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Disclosure: This post is inspired, in part, by the recent online Gluten Free Expo, sponsored by the Gluten Intolerance Group and presented by the Nourished Festivals. I was not asked to write a blog post–and per usual, everything in here is mine (thoughts, opinions, ideas).

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I can’t wait to see my family for Thanksgiving and many of my friends are just as excited for Hanukkah, Christmas, and all of the other winter celebrations. The first year we had our annual family Thanksgiving extravaganza after I stopped eating meat, my parents were very concerned that I was somehow going to starve during the week I spent at home. I love them for stocking up on all of the frozen veggie burgers and such, but it really wasn’t necessary (I was perfectly happy to gorge myself on the mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, turkey-free “stuffing,” cranberry sauce, green salad, and other meat-free items). Eventually they got used to the idea that I didn’t need special pretend-meat items for every meal. I’m lucky this isn’t a food allergy, and that the majority of the world is pretty easy to navigate as a vegetarian.

Later on in life, my Bonus Mom (that’s Dad’s wife, they got married long after us kids moved out of the house, so “Stepmother” sounds weird and also she’s not some meanie from a fairy tale) had to follow a low-FODMAP diet one year due to a health issue. We were all pretty baffled, as we found out at the last minute and didn’t have time to adjust our plans. When we asked her what was on the “no list,” she was frustrated and baffled herself, as it was a new-to-her situation.

What is a Food Allergy?

Let’s start at the beginning: a food allergy is not a personal choice. When a person with a food allergy eats that food, their immune system kicks up a fuss. The body produces extra histamines–the chemicals that cause inflammation–as they go on attack. The results might be itching, hives, or a rash; side-effects can include constipation or diarrhea or vomiting; severe side effects might include swelling of the throat (cutting off the ability to breathe) or an anaphylactic reaction–a severe, life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. The symptoms might last a few hours or a few days.

Even a very small amount of an allergen can cause serious, life-threatening reactions in some people. A food allergy is very different from a personal preference (a la “I went gluten-free because [celebrity name here] told me it was the best”). Not that I’m saying you should ignore a guest’s food preferences, but an allergy is not the same as choosing not to eat something!

Food allergies are common! About 5% of all adults in the U.S. have a food allergy. Food allergies are more common in children. Since you can’t see a food allergy, your guest might not have an obvious need for accommodation. If you don’t ask, you won’t know. If you’re a guest, remember that–it’s important to let people know!

Know the Top Eight. The top food allergens are: cow milk/dairy, eggs, tree nuts (including but not limited to walnuts, pine nuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts), peanuts (which are legumes and not tree nuts), shellfish, wheat (including but not limited to gluten, a component of wheat), soy, and fish.

Be a Gracious and Communicative Guest

If you have a food allergy or other dietary limitation, or another allergy, please tell your hosts! Be clear about what your limitations are and how they can be accommodated. For example, most people do not know that “gluten free” is not the same as “safe for people with Celiac disease.” They don’t know they can’t use the same knife on the gluten-free pizza that they used on the wheat-pizza.

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Teach people how to feed you. If you can, make up your own “guide to safely feeding me,” with bullet points of tips and lists of “safe for me” foods. Offer it as a way to help your host learn, and make it clear you’re not demanding all food in the house follow “your” rules. Definitely include a definition of your allergy and how serious it is (will you sniffle, or is there a chance you’ll die?). You might include a link to your favorite medical website that addresses your allergy, a favorite food blogger.

Help keep yourself fed. The typical advice is to offer to bring a dish you know you can eat to the meal. I’m writing this in the context of allergies, but as a vegetarian I’m always bringing something substantial to ensure I get fed. If it’s appropriate, offer up a dish! Of course I’ve also packed emergency food in my suitcase (just in case).

Have an allergic-reaction plan and share it. This seems like a no-brainer, but if you have a plan and have not shared it, in the event you become incapacitated no one else will know what to do! If you have an epi-pen in your purse/pocket at all times that’s great, but someone else needs to know when to use it.

Be a Warm and Safe Host

Ask your guests about allergies. You don’t want to accidentally poison your guests! Find out what they allergy is, and ask how severe it is. Do they need the allergen to stay 6′ away from them? Or just not in their food. One of my parents’ friends was allergic to eggs. While visiting a friend in the hospital he was there long enough to need to eat a meal. In the cafeteria, he asked for a grilled cheese sandwich–no eggs in that, right? When he ate the sandwich, he went into anaphylactic shock. Why? The grill had eggs on it earlier in the day, and while the grill was scraped down/wiped down in standard restaurant practice, that’s not good enough to prevent cross-contamination. (He was in a hospital, so got prompt medical attention, and lived many more years.) ASK QUESTIONS. A guest with food allergies will appreciate you trying to accommodate them!

(c) Styled Stock Society

Ask your guests for tips and suggestions. Maybe they have a favorite recipe, meal suggestion, online resource, or other pointer for you. Again, ASK QUESTIONS.

Educate yourself about best practices. This is super important if your guest has a serious food allergy (one that might kill them) or has Celiac disease. For example, you should assume that any kitchen implement that is porous–made of wood, stone, cast iron, etc.–is NOT safe to use on the allergen you’re trying to avoid. Assume your best bet is to use a fresh/clean pan for the allergen-free dishes (one that hasn’t just been used to cook something with the allergen in it). Head over to Laulima Kitchen for up-to-date information about a Celiac-safe kitchen (and grab her “10 Ways to Keep Your Kitchen Celiac Safe” while you are there).

Include allergy-friendly dishes. In most cases this isn’t that hard to do. I once made dinner for a group that included vegans (so no meat, dairy, eggs, honey in those dishes) as well as different people with allergies to potatoes, chicken, onions, and bell pepper. I wrote out my plan on paper to make sure I had enough options for everyone, and it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d imagined–I made two crock pot dishes and a soup, and served the meal with an appetizer cheese and veggie tray, bread, salad, store-bought hummus, and fresh fruit for dessert.

Learn about local allergy-friendly restaurants. Local bloggers are often your best bet for finding a safe place to eat a meal out, and this is especially true for those with Celiac disease. If you’re not sure about your favorite, call them up and ask. Do they have items on the menu that might be appropriate? What about kitchen prep? (If your guest has Celiac, potatoes cooked in a shared fryer–one where a wheat-batter-coated onion rings once fried–eating those potatoes can make them sick for a few days. Yuck.)

Don’t Forget the Non-Food Allergies!

While this post has focused on food allergens, there are plenty of people who are allergic to other things. Just like food allergens, non-food allergens can send the immune system into overdrive and produce symptoms from mild (runny nose, slightly itchy eyes) to the severe and life-threatening (anaphylaxsis).

Indoors: Pets and Pests and More, Oh My! The top non-food allergens inside your home include pets (cats, dogs, and others!), pests (dust mites, cockroaches), latex, pollen, mold, medications, perfume/fragrance (including essential oils), and medication. The number one thing you can do to help your guests with allergies is to deep-clean everything; rugs, carpets, drapes, and bedding can all harbor pet hair and pet dander, pests, pollen, and more. Mom used to choke when the air had strong fragrances and perfumes, as it exacerbated her asthma. (Not really an allergy, but equally unpleasant.) Hot tips indoors:

  • Steam clean carpeting and rugs
  • Wash drapes and bedding in hot water and dry thoroughly
  • Avoid scented laundry detergent and soaps for bedding and towels (I use Dropps unscented)
  • Dust using a microfiber cloth
  • Avoid using heavily-scented cleaning products (or air out the house after cleaning)
  • Avoid air fresheners, including essential oil diffusers
  • Stock your medicine chest with an over-the-counter allergy medication
  • If you live in a moist climate, run a dehumidifier and ensure air circulation in closets and around furniture to avoid mold growth (I live in Oregon–this IS a thing)
  • Groom your pet (a bath and a brushing go a long way to remove both dander and other items that may get trapped in pet hair/fur)

If your guest has a pet allergy, find out well in advance how severe the allergy is. I have a cat, and I have many friends with cat allergies. Some of my friends are fine staying in my house for a weekend as long as they have an over-the-counter allergy tablet; others are so allergic that they will break out in hives if the cat rubs against them. You might be able to keep your pet and your guest separated if they have a mild allergy, but for a more serious allergy your guest might be better off in a hotel.

Outdoors. The nice part about outdoor allergies in the winter is that they tend to be less of a problem, at least in places like Michigan where the air turns crispy and everything gets covered in snow. (If you’re out in the Pacific Northwest, mold allergies can still be ugly in the winter.) Top outdoor allergens include pets (hey, dogs go outdoors!), insect stings, and pollens. Insect allergens include biting (mosquito, horse fly) and stinging (wasp, bee, yellow jacket, fire ants) insects. Pollens from trees, flowers, and grasses can cause misery almost all year long. Hot tips:

  • Pollen can be problematic almost all year: tree pollen is most common in spring, weed pollen in summer and fall, and grass pollen in summer. If your guest is very allergic, it’s nice to move some of the party indoors.
  • To avoid attracting insects–you may attract them, but they can bite/sting who they choose–don’t wear perfume/cologne or use heavily scented products for outdoor events.
  • Have bug repellant products on hand for outdoor gatherings
  • Consider careful use of bug repellant products (such as candles, sprays, bug zappers, and sonic products) to keep pests away from your gathering.
  • In addition to an over-the-counter allergy tablet, add topical anti-inflammatory and anti-itch products to your medicine cabinet
(c) Styled Stock Society

Got Tips?

What are your best pointers for hosting an allergy-friendly meal?

What are the best things you can do for a guest with allergies in your home to make them feel comfortable?

Really, the book is about yoga for chronic illness and chronic pain.

If you live with chronic pain, you’ve probably had at least one well-meaning friend tell you, “oh, you definitely need to do yoga!” (Or so I am told by my friends who live with chronic illness.) I was surprised to see Cory Martin, a person who lives with chronic pain due to MS and lupus, not just make this suggestion, but also write an entire book about it. Now to be fair, Ms. Martin was doing yoga (and teaching yoga) before she received either diagnosis, so she may have been more receptive to the idea than most; more important, she has the lived experience to back the suggestion to do yoga AND the chops to suggest appropriate practices and how to work with your body.

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Disclosure: I was lucky to get the opportunity to access an advance readers copy of Ms. Martin’s forthcoming book, The Yoga Prescription. This listed publication date for this book is January 11, 2022. Access to the ARC did not require me to do anything, though of course the publisher did ask for any private feedback I might want to share. I think this book has merit and may be actually helpful for people living with chronic pain, as it was written by an author who is walking in those shoes; this is a book most yoga teachers are 100% unqualified to write—I could try to write a book like this, but I would not be credible since I do not live with chronic pain. There is a lot of autobiography that I found educational or enlightening, but the target audience will likely recognize as similar to their own experiences. Because of this, I decided to write a review on my blog.

Prior to reading this book I was totally unfamiliar with Ms. Martin as an author (though I later realized I’ve seen/read some of her prior work, unaware it was hers). The introduction introduces you to Ms. Martin and the fact that she lives with multiple sclerosis and lupus. This is continued in chapter 1, “the diagnosis,” which is also largely autobiographical. Chapter 2, “understanding the treatment plan,” introduces basic concepts in yoga. The remainder of the chapters have a yoga-related or yoga-informed title that is also a mental attitude or practice and a physical practice associated with them (“be here now,” “just say no,” etc.) Each of these chapters also features one yoga pose or yoga-related practice suggestion.

The Yucky Parts.

On the theory that it’s best to end on a positive note, I’m going to start with what I disliked about The Yoga Prescription.

The title. This book is not a prescription; yoga is not medication. While some yoga may be “prescribed” by a qualified physical therapist, medical practitioner, or trained yoga therapist, this isn’t that kind of yoga. The book fails to “prescribe” anything  specific and in fact one of the main themes of the book is the exact opposite: yoga practice has to be personalized to your body on the specific day you are practicing.

The subtitle. “A Chronic Illness Survival Guide.” Only semi-accurate. Based on the title and subtitle, I expected to see more of a step-by-step process. Like “Chapter 1: How to yoga after your diagnosis” or something. Instead, the introduction and first chapter are autobiographical, as is about one-half to one third of each subsequent chapter. My read is that the chapters follow Ms. Martin’s experience somewhat chronologically, while the practice suggestions build on each other starting from chapter one. There’s not quite enough material to separate the biography from the yoga suggestions, and I do quite like the mix of experience plus practice suggestions. Yet I still find the subtitle as misleading as the title.

(c) Styled Stock Society

The cover. I really hope this cover changes before publication (and it might—the cover mock-up on the ARC is often not the final cover). Since the book has not been published yet I do not have a photo to show you. The cover is a blue background with a horizontal rectangular box that is yellow, with three pill capsule graphics underneath (the kind where there are two colors, one for each half of the capsule). The word “yoga” appears in the yellow box, and each of the three pills has part of the word “prescription” on it (pre-, scrip, -tion). Not only does this feel pretty stale to me—I’ve probably seen a dozen books with pills on the cover in the past—it’s an active turn-off. If I saw the cover at a bookstore, I’d pass right by without picking it up.

The explanations of Sanskrit terms. One of my pet peeves is the gross oversimplification of Sanskrit words in general (and yoga terms specifically) in the western presentation of yoga. This isn’t a pitfall unique to Ms. Martin—to be fair—but as she has more than 500 hours of yoga teacher training, it’s a bummer to see her continue the trend of dumbing-down yoga. For example, in Chapter two, the introduction to yoga, Ms. Martin writes: “Put simply, yoga means to yoke or bring together.” Except that’s not true.

