TOP 6 YouTube CHANNELS TO INSPIRE

I am such a visual learner. In the spirit of full-disclosure, I didn’t immediately jump on the YouTube train. But the more that time goes by, I realize that you can learn ANYTHING from YouTube. It’s amazing really. And in the midst of COVID, I know we’ve all had a bit more time to do things that are quarantine-friendly.

So I wanted to take a minute to give you the list of the top 6 YouTube channels that have changed my life (or, at least, given me very very valuable information for which I am forever grateful)! YouTube has been the answer to my Saturday Cycle LifeHack: it’s a beautiful thing to be able to queue up a bunch of videos that will speak to questions that I have or topics that I’m interested in, and play them while I’m stuck on the trainer during the winter months instead of being able to go outside. If my outdoor itch can’t be scratched during a few of my workouts, at least my brain will be tickled with new and exciting information!

  1. Global Triathlon Network / Global Cycle Network
    These are technically two channels, but they are very much part of the same family, so I’m counting them as one on this list. Both of these channels has been instrumental in my training so far. From answering any and all triathlon related questions, to giving me drills and workouts, I feel like I have a part-time coach in my pocket at all times.
  2. Sedona Christina
    Her channel focuses on intentional living, self care, wellness and movement. She has so many great ideas, and I love how much time and research she spends to give good information. Ethical and sustainable fashion, good recipes, travel tips, and self care…. almost every video is jammed with awesome info. She has a podcast, too, but I actually haven’t checked it out yet.
  3. Shelbizleee
    First, I just want to say, you would be challenged to watch a video from Shelbizlee and not leave thinking, “I just want to be friends with this girl!” She is down to Earth, very transparent, and makes videos about almost everything. Sustainability is her main focus, and I think we could all stand to improve how we think about and treat this planet. She inspires me to think about new ways and new things to try, and researches the heck out of everything she posts.
  4. Sustainably Vegan
    Although I am not vegan, a bulk of my meals are plant-based, and I love love love her recipes (and her voice!) as well as her DIY recipes for around the home, etc. She posts videos about sustainability, veganism, minimalism, and low-impact living, and hits the mark on all of them.
  5. Homemade Wanderlust
    I am an outdoor-lover, and completing more through-hikes is on my bucketlist. I can picture myself incorporating hiking into my life more and more, and trail-boss Dixie answers any and all of my questions on Homemade Wanderlust. She is a total badass, and no topic is off-limits in her channel. I appreciate that she is so knowledgeable, but is still very approachable and breaks things down so you can easily understand.
  6. Yoga with Adriene
    Adriene has changed my yoga life. Your yoga instructor can make or break the experience if you are following a class or routine, and Adriene is amazingly knowledgeable, but explains things in a way that is beginner friendly, too. My partner was a yoga-newbie when she started doing videos with me, and found it super simple to follow along even if they were unfamiliar poses. Videos for every length of time and for every purpose, this is another channel that has improved my training, but also my recovery, mental health, and overall well-being.

Of course, there are various other topics and channels that I check in on, but these 6 are my mainstays, and I’m never disappointed.

Get fired up! What channels have added to your world? Try out one of these if you are looking for some visual inspiration this week.

MY SUSTAINABLE LIVING JOURNEY SO FAR

Last year, my partner and I sat down and wrote out goals we each had. Every so often we do this, so that we can continue to dream together. (I totally recommend everyone doing this – you never know what amazing ideas will come up, or what dreams you didn’t know your partner had) We love talking about big ideas! One of the things that came up last time was moving toward being a lower-waste household. We’ve always cared about our planet, our environment, and genuinely try to be good stewards of the things we have and things we affect.

I started getting curious about the steps we’ve taken, and thought it may be nice to recap our journey so far. These are listed in no particular order (other than the order that they came to my brain in). Maybe you can be inspired by something on the list!

“A little progress every day adds up to big results.”

Satya

1.I stopped buying yogurt. I know, I know, how in the living hell does this create a more low-waste life? I started making my own chia pudding, and use this any place I would have used yogurt. Even though I was purchasing it in the largest containers I could find before, I would still go through one 24-oz plastic container every 2-3 weeks. Now, I make one mason jar of chia pudding, and simply re-make as needed. Bonus: chia seeds are packed with so much nutrition, and I can customize it to be flavorful or simple, depending on my mood!

