Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is it too late for New Year's resolutions?

It's been a little while since our last entry, but with good reason. We have been working our fannies off on packaging and financing – the key elements to getting FUTURE WEATHER on the screen. We've made excellent progress and wonderful allies. It's a tough fiscal climate to get a film produced in, but we continue to have an overwhelmingly positive response to the script, and I am confident that we will get the film made – and made sustainably! – this summer.

Okay. On to a little year-in-review. I learned a lot from our crash course on sustainability this summer and was able to incorporate a lot of new practices into office and home, which for the time being, are one and the same. I'd like to highlight the major ones as well as the ones that I am admittedly having trouble making a habit. I figured summarizing would be good motivation to keep trucking. Or biking, if you want the greenest metaphor.

Trash sorting

  • I am now a pro at sorting my 3s from 5s and landing a lot fewer non-compostables in the trash.
  • Since Philly's municipal doesn't take 3s and 5s, they're filling up my in-home sorting center along with other atypical recyclables, including old jeans, Styrofoam peanuts and tin foil. A trip to Recycling Services will be in order soon.
  • I bought degradable trash bags; however, I didn't read the fine print close enough. They're still made of plastic; however, they biodegrade and according to the website, "are safely returned to the natural bio-cycle as fragments of 'organic carbon'".
  • I have not, however, begun separating compost. Here's to 2009! (see below)

Material Conservation
  • My water bottle, travel mug and cloth shopping bags have become very loyal friends of mine. Somehow I find it easy to remember to bring them places.
  • I can't say enough about my Canon energy star printer, which prints beautiful 2-sided documents – perfect for scripts. I also keep a big pile of used paper, so I can print on the other side of it for non-official documents.
  • Our paper is 100% post-consumer recycled, including notebooks and calendars. Our Future Weather Christmas cards were printed on 75% PC recycled paper and 25% hemp. Cool and toothy!
  • I've stopped buying Ziploc bags and plastic wrap and try not to buy crackers with those annoying plastic trays.
  • I've cancelled every catalog and credit card solicitation that used to darken my doorstep. Except J. Crew and Anthropologie. (Guilty pleasures.)

Energy Conservation
  • I now work from home which has cut down my car usage by 80%.
  • Unless I'm going to Whole Foods to refill water jugs or visiting a client in the burbs, I've been pretending I don't have a car and try to take Septa whenever possible. All right, when Kristin and I meet in Chestnut Hill, I drive when I could take the train. My excuse? Driving takes less time and money. Although at one Chestnut Hill meeting a month, it may not eat up that much time and money. I should look into it. Grumble. (see resolutions below)
  • Remembering to turn off lights and electronics is easy. Remembering to unplug them when not in use is not so easy. Any tips to push me?
  • I also can't seem to bring myself to throw away perfectly good light bulbs, so the transition to compact fluorescents is happening gradually here.
  • To save energy on heating water, I've switched to cold water laundry cycles about 75% of the time.

Local & Lower-Emissions Food
  • I've done a Summer CSA for the past four years, but this was my first year joining a Winter CSA with Keystone Farm. It's been a lot of fun trying to figure out what to do with all of the carrots, apples, potatoes and cabbage I get. You'd be surprised how many delicious, rustic and simple recipes there are on the internet. It's opened up a whole new world of winter eating for me. And food blogs. (Another guilty pleasure.)
  • The CSA supplies one pound of meat and dairy a week, which has been a good way to decrease my meat intake and make it local and organic when I do cook it.
  • In general, I have been trying to cook more vegetarian meals – at least one a day, two if you include Keystone's granola with Pequa Valley yogurt for breakfast. Yum.
  • 99% of the time, I make my own lunch. But for that other 1%, I can't say that I've figured out how to deal with the occasional take-out order. Perhaps next steps would be to ask my favorite U. City restaurant (Hummus) to consider changing to compostable serving materials.

Non-Toxic Decisions
  • After seeing an inspiring presentation by Women's Voices for the Environment, I learned how to make my own cleaning detergent. One half white vinegar to one half water. Add a few drops of sweet orange oil, and you have a very effective, all-natural, all-purpose cleaner.
  • But how should I dispose of my nearly full bottle of 409?


