Floating

Work deadlines barely met,
leisurely cup of coffee before and after lunch
becomes a full water bottle
because I’m thirsty again.
Self defense class turns into yoga—
strikes and strangles become
deep breaths and downward dogs because I so need the stretch.
The subtle sweat,
the tremor of tired wrists and calves
becomes a cool shower,
my week-old sunburn still showing on my shoulders.
Wet hair dries slowly on my back,
becomes blonde again,
as water turns to five glasses of red wine
on a front porch rocking chair with tacos,
and I feel the weight fall—
all that I have not done
becomes all that I still may do
Tomorrow.

A few hours forward and the rocking chair
becomes a bouncing back seat in a passenger van,
Pee Dee River bound—
the only woman on board.
Manicured lawn
morphs to 1600 acres of long leaf pines,
chord grass and wildflowers,
one corn snake, juvenile,
one “bless his heart” poet and professor-turned
kid in ecology candy shop,
and more sunburn.
Wine becomes beer on a back porch by black water,
sliding sluggishly by as we sit and rock and talk.
Sunny day driving stakes becomes a sunset bonfire with gumbo
and beer after beer;
seven seniors sleep scattered on the back porch—
ready for every kind of
Tomorrow.

In the same way that,
overnight,
paddling the Pacolet for that first lab
becomes paddling the Pacolet
one last time,
one day I become aware
that I cannot control
Tomorrow.
I cannot control Today.
I cannot control Time.

And here I am,
twenty-two years in,
finally catching the drift.
It’s too much to paddle upstream
a river you were always meant to glide.
It amazes me
how tired I didn’t know I was.
When the river carries me,
I can carry so much more.

Only after a million little momentary test floats,
in which I did not crash
and the world did not end,
do I dare stop paddling.
I dare to rest my desperate hands
and rely on the rudder within,
if only between the river bends.
And whether I end up in Ireland,
On the coast of California,
in Central Park,
Or a tiny mountain town in Western North Carolina,
I find that I always arrive on time,
and so paddling becomes reserved
for actual rivers.


First draft written May 2017, and it’s been floating around in my head since then, so I thought it deserved a place to live.

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Goals: because they’re good to have, and even better to write down

This post isn’t really for you… sorry, followers.

This post is really about publicly keeping myself accountable for my goals – which are not resolutions, but instead patterns I’m ever seeking to adopt.

There are many, but here are a few:

Food:

  • I want 2018 to be “mostly” vegetarian and less wastefully caffeinated, since we all know that I will never be less caffeinated. Especially not with less than 250 days to WEG.
    • By less wastefully, I mean that I want to avoid drinking coffee in a manner that creates waste. Brewing my own coffee in a french press is way better (and cheaper) than paying for my java in a paper or plastic cup.
  • I will pack myself a lunch more often! Working at a resort makes for some great food, but my wallet doesn’t enjoy it so much, and I end up eating meat more often. I’m always trying to avoid using plastic products, so this is a triple win.

Horses:

  • Dancer and I are aiming for more arena time so we can ride more consistently and make real progress. We’ve been at quite the plateau and I’ve gotten out of riding shape as I’ve put more focus into adjusting to post-grad life.
    • I’m working on planning some van-in lessons so that Dancer can improve her trailering skills AND we can get some professional help. Win-win.
  • To help me get back in the saddle, I’ll also be devoting more time to the three “ladybugs” in my front yard – one of which is very rideable and could use a ten-minute walkabout every couple days just as much as I could. A little bareback never hurt nobody.
  • The long and short of it is that my goal is to ride as much as possible, because riding is always good, and by thinking strategically, I can actually afford to progress.

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Work:

  • I want to create quality, commendable work. And also survive 2018. So most of my work-related goals have nothing to do with work. This category should be called NOT-WORK.
  • Sleep is a great, great, thing.
  • Piper and I want to explore more often, and I especially want to hike and camp. At the very least, I’m aiming to get the two of us outside and off property at least once a week. Even if that’s just running to the bank and stopping by Starbucks for a treat. At best, I want to explore each of my local state and national parks.
  • I’ll be investing in a dog trainer to help Piper learn how to relax around other dogs, horses, and new people. So our exploring can be even better.
  • When I’m not writing press releases or social media content or emails, I want to still feel like writing creatively, and I want to make space for myself to do that.
    • So far in 2018: I’ve written about 2.5 pages of new material for the second half of my novel – which puts me on track for about 45 new pages this year. Honestly, I’ll take it. 2019 will be much different; for now, I just have to maintain.
  • Actual work goal: don’t panic. Enjoy the ride.

