That Plastic Free Cheese Plate with Marissa Mullen

After taking a short break for my wedding and honeymoon, I’m back and bringing you one of my favorite videos yet! I teamed up with Marissa Mullen from @thatcheeseplate to bring you a plastic-free cheese plate.

Marissa has been my friend for years and now is an entrepreneur and “cheese plate influencer” with over 200k followers on her Instagram accounts @thatcheeseplate and @cheesebynumbers. Marissa and I went to Union Square to see if we could make an entire plate without using any plastic. We brought our reusables and met the sweetest farmers along the way.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

My Personal Youtube Channel!

Hey Friends! Connecting with you through Instagram and NowThis makes me so happy, and I want to challenge myself to keep growing and creating content. So I’ve decided to start adding videos to my personal Youtube channel! My goal is to post weekly videos about sustainability and gardening. 

I’ve had my youtube channel since 2012, but I’ve never posted consistently. If you go back into my videos, you’ll see music videos I’ve made with my friends and family (hehe). 

The videos I will be posting now will be focused on the topics I cover at NowThis, but in a more casual & informal way. Check out my first two videos below and please comment. Let me know what you think because this is a new project for me and I’m excited to learn as I post!

Plastic Free July For Beginners

Raise your hand if you want to do Plastic Free July, but you’re also really scared you’ll fail and don’t know where to begin!? I’m right there with you. That’s why I’ve come up with a simple road map for people who are just starting the journey of cutting down on single-use plastic.

During Plastic Free July , it’s easiest to say no to these items.

During Plastic Free July , it’s easiest to say no to these items.

I did Plastic Free July last year (You can watch the video I made for NowThis here!) and realized there were a few items that were really easy to avoid: single-use plastic bottles, cutlery, bags, to-go cups, and straws. Most of these items can easily be replaced with reusable versions, like reusable water bottles, canvas bags, or metal straws. Then you can simply say no to all of these single-use plastics, whether you’re eating out, ordering a coffee, or running errands.

Want to take it a step further? Below I’ve laid out a a few more ways to reduce the plastic in your life. Going to a farmer's market and using the bulk bins at your grocery store are great ways to buy groceries without accumulating unwanted plastic. When your toiletries run out, try replacing them with plastic free options, like a shampoo bar or a bamboo toothbrush. And, if you want to get your hands dirty, pick up plastic litter on the sidewalk, at the beach, and wherever else you see it!

These are some ways you can take Plastic Free July a step further.

These are some ways you can take Plastic Free July a step further.

Some of these habits will be really easy to adopt, and others will seem harder. After doing the challenge last year, I found a few habits immediately stuck, like bringing my own reusable water bottle, bags, and coffee cup. But I still struggle with some of the other ones, like avoiding plastic containers when I buy groceries and new toiletries. I’m working on these, and I’m excited to challenge myself to be even better this July!

Wherever you are on your plastic free journey, don’t beat yourself up. We all inherited this consumerist lifestyle, and now we’re all doing our best to untangle ourselves from it. If one day you do a great job and the next day you fail, keep going and count your wins!

Also, follow @plasticfreejuly on twitter and instagram. Rebecca Prince-Ruiz started the challenge in Australia in 2011. PFJ allows you to sign up and sends you tips throughout the month.

Composting In A City

An overflowing food scraps bin at Union Square. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful!?!

An overflowing food scraps bin at Union Square. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful!?!

When I decided I wanted to live more sustainably, composting was one of the first habits I picked up. I love composting because its a simple action that has big environmental benefits. Instead of sending your food scraps to the dump where they become trash & release methane gas, composting turns those scraps into a natural fertilizer for plants. It’s a win-win-win! Below, I’ve written out how I compost in Manhattan as well as some suggestions for those of you who live in a city.

1) Sort Your Scraps.

Luckily for me, Manhattan has a great composting program run by GrowNYC that allows city dwellers to drop off our food scraps at different locations throughout the city. It’s a really simple system that just requires you to sort out your food scraps at home and store them until you can drop them off. (Last year I followed the GrowNYC composting process, which you can watch here, if you’re curious to know more!)

My bag full of frozen food scraps!

My bag full of frozen food scraps!

The biggest items I find myself composting are tops of peppers, egg shells, onion skins, and stems of greens. You can also compost coffee grinds, tea bags, and wooden toothpicks. Since GrowNYC is a small composting operation, they don’t accept meats or cheeses right now -- but your city’s composting program might!

Before you start sorting, make sure to check your local rules for what you can and can’t compost.

2) Store Your Scraps.

In my apartment, I put my food scraps in an old plastic bag, but you can use any container, like a paper bag or Tupperware. I know plastic bags aren’t ideal, but honestly I have a ton of them and I think this is a good way to reuse them. While I’m cooking, I’ll have the bag out on the counter or hook it on the knob of a cabinet.

