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In time lapsed

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When I was a freshman at Rhode Island School of Design, I took a foundations 3 dimensional design course with a teacher named Ken Horii. I often recall a lecture he gave during which he projected slides from his trip to the Kailasanatha rock-cut temple at Ellora in India. The temple was carved into the wall of a basalt cliff and took an estimated 40 years to complete. One of the slides showed a section of a painted ceiling. Ken explained that the fine lines in the image were applied with a single hair. I remember that when he returned from the trip he was unable to make art for more than a year. I recently emailed Ken to ask him to refresh my memory on some of the details of his experience. In his reply he explained that he was hoping to impart to his students the importance of finding necessity in our own production. The work of those who carved each stone and painted each line was in service to something greater than themselves. He wrote that what gave him pause in his work was, “the need to seek and find that necessity for myself—a deeper and undeniable way forward.”

I think of Ken’s lecture whenever I am faced with something overwhelming that forces me to question my practices and requires me to take pause in my own life. This last semester of graduate school at Parsons was an instance of this. I was able to design my curriculum around the subject of waste and I discovered very quickly that I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. I took a class about e-waste that examined the manufacturing, usage, and disposal of electronics, specifically through the lens of the smartphone. We made a digital and physical project called TECHTRASH that aimed to demystify some of the consequences of device use. In an anthropology course I took at NYU called Garbage in Gotham, I learned about the history of waste management in NYC. I worked on a composting project and campaign at an urban farm in Brooklyn with Project Eats and Hello Compost. In a more experimental project, I co-designed an exhibit called Landfull for a speculative design class. This kind of discourse is exactly what I was searching for once I had settled into a No Trash Project routine in Providence and I looked around wondering if it was possible for me to effect change beyond my own personal consumption and discard habits. I had started to become aware of the limitations of focusing solely on problem solving municipal waste and was eager to have conversations about systems upstream of consumption. The question, “Why do we focus so much money, so many resources and campaigning on municipal waste management and individual responsibility, when household trash only makes up for 3% of the nations total waste output?” rang in my ears. I felt the need to reconsider whether or not I wanted to continue to generate what I feared may ultimately be a misdirected energy. I wondered if I had been naïve to promote my No Trash Project through the blog when folks in the field of Discard Studies seem to have much bigger fish to fry.




After many months, some wonderful experiences, and a lot of reflection, I’ve come to some conclusions that I feel the need to share. First, and perhaps most importantly in the context of everything I’ve written on this platform to date, while the planet won’t notice whether or not I make trash or if I leave the lights on when I leave a room, I remain committed to the effort to circumvent garbage and packaging in my consumption of goods. I continue to take care in my decisions (based in considerations of source, material, manufacturing, energy, quality and durability) about the things I acquire and the things I choose to purge.  I will continue to work to limit my energy and resource-consumption. Though I’ve tried to express this in previous posts, I can say more distinctly now that these decisions are not based in some delusion that I alone can slow the melting ice, but rather in something more personal and intuitive. It’s in the feeling that I have when I lift an item towards a trashcan about the strangeness of its grave beyond the receptacle and the rituals we’ve constructed to deliver it there.  Any acknowledgement of the resources and labor required to produce that item, and of the fuel required to move the materials around is obliterated in that gesture. The objection to it stirs in my chest and in my stomach. If I had to assign one word to the feeling it would be, “Nope.” It’s important to note is that while that 3% statistic is something I grapple with in terms of trying to decide where to focus my attention, having stood in the open face of Rhode Island’s central landfill taking in the volume of a single day’s worth of garbage in the smallest state in the country, there is no part of me that imagines that 3% to be too insignificant for concern.

Additionally, the upward trend in my quality of life since starting this project obliges me to continue forward with it and to sustain my effort to become more organized in my housekeeping, work, school, and personal care routines. In doing so I might free up more time to cultivate relationships and get after more adventures. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not an organized thinker by nature, so I have to work hard to maintain order and efficiency. I’ve come to rely on the No Trash systems I’ve installed to reduce chaos and clutter. So in short, as far as my personal dedication to this project goes, there’s still no end in sight.

