General troublemaking, Healthy Living, Social Innovation

Sorry I’m Not Sorry

Lately I feel that I’m often on the defensive about my lifestyle choices. I am seen as extreme for making a conscious choice to eat real, clean foods that have no preservatives/additives, choosing to consume socially responsible goods, and being conscious about how I treat myself and the world.

My friends, family, colleagues think I am judging them for eating oreos (yum) and shopping at Forever 21. Well, friends, I am not judging you. I am not a judge-y person. Rather, I am judging the world we live in. I don’t blame people for eating foods packed with chemicals or buying clothes that are in no way a benefit to the world because that’s the norm, the status quo. It is really, really hard to avoid those things (and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to do that– more coming soon!). But it shouldn’t be that way. I will not accept that the world and the country I live in is flawed and nearly forcing us to consume products that aren’t acceptable, I will make trouble until I feel I am living in a world that I want to leave for my kids and grandkids and grand-grand-grand(x10) kids.

So I wanted to say:

Sorry I’m not sorry.

I am not going to apologize for being my “extreme” self. I’m not apologizing for thinking that consuming junk and things that are bad for my body and bad for the world is ridiculous or extreme. And I’m not sorry for pointing it out to you so you can make conscious decisions; not to make you feel bad, but to point out that we DON’T have to stand for the crap that is in the supermarket or the department store. And we won’t make change until enough people aren’t sorry either.

Even writing this, I sound extreme. I see it, I am reading it. But I don’t understand why it has to be that way. Why are we considered extreme if we just want basic, normal, sustainable things that won’t destroy our bodies or the planet? What a radical idea!

I keep thinking about this quote from Steve Jobs that we use in our visioning seminar at PresenTense. He says:

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

This quote has, in fact, changed my viewpoint on the world. It’s so true. The things that frustrate me are completely man-made, and not any more real than anything else, than my opinions or the things I want to make or consume. Right? So if man had the right to add chemicals to my food, to employ kids in sweatshops to make my clothes, to damage the environment by the amount of pollution and waste we produce, and more, I have the right to disagree with that. So I am. Sue me.

Sorry I am not sorry for caring. And I am not sorry for causing trouble on issues I care about. And you shouldn’t be either.

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General troublemaking, Professional Growth, Social Innovation

How a $55 Job Changed My Life

Two years ago I was in a job I was really unsatisfied in– I felt like the passionate person I was was being underutilized. Looking for a little extra cash and the ability to be exposed to new things, I signed up to be a TaskRabbit, a service where people can request others to do jobs for them— everything from grocery shopping to data entry to installing light fixtures. I did a few research jobs, and then came across some postings from General Assembly, a hub for entrepreneurs in NY, looking for people to help with events. Interested in the work they did, I put a few offers on their events and eventually got one to help set up and ensure there was enough beer out at a “tech night” event. It paid $55 for the three hour event— and a lot more in the long run.

In a weird, unbeknownst to me, foreshadowing, the event was a workshop from IDEO for Columbia MBA students on design thinking for startups (design thinking is the backbone of PresenTense’s curriculum). I thought it was incredibly interesting, and started to do some research on GA’s website about classes they offered to the public. I came across a series on Building High Impact Nonprofits and Social Enterprises and signed up immediately, as someone who has always considered starting my own non-profit. I didn’t even know what a social enterprise was. This was April 2012.

I took the class and learned a lot (also was exposed to many things I never even heard of before that excited me). When the organizer of the class, Shana Dressler, invited students to help her on a project she was working on to write a book about how to start social impact business, I jumped on the chance. A few weeks after I started the class at GA, I saw the job posting for PresenTense and decided that this was a direction I was excited and passionate about. I applied and cited my newly-gained “experience” including the class at the GA and my work on Shana’s team.

I accepted my position at PresenTense, an accelerator for social impact businesses, in June 2012. I continued to work with Shana and an amazing group of ladies on what became the Social Good Guides for almost a year, gaining tons of exposure in the social enterprise field. Two years after taking the class at GA, I am now heavily engrained in the social entrepreneurship space, and am passionate about the field. I couldn’t imagine a better field to me, nor one I would relate to more. Heck, I even think one day (maybe not so far away) I will be a founder myself.

(cue infomercial voice) But wait, there’s more! Because of my job at PresenTense I have been exposed to many different people, organizations, and projects, and made some pretty great friends as well. One of them is my dear friend Meredith, who, upon our meeting under PT auspices we realized we were quite similar (and even were wearing the same outfit when we met!), graciously introduced me to many of her friends, and invited me to join her book club. My friendship with Meredith, and participation in the Book Club, have opened me to a ton of new people, experiences, and like-minded individuals who are eager to take the world (and cause trouble!) like I am. Thanks, Meredith!

If you are trying to keep track, my $55 TaskRabbit job led me to: take classes in a new field, work on a project to empower social entrepreneurs, my job at PresenTense, lots of new friends and business connections, my book club, and I am sure more to come. Oh and did I mention I am ridiculously happy in this field working with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever encountered? I think all that proves a pretty decent return on investment.

