Tuesday, March 15, 2011

going to the chapel

Sorry for the unexpected hiatus, but I got engaged recently! Basically I've been suffering from a severe case of future-bride brain. I wake up thinking (read as: "obsessing") over guest lists and go to bed considering (read as: "freaking out about") venues. Despite bridal brain, I'm extremely happy and so excited to be fortunate enough to have found my match in my partner, Eddie. He's my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, my butt-kicker, and the love of my life. So, hurray!
What this means for Out of the Loop...well, it means that I may not update as frequently, but it also means I have a new set of challenges ahead: how to create a ecologically and financially sound, homegrown type wedding. We've already decided that we'd like to try to make as many of our decorations as possible and  using local, in season food as well as herbs and flowers for bouquets. We've talked about buying vases and jars from thrift/vintage stores instead of renting or buying new ones. Since we're getting married in CA, some folks are going to have to fly or drive, but maybe we can look up some carbon off-setting stuff.
And this on top of still striving to live organically, intelligently, and consciously in our day to day.


Monday, February 28, 2011

MM #3: boysetsfire, billy bragg, and "story of stuff"

This "out of the loop" has been out of the loop; my apologies. I don't really have an excuse aside from "I didn't wanna" and you know, I still don't wanna today. But I will.

Recently I've been feeling a bit "blah". Back in the same ol' same ol', if you will. We're slowly making out way through the last of grocery items that don't really fit into our plan and overall I just feel like nothing has really changed and that I myself am not changing. It seems like a lot is hinging on the future. I start sentences with "well when I'm work full time on the farm..", or "when we have our own house..."etc, and I  hate it. I'm pinning what I want in the present with what I'll hopefully have in the future, and that's not proactive at all since I may have nothing in the future. Who knows?

Basically I've been feeling the need for a reboot so I'm turning to two different artists to get that jolt. Today's Mentionable Monday is proud to present:
#1: The year, 2002. The place, Santa Cruz. The characters, a 20 year old Caitlin and one of her best friends, Renee. The band, BoySetsFire. An intelligent, political, and rage-fueled band that I fell immediately and hard in love with. They're "emo" only in the sense that they're anything but emotionless about what they sing about and who they are. Even though their status as a band is on again off again, and I am no longer the pierced, dyed, black-clad scamp I once was, I still put their music on (and put it on LOUD) when I need a reminder of why being involved is crucial. Check out their albums "After the Eulogy" and "Tomorrow Come Today".

Bathory's Sainthood from Tomorrow Come Today:

Rookie from After the Eulogy:

#2: The Story of Stuff. This is just an excellent lesson and a great summary of why I'm trying to do what I'm doing and what we, as a nation, need to focus on.

#3: Billy Bragg. This man is amazing. You don't know his stuff? Educate yourselves! I think he's especially relevant to Americans currently given what's happening in Wisconsin. I'd write more but I'm late for class. Just know this. Billy Bragg= punk rock in the truest meaning.

Monday, February 21, 2011

MM #2

Confession: I had a Starbucks cinnamon dolce latte and I had frozen yogurt with reese's cups AND reese's cereal. Not at the same time of course (ew). But that's about as far from "organic" and "non-processed" as you can get. So what happened? Catastrophic event? Horribly stressful day? No and nope. Just your average PMSy type f-it-all day which often results in the consumption of gross things.
And you know, if I was only considering the pleasure center of my brain, I could easily say that the latte and yogurt were delicious. That it was just a fine experience and that I would gladly have both again. Thank you sir and may I have some more and all that.
But just considering my brain's pleasure center isn't good enough anymore. When we do that we become the most basic versions of humans (aka: teenagers) and we make choices that aren't sustainable or compassionate or even logical.  We're just part of the process, another consumptionbot, and not a person anymore.

So for today's Mentionable Monday, the two things I'm suggesting aren't books or movies or organizations, but rather two simple things we can do that keep us connected, honest, and kind.

(1) Take a walk. Not a stroll through your local Target, and no, walking down the drive to collect your mail doesn't count either. I'm talking about at least a mile. Go out, reconnect with your neighborhood, or find a path around a lake, or through a wildlife refuge. Go somewhere with trees and birds. Remember nature? Yes, she's still there.

(2) Have a dinner party with friends. I maintain that cooking with/for others and eating with them is one of the sincerest forms of expressing love. It doesn't have to be fancy but it does have to be full of joy. So go to your market, find your organic ingredients, and invite over those whom you love. I promise, nothing else will make you feel more sated.

Friday, February 18, 2011


There it is.
The first grocery shopping trip total since I started this. It's funny (in a scary way) how I need to retrain my brain in order to assign food it's proper value. Farmers, on average, get one cent back on every dollar their food brings in and growing organically is expensive. Looking at it that way, the amount I spent on produce seems like a downright steal.

