Monday, January 9, 2017

Our Attempt at Zero-Waste Living: A 2017 Personal Challenge

It's been awhile! Hello! Dropping in here to leave a note about the latest 'happenings'. Over the past three months, Zachary and I made a spur of the moment decision (back in October) to buy nothing -- nothing new, nothing used. It was a radical attempt to save. With the exception of gas, car repairs, and food, the learning curve challenged us, but it wasn't as difficult as we had expected. Thankfully, both of us are competitive, so neither wanted to be the first to break the challenge. We cut our food budget down by two thirds, and quickly learned that gleaning is a great resource to rescue food from going to waste (all organic fruits and vegetables from Whole Foods, 365, and Trader Joe's).



The effort to buy nothing during the most consumer-saturated time of the year (October through January), forced our hand into clever gifting for birthdays and Christmas, and the urge to buy 'things' became less of an impulse. During this 'buy nothing' endeavor, we became painfully aware of what we spend on a regular basis, and we revisited the drawing board for 2017.

By eliminated extra spending for three months, we looked at needs verses wants. Already trading work for rent, we brainstormed how to live a sustainable lifestyle by trading skills for other goods or services. Although we're not quite there yet, the idea of it all has us fascinated with sustainability and conscious consuming. What is it and how does one achieve it?

A natural off-shoot to this personal challenge is zero-waste living. In November, while researching 'how to make homemade mascara' (I was running low and didn't want to break our 'buy nothing' streak), I found material on zero-waste lifestyles; people eliminating waste almost completely, living on less than a jar full of garbage per year. Mind blown. I couldn't comprehend it, but I liked it. From that moment on, every minute of available time was dedicated to learning more.

Here's a rough go at what zero-waste is and how I'll be going about it:
What is the purpose of a zero-waste lifestyle? To Refuse what you do not need. Reduce what you do need. Reuse by using reusables. Recycle what cannot be refused, reduced, or reused. Rot the rest.

Why am I posting here about it? 1) I'm diving in. 2) Accountability. If I write down my goals somewhere public, I stick to them. Here's a quick and messy post, to get it out in the open. 

Why am I doing it? To save money. To see if it's possible.

What is my goal? To create a simple and whole lifestyle that values people and experiences more than the temporal satisfaction and convenience of the things that we consume.

What do I perceive to be the biggest challenge?
-  Convincing my husband that this is a good idea.
-  Pretending to understand our plastic problem in the U.S.. I don't. I have no idea, and I know that it matters, but I'm not doing this because I'm super Eco-friendly. I'm 99% certain that I will become more-so, so cheers. I'm equally excited as I am nervous, because I know that I'm going to get irritated by what I discover. That's a lot of "I's," and it seems like there's more to unpack here. We'll see. Ramble over.

What do I perceive to be the biggest expense?
Building up our reusable containers / buying stainless steel lunch boxes, etc.

What are my fears right now with it?
I fear that I'll be too hard on myself when I accumulate more trash than intended.

What are my expectations?
- To learn how to make a variety of products; makeup, lotion, laundry detergent, snacks, etc..

- To become more aware of the plastic and paper that we consume.
- To learn how to take advantage of bulk bin legumes, oils, and spices.
- To get in the habit of composting.

My goal is: To attempt zero-waste living for one month. If it goes well, I intend to stretch it over three months, and so on. No long-term commitment here, my goal is to become more aware and see if we're capable of achieving it.

Exceptions:
- To use up what I have in my home, so that I can replace goods with zero-waste options.
- Weekly food rescue (I'll explain later); food is already going to waste, trash is inevitable.
- Our 'buy nothing' spree doesn't end for another week, so I will sew my own produce bags, and use glass jars that we already have for bulk shopping. If we decide to continue our zero- spending streak for another stretch of time, we will hold off on accumulating our stainless steel containers and other items. I do have a few Macy's gift cards if I need to use them (we don't count our gift cards as "real" money, because it's not in our bank account).


