Monday, November 5, 2007

A Pomegranate Meditation

Pomegranate photo by theogeo on Flickr using Creative Commons

I was just lamenting the onset of the cold, dark season (brought abruptly by the combination of the end of daylight savings time and a shift in mood by Mother Nature) when I came home to find the pomegranate I'd left out last night waiting for me. I had forgotten that I'd left it in the middle of the counter, much like a bright centerpiece, so that I wouldn't neglect to prepare it for my salad this evening - I guess my trick worked, because I couldn't miss it.

I had also forgotten what a sensual experience preparing a pomegranate can be. Pomegranates are not for the faint of heart. Their brazen red color splashes and stains everything in sight. A sweet, tart burst of flavor flashes on the tongue just before you meet a surprising crunch. And one must gently coax the berries from the rind with a lover's touch. It's no wonder the pomegranate has earned a reputation for symbolizing life and fertility.

It seems a shame that some would need (or think they need) an instruction manual for preparing and consuming such a pleasurable fruit. Sure, pomegranates stain, but so does red wine, and I don't know anyone who avoids it for that reason. Corks are pretty tough to open, too, at least for some of us. (ahem) I believe, though, that anyone stranded on a desert island would quickly figure out how to find and prepare native food items. I think it's just the thinking part that confuses some. Remember how you learned to walk, to speak, to ride a bike. Did anyone show you how to peel a banana or open a peanut? Perhaps so, but much of the learning was experiential, or trial and error. And, after all, while there may be a less messy or more efficient way of getting to the good parts of our fresh food, there really is no wrong way of doing it.

As I opened my pomegranate, I fully understood abundance. I had the distinct notion that I was opening a gift, and marveled at how the fruit seemed to keep producing, even after I was sure I had discovered all the arils (seed casings). For those who haven't experienced the pomegranate, the arils appear like juicy red kernels of corn, and the pulp appears much like honeycomb, or corn on the cob once the kernels are removed.

I reveled in the splashing juice (which I quickly cleaned up after I was done), laughing at the mess I was making. I can only liken the tactile experience of opening a pomegranate to that of seeding a pumpkin, although the pumpkin is much stringier while the pomegranate is juicier. I prided myself in freeing each and every one of the little rubies, feeling as if I'd been the first to find a hidden treasure. The experience was much like finger painting in school - I knew it was what I was supposed to be doing, but something inside wondered if this messy goodness wasn't somehow naughty.

The exercise of preparing a pomegranate became a meditation for me, during which I came to understand fertility, abundance, pleasure, play, sensuality, experiential learning, hunger and satisfaction, creativity, and more. I often wonder how our ancestors discovered that they could make bread from something like corn or wheat, and I realize it was through experimentation and hands-on experience that much of our collective body of knowledge and survival skills was borne.

This is the type of sensual experience we need to have with our food. Experiencing our food completely, from understanding how it got onto our plates, recognizing it for the gift that it is, to preparing it and appreciating it with every one of our senses, is one way to retrain our palates to enjoy fresh, seasonal (and hopefully more local) foods, while becoming more knowledgeable about the impact we have when we select a certain food item. Opening ourselves to the abundance and joy that our planet's environment generously provides is one of the ways in which we can remember what it is we're working toward, as well as a way in which we can teach others to love and respect the Earth and its gifts.

Pomegranates are one of the reasons I want to save the planet from irreversible climate change. Maple syrup, Siberian tigers, lavender fields, freshwater lakes, and radiant autumn leaves are a few more. What are your reasons?

(For those interested in local eating, it's true that my pomegranate did travel from California to Ohio to grace my plate and my mouth. However, considering it is in season in North America, that I eat no more than 1-2 pomegranates per year, that there are no local pomegranates in Ohio, and that it is considered to be a holy delicacy by nearly all the world's faiths, I felt I could justify it.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Riddle Answer - Green TV

Photo by b.frahm on Flickr using Creative Commons.

In a previous post I offered an admittedly no-so-challenging riddle:

What used to come only in black and white and now is green all over?

Lame, I know, but it kept you sitting on the edge of your seat, didn't it? Well, here's the long-awaited answer: green TV.

Last week as I sat down to work on this blog, I was ambushed by greenness in what seemed the most unanticipated of places. I suppose I shouldn't have been too amazed - everyone wants to jump on the bamboo bandwagon these days. But I felt like a kid in a candy store as I witnessed the string of environmental name-dropping in the episode of Bones which aired prime-time on the Fox network on 10/23/07.

