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Friday, October 29, 2010

From 'trash' to art

I had a rare moment tonight, in which I got to listen to NPR — a favorite pastime of mine when I used to get stuck in hours of traffic on my way home from work in L.A.

I got to hear Kai Ryssdal's beautiful voice on Marketplace (he looks different in person than I would have imagined), but I also got to hear this interesting story about a documentary about men and women in Brazil who sift through the largest landfill in the world in Rio de Janeiro looking for recyclables, and the work of Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz, who photographed and created fine art based on the photographs and using trash from the landfill.

For the men and women in this documentary, this is a way of making a living — they sell the recyclables to wholesalers. For Muniz, his work is ostensibly a way to make a difference in these people's lives. It's inspiring to see something so beautiful coming out of/being inspired by the "pickers'" work.

Listen to the story:

Watch the trailer:

"Waste Land" opened in New York today. I enjoyed hearing about it. Now, I look forward to (hopefully) seeing it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Beachy Halloween inspiration

My amazingly creative sister just texted me a picture of the Halloween costume she is designing. When she was in Montauk a couple weeks ago, she was inspired by "things that wash up on the beach," so she is going as a giant shark's tooth! It looks awesome — I hope there will be plenty of photos of the finished product.

A friend is joining in on the theme and going as an old boot. I haven't given much thought about a Halloween costume for myself, but Kat asked what I would go as if I were joining in on the theme. I think she half expected me to say "a piece of plastic."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweet dirt

Happy to report that the compost doesn't stink one bit! Smells fresh even. In fact, there seems to be a healthy bit of soil already starting to form.

I was a little worried when, after I dumped the first of my veggie scraps and some dried leaves into it, I read that "it's a common mistake to use too much water — it's probably the most common reason for failures" — and then it rained for three days.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sometimes nature amazes me.

Like tonight when I was turning out the lights to go to sleep and there was a glow coming from beneath the floor-length curtains so bright that I thought I must have left a light on outside. It is the moon. Beautiful, full, amazing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mini beach cleanup

Just a quick hello (and goodbye) to the beach this morning before Mom and Kat had to head back home to South Carolina.

Today's total:

1 unidentified plastic flower-looking thing + 1 piece of Styrofoam
+ 1 unidentified small plastic green thing
Saved today from the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch: 3 pieces of plastic.

Total saved: 192

Saturday, October 16, 2010

'Are you really going to schlep that?'

(This photo snapped by Kat.)
"Are you really going to schlep that back to the house?"

This incredulous question from a friend of the family who is visiting this weekend caught me a little off guard. Not that I'm looking for approval for taking trash up from the beach, but I haven't yet really had to explain myself. Anyone I've encountered on my walks who has commented on me picking up trash has had something semi-encouraging to say. But this friend can at times be a little brusk, and I didn't know what to expect. I stood my ground and simply said "yes," which seems to have been enough, as conversation quickly moved back to the dogs who were running up in the high grass near the dunes.

By the way, isn't Tybee beautiful? She's the friend's dog, and very well behaved. Munchkin, take note.

Today's schlep:

1 piece of Styrofoam packaging
+ 4 plastic caps
+ 1 plastic Barg's bottle
+ 4 unidentified pieces of hard plastic
+ 3 unidentified black plastic circular things
+ 2 unidentified white plastic circular things
+ 3 plastic ties
+ 4 plastic straws
+ 1 plastic lollipop stick
+ 1 plastic permanent marker (doesn't mark anymore)
+ 2 plastic bags
+ 2 plastic forks + 1 piece of another plastic utensil
+ 1 plasticy Billabong beach-umbrella cover
And 1 mini Coca-Cola bottle, which I will be returning for deposit:
+ 5 cents to me.

Saved today from the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch: 30 pieces of plastic.

Total saved: 189

Friday, October 15, 2010

In case you were wondering ...

Cork is compostable.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A good morning at Ditch Plains

Path to the legendary Ditch Plains.
If you've heard of one place in Montauk, it's probably Ditch Plains, this little surfing spot that's been popular among big-name surfers for decades. My sister heard that Vans was putting on a competition out there today, so we headed over this morning to see if we could catch any of the Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational

Turns out there were zero waves. Seriously. This kind of surf is what the cousins and I have always affectionately refered to as "Lake Montauk" (although, technically, geographically, that term refers to an actual place elsewhere in the village). We moseyed down to the competition tent anyway. 

