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Earth Day: Buying in Bulk

15 Apr

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I have a confession to make: It took me a long time to understand the appeal of buying in bulk. Buying in bulk conjured up memories of shopping with my family at whole sale stores as a child, where the food was highly processed, poor in quality, and didn’t necessarily scale down the packaging. Plus, I usually got sick of eating the food long before we made a dent in our supply of it. Even when I saw more appealing food being sold in bulk I still didn’t get it. If I was still pouring my bulk items into a bag to take home, I wasn’t reducing the amount of plastic packaging in the world, so why bother?

I’m too embarrassed to reveal exactly how long it was before I had this simple revelation that changed my whole outlook. What I finally realized was this: You can bring your own container to the store to buy bulk products. It’s glaringly obvious, but I admit that I felt a bit like Archimedes springing from the bathtub shouting “Eureka!” when I finally got it.


Now I buy a lot of stuff in bulk. I show up at the store armed with a variety of bags and reusable containers. The only hassle of buying in bulk is that you have to go to the register first to have them tare your containers. They weigh the containers, and when you pay they subtract that weight so you only pay for the actual weight of what you are buying.


I’m lucky to have a fantastic store near me that carries a lot of bulk items including soap, shampoos, and conditioners. You can also find a number of bulk items at Whole Foods. A simple google search for “bulk grocery” and your location will likely turn up a few options. And of course there’s an app for that.

I like buying in bulk simply because it reduces the amount of plastic packaging floating around in the world, but it can sometimes (not always) be a money saver as well.

Happy shopping!


Earth Day: Weekend Images

13 Apr

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If April can post pictures on the weekends then so can I!


Especially because this is what the Merced River Canyon looks like right now. I love you all but I have better things to be doing than sitting inside chained to my computer on a day like this. The orange glow that looks (as my roommate Kelsey so eloquently put it) like Cheeto dust, are poppies in bloom!


Earth Day: T-Shirt Bag

11 Apr

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Several years ago I decided that I wanted to start using reusable grocery bags and bought a bunch of crappy plastic reusable bags at the grocery store. Sadly, it wasn’t until these poorly made bags started falling apart that I realized they were unrecyclable and another piece of plastic that would eventually end up in a landfill. It was then that started understanding the value of cloth grocery bags.

Much later I was given an enormous box of t-shirts and asked to do something useful and creative with them. After a few minutes of puzzling over them I had a flash of genius.


I sewed the shirt together at it’s bottom hem, cut off the collar and sleeves and within a few minutes I had a reusable cloth grocery bag.


I was pretty proud of myself until I showed it to a crafty friend who looked only marginally impressed and said “Oh cool. A t-shirt bag.” Sure enough I googled it and found about a billion tutorials.

So I just wanted y’all to know that me and a bunch of people on the internet are all creative geniuses. If you have any unwearable t-shirts floating around this is a quick and easy way to reuse them.


Earth Day: Upcycled Bread Clip Picture Frame

9 Apr

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When we our Earth Day celebration last year I was determined to start doing more upcylcled crafts. I laid out the challenge of the Destash Bash with that in mind, but I kinda slacked on that part. Actually I’ve been slacking in the crafting department for awhile now. Once again, Earth Day gave me the inspiration to give it another go.

I started by asking my friends to collect these things for me.


Some call them bread tags, others call them bread clips, I call them the bane of my existence. I hate these things. They drive me crazy because I find them on trails in Yosemite all the time. They’re plastic so they aren’t going to decompose during this century, and I have yet to find a place that recycles them. What’s more they seem so stupidly unnecessary. I would prefer to see bread sealed for shipping with a paper based tape. I think we’re all smart enough to figure out how to close our bread bags without a one-time use piece of plastic.

I have come across a few clever ways to reuse them on the internet. Lindsay at Diary of Crafty Lady turned them into a totally adorable Monster Garland. There are a few more ideas here.

I decided to use them to brighten up one of these picture frames I scored off a dumpster.


A portion of my bread clip collection was found on the ground so I swished the whole jar in soapy water to clean them off. To dry them I spread them out on a towel in the sun.


I used my dullest pair of craft scissors to cut them into strips and shapes.


I glued the pieces on mosaic style with School Glue. At first I was a bit worried that the glue wouldn’t hold the plastic, but as long as the pieces were flat they seem to stick to the frame pretty well. I also don’t expect a picture frame to experience a lot of rough handling so I’m not too worried about wear and tear.


I gave it a few extra coats with Mod Podge just to be sure and added a picture of Grace and I rocking the camouflage at Spring Valley. All in all I only used a small handful from the jar of clips. It may not make much of a dent in the truckloads of these things in our landfills but at least it’s something. I was able to complete the project without having to buy new materials. Score!



Earth Day: Recycling Bias

7 Apr

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This Earth Day nugget came from our favorite commenter, Mara.

National Public Radio: How Recycling Bias Affects What You Toss Where

The short version is that Boston University Marketing Professor Remi Trudel found that volunteers were more likely to toss paper into the trash can if it was torn or crumpled up. They also found that cans were more likely to wind up in the garbage if they were dented. He credits the perceived usefulness of the recyclable item as a bias factor when we sort our recycling. Once we become aware of the bias, it takes less than a few seconds to correct the error.

