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Bike Days

bikeweeks

Today I realized that I haven’t driven my car in two weeks. Biking and walking everywhere feels great, especially since the weather has been so beautiful. This afternoon I ran all of my errands on my bike and still managed to make it to work on time. At certain hours of the day, biking in the city seems faster than driving. I hit the bank, the tailor, the grocery store, and Olive del Mondo (where I received 50¢ off my olive oil refill for returning my bottle to be washed). It’s been a great way to spend more time outside—something I always crave at this time of year as the days get shorter.

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Licorice Root Tea

Licorice is said to ease upset stomachs, aid digestion, and boost immunity. It’s also delicious. Glycyrrhizin, the sweet tasting compound in licorice, is sweeter than table sugar. I got this licorice root in bulk at the co-op and tried drinking it when I had a stomach ache. It was indeed very soothing. It’s a remedy I will definitely turn to in the future.

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Details

Backlit bulk bags drying on the line make me smile.

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Shampoo

Our skin is a coat of armor that shields us from the elements. It also acts as a sensor, communicating important information with our brains about the environments we negotiate. The daily duty of stripping the oils it produces with soap and then replacing moisture with oils and creams seems like an agressive treatment of our bodies’ largest organ. Why have I bought into the cycle for so many years? The notion that we are born equipped with the faculties we need to thrive makes sense to me on a logical and intuitive level. But old habits die hard.

I’ve been buying shampoo in bulk (pumped out of a plastic gallon jug) from the co-op in wakefield. It’s not a trash-free solution but it’s a little better than buying smaller bottles of product. I tried “no poo“—an idea I can really get behind, but a practice I could’t stick with. I have long, fine, straight hair. Washing it with a baking soda and water solution left my scalp dry and without conditioner, I could hardly get a brush through the ends of my hair. I’ve tried bar shampoos, but they all seem to leave a waxy buildup behind.

I daydream about cropping my tresses close to my head or even going Sinéad and shaving them completely. When my brother recently shaved his head and it looked good, I found myself comparing the shape of his to mine, wondering if I could pull it off too. How wonderfully low maintenance it would be. But the truth is I’m pretty attached to my long hair. That is to say it’s been attached to me for quite a while, and in some ways is a part of my identity. So for the moment, bulk liquid (sulfate, paraben, and phthalate-free) shampoo is where I’m at. But my work towards using fewer and fewer beauty products continues…

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Adaptations

brooklynbaggu

I took a trip down to Brooklyn again this weekend. Anticipating the desire to shop for groceries at some point, I packed a hemp bulk sack and a stainless steel container. On Sunday morning, I borrowed my friend’s nylon totes to hit up the grocery store around the corner from her apartment. Inside I found a small dry bulk goods section where I filled up some mixed nuts, a decent organic produce section, and a bakery from which I was able to get some cookies without any packaging—I placed them in a smaller zip nylon pouch. I enjoy the challenge of exercising the project away from home, and so far I’ve found that whether I’m in an urban or rural place, I can find ways around trash. It’s exciting. Granted Brooklyn, NY or midcoast Maine may not be the toughest tests of No Trash… and I certainly tend to surround myself with like-minded people, but it’s nice to realize that my resourcefulness moves with me beyond the 5 to 10 mile area I navigate on a daily basis.

Breakfast was delicious.

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A healthy addiction

Mustard greens from Arcadia Farms.

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Breakfast love

breakfastlove

Visiting friends in NYC. Rooftop breakfast. CSA produce, nuts, granola, cheese, and the most delicious blackberry jam I have ever tasted—made by my friend Caitlin with berries grown by her parents.

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‘Tis the season

Bulk cherry, grape, and pear tomatoes from Wishingstone Farm.

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Fertile Underground

Stopped into Fertile Underground. I was excited to see that the shop has come along since the last time I was in. They’re doing some wonderful things with the space. I’m so grateful they’re in town. Their bulk section has grown and they now offer some spices. Fantastic!

This bitter melon caught my eye. I had never seen it before. Apparently it’s grown locally. Kim of the Fertile Underground staff offered me some wonderful information on what it tastes like and how to cook it. She recommended stir frying it with other asian vegetables. I brought one home and did just that.

The posters in the windows of Fertile Underground reflect the values of the business. This Eating with the Ecosystem poster is an advertisement for a dinner series designed to raise awareness about New England marine ecosystem sustainability.

“This is not trash. This is future dirt.”

An educational poster campaign produced by ecoRI. It’s a beautiful thing. If you live in the area and don’t have an at home composting setup, you can bring your food scraps to the Hope Street Farmers Market at Lippitt Park in Providence (9:00am-1:00pm) or to the Go Local Farmers Market at the Barrington Congregational Church (9 a.m.-noon) on Saturdays and ecoRI Public Works will compost them for you. See their compost guidelines here.

