Sustainable Life – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Sustainable Life

Carrot from the garden. From Grandma Plastic Picker.

October 19, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I was thinking of emailing this carrot picture to my H3SD friend group, or really organizing committee. But I still have some work I need to do and I don’t need to clutter up their inboxes right now. So I’m showing it to the group that means so much to me – the blog readership. I’m back! I know I’ve been on Instagram more, but I really need to stop having those earworms in my head. It’s fun, but it’s definitely changing my brain.

But you know what has fundamentally changed me? You. Climate work. Blogging. Writing. And these carrots. I can’t explain it fully. I’m not the same person that started this journey. I’m so wired differently now. My husband gave me flowers for my birthday and the smell of the flowers is so fragrant and they are so lovely. I would never have noticed them that much before. I’m a different doctor. I know that each day we change, but the amount of personal growth and joy – I can’t truly explain. It’s been now four years of this, and I’m looking forward to the next decade of continuing to address the climate crisis.

There are infinite amount of projects we have to do. There are some really big ones especially getting a board resolution done at the Sweetwater Union High School District which would be the only 2nd in that to electrify, and to help Our Children’s Trust with the 2nd federal lawsuit and the AMICUS brief. So I’m going to do that today. Work on those two.

But I wanted just to tell you hello! And I wanted to show you the carrot that came out all organic from our garden. And it’s really big too!

A podcast I was fortunate to be on.

August 23, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

One of my friends once told me, after I told him some of my grandiose plans, that he said “my grand plans are to clean the house and do something in the garden.” That really was cool. And because I respect this friend, I’ve been often thinking to myself “My grand plans are to . . . ” And today my grand plans are to do my taxes.

Our son has COVID for the first documented time ever. The entire pandemic none of us were known to have had it (excepting my mother-in-law) but I’m sure at some point we had it? We are fully vaccinated including the bivalent boosters. My son hopefully is having a mild case, but he is missing the first 5 days of college due to being quarantined. Orientation was mixing thousands of students, so it makes sense that he got COVID. I mean, he lives in a triple! We are monitoring the situation and I texted some of my doctor friends for advice. They were so great to reply.

And then my grand plans today are still to meet with all the different entities and loving souls that made H3SD possible. I sent emails off to friends at UC San Diego. Mr. Plastic Picker and I will meet with my friend Dr. Luis Castellanos. That is always a highlight to chat and have brunch. I have changed my schedule to be able to meet with County of San Diego, and I’ve invited the Kaiser entities that might be interested. I hopefully will meet with the ground level people that all made this happen, like the wonderful volunteer project manager Sed. There were so many personalities and loving people involved, but I was honest with my friends and home institution. We have to have a project manager for the next iteration and it has to be a team. It was half parts insanity and this unexplained joy and curiosity that enabled me to help make this major thing happen. I can’t be replicated, but the model is sound.

My activism has always been about what many of us in climate work talk about, the intersection of

slide that all of us have used so often

And what brings me joy is a lot of fun and different new projects that are in the back of my mind. It’s usually working with people I find interesting. But I also need to do the work that needs doing, and the work that needs doing that also brings me joy is – doing my taxes. We’ve paid up our quarterly, but just need to gather everything together.

I’m also going on a kind of date with Mr. Plastic Picker tonight! We are going to walk around UTC Westfield as our daughter has a leadership meeting she has to be at. So when she’s at this meeting, I’ll get to walk with him around the mall. And honestly, for me? That’s super exciting just to get to hold his hand. I’m a romantic at heart. And that was ultimately what half enabled me to get the summit across the finish line, because I believe in happy endings in every aspect of our lives.

Just a snippet from Storyofstuff Instagram Account.

November 25, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s been quiet on the blog and on Instagram @drplasticpicker relatively. Still picking up trash. It’s been relatively quiet in my mind too. If I look back at what this blog and eco-avatar adventure has meant to me, that would be one of the most meaningful. I got myself back. Does that make sense? I used to daydream a lot as a child and in high school. I would swing on the hammock in our backyard with my own fluffy white dog named Jingle, and I would just dream. I was an awkward Star Trek loving teenager and I had beautiful dreams.

And now I am dreaming again, and just thinking thoughts on the hammock.

It’s been a wonderful holiday week. We don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving in our house due to the complicated nature of it being a false holiday and the pain of the indigenous people in the Americas, but we do practice gratitude. And yesterday we said our gratitudes and had a festive meal that my brother brought over. It was low key since Mr. Plastic Picker was working triple extra shifts, and I was still recovering from COVID Moderna Bivalent Booster. Wow, this one was a doozy. Not as bad as #2 but worse than #3. I’m still glad I got it, but needed an entire day for my body to kind of deal with the vaccine. I haven’t officially had COVID yet, but I’m sure at some point in the last three years I had it? I follow the rules though and masked when they told me, and washed my hands, and only traveled when public health said it was okay. I think it helps that we are a relatively introverted family. It cuts down on the social contacts you know.

