Eco-Friendly Living

20 Simple Tips towards Living More Sustainably

Effortless and affordable ways to reduce waste from your every day lifestyle.

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Sometimes it seems like the only affordable way to make a contribution against climate change is by buying those reusable bags found at your local grocery store and vowing to use them till the end of time. In spite of that dedication, there are actually countless ways to combat global warming that doesn't involve putting a substantial dent in your wallet but I'm going to give you 20.

Replace Plastic Straws With Stainless Steel Or Glass

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Americans throw away over 500 million straws a day and if they aren't deposited in landfills, they are often found in oceans. Stainless steel and glass straws are great alternatives to the plastic that has been seen choking and often killing marine life. They are easily washed with the pipe cleaners manufacturers supply them with and can be affordably found online from places like Amazon.

Start Using Reusable Water Bottles

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According to Ban The Bottle, the average American used 50 billion plastic water bottles in 2017. Like the many other plastic materials they are often found in the ocean or in landfills where they take centuries to decompose. Using a reusable water bottle provides the convenience of not having to worry about where the nearest trash can is t and saves money in the long run. After all, buying $1.69 bottle of water every day on campus can begin to add up, especially if you're buying multiple a day.

Trade Bottles of Body Wash For Bars Of Soap

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While soap bars may seem outdated with everyone using bottled body wash, they do an excellent job leaving no carbon footprint. One could find these hygienic blocks wrapped in paper or nothing at all which means there's absolutely nothing to throw away once the soap has been completely used. These bars can be found at any grocery store or at the nearest Ross for $3.99 or less depending on how organic the ingredients are.

Say "No" To Napkins and Plastic Cutlery

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Nobody needs all of those napkins fast food chains supply customers with when they are taking food to-go. Most of the time that mini pile is discarded in the trash unused along with the plastic forks, spoons, and knives also supplied. That's why it is best to tell the employees to hold the napkins and forks because nine times out of ten you already have some at home. Yes, they would keep you from having to do the dishes but they do more harm then good when being driven to the local waste station.

Substitute Your Buff Puff For A Wash Cloth

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Buff Puff's are nice because they are a kind of dual action shower tool; they both clean and exfoliate the body. However, at some point in time they must be thrown away after such vigorous use. Wash clothes on the other hand can be reused again and again because they are machine washable.

Start Using Silicone Place Mats Instead of Aluminum Foil and Parchment Paper

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Silicone place mats are the newest replacement for aluminum foil and parchment paper used in ovens. These shiny, flat, non stick rectangles can be reused for years after continuous use and fits the pan perfectly. There's no need to throw them away after baking which keeps customers from having to buy more; they also come in a variety of fun colors.

Swap Coffee Cups For Travel Mugs

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Thermos's or travel mugs are great for keeping your beverage hot or cold without having to worry about your hands feeling the temperature. Like glass water bottles, they are also reusable and easy to carry around in a backpack.

Use Cloth Towels Rather Than Paper Towels

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Kitchen towels are meant to last long unlike their paper counterparts who get thrown out after one use. They are easy to watch and can decorate the kitchen in a fun colorful way. These dandy accessories can also be used to clean other parts of the house making them a multi-purpose tool that can last a long time.

Change Menstrual Pads For A Menstrual Cup

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Approximately 12 billion pads and seven million tampons end up in U.S. landfills per year, according to menstruation.com.au. With the menstruation cup a.k.a "diva cup" women are able to use this multiple times before having to throw it away if ever at all due to its ability to be manually sanitized during and after each cycle.

Exchange Plastic Wrap For Wax Paper

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Wax paper is a great zero waste alternative that can be used to cover up leftovers time and time again without having to be thrown away as soon as the food has been eaten. Unlike plastic wrap, the wax makes it easy to unfold back to its original form and ready for use again.

Try Using A Chico Bag

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ChicoBag's are compactible reusable bags that can easily be hooked to a wallet and backpack. They are practically weightless and keep you from having to set a reminder to bring one of those big bulky reusable bags like those found at your local H-E-B. ChicoBag's also hold up to three reusables without weighing you down.

Carry A Utensil Kit

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Carrying your own utensils is an easy way to cut down on plastic waste. Not only are they yours, so you'll take better care of them, but they won't have to be thrown at after a single use. These kits can be found online or in stores in sets of three(fork, knife, and spoon) or a spork(spoon and fork) combo.

Replace Plastic Produce Bags For Mesh Ones

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Plastic bags are pointless because if you're anything like me, you end up ripping them open right when you get home to start unpacking the vegetables and you throw the rest away. Mesh bags on the other hand, allow the produce to breathe for as long as you want without having to worry about unpacking them right away. These knitted bags also don't have to be thrown out every time you use it and come in a variety of shapes and sizes; perfect for different types of food.

Compost Your Trash

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The majority of trash cans are filled with rotting uneaten food that can be made into soil for plants. Composting is an awesome way to avoid having to take out the trash so often but also can serve as an inhibitor to start a garden. Those basil leaves, strawberries, and carrot stems can be used to regrow vegetables right on your balcony or at your nearest community garden.

Avoid Buying Plastic Wrapped Or Canned Goods

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Glass jars can be perfect for storing large or small amounts of spices, liquids, and any other kind of market based product. They are even good for storing hand made liquid soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. These containers are easily washed and can be reused multiple times for years.