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So, now it’s about you, followers:

Do you have any similar goals for 2018? Are you awesome at anything on this list and willing to share your expertise? Comment below if we can cheer each other on!

As Promised

A few weeks ago, on a busy weekend during which Piper and I spent more time at work than anywhere else, something beautiful happened. It snowed.

 

 

 

Though I was stressed about work, feeling the pressure of managing an event last-minute and scrambling to patch problems while almost all of my coworkers (and superiors!) were out of town, Piper was thrilled to be there. There were so many nice people to meet, so many things to sniff, and it was snowing, too!

She forced me to take breaks from work and go for walks. She made it impossible for me to ignore the best part about the snow. I couldn’t complain about the cold when she was leaping and snapping at flakes or skipping around me. Though the weather only made my life more complicated, it made Piper’s more exciting.

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Snow photos by Madison Ibach

Our snowy weekend reminded me why I wanted to adopt a dog in the first place: I needed a friend to walk with me through the dark and cold, so that I wasn’t so alone

I shouldn’t have ended up with Piper. I found her by “accident” – if you want to call it that – and several other open doors closed before I returned to the dog with three legs and first contacted her foster mom. I had doubts, but everything fell into place anyway.

Piper survived a traumatic injury at a young age, and recovered with the help of a devoted volunteer who fostered her off and on and did her best to get her out of a shelter environment. During that time, Piper became to her foster mom what she is to me now: a blessing in a lonely period of life.

 

 

I found out after my first visit with Piper that her foster mom would soon be moving, too far away to remain caring for her. She was worried about Piper’s future and was praying for the right adopter to come along.

I had been discouraged by the process of finding an adult dog who would adapt to my chaotic life, my weird schedule, my living situation and my career. I’d been searching local shelters for months, and each dog that seemed right initially was ultimately not a good fit. I sent an email asking about Piper anyway, and laid out all the details of my life that might have been red flags… Details, that in emails past, had prevented me from adopting other dogs.

“I think you might be a match for her,” she wrote back.

Even after my first meeting with Piper, I was skeptical that we’d work together. But none of my concerns meant anything to Piper or her guardians.  Honestly, it wasn’t until after she came to live with me that I understood what I had to offer Piper was exactly what she needed: a dog-free, cat-free household; a backyard perfect for lounging and nature watching; a cozy couch to snuggle on; brief walks; a dog-friendly job and a small army of friends willing to help out when needed.

I smile every morning when she looks at me out of the corner of her eye and wags her tail furiously, waiting for me to say “breakfast.” She makes me laugh, think creatively, and go outside more often. She keeps me from getting ANY work done when she’s snuggling with (and on!) me, but when I am ready to go out, she’s ready to come with me. She doesn’t hold back; she makes her opinions known and loves with her whole heart, instantly. She makes me feel safe – she is a ferocious guardian against every twig that falls on the roof or gust of wind that sounds like a footstep on the porch. I say it often: I can’t believe I ever lived by myself.

Piper is a beautiful reminder of grace, resiliency, and love. For me, she is a promise kept, and further proof that God will always provide exactly what we need.

I went looking for a four-legged friend and didn’t quite find one. Instead, my three-legged angel found me, and I’m so thankful for how merry and bright this season of my life has become because of her.

While I’ve got family within drivable distance, Piper has made my house a home, and she’s definitely family. She’s learning never going to get along with her equine sister, as well as the three “Ladybugs” in our front pasture, but we’ll keep trying. Maybe one day we’ll behave well enough to get a real family photo.

For now, we’ll be on the couch if you need us.

Edit: we tried family photos anyway. Neither of my children behaved, and both attacked the other. Such is my life. Enjoy.

 

 

Fun fact: If there were a third picture to this sequence, it would show all three of us standing on two legs.

Yes, 2018 will involve a dog trainer. But it will also involve so many adventures, and I’m thrilled to see where we end up!

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Happy New Year from my corner of the world to yours!