The meaning of “yoga” is more complicated than saying the Spanish word “rojo” means “red” in English. Yes, the word “yoga” comes from the same root word that led to our English word “yoke,” but that’s not an accurate translation of the word yoga. As I learned from Anya Foxen (PhD) yoga is a super basic, super generic word. It means fixing a bow; employment, use, application; equipping or arraying an army; a remedy or cure; and a means, device, way, manner, or method…among many other meanings. The concept of yoga as meditation doesn’t show up until half-way through a rather lengthy list of definitions, though many American yoga teachers tell their students all yoga practice is driving toward meditation. As Ms. Foxen explained, yoking and chariots were the high-tech of the time, and the word yoga as yoking a chariot was the appropriate high-tech metaphor of the time—much like in the Renaissance we see finely-tuned clocks as the high-tech leading to the analogy “runs like clockwork,” or how us moderns talk about the brain as a computer. This concept of yoga as yoke is more like the word “rig” (another definition of yoga) as used in the nautical sense, and also in the sense of a trick, stratagem, or fraud (like rigging an election or rigging the game).

It would have been really interesting to see Ms. Martin tie the complicated multi-faceted word “yoga” to the equally complex challenges of living with a chronic illness that is not visible to others. (M.S. and lupus rarely have visible symptoms; you don’t “look disabled” or “look sick” to others.) I understand that Ms. Martin is aiming for a beginner audience, but this gives her the perfect opportunity to educate instead of to repeat the tired half-truths of yoga teachers past. Even if she did not want to include this much information in the introduction to yoga chapter, she could easily have thrown it into an appendix or other supplemental material at the end of the book. It’s a pretty short book, there was plenty of room left. (I’m not even going to start on the “translation” of “namaste,” but suffice to say it repeats an American invention and is not a translation.) This is just one example of the watering-down of the terms used to talk about yoga that Ms. Martin repeats.

The Yummy Parts.

(c) Styled Stock Society

Let’s talk about things I loved about the book.

This isn’t a book about “yoga poses.” (Yes, there are yoga poses included. But if you’re looking for a book about yoga poses, you might try Ms. Martin’s earlier book, Yoga for Beginners.) While the chapter introducing yoga does make it sound like Patanjali is the be-all end-all of what yoga is (he’s not, but most western yoga can be traced by to Krishnamacharya and/or western European esoteric practitioners, all of whom emphasized Patjanjali and more or less ignored other historic texts), it clearly sets out that there are eight parts of yoga. While I take issue with her Sanskrit “translations” throughout the book, I love the way she explains how each of the yamas and niyamas—these are the ethical precepts of yoga, sort of like the “thou shalts” and the “thou shalt nots”—relates to her experience of living with a chronic illness. For example, “satya” is a principle about truthfulness and not fooling yourself or others. Ms. Martin’s explanation of satya includes very practical, accessible examples such as “If someone asks you how you’re doing, you don’t always have to say you’re fine. Be honest with yourself and those around you.” The term “brahmacharya” is usually used to describe sexual abstinence or celibacy, but that’s actually an oversimplification as bramacharya is a bigger concept about protecting your energy. Ms. Martin points out this can also mean “ridding your life of the things that drain you.” She goes on to give specific examples of ways she has abstained from work, people, and relationships that drain her. It’s rare to find a beginner yoga book that isn’t focused ONLY on yoga poses, so this is a huge plus in my mind. In fact I think it would have been cool to see a whole chapter focused on each yama and niyama and how it relates to living with a chronic illness—I bet many people could relate to at least some of the explanations, even without a chronic illness..

The practices are doled out in bite-sized pieces. Lots of books on yoga practice start out with “practice for 30 minutes” or “do this whole set of yoga poses.” This one is pretty refreshing in that the message is a consistent “do what you can, when you can—and that might be different today and tomorrow.” The first practice doesn’t even come in until Chapter 3, and that first practice is “savasana,” often referred to as “corpse pose” or out here in America as “final resting pose.” These small bites can be explored one at a time, and eventually you might choose to string them together into a practice. A visual guide at the end of the book helps with this.

(c) Styled Stock Society

The physical yoga poses are fairly simple: savasana, seated forward fold, sukhasana (seated cross-legged), cat/cow, balasana (child’s pose), adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog), side plank, tadasana (mountain pose), vrksasana (tree pose), utkatasana (chair or awkward pose), “be free” (chest opener/movement). Each pose is introduced with a relatively simple line drawing. Overall I like the line drawings, and find them more useful than the typical yoga stick-figures, but I dislike the one for vrksasana as it shows the heel of the raised foot pressed into the knee of the standing leg (a big yikes, especially if you have delicate joints). I’m also not a huge fan of the one for downward-facing dog, as it looks a lot like me in my early yoga practice—overly rounded lumbar curve/collapsed spine. Otherwise, I would have liked to see more of these line drawings, especially to illustrate the alternative suggestions for ways to adapt the pose to your body.

Every yoga pose has numerous alternatives. Early in the book, Ms. Martin advocates for using props (chapter 4, “prop yourself up”) to make the yoga pose suit your body, instead of trying to mash your body into the pose. This is advice all people practicing yoga should heed. (I’m reminded of a story where one of my yoga teachers was teaching a class and offered a block to a student in her Level 2 class. The student refused, saying: “But I’m a Level 2 student!” My teacher replied, “And this is a Level 2 block.”) Everyone’s anatomy is just slightly different, and your shorter torso many not allow you to do things my longer toros permits me to do; whether your hands touch the floor is a function of bone length, not just flexibility. Lest you think Ms. Martin is advising everyone buy a bunch of yoga props, she specifically suggests using many items most of us already have available to us, including a wall or sofa. Ample suggestions for modifications and substitutes makes the practice accessible to just about anyone.

The end of the book has resources that are useful to people who just want a refresher or reminder of what to do. The “Quick Guide: Daily Practice” lists five elements (Breathe, Move, Close Your Eyes, Meditate, Set an Intention) with a sentence or two regarding each. These five elements are things literally anyone can do, even if they do not have a lot of time, space, or energy to devote to a practice. The “Move” component doesn’t suggest you need a specific series of yoga poses, but rather says “Wiggle your toes, go for a walk, practice a few poses. Every day do what feels good for you.” This type of movement is accessible no matter what your body is doing or feeling. Next, there is a “Reference Library” which repeats the yoga poses discussed in each chapter and the philosophical point Ms. Martin associated with each, plus the line drawing that originally accompanied the pose in the text.

Conclusion: Give It A Read?

Overall, I think this is a worthy read for those who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, even if they have no interest in yoga poses—you can ignore that content and still get value from reading the book. I appreciate Ms. Martin’s personal insight. If you, or a loved one, live with a chronic illness—especially one that is “invisible” or one that includes living with chronic pain—I do recommend you check out The Yoga Prescription when it is released in January 2022.

TL;DR: hell yes they are. Plant-plastic is not “green” or friendly to the environment in any way. (It’s also not vegan.)

The iconic American brand Coca-Cola–historically no friend to the environment or to consumers in foreign markets–just announced the first plant-based plastic bottle. Coca-Cola, the world’s leading producer of plastic waste, generating more than 2.9 tons of plastic waste per year, has recently decided to go green–by making plant-plastic.

I came across this article on the LinkedIn feed for Vegan Business News and immediately questioned whether this development is vegan (it’s not), and whether this development is merely green-washing, roughly defined as the practice of making something look very eco-friendly and environmentally conscious for the purpose of cultivating consumer good-will (it is). Green-washing is also called eco-washing, or referred to as trying to add a “green halo” to a product to make consumers think it is good for the plant or the environment. The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got.

My initial comment: “So…we’re going to continue to have microplastics pollution and regular plastic pollution, just now it will also be made from plants? I don’t buy it. Why not use glass or aluminum, both of which are much more easily recycled and have a longer useful life? This is greenwashing, plain and simple simple.  #greenwashing #notVegan #NotAVeganBusiness

One response I received claimed: “because the glass and can solutions are not clean either and the costs will not easily transfer to consumers. compostable would do…we are heading in that direction.” I’m not going to name the author of that comment, since he clearly had not read the article–this magical new plant-plastic will NOT be compostable.

Plant-Plastic is Still Plastic

Let’s start with the obvious: the plant-based plastic IS STILL PLASTIC.

Bottles? Unlikely to be recycled. Caps? NOT recyclable, despite that chasing-arrows recycling logo. Plastic bottle holder? Destined to choke wildlife.

Personally, I do not see how the solution to the single-use plastic problem is to make more single-use plastic. According to the article linked above, the plant-based plastic called bPET “is identical in molecular structure to virgin fossil-based PET.” This means that regardless of the ingredients, plastic is plastic. A spokesperson for Coca-Cola explained that the plant-plastic “can be mixed with rPET and virgin oil-based materials interchangeably including in the recycle stream.” These plant-plastic bottles will not be reusable or compostable. Coca-Cola is planning to increase its own capacity to recycle plastic (more on why that’s problematic below), but it’s still plastic.

Plastic is a “forever” product.

Since the plant-plastic is identical to the plastic we already have, with the same molecular structure, plant-plastic will pose all of the same problems as plastic. Plastic is not biodegradable and cannot be composted. (The corn-based “compostable plastic” forks and other single-use items you have seen? NOT compostable in municipal compost, where that service even exists. If you’ve experimented with composting these in your backyard composter, I’d love to hear how long it took them to fully break down. Oh, and some of them break down into micro-plastics!) The majority of plastic is not recycled, even if you put it into your recycling bin, assuming you even have recycling where you live. (People like to cite the statistic that “74% of Americans have access to recycling” but they always leave out the fact that data is based on access to recycle glass and aluminum–not plastic.) I’ve talked about this in prior posts, such as this one. In the past much of our plastic waste was shipped to China for recycling, but China started rejecting shipments before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plastic is the wrong kind of “forever.”

Aluminum (made from metal minerals) and glass (made from silica, limestone, and soda ash) are “forever renewable.” You can basically reuse or recycle your aluminum beverage can or your glass beverage bottle until the end of time. (More on that when we talk alternatives.) Unlike aluminum and glass, plastic cannot be endlessly recycled. The article about Coca-Colas plant-plastic admits this: “While the majority of the company’s plastic packaging material will come from recycled content, some ‘virgin’ material will apparently still be needed to maintain packaging quality.” In other words, to continue using this plant-plastic, they will have to continue to produce more plastic! More single-use plastic is simply a bad idea.

Grow Plants to Eat, Not to Plastic!

I didn’t do a deep-dive into land use for this post, but if you’d like to, please drop a comment. A basic fact of planet Earth is that we have limited arable land, meaning land that can grow plants on it. Quite a bit of land is unavailable to grow plants for human use–deserts, swamps, wetlands, permafrost, etc.–so we should probably be thoughtful about how we choose to use the land that we do have available to us. I’m not going to argue we are doing a good job with this, but in a world where we’re already mowing down rainforest to start cattle ranches, shouldn’t we be focused on using our arable land for crops to feed humans and animals? (I’m not debating whether to go vegetarian or vegan here, that’s a different convo.) Doesn’t it seem like a bad idea to set aside land to grow plants to turn into plastic? Especially for the world’s largest producer of plastic waste (plastic that is not recycled)? It does to me, especially when climate change is threatening to take away some of the land we currently use, whether due to rising sea levels, change in the growing season conditions, or increase in severe weather events (including droughts and floods).

Plant-Plastic Will Likely Get Incinerated

According to the article cited above, Coca-Cola plant to introduce the plant-plastic in Europe. Unlike the United States, where few things are diverted for reuse or recycling and the remainder go to landfills, a large chunk of Europe produces less waste to start with and then deals with the rest using a trash incinerator. (Read about those here.) Currently many of them are “trash to energy” incinerators with environmental controls for many of the most dangerous pollutants and for particulate matter. That’s where single use plastic goes too—and “Burning plastic in a climate emergency, that’s insane,” said Georgia Elliott-Smith, an environmental engineer, according to that article. Even the most environmentally-friendly of these trash incinerators are falling out of favor in the age of climate change, as they produce CO2 (which we all know is a bad idea). As much as Coca-Cola claims they are going to collect and re-use this plant-plastic, in reality they have little impact on what consumers choose to do with empty plant-plastic bottles. The UK burns more than it recycles (across the board); why should we expect the rest of Europe to suddenly get on board with recycling for plant-plastic? We should not. Incinerated plant-plastic will contribute to CO2 production, which is the opposite of the eco-friendly label Coca-Cola has put on their plant-plastic. This, my friends, is greenwashing.

We Have The Alternatives

Glass

(c) Taras Chernus

Glass is endlessly recyclable. One article describes the state of glass recycling as sadly broken, and notes: “glass can be recycled endlessly by crushing, blending, and melting it together with sand and other starting materials.” The components are basically sand (silica), limestone, and soda ash. The article notes that about one-third of the glass in the U.S. is actually recycled (versus putting it in a recycling bin and then it goes to a landfill). This is a problem that is potentially fix-able if we–or Coca-Cola–can devote resources to expanding glass reuse or recycling. (The same isn’t true of plastic, which is not endlessly recyclable.)

