My First Week Being Eco-Conscious: A Snapshot From May 2017

Below is a diary-like snapshot of some of my first attempts at living a more eco-conscious lifestyle.

I have spent the last week, between studying for finals and preparing for an internship interview, researching Zero-Waste lifestyles, eco-friendly alternatives, and the consequences of an Eco-Unconcious lifestyle. As I mentioned before, I no longer want to live that way.

Being a college student working a part-time job, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on expensive zero-waste lifestyle gadgets. I’m also living at home while saving up for my own house, so I don’t have plenty of space to settle in and transition new Eco-Conscious items (though some zero-wasters would say that’s no problem because minimalism is a key part of a zero-waste lifestyle). That being said, many of the transitions I am making are simple, and inexpensive- though I admit my furor got me going pretty quickly on some of these changes.

The first thing I did was repurpose one of the hundreds of mason jars my family owns (we do a lot of canning). I used one of the bigger jars so I wouldn’t have to refill it quite so often, which is useful especially on days when I have back-to-back classes.  I simply drilled a hole in one of the lids and tossed in a stainless steel straw.  I love this jar and use it every day, and it cost me nothing. Tip: invest in some stainless steel straws.  I use these for drinking from this jar, for smoothies, and they’re great for when you eat out and don’t want to use the disposable straw the waitress tries to give you.  They were a bit difficult for me to find, but Target has them in some stores for $5.  I actually used some my family got from Amazon, where prices range from $5-$15, depending on how many straws you get.  Most come with a nifty little brush to clean their insides.

Next, I went to my local Goodwill and bought a large ceramic jar with a lid.  We have a fairly large garden, so we’re pretty good about composting.  However, it was time to have an actual compost jar.  It’s a lovely blue and says “Flour”, and adds a nice touch to the decor.  It’s large enough that we can go a few days without having to trek out to the backyard to empty it.  Composting is vital to growing your own fruits and veggies, and to reducing your waste. Tip: Buy used rather than new.  Part of a zero-waste lifestyle is reducing your contribution to the waste cycle.  We often buy new instead of repurposing what we already have, or buying used.  Besides, things are so much cheaper at thrift stores (especially mason jars!)

Today was the opening day of my local Farmer’s Market!  There aren’t many fruits and veggies out yet (Tip: Buy produce from your local Farmer’s Market to reduce the number of annoying produce stickers you have to throw away, and the environmental impacts of produce transportation).  There was, however, a local small business owner who selling all-natural, handmade soap bars.  I was thrilled to support her, and to purchase her amazing smelling soaps with only a thin, recyclable paper wrapper stating the ingredients.  I also later found (miraculously) a bamboo toothbrush at my local Target for $4, which is biodegradable and will be tossed into my compost pile in a few months.  I also made the switch from disposable, unrecyclable wax-paper cups to, yes, another mason jar.  Mason jars are your friends, Eco-Conscious lovelies.

I have also started to make the transition away from paper napkins, though many are compostable, they’re not necessary and they are disposable, which degrades our appreciation for things.  I admit, I ought to have bought these used, but I picked up six cloths at a local store for cheaper than I would have gotten them at my local Goodwill.  Plus, they’re so soft!  These are 100% cotton (which is also compostable, in case you were wondering) and will last me for a very long time (until they’re ready to be tossed into the compost).  I plan to leave one in my car, wrapping up the silverware that I use when I forget to pack some in my lunch (which, unfortunately, is often) and for any time when the only option is disposable cutlery.  I’m also going to use them as napkins for my lunch.

Lastly, I found some of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile soap at Target (Target was surprisingly useful in my search for Zero-waste goodies).  This was $6 dollars, and it can probably be found cheaper elsewhere.  I was a little overzealous and bought it right then, partly because it smelled so good.  Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile soap is AMAZING.  It is extraordinarily useful and has many purposes, which is important in an Eco-Conscious lifestyle.  I plan on using this bar for shampoo, body wash, and face wash.  I’m going to pick up a bottle of the peppermint liquid pure-castile soap for a project I’ll talk more about later.  The liquid soap can be used for even more household needs.

