How You Can #BeatPlasticPollution

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Today is World Environment Day, the UN’s most important day to raise awareness for the protection of our environment, and is now celebrated in over 100 countries!

Not only is this a day for awareness, but this is a day for ACTION. As I work for an advocacy organization, we want to push for change, and what better steps can we take than to do something to take care of our planet? This year’s theme is #BeatPlasticPollution, super relevant with all of the legislation that’s being introduced this year.

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I wrote a blog post on my primary blog about the #GiveASip campaign where people can actively refuse single-use plastic straws for the benefit of the environment and all creatures that live on earth. That’s just one example of what you can do. Here are some other action steps you can take:

  1. Bring your own water bottle and stop the cycle of plastic bottle waste.
  2. Use reusable tupperware containers to pack your lunches or for takeout food.
  3. Refuse plastic products–this includes straws, cutlery, lids to soft drinks, beverages packaged in plastic bottles, and products and grocery items wrapped in plastic packaging.

If you’re looking for places where you can purchase these products, it’s easier than you think. You can go to Life Without Plastic, Package Free Shop, or your local supermarket and opt to purchase items that are not single-use plastics and preferably are made from a more sustainable material such as glass or stainless steel.

Let’s all be more conscious of our impact on the planet and take action to reduce our plastic waste 🙂

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Give a Sip: Banning Single-Use Straws in NYC

If you grabbed a newspaper this morning or follow the morning news, you might have heard that a new bill was introduced in the City Council that would ban single-use straws in restaurant establishments throughout NYC. This is a monumental year for environmental activists, as this is one of two bills that take a stand against the enormous amount of plastic humans produce in society (earlier last month, Governor Cuomo introduced a bill earlier last month to ban single-use plastic bags a year after he blocked a proposal for a $.05 fee for using these bags in the city).

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How can these bans benefit us?

  1. Less trash on the streets and on our beaches. How many of you are tired of dodging tumbling plastic bags in the city streets, or stumbling across garbage that litters what used to be clean, sandy beaches and waters?
  2. We’ve all seen the video of the sea turtle getting a straw extracted from its nostrils. Who doesn’t love turtles? By banning single-use plastic bags and straws, we are taking more precautions to protect sea life that often confuse plastic bags for jellyfish, or accidentally ingest straws while searching for food.
  3. We send a strong message to the plastic production industry to seek alternatives to plastic. There are already organizations around the world that have innovated products that are compostable and plant-based, and some restaurants have adopted these products in their establishments. Here are some shout-outs to the places that use these products already (there are definitely more that have slipped my mind, so if you know of any in your corner of the world, shout them out in the comments!):
    • compostable bags: Jollibee, Spring Street Natural
    • bamboo straws: New Leaf Eatery (Siem Reap)
    • compostable utensils: Cava, Oceanside Grill
    • paper straws: Frenchette, Carroll Gardens

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How can you do your part to use less plastic in your daily life?

  1. BYOBS. Okay, I made that up…but that means “bring your own bag and straw”! There are plenty of options when it comes to canvas tote bags and other non-plastic material bags that you can tuck away in your usual bag; you might even have some of these bags in your home already! When it comes to reusable straws, you can easily find some stainless steel, glass, or bamboo straws online and order sets of 4 or more 🙂
  2. Refuse. When you go to restaurants and order drinks, remember to ask your server not to give you a straw! It is almost customary for servers to bring you your drink with the straw already in the cup, so a quick reminder when you place your order would be super helpful.
  3. Recycle. If you don’t have an option but to use single-use plastics, check the packaging for the number and see if you can recycle it!

This is by no means the “super” solution to our issue with waste generation (we still produce 300 million tons of plastic each year globally, and in the US alone we produced over 254 million tons of trash in 2013), but this is a step in the right direction. I hope that these two bills get passed and that we can start taking better care of our environment for our generation and for the future ones to come.

Finding My Voice

Hi everyone,

I feel like I owe all of you an explanation as to why I haven’t posted in the past couple of months. First, I wanted to attribute it to my being busy in Cambodia working for a NGO, but it became evident that it was more than that. I started to realize that this blog no longer was bringing out my creative side, and I always felt like I was forcing myself to think of the next thing to post, rather than what I felt passionate about posting.

What started out as me writing about my volunteer experiences on Blogger eventually turned to writing recipes and reviews, which was fun for a time, but when I went back to working in the field for my graduate experience, that was where I felt the most inspired. I wanted to write about my experience in the field, about public health. I feel the most passion when I think about public health issues, such as why the US industrial food animal industry needs work, how we can address world hunger if we shifted our grain production to humans rather than to animal feed, why we should move towards renewable energy and a more plant-based diet for the sake of the environment and our own health, to name a few.

