Learning to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

If you’re like me, you do an okay job at recycling, but not a great one. Recently, a study was released that said we pretty much have 12 years to get it together or else the world is going to explode.  

(Okay, maybe that’s dramatic, but it’s not much better than that. You can read it for yourself here.)  

While the majority of the change needs to come from large companies and their factories, there are simple things that you and I can do to help, too. Every tiny contribution is something!  

Since moving to Asheville, I’ve gotten to encounter a lot of folks who absolutely crush the recycling game. Not only that, but they’ve found ways to lessen their environmental impact that have taught me so much! I felt a little daunted by this concept at first because I’m not someone who can, let’s say, live without central air (obviously I can, I’m being a brat) - but I’m dipping my toe into the pool and taking my transformation into Eco Girl one step at a time.

Many of you may be thinking, “Yeah, dumb dumb - we’ve been on this train for a long time. You’re not telling us anything new.” If you’re one of those people, I salute you. If you’re more like I am, here are some things I’ve recently been inspired (I polled Instagram, too - so many of your answers made it into this post!) by that have helped me feel like I’m helping, even if it seems small! 

1. Wildly reducing the paper products we use.  

Let’s be realistic: I have a 10-month-old and a dog. I can’t NOT have paper towels in the house. But I used to use them for everything. Are we sitting down for a meal? Tear off a paper towel to use as a napkin. Do I need something to stick my bagel on in the morning? Paper towel. Mac threw solid food all over the floor under his high chair? Paper towel. 

We have cloth dish towels that we use to dry our hands off, but we were under-utilizing them. I recently bought a pack of surgical-grade towels from Amazon that are coming in so handy with all of Mac’s spills and any kitchen messes. Now, I just toss a dirty towel in the laundry rather than throwing a paper towel away. It’s been a week since I started this effort and I’ve only used 4 (!!!) paper towels! That’s an enormous difference for our family. Hoping to get down to zero!

2. No straws, napkins, or cutlery at restaurants; using glass containers to store food or reusing plastic containers from takeout. 

This can be a tough one if you’re driving through because of a road trip or some other truly time-sensitive reason, but if not, it’s a great way to change your habits. I stopped using plastic straws this summer! It’s a really easy thing to refuse - I’ve started saying, “No straw, please!” And it’s as simple as that.  

There are great companies that make washable metal or silicon straws, and even cutlery packets that you can take with you and re-use if you’re going somewhere that would give you plastic silverware. Easy and great! Best part - the people with whom you’re dining will also be inspired! Someone on Instagram even suggested bringing your own takeout containers to a restaurant from which you know you’ll take home leftovers. It’s brilliant!

Another great food-related suggestion I got is to buy glass containers for food storage and/or put containers you already have to use. Pay attention to which restaurants deliver food with compostable or reusable containers, and patronize their business. We vote with our dollars. 

And, sadly, red meat consumption has been proven to be tough on the environment. As a non-meat-eater, this one isn’t tough for me (just another excuse not to eat tons of meat!), but it’s a great way to make a change that’s both healthy for you and the earth.  

3. Keeping the AC at a reasonable temp.  

It’s really tough to do this one for me because I am a SUPER WIMP about heat (that’s what growing up in Alabama will do to you. I have summer PTSD). However, I guesssssss the planet is more important than my comfort UGHGHHGHGH. 

We keep our AC set to 74, although some of my friends keep theirs as high as 78 and many of my Asheville buddies don’t even have/use their AC at all. MIND BLOWING. I’m not at that level, but I can avoid cooling my house to freezing temps.  

 4. Buy in bulk. 

This is one I haven’t started putting into practice yet, so I’m excited to try. I’m learning so much about what products are sold in “single-serving” packages that are totally unnecessary. Toothbrushes, for example. Why buy one, individually packaged toothbrush when you could buy a pack of 6 and save packaging waste? 

This goes for food, too - buying in bulk at places like Costco can often save waste and save money. Items that are great bulk purchases: cereal or oatmeal; peanut butter; granola or any kind of protein/power bar; snack food like raisins, cashews, almonds; coffee, the list goes on and on. It also just occurred to me while writing this that this concept totally applies to toiletries as well!

5. Checking into what is included in curbside recycling.  

Believe it or not, lots of things you’d think are recyclable aren’t actually accepted by curbside services. Plastic grocery store bags are one of those items for us! It took me many moons to realize that. I’d been putting them in the bin without knowing - now, I know that if I take them back to our local grocery store, they ensure the bags get taken to the proper facility.  

Plastic bags that come from the dry cleaners are another no-no. Who knew?  

6. Vote! 

This might be the biggest way that we can make systemic change. We are at a point in our global society where unfortunately, small, individual actions aren’t going to be enough to change the future of our planet. Enter: people who can make a big difference.

This is a great one because it isn’t even a partisan issue! It’s based in science and data, which is a refreshing black and white in the midst of what can seem like a sea of uncertain grey. Climate change is real, global warming is real, and we need to elect leaders who both accept those facts and are ready to do something to address it. Midterms are coming - look into which candidates support saving our planet and go vote for them!  

And if you need help, here is a list of folks currently serving in Congress who do not acknowledge climate change as being real. You know what to do, y’all - boot ‘em! The stakes are just too high not to.

Fetch or Wretch? The 2018 Emmy Awards

SNORE.

Y’all! This Emmys was so borrrrrrring (and, despite the chirpy little opening number, very white. Which wouldn’t have necessarily been as problematic if the production hadn’t been so self-congratulatory about the “most diverse group of nominees ever” at every single opportunity…but I digress.). Easily the best part of the show was this moment, which had both my husband and me agape on the couch choking up (shut up, Jordan, you know you did):

Oh my gosh I just watched it and cried all over again. HIS MOM’S RING, Y’ALL

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Whew. But THAT isn’t what we’re here to talk about, is it, my friends? No, we’re here to dissect Emmy fashion with a sharp, merciless knife.

ROUND ‘EM UP!

FETCH.

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Rachel Brosnahan.

The woman knew she was going to be picking up an award (and the show itself swept the evening), and she DRESSED FOR IT. This is pretty down-the-line flawless and you could tell she felt like a million bucks.

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Thandie Newton.

THE BITCH DOESN’T AGE. This knocked me out. Styling, accessory choices, color, how they managed to keep that dress wrinkle-free all night…so many things to praise. There are several people last night that shocked me with their agelessness - Thandie Newton, Angela Bassett, Sandra Oh, Heidi Klum. Speaking of the last two, let’s just go ahead and put ‘em where they belong…

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Heidi Klum.

Gotta give credit where credit’s due.

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Sandra Oh.

Very disappointed we didn’t get to hear a speech from this amazing actress who I LOVE, but the dress said it all. What an amazing statement and a banner night for Asian American actresses, despite the loss. Although the real star of the red carpet wasn’t Sandra Oh, but instead was her mom, who wore the most FABULOUS hanbok I have ever seen. Mrs. Oh - we are here for you, girl. Google the image, the stupid internet won’t let me find a good one. Just trust me.

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Tracee Ellis Ross

Lemme just be basic here for a minute and scream ‘YAS QUEEN!’ I mean are you kidding me?! This is so beyond fabulous I can’t. I canNOT.

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Ru Paul.

Another that needs no commentary. Sashay away!

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Leslie Jones.

Look, this one is tough. Do I love the length of the pants? No, I do not. Do I love the button placement that skews her proportions? Nope. But the color, her confidence, and the overall cut/fit of this custom Christian Siriano gets my vote, especially because CS has made a habit of dressing women who aren’t runway sizes and making them feel fabulous and confident. And she certainly felt both. Please pay special attention to her reaction during that proposal video - SO good.

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Angela Sarafyan.

So elegant, so gorgeous, so darkly Cinderella. I LOVED it.

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Kristen Bell.

Another tough one for me because that neckline is damn near impossible to pull off. But from every angle, sister was WORKING IT. The fit and the styling are perfection.

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Sarah Paulson.

I thought this was pretty divine. The low-cut bodice is right on the edge of not great, but everything else (the feathers, the length, the head styling) works.

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Jessica Biel.

I am damn near positive that the major critique of this gown will be that it looks like it’s made of coffee filters. Even so, I thought it was beautiful.

There are more Fetches, but I have to take my son to the doctor so that he can pee all over the nurses the second his diaper is removed, so let’s just get to the real reason we’re all gathered here today, shall we?

WRETCH.

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Emilia Clarke.

Such a disappointment. Her head is so beautiful. Her body is sublime. But that dress looks like leftover Halloween decorations and dead flowers glued to a tarp. And I am VERY VERY OVER THE SHEER BODICE TREND. Can’t we all say once and for all that it’s dead, never again to be resurrected?! It’s so tacky looking! The Mother of Dragons really let us down - maybe she’ll pull it out next year when GOT is over.

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Michelle Wolf.

I can’t decide if the bodice looks more like Maleficent’s head or cat-eye glasses, which would make her boobs the eyeballs, which is not something anyone wants to have said about what they wear to an awards show.

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Tiffany Haddish.

I know I know I know I know I know, this is the it girl, I love her so much - I really do!! But this dress is a PROBLEM. Remember those big, colorful, circular parachutes that you used to play with in gym class in elementary school and all your classmates would hold onto the outsides and lift it up at the same time? …mmhmm. I know she’s honoring her dad’s culture, but that doesn’t make this a good dress. Not her fault, she’s still the best, but…PE parachute.

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Ellie Kemper.

Another fave of mine, but I think she slipped in a vat of old tea. It looks like a Project Runway design where the theme was “Breakfast Beverages.” It’s the same color as her head/skin/lips/hair. Have I said enough? K.

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Scarlett Johannessenenenennnnn

Her last name is impossible to spell and I’m too lazy to Google it. You’re not nominated, you’re not a Kardashian, and that Balmain silhouette is officially O-V-E-R. “Oh my dress is barely hanging onto my body oops there it goes!” Girl, pull up ya shoulder straps and go back home.

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JVN, Tan France, and Karamo Brown

WHY must you guys disappoint me so?! Bobby and Antoni get a pass. And I’m not hating simply because these three guys have avant garde looks - I’m hating because they are also awful. JVN - I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, but we do not need to see your chest every single time you step onto a red carpet. Sheer is amaze, but let’s add some variety. Tan, you look like a Chanel vision except that suit reads as very “daytime” and is made even clunkier by the random addition of a heavy black boot and black bowtie. And Karamo…oh my. It’s like equestrian mixed with aging socialite mixed with…someone who wears a pocket watch. Strugs. To. Func.

And finally, for this year’s WRETCHEST OF THEM ALL…


drum roll please

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Amy Sherman-Palladino.

What the HOT HELL.

She can’t decide if she wants to be the magician or the magician’s assistant.

This is the most annoying outfit I’ve ever seen. Begging for people to think she’s adorable and kitschy when in reality she appears to have walked into a costume shop whilst on mushrooms. I get that hats are your thing, lady, but this is HORRIFYING. Don’t try to win me over with your quirkiness. I live in Asheville, okay? I regularly see a man who walks down the street in a chicken costume FOR NO REASON. He doesn’t work at a chicken store. He just feels like it. You’re not impressing me. You are also pretty annoying and both your speeches were very “I’m a 13-year-old theater kid, LOVE ME!!!!”

And her hose were ripped.

…and that hat.

Don’t look at it too long. It wounds the eyeballs.

That’s it for me, kids - see you soon. Keep your fingers crossed that only one nurse is taken out with Mac’s unbelievable geyser of urine.

Miss America 2.0? 2.No. A Review.

Ohhhhhh the re-branding, y'all. It was EVERYWHERE. 

Each year, my mom and I hunker down to watch the pageant. This year, with all the buzz surrounding Miss America 2019, it was a particularly juicy and interesting watch - full of mis-steps and moments that made me say, "Huh." As my mother put it, "Every year I hold out hope that it'll be a little better." I'm afraid there were lots of disappointments, with a few great moments still shining through. 

But I'm also 154 years old and hate change. 

We began with an intro that featured all the contestants in casual wear making it crystal clear to viewers that this was not your grandmother's Miss America. They stood in groups and said words like, "Smart." and "Empowered." and "Commanding." It was eye roll-inducing and set the tone for what was a really self-congratulatory evening. During the parade of states, we got treated to one young lady who bragged about having a "certificate in leadership." 

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Instead of the traditional swimsuit competition, the Top 15 were asked questions by their fellow competitors. As is always the case, some questions were harder-hitting than others, but this portion did give the women a chance to really shine. I have to say, it's been a while since I remember seeing a group of super articulate, whip-smart gals up there representing. Almost without exception, they answered their questions thoroughly and within the allotted time. A glaring outlier was the ultimate winner, Miss New York Nia Franklin, whose answer was fumble-y and not great. 

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We then moved on to what USED TO BE EVENING GOWN and is now some wretched excuse for evening gown called "Red Carpet," in which the formerly elegant and gorgeous beauty walk was turned into a weird boppy strut down a fake red carpet and then harangued by an E! News commentator in a thinly veiled "tell us about your platform" moment. This part of the competition didn't need a re-think, but apparently Gretchen Carlson and her minions didn't want to leave a single element of the pag untouched. It was so silly and teenager-y, turning what was once a show-stopper into a glorified pep rally. This part may have been the most disappointing to me. 

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Talent did receive an upgraded feature: instead of putting all the remaining competitors on stage to await their fate in front of the crowd, the new pageant wisely held all the girls backstage and announced them one by one, the way it ought to be. In the old format, there would always be more girls on stage than there were spaces in the talent competition, so a few poor souls would end up left alone, not selected, on stage in their talent costumes, ultimately dismissed and embarrassed. I love that we've gone back to the original talent format. 

And y'all, there were some DOOZIES. Talent is most people's favorite part of competition because it really gives you a glimpse into the girl's personalities in a way no other element of competition does. WOW. Wowowowowowow. Apart from the obviously excellent (Callie Walker and Bridget Oei), and the just-okay-but-passable (Nia Franklin), we were treated to talents that ranged from disastrous to cringe-worthy and back again.

Massachusetts' Gabriela Taveras' vocal "Rise Up" was one of the most difficult things I've listened to in a while, so much so that I initially wondered if the on-stage monitors had failed because she was so wildly under pitch throughout the song. Alas, Nia Franklin's vocal later in the show shattered that theory and we were all left with ringing in our ears. My phone exploded during Taveras' talent with fellow watchers complaining about the performance. She couldn't "Rise Up" to the right note, I'm afraid. (I mean that joke was just right there, y'all, come on. Cut me a break.) Somehow, she advanced to Top 5 anyway.

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Two of the contestants performed original spoken word pieces and I...can't. Listen, slam poetry is one thing. It's tricky, crafty, it rhymes, it's punchy and powerful - these were...not. Ellery Jones' monologue of an original poem was nice, but more suited for a talent show in grade school. And Jessica Shultis' dramatic monologue detailing her experience as a pediatric cancer survivor could have been tasteful and powerful, but was instead angst-ridden, over-wrought, and over-performed. Screaming at the audience about their mortality and fake-crying your way through a talent don't often make for the best result. I think she scared those poor judges. She scared me from thousands of miles away. 

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On-stage question was predictable, as the format here doesn't often change. The answers were, again, pretty solid (with the exception once again of Nia Franklin, the ultimate winner, who used "overcoming pricey rent" as a response to, "How has being the candidate from New York prepared you for the job of being Miss America?"). The worst question had to do with men who father children biologically but aren't around to raise them, and was suspiciously asked to a contestant who was raised by a single mother (even though the questions were supposed to have been "randomly chosen"). 

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And poor Cara Mund, whose name and presence were conspicuously absent throughout the pageant until the very end, was awkwardly trotted out for a final walk that couldn't have been any longer than 90 seconds. The crowd was roaring for her, but it felt like watching a prisoner step out for their mandatory "outdoors time." With the year she's had and how public she's been about her terrible experience, this cap to her year felt disingenuous and super weird. 

When Nia was crowned, there was no "There She Is, Miss America." She walked back and forth to some generic pop song, then was interviewed Superbowl-style on stage. It was weird. And Carrie Ann...well:

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Overall, it was such a disappointment. The pageant is what it is. Women who compete in it know that they're going to be in swimsuits. They expect to have the full glory of a slower, more elegant walk in the gown they've chosen. If we really wanted to empower all women and make the pageant relevant, why wouldn't we keep swimsuit and offer it to all body types and shapes? Wouldn't that be more empowering? And by making evening gown into a chipper little skip down a faux red carpet, aren't we sending the message that you can't be both elegant and also relatable?

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I don't know, you guys. Maybe I'm a curmudgeon. But I want swimsuit back, dammit, and I want Miss America to be what it used to be: beauty (both inner and outer), class, grace, and poise. Because none of those things preclude intelligence, feminism, or cultural relevance.  

Did you watch?? What did you think? 

PS - Callie Walker was a living dream and made me proud to be from Alabama. And also should've easily made it into Top 5 over that ear-bleeding song from MA. Okay I'm really done now.