I’m working on some more projects and transitions that I’m really excited to share with you all.  So far, this lifestyle change hasn’t been too difficult or expensive.  It’s important to buy used if possible, and remember, many of the things you are buying are meant to last, unlike disposables, so they’ll be an investment for quite some time.

If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know!  We’re on a journey together, so let’s support each other.

~*~*~

I’ll be doing an update on where I currently am at with many of these changes I made two years ago, and I’ll add a link to that post soon.

Minimalist Lifestyle Tips

As minimalism continues to be a popular movement, I thought I would put together a nowhere-near-comprehensive list of tips for living a minimalist lifestyle.  Keep in mind that minimalism means something different for each person, so remember why you are choosing to live this type of lifestyle and what is plausible for you.  These are only suggested tips, and some tips may work better for you than other tips.  Also, always remember to recycle, sell, and donate what you can.

MEDIA

  1. Borrow books, movies, and CDs from your local Library.
  2. Get rid of books, movies, and CDs you don’t totally love. Donate them to your local Library.
  3. Read newspapers online. (Usually, you can donate some money, if you would like, and subscriptions are fairly cheap, NYTimes being only $4 per month)
  4. Clean out your email inbox(es).
  5. Unfriend/unfollow people, boards, and pages you don’t really love on your social media.
  6. Clean out your bookmarked internet pages
  7. Unsubscribe from junk emails or emails from people you don’t love or are no longer interested in anymore
  8. Digitize your files (CDs/music, ebooks, photographs, etc.)

CLOTHING

  1. Reduce your wardrobe to things that actually fit and that you love and wear more than once a year—if ever.
  2. Repair your clothes and take good care of them.  Also, only buy quality items when you do buy clothing so that they last longer.
  3. Get rid of your sentimental items and only keep the things you can display or fit in a small box.  Keep only the things that really give you joy (I, for example, got rid of a ton of old cards and ticket stubs that don’t really give me joy anymore).

BATHROOM

  1. Get rid of cosmetics you don’t really use or that are old.
  2. Don’t buy more than you need
  3. Donate things you don’t use (Like curling irons, headbands, perfume, etc.)
  4. Try to simplify your hygiene routines (if you don’t really need five different products to put in your hair, don’t use five different products in your hair)

KITCHEN

  1. Get rid of expired food and donate food you don’t really eat.
  2. Donate or sells dishes you don’t use
  3. Get rid of duplicates (do you really need 5 whisks? 10 coffee mugs? 3 can openers? 2 toasters?)
  4. Get rid of broken items (too chipped glasses, bent beyond repair forks, broken hand mixer, etc.)
  5. Make a list before going shopping, and buy only foods that you will use

Office

  1. Digitize your statements and pay online
  2. Unsubscribe from junk mail lists
  3. Try to refrain from buying more office stationery supplies than you need—and use what you already have (journals and notebooks are so alluring, but fight the temptation and use the twelve notebooks you already own)

Again, this is not a comprehensive list.  It’s also important to note that living a minimalist life can save you money.  You do not need to go out and buy incredibly expensive, high-quality clothing (thrifting is incredible, folks) or repaint your home interior white and buy a bunch of plants.  Live a minimalist lifestyle that fits you and where you are at.  The focus is often on breaking with addictive consumerist habits and a throw-away mentality.

If you’re interested in learning more there are plenty of blogs and Youtube channels out there.  I recommend Madeleine Olivia on Youtube, Janell Kristina on Youtube, and Exploring Alternatives on Youtube.  These are fairly strong minimalists, but you don’t need to give away all your belongings and move into a tiny home to be minimalist.  Make the little changes that work for you and enjoy living a simpler life.

The Beginning of an Eco-Friendly Journey

Spring has finally sprung where I live and Earth Day 2019 is happening in just two days.  With these realizations comes a new consciousness of my environment.  I have always been somewhat aware of environmental problems, and I generally do my part to conserve water and electricity.  But I realize now that isn’t enough.