Another important conclusion I’ve reached is that while my private individual actions may not lead to anything outside of personal satisfaction, sharing my thoughts, works, and practices on this blog may generate meanings greater than my own struggles and successes. I’ve just returned home to New York City from a trip abroad. I was awarded the opportunity to attend a design workshop in Venice called Recycling City 3. Once the workshop ended I traveled around to meet some friends I had made through dialogues sparked over my project. I am so grateful to have had the chance to spend time with such amazing thinkers and doers. Letters from old professors, conversations with my brilliant classmates, and shining new friends have inspired me to keep posting. The tone of future posts will likely range from theoretical to practical, and continue to include musings around micro and macro issues in waste.

More soon,


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Happy Solstice


Today I watched the sun rise and set on the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. For a sunlover like myself, It’s a day worth celebrating, as it marks the glorious shift towards lengthening days. Here in New York City, winter kicked off at a balmy 62 degrees Fahrenheit. So, determined to spend some quality time in the briefest day, I donned my shorts and sneakers and went for a run from Red Hook up through the waterfront park, past the three bridges Manhattan/Brooklyn bridges. Since I moved into my place in August, I’ve been enjoying witnessing the Brooklyn Bridge Park transform during the impressive expansion project. I’m grateful to have such an incredible public park to exercise in and I have been trying to take advantage of it (and unseasonably warm weather) every chance I get. Running in this place is my one of my primary defenses against physical and mental ailment.

This year I have more than light to celebrate. I completed my first semester of graduate school this week. It was a challenging four months, during which I hustled to attend to matters of school, work, love, life, and death in a city that is at times less than hospitable. But the things I’ve learned and the relationships I’ve cultivated here have all been well worth the effort and I feel fortunate to be able to call this place home for a while. Needless to say I did not manage to make much time to post, but I have been documenting my No Trash trials and victories and I look forward to having some time between semesters to share some of my projects and discoveries.


Through the hectic, often sleep deprived weeks I somehow managed to stay healthy, even when friends around me were falling ill with flus, colds, and bugs. I’ve wondered if the reason I’ve managed to dodge these ailments so far this season has anything to do with the fact that I was able to come home from work and school to my sleepy Red Hook hideaway, where I’ve been able to establish some sense of order and routine. For instance, being able to wash and dry clothes in my own home may seem like a small privilege, but it’s increased my ability to function efficiently during an occasionally tricky adjustment period. Endless thanks to my best friend who helped me heave my beloved energy efficient washing machine, which I purchased used from a refurbished appliance supplier in Cranston RI, up two flights of stairs into my tiny kitchen. Line drying in my sunny front room humidifies my whole apartment and helps me breathe easier on dry days. Making time to cook most of my meals at home (which I have learned is uncommon practice in NYC) and take leftovers to school to fuel long days of class and study sessions also helped me stay well. And drinking down homemade fire cider to fortify my immunity was also a part of the equation. Stay tuned for a recipe post.

Looking ahead, there are still a lot of No Trash Project elements to fine tune here in NYC. Like the worm bin improvement operation I have been scheming on. But so far I am really enjoying all things new to me here in this great metropolis. To all of my readers who are still with me: Happy Solstice. Here’s to sunlight and health.

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So long, old girl.


Some progress to report: today I sold my car. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, especially since I moved into my current apartment, which is only 3 blocks from my office at Brown. The vehicle was good to me for years, facilitating trips to the beach, visits with family, and co-op stock ups. But now that it’s gone I feel a tremendous weight lifted as I am no longer financially responsible for maintenance, repairs, insurance, car taxes, registration, and of course fuel. Oh, and parking tickets. All that has been transferred to a very nice man from Cranston. He bought the car for his daughter who, as he brags, just graduated from high school at the top of her class.

I’m left with my feet and my bike, which are more than sufficient modes of transportation for the remainder of the summer here in Providence and is certainly all I’ll need once I move to NYC. It’s a lovely season for the extra exercise. Now that I’ve sold the car I can justify tricking out my bike. Just kidding. But I am going to invest in a nice saddle. My friend who built the bike up for me chose my current saddle. Much of my ride was assembled with components he had lying around the shop he works in, which was a fantastic money saver and I’m pleased he was able to repurpose so many used parts. But unfortunately my overstuffed gel seat is starting to deteriorate and ooze sticky synthetic material onto my backside while I’m riding, especially on super hot days. It’s not a good look. So I’ve begun searching online (mostly craigslist and ebay) for a lightly used leather saddle. There seems to be a pretty good inventory out there.