While there were a few stock references to "eco-avengers", "granola", and "medicinal marijuana", the familiar terms seemed almost endearing amidst the positively presented green options. It appears that Fox did its homework. (applause!) Over the course of a partial hour (I tuned in late), all of the following environmental topics were raised, many with supporting, and from what I could tell, pretty accurate, facts:
  • Composting
  • CFL lighting
  • Certified organic farming
  • Hazards of pesticides
  • Alternative power (A human-powered bike was used to generate electricity for a blender while making smoothies.)
  • Local growing/eating
  • Energy efficient housing (A reference was made to a 100 square foot house.)
  • Biodiesel fuel
  • Bamboo sunglasses
  • Hemp oil-based products
Unfortunately, a staunch supporter of environmental causes turned out to be the murderer in the episode. (He must not have been a vegan.)

Nevertheless, this type of mass exposure for environmental issues sets my heart aflutter. I can't tell you how excited I am about the week of green TV planned by NBC in it's "Green is Universal" campaign, which begins this Sunday, 11/4/07. (Read what the Chicago Tribune has to say about it here.)

I agree with Ecorazzi's authors in that the greening of TV is just the tip of the proverbial (and now melting) iceberg. However, I believe that bringing green to mainstream is the place to start if we want to reinforce the importance of change in our daily lives. Think about the implications of prime-time TV going green: It means that companies with large sums of money have the support of other companies (advertisers) with large sums of money in giving air-time to these topics. All that money and all those companies have the opportunity to forge change on deeper levels than I can personally. They do so by raising awareness of these issues within their own companies, with their sponsors, and finally in living rooms across the globe. I'd suspect that amounts to a wider audience than this blog could ever hope to generate. Additionally, the more visible green choices become, the less they seem like they're only for the "crunchies" (no offense, Crunchy Chicken).

So while TV is an electric vampire, and an energy hog in general, it remains an effective tool for communicating with the masses. It's about time the big shots decided to wield that power for good.

If you're not a TV person, more power to you! (or less, in fact, as above) If you haven't already, give yours away via the Freecycle Network or craigslist.

For those of us who have a short list of must-see-TV shows (ahem):
  • Keep the TV off (or better yet, unplugged) when not in use.
  • Use the time during commercials to do something productive: exercise (jumping jacks, run in place, crunches, Pilates, or Yoga), pay the bills (online, of course), fold the laundry, hand-wash the dishes...
  • Invite over a bunch of friends to watch your favorite shows. Kind of like car-pooling, but with TV. Don't forget the organic popcorn!
  • Limit the amount of time you spend watching TV each week. Don't let the TV be your boredom-buster default - instead: go for a walk, read a book, meditate, knit a scarf, take a class (vegan cooking or Nonviolent Communication, anyone?), learn a new skill, or start a blog. ;)

Have a Green Halloween

Nothing says "Happy Halloween!" better than a handful of individually-plastic-wrapped, pesticide-laden, high fructose corn syrup-filled candy - well, except for these lovely goodies:

  • Locally raised organic pumpkins, carved with a peace symbol, leaf, or the usual scary (or silly) face. Bake its seeds to snack on later, dry and use to plant next year's crop, or offer them to your neighborhood birds, squirrels, or compost worms. Homemade pumpkin treats are most delicious when fresh and seasonal. Try:
  • Halloween night place a beeswax candle inside a glass or other pre-recycling container inside the pumpkin for an eerie glow without the lead and petroleum found in most candles.
  • Compost any leftover pumpkins, gourds, or other plant-based decorations.
  • Instead of purchasing new plastic decorations each year, consider using vintage holiday decorations or making your own - then reuse them.
  • Make faux headstones from recycled cardboard or packaging materials. List ecological casualties (i.e. extinct animals, the declining quality of soil, pollution and its effects, melting ice caps and sad polar bears, endangered species of plants and animals, etc.) along with a statement about how each became "extinct". For a one-two punch, also list possible future extinctions (i.e. humans, Earth). Be poetic, be funny, or be factual.