It’s been a quiet and purposefully restful week. Our oldest is almost finished with his University of California applications. He is applying to 5 campuses, and we encouraged him to finish before the last day. We heard the system always crashes as everyone is submitting at once. I am proud of him, as he has been chipping away at his applications diligently. He finished the trimester off strong, equal to his performance in the previous years. We could not have asked more of him. We moved back to California in large part for his education and for him to be able to apply to the University of California system as an instate resident. And now he has, and we are glad.

Thanksgiving was actually warm in San Diego, and there was a light Santa Ana wind. It was unusually windy yesterday as I was sitting on our hammock. I remember buying that hammock maybe 5 years ago, and wanted to make sure that our two children knew how to swing on a hammock. To me, that was very important. Neither knows how to ride a bike well nor swim, but my children – they know how to swing on a hammock. It’s a very important skill in life.

And we’ve been together as a family a lot this week. We’ve had unexpected lunches at local eateries. My daughter and I tried to find donuts at the local Donut Bar (semi-famous) and were disappointed. We saw a movie at our local theatre which was really good, and we built up more memories of minor teenage tantrums and moodiness. Our daughter painted her nails for hours. Our son was in his room half applying to college/half gaming for hours. And I have been just here. Just present. Just enjoying them being 17 and 14 and together as a family.

The reminder that they are growing up and growing away from me is always there. But it’s all been so gloriously slow since I decided to step down from Assistant Boss a year early in late May 2022. I am so grateful I made that decision. It literally again slowed time down to a snail pace compared to the madness that was administrative work. Sometimes I wonder if my former colleagues in that alternate universe I used to inhabit realize how absolutely convoluted that world is? I sent an email to someone and did not receive a reply. I was hurt but mostly annoyed. But honestly when you are a hamster on a wheel, it’s hard to understand the big picture.

But I’m so grateful to be the hamster on the hammock. Let me see if I can find an imagine of it.

Found one.

Honestly how I’m feeling these days. Okay! Still doing climate work! I’m getting a fiery speech ready to try to block the Mitsubishi Cement Plant from running diesel trucks in Barrio Logan! Much love from our clean air family to yours. Wishing you clean air and a hammock to swing on.

Matcha Green Tea from Costo. Now $20 from $15 but SOOOOOO Worth it!

July 24, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I was feeling sorry for myself the last blog post. Thank you for the blog sympathy. I realized I hadn’t been blogging much and on the blog timeline, it must seem like I’m wallowing in my own self-pity of being a lone litter picker trying to save the earth. Underappreciated, hence the title of the last blogpost That is untrue and I wanted to correct any misconceptions about the length of my self-wallowing.


Blooming succulent, so happy.

February 26, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I worked last night the staggered shift. 25 patients evenly spaced out in 20minute appointment slots. No longer the triple booked patients at 6pm and leaving at 930pm and overeating at night at 10pm. Pneumonias and bilateral ear infections. I had to order a fair number of antibiotic prescriptions yesterday. It almost felt normal, pre-COVID pandemic like. One of my work colleagues reminded me that I had come up with the idea of the “Happy Hour Shift” and indeed that was what started it all. Fixing a broken scheduling template that would garner so many complaints and predisposed doctors and nurses to make errors. There was no conceivable way to see three patients in the same appointment slot.

But people forget, and as life improves – they often forget what was the catalyst. Indeed, I had forgotten – but then this work friend who is not in our department, reminded me.

This change was good for me as well, and I fought for the sane scheduling system with my own family’s well-being in mind. It was a long day, but I had time to walk up to the #guerillagardening project at my “lunch” hour which was at 2pm. I walked and looked at the plants I had planted there almost 2 years ago.

Blooming now.

It’s all growing and thriving now. I had to put in effort at the beginning. But now, the natural rainfall and once or twice a month watering from saved bathwater from my own house – is enough. It took me courage to fight for those changes in the schedule. It took creativity. It took rationality and a mind that thinks clearly. There are some minds that are so chaotic that threatened to make all of our lives intolerable.

But rather than dwell on the those forces I had to counter, I focus on the growth I see. I focus on what is beautiful and what has worked. And this plant was the first one that proved to me that in the desolate area of the upper parking garage planters that had been abandoned for decades – something beautiful could grow.

It’s os happy and chaotic.
Lettuce growing in the cracks of our front walk-way pavers.

February 15, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

If the above picture is not the personification of environmental-cool, I don’t know what is. Our front yard is this beautiful crazy edible garden powered by our composter and gardening-love mostly from the grandparents. And we have lettuce growing inbetween the cracks of our pavers.

The rouge lettuce in context of the larger garden.

I find gardening metaphors are so powerful. I gave away four succulent plants I had been growing for a while up on our roofdeck. Nothing new, all upcycled but grown with love. Those four small planters were lovingly received by four families yesterday. Two families I knew well, and two that were new to me.

Another shot of the garden.

Trying to live a sustainable and upcycled life, has brought so much growth for me personally and to my entire family. I really don’t worry about the next anymore. For work I have to give another presentation, and it’s in front of an audience that I don’t necessarily enjoy talking in front of. When you truly work together closely, there are scars within departmental relationships. But as I was conceptualizing this talk, I realized not worrying about the next and finding joy in unexpected growth – lifted a dark cloud that used to surround me. I haven’t had tension headaches in years now, and the professional anger and resentment are gone. Knowing that I don’t know the answer, and really just to focus on the present. The current project I’ve been working on. The person who is standing in front of me (whether it be patient, family or collueage). Unexpected growth, rogue lettuce that we’ll eat – brings me so much joy. And realizing we just have to work toward the end we want, and we are all on the same wave and we as a people will land where we land – is so freeing.

Me being a bird of prey. Owls too eat meat.

February 8, 2022

by drplasticpicker

I don’t feel guilty much these days. Mothers and doctors, we tend to blame ourselves for everything. Our own child gets a B+ in a class, our fault. Our child has plagiocephaly from the back to sleep campaign, our fault for not recommended strongly enough tummy time. The climate crisis, our fault for not having enough money to buy a Tesla. But after you realize the true villains that caused the climate crisis – you will stop feeling guilty. Vaping company CEOs – villains. Fossil fuel companies who knowingly still push pro-fossil fuel policies – villains. People who litter knowingly and with darkness in their heart when they do that act of littering – villains. Me? Not a villain!

But I do somewhat feel villainous when I blatantly made the best Instapot chicken soup out there. It’s hard not to feel guilty when you are an environmentalist and hang out with vegans all day. But we are plant-based, not vegan, and I made chicken soup with a game hen and it was so delicious. I now realize after putting in an Ecosia search that a game hame is essentially a chicken that is a toddler, and I feel even more guilty.


My mother-in-law planted this a few years ago.

December 22, 2021

by drplasticpicker

It’s the week before Christmas. I’ve honestly been in a Korean-drama haze. I’m watching a lot of dramas but at the same time I’m learning so much more Korean and also reliving moments in my life as a daughter-in-law to a Korean family. I’ve tried to be a dutiful daughter-in-law and it has not been always easy, but watching the dramas and seeing the echoes of our own lives in the traditions that are explained is helpful to me. My children and my mother and everyone thinks I’m in drama overconsumption mode, but honestly this is something I need to do for myself to deprogram some of my thought processess that I had over the last two decades. I affirms many of my values that I’ve held close to my heart, but are continually questioned by others around me. I’m happy and it’s keeping me off social media mostly anyway.


If this isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is. LOL

December 6, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I’m totally going to get one of these! This one is an adult tricycle with off-road fat tires. I can get a helmet as well. There is a great street on our neighborhood where you can ride it straight to the beach. This makes so much sense, because our son needs a car soon for his senior year. I work remotely anyway sometimes. So he can drive my car and I can bicycle around our neighborhood to do errands. Everything is really close here.

It’s definitely not cheap. For the off-road fat wheels, it is $700. But this will keep me healthy and I like to get exercise by just living life rather than going to a gym. I used to love to run, but this is the perfecr cross training. I can ride to the grocery store and actually get substantial amount of groceries. Of course I will need to get a really good bicycle lock for this one.

We have room in our garage to store this bicycle because we got rid of things we don’t need. This I think we would use a lot. I may go to the bicycle rental place and just try to ride one (if they have this type) to make sure it is comfortable for me. I am so excited!!!

I am actually technically part of the San Diego Bicycle Coalition! So I am going to get a cycle, but the kind of “bicycle” I want. I always knew I wasn’t like other people. So excited!

So many years ago.

November 11, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I was virtually present at one of our Public Health Advsiory Council meetings for Climate Actions Campaign. That advocacy council is growing with plenty of help from other health professionals. I honestly think it might be time for me to step back as they are concentrated on very important local wins, but I’ve been asked to be part of state wide advocacy efforts within the AAP. I’m struggling a bit with that decision, and had a slight headache because of goodness-work overload. I had to take some motrin last night (which is rare) and quietly read a poem by Walt Whitman our son recommended.

But there were several moments at the meeting two nights ago, that were so powerful. My children are older, teenagers both now. The picutre above is my daughter at one of the moments when her littleness and beauty were so overwhelming to me. Where did the time go? How quickly have the years passed? Really all this climate work is for her and all our children. I check in with her to see if we as a family are doing okay. I was at volleyball last night and eventhough multiple work phone calls intruded into our time, we got through it and I was there to drive her. She was okay with it, and we had a very nice dinner all four of us. If dinner ran a bit later into the call, I would drop that call. But it worked out. We got to volleyball, got to dinner, and I got to that last call – without the sense of rushing.

But there was a moment when my friend Dr. RA was also calling into the call and her daughter said in this beautiful small voice “Come into the light mommy, come into the light.” Dr. RA was standing in the dark in front of the house, trying to patch into the advocacy call. And her daughter beckoned her into the warmth of the family. I saw my friend Dr. RA the next day, and I told her that moment was so beautiful. She also I know is doing this work, standing in the dark in front of her house for her children and all the children that she takes care of.

Just one of those moments, and so many climate and health advocates are physician mommies with young children. “Come Into the Light Mommy, Come Into the Light.” The voice of our children beckoning us home.