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Good Tern Natural Food Co-op and Café

I checked out Good Tern Natural Food Co-op and Café today. Another great local bulk goods source located in Rockland, Maine. They had an impressive variety of spices.

I was so excited to see seaweed in bulk at Good Tern. Wakame, Kelp, and Dulse. It was the first time I’d come across it loose in a jar and not in a cellophane wrapper or stretch plastic bag. I’ve dreamed of package-free, homemade seaweed soups and salad.

Got some miso soup in my stainless steel container from the Good Tern Café.

Beautiful local produce!

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Respite

Hot plate dinner on the steps of the CFC studio building. A healthy and delicious meal to end a day of work. And a little lawn gymnastics to go with it.

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Beth’s

Garlic at Beth’s Farm Market in Warren, Maine.

Gladioluses in the bench room. The flowers are free with your purchase at Beth’s.

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Local peaches

Organic Maine peaches from Fresh Off the Farm. Delicious!

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Avena

While working in the woodshop this past week, I had a strange allergic reaction to something I came in contact with. The skin around my joints and on my torso became inflamed and and swollen—like a really bad sunburn. It’s difficult to determine the exact cause of this reaction because there are a few variables at play, like the foods I ate and the materials I was working with, but I suspect it may have been a result of working with MDF (medium density fiberboard) to build a jig to cut some mortises. It hadn’t occurred to me that the binder used in most MDF is a formaldehyde resin.

It took me a couple of days to identify the MDF as a possible cause and then limit my exposure to it. Meanwhile I looked for ways to ease my discomfort without using oral or topical medication. Besides the obvious concerns about packaging waste and further exposure to chemicals my body has long gone without, sedative antihistamines and power tools don’t mix well. I mentioned my condition to my teacher Tim at lunch and he asked me if I was aware of the botanical farm just up the road from the school. What? I’ve been here this whole month—how did I miss that one? I headed straight to Avena Botanicals at the top of a steep hill exactly one mile from my classroom.

When I entered the main visitor building, a young woman named Jill appeared from the back to greet me. I introduced myself and explained my predicament. She asked me some questions about my symptoms, recent activities and food intake and then suggested that I start a nettle tea regiment to flush my system of toxins. Nettle tea is also known to be a calming agent for inflamed skin. She also recommended turmeric and ginger root for their anti-inflammatory properties.

I didn’t have a container or produce sack with me so I purchased a brown paper bag full of dried nettles. The bag is labeled with a company sticker that also indicates the contents. I sipped the tea throughout the days and evenings this week and it really helped to sooth the burn. I’ve also been using a salve purchased in a small tin that contains calendula, lavender, and beeswax. I am through the reaction at this point and my skin is healing.

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Snacks

Cashew butter and fruit at the workbench. Purchased at the Belfast Co-op.

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Fresh Off the Farm

Pictured above is a market I’ve been frequenting here in the Pine Tree State. Fresh Off the Farm has been my main source for produce and dry bulk goods since I’ve been here. The employees are really accommodating and friendly. I love stopping in.

Even small produce are kept loose for customers to take just as much as they need. There’s always something local, like potatoes, baby garlic, cucumbers, or carrots available.

Bulk spices!

Pack of goods.

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Star anise

This star anise was purchased in bulk at Fresh Off the Farm in Rockport. So far the store is my favorite source for groceries here. I picked these up for a friend at the wood school. They are a key ingredient to a delicious Thai meal he cooked and shared with me.

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Wood school

The last two weeks have been fantastic. My weekdays are filled with studio work—learning to sharpen hand tools and cutting dovetail and mortise and tenon joints. I’m working amongst some really inspiring people here and I’m making friends. Breaks from the work are filled with adventures on land and in water. Hiking, biking, swimming, and sailing.

Getting package-free food in this new setting is going really well so far. There are a couple great dry bulk grocery store options (one of them even sells bulk spices) and for the most part I’ve been able to get what I need. For the sake of research and curiosity, I plan to check out a couple recommended co-ops that are a bit farther (one 7 miles and the other 25 miles) away at some point. I may need to refill on cooking oil before I leave Maine and I’d also like to get some bulk tea.

I’ve been making dinner at home for friends and myself and saving the leftovers for lunch the next day at school. There’s also a business not too far down the road from campus called the Market Basket with a great prepared food selection and the employees have been so nice about filling up my stainless steel container on the days that I arrive to school without lunch. The picture above was taken on such a day. I enjoyed a meal of wild rice with walnuts, roasted potatoes and stuffed grape leaves at my workbench.

