan carrotcake at ABC cafe near Cornell University…bought partially with Ithaca hours…

(Berkshares are very different in their application than are Ithaca Hours. More information on local currencies can be found at the EF Schumacher website. Seems to be still a ways away from becoming mainstream but as the dollar continues to decline, local currencies are an interesting option for keeping communities thriving…) Thoughts?

Day 279: babymama in training, checking in from upstate NY…

Girl is getting tired! Whoo doggy. Pregnancy brain has taken over and I don’t concentrate on anything besides baby names, birthing options, and breastfeeding … kind of funny bc I’m not really to a point to do any of those things yet … and as I am daily getting bigger and bigger… watching my belly burgeoning and counting the days before I can get out of the car, i remember that i am supposed to be blogging about the trip and researching something other than how many kicks are supposed to be felt every hour…

I missed most of DC cause I was in Louisville drinking sweet goo for the prenatal check for getstational diabetes. Highlights were that American Airlines waylaid my luggage (it showed up the next day at Mom’s) and that the nurses forgot me in the waiting area and I had to come back the next day and drink the sticky stuff a second time right before getting on the plane back to DC. Anyway, the only pics I have are of Ben and I on the National Mall on our last day before heading North.

So – today was a day of making phone calls and sending emails, for things in upstate NY and also NYC. No bites yet, but very excited to get an email back from Robin Nagle (an anthropology professor at NYU who has really done some interesting study of garbage in the Big Apple). Unfortunately, it looks like our paths will not cross this time through NYC…Perhaps we will find her again on this journey? Majora Carter also looks to be out of town for the week we are in NYC, and other people we’ve contacted have yet to respond, so we may have to reassess our options. We’ll probably try to get to Ithaca tomorrow and see what we can see, regardless of who calls us back from there. Fingers crossed.

Right now Ben is still working on graphics, Mark has gone to bed and I am still feeling happy for the Kansas Jayhawks’ NCAA victory over Memphis, and super grateful for this tiny kiddo brewing away in-belly…

Back to Days 197-199: Wild Wild Wind in Texas…

Hallo,
remember back in January when we were traipsing through the Southern states to avoid winter’s sting? Well, some of those states got the shaft in the blogging department, and the biggest state in the Union was hit hardest. Here we’ll catch up on what YERT found a little further West – in Roscoe/Sweetwater, Texas.

We spent some time with David Etheredge and his Dad, retired cotton farmer Cliff Etheredge, on Cliff’s farm. Cliff saw wind turbines going up on the hills of Sweetwater and thought, why not on the flat farms of Roscoe? There’s plenty of wind… He traveled to NYC and talked to some people until he got a bite with the people at Airtricity, who came, surveyed the land, and have since installed hundreds of turbines providing power to thousands of West Texas homes.

It may seem unlikely for a state that has historically been our nation’s biggest oil producer to be courting wind, but this is real, and it is really exciting. What’s blowing in West Texas is a healthy interest in wind energy that benefits both the farmer and the environment. The windcoalition website states that, now, “Texas leads the Western Hemisphere in wind energy production, generating enough to power nearly 600,000 homes. This summer, the state surpassed California to become the largest producer of wind energy in the nation.”

We rolled into the Sweetwater, TX convention center late Tuesday to meet Mayor Greg Wortham at the local 4H show. Lambs, rabbits, and chickens were being judged – and kids of all sizes were muscling their critters into acceptable stances of presentation for show. Here we had the really cool opportunity to talk to several farmers whose lives have changed dramatically…thanks to the power of wind. Apparently, there is an epidemic of “dying” towns all over the Mid- and Southwest. Farming has not gotten any easier for those trying to make a living independent of large scale industry. Although wind is an intermittent source of energy, having the turbines gives farmers two things to depend on for cash instead of just their crop. With wind turbines on their farms, farmers have doubled their possible income, and found security they’ve never experienced before.

Wouldn’t it be great to see this trend continue all over the country?

oops! a blog entry never made it to post –

i just discovered that the blogpost for Mar 25, Raleigh/Durham did not get posted somehow…so i just posted it for March 25, when it was written, and it is there…so anyone looking for Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill/Carrboro will find it on Mar 25. Sorry for the confusion…
julie

Days 267-270: Virginia! William McDonough Architects and Polyface and Blenheim Farms

What a terrific couple of days in Virginia! Holy cows!
We stopped by William McDonough & Partners in downtown Charlottesville, where Kira Gould showed us the creative building rooms and concepts for commissions all over the world, and architect Kevin Burke, Director of Practice, described how architecture is changing to reflect sustainability and how McDonough’s vision of imitating natural systems is put into practice by the partners in the firm. (For those unfamiliar, William McDonough co-authored an amazing book called Cradle to Cradle with German chemist, Michael Braungart, which rethinks design so that “waste” is understood for what it is – an inefficiency, a flaw in the system. This book joins about 20 others that we consider to be the most important environmental reads of our time, and which make up our traveling YERT library. It’s exactly the kind of thing that innovative and industrial Americans can sink their teeth into, and it’s FUN. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Another book the YERT team can’t speak highly enough of is Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma…though here’s where I admit to being the sole YERT traveler who has not yet put the e-book into my headphones thing… Still, that didn’t take away from my enjoying our wonderful visit with farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. I loved it.

