How I Reduce My Carbon Footprint, and Where I Need to Improve

Between the alarming amounts of chemicals and plastic found in sea creatures (many of which we eat) to trash islands bigger than my home state of New Jersey, I think it’s pretty clear that we could all be a bit kinder to our environment. Enter cliche: it’s the only one we’ve got.

I’m a type-A person who loves a challenge, so I was first inspired to reduce my waste about a year ago when I stumbled across a video of someone who tried to go completely waste-free for a month. While I’ll never be one of those totally waste-free people or a mason-jar’s-worth-of-trash-in-a-year gal, I have been trying to reduce my carbon footprint in small ways. Along the way I’ve also noticed that living (or trying to live) this way saves money and allows a lot fewer chemicals to come through my door.

Here are things I do to waste less: 

  • I don’t buy paper towels. I thought this one was going to be really hard. Truthfully, it wasn’t. I have a ton of Trader Joe’s kitchen cloths which I use for cleaning dishes, wiping down the counter, etc. (honestly, an old, cut-up t-shirt will do, too!) I also put a bunch of kitchen towels/rags on my registry, which I was so thankful to receive. I keep a little bin at the end of my kitchen counter, and when I’m done using a towel/cloth, I just drop it in. Then, at the end of each week I throw them all in the wash and dryer.
  • I don’t use plastic water bottles. You know, the one-and-done kind. I have two water filters in my fridge, and a couple of stainless steel water bottles that Mitch and I use. This is the easiest step toward less waste, in my opinion, and it almost instantly saves you money.
  • I don’t use plastic bags at the supermarket — and so far, nothing bad has happened as a result of oranges rolling around my cart at the supermarket, bumping into the sweet potatoes. I tried the whole reusable produce bag thing, but then honestly, kept forgetting them and ended up tossing the fruit and veggies in anyway. When it’s time to check out, I bring my own re-usable bags. These bags hold way more than your traditional supermarket plastic bags, which ends up meaning fewer trips to unpack. That’s a win-win to me!
  • I’m just starting to dabble in the world of solid shampoo bars, safety razors and conditioner bars (and obviously, unpackaged bars of soap are in use too!). I’m not too far into using this stuff yet, so I can provide and update/reviews at a later date!
  • Continuing on the soap conversation, I received a really nice glass soap dispenser for my wedding. I now fill that up with a huge jug of soap that I buy and keep under my sink. It’s not completely zero-waste, but one big bottle produces far less waste than the million other one we’d use throughout the year otherwise.
  • For my bridal shower, I kindly asked that people skip the wrapping paper. It was another small gesture, but probably prevented at least two garbage bag’s worth of waxy paper from being created that day. Plus, it just gets ripped off, anyway!

 

Where I’m still falling short: 

  • Fam, I love me some Lara bars. And they’re just so darn convenient to buy a few and keep them in your desk drawer at work, or grab on the way out of the house. I’ve made my own similar energy bites before (and they were delicious), but I’m finding that with work and school and volunteer stuff and my crazy busy schedule, I’m not able to pull out the Vitamix to make them as often as I used to.
  • I have a gas-guzzling Honda Accord that I drive every single day. And there’s tons of extra crap in it weighing it down that I should really clean out. But who wants to clean a car after a long day of work?! (If you find such a person, please send them my way, and I will welcome them in to my life with open arms)
  • Amazon shopping. Needless to say, I get my money’s worth out of my yearly Amazon Prime membership. Whenever Mitch or I need anything, it’s just so easy to click click click and have it on our doorstep in two days. But that also results in a recycling pile of boxes as big as me. Sigh.

I’d love to hear the small steps that others are taking to reduce their carbon footprint, and if they have any suggestions for my downfalls!

 

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Slow-WOD Sundays

Mitch asked me to come to the gym with him this morning and workout before he had a personal training client come in. I had no kind of plans today, besides maybe packing up some lunches for the week ahead, so I tagged along.

The only issue was that I wasn’t particularly in the mood to work out. So I hopped on the assault bike for a slower-than-molasses kilometer, hoping I’d think of a workout enticing enough to get me motivated to break a sweat. But nothing came. My ankle had been feeling a bit twingey the past few days, so I knew whatever I did had to be low impact.

So, I pulled out a sled and started pulling it across the turf, again, with no sense of urgency. But instead of doing a million reps with a million pounds as fast as humanly possible, I focused more on core engagement and even pulls. I then moseyed on over to the kettlebells and dumbbells and did some Turkish get ups, increasing in weight, while taking plenty of time to rock out to some old bluesy rock music between each. Then came mobility — lots of it.

