Rebranding?

Hey everyone!

I am rebranding to broaden up the scope of my reach. I am still going to focus on nature and all things nature, but I also want to write more things like my previous post. I want to put my essays out there whenever I am inspired to write out my feelings.

With all of this, though, I am going to need your help. I want to hear about topics you want me to look into or want me to talk about on here. The topics don’t always have to be about nature and the environment, but they can be about anything.

I want to be able to make this blog about everyday life with a focus on the environment and what we can do to help it. I also want to dedicate some space to talk about mental health, since that’s something I personally deal with and know people who deal with it, too.

So, that’s pretty much this entire blog post…let me know in the comments or to my email latinatreehugger@gmail.com with any post suggestions!

Until next time,

Dani

#PlasticFreeJuly: Day 2

Yes, you read that right…day 2. I kind of forgot about this challenge and started a day late. At the end of Day 1, I realized that I desperately need to complete this challenge.

I was in my car on my way home from work and I looked down….

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I had not one…not two…not three, but FOUR PLASTIC STRAWS still in their wrapping.

Image result for fainting gif This gif was me…because how COULD I???

This is how: I am too lazy to make breakfast and stopped at the same fast food place a couple of times a week to buy some breakfast…and every time I grabbed my carton orange juice, I didn’t reject the plastic straw even though I didn’t really need it for my drink. I am just as ashamed as you probably are because my arch nemesis are plastic straws and here I am with FOUR unopened ones in my car. I also haven’t thrown them out or done something with them because of this shame that I feel.

I know I sound dramatic, but let’s be real, it’s a big deal. I don’t know what has changed within me that makes me forget to reject the straw, but whatever it is is not good. I need to go back to my plastic-free lifestyle, hence, this challenge.

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For Day 2, I posted on my Instagram (@latinatreehugger and @danialviz) about my new reusable 12 oz coffee cup. I had been looking for something small to hold my cafe con leche and I found one at Walmart. It’s sealed super tight so it’s really hard for me to spill it since I’m such a clutz. I tried using a mason jar as my coffee cup and burned myself real quick, but this one works great and fits in my lunch bag or the cup holders on the side of my work backpack. 

I have really been making an effort to dedicate some time in the morning to make my own coffee at home if I’m really craving it. So far, so good. I’ve learned how to make my cafe con leche the way that the Cuban viejitas do at those Cuban bakeries.

 

For Day 3, I’m not sure what I’m going to advocate, but I’ll definitely keep this challenge going and I will try to document every day on my blog. Maybe at the end of each week, I’ll record a podcast on the revelations I’ve had during the challenge that week.

Until next time,

Dani

No-Stink Summer 2019 (and on)

I started working recently in a job that requires me being outside A LOT. And here in Miami, that means heat and 90% humidity almost every day. Most days most of the A/C we get is from the cars we use to drive around and the lunch breaks in the office. It’s also officially summer, which means everyone needs to please, for the love of God, wear deodorant. I don’t want to have to be around stinky people (including myself) this summer. 

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Also recently, I finally finished my last deodorant stick. So, I decided that I would try to find a recipe for a deodorant that could help me stay dry and smelling fresh through my work days.

I googled a bunch of recipes and I decided that I wanted it to be as vegan as possible, so I didn’t want anything with beeswax in it. I found a really great recipe from BeautyMunsta (here). Her recipe only includes coconut oil, corn starch, baking soda, and she uses lemon eucalyptus essential oil. These are all things that most common households have in either their kitchen or anywhere else. I know I had most of these at home and the eucalyptus essential oil can be replaced with any essential you have at home.

So, I started the recipe by doing exactly what she said in her post. I mixed 4 tablespoons (more or less…I couldn’t actually find my tablespoon measure anywhere) of coconut oil, 5 of corn starch, one and one teaspoon of baking soda, and 20 or more drops of the essential oil, which in my case was eucalyptus.

The baking soda and corn starch as supposed to absorb the sweat and neutralize the stink. The coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, it moisturizes the skin, and it will prevent skin irritation and rashes. Something I didn’t know was that the lemon eucalyptus can also work as a bug repellant….so I guess this deodorant can also help keep the bugs away if you live somewhere that’s very buggy, like Miami.

You start by combining the ingredients, except the essential oil, in a pan over a low flame. Stir until everything melts and combines. Then let it cool off for around a minute and pour it into a glass jar. Not plastic because it could melt. Once in the jar, stir in the essential oil and you’re pretty much done.