While glass does have the disadvantage of being heavier than plastic, which has an impact on shipping costs (and associated fossil fuel usage), large companies like Coca-Cola already use a distribution system where products are bottled in multiple locations with an eye towards reducing the shipping distance. (Let’s not forget that beer, wine, and spirits are almost exclusively bottled in glass in the United States, with some notable exceptions for aluminum cans, and continue to be shipped from coast to coast.) Coca-Cola continues to distribute products in glass bottles in many non-U.S. countries. Have you ever bought Coca-Cola imported from Mexico? Always in a glass bottle. Coca-Cola has other brands in its portfolio that are bottled in glass (not plastic) so this isn’t a stretch at all!

Coca-Cola could even lead the pack by returning to returnable–not recyclable–bottles. You might not remember those, but Coca-Cola vending machines used to dispense heavy glass bottles. (In the 80s and 90s we had one in the basement of the church where my Girl Scout troop met.) These were returned, sanitized, and refilled. As a kid I remember getting all of our family’s sodas at a place called Towne Club, a private-label warehouse-type brand, where we returned the bottles not for a deposit but to be reused. In Portland, several companies dispense their beer or cider into refillable growlers, and a few are part of a glass bottle return program. (Those bottles are washed and sanitized, then refilled for retail sale.) This isn’t a radical concept.

Aluminum

(c) Alexander Antropov

You know about aluminum, right? The stuff all Coca-Cola cans–and even some bottles!–are made of? Aluminum is the most valuable thing in your recycling bin. (That article has a great summary of how reusable aluminum is, an how much energy is conserved by recycling it instead of making it from scratch.) Like glass, aluminum is almost infinitely recyclable. Nearly 75% of all aluminum ever made is still in use today. You cannot say the same for plastic, the vast majority of which is in landfills (or perhaps the ocean, or burned in European incinerators).

How valuable is aluminum? When I worked in the Texas legislature and a bottle deposit came up for a vote, the reason it always failed was aluminum. Why? Independent recycling centers rely on the income from aluminum recycling–the buy-back price more than covers the operations to collect and recycle it–to fund their operations and help recycle cardboard, paper, #1 and #2 plastic, and glass.

Coca-Cola already makes aluminum bottles, which are lighter than glass ones and not much heavier (if at all) than plastic ones. Again, this is not a new or radical idea! If they took a serious interest in recycling aluminum on a world-wide basis, they could easily use more aluminum bottles and maybe even use less plastic to make bottles. That would make a bigger impact than inventing a fake “eco-friendly” plant-plastic.

(Steel might be an option too, though I don’t know whether Coca-Cola would react with steel. Gnarly Sports Nutrition recently started a shift away from the plastic tubs most nutrition companies use, in favor of steel. According to Gnarly Nutrition, steel has the highest recycling rate of any material at 71% while plastic is at 8%. Their packaging is tin-coated. The switch from plastic to steel increased the price of the tub by 80 cents.)

Creativity: Concentrating or Dry-Shipping Beverages

With just the tiniest bit of creativity, Coca-Cola could shift many of its brands out of plastic OR reduce the amount of plastic they use instead of using more and making it from plants to look “green.” One option would be to only ship concentrated beverages. They already do this, shipping containers of Coca-Cola syrup to restaurants that use a system to add carbonated water to the syrup to make your beverage–all fast food restaurants, and nearly all other restaurants, obtain Coca-Cola this way. If you’ve got a Soda Stream or similar carbonation device, you can buy concentrated soda syrups to flavor your carbonated water, essentially making your own soda by just adding (carbonated) water. This solution has already been implemented by liquid laundry soap and fabric softener manufacturers, many of whom now sell concentrated formulas that require smaller packages and therefore last plastic. (Skip these and go plastic-free for your laundry though.) Again, not a novel or crazy idea–and Coca-Cola is already doing it on a small-scale.

Another option would be to create formulas that can be shipped dry. For example, Coca-Cola owns many brands that make tea. Historically, tea was shipped dry (either in bulk or in individual tea bags). There’s no real reason why Coca-Cola couldn’t ship tea brands as dry tea, and it would probably require fewer additives (i.e. colorants to make the product’s color appealing on the shelf, stabilizers so it can wait in a package before you drink it, etc.). Given the amount of money they must have thrown into making plant-plastic, surely they could redirect a few bucks to making dry mixes for their non-tea products as well. Coca-Cola classic only has like six ingredients, and 90% of it is carbonated water! These reformulated dry products could be shipped in individual compostable/recyclable paper packets (like sugar) or in bulk packing like a tin, steel tub, or a glass jar, avoiding plastic altogether.

Paperboard boxes and aluminum cans are both more likely to be recycled than plastic anything.

Conclusion: “Plant-Based Plastic” IS Totally Greenwashing

Plant-Based News recently wrote an article explaining that Coca-Cola is vegan except when it isn’t. A similar post at LiveKindly agrees, and notes that Coca-Cola is also an environmental disaster for using so much plastic. (LiveKindly notes that Coca-Cola has made a public commitment to use 50% recycled materials by 2030, but as the article that led to this blog post indicates, that’s because they’re planning to use more plastic!) There’s nothing particularly vegan about plant-based plastic (unless you intend to eat the bottle, which I’m going to assume Coca-Cola does not recommend).

Plant-based plastic is not compostable and has the same molecular structure as regular plastic. This means a single-use plant-plastic bottle creates the same problem as an oil-based plastic bottle.

There is nothing eco-friendly or “green” about creating more single-use plastic. The obvious alternatives, aluminum and glass, are both already in use and endlessly recyclable. With creativity, Coca-Cola could ship products that are more concentrated (they do for restaurants) or dry, further reducing plastic use. Instead, they have opted to invest in plant-plastic and using arable land to grow plants to make plastic instead of food.

Consumers should not be fooled by this blatant attempt to reclassify plastic as environmentally friendly, “green,” or any other version of good for planet Earth.

(c) Styled Stock Society

Halloween is my favorite holiday (has been since I was a kid). Hopefully you’ve heard the great news from Dr. Fauci: it’s safe to go out trick or treating! So let’s get ready to welcome back all the little goblins and princesses and robots and monsters. The global COVID-19 pandemic robbed many kids of trick or treating in 2020, and it’s up to us to make 2021 awesome enough to make up for it.

If you’re like me, for most of your adulting years you’ve just gone to the grocery store and grabbed candy based on either what you like best (yay, leftovers!) or based on what you hate (yay, no temptation!). While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, you may be inadvertently excluding some kids from the fun or, worse, giving them candy their parents will have to take away when they get home. Why? Food allergies.

Before you dismiss food allergies as “no big deal,” the CDC advises that “food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 8% of children in the United States.” That’s 1 in 13 children, friends! Further, “A food allergy occurs when the body has a specific and reproducible immune response to certain foods. The body’s immune response can be severe and life threatening, such as anaphylaxis.” I believe those kids have the same right to a fun (and delicious!) trick or treating experience as every other kid, without fear of possibly dying. amiright? (Absolutely!)

Since there are now only 10 days left to get ready for Halloween trick or treating, and you don’t want to make the mistake I made one year while living in Alameda (I waited until the 31st to go buy candy and no one had any), I’m writing a quick guide to including all kids.

First: Know Thy Allergens

If you’ve got the time to read the labels on your favorites, jot down the top allergens before you go shopping. Approximately 90 percent of all food allergies are caused by eight foods:

  • Milk (may appear as whey, cream, butter, and more–see a printable list HERE)
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. Read more HERE)
  • Peanuts (technically a legume, and not a nut)

While fish and shellfish round out the top eight, it’s highly unlikely you’re off to buy candy containing those components; good to know, in any case. According to Johns-Hopkins, “Eggs, milk, and peanuts are the most common causes of food allergies in children, with wheat, soy, and tree nuts also included. Peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish commonly cause the most severe reactions.”

The Easy Route: Where to Find Lists of Allergy-Friendly Candy

If you’re now thinking, “damn, reading all those labels is a ton of work and ain’t nobody got time for that!” please trust me, I feel your pain. I’m taking the slacker route with these printables–I’ll take the list with me, and only read the labels on these packages (for “just in case” purposes–companies can change their recipes at any time).

(c) Styled Stock Society

Easiest Option? Something Other Than Candy

Yeah, if you’re a kid this is also the “lame” route (or whatever kids say these days when something isn’t cool). We all remember the dentist in the neighborhood who handed out toothbrushes and floss, right? (Okay so I actually liked that guy, he even let us choose the color of the toothbrush.) Due to supply chain issues, some of these are probably not an option for 2021–you can’t place the order and have it arrive in time–buy maybe next year?

(c) Styled Stock Socity
  • Milkweed seeds from Save Our Monarchs (I already have mine!)
  • Halloween-themed stickers
  • Halloween-themed school supplies (pencils, erasers, etc.)
  • Anything pumpkin-shaped
  • Bubbles
  • Glow-sticks and glow necklaces and bracelets (bonus: instantly usable!)
  • Slime
  • Play-Doh, Silly Putty, and other moldable toys
  • Art supplies (e.g. 8 pack Crayola crayons, pink erasers)
  • Halloween ink stampers
  • Small stuffed animals
  • Bookmarks
  • Stickers/decals
  • Bouncy balls (we called these “super balls” when I was a kid)
  • Spider rings
  • Slap bracelets
  • Drink mix packets (e.g. Kool-Aid, hot cider, hot cocoa)
  • Temporary tattoos

Sources for these include: your local shops, etsy, Target (the aisles in front with the holiday merch), Oriental Trading Company, and the behemoth (Amazon). Be creative! Plenty of stores are already discounting their fall and Halloween-themed items. You’ve even still got time to make stuff if you are crafty.

Finally, Get A Teal Pumpkin!

(c) Styled Stock Society

You may have seen teal (blue/green) pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and wondered if the Smurfs are now a Halloween fixture. Nope! It’s the Teal Pumpkin Project!

“The Teal Pumpkin Project is a simple way to make trick-or-treating safer and more inclusive for the one in 13 children living with food allergies, and many others impacted by intolerances and other conditions. Placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep signals that, in addition to candy, you offer non-food trinkets and treats that are safe for all trick or treaters. Help us make this Halloween one to remember!”

It is important to keep your allergy-safe treats separate from other candy! We’ve all seen bags of candy where one or more pieces are not wrapped up all the way (or at all). While you are annoyed, that can spell disaster for a kid with a severe allergy. Please, keep your allergy-safe treats away from other candy so you don’t pull any unintended dangerous tricks.

What do you think?

Tell me about your favorite allergy-safe Halloween goodies?

Does your family appreciate it when others offer allergy-safe treats?

Where do you get your Halloween candy that’s free of major allergens?

Let me count the ways…

Confession: I Was a ClassPass Junkie.

When I first heard about ClassPass, it only existed in New York. (Or at least that was my impression in the first article I read.) The idea seemed pretty simple: members pay a flat fee for access to classes, studios (and gyms and boutique fitness places) listed only the classes they knew they would not fill with their own members. Each studio got to choose which class and time slot to list, and how many spaces they would offer. Since these were spaces that would otherwise go empty, having a ClassPass member there meant some income–not the full price of the class, but not $0 either. Since ClassPass members could only attend 2 classes at the same location per month, they would have to pay full price to the studio for a third class in the same month; maybe they even liked it so much that they decided to join the studio. I signed up for their email updates, followed them on social, and thought this system was a brilliant win-win-win: win for the studios (making money on what would otherwise be empty spots), win for the students (getting classes at a discount), and win for ClassPass (making money by connecting the two). It seemed easier than organizing a Groupon, with less work for the studio.

Like most tech and tech-related businesses, ClassPass was heavily subsidized by outside investors (venture capitalists, etc.) and did not make a profit for several years. That didn’t bother me, as lots of companies start out that way.

When ClassPass first started offering California options, I was living in Oakland and I jumped on it immediately. In a region where a single class might cost $30 and a monthly membership was $150 and up, the flat-fee, all-you-can-eat ClassPass was a dream! While I don’t remember the exact price, it was definitely under $100. Even if I only took 4 classes each month, I was totally scoring a deal. Plus ClassPass offered flexibility: I could go to Pilates on Monday, spin on Tuesday, yoga on Wednesday, HIIT on Thursday, all at different locations. I could take a class on one night when was able to get into San Francisco after work. I could use ClassPass when traveling in other cities (ideal and better for me than a single studio location because I was on the road for work A LOT). Also, I can’t lie, the $20 “flake fee” (for not showing up to a class you booked) kept me getting out and working out. I followed ClassPass on social, tagged them in my Insta photos, and was generally a gigantic fan.

From Unlimited to an Allowance–Both Ways.

I was still a member when ClassPass changed to a “credit” system. Basically instead of unlimited classes you now had a credit allowance to spend. More popular classes at better times cost more credits, and less popular classes at what I consider “awkward” times cost fewer credits. So the same class with the same teacher might be 2 credits at 3:00 p.m. and 9 credits at 6:30 p.m. I’m not sure exactly when this change took place, but I didn’t mind. They also introduced multiple

While putting members on a “credits allowance” (potentially fewer classes per month), ClassPass also removed “allowance” of only 2 classes per month at the same studio. I don’t remember exactly, but I think you had to pay a small premium to take a third (or fourth, or fifth) class at the same location. (I never did.) Since those additional classes still cost less than buying a membership to any single studio, plenty of people took advantage of this to pay ClassPass less than they would pay their local yoga studio, spin studio, etc. for a monthly membership–with none of the hassles of trying to cancel a studio membership.

