‘Bling Your ‘Cream’ This Summer


As a kid, I looked upon my mom’s (or grandma’s) souvenir spoon collection with a sense of wonder. Their delicately carved handles crested by a coat of arms, country flag or image of a castle or other location created a sense of grandeur and spoke of travel to far-away places.

souvenir_spoons in a box
eBay Image

Sometimes, they were the only remnants of exotic journeys long ago. Other times, they were kitschy after thoughts picked up in a souvenir shop. On display behind the locked doors of a glass cabinet or stored in the blue-velvet-lined boxes in which they came, one thing was for certain: they were off limits for little girls.

This off-limits idea must have been lingering in some corner of my adult mind, because at a church bazar a few years ago, I stopped at the table displaying fifty to sixty collectible souvenir spoons and looked at them with what could almost be described as longing. The woman behind the table sensed a sale and told me I could have the whole lot for five euros. In an act of pathetic 40-years-too-late rebellion, I went for it.

As I headed home with my spoils like a rebel pirate, I knew my souvenir spoon collection would have a different fate than the off-limit spoons of my childhood. There would be no glass cabinets or velvet boxes. These spoons would be utilitarian, used to stir tea and cocktails, dole out sugar or laid out as dessert spoons.

As anyone reading my blog knows, I have a thing about single-use plastic. In fact, those little plastic spoons you get every time you go to the ice cream parlor drive me freaking crazy. No one seems to even think about recycling them and some visitors don’t even bother to put them in the trash can, but throw them on the ground like a cigarette butt.

Then it hit me. The souvenir spoon has a functional place in this contemporary world; it is the perfect way to eat your ice cream! So the next time we headed out the door to go get an ice cream, I stopped my family in their tracks and suggested they each pick out a silver spoon. They’re used to me and they got it instantly. We marched down the street, ordered our ice cream and pulled out our own spoons–all mementos of stranger’s journeys.

Upcycle grandma’s Souvenir Spoon!
Bling your cream!
Accessorize your cone!

There’s a heat wave this summer and I foresee many an ice cream or sorbet in our collective futures. Wouldn’t it be something if each and every one of us dug out those little souvenir spoons and pimped-our-ice cream cups and cones? Bling your Cream? Accessorize your cone? Experience life from the tip of a silver spoon?

If you go for it, please send me a picture and I’ll post them here!

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Crazy Lady Chasing Plastic Bag


One thing that really bothers me–besides males who leave the toilet seat up and all things Trump– is an errant plastic bag. Not just bags, but all plastics gone wild: plastic grocery bags caught in a tree, smeary sandwich wrappers discarded on the sidewalk, bottles stuffed into bushes, plastic forks and straws cracked and muddy in the gutter.

Much to the embarrassment of my family, I pick up plastic I find on the ground because I don’t want it to end up in the ocean or in the stomach of a bird, whale or sea turtle.

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans, and that figure could increase by ten-fold over the next 10 years if actions are not taken, according to a new study published in the journal Science.
Source: Here’s How Much Plastic ends up in the World’s Oceans by Alexandra Sifferlin

I’ve been feeling a bit like a freak in my pursuit of herding in the stray plastics over the past few years, because  1) people look at me funny 2) besides the guys and girls in lime green vests who have to pick up the street litter, no one else seems to even see the plastic on the ground, and 3) It’s kind of gross picking up plastic, but I can’t seem to help myself.

But the good thing is, times, they are a changing. I’ve met others like me. They are organizing neighborhood walks with friends to pick up trash, they plan beach cleans ups. They use Apps to take pictures of each piece of trash and that goes into a major database, which shows all the trash that people around the nation or world picked up that day.

theresa-may-13
I like to give photo credit, but I can no longer find the website. My apologies.

Even Theresa May, Prime Minister of England, joined the plastic crusade. I haven’t seen her chasing a plastic bag through a parking lot, though you can use your imagination with this particular photo. However, she’s making huge impacts on a national level, and announced back in April that her government would be effectively banning single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds (I think cotton buds means cotton swabs or Q-tips in American English). She’s no newcomer to the plastic revolution. Back in January 2018, she was already lining up a long term plan to eliminate all “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042. I want to give her a hug and three kisses, even though I’d probably get arrested and insult her at the same time. Brits aren’t all that in to hugging, and the three kiss thing is something I’ve picked up while living in The Netherlands. God help me.

