How to Compost: If you want to but don’t know where to start

 

Disclaimer: long post

I can’t explain why, but composting is kind of intimidating to me. There’s really not a lot to it, but at the same time, it’s science, and when I don’t have all of the information, I feel paralyzed and like I can’t get started.

A few months ago I was clicking through the Los Angeles Department Of Water And Power Website (I’m a nerd, we know this, don’t judge) and I stumbled on Smart Gardening, a FREE county sponsored class that goes ALL over LA County to teach both a beginners AND advanced composting class. Added bonus, they’ll sell you a compost bin way cheaper than you can buy them in stores and there’s no sales tax. You can get a backyard bin for $40 and a worm compost kit for $65. They also gave everyone a free packet of seeds (home grown tomatoes here we come). So I woke up super early on a Saturday morning, dragged my ass from Culver City to West Hills (about 45 minutes without traffic) to the BEAUTIFUL Orcutt Ranch (seriously people, it’s beautiful, if you live in LA check it out) and listened to a city certified master gardener share his composting knowledge.

I loved everything about this. Some stuff I knew, some I didn’t, but I now feel (moderately) confident in setting up my brand spanking new backyard bin. (I didn’t want to start this project by being tasked with keeping living creatures alive, especially since I’ll be in and out of town over the next few months.)

So here’s what I learned – although I strongly recommend attending this if you live in LA, but if not, this is from the mouth of someone who is not an expert and has just learned. Feel free to add things I’ve missed in the comments section if you ARE an expert.

While the class went over backyard bins, worm bins, grass recycling, and some other tidbits of gardening information, I’m mainly focusing on backyard bins in this post.

Don’t have a yard but still want to responsibly dispose of your food waste? Trash is for Tossers posted a video about how to compost anywhere LITERALLY today (I feel so on trend!). Check out your local farmers market for dropping off compost you’ve collected, OR just do a quick google search to find out how to compost in your city (I found this LA Resource in about 10 seconds – and that was just the first search result). Some cities and neighborhoods offer curbside compost pickup – but make sure to check out your utility website to confirm what you can and cannot put into your bin. 

Part 1: Why should we compost?

Composting takes a large amount of your food and yard waste and turns it into good, nutrient rich soil. It “feeds your landscape instead of the landfill”. So if you have a garden space, want to grow food, or just grow a beautiful garden, it’s definitely worth it to consider a compost bin in your yard. Composting improves your soil structure. Literally the place where you put your bin will thrive because it draws all of the bugs and good things into the surrounding area. This is called biodiversity – all of these bugs and microorganisms in your soil are adding nutrients and keeping it alive and healthy. And nutrient rich soil requires less water to stay healthy. Muddying up your soil doesn’t help your plants, but giving your plants soil that holds onto water better does! AND when you compost, you are responsibly diverting waste from a landfill, minimizing the carbon footprint of your household. (Yay you!)

So to sum up – composting means less waste, happy garden, less money spent on watering your garden, and potentially home grown fruits and veggies!

Part 1 bonus: It is recommended that you keep your compost bin in the garden (on soil to enrich that area as mentioned above) to keep the bugs that it attracts away from your home. It has also been suggested that by creating this bountiful haven that bugs will love, that the bugs will be drawn away from your home and into the compost bin where you want them. I’ll report back on this as I have been battling an ant problem in my home, and I’m hoping this can help solve it once and for all.

Part 2: What goes into the compost bin? 

The contents of the bin should be roughly half brown materials and half green materials. (Although our master gardener told us he goes heavy on the green materials to keep his bin gooey – the “gooeyier the better, man!” he claims!)

Brown Materials: Paper, cardboard, newspaper, dead leaves, and other yard waste. We were specifically told not to put twigs or branches into the bin, but instead to add those to the green bins that the city picks up. In order for those to compost, you need to shred them into tiny pieces, so unless you’ve got that setup in your yard, don’t add them to your compost. (Printed paper is ok! We were informed that printer ink is soy based, and will compost with no problem).

Green Materials: Any fruit or vegetable food waste. No animal or animal-bi products here.

Other Kitchen Waste: Egg shells, coffee grounds, and paper coffee filters can all go into your compost.

Manure: The master gardener went on and on about manure and the benefits to your compost. (He also said do NOT use the waste of domesticated house pets!) Horse manure is apparently the greatest thing that could possibly happen to your compost. If you want the worms to travel underground to your bin, just add horse poop!