Around this time (the switch to a credit system), I later learned that ClassPass changed how studios added class spots. ClassPass began to require studios to add spots, and then add more spots, and more spots in their “prime time” classes–the ones that the studios knew they could easily fill with their own members or students buying class packs or punch cards. This meant that instead of using ClassPass ONLY to fill slots that otherwise would go empty, ClassPass was pressuring studios to add slots that were normally full. In other words, ClassPass was asking studios to voluntarily take a loss on spots in their most popular classes. This seemed obnoxious, but maybe it was a reasonable price for the benefits of having so many new students come in through the door?

At some point near or after this, ClassPass also started adding gyms to the app. Instead of booking a single class at a studio, you could book an hour of time at their partner gyms. I’m not sure how this worked (did the front desk chase you out after an hour?) but it seemed like a good way for gyms to fill their extra space as well.

I just learned that in 2018 ClassPass had started to experiment with an algorithm called SmartRate to identify how much to pay studios for each spot. My understanding is that at first, this was optional, but eventually you’ve got to figure ClassPass could force studios to join (at the end of the current contract, for example). According to Vice (article linked below), the pay to a studio per class spot was as low as $7. They also started pushing something called SmartSpot, which would decide which classes (and how many spots) to allocate to ClassPass, supposedly also promising to NOT take spots from classes that studios were also filling. Now students aren’t idiots, and when you’re paying $20-30 for a class and the person next to you is paying $10 for the class, that doesn’t seem very fair, does it? It only makes economic sense that some students bailed out of their studio memberships and signed up with ClassPass, paying less to keep attending the same classes.

In December 2019 (see Vice article) studios were told that the SmartSport and SmartRate would become mandatory. In order to keep up with a new California law, ClassPass also issued a new policy that prevented studios from using ClassPass members’ contact information. This was a huge sea change, as when ClassPass started, studios could use a ClassPass visitor’s email and phone number to add them to their mailing list, offer a new member special, and otherwise try to “convert” a ClassPass attendee into a studio member (or a person paying the studio directly for classes). Now one of the major benefits of ClassPass–“lead generation,” or finding people who might become future customers–was gone.

And Then We Had A Pandemic.

To be fair, ClassPass did not cause the pandemic. It seems a little unfair though, that ClassPass has survived just fine (and was just acquired, the dream of every tech start-up) while many of their studio partners (and other similarly-situated fitness businesses) have not not.

During the pandemic, when many studios were forced to close, ClassPass froze memberships (no charges for members and no new credits). They also made the ClassPass streaming classes free for everyone. (I don’t remember when those started, or whether you could buy a streaming-only membership pre-pandemic.) While this seemed like a pretty awesome thing to do, it was also very practical: no one likes to be charged for a service they cannot use, and while everything was closed it wasn’t possible to spend credits.

This kindness shown to ClassPass subscribers, however, was not extended to ClassPass member studios, all of whom are now stuck with the “Smart” tools controlling their income and available slots.

But before I go there, let’s take stock of what happened to fitness facilities while we were all busy with “stay at home.” While things were shut down I’m sure you watched many small businesses panic. One of my own yoga teachers was extremely frustrated about the closure of her physical studio, wanting to teach her classes to her students in-person–hey, we all want that, right? Unfortunately workout spaces are pretty perfect for spreading an airborne virus: most have fans or vents that blow directly on people which is a huge no-no and HVAC systems they do not own/manage/maintain so they cannot adjust air exchanges per hour or up the MERV rating on the filtration–two things that are actually effective in preventing spread. (All that wiping and sanitizing? Well that’s LONG overdue in a sweaty environment where dude-bros don’t wipe down the equipment, but COVID isn’t spread by fomites; primary transmission is through the air.) Confirmed spread of COVID happened at yoga studios and cycling studios (though none of them local to me). In Portland I watched as multiple yoga studios closed their doors. For some, the pandemic was their landlord’s last tool to push them out of unprofitable leases in now-gentrified neighborhoods. A few are now “studio-free” yoga studios, holding classes here and there and in public spaces and temporary homes. Others just shut their doors. The pain wasn’t limited to yoga studios, of course. CityRow Portland opened in 2019 and did not survive the pandemic. There are empty storefronts where I used to see personal training gyms. You get the picture.

When ClassPass “unfroze” memberships, members still had the option to “press pause,” I did that (and I have 44 credits banked for when the risks of indoor exercise are lower than they are right now with the Delta variant still circulating). Eventually I

How Will Studios “Bounce Back” After COVID?

Frankly, many of them won’t.

I’m a certified personal trainer (NASM), group ex instructor (ACE plus specialties), and yoga teacher (RYT 200 with many more hours of teacher-specific training). I have friends who teach, and who own studios and gyms; they are struggling. Even those that received some COVID-related small business aid may not survive in the current reality (public health and the economy). Many of us are not ready to go sweat it out indoors in a group, especially when mask compliance is spotty (lots of chin diapers and nose-dicking going on) and I haven’t found any place that either requires all attendees to be fully-vaccinated OR has overhauled their HVAC system to meet the CDC and ASHRAE recommendations, so I’ll be working out at home and outside.

My insurance (through work) offers discounted ClassPass credits and free livestream ClassPass classes, but I’m not buying any ClassPass credits until I start to see studios consistently benefitting from ClassPass by earning more dollars per student. ClassPass will be just fine without me–studio scheduling software behemoth MindBody just bought ClassPass (valued at a billion dollars, billion-with-a-b, in October 2021 according to TechCrunch).

To paraphrase the NYT (link below) We need to support small businesses if we want to see them thrive, instead of relying on an app to subsidize the lifestyle we want to have. When I return to indoor exercise, I’ll be paying studios directly. Will you?

Further Reading

In past years, I’ve dutifully logged every sale and deal, and provided a handy link for every single brand. This year, new plan. First, I’m going to assume that you have sufficient Google-fu to find any brand’s website on your own. Second, rather than constantly update this post when I get new info, I’m just going to drop new deals in the comments. Third, I’m not dividing companies into categories this year (since more and more of them are branching out into overlapping categories); the whole list is alphabetic by company name. Also, many emails I received did not indicate when the discount and/or code expires. I’ve shared all the information I have. Finally, don’t neglect your local running store or athletic outlet. Oh, and don’t forget to look back at the Safety Edition. Ready?

Bain’s Favorites

Addaday. Th BioZoom percussion device comes in three flavors: Biozoom Jr. ($149) weighs less than one pound and is perfect for keeping in your gym bag or taking on the road; Biozoom Edge with bluetooth ($149) has two more speeds and two more attachments than the Jr., and the longest battery life of the series; Biozooom with bluetooth ($229 but until the end of this week $194.55) with 20 speeds and five attachments, has the most to offer. I own the original (no bluetooth) and I am sosososo in love with it. Game. Changer. Addaday also makes other recovery devices, including electrical muscle stiumlation pads and an oscillating sphere. For Black Friday, everyhing is 20% off! Disclosure: I am a proud member of Team Addaday 2021. I’m not required to post about the BioZoom in my blog, but I honestly love it. https://www.addaday.com/

Core. A meditation training device and app with guided meditations, ambient sounds, and more. Save $20 on the Premium Bundle (Core + a year of the app) with code TrainWithBain. Disclosure: I’m a Core ambassador. That’s how I have a discount code to share with you.

Honey Stinger. Fuel your run with honey-based gels, waffles, and more. FREESTING for free shipping on orders over $50. I haven’t seen a Black Friday sale announcement yet, but can’t leave out my best fuel. Disclosure: I’m a proud member of the Honey Stinger Hive.

Lebert Fitness. 35% off the Lebert HIIT System with code BLACK35. All through November 28. Pre-purchase the new limited edition sets for 20% off: Frank Medrano (Equalizer XXL and paralellettes), Jay Maryniak (Equalizer XL and paralellettes), Carmel Rodriguez (white Equalizers) with code HOME through November 30. Use this link to let them know I sent you: http://www.easywebautomation.com/app/aftrack.asp?afid=1687416 Disclosure: that’s an affiliate link. If you use it, it lets Lebert know I sent you. it does not affect your prices or access to discounts.

Run Gum. You can still use the referral link on the “Deals & Discounts” page for $5 off your first order. But you can also get 25% off everything, and a free headband if you spend $30, through Cyber Monday. Disclosure: I’m on the Run Gum Run Squad. Basically that means I love my Run Gum.

Black Friday to Cyber Monday Deals and Discounts

2XU. Compression gear. 30% off almost everything with code CYBER30 until December 1. Daily deals starting Thursday.

ACE (American Council on Exercise). 50% off all specialist programs.

Actionhouse. Sign up for FREE workouts, and get a 50% off coupon to use on gear on Black Friday

Athletes for Yoga. Get both Hit Reset AND Work In for $33 with free shipping through November 30. (While you’re there, grab a membership for yourself—the bite-sized, focused yoga routines can help every athlete.)

Balega. My favorite anti-blister socks. Lots of colors and styles. Buy 3, get one free with BALHOL3FOR1. Free shipping for orders over $25.

Bolder Athletic Wear. BOGO with code WAREHOUSE. Also, buy a pair of leggings from the new collection, get an item from the warehouse collection for free.

Bombas. Socks, tee shirts, and more. One donated for each one purchased. 20% with code Cheer20

Buff. Only Buff brand is a real Buff—it is a trademark!—the others are cheap imitations with fabric of a lesser quality. Shop the website for 25% off selected styles

Centr. This is the Chris Hemsworth app so good for both the eye candy and the workout. A one-year subscription is $95.99 (regularly $359.99) through December 2. New subscribers only.

The Clymb. Brand name gear for outdoors, posh slippers, and more. 25% off with code MY25 through November 29.

Do You Yoga. Get a full year of access for $72 https://start.doyou.com/bf20-jvrx/ (that’s 60% off, and it looks like you get to keep the discount for life)

Dropps. Laundry soap, fabric softener, dishwasher soap that leaves no trace: arrives in the mail in recyclable cardboard. 30% off sitewide, GIVETHANKS. A portion of sales supports No Kid Hungry.

Feetures. Socks for running and more. 20% off site-wide, no code needed.

FitBit. Sure, mine’s cracked, but I can’t convince myself to replace it, even with the latest Charge model at $50 off. Various percentages off through Monday.

Fitness Mentors. 30% off all CEU courses with code BlackFriday30

Go Think. Thoughtfully crafted sunscreen, baby products, sport products, and food transport. HOLIDAY30 for 30% off through November 27.

Handful. Oregon-based women’s sportswear. They make my favorite front-close bra. If you happen to wear XS, you can score on the sale items. 30% off with code FIVESTAR through November 30.

Ink n Burn. 20-50% off 200 different designs.

Inside Tracker. 25% off with 25OFFALL

Intelliroll. Modified foam roller designed by a chiropractor. (I use this one to target my cranky hip-related lower torso muscles.) 25% off sitewide with code SAVEBIG through December 1.

Jaybird. Vista model headphones are $99 (that’s $80 off)

JumpSport. Save 20% with code THANKS2020 (not good on backyard trampoline models)

Legend Bracelets. Bracelets to inspire and protect the environment. 40% off (no code)

Manduka. Yoga gear. 20% off orders of $125 or more through December 1.

Mark Bell Sling Shot. The Sling Shot push-up band, thigh loop, and more are all on sale.

Marmot. Outdoor clothing and more. 30% off site-wide, with extra 50% or more off clearance. No code.

Mazé Method. Yoga with one of my favorite, most well-respected, highly-trained teachers. 40% off online courses with Countdownto2021

Meas Active. Women’s activewear. 30% off no code needed

MyoStorm. Meteor heated, vibrating, massage ball. $30 off through Friday.

Oofos. Most comfortable recovery footwear on the planet, and sandals that are NOT flip-flops so they won’t eat your feet. 20% already discounted styles, code HOLIDAY20

Orange Mud. Hydration packs and vests, and the one-of-a-kind transition wrap. 30% off with code BF2020

Picky Bars. 30% off site-wide through Monday. An extra 30% off your first Picky Club with code BFS2020

Piloxing. Get certified to teach any of the PIloxing methods, hybrid models using boxing, pilates, and more. 40-50% off

PRO Compression. My favorite recovery socks (but you can wear them while you run, too!). 62% sitewide, so Marathon and Elite styles come out to just $19/pair! Use code BFDEAL through December 5. Free shipping over $49 too

P.volve. Take 50% off all workout kits with code BF50.

Rabbit. Clothing for runners. Spend up to $100 get 20% off; spend $100 or more to get 30% off; and spend $400 or more for 40% off.

R.I.P.P.E.D. 50% off the last Rumble instructor training of 2020 with code RnR50 (includes CEUs)

Rollga. Body-friendly foam roller and yoga tool in one. BFCM10 for $10 off through December 1 (may not be combined with other offers).

Rumi Spice. Veteran-owned business improving the lives of others through yummy spices like saffron and more. Spend $100, get 30% off with code BF30. Spend $25, get 25% off with code BF25. Codes good through December 1.

Ryka. Women’s athletic footwear. 25% off and free shipping with code PINKFRIDAY

Runderwear. The entire site is 25% off with discounts up to 50%.

Sadie Nardini/Fierce Yoga. 50% off most yoga courses, both the ones for personal home practice AND the teacher trainings (good for CEUs/Yoga Alliance)

She-Fit. Leggings and the ultimate in adjustable sports bras with serious staying power. Up to 50% off, no code needed.

Skora. 20% off all shoes with HOLIDAY20 and 50% off clothing with APPAREL50

SLS3. Compression and recovery gear. 50% off clothing and accessories with code BF50. Save $100 on compression recover boots with code Boots. Free US shipping, too.