As far as the food purchased, I can't vouch that everything currently sitting in our fridge is organic. The produce all is (thanks New Season's for your clear labeling). So is my lemon ginger juice, and the olive oil, and my oatmeal. As is the half and half for Ed's coffee, the yogurt for breakfast, and cheese for our pizza. But what about the tasty adzuki bean chips or the tempeh or the cider or the gluten free pizza crust? Those, I don't know. And as far as local is concerned, I haven't begun to attempt to scale that Everest of a topic.

109.34 divided between two people is just a bit over 50 bucks and this should sustain us for at least a week.   And this is another thing! All this food we just brought back could (and needs to) sustain some families for a month or more, and here I am in my comfy Ikea chair kvetching about a grocery bill that's 100+ and listing all the tasty, nutritious stuff I get to consume.

Ew Caitlin, just... EW.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

the plan

Here it is folks, the day you've been waiting for. The Plan emerges... but first, let me put some stuff out there.

I have some things going for, as well as against, me in this whole journey and I'd like to share them so we can all get a better idea as to where I'm coming from.
The Stats: Pros
- I currently live in Portland. Portland is to the localism/sustainable/organic/CSA/"being personally acquainted with your food" movements as San Francisco is to gay folks. In other words, it's a mecca. It's absurdly easy to not just find organic food but pretty much anything that would fall under the category of "out of the loop".
- I'm a college educated, white woman who comes from an upper-middle class family. Food is a socio-economic topic and I have the benefit of background, education, and slight economic freedom to make certain choices than if I were in a different class.
- I don't have any kids. This is a pro in this particular case. I very much would like to have children someday, but I have to admit this whole project is going to be a heck of a lot easier seeing as how the only other mouths my partner and I have to feed are a chubby fish and a demanding cat.
- My family are organic farmers so I'm in the "know", as it were.

The Stats: Cons
- I don't have a lot of money. I work part time for slightly more than minimum wage and I'm also a student who is racking up loan debt like nobody's business.. My bank account balances are generally more laughable than laudable. Basically, there is some wiggle room, but hardly enough to write home about. The reason that this matters is that organic, ecologically consciously made or grown products are generally more expensive than their generic, conventionally made or grown products.
- Like I mentioned in my first post, I can be lazy. Convenience is a powerful draw and doing what is right does not often overlap with what is convenient.

So with that out of the way, here's The Plan. It's simple really and I look at this more as the foundation for how I want to live out the rest of my life. These are the basic steps that we'll build on and remodel as we go along.
(1) Stop buying from box stores like Target, Kohls, Wal Mart, etc, as well as stop supporting huge manufactures like Nike, and Gap (and the sister stores like Old Navy and Banana Republic).  If I need to buy new clothes, I plan on finding clothing made in the US or buying from local thrift shops so that my dollars don't go to directly the giant companies but rather local businesses. Underwear could be tricky...
(2) Food= all organic, all the time. We will know what we're eating, what's in it, and hopefully were it came from. No more fast food (not a big sacrifice for us at all) and cut out the processed foods/ingredients. Succinctly: locally grown kale is in, Doritos are out.
(3) Reducing our waste. We throw a lot of stuff away. We recycle everything we can and yet our kitchen trash bag still fills up surprisingly quickly. Ideally I'll get one of those super awesome vermiculture bins (yay worms!) and get rid of our food waste that way instead of tossing it.

Ok friends, lunch break is over. More elaboration later!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mentionable Mondays

I'm still hashing out what exactly I want to consider "the loop".  As I phrased it to a friend yesterday (albeit in a cliched way), "how far down the rabbit hole am I going to take this?". Once you start thinking about the chain of everything you consume or everything you wear or every gadget you use to get you through the day, it starts getting at least mildly overwhelming. Even companies that most folks who try to be ecologically conscious try to support have been acquired by behemoth companies. Burt's Bees sold to Clorox in 2007, Tom's of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt is owned by Danone (although the original CEO, Elliot Hirshberg, is part of the board of Dannon USA so he's still directly involved). Cascadian Farms? Owned by General Mills. Odwalla? Owned by Coca Cola Co. Dagoba chocolate? Owned by Hershey (my heart broke a little when I learned that). And then there are those situations in which the chain turns more into a web. Back to Nature (cereal producer) is own by Kraft Foods (the very same company who brings you Kool Aid and "cheese" slices) but Kraft itself is a subsidiary of Altria who also owns Phillip Morris. You won't find this info by looking on the packaging; you have to dig. Or, in my case, read other people's research. Credit for the all of the aforementioned information goes to Andrea Whitfill and her article "Burt's Bees, Tom's of Maine, Naked Juice: Your Favorite Brands? Take Another Look." The original can be found here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17306.cfm.
EDIT: I just found this site that uses flow charts to show you who owns what. Check it out! https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/organicindustry.html

This isn't to say that these original companies are "bad". It would be easy to draw a line and say "these are bad" and "these are good", "buy these" and "don't buy these". I think what I want to change for myself and for others is the dissolution of the idyllic illusion that when you buy products from companies like Tom's and Burt's Bees that you're directly supporting some small farmer or producer. And we should definitely keep in mind that most of these companies probably didn't set out to be acquired by conglomerates for billions of dollars. Most of them just wanted to make a pure, healthy, responsible product.

