My Trash Doesn’t Fit In A Jar

​06.17.2019

0600

My trash doesn’t fit in a jar anymore. When I started my zero waste journey, my trash did fit in a 16 ounce mason jar. However, int he past few years, I needed to purchase items that had extra packaging in which would not fit in my nice little jar anymore.

A lot of the time, when we shop at bulk bins in grocery stores, although we don’t bring home trash into our homes, products do get shipped to grocery stores in packaging. We as consumers don’t see it, but it doesn’t mean that the packaging doesn’t exist. Now, I’m not saying that every company is wasteful, but truth be told that is how our products are packaged from the manufacturer and then transferred to the distribution companies.

Trash pollution, plastic pollution is hidden in plain sight. We as consumers, do have the choice to not bring trash into our homes, and that’s a privilege. But packaging does exist, it’s not always compostable, and it may not even be sustainable. We as consumers can still vote with our dollar, and we still need to remind manufacturing companies that our trash pollution is at the highest quantity right now. I do think the tide is turning, but with The daily production of trash in the speed at which it is produced, we’re going out to tackle a very, very large problem and that’s with magnified with an unimaginable speed.

I live in the Bay Area, and bulk food items and products are readily available here. There are plenty of other states and areas, which bulk food is not available. If you can fit your trash into a small jar and continue to do so, I think that’s amazing and admirable. If your trash can’t fit into a jar, just keep in mind, the trash you’re producing and keep putting effort towards living a more zero waste lifestyle. I think using the glass jar as a standard is a bit unreasonable, because not all of us are lucky enough to live and afford certain amenities where we are located.

So my trash doesn’t fit in a jar this year, maybe next year it will be less. If not, I’ll keep trying to continue to strive to live a zero waste life.

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The Problem With Teflon

08.08.2017

0600

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Teflon became popular because it is non-reactive due to its strong carbon–fluorine bonds; it reduces friction and energy consumption of machinery when used as a lubricant. Though it was claimed to be the best-known chemical inventions of the 20th century, today, Teflon has been touted as a serious health hazard to humans as well as animals. When I found out about the dangers of teflon, I transitioned over to cast iron and stainless steel pots and pans. The research behind teflon is dangerous and jarring.

Non-stick cookware may cause cancer

The non-stick coating, used in Dupont Teflon pans, has been found to release one or more (up to 15) different toxic gases when heated to high temperatures. Did you know that non-sick cookware is made with a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been labeled carcinogenic by a scientific review panel that advises the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This is a chemical that is being used in many household products from cookware, coated paper plates and even microwave popcorn bags. The side effects have been known for a long time, and one of the most written about is its effects on pet birds.

The worst issue behind Teflon pots and pans

As careful as we try to be – Teflon pots and pans can easily get scratched at some point. In fact, the truth is many people tend to use battered and scratched Teflon cookware. Teflon is usually used to cover aluminum which in itself is a dangerous metal – implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

What are some of  the health hazards faced?

  1. Male Infertility- The chemicals emitted from the heating of Teflon pans have recently been shown to be linked with higher rates of infertility. A recent Danish study suggested that exposure to PFOAs in fetal or later life accounted for decreased sperm production and morphologically abnormal sperm.
  2. Thyroid disease – A recent study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), goes on to confirm the association of thyroid disease with human exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Also the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that higher concentrations of PFOA in the blood of the surveyed people were linked to the occurrence of thyroid disease.
  3. Childbirth and reproductive problems – PFOA contamination of food, air and water supply has the potential to damage the reproductive systems of a large population of women. Inevitably causing difficulty in childbirth or birth defects. Scientists based at the University of California-Los Angeles, found that women with higher concentrations of PFOA in the blood stream (more than 3.9 ppb) experienced greater difficulty in conceiving than those with lesser PFOA concentrations. Also the chances of them being diagnosed with infertility were greater.
  4. Birth Defects – an individual living near the DuPont factory that produces Teflon products was born with one nostril and other facial defects. He claims that his mother who was working in the factory was exposed to PFOA while pregnant therefore he acquired those birth defects.
  5. Kills bird – when Teflon is heated to a high temperatures toxic fumes are emitted that are known to kill pet birds especially small birds such as budgies, finches, and cockatiels. Considering this the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that cookware and heated appliances comprising of non-stick coatings must carry a label that warns the hazard caused by the coating to pet birds.
  6. Carcinogenic – a recent study showed that when rats were injected with PFOA they developed brain tumors. PFOA the coating material used in Teflon products was also shown to be present in trace amounts in blood samples of people and lasted four years in the blood stream.
  7. Causes other diseases – animal research has shown that liver cancer has propelled with more exposure to PFOA’s and case reports suggest that the PFE fumes emitted by very hot Teflon coated utensils have caused pneumonia and inflammation in the lungs.
  8. Non Biodegradable – PTFE is non-biodegradable as it is made up of strong molecular bonds that make it durable and resistant to natural processes of degradation. Thus it tends to accumulate in the food chain causing sever damage.

How to avoid these circumstances?

The best way to protect you and your family is to use cookware made from: ceramic, stainless steel or glass. There’s clearly no argument as to whether conventional non-stick cookware has a negative impact on human health, so with that in mind, what are the alternatives?

1. Ceramic

Ceramic cookware is gaining popularity fast thanks to its ability to create a non-stick cooking surface while containing no traces of PTFE or PFOA.

Brands such as Neoflam are using the most advanced ceramic technology to produce durable and heat efficient non-stick coatings that are safer and more environmentally friendly than conventional non-stick cookware.

2. Cast Iron

Companies like Solid Teknics are manufacturing some incredibly high quality cast iron products which have a myriad of advantages over conventional non-stick cookware.

Cast iron is extremely rugged, easy to clean, and if properly seasoned, it’s also “non-stick” (minus the toxic cocktail of chemical compounds). Cooking with cast iron is a great way to experience many of the benefits that come with using non-stick cookware while also minimizing your exposure to harmful substances.

3. Heatproof Glass

Glass isn’t the most dynamic cooking material and it’s somewhat limited in the styles of cooking that it can accommodate, however, for oven baked dishes there aren’t many materials more safe and affordable than heatproof glass.

When choosing glassware for cooking, be sure to check that the glass is heatproof and of high quality construction. Pyrex has a great range of kitchen glassware for all sorts of different applications, including cooking.

4. Stonewear

Similar to ceramic, stonewear cooking equipment is a non-toxic alternative that usually involves a combination of crushed stone and a PTFE-free coating in order to achieve similar results to those of typical non-stick cookware.

Brands such as Stoneline, Swiss Diamond & Ozeri all provide good products in this range.