Many people might call this an active rest day. Others might not call it any kind of on day at all. Could I have went harder, faster, heavier? Yeah, probably. But honestly, there was something super relaxing and reliving about doing what I did or did not feel like doing, with absolutely no pressure attached.

Perhaps this can roll over into other parts of my life that I commonly stress about. Messy house? Clean the kitchen and leave the rest for tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll just do one dish, which is still more productive than leaving the whole pile untouched.

Ugly and Proud! (and Delicious)

I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this review. This is pure excitement for fruits and veggies! 

I fell prey to an Instagram ad.

I was scrolling through Instagram a few weeks ago, and saw an ad pop up in my feed about this new brand called Misfits Market. The ad was simple, direct and featured a cross-legged carrot. I was intrigued, so clicked to learn more. And then, they caught me (and I’m not even mad).

Misfits Market is a new business based in the Philadelphia area that collects organic produce from the area that wouldn’t have made the cut in the supermarket. Think twisty carrots, ugly carrots and apples that ~gasp~ might have a bruise or dent. So, instead of wasting the produce, Misfits Market sells it. It’s a home-delivery service that will ship you 12-15 pounds of local, organic produce for about $20.  What. a. deal. (and your girl loves a good deal!)

I was so excited when my first box came! There was a TON of fruits and vegetables– apples, avocados, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, pears (the most delicious pears ever), onions and more. The kicker? None if it was really that ugly. None of it was gross or unusable. The pears seemed to be perfect. The carrots did not have a typical supermarket taper to them, but were really fresh and delicious. The broccoli was slightly smaller than your run-of-the mill broccoli.

The food was awesome, too! I used most of the veggies in a soup I made with home made bone broth. I ate a pear basically right out of the box, and had one the next few days at work. The only downside is that they don’t tell you exactly what will be in the box, so if you’re super type-A and love to plan out all your meals to a T, this might not be for you. Also, they use all recyclable/compostable packaging, which is awesome. However, I did find some of the faux-plastic bags that the veggies came in to have a bit of an odd smell. But once I took them out and tossed them in the fridge, the smell didn’t linger at all.

But overall, I love love love the service, and would highly recommend it to anyone in the New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Delaware area!

If you’re interested in trying it, you can get $5 off your first box (which brings the already affordable price down even lower!) when you use this link http://misfitsmarket.refr.cc/gabrielleu

I’m Back (and Married!)

I’m back! Things got crazy over the last month or so as my fiance (now husband!) and I were putting the final touches on our wedding, which was last weekend. If you ever planned a wedding — or know anyone who has — you know how meticulous and consuming it can get. Luckily, the day went amazingly well. We had a gorgeous sunny November day. Everyone looked great, and danced like crazy! The professional photos did not come in yet, but so far all the photos from friends and family are great, and I can’t wait until the photographer’s come in.

While Nov. 3 felt like a fairytale, there are some things that I wish I did differently on the day of and leading up to the event:

  1. Start earlier. We were engaged for almost 2 years, so for the longest time, it felt like I had forever to plan my wedding. Then life happened, and I got hurt, work got crazy for me and school got crazy for Mitch. The next thing you know, we were three months out with no clue what kind of flowers we wanted.
  2. Realize that booking the florist (and other vendors) is important, but the exact kind of flowers won’t make a huge difference. Many brides and grooms (myself included) get caught up in minor details like flowers and accessories and what not. Looking back, when I think of my wedding, my mind goes to marrying the guy of my dreams and dancing the night away, not how many flowers and candles were on each table (and truthfully, I still don’t know).
  3. Eat all the things at cocktail hour. I took cocktail hour as my time to talk to everyone and say hello, thank you, etc. I don’t regret that at all, but I now realize that nobody would care if the bride chatted it up with them while eating a pulled pork crostini (which I heard were amazing!)

Would I ever want to go through the stress of planning a wedding again? No, definitely not. But as for re-living the day, I would do it ten times over!

Trader Joe’s Fall Haul

There’s a Trader Joe’s on my way to work that I’ll often stop at just as it opens. (What, like you don’t stand outside the doors of TJ’s at 7:58 , anxiously awaiting its opening on a regular basis?)

As always, I first headed straight to the free sample of a cookie and mini coffee cup, and then grabbed all my usuals: Everything But the Bagel, organic frozen acai packets, etc. But then I noticed some new products … some new seasonal products. Nothing turns me into a corny ball of nostalgia and bliss like things that smell like pumpkin and apples and whatnot. So, I picked up a vanilla pumpkin candle (how could I not? It smelled great and was only $3.99) and pumpkin body butter. For my desk at work, I also picked up an actual pumpkin (seriously guys, I said that fall brings out the cheesy in me), though that was short-lived because it was dropped and got a crack in it and started to smell terrible. But to counter the gross smell that the pumpkin left on my hands, I also picked up a bottle of apple-scented hand soap.