Pied [Pi]per

I’m more than two months in to my new position at Tryon Resort, serving as PR & Marketing Coordinator at Tryon International Equestrian Center. Livin’ the dream and still pinching myself that I get to grow horse sport and work with the people I work with.

In the winter, however, most of my coworkers are based in Florida, so things are starting to get quiet* in the office… really quiet when Michelle is out of office and I’m the only one there! And then I go home to an empty house. Sure, there are three horses down the driveway, but they’re no good at indoor snuggling. But you know who is?

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World, meet Piper, my new snuggle buddy and 3.14-legged roommate!

She’s a four year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Boxer mix who has spent most of her life in foster care or at a shelter. She was struck by a car at a young age and broke two of her legs, eventually losing one because she went so long without treatment.

She doesn’t seem to mind.

Piper loves car rides, short jogs, lounging on the pool chairs and surveying the farm. Her favorite thing in the world is meeting new people and greeting them with a kiss. Her cuddles are the best.

She has no IDEA what horses are or that she should be very, very afraid of them, but we’re working on that. For now, she loves to supervise them from afar.

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Our bucket list includes various camping and hiking destinations, visits to family and friends, and definitely checking out all the outdoor dining we can find (she found new fans at The Crepe Factory most recently). I can’t wait to adventure with her!

On a very real note, I’ve found that despite the chaos of transitioning her into my life, as well as her recent virus that required two vet visits and WAY too much cleaning of my house, Piper has drastically improved my quality of life. I can’t believe I lived without her before!

If you live or work alone, you should definitely have a friend – dog or otherwise. Trust me, it doesn’t even need to have four legs!! 10/10 would recommend.

 

I’m so thankful to have a new member of the family… and I apologize (a little) for all the photos still to come.

If you actually want to see more of Piper, follow me on Instagram for regular snuggle snaps. We’ll see you there!

 

Et al:
There are now less than 300 days til the World Equestrian Games (find us @tryon2018 on the social medias), and it’s highly probable that I’ll be working almost all of them. You’ll probably catch me there more than here.

October 2018 is going to be soooOo sweet. I’ll sleep for most of it.

*Team: if you’re reading this, I miss you! See ya soon.

 

Meet the newest residents of Ladybug Farm!

They’re here! They’re here!

Meet Rose and Reba, the two newest inhabitants of Ladybug Farm. I’m thrilled to have “roommates” and I can’t wait to get to know them!

Both are slaughter rescues; I couldn’t be more supportive of anyone wanting to rescue slaughter-bound horses, and the Makers were able to save these two mares in the nick of time. Rose was literally pulled off a truck so that she wouldn’t be live-shipped to China. Aside from the fact that they’ve already made me enjoy mornings much more, here’s what we know so far about these painted ladies:

Reba:  20 years old / Pony of the Americas (POA) mare / literally been there done that / all the ‘tude in the world / will eat anything

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Reba will teach some awesome kids how to ride, and is the perfect first pony! She’s already given some perfect pony rides and I can’t wait to see how we progress.

 

Rose: 15 years old / palomino paint mare / APHA registered / fabulous horse to work with / loves scratches, carrots and sunbathing

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I’m still getting to know Rose, but she’s a superstar thus far and I can’t wait to ride her once I know her better and once she’s in better health. She’s a joy to have in the barn, and tries very hard to please!

(While I know her registered name, I know very little of her history and would love to connect with someone who has an APHA account and could do some digging for us…)

 

 

In some of these pictures, you can see the girls exploring the new dry lot, a land management tool that I’m super excited to put into practice after studying it in the past.

Soon, Ranger will be joining us for a well-deserved retirement, complete with plenty of snuggles and carrots. It’s been about a year since I’ve last seen this sweet boy, and I can’t wait to have him here!

Welcome to Ladybug Farm, Rose and Reba!

So I wrote a book… and a few other updates

I wrote a book?!

Actually it’s a novella, but it’s got my name on it, and I’m thrilled! It’s been so humbling to receive positive feedback from my friends, their parents, their parents’ friends… and each one is just as flattering and embarrassing as the next. Thank you to all who have supported me on this journey–you know who you are!

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Photo by Mark Olencki

This novella was published because it won the Ben Wofford Prize for Fiction–a contest held every two years at Wofford. It is not being sold in stores, but you can find it on campus at Wofford or if you contact me directly. I’m currently working on turning it into a full-fledged novel and THEN you can buy it in stores. Stay tuned!