To rate my progress, I will:
- Blog about it - the highs and lows, what I've learned, my wins and failures, etc..
- Go through our bank statements to see past spending habits (2016 Monthly categories breakdown).
- Keep all of my trash in one place. This includes: everything that money is spent on in the month of January (and thereafter, if continued).


Books to read:
Zero Waste Home by Béa Johnson
Waste Free Kitchen Handbook by Dana Gunders 

David Suzuki's Green Guide

Our first tasks over the week:
1) Obtain stainless steel straws (helloooo, gift cards). 
2) Sew produce bags.

I've written out the perceived problems (and their perceived solutions), I have a million questions, and still, I'm finding that the best way to learn about anything at all is to jump right in. So here's to that; to jumping right in. If you know of resources that would benefit us, or if you've dabbled in a zero-waste lifestyle yourself, we are open to suggestions and eager to hear what has worked for you. 

Happy new year! What are your habit changes? Resolutions? I'd love to hear!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jesus said "Go" - Our story to Sri Lanka

And I said “No.” A flat, adamant “No” to going where the Lord asked us; “No” to going to Sri Lanka. After all, didn’t he know that we had other plans? Where is Sri Lanka, anyway? I thought. As the worship team filled a large room with praise, I shook my head at God and reluctantly scribbled down the name of the country on a journal page. At this point, my husband and I had already made plans for Nepal; the tickets were selected, the contact in the country was established, a family was ready to open their home and share space with us, and everything seemingly made sense to go. But God said “No.”
Like all the other times I doubted him, he spoke with a gentle promise. This time, he said, 1) “Go to Sri Lanka instead of Nepal,” and 2) “I will supply all of your needs.” I knew it was the Lord because of his caring persistence and my constant pushback. He’s never been one to set up a bad plan, and I’m learning (slowly) that when he says that he’s preparing a place for me, he always follows through with it.
Since my husband and I both had our minds set on Nepal, I didn’t want to let him know that God told me something different. I knew it was meaningless to argue — after all, God has continually kept his promises in the past, continually provided, and has never let us underestimate his sovereignty. Still, I argued for a solid twenty minutes. Call it “Human nature,” call it “Repetitive,” or call it “Absolute uselessness;” whatever the case, rebellion to his voice is never wise and it always bites in the end. He’s always constant, always good, and always faithful. Always – regardless of the situation. After a banter of excuses, his words “Instead of Nepal” we’re undeniable. Even though we didn’t know anyone in Sri Lanka, or have any leads, peace surrounded the decision and I called Zachary that night (he was in Nicaragua at the time).
I asked my husband to pray during the remainder of his trip about the name of another country (however, I didn’t tell him which country to pray about). “Why?” He asked, “You don’t want to go to Nepal?” Oh heavens. Of course I wanted to go to Nepal. If the Lord were, in fact, telling me Sri Lanka, then he would no doubt confirm it through my spouse. When Zach returned home, he reminded me that all the doors were open for Nepal, so we should just go there. “You didn’t pray about it, did you?” I asked. “No,” he said. Disappointed by his response, I asked him to pray for three more days about the name of the country we were to travel to.
The following Wednesday, our brother Joesiah accompanied us on a walk to the river. Zachary told me before we left that I probably didn’t know where the country was that God told him. Great. Geography has never been my strong suit, so I began to doubt that God had told us the same place. I started to tell my younger brother-in-law of my doubts, when he joyfully interrupted with, “How about you both just whisper the name of the country into my ear and I’ll tell you if it’s the same.” We did exactly as Joe suggested, and sure enough, he announced in a rather matter-of-fact way, “Sri Lanka … what do you know, God told you the same thing.”
Throughout the next few months, we didn’t really prepare, we just waited on Jesus and asked him what to do next. His leading and provision brought us to Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka. We are currently working alongside KidzNet, a small, non-profit organization (with only three staff members) that works directly with the government on raising the quality of children’s homes all over Sri Lanka. Everything that comes in, goes out. In other words, every penny or donation gets distributed according to need into the 48 homes all over the nation. I’ll be photographing the grants to send back to the donors, while Zach will learn and play cricket at the homes with the kids. As a team, we’ll visit the homes to talk with, pray with, play sports with, eat with, and encourage the staff and kids.
This is one way that we’ll be serving over the next few months. God’s generous heart and his constant faithfulness bring us to a place of thanksgiving over and over again. We’re learning that it’s hard to “Kick against the goads” when it comes to God’s leading. In other words, it’s impossible to ignore his direction and resist his will. Just as Jesus confronted Paul when he met him on the road to Damascus, he’s reminding us that we were created to yield to a vision more well-crafted than our own. In the context of Acts 26:14, to “Kick against the goads” is a proverbial statement that the Romans probably knew (Paul was a Roman citizen, so he picked up the statement quickly). Goads were long, sharpened sticks used to prod oxen when they were hitched to yokes. Not wanting to be jabbed again by the sharp stick, the ox would try and kick against it. The ox would soon learn that it was better to accept the direction of the farmer than to “Kick against the goad.”
The preparation of this trip has shown us the joy of submission, the reward of giving freely, and the faithfulness of a King who excels in loving well. It’s far better for us to accept the direction that he says to go, instead of fighting it. He’s teaching us that it’s foolish not to obey, and that his blessings overflow when we rest and trust in him. It’s so simple. When we overcomplicate it, when we fight it, when we rebel against it — that’s when we realize that he’s known best all along. He’s faithful to his promises, and he never fails in completing them. Ever. He’s a good, good father; always pursuing, always loving, and always calling us back to him — where joy, security, grace, value, and abundant life abounds.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hello, old friend.