In January, I celebrated my second anniversary of becoming a vegetarian (though, in full disclosure, I do sometimes eat a more pescatarian diet, though I try very hard to avoid eating seafood).  I chose to transition to this lifestyle for a wealth of reasons that are easily researchable (ethical, environmental, etc.)  With that transition came my goal for 2017—and my goal in 2018 and this year: to live consciously and authentically.  I will no longer pretend unawareness of problems surrounding me, and I will no longer shy away from living in accordance with my beliefs.  I will be fully conscious of my surroundings and world, and I will live as authentically as I can manage.  Of course, this is no easy thing.  I can’t simply flip a switch and life changes for me.  I can’t transition easily into new habits and a new lifestyle overnight.  Change is hard, but anything worth doing won’t always be easy.

This is all to say, I have begun to make changes in my life.  I am embarking on a journey that started in January 2017 and is continuing with new awakenings and authentic changes now in 2019.  I’d like to give you snapshots of this journey, and invite you to join however you can.  Our Earth is our home, and it is not here (just as animals are not here) for us to use and abuse to our fullest desire.  Earth does not need us, but we need it.  If we want to continue to be able to enjoy our stay here and allow generations to come to enjoy their stay here, we need to stop living with our eyes half-closed and afraid to live how we believe we ought to live.

I’m inviting you to wake up fully to the beauty, and yes the sordidness, and to live boldly.

My KonMari Method Experiences and Afterthoughts

I discovered the KonMari Method some years ago when I finally became fed up with the state of my overflowing closet.  I don’t think I fully made it through her Clothing category, and I firmly believe that at the time I was not yet ready to learn and let go as the method requires.  I rediscovered KonMari’s Method while searching for books on decluttering to read while procrastinating studying for my college finals.  I read her book beginning to end and felt that this time I was going to complete the entire process.  And I did (I actually started the process to further procrastinate studying- I know, I have a problem).

This process was not always easy and sometimes I had to really push myself to keep going.  It can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining.  But it completely recharges you to carry away bags and boxes of things you no longer love and things you’ve held onto for years out of some sense of obligation.  I can be a hoarder sometimes and I’m a sucker for nostalgia, so I had quite a lot of stuff gathered in my nearly eleven years at this home and my twenty years of life (I still had a box holding nostalgics that was labelled for moving from eleven years ago).  I have never felt so light, so happy, so relieved, so powerful, so serene, and so refreshed in my life.

Some tips:

  1. It is important to eat well, hydrate, and rest during this process.  I was determined to do it as quickly as possible (during the two week break between the end of school and the start of my summer internship), but move at your own pace.  KonMari states the process works best if you do tidying all in one go and as quickly as possible.  This means don’t tidy over a few years.  If you can do it in a few weeks (or even days), then go for it.  If it takes you a few months, that is also okay.  Don’t completely exhaust yourself, but don’t drag your feet.  You’ll feel amazing once your tidying festival, as KonMari calls it, is over.
  2. It is vital to give yourself complete and utter freedom to discard ANYTHING that no longer brings you joy.  Some of the stuff you have been holding onto you kept only because it was a gift or it was your late grandmother’s and so on.  Now is not the time for guilt-otherwise you’ll just keep hanging onto it and you’ll end up in the same cluttered, unhappy mess you’re in now.  KonMari also suggests that you should not let your family see what you are getting rid of.  They may be offended, angry, or try to guilt you into keeping things.  This just complicates the process.  Allowing myself to get rid of ANYTHING made the process much easier and much more rewarding.  Now I know that wherever I look I will see things I love and nothing that will make me feel guilty because I don’t feel joy when I see it and I don’t use it as much as the gifter would have liked.
  3. Read KonMari’s books The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy (you can probably get it at your library).  Spark Joy is her second book and it helps elaborate how to do the process she proposes and explains in her first book.  I read her first book before, but her second book is what I found and what encouraged me and guided me as I began my second (and final!) attempt at her process.