I had one fail at a fish market in Rockport called Graffam Bros. Seafood Market when I went to get a piece of Arctic char to cook at home. I introduced myself to the woman at the counter and proposed my special request. She happily agreed but then laid two pieces of sheet plastic on the counter to cut my piece to size. At the register I asked her if there was anyway around having to use the plastic and she explained that she needed to cover the counter surface to make the cut. Understood. The next time I went back, I was shopping to make dinner for myself and two others. The young man behind the counter that day was able to tare my container and put one large uncut fillet directly into it. The piece ended up being the perfect amount for the three of us. It was super fresh and delicious.

For sustenance, I’ve been toting stone fruit, carrots, almond butter, nuts, and energy cubes to class. Yesterday I snacked on wild blueberries while out on a hike with a friend. My land people have been extremely generous in offering me sugar snap peas and berries from the property and when the grapes on the deck are ready, I will help myself. I’ve been eating like a king.

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Good morning

Breakfast this morning. Peaches with sweet and purple basil from the garden and balsamic from Olive Del Mondo.

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Strawberry rhubarb salad

I’d like to share this sweet and tart salad I’ve been making with ingredients from the farmer’s market. Back in May I started buying rhubarb and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I’ve been experimenting with different recipes and this one is my favorite so far. It’s so simple and easy to make. The recipe below is loose. The measurements will depend on the size and number of salads. I just wing it.

Ingredients:

spinach, rhubarb, strawberries (optional), red wine vinegar, honey, olive oil, and water

Tear and rinse spinach and place it on a plate.

Cut the rhubarb on a diagonal to get two-inch pieces. 

Place the pieces in a skillet and add enough water to float them. Bring to a boil and stir in about a tablespoon of honey. Simmer them until soft (they cook quickly, maybe 3-5 minutes).

Remove the rhubarb from the liquid with a slotted spoon or spatula and place over the bed of spinach, but leave one or two pieces of rhubarb in the skillet to make the dressing.

Add about a tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the skillet and simmer the liquid until it thickens to a syrupy consistency. Let cool and then stir in olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Add sliced strawberries if desired.

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Sugar snap peas

From City Farm.

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No trash tailgating

I have been meaning to share this image of a recent trash-free tailgating session. Last month I went to a concert in Mansfield, Massachusetts with my two best friends in the world. We made a hearty quinoa dish with apples, walnuts, kale, carrots, olive oil, and lemon juice, packed it in one large container and carried it in a cooler. We brought water in glass bottles, homemade trail mix in a jar, some fruit, and three forks. The venue doesn’t permit concertgoers to carry in their own food or beverages so we loaded up on the protein-rich meal in the parking lot for stamina, eliminating the need to purchase overpriced, over packaged food from inside. As we grazed and chatted, I stood admiring my friends in the pink light of the setting sun thinking, “I could do just this all night.” But the show ended up being pretty fantastic too.

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Pow!

Chioggia beets from Arcadia Farms!

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Rasberries

From City Farm! Well, at least what’s left of them…

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Tea in Sahara

Yesterday I had a meeting at Tea in Sahara on Governor Street in Providence. I love this little cafe. It’s in a quiet residential neighborhood and the owners are so friendly. Hot beverages are served in ceramic mugs but iced beverages are poured into number 1 plastic cups with lids and straws. So when I ordered my iced jasmine tea I asked the woman behind the counter if she could put it in my canteen and she was happy to do it. I sat working and sipping while the thunderstorm rolled through and cooled the city down.

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Heat wave

I decided the last couple days were too hot to cook at home (indoors or out), so I opted for takeout. I love the Saag Tofu from Rasoi, an Indian restaurant just over the border in Pawtucket. The employees are always so nice and they never have any problem putting my order in the containers I hand them (I give them two so that the saag and rice stay separate until I’m ready to eat). It’s a lot of food, but it stores well in the fridge so I always get two meals out of it. I brought my filled containers back to work and sat on a bench outside enjoying my dinner as the sun set. It was still in the 90s at 8:30pm.

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Olive del Mondo

After shopping the Lippitt park farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoon, I stopped by the recently opened Olive del Mondo at 815 Hope Street. My friend Seth sent me word about it at the beginning of the week and I was excited to check it out. As I’ve mentioned in many other posts, I have been getting my oils and vinegars from the Alternative Food Co-op in Wakefield, RI. I travel down there every 1.5 to 2 months to restock. The co-op products are very satisfactory—especially for cooking, but when it comes to dressing oil and vinegar, I have longed for a bulk source of specialty products. Growing up, my Italian father was always so excited to bring home dark green earthy olive oils and thick sweet balsamic vinegars to feed us. He’d open a bottle or can, drizzle it’s contents over a tomato or soak it into a piece of bread and present it to me with ebullience saying, “you’ve got to try this!”  It spoiled me.

