Trans Am Compost Project

This has been one of the slowest moving and most rewarding projects of my life. We designed a system at Trans Am Cafe to process food waste and turn it into compost. It is the act of  “rebirth,” letting nature do it’s thing, turning what was once discard (or dead), into value (life). And diverting thousands of pounds from a landfill every month. Philosophically quite rich for for a bunch of rotting food in a wooden box.

I started working at Trans Am Cafe in September 2017. Already pretty deep into my “zero waste” mission, I thought it would be cool to work in an environment that could directly feel the impact of people practicing waste-free living. I could imagine the money and energy we would save building a community of coffee drinkers committed to creating no trash.

It was a pipe dream, admittedly. I soon shifted my intentions to another area of the cafe that would benefit from action towards sustainability; food waste. In NYC 60% of all waste is organic, which means it ought to be composted and returned to the earth, but instead ends up in a landfill, not really decomposing and releasing methane into the air.

To divert the cafe’s food waste would be a huge accomplishment. One I sought out to achieve with the help of the Strongest Foundation, which offered me a $2000 micro grant.

Above: contractor and artist Nick Clear building the bins from discarded pallets picked up in Staten Island. Below: Iko helping me dry out “Bokashi” which you can read about here. I couldn’t have done anything with the help of many people

The system should be able to process all of the cafe’s food scraps. How much that ends up being, and how long it takes until it’s usable is still up for discovery. We started collecting again this week so I’ll be able to give more details soon. The finished product is compost, broken down food that can be put back in the soil to fertilize plants. And it’s so good for plants!

Our first mission once we have enough finished compost is to line all the trees on our block in Ridgewood (they could use it tbh). Also to donate to community gardens or sell to costumers who have their own plants / gardens in the neighborhood.

first load in the first bin!

Already, when we spend time outside working on this project people stop and ask us what we are doing. This is amazing and allows for conversations about life and death and sustainability to occur organically in our community. Plus I just love getting my hands dirty and allowing for others to do the same.

There will be more updates on this as the weather gets warmer and more food scraps are collected. Keep following the newsletter to check-in on this project. I am keeping a very detailed log. Also if you know anyone who might want to cover this for a local newspaper or eco-blog let me know!

Above: Dirty gardening hands! The best!
Below: Trans Am Compost Bins in their restful glory.

Preface to Nascent Thoughts on Israel and Palestine

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My 94-year-old Grandpa with his art in his home in Israel, he migrated from Iraq to (then) Palestine in the 1920’s. A professor of linguistics. He taught in Arabic, Hebrew, and English.

-shot on 35mm film, 2018-

Whenever I do check in on facebook these days, I see a lot of people speaking out and discussing what is happening in Israel and Palestine. As someone who is about to play music there for the fourth time in two years (thanks to the amazing people who support us), and it being the place where my entire family lives, I feel it important to share a bit about my connection to this place, and how I feel about being there.

Without a doubt this is a much longer discussion, which I am eager to have with anyone who wants to discuss. But the short(ish) version of it is this. I have been visiting Tel-Aviv from my home in NYC since I was born, I lived there for 6 years from around the ages of 15 to 21. During which I went to an American international high school and served in the IDF for two years (as does every 18 y/o citizen who isn’t a fugitive/in jail) I feel no pride in my service, I did it to stay close to my family and have some time between high school and college to actually think about what I wanted to do with my life. I was a graphic designer for the IDF Public Relations department (also a much longer discussion). Thankfully I did not have to commit any acts of violence, was kept safe and able to learn and live. I summarize my time in Israel as positive, and of course this has to do with the circumstances of which I was born. 

I grew up simultaneously in two places, thus feelings of “belonging” and “national pride” are somewhat lost to me as a person who all at once belonged, and didn’t belong in many situations. In New York/America I was “Israeli” or “Middle Eastern” or “Jewish.” In Tel-Aviv/Israel I was “the American girl.” Even though I spoke hebrew fluently, and pretty much fit the look. These identities felt polarizing in the different situations I found myself in. I just wanted to feel free and not judged, loved and accepted, let to live, like perhaps many other people do.

I recently read this and found it very interesting. It forces me to ask hard questions about Israel and America. Does America engage in the act of “ethnic cleansing?” and can we discuss America as a Regime as well? I see America and Israel being part of the same world powers. It seems easy to criticize something when in a position of privilege. A lot of us talk, but few really do anything to change the status-quo (because our lives depend on it). 

My thoughts on Palestine have completely shifted as I got older and learned more about the world. Segregated from really meeting Palestinian people and forbidden to go into Palestinian territories, my abilities to reach out and make connections was limited. I am currently making progress on this, trying very hard to meet more people and listen to their experience. To really get into my visions for a solution will involve continued further discussion and research. I just want to extend my perspective. I am working towards a harmonious future with all people and the earth, it is what I spend my time thinking about and learning about. Please feel free to talk to me about your experience and your visions for a better future. I’m there.