I’m still in the process of working out the kinks to what I want to write, and I’m chastising myself because I’m giving myself more excuses and delays to writing my next blog post. I have a list of ideas of what I could be writing, but I don’t have the motivation to do so because I am lacking the inspiration, and that honestly sucks. I used to enjoy writing and engaging with my readers and I want to be fully invested when I come back to this.

This February, I started a full-time job working for an advocacy organization for girls’ and women’s health, rights, and wellbeing, and am feeling some inspiration being around so many like-minded individuals. I hope that my colleagues can spark the fire that used to be there and get me back into writing. It’s possible that I will shift my focus to my public health blog as I try to find my voice again and keep this blog for my recipes and DIYs because cooking is something I still very much enjoy doing! I have also taken up bullet journaling as you can see from my instagram and have found some passion in that as well.

Thank you for all of your support and your patience during this time.

7 Habits to Adopt in 2018

Can you believe 2018 is already here?! These past few months have whizzed by so quickly and I don’t think I’ve registered that we’re starting a new year already :O My time in SE Asia has really changed my perspective and outlook on life, and I want 2018 to push me forward and help me succeed personally and professionally. I’m sharing 7 habits I’d like to begin for the new year and hope that I can finally stick to them this time around hehe. Enjoy!

  1. Make my bed every morning.
    I read somewhere that people who don’t make their beds are more driven in the workplace and have better things to do than to waste time making their beds, and as much as I’d like to agree with that, I think doing one small organizational thing in the morning can set the tone for the day.
  2. Read before bedtime.
    I am a chronic social media addict, and I used to track the number of hours I’d use my social media apps…it was pretty scary. For the new year, I want to set aside my phone at night and just get back into reading a good book to end my day.

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    It’s taking me way longer than I want to finish this book, but it’s really good! A must-read for those who are interested in Public Health
  3. Practice meditation at least 1x a day.
    I have heard the benefits of meditation for managing stress and anxiety, and promoting relaxation and a healthier lifestyle. There are plenty of apps to help you get into meditation, such as Headspace! If you’re short on time, there are meditations that are as short as 1-5 minutes.
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  4. Purchase responsibly.
    Because we live in a developed country, it’s easy to take for granted our ability to buy things on a whim. We often buy fast fashion when something catches our eye and we don’t consider whether we’ll still love it when years pass. I’ve really cut back on shopping at the quick and cheap retail stores because

    • I don’t want to own a million articles of clothing and not wear them later on
    • cheap clothes wear out and don’t last AKA their quality usually sucks
    • many of the clothes are not produced responsibly
  5. Cook at least 3x a week.
    When I was in Cambodia, I never had a fully functional kitchen to work with for over three months! I didn’t realize how much I missed cooking and being able to be creative in the kitchen and make things up as I go and surprise myself by the flavor profile of my dishes. It brings me joy to make something that others can eat 🙂 Also, I have cookbooks gifted by my friends that have been dying to be used: Vegan, Jack’s Wife FredaBut I Could Never Go Vegan!
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  6. Embrace creativity.
    When I was younger, I used to take art classes in and out of school, and thought it was kind of a chore…but as I grew up, I realized that I did enjoy when I would make some semi-decent pieces and received positive feedback for them! Now, I’m not limited to just a paint canvas or sketch book, but I like to bullet journal and blog as another way to share my creativity with the world and with you! 🙂
  7. Work on my handwriting.
    In my immediate family, I supposedly have the “best” handwriting, but that’s only when I’m trying. When I am in a rush to take notes in class or jotting down information from a phone call, it can quickly go downhill to start looking like scribbles on a piece of paper. Bullet journaling has given me the opportunity to be more conscious of how I write, and to make improvements when I see that changes can be made 🙂 I just need to keep up with it regularly and see the transformation over the year!

Thanks for reading! I hope that by sharing my 2018 goals that I will stick to it and maybe inspire some of you to set some goals for yourself 🙂 What changes would you like to make for the new year? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

As 2017 is coming to a close, we look back on the accomplishments we have made, and also think about the things we could have done differently. My experience working in Cambodia has reaffirmed my passion to work in the field of public health. Knowing that I can contribute meaningfully to a community is rewarding in and of itself and I feel like I’m a changed woman! My mother visited me when I was working in Cambodia and reminded me that in the past, I used to say that I wanted to make six figures so I could live comfortably, but seeing how people can be so happy with so little has really changed my life goals.

So how can one give back this holiday season if they can’t commit to working abroad for free for three months? I have some suggestions!