Little by little, the pieces required for my transition are starting to fall into place, and I grow more excited as my first day of class draws nearer.

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Good morning


There’s quite a show happening on the hill in Providence right now. A remarkable variety of flowering trees and shrubs are in bloom. The cherry tree outside my bedroom window has opened and the fragrance is incredible. The blossoms are about three weeks  later than they were last year. Where ever it falls on the calendar, this blooming period is my absolute favorite time of year in this little city.

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Seaside storm


It’s snowing on the North Shore tonight. Went for a walk on the beach I was raised on. Warmed up with an amazing spicy vegetable soup. Feeling so grateful to be able to spend the long weekend with friends and family.

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All I ever want

We took a break from the ceramic making on Sunday to eat a fantastic dinner at Organic Garden Cafe. My custom dinner bowl was substantial, affordable, and delicious. It fueled many more hours of work late into the night. I was touched by one menu item called the Grateful Bowl, which allows customers to pay what they’re able to on a sliding scale of $1 to $8.50. I imagine I will be returning to this fine establishment in the future.

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On my way back from Willimantic I made a stop in Danielson CT at Logee’s Greenhouses. This transportive space has been a favorite destination of mine (especially in cold and dry late autumn and winter months) for years. The business was established in 1892 by William D. Logee who was especially interested in tropical and unusual plants. 110 year-old citrus trees grow up out of the dirt floors of the densely packed greenhouses.

Drifting through the narrow pathways, breathing in the humid and fragrant air, I feel righted and restored. The photo above is taken in one of my favorite corners of the largest house, the succulent and cacti section. I couldn’t resist bringing a couple new friends home with me. Logee’s cannot reuse their plastic pots because of strict policies in place to prevent cross-contamination. I wash the pots at home and bring them to folks at the farmer’s market who will re-use them.

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The Foood Show

As I have mentioned before, I co-organize an experimental film series in Providence, RI. Tonight we are presenting The Foood Show, a program of short films about food. In thinking about different food systems in Rhode Island and with increased baking, cooking, sharing, and eating that happens during the holiday season, I tried to organize a program that offers many views of our relationships with food. If you live in the area and are looking for something to do tonight at 9:30pm, come join me at the Cable Car Cinema and Cafe. And yes, they serve food there (on real, reusable dishes, with silverware).

Magic Lantern Cinema Presents:

A Second Helping
Curated by Colleen Doyle
Wed. Nov. 28th // 9:30 PM
Cable Car Cinema // Providence, RI
Admission $5
The discovery of a network of 100 billion neurons in the gut led scientists to nickname it our “second brain.” Like the brain in our head, it is engaged in perpetual contact with the outside world—via the food we swallow. It is the job of the gut to take in an extensive array of external matter, break it down to component parts, send it off to various organs, and turn it into us. Whether we use food to nourish, fuel, pleasure, punish, or heal, it is a part of our human experience. It is no wonder that in its incredibly wide-ranging forms, food is a subject rendered in every medium from paint, to music, to motion picture. This program is the second installment of a Magic Lantern series of food shows that examine different representations of foods on film. As the holiday meal leftovers empty completely from the refrigerator, consider a menu of films about systems new and old that put food in our bellies. Moving from educational films about the body as a machine and the produce canning industry, to an experimental film about a camera’s rude encounter with a breakfast table spread, to an abstract animation of a dancing stringy green vegetable, these works promise to stir up the appetite of our second brain, while bedding down that of our first.
FEATURING: Carpenter-Goldman Laboratories, Inc., “How the Fires of Our Body Are Fed: A Study of the Human Digestive Process” (1926); Charles and Ray Eames, “Bread” (1953); California Packing Corporation, “Pick of the Pod” (1939); Michael Snow “Breakfast (Table Top Dolly)” (1976); John Whitney, “Celery Stalks at Midnight” (1952); Videofreex, “Chicken Dinner” (1971); Naomi Uman “Leche” (1998); Dimitri Kirsanoff, “La Mort du Cerf (Death of a Stag)” (1951)TRT ca. 96 mins


