Graduated AF: Modern Conveniences

I’ve been bouncing this blog post idea around for a bit. It definitely is not for everyone and I want to address that right off. Graduate student stipends are so varied even within a single university. Not everyone can afford to live on a grad student stipend alone. Not everyone can afford to spend money on some of the items I’m suggesting in this post. Loads of graduate students are still paying off loans from undergrad, or even accruing more as they study. I can’t address everyone’s financial status in one post. But I am privileged enough to be able to scrape together enough to afford some of the following every so often and have found that they can be a great help in regard to time and stress. And what graduate student wouldn’t want more time and less stress?

Several of the links in this post include referral links from the author. 

Continue reading “Graduated AF: Modern Conveniences”

Carving Out Time: #WinterWishlist Edition

Finals. To anyone still in the thick of it, YOU’VE GOT THIS GO GO GO. But, to my fellow survivors on the other side of things:

tired

I had to push past a flooded apartment, screaming baby next door while studying, and being locked out of my apartment (and away from my computer charger when I had a report due), but it’s over and I’m still alive. I know a lot of us still have other responsibilities and likely a stack of homework/exams to grade, but let’s promise ourselves right here, right now that we are going to Take A Break. For me, the last few weeks have been nonstop with projects and finals and I barely remember what it’s like to have a moment to just breathe. But, it’s so very important to carve out time for yourself because if not, everything else will take over. I am looking forward to using this break to regain some sanity and motivation going into the new year. I hereby promise to spend a good portion of my winter break treating myself to some Real Life goodies.

I understand that our collective brains are sufficiently fried so we’ve got a lovely list post for everyone.  Rachel and I have compiled our happiest of Real Life things to do during the break. I barely know where to start! We would also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to hear about your Winter Wishlists! Leave suggestions in the comments or tag us in your own post. You can keep an eye on our Instagram and Tumblr to get peeks of our #WinterWishlist fun. Continue reading “Carving Out Time: #WinterWishlist Edition”

5 Weird Things I Do: Morning Routine

Hey all!  I know it has been a while.  What can I say.  School.  Life.  The usual things that get in the way of my blogging.  Have I told you guys that I am running a Sprint Triathlon in April?  It’s crazy right?  Like I need more to do.  It’s been pretty great though.  I’ve been swimming, biking, playing soccer, and discovering that I might actually like running!  I’ve been training for the past month or so, and I discovered a new favorite blog:  No Meat Athlete.  This blog is great starting from the adorable jogging carrot, right down to the health and running advice.  I stopped by there a few mornings ago during my usual blog trolling/procrastination loop before getting down to work and saw the most recent post about weird things this blogger does now that he is a vegan.  I loved it, mostly because I thought it was all cool, familiar, and not really that weird.  But it got me to thinking, I’ve spent a fair amount of time thus far telling you guys about new things I am trying to do to make my impact on the earth itty-bitty-small, but I’ve totally neglected to tell you all the things that have changed in my life over the past few years as I strive for this goal.  Some of these things are big, some are small, and some are totally weird.  I just think of them as so normal now.

So, over the next little bit, I will be sharing with you short lists of the weird things I do in my day to day.  Some of them might seem pretty normal to the hippie-eco set, but I hope to teach even the old hat eco-nerds some new tricks.  Here we go with installment one!

Five Weird Things I Do- My Morning Routine:

1.  Baking Soda and Coconut Oil Face wash

My new face washing routine.
Excuse the blurry picture, but this is pretty much what it
looks like before I combine the two ingredients.

I found this little gem months ago and quickly added it to my Pinterest board for future reference. I had been using the Neutrogena Facial Cleansing Bar because it comes in a paper box and I didn’t have to buy a new plastic bottle every time I needed new face wash. However, I was always a little bummed that the bar came wrapped in a little layer of cellophane plastic. So close, yet so far. I’ve always had problems with mild but persistent acne and the Neutrogena had really done the trick for clearing it up and lasted for a really long time (read: it was super cheap!).  Additionally, I wanted a face wash with as few chemicals as possible.  Your skin is your biggest organ, and everything you put on it gets absorbed to varying degrees.  I do not want to put a lot of random chemicals on my body and just hope for the best.  This  was another semi-plus for the Neutrogena face bar.  Everyone should run their skin care products through the Environmental Working Group’s, Skin Deep Database.  It will tell you a lot about the chemicals and risks associated with all sorts of health and beauty products.  But I digress.