  • Hand out sweet-smelling recycled paper pencils (an uber-favorite of mine!) and add green tips that you've written or printed on recycled paper and attached with recycled or reused yarn.
  • Opt for treats with minimal packaging and maximal consciousness. Try honey sticks (may not be appropriate for all ages), organic raisins or other dried fruit, organic juice boxes or cans of carbonated fruit-flavored water, organic local apples or mini pumpkins, gift certificates to local activities or businesses, coins, organic dark chocolate or candied ginger. If you know your neighbors well, you might ask if they would mind if you gave them unwrapped homemade treats like toffee, chocolate covered pretzels, candied citrus peels, or marshmallows. If you have only a handful of special trick-or-treaters, consider giving Preserve recycled toothbrushes or eco-friendly school supplies.
  • Have fun Reverse Trick-or-Treating. Go door to door passing out fair trade, organic candy (or non-candy items, as above). At each house, offer literature (printed on recycled paper) with information about the reasons for choosing recycled, fair trade, organic, and earth-friendly options.
  • Pass out CFL's or soy (or beeswax) candles to your adult neighbors as they accompany their children (these items are not safe for children).

  • Dress as Mother Nature (or Father Nature) as you accompany your child, pass out candy at your door, or attend a costume party. (More green costume ideas here.)
  • Avoid petroleum-based face paints. They smell gross because they are! (Would you slather gasoline all over your face???) Make your own or leave more to the imagination.
  • Ditch the plastic costumes found at your local drugstore and opt for vintage or repurposed items. Old uniforms, dance recital costumes, and even last year's Halloween costume can go a long way. Swap with friends and neighbors, and get creative!
  • Bring a pillowcase (for the big kids) or a sand pail (for the little 'uns) for trick-or-treating loot. This old-fashioned method not only ensures a reusable and multi-purpose bag, but affords more goody-space!
  • If you have the option, walk while trick-or-treating and encourage the kids to do so. You'll save $$$ on gas, save the world from unnecessary pollution, and get some heart-healthy exercise while preemptively burning off those candy calories!
And for some more green Halloween ideas, visit Green Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Riddles, Reviews, and Surprises On the Way!

For the first half of this post I wish to share with you the fruits of my green-searching - researching green products and practices (see the end of the post for the riddle). I refer to a comprehensive list of do's, don'ts, and dirty dozens (here, here, and here) before deciding to purchase a new product or implement a new household rule. Here's the short version of that list (in no particular order):
  • Organic, when possible
  • Safe (and usually pronounceable) ingredients - the shorter the list, the better
  • Checks out with the Cosmetics Database - I prefer products with a rating of 3 or below
  • Vegan (though I am not)
  • Not tested on animals
  • Minimal and/or recycled/reused packaging
  • Local, when possible
  • Sustainable, where applicable
  • Fair Trade, where applicable
  • Bulk products, when possible
  • Glass or paper over plastic packaging
  • Affordable (which of course is somewhat subjective)
Burghilicious and I recently had a conversation whereby we agreed that there exists no truly environmentally conscious beauty product. They are all inherently additives (applied directly to your face or body, nonetheless), and most are packaged in small quantities, then shipped all across the globe to reach their destination. That said, until and unless I am willing to give up even my minimal makeup and beauty regime altogether, I will continue to search for better alternatives. (In a future post: Mixing your own beauty products.)

Anyway, I've been searching forever for a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to my favorite lipstick (aptly named
Tenderheart). It took years for me to settle on my signature color, and now that I've used it for all of my adult life I am finding it next to impossible to find a color match for my preferred shade in a greener brand. I thought I'd found one when I discovered Kiss My Face brand 3wayColor. First, it earned a low score (which is good thing) on the safety hazard scale on the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Safety Database: Skin Deep. Second, it has titanium dioxide for extra sunscreen protection. Third, it is vegan and was not tested on animals (or so says the product packaging). Fourth, it contains no artificial colors. Fifth, the product is 100% biodegradable! (Though I don't believe that includes the packaging.) But here's what finally sold me on the product: it can be used as either eye color, lip color, or blush, and it smells and tastes like fruit! (In my case, I purchased one that smelled to me like mango.) I'd say the sweet scent counts as a fourth use as perfume. (Read more about the Kiss My Face company and its standards here.)

However, the downside is that the product does not appear to contain organic ingredients, and while the packaging is minimal, there's no getting around the plastic tube, and I couldn't find any evidence of the shiny paperboard having been recycled. Sad day. The company did print "Please recycle this package" on the box, but considering that this company also prints recycling suggestions on their paper-backed foil, waxed paper, and other non-recyclable containers, I can't say that I'm too impressed by the effort.