Old clothes: Linen, cotton, hemp – fibers that grow from the ground and do not require a chemical process to be turned into yarn (like rayon, modal, lyocell, bamboo are all chemically turned into a fiber) can go into the bin. They are natural and will break down just fine. If it has non biodegradable fibers woven in, I imagine you’ll come across those later when you try to harvest your soil).

Part 3: Getting started

1. Set up your bin on soil away from your home near where you want to grow things.
2. Fill the bottom with brown materials – shredded cardboard is a good starter.
3. Add the green matter on top. (I gather mine in a countertop compost bin like this. Just collect for a few days and empty into the outside bin before it starts to rot in your kitchen.)
4. Add water every 7-10 days
5. 3-6 months later you will have composted soil that can be harvested from the bottom of the bin.

Part 4: All the what ifs

If your bin is cool on the inside, it’s probably dry and needs some more nitrogen – this is vegetable matter. Add some more food scraps to your bin.

If your bin is too hot, add paper and cardboard.

But what’s the maximum temperature? 170°F – It seems you can buy thermometers for this.

Bugs in your compost? Yay you’re doing a good job!

Rats and other unwanted critters in your compost? Add manure (but add manure anyway apparently!)

Where can you get manure? I’m not exactly sure yet, I’ll update when I figure it out. He mentioned a few places but that’s the one thing I forgot to write down.

Bin smells bad? Add citrus – a paper bag full of citrus will facilitate in breaking down whatever is causing the stink.

Part 5: What can’t go in the bin

Meat
Grease (and grease soaked things)
Bones
Dairy
Diseased or infected plants
Glossy Paper (recycle it instead)
Invasive weeds (bugs don’t like weeds and we like bugs!)
Seeds (this is only kind of a don’t – you might find something has sprouted in your bin! Plant it in a small pot and nurture it, you just might have a healthy new plant friend!)
No pesticide treated clippings
No pet litter or feces.

A last little nugget of joy from the master gardener: Hang out with people treating their soil – they’re positive people!

 

 

Gift Giving is Weird

Many years ago, my siblings and I started banding together to buy each other gifts so instead of multiple crappy gifts, we would each get 1 nice gift. Just a few years ago, we all agreed to stop buying each other gifts at all, because it was becoming ridiculous. Asking each other “what do you need?” “what do you want?” and then buying it for them. Or being on the asking end and trying to tell someone what to buy you (and honestly, I never really felt like I needed things so it was hard to tell them what I wanted).  Gift giving is super weird when you think about it. An obligatory expense on someone else even if you can’t afford such things for yourself. It also demands that at least twice a year – birthdays and holidays-, we are supposed to give all of our loved ones something special. So I’m 32 now – lets say I receive gifts from 10 people every year – that means 20 gifts a year – and 640 gifts over the course of my life so far. Most of that stuff is “I thought this was funny – it made me think of you” – even if it’s something I have 0 use for, I have nowhere to put it, and on occasion – I don’t even like it (OMG IM A TERRIBLE PERSON WHO DOESNT LIKE THE GIFT YOU GAVE ME – yeah I get it, shut up). I’m also very guilty of this – so I’ve stopped – or tried to. Now, if I feel the need to buy something for another person (usually when I travel), I make sure it’s a consumable gift. Food, alcohol, chocolates, a concert ticket, an experience – anything that doesn’t require the recipient to question how long they need to keep the thing that “made me think of them”. The best part of this is that so far, this has resulted in the recipient wanting to share the experience. We talk about it, we taste it, we go together, we experience together. It’s been a really wonderful way to share things with my friends and family. So I’m not anti-gift – I’m anti-junk. I’ve asked my friends, if you see something and it makes you think of me, just send me a photo of it, I’ll probably get as much enjoyment out of the photo as I would having it in my hands. I also don’t even need to know about it all – I can’t want something I never knew existed!

And before anyone decides to tell me I’m spoiled and ungrateful – this is a movement for the opposite. Stuff shouldn’t be representative of friendship and love – being a good friend and a loving family member says a lot more to me than buying things does.

