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.