BORED BY YES // elspeth

I read a really great interview the other day in the New York Times with a woman named Amy Pressman. She founded a company called Medallia, a provider of customer service technology, a subject that sounds about as exciting as going to the dentist. But the title of the piece caught my eye. "Amy Pressman of Medallia," it read. "BORED BY 'YES,' INSPIRED BY 'NO.' I clicked through. And while the whole thing was interesting—there was a lot about overcoming "imposter syndrome" and facilitating faster learning environments and ownership and victimization—the most interesting part was the one referenced in the title.

"I heard this saying about 10 years ago that really resonated with me," says Amy. "'An entrepreneur is someone who gets motivated by the word 'no.' Whenever I hear 'no,' I think, there's a way to solve this. I get really excited by 'no.' 'Yes' bores me."

Aha! I thought. Yes! Ding ding ding diiiing

Solving problems, after all, is what makes life interesting. Luckily/unluckily we have plenty of problems to solve right now. It's a daunting time to be young and hopeful. There are many ways to create change, and a million different directions to go in. So, finally, as promised, here are some thoughts from my small corner of the world, focused on home and sustainability and cooking.



Don't buy plastic wrap, tinfoil, plastic bags, paper towels or really disposable anything. You don't need them! You can spend way less over time using these awesome reusable/washable alternatives:

—Fill a cupboard with Mason jars (or just save glass pickle, olive, juice jars, etc.). Use these for everything from canning homemade pickles to freezing homemade chicken stock.

—Invest in 5-6 pieces of Bee's Wrap, which works like plastic wrap using nothing more than linen, beeswax, coconut oil, and the heat of your hands. It's reusable for at least a year or two, and then it's excellent as kindling.

—Stock up on every shape and size of glass tupperware in multiples. Use these to pack lunches, store leftovers, or even shop for fish or meat or get to go food. Goodbye, plastic!

—Pack lunches in Bento Boxes with cloth napkins and real forks and spoons and water bottles. Use dish towels and cloth napkins for spills, dirty faces—everything—and keep a laundry basket under the kitchen sink for all the dishrags and aprons and lunch sacks and bibs.

—If you own a splatter screen for cooking bacon, let the bacon cool and drain on top, over the pan. This will save you from dirtying a dish rag, and you won't need any paper towels!

—Get 15 or so of these reusable produce bags and 7-8 Flip and Tumble grocery sacks, and keep them in a large tote (I use this large beauty from my friend Siobhan's store) and keep it somewhere handy so that everything's together when you need to hit the market or store. I also save my egg cartons in the tote and our returnable milk bottles so that I can return them on shopping day.

—Keep a black washable marker in your grocery tote and use it to label bulk items purchased in reusable produce sacks, i.e., fill one with pistachios, write the price per pound or item number on the bag, empty into a storage jar when you get home, wash, and repeat! (More on that from Bea Johnson.)

Snack Taxis! We're obsessed. Bye bye, plastic sandwich baggies. Or, as Sally calls them, "snaxis."

—Keep a few bamboo travel cutlery kits, a water bottle, and a handkerchief or cloth napkin in your purse. Especially with kids, they constantly come in handy.

—If you have a choice between a product in plastic and a similar quality/price product in glass or cardboard, always choose glass or cardboard. Plastic is bad news for our health and the environment, and paper and glass are so much more useful! Paper can be recycled or colored on or in the winter used for kindling, and glass jars in good sizes are great for freezing stocks, crushed tomatoes, etc.


—Set up a compost pile or subscribe to a compost service and compost everything biodegradable: meat, bones, grease, paper take out containers, wooden chopsticks, rotten milk, you name it.

—Dedicate recycling bins in the kitchen for the waste you produce: we have big tins for plastic, glass, and paper and we also save textiles in a large basket in a closet and batteries and corks in smaller jars.

Food Prep

—Make some basics: crushed tomatoes from the garden, meat stocks, big batches of cooked beans, granola, homemade bread—whatever you can get into. This will save you from buying these things in disposable containers and they will also probably taste better and be better for you. I also occasionally make yogurt (easy enough if you have a thermos) when I have the time.

—Ditch appliances you don't need. We don't own a toaster or a microwave, since we have a small kitchen. We reheat food in the oven or on the stove, and we make toast (and everything else) in a large cast iron skillet that lives next to the teapot on the stove.

One last thought: let's collectively acknowledge that sometimes all this positive change stuff can feel frustrating or even embarrassing. We go up to Wellesley fairly often to visit Alex's family, and often I shop at the Whole Foods there before we drive back to the Cape. I was in line there one day this winter, going through the check out counter with all my produce in my reusable bags and olives from the salad bar in a glass container. The very nice woman at the check out counter was having trouble with the tare (.75 pounds is entered as 75, .06 as 6 and so on, I have since learned, for those who might ever need this information).

At any rate, a very perfect, sporty blonde woman was waiting behind me, and she was watching all this very closely. I assumed she was thinking how annoying this whole charade was, and how nice it would be if I could hurry up and finish so she could head to yoga class or out for coffee or whatever it was she was going to do. I turned to her as I was leaving and apologized for holding her up, and I expected maybe a polite nod and moving on. But instead, she shocked me. "I was watching because I'm totally inspired by what you're doing," she said. She asked for the names of the produce bags and the grocery totes, and said she was going to go home and order some on the spot.

Which is just to say: you don't know what anyone else is thinking. Some people, inevitably, will think whatever it is that you're into or doing is annoying or frustrating or maybe both. That's a fact of life. But other times, every once in a while, you might find yourself out on a limb and and in surprisingly pleasant company.

Finally, these are just some things that I have gotten into doing, and that I like doing. I recognize that not all of them are for everyone, and I also am sure that some of you have other/more/different/awesome tips to share. Please do! That is the whole point of this life thing, I think: to keep learning from and getting inspired by each other.


Fang Liao said...

With thanks very much regarding it revealing look at. Positive i will notice this products in your home combined with to the health and wellness ,and additionally loving, lol! Absolutely love the design!Is prudent wasting once we use this On daily basis.

Elspeth said...

Thanks Fang! Be well.

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.