The Office of Marketing and Communications (more specifically, my friend Kelsey) wrote a beautiful release about the novella that you can read here.

 

I also graduated, and I’m not sure how that happened, to be honest. I was just moving in for my freshman year like two weeks ago. Dear old Wofford, hail. Photos by Laura McDermott.

Postgrad and “Single Mom” Life:

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Sometimes I have to remind myself that I actually work here…

I took an internship as prep for a full-time job with Tryon Resort and I absolutely LOVE working in advertising and marketing for the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Every day is different, and I never want to leave! I am loving every minute I get to spend in the Carolina foothills region. Plus, when I need to escape to another city for a yoga class held at a brewery, or swing home for dinner with my family or former roommate who’s now kicking butt at med school, I totally can.

I’m close to my horse, amazing outdoor attractions (some of which I haven’t even had time to check out yet!), incredible food (that I can’t yet afford), and I also get to work towards growing equestrian sports every day! For instance, have you heard about Gladiator Polo yet?!?!

Gladiator Polo is a new form of arena polo that combines the fast-paced, arena style of hockey with the finesse, agility, and horse-human teamwork that we equestrians love to watch in the show jumping arena or on the polo field. It’s fast, exciting, and it demands a rowdy crowd! Gladiator Polo debuted at TIEC on June 24th to a crowd of more than 10,000 spectators, and it will be coming back in September (1st, 9th, and 30th)! Check out some of the pictures/videos here.

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One of the more memorable rides of my life: riding Tortilla, a talented polo pony, in the George Morris Arena! Y’all check out the polo school at Tryon Resort–I highly recommend it!

My days include interviewing riders, writing press releases and drafting copy for other projects, making deliveries, coordinating ad inquiries and sales for our print publications, canvassing the property to promote special events, tracking media impressions, helping run events, driving golf carts… and whatever else needs doing! I’m thankful to be working, learning and growing with great coworkers and at a crazy fast pace that I love. The next year will be a marathon–at a sprint. The first few miles have been great!

WEG 2018

Even more exciting than Gladiator Polo is the chance to help plan and host the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 in September of next year–we call it WEG, and it’s coming up fast! Around half a million people from all over the world will converge at TIEC to celebrate and compete in eight different disciplines, and I can’t wait to watch it all unfold. The event, which occurs every four years and travels to different host countries much like the Olympics, will bring an estimated $400 million dollars in economic impact to the area, and I’m thrilled to be impacting my community of the past four years in this way. Personally, I’m super excited to watch the driving, para dressage and vaulting competitions! Tickets will go on sale in September… stay tuned! (Horsey friends–get housing now!!)

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My “kid”

Two eye surgeries later, Dancer’s right eye looks drastically different than what you might’ve seen in the past seven years! Her bilateral orbital fat prolapse was [re]confirmed as benign by the vets at Tryon Equine Hospital, and they have been so great helping us ensure Dancer’s eyes continue to stay healthy. We decided to operate on the most prolific eye first to investigate the tissue and determine whether further action needed to be taken. A second procedure was necessary because Dancer developed some proud flesh in her third eyelid, but based on pathology results I’ll hold off on any procedures for the left eyeball until I’ve got a stable financial situation… pun intended.

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In the meantime, since I’m only working one job and not four these days, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my girl, and it’s one of my favorite parts of postgrad life! After-work trail rides or walks are my favorite way to spend time with her while building her confidence, and it seems to be paying off recently. Two hour trail ride and obstacle course with our barn family? No problem! Dancer is really starting to relax, pay attention to her feet, think her way through obstacles, and carry herself more correctly since we’ve been trail riding, and I’m so glad to see it paying off.

Like all the best horses, Dancer is complex and challenging and not alway easy, but I know persistence will pay off, and I wouldn’t trade one good day for all of our bad ones. I can’t wait to get more miles together in the future… we’ve got some goals in mind, but I won’t share them here just yet. Stay tuned 😉

If you don’t like pictures of eyeballs, don’t click on the pictures below. Nothing gory, but everybody’s different, so be advised. Here’s Dancer’s eye before the first surgery, before the second re-touch, and a few weeks ago. Huge difference!

 

 

22.