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At first, my deodorant had a really, really liquidy consistency so I decided to add some more corn starch and some more baking soda. I was extremely impatient and realized that I probably had to let it sit for some time harden up.

I let it cool and harden overnight and VOILA, it worked!

It was not really a paste…so maybe sticking to the original recipe might have made it into a paste, but mine was more of the hardened deodorant consistency that I am used to. The only difference is that this one is in a glass jar and I have to scoop it out with a popsicle stick.

 

So, after I used it a couple of times in places like Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando and my job in the Everglades, I’ve come to the conclusion that it works. I do have to give you a warning that generally when I sweat, I don’t stink so much, but I haven’t been stinking at all at this job that would probably make me smell. I did add too much baking soda, which makes my armpits burn a little when I recently shave them, but it works otherwise. Just follow the recipe from BeautyMunsta and have patience and you should be good to go.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or head over the original recipe’s blog post. Definitely try this and let me know how it goes! Happy summer!

Until next time!

Dani

Staying Eco-Friendly at Orlando

This week I’m going to be headed to Orlando, FL to hang out at the Universal theme parks (possibly Epcot at Disney). I can’t to release some endorphins and be pumped full of adrenaline. Something I love doing and going is Universal Orlando…there’s nothing like being able to ride roller coasters one minute and then enjoying Harry Potter World the next minute.

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Something that I always forget about at these parks is staying true to the zero waste lifestyle because of what’s easiest. I know that’s another sad excuse, but it’s the truth. I just want to get on the next ride or not miss the next show so I eat whatever is easiest.

Lately, I’ve been pretty good about not creating so much waste at these theme parks. It’s so easy to just be comfortable and grab a cup of water at whatever restaurant or use their plastic utensils and throw them out. The coolest thing is getting the reaction from people waiting in line when they see my giant 64-ounce water bottle in my hand. Everyone always asks me the same thing, “you carry that around all day?? Don’t you get tired??”

My answer is simple: not really, I don’t want to use the plastic cups.

And I always get the same look and the same answer, “wow, you’re right. That’s awesome.”

Then I go and have a conversation with them about how easy it is to just add a reusable water bottle to the backpack that they already have to lug around. They don’t have to carry a giant one like I do. What most people don’t know, because they might not frequent the parks like I do, is that the vendors that have soda fountains can refill your water bottle and add ice if you ask. Free of charge. How cool? For the longest time, Universal/Island of Adventures used to give 8 water bottle vouchers for annual passholders to use in that year. Instead of that, they decided to give water for free, which they definitely should have been doing from the beginning. Anyone, annual passholder or not, can ask for free water. They obviously will give it to you in a plastic cup, hence the reusable water bottle.

Image result for universal orlando city walkThe only thing about bringing your water bottle is you have to make sure that it is empty before coming into the park, but that’s not a problem since you can have it filled up right away once you go onto City Walk. If you’ve ever been to these theme parks, you know that there is that area where the road splits between Islands of Adventure and Universal (on the GIF it’s where the screen is), where the fountains are. There’s a circular vendor station that sells snacks and drinks, I always get my water bottle filled up there, free of charge, of course.

If you want a soda, they sell “souvenir cups” that you can refill the entire day and even bring back any other day. All you have to do if you bring it on other days is pay the fee to activate it. Beats using new plastic cups and new plastic straws the entire day and any other time you go to the parks.

This time around, I want to bring my own food and my own utensils. If I bring my own reusable water bottle I won’t need to use a straw or anything, so I typically leave my straws at the hotel.

Image result for steel bento boxI want to pack my own lunch in my steel containers and take it to the park. They are okay with things like sandwiches in bags so I’m going to try and get my salad in my steel container through. I’ll definitely update on that in either another blog or the updated podcast. I really love going to these parks and I want to find new ways in which I can reduce my waste on my trips.

Here is what’s on the Universal Theme Parks website:

Outside Food And Drinks

We offer a variety of food options at restaurants and concession stands throughout our resort. However, we understand that guests may need to bring outside food and drinks. Please note the following guidelines:

Acceptable Items

Bottled Water (maximum 2 liters)

Small snacks that do not require heating

Any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements

Any food required for special dietary needs

Baby food/baby formula

Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep

Prohibited Items

Glass containers

Open containers

Hard-sided coolers

Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep

Picnic lunches

Food that requires heating or refrigeration

Folding chairs

So…I take my salad as being a part of my special diet since I have PCOS and am also a vegetarian? It’s a risky move, but I am willing to risk it if it means I get to save some money while also reducing my waste! It’s also more sustainable since I am the one purchasing my produce and I know where it has come from. I’m not throwing shade or anything at Universal, but I don’t know where they get their food from…

I don’t know of any other ways that I can reduce waste. I was thinking of bringing my own small cloth for bathrooms instead of paper towels? I just thought about that one right as I was writing this blog post.