The biggest problem is that I don't much like the color I selected (Heather) - and special ordered, which is disappointing because having an extra product that I don't love means I won't use it that often and have wasted precious packaging, product, and $$$. Though I tested it on my hand prior to ordering it, the color turns out a bit too light and shimmery for my complexion and makes me look cold or undead - perfect for Halloween, I suppose, but not for the office.
Sigh. Back to the drawing board. Next in line for the role of favorite lipstick is a lip tint from Hemp Organics... I guess I've learned my lesson and will have to test the products directly on my lips for a more accurate color test - I'm just squeamish about doing that with community samplers, even where single-use-and-eco-unfriendly q-tips and tissues are provided.

In the meantime, I'm using a lip brush for every application of my tried-and-true favorite, which allows me to use up the product left in the tube once I've flattened out the tip. (I find this affords me more than 100 additional applications - I probably use it well beyond it's expiration date.)

And now for your long awaited riddle. I don't keep secrets very well, and I'm antsy with anticipation for my next post. Be on the lookout for a surprise post coming soon to a green blog near you, but in the meantime here's a hint:

What used to come only in black and white and now is green all over?

Look for the answer soon! (And more surprises to come!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day (and other business)

Happy Blog Action Day!

While I am sometimes discouraged by the relentless consumerism I am inundated by daily, or the laughable greenwashing that has become so trendy amongst lazier businesses, I am always excited by the
real efforts of organizations and companies who are eager to be part of bigger change.

Lately, for every smog-inducing, energy-consuming, waste-creating act that comes into my field of view, I notice another conscious, conserving, reducing, peace-keeping, creative solution that lifts my spirits and reminds me that I am
not alone in my beliefs or in my efforts.

For instance, I loved the movie Evan Almighty, the trailers that preceded it, and the dancing credits. (Is there anything better than dancing animals??? Oh wait, maybe hot apple cider or chocolate...) So I was even more excited when I learned that the movie's makers went to great lengths to make green contributions in reality. (The movie trailers hinted at this, but I couldn't tell if they were serious or pulling my leg...)

Therefore, you can imagine my enjoyment that this year's
Blog Action Day theme is the environment. It's on everyone's minds now - and it's about time! The world is listening - global impact, climate change, and ethical life choices have made it into the headlines of our daily news stories. Now it's time for some action!

Here are a few suggestions to get you started, and then check out other blogs participating in Blog Action Day:

* Turn off the water while you shower, bathe, brush your teeth, wash your face. Turn it back on to rinse.
***Even greener: Turn down the temperature of your water heater. Use a gallon (or less) of pre-measured water per day for cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc.

* Turn off lights and any appliances (including unplugging them) when not in use.
***Even greener: Leave the lights off - use soy or beeswax candles as needed. Reduce the number of appliances you use. Get an energy reader and/or audit to help you figure out where to reduce energy output. (BONUS: Money-saving tip!)

* Try out a vegetarian meal, even if only once a week (see Vegetarian Wednesday). Check out Vegetarian Times magazine or purchase a vegetarian cookbook. When not eating vegetarian, use it as a base to insure that you're getting your daily recommended allowance of fruits and veggies, then add in meat, fish, or poultry if you wish.
***Even greener: Go vegetarian, or even vegan, after discussing it with your family and your doctor.

* Find one aspect of your life where you could make a healthier choice for yourself and the environment - and then change it! (Could you give up your weekly salon appointment? Cancel your subscription to the newspaper or magazine that you never read? Reuse a cloth bag at the grocery store instead of using a ton of plastic bags?)
***Even greener: Participate in an eco-challenge! Making big changes is always easier when you have the support and great advice of others in the same situation. (Crunchy Chicken, No Impact Man, Fake Plastic Fish, and Green as a Thistle all have great examples of challenges.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's Good to be #1

As difficult as I find this to believe, Greater Cleveland's public transportation system, the Regional Transit Authority, has been ranked #1 in North America. (Yes, you can rub your eyes but that sentence will read the same way the second time.)

Go RTA!!! And now, Clevelanders, go RTA.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reinventing the Wheel

Though it seems that the most green change a person living in an industrial society can make these days is to consume less (though, wouldn't it send the global economy into a tailspin if everyone compacted not to consume anything ever again?), I find immense pleasure in discovering new (to me), perhaps somewhat oblique products that help me to achieve my goal of living closer to the Earth.