“How the Fires of Our Body Are Fed: A Study of the Human Digestive Process,” Carpenter-Goldman Laboratories, Inc., 1926, 16mm film on video, b&w, silent, 10 min
In this early educational film, the human body is not unlike a steam ship. Both require a regular supply of fuel to work. The image of a man shoveling coal in the stokehole of a ship at sea parallels a shot of a hungry man eating a sandwich during his lunch break onshore. Early microphotography reveals peristalsis (wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract) in a nematode, illustrating basic the mechanics of the human gut.

“Bread,” Charles and Ray Eames, 1953, 16mm film on video, color, sound, 7 min
Witness the splendor of bread!

“Pick of the Pod,” California Packing Corporation, 1939, 16mm film on video, color, sound, 10 min
Opening shots of bustling city streets bathed in late afternoon light are injected with the narration, “5:15 American standard time, the day end rush is on as homebound workers throng the streets of every city, town, and hamlet. The Jane and John Does of the worker day world, all of them made kin by thoughts of home and that looking ahead to dinner gleam in there eyes.” So what dinner awaits them at home? Del Monte brand canned peas of course. Enough for the whole family, available any season of the year because of the new technological marvels of the canning industry.

“Breakfast (Table Top Dolly),” Michael Snow, 1976, 16mm, color, sound, 15 min

A camera tracks across the length of a breakfast table, toppling over and mowing down any flatware, vessels, and fixings in its path.

“Celery Stalks at Midnight,” John Whitney, 1952, 16mm on video, b&w, sound, 3 min

A short by the experimental animator best known for his work on the opening credits of Vertigo.  According to David E. James, “Celery” was made with the aid of an “oil bath that could be manipulated to admit the passage of light,” and visualizes the music comprising its score: Will Bradley and His Orchestra’s rendition of the jazz song by the same name.

“Chicken Dinner,” Videofreex, 1971, video, b&w, sound, 6 min

Summertime in rural upstate New York, a group of young adults walk each other through the steps of tying, beheading, plucking, cutting, and cooking a chicken for dinner.

“Leche,” Naomi Uman, 1998, 16mm, b&w, sound, 30 min
On a small family dairy farm in Aguascalientes, Mexico, a ranchero practices rope tricks, a woman’s hands press liquid from cheese, children stand still in the frame as if posing for a still portrait, a calf nurses, an intolerable snake is decapitated, another set of hands pound tortillas, cows are branded, a dead coyote hangs from a tree, crickets mate, and finally an ailing dairy cow is loaded into a trailer and driven away down the road on her way to the market. Uman hand processed this film in buckets and hung it to dry onsite.

“La Mort du Cerf (Death of a Stag),” Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1951, 16mm on video, b&w, sound, 12 min.
A documentary of a stag hunting party known for its expressive use of cross-cutting.

**Magic Lantern is generously funded by the Malcolm S. Forbes Center for Culture and Media Studies at Brown University.

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An unexpected visitor

The nor’easter brought the first snowfall of the season. I had no idea it was coming. I wonder what the winter has in store for us this year…

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Along with books from my childhood, I also brought back a diary, which I will keep. It was given to me when I was 5 years old, so as you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of lengthy recordings of my day-to-day activities. Instead, several brief entries like the one above are scattered throughout the book of mostly blank pages. In case you can’t make out the entry, it reads:

“Dear Diary let me tel you about Dolphin. Did you know that there were more than fifdy kind”

Sifting through the belongings I saved growing up, it appears there are some fundamental similarities between the child I was and the adult I’ve become. And I’m filled with the sense that perhaps we’re more than a product of our experiences.

I plan to use the rest of the pages. The paper is good and even in this age of personal electronic devices, I still hand draw and write notes, lists, and ideas on a daily basis. So I figure I might as well fill every inch of this precious little book. Plus I kind of dig the floral fabric cover.