As I stepped into Olive del Mondo, a huge smile came over my face. Glinting stainless canisters or “fustis” of oils and vinegars line the walls and island displays. Printed cards carefully describe the contents of each. I immediately noticed the emply dark glass bottles with cork stoppers that fill the lower shelves, and thought, “this looks promising”. I approached the young woman at the counter and introduced myself. I expressed my excitement and asked about the bottling system. Jennifer (that’s her name) explained to me that customers buy a small or large glass bottle to fill with the oil or vinegar of their choosing and then when they’ve finished with the product, they can bring the bottle back to the store to be washed and reused. The shop is equipped with a washing and drying system (bottle trees) in back. Fantastic! Plastic sampling cups and utensils are provided for customers to try different flavors, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem to use one’s own sampling vessel brought from home.

http://olivedelmondo.com/

Jennifer and her husband Salvatore—who came in while we were talking, opened the business together. Both are graduates of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and their sensibilities show in the details of the store layout. We chatted about waste reduction projects. They told me it was a bit of a struggle to convince the Department of Health that the reusable bottle system could be sanitary, but eventually they were able to get it approved. I asked about the containers their products are delivered to the store in and Salvatore told me that they do come in plastic jugs (this is standard in shipping because of plastic’s lightweight characteristic—more weight equals more money and fuel). One jug fills one entire fusti. The plastic shipping container is certainly an imperfection in the bulk goods shopping system. It’s something that I discussed with Rosemary, the manager of Alternative Food Co-op, when I toured the store in January. She told me that paper and burlap are still being used to distribute many dry bulk goods, but today most liquid bulk products are shipped in plastic.

It’s important to acknowledge that buying imported food products is not a Zero Waste practice. As implicated by the shop’s name, the products Olive del Mondo carries are shipped here from around the world. While writing this post I realized that I did not know where the olive oil I buy in bulk at the co-op comes from. So I called them up and spoke to Liz, who is the store buyer and she told me that currently the olive oil they are purchasing in bulk is indeed imported and that it’s an issue they are both aware of and concerned about. So far they have not been able to find a distributor of bulk domestic olive oil.

When it comes to shopping for liquid bulk goods, variety is not always easy to come by… but there’s no shortage of it at Olive del Mondo. I really enjoyed speaking with Jennifer and Salvatore and I so admire the work they’ve done to set up the reusable bottle system. Currently, oil plays an important role in my diet, as it’s one of my main sources of fat. And while vinegar is a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, the real reason I continue to consume it is that I simply love it. I passed on sampling in the shop because I didn’t have a vessel on me, but I did purchase a small bottle of 18-year aged balsamic and a reusable pour cap (the standard stop caps cannot be returned for reuse). As it turns out, it’s the most delicious balsamic vinegar I’ve ever tasted. I will savor every last drop.

 

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Garlic scapes

From Schartner.

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Summer solstice

Today was a great day. I hit up the farmer’s market, stopped into the new olive oil and vinegar shop on Hope Street and bought some amazing aged bulk balsamic vinegar (more on this soon!) and then headed for the coast to watch the sun set on the longest day of the year (and for some relief from the heat). It was particularly beautiful tonight. I managed to get a swim in too. Happy summer solstice!

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Father’s day

I love giving plants as gifts. I gave my dad a black cherry tomato and a Thai basil for Father’s Day. The tomato will have to be repotted in a larger container, but otherwise these are low maintenance plants that my parents can grow right outside their kitchen. The basil is so delicate and sweet and the tomato is one of my favorite cherry varieties. When I was growing up, my dad used to make me salads and sauces from the tomatoes and basil my parents grew every year in their vegetable garden. They no longer have a vegetable garden, so they’ll make good use of these.

The irises I gave my dad last year are flowering now. As they spread, there will be more blooms each year.

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Jewel tones

Red, purple, and yellow cherry and grape tomatoes from the farmer’s market.

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Precious things

Today was the first Wednesday Lippitt Park Farmer’s Market of the season. Venders showed up even in the rainy weather. I bought these red beauties from Dave at Schartner Farms and they are the best strawberries I have ever tasted! I no longer buy strawberries year-round because they are always packed in PET plastic clamshell containers. So I look forward to and appreciate the short growing seasons of certain produce more than ever.

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Dates!

Bulk Medjool dates at long last! This precious package-free treat came from the co-op in Wakefield. They’re kept in a jar in one of their refrigerators.

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Cod

From The Local Catch.

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Pea greens

From the City Farm stand at the farmer’s market.

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