After cleaning out all the things that no longer sparked joy from my bedroom, bathroom, and office, I emptied my bedroom of all furniture and things I love so that I could deep clean it for the first time in eleven years.  Sitting in my empty room with nothing but a built-in bookshelf filled with only books and notebooks that I love, I find myself better appreciating that minimalistic lifestyle.  Regardless of all the things that spark joy (or I kept because I have to, like medicine, cleaning products, etc.- which KonMari says that you must keep with confidence and love and appreciate), I find myself wishing I could keep my room like this.  My mind feels so clear and I feel so calm.  Through this process I have learned so much about myself (including my past self through photos, journals, etc. from the Sentimental category), about my style, about what I love and love to do.  Regardless, I can’t help wishing I could leave my room empty save for the bookshelf my father and I built together artfully filled with my favorite books and decorations, a few plants, and a mattress on the floor.  I wonder how much I really need to get by in life.

I’m still transitioning into a zero waste lifestyle and perhaps in time as I phase out and use up unnecassary products and things, and instead find multiple uses for reusable products, perhaps I will have less things.  I’ve always pined after the minimalistic lifestyle and drooled over minimalistic aesthetic.  Perhaps that will be my end goal.  Life is a journey, I’m discovering, and it is not easy nor is it a journey that follows one path.  As Hank Green once said, “There are so many paths out there- PICK ONE!”

For now I will enjoy the calm of my empty room and happy soul that has completed the KonMari Method.  And I will always appreciate all that I have in life, and all that I do not have.  So remember, love, live, laugh, and pick a path.  It’s about the journey and what you learn along the way, because the destination is the same for us all-death.  Enjoy your journey, and let me know what crazy, interesting, or humdrum path you’re following right now.

My Favorite Books Through the Years

When I was really little, I imagine I devoured books faster than the Very Hungry Caterpillar could ever hope to eat.  In fact, I have distinct memories of my elementary school years being spent at the reading station, working my way through every book, audio book, and reading lesson I could get my little hands on.  However, my favorite books were always either Winnie-the-Pooh books, of which nostalgia and pure love have kept me from letting go, or Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham.  I firmly believe the fact that my name is Sam played a very large part in my adoration of that book.

In the middle years of my childhood, I started reading chapter books very early on, a fact I was immensely proud of.  Books by Andrew Clements were a particular favorite of mine.  I enjoyed Frindle and I read The School Story more times than I can count.  I loved that book because it spoke to the writer in me.  It gave me the hope that, however fictitious this book may be, I could do that one day.  Maybe not exactly that way, per se, but I could write a book and get it published.  In all honestly, that book made the whole publishing process seem so easy, but I suppose that, to a very experienced author like Andrew Clements, it seems pretty easy.

I also loved books from Haddix, which I have mentioned before.  I practically lived for her Shadow Children series.  I would save my allowance dollars and the day I had enough to go purchase the next book in the series was the best day ever.  Those books still grace my shelves to this day.

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In high school, I read as often as I could with my more rigorous academia.  I lived for Rick Riordan’s books about Percy Jackson and his friends, hated (still do) the movies that they “based” off of the books, and waited nervously for the days House of Hades and then The Blood of Olympus came out (I can do a whole other post about my feelings towards this series and that last book in particular, if anyone is interested).  Once that series came to an end, I decided to move on and discovered other authors. I read and reread Changing Faces by Wendy Lawyon, a gift from grandparents.  I fell in love with the other books by Haddix, stumbled upon the books of Jessica Day George, and was introduced to Shannon Hale’s masterpieces.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of my time reading English literature from Beowulf to Frankenstein, discovering the poems, ballads, and epics (respectively) of Marie de France, Wordsworth, Sir Philip Sidney, Milton, and John Donne.  I’ve rediscovered my love of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and found some new favorites.  That is to say, I haven’t had a lot of time to find modern fiction favorites.  Of course, I look forward to summer and more free time to return to the guilty pleasures of fiction and fantasy novels.

