Saturday, July 23, 2016

Life Without Internet


           I’ve done what I previously found unthinkable - I’ve lived without internet at my house for almost a month. At the end of June I moved to Southern Missouri, or Alton, the county seat of Oregon County, to be exact. The house I moved into had no internet service set up, although from what I understand it is able to be connected. I was looking into the process of getting Wi-Fi in my home earlier in the month when it occurred to me: “Why not just try to go without it?”. I had thought about doing that for a while, but always assumed that it was a choice I would make further in the future in a house I owned.
       Presented with the opportunity to experiment, I took it. I’ll only be here until December, and I can also access the internet at the public library and the food co-op that I’m interning at. Both are about a five minute walk from my front door, so it’s not as if I’m actually living without internet. 
What it does mean is that my time at home is spent a lot differently than it used to be. While I do enjoy the occasional exploration of the many annals of YouTube or Tumblr, I’ve found that living in the world of the concrete and physical for a higher percentage of time is also enjoyable. Rather than sitting and staring, I’m spending a lot more time cooking, reading, writing, thinking, singing, cleaning, biking, running, and doing other physical, tangible activities.  I’ve also found that my attention span has been greatly enhanced by my decreased time online. No longer constantly flitting from tab to tab or multitasking between windows, but instead focusing on a single task in front of me, I have found that my focus has been greatly enhanced. Reading is suddenly so much easier! I find myself charging through books like nothing. 
        What I do miss about the internet - tools of communication, information readily available, and visual inspiration - I can get when I go into town. But often my brain fills the void for me. The other day, a friend and I were talking and wondering how dingoes had come to live in Australia. We realized we had no way of looking it up, so we made up our own theory. While definitely not the most informed or factual way to go through life, it is certainly more entertaining and much more encouraging for one’s creative juices.


     
       I also appreciate the room that it makes for conversation, both with myself and with others. Technology, I feel, constantly intrudes on valuable opportunities to converse with yourself or socialize with others. Last year I went on a backpacking trip, which of course meant that there was no internet access for anyone on the trip. Within a matter of days, I had become good friends with the thirteen other people who were on the trip, and part of that was because we had nothing keeping us from talking to each other!  I am enjoying my reprieve from the internet by listening more deeply (with my improved attention span!) to others, but also by tuning into my inner monologue and learning a little more about myself. 
        Ultimately, this internet hiatus has allowed me to see more clearly the role I want it to play in my life. I want the internet, and computers in general, to be a tool that I know when to pick up and when to put down in favor of other things or activities in my life. I believe that too often it is easy to let technology and the internet intrude too deeply into our everyday lives, until it is part of many of the things we do, and constantly distracting us in a way that is unhelpful to our being. They say “Everything in moderation”, and that applies here very well. 
         If you find it ironic that I would write a post about not having internet and then publish it on my blog on the internet, I can understand your amusement. However, since I’m advocating that the internet be used as a tool, I’m suggesting moderation of usage, not abstinence. The internet is still a wonderful tool and something that I do use now - just not very often. I think the most internet connectivity I’ve had recently was 2 hours in one day, and that felt like a lot. Since going without it at home, I’ve been quite fruitful in other, more creative pursuits, and I’m happy about that. These next few months without it promise to be productive ones. 
      One last parting thought - while this is an experiment for me, this is a way of life for many people. A lot of people, for one reason or another, live in conditions that don't permit them comforts like internet access. Here in Alton, it's poverty and economic circumstances that seem to bar people from that access, and through no fault of our own. I recognize that it is my privilege to willingly forgo internet, while other people have no choice because of systemic inequality, and I ask others to remember this as well. 
      What do you think about not having internet in your home? Would you ever try it? Have you? Let me know your thoughts :)
       Love, 

           Madeleine
Photos: 1, 2

Friday, May 6, 2016

Shopping Ban Update: 10 Months and New Perspectives



Time to talk about the shopping ban! It's been 10 months, can you believe it? There have been four main things I've learned from this experience, so I'm gonna go ahead and share those with you today:


Time Management is Hard 

I don't think I needed to engage in this project to figure this out, but, yep. Time is a factor in anything you try to do, and in the beginning of this project, I was trying to make a lot of my food rather than buying pre-made stuff. Welp, as soon as school started, this just started to really not work out. I've since reverted back to using pre-made stuff. However, I do use my time instead to participate and two organizations and an academic major all geared towards making the world better, safer, more just, and more sustainable, so I think the trade off there is more than fair.