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Book seller

My parents are getting ready to move and one of the reasons for my visit with them last week was to collect some belongings that they’ve generously stored for me over the years. I’ve talked about paring back the items in my apartment to make my No Trash Project run more efficiently, but I left out the fact that I still had a closet full of things in another location. Getting my immediate space down to a carefully curated collection of objects—both essential and beautiful, has felt wonderful. But knowing that there was another out of sight pile that needed to be sorted and unloaded was always a bit daunting, especially since I knew these keepsakes from my childhood would be difficult for me to make decisions about. Nostalgia is a mechanism that operates strongly within me.

Before the electricity went out in the storm, I got through the first of what will probably be several passes. My mom and I sifted through the boxes together, which was not always productive, but very enjoyable. There was a great deal of giggling over construction paper elementary school projects, earnest diary entries by my six-year-old self (brimming with spelling errors), loved and battered stuffed animals and dolls, letters from first boyfriends, and sketchbooks full of drawings and poems. Though everything in those boxes was at one time precious, I was able to fill my car trunk with items to let go of.

The stack pictured above is a sample from two boxes of books I brought back to Providence to sell and donate. These books were at one time well adored (I was really into Roald Dahl), but they have been sitting unread and unopened for years. I decided it’s time to put them back into circulation so that they may have a chance to be enjoyed once again. Today I took the boxes to Cellar Stories—a used bookstore downtown. I like the idea of supporting small local booksellers… and of course it’s always nice to get a little cash in exchange. While the shopkeepers looked through my books I perused the aisles of treasures. Just over half of my collection was accepted and I received about $60. I wasn’t able to leave the shop without purchasing a beautiful vintage botanical book that I will share with a friend. But my load is much lighter. I will try to sell the rest at Paper Nautilus (formerly Myopic Books) in Wayland Square, and whatever they wont take I will donate The Salvation Army.

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I visited my parents over the weekend. My stay was extended when the travel ban went into effect in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy and I rode out the storm with them. Fortunately, my mom and I were able to get to the grocery store before the worst of it hit landfall. Customers and employees were anxious to get home. Shoppers stocked up on “non-perishables”—namely canned soups and meats, jars of sauce, boxes of pasta and rice. Last year my parents were without power for 10 days after Hurricane Irene. I thought about how to shop without making trash if I weren’t able to refrigerate foods for 10 days or longer.

The majority of the groceries I buy day to day are fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which sit on the countertop because I shop frequently enough (at least twice a week) that I don’t have to worry about refrigeration. But there are certain foods I eat regularly like greens (salad and sauté) and some vegetables (carrots, radishes) that I usually put directly in cups or containers of water, then into cold storage. The rest of my regular groceries include dried bulk items and occasionally meat (fish, poultry). Dried bulk foods like legumes and grains certainly qualify as non-perishable and are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. There are quite a few in season fruits and vegetables that will keep for a while (depending on variety and freshness) without refrigeration, such apples, citrus fruit, unopened pomegranate, potatoes, yams, garlic, onion, and squash (delicata, butternut, acorn, pumpkin, etc…). Selecting unripe fruits that can soften slowly without rotting and choosing bulk dried fruits and vegetables that offer some nutritional value are also options for long-term room temperature storage.

Back at the house we filled the tubs with water to wash and cook with if we lost the power. My parents are on well water and they don’t have a generator to power the pumps during outages—this has never been an issue for me in Providence because I’m on city water. But my parents are lucky to live on a river, so they can collect water in buckets to flush the toilets, conserving the tap water reserves in the tubs. Sure enough, we lost power early Monday evening as the winds whipped through the river valley. My dad cooked us dinner by flashlight with the little water that remained in the pipes. My parent’s have a gas stove, which my dad was able to light with a match. As I watched him it occurred to me that in the event of an outage I wouldn’t be able to use the electric stove/oven in my apartment to prepare many of the above mentioned foods that require cooking. I do however have a wood stove with a steel cooktop and could use it to steam, boil, or sauté foods. When dinner was ready, we sat eating by candlelight listening to the sounds of nearby exploding transformers and trees breaking and falling on all sides of the house. Without the distractions of the TV or our respective laptops (all of which are often in use at once during my visits) we stayed talking with each other until the early hours of Tuesday morning. It’s a time spent with my parents that I’ll never forget.