Happy sorting!


Earth Day: Cheat Neutral

5 Apr

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This brilliant video from Cheat Neutral is a clever criticism of carbon offsetting. When I first saw it a few years ago it made me totally rethink the entire concept. Fair Warning: At the very end there is a tiny bit of language that may make this not safe for work (or kids.) April, cover your ears.

Have you ever bought carbon offsets? Did this make you change your mind? What do you think?


Earth Day: Climate Change Art

3 Apr

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I don’t know about you, but Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports do not sound like my idea of an easy read. Fortunately, Greg Johnson, a scientist involved in compiling the Fifth Assessment Report took the 2,000 page document and interpreted it with watercolor and haiku. The 19 picture series contains a powerful message about the realities of a warming climate.

You can find more information about it here.


Earth Day: Keeping it Simple

1 Apr

April and I were both really excited about our month long celebration of Earth Day last year. I spent half of March planning and researching. A few days before the madness began I was talking to April about my grand plans when she said, “Dude, you are going to burn yourself out before the month is up. Just keep it simple.”

Sure enough, halfway through the month I was spending my few days off spending hours chained to my computer writing blog entries. (I may even be guilty of uttering the phrase “%*#@ this! I hate the earth!” a few times.)

The past few months have been pretty crazy for both of us, and as the month loomed nearer we considered ditching Earth Day entirely. But we still love it, and we are both still committed to doing something positive for the planet. So this year we are, for the sake of our own sanity, keeping it simple. Check in this month as we share thirty bite-sized Earth Day celebrations!

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We’re excited!


Range of Light Film Festival

2 Mar

I spent most of this rainy weekend at the Range of Light Film Festival.

It was brilliant. Of course it was, it was all put together by Steven Bumgardner, the creative genius behind Yosemite Nature Notes.

It was fantastic to have all of these films, each showing a unique perspective of a place I already love, all gathered together in one place.

I was particularly excited to finally see Mile, Mile and Half the feature length film created by the Muir Project that I posted about forever ago. It was everything I was hoped it would be.

Folks were pestering Steve all weekend long, asking him if he was planning to have the festival next year. I really hope he does it!


I started to write a poem but had an existential crisis instead.

23 Feb

You think I would have learned by now that I shouldn’t go anywhere without my camera. Even if I’m just going down to the office to get a little bit of work done on a Sunday afternoon when no one else will be around to distract me. The sky was so blue and the canyon was so beautiful that I decided I could not stare at a computer screen for another moment. All I could find was a crappy pen and some scrap paper so this is what I did instead of taking pictures or checking my email.


Merced River Symphony

You must sit down on a comfortable rock that juts out into the river.
Get comfortable, perch on it,
Like a mermaid.
Then open your ears and listen….

It will overwhelm you at first,
The symphony of water flowing across rocks.
But then each sound will become it’s own instrument.
Each instrument layers over others to make a melody,
Each melody stacks to create a harmony.
Each harmony weaves into a cacophony.

There….deep, in the bass-
That’s water pouring over a rock.
That’s the rapids just downstream.
That’s the pool upstream.
brppl, brppl, brppl, brppl, brppl;
A trickle of water through the rocks at your feet.
The thalwart, towards the center, sings;
blaf, blaf, blaf, blafl, blaf,
Water hums around a dark colored rock;
wrrrrh, wrrrrhhhh, wrrrrhhh,
And splashes on the shore;
rickle, rickle, rffff,
And if you listen closely, every few bars you’ll hear it;
Another part, high in the woodwinds (that is, the trees)
Shhhhhhhhhsssssss, SSSSShhhhhhsssssss, sssshhhHHHHssssss,
And softly,
The tenors have the easiest part;
And somewhere, you’re not even sure where, the water is grating

But of course you can’t hear this.
Music and words are powerful,
but even music and words cannot make a river.

For that you need mountains, and rocks,
Lots of rocks,
And snow and rain to fall for days,
And the sun to melt the snow high up in the mountains,
And send it cascading down in creeks and streams until it reaches the river.

Words cannot capture
The bright white glint of the merganser diving in the pool upstream,
And the hypnotizing swirl of bubbles rising up in the current.
Although music may make a passable attempt at the song of the dipper,
It cannot show the bobbing dance he does when he stands on the rocks.
Words cannot paint the warmth of the sun,
And music cannot capture the water scented breeze.

Even if they could,
This river,
My river,
The Merced River,
Will not sound the same tomorrow.
Tomorrow the sun will shine even brighter, and warmer
And the snow will melt faster,
And the river will flow even higher,
And the rocks that today peer out of the water
Will tomorrow have water coursing over their tops.
Maybe they will make a sound like
Fssshhhh, fsssshh, fsssshhh.

But the point here, is that these sounds, all of them, are happening RIGHT NOW,

So I’ll tell you what to do.

Turn off your computer.
Go outside.
And find your own river.
If you cannot find a river find a creek.
If you cannot find a creek find a lake.
Or if you cannot find a lake, a creek, or a river,
Find a place where the wind blows through the grass.
And sit.
And listen.
To a symphony.



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