So, I was a little resistant to trying this new technique, because I was relatively pleased with my current solution   Despite my reservations, when the time came to buy new face wash about a month ago, I found an on sale coconut oil that was 1) organic, 2) in a glass jar, and 3) did I mention on sale?  I decided I had to go for it!  I figured, I use baking soda for everything and if this doesn’t work I can use the coconut oil for cooking.  How does it work then?  The jury is still out.  I have super, super sensitive skin so each time I switch face washes, there is an awkward period where I get small break outs, so that is still happening.  Additionally, I’m not sure I’ve been doing it 100% right.  The instructions on the website are different than the ones on the pin, which are the ones I have been following.  Right now, I am using a pinch of baking soda and a very small amount of coconut oil (size of a pencil eraser) 3 times a week, then washing my face with warm water and a wash cloth the other days.  My skin looks a lot healthier aside from the slight increase in blemishes.  I have no dry skin and it has evened out my skin tone a bit.  I’m going to give it till the end of April, and see if things clear up the rest of the way.  After all, I have been exercising about 20x more than usual and falling into bed at night without rinsing my face sometimes, so it’s hard to say if this is working great or not.  Someone else should give it a try!  Let me know how it goes.  It’s for sure got less chemicals and plastic associated with it than any other face washing routine I’ve tried.  And, I feel like my face smells nice after…


2.  Baking Soda Deodorant

My deodorant!

Unlike the previous item, this is tried and true for me!  In high school, I was always very self-conscious about sweating a lot, and I was even using one of those over the counter, prescription strength deodorants at one point.  I went back and forth about this into my undergrad days, and then my little sister’s best friend’s mother (long connection, I know) got breast cancer.  This was during the time when researchers were just starting to explore a possible link between aluminium-based components in deodorants and development of breast cancer.  The jury is still out about this health link, and I would encourage you to check out the National Cancer Institute’s summary of the data here.  In either case, I’m not really one for messing around with possible cancer causing agents, so I decided I needed an alternative.  I started off with a sea salt spray deodorant that you can find in most stores, which is Pink Ribbon endorsed.  That worked pretty well, but later that year I was starting to really think about cutting back my consumption of single use plastics.  I read an article online that said baking soda could easily be used as a deodorant.  I gave it a go, and it works so well, is so cheap, and so easy that I will never go back!  All you need is a reusable container and an old make-up brush.

Fair warning, this is not an antiperspirant.  However, everyone I know who I have convinced to actually give this a try has ended up loving it!  Antiperspirants use those aluminum-based ingredients to actually clog up the pores in your armpits, preventing you from sweating.  And did you know that sweating is actually really good for your body?  It helps you maintain your temperature and gets out bad stuff, like toxins you might have absorbed through the skin.  That’s one of the reasons people feel so great after coming out of the sauna!  So, when you initially make the switch you might feel extra sweaty, because your pores are trying to get rid of all those clogging agents you’ve been rubbing on everyday for years!  After the adjustment period, I (an those who I have gotten to try this!) felt less sweaty and smelly overall!  Seriously.  Do this.  If you aren’t into straight up baking soda, there are a ton of recipes for smelly-good homemade deodorants on the internet.  If you don’t want to make it yourself, and you have some extra cash, my boyfriend has been using Lush’s solid deodorant bars as of late.  He loves this one.

I have not yet sold D Lo on the green smoothie,
so his is sans kale.  Hello toes!