Sometimes you feel a bit nostalgic when something you felt was kind of ‘your niche’ is infiltrated by others. This is so not one of those things! I’m no longer the lone crazy lady chasing a plastic bag. The more the merrier! In fact, please join me. Maybe you’ll inspire others to follow suit.

 

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Call to action for World Oceans Day CLICK BLUE LINK TO LAUNCH THE VIDEO

On that note, I saw this hilarious Plastic Invasion video today that takes on the plastic insanity with humor and a realistic call to action in preparation for World Oceans Day on June 8th, 2018. Considering I’m already getting my hands dirty picking up wayward plastic, this is a natural step for me. What about doing this together? Doing what, exactly? Check out the video and let me know what you think. Seriously. You have a twitter account. You’re social media aware if you’re reading this post. Let’s do this together! If you’re game, please let me know in the comments section.

I’ll leave you with three cool links that all provide various ways of getting a grip on our worldwide plastic problem.

  1. The surprising solution to ocean plastic | David Katz

  2. The Plastic Soup Foundation
  3. 100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life

Disclaimer: No single-use plastics were used in the creation of this post. However, this post was typed on a computer keyboard made of plastic, connected to a plastic mouse and a monitor, largely made of plastic. Holy Hell!

 

 

 

100-100-100 Trash free challenge


Recycling is so popular in our neighborhood, that the glass, paper and plastic recycling bins at the end of our block are often overflowing. Considering that my family alone drops off a bag each of glass, plastic and paper every week, this excess comes as no surprise to me.

I totally support recycling, but on the other hand, where are these supreme heaps of paper, glass and plastic recycling coming from? In a country where Albert Heijn, one of the largest Supermarket chains in the nation, sells its cucumbers individually wrapped in plastic, I’m guessing that most comes from packaging.

I’ve had a vague goal of cutting back on the amount of plastic, glass and paper that enters our home by changing my shopping patterns. I’ve done a bit to address this by using cloth bags and getting my unpackaged produce at Joe’s Vegetable shop. Yet laziness and convenience seem to undermine my desire to take it a step further. It’s like I need a waste-reducing support group to get my lazy *ss in gear.

But then something remarkable happened!  Duurzaam Den Haag announced the 100-100-100 challenge: 100 families, living 100 percent trash-free for 100 days. What? How could you live trash-free? And when they say trash, are they just talking about trash, trash? Or do they mean having zero waste–as in no paper, plastic, glass, food scraps, etcetera?

One way or another, I wanted to find out, and in doing so, signed up my family to participate in this ridiculous challenge. Am I going to turn into some uber-recycling, make-your-own-toothpaste, zero-waste scary person? And is that really so scary, or is it that the idea of changing our patterns is scary?

imageThe kick off event aptly began on Halloween evening and it was packed. Far from being scared, the crowd had a restless enthusiasm you might expect at a Holland’s Got Talent show–people amped up and ready for the challenge to begin.

The excitement was palpable as a woman spoke about her zero-waste lifestyle. The applause for the program initiators was just shy of thunderous and I was swept up in the energy. Then it got even better. I met up with my neighborhood group aimg_4406nd we all shared our thoughts about the program. We each received a goody bag with an electric scale to weigh our trash, a nifty cardboard recycling container for batteries, led lamps and small electronics, a bar of soap wrapped in newspaper and some start-up instructions.

My neighborhood What’s app group is on fire. We encourage each other, share tips and research and we’re already planning a cooking evening (what to do with left overs) and a composting workshop.

In the first five days, my family has managed to avoid opening the main trash can in the kitchen, thus producing zero waste (rest afval). I haven’t cleared out the small bathroom trash cans as of yet, which are filled with true trash–tissue, cotton swabs, dental floss, the occasional band-aid, etcetera. But we have been slowly eliminating items from these trash cans as well. Did you know you can recycle wooden tooth picks in the vegetable, fruit and garden waste bin?  And although we save the cardboard inner role of the toilet paper, sometimes they end up in the trash (laziness!) instead of the recycling bin. Those days are now over.

Did you know that in The Hague, tin cans, drink packs and bottle caps can be recycled via the plastic bin? That baking paper can not be recycled?

This week’s challenge was to count how many times you open a new package. You’d be surprised at how quickly it adds up, especially if you count each individually-wrapped tea bag. The subtle changes we can make to reduce waste and recycling material become self-evident. We could purchase loose-leaf tea, for example, and in doing so eliminate all of those little envelopes and tea sacks. We could skip the plastic bag at the bakery by opting for an unsliced loaf and placing it directly in a reusable bag. The possibilities are slowly but surely unfolding before my eyes and I have rediscovered my rose-colored glasses upon the path of 100-100-100. We’ll see how long they stay intact!