5. Stainless Steel

Tried and tested, stainless steel is one of the safest cookware materials in existence and is an excellent non-stick alternative for many forms of cooking. It’s worth noting that using frying pans and skillets that are made from stainless steel will sometimes result in ingredients sticking to the surface of the cookware when exposed to high temperatures. However, if you use ample amounts of a high quality cooking oil, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

Returning To The Beach

06.06.2017

0700

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On my journey to a more minimalistic life, I donated items and slowly learned to not live without others. I didn’t donate everything to donation stations, but I also tried to donate to organizations that I knew, could use my items. For my college textbooks, I donated some of them back to the school libraries so perhaps other students could use them. For my alumni collegiate programs, I donated my scanner and other art materials to the materials library for future students.

When it came to items that I had collected from camping trips or even small rocks I collected throughout my childhood, I knew I had to return those items back to their rightful spots.

The beach was always a place where I still have fond memories of, along with my family. The smell of the air and the sand between our toes, and watching the ebb and flow of the tide coming in, all form a significant part of my childhood memories. We never lived by the beach, but it certainly impacted me enough to this day.

Among my “items to donate,” I found a bag of sea shells that my brother and I collected when we were young. I knew I had to return them to the beach, because that’s where they belonged. As a kid, I was so fond of the beach, I always wanted to take it home with me. I remember being excited to create a small sea shell collection and that all of these smaller items were mine. I wanted to know why I felt this way, and why I approached collecting items the way I did.

Our sense of ownership emerges at a very early age. Growing up, we learn to become attached to items, and the feelings of ownership over our possessions is a part of our culture. In psychology and behavioral economics, the endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion and related to the mere ownership effect in social psychology), is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. This means, that we value items more more highly as soon as we own them. Part of this reason is tied to how quickly we form connections between our sense of self and the items we consider ours. Even as children, we believe that our objects have a unique essence and prefer to not have a duplicate of the same item.

Looking back on my collection of sea shells, I never separated the idea of owning an object, and keeping the memories that the object produced. It seemed that having an object from that event, could and would bring forth the memory of that event. Even so, if I had to attach an object to the event, I think I would only choose to attach a photo to it now. But with all of the social media and everyone seemingly documenting their lives, even photographing events wears on me.

So I’m returning the sea shells. I’m returning them to their rightful home and where they belong. I return a lot of items that I know have homes other than my own. I’ve returned dry cleaner hangers to my local dry cleaners, I’ve donated my books to the library,  and I’ve donated my old records to Rasputin Music & Movies. (Most of the records were not in good condition, but I knew the store would dispose of them properly). This list could go on and on, but I really do try to return items to appropriate locations and organizations.

There is a home for every object in our lives. If we take a little time out, and do a little bit of research on your own, perhaps you can find the best home for it.

The Concept of Collecting

03.14.2017

0800

 

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Collecting is for some people a childhood hobby, but for others a lifelong pursuit or one that begins in adulthood. Collectors who begin early in life often modify their aims when they get older. Some novice collectors start purchasing items that appeal to them then slowly work at learning how to build a collection, while others prefer to develop some background in the field before starting to buy items. The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. The scope of collecting is unlimited, which is expressed in the hyperbolic expression: “If something exists, somebody somewhere collects them.”

The concept of collecting items became an odd concept to me as I moved closer to a minimalistic lifestyle in my adulthood. As a child I had started collecting items made by the Japanese company Sanrio. I specifically collected items with the character Hello Kitty printed or embedded on them. These items include pencils, pens, notebooks, plush toys, erasers, stickers, sticker books, etc. I started collecting these items because a close friend of mine had her own collection, and she frequently traveled to Japan, so she had access to rare items with Sanrio characters printed on them. I remember as I child, Sanrio had many characters, which in turn, produced many product items for each character. There always seemed to be an endless supply of designs, items, and apparently, extended family members of those characters that would pop up. There was no end to the Sanrio empire. For this reason, I stopped collecting these items. There was never a cap on anything. I could never own a set collection of anything with my love of the Hello Kitty character. I realized that had collected and created my Hello Kitty collection to look at. It was there to be admired of its perfection, but was never to be used. The perfection of the product was so valuable to me, that the items had to stay in mint condition; just sitting on my desk or in my drawer, but never used and taking up space.

When I finally made the decision to actually use what I had bought over the years, it literally took me two years to finish using all of the erasers I had collected, and it took me another three years to use up all of the pencils I had collected. I honestly couldn’t believe that I had a large enough pencil supply to last that long. I realized how much money I had wasted in my love for this character. I tried to use up all of my stickers and even that task took years to finish. I had to decorate a lot of handwritten letters, birthday cards and Christmas cards with those stickers.

Fast forward to my college years, and you’d find me collecting pressed pennies. Now I thought the idea of pressed pennies was such a cute concept. I only paid $0.51 for each souvenir, which was two quarters and a penny. Each time I went to any vacation around the United States, I would seek out these Penny Souvenir machines and pick my design, and there it was. A quick freshly pressed penny with a design I had chosen from the three options that the machine allowed.  It was cheap, quick and easy to find, or so I thought.

Then, I took a vacation to Vietnam during my college years, and there were no penny souvenir machines over there. What was I to do? Start a new type of collection- so that this vacation was still documented by some arbitrary object? Does this penny souvenir collection count if it doesn’t include this international vacation? Should it be a “Vacations in the United States where I technically could find a Penny Souvenir machine collection?” It was absurd. Was there even a reason for me to not include this vacation, because technically I was forced to exclude it. My penny souvenir collection seemed pointless at that point. I knew my tiny little collection of pressed pennies had no value, it was an interesting concept, and it was cute, but beyond that, it held no value in my life. None of my collections that I’ve ever had in my life held any value. At one point during high school, I collected pins, and also badges, and again- no value. With all of these collections, I did have photos attached to those memories, and those photos I did keep. Over the years, I got rid of my pins, badges, and gave away my Hello Kitty collection to a young girl who, like myself, was fascinated with the cute character.

Jump four years and digital photos became more common. I wanted to photograph everything. I wanted to buy a terabyte external hard drive just so I could collect and keep all of these photos. The more I became concerned about documenting everything, the more I realized I was always pulling myself away from the valuable moments in my life. I would digitally archive everything I could find, that included articles and photos. As a college student, I think you’re trained to document almost all of your work, whether it’s for a portfolio, referencing papers, memories or ‘just in case I spill soda all over my laptop, because I stayed up all night writing this essay and yet- I’m still not finished’ scenarios. I have been guilty of that too.

After college though, I started to slowly pull away from the habit of documenting everything. It just wasn’t necessary for me anymore. As long as I had the correct information for my resume and my portfolio was intact, I was set.

Some people collect items that can gain monetary value as years pass. From antiques to creating a collection of rare items. Some of those may pay out in the long run. Some people make a living collecting rare paintings and antiques, but even then, each item is a rare and unique piece. To put the time and effort into a valuable collection is a art form in itself. Mine were not any of those qualities.