  1. Volunteer at a local organization. This can be anywhere from a homeless shelter, hospital, soup kitchen, food pantry, animal shelter, charity etc. Time is priceless…especially when you live in a big, bustling city like NYC. If you are willing to give up your time, even if it’s as little as one hour, you are making a difference to the people that you’re serving and helping.

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    I’ve volunteered at soup kitchens and food pantries before, and it’s so fun! It’s great to meet the people you are serving and to let them know you are rooting for them!
  2. Donate to a charity. We are constantly bombarded by television ads to donate to this organization, or that organization, but how many of us go the extra step to actually call the number or visit the website to donate? There are plenty of organizations that could use your help! If you are unsure where to donate and if an organization is legitimate, you can visit Charity Navigator to look up each organization’s work and its rating before you make your decision.
    • (this is my shameless plug because of my transformative experience working in Cambodia this fall heh) I’ve had the pleasure to work for the Cambodian Community Dream Organization these past three months and see the great work they do in three main areas: Clean Water, Education, and Health and Wellbeing. By working in the field and seeing where the donations are going, I can personally vouch for the integrity of this organization whose goal is to transform the lives of the people living in rural Siem Reap.

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      Here is the CCDO’s water well construction crew hard at work to build a water well within a day! These water wells are shared between 2-3 families (approximately 10 people), increasing water access and reducing the amount of time it takes to fetch water from another source. With each water well donation, the CCDO also provides a ceramic water filter so the families may drink safe, potable water 🙂
  3. Purchase a stranger’s groceries. I haven’t gotten around to doing this yet, but I can imagine how happy this stranger would be if they are struggling with the bills and making ends meet, and a kind individual such as yourself helps to lessen their burden just a bit and brighten their day or week.
  4. Buy a meal for and talk to a homeless person. For all of us who are not rich, we legitimately can be one paycheck away from being homeless. People are faced with unfortunate circumstances that can lead to them losing their homes and being pushed onto the street. Not all homeless people are drug addicts or alcoholics. Many are down on their luck and are seeking just a little bit of kindness from passersby. No one wants to feel invisible or that they are subhuman. If you can afford it, try to buy someone on the street a meal or two, and have a small chat with them. A little kindness can go a long way.

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    My friend snuck a photo of me a few years back giving food to someone in the city

I am happy to share a few below that I’ve heard great things about or have personally been involved in the past 🙂

  • New York Cares – tons of opportunities to volunteer in a variety of areas in the five boroughs
  • Project Sunshine – a nonprofit that is in four countries that provides free recreational programming to pediatric patients to brighten their days 🙂 If you are in the US, Canada, Israel or Kenya, you can apply to volunteer with PS!
  • Housing Works – its mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and HIV/AIDS through advocacy, provision of services, and entrepreneurial businesses. I volunteered at their thrift store back in undergrad and their retail staff is great!
  • UBELONG – I volunteered with them twice before, and had amazing times during both of my experiences. You can volunteer at an international location in a variety of different projects, spanning from as short as one week to as many as multiple months!

Happy Giving! I hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season 🙂

 

 

Adventures in Asia: Water Festival in Cambodia

Happy November, everyone! While Western cultures celebrated Halloween last week, people all over Cambodia traveled to Phnom Penh for Bom Om Touk, also known as the Water Festival. This is a national holiday celebrated across Cambodia to commemorate the end of the rainy season (which fun fact: causes the Tonle Sap river to flow in the opposite direction!)

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I absolutely loved the floating lights! My friend told me that each of these boats’ lights resembled the Ministries in Cambodia

This was my very first time living in SE Asia, and luckily I was placed to work in Cambodia, so I knew I had to be present to witness this ginormous gathering in Phnom Penh*, which easily has a few million attendees over the course of three days! Cambodians from different provinces all travel into Phnom Penh to witness the boat races.

I decided to attend the Water Festival festivities on Saturday in Phnom Penh, and I’m glad I did because that’s one of the best days to go (the first and third days, according to what my friend told me). As you can see from the photos below, so many crowded both sides of the waterfront of the river to watch the boat races. These boats can have up to 100 rowers which is INSANE–just imagine how long these boats must be to be able to support that many men!

If you’re going to visit Cambodia in the fall, attending the Water Festival should be one of the top things to do if you want to experience an event the locals so proudly celebrate! Bear in mind that the festival dates change every year, so check before you book your tickets!!

 

Can Cities Become Zero Waste?

I want to hear your thoughts on if you think our cities can become zero waste? Does your city or country have zero waste initiatives? Let’s open a dialogue and talk about it! Check out my post on my thoughts about this opportunity 🙂