2. I also make my own granola, granola bars, trail mix, bread. Buying in bulk helps me get all the ingredients I need for less money and less plastic so that I can make my own recipes. (A recipe section on my blog is coming soon so you can try out some of the winners!)

3. We built and installed a rain barrel. This will be our second year with our lovely little barrel of rain joy. We’ll see what this season brings, but last year, our barrel supplied enough water for our garden without having to supplement it once with our garden hose. We would get so excited every time it rained, knowing our barrel would be full!

4. We continue to grow our little garden homestead. In a long-term goal to be able to produce all of the produce that we eat, we continue to add little by little every year. This year, we added blueberries, apples, and pepperocinis to our happy little garden. I also received a lemon tree that I set up indoors!! (I’ve wanted a lemon tree for YEARS people. The dream has become reality)

(Last year, I learned how to can vegetables, and will can my own pickles, apple butter, applesauce, jam, kimchi, sauerkraut,, and other produce.)

This is my first go at apple butter. OMG. I want it everyday. Apple butter is like home to me.

5. Along the same lines as gardening, we built a compost bin. This honestly may be the single greatest thing we’ve done to lower our waste. There is so much that can be composted that in the past would have just gone to the landfill. Food scraps, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, and garden scraps all become nutrition for our growing plants instead of filling up our trash bin. Talk about a win! We repurposed a sealable container that we now store under the sink, and when its full with food scraps, we just take it out and add it to the compost bin. Easy-peasy!

6. Speaking of toilet paper, Who Gives a Crap ships their rolls in completely compostable paper. Recycle the box, and everything else goes in the compost! They also donated 50% of their profits to help build toilets, use all recycled paper, and do their part to limit carbon emissions,

7. This is a big one, but we’re going solar! This is definitely a long-term investment, but I am so excited to generate our own power and be able to reduce our energy footprint. I’ll be posting a full post soon about this process, so stay tuned 🙂 It’s a fun one!

8. I have become pro-Diva Cup. To be honest, getting in the hang of using the Diva Cup took some time, but just like I’m amazed at how many diapers a single baby goes through, it is jaw-dropping to think about how many pads/tampons one woman goes through over the course of her lifetime. This is my second year without buying a single tampon! I also use Thinx period underwear, and you can totally use this link to receive $10 off yours if you’re into that sort of thing!

9. We purchase a real Christmas tree every year, and once the season is over, let it dry out, using it for starter wood over the course of the summer. The branches are perfect for kindling, and any pine needles add some needed nutrients to our compost bin.

10. I have committed to only buying secondhand clothing. This was one of my yearly formations in 2020, and it is amazing to understand how little we do actually need. I don’t miss shopping, and my wallet doesn’t either. I used ThreadUp for the first time, when I needed a blazer for an event, and it was so simple, inexpensive, and quick. Color me a believer!

11. We scheduled an home energy audit. I stumbled across this program through our gas company, and for $75 we received a top-to-bottom examination of every part of our home and how it affects energy usage/conservation/waste. Next, we were given a comprehensive recommendation list of things that would make a positive impact. From this, we have made a couple of changes and they have made a world of difference in our energy usage. The three biggest things we have done as a result of the audit are adding insulation to our home, replacing inefficient doors, and sealing doors, windows, and our basement.


I am so proud of each and every one of these steps. No matter how small, everything we do really does make a difference. Looking forward, I know that we should continue to make baby steps. So dream with me, y’all. Here are a few things that I hope to do in the *near* future:

1.If there is something that we need or want, I would like to keep asking “Can I make this?” or “Do we already have something that can work for this?” It’s amazing what a little creativity can do.

2. It’s a battle for me, but learning to sew has been on my list for awhile. I understand (a couple of) the basics, but I struggle so much on this! It would be so helpful to be able to make my own items, fix/patch things, and so much more to cut down on purchasing new things if something wears out first. Currently, I get frustrated 98% of the time and only sometimes finish the project.

3. I desperately want to become a year-round cyclist. This has so many variables to become a reality, but my next step would be some cold-weather gear. I’m starting to scour REI garage sales and other places to see if I can get some used gear/clothing because cold toes suck. Currently, I cycle outdoors from April-October (ish). This means that I lose about 50% of my outdoor cycling time. If I could extend that by just 2 months (March + November), this would be a fantastically huge step forward. We’ll see if we can’t make that a reality.