Okay cool, Sara, you are thinking. What’s your point? How do I strike gold with an odd job? Here’s what I want for you to take away, troublemakers:

  1. Everything in life is an opportunity, but only IF you choose to see it that way. My job from TaskRabbit was just to ensure a bar was stocked and to set up chairs, but I leveraged it beyond face value.
  2. You never know where opportunities will lead. Keep an open mind. Did I think signing up for TaskRabbit would lead me to a new career direction and a brand new awesome group of friends? No way!
  3. Take risks. I knew nothing about anyone in the Social Good Guides group, or much about the topic at hand, but it seemed like an opportunity to work with interesting people on an interesting subject.
  4. Put yourself in situations where you will be exposed to things that excite you, and where you will meet likeminded people. This is where the magic happens, even if you aren’t “qualified” in that field.
  5. Everything happens for a reason. I truly, deeply believe that. But sometimes you have to be a week, a year, or ten years removed to see what the reason was.
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Healthy Living

DIY Recipes: Because Who Wants to Consume Chemicals?

One thing that troubles me most is the amount of junk in our foods. Seriously, there are so many chemicals and preservatives in our foods that they are literally making us fat and sick. Some of these additives are so bad for you they are even banned in other countries (WHAT?! yeah, disturbing, right?).

Since I have become more conscious of the food I consume and how it affects my body, I have been paying careful attention to the ingredients of what I buy. Even better, I have been causing trouble by making my own, healthier versions of every day “essentials.”

DIY 1: Almond Milk (paleo, whole30)
I have recently become pretty obsessed with almond milk, thanks to my strong disbelief in soy products and the desire to avoid excessive dairy. I even use this stuff in my homemade lattes— just dump it straight into my nespresso and within a couple minutes I have almondy-latte goodness.

This is so easy. All you need to do is:

  1. Soak 1/2c of almonds overnight in water (I just fill up a mason jar and put them in there).
  2. Drain almonds, give them a good rinse
  3. Add 1c fresh water + almonds to a blender and give it a good whirl. I normally will let it go for about 45 seconds, give it a break, and then another round of 45 seconds.
  4. Strain your new mixture using a cheese cloth (good to make sure it’s at least doubled up) or using a nut milk bag (OMG I can’t wait to get one of these).
  5. ENJOY! Keep refrigerated. People say it lasts about 3 days, but I normally finish mine in that time, so I haven’t seen it go bad.

If you want to add some flavor, feel free to add some vanilla bean, blend in some dates for sweetness, and sometimes I add a hint of cinnamon to my lattes. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Let’s carry on.

DIY 2: Mayonnaise (paleo, whole30)
I started making my own mayo when I did the whole30, and I don’t know why people don’t do this more. It takes literally 2 minutes and it is so much better than store bought, and so much healthier!

  1. Add 1/2c olive oil (light, not extra virgin), 1 egg, and a pinch of salt into a bowl (sometimes I also add about a teaspoon of dijon mustard)
  2. Stick an immersion blender (if you don’t have one, I highly recommend, especially if you like making soup!) into your mixture and turn that baby on. Leave it in there for 30 seconds and watch in amazement as mayo appears before your little troublemaking eyes.
  3. Enjoy on sandwiches, make your own chicken salad, or use however else you use mayo!

DIY 3: Chocolate Syrup (paleo if made with honey)
I am not going to lie— I love chocolate. And I love chocolate milk. And mocha lattes. Pre-whole30 I drank chocolate milk after every work out. I need to get back to that, but I am trying to reduce sugar. The point is, if you are going to consume chocolate syrup, make it yourself! SO delicious and no junk, and it lasts for months.

  1. Add these ingredients to a pot: ½c cocoa powder, 1c water, 2c sugar (I have used honey and agave instead as well), pinch of salt, 1/4tsp of vanilla
  2. Let pot boil.
  3. Store in fridge, and savor every moment.

DIY 4: Granola Bars (gluten free, dairy free if dark chocolate is used, soy free, paleo without substitutions/exceptions noted)
I love granola bars, but so often they are chock full of stuff I have never heard of. Why do I need soy protein isolate (which actually triggers my migraines) in a granola bar? The gig’s up, Quaker, these trouble maker does it herself.IMG_2858

  1. Add any types of nuts and seeds you like to a baking dish along with 2 cups oats, and toast them in the oven on 350 for 5 minutes. I generally use pecans or almonds, pepitas (spicy are good!), sunflower seeds. Feel free to add those extra healthy ones like flax and chia seeds too! You should have about 2 cups total of the nuts. You could even make these without oats if you are paleo.
  2. While those are hanging out in the oven, mix up the following in a pot and bring to a boil, then turn off: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, dash of salt, dash of vanilla, dash of cinnamon (optional). Sub more honey for the brown sugar if you are paleo.
  3. When both are ready, mix it up! At this point I also like to add chocolate chips and they melt through, so you only need about 1/4 cup or less. But that’s optional too!
  4. Spread evenly on baking pan on top of wax paper, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Have you noticed something here? All these recipes are super fast, and super delicious, and, dare I say, much better for you. I am not saying to eat mayo and chocolate syrup at every meal, but I do feel strongly that it’s worth doing some of these DIY for products you consume anyways because they don’t contain all the gunk you’d be contaminating your body with. Not to mention they all taste EXPONENTIALLY better and might even save you some cash. Everyone wins!

Let me know what you make, and how it turns out. Or what products you DIY/want me to figure out a recipe for. Let’s cause some necessary trouble to the food industry by refusing to consume the junk they are trying to feed us.

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