Monday, March 8, 2010

Hello, my name is Louise and I suffer from OCSD

Now that Therese's term, obsessive-compulsive sustainability disorder or OCSD, is starting to hit the mainstream as a true disorder (what? a mention in the Huffington Post doesn't count?), I feel it is time that I publicly recognize that I may fall within the spectrum of OCSD sufferers. To be honest, I hadn't realized that I had OSCD until I read that Therese felt cutting open an "empty" lotion bottle was a bit obsessive. I thought it was what everyone did.

I recently came to the realization that I may be deeper into the OCSD spectrum when I spotted a tea bag hiding in the trash and nearly fell over myself yanking it out. I tried to ignore it but couldn't. Yes, I reached in—between the plastic raw-chicken wrapper and used tissues—grabbed the lonely bag, and dropped it in the compost bin. What was Andrew thinking? Was he playing a game? Like he does by loading the dishwasher incorrectly? (Small plates in front, big in back—that's not so hard to remember.) Anyway, after relocating the tea bag I began wondering what else might be lurking in the can but then my nose got the best of me so I just hauled the trash bag out and cinched it shut. There were an awful lot of tissues.

For me, thanks to OCSD, even a perfectly lovely dinner party can be cause for a throbbing, guilt-ridden ache in that large section of my brain devoted solely to agida. And the only one I have to blame for this is me...for inviting guests who just don't get it. Okay, okay, maybe my expectations are too high. Just because we live in a rural community surrounded by farms doesn't mean that everyone should understand the importance of composting (recycling is another thing that gets my OCSD bubbling). I know I shouldn't really expect kind guests who jump up to help clear the table to know that the red bucket sitting in our sink is for food scraps. Those castaways help feed the chickens which in turn produce those amazing orange-yolked eggs that everyone loves. Seriously, guests clearing the table put a damper on my spirits. I hear you thinking: You're a nut! Why don't you just ask them to leave the dishes? I do. But you know how guests are. Or, why don't you just tell them how you'd like the dishes done? Because if I do that they'll think I'm bossy and obsessive. I know, you don't need to say it.

So I let them scrape the dishes directly into the trash, prewash the plates in hot water, and load the dishwasher incorrectly. I thank them profusely for their help—trying my best to sound cool and gracious—but can't stop wondering why the heck they must waste so much? Sure, the first time we had guests over I wasn't so cool. That would be the dinner where I was caught diving into the trash to retrieve the veggie scraps. A guest caught me with a handful of pastalettucebreadpudding and gave me a look of surprised disgust as she backed away and went searching for her coat. I felt awful. She was a guest after all and I didn't want her to feel bad for helping. I just couldn't help myself. But that was then. I've developed various coping mechanisms since. If they don't take my cue and insist on helping, I wait until they leave before scooping out what I can from the trash and rearranging the dishwasher (ask Andrew about that).

Of course, there is still the problem of how to handle myself when I go to someone else's house and volunteer to help with the dishes. I find myself searching for a composting bin. If they don't have one, I can't stand it. But what can I do? I'm not about to preach to anyone other than my sister (really now, she should know better; we grew up in a house with a compost bin permanently located next to the sink). Instead, I keep my mouth shut and mutter to Andrew about the unnecessary waste of it all. And when I return home, I make myself a cup of tea.

Last night, we had another dinner party. Lovely time all around. Although I'm not sure how Andrew and I managed to dirty every single plate, the good news is that our dear friends volunteered to help clear the table. I made my noises, blahblah, some listened, but others cleared and chatted away as the plates were carried into the kitchen. Guess what? The plates were scraped into the composting bin without me saying a word. Talk about fast learners, I mean, good friends.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Some Recent Additions to Urbal Tea

Book Recommendations:
Various friends have been recommending books to us, which we've added to the Urbal Tea Store. Check it out in the sidebar at right.

