Sustainable Sunday: Plants

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Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash

We don’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly.

Lauren Singer*

Plants are one of my favorite gifts to receive and high on the “treatchaself” list. They give you oxygen, are something to care for and watch grow, expedite healing, balance out the invisible chaos of electronics that might be wiggin’ you out, create a calming atmosphere, and look nice.

Swap: Instead of something toxic or environmentally-unfriendly, give or buy a potted plant.

Cut flowers usually wilt and stink within a week or so, so people toss them into the compost or, more likely, the trash. (The issue with the latter is that organic compost creates methane gas, which is bad for our environment.) While flower bouquets are a beautiful art form to look at and make recipients feel special, actively growing plants continue to flower- the gift that keeps on giving. Cut flowers are also 1) typically wrapped in plastic and 2) super expensive. For the same investment you can get a plant that keeps on keepin’ on long after the celebratory event has passed. For Valentine’s Day this year, Rick got me a big, bouncy peace lily, and this week it gave us a fresh white bloom. I say “us,” but I’d bet Rick hasn’t noticed it, so… this week it gave me a fresh white bloom!

peace lily
Photo by Maria Eliz on Unsplash

Plants purify indoor air.

I always wonder about quality of air and the fact that so many humans spend so much time indoors. (Me! I’m one of those people.) I wonder how our lungs are effected by all those dust motes floating around, undetected mold, gas/carbon monoxide, and things like candle smoke (another example of something toxic or environmentally-unfriendly we often give/buy). Plants clean the air in the home, give us fresh oxygen, and flourish with the carbon dioxide we emit. Mutually beneficial, we pair well together.

Plants give you something to nurture and care for.

I have another peace lily, my first, obtained along with a white bird of paradise from a nursery in D.C. when Rick and I lived there. The same day Rick got a tiny cactus he named Spike. He’s very proud of Spike when he remembers he has Spike.

This may sound really sad, and usually when things are really sad they end up being funny to me, and I find this funny, but when I was in D.C. I missed the family golden retrievers (in NYC) so much that taking care of plants was a weak but important consolation. I’d tug the massive bird of paradise outside to get some big sunlight just like you’d take a dog out. I remember one time Rick came home and I grinned and fanned my arm out to present the plant on our little patio. “Look who’s having a nice time outside!” (Somebody get this girl a dog…) HA! Rick appeased me with a “Wow! I can tell it’s having a great time out there.”

I also grew mint, basil, rosemary, and cilantro and what I learned was that there’s never enough cilantro, because I eat it too fast, and that mint does not know how to share and is always inviting itself over to other plants’ houses. If you plant mint with another herb, the mint will put its roommate in a choke hold and commit MURDER. The pot will be a mint-only pot soon. And then, my mint plant had the audacity to grow down to the ground, pretending to be minding its own business, and then pop up on the side of the other herbs’ pot! Anyway, mint needs to be in the plant equivalent of the isolation cabin from The Parent Trap (1998).

bird of paradise
Photo by Luca Deasti on Unsplash

Plants nurture you back.

Being able to eat what you grow is immensely satisfying. When I have a yard of my own, I plan to grow lots of food, or at least attempt to. It feeds me physically but also my soul to care for something and watch it flourish. In the meantime, though, I can only grow things indoors and with limited northern exposure. Sadly, my herbs did not make the move back to NYC. But my original peace lily and bird of paradise and Rick’s cactus he forgets about have lived three places and have continued to grow. Well, I have no idea if Spike is growing or even okay. I think he’s okay. I also got an aloe plant at a street fair for $5 and have used it on inflamed skin and sunburns.

Okay, now for something potentially psychosomatic that I believe in: plants countering the invisible chaos of wifi, cellular waves, and electronics in general. Apparently, plants cancel the positive ions that come from electronics, something that apparently makes people wiggy, charged up, and anxious. I’ve heard of a parent requesting a preschool remove the wifi connection due to it causing their child anxiety, and while I’m not ready to go that far, I believe that level of sensitivity to be true for some. For instance, fluorescent lights give me anxiety. The fact the light always moves drives me crazy and makes me feel like I’m about to have a seizure at any moment. (I’m sooo fun at parties.) When fluorescent lights are reflecting off a linoleum floor it’s even worse. My disturbing high school chemistry lab comes to mind. With cell service and wifi there is so much moving through the air, it kinda makes sense to me that something organic would balance it, even if just in the vein of feng shui. Apparently plants, especially their roots and soil, absorb that chaotic energy.

Plants are inherently healing.

I’ve always had a feeling about physical spaces that inform my inner peace, and plants help calm a room… and me. I found a study on the National Library of Medicine website that finds plants enhance healing:

Findings of this study confirmed the therapeutic value of plants in the hospital environment as a noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients. Health care professionals and hospital administrators need to consider the use of plants and flowers to enhance healing environments for patients.

[Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery]

It’s such a bummer to enter someone’s space with nary a plant in sight. Make a small plant your next housewarming or host gift! Here’s a place to start:

30+ Gorgeous Indoor Plants That Are Almost Impossible to Kill

Next on my list are a couple of snake plants. My birthday’s on Saturday- maybe Rick’s reading this. Rick, are you there? Anywho.

Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

One small consumption change for you, one small improvement for our environment. What kind of nontoxic, environmentally-friendly treats do you like to give or buy?

Warmest,
Bailey

*Lauren Singer is an environmentalist who does not generate any waste(!). You can shop her store, Package Free, online or at the brick and mortar store in Brooklyn post-pandemic. Read more about Lauren here, and watch her Ted Talk here– she’s inspiring.


Once a month I share a sustainability tip or an easy swap in consumption routine to better care for the planet. Environmentally conscious change doesn’t always have to be expensive, laborious, or extremely time-consuming.

If you like a photo used, please click through the link in the caption to support the artist.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Sustainable Sunday: Detergent
Sustainable Sunday: Carrots
Sustainable Sunday: Ziplock Bags


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Last, I leave you with this nice picture of a golden retriever I found.

Photo by Laula Co on Unsplash

Recipe: Apple Spice Bread

Alright people, another day, another sad looking piece of produce that needs a purpose. A lonely apple has been wiling away its days in the bottom of the wire fruit basket while the bananas hanging above it were eaten, replaced, and eaten again. The apple began to get a little wrinkly and thought Is this all there is in life? and, Is there a retinoid for apple skin?

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The answer to both of those questions is, of course, no. The solution is to 1) bake your sad (or happy) apples into this fabulous apple spice bread, 2) take it to someone as a host gift, and 3) be popular.

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Ingredients

1/2 c organic Earth Balance
1/2 c maple syrup
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 t vanilla
2 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t sea salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
3 apples, peeled and shredded

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix butter and maple syrup in a large bowl, using a hand or stand mixer.
  3. Add apple sauce and vanilla, mix until combined.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and spices, mixing until just combined.
  5. Add milk, mixing until just combined.
  6. Fold in apples.
  7. Lightly coat a loaf pan in oil to prevent sticking, or line the loaf pan in parchment paper.
  8. Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a butter knife comes out clean.

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This can be served plain, with butter, or syrup.

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Adapted from Vegan Apple Pie Bread.

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Velvet Crinkle Cookies

I call these “velvet cookies” because I don’t like to use food coloring, and while “brown velvet” sounds chic, it does not sound tasty. Anyway, these cookies are heaven. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 T cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4 t sea salt

Wet Ingredients
1/2 c organic Earth Balance
3/4 c cane sugar
3 T maple syrup
2 T coconut milk
2 t vanilla extract
1/3 c powdered sugar

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and fluffy. Mix in the maple syrup, milk, and vanilla extract. It’s normal to see little flecks of butter in the mixture (see photo below).
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, slowly mixing in until just combined.
  5. Put powdered sugar in a bowl wide enough to roll a ball of dough around in it. Scoop out the dough with a melon baller, cookie dough scoop, or tablespoon and gently drop into powdered sugar. Roll dough balls in powdered sugar until completely coated. Lightly tap off excess sugar and set on baking sheet.
  6. Using a flat spatula, press down on each dough ball until slightly flattened.
  7. Bake for ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for ten minutes before eating.

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Although it depends on the tool you use to scoop the dough, I’ve found this recipe yields about 15-17 cookies.

Adapted from Vegan Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies.

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Banana Bread

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Do not disparage sad looking bananas! An overripe banana is sweeter and perfect for baking or freezing for smoothies.

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Ingredients

Wet Ingredients:
3 large overripe bananas
2 T ground flaxseed
1/3 c coconut milk
1/3 c coconut oil, melted
2 T maple syrup
2 t vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:
1/4 c plus 2 T cane sugar
1/2 c rolled oats
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t sea salt
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour

Optional Toppings:
Chopped pecans, sliced banana, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips

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  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly spray 9 x 5″ loaf pan (or parchment paper-lined loaf pan) with oil and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mash the banana until almost smooth.
  4. Stir in wet ingredients (flax, milk, oil, syrup, vanilla) into banana until combined.
  5. Stir dry ingredients into the wet mixture one by one, in the order listed (sugar, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, flour) until just combined.
  6. Using a spatula, pour batter into the loaf pan and spread out evenly.
  7. Add toppings, if desired.
  8. Bake uncovered for 45 to 55 minutes until lightly golden and firm on top. Do a toothpick or butter knife test in the middle of the loaf to confirm it’s done. Mine took 52 minutes to bake.
  9. Place pan on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.
  10. If you did not use parchment paper, slide a knife around the loaf to loosen it and gently remove it from the pan. Place on a cutting board and slice.

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Good with breakfast, paired with coffee, as dessert, or as a host gift.

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Rick was eager to dig in and followed me around with a butter knife while I finished taking photos.

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Apollo Aldrich was there, too.

Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Adapted from Vegan Banana Bread.