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Fast forward seven years out of college, and you’ll see me rarely take a picture anymore. I’ll take pictures for my blog, and instagram images, but you’ll rarely see me take a picture otherwise. I don’t take selfies. I don’t care much to document my face, for me or anyone else. I do like to document events with my family or gatherings with my friends, but you’ll see me take maybe three pictures for each event. If anything, the title sequence to The Wonder Years, really left a lasting impression. I prefer to take a video now more than ever, but just one for each event. It won’t be too long, just long enough to capture the sounds and the voices, in that space and at that time. They’re videos that are just enough of that memory.

I’m learning to be completely 100% present, whether it’s in the conversations I interact with, the people I listen to, watching the next generation play on the playground, or simply knowing that I’m being present with the minutes passing by. This is my approach to collecting now. I collect memories and moments. I try to pay attention to everything my brain handle remembering. Being present is so important in my life, caring about people in my life and spending time with them. I’ve lost people over the years, as many of us have, and I know that all I can hang onto are my memories. Time passes us by so quickly, and life catches up with us easily. We all grow up, time marches on and just knowing that simple realization, makes me want to be more present with those around me. Maybe a picture or two will suffice, but honestly, I’ll take my memories with me wherever I go.

If I leave you with anything from this post, be present. Be present in the moment, with the people you’re with and engage your mind with everything around you. Let yourself remember the colors, smells, voices and sounds. You’d be surprised how easily we will forget those details as time marches on.

 

 

The Dangers Of Microfiber Cloths

03.07.2017

0600

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You know when a new product comes out, and it promises to eliminate chemicals and cut down on the process of cleaning, and then we wait ten years or so, and figure out the drawbacks from this said new product? Yeah, that’s what this post is about. So when microfiber cloths hit mainstream media, I purchased a set just to try it out. They worked as the company had stated, they worked efficiently and I never had to use any chemicals ever again. They seemed like the perfect clean up rags for tile surfaces, mirrors and I even tested it out on some pen marks on room walls.

Because I used these rags mostly for cleaning up and wiping down surfaces that were wet from water, I washed them when it was necessary. The first time I washed them, they stuck to the rest of the rags in the load so after that, I used a laundry dedicates wash bag to contain them.

Then more research started popping up, and here’s what was discovered…

What are microfiber cloths?
Microfiber cleaning cloths are made of microfiber fabric comprised of polyester and nylon. Microfibers are much thinner in diameter than human hair. Those used in cleaning textiles are split in a way that creates spaces within each fiber. Regular microfiber, such as Split microfiber vs cotton that used on furniture or in clothing, is soft but not useful for cleaning because it is not absorbent. Conversely, the spaces within the split fibers in split microfiber can absorb up to 8 times their weight in liquid and trap dust and germs so they are not spread around or released into the air. Studies have found split microfiber products can reduce the bacteria count on surfaces much more effectively than cotton. Check a product’s packaging to determine if it is split microfiber or not. If it’s not labeled, you can check by running your hand over the cloth. If it doesn’t grab at the imperfections of your skin, then it’s not split microfiber.

Uses for microfiber cloths

  • Dusting surfaces. Simply wipe the surfaces with a dry cloth. No sprays are needed because a static electric charge that attracts and traps dust develops when the cloths are moved across a surface.
  • Cleaning mirrors and glass. Slightly dampen a portion of a cloth and rub the glass surface with it. Once you’ve removed any spots or smudges, use the dry portion of the cloth to dry and polish the surface.
  • Cleaning counters. To superficially clean counters, use dry cloths to pick up surface dust, dirt, and hair. To deeply clean counters, slightly dampen a cloth and use your usual cleaning spray.
  • Washing dishes. Use just as you would any other dishcloth.
  • Mopping floors. You can use a dry cloth to pick up surface dust, dirt, and hair or a slightly damp cloth to wipe down your floors with your usual cleaning solution. You can also purchase mop heads made of microfiber fabrics. Many people who own Swiffer-type mops designed for disposable mopping pads simple attach a microfiber cloth to the mop instead of a disposable pad.

Cleaning microfiber cloths

If you take good care of your microfiber cloths, they should continue to perform at their peak for years.

  • Remove trapped dust, dirt, and hair by pre-soaking the cloths in water and a mild detergent.
  • Wash the cloths in cold water (hot water damages the fabric so it is no longer effective). Only wash the cloths with similar fabrics because they will pull lint out of cotton or other materials during the washing process. Bleach and fabric softeners shouldn’t be used (bleach deteriorates the fabric and fabric softeners clog the spaces in the microfibers so they are no longer absorbent).
  • Line dry the cloths or use the lowest heat setting on your dryer and do not iron them. This prevents heat damage to the microfibers.

Environmental ramifications
There is debate over the extent to which microfiber cloths are environmentally friendly. They are beneficial to the environment in that they aren’t tossed out in the trash after each use like paper towels, nor do they need replaced as frequently as cotton cloths. Moreover, they significantly reduce the amount of water and cleaning products needed when cleaning.

Despite these advantages, microfiber cloths are made from nonrenewable resources and are not biodegradable. There is also concern about their role in microplastic pollution. This sort of pollution occurs when tiny bits of polyester and acrylic rinse off of fabrics during washing and end up collecting on the coastlines of densely populated areas. Fish can ingest the harmful debris, as can humans when they eat affected fish.

Inevitably, choose your products wisely. There are positive aspects and negative aspects of every product you purchase. I’ll probably keep my microfiber cloths to wipe down mirrors still, but I’ll switch out for cotton rags to wipe down my surfaces instead. I would like to get rid of them, but that would also mean that because these are not recyclable, they would inevitably go to the landfill. I have used them to protect my glassware and dishware when I was moving, so that seemed fine. Pick and choose how you want to use these cloths depending on your lifestyle and routines. Micro plastic pollution is everywhere and it’s up to us to change our thinking habits about the products we use and how we go about discarding them. Maybe we will not be able to eliminate the pollution, but we can certainly reduce. Also, sometimes a new product, isn’t as great as it will seem to portray; if they system isn’t broke- don’t fix it.

 

 

 

The Princess Project 2017

02.14.2017

0700

I discovered The Princes Project a few years ago, back in 2002. I actually gave my prom dress away along with the accessories that I wore with it. I really respect this organization and I encourage anyone to donate to it. Although you will pay for dry cleaning for the dress initially, it’s really not a big deal, consider it a gift you’re giving along with the dress. The Princess Project is a local nonprofit that promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses to high school teens. They provide free prom dresses and accessories to high school teens who cannot otherwise afford them. Each year they set up multiple locations for donations around the Bay Area as well as in San Diego. For more information, please visit their general website at The Princess Project Silicon Valley .

I wanted to show you my journey this year with The Princess Project. I actually don’t donate each year because I don’t always have gowns to donate, but this year I reached out to friends and asked for their donations. The Dress Donation Guidelines are as follows:

  • They DO accept:
    1. Dresses MUST be current styles from 2008 to present
    2. Dresses MUST be dry-cleaned and on hangers
    3. Dresses MUST be prom dresses, formal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, or fancy party dresses, short and long, appropriate for teenagers, sizes 0-30
  • They CANNOT accept:
    • out of style garments
    • garments that have not been dry cleaned
    • accessories, shoes or purses
    • make-up
    • casual dresses
    • wedding dresses
    • tuxedos or men’s clothing
    • dresses your mother would wear!