Animal Factory, author David Kirby 
Yet another terrifying exposé of CAFO (and much more)

Slow Death by Rubber Duck, authors Rick Smith and Chris Lourie
A thorough exposé of chemicals in our every day lives

Resource Links
We've added several links (in the sidebar at right) to resources that readers might find useful:

The Red, White, and Green: Caring About the Environment is Patriotic: written by a green advice columnist for The Huffington Post (Eco Etiquette), this site offers up everyday green living tips and explores matters of environmental ethics and policy.

Grist: A Beacon in the Smog: Provides interesting articles on the environment, survival, etc and includes the useful column: Ask Umbra

Eco-Brooklyn: We've included this ONLY because they often post interesting articles and videos; when Mr. Eco-Brooklyn, himself, sounds off in his posts, it's probably time to turn this off.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eating as a Sustainable Act

In January of 2009, my husband and I returned from a 4-month trip to Australia and New Zealand, where, in spite of the fact that we ate and drank our way across both land masses, we hiked our way as well, and therefore returned strong and fit.

Through a succession of colds and flu, and getting out of the habit of walking (which is our primary form of exercise), yet eating and drinking as if we were still the intrepid hikers, I put on a good 10 pounds over the course of the year. Peter put on at least that much.

January 2010 comes along and it’s diet time.

Now, I’ve done this before. After we got married, we turned into fat honeymooners that required a year’s worth of Weight Watchers to take off the 25 or so pounds we acquired through our love-food fest. And a few years ago, we did the South Beach diet to take off that biennial creeping 10. So I know diets “work” — in the short run. But in the long run, they don’t work — at least in the sense of keeping the biennial 10 at bay.

So this year I decided to do it differently. Yes, I did Phase 1 of South Beach religiously for three weeks (for Peter and me, it is a very easy and rewarding diet), which dropped a good six pounds right there. But I did something else as well – I decided that eating sustainably is as important as any other sustainable act of living.

Why do I need to consume more food than I need? On occasion (and I mean, occasion, like a birthday) that’s fine — in the same way that I allow myself to buy strawberries occasionally in winter. But day in and day out, why do I have to eat more food than my body calls out for? I’m against over-consuming things like plastics and gasoline. Why is food different?

I don’t think it is. I realize that the second pork chop that I might forego is not going to end up on the plate of some starving child in China (as my mother tried to get me to believe when I was younger). But I am part of a country that over-consumes food—and the truth is that if we stopped doing that, we’d not only be healthier, but we’d be able to farm our land in more sustainable ways. For instance, if we just limited the amount of beef we eat (not even give it up altogether) we could substantially cut back on the 96 million methane-producing cattle we currently graze. We’d not only use that land more productively, but put a substantial dent in greenhouse gasses as well. (Check out the Meatless Monday movement here.)

So I started paying attention to what and how much I eat. (I meditate and a book on mindful eating by Jan Chozen Bays from my friend Shell was extremely helpful here.) I started taking what seemed like a reasonable portion of food—I’m not into starvation after all — and eating it slowly and mindfully, letting my brain register my satiety. I found that I usually didn’t need or want seconds, and if I did, I took seconds of vegetables.

I also started paying attention to my hunger, and like everything else in life, I noticed that it changes. HUNGER, I have learned, is not some static state THAT MUST BE SATISFIED. For example, I work at home, so I’m just steps from my fridge. For this experiment, when the usual 10:30 a.m. hunger pangs came around, instead of responding to them, I chose instead to watch them. And sometimes (not always) they went away. They didn’t really need attending to. I didn’t have to eat.

I also started noticing the emotions attached to my hunger. One time I was out doing errands and when I felt a little bit of hunger, I noticed that I also felt panic. “What are you going to eat? When? How?” my mind started hissing with conspiratorial urgency. But instead of reacting to the panic, I just watched it—and saw both the panic and the hunger dissipate under inspection.

The upshot is this: I’ve lost 10 pounds since January 4 and – more important – I eat a lot less. Not because I am on a diet. I’m just a mindful eater now. I’m mindful of food’s impact on me and I’m mindful of my impact as an eater on this Earth. And you know what? I feel good about both.