Monthly Archives: September 2014

Doing Her Part: A Role Model for Green Living for College Life

Welcome! To begin with, I would like to introduce you to a good friend of mine; this is Fiona.


Fiona is a fellow student here at Illinois, and we recently had a conversation about her student life that I thought was worth sharing. Apparently, many people think living a “green” lifestyle isn’t worth the effort that you have to put into it. Over my time here at school I’ve met people that run the gamut from dumpster-diving communal-living hippies to honey-badger levels of disregard for the Earth. Fiona has seated herself in one of the most reasonable balances of pro-earth living and convenience. For the sake of cohesiveness, I’m going to highlight portions of our conversation that focus on three main concepts: what she does to reduce her carbon impact, how much time she spends working on this aspect of her life, and what she gets out of her effort. My hope is that by reading about Fiona’s you might gain a better understanding about how much, or little, effort it takes to life a better life as a college student.

Being Fiona’s roommate means that I know her day-to-day schedule pretty well; so this portion of the conversation felt more like I was drawing attention to portions of her schedule that she typically glosses over as she goes about her business. When asked about the subject the fist thing that came to her mind was the garden out back. When we moved into our domicile there was an abandoned garden in the backyard that had been made by a previous tenant. The garden is little more than a 5’x12′ raised dirt patch surrounded by some chicken wire. By having a garden outback, once or twice a year she gets to forgo produce trips to the grocer because she’s getting to pick it from her backyard. The garden has a rotating lineup of herbs and veggies, but this year got her tomatoes, squash, mushrooms, and an assortment of beans that she grew up the chain link fence surrounding our backyard. I asked her about the time commitment of the garden and was surprised to find that the answer was shockingly minimal. She’s been in charge of the garden for two years now and she claims that each season was about 3 hours of work one day at the beginning of the season, then whatever time it took to pick the vegetables when she wanted them. To quote her view on the subject, “I’m sure I could get more, better vegetables if I put more time into it, but I’m fine with the minimal commitment results”. This means that the garden yields less than it’s total potential, but the input required boils down to spending a late summer day outside. That’s a pretty good bargain from where I’m sitting.

Then next thing that she brought up was the compost bin that she brought to college. “This one’s a no-brainer to me” she told me, “…it means I don’t have food scraps making my garbage smell, and it helps with the garden.” As an active member of the trash producing humans in our house, I can attest to the benefits of having a compost bin. When I’m done eating something any food scraps go outside into a special bin that (ideally) keeps the smell of rotting food inside. Every so often Fiona will rotate the bin to keeps things churning, then once a year she can use the compost to help with the aforementioned garden. This one is an all around win win if you’re living in a house on campus. And there would surely be someone willing to take the compost if you didn’t have a garden of your own.

After this the conversation devolved into less specific, but equally effective and time efficient examples of behavior. She gets a lot of her produce from local co-ops to help support local growers (Fiona was raised as a resident of Urbana, so she has a vested interest in its well being). She is also a very active rock climber and advocates a leave no trace approach to enjoying the outdoors; although she just views this as being courteous to other climbers rather than as a favor to the Earth. And finally she ended on the habits that anyone who tries to lead an Earth-conscious life quotes. She recycles when she can, doesn’t waste what she doesn’t have to, bikes rather than drives whenever she can. These are all things that anyone can do, regardless of living situation.

I am a huge fan of Fiona in general, but I really find the way that she lives her life with respect to eco-friendliness admirable. She is very time efficient with regards to how she makes an impact. All of her eco-habits benefit her in some way (fresh produce, less smelly garbage, etc.) and she really doesn’t invest an unreasonable amount of time into these habits. This balance of usefulness and efficiency make Fiona’s lifestyle choices something to be modeled. Hopefully there was a habit in this post that you might be able to take away into your every-day life, but even if there wasn’t something specific; the take-away that I would like to leave you with is that living green doesn’t have to be that hard or time intensive. In fact, green habits are habits that can work for you.


Blog Pilot – A Scavenger Hunt

Welcome! The Earth has a lot to say and so do it. So let’s jump right in, shall we?

I was recently tasked with a scavenger hunt that led me on a novel winding journey through an environment that many take for granted, namely, the grocery store. It was on odd experience to be led through a grocer by a purposeful air of curiosity. My “hunt” was intended to draw attention to the vast tendrils of the agriculture industry and how a long chain of labor, meticulously planned organization, and a heaping amount of profit-seeking capitalism culminates with neatly packaged goods all vying for poll position in my cart. So, please, have a seat, grab a drink, and allow me to contextualize these pictures of food for you.

Guilty Pleasure


“But Tucker!” you shout incredulously. “There’s no crab in those Crab Delights, it’s just whitefish from Alaska pressed to look like crab meat and some artificial tasters to trick you into thinking it’s crab!”. But I can’t hear you; I am caught up in a cacophony of oblivious joy over how tasty my fancy crab-schmear bagel is.


Disastrous Food Packaging


Is there something I’m missing here? Is it a pun? It’s certainly not a nick-name with “Tas-tee” longer to write than tasty. It’s certainly an appealing enough shade of yellow goo to pour over a salad on its own, but “tæs-tee”, as I insist it must be pronounced, doesn’t really roll off of my tongue. And it certainly won’t be rolling onto it.


Eating on a Budget


This certainly isn’t my cart that I’ve taken a picture of. There’s no way I would spend $6 on 24 ready to be made meals. No matter how easy they were to doctor up into a delicious bowl of stew.


Simple versus Complex


As everyone is tired of hearing by now, a tomato is not considered a vegetable by most standards. So presumably the eight vegetables that make up the 1% of V8 that isn’t made of tomatoes must be pretty important. For my money though, I’d rather go with a more honest approach to the tomato juice that I never drink.


Ironic Food 


I’m using “ironic” in the Alanis Morissette sense of the word here. Otherwise I would have been more or less constricted to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. I’ll start drinking this zero calorie sports drink when I find a sport that requires zero calories to participate in.


Most Well-Traveled Food


I couldn’t resist.


Paleo Perfect


I used to not know anything about paleo, luckily its participants can’t stop talking about it! So I can say with certainty that almonds are on the top of their list of super foods. Admittedly, looking at this photo now I think the artificial sweeteners might disqualify this quality almond bark from the fabled diet. Luckily for me the inevitable succeeding conversation for paleo-centrics is about how much they accidentally cheat from their strange diet.


Most Removed from the Farmer


I once spilled a fruit salad near an ant hill. Once I decided my sweet treat had been surrendered to the ground I began to coach the ants on which fruits to take first. “Take the pineapples first you fools! Before a bird swoops in and steals them from you. That pineapple has traveled barge, rail, and truck from the other side of the world to topple into your domain. You may never have a chance like this again!” Despite my efforts, the ants collected all the fruits with equal urgency unmolested by interloping birds. When they were done one ant emerged from the hill, thanked me for my gift, and told me not to contrive such crazy stories. “Fruit from the other side of the world? Preposterous. Everyone knows fruit comes from the sky.”


 Going Organic, Going Broke


I don’t usually pay double for half the return. But just look at that little girl! She doesn’t care that a dozen eggs are less than $1.50 why should I?


Sexy Food Packaging

IMG_0004I’m going to keep this one short (as one should when judging the sex appeal of inanimate objects), but what can I say? I’m a fan of spandex.

The modern grocers really is an amazing place. The amount of thought and effort that went into getting all the food-stuffs there for your purchase is a sweeping maze of human achievement. The next time you see something at a grocery store that you haven’t seen before take a moment to think about where it came from, how it was made, and how many people were involved with it’s production.