Welcome to Sustainability Journal, where I document what I’m reading, learning, thinking, and doing in the sustainability space.
Hey friends! Happy February, and Happy Year of the Tiger for those who celebrate the Lunar New Year! If you live in the North East, I hope you had a fun and safe weekend that involved some snowy activities other than shoveling! We got about two feet of snow on Saturday, so everyone is in need of some serious back rubs.
It’s been quite a while since I last posted an update! Like parents all around the country, we’ve had our fair share of COVID-related childcare challenges, so life has been overwhelming and chaotic to say the least. It’s not lost on me that many folks have been dealing with the madness that is pandemic parenting for much longer, and we’ve had just about the absolute best set up (the entire pregnancy working from home, extra long parental leave, daycare within walking distance, etc etc). But it. is. still. hard. At this point, I’m basically convinced that humans are not meant to raise kids in nuclear family units – bring back multigenerational households and community-oriented neighborhoods please!
An individual action I’m focusing on at the moment: trying to find a groove as a family of 3 (or 5, if you count the cats). With me back to work full time and the kiddo in daycare, we are slowly discovering our new routines and rhythm, from big changes like how I spend my weekends (gone are the days of not leaving the couch for 6 hours with a book) or get around (it’s not exactly feasible to strap an infant to my bike) to smaller things like where we grocery shop and what we make for dinner. In times like this, I’m really glad we have some built-in sustainable actions that do not require any extra effort or mental energy: 100% renewable electricity, compost service, driving an hybrid, to name just a few. And as I type this while it’s 12F outside, I’m also extremely glad we added insulation to our home in the fall (75% of which was paid by the state). In the next few months, I’ll be working on incorporating more plant-based recipes and adding exercise back into my routine, as I miss my daily bike rides to the office terribly!
Books I read:
Carl Zimmer | Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures. I took a detour from my roster of heavy nonfiction books and read a couple of “nature” books. This natural history of parasites was a fascinating read, albeit a bit old (published in 2001). I ordered this book years ago after hearing Carl Zimmer’s radio story about the origin of HIV, which remains one of my favorite Radiolab episodes.
Barry Lopez | Arctic Dreams. My escape to nature reading continued with another book that sat on my bookshelf for years. Arctic Dreams is all about the animals, people, and ecosystems of the Far North, and I learned more about musk oxen, polar bears, and narwhals than I ever thought there was to know! Lopez’ prose is poignant and the way he conveys a sense of place is truly masterful.
Jane Mayer | Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Annnnd back to my usual hard-hitting, heavy-topic nonfiction reads, Dark Money was a stunning investigation into the history and influence of big money in US politics. The role of corporate interests in funding think tanks and academic centers was particularly eye-opening and troubling to me as a researcher. Highly recommend, even if you think* you are familiar with the topic of money in politics!
A thing I’m enamored with: these carbon steel pans. Our nonstick pans are on their last legs after 5 years of heavy use, and we took advantage of the holiday sales to invest in some carbon steel pans. After the initial seasoning, they are supposed to become more nonstick over time. They aren’t quite as slippery as our old pans (nor were they expected to be), but we are pretty happy with the purchase so far. Even with good care, Teflon coating on nonstick pans doesn’t last more than 3 to 5 years; in comparison carbon steel and cast iron pans have a much longer lifespan. Fingers crossed that these are the last pans we buy in a long time! (ps. if you are curious about those popular ceramic pans that every Instagram influencer is raving about, this was a helpful review that convinced me they aren’t worth the hype. pps. I’m planning to recycle our old pans through this mail-in program.)
More stuff you should check out:
- A new study finds that New England is warming significantly faster than the rest of the planet.
- This NYTimes piece on Indonesian coffee production is such a nuanced (and heartbreaking) look at deforestation and the complexity involved in stopping the destruction in our caffeine-addicted world. (Audio version here.)
- Three cheers for a future of automatous vehicles! Utopian, I know. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this quirky story on Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. (If only it got me excited about a potentially not-too-distant future where I would not need to learn to drive!)
- Exciting news: e-bikes outsold electric cars 2 to 1 in 2021!
- A collection of my favorite veggie dumpling recipes: without tofu, with tofu, and with eggs. I made #3 last night in celebration of the New Year (along with our usual pork and scallion dumplings), and froze the extra. Frozen dumplings come in so handy when you are in a pinch for dinner!
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