I have lots and lots of friends to thank for making me feel loved this summer, whether in person or in spirit. It feels good to be surrounded by such support. Below are some pictures from the weekend before my birthday…. which, coincidentally, also included a bear in a tree in downtown Landrum, just a few miles from my house. But I missed that shot. You’ll have to read about it here. Outtakes from that weekend that didn’t end up on the news:

 

That’s pretty much all that I’ve got to write home about… for now. Stay tuned, friends.

Mountain fresh and plastic free

I had a cute postgrad blog post planned, but today I have something more important–and something more urgent–to say instead. This post is inspired by a Facebook post I saw from multiple people in the past week, three-hour drives to and from Winston Salem, and lots of coffee.

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“Great Barrier Reef dead at 25 Million” reads a New York Post headline from Oct. 2016. 

Snopes says it’s not true… yet. That doesn’t mean that the world’s largest coral reef system isn’t about to flatline in the next few years, especially since 2016 was an especially devastating year for the GBR:

A survey of the extent and severity of coral bleaching between March and June 2016 conducted by the Australian Government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and released on 13 October 2016 found that:

22 percent of coral on the Reef died due to the worst mass bleaching event on record. Eighty-five percent of this mortality occurred in the 600 kilometer stretch between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island (Snopes).

Also according to Snopes: “The latest surveys indicate that 93% of the individual reefs in the GBR have suffered some degree of bleaching, with reefs in the north the most severely affected. Australia’s marine biodiversity, and the jobs and economic prosperity that the reef supports, is under grave threat.”

I have three things to say about this situation and one multi-faceted response:

Firstly, prematurely declaring the GBR dead could impact efforts to save it… doomsday thinking is usually more harmful than helpful to environmentalists, as much as we love to talk about thresholds from which we cannot return. I’m reminded of Christian rhetoric in particular that calls us to “fill the earth and subdue it,” a phrase which holds a very different connotation than stewardship, and implies very little respect for the earth. This is specially true when combined with end-times doctrine that perpetuates greedy usage of what’s here now instead of preserving for the future. Understanding the dire nature of a problem is important. But we cannot declare something impossible to save if there’s something left to try (Like, I don’t know…. supporting the Paris Agreement, or recognizing that CO2 is definitely a huge contributor to climate change, or allowing scientists to study climate without censoring them or cutting their programs entirely. Just a few ideas.)

 

Secondly, the visibility of this issue matters… and it should move people to action. I grew up learning about the Great Barrier Reef in school, hearing that coral bleaching was becoming a problem and that an increase in global temperatures was changing the acidity of ocean waters and creating a nearly irreversible trend in bleaching. But many people don’t know about coral reef bleaching at all, much less that the Great Barrier Reef is in danger of succumbing to it. On the one hand, it’s a great thing that so many people are now concerned about the GBR, whether or not they’ve been there. I’m hopeful that the attention it’s getting moves people to make a change, now that they’ve seen what we’re in danger of losing. This is a serious, visible result of climate change… maybe some people will finally be convinced that human actions do have consequences, and that climate change is something to pay attention to instead of ignoring it.

With our current administration denouncing the Paris Agreement (despite more than 343 cities, more than 900 businesses and almost 200 colleges and universities and three states pledging to uphold it anyway), the GBR is seriously threatened. And climate change will have much more direct impacts on our lives than anything that happens to the GBR: coastal cities around the world are more likely to be submerged under rising sea levels… directly impacting more than 40% of the world’s population (40% of the world’s population lives within 100km of the coast as of 2010, and that number has only increased).

 

Thirdly, we have got to stop believing that actions do not have consequences. I don’t understand how the same people who:

  • appreciate mankind’s ability to level mountains and blast through them,
  • clear entire landscapes for development,
  • know what an oil rig looks like and/or enjoy the use of electricity,
  • marvel at engineering achievements such as dams and bridges and highways and industrial agriculture, as well as countless other examples of anthropogenic forces on our globe,
  • fly in airplanes and look down on enormous cities–especially at night–and see how significant they are on the landscape,
  • or understand how rapidly our country has been developed compared to others, and how significantly different our lives have become in the digital age

are the same people who deny that all these actions could possibly have negative impacts somewhere outside the financial statement. Climate change might not have the same, immediate effect on an individual as touching a hot stove, but its larger systemic symptoms are overwhelmingly supported by scientists, and our impact on the globe is worth considering simply due to its rapid (and rapid increase in) pace in the last few centuries alone. We are transforming our planet, and we at once seem to believe that our impact is possible and also not provable. I’m baffled.

