Added Value: February

In January, I began a new blog series called Added Value, inspired by a podcast tradition of The Minimalists. Life Is for Living has been quiet throughout February, unfortunately, due to miscellaneous up-and-down life situations. I haven't had much positivity to share lately, but I'm continuing my series now with the following list of things that have added value to my life during the past few uncertain weeks.

1. Bible Journaling 

For Christmas, my mom gave me this beautiful single-column journaling Bible from Crossway. I looooove the paragraph format; it makes it unbelievably more readable. Seriously, I can't say that enough. For book-lovers and English majors, this "proper" format is immensely satisfying. But what makes this Bible extra wonderful are the 2" ruled margins! So much room for detailed note-taking and doodling. Here's a peek at a few of my margin doodles from this month's readings in Luke:

I confess I was leery of this to start with. Drawing in the margins? Of a Bible?!? Defacing any book, particularly this book, seemed a bit disrespectful.

However, I quickly realized that rewriting powerful scriptures in the form of creative, colorful word art is the most meaningful and calming form of verse meditation I've ever tried. The process forces you to concentrate on the scriptural content as you translate it into images. This is an especially effective technique for visual learners like myself; I notice I can more easily recall the verses when there are images accompanying them.

So, if you haven't tried Bible journaling, I highly recommend it. If you want some real inspiration to start doing this, Google "Bible journaling" and check out all of the amazing art people have created on the pages of their Bibles. My stuff is just simple doodles with ink pens, but tons of truly gifted artists have used fancy pens, crayons, and even watercolors to fill their margins with beauty. Go look it up!

2. The Stuff You Should Know Podcast

I've been listening to these guys on and off for a few years now, but I've been tuning in regularly this month, downloading the latest episodes as they are released and checking out older ones I've missed. There are several podcasts I enjoy, but Stuff You Should Know remains tops. I find the "company" of Josh and Chuck oddly comforting, which is probably why I've flocked to them this month.

If you've never heard of Stuff You Should Know (or SYSK, for short), you're missing out. It's a free podcast available on iTunes hosted by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, two writers for HowStuffWorks. Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, their shows educate listeners on various topics. And boy, do I mean various. They've covered everything from artificial sweeteners to space stations, the Bermuda Triangle to JFK's assassination, why men have nipples to "What's the Deal with Poop?". Yep. Josh and Chuck investigate and discuss an incredible variety of topics in usually humorous detail.

Here's a random assortment of a few of my favorite episodes (with links to stream and download for your convenience).

1. How Makeup Works (2016, episode 833)
2. How Lizzie Borden Worked (2015, episode 811)
3. How Junk Food Works (2015, episode 747)
4. How the Voynitch Manuscript Works (2015, episode 797)
5. How Fair Trade Works (2013, episode 530)
6. What Happened to the Lost Colony at Roanoke (2013, episode 538)
7. How Lewis and Clark Worked (2013, episode 585)

SYSK episodes range from about thirty minutes to an hour (sometimes longer when they get really heavy in discussion), which is the perfect duration to listen in while cleaning the house or prepping dinner. Episode binges are a must for long car rides; Stuff You Should Know was just about the only thing that could keep us awake on those long trips from Alabama to Missouri.

If you're not already tuning in, now's the time to jump on the SYSK bandwagon. It's educational and thought-provoking, yet actually funny and entertaining. And it's FREE. You're welcome.

3. Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes

Did you know that the average American individual produces 102 tons of trash in his or her lifetime? That's the staggering statistic Edward Humes uses to open this discussion of America's horrific waste output. When we fling our trash in the can, we bag it up, toss it in the dumpster or take it to the curbside for pick-up, and that's it. We don't know what happens after that, and we don't care. It's out of sight, out of mind. But in Garbology, Humes sets out to open our eyes to what happens next. He divides the book into three parts: 1) the history of our waste problem, 2) the consequences of this, and 3) where we can go from here.

Thanks to television and mass media marketing, over the last fifty years, America has become the most consumption-driven country in the world. We are always looking for bigger and better; we're constantly buying, throwing away, and replacing. We do this because that's what society tells us we're supposed to do. Commercials, infomercials, magazine ads, billboards, shop windows, junk mail...they all preach the same message: YOU NEED MORE STUFF.