Shop at Farmer's Markets

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Local farmer's markets often sell their produce bare of any sort of wrapping and it's encouraged to bring your own bags to carry the produce home.

Wash Your Hair with Shampoo and Conditioner Bars

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Shampoo and conditioner are not only sold in liquid for but also in bars, just like soap. In fact, some people melt them down with boiling water in glass jars and keep it in its liquid form. Either way, both options contribute to a zero waste lifestyle.

Drink Loose Leaf Tea

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While tea bags don't carry a lot of waste, there's still that bag containing the tea leaves which isn't going to decompose like tea leaves will. Using a tea leave strainer rather than buying those individual bags is more sustainable and helps reduce waste.

Freeze Your Leftovers

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Freezing your leftovers rather than keeping them in the main refrigerator part will guarantee a longer lasting food life. This cuts down on food waste if you aren't ready to compost and saves a delicious meal for weeks later.

Recycle More

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If you don't want to do anything I've suggested above then at least do the bare minimum and recycle whenever you can. Separating cans, paper products, etc is the simplest thing you can do, especially if you live in Austin where there are tons of places that take these products for recycling.

It's time to see significant contributions against global warming that's causing our summer's to get hotter and keeps our sea levels rising. Living a zero-waste lifestyle seems extreme at first, but is so beneficial to the planet and to yourself in the long run.

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Sociolinguistics Series: Part 50

Language is a powerful tool.

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It's part 50--halfway to 100! I'm so glad to still be here writing! In this section, we will talk about Dr. Shikaki's findings on how Palestinians view the state of Israel.

25 years ago, 85% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution. 10 years ago, this number decreased to 70%. Dr. Shikaki believes this was due to an increase in the prominence of Islamism in Palestinian society during the second intifada; Islamists were opposed to the two-state solution. In the most recent survey, the December 2018 one, only 43% of Palestinians supported the two state solution.

In 2000, American President Bill Clinton met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat at the Camp David Summit to come up with a solution to the conflict. It ended without an agreement, but in December of 2000, Clinton once again proposed a resolution: the Clinton Parameters.

The content of the Parameters basically allowed Israel to annex settlements while Palestine to take 94-96% of the West Bank, as well as Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. There were other guidelines regarding territory, refugees, security, and the end of the conflict. Essentially, the West Bank would have been split up by Israeli roads and settlements--which is kind of the reality today.

Both the Israeli government and Arafat accepted the terms with reservations, and Arafat wrote to Clinton a letter asking for clarifications on the terms. Clinton and Dennis Ross, an envoy of the Parameters, publicized that Arafat had refused to accept the terms; they painted Palestinians in a negative light, saying that Israel wanted to accept the peace negotiations but Palestine did not.

American Lawyer Robert Malley was at the Camp David Summit and oversaw parts of the Clinton Parameters. In 2001, he said that three myths had come out of the failure of both negotiations, and that these three myths were dangerous to any future peace processes if people kept believing in them.

These myths are as follows: "Camp David was an ideal test of Mr. Arafat's intentions," "Israel's offer met most if not all of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations," and "The Palestinians made no concession of their own."

He said that these three statements were not true but very heavily publicized by America and Israel after the negotiations failed; rather, there is more nuance to each of these issues, and America and Israel have just as much responsibility in the failure of the Summit and Parameters as Palestine did. Malley wrote, "If peace is to be achieved, the parties cannot afford to tolerate the growing acceptance of these myths as reality."

Anyway, what does this have to do with Dr. Shikaki? He polled Palestinians not only on the their attitudes to the two-state solution, but the Clinton Parameters as well. 25 years ago, there was 60% support for the Clinton Parameters by Palestinians, but the June 2018 poll showed that the number had gone down to 37%.

The last ten years shows a significant decrease in public support for both the two-state solution and the Clinton Parameters, and it could be a result of disagreeing with specific parts of the proposals (such as how the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock or Jerusalem is delegated).

I did some further digging when I got home, and I found this data from the UN Division for Palestinian Rights website:

"A 25 December [2000] published poll found that 48% of the 501 Israelis questioned were opposed to the proposals; 57% would object to Palestinian control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound; 72% were against even a limited return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. A 29 December published poll found that 56% of the Israelis would oppose a peace agreement reached on the basis of the Parameters."

This shows that though public media--especially Western media--may have painted the Palestinian government as the villain (and Israel and America as the "victims"), the proposals accepted by either government had varied support among its people.

The Israeli civilian population did not want to accept the Clinton Parameters because of the way certain things would be resolved; their reservations lie with the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque because the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in the world for Jews, would have been given to Palestine, while Jews would have control of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (which is the status quo).

In addition, there was a section in the Clinton Parameters that dealt with the right of return for Palestinians, where there would be a certain number of Palestinian refugees who settled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while other Palestinians either would become citizens of their host countries, move to a third-party country, or settle back into the land that is Israel Proper (with permission from the Israeli government, of course); many Israelis did not support this.

That was the public opinion years ago. Today, there is even less support for these proposals. Dr. Shikaki outlined three issues as reasons for a decrease in support of compromise, which we will cover in the next section. Stay tuned!

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