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Archive for the ‘green talk’ Category

In honor of spring, the welcoming of the fresh and new and the thought of Spring Cleaning, I want to revisit my initial definition of the term “green.”  In the past few posts I have introduced using the term “eco-conscious” in place of “green.”  I actually like them both, a lot, therefore I plan on using them interchangeably.

Here is a revised and expanded version of my definition based on some of my thoughts and work in the last six months.

*I took away the use of the “does not equal” symbol, I would rather keep everything in terms of positive action*

GREEN = using what you have and making it last

ECO-CONSCIOUS = re-evaluating your usual level of consumption

GREEN = not wasting what you have

GREEN = considering the environmental  impact of the things you consume

ECO-CONSCIOUS = staying informed about the most useful tools for a “green” life

GREEN = eliminating from you life the things/substances that harm you

ECO-CONSCIOUS = eliminating from your life the things you don’t need

The last two points are the main focus of this discussion.  First, I wanted to eliminate the things/substances in my life that may harm me.  This seems rather obvious but will mean different things to different people.  Initially it meant getting rid of all my mainstream cleaning supplies.  I now use the standard “green clean” kit; a bag of baking soda, jugs of distilled white vinegar, vegetable-based liquid soap, the occasional leftover chunk of lemon and salt.  There is a myriad of combinations for these ingredients so I just experiment for the cleaning occasion.

For myself, the next step in the elimination of harmful things rests with food.  Not in the sense of going on a diet but rather getting rid of the foods in my kitchen that offer nothing but empty calories and and the taste of artificial flavors.  A really excellent resource for changing food habits is another Michael Pollan gem called, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.  Its a very small book, coming in at just 139 pages.  Each page is devoted to a food rule and the rules encompass everything from what to eat to where to shop for food.  I am considering removing the pages and posting as many as I can around my house, especially in the kitchen!

After a long winter of keeping the windows closed and accumulating the dust and clutter of life I wanted that feeling of lightness and clean.  So it became the perfect time to eliminate the things from my life that I did not need.  For a solid week I was really focused on getting rid of stuff.  I wanted to fly through my closets, book shelves and kitchen cupboards pulling out anything and everything I deemed superfluous.  Suffice it to say it has not been that whirlwind of an experience.  In fact, it has been a little tougher than I thought.  There appears to be a tiny hoarder hidden inside of me, a voice that says, “Hey, you might want that, later.”  There was also the question of, “Well I don’t need it but I certainly enjoy it, so whats wrong with that?”  The answer:  Nothing!  I realized that I was most frustrated and looking to cleanse my surroundings when everything got cluttered and disorganized.  So in the process of cleaning things out, I made a big effort to organize what I did want to keep.  The min-homesteader in me was eager to keep some of the old clothing for potholder and quilt material, and make a good storage space for the jars and containers I wanted for candles and soaps.

This post is a bit of a grab bag.  Obviously I touched on a lot of points that will each eventually be posts on their own.  What I wanted to convey is how “green” or “eco-conscious” is a concept that can be easily incorporated into everyday living and that your current lifestyle need not be utterly torn down to make way for “green.”  I see it more like a regime change.  Most people will probably do some kind of a Spring Clean.  Take it as an opportunity to try a little baking soda in your scrubbing, throw out the candy (or instead of waste, give it to someone with a sweet tooth!) and give your craft clutter a re-evaluation.  I cannot wait to explore the rest of my definition as I try out more and more “green” ideas!!

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As I gradually experiment with the intellectual, emotional and lifestyle changes associated with an eco-conscious life-yes, I have officially decided that this is my new “green” descriptive but my blog name probably won’t change for a while– I try to remind myself why anyone is or would be interested in this life.  It’s not only about maintaining and hopefully improving a damaged world but also understanding and creating a sustainable life as a survival tool.  A question that has interested me for many years goes along the lines of, ” If everything were to rapidly begin falling apart tomorrow, what do I know and what can I do to survive? ”  Before I continue, I am referring to an economic disaster that changes the face of our everyday lives, not necessarily nuclear war or zombies although its good to try to be prepared 🙂  Here I introduce a new category for future posts, Sustainability as Survival.  Yes, this sounds ominous, but I was fully inspired by another book I am reading called The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  I admit that I first assumed it would be another thin guide to the charm of chickens and what you can grow on a patio.  While both of these topics are discussed, the authors forge ahead with each subject as a facet of the concept of homesteading.  Homesteading (to myself) being a way of life that emphasizes self-reliance and ingenuity rather than consumption based beyond the home and passive reliance on resources controlled by others.

