Just trying to bee helpful

It matters. You matter.

So, the bees (and other pollinators). Yeah, they’re pretty much sh*t outta luck right now. I know this firsthand. I’ve been growing food since the day after the towers fell (it was the only thing I could think to do to have some semblance of control in a world losing it) — community, school, and art gardens as well as those specifically for those in need (refugee children-of-war, food pantry, transitional home, marginalized communities, you name it). But my most up-close and personal has been my home garden, where I regularly grew $2500 each year worth of organic Food for My Daughters. I’m not saying that three or four years ago when practically my whole neighborhood started spraying for mosquitoes things plummeted, but, hey, there does seem to be a correlation. Whatever.

I’m still out there trying, even hand-pollinating my zucchini flowers with a Q-tip and shaking my tomato plants to spread their pollen. I’m planting extra wildflowers and letting all my crops and herbs go to flower. I think it helps, and, really, at this late stage in the game on our planet-in-crisis, I really do just want to “bee helpful.” And you can, too. Action step: Toss some wildflower seeds.

Speaking of being helpful, you don’t have to do it all. I don’t care if you use plastic bags (although I try not to). I don’t care if you drive or eat meat (although reducing those things does seem to make a difference). But I can show you a few things that you may actually enjoy adding to (or leaving out of) your life, that may make a small stone-in-the-pond difference somehow. I’ll also just share random stuff happening (the good, the bad, and the wtf) from close to home and around the world. I’m known as Sustainable Pattie (someone nicknamed me that when I ran a city commission to bake sustainability into the DNA of what was then the newest city in the USA), and I do try, but I’m far from environmentally perfect, and I guess maybe at this point I realize we’re all just walking each other home and maybe kindness is all that matters at the end of the day. Action step: just slow the f*ck down and hold a door for someone today or stop doing that creeping-up crap in your car when a pedestrian is crossing in front of you.

So, welcome to my new newsletter. I can’t believe people are reading these things, but a recent article in Vanity Fair suggests this may be the way for me to connect better with you now, so are you out there? Is this a good idea? I used to write a blog by this name that had more than 30,000 visitors a month (which was a lot then) and is still racking up the page views into the millions (even though I let the custom URL go a couple of years ago to write this blog instead). But that doesn’t seem to be the way to go anymore. Let’s try this for a month or so instead and see what happens next. My mantra is Trust the Journey, so yeah, let’s do that.

Some housekeeping (note: I hate that term). I’m thinking I’ll give you about four little tidbits a newsletter, pulling from existing content on all aspects of sustainability I’ve already produced over the years (with updates as appropriate — yes, I was all over triclosan and toxic sunscreen and other things that we already knew were bad years ago), plus some brand new stuff. I’ll start with some little feature story and then add the following three sections. I may throw in a how-to bonus if you’re good to me (please don’t be mean; we simply don’t have time for that in our world anymore). Okay, let’s flesh that out.

The Good

Free public fruit rocks. I forage all the time. Here in Atlanta, fruit I access while Traveling at the Speed of Bike includes mulberries, serviceberries, blackberries, blueberries, plums, pears, peaches, apples, figs, muscadines, native persimmons, and pomegranates, with a big shout-out to Robby Astrove, Trees Atlanta, and Concrete Jungle. Action step: See if your city has a local group planting and harvesting from fruit trees. If not, email your city representatives and ask that fruit trees and berry bushes be added to allowable street/park plantings. Or just plant a fruit tree somewhere.

The Bad

Elevators are often out-of-service, which is a pain in the ass when I’m bringing my bike on the train (which is always) but is actually debilitating for those with disabilities (or even just traveling with a stroller). My 83-year-old mother won’t even attempt to take the train anymore because she simply can’t risk this. This kind of sh*t has to stop.

The WTF?

Well, I gotta kick off with Pointy the Bike Lane (sorry if that photo is showing up little — I’ll try to get a new one on my GoPro the next time I take my life in my hands there). Honestly, enough said. But if you think this asinine example of your public dollars at work isn’t bad enough, take a look at the recent Guardian roundup of the best and worst bike lanes from around the world. Action step: Take photos of stuff that doesn’t work and in fact, puts people in danger, and shout it out over and over until someone somewhere hears you. Or maybe consider filing a class action suit.

“How-To” Bonus Content

Tea for free

Story: So I stand there at Starbucks or wherever (I spend far too much time in coffee shops nowadays, as my life has changed in odd ways lately) and watch as people order herbal teas and pay several bucks for a little cup of it. It makes me cringe, since I know that all it takes is tossing a handful of fresh herbs into a pot of water, boiling for a bit, and there you have it. So darn simple. And organic to boot, which it usually isn’t in these places. I don’t say a word, because, frankly, there I am on line for a cookie or something which I could easily make at home. But I am not at home, so I don’t beat myself up, and I don’t judge others. I just cringe . . .

Tip: Make the tea at home and then carry it with you in a thermos or something for during the day. Take your work break in a pretty public greenspace rather than in Starbucks. Don’t know any near you? Take a walk one day –you’ll be surprised what you find.

Recipe: My favorite summer tea is peppermint and lemongrass. I cut a big handful of each from my garden, rinse, put in a big pot, fill about hallway, and bring to a boil just for about two minutes or so. Then, let the tea steep for 10 minutes or so more. You can drink this hot, refrigerate and serve iced, and even use as the water when making rice.

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Okay team, that’s it. We’ll find our way together on this (or not) over time. Let’s give it a month of “weekend edition” issues on Fridays, like USA Today (where I used to work, by the way) or The Wall Street Journal (where I originally interviewed and they were like, um, you are so not a good fit here). And then we’ll re-evaluate. If you want to show me some love, please

I’m starting from a clean, blank slate re: who I’m targeting (this stuff affects all of us) so, like, yeah, you do actually matter here. Also, if your company is doing good and you need a writer, please hire me. I have bandwidth for two additional 20-hour-per-month/6-month contract positions starting in September. I’d love to write for you. Thanks.

Trust the journey,

Pattie