I initially asked for donations from my friends and had the task of dry cleaning them. (It’s requested that all dresses be dry cleaned before donating). My friend Julia had more dresses to donate than me, and thank goodness she had already dry cleaned three of them, so I didn’t have to dry clean all of them. I took the time out to research which dry cleaners I wanted to spend my money at. I found an eco-friendly dry cleaners in my hometown. Green And Fresh Cleaners. They are the first environmentally friendly, green dry-cleaners in Mountain View – 100% PERC Free. Green is better for your clothes, better for the environment, and better for you. I don’t’ ever dry clean clothes, so I did take the time out to make sure I spent my money where it would harm the environment less. I didn’t even know about green dry cleaning until I spoke to my brother and subsequently did research on it.

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Did you know that most dry cleaners use  PERC (also know as perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), a chlorinated hydrocarbon classified by the EPA as a Toxic Air Contaminant. PERC can irritate eyes, nose and throat. It can cause headaches, dizziness or fatigue and is classified as a possible to probable human carcinogen by the EPA. We use an eco-friendly and green cleaning solution called GreenEarth. This solution is made from sand, the most abundant natural resources. In fact, it was discovered by a scientist working with a solution used in cosmetics. It’s the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, soaps and lotions, so it’s safe for you and your family.

At Green & Fresh Cleaners, they are 100% PERC free! So the images below shows the bundle that I brought into the dry cleaners, and the following picture shows the result after the dresses were cleaned and ready for transport to the donation site.

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After I picked up the dresses from the dry cleaners, I dropped it off at Tuxedos & More. The last image is the collection of dresses building up at the store. Our contribution is on the right side of the line of dresses. The store employee actually informed me that the left side of the dress collection was from the owner of a gown store that just went out of business, so technically, all of the other dresses were brand new! I’m so proud of our contribution to this organization this year. Prom can be expensive or even slightly out of budget for some families and this organization eases the gown part of it for the girls.

Did you know:

  1. A new study (April 2016), by Visa found that the average cost of promposals is a whopping $324. Here’s how the costs breakdown by region:
    1. Northeastern families will spend an average of $431 on promposals and $738 on prom night for a total of $1,169.
    2. On the west coast-$596 on the dance and $342 on the promposal totaling $937
    3. In the south, the prom night averages $544 and the promposal $305 for a total of $859
    4. Midwestern Families will fork over $515 on prom and $218 on the promposal for a total of $733.
  2. In 2015, American families spent an average of $919, according to Visa Inc.’s ‘ annual prom survey.
  3. A full 80% of respondents said they planned to spend money on the “promposal,” — an average of $324 — about a third of the average prom budget.
  4. For girls, the whole “prom look” will cost around $400, and a new survey from Visa found that on average, families will spend $1,139 on prom in 2013.

This organization wasn’t around when I was in high school, but I’m so grateful that it’s here to lend a hand to families who may need it. Prom is a privilege and not everyone will experience it for a number of reasons. The cost and look of the dress was always a stress factor when I was younger. I hope more organizations like this become more prevalent. I hope I will be able to contribute each year, but if not, I hope that it stays and grows as our society grows and the next generation grows up.

Please consider donating to an organization like this around your area. This community effort brings people together and to help one another is what bonds us together as humans. Although you may have to pay for dry cleaning, consider it a gift along with the dress(es). It’s for a great cause and you may be contributing to a young girl’s dream to go to prom without the stress of the dress.

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The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

The world’s fast growing appetite for Asian food has a lot to do with both population growth and economic development on the continent. Demand has soared in China, where GDP per capita has increased more than ten fold since 2000, and also in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The long-standing myth that disposable chopsticks are produced with scrap wood products just isn’t true. In fact, an estimated 25+ million mature tree (each usually over 20 years old) are logged each year just to make chopsticks that are used once and then thrown away. The statistics behind disposable chopsticks are surprising:

  • In China, about 57 billion pairs of wooden disposable chopsticks are made each year. They’re made from cottonwood, birch, spruce and bamboo.
  • Half of these disposables are used within China itself. Of the other half, 77 percent are exported to Japan, and South Korea.
  • With China’s 1.3 billion people, in one year, they go through roughly 45 billion pairs of the throwaway utensils; that averages out to nearly 130 million pairs of chopsticks a day. (The export market accounts for 18 billion pairs annually.
  • Globally, about 1.4 billion people throw away 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year
  • In the U.S., Americans threw out 31 million tons of plastic — including plastic utensils — in 2010, making up 12.4 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8 percent of that plastic waste was recovered from recycling.

The impact of so many discarded chopsticks is of course unsustainable. With China now the world’s largest importer of wood, governmental organizations are aware that the nation cannot sustain the level of deforestation needed to manufacture so many throwaway products. In 2006 China imposed a 5% tax on disposable chopsticks, a move which resulted in a drop in manufacturing.

Greenpeace China has estimated that to keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees need to be felled every 24 hours. Think here of a forest larger than Tiananmen Square — or 100 American football fields — being sacrificed every day. That works out to roughly 16 million to 25 million felled trees a year.

The chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group noted that only 4,000 chopsticks can be created from a 20-year-old tree, 2 million of which were being cut down each year to produce them.

Then there are the restaurants. The alternative to wooden disposables is sterilizing the tableware (plastic, metal or durable wood chopsticks) after each use. But the cost differential is significant: Disposables run about a penny apiece, while sterilization ranges from 15 to 70 cents. Restaurants, especially the low-end ones, worry about passing the costs on to customers. And the worry would seem to be warranted: Consumer advocacy groups from 21 Chinese cities published an open letter in March arguing that the costs of sterilization should not be passed on to consumers as the food safety law obligates restaurants to provide free, clean and safe tableware.

Here’s the kicker:

Disposable chopsticks are made by boiling them in toxic chemicals. Disposable chopsticks tend to be consistent in color. The exact same color. This is due to the manufacturing process. Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative on the wood. It’s used to create a consistent color and texture throughout the products.

In 2005, a Chinese consumer council warned that sulfur dioxide from throwaway chopsticks was connected with an increase in asthma and respiratory problems. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas and source of air pollution. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide can be used in the wine making process, sometimes even in preserving dried fruits. Technically, you’re not consuming your wood chopsticks, so it doesn’t count?

The most environmentally friendly option is to stick with metal chopsticks — Korea’s preference in utensils — but they can be quite weighty and slippery to use for beginners. You can also buy a set of formal chopsticks with a carrying case, and use those.