In the light of day on Tuesday we were able to see the damage the storm had caused. Trees were down everywhere and power lines littered the roads. The interstate travel ban was lifted and I was able to snake my way around impassable backroads to the highway home. I got a flat (shredded) tire on the highway probably from debris left by the storm. I will post more on dealing with the tire business soon…

Losing electricity and running water for nearly 24 hours makes me realize how much I take it for granted every day. As we move closer to the winter solstice, the days are getting shorter and much of my work is done after sunset. I think about my parents and the rest of the 8 million who lost power during the storm and could be without it for weeks while crews work to clean up after Sandy. The weather is supposed to shift to colder temperatures as we enter the month of November and many will be without heat. And I think about the people in the world who live their whole lives without plumbing or electricity. At the moment, I’m especially aware of how much I depend on the internet. For my work but also for my No Trash Project research and blog. My friend just sent me a link to WWWASTE, a site that calculates the amount of CO2 you emit each day by surfing the web. One more site to spend energy by visiting, but perhaps an important measurement to be aware of as our lives become more and more interfaced.

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Streetside bulk

Walking around Toronto, I got to see something we don’t have in Providence—bulk foods on the street! This display was outside a little College Street market on the edge of Chinatown.

Toronto’s Kensington Market is full of natural food stores and produce markets. This photo was taken outside a shop on Baldwin Street at Augusta Avenue. The entire store is filled with bulk bins and their selection is quite impressive. I perused the small but well stocked space wide-eyed and smiley. Bulk white and dark chocolate bricks were displayed in bins that framed a peanut grinding machine. And oh my, they even had a bin of black quinoa, which I haven’t been able to find in bulk anywhere else. I wish there were shops like this in Providence—well in every city and town, really.

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Painted Rocks

While up in Georgian Bay, I visited a point known as the “Painted Rocks”. It ranks as one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. Pink, gold, green, and blue striations wrap around sedimentary boulders that jut out into the bay. Pools of water sit in shallow valleys on different planes across their surfaces. There’s an otherworldly quality to this place. Something about the image above feels surreal, as though it were a computer generated virtual space. Standing on the point watching the sun sink through the clouds I mustered another attempt to consider the extent of the universe and my insignificance in it—a thought that is always comforting to me. It’s wonderful to sit in awe of your surroundings. This comes more automatically for me in a natural setting. I feel lucky to be able to move between developed and undeveloped environments—control and chaos.

One of the pools at the Painted Rocks.

Painterly indeed.

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Homemade Hummus

Since stocking up on bulk tahini from the Belfast Co-op in Maine this summer, I’ve been enjoying making my own trash-free hummus. It’s so simple and freshly made hummus tastes much better than anything I’ve ever tasted out of a #5 plastic tub. I haven’t been able to find bulk tahini at my local food co-ops. I don’t own a food processor (though lately I’ve been fixing to get one) so I’m not equipped to whip up homemade tahini. To satisfy my hummus hankerings, I had been making my own “chickpea spread” (blended chickpeas, garlic, and olive oil) and occasionally purchasing an 8 or 16 oz order from East Side Pockets with my reusable stainless steel container. Making my own is more satisfying and having the tahini makes all the difference. If I do get a food processor or perhaps borrow one from a friend, I will try making my own tahini. For now I have plenty from the co-op, which should keep for several months in the fridge. Below is the basic hummus recipe I’ve been working from. As always, it’s flexible. I usually throw in some spices and fresh herbs too—like cayenne, red chile, and cilantro. And of course, all of the ingredients are acquired without any packaging.

2 cups cooked chickpeas (I buy mine dry in bulk, then rinse and soak them for 8 hours before cooking)

1/4 cup water (I reserve some of the water used to cook the chickpeas)

2 tablespoons tahini

3-5 tablespoons lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

After cooking the Chickpeas for about 40 minutes, I drain most of the water, reserving about 1/4 cup. Then I add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and blend with my immersion blender (love that thing) until smooth. Easy peasy.

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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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Early to work

Sunrise at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship.

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Salad burnet

I’m growing salad burnet this year. It has a cool crisp flavor that is similar to the taste of cucumber, great in salad or as a garnish. I love the way the rain clings to the points of the small leaves.

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Happy Earth Day!