Humes delves into the history of this in the first third of Garbology. He shares how our rampant, post-World-War-II consumerism has caused us to be the most disposable culture in the world. In addition to rise of marketing campaigns meant to induce artificial "needs" in the public, Humes writes that the birth of plastic has also propelled us down the path to destruction. Plastic- this new, man-made, throw-away material- has suddenly appeared everywhere, in everything. Check out this disturbing excerpt:

Plastic has gone so fast from zero to omnipresent that it's slipped beneath conscious perception. Take a moment and scan the room you're sitting in. Everything from pill bottles to DVD cases to the knobs on kitchen cupboards to the buttons on your pants to the elastic in your socks to the foam inside your seat cushion to the bowl you put your dog's dinner in to the composite fillings in your teeth- you get the picture- is plastic. It's everywhere.

This ubiquitous material is floating in oceans and littering the sides of highways in the form of Walmart bags and Mountain Dew bottles. It's overflowing in landfills in every shape imaginable. Yet no one seems to notice. No one seems to care.

That's the whole point of Garbology. To incite action. To make you care, because you should. This planet is our home, and this garbage that's piling up on it is ours. It's the result of our wastefulness, and we must take responsibility for it.

Humes dives deep into the effects this has on the health of humans, wildlife, and climate, and I gotta say, it's pretty sickening, disheartening stuff. I mean, every single diaper I wore as a baby is still out there, somewhere. So are your poopy diapers. So are everyone's.

Then there's his depressing discussion of plastic in the marine environment. He describes the ocean as "plastic noodle soup", "a swirling sewer", and "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." He shares a gut-wrenching story of a young sperm whale who was found dead in the San Francisco Bay Area. Because the young whale appeared outwardly healthy, a scientist performed a necropsy to determine the cause of death. 450 pounds of debris, primarily plastic, were discovered in the whale's digestive tract. "The whale, its stomach full," Humes writes, "had starved to death."

The second part of the book is packed with eye-opening information such as this, the consequences of our wasteful society. However, Humes manages to end the book optimistically. He talks about the rise of green cities, the zero-waste movement, and dozens of innovations that can potentially change our course. Additionally, he offers practical advice on how to reduce personal waste. Here's the quote that really spoke to me:
The most heartening thing about our horrifying 102-ton legacy: It is one of the few big societal, economic, and environmental problems over which ordinary individuals can exert control. You don't have to fight City Hall to do it. You don't have to organize protests or marches or phone banks or political action committees. As a consumer, as a homeowner or renter, as a person who eats and wears clothes and drinks water, you can choose to be more or less wasteful. You can choose to save more and spend less, which automatically means you will waste less. You can ban the [plastic] bag from your own daily life.

I really feel that Garbology should be required reading for every American. We all produce waste, so we need to understand what that waste entails. Humes forced me to re-evaluate my choices as a consumer, and while I was patting myself on the back for my Kon Mari/Minimalist ways, for recycling, using cloth napkins, and loving my Diva Cup, I realized there are still lots of things that I can change.

I can make sure I remember to take in my reusable shopping bags instead of relying on the plastic sacks at retailers and grocers (come on, everywhere but Walmart even gives you cash back for this!). I can say no to plastic straws at restaurants when I don't really need one. I can cut down on the amount of paper napkins I use for three seconds and toss away when dining out. I can select products with the least packaging at the grocery store. I can commit to shopping secondhand stores for clothing. I can attempt to repair things before I toss them in the trash and buy replacements.

You know what? Most of this stuff even saves money, too. Being consciously less wasteful is a win-win for everyone (well, except maybe corporate retailers and marketing executives).

So, what's been making a positive contribution to your life lately? What things have you been enjoying? Share in the comments!

1 comment

Anna Marie Schaefer said...

Always enjoy hearing about what you're up to. I love that you're finding positives, even when things are tough. I still have a long way to go to reduce clutter in my life. We have never regretted using cloth diapers for Arielle. It saved money AND we kept a lot of disposables out of a landfill. Often, "green" options like buying recycled products can cost extra. But when it comes to cloth diapering, you actually save money while providing a superior, safer product for your kid. On top of that, it's good for the planet.