 

How will I respond? On one level, by redefining what Christians call “filling and subduing the earth,” and on another level, by “keeping” the Paris Agreement in my own ways. Here are some springboards for action from various aspects of life:

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I saw this on Pinterest once, but today I pulled it from here

Plastic Free July: In case you missed it, plastic is incredibly hazardous to aquatic ecosystems and there’s actually a trash gyre the size of Texas floating in the Pacific as we speak. Plastic bioaccumulates up the food chain, causing carcasses to be found with stomachs clogged with trash. Plastic Free July is an initiative started in Western Australia, and its goal is to highlight just how much single-use plastic we consume and see how much we can reduce it. The objective? Don’t use any single-use plastic for all of July (or forever, if you get attached to saving the planet). Cut out plastic straws, utensils and flatware, plastic water bottles, shopping bags and cling wrap, and you’ll find that you use a lot more plastic than you thought you did. It’s difficult sometimes, and I’m not great at it, but I’m enjoying the learning experience.

Packaging can throw some kinks in plastic-free shopping for groceries or household products, but the benefit of initiatives like these is they expose how prevalent plastic is in our lives, and the more mindfully we consume, the better. Plus, there’s always recycling. Plastic Free July–and all environmentalism, for that matter–is about participating as able. There’s a really cool list of ways to live plastic free, which you can find here.

One of the cool ways I’m ditching plastic wrap and plastic bags is by using Bee’s Wrap, a plastic free way to package bread, veggies, snacks and food products for storage or transport. I just purchased some and I love it already! I’m also participating in Plastic Free July by bringing cloth bags to the grocery store (especially when buying veggies!) and carrying a reusable water bottle with me instead of purchasing bottled water or sodas in plastic containers. This goes for coffee, too–I can bring my own thermos, or I can do without. Regardless, I can do without plastic straws! I carry my own, reusable utensils around, too–something I started doing during my senior year of college. It feels good to imagine how many times I’ve been able to opt out of plastic since I started!

 

Meat… Less: I love meat, but I don’t eat it every day, and I much prefer to know exactly where it came from. Industrial agriculture has developed a system that relies heavily on corn-fed cattle pumped with antibiotics–an unnatural and water-intensive, highly polluting process that also emit about two billion metric tons of CO2-equivalents per year–more than the entire transportation sector. The less meat we eat, the better off the environment… If you don’t believe me, this list from The Natural Resources Defense Council of the most environmentally destructive foods starts and ends with meat-based products, and to the credit of my vegan friends, contains only one non-animal product. While my personal life choices might not offset the entire American culture of meat at every meal, cultural shifts happen in increments, and I’ll be one of them.

Check out this startling infographic below from CulinarySchools.org, then keep scrolling for more ways I’m combatting climate change in my everyday life.

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Boxed wine: I can hear some of my friends groaning across the internet, but as a person who loves to drink a glass of wine at dinner when I get home from work, it is much more environmentally friendly and economically feasible to drink boxed wine… and I think it’s great. Unfortunately, the wine does live in a plastic bag, but cardboard and plastic are way easier to recycle than glass around here, so I’d say it’s a step in the right direction. And with some boxed wines, there is no bag–it’s like buying a carton of milk, or a juice box… An adult juice box. I’ll drink to that.

 

Coffee: This deserves its own category because I’m a writer and I can’t write without coffee–and whether I’m buying it in a plastic/paper cup at a shop or using a Keurig at home, I’m creating a lot of waste. So when I graduated college I transitioned to making coffee in a French press every morning, eliminating any paper or plastic waste, and using a thermos to keep my coffee hot all day, so I never need to buy an afternoon pick-me-up that comes in a plastic cup or bottle. If I do run out of coffee, I show up to the barista’s counter with my own container. Some places even offer a discount for bringing your own mug–the intern on an intern’s salary loves that!

 

Cosmetics and feminine products: Uh oh… she just went there. Yup, I did. But ladies, there’s a LOT of plastic floating around in our bathroom cabinets, and there are alternatives for everything we currently own, including makeup and cosmetics. Make sure your habits aren’t preventing you from exploring new options, like applicator-less tampons, period panties or diva cups. I’ve also learned to be aware that cosmetics, shampoos and exfoliating scrubs might contain microbeads: tiny pieces of plastic that accumulate in waterways and can bioaccumulate in the seafood we eat later (!!).