Along with continuing the list above, I've given myself a year to do these five things. I think it's possible.

1) Make my own hummus
Now that I've gotten more hard-core about recycling, I've been trying to figure out how to generate less of it. Reusing packaged food tubs is a great idea, but what do you do when they won't fit in your cupboard anymore? Make your own hummus. I probably go through at least two packages a month – that's 24 a year. I don't plan to stop eating hummus anytime soon, so over five years, I could accumulate 120 containers. I definitely don't have room for those. So for the past month, I've been buying canned garbonzos and making my own - beans, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, cumin and jalapeno. Difference between recycling tin cans and #5 plastic? For starters, cans are typically manufactured from their recycled progenitors. Plastic tubs aren't.

2) Compost
This I have not started yet. I don't garden, and I rent an apartment, so this is not as brainless as it might seem. Few ideas: see if my landlord and neighbors would like to pitch in on a composter for the yard; see if there are any community gardens in the neighborhood that would like my scraps; in the meantime, start collecting it in a tub to bring to Whole Foods. They now have a composting bin in their waste disposal area.

3) Air dry
In September, my boyfriend moved to Europe. One major difference between Europe and the States? They don't use dryers in Europe. Even in teeny apartments. And life goes on. My concentrated, phosphate-free laundry detergent already contains soy-based softener, so no crunchy underwear. I just need to get one of those handy folding wracks and I'm ready! Anyone know where to find them?

4) Unplug!
Vampire electricity… I really wish each room had a master plug. Any suggestions for making unplugging easier than getting down on hands and knees 4-6 times a day?

5) Train it to Chestnut Hill at least once
It only requires a trolley, a train, an R8 schedule and ten bucks.


Anonymous said...

Great Post Jenni - As always, your posts shed light on new things I should be doing...Keep up the good work. - Gary

Jenny said...

Thanks, Gary!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I spelled your name wrong....Jenny. My bad.

Kira said...

There is a Bicycle Co-Op (based out of West Philly) that for I think a small fee will take your compost. I used them to recycle my christmas tree since the city was trashing them this year.

Jenny said...

Yes, Pedal Coop. We contacted them last summer to find out more, but never heard back. Will have to try again. Vegetable scraps pile up very quickly.

Jenn said...

>> 4) Unplug! Vampire electricity… I really wish each room had a master plug. Any suggestions for making unplugging easier than getting down on hands and knees 4-6 times a day?

Yes! Plug all of the objects into one power strip, which has an on/off switch, and which you put in an easy-to-reach location. That way when you're done at the computer, or watching tv, or what have you-- just turn the power strip off and all the peripherals go with it! If there are things which need to be "hot" all the time (people say this about Tivo, for example), you can either just plug that one thing into its own wall outlet, or get a fancy power strip with one or two "hot" outlets (

Also, regarding your DIY hummus-- if you start with dried beans instead of canned, you'll remove that empty can from the loop altogether!

Also, compost: have you considered vermicomposting? Totally doable indoors.

Jenny said...

Jenn - fantastic suggestions. Duh, power strips! Will be my next green investment.

As for composting, I need an option that's simple, cheap and doesn't require a lot of upkeep. Getting a movie off the ground means I have no time or money. Here are a few potential options I found:

Compost bin for the backyard:

Compost bin for the apartment:

Do you compost? Would love to hear your experiences...

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I just read about your project on the Green LA Girl blog. I love what you're doing and would like to let my readers know about it too. I write the blog, Fake Plastic Fish (, which is all about finding ways to reduce our plastic consumption and plastic waste -- beyond recycling.

I would like to add to Jenn's good ideas:

1) #3 plastics are PVC, which is one of the most environmentally harmful plastics from cradle to grave. Have you see the documentary Blue Vinyl? I highly recommend it! You'll never want to buy any #3 plastic again. I noticed your list of plastic codes. To your #3's you'll want to add soft vinyl like shower curtains, purses, plastic table cloths, etc.