Out of all the animal protein options available, I tend to favor fish. My friends and family are also big sushi fans. Whenever we go out we tend to chose sushi diners to indulge ourselves with. (Good thing is that sushi fills us up quickly.) Almost every sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to, uses disposable wooden chopsticks. I always felt bad for using these chopsticks because I know that all of these chopsticks will end up in the landfill. For this reason, I added a pair of chopsticks to my travel utensil bag. It is a bit odd to pull it out during dinner at times, but then again, making waves is always odd in the beginning. Maybe I’ll just invest in a set of metal chopsticks instead. Also…. don’t eat your chopsticks.

The Simple Route To Less Trash

11.01.2016

0800

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The route to the zero waste lifestyle is quite simple. As you can see from the illustration above, this route can have nine stops along the way. Even with nine stops, some of these steps can be combined with one another being as the actions follow one another quite closely. The beginning of the journey is a little difficult because you’re still unprepared to get rid of your wasteful items and you haven’t bought items to replace the functional use. To prepare for this, I do suggest you examine what you ABSOLUTELY NEED in your daily routines and then find/purchase products that will compensate easily. Here is a simple outline of how you can get started:

  1. Simplify:
    Edit your belongings. Understand your true wants and needs. This can be in a list form or simply going through each day and examining each routine you go through.
  2. Refuse:
    Refuse single-use disposable items. That’s anything you use once and then dispose of it. This can easily be done because all you really have to do is say no.
  3. Bring your own:
    Have durables to keep single-use plastics away. Items like a reusable bag, straw, tumbler and water bottle. Always bring these items items wherever you go. I’ve been stuck a few times in situations where I did not pack all of my utensils (reusable cup, fork, spoon and metal straw) because I didn’t think I’d run into situations where I would need them.
  4. Whole Foods:
    Become resourceful with food by learning to make easy & quick meals from unprocessed and unpackaged foods. I like to make simple meals from whole produce combined with food I buy from the bulk bins. I don’t like spending a lot of time cooking, so my grocery list is pretty repetitive and simple.
  5. Compost:
    Separate your food waste! From backyard to warm composting, don’t let your food scraps go to the landfill! Composting is a great way to divert your foods waste and also create better soil for your garden.
  6. Buy Better & Repair:
    Buy less, buy better. Seek multifunctional, repairable, and lasting products.If you can learn one or two stitches with a needle and thread, you’d be surprised how much longer you can extend the life of your possessions.
  7. Recycle well:
    Recycling is good, but it’s not the solution. Reduce the amount you recycle by reducing  the amount you consume. This is a really good rule because although “recycling” seems like a solution, there’s still energy and resources being put into the recycling plants and not all “recyclable items” are 100% recyclable. Some items cannot be broken down and others have to be picked apart in order to extract the recyclable materials, which means the rest of the materials that made up the item will subsequently go to the landfill. The best solution here is to simply not rely on recycling alone.
  8. Use your voice:
    Kindly use your voice to express how you want products designed and recovered. Give companies businesses and manufacturers incentive to make the change! If you speak up, companies will listen. It may not feel like it or seem like it, but as a consumer, you have the choice to make each time you purchase any item. You’re voice speaks through your actions and that’s pretty loud.
  9. Support the community:
    Get to know your community. Shop local or start a community garden. You can walk, bike, bus, as a means of transportation too. I tend to shop at local stores because I don’t want to purchase items that are simple cookie cutter products. At times, yes, I will need a cookie cutter item such as a power strip or power cord, but majority of the time I don’t. Local businesses do need our support and voice to continue to let them thrive and flourish. Create a change- be the change.

My Cat Is Not Zero Waste

09.21.2016

0800

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Trying to create zero trash for my cat is almost impossible. I’ve tried, but due to some medical conditions, it’s virtually impossible. I have a male cat and he was neutered when he was younger. Unfortunately, male cats who are neutered, are more prone to urinary tract infections and therefore, require special diet food that has a low sodium content. Also, in order for him to not develop another urinary tract infection, he needed fresh water constantly. We bought him a small drinking fountain which he helped himself to. These two requirements produced empty tin cans of cat UTI management food as well as charcoal filters.

As he aged, he developed Diabetes and requires insulin shots twice a day. This required insulin medication as well as insulin needles. He’s a large cat, but he’s always been a large cat so weight gain was his genetic default. Lucky for us, he’s always been an indoor and outdoor cat, so he always used the backyard as his giant toilet. But with him being an indoor and outdoor cat, he required flea medication. I’ve been asked “Why don’t you just make him an indoor cat? It would cut back on the flea medication trash that you produce.” But forcing an animal to stay inside when we clearly have outdoor roaming space for him seemed unnatural to me. I wanted him to roam free and go play outside when we weren’t home. So the diabetes and flea medication produced tin cans of glucose management food, insulin needles, insulin medication and the flea applicators.

Over the years, he also got into a few fights with other cats or raccoons that roamed the neighborhood. For those special occasions, he required medication and sometimes even surgery which produced trash as well. I usually return the pill bottles and jars to the veterinarian so they can dispose of it. I’m lucky that I live in an area that allows free medical waste dumping, and even if I didn’t, I know my veterinarian will collect the medical waste from his patients for a small fee.

As for toys, he never loved to play with a lot of toys. In fact, he really only likes his catnip pillow, shoelaces and metal chain necklaces . I had a catnip plant that I grew for him awhile back and once in awhile, I would dry the catnip leaves and compost the old catnip. I would then refill his pillow with new dry catnip. Unfortunately he liked it so much that he would lay on it and eventually crushed the life out of it. That too went into the compost bin. I’m lucky that he’s easily entertained. He also never wanted his own bed, he always just adopted any place in the house to sleep.

Facts:

  1. Urinary Tract Infection Medical History = Prescription Diet c/d canned food & Filtered water with charcoal filters
  2. Diabetes II Medical History= Glucose Management m/d canned food, insulin needles, insulin medication
  3. Indoor & Outdoor cat = Advantage Flea Medication BUT no litter box
  4. Entertainment = Catnip pillow, but I refill the catnip pillow with fresh catnip. He just likes to play with shoelaces and metal chain necklaces.

So the recyclable items that I do produce are the tin cans of UTI food and diabetic food. His insulin medication, insulin needles and other medications are also recycleable, but considered medical waste recycling. The charcoal filters and advantage flea medication are the items that do end up in the landfill. I actually have a separate jar of trash that comes from owning a cat. He also no longer uses the water fountain that used the charcoal filters, he requests fresh water from the faucet when he’s thirsty with a drawn out meow.

Trying to own a pet and not produce trash from them is quite difficult. I know this much, to take on a pet is a great amount of responsibility and it is not a simple responsibility to ignore. I am not a veterinarian and I do not know what nutrients he needs and the sufficient amount of each nutrient and vitamin, therefore I do not attempt to make cat food on my own. He has very few toys, only wants his catnip pillow, which I will stuff with fresh catnip and compost the old catnip.

I started this journey almost five years ago, so I’ve compiled a nice amount of Advantage Flea Medication applicators for cats as well as charcoal filters. He stopped using the water fountain about three years ago, so he hasn’t produced anymore trash from that. He probably won’t last through the end of this year, but it’s amazing to see how much owning a pet can add to your trash collection. Once you lay it all out and calculate the amount of trash that’s produced, it’s an eye opening realization of what you’re contributing to the landfill.