The main lesson here was that this project taught me to appreciate all the time, effort, and resources that goes into preparing food products. This was a nice thing to learn, and a good way to learn it, because I actively used my own time, effort, and resources to produce lots of food, especially in the beginning.

This project also taught me a more personal lesson just having to do with my priorities and what I need and want to spend my time doing. I think that attempting to do this factored in to a larger understanding of how I organize my time. This has also been useful knowledge as I continue being a mini adult, and something I'll definitely write more about in the future.


I've Got More Power Than Just Buying Power! 

This project was conceptualized to help me avoid producing waste and participating in harmful systems of capitalism and consumption. While this is a noble goal, I think changing my personal habits is just one step to take. I also need to participate in collective action aimed at achieving the things I want for the world. This means being a part of organizations, campaigns, outreach efforts, and protests. These are all things that I do, but I think the main takeaway I got from this project was that rather than see my power as coming from my ability to choose what to buy or not buy, I need to step outside the role of consumer and instead become an active citizen, engaging in action to change systems, instead of just removing myself from them. 

I want to make sure this message is clear here, too. Power does not just come from choosing to make deodorant, instead of buying it. It also can take the form of protesting or boycotting the deodorant companies until they use sustainable packaging and remove breast-cancer causing chemicals from their formulas. Not everyone has access to the time and resources needed to make their own deodorant, which is why DIY and consumption limitation are not real solutions to the larger problems. Thanks to a combination of the shopping ban and some really great classes this year, I was able to learn this and share it with all of you. 


Buying Things is Silly 

Sometimes, buying things is not necessary. There are lots of things I was able to find for free or borrow or trade for. Other times, I just adapted to doing without certain things, and you know what? I am not any less happy than when I began this experiment, just for having to do without certain things.

Thus, my conclusion that buying things is silly.


Not Buying Things Feels Nice and Great

Yes, yes it does. I know everything that I own, and I use each item often, or else have gotten rid of it. It's a really pleasant feeling: I often have this sense of having everything I need. I don't feel that anxious desire or need for something new nearly as often as I used to. I have heard people buy things to fill a void. How ironic it is, then, that I feel I have come closer to filling that void just buy refusing to buy things. Instead, I have a strong sense of gratitude and appreciation for everything I own. It's really nice and great :) 

What began as a yearlong project will probably continue as a more permanent way of living. I have really enjoyed the shopping ban and the way it makes me feel, and I can't really imaging going back to how I lived before it! 

So, tell me what you think below in the comments. And if you've ever undertaken an experiment or lifestyle change like this, let me know about it! 

Love, 
Madeleine 

photos: 1. whooli chen 2. Bexelbee

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Times, They Are a'Changin'



hello, everyone...

It sure has been a long time since I last posted! And what a transformational time it has been. Someone I know says that college operates much like dog years - time is elongated in much the same manner, so much so that I feel probably ten years older than when I started college (I wonder how I'll feel when I actually am 28 - oh jeez).

Thanks to this principle - what my friend calls college years - I have changed a lot since I last posted on this blog. I have become incredibly more politically conscious and concerned, particularly in terms of U.S. issues concerning social justice. I shaved my head in September (forgot to mention that when it happened, oops!) and have since been undergoing a strange sense of transient identity, which is certainly related to the lack of hair but also to other factors as well. I have taken on very demanding leadership positions in two organizations and have progressed in my major with strong academic standing. The resulting stress of these two components of my life has definitely had a hand in changing my personality. I've fallen in love with some people (both romantically and platonically [friend love?]) and out of love with others. I've experimented, both on purpose and by chance, with different ways of living and conducting my daily habits and life.

I have to say, I seem to be at a point where the more I explore myself and my thoughts and the world around me, the more I feel lost and bewildered. Most of the time this is not unpleasant, but I have to say it certainly throws me off balance. The most important thing I think I want to convey to all of you is that I have CHANGED, a million times over, since I last wrote. I have very little sense of "me-ness" at this point, just because my sense of self has evolved and eroded repeatedly and rapidly over these past six months. I wonder if by coming back here, I can re-establish, or at least begin to explore myself again.