I think for now those are the things that stand out the most to me when I think about wasteful things at theme parks. I will definitely make a podcast at the part (possibly?) if I am appalled by the amount of waste that I see.

If you have any questions specific to the park, I might have the answer so feel free to comment or message me! Make sure you catch the latest blog post here and my latest podcast episode here.

Until next time!

Dani

Episode 5: Carbon Footprints!

Have you ever wondered about carbon footprints? Maybe you want to offset your emissions somehow…well it’s a thing you can do and I talk a little bit about it on this episode!

Episode 4: Twenty-Something Environmentalists

Hey guys! I’m finally back with another episode. I know it’s been quite some time since I posted one, but it has been a couple of crazy weeks for me. Nonetheless, I’m back with another episode and this time I’m accompanied by one of my fellow classmates, Adrian Figueroa. He is a senior, like me, at Florida International University studying Environmental Studies. We kind of talk a little about everything relating to our field and what it is like being environmentalists in this world and at our age. We touch on some issues regarding diversity within our field and things that we would do to help move that forward.

I hope you enjoy this longer episode and I will talk to you guys in a week (hopefully!).

Until next time,

Dani

Back to School? How to be waste-free at school.

It’s that time again for a lot of us.

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That time of year where we have to discontinue our binge-watching and get our lives together for.

BACK TO SCHOOL!

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I’m entering my final year at my university, but this year is different. I’m trying to be zero-waste this year, which makes shopping for school supplies a bit complicated.

I headed to Walmart with my brother the night before my semester starts, which was the worst idea I could have ever had, but we started to hunt for our supplies.

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I then realized, that I have to be as zero-waste as possible. It’s really hard to do that when all of the pens, pencils, markers, and other writing utensils come in plastic wrappings. Sure, the backing is cardboard (which we can recycle), but the wrapping covering them is plastic.

One of the blogs that I follow for zero-waste inspiration and shopping is called Package Free Shop. In this store you can find all sorts of package-free items like razors, toothbrushes, shopping bags, and other such things.

For back to school, they added some school supply items that are package free and sustainable. They have recycled paper notebooks, binders, and folders. They also have 100% cotton pencil pouches and book bags. I also recommend if you already have pencil pouches or notebooks that are half filled, just keep using them. If they have a rip, just do some basic sewing and fix it. That is one way that we create waste: by just throwing things way because we don’t like the anymore. There are DIY ways to just revamp something that we do not like anymore. Try to find those ways. If you really don’t want to keep it anymore, but it is still a good item, then just donate it to Goodwill or other secondhand-stores around you.

If you can’t get your supplies from this website and Walmart is just closer, then try to find the least wasteful things.

Pilot has pens that are called B2P (Bottle-2-pen), which launched in 2010. The gel ink and ball point pens are made from 89% and 83% recycled plastic bottles respectively. They are all 100% refillable.

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Notebooks are for the most part recyclable, but you can always try to reuse the ones from the last semester or school year. This way you can reduce the amount of waste you are causing. Always try to save things you used from the previous year so that you can use them for the following semester.

If you are in the market for a new notebook, there are these super cool reusable notebooks that I found out about last semester. They are called Rocketbook. It is a reusable, digital notebook. There is an app that the notebook goes with where you just upload the pages to and then erase it when you’re done.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write notes.
  2. Choose a destination. You use symbols at the bottom of the pages that connect to your Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, iCloud, iMessage, or Email. Each symbol represents a course that you are taking or a specific destination.
  3. Scan your pages.

To erase your notes, you just have to wipe them clean with water and a cloth. It’s really simple and can be used an endless amount of time.

It’s always a little difficult to be zero waste, but you just have to be conscious about the items you are grabbing and buying and how you can reduce your waste. Will it be recyclable? Can I refill it? Can I donate it when I’m done?

Good luck!

Until next time,

Dani

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

I’ve been away for around a week and for good reason.

This summer I had the chance to be an intern at Everglades National Park through a program called Latino Heritage Internship Program, LHIP for short. I was one of two LHIP interns at the Everglades. My job was to work with the education department and help them make their Nike Missile Site Program better.

