Call it global warming

Back in the day when this blog was in it’s infancy (5 years ago!), I was working in health communication research (how to tailor and target messages to make them relevant and effective for a given audience).  That work, combined with my interest in sustainability and “climate change” led me to do some literature searches into the subject of climate change communication.  How could we have all this information that was just not getting through to people?

Turns out, Yale has a whole center devoted to the topic, the Center on Climate Change Communication, and the group just released a report saying that we’ve been getting it all wrong with by using the term “climate change,” when, in fact, the term “global warming” is both more relatable and more likely to cause concern.

So, how did this switch come about?  “Climate change” more accurately describes the range of changes that we are seeing, but this terminology change, at least in the U.S., did not necessarily come from the scientific community.

As reported in this article from The Guardian:

George W Bush swapped the term climate change for global warming in 2002, on the advice of the Republican political consultant, Frank Luntz.

In a secret memo before the mid-term elections, Luntz warned Republicans – and Bush in particular – were singularly weak on the environment. He advised a strategy of disputing climate science, and of avoiding the term “global warming’ because of its highly negative connotations.

“It’s time for us to start talking about ‘climate change’ instead of global warming … ‘climate change’ is less frightening than ‘global warming’,” said the memo obtained by the Environmental Working Group.

Gah — suddenly “climate change” feels so dirty!  Twelve years of word trickery and misinformation!  Twelve years (and more) that we’ve been sitting around debating while global warming continued, unabated.

Since April, I’ve been collecting global warming-related articles, trying to reconnect to this important topic:

  • From Climate Change Study Finds U.S. Is Already Widely Affected
      • In the Southwest, the water shortages seen to date are likely just a foretaste of the changes to come, the report found. In that region, the report warned, “severe and sustained drought will stress water sources, already overutilized in many areas . . .”
      • . . . the effects of global warming that had been long foreseen by climate scientists are already affecting the planet.  [The report’s] documentation of changes occurring in the United States, and of future risks, makes clear that few places will be unscathed — and some, like northerly areas, are feeling the effects at a swifter pace than had been expected.
      • One of the report’s most striking findings concerned the rising frequency of torrential rains.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words, so check out these images.
  • From Let This Earth Day Be the Last

Any discussion of the situation must begin by acknowledging the science and the sheer lateness of the hour—that the chance for any smooth, gradual transition has passed, that without radical change the kind of livable and just future we all want is simply inconceivable . . . . there’s good reason to believe that a rise of two degrees will lead to catastrophic consequences. And of course, what’s “catastrophic” depends on where you live, and how poor you are, and more often than not the color of your skin. If you’re one of the billions of people who live in the poorest and most vulnerable places—from Bangladesh to Louisiana—even 1 degree can mean catastrophe.

  • Finally, in Climate Change: The Bigger Picture, Charles Eisenstein offers some food for thought:
      • If advocates of fracking or nuclear power can argue plausibly that their technology will reduce greenhouse emissions, then by our own logic we must support those too. This is already happening: witness the “Think about it” campaign touting the climate change benefits of natural gas.
      • What would happen if we revalued the local, the immediate, the qualitative, the living, and the beautiful? We would still oppose most of what climate change activists oppose, but for different reasons: tar sands oil extraction because it kills the forests and mars the landscape; mountaintop removal because it obliterates sacred mountains; fracking because it insults and degrades the water; offshore oil drilling because oil spills poison wildlife; road building because it carves up the land, creates roadkill, contributes to suburbanisation and habitat destruction, and accelerates the loss of community.

This is hard for me to explore, because I know my own modest efforts are a tiny little drop in a great big ocean, when what we need is widespread, sweeping change in how we interact with our environment and natural resources.  (It also makes it difficult to continue to blog, when many of my posts seem frivolous, by comparison.)

Realistically, at this point, we will be forced to adapt to many of the changes already underway, while doing our best to mitigate damage.

Expanding our produce storage?

Since last summer’s garden bounty (and maybe longer), we’ve been thinking about getting a second refrigerator to help handle produce overflow.  While the garden produce technically already has two fridges (ours and my MIL’s), sometimes that is not enough, especially when we’re harvesting large amounts of bulky produce, like leafy greens.