Get fired up! What projects or ideas have you done or are working on to lower your waste and/or your carbon footprint? What is one thing you can do today to begin working towards it?

WE’RE GOING SOLAR!

OMG OMG OMG. I just got an email saying that it’s almost time. I can hardly contain my excitement because WE ARE GOING SOLAR! My personal project coordinator just reached out to let me know we are in the final stage before installation! Hip hip hooray!!! Can you feel the enthusiasm? I’m about to burst. I mean, I train hard to generate power, and now our home can do the same thing!

We didn’t set out to put solar panels on our home at first. Honestly, I thought that because we don’t live in sunny San Diego, CA, that we don’t receive enough daily sunlight for it to be “worth it.” I also thought that they would be way too expensive, and that we could never afford it. There are a lot of things that I thought, and I was so wrong! Isn’t it great to be wrong sometimes? So how did this even happen? Sometimes I wonder…

We love road trips. We love to just slow down, put away our phones, pull out the atlas, and follow the scenic routes (we call them “pink roads” and I’m convinced it is the only way to road trip) to wherever our destination is. Its amazing how many times we’ve been on the road and seen solar panels: on houses, in fields, on buildings. I’ve always thought they looked pretty, like how optimism is more attractive than pessimism. They look inspirational. We talk about them whenever we see them, and I think they’ve always been included in that fantasy list of dreams in the back of our minds.

Back out of our dream fantasy, and back at home, our local R.E.I. hosts classes about a huge range of topics. They’re usually free (I love free), and I love to go if they fall at a time that works with my schedule. If they are something my partner is also interested in, she comes along, too. This winter went to a class about living more sustainably, and they had a lot of the usual tips and topics, but they also had a leader from a solar co-op present who talked about solar panels, and the co-op they run. This led us to a second meeting, sponsored by the co-op, where we learned so much more about solar panels. Here were the biggest takeaways for me:

  • They’re actually affordable. I don’t know if I had ever actually thought about how much solar panels would cost. I just immediately viewed them as expensive without a second thought. It is true that the price has significantly dropped over time, and if we were considering going solar even five years ago, it almost certainly would have been out of our price range.

    Even over the past three years, the average cost of solar has gone down from $2.83/watt to somewhere around $2.52/watt (Chin). Wattage didn’t mean much to me when I first started learning about all of this, but does now. I’ve come to understand that although the average household uses 10,000 kilowatt hours/year, we only use on average 3,866. One kilowatt hour is the amount of energy that it takes to produce 1 kW and sustain that for one hour. As an example, a 100 watt light bulb that is on for one hour uses 1 kwh (1 x 100watt x 1hour).