Reading my old content is interesting - some of it is great, and some of it, I now disagree with, or find that it misses a mark I'd like to hit with what I write nowadays.

However, now that I've decided to come back and post here again, the time has come to look forward instead of backward. So, what can you expect from this space in the near future?

I suspect, a lot of things that I would have written about before I ~changed~ but probably from a different point of view. I expect I will want to write things from a slightly more politically charged perspective - some of the things I used to write here were pretty apolitical, despite ample opportunities for me to integrate an agenda (hehehe). My interests have not completely changed, but I think they have broadened, so there might be a lot of different stuff on here, who knows? Ultimately I think it will be a similar array of things, since I never limited myself to a rigid set of themes anyway. I intend to use my writing as a tool of self-exploration, but I also hope that you, as a reader, can enjoy and relate to it. Lastly, I've always thought that this kind of writing ought to be fun. That's really what some things in life gotta be about, right? I have discovered that I LOVE writing, so whatever I share here will make me feel fulfilled, and perhaps, also pensive, and I hope it does something similar for you.

It's important that I let y'all know that all this changing has not been negative. I think the tone I'm using here might sound kind of somber or serious, but really it's just me being thoughtful and reflecting. These last six months have been formative, action-packed, and at times, very rewarding and fun. And some parts of me still endure. The shopping ban continues (it's been so long since I bought clothes!) and my Etsy shop lives on, hooray! Before closing, I want to ask a few things, since I've been gone for a while. Have any of you ever undergone intense periods of change? What triggered those? How did you deal with the change or approach it? Also, how have the last six months been for you? It would be nice to hear from y'all again :)

Love,
Madeleine

P.S: This blog will currently be updated on at least a semi-consistent basis every Friday :)

Images
1. Here
2. Here

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Are You Eating? Part Four



  In the past three parts of my What are You Eating? series, I've given you lots of information about the environmental and social evils of the industrial food complex and the various movements, justice-oriented and otherwise, that have sprung up in response to those evils. Today, as a capstone to all this information, I want to discuss how YOU can act on this information and what you can do to promote more just and sustainable food systems. There are two components to the options of actions available for you to take: individual and group/community actions.

     Individual Actions

    The greatest part of any individual action you take concerning your food is simply applying your knowledge to your daily life. Now that you know how unhealthy and unjust industrially farmed food is,  try sourcing your food from local, organic farms that employ just labor practices. This kind of food is best found at your local farmer's markets or at supermarkets that may source their products from near the community. Santa Cruz has a few stores like these. Look around to see if there are any in your town. You can also subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and get organic farm products delivered to you once every couple weeks. Many people absolutely love this, and your money goes to support an organic community farm! Awesome! 
      You can also find a more sustainable food source right in your own backyard by starting a garden or keeping animals. Gardening and keeping animals both seem like intimidating projects, but many people find resources and help in their neighborhood from their neighbors, workshops at community centers, books, and the internet! The public library in my hometown regularly holds how-to workshops on vegetable gardening, and I know many people who have been able to regrow veggies indoors using tutorials form the internet. 
     Although I haven't talked too much about processed food here, I feel like it's worth mentioning at this point that processed foods are often a)full of weird mystery chemicals and preservatives, b) use lots of energy to produce and transport and produce lots of waste for packaging, and c) generally are not very healthy for you. Instead of buying processed and packaged foods, you can make alternatives at home. I do it, and it's very easy! Not to mention, much less wasteful and much healthier for you! There are recipes for just about anything you could want, from crackers and tortillas to granola bars and peanut butter. Just give it a go!
     Lastly, another wonderful thing you can do with all you've learned here is share the knowledge with others! Send them the articles I've written and share them on social media, bring up food and surrounding issues in conversation, and lead by example by eating sustainably and justly produced food. Another important piece of this is to always keep educating yourself. Keep reading books and articles and having conversations with others about food. Learn, keep yourself informed, and evolve! 