Two Weeks Off Insta!!!

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Me hanging with my new baby plants (potatoes, parsley, tomatoes and wild flowers.. for now)

Being off Instagram for two weeks has made time feel different. Somehow it feels longer, I’ve not forgotten about the wonderful people I used to see on there, but rather I find myself remincising about them in a more direct way. I am reaching out personally to many more people. And when meeting new people, I have a more intentional approach to keeping in contact.

Short answer is…. I’m fucking happy y’all!

I see myself checking back into IG (on Sir Kn8’s Phone) to post about this newsletter, but nothing more. I love the way committing to a newsletter has brought more intentionality to my pictures and ideas. I can consolidate my experiences and share what is really important instead of random passing moments and calls for attention.

I miss the community though, and hope that I can build conversation through this platform. I hope to publish other people’s comments on my blog entries and emails.

Thank you all for reading and following my journey. Looking forward to sharing more as I go on

Love,

IG free Hila :)

DIY Lemon Scrap Vinegar

Let’s start with the basics… what is vinegar? 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinegar

Vinegar is the result of sugar turning into alcohol and continuing to ferment into vinegar. It consists of about 5–20% acetic acid (CH3COOH), water, and other trace minerals. Homemade vinegar (unlike it’s processed counterpart) will not exceed 5% normally, which is what we buy at the store. High percentage vinegar can be very harsh and is almost impossible to create in natural conditions.

Last year I attended some workshops at עץבעיר CityTree شجرة بالبلد in Tel-Aviv. There, I learned how to use my old citrus peels (and any fruit really) to make vinegar. (It’s so easy, it’s embarrassing)

When I started my zero waste journey, one of the first things I had to re-establish was my home cleaning routine. I had to replace windex and all purpose spray.

I quickly learned that Vinegar is just as effective as any cleaner I could buy iat the store, and all I had to do was dilute it with water and things will be clean! A friend told me that to make it smell better I can infuse lemon scraps into white vinegar for a couple of weeks before using. This didn’t really become a habit in my house, as I had to keep buying white vinegar, and I had many more lemon peels than I could fit into a small jar. 

When I learned that lemon peels (with a bit of the fruit still on) actually turned into vinegar over time… I was shocked and delighted! So 4 months ago I started saving my lemon scraps in a jar.

METHOD

  • Find a large glass jar. Add citrus (lemon, orange, grapefruit ect.) and water proportionally until it fills up equal parts. 
  • Throughout the process, cover with a cloth and rubber-band to keep flies out and let it sit in a dark cabinet and forget about it. Every few weeks give it a stir, some white mold may have grown on the top, just mix it in, it is yeast, and it means it’s working. Your ferment will have an alcoholic smell at first, and then over more time it will start to smell vinegary. 
  • The longer you let it ferment, the more vinegar it will be. I let mine sit for 3 months (life has been busy)
  • When you feel like it’s ready, you can strain the pulp using a fabric cloth and a strainer. The pulp can be rubbed on your dishes (as dish soap!) and the liquid vinegar can be diluted with water and used to clean. Also if you have organic citrus, you can feel free to enjoy this vinegar as a food item as it is totally edible and can be used as salad dressing, pickling liquid, ect. 
  • grapes and apples will make a tasty vinegar for eating! 

After three months of sitting with intermitted stirring, the lemon peels completely broke down and it was just a mush :)

Feel free to message me or e-mail me if you have any questions! 

Why I Quit Instagram and Future Visions

[Me enjoying an Instagram free afternoon with my NB preparing the newsletter]

I deleted and re-installed the app to my phone 4-5 times today. Had to tie up loose ends, answer messages, make sure people saw my post, my post about leaving. After this first day I realize that it will be hard to completely disengage.

It is my goal though. 

Instagram and FB have become scape goats in my creative process. I blame the platform for censoring my image, for placing expensive ads above me when I did work to reach my followers and gain a presence. But really, I have a choice. And if I had been more strategic from the beginning, I wouldn’t let the platform dictate my readership, which is what I have done.

By giving FB & IG ownership of my images on their platform, and without pay, I am really devaluing what I have to give to the digital world. I fear of course that if I don’t play ball no one will see my work. It is a fear, but I will work through it. 

More busking, more live performances, more being out in the world, more intentional interaction with other people, grass roots, being in physical space, a modest e-mail list. 

I quit IG today because I want to wake up and just breath in the morning, I don’t want to spend the day thinking about what I should post. Checking constantly for likes and comments. Leaving the real world behind. It is not such an addiction for everyone, but for me I saw the signs. 

Maybe I’ll return… but until then, I’m going to soak up the sun, write badass newsletters, and make amazing stuff for the world. 

xoxoxo
Hila the Killa