3.  Drink My Breakfast Smoothie with a Stainless Steel Straw

Yes, I love smoothies.  They keep me really full until lunch time, they give me a lot of energy in the morning, and, because I’m obsessed with green smoothies, they give me all the benefits of dark leafy greens!  I also love straws.  Maybe it’s a leftover from my childhood.  I had stopped using them for the most part because they are made of plastic…and you just throw them away.  However, when we moved this summer, our new roommate had a ton of straws in this cute little container.  I couldn’t resist and started using them again.  Bad Rachel.  The solution?  I used my birthday amazon gift card to buy these cool, reusable, stainless steel straws!  It really is the little things guys.

4.  Coffee, Coffee, and more Coffee!

My morning and afternoon pick-me-ups.

I, like everyone else in America, need my morning cup of Joe   Unlike normal people, graduate students need at least two cups of coffee a day (on average) to keep on trucking.  I’m only half kidding about this.  Anyway, as a result, you can end up purchasing a lot of coffee, which comes with the baggage of a recyclable plastic lid and cardboard sleeve and non-recyclable cup.  Plus, $1.50 or more for a cup of coffee every morning can really add up over time!  I generally opt for the cheaper, less wasteful solution of making my coffee at home.  I purchase my coffee in bulk, and store it in a reusable container.  Then, I brew two cups every morning.  The first cup, I drink hot right then and there.  The second cup I put in a reusable glass jar (which probably used to house peanut butter!) with a little soymilk and stash it in my office fridge as soon as I get to campus.  By the time I need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, I have iced coffee!  I save money, and I cut down on waste.  Win, win.  Need more reasons to remember your reusable mug or just make coffee at home?  Check out this awesome infographic by Mother Nature Network:

5.  Get on My Bike and Ride!

The Silver Fox (my bike)!

I love my bike, and I love biking.  Our little town is the most, extremely bike friendly place I have ever lived, so it makes biking a lot more convenient.  I bike to school almost every weekday, and I bike to quite a few of my weekend destinations.  D Lo actually doesn’t know how to ride a bike (gasp!), so that is on our to do list for 2013!  Bike riding makes the most sense for a lot of reasons.  It costs no money and makes you healthier, while driving your car costs you money and leaves you sedentary.  For me, getting to and from campus each week would involve 20 miles of driving.  My poor car only gets about 20-25 miles to the gallon when I’m driving in town.  So, driving to work each day could easily cost me 4-5 dollars a week (thanks CA gas prices).  That doesn’t include the cost of parking on campus (7 dollars a day…and a lot per quarter.  Honestly, I’ve never checked it out because I know I can’t afford it!).  Additionally, when I’m driving I’m just sitting there.  News flash, I sit at work all day.  Being an ecologists usually means that for 9 months out of the year I am sitting in front of my computer/microscope/lab bench not really moving.  The other three months, hopefully, I am doing field work and running about outdoors!  However, during the day to day that is the non-field season, by biking to work I burn about 65 calories each way (according to this calorie burn calculator).  So, biking is the obvious choice for both my wallet and my health.

Biking is also a great choice when it comes to ecological thinking.  Each week, by biking to work I keep 0.01 metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere (based on this carbon footprint calculator).  That might not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time!  That means each year, just by biking to work and no other destinations, I can stop 0.56 metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere!  That’s a lot, all thanks to little ol’ me.  I know biking to work isn’t reasonable for everyone, but surly there is one location you visit at least once a week where you could bike instead of drive?  Maybe you can make a little extra effort and start a carpool to get to work?  Get creative!

Last Word:  I get really sad when when people start talking about their feelings of helplessness when it comes to the environment   That little voice in our head that says “What I do doesn’t really make that much of a difference” can be really discouraging.  Unfortunately, in some ways, that is true.  We need a real societal shift in order to get our world back on track.  But where do societal shifts start?  That’s right, with individuals.  Like me.  Like you.  We really can do this!  These “5 weird things” were changes to my life originally, and changes require activation energy, but once I overcame inertia and just did it, I don’t even think about these things anymore.  They are just…my life.  Pick one, or two, or more and give them a try.  To quote Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, don’t nothing just because you can’t do everything.  

What do you think?  Are there things you do on the daily that others think are strange?  Share them with me, I would love to give them a try or talk about why you choose these actions.