We left our little nest at the Comfort Inn in Charlottesville for Swoope, VA, early in the morning, hoping that the full grey skies would hold off letting loose for the afternoon. After driving an hour through beautiful rolling hills and countryside, we came to a great patch of green pasture with russet-colored chickens running all over it, and some little wagons. This had to be it.

Joel’s wife, Theresa, came out to meet us, shook hands and told us that Joel was up with the pigs and would be down shortly, Why didn’t we make ourselves familiar with the chickens in the yard while we waited? We dodged the electric fence and Ben and Mark filmed b-roll of the perky birds until Joel showed up to make proper introductions to “the ladies.” He showed the boys how to catch a hen and hold her with just one hand, showed the nests and eggs in the “eggmobiles.” I had fun filming Mark with the little camera chasing after chickens and getting smeared with chicken poop. Ben helped Joel empty buckets of grain into the little shelters, and we watched Joel pull one unlucky hen from a completely stuck position between the slats…and the rain held off…

There is plenty on the Polyface website to describe what Joel is doing but my take was this: Like Cradle to Cradle, Joel uses the animals and natural systems in the most common sense way possible – a closed loop of resource, rebirth and healing for the earth and her critters…

His cattle graze on pasture, mowing the grass (to a manageable length for poultry) while adding their own manure as compost. Then they are moved on to new grass and the eggmobiles are brought in so the chickens can “sanitize” the cowpies, eating the fly larvae and adding their own droppings to the fertility of the soil.

Then Joel showed us the pigerator. In the winter, a layer of corn is laid down in the dry barn where the cows are kept, and hay is constantly layered thick for bedding, keeping them dry and clean, until by Spring the floor under the cows’ hooves is several feet high. When the cows are let out in warm weather to pasture, the pigs are brought in from the forest (where they have been foraging acorns, among many other delectable things). What results is Hog Heaven! The pigs spend a joyful month rooting around this seemingly endless pile of cow manure and rotting hay for the fermenting corn beneath, turning and aerating the layers into the best compost (really good dirt) you ever saw. And it didn’t smell like pigs, or at least not the pungent stench I remember sharply accosting the nostrils from pig farms in KY and Indiana back when I was growing up. It mostly just smelled like dirt! (People who tune in to YERT will eventually see some pretty fine footage of Ben trying to help the pigs do their job and of Mark accidentally riding one.) Though Mark and Ben got right in there with Joel and the porkers, I still had trouble getting past the fact that they were wallowing in ****, so I pretty much kept my interaction on the level of…conversation, from outside the pen. The animals seemed to really like Joel, coming to him for scratches and pets, and running between his legs. I asked Joel if he ever felt bad/sad taking a pig to market, and he said, “No way. Each one’s got a $500 price tag!” And that is how a farmer makes his living. I sort of rolled that around my brain as one of the bigger pigs came over for my side of the fence for a scratch with the stick I was holding…and then it started to rain…

We left Polyface Farm with a dozen gorgeous eggs, 3 wonderful books which Joel authored (Thank you, Joel!) (he has several), and many new thoughts about pigerators and eggmobiles to take with us on our travels, as well as Joel’s suggestion to visit one of the restaurants which sells Polyface meat. Ben called Angelo Vangelopoulos, the owner of Ivy Inn in Charlottesville, who set up a tasting for us! All I can say is The food was AMAZING. All 3 of us agreed that it was one of our very best meals of the entire trip. Polyface wasn’t the only local organic food on the menu; there were several farms’ fares. But Joel’s pigs were delectable. Mark swore he could taste the trees. And the creme brulee, made with Joel’s ladies’ eggs, was delicious. Mark said it rivaled what he’s eaten in France, and Ben ate the 2nd half of mine. I thought it delicious and I don’t even like creme brulee!

The next day we returned to record Angelo’s thoughts about the challenges of running a small restaurant with organic local food within the guidelines of the FDA, while supporting small farmers. He let us know right away that it isn’t easy but to him there is no other way. Our tummies were rewarded, as is Joel’s livelihood. Before we left, we asked him where he goes when he is looking for something fast, good and not too expensive. He answered with our favorite fast food joint on YERT: Chipotle’s. Already we had come to love and appreciate the hormone-and-antibiotic-free meat, but when we got to the counter of the Chipotle’s just out of town, we couldn’t believe our eyes – they were making burritos with meat from Polyface! Quite thrilling, not to mention outrageously good.