Solo Stove. Portable fire options for warmth and for cooking with a lifetime warranty. 25% off their ultimate bundle

SOS rehydrate. Hydration product in a variety of flavors. 30% off with code CYBER30 through December 1.

Spartan Races. 30% off all races + the Spartan Pass — Trifecta with code BF30, plus up to 50% off merch.

Sports Basement. My favorite SF Bay Area sporting goods store both for the in-store experience (great prices, knowledgeable staff) and for supporting all the race companies. A variety of deals on various brands, with shipping or pick-up options available.

Star Cycle PORTLAND. Cycle studio in Portland, Oregon. Purchase a $100 gift card, get $25 credit in your account, through November 29. (limit 4)

Stroops. Premium resistance bands, anchors, attachments, and education. Stroops are portable, making them a great choice if you don’t have a permanent work-out room or home gym. Site-wide sale up to 50% off through Monday, no code.

Stryd. Shoe device that helps runners measure power to improve their run. $20 off with code IWillBeReady through November 30

Sweaty Betty. Athletic clothing for women. 30% off 5-star products with code CHEERS

Sweet Spot Skirts. Based in Vancouver, WA this company makes adjustable and reversible skirts to wear over leggings. Great for when you want to wear leggings, but feel a little exposed (or just want to look cute). I own three. 20% off with FUNLIFESTYLE

Terrapin Events. $10 off the Ugly Sweater 5k, 10k, and Half AND the Back On Track 30 Day Challenge (January 2021) through end of day Friday.

Thorlos. Socks! 25% off everything and free shipping, through December 2.

Toe Sox. 30% off everything.

Trigger Point. SMFR tools from The Grid roller to foam balls and more, plus education on how to use it. 25% off with code HOLIDAY25

TRX. Suspension trainers, slam balls, battle ropes, and more. 20% off site-wide, no code needed

Xen Strength. Yoga with weights! Get 35% off a yearly membership with code XENFOUNDER through December 4. 7-day free trial.

Yoga Download. Spin the wheel on the website to reveal your own “mystery” discount.

Yoga International. 30% off selected courses for home practice and for teachers. Use code COURSE30 through November 29.

Yoga Medicine.50% off all Yoga Medicine online courses with code FLASH50 through midnight, December 2.

Yoga Society. Yoga wear and practice gear. 40% off site-wide, no code needed

Zumba Wear. Clothing inspired by designs for Zumba. Various deals on an assortment workout and athleisurewear, no code needed. Try code TrainBain for an additional discount.

Added End of Day, Thanksgiving

RunSmart Online. Save up to 50% off programs (Run Smart Prime, Base Six Bootcamp, etc.), and $20 off a year subscription.

SissFit. 40% off all .pdf guides with code TURKEY40 through Monday.

The BioMechanics Method. 50% off all CEC courses through November 29

Pro Hair Ties. THANKS20 for an extra 20%  off, expires November 27.

Oxygen Magazine. “Oxygen Pass” $34.30 (usually $49/year) or “Active Pass” $69.30 (usually $99/year). Code applies automatically, but in case it does not for you, code is Cyber Week 2020VeloPress. 30% off all titles, ends November 30

Added Friday, Noonish

Alchemy 365. Streaming fitness service. Get your first 3 months for $4.99/month with code LETSGO

Brazyn Life. Foam rollers that pack flat for travel. 20% off with code HEALTHYHOLIDAYS20

Booty Bands. Workout bands, thick ones (not the flimsy kind). $20 off with code 20BF

Fitletic. Running belts to hold your gadgets. 30% off sitewide with HOLIDAY30

Hammer Nutrition. A variety of deals, plus use code FFS20 and get 2 HEED singles in all-NEW Cherry Bomb flavor, a $3.80 value, FREE with your purchase.

Injinji. Toe socks for athletes and runners. 20% with code SOCKUP

Latinos Run. 50% the entire store with code BLACKFRIDAY

Lil Buff Protein. Personal sized cakes and frostings packed with protein. 20% off with code BF20

Marmot. Clothes for playing outside. 30% off everything, 50% off clearance items. No code.

Melt Method. SMFR techniques that use softer tools and anatomy (science!) to release stuck tissues. Up to 40% off site wide, plus a six month subscription to Melt on  Demand plus a Starter Kit for $69.99

The North Face. 50% off the UX Down Parka. No code.

Nuun. Hydration products. Spend $30, use code TURKEY 20 for 20% off. Spend $50, save 30% with code TURKEY30. Spend $70, save 40% with code TURKEY40.

PRIDE Socks. 25% off with code rainbowfriday

RAD Roller. SMFR tools and education. 25% off with code CYBERWEEKEND

Roll Recovery. Amazing gadget for rolling and compression, plus foot roller, and more. 10% off with cod ROLL2020

RooSport. Magnetic pockets to hold stuff when you run, power banks, loungers. 40% off with code Black40

Runderwear. 50% off site wide, no code

Skora. 50% off apparel with code APPAREL50

Soflete. 50% off the gym duffle, 30% off tee shirts, no code needed

Suunto. Superior sports watches from Finland. Up to 60% off, see website

Tailwind Nutrition. Fuel for your entire day of running. Save 20% off everything, no code needed

Ultima Replenisher. 30% off  GIVETHANKS30 ends Monday.

Yoga U. Continuing education for yoga students and yoga teachers. Save 10% on one course with Code YOGA10. Save 25% on two courses with Code YOGA25. Save 40% on three or more courses with Code YOGA40. All discounts apply to 3-part recorded online courses

6 Pack Bags. Stylish totes for meal prep, with built-in compartments that are perfect to safely carry meals—cold packs, too. 50% off with code BLACKFRIDAY50

32 Degrees. Up to 75% off site wide, no code needed

Charge Running. Coach-led LIVE runs, or you can access the recorded ones. $1 for your first month.

Your Turn: What Did I Miss? What’s New?

Got details? Drop a comment with any intel you have, or updates on what I’ve shared. (Maybe Cyber Monday deals get better? Who knows?) What are you planning to get for the athletes in your life? Need to drop a hint to a clueless relative?

Oh, and if you are a brand ambassador, please feel free to share your discount codes–but let us know you’re repping the brand.

What do you do to lift yourself up?

Let me be honest:: I’ve been lagging in the motivation department. If you’ve looked at my Strava account lately (which I know no one actually does, BTW, so don’t get the impression I think I’m a fancy runner) you’ll see I haven’t logged a single mile since May. I have a little stack of not-yet-earned medals from virtual races mocking me. I’d hoped to run the SeaWheeze Virtual 10k but then Portland had a heat wave and it’s was WAY too hot to even think about going outside. (In my defense, I grew up in Michigan, and I come from two very long lines of pasty-white folks from northern climates. I’m just not engineered for the heat, and I quickly turn into a lobster when exposed to direct sunlight, SPF 2000 for the glow-in-the-dark notwithstanding.) When it finally cooled down, the wildfire smoke rolled in, and the air quality was so bad that I couldn’t workout inside the house.

It’s not just running where my motivation has been notably absent. I was basically a total slug for the entire month of June–no yoga, no stretching, no workouts, no nothing–and pretty much all of July and August and September. I mean, I did do some minor outdoor yard maintenance, but I haven’t felt very motivated to do that either. I definitely did not finish the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. September was like a very slow car wreck, for reasons I can’t write about here. It’s like I went from coping extremely well with the stay-at-home era to not coping so well at all.

Does this describe you, too? It’s okay. In fact, it’s okay to not be okay.

Where Did My Motivation Go?

First, if you’re feeling drained lately, it’s not just you. Or me. Or us. There’s plenty of “pandemic fatigue” going around–just Google it. If you’re feeling weary, notice changes to your sleeping and eating patterns, lack of motivation, have brain fog or racing thoughts, are edgy/nervous and maybe snapping at others, YOU may have pandemic fatigue. It’s a thing. Check out the UCLA Health recommendations on how to combat pandemic fatigue. Engage your peeps and make a plan. Even if we can’t live 2020 the way each of us planned, that’s no excuse for wasting it. Listen, I’m not saying you have to turn into the person who is working from home full-time, homeschooling the kids while teaching them Japanese language and French cooking, being the perfect house-spouse, and executing a 93-point self-improvement plan. Just that if you’re sitting around pining, while waiting for the pandemic to end, you’ve got better options. It’s okay to throw a pity party and wallow in it a bit–trust me, I GET IT–but eventually you’ve got to pull yourself out of it. (No one’s going to save you–save yourself!)

Second, it’s totally normal to develop pandemic fatigue–even if you’ve been “really just fine” up until now. As science journalist Tara Haelle explains in her essay on Medium, it’s because our surge capacity is depleted: “Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.” Well we’ve been living under an acutely stressful situation for more than half a year now, and frankly, I’m burned out.

BUT. I am sick and tired of being burned out. I know I can’t just jump in with both feet (who has the energy for that?) but I’ve had my pity party, I’ve wallowed, and while I’m still engaging in some extra indulgent self-care

Cheerleader and balloons
I have felt like the opposite of this. You?

Here’s My Process: Step 1, Pick Some Baby Steps

Okay so first, it’s okay if you’re not ready to do anything yet. Maybe you start by calling a friend, or someone you trust. If you’re having a really, really hard time, please seek a counselor or therapist or other professional help. But if you’re not there yet, or you’re trying to climb out of that pit of despair, pick a tiny step.

In July I subscribed to Imperfect Produce. My “plan” was that this would motivate me to start cooking at home, instead of relying almost completely on (boxed) comfort foods and takeout (and wine). I’m not going to lie, I’ve indulged a bit too much in the comfort food. I know this won’t fix my neverending love affair with pizza (and cheese sandwiches), but at least it will up my produce intake. (I’ve been limiting my grocery store excursions because the number of people nose-dicking–wearing masks slung under their noses so that the mask is totally ineffective, as if they were wearing underwear tucked under their penises–stresses me out.)

First I made a hearty lentil and vegetable stew from a recipe that I saw in an email. I had swap out a few things, and I added way more rice, but I thought it turned out perfectly. Second, I made a crock pot curry with a sweet potato-carrot base. I had ordered an immersion blender (on sale, with a coupon) to assist with this, as the entire soup is pureed at the end, and naturally the blender arrived the day after I made the soup!! The only problem with the curry soup is that unlike the rice-laden lentil mix, it’s not something I can eat for three meals a day. Next time, I need to be prepared to freeze part of the batch.

The third experiment was tomato sauce, specifically the kind made for pasta. I say “experiment” because I basically chopped up a bunch of produce from my Imperfect boxes that I identify with pasta sauce (onions, tomatoes, garlic, red bell peppers), sauteed them in olive oil, and threw them into a pot with a can of tomato paste and a bunch of herbs. Sadly, I discovered that while I have a lovely “pasta sprinkle” blend, I did not have all of the constituent ingredients. So while I could add basil (I’ve got two kinds) and oregano, I didn’t have any thyme. (Not sure how that’s possible, but there you have it.) I tossed in salt and pepper, but under-salted it on purpose as I knew I’d want to top any pasta with a generous handful of shredded parmesean, reggiano, and other hard cheeses with a salty flavor.

The experiments will continue as I mix comfort food (seriously, Kraft dinner never goes out of style) with fresh spinach and hummus wraps, and try to switch my snacks from all cheap carbs (Cheez Its are life) to more fresh fruit. Also I may still eat way more pizza than I should.

A monster eating cake
Some days, I eat like this.

Step 2: Wardrobe, Please!

This is also a baby-step. Since I’m working from home 90% or more, and when I go to the office no one cares what I am wearing (if there’s even anyone there), I am literally wearing yoga pants all day, every day. For me, this is delightful–I don’t give a rip about fashion, and I’d be thrilled beyond belief if I could just keep wearing the black tee-shirts I bought at Target in the early 2000s without a wardrobe change. It’s been hot in Portland, and I hate being sweaty. I bought a few more pairs of yoga pants (prana Pillar Pant, black), and a few of those Harper Wilde “bliss” bralettes. When 32 Degrees had a big sale I bought some long shorts (so hard to find these days). I don’t want to do laundry every day, and I might as well be comfortable, right? (Next buy: another pair of my favorite pajama pants.)

Since the statistics on clothing in the US are pretty wasteful and the average American throws away like 81 pounds of clothing per year, I’m trying to be very careful about what I buy and how much and how often. (Seriously, Target, those Merona tees from the early 2000s.) I want my yoga pants to last forever so I buy quality. Harper Wilde has a bra recycling take-back program and they take ANY brand. My discarded tees and race shirts go directly to a church that helps those experiencing homelessness (they go right onto the backs of actual humans, not to some place to maybe be resold); I do clothing swaps with friends; and when what I have to offer isn’t useful to either of those groups, I offer it up on my neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group.

Finally, I’m still acquiring masks. Wearing a mask isn’t a sign of some fear or weakness. I affirmatively choose to wear a mask because I understand the science of droplet management, and I know that people can spread the COVID-19 virus even when they are symptom-free; I do NOT want to spread the virus to you, your loved ones, the elderly, the immunocompromised, or anyone else. I’m wearing that mask because I care about my community, not just myself. I’m trying to choose masks in a way that reflects my values. The first ones came from a local running skirt company that pivoted since they aren’t at a race expo every weekend this year. The next one came from Oaklandish, a store in Oakland I love. I bought a few from crafters on etsy, selecting designs from stores run by individuals making their own goods. I picked a set from 32 Degrees so I could have plain black for court/work. My next masks will come from local running stores.