#5's can now be dropped off at participating Whole Foods Markets that are involved in Preserve's Gimme5 program. They also take Brita pitcher filters, which are #5 as well. Preserve turns #5 plastic into toothbrushes, razors, and kitchenware. Here's more info:

Still, the companies that make the hummus, yogurt, and other products that go in the #5 containers will continue to use virgin plastic, so bravo to you for the decision to make your own hummus instead! I agree with Jenn on starting with dry beans and eliminating the can. Most bean cans (except for some Eden Organics) are lined with BPA anyway. In our house, we keep some dry hummus mix on hand that we purchase from Whole Foods's bulk bin in our own container for when we don't have time to soak beans but need our hummus fix. It requires a lot of doctoring to taste right, but the basic ingredients are there. Does your Whole Foods carry this?

2) Also echoing support for power strips. We like the Smart Strip power strip because you can turn everything off by turning off one appliance rather than having to remember to turn off the strip. For example, if you designate your TV as the control device, then all you have to do is turn off your TV and all the peripherals turn off with it. And like she said, there are a few "always hot" outlets for things like TIVO that need to stay on. Here's what I wrote about it:

3) Regarding degradable bags -- do you really need them? If you compost and recycle everything you can, you might find you don't need any garbage bags. We don't use any in our home. I love that you can take compost to Whole Foods. That's great. Not sure about the bags you bought, but I'd be leery. I'm planning a post on garbage bags very soon. Still doing some research on all the degradables.

Anyway, your project seems wonderful to me. Would you have time to answer a few questions for Fake Plastic Fish? Feel free to email me directly at beth [at] fakeplasticfish [dot] com.

Jenny said...

Beth, thanks so much for your comments and for bringing to my attention. What a great project and resource.

A lot of electronics are packaged in #3, so as a video production, I’m not sure we’ll be able to avoid it. However, if we find the right person to head up our film’s environmental initiatives, we may be able to put pressure on manufacturers not to use it.

I’ve read about the Gimme 5 program. It’s great. Unfortunately, the Philly Whole Foods is not a participating store, but in the future, I may opt to mail my #5s to Preserve.

As for going trash-free, that may be a future personal goal rather than a film goal. We’ll just have to see as our production takes shape whether we’ll be able to manage composting on-set.

I really admire your commitment to go plastic-free, and while I think it would be great to try it some day, I don't think it will be realistic for the film production and my crazed, hectic personal life leading up to and during the film production. Time seems to be the greatest resource needed to combat a dependence on plastic packaging, and eventually I’d like to have a lifestyle where I have more of it. But because I’m doing the job of five people to raise money for this film I passionately believe is needed in the world (and not earning much money on the side), I have it in too limited a supply to commit to completely giving up canned and packaged foods. At the moment, convenience is sometimes the outstanding factor in the choices I make for sustenance. I'll have to look into hummus mix!

That said, I have definitely reduced the amount of packaged food products I purchase, but #5 plastic film still creeps into my life through the meat and cheese I get from my CSA, pasta boxes with plastic windows, and other assorted products, mailings, etc. I’ve been saving quite a lot of it in the event I find a place to recycle it, but it seems doubtful.

Our fundamental approach to creating a more sustainable production is twofold - to become more educated about our choices and their environmental trade-offs; and to see where in our industry we can reduce, where we can recycle and what products (specifically, production supplies) are completely toxic or impossible to procure in an environmentally friendly fashion. We will be leading a large group of people with diverse habits and needs through a physically and mentally demanding shoot – twenty 14 hr. days in borrowed locations. We’ll be asking a lot of them by working on a low-budget film. We’ll be asking a lot more with several of the key green initiatives we want to instill, such as giving up bottled water and certain packaged foods at the craft services table. With those givens, I think we’ll find that a path of moderation and compromise--testing people’s comfort levels with change as we go--may get us further than one of complete sacrifice. Definitely a work-in-progress!

Kira said...

Do you have room in your yard for composter? They are easy to make but even better I got an enclosed one with a lid (helps to deter pests) at a composting workshop run by Penn State Extension:
I just keep a container in the kitchen and when it gets full with kitchen scraps I take it across the street and dump it in the bin.
Haven't tried out any of those inside the house composters but did you see this NYT article? Interesting: