Monday, May 30, 2011

Health education with Dr T. Colin Campbell - science confusion


I'm now well into my stage 2 study of Diseases of Affluence from Dr T Colin Campbell's Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition and it's really ramping up.  A lot of my writing energy is going into my nutrition study, and here's another sample of the thought-provoking discussion from the first stage, Nutrition Fundamentals.   These discussions are really making me get my stories straight.


Significant design differences between the China Project and the Harvard Nurses' Health Study led researchers to some very different conclusions. Controversy reigns at the highest levels of scientific inquiry. Describe to a confused acquaintance how you evaluate contradictory science to guide your dietary choices.


These days, you can find a study that says ANYTHING about food and health. You will hear countless experts with the secret to your health problems, and they will cite the studies to prove it. Lots of people I know have just given up trying to find any answers. “Everything causes cancer.” “There are no bad foods; I just use moderation.”

I believe that food affects your health profoundly, and I believe we already know the answers to the major health problems in Western society. How am I so certain with all those contradictory studies out there? The media loves to give you the latest sensation. Well, after 15 years I have a few guidelines when I hear the “latest” about nutrition.

Who did it?
A laboratory is just a laboratory, but who is running the study? What is their professional history and what are their credentials in nutrition? Most importantly, are they independent health researchers, or are they employees of some sector of industry? A cynical fact is that if there is food industry money behind a study, there is a bias toward a study result that favours the industry.

A classic example is the study on cholesterol level and eggs; used to “prove” that eggs don’t raise cholesterol when in fact they are a major contributor (along with other animal foods) to existing high cholesterol levels.

Who confirmed the results?
For most studies, the press release comes before any independent review. Instead, look for peer-reviewed studies, where peer experts of the researchers examine the methodology and results. These peers have a responsibility to report biases and mistakes in the study.

The doctors I trust: Dr Campbell, Dr McDougall, Dr Ornish, and more, all have multiple peer-reviewed studies in respected journals. Other qualified doctors who promote dietary advice which contradicts the plant-based diet never have peer-reviewed studies supporting them.

How many studies?

One study is one study – it returns results for the particular variables under inspection, and that’s all.

For example, the Nurses’ Health Study indicated that reducing animal fat in the diet did not improve breast cancer rates. This has widely been quoted as “fat levels make no difference to breast cancer,” which contradicts all epidemiological evidence about fat consumption but is reassuring to people who want to sell high-fat foods or eat them.

Yet more accurately and importantly, this study established that eating the same or more total animal food (with its protein and cholesterol), even with lower fat levels, contributed to breast cancer. And that result matches Dr Campbell’s own laboratory research on animal protein promoting cancer.

For me, the media darlings, the “groundbreaking” studies that contradict all previous evidence, are automatically suspect. If all previous studies say X, and a new study says Y, odds are the new study is biased or mistaken.

Real food?

Experts I trust like Dr Campbell and Dr McDougall believe that science’s preference for isolating and studying individual elements can lead to misunderstandings for nutrition in real people.

  • studies that involve isolated nutrients (e.g., a vitamin or a type of fat) and
  • studies on diets made up of foods that are composed of refined food elements instead of whole foods
often return unhelpful or even misleading results (see Nurses’ Health Study) in the context of nutrition and health. However, studies like the China Health Study show consistent results for dietary health. These results can also be reliably applied to individual patients, as Dr McDougall and Dr Ornish do, with verifiable success.

Say no to drugs

Lots of health news is about amazing new drugs to treat the sad variety of disease we suffer from. While drugs can be effective, and sometimes necessary, remember that the media release will never discuss the side effects that all powerful drugs cause along with their stated purpose.

I already know through verified studies that a plant-based diet is more successful at treating heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes than any drug, with no side effects. I already know from personal experience that it is an effective longterm weight loss strategy (which no drug is).

There may be more to learn from dietary research, but I don’t need to wait around for it. I know enough to improve my health now.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Secondhand smarts - bagging it

Don't miss the previous entries in the Secondhand Smarts series...

Ever since I found a designer OiOi nappy backpack at my local charity shop (bought for $2, sold for $50), I always take a few minutes to check out the handbag section for other unappreciated goodies.

I'm a backpack fan rather than a handbag fanatic, as carrying gear on my back with two hands still free is about the best plan around.

My current backpack is from Kathmandu - it's as fashionable as a rockclimbing harness and almost as grubby.  Of course, it can carry at least 7 library books (hardback!) or an emergency lot of groceries.  But Cinderella would never take it to the ball.

But now I have a new handsfree device:
For a mere $7, I've plucked an elegant rose with a suggestively fashionable label to strap on when I expect a more civilised and less juvenile outing.

Is it really Nina Ricci?  For $7, who cares?

Anyway, it's the branding that keeps this from being the ultimate minimalist backpack.

I wore this on my adventure, miniMum in ConsumerLand.  Details coming soon...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Animals, (m)eat animals



It couldn't happen again.  Could it?

This week, the European Union is voting on whether to lift the ban on feeding animal by-products to pigs, chickens and farmed fish.

Why, oh why?

The discussion is not based on any new discoveries or new levels of safety.  Simply:
"...concerns escalate about how the world will continue to feed itself against a backdrop of rapidly inflating food prices and a soaring population. At the moment, animal feed producers import vast quantities of soya from countries in South America, grown on land that could otherwise be used to feed people living there. Demand for soya-based animal feed is also fuelling the destruction of the Amazon rainforest."
In other words, the usual answer:  money.

Who likes the idea?

Even considering this move is shocking.  From New Zealand on SAFE's Facebook page:
"I lived through this in the early 90s on the Isle of Wight UK! All my neighbours were  farmers and had to burn their livestock. We could not go for any of our beautiful walks for a year! The only good thing is it made me a vegetarian living through the horror. It was a most awful time for us all and the poor animals. We were all devastated. Good God have they learnt nothing???"

"We are still seeing symptoms of CJD back from the 80s and it's because I was in mad cow country that I'm not allowed to give blood here. This can't ever happen again."

"I'm not a vegetarian but I think this would be something that would make it a far more palatable option for me."
What a telling point!  Whatever the EU may decide this week, this backward step into filth is not a solution to the food problem.  As a keen vegan activist, I still believe that most people won't decide to give up meat for the sake of the animals or because plants have more antioxidants and fibre than meat.  But this is yet another sign of an inevitable tipping point:  "acceptable" meat is not sustainable.

Even the farmers are unhappy about this proposal.  The marketers may prefer to blame "simplistic" consumer behaviour for the likely failure of this strategy, but in the real world people don't think chickens should eat corn and not ground up animal waste (PAP) just because the media tells them.

And "many animals are carnivorous"?  It may be news to Rosemary Moon (a food writer and consultant to Waitrose) that these livestock animals are not carnivores any more than humans are (although like humans, they are certainly opportunistic eaters that will eat almost anything available).

What a waste

However, Ms Moon hits a bullseye with
"We simply can't afford to go on wasting food, for humans or animals, in the way we do."
Spot on, Rosemary.  Let's stop wasting food for humans by feeding it to animals.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Decluttering, meet reorganising

I set my decluttering sights on this (the shelf with the ugly paper piles of pretty kid artwork).  This is highly visible clutter - seen all the way from the dining room through the kitchen.
I have been reducing toys so my big plastic box of "surprise" toys is nearly empty.  We have enough hidden nooks full of great toys. I moved the best art into that box, kept a few for artistic wrapping paper, and the rest generated some heat and entertainment in the fire last night. 

I really enjoyed looking through all that art and will enjoy the memories for years to come. But I'm happy for them to be in a closet instead of in full view.

Much better!  I'm now thinking hard about what objects deserve to be stored so visibly.  Might we be heading toward a shelf disappearance a la the infamous cube shelves?

Success inspires success

I love my son's student desk, but it doesn't get used much due to regular snowfalls of paper clutter.  I already learned not to store things in the tempting empty spot underneath because it is hard to get to.  After failing to enlist some shorter people to help me retrieve crayons from underneath, I finally took some time to plan.  Clutter is always going to fall off the desk, but the desk can be somewhere easier.

Another after shot is reborn as a before:
 And after quite a bit of grunt work...

Both Alex and I can get to his desk, Nadia has her own space, and when things fall into the corner by the window, I can easily reach them.

Best of all...

Build it, and they will come....

Health education with Dr T. Colin Campbell - the plant-based message


I'm thrilled to have passed the first stage of Dr T Colin Campbell's Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition!

I've corresponded with students all over the world searching for nutrition enlightenment for a fascinating variety of reasons.  I've also viewed wonderful lectures by Dr Campbell and Dr Pam Popper.

Next, I study Diseases of Affluence.  But first, here's another installment of the thought-provoking discussion on this course.


Dr. Campbell proposes that there are no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better obtained by plant-based foods. Explain to an interested acquaintance how science supports this premise.  Consider how eating a 'plant-based diet' differs from 'being vegan'.

My Answer

When you've eaten food from animals all your life, a plant-based diet can seem very strange. But did you know that every single nutrient that comes from animals is available from plants and is better for you? I haven't had animal foods for 15 years and I'm strong and healthy - and have two children who have (almost) never eaten animal foods either.

I know you hear you need meat, milk, and eggs for good quality protein.

But almost any plant food has protein, and some beans are just as high protein as any meat - but no cholesterol or saturated fat, and lots cheaper! Plant foods easily supply a human's need for protein. Science has shown that that the protein in meat raises your cholesterol levels even more than the saturated fat and cholesterol. And animal protein helps cancers grow. Healthy people all over the world eat a diet low in animal protein, and people who eat lots of animal protein have high rates of diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Most of us worry about our fat intake and don't know how much is actually healthy or needed. It's actually pretty easy: animals have more fat, and that is the saturated fat that is linked with heart disease and stroke and plants have not only less fat but it is also the healthier unsaturated kind.

Other essential nutrients like iron, calcium, and B12 are also obtainable without the cholesterol or saturated fat from animals.

And all these plant foods also have things you need that animal foods don't have at all: complex carbohydrates metabolise perfectly for natural energy, fibre fills you up and cleans you out, and antioxidants help you stay younger and even fight cancer growth.

You can live a long and active life like so many people around the world on a plant-based diet, and have a much lower risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Plant based diet and veganism

Proponents of a plant-based diet consider its nutritional advantages to be of primary scientific importance. Dr Campbell makes some mention of the environmental benefits as well. Like Dr. McDougall, though, he intentionally avoids the labels "vegetarian" or "vegan". A plant-based diet does not imply any restriction on the use of animal products for non-food uses.

Vegans may avoid animal foods (and often all other animal products) primarily because of ethics surrounding animal rights. They may have no specific interest in nutritional health. Other vegans give equal weight to animal rights, nutritional health, and the environment.

Common Ground
Although vegans may not have health as their first priority, they have as a population achieved the improved health which is the primary aim of plant-based diet supporters. Vegans have known that improved health is a natural effect of their diet centuries before any scientists could watch cancer cells grow in a laboratory.

The willingness of vegetarians and vegans to suffer negativity and persist in their eating patterns is what has brought an animal-free diet to the foreground. What appears in a restaurant, even on a plane? Vegan and vegetarian options. Jeff and Sabrina Nelson's website is called VegSource "Your source for all things vegan and vegetarian!" and it has done more than any other I know to promote the plant-based health message. Even from doctors who dislike the vegan label!

The distaste for those people who avoid animal foods because they care about the animals reminds me of the point I made in my last discussion post: people generally are more comfortable with selfish motivations. But there are always many right paths to the right goal. Ethical vegans enjoy improved health, and plant-based diet aficionados are also helping save animals.

Strength and success
As mentioned in this VegSource video on doctors who disagree, success will come from celebrating our common ground and working together, not focusing on our differences and dividing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Use it up! Getting saucy...

It was a tough job, but our family were up to the challenge!  Those marshmallow people are history.

I can see that bulk buying holds a lot of appeal for me.  My next challenge?  This...
Specifically, TWO of these!

Yes, that's nearly 6kgs of fruit puree to use.

I love specials, and I couldn't resist these in the discount bin at our local bulk shop.  I have visions of using things like this in place of placing more expensive items in our pantry (like jam).

But I'm alone in my visions... While DS enjoys applesauce in expensive foil single servings, he turned up his nose at this (actually quite tasty) substitute in Tupperware.

But I have now opened ginormous tin #1 and am mixing it in with yoghurt and my morning porridge. Nom, nom, nom....

I also do use this to make savoury sauces more hearty and flavourful (instead of a spoonful of jam).

I'm wide open to suggestions - anyone got any fantastic recipes that use fruit puree?

The Moral of the Story
When shopping, I need to be less visionary on behalf of my victims...I mean, family.  I actually do know that they don't like experimenting and substituting like I do.  So I must scale back such experiments based on my own consumption levels, not family-sized.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Health education with Dr T. Colin Campbell


I'm well on my way to finishing the first of three segments to the Certificate of Plant Based Nutrition, content thanks to Dr T Colin Campbell.

It's been rewarding to learn what Dr Campbell has chosen as the essence of his message and to discuss it with the tutors and other people with similar interests.

Course evaluation not only requires knowledge about nutrition facts but includes answering questions about nutrition as it exists with real people in the real world.  I'll share with you the first one and my answer (which has been accepted).

There's been lots of great discussion on this question - what would you add?


Based on Dr. Campbell's State of Health lecture, the eater bears much of the responsibility for their health outcomes. Some people are concerned that sharing this information may come across as "blaming the victim". Describe your strategy for sharing this information in a way you think would be most likely to provoke interest in the merits of a plant-based diet and least likely to stimulate a dismissive or defensive reaction. Include specific information from the lecture that you think would be particularly motivating.

My Answer

I disagree with the stated premise that the eater bears much of the responsibility for the diseases.

As John Robbins wrote in his preface to The China Study, we live in a toxic food environment. Because the eater is primarily presented with toxic food choices by food suppliers, and the government and medical professionals are generally complicit with those food suppliers, I would place the government, the food suppliers, and medical professionals at the head of the line to bear the responsibility.

Personal choice exists, but the choices made are always in a larger context of choices available.

It is still true that sharing information about healthier choices is often perceived as blaming the victim.

A positive strategy to share the message

Countries like New Zealand have a different (and less expensive) medical model than the US, but our medical model is also based on allopathic care: drugs, operations, doctors, hospitals. As eating and other lifestyle patterns mimic those of the US, so do the health problems and the wasted money on ineffective allopathic care.

Personal strategy

To lead someone to a place they didn't know they wanted to go, first go where they are, then show them how your path makes them into the person they want to be. Often, that person will then choose to join you!

My most successful strategy for discussing plant-based eating is via others' self interest: the health and financial aspects. These resonate across all demographics. Everyone understands the drive to be healthier, thinner, and financially secure, and admires anyone who shows success in these areas. Everyone would love to know that frightening diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke can actually be conquered.

The environmental and animal ethics aspects of plant-based eating are more likely to alienate than attract - people often resist the suggestion they should be responsible for impacts beyond the scope of their own person. They are more comfortable with a selfish motivation than a larger view - for themselves or others. Interestingly, most don't see that when you (selfishly) choose to improve your own health and financial situation, you also improve the world, and conversely, when you help your environment and its other residents, you also help yourself.

But I also believe personal interactions alone are not a successful strategy for spreading the word about plant-based nutrition. As in my introduction, every person in our society has been subjected to countless authoritative messages that contradict the plant-based message. Most people hearing a personal success story, no matter how amazing, will filter it through "what is already known" and discard it. Perhaps they might take a story seriously enough to discuss it with their doctor - who is likely to discourage them from fad diets that avoid any food groups entirely.

For successful penetration of the plant-food diet message, a larger social strategy is needed.

Social strategy

The larger social strategy must also exploit the natural tendency to ask "what's in it for me"?

 - Government intervention
Governments must discover that there is more value in a healthy population than in selling unhealthy food and then drugs to the sick population. This might be done by presenting statistics such as Dr Campbell does in Chapters 8, 9, and 10, as well as estimating lost value from production from those sick people.

They must be allies of health-supporting food production instead of toxic food and drugs, by investing our tax money into healthy food suppliers and their public promotion.

They must legislate in favour of healthy food instead of the reverse, and when necessary, ensure that medical professionals are promoting a healthy diet as a strong part of health care.

- Food suppliers
As well as government investment in healthy food suppliers and regulation of toxic food suppliers, as consumers we need to prioritise our spending as far as possible to keep healthy food suppliers in business and starve out the toxic food suppliers. Every food decision we make needs to have health as a major factor.

Clear food labelling (a suggestion is posted here) would go far to enable real consumer choice at the purchase level, as well as provide an incentive for food suppliers to avoid toxic food which would look bad on a label.

 - Health professionals
Medical professionals must be involved in this message. The financial incentives from drug companies to doctors must be prevented and toxic food ads should never be tolerated in a medical environment. As it is known that nutritional therapy works, what about financial incentives for doctors to cure patients using nutritional therapy?

I am heartened by the proliferation of involved doctors in the time I have been involved with this movement - McDougall, Esselstyn, Campbell, and more. These doctors use practical techniques to show people how to choose food and even cook it.

Now, we even see some encouraging signs that the government might legislate so doctors must study nutrition to practice. Perhaps this course could be required for their first year!

Secondhand smarts - style file

Second in the series of secondhand smarts:  the continuing stooory of how cool it is to shop secondhand...

Previously, it was just kid stuff.  Now, we're all grown up and ready to go out.  My supermum look needs some brushing up...

Check out these super-funky accessories - when I wear these, who notices porridge stains? 

I just love the African inspired purple set for special occasions, and that chunky ambery twist goes with almost everything in my wardrobe and is comfy enough to wear every day.

All this extra zing cost under $20.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Decluttering my own blog

A little cautionary tale...

When I began my blog in 2010 (in Blogger), I tried a few labels.  They looked like this:
kids minimalist tidy vegan books
I knew they weren’t working right but didn’t investigate much further, as I was WRITING!  Labels?  Don't bother me with details.  (Yes, as a professional writer, I duly hang my head in shame.  Information without accessibility is useless.)

Then VegSource's blogging tool said “Tags: please insert comma between tags.”


That makes sense.  Blindingly obvious now that I've been told.  Blogger...are you listening?

Fixing it up

With more than 100 posts over two years, labels are now a vital navigation tool.  I have great fun writing my headlines, but you readers (especially new readers) probably don't care what I wrote in, say, November 2010.  But you might want to see what I wrote about clutter or holidays.  Even I sometimes want to see what I wrote about food or the laundry.

And with more than 100 posts, it was an eye-crossing, finger-cramping chore over hours and days to fix the broken labels and apply new useful labels. (One important learning curve was making labels general enough to be useful.)

Now that I've fixed the labels, it's trivial to use them well on new posts.

New look @miniMum

Along with the new name and logo, you now also get a selection of labels for navigation.  I hope this increases your reading pleasure.  And apologies for taking so long to get rid of the clutter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Decluttering catchup

I wouldn't want to get behind on displaying all the items leaving our home for better homes...