After you’ve sorted your compost, put it in your freezer. This is a great trick that I learned from @trashisfortossers and I love it because it prevents my food scraps from smelling. This is a lifesaver if you’re like me and sometimes it takes you weeks to drop off your composting. (The only real issue is if your freezer starts to get overrun with compost. I live with my fiancé and I think he’s had to tell me once or twice that my food scraps were taking up too much space in the freezer. Woopsies.)

3) Drop Off Your Scraps.

The final step is as simple as looking up a food scraps collection site near you. GrowNYC runs over 100 drop-off locations every week throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Look on the GrowNYC website to find a location and time that works for you.

Map of GrowNYC locations in Manhattan & Brooklyn.

Once you find your location, figure out how to work it into your schedule. For me that might mean planning a Saturday morning trip to the farmer’s market to get my shopping done, while I drop off my compost. Other times, I’ll look up the closest location so that I can get it over with and get on with my day. Since I don’t cook very much, I usually have to compost every 2 weeks -- and sometimes I can go a whole month.

If you don’t live in NYC.

A lot of people have messaged me to ask about composting programs in their cities. Usually when this happens, I’ll do a quick google search and type “[their city] compost drop-off” to see what comes up.  I’ve done this for cities like San Diego, DC, and Chicago, and I’ve found local drop-off programs in all of them. None are as big as NYC’s, but there are still great options available. You can also try contacting a local garden to see if they’ll accept your scraps, since they’re usually running their own composting anyway.

Holding the final composting product at the Lower East Side Ecology Center! COMPOSTING IS SO COOL!

Holding the final composting product at the Lower East Side Ecology Center! COMPOSTING IS SO COOL!

Living Outside A City

If you have a yard, try composting yourself! All you need is a little space and a spot to put your compost. This is not my area of expertise, but I know that a lot of people in the suburbs have their own composting!

Compost as a climate solution.

Finally, if you’re interested in climate science, check out this cool study by the Marin Carbon Project, which discovered that properly applied compost can help sequester carbon!





Entry-Level Plant Parenting

Up until 7 months ago, I was intimidated by plants. Today, I have 8 of them and I seem to be getting more all the time! I thought I would lay out a few simple things I’ve learned, so that you can become a plant parent too! Because it’s not as difficult as I once thought it was and having plants brings me so much joy!

1) Pick a forgiving plant.
My first 2 plants came from the website The Sill. They have an “easy for beginners” section. From there I picked the Snake Plant and a Philodendron Green. Both of these plants survive with varying levels of light and water. So even if you mess up a little bit, they’re forgiving.

My Philodendron Green plant October 11, 2018

My Philodendron Green plant October 11, 2018

2) Don’t over water.
Overwatering is the #1 way to kill your plant in an apartment. I think when people are new to plants, they feel this need to do something active to make sure it survives. Or at least I did! But really the plant is there to teach you to do less. Breath, slow down. The plant will be fine, you don’t need to water it every day. I learned from my first 2 plants that they only needed to be watered once a week, and that I should wait for the soil to completely dry out before watering again. (Though my plants are getting watered about twice a week now that it is warmer weather!)

3) Learn your plant’s language.
Our plants send us signals that they need to be watered. The philodendron will curl up or look droopy (I think it looks sad) when it needs watering. Once I started to really observe my plants, it became obvious what they each needed, and I stopped blindly drowning them with my watering can. Observe your plant, and let it tell you what it needs.

The same Philodendron Green plant May 7, 2019. There are a few browns spots on some of it’s oldest leaves, because when I first got it I had it against the window and it got burned by the sun! Luckily it didn’t kill it and moved it away from the window. Plants are forgiving if you observe them and make changes to make them happy!

The same Philodendron Green plant May 7, 2019. There are a few browns spots on some of it’s oldest leaves, because when I first got it I had it against the window and it got burned by the sun! Luckily it didn’t kill it and moved it away from the window. Plants are forgiving if you observe them and make changes to make them happy!

4) Get a soil moisture meter.
Even if you become better at observing your plant, it’s sometimes hard to tell what it needs. That’s why it’s great to invest in a soil moisture meter when you’re starting out. A friend of mine recommended the “XLUX T10 Soil Moisture Sensor Meter” on Amazon. It’s $9.99. It has a long metal pointer that you stick into the soil, and then the meter will give you a reading: dry, moist, or wet. Only water your plant if the meter says the soil is dry. After you use the meter for a while, your instincts will get better and you won’t have to use it as much.

PS. A few people on Instagram pointed out that you can just stick your finger in the soil or use a chopstick to measure moisture. This is definitely a less-waste option, but I still love my water meter!

5)  Ask for help.
There is a huge plant community on Instagram, and I hit up their DMs with questions all the time. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned from just 6 months of being curious about plants. I am still very much a novice though, and I mess up all the time. So when I need help, I lean on the plant parents who have come before me. A few of their accounts are:

@Farmernicknyc
@theplantydropper
@aroidboy
@greene.piece
@jnaydaily
@apartmentbotanist
@homesteadbrooklyn

Google is always a good resource too, but nothing beats person-to-person learning!