Along came bike-blended soap, by Gaiam, and I have been itching to post my discovery, but torn by my desire to post fewer consumption-related ideas (not to mention that I haven't actually tried the soap yet). But what could be better? It's created using only human power, contains only vegetable and essential oils, plus organic spices and herbs, and in fact promotes health in its factory workers. I use soap every day - and different kinds of it (which I've come to realize of late I don't really need) - so it wouldn't go unused. Then again, do I really need five different soap scents? I suppose I could give away a few as gifts, or just store them under the sink until I'm ready to use them.

In a previous post I mused on the lesser of two evils. Here, I wonder: Is bar soap better than liquid soap, from the environmental standpoint? My medical professional friends prefer liquid soaps, at least for the bathroom and kitchen sink areas, as it is better at deterring the spread of bacteria. I had been convinced for some time, though, that bar soap lasts longer and uses less packaging, and therefore is gentler on our Mother and siblings. So which is it? Bulk liquid soap, or minimal-packaging bar soap? (Presently I'm using a little of each...)

Lesser of Two Evils

No Impact Man has written about the confusion that often surrounds the green movement - the decision to use paper or plastic (or neither), was only just the beginning. Sometimes the greener choice isn't always clear, and often it's because the "authorities" on such matters disagree.

Some of my recent ponderings have revealed a number of these choices, and I wonder: Which is the lesser of the two evils?

* Shopping locally or internet shopping? (green is sexy suggests internet shopping is greener, but I don't understand the reasoning)

* Shopping locally for new items (which helps the local economy and perhaps local artisans) or purchasing only used items?

* Using the dishwasher, or hand-washing dishes? (While everyone seems to say the dishwasher uses more, I'm not sure that's true for a large or very messy batch of dishes, each of which would need to be pre-soaked and then scrubbed and rinsed.)

* Tossing out, pouring down the drain, or giving away unused portions of kitchen and bath products? (Tossing is wasteful, pouring down the drain introduces possible toxins to the water system and aquatic life, and giving them away is like giving poison to a friend.)

* Cooking with butter or olive oil? (From the health standpoint, olive oil seems to win hands-down. From the environmental perspective, olive oil is shipped long-distance, but butter requires the costs associated with raising cattle, as well as the effects on the animals themselves.)

* Recycled products that are made from petroleum by-products? (They utilize materials that are already in the waste system, but then again, don't they also promote the continued use of said products? And consumerism? And don't they contain the same toxins? This includes some vegan shoes...)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Green Changes - Done List #1

While I'm not presently undertaking a green challenge like green as a thistle or No Impact Man (and kudos to them!), I thought I would share some of my own successes and failures in creating change in my own life. This post is the beginning of a series of Green Changes posts, in which I will share my Done List and my To-Do List. If I'm really savvy, I might be able to keep up the numbering system. Later, I may even elaborate on each of the changes and why I chose to make them.

Though I can't really pinpoint the time at which I began making these changes (as I've always been a bit of a an eco-hippy), most of them I have adopted over the past ten years. I find that there exists a gentle ebb and flow to my pattern of change - I'll make a handful of changes all at once, then give them the opportunity to stick (or not). After a while, I reassess and revisit my choices, reevaluating them on occasion to be sure that they are aligned with my values. After all, new information is available all the time, and new products seem to appear daily. If I'm to remain true to my desire to live consciously, staying present and in-the-moment, I need to read labels and articles and do some comparison shopping to familiarize myself with the available products - only then can I make an informed and grace-ful decision.

Unfortunately, I don't know of a good way to organize my list other than to string it along. Perhaps that will change as well as I give it more thought and a wave from my magical creativity wand. In the meantime, Ideal Bite has a ton of green tips, and they're organized deliciously. Mine, on the other hand, are in no particular order.