So what's the answer? To quote Winona Ryder, "the answer is, I don't know." Yeah that's right. I just quoted Reality Bites, but it's applicable. I don't know. My partner (Ed) and I are starting to make some of our own household products. He's been toying around with various toothpaste recipes and I have a few homemade deodorant recipes I plan on trying. But it leads to more questions. What company manufactures the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide we use for the toothpaste, and who owns them? How about the vinegar we use as a hair rinse? This brings me back to the rabbit hole. How far down and what are the consequences/sacrifices/benefits?

I was going to try to include a source or reference or video in every one of my posts but that just seemed slightly overzealous, so starting today I am creating "mentionable Mondays" in which I'll post a few people or bits of new or a book that are helping me (and hopefully, you) navigate our present world. I'm not paid by or working for anyone I recommend. I just want to spread some helpful resources. Here are today's!

Jim Hightower: author, radio program host, populist, political agitator. His books, Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow, There's Nothing In the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion, Thieves in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back, and If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would've Given Us Candidates, are great (often hilarious) illustrations of the corporate takeover of the US government as well as profiles of folks who are trying, and succeeding, in making their own paths. You can also follow him on twitter and on his website here: http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/

The Corporation: a documentary filmed by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot, and Joel Balkan. I watched this last night and while it takes a hefty chunk of your night to get through, about 2.5 hours, it was worth it. It's a great introduction to corporations and the history that's allowed them to become so powerful. Here's their site: http://www.thecorporation.com/. Plus, they run a psychological profile on corporations like you would on a human and it turns out that they're psychopaths. Que sorpresa.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

time to walk the walk

I've spent the last three days surrounded by organic farmers, policy geeks, political agitators, CSA owners, biodynamic growers, soil experts, and a smattering more of folks from various vocations and passions. The common goal could be stated simply: change the world.

Not the easiest nor precisely defined goal out there, but an admirable one and it poses a challenge that I want to rise up to meet. It's one that I'm going to wager most of us have at least fantasized about taking on and there are so many of us out there who do it on a daily basis whether it's working with villages in Africa to ensure they have clean drinking water or petitioning local schools to serve healthy food in their cafeterias.

Here's the first of many confessions: I don't do either of these. I also don't collect rain water or protest outside of nuclear power stations or know how to work with cob or use public transportation that often or sue Monsanto or have my own garden or even donate to NPR on a regular basis. Up until about a month ago I was a frequent Target shopper. I am often seduced by the pure, joyful convenience of grocery stores like Safeway or Food 4 Less, and even that saucy Starbucks temptress lures me in for a latte now and again (and living in Portland this is considered a whole different kind of sin).

I understand the importance of localism and organic food and supporting your neighborhood shops instead of box stores but, like many Americans, I get lazy. Isn't it just plain easier sometimes to go to Trader Joe's and get a week's worth of meals that don't even require taking a pot off the shelf? Isn't it quicker just to pop into Target and kill ten birds with one stone and a credit card? And the biggest one, and often my and my partner's biggest excuse, isn't it cheaper to not buy organic/local/seasonal/environmentally safe products?
The answer is generally, yes.  There's a reason big box stores crop up everywhere and why there's going to be a McDonalds inside the Wal Mart and one in the parking lot too.

Let's get to the heart of this which is the simply stated goal. I want to change the world. I am by nature a very trusting person. I always assumed that people (this includes my government and corporations) really did have my best interests at heart. Even typing that I can't believe how naive I could be. I still generally assume that individuals that I meet aren't "out to get me" but I'm no longer under any delusion that big business isn't screwing me and my community and the world over every chance they get. I'm sick of feeling like a cog in the nice little consumption machine. I'm sick of my money going to companies like Tyson and Cargill and Monsanto who treat farmers and the animals they raise like an insignificant part of the assembly line, not to mention the atrocities inflicted on their factory workers. I'm sick of waking up and knowing that I'm not doing much of anything to change the system. I mean, I've read Michael Pollan, I've watched Food Inc, I listen to OPB, I volunteered with a CSA, and when I can, I support local businesses. But truthfully, it is nowhere even near the starting line of change.

So here's what I propose: I'm taking myself out of the loop. This will, of course, be an ever evolving challenge and it may be years (or maybe never) before I'm able to reach all of my goals. I have to define what I consider to be "the loop" and then I have to determine what exactly I'm going to do. I'm going to slip. I'm probably going to cry and then console myself with a Snickers or a cinnamon dolce latte. I am going to get angry at apathetic people, and probably jealous of their ignorant bliss. But I am going to change the world in my own little way, and that is going to be the gift I give back to a planet I love.