Some other non-fall things I grabbed were:

  • Dried mango slices. While these have no added sugar, they do carry a hefty amount of sugar on their own. But they are so. freaking. good. So good that I definitely ate more than one serving that day at work, and so good that I probably should not add this to the list of things I pick up once a week on my TJ stops.
  • Jojoba Oil. I’m trying to transition into a cleaner, more simple skin care routine, so I decided to add this to my arsenal. I use a super small amount of this on my face after showering, and it feels so moisturizing, and is not heavy and oily like coconut oil. Though I do still use coconut oil on my face at night time when I’m feeling particularly dry.
  • Roasted, salted cashews. For my snack drawer at work, to prevent me from getting hangry at 3:00 p.m. and wandering over to the vending machine.

Ultimately, my trips to TJs include a little bit of everything. I’d love to hear other people’s favorite products!

Pumpkin Chili

Fall is by far my favorite season, so as soon as September hits, I like to pull out my slow cooker to make my favorite recipe: pumpkin chili!

Not only is this crazy delicious, but it is also pretty cheap and easy to make, and is one of those things you can set and forget in the morning and come home after work to an awesome home made meal. Or, prep it on Sunday to get rid of a case of the Sunday Scaries!

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 lb. of grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of pureed pumpkin
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 small yellow onion, chipped
  • spices: paprika, chilli powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes

Making it is so simple, that it almost feels funny to write out the steps!

  1. Brown the beef in a skillet. It does not have to be cooked all the way through.
  2. Add that to the crock pot, and then dump in the tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, celery, beans (drain them first!), chopped onion and spices. I don’t measure my spices, and you can definitely mix it up depending on how strong you want the flavor/spice.
  3. Mix it up
  4. Set the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4.
  5. Enjoy!

 

 

On Freak Outs and Muscle-Ups

It was a random Thursday night and all the CrossFit classes were done for the day. I hung back, standing in the middle of the rig, looking up at the pull-up bar. I was nervous.

Just do a muscle-up. Just jump up, and do it. 

At the time of my injury, I had been doing CrossFit for about four years — three of them were spent ripping up my hands, pulling to low or turning over too slow (or not at all) in an attempt to achieve a much-coveted bar muscle-up (BMU). I finally got my first one during the CrossFit open in workout 16.3. I’ve never hit the lottery, but I’d imagine it’s a similar feeling to being fully locked out at the top of the rig, surrounded by awesome friends and coaches cheering you on.

From that day until my injury, I worked on my BMUs, improving the smoothness of the movement (no chicken-winging here!), and would spent almost all open gym sessions listening to my fiance, Mitch’s, guidance on how to take the next step and get a ring muscle-up. Mitch is kind of like our gym’s muscle-up guru.

And then I got hurt.

Being out of the gym for so long was obviously a huge detriment to my strength, but my psyche was messed up, too.

So on that Thursday night, Mitch pulled up a 20-inch box and placed it in the middle of the rig. I meticulously chalked up my hands, admittedly procrastinating, and then stepped up on to the box. Scaled muscle-ups from a box, in theory, should have been no problem for me. I wrapped my over-chalked hands on the pull-up bar. Bent my knees and got into a hollow-rock position. Pulled to the bottom of my chest.

“You’re pulling low enough. Just get your body over the bar,” Mitch said, referring to the part of the muscle-up where you use the connection point of your body and the bar as a fulcrum, and get your chest over the bar so that you can push up to fully extended arms, thus completing the movement.

I knew I needed to turn over. I knew how to turnover. And ultimately, I knew that if I did, I physically wouldn’t have too much an issue getting to full lock out above the bar. So I pulled again. No turnover.

I pulled again, this time getting my body over the bar. The physically hard part was over.

“Yes! Just lock out!” Mitch said, as I came back down to the box, in tears.

“I want to go home.”

“Why? You were so close. C’mon you know you can do it.”

“I cant. Not today.”

As I dragged my box back to the corner of the gym where it belongs, I began to cry. It was a mix of fear from being so high on the bar to total frustration at no longer being able to do something I worked so hard to do. Mitch comforted me, and we went home, ate dinner and went to sleep, trying to focus our minds on something else for the time being. Then I woke up the next morning and added a new goal to my list.