My Green Changes - Done List #1
  • Stopped using commercial toilet cleaners - only baking soda/vinegar
  • Stopped using home fragrances except candles or incense
  • Stopped using aerosols
  • Stopped getting nails done - (for a while I was convinced gels kept my nails "healthy"!)
  • Stopped using nail polish and nail polish remover almost entirely - (I only use it about once a year for special occasions, and then I use a neutral color without formaldehyde by No-Miss Nail Polish )
  • Stopped dying hair (though I'm itching to change it again - maybe henna?)
  • Switched feminine product brands - Seventh Generation (no chlorine bleach, recycled packaging, no applicator) (still planning to change to the Diva Cup and reusable cloth pads)
  • Switched counter top cleanser - Seventh Generation (soon switching to only baking soda/vinegar and diluted essential oils)
  • Switched laundry detergent - Seventh Generation
  • Switched hand soap - Avalon Organics, then Dr. Bronners (LOVE IT!)
  • Switched dishwasher detergent - Seventh Generation
  • Switched dish soap - Ecover, Seventh Generation
  • Switched toothpaste - Tom's of Maine, then Dr. Ken's
  • Switched body soap - Kiss My Face pure olive oil bar soap (minimal packaging, too!)
  • Switched body lotions - Avalon Organics, Body Shop body butters (though they contain parabens and other undesirable ingredients, they do not test on animals and they support fair and community trade efforts)
  • Switched foundation - Body Shop w/ SPF 15 (still looking for a better one)
  • Switched shampoos - Avalon Organics (still looking)
  • Switched conditioner - Avalon Organics, Nature's Gate (still looking)
  • Switched face wash - Desert Essence (LOVE IT!)
  • Switched face mask - Desert Essence (LOVE IT!)
  • Switched mascara - Ecco Bella
  • Switched perfume - Kuumba Made
  • Switched eyeliner - Gabriel
  • Switched face powder/compact - Zia refillable compact (still looking for a better one - contains parabens...but love that it's refillable)
  • Switched shave gel - Kiss My Face, then Avalon Organics (Kiss My Face was my favorite, but it had parabens)
  • Switched lip balm - Burt's Bees (LOVE IT!)
  • Switched to recycled toilet paper - Seventh Generation, Giant Eagle
  • Switched to recycled paper towels - Seventh Generation, Giant Eagle
  • Using cloth dish towels instead of paper towels whenever possible
  • Washing laundry in cold water
  • Recycling all recyclable post-consumer materials: cardboard, glass, paper, metal, plastic, paperboard
  • Purchasing used/pre-owned whenever possible
  • Strategically reduced driving mileage
  • Reusing mugs and glasses at work and at home - same one, hand washed, for a few days before using a different reusable mug/glass
  • Drying clothes on rack whenever possible
  • Hand washing clothes when possible - (going to try Dr. Bronner's soap for hand washing as soon as I run out of my Woolite)
  • Reduced, virtually eliminated, need for dry cleaning
  • Located a green dry cleaner - (have yet to try it, as I don't do much dry cleaning)
  • Purchasing in bulk when possible - food, soaps/detergents, tea (loose-leaf), spices
  • Purchasing fresh produce whenever possible (not only for health, but also to reduce packaging)
  • Purchasing local when possible (looking into local CMA - have yet to try)
  • Reusing scrap paper at work and home - (I tear full sheets into quarters and use the blank side for notes, which I clip together using a binder clip)
  • Turning off water while brushing teeth, washing face or hands, shaving; trickle other times, as needed
  • Lamps on timers
  • Utilizing daylight instead of artificial lighting whenever possible
  • Using fans instead of A/C whenever possible
  • Reusing plastic silverware whenever possible - (washed, of course!)
  • Collecting recyclables from work to add to my own
  • Reusing glass bottles - for food storage, as reusable glasses/mugs, as vases or catch-alls
  • Switched from plastic food storage containers to glass
  • Switched kitty litter - Yesterday's News, The World's Best Cat Litter, Swheat Scoop
  • Eliminated plastic kitty litter liners
  • Bringing own bags to grocery store - one cloth, reusing whatever plastic ones left over
  • Reusing plastic grocery bags for smaller trash receptacles, car trash, kitty litter, etc.
  • Recycling plastic grocery/shopping bags at the store - Giant Eagle has bag recycling bins outside the entrance
  • Purchasing beverages in glass or aluminum whenever possible
  • Purchasing only locally brewed beer - Great Lakes Brewing Company does not use preservatives or artificial ingredients
A quick glance over this partial list reveals that there is yet much work to be done in the greening of my lifestyle - in a future post I will share my Green Changes To-Do List. But I'm pretty satisfied with the sheer number of changes I have been able to make. One of my major To-Do's is to reduce the number of products in my beauty regimen by at least half, and to find additional ways to multi-task products and/or purchase them in bulk quantities. (Dr. Bronner's liquid soap is my new favorite item - stay tuned for more about the magic soap!)

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Photo by aeu04117 on Flickr using Creative Commons.

As I mentioned in a previous post, autumn is my favorite season. Winter is too cold, and summer is often too hot - but autumn is just right. (To be revealed in another post, my Goldilocks' Syndrome...)