I feel eons away from ever catching up on here.
Soon, I hope to write about the last several months and everything between. Like: 

-Good books and life lessons
-Forward movement and recluse - how they connect
-Generosity: giving joyfully and and also being a recipient of it
-Traveling to unknown territory (local and international)
-Perspective from beautiful street friends in Seattle
-Celebrations, traditions, and other merry occasions

Until then, let's not waste time on fickle things.
(This is a reminder to myself.) 

  

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wisdom from Tolkien


"That night they ate their very last scraps and crumbs of food; and next morning when they woke the first thing they noticed was that they were still gnawingly hungry, and the next thing was that it was raining and that here and there the drip of it was dropping heavily on the forest floor. That only reminded them that they were also parchingly thirsty, without doing anything to relieve them: you cannot quench a terrible thirst by standing under giant oaks and waiting for a chance drip to fall on your tongue" (The Hobbit).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

I can be a bridesmaid AND carry a camera ...

Thirteen months ago, my friend Katherine and I went to visit our dear Nina-pinta-santa maria. Two days prior to seeing her, this guy named Brendan took her on their second spontaneous date (within a week of meeting her), and told her, “Nina, my grandpa says when you know, you know. And I know - you’re going to be my wife.” That same weekend, the church ladies at Nina’s bible study received the word “husband” for Nina, without realizing the situation that Nina was in. That very day we started planning her wedding. Four months later, they were engaged. Two weekends ago, I was able to watch one of my best friends say “yes” to learn how to put another person before herself, to be loved, and to drink tea evermore with her favorite one. Nina and Brendan, I love you both and am so, so happy for you two. Thanks so much for letting us celebrate with you guys!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Take it easy, English majors. Calm down, you're too loud.

I've never been in a room full of English majors when it wasn't class time.
Until today.
I've decided the quiet awkwardness could have been one of two things:
1) We all stayed up late writing final 15-30 page papers. Or,
2) We are all introverts who just want to go read books and drink tea.

Either way, I'm now a Sigma Tau Delta member. So that's cool.
That basically means I just get to put "English Honors Student" on my resume.
Nothing too special.
Also... I'm half and half with this whole 'introvert' business.
Anyways, I just learned this last week that I'm graduating (in seven days).
I need to go study for finals.

Happy Saturday, friends. I hope you find something good to read.