This week marks one year since starting my No Trash Project. I feel proud of the progress I’ve made toward reducing my personal waste and excited by my potential to become more efficient still. This project has greatly improved the quality of my life. I feel more focused and motivated in general and I’ve noticed an increase in my productivity. At the same time I also feel more relaxed as my anxiety about participating in flawed systems that generate great amounts of waste has lessened.

Today I spent some time potting up baby herbs for my container garden. Sweet and purple basil, stevia, tarragon, and golden variegated sage. I worked in the rain, digging in the soil. I also located a used plastic restaurant tupperware container to start my worm compost in. I’m looking forward to the growing season.

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In bloom

Out on the street in front of my apartment, a spectacular show is going on. The ornamental pear tree blossoms are heartier than the magnolias and so far have withstood the freezing night time temperatures we’ve had this week.

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Last week when temperatures rose to the 70s and 80s, everything bloomed early. This Magnolia tree next to my apartment looked magnificent.


This week, temperatures dipped into the 20s some nights (last night we had freezing rain and snow) and all of the blossoms have shriveled and turned brown, but they still cling to the branches. It’s a shame to see the blooming period of magnolias and dogwoods interrupted.

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Wood stove

I’m feeling very lucky to have the wood stove in my apartment. I love putting a big pot of water on it to humidify the space. In past winters, I resorted to an electric humidifier to relieve my dry skin, nose and throat. The steaming pot of water seems to work even better. All the windows in the apartment fog up!

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Wood storage

Using the fireplace in my bedroom to stack wood for the stove in my living room. The fireplace is so beautiful but it’s not an efficient heat source in the winter because it draws drafts through the house.

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Home heating

So far the weather this season has been mild. But with temperatures dipping down close to 10˚F last night, I have home heating on the brain. In September I moved into a beautiful apartment in the back of a late 18th century brick house. The brick certainly seems to act as a better insulator than clapboard–I noticed that it kept the apartment cool while the weather was still warm–but when temperatures plummet outside, this old house can get pretty chilly.

For the fist time since I’ve lived in Providence I have steam radiators, which I greatly prefer to stinky, inefficient baseboard heating. I also have a wonderful cast iron stove in the living room of my apartment. It emits a lot of heat and helps to take the edge off when the steam radiators aren’t blasting. As per my mom’s suggestion, I’ve been putting a big pot of water (sometimes with added herbs and spices) on the stovetop to humidify the room–the heat from burning wood can be really drying. To avoid buying firewood, my boyfriend and I have been gathering it in the woods and collecting discarded scraps from around the city. It’s a nice incentive to be outside in the cold weather. I’m learning how to choose dry pieces based on their weight and the sound the wood makes when you tap it on a surface. The pile of 4-log plastic shrink wrapped bundles outside the grocery store is a bizarre sight.

I’ve wondered about the environmental effects of wood burning so I did some research. With regard to carbon, the same amount is released from a burning log as would be if that log were to decompose on the forest floor. But of course the carbon from a burning log is released in an hour or less, as opposed to the several months or even years it may take for a log to rot. Oil and gas are used to harvest and transport wood, making the carbon impact greater. The particulate matter released into the air from wood burning is also a concern. I found out that my newer Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified stove heats more efficiently and produces less fine particulate emissions at about 2-7 grams/hour compared to old-fashioned wood stoves that can produce 15-30 grams/hour. Conventional fireplaces without inserts or closed combustion chambers may release as much as 50 grams/hour. Burning properly dried wood will minimize the particulate output and creosote buildup. From what I’ve read, it seems that an advanced wood burning appliance can be a reasonable addition to a home energy system. Wood burning is certainly my favorite source of heat. It is beautiful and comforting on raw days and bitter nights.

Weatherizing a home is the number one way to save energy required to regulate temperature in both cold and hot seasons. Luckily the original windows in my apartment have snug fitting storms and so far this season I haven’t thought about covering any in plastic. I would certainly consider insulating fabric window dressings before turning to plastic in the context of this project. I am however thinking about key places where caulk (which I’ve only ever found in plastic packaging) can be applied to stop air leaks–around the windows and where the floor meets the baseboard. Meanwhile, I also invested in some high quality silk and wool long underwear.

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Dish cloth

A new tool put to use.

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7 billion


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