Why I Carry Bamboo Cutlery In My Purse

I’m very much influenced by the zero-waste efforts of people like Trash is for Tossers and Zero Waste Home, and I read their blogs and Facebook posts looking for things I can eventually apply to my own life, if not immediately. These are great resources, but sometimes it helps to know someone in person making these efforts, and see it in action. I recently made some new friends who happen to be practicing some great, easy, and inexpensive behaviors themselves. I was so inspired I’ve adopted them as well (and maybe I can inspire some of my friends to make the change too). This is part of the reason I invested in a (fine, 2) new purse. I needed something the right size, with a zipper that also fit my shopping rules. So here are my newly adopted, easy to do, not too heavy to carry additions to my daily life.

  1. A set of bamboo cutlery: I found myself without a spoon one day, and my friend handed me her bamboo spoon from her purse. It just lives in there, she rinses it after she uses it and she always has it. This eliminates the need for plastic single use items in a big way. As much as I might try, I can’t get myself to prep every single meal. Sometimes I have to go out and buy something, or sometimes I want ice cream from the fancy ice cream shop, or whatever. I also go to lots of sporting events, and Disneyland, and I’m just not always in control of what and where I am eating, or how it is served. This cuts down on my personal consumption of plastic, not to mention it’s stronger. My friend teased me for using my bamboo spoon with ice cream, and then his single use plastic spoon broke (yeah, I definitely gloated). I ordered 2 sets and a carrying case from Bagitconscious. It’s a small pouch with a fork, knife, and spoon. You can buy kits from vendors like her, or some grocery stores carry the cutlery a la carte. You can make your own pouch or store it in a cute box – whatever works for you!
  2. A metal straw: While I admit straw use is really unnecessary (why is it so hard to drink directly out of a glass people??) – but when handed a beverage that somehow requires a straw, it’s nice to have another REUSABLE option. Why? Straws suck – If you need proof, watch the video of a sea turtle with a straw up its nose and tell me you still need to use one. The other part of this is, just carry around a reusable mug/jar/bottle and then you have complete control over what kind of container your drink comes in anyway and goodbye need for a straw. But in a pinch, it’s nice to have one anyway – they’re stainless steel, skinny, and weigh nothing – if you carry a purse or a backpack regularly, it’s an easy thing to keep with you. You can find lots of sellers on Etsy.
  3. A shopping bag and a drawstring bag: Some of those grocery store bags don’t fold down that small, but I found a great nylon one that is really lightweight and mushes down really small. I keep that along with a drawstring bulk shopping/produce bag that I made after getting annoyed with the plastic bags in the bulk shopping aisle (I also get complimented on these ALL THE TIME by people other shopping). Who knows when I might make an impromptu stop at the grocery store, stumble on a farmers market, or go get takeout and ta-dah! have my own bag to use! (p.s. anyone who wants a drawstring bulk bag, feel free to let me know in the comments, I’ll whip some up if there’s enough of a desire, but I’m pretty sure there are already people selling them on Etsy.)
  4. A stainless steel water bottle: Ok – I’ve been doing this for a long time, but it’s still worth mentioning. I actually have multiple water bottles for different purposes. I have an 9oz glass bottle that fits into smaller purses (or makes a good secondary bottle for airplanes), a 12oz bottle that’s a little bulkier but passes through security at places that don’t allow glass like Disneyland, or stadiums. I also have a 16oz stainless steel bottle that I have for daily use (this is my favorite option – it’s made in the USA and you can customize them now!) I find it really easy to refill the bottles, I save money on beverages (these things get pricey at stadiums!), and I stay very hydrated.
  5. A coffee mug: Admittedly, I don’t bring this with me every day, it technically fits in the bag but it’s a little bulky at that point. I also try to have coffee at home every morning and I’m not a multiple coffees in a day kind of person. But this mug has other uses as well. It’s keeps cold things REALLY cold – beer, soda, cocktails – everything. Unfortunately, I’ve asked lots of places that use plastic cups to pour beer into my reusable mug, and I get a lot of confused looks. Most places have never been presented with such a request, and assume it’s against the rules. So sad. But, I’m learning it’s worth asking! I do try to keep my water bottle strictly water, so it’s important to me to have another option and this is way easier to clean with a wide mouth.

 

Intention Part 2 – Stuff

Part 1 was taking away the idea of routine, but instead looking at things like completing a task. How I can interact with the stuff that I have so that it doesn’t pile up and become a greater problem in my life. But also, how to do the day to day tasks without everything starting to feel stale and soul crushing.