What could be better than the warmth of the sun, moderated by the crisp, cool breeze? Or the clean blue sky, sprinkled with gauzy, pure-white clouds, set against the backdrop of grass so green it's appetizing? Not much, I say. But nothing - I mean nothing (well, except maybe chocolate) rivals a sip of apple cider or chai whilst gazing upon happy little trees in shades of scarlet, red-violet, pumpkin, gold, and rust.

Some friends have theorized that my affinity toward the season is due to the simple fact that my birthday (ugh) lies within its boundaries. I beg to differ, though I believe it's no mistake that I was born in autumn. I believe it's autumn's array of complex colors, textures, and flavors that most interest me. Everything becomes more vibrant.

Maybe the illusion of magical transformation occurs due to the phenomenon of temporal balance that occurs in the autumn - today, in fact. The autumnal equinox even sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Today day and night are (mostly) equal, as are the energies of the sun and moon. Hatha Yoga also contains within its practice (and name - see link) the best of both sun (ha-) and moon (-tha) energies, which it strives to balance through the use of physical postures, breathing practices, meditation, and life-guiding principles.

Samasthiti and tadasana are two Yoga poses which embody the essence of balance that autumn brings. Enjoy a local, and seasonal apple or apple cider today (like I did - from Patterson farm), and relish the beauty of equilibrium.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fall Fashion - First Do No Harm

photo of a pumpkin flower

Part A

Autumn (or fall, for the disenchanted) is my most favorite time of year. It just so happens that it is my favorite fashion season, as well. Who knows which came first, the proverbial chicken or egg? The end result is that each summer I wonder why I have nothing to wear - it's because my closet is full of cool (and cold)-weather attire.

One of this season's trends that makes me both drool and cringe (though not simultaneously) is the return of nature-inspired elements, including animal prints. Don't get me wrong - there is nothing about the visual appeal which makes me cringe. Natural elements are some of the most beautiful, in my opinion, and anything that pays tribute to the beauty of life is A-list in my book. Instead, it is the implication, and perhaps generalization, of these trends which gives me pause.

While my views on veganism, vegetariansm, and the use of animal products are complex and evolving, there is a golden rule I apply when confronting these issues: ahimsa (Sanskrit for "nonviolence").

Ahimsa is one of the eight limbs of Yoga (as important, if not more so than the physical postures, for those who are unfamiliar with yogic philosophy), but is also a universal principle. The Golden Rule and the Hippocratic Oath (or "first, do no harm") are based on the fundamental value of nonviolence, and most legal and moral codes contain a similar tenet. The interpretation of the doctrine, however, is often a sticking point for many.

To oversimplify the way I have chosen to apply ahimsa in my own life, suffice to say that I try to take what I perceive would be an indigenous approach:
  • The first step is consciousness: I appreciate and respect the life (and potential sacrifice) of the living being.

  • The second step is to determine my true need. Sometimes (especially during the autumn), my perception is skewed and wants appear as needs, but I try to objectively discern this (step away from the boot display).

  • Diligent research comes next (though admittedly not 100% of the time). Is there another source from which I can fulfill my need? Is there a more humane way to obtain the product?

In the end, I make a compromise: I decide to purchase a product after I have determined that there is no better replacement for it, and that it will be truly beneficial to me and simultaneously as minimally harmful to another living being as possible.

Part B

This brings me to the point of my post - whether or not partaking of the lovliness that is autumn fashion, especially when it incorporates natural elements and/or animal prints, contributes in the long (or short)-run to the unnecessary harm of living beings.

I don't wear real fur, but I have purchased items containing faux-fur, and I recently read on the ASPCA web site that real fur isn't always labeled as such. (I also debate with myself whether or not vintage fur is acceptable to far I've decided it's not.) Lately I've been wondering, though...could wearing faux fur or animal print fabrics, or even gold-gilded leaf earrings, cause harm?

In the short run, if my autumn-esque purchases are devoid of once-living products (plant or animal), then it's possible to say that my selection has done no harm. On the other hand, is it realistic to believe that in a class-divided society like mine there will be no repercussions to this choice? After all, if I'm purchasing the faux versions, won't the Haves be purchasing the real thing? My "demand" for the item, let's say a beautiful animal-print cardigan from J. Crew, makes all others of its kind more desirable. (Well, ok, not my personal demand, per se, but the collective demand of the cardigan-purchasing public...which has apparently purchased all of my preferred color in this style!)