Conclusion:
Everyone deserves to be a plant parent, so don’t let your fear of killing your plant get in your way. Take it slow with your first plant. Don’t over water or fuss about it. As you go, you’ll take on more knowledge and more plants. Happy planting!

Offsetting The Carbon Footprint Of Your Flight

After my interview with Greta in Stockholm. (May 4, 2019)

After my interview with Greta in Stockholm. (May 4, 2019)

I recently flew to Stockholm to interview climate activist Greta Thunberg, and I felt terrible about my flights’ negative impact on the environment. Airplanes release a lot of CO2 as well as other gases and pollutants, which make flying a big contributor to climate change. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if aviation were a country, it would be the 10th largest contributor of CO2 emissions.

For all these reasons, Greta has stated publicly that she stopped flying several years ago. This just added to my guilt! So I decided to reach out to the braintrust of my Instagram followers to see if anyone knew the best way to offset the carbon from a flight. I got a bunch of great suggestions and did a bit of my own research. I’ve organized everything below so you’ll know what to do next time you fly!

Calculating Your Footprint:
Terrapass.com and myclimate.org are two great sites for calculating the impact of your flight. You can type in your flight details on their carbon calculator, and you will see how much CO2 your flight used. For my flight from Newark to Stockholm with a layover in Copenhagen, the total amount of CO2 was approximately 2 tons. This is A LOT. According to the World Bank, the average carbon footprint of an American in 2014 was 16.4 tons of CO2 emissions. That means these flights were about 1/8th of my total carbon footprint, which blows my mind.

Offsetting Your Flight:
The main idea behind offsetting the carbon footprint of your flight is that you use your money to support efforts that take CO2 out of the atmosphere or keep carbon in the ground. For example, you can support clean energy projects, the conservation of a forest, or reforestation projects, because planting trees takes CO2 out of the atmosphere too. I’m sure everyone will be drawn to different projects, so check out some of the suggestions below.

One Tree Planted(recommended by @christinednyc)
One Tree Planted is a nonprofit that supports reforestation projects around the world. According to their website, every year 1 tree sequesters approximately 48 lbs of CO2. Christine suggested this organization and said she plants 10 trees ($1 per tree) every time she flies. Their website is really thorough and describes all of their reforestation projects, so you can pick which one to support. Check it out here.

Price: Planting 10 trees (offsetting about 500 lbs of CO2 per year) costs $10

The Ocean Foundation(recommended by @11thhourracing)
The Ocean Foundation has a project called “Seagrass Grow” that plants seagrass to offset your carbon footprint. According to their website, seagrass is “35x more effective than the Amazonian Rainforest at sequestering carbon.” Learn more about the benefits of seagrass here

Price: Offsetting 1 ton of carbon costs $16.40

Terrapass(Recommended by @lizzy_kahn, @z_a_h_r_a_9_4)
Terrapass’s website is a one-stop-shop where you can calculate your carbon footprint and then buy credits to offset it. Their carbon calculator is great, but I didn’t like the offset credit system. The description of what you’re buying is very vague, and just says “This one time personal carbon offset purchase will help make a positive impact on the environment.” I wish I could pick the specific project where my money will go.  

Price: Offsetting 1 ton of CO2 is $4.99

MyClimate.org(Recommended by @matt.stuart)
Myclimate.org is similar to Terrapass: you can calculate your carbon footprint and then buy credits to offset it. I like their carbon calculator better, because it lets you pick a specific flight and add your layovers (this is important because connecting flights emit more CO2 because taking off uses more fuel). They also have a lot of projects on their site, and you can specifically pick what you want to support. Big downside is that they’re way more expensive! They told me it would cost $80 to offset my flight. It is a Swiss company, so I don’t know if that means they’re more legit or they’re just more expensive.

Price: Offsetting 2.6 tons of CO2 is $82

Conclusion
I really like the idea of offsetting my carbon footprint. There is something about it that feels really natural, like I am restoring balance to our planet instead of just taking, taking, taking. I hope more people catch onto the idea of carbon offsetting and start supporting some of these great organizations. I decided to offset 2 tons of carbon through The Ocean Foundation, which cost me $40. It wasn’t the cheapest option, but I really liked their mission and their website really sold me on the importance of seagrass!

Let me know what you think of this list if I should add more! I will keep adding as I get good suggestions!


PS. My friend Adelaide sent me this Wired article that says under a new UN agreement, by 2021 all flights will have to start paying to offset their emissions. So maybe we won’t have to do this in the future!

Sources:
https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC?locations=US
http://blogs.edf.org/climatetalks/files/2012/07/Aviation-CO2-Ranking.jpg
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/every-time-you-fly-you-trash-the-planet-and-theres-no-easy-fix/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/27/climate/airplane-pollution-global-warming.html
https://onetreeplanted.org/
https://www.oceanfdn.org/calculator/donate/thankyou
https://www.myclimate.org/compensate/