Part 2 is having stuff. I’ve read a lot about the “art of decluttering” and the concept of the “Capsule closet” and while I agree with some of it, I don’t agree with all of it. I went to school for design, I like to appreciate, reward, and pay homage to good design. I like things that are functional, but sometimes it’s nice to have something that’s just pretty and makes you smile when you see it. Sometimes it’s nice to have reminders around the home about things I’ve done, experienced, traveled to, purchased. It means little to anyone else, but sometimes these small things mean so much to me. So no, I can’t give up all my tchotchkies, and all of my clothes, and minimize my life that much. But at the same time I know that having less stuff would result in having more control over my space with much less work and mental space. So here’s my compromise.

  1. I’m keeping the things I love, the things I think are pretty, and the silly things that make me smile.
  2. Tchothckies important enough to keep must have a home that is not stashed away in a bin under a bed. If there is not enough space, it means I’m not living within my allotted space. I can talk about “getting to it” later but most likely it’ll never find a long term home, because I’ll forget about it. And if I forget about it, it probably wasn’t that important to begin with. If it’s important enough, I’ll find a home for it.
  3. I’m not going full capsule closet, but I am trying to go with “seasonal” closet. I put away all of my winter clothes and some things I used to wear all the time but haven’t worn much lately. I’ve kept out in season clothes, exercise clothes, my go to items, and some pieces I never really got into wearing that I want to see if I like enough to wear with fewer options around. Having an emptier closet makes it a lot easier to keep it organized.

So how is this intent? I’m surrounding myself with the things I know I love, and the things I connect with. I’m not cluttering my mind with the things I can’t currently use, haven’t used in a while, or don’t make me smile when I think about their origin.

Without these conditions, I’m a packrat. I have a history of keeping anything and everything that may have been or might be useful, or pretty. I’ve kept packaging that I thought was innovative, I’ve kept bottles I thought were pretty, I’ve kept and displayed every nonsense gift or freebie I’ve ever been given. I started eliminating these things from my life a few years ago without really even knowing why. At the time, I was sharing a bedroom with my business. A whole wall dedicated to stock, a workspace, storage for patterns, everything I had an office for moved into my bedroom. I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I wasn’t sleeping well, I felt like the walls were caving in. At the time I couldn’t get rid of the business stuff, but I could get rid of the junk I’d been holding onto.

When I moved out of that house, I promised myself I wouldn’t share a sleeping space with my work anymore. I wanted bare walls in my room, negative space. All this is a vast change from my teenage years when I literally nailed everything I could to the walls. I lived in a collage. Maybe this accounts for my insomnia as a child?

So now as I try to do everything with purpose, I’d like to surround myself with it as well. I’m trying to be forgiving with myself on this too. I can’t beat myself up over not wanting to part with something, and I can forgive myself for falling into habit instead of being aware of everything I’m doing. But by trying to do this, my little experiment, I’m hoping that I can eliminate the minor anxieties in my life so that I’m not starting every day kind of “in the red”, and I can better tackle the more important things at hand.

Intention Part 1

I struggle daily with routine. I’m not a person who has ever had a routine. When I get forced into routine, by a job or a class, I start to feel panic. I feel like I’m trapped, and every single day is exactly the same, and I start to melt down on the inside. But there are a lot of things I’d like to add to my daily life, so I’m trying to figure out how to add these things into my life in the long term. Or at the very least not drop them entirely when life happens and I skip it once or twice or for a few days. Sometimes I get distracted, or I just forget, or something happens in my day or week to disrupt the flow of building a new habit. I think the part of the answer is don’t go for too much too fast. Like, take it slow, add one thing in at a time. I think the other part is intention – as in not trying to make a new habit, but doing them because I want to. Instead of things becoming second nature, the idea is to be involved in each step of each process. Trying to get away from mindless behavior.

For example: When I get dressed in the morning, most of the time I’ve left a drawer in the closet open.

I attribute this to functioning on autopilot and not thinking about the things that I am doing. I want to start thinking about it as completing a task from start to finish.

Getting dressed in the morning should involve: Pick out outfit, close all drawers, return hangers to rails, get dressed, put pajamas in laundry or fold them on the bed for later.

Why is this important: It means when I get home at the end of the day things feel complete, that I don’t need to tidy up my room, that I don’t have drawers open in my mind while I try to sleep, that my space is peaceful and in tact.