Step 3: Save the Environment

Well, not ANY environment, but the one inside my house, specifically. Between moving into a new space (this house!) in November and changing jobs in June, my personal environment has been in flux. I’m still experimenting with how to place the furniture (dining set and one sofa) in the main living area and how to work from home. Once I started doing most of my shopping online, the dining room started to look like a cardboard box factory. In my experience–and according to Psychology Today–mess causes stress. The last thing I need is more stress!!

First, I cleared and cleaned the bedroom. At the moment, there’s still clutter on one of the dressers, but the rest of it is in order: clean sheets and freshly laundered blankets on the bed, floor cleaned and de-cat-hair-ed on the regular (hooray for micro-fiber cloths). I now have one sanctuary where all is right with the world, more or less. If you haven’t done this, OMG give it a try.

Then I ordered a desk to use during work-from-home. It arrived four months later. Despite the wait, and the imperfect fit of the chair I bought at Home Goods, this is a vast improvement over trying to work on the dining room table (which is the wrong height for typing) or from the sofa (which angered both my low back and my hamstrings). So now I have one designated Space For Work, which somehow makes me less anxious about not leaving the house.

Next, I started to re-home things I no longer need. Obviously I can’t just drop them off at a resale shop, and many of them aren’t resale material anyway. (Plus the majority of things donated do not get sold.) Instead, I’m finding good homes for most of these items through the Buy Nothing project: the gigantic cardboard boxes that protected my IKEA furniture during shipping, the full-sized box springs I love but that didn’t fit up the steep stairs in my new place, catnip spray Professor Nick Sterling ignored, a fat stack of old magazines, modge-podge, a seat cushion, old cable TV equipment, and so much more. I’ve set aside a bag of clothes to give to a homeless outreach program, once that’s possible. I also have a number of pieces of workout clothing I’m probably going to put on Poshmark. That’s another project.

I picked one room–the one that is going to become the yet-to-be-named workout room–and focused on that. Since it is going to house the equipment I own and my workout clothes, I needed storage and picked out a wardrobe and dresser from IKEA. (They had a bit of a backed-up ordering system, so it took awhile to get them.) The wardrobe is assembled, the dresser needs a drawer fixed (I’ve kicked that to the end of the project). After much consideration I took advantage of the summer sale to buy the CityRow specialized version of the A1 WaterRower–it’s not like I’m headed back to any gym or studio any time soon–and got a TV to hang on the wall (for the DVD player, since I have a stack of fitness DVDs). I splurged on an AppleTV so that I can screen mirror my iPhone to the TV (helpful for apps), though I could have used the phone-holder on the rower, or just dealt with it. Rather than wait for the perfection of finishing off the room–I need to move the TV’s cords out of the way of the heater, and take the things in boxes and put them into the dresser and wardrobe–I did my first workout on the rower with the room in a bit of a mess. It’s coming along nicely, and I anticipate finishing the rest of it this weekend.

Robot on a rainbow with balloons
Changing my environment changes my outlook for the better.

Finally, I spent a little money and one day (when it wasn’t a billion degrees or super smoky) to solve several problems that had been bugging me:

  • My fridge has an ice maker but there isn’t a water line plumbed to it, so it is useless. I bought a countertop ice maker–model based on a friend’s recommendation–and my life is so much better (especially during the crazy hot period when I couldn’t get enough cold liquids in me to save my life). I have ice for the iced tea pot, or for drinks, or to wrap up and hold on my wrists.
  • The cat’s box is in this funky liminal space between the kitchen, pantry, bathroom, and staircase, and it bugged me that it was just “out there.” I found a table at Ross that is the exact right size to cover and protect the cat box, move focus, and provide a place to set things that come in the back door.
  • My cat doesn’t care, but his collars were all shredded from his turbo-foot scratching. I bought a new reflective safety breakaway collar for his sweet bowtie.
  • My 15+ year old lamp that I’ve used in the bedroom, and the lamp I’ve had since I was a kid, both need wiring repairs. The 15+ lamp has one of those roll-the-dial switches on the cord and developed a tic where if the cord isn’t twisted exactly the right way, the light will switch off at some random point. It’s been annoying me, but I need a lamp there and so haven’t taken it to the lamp shop. I found a lamp on sale (about $20) and a clearance lamp shade I rather like ($6.50), and the combo is more appropriate for my bedside bookcase than the dysfunctional one. Now I can pack that one off to get repaired, and eventually installed in the guest room.

Oh, and THEN a friend turned me on to The Home Edit. After binging all the episodes (hi, Little Dave!), I “edited” more things, and realized my temporary workspace is in need of some help. I have a file cart with drawers on the way.

Turtle crossing balloons
Can I help push you across the finish line?

Next Step: Help Others

If you’re a runner, you know at some races there’s the point where everything has gone wrong? Like your shoes are rubbing the wrong way (even though they never have before), and your muscles hurt, and it is too hot, and you just don’t wanna? That’s they point when I know that staying focused on myself will only make me miserable. In a race, that’s when I look for someone else who looks lonely and miserable, and I make a new friend to cheer towards the end of the race.

So, in the spirit of trying to help keep YOUR spirits up–and maybe we can all help each other?–drop a note on how you’re doing, and what you’re doing to keep your own spirits up. THEN, if you want a happy little surprise by mail, drop me an email with your mailing address. You know how we have Valen-tines? I’ll send you a Quaran-tine! (Quarantine, stay-at-home? Okay, that might have been funnier in my head…. ) Anyway, until supplies run out, I will help my beloved US Post Office help YOU by sending you a cheery little something.

Pandemic fatigue resources:

Disclosure: I am attending SHINE and IDEA World Virtual August 21-22, 2020 as a guest of IDEA. I was not asked to write this blog post. The associated giveaway is NOT sponsored by anyone, and was my idea. Per usual, all of the opinions expressed in this post are mine, and I wrote the entire thing myself.

Given that there’s a worldwide pandemic on, having a massive fitness conference that fills an entire convention center and all of the nearby hotel space (including ballrooms, bedrooms, and restaurants), seems like a terrible idea. Thousands of people depend on IDEA World to earn the continuing education credits they need to stay certified, and to stay on top of the latest developments in exercise science and programming. Because it is. So IDEA World did what any essential part of the fitness industry would do: it moved online.

I’ll be attending IDEA World Virtual and the SHINE social media event, which is the successor event to BlogFest. I’m not sure what it’s all going to look like, since the event had to pivot quickly. IDEA World ordinarily has four jam-packed days of multiple sessions going every hour, including workouts on the expo floor–in past years that’s included the “mega circuit” with more workout stations that you’ve ever seen–and sessions featuring workout equipment both new and old. Obviously you can’t recreate the entire live event virtually. I mean, I own a TRX and some Lebert Equalizers, but I don’t have all of the cool things I’ve gotten to try at IDEA World over the years, and I certainly don’t have a team to do group and partner-assisted workouts.

One Thing That Won’t Change: T.D. Will Be There!

Todd Durkin is the owner of Fitness Quest 10, a gym in San Diego. That’s always stood out to me: the man owns A, singular, gym. Yet his impact is felt all over the world and not just because he was one of the trainers on NBC’s Strong TV show. Probably not because he was one of the first fitness professionals to partner with Under Armour either. If you’ve never been to IDEA World, you probably don’t know that Todd has been Personal Trainer of the Year, or that in 2017 he was awarded the Jack LaLanne award, named for the original fitness guru–he was teaching physical fitness and advocating healthy eating starting the in the 1950s–and Elaine LaLanne handed him the award. The first thing Todd did? Thank Mama Durkin. Next? Thank his family.

Of course Todd got to give a speech, and he’s GOOD at public speaking. He’s regularly booked for gigantic events, so it was super awesome when he came to talk to us about making an impact at Blogfest. Todd generously gave us all copies of The WOW Book, which was his latest offering at the time. The book consisted of 52 selections from his newsletter, “Word of the Week.”

Did you know Todd Durkin has a new book?

It’s true! While he hadn’t intended to release it in the middle of a pandemic, but it turned out to be just what the world needed. The new book, Get Your Mind Right, is all about mindset. The subtitle, “10 Keys to Unlock Your Potential and Ignite Your Success” pretty much explains the content. The ten keys are taken from Todd’s own life experience, and are broken into four quarters just like a football game.

First Quarter: Game Plan and Kickoff

This section is about getting your thoughts in line: dream big, get your thoughts under control, and don’t let the obstacles get you down. This is one of the fat sections, taking up a good 50 pages. Todd tells the story about his time on NBC’s Strong, and how he dealt with some of the setbacks and challenges on that show. He also shares about his upbringing and the truth that no matter what you have or don’t have, you’re going to have challenges thrown in your path, and you’ve got to have the mindset to overcome. You’re only as strong as your own mindset thinks you are–so you have to plan in advance. That plan includes giving back to your community and giving to others, and Todd makes that clear too. How could he not? He’s given so much back to all of the communities that have helped to raise him up.

Second Quarter: Execution of Key Plays

Twenty pages is pretty short for a section in this book. But how many ways can you say “control your habits or they will control you?” Okay, so maybe Todd doesn’t say that, exactly, but once you have your mindset it is your habits that control you–how you spend your time, energy, and focus matter. There are definitely books that hammer this point home in a more solid way, such as Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Todd gets the point across though: if you want the freedom to succeed, you’ve got to discipline yourself, and that means committing to habits.

Now you have to bear in mind that Todd is specifically laying out what has worked for him. So, for example, he’s big on getting up before the sun, because it works for him–he’s got a family and a business to run, so the early am is when he gets his “me time.” There’s nothing magic (in general) about that hour, it’s just what works for Todd. If you don’t have a spouse and kids, or you do shift work, your own magic hours might be another time slot for you. Todd lays out his morning routine and his evening routine, and while they work for him again, YOUR mileage may vary. For example, one of Todd’s points is “no caffeine after 2:00 p.m.” While he vaguely refers to a study about consuming caffeine close to bed-time, he doesn’t even tip a hat to some very important known science about caffeine: we know there are genes that code for caffeine metabolism! I have had a genetic test so I know I’m a fast metabolizer (I can have a triple mocha and then take a nap without any issues), and afternoon caffeine isn’t a big deal for me. I mean, I’m usually going decaff for after-dinner-coffee, but a 4 p.m. latte isn’t going to do jack to my sleep.

Third Quarter: Performing Optimally

I’m going to be honest with you: this section is the worst part of the book. When I say that, I mean that Todd is not in his lane here–but if you’ve been paying attention, you know I feel very strongly that the vast majority of the fitness industry (certified personal trainers, yoga instructors, group fitness instructors, barre teachers, strength and conditioning coaches) needs to NEVER give out nutritional advice. Why? Most of it is absolute rot.

When Todd recommends breaking a sweat most days during the week, that’s pretty non-controversial, establish best-practice that is evidence-based. Like there’s actual science to support it. Added bonus, there isn’t any harm in following this advice.

Hydration, also relatively non-controversial, though Todd’s endorsement of “Himalayan salt” really should have been an endorsement of a full spectrum electrolyte (and I’d prefer that accompanied by an quickie explanation of how electrolytes work to regulate hydration, and how it is possible to drink water when dehydrated and STAY dehydrated if your electrolytes are out of whack).

Then Todd goes off the rails and states definitively that you should “consider going gluten-free to get rid of brain fog and bloating,” as though these are universal problems for all people. News flash: they’re not, and the evidence does NOT support going gluten-free for the vast majority of people. (If you have Celiac Disease, of course you must stop eating gluten. But most of us do not.) This section basically regurgitates pop-diet-advice about “gluten sensitivity” that is not established as fact. Personally, I really wish fitness professionals would let the RDs and PhDs in nutrition science give evidence-based recommendations.

Similarly, his recommendation that everyone, regardless of their current health status and without any evidence to support it, take supplements is basically garbage. His first two recommendations have to do with specific amino acids. The science is far from consensus on amino acids, with some evidence showing that taking branched-chain amino acids leads to less serotonin in the brain, as the BCAAs limit uptake of tryptophan (which is a serotonin precursor). There are also a number of studies that show taking BCAAs actually REDUCES muscle protein synthesis. Todd recommend fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids, MCT oil, and a multivitamin–all of these are popular magazine and blogger recommendations without a hard basis in fact. Todd cites no evidence for these suggestions (other than that they work for him), and he doesn’t talk about the alternatives either. So long story short, do your homework on supplements. Don’t rely on Todd, or any other fitpro. Instead, look to the peer-reviewed research (try a PubMed search) and consult an evidence-based registered dietitian.

Fourth Quarter: Finishing Strong

Like any good motivational volume, this one ends with inspiration. The two chapters in this section are “tap into the whispers” and “live a live worth telling a story about.” Great advice even without the content. Now I knew this book was being published by Baker Books, which is a Christian book publisher. If you are a Christian, you’re probably thrilled that a famous fitness professional is openly writing to witness for Jesus. I’m cool with that too, even though I’m not a Christian. Who can argue with allowing your faith to play a role in your life? I mean really, if a god/goddess/higher power (by whatever name) plays a role in your life, why shouldn’t you pay attention to what s/he (or they, or it) have to tell you? Personally, I celebrate that. If you’re not Christian, I don’t think you’ll find the book “too much” (unless you happen to offend easily, in which case I don’t know how you get on in the US these days). You can just sub your personal beliefs for Todd’s as you read along.

Win Your Own!