    In Ohio, 1 kW of installed solar on a South facing 20 degree pitched roof would produce about 1,295 kWh/yr (the “south facing, 20 degree pitched” is the optimal characteristic, but we already know that our roof is pretty similar, so we used this as an estimate; Solar). If we average 3,866 kWh/yr, to estimate our size of system, simply 3,866 (our usage) / 1,295 (estimated production) = 2.98 (kW of system). So, our system, before any tax credits, will cost about $7,000. While, yes, that is a good chunk of money, it is far less than the dream-fantasy-made-up-number of somewhere in the ballpark of one hundred bagillion dollars. $7K is at least something we can work with, something we can save for.
  • They DO work in Ohio. This was the main question I had when we went to our first meeting. Is this even a possibility for us? Northeastern Ohio isn’t exactly known for its sunshine. In fact, we only average 2280 hours of sunlight per year (out of 8760; Average). However, what I didn’t realize is that you don’t need a constant supply of sun 24 hours a day, you really just need a few hours a day (Richardson). Furthermore, you don’t need warm sun, you just need SUN! In fact, the panels work slightly more efficiently in cold sun so even over the winter, we’ll be generating energy (yay Ohio!!).
  • Solar panels are surprisingly quick to install. We went to the solar co-op meeting in February. Installation will begin this month (May), and the entire installation will only take one day. One day! I couldn’t believe that! Granted, in the grand scheme of things, our system will be relatively small compared to a business, but still. We had new doors replaced and that took about a day. We’re also installing a mega energy-generating, money-saving, environmentally-friendly system to our roof and THAT will take about a day, too. Color me impressed.
  • It’s easy. I don’t really have to do anything! The permits, installation, and monitoring is taken care of, and I have access to everything immediately. We already have access to our monitoring software (yep, there’s an app for that) where we’ll be able to see every single detail of our production, usage, and more. Simplicity really is key, and I’m a fan of anything that is simple to use.
  • Tax credits exist to help reduce a portion of the total bill (for now). As of 2020, the federal investment tax credit (ITC) allows home- and business-owners to deduct 26% of solar costs from their taxes. I was a little bummed out to learn that only one year ago, the credit was even higher, at 30%, but then I learned that the credit will drop to 22% next year and may even after the following year. I guess it really is better (a little) late than never! Our system, after tax credits, will cost us just over $5,000.
  • You’re allowed by law to net meter and receive credits on your monthly power bill. When you generate more energy than you use in any month, this extra electricity will flow back through your meter onto the power grid. If your monthly electric bill = amount of electricity used – amount of electricity produced, your monthly bill could be negative! This is truly a step in a great direction if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, I’d say! Of course, there is a maximum to this. Legally, you can only net meter up to 110%, meaning you can only receive credit back on up to 10% of your production, after your usage (Solar). That seems pretty fair to me though; no need to get greedy folks. Use what you need. Generate what you will use. More about net metering here.
  • Solar panels can be recycled at the end of their long lives. This may be one of the coolest parts of it all. I wondered if all of my excitement for a more green form of energy would all be wiped out if these huge arrays just ended up in a landfill somewhere. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Here is a list of companies that recycle solar panels.

Now, we aren’t installing a huge system. Our goal is to cover between 90-100% of our total energy usage, and we don’t currently use much energy. In our two-person (and two-dog) household, we average between 11-12 KWH/day. Since it is recommended that solar panels be installed on the south-facing roof, that is what we chose to do, and we are lucky that our roof is pretty new. Here are a few specific details about our system that I thought were pretty cool:

  • 2.8kW grid
  • 9 panels, each panel weighing less than 4lbs/square ft
  • Our energy bill is estimated to drop to around $11/month.
  • Based on these numbers, it will take just 9 years to completely earn back the cost of the installation. Also, when it comes to energy payback, it takes less than 4 years to generate more energy than was used to produce the panels (Solar). Let’s all say it together: carbon-neutral 🙂
  • The panels have a 25-year warranty

The installation should take place within the next month. Right now, we’re just waiting on the permits to be finalized. I’ve created an account with their included monitoring program, so I get updates every step of the way. Every time I get a notification, I get so excited I could just burst! I never thought this would be a reality, but saving and planning really do make a difference! I was too excited not to share. Stay tuned — I will post pictures when they’re finally up!

Get fired up! Is this something you’ve considered? What are your thoughts/questions/concerns? Have you already gone solar? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

Resources

“Average Annual Sunshine in American Cities.” Average Annual Sunshine in US Cities – Current Results, Current Results Publising, Ltd, 2020, http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/US/average-annual-sunshine-by-city.php.

Chin, Paula. “More Power to You.” Family Circle, Oct. 2017, pp. 136–138.

“Net Metering for Home Solar Panels.” EnergySage, 2020, http://www.energysage.com/solar/101/net-metering-for-home-solar-panels/.

Richardson, Luke. “How Many Peak Sun Hours Do I Need For Solar?: EnergySage.” Solar News, EnergySage, 8 Nov. 2019, news.energysage.com/many-sunlight-hours-need-calculating-peak-sun-hours/.

SEIA. “SEIA National PV Recycling Program.” SEIA, 2020, http://www.seia.org/initiatives/seia-national-pv-recycling-program.

Solar United Neighbors. “Net Metering in Ohio.” Solar United Neighbors, 2020, http://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/ohio/learn-the-issues-in-ohio/net-metering-in-ohio/.

Apple-Sweet Potato Race Fuel

This post may contain affiliate links.
Please read my disclosure policy.

This may be harsh, but I hate every pre-made, processed energy pouch I have seen. Many people swear by them, and I accept that they have their place in the fitness world, but I steer away from them for two main reasons:

  • Every one that I have tried does not sit well in my stomach. I have found some that I can cycle and use them, but running is a different story altogether.
  • I am an advocate in my “real life” for whole food based eating, so why should my training be any different?