Our last scheduled interview was at Blenheim Farm, on our way to Washington DC. Family-owned and operated by Lawrence & Becky Latane (prounounced “latnee”) and their three 20-something kids on a permanent conservation easement, Blenheim Organic Gardens is part of a larger 400 acre preserve. It began as an organic vegetable garden that expanded as needs and opportunities arose to a fully operating certified organic CSA, with presence at farmers markets.

We spilled out of the car and were greeted by the most gregarious of the family dogs, Gus (who stole much of the film footage, I warn you now, and you will see why at at later date.) I’m terribly sad that I haven’t any photos to show of this lovely family and their fantastic little farm – I started getting a migraine right when I got there, so I couldn’t really see for most of the time we were with them, and then I was off my game! UGH. I was whisked inside and given coffee while the youngest, daughter Sage, passed around homemade lemon squares and then made me eat raw potatoes (she heard they help headaches – Thank you, ladies).

Outside, the boys interviewed Lawrence, and let Becky, Sage, and son, Cameron, say what they love about organic farming. Becky Latane plucked me the sweetest spinach I have ever tasted. EVER. I have never thought of spinach as sweet. She thinks it’s the dirt. Maybe it is. Or maybe its the love. Or maybe I am pregnant and gushy. I am thrilled every time we run into people who are making good things with the earth, every time we encounter respect and harmony.

From Joel’s respect for the pigness of the pig, to Angelo’s regard for real food’s making people happy, to fast food chains willing to take a chance on healthy local meat, to the Latanes’ love for the earth and producing with it, I felt renewed. I feel full of superlatives but that was Virginia for me, and they all made it – wonderful. And baby gets no pesticides!!!

Days 251-254: NC Pt II: the motherload that is Asheville

Going in, we knew that Asheville, NC, would be a hotbed for environmentalism, and we were not disappointed. We were welcomed into the elegant mountaintop home of our new friends, Stephen and Suzie, and were immediately taken under the wings of two of the most sustainable people I have ever met, Bob and Isabel. Here is one of Bob’s amazing sandals that he has been wearing and repairing for the last 5 yrs, made from spare tires and seat belts…

Isabel set up an evening party for YERT at Pearson Drive Garden, one of three community gardens featured in Asheville’s Bountiful Cities Project. It was a really nice potluck, we got to meet a bunch of sweet folks, showed some videos, shared stories and heard what locals are doing. We even had a sign language interpreter there with some deaf people, who suggested that we consider finding a sponsor for ‘CLOSED CAPTIONING for the hearing impaired’ on our videos – something I personally had not thought of before and which we would love to offer.

Isabel drove us to Earthaven – self described as “an aspiring ecovillage in a mountain forest setting near Asheville…dedicated to caring for people and the Earth by learning, living, and demonstrating a holistic, sustainable culture.” We were shown the ropes by Isabel’s teacher and revered permaculturist, Patricia Allison. Both women pointed out that what may look like a garbage dump to the untrained eye, piles of paper and cardboard lying about the garden in seemingly haphazard fashion, is actually nourishing the ground, creating rich new soil. Compostable outdoor toilets have a separate section for PEE!, which is then collected, diluted and used to further fertilize the improving soil. Like The Farm in Summertown, TN, this intentional community is an example of attempting to live sustainably in community….

Another example is the Ash Village Institute, in Asheville city limits. (Isabel also brought us here!) We met Janell Kapoor, another student of Permaculture and tasted several of her many flavors of meade – a naturally fermented honey wine – (ok, I didn’t) before hearing all about Kleiwerks, her natural building website, and getting a tour of their demonstration house, refinished completely naturally. We were inspired to hear how the neighborhoods are taking to their totally green neighbors!

The last things we were treated to by our amazing Bob and Isabel were 1. the totally cool grocery selling all surplus organic stuff at very affordable prices, 2. REAL dumpster diving!! which is mainly hitting grocery dumpsters for perfectly good food being tossed in the dumpster, while it is still clan and edible… and 3. the biggest Goodwill store I have ever seen…it has a huge back section where clothing is sold $1.10 per pound. That is where Ben stepped on the scale for fun and stepped right off again when he realized how much sympathy weight he has gained since my pregnancy…

We can also look forward to video with Professor Andrew Jones. I slept through the entire thing on his couch and cannot comment except that he is an exceptional host who knows how to treat a pregnant lady (feed her bread…Thank you, Andrew!) and that his son is very honest. When I told him I was growing a baby, he said, “Is that why you’re so big?” Yes. Yes, it is. 🙂