Tip Tuesday: Food Waste

Recently I had my eyes opened wider to something that I knew was going on, but not quite to this degree. I recently watched Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story,  a documentary run on MSNBC about wasted food in America. The documentary trails a couple who vows to live of salvaged food (previously unwanted or thrown out food which they saved) for six months. Along their journey we hear from experts who paint the picture for us of what is really going on. 

Allow me to jump right in. Up to 40% of all food produced in America is thrown out. This largely comes from the grocery store industry tossing food that is deemed "unsellable" at the end of the day. Other of this comes directly from farms who are forced to weed out crops that are not shaped the desired way. Some comes from restaurants scraping what we don't finish off our plates.  And also a lot of this comes from our own refrigerators, the food we buy but can't consume before it spoils. 

While 40% of all food produced is thrown out, one in seven Americans  do not know where their next meal is going to come from. 


Up to 40 million tons of wasted food goes into landfills in American each year.


Here's what you can do:
Learn about labels. Sell by, use by, enjoy by, etc labels are not federally required to be present on foods with the exception of baby formula. Sell by dates should never be seen by consumers. They are  a date to tell stores when to sell by to ensure a lengthy shelf life once the product hits consumers homes. Use by, etc labels are only an indication of freshness not of safety. If you eat a product after the use by date you aren't going to become sick, you just may not be eating the freshest product possible. 

Bend a little. I know all our money is valuable and we want the best for it, but if you notice a certain less than perfect product in the grocery store (dent in a can, one cracked egg in a carton) save it from certain death. That is save if from being thrown away and use it anyways, despite it's less than perfect appearance. 

Think about what you buy and will eat. Be mindful about your shopping and try your best not to over buy. Buy enough to get you through, but don't buy too much that you will end up tossing. Always take your leftovers home from a restaurant. 

Get creative. If there are a couple of things that need to be used quickly in your fridge, think of creative ways to use them instead of tossing them out.

France looks to be taking this issue very seriously and doing something to stop it. France plans to sign into law that supermarkets may no longer throw out unsellable food, but rather donate it to charities. This law will also bring education about food waste in stores and businesses. However, over time the aim is to better manage food supply management so overproduction is decreased. Read the entire Guardian article here. 

Seeing all this happen has got me curious as to what the dumpsters outside of my local grocery stores look like. Stay tuned as I investigate, in my own area, ways to possibly save more food from the landfills.

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Tip Tuesday: Clutter vs. Waste

There are two things that I hate. And hating these two things feels like a contradiction. Just as the title reads they are clutter and waste. As I try my hardest to move toward a more minimalist lifestyle, that involves getting rid of some clutter. But another important thing in my life is to reduce the amount of waste I produce, whether it be food, disposable items, clothes, etc. 

How am I supposed to get rid of clutter without sending more and more trash out into the world? 

To be honest I'm not quite sure. 

I know what you are thinking. Donate your unwanted things to Goodwill or other thrift shops. Sell them online. Have a garage sale. While I do feel those are more productive ways to release unwanted things from your life, I still feel guilty for adding to the mountains of used stuff that thrift store employees have to go through. Guilty that I assume someone might want my rejected stuff. While I do support buying used whenever possible I do think that we have a huge problem with material possessions.  Not only do we spend a lifetime accumulating meaningless possession after possession, we like to go to garage sales and thrift stores to paw through piles of other peoples' meaningless possessions. When will it ever be enough? It won't.

If you feel as mentally bogged down by clutter as I do,  then releasing certain things from you're life will allow you to breathe easier and easier. It can also affect your shopping habits like it has mine. When you are thinking about buying something, you will think more about this item eventually turning into clutter and having to get rid of it. The circle goes round and round. 

At  this point I realize I haven't given any tips, but just ranted about these two sides of me that can't get along. I realize I have to compromise with myself. I have to let go a little bit in one way to get relief in another. To tell the truth it's more important to me to live life more clutter free. And unfortunately I have to turn a blind eye to the whole waste thing. But I feel the more clutter free I become the less I will waste, because every item I own is necessary and useful. 

We all know how hard it is to let go of possessions. Even me, someone I consider to place little value in possessions, has a hard time letting go of things. And the most interesting thing is I don't know why. As I am writing this I am feeling a huge surge of power to purge. If I had more time right now I might go crazy on some drawers. But if you look in your drawers and think that it is tough to get rid of a few pairs of earrings I hear you. What if I want to wear them again? Will I miss them? Will I regret getting rid of them? I think the fear of these things is greater than the feeling that actually happens. You need to decide for yourself how many things it takes to really make you happy. The answer is likely much lower than you currently own.

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Strength, determination, pride, and Quest

I realize this blog has suffered since I took on the job as Executive Director of the Fitness Council  of  Jackson. Over the past 8 months so many new things have been going on for me, things that could have been wonderful content for this blog. But my inspiration and motivation have been low, as my brain has been filled with so many new and interesting challenges. But there is one thing that I just can't let go by unreflected. Read on as I tell you the story that makes me so happy to get to do the job that I do. 



Recently was Fitness Council's Spirit Run 5K, the culminating race for our Girl Quest Boy Quest program.  GQBQ is an after school running program where teams of 15 kids in grades 3-7 train for 10 weeks to run a 5K race. Over the course of these 10 weeks, with their volunteer coach, they learn teamwork skills, healthy living habits, goal setting, and confidence. Our curriculum is full of activities and exercises that are meant to teach kids these life skills alongside their running training. The Spirit Run is the race we put on for the 300+ kids and coaches participating in our program this spring.