Those are some of my favorite books and authors over the years.  Do you have any favorites?  Have any suggestions for me to read in my coming free time (oh, how I can’t wait)?  Please let me know in the comments!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Austenland

I recently did a review on Shannon Hale’s Midnight in Austenland, and in the review I mentioned I was planning on reading the book’s friend, Austenland.  Well, I have and I have to say I enjoyed it just as much.

Austenland was amazing on an entirely different level.  The mystery is of a different nature, and yet just as intriguing and page-turning.  The romance is a different quality, but is still very beautiful and heart-wrenching.

This book follows a middle-aged woman named Jane Hayes who is followed by a trail of very painful and disappointing relationships.  She fell in love with Pride and Prejudice when she was a teenager and she has been haunted by her idea of Mr. Darcy ever since.  When she arrives at Austenland, she has an entirely different view of it.  Jane goes into Austenland wanting to get swept up with the fantasy and hoping to leave it three weeks later with her Mr. Darcy obsession kicked and having become the strong, independent woman she believes she ought to be.  Those three weeks are just as swift and confusing and full of existential questioning as Charlotte of Midnight in Austenland‘s were.  Jane’s painful awareness of the actors and their two-sided (or more) nature confuses and blinds her to the reality of her own story and her own happy ending.

Different from her other book, Shannon Hale’s Austenland still succeeded in sucking me into her twisting plot and keeping me turning the pages and hoping ardently for a happy ending until the very last page.

I look forward to reading some of Shannon Hale’s other books and I encourage you to read this one.  Happy reading!!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful, written by Justina Chen Headley, is an incredibly poignant novel about a teenage girl with a port-wine stain birthmark and her journey in understanding what true beauty is.  Like any great book there is, of course, more to it than that.

Living under an oppressive and verbally abusive father, this book takes us along with Terra Cooper as she discovers beauty, love, life, travels, and freedom, and what everything means.  We follow Terra and her friends and family as they unearth their deepest fears, worries, and demons and find their own true beauty.  Filled with questions worthy of a philosopher, romance, pain and fear, and emotional diction, this novel had me intrigued until the very end and left me thinking- which is exactly how I like my books.

I recommend giving this book a read!  I look forward to seeing what other novels Justina Chen Headley has to offer us.

Happy reading!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Midnight in Austenland

I discovered this author through the recommendation from Jessica Day George (another author I adore) and I am very glad I did.  I keep saying that such-and-such author is my new favorite or such-and-such author is my NEW favorite, and perhaps I am just being presumptuous or I am simply too nice, but I do believe I will enjoy reading all of Shannon Hale’s books.

Midnight in Austenland was amazing.  It’s about a middle-aged woman who recently got divorced after the husband she loved with all her heart cheated on her.  She is so hurt that she numbs herself to emotion and turns her heart to stone.  After dozens of blind dates set up by well-meaning friends, Charlotte feels even worse than before and decides to take a vacation in hopes of finding… well she isn’t sure exactly what… while her kids are staying with the ex-husband.  That is how she ends up at Austenland, where people go to pretend you are in the same time era as Jane Austen’s novels.  Here, the characters spend two weeks in Pembrook Park dressing in corsets and long-skirted dresses, eating traditional meals, dancing, doing needlepoint, and letting themselves fall in pretend love with the handsome gentlemen actors.  Charlotte goes because she has recently fallen in love with every aspect of Jane Austen’s novels.  What happens in those few weeks no one expected, especially not Charlotte.

Filled with adventure, romance, friendship, mystery, and gasp-out-loud, fail-to-hide-your-excited-giggle moments, Midnight in Austenland had me hooked until the last page and wishing for more.  Perfect from cover to cover, I recommend this book whole-heartedly, and look forward to reading the first book that takes place in this Jane Austen worthy setting, Austenland.

If you enjoyed Jane Austen’s novels, romance, mystery, or wish you could be in a place such as Austenland, I really recommend you read these two books.  I loved them very much.

Happy reading!!!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight, and Dragon Spear

Jessica Day George (my goodness, her name is long, yet it has a lovely ring to it) has written another book that I adore.