150919135201-microbeads-exlarge-169.jpgMicrobeads are almost impossible to clean up, but many cosmetic companies use them in their products because they’re cheap. Skip the microbeads by checking labels for words like Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or Nylon… or by using the Beat the Microbead app to scan labels and know what you’re up against.

 

Clothing: Thrift shopping is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to buy clothes, as the clothing industry is notoriously heavy on both natural resource usage and worker exploitation (think sweatshops, which are still totally a thing). Turns out the majority of our clothes are created in developing countries and transported across the globe before reaching retailers–an environmentally negative system in and of itself–but the processes are also less regulated for environmental hazards or workforce welfare. Like most systems in an industrialized world, it’s a non-knowledge system that the consumer isn’t supposed to pay attention to. But buying or donating used clothing and extending its life by even a few months saves precious natural resources, among other environmental benefits. Check out five reasons to thrift shop more often here.

When I do buy clothes new, I try to know as much about the company as possible. Try looking at RankaBrand.org and see where your favorite clothing lines stand on sustainability, including climate change and carbon emissions, environmental policy, working conditions and fair trade. This website can be useful for almost any brand, from technology to food, but I find it particularly helpful when I’m shopping.  If a brand isn’t on the site, you can suggest it, and you can “nudge” companies to better their scores with an easy-to-use pre-formatted email. Capitalism at its finest! 😉

Some companies are even learning how to recycle clothes, such as H&M’s clothing recycling program. If they bring in clothing to be recycled, customers can receive a discount on their purchase. Not only is this a good deal for a young person on a budget like me, but it could spread throughout the entire clothing industry over time, and that’s something I want to support. Any clothes that I don’t want at the end of each season and that wouldn’t sell at thrift shops, I’ll be bringing with me when I go shopping for more work attire. While H&M doesn’t have the best rating on RankaBrand, it’s definitely made improvements in recent years and it’s certainly important to me that these kinds of programs become the norm!

 

Travel: This one is tough for me. I live close to work and my horse, but living in a semi-rural area means there’s no public transportation system I can use, and I end up driving hours at a time when I deliver promotional materials for work. On the bright side, I still drive a minivan instead of a truck, so my MPG is pretty decent and I’m able to carpool with friends whenever possible–and usually I can fit everybody. But it’s something that I’m learning to be more conscious of as I settle into routines and explore my new home.

 

Equestrian activities and products: I did an entire capstone on environmental horsekeeping, and I still find it difficult to make a dent in my habits as a horsewoman. Almost every product I buy for my horse comes in a plastic bottle, box, or bag, and some are even dangerous to aquatic life. Recycling is key, but there are other things I can do, too: I can limit how much water I use by only hosing down my horse when necessary, or using a sponge and bucket instead of a hose; I can sell or donate used equipment instead of trashing them; I can “carpool” when trailering my horse or choose destinations nearby to limit vehicle emissions; I incorporate barn visits with other errands so that I limit my own traveling time; and I purchase environmentally conscious products whenever possible. Equine science is a little behind some other fields, and environmentally focused equine science is even farther behind, so I’m excited to see what products develop in the next few years. In the meantime, the practice of horsekeeping is mostly about mindfulness and intentionality with recycling.

Another challenge in the area of horsekeeping is the fact that I do not manage my own facility and have limited influence of larger-scale practices impacting the landscape, such as manure management, pasture rotation and pest management. In that way, I am somewhat limited. But again, it’s enough to do the best I can with what I’ve got.

 

Recreation: Supporting National Parks is a great way to promote environmentalism, and luckily I’m surrounded by state parks, national parks and outdoor attractions. Plus, hiking does great things for the mind. It’s not just about working out, fighting boredom, or getting a sweet pic for the Insta!

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Photo of Chimney Rock State Park from https://www.visitnc.com/forests-parks-seashores

That’s all I’ve got in me for this season of my life… or at least until you all give me more ideas! Please please please leave thoughts below if I’ve missed anything you know about. Don’t worry, fam… I’ll post that cutesy, postgrad life blog post another day.