The cheeseboard I got for Christmas, kitted out with local and organic cheeses.

The cheeseboard I got for Christmas, kitted out with local and organic cheeses.

It’s No Compromise Month, where I take a hard line all things sustainable and see what happens. Here’s what I’ve been grappling with this weekend:

1. The Newspaper

On Friday, I suspended my New York Times delivery for a month. It comes in a plastic bag, and I don’t read even half of it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could customize your newspaper? Oh, that’s called the internet. So as much as I love settling in on the couch, mildly hungover, with a mug of tea and the whole wide world rendered in newsprint in my lap, I will forgo this pleasure and rely on the Sunday New York Times Digest.

2. It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle Change

I’m getting bored with this. I have a vegetarian but not organic meal at a cafe with wifi because it is there and I am hungry and I need to work. I eat conventional couscous I find in the cabinet because it is there and I am hungry.

This feeling is familiar … oh yeah, it’s like trying to change your diet! When you’re trying to eat healthier, there are times when you’re like, “F*** it. I’m gonna eat what I want. Hello, fried chicken!” I definitely had those moments when I was slowly changing my diet over the course of a couple years. But eventually, it just sinks in and McDonald’s ceases to be a temptation. It just turns into a disgusting non-option. When someone offers you Lay’s potato chips and onion dip, you physically recoil instead of pining to say yes.

This logic applies to to living sustainably as well. For example, I now hate taking cabs. They smell like smoke and cheap air freshener, and make me nauseous as they stop and start across the city. I would always much rather take the subway.

I guess once you change your habits, you start getting habituated and your new lifestyle makes more sense than your old one.

3. People Being Helpful

The freaking straws, man. I order a gin tonic, no straw, at a bar on the Lower East Side. “I know that you said no straw, but here’s one in case you need to stir it,” the bartender says when he brings me my drink, placing a plastic-wrapped straw down on my table.

That’s what I call the ” just being helpful” problem. It’s like when the manager at a Mexican restaurant offered me a free cupcake. A neighboring cupcake shop had dropped off a whole tray as a gift and he was giving them out. “To stay or to go?” He asked. “To go!” I chirped. Before I knew it, he had put the cupcake in a coffee cup with a fork. It was all I could do to convince him that the coffee cup lid really wasn’t necessary, really! I’m absolutely sure, thank you.

The Helpful Problem is the huge stack of napkins given to you by the Pret a Manger employee, the plastic bag at the bodega, the plastic bag at the vegan cupcake shop for your cake because, “I wouldn’t want you to drop it!” All these service people are trying to give you great customer service. And that means making your life convenient through the magic of disposable items.

4. Emergency Glove Shopping

Friday night, some time between walking out of the subway and consigning my clothing at Buffalo Exchange, I lost my glove. This was the second glove I’ve lost in two weeks, which means I was all out of warm gloves. And that night the temperature low was supposed to be in the teens!

I had some time to kill, fortunately, so after I dropped the remaining clothes at Salvation Army, I went to Nordstrom Rack. At the front, they had a rack of gloves, but the pickings were slim. There were a whole bunch of Burberry Brit gloves which were priced at the low, low price of $350 per pair, and were still made in China. (Seriously Burberry? Talk to me about Italy, and I might consider some day paying $350 for gloves. Just kidding, still won’t.) There were some knit wrist warmers (?), and one pair of affordable, leopard-print gloves for $36 that were compatible with touch screens. I took them up to the counter. As I waited, I looked for some label saying where they were from, but there was nothing. I thought about Chinese leather, and the recent dog skin scandal involving gloves. I reminded myself that I am in No Compromise Month. I put the gloves back and came up with a different plan.

On 9th Street in the East Village, there are a bunch of vintage stores, so I went there. The first one I walked into had a veritable pile of vintage leather gloves in all colors. I picked up a slim, black, feminine pair for $10 and a knit pair with rabbit fur cuffs for $30. Problem solved. Wow, being eco-friendly actually can be easy and cheap.

5. Taxis

Later that night my boyfriend and I were on the Lower East Side and wanted to get to Greenpoint. Our options were: a. Take the subway, which would get us there in an hour, or b. Take a cab, which would get us there in 11 minutes. Which would you take?

Sometimes you just have to take a cab. At least we took one of the hybrid ones.

6. Groceries

We were running low on groceries, so on Saturday we headed back to Union Square. Usually we would go to Integral Yoga grocery store on a weeknight, but the farmer’s market was open, and there is nothing better than a sunny Saturday picking out produce. But first, we started at the crowded mess of Whole Foods, because my order of veggie bags still haven’t arrived, and I needed some! We filled our basket with non-local but organic products like avocado (produce stickers), bananas (ditto), berries (plastic container), coconut water by Harmless Harvest (plastic bottle), organic deli meats (plastic envelopes), hummus (plastic tub) and almond milk (plastic container).

Then it’s on to the Greenmarket, where we got pasta sauce, a whole chicken (double bagged), carrots, onions, mushrooms, eggs, bread (plastic bag), yogurt (plastic tub), short ribs (plastic packaging), and bacon (ditto). All of the produce we put loose into our grocery bags.

I’m not sure what to do about these plastics. Some are recyclable, like the yogurt container, and some are not, like the meat plastics. My personal rule is I only eat meat when I know where it comes from. But these local meats–like all meats–come with a side of safety plastic. I wonder if there are butchers in the city where they just wrap it up in paper …

There aren’t many alternatives, unless I start making my own yogurt, hummus, and bread, only buy local produce, and go vegetarian. Which some people do. Which maybe I should do, too.

OK, project next week: make my own yogurt and bread.

Resources:

What Can You Recycle in NYC?

Greenmarket Farmers Market

The Five Best Vintage Stores in the East Village

Sunday New York Times Digest