Cooking a meal should involve: Prep food (or pre-prep earlier in the week), cook food, eat food, clean up.

Why is this important: This is part of a greater scheme that I will get into in a future post about connecting with my food, finding enjoyment in the experience of making my food, and not getting overwhelmed by how daunting a messy kitchen can be.

Waking up should involve: Making my bed, putting away dishes on the drying rack in the kitchen, making breakfast and coffee, cleaning up from breakfast and coffee.

Why is this important: All of these tasks are meant to prevent the inevitable downfall. The more nights I go without making my bed, the more disheveled my sheets get, the more tangled I get, the worse I sleep. If I can get myself to make my bed even every couple of days I sleep better. And making my bed is the end of sleep, it says I’m awake, and ready to move on with the day. Putting away the dishes keeps things from piling up. The kitchen feels clean, and cooking doesn’t feel overwhelming if everything is put away and I’m not digging through an overflowing drying rack looking for a specific thing. Making breakfast and coffee means I’ve slowed myself down enough to enjoy the start of my day, and I’m not on autopilot running out the door promising myself a bagel.

I’m hoping (and I say hoping because this is what I would like to do and not what I currently do) that if I can tell myself to “complete the task”, and do everything with thoughtfulness and intention, that I will start to maintain a life of less anxiety. I can go out and not worry about things at home (did I leave the flat iron on? The light in my closet?) I can come home and things are tidy. I feel like when things are messy, I remember every single thing that needs to get put away. They each weigh on me as an individual thought, and the more things there are the less I feel able to sort through it. I become emotionally paralyzed by how much I need to accomplish and it feels like it’s too much. Rather than break a mess down into a smaller mess I want to start seeing it differently. Avoid mess by completing the task in the first place and not piling things up because I can “get to it” later.

What My Every Day Anxiety Feels Like

So I mentioned before that I quit my job in part because I wanted relief from my every day anxiety. I wanted to take a minute to write about what it felt like then, and how I feel now just two months after pulling the trigger to quit.

I have two different experiences with anxiety. I have work anxiety, and social anxiety. Sometimes they overlap, but I think they are two very distinct feelings. This is about work anxiety.

Sometimes, I have this constant feeling that what I’m doing is wrong. That I’ve started the project incorrectly, that I’ve done the whole thing incorrectly, that I’m going to bring it to my boss and it’ll be wrong, and I will feel ashamed of the work I’ve done and the time that i’ve wasted.

Or this feeling I’m forgetting something – but it’s constant. What did I leave out? What did I leave behind? I forgot to do something, I know it.

These thoughts aren’t inherently bad ones, but they are when its obsessive. When it’s all I can think. When I go to bed thinking these things, and dream about it (or have dreams that I’ve been split in half and one half of me cant breathe and the other half cant see), and wake up thinking these things. Some of this can be attributed to conditioning – that somewhere along the line I’ve been bullied into these feelings – but a lot of it is that I’m a control freak and a perfectionist when it comes to my work. I often have to convince myself things are good enough and to let it go before I overwork it and myself in the process. Other times, I don’t know what I’m doing is the wrong way and when I’m corrected, you can bet I’ll never do it wrong again because on the inside I’m most likely beating myself up for doing it wrong even though I didn’t know.

I get nervous asking for breaks, or days off, or an hour off to go do something, because what if my absence messes everything up – and it’s not like it’s a self worth thing here, that everything will fall apart because I’m so important – it’s more like “what if I didn’t do everything I was supposed to do and now that I’m not there things that other people need aren’t available” etc – this is how the anxiety talks in my head.

I also know what everyone else is thinking – I know their response before I ask them a question – I swear. Except I don’t and even if sometimes I am right, I’m wrong about it enough to prove that I don’t have magic mind reading powers.

I even had a lot of anxiety about quitting (as I have had with every job I’ve ever quit). That feeling that I’m letting people down, that I’m screwing them over, that I’m putting them in a bad situation by leaving. I hate that feeling. Guilt and shame – they fuel my anxiety as well.

The result of these thoughts is that I would go to work, work really really hard, and come home and accomplish absolutely nothing. It would be me and the couch, food would be ordered, my room would become a mess, no exercise, no self care. Perfectionist at work, zombie at home.

