I Can Always Do More – An Earth Day Reflection

Many of us live in the I Can Always Do More reality.  Well, this past Monday evening, Joelle and I heard a speaker that may have come the closest I have seen to pulling herself out of this reality by simply maximizing her sustainable efforts every moment of every day.  Even though I’m sure she would say she can still do more! The speaker; Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home.


The event took place at the Shedd Aquarium, who we were very enthusiastic to find is taking sustainability, and teaching others about sustainability, very seriously right here in Chicago.  They partnered with Zero Waste Chicago, which is the local chapter of the movement Bea’s book and efforts have triggered worldwide.  


The theme of her presentation and of her book, Zero Waste Home, is simple; reduce your waste, and therefore your environmental impact, to as close to zero as possible.  In Bea’s case, her entire family of four produces enough trash to fill a small glass jar in not a week… not a month… but an entire year! She even brought her 2017 glass jar of trash to prove it.  


The 5 R’s Bea abides by are not new – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot – but the way she employs them are profound.  By way of example, each time she travels she packs her entire wardrobe into a single carry on bag… that’s literally every article of clothing she owns.  Her family buys a locally made wooden toothbrush, which goes into the compost when it’s time for a new one… except for the bristles which they pluck out and add to the glass trash jar since they are not a natural material.  She only buys food in bulk or from local markets that she can place in reusable bags or fill in her own glass jars – she even has a sweet Bulk Finder tool on her website!  And pretty much any cosmetic, toiletry, or cleaning product is homemade from natural ingredients – which she also has wealth of resources about on her Blog.


The lifestyle choices and overall impact Bea and her family choose to make daily were inspiring to hear, and left me mulling a few thoughts this week heading into Earth Day:


  1. The Spectrum of Sustainability is Broad.  The road to sustainability for Joelle and I started with food and nutrition.  The road has since split into many other focuses of sustainability of which many are shared with Bea including minimalism, toxic free living, and composting.  Bea started with zero waste, and through it, also came to see the value of the local food system and nutrition. Sustainability as a concept is vast with many uncharted territories.  Each entry point, motivation, and step along the way is a cause worth celebrating!
  2. Zero Waste Needs to be Learned.  It struck me as fascinating that our culture’s current reality – filling up giant bins with trash every week – is so normal and accepted, and Bea’s methods are so foreign and unfamiliar.  In essence, throwing away absurd amounts of trash needs to be Un-Learned, and Zero Waste needs to be Learned. Bea even took a comical approach to this saying things like, “Oh, but we all dream of a world filled with plastic for our kids to grow up in, right?”  Humorous… but oh so true! Trash is the norm and our current trajectory is literally a world filled with plastic. There is a very finite amount of time we can get by with paying someone to haul it away for us so we never have to think about it again, before it catches up to us to have major impacts on the health of all things that depend on the water, soil, air, and sun for life.  Many would argue it already has!
  3. Sustainability is happening in Chicago!  This was a sold out, free event at the Shedd Aquarium that I would say had 150-200 people in attendance.  An expo was held beforehand with tables of many local sustainably minded companies and initiatives with the likes of reusable products, composting programs, local food production and a bunch more.  We were also encouraged to hear from interacting with a Shedd employee that this event was just one of many conservation and sustainability efforts hosted by Shedd that engages and educates the Chicagoland community.  You could feel the enthusiasm, comradery, and advocacy of each person there. They have more similar events on the dockett, so stay tuned!
  4. I Can Always Do More.  That’s right – WE can always do more!  I’m guessing when Bea started out, a single glass jar of trash after an entire year seemed like an impossible feat.  But now, it’s common practice for her family and a glass jar gets added every year. Earth day reminds us that our planet is worth fighting for… yes, even worth sacrificing for in our daily lives.  As Bea put it, Living with LESS = Living MORE. And doing MORE, even a seemingly small choice today, can add up to big impacts for our planet.


This Earth Day, what is your MORE?  And doing MORE, in the words of Bea, often means living with LESS!  Where is there unnecessary abundance in your life? What streams of waste do you see that can be avoided?  What do you consume that is overly convenient or disposable that you can take a different approach to? Bea’s book or website would be a great place to start for inspiration in how to go about making these choices.  Small choices become big habits. In light of Earth Day, I challenge all of us to begin applying a filter of sustainability to our daily choices.  Where do our daily lifestyle choices harm, not help, the cause? We all have a long list to improve on, and together we can choose to DO MORE, and LIVE MORE.


This post is the second of 3 emails we were asked to write for the Wellness Warriors Lifestyle Boot Camp offered by Dr. Jamie Thomure of DuPage Family Wellness.  Dr. Jamie first launched a Nutrition Boot Camp in 2017 which Joelle and I have both participated in and seen the benefits!  The Wellness Warriors Lifestyle Boot Camp was recently launched to go beyond nutrition into everyday healthy lifestyle choices.  We highly recommend checking out these Boot Camp’s along with the many other services being offered at DuPage Family Wellness!

Wellness Warriors Part 2:  Time Management


I heard an alarming statistic recently.  I’m not going to tell you what it is just yet.  You’ll have to read to the end. But it has to do with time!  The thing about time is, we all have it, and therefore are responsible to manage it.  Every waking moment, or non-waking, can be used productively, efficiently, and moving you toward your goals.  Or, it can do the exact opposite. Each day, each moment, you choose. So, how do you choose wisely?


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This post is the first of 3 emails we were asked to write for the Wellness Warriors Lifestyle Boot Camp offered by Dr. Jamie Thomure of DuPage Family Wellness.  Dr. Jamie first launched a Nutrition Boot Camp in 2017 which Joelle and I have both participated in and seen the benefits!  The Wellness Warriors Lifestyle Boot Camp was recently launched to go beyond nutrition into everyday healthy lifestyle choices.  We highly recommend checking out these Boot Camp’s along with the many other services being offered at DuPage Family Wellness!