While we may well put a second fridge to good use, it just seems excessive, and, while theoretically we could unplug it when not in use (winter and early spring months?), I imagine once we have it, we’ll find a way to use the space (e.g., storing apples), and it will be a year-round thing.

Plus, while having more fridge space may somewhat alleviate the stress of Matthew returning from the garden with BUCKETS of produce, there’s still the fact that we’ll have buckets of produce to deal with — it won’t just cook or preserve itself!  So, while Matthew’s been pushing for the second fridge, I’ve been dragging my heels, but knowing that it will probably happen sooner or later.

This second fridge doesn’t have to be anything fancy, since it will be living in our basement.  You’d think it would be easy to find something in decent used condition, at a very affordable price on CL, but that has not really been the case in our [sporadic] searching.  Plus, there is the complication of getting a vehicle to haul what we find.

So, on Monday night, when Matthew happened to check CL and saw a posting for a working fridge for $80 located relatively nearby, he jumped at the chance, especially when the seller offered delivery that night for an extra $20.  Matthew drove over to check it out, decided it was a go, and returned home to wait for the delivery.

Wrangling a full-size refrigerator into our basement was hardly what I was in the mood for after nine o’clock at night, so, as a compromise measure, we decided to just stick it in the garage.

Half past nine found us in our dark, rainy alley, alone with the couple selling the fridge and the truck with the fridge, along with a full-size van and two unknown males (who arrived with the sellers).  Them: 4.  Us: 2.

For all intents and purposes, it looked like the lead-in to a Craigslist urban legend, where we end up bound and gagged in the garage while they rob us blind.*

Fortunately, that did not happen.  You can accuse me of having a wild imagination, but Matthew was having the same thoughts.  Later, we decided it would have been smarter for one of us to stay inside, where we could keep an eye on things and call the police, if necessary.

Still under the impression that we wanted the fridge in the basement, the sellers had invited two friends along to help get it down there.  (As Matthew and I stood there contemplating how the two of us would get the thing to the basement, we rather wished we had stuck with the original plan.)

Anyhow, we got the fridge in the garage and they got their cash and headed out.  I’m still not thrilled that four random people now know the location of a garage full of bikes — guess I didn’t really think that through ahead of time.  In retrospect, we probably could have left the garage door down, and gotten it the rest of the way in by ourselves.

So, we’re now the proud (?) new owners of . . .


. . . this guy.  Despite the freezer on bottom, which I thought was a relatively recent innovation, this fridge must be at least fifteen years old.  Age and appearance don’t really matter, but SMELL does.

Unfortunately, despite a nose that is super-sensitive to cigarette smoke, Matthew missed the fact that this fridge did NOT come from a smoke-free home (the owners were smoking outside when he arrived to look at it, so he assumed they always smoked outside, and walking through the smoke outside desensitized his nose to the third-hand smoke indoors).  While you might think that something that is mostly made of metal would not really pick up odors, that is sadly not the case.  Smoke is pernicious!

At this point, we’re not sure we’ll keep it, but we’re very glad it’s only stinking up the garage and not the basement and apartment, as well!  Some sources claim a thorough vinegar wipe-down will eliminate the smell.  We’ll give that a try, but I’m not so sure, and if it still smells smoky, it’s outta here (assuming we can find a buyer)!


Shopping at Aldi

I’ve been meaning to write this post since the mid-January thaw, when I ventured to my local Aldi grocery store for the first time ever.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to Aldi.  Growing up, my family did a decent bit of our grocery shopping there, and, as a college student and a grad student, I appreciated the affordable prices.

I probably shopped Aldi most frequently my first year out of grad school, when I lived within half a mile of a store.  When I was in grad school, I lived closer to Soulard Farmers’ Market, so that was my go-to source for produce (though often not locally grown).  When you’re going by bike or on foot, it’s all about proximity!