Dragon Slippers is her very first novel for young readers, and I will admit that it is a fabulous first book.  I was a bit uncertain about it at first, for I was afraid it would be a bit too childish, but I stuck through to the end (I believe you should give a book a chance and read through to the end, or close to it) and was not disappointed.

The book touches on many of the things I so ardently love: magic, dragons, adventure, and a possibility of love.  This book also got me really interested in medieval clothing, in particular dresses.  I have come to realize, in the setting of this book especially, that dress-making (and clothes-making in general) is an art.

The main character of this book, Creel (I love her name, shortened and whole), is a poor girl from a poor family that is desperate for a bit of income.  They’re so desperate that her aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon in hopes that some brave (and rich!) knight will rescue her and beg her to marry him, thus benefiting her family.  Of course, it doesn’t go as her aunt expects it to and the book follows Creel on her amazing adventures with dragons, dress-making, royalty, and magic galore.

I loved this book so much that I didn’t hesitate to read the next two in the series.  Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear didn’t disappoint at all.  I always worry with books such as these that the sequels will disappoint and be much too similar with the same “problem” that characterized the first book.  That was not the case with this series, though.  The next two books continued to follow Creel and her friends, new and old, with the continued themes that I adore.  The “problems”, though, were entirely different and incredibly interesting.  Each book just got better and better.  In the second book I was surprised by the challenges Creel faced, and in the third book, I was even more surprised.

If you enjoy dragons, magic, romance, adventure, medieval settings, or any of Jessica Day George’s other books, I highly recommend you read this series!!  I enjoyed it very much.

Happy reading!

~The Wise Girl

Book Review: Princesses of the Midnight Ball, Princess of Glass, and Princess of the Silver Woods

I am thrilled to share with you another wonderful book by Jessica Day George!

Princesses of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George was lovely.  I read the book in one day and stayed up until the wee hours of the night to finish it.  It was definitely a page-turner.

This book has it all.  There is mystery and suspense, innocent romance (which is to say not Fifty Shades of Grey level), magic, and a medieval time setting, along with a bonus for myself- a bit of German!

The story follows twelve sisters, all princesses, who are wrapped in a mystery known as The Mystery of the Dancing Slippers.  This mystery is a confusing one to all the characters that have heard of it, and of course involves magic, and not good magic, either.  To defeat it, true love, more than a good dash of luck, courage, and some odd magic items will be needed.

Besides this book, Jessica Day George- bless her- brought us two more that continue to follow the twelve sisters we first met in Princesses of the Midnight Ball.  In Princess of Glass, Princess Poppy, the sixth princess, is the main character of this story that takes an entirely different approach from the first book.  This plot is just as intriguing as the first and filled with plenty more of what the first novel had to offer.  In the third book of the series, Princess of the Silver Woods, the youngest, Princess Petunia, is the main character.  The story follows her as an old enemy reawakens and threatens her and all that she loves and cares about, including her sisters.  This book is my favorite out of the entire series.  It is, in my opinion, the climax of the ongoing plot that is the lives of the twelve princesses.

What impresses me most is not how well Jessica Day George creates her world and setting, not how well she creates the story and plot (and continues it into the next books, with a fluid and coherent passing of time), and not how well she writes in general.  What I am most impressed by is how she is able to create twelve different girls, whom are all related and sisters, yet every single one of them is entirely different and has her own set of quirks, traits, and characteristics.  Jessica Day George is not only able to describe these, but also keeps them separate and recalls them clearly throughout all three books (while another author I won’t mention, for I do love his books so, was unable to remember the name of one of his most important slightly minor characters and just called her something entirely different at the end of the book). Furthermore, she also creates dozens of other very prominent characters and draws them fully with her words, and remembers them from book to book.  Personally, I feel this shows George’s art and the downfall of authors who are pressured to turn out books.  Nothing about George’s writing or books seems forced, but rather as if she lives their and knows each character as if she were her own sister.

Jessica Day George has rapidly become one of my favorite authors (if not my number one) and I look very much forward to the day when all (yes, all) of her books grace my bookshelf.

My point?  Read not only this series, but all of her books!!!  Happy reading!

~The Wise Girl