And as much as I put in the miles to get myself ready for race day, I also need to train my stomach, and put in the time to make sure I fuel properly. So, I started to experiment with making my own fuel over the past year. I have always struggled with getting sufficient calories, but even if I didn’t, I would have to fuel over the course of my training and racing. Making my own fuel lets me customize my race and training nutrition to make sure that I am putting in what fits my body the best!

The bike portion of the Ironman alone (112 miles) will take somewhere in the ballpark of 7+ hours. If my training is a good estimate, I should burn approximately 5500-6000 calories for the bike portion of the Ironman. So, I should aim to take in about that much to give me ample energy for the run. Now I’m not one to count calories, and have always gone more on “feel” that “fact” but I have found myself to feel better and recover faster when I fuel with this amazingly simple (and tasty) recipe. I make a big batch and portion them out in refillable pouches, which I simply freeze and then just pull them out of the freezer the night before my long bikes/runs to let thaw.

Also, can we talk for a second about how stinking cute these refillable pouches are?! Just like I am committed to using whole foods in my everyday life and have cut out most processed foods from my diet, I also am committed to keeping to my values of sustainability and low-waste in my training, to mirror what I aspire to in my everyday life. I see so many athletes ditch the plastic straws and jump on the reusable shopping bag bandwagon, but have no problem throwing trash away from their training runs and rides. (The triathlon world is known for its pack-in-pack-out rules, so I’ve always been one to use reusable packaging as much as possible in the triathlon world if I’m holding on to it anyway. But I do wish more runners carried that same mentality over to their road races.) But on to the recipe for today!

WHY YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE THIS RACE-READY FUEL:

  • They are super fast and simple to make! Chop, steam, blend. We can all do that!
  • They’re jam-packed with on-the-go nutrition! Chia seeds are known for their high-nutrition content, apples are an easily digested great natural sweetener loaded with fiber, while sweet potatoes are probably my favorite thing in the world (besides bananas), rich in carbohydrates for sustainable energy.
  • The mixture stays fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days! That means you can plan out your training fuel as easily as you plan out your training sessions. Grab and go when you’re ready to rock!
  • You can put the mixture in individual servings that easily freeze for up to 3 months! Just make sure to cool completely before freezing and allow time to thaw before your workout.

HOW TO MAKE THIS RACE-READY FUEL:

Chop sweet potatoes and apple into medium-sized cubes.

Steam using your method of choice. I add the cubes to the stove-top steam-basket, making sure there is ample water in the underneath pot. Bring water to boil.

Steam over medium-high heat, covered, until sweet potatoes and apple are soft. I use the “fork-test” to make sure all pieces are nice and soft.

Use an immersion blender or your method of choice to blend until mixture is pureed, like the consistency of applesauce or baby-food. You want a nice, smooth consistency without any real chunks to make it easier to eat while training.

After blended, mix in maple syrup, chia seeds and salt to taste. Mix until evenly distributed and well-mixed. I just continue to use my immersion blender.

Allow to cool completely before filling your pouches or other containers.

APPLE SWEET POTATO RACE FUEL

AUTHOR: ELLEN TRAYLOR
PREP TIME: 5 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 30 MINUTES
TOTAL TIME: 35 MINUTES
YIELD: 30 OUNCES (fills 6 — 5oz reusable pouches)

DESCRIPTION
These easy pouches will keep you fueled for your bike, run, or other workout. They are the perfect salty-sweet combination that your body will crave. Chia seeds boost your energy, and the sweet potatoes are a great source of sustainable energy. I find them to be easily digested and super tasty!

INGREDIENTS
– 1 large apple
– 2 medium sweet potatoes
– 3 tablespoons chia seeds
– 2 teaspoons maple syrup
– Kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Cut apple and sweet potatoes into medium-sized cubes
2. Steam cubes until soft, approximately 20-25 minutes
3. Blend until mixture is an even and smooth consistency.
4. Add chia seeds, maple syrup, and salt to taste.
5. Continue to mix until evenly combined.
6. Cool completely before filling pouches or other containers.

Get fired up! Did you try this recipe? Comment below, or tag @firedupfemaleblog on Instagram using #firedupfemaleblog