Anyhow, my biggest issue with Aldi was and is the packaging on the produce, which this site mentions as one of their cost saving strategies.  In addition to saving cashiers’ time weighing bulk produce, I imagine prepackaging produce also cuts down on product loss — instead of being able to pick through for the best pepper, or the best apples, you take what you get, the good with the not-so-good.  But it’s a lot of packaging, especially the items (like peppers) that are placed on polystyrene trays and then wrapped in plastic.  Ugh!

On the other hand, Aldi was one of the first stores to encourage bringing your own bags (again, as a cost-saving measure), long before it was en vogue or “green,” and some of their other cost-saving measures are also good for the planet, so it’s a bit of a conundrum.

Anyway, my January trip was spurred by citrus season, and my memory of Aldi carrying fairly nice oranges and grapefruit for a very good price.  Also, we have not bothered to unsubscribe from the weekly mailer that includes the Aldi flyer, and I had seen that they were starting to carry some organic items, including apples and bananas, and I wanted to check it out.

They did indeed have good prices on citrus, particularly the three for a dollar grapefruit.  On that trip, I came home with three grapefruit (not prepackaged!), a bag of oranges, a bottle of wine, two 1/2 pound blocks of cheese, and a bag of walnuts (a pound for less than $8, vs. the $10+/lb I usually pay at the bulk bins).


My haul did not include any of their “new” organic offerings, though I did scope them out, along with a few other items:

  • Organic soymilk — good price, but sweetened, which is unnecessary sugar, in my book
  • Almond milk (non-organic) also sweetened
  • Organic bananas 59 cents/lb, but were all green, so I skipped them
  • Organic toasted O’s, but only a 9oz. box
  • Walnuts — a good price, as I mentioned above; not organic, but, for better or worse, I don’t usually buy organic walnuts anyway

Finally, the cheese.  I prefer to keep dairy consumption pretty minimal, and, as much as possible, organic [practices].  Avoiding dairy completing is tricky (and for us, unnecessary) and it does taste good.  But organic and/or small-farm dairy, and especially cheese, is pretty pricey.  Enter the “frugal foodie” debate.  On this trip, I went ahead and bought a half-pound each of two cheeses (less than $2 each), knowing they were not up to my preferred standards for dairy.

I find it ironic that many of the Aldi dairy (and perhaps meat?) products are packaged in their “Happy Farms” label, since I imagine the animals have far less than happy living conditions.  But, to be fair, the dairy and meat products at Aldi are, in general, no worse ethically/environmentally/health-wise than similar, name-brand products at other stores.

Enough on the food, though.  What finally spurred me to write this post was the current week’s flyer, which features none-other than BIKE accessories in the “Special Buys” section.


While many of these items are not likely high-quality, if you’re trying to get set up for biking, and you’re on a tight budget, it would be better to have these lights, than, say no lights (but please don’t skimp on a good quality bicycle!).

I’m particularly interested in the helmets, as my current noggin-protector celebrated it’s 5th birthday a couple of months ago (general recommendations are to replace helmets every five years (or after an impact)).  With bicycle helmets, more money does not equal more protection.  As long as a helmet has the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) stamp of approval and fits correctly, it is good to go!

I do have a few other features I want in a helmet, so I’ll head over tomorrow (Special Buys don’t start until Wednesday) to see if my store actually stocks something that will fit the bill.

Do you shop at Aldi?  Why or why not?

Diaper doldrums

It’s been 7 months since I wrote about Sir’s potty learning progress.  At that time, it seemed like we were very close to being completely, truly diaper-free!  In addition to a few months of daytime dryness under his belt, Sir had started staying dry at nap time and overnight, some nights.

That was in late August and early September.  After a few weeks, he reverted to wet diapers every morning and almost every nap time, and my diaper-free dreams went down the toilet.  ([Awake] daytime is still fine — he’s been daytime dry for almost a year now!)

As of a month ago, Sir is back to being dry at some nap times, i.e., the short naps (about an hour) that he takes at child care.  He is SO consistently dry at child care that Mrs. L puts him down for his nap without a diaper.  Brave lady, but zero accidents, so far.