I had the chance to explore new places in the park and around the park. Sadly, my internship has come to an end. To conclude it, LHIP hosted a conference in Colorado.

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We started our conference in Denver, Colorado in the Intermountain Regional Office for the National Parks Service. We got workshops relating to USAjobs.com and federal resumes. We also had the chance to present to the other 42 interns about our projects or what we spent all summer working on or doing. After the workshop, we started our travel to Boulder, Colorado, where we would have dinner and drive to Estes Park to sleep. Estes Park is the town right before Rocky Mountain National Park on the east side of the mountains.

The plan for the Rockies was to get an exclusive tour of the park since only one of the interns within the program had been working there. We had three “breakout sessions” where the group would be split into three and each person was able to go to two sessions. The three were fire and rescue, llamas, and trail maintenance. I chose the trails and llamas (of course). We were able to see how the rangers in the park are able to keep the park clean and maintained. They use horses for trail work and llamas for the backcountry bathrooms since the park is composed of mountains and you can’t exactly get up there by car.

Here are some pictures of the llamas. We were able to walk them and be with the three llamas that the park leases for a couple of months. Their names were Dorito, Wilson, and Hector.

We were also able to make some stops before getting to the breakout sessions.

The park rangers that guided us took us to the highest peak in the park, where the altitude was no joke.

This trip was an incredible experience. I was able to connect with 41 other Latinos who were also heavily interested in working towards saving our environment. I had never been around a group as incredible as this. We all connected right away and still talk to each other every now and then. We’re already planning a reunion!

The point of this blog wasn’t just to talk about my trip, but to maybe persuade you to going to the closest national or state park. Get out and experience nature for an hour or a whole day. Disconnect and enjoy what this earth has provided you with. Get out there and find your park!

Until next time,

Dani

Why should we care about the environment?

I think this question has a pretty simple answer: if we don’t, then we will seize to exist.

Morbid, but true. Our overall temperature is increasing. I remember sometime in 2014, scientists were saying that if we increased in overall temperature by two degrees Celcius, then we were all going to burn to a crisp. Here we are, in 2018, just a degree away from the two. If that doesn’t make you care about the environment, then I honestly don’t know what will. According to NASA, 2017 was 0.9 degrees Celcius warmer than average temperatures. THAT’S ALMOST A WHOLE DEGREE!! IN JUST ONE YEAR!!!

This video was from 2013, since I couldn’t actually save the 2017 one (which I linked in the above paragraph).

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The Earth is warming up people!

Yes, using and throwing away plastic is awful because it ends up in ocean and in fish and eventually in our bodies, but there is another reason why single-use plastic sucks: it’s made from fossil fuels.

If that sentence didn’t just give you an epiphany, then let me break it down (see it what I did there? It’s punny) for you further.

Plastic in the United States is now most commonly sourced from the nation’s production of “abundant and affordable” natural gas. Natural gasses like ethane and propane. Do those sound safe? Because they’re not. These are also byproducts of petroleum. So, yes, both the oil and gas industries in this country are so happy that this nation makes so many single-use plastics. This is also why they have not been banned in our country. Sadly, everyone in this country and its politicians only care about one thing: MONEY.

In the US alone, producers of polyethylene are expecting to increase production capacity by as much as 75% by 2022. Why? We don’t need to do that. This is why I’m trying to encourage everyone I know to stop using single-use plastic. All we’re doing is releasing awful toxins into our ozone layer. An ozone layer that is already being extremely polluted by our cars, our businesses, factories, trucks, and anything that releases carbon dioxide.

But carbon dioxide isn’t even the worst chemical we are releasing into the ozone. Methane! Cows release methane every time they go to the bathroom. So by eating less cow meat and products, you are decreasing the supply of cows needed to produce the products. Hence, you are already helping the environment so much.

Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, in terms of its contribution to global warming. I’m not telling you to become a vegan, because God knows I can’t do that, but maybe try eating more fish or find alternatives for meats. Veggie burgers are delicious. Almond milk is way better than cow milk and it makes you feel better. Chicken meat is just as versatile as red meat.

I’m not here to try and force you to do anything you don’t want to, but I am here to try and make you more conscious about your decisions and how it will affect the rest of the planet.

Sure, it’s easy to just say “oops forgot I can’t use this spoon” when you get one in your delivery, but it’s also easy to just use your own utensils and write in the Special Instructions box that you don’t need a plastic fork or a straw.