I was given a beautiful crystal vase for my birthday, so I'm able to release the terracotta urn.

Since we have fewer things, I don't need these stacking storage baskets.  They are not my favourite choice in the first place as they seem to be pile attractors - more in the bedrooom and even more in the toyroom.

The kids keep growing out of their clothes, and nobody in our house needs a pink potty, even for emergencies!

Now I can sit back and enjoy less more.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Positively activist

Protesting at the WTO 

How do we remain positive and remain effective activists?

The world has far more things that need fixing that we could ever address, and news sources revel in the awful.  Good news is hard to find and is rarely covered in loving detail.

Many minimalists recommend a media diet - I don't watch TV news but this is because I can absorb so many more provoking stories per minute from the Internet than from TV.

When I am feeling less than cheerful, it is too easy to slam the rapid-fire outrage from the automated bad news server out to all available targets.

For my own sanity as well as maintaining social connections, I need to foster a sense of hope as well as a sense of righteous justice.

Positive Activism Plan
  • Seek out great news and share it.
  • Share bad news only along with ways to help
  • Work locally
  • Take positive action
This worthy discussion includes a positive activist’s manifesto and goals.

Check out these courageous Kiwis!

In deep water

A Greenpeace activist blocks deep sea oil exploration


For the birds

A New Zealander, Carl Scott, lived in a cage for 31 days to highlight the plight of caged hens.


He's now fundraising for SAFE's NoCages campaign -  don't be shy, donate today!

And more...

VegSource itself provides a healthy mix of activist story angles.  I felt uplifted when I heard about Dr. McDougall's success with his nutrition education bill.
The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.
– Ross H. Perot
My favourite free eCard site, care2, has a fascinating business model where free participation raises real money for real causes.  It also has an uplifting blog by its founder Randy Paynter.

Attitudes, Positively Critically

On the other hand, it was well worth 10 minutes to listen to lifetime activist Barbara Ehrenreich on why having a positive attitude is overrated.  It is a more balanced piece than I expected.

I especially enjoyed the grand finale:
"...we do have power - we have collective power that we can use to end a great deal of unnecessary suffering in the world."
I'm positive that's true!

How do you balance the fire of motivation with the strength of community?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Use it up!

DH loves this challenge!
I really like this Use it Up Challenge over at 365LessThings.
It's a focused challenge to get you going with free shopping at home.

I've missed the actual challenge, but I'm going to post my successes anyway.

For Alex's 5th birthday party (yes, he's now had his 6th), I bought a bulk bag of marshmallow peopley sort of thingies.*

While they were enjoyed at the party, they weren't a hit as leftover treats with the family.  Since then, they have lurked in the pantry and settled into a large colourful sticky sugary lump.  Amazingly, no ants have discovered the population.

I've excavated the remains and repurposed them to be used in hot chocolate, where their shape and stale condition don't matter.

*OK, OK, fine, DH, they're Eskimos!  How unPC....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scooting Past Forty - Leave Your Car at Home

That's forty years, not kilometres or miles.  I know a bicycle can easily do forty, but I've fallen in love with my grown up sized kick scooter.
It's cool, fast, and super green to scoot!  Robbie Williams and Jude Law have one, and so could you.
"The Micro Scooter has been lauded as the way for smart commuters to get about."
How I discovered scooting

My son got his scooter when somebody abandoned one on our property.  He loves it - it's solid and he really gets going on it, especially at a local skate park.  It has an adjustable handle, so both DH and I can also ride it.

It is much more fun to be out with riding kids when I get to ride too, and DS got tired of me borrowing his!  And another mother I know got herself an adult scooter to ride with her young daughter too.

So I went shopping.

Adult scooters
There is a wonderful range of adult and commuter scooters at micro scooters.   They are quite an investment, and I didn't know whether I would use it enough to justify this amount of money.

