New year, new(ish) newsletter
Five Minutes for the Planet 2.0
Well, it turns out I just can’t quit you all.
I’ve been spending my winter holidays thinking about what FMFP: The Next Generation looks like, and though I love nothing more than a plan, what’s to come is likely more sketch than blueprint. The main reason? I’d like it to be informed largely by all of you. Last year, I achieved my goal of writing 52 science-based, action-oriented investigations into everyday environmental issues but, even I’ll admit, it was a lot. While FMFP diehards tuned in every week, life is overwhelming (especially life in 2020) and I know it’s hard to carve out time and energy for things that are not immediate survival or escape from the needs of immediate survival. (See: cocktails and Bridgerton.) So rather than carrying on with ever-more-obscure topics, I want to refocus on high-impact actions and work on doing them together. Let’s celebrate each other’s wins, support each other through setbacks, and share our knowledge, because, though I’ll never admit this to my partner, I don’t know everything.
So, here’s what to expect:
Biweekly issues instead of weekly. Less info, more time to absorb.
One traditional FMFP post a month. (There are still a few murky waters left for me to wade into.)
Coordinated action. For my other regular issue, I’ll choose a theme, review core principles, and outline a few key actions for us to work on together.
More community. As always, you can hit reply with your wins, questions, and observations to talk to me, or I’d urge to come join me over at the new FMFP Facebook group and share your progress on the goal of the month or post about other eco wins. And yes, I saw The Social Dilemma, but I wanted a place where a lot of people already are, where we can share photos and expertise and be inspired while indulging in a few minutes of scrolling. I’m aiming for a compassionate space, with no greener-than-thou moralizing, much as I’ve tried to create here. Maybe this will fail, but I think it’s worth the experiment. (Also I hate failing, so let’s not!) For FB abstainers, I’ll highlight some key group tips or wins in the regular newsy.
As periodic bonus issues, short interviews with people trying to live greener lives. Let’s learn a bit from others who aren’t career activists but are still looking to make change in themselves or society.
If this new plan isn’t your jam, no hard feelings. Unsubscribe away. If you’re intrigued, read on for the Jan(uary) Plan.
We’re kicking off our monthly project by focusing on one of the highest-impact personal climate interventions: reducing food waste. According to Project Drawdown, if we cut our food wastage by half, we’ll prevent more CO2 from entering the atmosphere than we could avert through rooftop solar and solar farms combined. Reducing food waste can also save you money (up to up $1,766 a year for Canadians) and make life easier!
For more background, revisit (or discover) these old issues:
Waste not, heat not (for a food waste primer)
Keeping food fresh (for short-term food storage strategies)
Yes, you can! (for long-term preserving plans, including drying, pickling, and canning)
Now, get fired up, because here are our challenges for the month. (If you already do these things, head over to the Facebook group or email me to share your tips and tricks!)
1. Plan your meals.
This is the best possible thing you can do to reduce food waste, not to mention reduce COVID exposures by going to the store less often. This is something I’m never jazzed to do, but always glad I did. It takes at most five minutes, and will grant you time, brainpower, and domestic harmony as the week wears on.
Here’s a handy plan for meal planning:
Start by looking in the fridge/pantry. What do you have? What needs to be used up?
Consider what days it might be useful to make a meal that has leftovers. Sunday to Thursday we prepare something we can also eat for lunch the next day. (Beyond that, leftovers often go in single-serve containers in the freezer — having homemade meals in the freezer is one of my secrets of adulthood.)
Can you find carryover ingredients? (For example, scheduling back-to-back meals that involve the same fresh herb reduces the likelihood of it turning into pricey green slime.)
Consider having including a “kitchen sink” meal in your plan: something like a soup, stir-fry, curry, or sauce that uses up the odds and ends.
Some people find categories useful: Mondays for soup, Tuesdays for casseroles, Wednesdays for pizza, etc. I’m not that strict, but to get the old brain juices flowing, I like to consider cuisines: in a week we usually have something Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, etc.
Keep a cheat sheet of all the meals you like and make regularly. Then if you’re feeling braindead, you just have to pick. It’s also one central index of recipes that tend to be stored all over the place (internet, emails, cookbooks, etc.)