Spreading The Zero Waste Word

 

07.04.2016

0800

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As the Zero Waste movement as started to gain momentum in the past few years, it’s important for those who currently practice living a zero waste lifestyle to continue to spread the zero waste word. I’ve been approached a few times in grocery stores and in my work place of how and why I transfer food in cloth bags and Ball Mason jars. I usually take this time to simply explain the zero waste movement, not in-depth but a simple explanation; “To eliminate my trash output into the environment”. In the beginning of my journey, I noticed that I received awkward stares from strangers at grocery stores and very few people asked why I carried around cloth bags. I noticed confused looks as I would fill up my bags or jars at the grocery store though, I tink they might have thought I was stealing the bulk foods as I filled up my bags. The cashiers noticed but they had to by the time it was my turn to pay for my items. A few people have told me that they wanted to start “going zero waste” but it seemed overwhelming and they didn’t know where to begin. That made perfect sense since I felt the same way when I first started. For that reason, I carry around extra produce bags that I’ve sewn to give out to people who want to get started. I’ve already recorded the tare weights on them, so it’s a matter of the customer filling up the bag and relaying the PLU number to the cashier. I made it a point to sew extra bags to give away because I want those who want to start this lifestyle to be able to physically hold an example of how to get started. Granted, anyone could look up on YouTube or Pintrest of how to sew cloth bags, but this is my way of encouraging people with a some small starter cloth produce bags.

Also, when you lead by example, you might be surprised who will follow suite. Sometimes speaking about the zero waste movement won’t fit every environment. There will be environments which everything that is wasted will not be salvaged and easing thi=ose in that environment into the zero waste movement will take time. It takes a lot of effort to start living a zero waste life because there are sacrifices that each person must make and not all will be onboard. For instance my work place uses quite a bit of paper and they don’t compost. I would be great if we could start to compost, but that proposal also involves our building landlord to agree to it and so far he won’t. One of the smaller steps I have taken at work is introducing my Office Manager to the Grounds To Grow On Program by Keurig.

It’s still very important that we continue to talk about this issue due to the fact that we continue to produce and use plastic trash which is doing more damage to the environment than we can recover.

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End of the Vietnam War

 

04.30.2016

0800

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Horst Faas/Associated Press. A farmer helplessly held the body of his dead child as South Vietnamese troops looked on. March 19, 1964. The child had been killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. Lens Blog, New York Times

Vietnam War November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975 (19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks, 1 day)

There’s so much history involved with this was that it’s too much to write about in one blog post. My family is from South Vietnam and my father was drafted into the South Vietnam Army. He was also held captive for 3 years by the Viet Cong after the Fall of Saigon. He escaped and was deemed a POW. He doesn’t speak much of his experience either, I think most POWs don’t. It was a rough time in history, for everyone. There were protests in the United States, families were torn apart, and refugees fled seeking asylum in the US. There was so much chaos and pain- it’s unimaginable.

It wasn’t until the age of 14 when my mom started revealing to me the details of our family members, including her escape from the Viet Cong.  She told me “You would run until your feet would bleed. You can see bodies dropping around you as the Viet Cong shot the refugees trying to escape. They didn’t care. You ran because your life depended on it and you hoped the next bullet wouldn’t hit you. Each time you ran from them, you would lose track of your loved ones because running in a group just means you’re a larger target. You had to disperse, to create the illusion of smaller moving targets. Dispersing meant you would be alone, but you could save your life as well as the others.” She attempted to escape 4 times because during the first 3 times, someone had informed the Viet Cong and the location to meet up was compromised.

I have an aunt, who always stood out in my mind. She was so sweet and doted on the kids when we would visit. She made you feel like you were the #1 kid in the whole wide world. During this conversation, I asked my mom why she never had kids, she was loving and kind and seemed to have so much love to give. My mom revealed to me that she once had two young boys and a husband when she was on the boat that was headed to the US. On the boat, the men were on the top deck and the women and children stayed on the bottom deck. The boat had approached a Korean oil tanker and the captain asked if they could board the tanker. It didn’t make any sense that he wanted the passengers to board the tanker because the refuges were not allowed into Korea, they were not granted sanction in Korea. For whatever reason, the captain made his decision. Unfortunately, as the boat got closer to the oil tanker, the wave that it had created while cutting through the ocean water, rocked the boat and shook it. The wave was strong enough that people were thrown overboard and injuries were sustained on the top and bottom decks. At the exact same time, my aunt was climbing the access ladder, with one of her boys in her arms, the other was ahead of her on the ladder. They were trying to get to the top level to be with her husband so they could be ready to board the oil tanker.

When the wave had hit the boat, she was knocked off of the ladder and so were her boys. When she woke up, she was on the lower level of the boat again, lying next to other victims who were recovering from injuries attained during the shake up. Another refugee informed her that they were rolling the deceased bodies into the ocean. They couldn’t carry the dead across the Pacific Ocean because they would rot horribly and the damage they sustained from the wave was already an issue. She informed my aunt, that my aunt had been placed with the dead bodies, because they thought she had died, but after another check, they realized she was breathing- so they brought her downstairs to recover. When my aunt got to the top level, she saw that her husband and her two sons were among those who were deceased. When the time came for her husband and sons to be rolled into the ocean, she helped roll them off of the boat. And that was it, they were gone.

When she arrived in the US, she was alone, and didn’t know any English. Inevitably, she was placed in a psychiatric facility for some time. So many had passed during that event, I’m not sure she ever recovered from the incident. I don’t know if she had time to mourn the loss of her family, or time to heal from the emotional scars, but I do know that she felt lost and alone in a strange land. She eventually met my uncle whom is now her current husband and they’ve been married ever since- but behind her smiles, she was never the same again.

The reason why I tell this story, is that there are so, so many stories such as that one, which have never been told. As first generation American, I have no idea what it took for my relatives to come here. Guerrilla warfare is hand to hand combat and  if you couldn’t stand your ground- you would easily be killed by the hands of the other. I look at my relatives now, and I wonder what stories they have not told. I wonder what life was like, the fear they felt as they watched their country collapsing, their homes being destroyed and the future filling up with unknown endings.

I have a deep respect for life and people. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a past. Please ask, learn and spread that knowledge. Every single one of us has a story, perhaps not about war, maybe trauma, maybe a moment that changed our lives- but every single person has a story. I always knew war was bad, and it took 14 years to finally hear the details of how bad it was through my  mom’s eyes. Some stories are so painful they they can’t be repeated, but for the stories that can, I hope each person takes something away from it.