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I’ll leave you with this image by www. bezero.org that I think helps.

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I personally believe in all of you. If my posts make every one of you make a small change, I will have been successful. It’s hard, I know, but you can do it!

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Garbage Beach, Dominican Republic

What the heck is going on in the DR??????

Well, some garbage, mainly plastic, has been drifting onto their beaches. I’m not talking about some garbage, I’m talking about A LOT of garbage!

Let’s talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch first, then we’ll get into what is happening in the Dominican Republic.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is this awful idea that some terrible humans had. They said “Hey! We have no more space for unrecyclable plastics in our landfills. Wait! There’s plenty of space in the ocean!” The GPGP is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s ocean. It’s between Hawaii and California. They estimate that 1.15 to 2.14 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Sinc plastic is less dense than water, the plastic just kind of floats on the top and creates a patch.

Number 1 in the image is the GPGP.

The GPGP really sucks because of its size. The big plastics that are in the ocean will eventually deteriorate into microplastics because of the sun exposure, waves, marine life, and even temperature changes. These microplastics are literally the worst thing ever because they’re so incredibly hard to remove and the marine animals confuse them for food…

So now that you know about the patches of plastic in our oceans (still the worst idea ever), let’s talk about the Dominican Republic.

This is what it looks like right now:

Photo credit: New York Times

Beautiful? Nope. Depressing? You bet.

For a country that thrives on tourism of their beaches, this is probably a nightmare right now. So far, sixty tons of garbage has been collected on the beach since last week. Yeah, that’s only what they have collected. The garbage being collected has been mostly plastic bottles and Styrofoam takeout boxes. The worst two unrecyclable things in the world.

(That’s sludgy water splashing. Gross) Photo credit: New York Times

Apparently, they love to throw garbage in their rivers, which eventually ends up in the ocean and then it’s not their problem anymore, right? Wrong. It comes back in the form of garbage waves. It happens quite regularly actually. I just found this out through this New York Times article. Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley for the Oceans, says this happens especially when there is a strong rainstorm.

Single. Use. Plastic. Sucks. Guys!!!! 

Now let’s talk about how to really stop using single-use plastic. Sure, you don’t get a straw with your drink anymore! Great! But what about your detergent bottle that you just threw out? Or the plastic bag you just took from Walmart? Or the tons of toothbrushes you throw out every year? And don’t even get me started about the Chinese takeout box that you just threw away…

It’s so hard to change something you’ve been doing your whole life, but it could really make a huge difference.

Be more conscious about what you use, accept to take, and then throw away. I know everyone has heard “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Those are steps: (1) Reduce the use of anything that you know won’t be recycled or reused, (2) Reuse that awful take out box and reuse that plastic bag, don’t just throw it away, (3) The last step, if you’ve done everything you can to not throw that detergent bottle away, recycle it.

Not every type of plastic can be recycled and that’s the biggest misconception. Everyone tries to recycle every plastic, but you can’t recycle all of it, hence the PATCHES OF PLASTIC IN THE OCEAN.

Your plastics have this the little recycle triangle with a number in it. The number is super important.

The image above is super helpful and provides some examples based on the number of the plastic. Save it to your phone and the next time you want to buy something that comes in plastic, it might help you decide whether or not to take it. If the plastic is not recyclable, maybe if you really need the product, you have to find something that it can be used for after you don’t need it anymore. Plastic 1 (PETE) is recyclable, but 25% of the bottles in the U.S. are recycled. So, yes, they are recyclable, but that does not mean that your country will recycle all of it.

My point is: if you can avoid buying it, then don’t do it. Sure, it can be more convenient to go to Publix and buy your detergent in the plastic bottle, but you can take a big mason jar to your local zero-waste store and you won’t feel guilty. Just think about that DR beach. You won’t want to buy it anymore.

You can shop from brands that support reducing plastic waste and actually act on it. Take Adidas, for example.

They partnered with Parlay for the Oceans to repurpose the millions of pounds of plastic currently polluting the world’s oceans. Instead of remaining waste, Adidas found a really cool way to use recycling to their benefit (the shoes are pretty cool, too). They actually are aiming to ONLY use recycled plastic when making their shoes by 2024. It’s already 2018, so yeah it seems far away, but come on…they’re trying. They are the only ones (at last shoe company) trying for real.

Be more aware and be more conscious about what you spend your money on. It might not affect you directly, but any day now we could have Garbage Beach here in the U.S. or in your country.

Until next time,

Dani