When we got down to the tent, Kat inquired about the competition and I started picking up some of the plastic trash that was laying about in the sand near the tent. I was surprised when the guy Kat had been talking to started doing the same. Of course, I'm sure he had a certain commercial stake in making the beach nicer for the surfers and whoever else might come out to watch the competition, but it is still nice to think that maybe my small gesture inspired someone else to take action.

Then, as we made our way back down the beach, and Kat collected shells and a particularly beautiful fish skeleton, two women — probably Ditch Plains locals — who were walking a dog asked us if we were picking up trash off the beach and, when we responded "yes," one said "awesome," in such a way as to suggest that it had possibly just occurred to her that she could do the same on her morning walks.

Kat did get to catch some of the competition later in the day when the surf finally picked up. Unfortunately, I had to miss it.

Waves finally picked up later in the day.
(This photo snapped by my sister, Kat.)
Today's pickup was pretty big. Oh, and happy birthday, Megan.

Here's the tally:

1 plastic "Megan's 13th-Birthday" bracelet + 1 plastic party popper
+ 1 large party balloon + pieces from 17 other party balloons
+ 19 unidentified pieces of hard plastic
+ 14 unidentified pieces of plastic film
+ 3 plastic bottles + 1 piece from another plastic bottle
+ 6 plastic caps
+ 3 plastic baggies
+ 2 plastic lids + 1 plastic cup + pieces from 6 other plastic cups
+ 4 plastic straw
+ 4 plastic utensils
+ 1 piece of plastic "foil" from the top of a wine bottle
+ 1 plastic grocery bag
+ 6 plastic food wrappers
+ 2 plastic beauty-product tubes + 1 hair tie (not sure just how offensive
to the environment hair ties are, but I'm assuming it is made from synthetic rubber)
+ 3 pieces of smoking paraphernalia
(That's plastic-covered packaging on the left there, folks.)
+ 7 various boat pieces
+ 6 pieces of plastic fishing gear
+ 2 pieces of duct tape (not associated with the surf competition)
+ 3 rubber bands
(again, assuming they are synthetic rubber, which is a polymer)
+ 3 work gloves
+ 3 unidentified black plastic circular things
+ 3 plastic ties
And 2 Coors cans + 1 Bud Light can, which I will be returning for deposit:
+ 15 cents to me.
Saved today from the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch: 124 pieces of plastic.

Total saved: 159

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

At Edison Beach

Overcast, but an absolutely beautiful day.
A quick lunch today on the beach south of Edison with my sister and our pup. Lovely day. Perfectly crisp air. Almost-empty beaches. October is beautiful here.

Today is Tuesday, and the tail end of a four-day weekend — the last busy one Montauk will see before Memorial Day next summer. On our short walk back up from Edison Beach, I of course pick up a few "leftovers" presumably left behind by weekend beach goers.

Today's yeild:

1 potato chip bag
+ 1 small piece of plastic coated wire
+ 1 piece of unidentified hard plastic (a beach shovel maybe?)
+ 2 plastic cups
+ 1 plastic knife
Saved today from the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch: 6 pieces of plastic.

Total saved: 35

Monday, October 11, 2010

My new mentor: Jane Goodall

(This photo snapped by my lovely sister who happens to be in town.)
I have been volunteering during the Hamptons International Film Festival all weekend, and one of the movies I got to see was a German film called "Jane's Journey." Jane Goodall doesn't know it yet, but she is going to be my mentor.

I knew of Jane Goodall as the woman National Geographic had featured, way back when, for her work with the monkeys — and until seeing this film, I had never heard of her out of that context. Of course, I had no reason not to think of her as an extraordinary woman, but I just had no idea about all of the other things she's done and has continued to do beyond that one point in her life.

Jane Goodall is a fascinating, frank and inspiring woman who is committed to conservation and preserving what is left of this fragile world for future generations. And I can only hope to do a quarter of the good she's done in her life in my own.

If you get a chance, see this film.

Trailer here:

Learn more about one of Jane's latest endeavors at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Adventures in Composting, Day 1

Today, I officially started composting. I used this technique recommended by Sunset magazine to build the bin. Then layered in my greens and browns.
The bin.
The "greens."
The "browns."
Here's hoping this goes OK.