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South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim’s cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut) CNN, 25 of The Most Iconic Photographs

Needed A Phone Holder For The Car

02.15.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Shoelace
  • Carabiner
  • Metal rings
  • Box that would fit my cell phone
  • Electrical tape (try to match the same color as the new cell phone holder)

So I made this phone holder in 2011, it was right around the time when the statistic of distracted driving started becoming an issue. Quite frankly, I don’t text and drive, I enjoy driving when I’m driving. The idea of getting pulled over for a ticket is also not one of my goals. However, I still used my GPS map when I drove to new locations. I did research different types of phone holders for cars and I wasn’t happy with any of the designs.

I like to keep surfaces clean, mostly because I hate to move things when I wipe down a surface, and then move them back. The mounting units that came with the phone holders would either have a set holder that would attach to surfaces or they were movable. There was the option of using the devices that had a suction cup to stay attached to my windshield, but if my windshield temperature got too cold, it would slowly release the suction and the entire device would fall down.

I love the Law of Gravity. I really do. I utilize it in almost everything I design or make. This was my solution to my problem.

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I used the black case that my 1 TB external hard drive, and used rings to hang the case from my vent system in my car. I cut a rectangular hole on the bottom so that I could attach the charging cord. I cut out a rectangular hole so that I could see the screen when I drove and I used electrical tape to clean the edges. (I use electrical tape when the environment calls for some sort of heat fluctuation.) The holder is slightly bigger than the phone, but I figured, iPhones are getting larger with each generation so why not.

I have an old car but I still love looking at this contraption. It’s just amusing to see my solutions. It’s not the prettiest iPhone holder, nor do I think it would sell, but I didn’t go out any buy anything and it still works to this day.

Tết 2016- The Set Up and Food

02.08.2016

0800

So I just wanted to share the set up that my family uses for Tết. We use the alter, entryway dresser and dining table as our platforms. The alter is for Buddha (bàn thờ Phật), the entryway dresser is used for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai) and the dining table is used for my ancestors (ông, bà).

Before the Tết ceremony begins: (Day 1)

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During the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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On the alter sits a bowl of dry rice in which we have placed many incense sticks (cây nhang) over the years during each Tết celebration. On the entryway table is the set up for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai), which includes a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, water glasses, a variety of foods such as soup (Canh), Vietnamese braised pork with eggs (thịt kho), Vegetarian stir fry egg noodles (mì xào chay), shrimp salad (gỏi tôm), and fresh fruit. On the dining table, there is a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, three bowls of rice for my ancestors (one for my dad’s side, one for my mom’s side and the third is for all other ancestors), water glasses, candles and the same variety of foods as on the entryway table but in addition, there are also Vietnamese mung bean dumplings (bánh ít trần).

Tradition goes that when ceremony starts, each person always prays and greets Buddha first with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) at the alter, then we move over to the entryway table and ask the Saint of the Property, permission (xin phép) to invite our ancestors to come and celebrate Tết with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). Then at the dining table, we invite our ancestors to come and celebrate with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). After each request, we each place one incense (cây nhang) into the designated dry rice bowl. At the end of the first round of bows, each person will visit each table again to ask permission to leave the ceremony, but using the same amount of bows and prayers per table that was used in the first round. This second round of bows and prayers will release the person to go on with their day as they please.

After the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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The bows, prayers and the placing of the incense sticks are repeated each morning for three days (ba ngày Tết), during the three day celebration. At the end of the three day celebration, there will be another feast that will be the same set up on each table and on the alter in which we bid farewell (tiễn đưa) to our ancestors.

In the late evening (close to midnight): (Day 1)

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In the late evening, we celebrate the New Years Eve (Cúng giao thừa) by lighting the alter candles and  welcoming the new year. This ceremony includes three separate steps by the owner of the home. The first prayer (lạy Phật) takes place at the alter to Buddha with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). Then the owner will step outside on the front porch of the home and prays to Heaven and Earth (cúng trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) The owner will then come inside to the alter and will pray to the lord of Heaven and Earth (lạy trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). The owner of the home will then place three incense into the rice bowl at the alter after these last three bows are completed. This last set of bows will end the ceremony of welcoming the new year.

 This is an overview of what the set up is for my family for this year. There are traditional baked goods missing from this set up such as Bánh chưng (Vietnamese rice cake which is made from glutinous rice, mung beans, pork and other ingredients) and  Bánh tét (savoury but sometimes sweetened cake, made from mung bean or mung bean and pork filling), as well as tea in addition to the water glasses. Each family has their own variation of what foods they cook or how they set up their ceremonies, this is just my family’s set up for this year.

So,  Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! (Happy New Year) I wish you all a healthy and happy new year with plenty of wealth and triumphs throughout the year 🙂

Recipe – (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs (Vietnamese braised pork) - great with rice and popular on Lunar New Years!

This thịt kho recipe is a low and slow braise so the meat is going to be reeeeally tender. In this recipe we’re going to use pork belly because the fat on the meat tastes awesome! If you can get pork belly with the bones, you’ll have even better results. My ideal ratio of pork for this dish is actually 1/2 pork belly and 1/2 of a leaner cut like shoulder.

Hard-boiled eggs for thit kho - boil and peel them first!

Near me in Southern California’s Little Saigon, I hear you can get a higher quality of pork belly at Quang Minh Mini Market. It costs more for the belly, but there seems to be a consensus that its worth the cost–something I need to check out soon!

Here are the brands I use for the seasoning: Rico coconut soda, Kikkoman soy sauce, and Three Crabs Brand fish sauce. The thick soy sauce brand is Koon Chun, to be used in a pinch.

thit kho seasoning

As a kid I enjoyed mashing the yolk with the rice and spooning sauce over it–it’s fun! This dish is commonly eaten with a side of dua chua (pickled mustard greens) which provides a fresh and crunchy balance.

Chopped yellow onions for thit kho, to add another layer of flavorNotes:
I have tried adding slices of yellow onion too and it adds a nice layer of flavor to this dish. You can remove the onion at the end of the braise if you prefer since it will have given up all its flavor to the broth. For the seasoning in this thịt kho recipe: tinker with the soy sauce, fish sauce, and salt after the liquid has finished reducing, to taste.