Instead I found a new scooter for about half the price on New Zealand's TradeMe which would easily support an adult weight and had good recommendations.

It's a very smooth ride and I'm very happy with my purchase.  When it wears out, I might get a micro scooter, since I do enjoy it so much that getting one that I can get replacement parts for will be worth while.

Why scoot?

A neighbour who is a runner said "That's cheating!" when she saw me on my scooter with DS.  But long distance scooting is a whole body weight bearing workout.

Really, truly, it is fun to zoom along.  And it means you can join in with your kids - and we all know how much they love that.

Practical Alternative Transport

I like walking, too.  But if I walk three kilometres to the local library and back, that's my whole childfree morning gone.  I love that I can scoot the same 3k in about 20 minutes and avoid using the car and get exercise at the same time.

I just scooted to the local supermarket about 1k away for a few essential things - in less than half an hour I got some exercise and shopped without kids.

  • A scooter is light and small and mine folds up.  So I can take it in the car and still have room for other things.  When I scoot somewhere, I can then carry it in my hand (no chains or special racks) or put it in a shopping trolley.  And I can push both my scooter and my three year old's scooter if I have to.
  • A scooter is the perfect public transport companion - scoot near or far to the bus stop or train station and carry it on with you.
  • You can ride a scooter on the footpath (I always give way to everybody else because it's the sensible thing to do)
  • When hills are too steep (and almost any hill is), or when it's too busy ahead to be safe, or any danger appears ahead, one step and you're off the scooter and walking.  And back on again just as easily.
  • You can use pedestrian crossings just as easily with this hop off maneuver.  And you should, because it's not a good idea to race oncoming traffic across the road on a scooter when a bump could leave you in the road.
Why not a bike like other grownups?
  1. I'm way out of practice.  The last time I was on a bike, I fell and broke a bone in my foot.  I honestly don't know if I'm bothered by that, but I've never gotten myself back into the habit.
  2. Good bikes are lots more expensive and take more room.
  3. Adults usually have to ride on the road with the traffic, and in Auckland, this scares me!
  • Use a strong, comfortable backpack so you can carry things when scooting.
  • A scooter with bigger wheels (>120mm) and a low platform is ideal.  The big wheels go faster and more smoothly, and the lower the platform, the less you are reaching down to push.
  • A folding scooter is worthwhile.  The shoulder strap on mine would be great if I were using it to get me between buses.  The kickstand is nice to have to keep your scooter looking nice..
  • Take all the time you need to get used to riding your scooter.  Confidence will come with practice, including learning to use your brake.  When I first rode my scooter, I immediately thought it was too fast, but I've adjusted.
  • Wear a helmet if you are riding in risky terrain.  At the moment I am risking riding without a helmet because my routes are suburban and I'm a super conservative rider.
  • Always be alert for dangers ahead!  Assume that your scooter will not ride safely over that curb, fallen branch, or gaping crack in the sidewalk, and slow down enough to hop off or steer around.  Only go faster when you know your route is smooth and well maintained.
Out and about

A lot of people watch me as I go by.  Whereas these may be all the rage in Japan, in suburban Auckland I'm on my own.  Expressions range from curious to frankly admiring, and quite a number are moved to say something positive.

If my example inspires just one other grownup to give it a try, that's just one more benefit!

Learning from my kids

I'm a big fan of learning from my kids.  And I'm thrilled at past forty to be acquiring this new skill for my brain and body.

But I scoot as cautiously as a little old lady, because I hope someday to be one.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More decluttering progress!

Now you see it...

and now it's gone!
What a great feeling!  I know these things will be useful to someone else.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Secondhand in the news!

Foster children only second best?
This proposal to allow foster children to buy clothes only from secondhand stores went outrage viral not many days ago.  This probably led to the hasty modification of the proposal.  I love to see local voices having an impact!

Forcing the issue
Nobody should be forced to buy only from secondhand stores (and I doubt enforcing such a scheme is practical or possible).