I had already nixed the pretty calf-hair headband because the ratio of my need to the animal's suffering for it lies outside the acceptable range, in my opinion. (Quite obviously, I can live without a calf-hair headband, but the poor calf can't say the same.) The line doesn't seem so clear for animal prints (though one could argue that a cashmere sweater may also be harmful). (Sigh) And so the downward spiral begins.

This is clearly an area where I shall have to do more research, both book-style and from within. I welcome thoughts, opinions, and facts on the subject.

Not to be confused with...

I hereby pronounce that I am not to be confused with this Green Yogini (though it appears she may be my doppleganger...)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Little Clarity

As I'm still a baby bloggerina, I thought I might start today's post by establishing a few goals for the blog. (Yesterday's post was supposed to do that, but I was too excited in the moment of publishing to be very coherent...)

For starters, I believe in recycling. This belief is not limited to matter, though I'll spare you the philosophical navel-contemplating (for now). Most of everything I know I learned from another source - a teacher, a friend, a book, a web site. Therefore, it's probable that some of my posts may contain familiar topics, especially for the well-read cyber-readers out there. While I do occasionally have an original thought, I find that where I excel is in collecting existing elements or ideas and rearranging them or re-framing them. My hope is that in gathering some of my favorite green ideas, products, and sites, and bringing them to my blog I might be able to create a virtual goody basket to share.

Throughout my posts you will see a familiar symbol (if I can figure out how to make it do what I want to...) - the green recycling symbol: . Wherever it occurs, you can expect that it will denote a specific change - a refreshing new take on something old.

In other business, I find that I'm not entirely satisfied with the title of this blog. The original picture in the heading contained lovely green grapes from a recent wine tour (which I will have to post later for your visual enjoyment), but it just didn't quite suit the blog's essence. After establishing all the important things (colors and pictures, of course!), I hunted around for a more fitting title, as well. The most obvious title would be Green Yogini, which is the handle I have used to post on a handful of eco-savvy sites - but, sad day, it was already taken by another kindred spirit. So, in the spirit of recycling, I started anew with the initial title and fancied her up a bit. Don't be surprised too much if you return to find a new color, or picture, or even title one day - the only thing constant is change itself!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's a Girl!, a Blog!

Today marks the inception of a shiny, brand-new blog: Great Green Blogs. I am proud to introduce her to the world (however big or small that blog-viewing world might be), though I suppose there will be times when she misbehaves or is less representative of my hopes for her.

The story behind Great Green Blogs:

Sometime during my many visits to favorite eco-friendly blogs and sites, amidst much lurking (and sometimes posting), a seed of love was planted. (Ew! I know...TMI.) This little seed grew to become a tiny brainchild, with the usual cell division and multiplication (waaaaay too much math for one sentence), and has finally burst forth with great energy!

Despite her title, Great Green Blogs is not on an ego trip and does not profess to be great, though it would be lovely if you thought her so, but instead hopes to bring you the best of the green blogs floating about in cyberspace, while creating her own special place in it. She inherits her name from a rather distasteful, yet endearing, camp (and campy-y) song:

Great Green Globs of greasy, grimy, gopher guts... Get it? Globs....Blogs...

Well, you get the idea. It's right up there with the Guess I'll Go Eat Worms song. It's not a very vegan choice of namesakes, but because of my tendency for random songs to jump into my head and get stuck there, so this blog is stuck with her name as well. (And I do mean stuck...the song has played in my head every morning in the shower since the inception of this blog! Not exactly the type of song I want to start my morning with...)

I promise that henceforth there shall be no further glorification of animal mistreatment, mischief, or mutilation (or cruelty, either...but there might be some alliteration!). On the contrary, as you'll read in one of my future posts, you will find only love and respect for all life in these pages. :)

The purpose of this blog will primarily be to bring cohesion to my many "green" ideas (both new, and eco-friendly), and secondarily to share them and engage in discourse about them with like-minded (and perhaps dis-like-minded) individuals.

The rules:

1) I get to make up words. Then I get to put them in some semblance of order.
2) You get to make up words, too, and are invited to order them...or not. Words that are totally incomprehensible or downright mean-spirited might get deleted, though.
3) We all play nice or we go home.

I readily admit to being new at this blog-motherhood stuff, but I'm willing to learn. Now, I think it's time to establish a play group.