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Dollars Equal Support

Dollars = Support

I’ve been fighting it all day – the feeling that I need to be out there shopping today.  Black Friday.  To boot, I’ve hardly even scoured the ads, so not only am I not there in the thick of it, I don’t even know the potential deals I am missing out on.  Can anyone relate to feeling that today is just too big a day to miss out on?

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Beginners Guide to Composting in the Suburbs

Beginners Guide to Composting in the Suburbs

Composting has gained a lot of ground in recent years.  Here in the West Suburbs of Chicago, Joelle recently attended a free composting seminar and we’ve even heard of community composting initiatives.  In it’s infancy of stardom, composting still comes in well behind more popular gardening trends like fertilizer, whether organic or chemical.  Few use compost and fewer yet have an idea of what it is or how it is made.  Until a couple years ago, I would be the lowest up the totem pole in that category!  

Joelle recently asked me what the difference was between fertilizer and compost.  Never having given much thought to the matter, I pondered for a moment and a familiar analogy came to mind.  I likened fertilizer to that of a supplement.  Often times we take vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc. to supplement our regular diet.  Fertilizer, likewise, is a supplement to the health and vitality of the soil.  Compost, on the other hand I likened to a complete, well balanced, fully fortified and nutritious meal.  Compost, from my experience, offers the full support system for any living plant to grow in and thrive.

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A Heritage That Must Endure

A Heritage That Must Endure

Over the past month of two, we have logged quite a few hours either in our own garden or volunteering on local farms.  My experience has been this; that there is almost nothing more pure and noble than working the soil and being connected to it.  Whether it’s the sweet smell of freshly churned compost, holding a fresh seedling in my hand that’s about to be planted and take root, pulling weeds to focus energy on productive plants, plucking a fresh worm to feed to our chickens, or just standing back and looking at how much life is sustained by such a simple process, there is little I have found more delight in than gardening, farming, or anything in between.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 8: Play

Family Mission Statement – Part 8:  Play

Play is valued little in our culture.  Let me explain.  It is difficult to refute that life has changed more in the past 150 years than it did cumulatively in the previous thousands.  The simple, pastoral, self sufficient life has given way to a fast paced, highly educated, and others dependent life.  Obviously, technology is a factor, but much before that, industrialization changed the terrain of how people eat, sleep, work, learn, and play.

For adults, a mindset of work before play has set in with an industrialized economy.  My fear is that we’ve transferred this mindset to children at a premature age and more aggressively than we think.  I would also make the case that adults should be reluctant to give up the art of play in their own lives and even practice it regularly.  Let’s begin by looking at children.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 7: Work

Family Mission Statement – Part 7:  Work

Who doesn’t love hearing the exciting and creative job titles kids come up with when asked what they want to be when they grow up?  Firefighter, car mechanic, astronaut, missionary, doctor, marine biologist, viceroy of the open seas!…  Ok, maybe not that last one – but we are taught to dream big and the sky’s the limit.  However, at some point, for many but not all of us, reality sets in and our selections are narrowed to a much more practical list of career options offered by our university, trade school, etc:  Accountant, chemist, engineer, business, education, history, math, and so on.

The thought that has amazed us lately is realizing how segmented career pursuits can be from the rest of life.  The dream as children to pursue our passions gets replaced along the way by the expectation to enter a proper and pragmatic profession.  Whereas our goals, values, dreams, and passions apply to the rest of our lives, it seems almost normal that our career ought to take a different path.  This is what I mean by segmented.  Our lives head one direction while our work heads us in another.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 6: Intentional

Family Mission Statement – Part 6:  Intentional

Parenthood especially, has caused me to rethink how I value time.  “They won’t be young forever.”  “Blink and they’ll be in college!”  All things I’ve heard from practiced parents.  Time can look very different depending on the stage of life you’re in but one of the things we’ve been challenged with for a while now is being intentional with the time you have – So much so, that it became the next part of our Family Mission Statement.

Imagine two lives.  One being the planner who is always focused, driven, ahead of schedule, prudent, goal oriented, and has days, weeks, and months set on the calendar.  Now, think of the partier who is always unpredictable, extremely social, unplanned, usually not on time, carefree, adventurous, relaxed, and seems to lack a general sense of direction.  Take those two lives, throw them in your stock pot, stir them around, and you have what we would aim for as the perfect stew of intentional living.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 5: Freely

Family Mission Statement – Part 5:  Freely

In 2010, Joelle and I had the chance to spend a summer in Orlando, Florida.  We couldn’t have timed it better!  Just a few weeks prior, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter had opened at Universal Studios.  How could we resist the opportunity to channel our inner Dumbledore and Hermione!  We went and it was packed – in fact we waited near an hour just to get into that portion of the park.  Besides the simulated ride through Hogwarts and drinking my first butterbeer, our other fondest memory was our mystery line.  With the masses of people in the park, lines were everywhere.  At one point we jumped in a line thinking we knew where it led.  We asked the people around us in line and no one could give us a definite answer.  In all, we waited in this line for over an hour, it only moved a few feet, and still to this day we have no idea what the line was for.  Somebody pass me another butterbeer, please!

We eventually got out of our not so magical mystery line.  One thing I couldn’t help but notice was how many remained in the line.  How long, I wondered, would they continue to stand there with no clear direction and such little forward progress?  Either way, walking away gave us a new sense of freedom to explore!  I think we left Wizard World and enjoyed the rest of the park where there were no lines at all 🙂

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