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs and pickled mustard greens

5.0 from 2 reviews
Thịt Kho – Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
2 hours
Total time
2 hours 10 mins
Author: Hungry Huy
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of pork belly, cut into 1.5″ cubes
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 6 ounces coconut soda (I use Rico brand)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or replace this with fish sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into large pieces (6-8 will be fine)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar for the caramel color (nuoc mau). This is to deepen the color of the dish. Depending on how dark your caramel sauce gets, you may not need to use all of it. In a pinch, you can use about ⅕ teaspoon of thick soy sauce instead, but the caramel sauce will tastes better.
Instructions
  1. Cut the pork into smaller pieces. I like 1.5″ cubes so it cooks slightly faster.
  2. Bring 2-3 quarts of water boiling on high, or enough to fully submerge the pork.When the water’s boiling, add the pork for 1-2 minutes just to clean it. Drain then rinse the pork under running water until the water is clear.
  3. Add the coconut soda, soy sauce, fish sauce and salt to the pot.
  4. Fill up the pot until the water just covers the pork. Turn the heat to high.
  5. When it hits a boil, drop the heat until you still see a slight boil, maybe about about 25% heat and let it simmer uncovered for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Check and stir the pot every 20 minutes. The longer you cook it, the softer the pork gets. Leaving it slightly uncovered lets the liquid reduce so you get a nice concentrated sauce later.
  6. Make the caramel color and add it to the pot.
  7. Make the hard-boiled eggs: add to a pot and cover the eggs with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let it sit for 8 minutes. Cool in water then peel. Add the hard boiled eggs to the pot of pork in the last ~30-40 minutes of cooking.
  8. When there are about 30 minutes left on the timer, add the eggs. Eventually we want the liquid to reduce to about ⅓ or ¼ of the original.
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Comments

  1. SK says:

    Good job :) A good food in Tet’s Days at Vietnam, however, eating it in normal days is ok ! ^^

    • Huy says:

      Year round is definitely okay with me too :)

  2. Huy Vu says:

    Thanks! Just wish I had some Dua Cai Chua to go with this. =]

  3. daisy says:

    its so hard to find vietnamese recipes i understand and use online. more more more.

  4. Huy Vu says:

    =] sure thing.

  5. Jessica says:

    This reminds me of a Korean side dish called “Jang Joh Rim.” I wonder if they taste similar!

    • Huy says:

      Yeah it seems a lot of Asians share a similar variation of this dish!

  6. jason says:

    Huy, do i cover the pot with a lid? or leave it open?

    • Huy says:

      You only need to cover it slightly at the start so the liquid can reduce. Towards the end you can probably remove the lid entirely–adjust as needed.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Really great recipe, the step by step pictures are really appreciated. Thank you for sharing, and keep them coming!

  8. Jen says:

    Similar to adobo in the philippines:) ill try this recipe..

  9. Shay says:

    A friend made this as a comfort meal for me once and I loved it!
    Now I can try making it for my family. Wondering if this needs to be simmered covered with a lid or left open to boil? Thanks

    • Huy says:

      Lid open mostly, to reduce. If the meat is still tough you can add water as needed and continue to boil uncovered until it reaches a sauce thickness you like.

  10. LT says:

    This is way better than the Filipinos’ adobo.

  11. Eric says:

    looks similar to adobo but taste way different to adobo trust me this dish is heaps tastier

  12. steve says:

    make sure you use good fish sauce, like the one pictured above.

  13. Linda says:

    I love the pictures and the steps are very similar to my notes from my mom’s cooking lesson to me. The only thing is I just cooked it today with the country style boneless ribs and I compared it to the pork belly meat. Somehow the rib meat was more tough. Is there a way to make it more tender? I cooked 2hrs as your recipe dictates.

    Also, many people asked & I wonder also, do you cook your pot covered or uncovered?

    • Huy says:

      I cook it uncovered so the liquid can reduce (evaporate) to an amount I like. If you see it reduces too much you can put the lid back on or add some water.

      As for toughness of the meat, different cuts will vary in amount of connective tissue. Just cook it longer if its still too tough. At first I was afraid to overcook it, but giving it more time has always resulted in tender results. Just check it every 15 minutes or so.

  14. Tracy Le says:

    Just tried your recipe. Turned out so awesome. Thanks!!! :)

  15. foodiegal says:

    Is that a typo? This doesn’t take 20 hours does it? If so, can we cook this in a crock pot?

    By the way, I’ve had this dish many times at parties and IT IS TO DIE FOR! I love that the ingredients are simple and so are the directions. Is there a substitute for the coconut soda, if I’m not able to find it? Thanks!

    • Huy says:

      I’m DYING, that’s hilarious!! Yeah I meant to say 2 hours–oops, that’s been updated and thanks!

      The best thing you can use is fresh coconut juice, coco soda 2nd, then 3rd is cola or lemon-lime soda. Hope that helps.

  16. TrinityTrinh says:

    Can you substitute chicken or beef? I do not eat Pork. I’m sure it won’t taste the same but thought I would ask

  17. Trinity trinh says:

    Have you or can you substitute chicken or beef. I have taken pork out of my diet.

    • Huy says:

      Hey Trinity, I personally haven’t tried it but I bet it would be pretty good too. I’ve had this with tofu instead of meat and really enjoy that version too!

  18. Amy says:

    Super easy recipe to follow, and ended up delicious! I used pork shoulder only because the local grocery store didn’t have any pork belly left, and the end product was still absolutely delicious! The meat was so tender and flavorful without being too salty. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Huy says:

      Hey Amy glad to hear you liked it! Yeah you can really use any cut of pork you want and it still turns out pretty well :)

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Tết 2016- Lunar New Year

02.03.2016

0800

DSC_3535Tết is the most important celebration in the Vietnamese culture.

It is also, one of my favorite holidays, Christmas being the other. I love Christmas because it marks the end of the year and that the new year that’s about to come. A new year brings new beginnings, new experiences and new challenges.

Tết derives from a shortened form of Tết Nguyên Đán, which is Sino-Vietnamese and it means “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day” and it also marks the arrival of the spring season, based on the Vietnamese variation of the Chinese Lunar calendar. (The Chinese Lunar Calendar is four hours ahead of the Vietnamese Lunar Calendar.)

It is a time when families reunite and visit one another. Some may even go to temple and start letting go of their troubles from the last year. It is a time when customs such as visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year, ancestor worship, wishing New Year’s greetings, giving lucky money to children and elderly people and even opening a shop.

As a child, I really loved this holiday. It was the only time when certain special dishes, desserts, and snacks were made and consumed. I also loved receiving money because… who doesn’t love that. Heading south to meet up at my aunts house was a thrill. I knew I would get to see all of my cousins and her little Chihuahuas. Although, the house had to fit up to 6 families which included, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, the food and the room to be able to move around the food table. In total, there was always about 12 kids at these gatherings. It was still awesome, we would always gather in one room to play a board game and we’d somehow would get into arguments about it. The boys never wanted to loose and I (being 1 of the 3 girls there) never really cared. After the arguments, we would all go to the nearby park and play as we waited for to hear the jingle of the local ice cream truck.  Then we’d all bombard our parents for ice cream money. It was a great time, and by the end of the party, the cousins seemed to part ways as best friends. We always knew we’d have to wait another year to do it all over again, and it never felt fair.

Now that I’m older, and I’m on the giving end of the crisp red envelopes filled with money, I’m realizing now, that working during the year means that I have to save up for Christmas and Tết because NOW I’m realizing how much money my relatives forked out for each kid. I’m impressed that they did that for all 12 of us- EACH YEAR.

Truth be told, I don’t spend a lot of money, and the joy of receiving money and eating food as a kid is a wonderful memory that I still hold dear. Also, kids stop receiving money when they start working, so you’re really looking at forking out those red envelopes from ages 5-16- not too bad right? And now the time of the year has come again, to celebrate the new Lunar calendar and new beginnings.