Here’s the thing – from the outside you will most likely never know that I’m as anxious as I am. You might think I’m neurotic, or mildly anxious, or even just lazy at home. I’m usually making jokes and smiling through it, or putting my head down and getting the work done, saying I’m tired but not addressing the reason why my friends can adult so hard and I just shut down. It’s all internal. I even have a hard time talking to people close with me about it. I might mention it to them, but unless they dig deeper about it or actually witness a panic attack, they usually wont know how bad it really is. Especially when I follow through with a good self deprecating joke.

I’m not always like this, but I’ve recognized the key sign that I’m working too much and I’m about to spin out into anxiety: Breakfast.

I’m a big fan of breakfast, so much so that I usually make myself a hot breakfast most mornings. Cereal is NOT the real deal. Eggs, toast, even a potato hash with kale in it if I’m feeling like I’ve got the time. Yogurt and berries are my backup but never preferred. And now that I finally learned (in my 30s) how to make and enjoy a good old cup of pour over coffee, drinking a full cup of coffee before I leave the house became part of the ritual too. This means waking up earlier to have the time to make this happen.

If I’m not doing this, I’m most likely ordering food from a coffee shop, and coffee too, and I’m eating bagels in my car on the way to work (which I’m convinced isn’t really saving me any time), or eating AT work while I get prepared to start my work for the day. I’m not experiencing my food, I’m simply consuming it to move forward. Why? I didn’t sleep well, I overslept, I don’t have time, there might be traffic, I want to be the first one at work, I don’t feel like making breakfast (which literally takes 3 minutes), I didn’t have time to go the market and put food in my refrigerator (yeah I had days off, those were for sleeping, tv watching, and beer drinking, obviously).

How I feel now: It’s been 2 months, and I feel like I’ve been able to breathe for the first time in years. I feel like the constant pressure of the thoughts about Linden and whatever day job I was working at have dissipated. I’m excited to start my days, excited to cook breakfast. But the biggest thing I noticed is how I feel about things, because I have feelings about things. I hadn’t felt much at all for several years. I was shut down. I was dead inside with a happy face on. Feeling and experiencing a full range of emotions is something I hadn’t realized I’d lost. I couldn’t deal with the rejection I was getting as a business owner, so I shut it down. I I didn’t have energy to care about things outside of work, so I shut it down. Emotions were for weaklings, so I shut it down. I’m honestly probably still suppressing things, but I feel like i’ve had an anxiety detox, and like I’m a real person, and not just a tired ball of stress.

Something else to note is that my work was not improved by the anxiety of “get it done, do it right, be the best”. It wasn’t made worse either. It was just work and it was done.

Women in Green Forum

On Monday I got a text from a friend with a link to the Women in Green Forum, happening Wednesday (yesterday). It was a one day conference specifically geared toward (surprise surprise) women working in green and social impact jobs, but also to women who want those jobs. The ticket wasn’t cheap, so I had to convince myself to go – which wasn’t that hard.

Summary of my awkwardly navigating this event is right here – if you don’t care (and i don’t blame you) scroll to the bottom of the post for my brief review of the event.

I knew I had to be on my A game here and not be hindered by social anxiety and well, being awkward in general. So I prepared mentally.

  1. I thought about things to talk about the night before. Don’t judge, conversation is hard for some of us.
  2. I watched this series of Ted Talks about how to connect with others. This is an excellent series and was empowering for someone, like me, who has trouble connecting.

Like the last eco-event I was at, I found that the conversations i DID have were a bit easier because I knew these women were there for the same reasons I was – they care about this stuff, and they work in this field. I met a few wonderful women who have been working in their jobs for years, and gained a lot of insight from them about their work environments (super helpful for someone who has never worked in a corporate office before).

Also like the last event there were breakout groups, and again, I discovered this is where I shine. Everyone is sharing thoughts and ideas for the activities we are doing, and I assumed the role of documenter, translator, and spokesperson – meaning I wrote down the ideas everyone came up with, talked through the ideas to boil them down to a short sentence, and was the voice that read out and described our answers to the whole room full of people. I would also like to note that I was successful in keeping everyone in the group on track. Comments would start discussions, and these things were timed, so I would have to direct people back to the task at hand.