 

 

 

 

Get your Green on April 18th, 2015 with Earth Day The Netherlands, Bezuidenhout Style


Are you interested in making some changes in your life to lessen your impact on the environment, but aren’t sure where to start? Do you live in The Hague area and wonder what sort of environmental non-profit organizations (stichtingen) are out there and what it is that they do? Do you want to learn about the environment and meet others interested in sustainable living? Do you like festival-like events with music, organic food, eco-shopping and hands-on activities all in a social and educational atmosphere?

If you thought “yes,” or even “maybe” to any of the above questions, then come to Earth Day The Netherlands 2015. This one-day event will bring the International Earth Day concept to The Hague, giving Dutch and Internationals alike a chance to celebrate Earth Day and take action for the earth. Planning on coming? Let us know on Facebook by registering for the event here.

What: Earth Day The Netherlands (The Hague, Bezuidenhout)
When: Saturday, April 18th, 2015
Time: 11:00-15:00
Location: Meeting Rooms at Christus Triumfatorkerk
Juliana van Stolberglaan 154, 2595 CL, The Hague
Why come? To learn about the environment in a fun, festival-like setting.
Admission: Free

Earth Day Netherlands 2015 is shaping up to be a wonderful event. Who is welcome? Anyone interested in learning more about the environment! This event is for people who live in the Bezuidenhout neighborhood, but also for people who live anywhere in the Netherlands interested in connecting with others about sustainable living and action.
Here is a partial list of organizations participating. Information on musicians, eco-vendors and speakers will be provided in upcoming posts. Please SHARE this post on your blog, on your Facebook page, on twitter, etc. Thank you!

Eco Non-Profits
A rocha Den Haag
Duurzaam Bezuidenhout
Duurzaam Den Haag Haagse Krach Karavaan Project
FAIR TRADE CTK
Oiko Credit 
Repair Café Den Haag
Sea First Foundation

 

Do lifestyle environmentalists count?


I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I’m getting a kind of reputation here in the Netherlands as an environmentalist. And truth be told, that both excites me and makes me uncomfortable. Now here is the question; what do people mean when they call me an environmentalist? Are they referring to my eco-friendly  ideologies and lifestyle or do they mistake me for someone with a scientific mind who can explain why global warming is a reality, or lay out the intricacies of the marine ecosystem and how our misuse of the ocean as a trash can combined with over fishing are destroying this vast resource? Well, I can do that to a degree, but not without first referencing the research that experts in the field have conducted. I’m admitting to the following; there is not a scientific bone in my body.

Snottykins organic hankies
Snottykins organic hankies

On the other hand, thanks to a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and years of writing experience, I can read and digest information about the environment and (often) convey it in an intelligible manner; but is this enough? That is the question that has always haunted this “lifestyle environmentalist.”

Is there room in the environmental movement for those not steeped in science? This question represents a fear I’ve nurtured and given legs throughout my life, leaving me with the following damning conviction: you can’t be an environmentalist, Kristin, because you didn’t study environmental science, marine biology and geography. You’re more of an environmental cheerleader; your sleek words the pom poms, your enthusiasm the cheer, your soap box the half-time show. Glitz and glamour without the substance to back it up. Sure it’s cute. But the game (the real environmentalists) is what matters. But is this true?

I mean, I have done a fair bit of good for the environment with those pom poms; I’ve made lifestyle choices that reduce my impact on the environment, I’ve volunteered for environmental organizations, I aided and abetted the Handkerchief revolution in the U.S., I’ve grown gardens and planted seeds in community projects, I  initiated a sustainability project at the firm I used to work for, I was on the sustainability committee at our church in the U.S., and I’ve written a novel called GREEN where the environment is far more than the half time show.

But when someone calls me an environmentalist, I feel a need to slow them down and make the distinction. “I”m more of a lifestyle environmentalist,” I hear myself saying.

And this lifestyle environmentalist is currently organizing a mini “Earth Day Celebration” in The Hague, slated for Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 at the ABC Treehut from 17:00-19:00

Boy was that fun to put into a block quote! More details on this Earth Day Celebration will be forthcoming on this blog, on Facebook and via emails to my peeps in The Hague.

What are your thoughts? Do lifestyle environmentalists Count? Can they play an important role in expanding the environmental movement?