Community Actions

     For those of you looking to flex your leadership muscles, meet other people who share your interest in food and food issues, or just get involved with an organization that might already exist in your town, community and group actions are a great way to go! One of the simplest, best ways to get involved is to join a community garden. If your community doesn't have one, put your feelers out to see if there are other people interested in having one and see if you can work together to get one started in your area. Community gardens are a great option for yourself and others if you don't have any land to garden on at your home, if you want more space to garden, or if you want to create a community space. 
    You can also organize non-violent action around food issues in your area. Depending on what effects your community and what you're passionate about, this could take a number of forms, like boycotting grocery stores that stock industrially farmed food (we're looking at you Walmart) or rallying for better farm worker's rights. 
    Another great way to make an impact is to join forces with others in order to spread knowledge about food issues. Together, a group can choose to do any number of things to educate others, like publishing a zine on the evils of industrial agriculture, or hosting gardening or cooking demos to encourage others to make their own healthy, sustainable, and just food. It's up to you! 
     Whether you get involved in a food initiative near you, invite your friends over for a vegan and locally-sourced organic meal, or start a new organization to bring sustainable food to your community, food brings people together, and making it more sustainable and just is best done with companions! 

       That is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can do with this knowledge. There are all sorts of things you can do, from books to read to organizations to join, that will help you encourage better, more just, and more sustainable food systems. Just get creative, and live your life in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. Whatever you do with all the knowledge you now have about food, I ask you to act on it and actively use it in your daily food choices. There are a couple things that I either did not touch on or only discussed briefly, such as food waste, homesteading, processed foods, and foraging, for example, that will be discussed in upcoming articles, since I just can't seem to get enough of writing about food :) Until then, I hope you will be eating happily, healthily, and with justice and sustainability in mind, for my sake and yours. 

                                                                                       Love, 
                                                                                           Madeleine


*Neither of these photos belong to me, both were found via Google

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Vegan Banana Bread!


     This weekend I had the chance to do a lot of cooking in my new kitchen, and one thing I got to make was vegan banana bread! I've been making banana bread since I was 10 (it's a great way to get rid of really brown bananas), but this is the first time I've veganized the recipe and it came out tasting delicious, so I just wanted to share. This is a great option for those of you trying to use fewer animal products if you are concerned about the way industrially farmed animals are treated (for more info on this, read up here). 

Madeleine's Most Favorite Vegan Banana Bread:


Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegan butter, softened (such as Earth Balance)
1/2 cup applesauce (I use Trader Joe's Organic Unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (usually takes between 2 and 4 bananas, depending on size)
1/3 cup water
1 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder


Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and grease bottom only of a loaf pan, about 9x5x3 inches.
2. Mix sugar and butter in a large bowl.
3. Stir in applesauce until blended.
4. Add bananas and water and beat for 30 seconds.
5. Stir in remaining ingredients except for nuts until moistened.
6. Pour into the pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
7. Cool completely before loosening the sides of the loaf with a knife and slicing.
8. Enjoy!

Notes: 

- Try to source as many ingredients organically as you can! I use organic sugar and applesauce, and you can also use organic bananas! If you'd like to know why organic is better, you can read the first part of my food article series, here

- Speaking of the food series, Part 4, the final article in the series, debuts on Thursday. Don't miss it :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Story of My Etsy Shop




      If you have ever wondered how sustainability and social justice activism can mesh with a clothing shop on Etsy, I'm here to explain that today. Or maybe you know me personally or have read some of my many articles about clothing, and you're wondering how someone who discourages capitalism, materialism, and buying new things could possibly own and operate a clothing shop. Don't worry, I've got you covered. Today I'm explaining the story of my Etsy shop, and showing how sustainability and social justice have a lot to do with how and why I started the shop.


How I Started

     I have been passionate about vintage clothes ever since I visited my first thrift shop. I also learned to sew at a very young age, and I loved the combination of thrifted clothing and personalized touches and updates that made up my unique style. 

     As I got older, I also noticed that vintage clothing was worth the money, whereas newer clothing from chain and department stores continued to prove low-quality, cheap, and only wearable for a short period of time. Buying my clothes vintage and upcycling and updating pieces gave me a more durable and stylish option for clothing. 

     Then, I began to learn about sustainability, and how completely unsustainable the garment industry is. I learned that the way our fashion industry keeps constantly producing new clothes wastes tons of electricity, fuel, and other materials. It also pollutes by adding to carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Beyond that, I learned that the reason new clothing is often so cheap is because the laborers who help make it are often sorely underpaid - in the clothing factories in Bangladesh, some laborers were recently discovered making as little as 25 cents a week! 