To celebrate going to IDEA World Virtual and SHINE this year, I’m giving away one copy of The Wow Book (softcover) and one copy of Get Your Mind Right (hardback) to one lucky winner. But first, if you’re interested in attending IDEA World Virtual, you can register using this link. Use code SHINE20 for $20 off your registration. If you can’t attend, you can still check out the virtual expo for free! Just register here.

Now if I managed to do this right, you’ll see a Rafflecopter widget below. If not, click on “a Rafflecopter giveaway” to find out how to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sure, it’s August, so I totally missed the boat on posting about #PlasticFreeJuly while it was, you know, July. But in a pandemic where the months all look alike-ish, who cares? Plus prAna just launched #ReshapePackaging and vowed to remove ALL plastic from their packaging stream by 2021–that’s next year! (Much better than The MLM That Will Go Unnamed who has set the goal at 50% reduction of plastic by 2025.) If you want to learn more, check out the Responsible Packaging Movement page and learn how consumers can help make change–even during the pandemic.

Speaking of the pandemic… The pandemic response has me feeling grumpy about the amount of plastic I “have to” use. The grocery store is my grumpy zone. Stores where I live stopped allowing reusable bags–a few won’t even let them into the store!–and switched to paper bags. Then there was a shortage of paper bags due to supply-chain issues, and so all the stores had reusable plastic bags made from thicker plastic…but were still not allowing customers to re-use them. (BTW, I’ve found a way around this: insist on bagging your own groceries. I’ve asked the cashiers to just scan like normal, and then send items down the belt to the bagging area, where I bag my own. My local Fred Meyer has a scan-as-you-go option as well, where you carry a scanner around the store with you, scan each item, then bag it. When you hit check-out, you scan the bar code on the stand and it uploads your order.) Oh and let me be clear: I fully support all efforts to protect grocery workers, including when stores will not allow them to touch my reusable bags. I just don’t need more plastic in my life.

It’s not just the big grocery bags though. Corn on the cob is usually a bulk item you pick out of a gigantic stack, peel a little to make sure the ear isn’t a dud, and then take with you. This year, it’s all pre-wrapped on foam trays. You can’t use your own containers for bulk items at many stores. You can’t use the mesh and reusable produce bags. Even my attempts to support local restaurants have increased my plastic usage as some have switched to all-plastic disposable utensils, and many of the take-out containers have plastic (and pandemic rules won’t allow them to fill my reusable containers). I get that it’s all about safety and reducing potential virus transmission, but it frustrates the part of me that has worked to minimize my single-use plastic consumption.

So I’m doubling-down on avoiding single-use plastic in other areas of my life. As prAna says, “progress, not perfection.”

NEWS FLASH: Something is Better Than Nothing

I’m sure you’ve seen the multitude of websites about the “plastic-free lifestyle.” There’s even an entire book, Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and You Can Too by Beth Terry (Skyhorse, 2012). (If you haven’t, just run a quick Google search.) Websites like the Plastic Pollution Coalition and My Plastic Free Life even have helpful tips on how to start cutting plastic out of your life. While I think that the “plastic-free lifestyle” is admirable–every bit as much as the “zero waste lifestyle”–I know it’s not a realistic goal for everyone. It’s not for me, either–I wear contact lenses (plastic) that must be cleaned daily (solutions only available in plastic bottles); I take medication (packaging/bottles are plastic). Before you suggest it no, I’m not a candidate for laser eye surgery (I need the lenses to correct my severe astigmatism). Good luck getting the FDA to approve refillable prescription containers.

“Perfect is the enemy of good,” wrote Voltaire, centuries ago. More recently, the New York Times reported that “Life Without Plastic Is Possible. It’s Just Very Hard.” I don’t have to be 100% plastic-free to make a difference, and neither do you. Think about an item of single-use plastic and how much waste it generates. Now imagine that 9 out of 10 times, you choose a re-usable item over a single-use plastic. How much waste is left? What if everyone made similar choices–how much smaller would the pile be?

Target Plastic Bottles for Elimination: THREE Solutions

A ridiculous percentage of the plastic bottles you put into your recycling bin are never recycled. This assumes you live in an area where recycling services are available–plenty of the country still has no recycling. It also assumes that the plastic bottle was theoretically recyclable in the first place–not all plastic is. I’ve read articles that claim up to 50% of what goes into the recycling bin doesn’t get recycled. Check out the “The Violent Afterlife of a Recycled Plastic Bottle,” from The Atlantic–I bet you’ll find it eye-opening. I’m sure you’ve also heard that even more US plastic ends up in the landfill since China started to reject American recycling. (It’s unclear if this is related to the trade wars, but there was definitely a problem with contamination, or non-recyclable items ending up mixed in with the recyclable plastic.) In any case, I’ve targeted plastic bottles for reduction. Here are three easy ways to cut out plastic bottles.

Dropps works as well as any laundry soap should: clean clothes, no weird detergent scent. This is exactly what I wanted. If you prefer a scented laundry detergent, Dropps makes a “fresh scent,” “clean scent,” and a lavender-eucalyptus scent. There are also pods for small loads, and a “baby sensitive skin” (which is somehow different from the “sensitive skin” that I get). If this sounds good to you, head HERE to try Dropps. (That’s an affiliate link, and it gives you $15 off your first order. Savings for you, rewards for me.)

A box of Dropps on the washing machine

ONE: Laundry Detergent–Get Dropps

The biggest plastic bottles I was bringing into the house? Laundry soap. My theory had been that if I bought the biggest possible bottle, I’d end up using less plastic than if I bought a bunch of smaller bottles. Probably true, but still gigantic plastic bottles. With the anti-dribble spouts I never felt like I was getting all of the detergent out, either. Of course there were all the usual problems too–they’re heavy, they take up space, blah blah blah. Freeing my life from plastic bottles of laundry soap was the easiest thing I did. Even though I only want unscented laundry soap, without any added colors or scents.

When I first tried Dropps, I figured if I didn’t like the way it worked, no big deal. One of those internet ads found me and offered a deal, so I think I paid $5 for my first shipment. When they arrived I was impressed with the packaging: cardboard only, completely recyclable. The detergent itself is in a little plastic-like (but actually plastic-free!) pod. You throw one into the washing machine with the clothing, and that’s it. When all the pods are gone, recycle the box. There’s no other packaging (like the pods are not in a plastic bag inside the box). I’ve been using Dropps almost exclusively since fall 2017, and I’ve only had one shipment with a leaky pod; it was such a non-issue that I didn’t even contact Dropps about it (I just threw out that single pod).

While you can place a single order, you get a better price if you sign up for a subscription. Initially I didn’t think I’d like having a subscription for laundry detergent, but now I love it. Dropps is pretty awesome. You can log in to your account and reschedule to earlier if you’re running low. Dropps sends an email to confirm each shipment, so if you don’t need any laundry detergent you can kick it out a month or two or more. And if you forgot to tell them you moved, you have plenty of time to do so before they ship.(Not that I know from personal experience…) You also get to decide how frequently you want to receive products–it’s not a one-size-fits-all.

Dropps also makes pods that are a scent booster, a fabric softener, oxi booster, and now dishwasher pods (unscented and lemon). I still have a bottle of liquid fabric softener, but I added the unscented fabric softener pods to my next subscription. I’m switching over to Dropps dishwasher pods too (currently finishing up a gigantic bucket of dishwasher packs from Target).

Ethique St. Clements in the shower

TWO: Shampoo: try LUSH or Ethique solid shampoo bars

Shampoo bars can be a little weird if you’ve never used them before. I’d say it takes 2-3 shampoos to figure out your best shampoo bar routine. The two biggest things to know: (1) limit rubbing back and forth, and (2) anticipate fewer suds.

I say “limit rubbing” because the tendency for most people using a bar product is to rub it. Rubbing a shampoo bar on your hair–at least if you have baby-fine straight hair like mine–is a bad idea. Just like rubbing a towel on your wet hair to dry it is a bad idea. Tangles! Ugh! Instead, rub the shampoo bar in your hands to suds it up, and then transfer the suds from your hands to your hair. I also rub the bar on my hair from the top of the scalp straight down (so no “rubbing” more like one pass) It takes me 2-3 rounds of this to work up enough lather to thoroughly coat my hair and be able to run my fingers through to reach my scalp.

As for suds, at some point in law school I learned that Americans expect their shampoos and soap products to produce a LOT of suds. (Apparently we equate sudsiness with effectiveness.) One dish soap company, for example, had a problem when bottles of a familiar brand of “washing up liquid” (the British term, I guess?) destined for the UK wound up being sold on the American market. There wasn’t anything wrong with the dish soap. British customers do not expect the quantity of suds Americans do, so the product was formulated to produce fewer suds. Americans who bought it were unhappy, because the soap–which was just as soapy, and just as effective at cleaning–did not produce copious suds.

The first shampoo bar I used was from LUSH, a round green thing in a scent called “Karma.” (I later bought various other colors but have no idea what the scents were called.) If you buy it at the store, it has no packaging (though they will typically put it in a little paper bag); if you buy online, it comes packed in a paper bag, in a cardboard box with starch dissolvable packing peanuts. I loved the scent and the way it washed my hair. LUSH sells shampoo bar tins, and I made the mistake of trying to store my shampoo bar in the shower in the tin. Terrible idea–the wet bar sticks to the bottom of the tin and becomes nearly impossible to pull out. The tin is good for storage, and for travel, but let that bar dry before you put it inside! For in-shower storage, your best option is a soap dish with a soap-saver (the little oval thing with the spines that keep your soap from sitting in water), or a wire rack (like on a shower caddy). Ideally, you want to let it dry when not in use so it doesn’t get mushy. LUSH shampoo bars and solid shampoos come in a dozen varieties, and LUSH also makes conditioner bars, but my picky hair did not respond as well. One out of two ain’t bad, right? LUSH also makes solid conditioners, bar soaps, and massage/lotion bars (which I really like!).

The next one I tried was from a company called Ethique that is based in New Zealand. They make square shampoo bars and smaller travel or trial sizes shaped like little hearts. I picked St. Clements as it is made for oily hair. Ethique bars come in paperboard boxes which are, of course, recyclable. As a company, they are committed to zero plastic, including in their shipping materials, and encourage you to #giveupthebottle. They are also committed to ingredient transparency, vegan products, and direct trade. I prefer the square shape of the Ethique bar as it seems easier to hold onto when it is wet and slippery. It’s currently in my shower, so I’m going to count this relationship as a success. Ethique’s shampoo bar box is made from bamboo and sugar cane; the bottom acts as a soap dish with drainage. They also have some cool tips on their website for what to do with itty-bitty pieces, since every product they make is in bar form. Ethique is available from their New Zealand based website, at many Target locations, from Target.com, and from other online retailers. In addition to shampoo, they also make bar conditioners, face cleansers, body soaps, and lotion/massage bars.

Shampoo bars may seem expensive when you’re pricing them. (At LUSH they run approx. $12-15 each for a 1.9 ounce bar, though a few are 3.5 ounce bars; a full-sized Ethique is $16 for a 110 gram bar which is approx. 3.9 ounces, a sample is $4.) They typically last at least as long as 3 bottles of shampoo, provided you don’t let them get soggy. Depending on how you use them and care for them, shampoo bars can last much longer. So whether they are expensive depends on how much you are paying per bottle of shampoo. There are plenty of other choices out there, but these are the two I have tried and can personally recommend.

Unboxing Blue Land soap: no plastic

THREE: Hand Soap Swap: Blueland

Hand soap seems like an easy thing to swap out–just use bar soap right? If you’ve got a pedestal sink with a sculpted-in “soap dish” like I do, not so much. (That “soap dish”? First it gets slippery and the soap just slides into the sink constantly. Then as soap builds up it get gooey and keeps the soap wet. Messy!) Or maybe you’ve got kids who can’t be trusted to put the soap back, or who leave it covered in sandbox dirt or blue Kool-Aid mix or something. There are a million reasons why someone might choose liquid soap, but it comes with those plastic bottles.

Enter Blue Land. When I ordered this, I just decided to go all-in: I ordered one for the kitchen, and one for the first floor bathroom, and enough refillls to last for a year. Fingers crossed, right? When the package came, I was pleasantly surprised to find zero plastic (other than the pump in the bottle). No plastic tape, no plastic wrap, no plastic padding, nada.

It’s pretty easy after you unbox: fill the glass bottle with water, drop a tablet in, watch it fizz. Once it’s done, add the pump top.

One thing though, you do have to re-set your expectations, and maybe your hand-washing routine. If you’re like me, you’re used to pumping the soap onto your hands, running them under water, and then rubbing them together to later. STOP.

New plan: pump this foaming soap onto your hands, rub them together to soap them up with the foam, and THEN run them under the water. This soap isn’t super thick–it comes out of the pump as foam!–so you don’t need water to make it spreadable. It took me a little while to adopt this new habit, but once I did, I loved this hand soap It smells nice (I got a variety of replacement tablets). A single tablet lasts a long time, so I’m pretty sure I won’t need to re-order until 2021.

One reason manufacturers use plastic bottles for their products is the cost of the bottle (plastic is cheap, glass is more expensive). In addition, the transportation costs for glass are higher, because glass weighs more than plastic (freight charges are based on weight). Glass bottles for many products now packaged in plastic need to be thicker to make them less prone to shatter or break, especially since most are used in the bathroom or kitchen. So if a manufacturer switches a product to glass packaging, it makes sense to also make the glass reusable, so it only gets shipped once. That leads logically to shipping refills, and if you’re trying to avoid plastic that means finding a way to take the water out of the product.