Make sure you have your meal plan on your phone — whether you write it in there or take a pic of a hard copy — so you can consult it at the store. If there is more than one grocery shopper in the family, consider a shared list with an app like Flipp, a Google doc, or the Notes function on your phone.
Post your plan on the fridge. If you live with others, you can stop fielding questions about what’s for dinner by referring people to the list. (We’re also cutting back on emotional labour, which heats up homes like CO2 heats up the atmosphere.)
This month, create a meal plan every week. If you’re inclined, share those plans in the FB group to inspire others. I’ll be putting mine up there so you can get a sense of our quick and dirty meal agendas.
2. Start a freezer stock scrap bin.
Like those with clear eyes and full hearts, this strategy can’t lose.
Save your meat bones and veg scraps for stock. I keep a four-cup container in the freezer that I pack with celery, onion, and garlic ends, carrot and ginger peels, herb stalks and other veg bits (though brassicas — like broccoli and cauliflower — can make things a bit bitter, so you might leave those out). Ideally, you don’t have too much of one vegetable so that one flavour doesn’t overpower the broth.
When the container is full and/or I have some chicken bones, I put it all on the stove or in the InstantPot with some water, a little salt, a splash of apple cider vinegar, and a bay leaf or two, and 30-60 minutes later, broth! This might not command $11.50 at a Brooklyn bone broth shop, but it’ll do as an ingredient. (This can also be done without meat; mushroom stems can be a great addition for umami.)
For easy use, freeze in two- to four-cup servings in reusable containers or wide-mouthed jars.
Bonus: thanks to Carey’s suggestion, I’ve recently started saving ginger scraps in their own small container. When my partner got the sniffles, I threw the scraps in a small pot with water and cloves for a cold-soothing tea. (Also works sans cloves!)
3. Upcycle a food scrap.
For a freestyle challenge, have a look at something that frequently ends up in your compost bin: carrot tops? Potato peels? Citrus rinds? Apple cores? There are easy things you can do with all of those items — for example, carrot top pesto, potato peel chips, citrus cleaner or candied peels, apple scrap vinegar. Zero in on one kind of food waste and try to upcycle it into something new. For inspiration, cruise the archives of the Zero Waste Chef.
Let’s get structural!
And because individual action is only a beginning, each month, I’ll also highlight an organization or initiative that’s working on our featured issue, so if you are looking to up your impact, you can donate, volunteer, or learn more. This month, shout out to Second Harvest, which in 2020 rescued 22.3 million pounds of food and brought it to 4,336 agencies across Canada, including in fly-in communities.
Wins of the week
“Despair is an accurate reflection of the peril we face, but it isn’t a predictor of the future; it’s devastatingly near-sighted. To see beyond what despair sees — to move from the feeling toward the possibility — calls for things we have in abundance: love, imagination, and a willingness to simply tend the world as best we can, without guarantee of success. Any one of these can get us started.” — Emily N. Johnston, “Loving a Vanishing World,” All We Can Save
I’d never abandon this section, of course, and a few wins have still made their way to me over the holidays. (My inbox is always open for more!)
Instead of giving physical gifts, Susannah makes donations to charities that reflect the recipients values or interests. This is my favourite kind of gift giving: it’s not only eco-friendly, but does tremendous good. I want this kind of giving to be mainstream.
Kerry says, “Our Christmas morning garbage bag was SO TINY because our gifts had no packaging, we reused gift wrap/bags, etc. Very different than what I remember from my childhood, in which waste was epic. Also, we made last year’s Christmas cards into the most beautiful wreath. I am suspicious of ‘art’ made from garbage in general, but it was lovely and gift worthy.”
Instead of dragging our Christmas tree to the curb, we leave it in the yard as winter habitat for birds and other creatures. (Nature Conservancy Canada has more info.)
I want to celebrate all these wins in the FB group, where we can see photos and hit that like button. So if you’re even moderately interested, head over and give it a try!
What do you think of this plan, the evermore to my folklore? Let me know so I can make it work better for you.