     I began to see that not only are vintage and upcycled clothes more durable and more unique than mass-produced, new clothing, they are also a more sustainable, more socially just alternative to new clothing. 

     Without a second thought, I opened Good Vibrations to bring stylish vintage upcycled clothes to the masses, so that people like you don't have to buy boring, poorly made, unsustainable, and unjust clothing. 

How It Works

     I source most of my pieces from flea markets, thrift shops, and other people's closets (especially my parents'!). I tend to have a really good eye for pieces that others will enjoy, and I also have the patience for thrifting, cleaning, and altering clothes to make them suitable for wearing. I deeply enjoy this process, because I love being able to take something that seems old and dated and create a new life for it. Sometimes all a piece need is to be styled differently! I trust the people who shop at Good Vibrations to see the potential in items and rock them. 

     Besides working with the clothes, I manage the shop, write my blog (which often relates to social justice and sustainability, themes that I emphasize here), take care of shipping and processing orders (another one of my favorite parts!), and somehow find time to be a full-time student and leader of several social justice and sustainability-focused organizations at UC Santa Cruz in California. 

     My greatest passion here is to take care of the Earth and all the people on it by promoting a more sustainable lifestyle for everyone, one piece of clothing at a time. I hope you like my shop :)

                                                                               Love, 
                                                                                    Madeleine

PS: This is a scheduled post! I'll be back on the 22nd! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What Are You Eating? Part Three


   Continuing on with our food series, today I'm here to discuss one of my favorite things: justice!  Specifically, I'd like to talk about justice movements surrounding food. This is a quick overview of some very important and complex topics, so if any of these interest you, I highly recommend doing some research and looking into them further!
   First of all, the most obvious justice movement here is the food justice movement. The food justice movement encompasses a wide range of groups and non-profit organizations, and the general goal of the food justice movement is providing all people with access to healthy food. Though many of us take our food access for granted, according to the USDA, 23.5 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts. A food desert is defined as "urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options." This leads to many health problems for populations living in these areas, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The food justice movement works to eradicate food deserts and the health issues and inequity they cause. Some wonderful examples of organizations working in the food justice movement are the Community Food and Justice Coalition, Oakland Food Policy Council, and Garden To Table. Their websites are great places to look to see food justice organizing in action! 


     Closely tied to food justice is the concern of environmental justice. Taken from its designated Wikipedia page, "Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies." When we are talking about environmental justice in terms of food, we are really talking, at least in part, about our food system. Our industrial food system, as I mentioned earlier in the series, is a bit of a mess.  Thanks to the way we grow our food, many communities suffer from polluted water and land, causing many instances of sickness among residents (an excellent example of this is captured in the documentary Thirsty For Justice, a film I highly recommend!). Often those communities most affected by harms like this are communities containing high populations of people of color, a phenomenon often referred to as environmental racism. Environmental justice movements focusing on this aspect of their work attempt to help create food systems that are not harmful to any communities, and therefore environmentally just.  The aforementioned food justice organizations are great examples of this being done! Community garden projects across the nation are also a wonderful, and widespread example of food and environmental justice enacted.
   The last cause we will discuss today is closely related to the first two: labor justice. Labor justice initiatives concerned with the food system support farmworkers and their ability to organize and secure fair treatment and wages. Over 20 million people work in the food system in the U.S., and they are among the poorest and most exploited people in the world. Labor justice movements aim to give farmworkers the rights and status they deserve. Some great examples of this project in action include the Fair World Project (which has some great info), Center for Farmworker Families, whose executive director came and spoke at UCSC last year (she's an awesome lady, very passionate), and the work of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union.
   So, those are the justice movements associated with food, explained to the best of my knowledge. As you can see, your food choices have social justice implications! They affect people on environmental, occupational, and access levels. In part four of the series, I will discuss how to act on all the information I've given you and what you can do to promote more sustainable, just food systems. Are you excited? I am!!
                                                                         Love,
                                                                                Madeleine

Note: I will not be in town for the next 2 weeks or so, so my blog will not be fully updated until the week of the 22nd of September. I have scheduled one post though, so come back for that!

Photos: 1, 2