What are you doing to reduce single-use plastic packaging? Got a hot tip? A product you love? Drop a comment and share your ideas and finds!

If you have spent any time with me, you know how much I love my coffee. Good coffee. Coffee that people describe using the floofy fancy terms other people use to talk about wine or single malt scotch. Coffee from a variety of small-batch roasters, neighborhood shops, and hobbyists. Coffee from Central America, Indonesia, and Africa. I’m the woman who sees a sign for a coffee roastery that offers tours and immediately suspends The Plan to go see. (True story, this is how I discovered Mariposa Coffee which literally had just a Facebook page that no one maintained at the time.)

When I read The Counter’s article, “What if the only coffee shops left after Covid-19 are Starbucks?” I was horrified. Not because I hate Starbucks (I don’t, I’ve had a gold card since back in the day when you paid $20 to get wifi access) but because my life is SO MUCH BETTER with small batch, quirky, independent roasters in it. While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has wisely determined that coffee is part of the “critical infrastructure industry” that hasn’t stopped independent coffee shops from shuttering their doors or running with a bare-basics crew to try to stay alive. Big chains like Peet’s and Starbucks are likely to survive because they have other revenue, including national distribution and big grocery store sales, and have a billion locations and have apps to pre-order. The place down the street? Not so much.

So here’s my attempt to inspire you to buy your beans from a small business. I’ve tried most of the options listed below, and the other recommendations come from trusted friends. If I missed your favorite, drop a comment and share the love!

I don’t know about you, but coffee fuels my work and my world. I swear #ButFirstCoffee was created with me in mind.
Photo (c) Styled Stock Society

Arizona

Cartel Coffee Lab. I first heard of Cartel through a subscription coffee box. Now that they have a cafe inside the Phoenix airport, I may sometimes book my travel with a connection there just so I can pick up a few bags… https://www.cartelcoffeelab.com/

California

Bear Coast Coffee. My friend Kate Durham: “Bear Coast Coffee in Orange County, CA, is a wonderful coffeeshop with a fresh atmosphere, happy regulars, super chill baristas, and damn good coffee…I really hope they survive. They have the original shop in San Clemente.and a shop they opened last year in Dana Point. I believe they’re open for local pickup and delivery.” Check them out at https://bearcoastcoffee.com/

Bella Rosa Coffee. Kelly Benson says, “I buy their coffee any chance I can. I can taste the flavor behind their roasts and I find them to be so much more aromatic.” Family-owned, organic, low-acid coffees. This is definitely the kind of place I want to see survive and thrive. What’s not to love? https://www.bellarosacoffeecompany.com/

Mariposa Coffee Company. I literally found them by the side of the road in Mariposa, CA because there was a small sign. At that point in time they had zero internet presence, and not a lot of traffic, so I got a personal tasting and tour (and saw the frankenroaster!) OMG. So good that I not only bought several bags for myself, but I also bought some to send to my brother (his Christmas gift that year was “I’ll mail you coffee from interesting places I visit”). I even bought a t-shirt. That was a half-dozen or more years ago, and now they have a lovely website and you can use it to buy their coffee, which I highly recommend you do. https://www.mariposacoffeecompany.com/

Colorado

Ampersand Coffee. This Boulder-based coffee roaster comes highly recommended by Kia Ru, due to their “mission for female empowerment benefiting growers who are primarily female. They just started selling in Patagonia Provisions as this all started. My fave is a bean out of Chiapas, Mexico which steadily procuring seems like a chore but women are amazing.” By the way, the only roasters on this list are those I know personally, or that came recommended by friends. (Because friends don’t let friends drink crappy coffee.) https://www.ampersand-coffee.com/

Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters. This is another recommendation from Kia Ru. She describes it as “run by a two-time US Brewers Cup Champion with a ton of accolades out of Lakewood, CO . Great cup, they keep their menu simple, but have a kitchen lab where customers can get a spot to play with variables of time, weight, and method. Solid beans. My fave is what they recommend that day as they like to play with offerings.” Until you can visit their coffee lab, you can order online fro https://sweetbloomcoffee.com/

Idaho

Evans Brothers Coffee. My friend Hope Buchan recommends this coffee–she’s ordered it and never even been there! Me? Turns out I was there when work sent me to Sandpoint, Idaho. It was DELICIOUS and I recommend it as well. If you ever find yourself in Sandpoint–a seemingly odd location for a vacation destination, but so beautiful!–check out the Talus Rock Retreat. Less expensive than a hotel, and much more serene, warm, and friendly. In the meanwhile, order up some coffee: https://www.evansbrotherscoffee.com/

Massachusetts

Battle Grounds Coffee. My friend and amazing marathoner Kacey Hill recommends this veteran-owned business. Founder Salvatore is a former Navy S.E.A.L. and his wife and co-founder Dana comes from a military family. They offer a monthly subscription. One of the things I love is that Battle Grounds Coffee uses their website to promote other small businesses. I also love a roaster with a good sense of humor. They named their decaf blend “Treason.” https://battlecoffee.com/

Dean’s Beans. Nomnom amazing coffee. I appreciate their support for coffee farmers, and work to make their lives better, which has been the cornerstone of their business since Dean Cycon started the company in 1993. The company has long-term partnerships with the coffee growing co-ops and communities where they buy beans. You can read about the specific communities that grew your beans (and the projects that Dean’s Beans supports there) on the website, which also has a wealth of information about coffee. You can even buy green coffee beans, in case you feel inspired to roast your own. https://deansbeans.com/

Michigan

The Proving Grounds. Recommended by a friend who doesn’t really like coffee, but has friends who do. Proving Grounds serves coffee and ice cream, so if you’re one of those weirdos who thinks there is such a thing as “too hot to drink coffee” they have you covered. The physical locations are in Milford and Royal Oak, but they ship beans (and honey, and toffee, and doggie treats!) nationwide. https://www.provinggroundscoffee.com/

Check out Freedom Hill’s gorgeous new packaging! (Photo by Freedom Hill Coffee)

Freedom Hill Coffee. Imagine that you decided to start a coffee roasting business that supports veterans. Imagine your best friend and veteran killed himself, and that your business supports Mission 22–with a goal to bring veteran suicide to zero. Now imagine you started it in February this year. That’s Freedom Hill. I personally recommend the Breakfast Blend, which is darker than medium but not a dark roast. The dark roast is also lovely. The only real “problem” with Freedom Hill Coffee is that I liked it so much that the beans disappeared quickly! Be sure to check their single origin coffee (which one is on offer changes regularly). When I made my first order, they were hand-stamping coffee bags. Their spiffy new resealable bags just arrived. Check them out! https://freedomhillcoffee.com/

New Jersey

Rook Coffee. I’ve already sung the praises of Rook Coffee in a prior post. They support runners, so I’m in. (Also as you can read from that review, nice coffee!) https://rookcoffee.com/

New York

The Spot. I wrote about The Spot in my review of the Buffalo Marathon weekend; so nice, I went there like three times http://www.spotcoffee.com/

The Death Wish “broke not busted” charity tee–all proceeds go to support COVID-19 relief for the service industry. (Photo by Death Wish Coffee.)

Death Wish Coffee. “The World’s Strongest Coffee” since 2012, with a skull and crossbones and a bit of a punk rock attitude. Buy beans (OMG there is a five pound bag!!), instant coffee, cold brew, and merch on the website. Need a patch for your hoodie? Maybe a hockey jersey or a Krampus ugly sweater? A coffee-infused chocolate bar? They’ve got your back. You even have the option to have your Death Wish delivered every week. I have a few of the gorgeous mugs made by Deneen Pottery in my cabinet–some of them are sought-after collectors’ items. The coffee is delicious and as strong as promised–but if you find otherwise, they have a money-back guarantee. https://www.deathwishcoffee.com/

North Carolina

Bean Traders Coffee Roasters. Anna Louis Kallas recommends this roaster and cafe with multiple locations in and around Durham. They have a wide range of roasted beans from blends to single origins (Mexico, Guatemala, Tanzania, Burundi, and more) as well as flavored coffee beans. They have coffee subscriptions available too, your choice of 1 or 2 bags per month. https://beantraderscoffee.com/

Counter Culture. I was going to write an entry about my favorite Seattle coffee house, but they are no longer roasting their own–they serve Counter Culture. One of the fun things is that they sell coffee in various sizes–yup, you can get a five pound bag of some roasts. They also have a search function where you can see which coffee shops in your area are serving Counter Culture. Free shipping on individual orders. https://counterculturecoffee.com/

Oregon

Fillmore Coffee. est. 2015 Portland, Oregon. Fillmore is on NE 72nd and Glisan, and I had never heard of them until the coronavirus hit. Just before The Counter’s email hit my inbox, I saw a post by owner Tim Wilcox on Nextdoor. Turns out he lives in my neighborhood too. Fillmore’s pivot is to offer free Saturday delivery to Portland’s east side. They roast on Thursday and deliver on Saturday. Coffee is available in 12 oz ($14) or 2 pound ($28) bags. If you like good coffee, get the 2 pound bag–it’s like getting 8 oz of coffee free. Not a Portland resident? You can have it shipped, of course. Fillmore is one of the smaller roasters on my list, and it is Fillmore that prompted me to write this post. https://orderfillmorecoffee.com/

Happy Cup Coffee Company. I fell in love with the coffee before I read the story and I promise you will NOT be disappointed. Unlike most of the roasters on this list, Happy Cup has the benefit of being on grocery store shelves in Portland, such as Fred Meyer and New Seasons. Awesome, high-quality coffee is only one part of the Happy Cup mission: the other half is to provide employment, at a competitive wage, to adults with developmental disabilities. (In case you’re not aware, in most states a business can legally pay a person with a developmental disability lower than minimum wage based on a “time trial,” a high-pressure test that measures how “productive” an employee is compared to a non-disabled employee doing the same task.) In many companies, developmentally disabled individuals are only offered the menial labor jobs, but at Happy Cup they work in every part of the company’s operations. I recommend the Boom! Boom! Dark Roast, and The Buzz Medium Roast. Orders over $40 ship free in the continental U.S. https://www.happycup.com/

Rhode Island

Queen Bean Coffee Company/Mills Coffee Roasters. The Queen Bean is the online sales portal for Mills, a 5th generation, continuously family-owned and operated roaster. I first learned about Queen Bean through its support for the running community, specifically projects by Run Heifer Run and Ordinary Marathoner. I got the scoop from Nicole Mills: “My great great grandfather started the company in 1860 and we have many customers who have been with us for 50+ years. Our average employee tenure is 30+ years–it is really a family/community business. We all love coffee and love sharing our enthusiasm and dedication with our customers through our products.” I can personally vouch for the quality of the coffee (sold in FULL POUND bags!) which also comes attractively packaged. One of my packages included a hand-painted coffee-themed bookmark from Nicaragua; my latest order has a set of cards showing the coffee-growing regions of the world. I’ve tried both single varietals (nomnom) and blends (nomnom) and it would never hurt my feelings if you wanted to send me some https://www.thequeenbean.com/

Tennessee

Grounds & Hounds. “Every cup saves a pup.” Okay, who doesn’t love good coffee that supports saving dogs? This is coffee for a cause. 20% of all profits go to fund organizations that help Very Good Boys and Very Good Girls find their furever homes. The source their beans from Peru, Colombia, Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua so there is sure to be something that suits your palate. The blends have fun names like Alpha Blend (a dark roast, duh), Rescue Roast, Sit and Stay, and Belly Rub Blend. Order beans, subscriptions, and really cute merch. Coffee with warm fuzzies! https://groundsandhoundscoffee.com/

Texas

Check that out–FULL POUNDS of coffee!

Anderson’s Coffee Company. Austin, how I loved thee while I lived there. During “Stay At Home,” a friend recommended Anderson’s to me. I was shocked and refreshed to learn they sell ACTUAL POUNDS of coffee. Not 12 oz. bags. Naturally I bought three pounds, and I savored it! I personally chose the Guatemala Finca El Limonar, Guatemala Antigua, and Costa Rica (which was slightly darker than the two Guatemala varieties). It is really hard for me to choose a favorite–especially when there are so many more types of coffee that I haven’t tried yet. https://andersonscoffee.com/

What’s Brewing. Based in San Antonio, and recommended by a friend. Born in 1979, they’ve been roasting almost as long as I’ve been alive. Their roastery location features a collection of pinball machines! If you live in San Antonio, you can find them at the Pearl Farmer’s Market every weekend, serving up brewed coffee and selling beans. If you don’t live in San Antonio, they’ll ship your beans to your door. In addition to single origin beans and bean blends, What’s Brewing also sells coffee brewing equipment, flavored coffee, and teas. https://www.sacoffeeroasters.com/

Unknown Location

Sibino’s Coffee. This roaster reached out to me on Instagram and while I haven’t ordered yet (I had ordered five pounds of coffee the day before, so…) I’m intrigued. Each coffee on the site has a tasting profile, explaining the origin, roast, tasting profile, variety, region, grower, altitude, soil, and how the beans were processed. Basically more data on every coffee than you have on whatever you are drinking right now! Another business that started in 2020, Sibino’s seems to have developed a regular following. You can choose from single origin, blends, flavored coffee, and capsules. https://sibinoscoffee.com/

Who is your favorite coffee roaster? Do you know of an excellent coffee roaster that is small, locally-owned, family-owned, charitable, doing good works, or otherwise really worth knowing and saving?

Tell me all about them in the comments!