So here’s what I’ve learned so far by going to these events and documenting them:

  1. Conversation is way easier if someone else starts it.
  2. It’s much easier for me to start a conversation if I already know we share a passion (so far its specifically been for the environment) – not gonna lie, name tags and job titles help too.
  3. Small groups are not that terrifying, especially when we have a task to complete.
  4. One on One conversation IS terrifying, but not as bad if the person I am talking with is a better conversationalist than I am and can keep the awkward silences at bay.
  5. Standing around at a cocktail hour/snack time/free food land is EXCEPTIONALLY terrifying. I hate this part of these events the most. I get all anxious about who to stand near and can I butt into their conversation, and the “am I eavesdropping”, “is this impolite”, “oh shit I’m being really awkward right now” thoughts come pouring into my head and I start to fidget with my nails or my hair or purse my lips and make up excuses to leave.

To sum up the event for those who are less interested in my personal interactions and want to know what the event was like: 

It was great. There were excellent panelists who were very knowledgable about the field, women who had fought for changes in the companies they work for and won, oh and that time Dolores Huerta accepted an award from the event and then spoke about social justice and feminism to a roomful of social justice feminists! Aside from that, people were really friendly. Everyone seemed like they were there to genuinely connect and learn, and not like they were there to use the event or the other attendees as stepping stones (which I find is what these events feel like sometimes). Some of the presentations were business pitches but that’s to be expected (and it feels way less aggressive when you believe in the cause of the business). There were strong breakout sessions with section titles of “work”, “life”, and “balance”. And there was also yummy food. I would recommend it for any women in LA in a green job, aspiring to get into a green job, or wanting to help greenify the company you work for.

It’s Not That I Don’t Shop

Consciously Made Products – Goods that are sourced and made keeping in mind their social and environmental impact. They can be organic, recycled, cruelty free, locally made, fair trade certified, artisan made, plastic free, a one for one model or other similar positive impact business models.

A few years ago i made the commitment to myself that if I was trying to sell a consciously made product, I should take it upon myself to purchase consciously made products as often as I can. I ended up just not buying things anymore which had the upside of not spending money very often, but the downside of talking myself out of buying things I actually needed because seeking out a consciously made option was overwhelming. I’ve gotten better, and thanks to websites like The Conscious Collective, Sustainably Chic, and even Garmentory, I have great resources to shop with confidence at both big name and indie brands. I’ve been slowly acquiring beautiful and unique pieces that sometimes might cost a little more than I would have considered paying initially, but since my purchases are so infrequent now, it’s not a huge sacrifice (and usually is still far less expensive than paying designer prices at high end stores). I also consider that when I buy things, I want to use them for years and not just for one season.

Most recently, it was time to buy a new purse. My every day bag was literally falling apart. The material was crumbling. Repairing parts of it was possible, but other parts were literally disintegrating.  I’d purchased this vinyl bag way before I’d made my shopping commitment to myself, and as I do with most of my belongings at this point, I used it until it was unusable. It was time to replace it with a conscious alternative.

After what was probably more hours of research than the average person puts into their purchases, I came across Anna Joyce Design, a printmaker and artisan in Portland. On her site you can find handcrafted prints, home goods, and accessories. I found perfectly sized (translation: big enough for a water bottle, wallet, a shopping bag, and my little reusable bamboo set of cutlery) cross body bags that were mostly cotton (leather is heavy and hurts my back) and were hand printed and detailed with a small amount of leather. I couldn’t decide between 2 bags, and priced at $118 I decided to buy both and figure it out later. Now that they’ve arrived, I still can’t decide. I’m keeping both and I will use them forever and ever, because they’re beautiful and amazing and I love them the most. I can feel good about this purchase knowing that it went directly toward a hard working independent artist.

When it comes to consciously shopping, I look at a few criteria. Mostly I try to buy things directly from the brands. If I can go to their website and determine how and where their goods were made, and easily determine that this is a consciously made product, clicking “buy” is simple. If I go on  a website and I cannot find small things like country of origin or even fabric content, that’s a website I don’t return to. Not saying anything actually says so very much.

If you want some easy go to online shops where you don’t have to do the hard research or even think twice about whether or not your purchase is satisfying all those needs, you can check out the heavy hitters like Everlane and Zady, or another favorite of mine is Bishops Collective. All of these companies are dedicated to ethically made slow fashion.

New Business Cards

Now that I’m going to these varying events on the regular – some professional some otherwise – I’ve realized I probably need a new business card that isn’t about being a fashion designer and entrepreneur.

After brainstorming with a friend for a total of 3 minutes, these are the titles that were thrown around.