On the other hand he almost always wakes up wet when napping at home, but he naps longer (about 90 minutes), so I don’t mind.  Nap time diapering is easy: a thick prefold and a Thirsties diaper cover.

Night time diapering is trickier.  Sometime after Sir’s first birthday, we discovered that fancy pocket diapers, with their feel-dry material, helped Sir sleep better and longer.  Good for him and good for us.  We bought four pocket diapers (3 bumGenius, 1 Fuzzy Bunz) which we use exclusively at night.

Except!  After awhile, I noticed that regular washing was not getting the stink out of those pocket diapers.  And the trick that so nicely and simply de-stinks my prefolds (a vinegar rinse) doesn’t work on the pocket diapers (vinegar would ruin their absorbancy or waterproofness or something).

Instead, you have to “strip” them.  Unfortunately, these instructions from Cotton Babies (an StL-based company and the makers of bumGenius diapers) are just a leeeeeetle bit off.

First, it does not take just two hot water rinses to get the stink out.  It takes many.  Like ten.  And all that time you’re using HOT water.  Suddenly the “environmentally friendly” cloth diapers are seeming much less so.

Second, the directions claim that, AT MOST (i.e., worst case scenario), you should have to strip your diapers “once every 3 or 4 months.”  In my experience, that is complete and utter B.S.  After following their instructions to. the. letter (plus eight more rinses), the stink went away for about two uses.  With four pocket diapers, two uses = eight nights, so barely over a week after stripping, I’m stuck with stinky covers again.

Unfortunately, whatever causes the stink also irritates Sir’s skin, and he’s had some nasty diaper rashes, despite the fact that he barely wears a diaper, except for overnight.

The diaper rashes necessitate using disposable diapers, since diaper creams and lotions are generally a no go with pocket diapers.  So we just cycle back and forth.  Disposables and cream to get the rash under control, then back to the pocket diapers until his skin gets irritated and forces us back to disposables.

On a side note, Sir almost always poops in the potty, but two weeks ago, we were a little off schedule, and he woke up in the morning with a poopy diaper.  Of course it was NOT a night when he was wearing a disposable diaper, but I swear I almost threw that $17 pocket diaper away anyway.  It was horrible, and I was literally in tears by the time I finished dealing with it.  If I never have to do that again, it will be too soon!

Anyway, I really prefer cloth diapers to disposable, in general, but not when they require this much work (and hot water) to keep decent.  I guess we could go back to the basic prefolds for nighttime, but I don’t want to sacrifice sleep.

It’s tempting to just stick with the disposables at night, and be done with the stinky pocket dipes, but for someone who’s used disposables very minimally, the idea of going through more than a handful of diapers a month is hard to swallow, both environmentally and financially.

I’m not sure where this leaves us.  There is really no end to night time diapering in sight.  It could be any day, I suppose, but it could also be a year or more from now, realistically.  I keep hoping that maybe this will be the last pack of disposable diapers I ever buy, but that dream has yet to be realized.

Through the eyes of a child

I enjoy tasteful Christmas light displays, but I usually turn up my nose at the other holiday outdoor decorations.  Halloween inflatables, Easter yard ornaments, colored lights for almost any holiday imaginable — talk about over-consumption and collecting lots of limited-used stuff that just sits in a bin somewhere for most of the year.

So I’m more than a bit sheepish to admit that I’m enjoying my neighborhood’s enthusiasm for Halloween this year (our part of the city is apparently known for really getting into Halloween).  It’s not that I, personally, am wowed by the pumpkins, tombstones, and ghosts on display, but rather that I enjoy seeing Gabriel’s reaction — his smiles, wonderment, and delight as we pass by the festive houses on our daily outings.

It goes without saying that the sights are best enjoyed from the vantage and pace of walking or biking, as I doubt he can see much, if anything, from his car seat.  I shamelessly direct his attention to houses of special interest as we bike to the park or on various errands.  He points, smiles, and says, “That,” to show his appreciation.

While it doesn’t really alter my general feelings on buying and displaying holiday yard ornaments, I’m enjoying a slightly different perspective this year, looking through the eyes of a toddler.