As I stood at the finish line and watched as child after child ran with all that had in them down the last 100 feet of the race, I found myself choking back tears. Even as I type this, I revisited by the feeling of pride that I have in these children. 

For those of you who know me, you might know that youth development is a huge passion of mine. I've worked or volunteered with youth in some form for the past 10 years.  My more recent volunteer work, I've been leading a Girl Scout troop. While I love helping to expose these girls to new experiences and ideas, there is nothing quite like watching a child run across a finish line. When you see another human being with a red and sweaty face, expressing a look of determination, trying their hardest to finish off just the last few feet, you know you are seeing them for what they truly are. Only human. And when they stop, look around and catch their breath, they can't be more proud and neither can you. 

I saw coach after coach run through the finish line only to run back out to the course to find more of their team members to run along side as they finished the race. I have great admiration in these adults who lead these kids down this journey of giving it all you have. As they ran alongside each child they looked upon them with a devotion that would not quit.  

For anyone that's ever had to push themselves to finish a race, or push themselves to finish anything for that matter, they know it takes a lot of strength. These kids each had the maturity and endurance to  to finish what they started. I can't say for sure, but I sure can hope that the kids who complete this program can go on to lead healthy lives. And know that they can accomplish something through hard work and dedication. 

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Embrace your Flaws

Nothing is perfect.

All creatures have flaws. I feel like too often we see our flaws as weakness and we are much more able to use our own flaws against us than anyone else is. 

But back to my opening statement. We aren't perfect. We need to expect that we are going to have a few flaws. I think that by noticing them and accepting them we are liberated from them. We are now living with them instead of them being pieces of tarnish that we are constantly trying to slough off. We are now taking responsibility for them and their power over us is lesser.

But what are flaws anyways? I think they are subjective. What we feel to be a flaw in ourselves another person might find endearing. Some flaws are just a part of human nature. 

Here are some things that I have identified  as my flaws. 
  1. I can tend to worry unwarrantably. 
  2. I can tend to be over cautious when I truly don't want to be. 
  3. I can complain.
  4. I can take my parents for granted.
  5. I can lose perspective.
Will I always have these flaws? Maybe. Will I learn to move past them? Maybe. The basic fact is that I know they are there. The more you realize your flaws the more you can forgive yourself and the more you can give yourself a pass. 

I think there is a liberation in realizing and accepting your own vulnerabilities. People spend so much time trying to be perfect and it's fake and unrealistic. This is taking us too far from the real human experience. When we relax into the fact that we are vulnerable it makes life more genuine and interesting. 

The flaw of mine that bothers me the most. is the one about worry. As strongly as we try to relieve ourselves of it there are always times when worry can take grip of us again. It's just part of our nature. But I recently came across a passage in a book that offered me some good perspective on worry. 
When we are gripped by a worry, what do we do? We might struggle to shake it off. Or we try to convince ourselves that things are not the way they seem, failing which we seek to preoccupy ourselves with something else. How often do we embrace that worry, accept our situation, and try to understand it? Anguish maintains its power only as long as we allow it to intimidate us. By habitually regarding it as fearful and threatening, we fail to see the words etched on it by the Buddha: "Understand me." If we try to avoid a powerful wave looming above us on the beach, it will send us crashing into the sand and surf. But if we face it head-on and dive right into it, we discover only water. To understand a worry is to know it calmly and clearly for what it is: transient, contingent, and devoid of intrinsic identity. Where as to misunderstand it is to freeze it into something fixed, separate, and independent. Worrying about whether a friend likes us, for example, becomes an isolated thing rather than part of a process emerging from a stream of contingencies. This perception induces in turn a mood of feeling psychologically blocked, stuck, obsessed. The longer this undignified state persists, the more we become incapable of action. The challenge of the first truth is to act before habitual reactions incapacitate us.

This passage comes from the book Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor and is clearly a Buddhist view on worry. Maybe somewhere in it something struck a chord with you, and if excessive worry is one of your flaws you may learn to quiet it. 

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Tip Tuesday: Small Moment of Joy

I've recently begun doing a simple thing that brings me a lot of joy. 

Most of the time our interactions with people working in the service industry (grocery store clerks, drive-up crews, store cashiers) are cordial at best. But they don't go deeper than that. We say our obligatory polite hello and how are you?

But when is the last time you tried to engage one of those strangers in a real conversation, even simple and short? Try to take some genuine energy and have a real interaction with them. If you're like me you'll quickly find the joy in it. 




Look them in the eye when you talk to them.
Mean it when you tell them to have a nice day. 
Use their name if they are wearing a name badge. 
Ask them how their shift has been so far. 
Ask them when they get to go home. 
Ask them if they have plans for after work. 
Offer them a genuine compliment. 

The key here is to mean it. Once you ask someone about their themselves they might quickly open up and shed the fake cashier robot mode. 

The result for me is happiness. I'm happy that I've connected with someone, even for a short time. And I'm happy to know that I could have been a break in their day and was different from the last 20 customers they served. I hope at least for a second I've made them feel important and listened to. 
 

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