Her: Sustainable Fashion Consultant
Me: Too Related to Fashion

 Me: Former expert of sustainable fashion
Her: Sounds like you died, or lost your memory.

Me: Expert of sustainable fashion – at large

Her: Jaded sustainable fashion consultant

Me: Sustainable fashion expert who hates fashion and wants to farm things

Mulch and Other Things

While I am unemployed and not actively seeking employment, I have a rule for myself. Get involved in as much as possible – regardless of how uncomfortable I feel being solo among masses of strangers. In the last couple weeks I have volunteered at a mobile pet adoption with Best Friends, attended a Creative Mornings session on the topic “Weird”, went to Disneyland, attended Art + Sustainability hosted by Net Impact, volunteered with Friends of Griffith Park to lay down mulch on 100 year old trees suffering during the drought, and went to a music festival called FYF. Read on for my breakdown of each of these experiences. This is a long post because I did so many things in the last 2 weeks – in future posts I’ll try to stick to one or 2 things per post.

Best Friends Mobile Adoption: I signed up to volunteer with Best Friends in January, and I finally did my orientation with them in June, before I left town for 6 weeks. So I finally got to do my first volunteer session with them this month. I happened to select what was apparently the least average adoption they do – it was a party. It was loud, there were a lot of other dogs there, and it was really hard to catch onto what to do. I was repeatedly told by other volunteers that I shouldn’t take anything away from this particular event because it wasn’t standard at all. So basically I stood around awkwardly smiling at people and petting dogs.

Creative Mornings: I attended this awesome monthly gathering for creatives that changes hosts and topics every month. I’ve gone twice now, and the talks are awesome. This one was given by Josh Spector of 10 Ideas Worth Sharing and A Person You Should Know on the topic of “Weird”. My takeaway was making weird choices may lead you in the right direction (a validating message as I confuse the crap out of my parents with my current life choices). As I sat there looking around the beautiful 9 Dots  event space, I saw tons of creatives carrying on with natural conversation as I sat there paralyzed by the possibility that I might have to talk to people. Feeling equal parts jealous of their abilities for natural conversation, and relieved that nobody was trying to start one with me, I connected with the message of the event more than the people. Oops.

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Disneyland: I hate people, but i love rides, so I tolerate the crowds and lines for good company and a fun day – also I was introduced to cream cheese filled cinnamon pretzels which are now my everything.

 

 

 

Art + Sustainability: This was by far the best thing I went to. I was expecting an art festival, but what I got was a mini art and sustainability conference. There were talks by multiple artists followed by a VR demo, and really encouraging breakout groups. People here were pretty outgoing. They would strike up conversations, and knowing they were at this event I knew there was easily enough to talk about. The ones I talked to were familiar with WWOOFing and the struggles of being an entrepreneur, and while I was still struggling to think of things to talk about, I certainly felt more comfortable there than I do at most other events. I think these are my people. Our breakout groups were also really encouraging. I got involved, and realized something about myself. I have no fear of public speaking, or representing my ideas to a group of people – The awkwardness sets in with one on one conversations.

Friends of Griffith Park: I saw a notice on facebook that this group was looking for help spreading mulch around the trees at the bottom of the park in an effort to keep them from drying out and dying in this epic California drought. I thought it would be a great chance to meet people 20160827_084851who care about the environment, who care about LA, and maybe start building those farming muscles by shoveling mulch. I was excited to see that there were a lot of families joining this event – it was great to see people teaching their kids to care. I literally talked to nobody until the end, but everyone was still friendly and welcoming, and hard working. We were finished in less than an hour and a half. They do multiple restoration projects every month – I’ll definitely be joining again in the future.

FYF: With festivals, it used to be that my love for music significantly outweighed my difficulties with crowds. In fact, concerts were the first place I kind of learned to let go of my fears and just be immersed. I can still kind of do that, but not nearly as well as I used to be able to. In other words, the constant onslaught of pot and cigarette smoke, standing around on concrete for hours on end, and not being able to see anything as a short person in the masses of people holding up cell phones (dude, I don’t want to watch this concert through your screen, please stop), made me wonder if I actually am getting too old for this shit. I’m undecided, I’ll probably require more optimistic festival going experiences going wrong before I’ll admit it for real. But big props to FYF for their program of giving away reusable water bottles to people taking public transportation to the show! Incentivising sustainable transportation as well as reusable containers! Good job guys!