No, people should definitely only buy from secondhand stores because it's fun and a really smart thing to do with a limited clothing budget.  (If you have an unlimited one, please let me know, because I'd like to be your friend.)

Secondhand publicity 
I do thank State Sen Casswell for raising this issue, however clumsily, because when secondhand stores are discussed this widely, they are that much closer to mainstream acceptance.  That means more bargains for you and more money going to charities instead of retail outlets.

As a new regular feature, Secondhand Smarts, I'm going to show off the great finds from my secondhand treasure hunts. 

Secondhand Smarts
I won't have to force my kids to wear these beauties!
And for the brand conscious, don't miss that little Pumpkin Patch label on the blue guitar shirt.

Can you beat that?  Share your finds with me and I'll show them off too...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reduce your rubbish (and take out the trash!)

Ask yourself: Why not make the Grand Canyon a landfill?

Now that I've covered outer space exploration, why not look at space on Earth?

As an aspiring minimalist in a world of excess and extremes, I know that empty spaces represent both conscious choices and hard work.  Without attention, empty spaces fill up fast.
Like fractal geometry, at any scale, empty space has impact.

I value the space I have reclaimed in our house by removing objects that are not useful enough to stay.  And I'm quite frankly excited about our rubbish bin.

To our neighbours, on trash day

To you, the empty space in our trash bin is not worth a thought - except when you put your overflow into it.

Sometimes the empty space is our missing bin, because we only put our trash every other week.  Even our recycling bin stays echoingly empty for long periods of time.

I'm proud of that empty space.  It's no accident but a result of hundreds of individual choices we make.
Would you like to take out the rubbish less often?

Avoiding waste
  • Vegan - you can buy vegan foods with a whole range of packaging options, but we don't have meat-contaminated plastic packaging to deal with.  Or bones, which must be disposed of in even more packaging...or perhaps Photoshopped out.
  • Natural foods - less processed foods have less packaging
  • Home cooking - we do sometimes indulge in takeaway food and it excites the whole family, but for health and cost reasons, I keep a conscious tally of how often
  • Bulk buying - several kilos of cashews or raisins come freshly packed in a large ziploc bag instead of multiple disposable bags, and after we have used up the food, the ziploc bag can protect other foods (like bulk flour or oats)  or even a kid's puzzle.
  • Secondhand buying - the retail packaging is long gone and you often don't even need a bag to get it home.
  • No buying - keep items like soda and bottled water off your shopping list entirely and you are already ahead of the game.
Waste not destined for the rubbish
  • Composting - no food scraps go into our rubbish and almost none down the waste disposal.  The Auckland City Council runs free composting classes and perhaps your area does too.
  • Recycling - Auckland has made this trivial by providing bigger wheelie bins for recycling of all types than for rubbish.  Again due to our purchasing choices, it is usually put out every other collection period.
  • Burning - in the winter, we turn waste papers and paper packaging into heat.  The ashes go into the compost.
Why worry?  The council supplies these bins, and if we have space in ours, why not fill it with yours?  Well, the Grand Canyon is still empty, I suppose, so fill 'er up!
Now is also a great time to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.

A note on the Final Frontier
We've already made serious inroads into depositing unwanted junk in space:

"There is no federal restriction on the dumping of garbage into space.  In the absence of this regulation, space missions will continue to risk their longevity to suddenly significant pieces of scrap as small as a centimeter in length.   Based on the gathered evidence, dumping trash into space would, be and is, an unintelligent decision that causes many more problems than it could ever possibly solve.  Before further contaminating Earth’s orbit, more thought has to go into creating an efficient trash collection service or other means of improving the situation instead of continuing to add to it."
In other words, just like on Earth.

Yes, you make a difference!

Nobody would ask you to do all these things, all at once.  It has taken me all my life to become this odd.

@miniMum, is there just one waste habit you are not comfortable with today, that you could commit to change tomorrow?