One section of the book that really caught my interest was about how to construct your own stoves and other heat appliances.  I have been introduced to an item they call the “Buddy Burner.”  It is cardboard that has been curled and stuffed in a shallow can then allowed to soak in wax until you have a kind of high-powered candle.  A simple concept that when read emphasized my lack of knowledge about basic and intermediate levels of living.

The broad range of subjects, overall tone and emphasis in important details makes this book such a standout and a truly useful resource for anyone considering a more independent eco-conscious life that can easily translate to help in a (possible) time of hardship.

Ruminating on this question of long-term survival can seem depressing, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to post this.  However, the “green” or eco-conscious movement begs this topic to be considered.  Why else are people wanting to learn how to live without plastic, grow their own food or power their own homes?  The more I write about and research the concepts of sustainability, the art of homesteading, a lifestyle that emphasizes reduced consumption and advanced self-sufficiency the more I understand the essential connections amongst these topics.

What do you think of sustainability as survival?

 

At the end of the day...

 

 

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After some consideration these gardening posts will probably come in two parts.  The first being a discussion of any gardening related reading (all of my reading and reviews will eventually make it to the Resources and Inspirations page) and then news on my Spring 2011 Hopeful Garden.  In documenting the process I am looking forward to better understanding the work a garden truly involves and how certain styles of gardening relate to the eco-conscious movement-could this be the “green” replacement phrase I was looking for? I may need to post a poll to get that one figured out 🙂

Now that I am typing and talking to myself, these gardening posts are probably going to come in three parts.  1.) Gardening reads and musings    2.)  Updates on Hopeful Garden 2011    3.) The progress of my current garden beds, always a source of curiosity and wonder.  Today I shall count all this explanation as my musings and discussion-I never want anyone to feel as if they are slogging through a post!

Hopeful Garden 2011 is still just that, hopeful.  Not in the negative *sigh* kind of way but more of a twinkle-in-my-eye way.  The goal is before I head to my soft and fluffy bed that I write a list of exactly what I want to grow.  Nothing else, just that.  It’s a starting point for all that research and seed shopping.  I am sticking to foods I know I am willing to eat if they survive; beans, potatoes, lettuce, zucchini, pumpkins, herbs and rhubarb.  Not wasting is a huge part of these eco-focused lifestyle changes.  In addition, I am planning a to do a “bag garden.”  For those who may not know, this means taking bags of garden soil, cutting a large window in the top and punching numerous holes through the bottom and planting directly in them.  It doesn’t sound pretty, but its the easiest way to get a veggie garden started if you don’t necessarily have the perfect area to start with.  The bag will smother the weeds and leftover turf during the growing season and once the plants are done you can tear away the bag and break it all into the ground, making way for a more sophisticated bed next year or even a start for the fall and winter plants.

All three colors!

Finally, my current garden which I have illustrated with a little photo from this morning.  This was taken during a break between pounding hail and rain! I really tried to get the crocus perspective.  These are the children of a previous year’s planting and I am proud that I was able to help preserve them and that they came back so strong!!  From some garden gossip I heard crocus wear themselves out pretty quick so I may need to look into adding more this coming fall.  But for now I will enjoy the added color.

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I figure I will just dive in to this post since I spent the whole morning online trying to plan my mega-garden and now feel that I have much to say!  And none of it has to do directly with gardening!  Instead, its more of the confusion in planning for the spring/summer and thoughts on what gardening entails in modern life.  A great book that made me really meditate on this subject is Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education.  As usual Pollan adeptly blends his own gardening experiences with the history of horticulture.  As an aside, if it is just the plant stories you are interested in Pollan wrote a book called The Botany of Desire (also an excellent documentary) that delves into the histories of four of the most influential plants in human history.  What Second Nature offers is a look at the what the act of gardening means to people, how it signifies a person’s place in the human culture and where the balance is between clear-cut nature control and letting nature run rampant around your home and yard.  After scolding myself for not being a more prepared gardener (I am only now starting to write modest plan of what I think I want to grow)  I make sure to remember this book and how an appreciation for what is going on in your yard, whether you have it under total control or not is the new essence of gardening.

As I was researching my hopes and dreams for a more substantial garden this year I ran into the familiar feeling of needing to go shopping.  I don’t have the right seed starter, I don’t have seeds, my garden tools are lacking, I could stand to have a soil testing kit, and so on and so forth.  Then, I remembered my very current experience with gardening.  It has been limited to fall and spring planted bulbs.  My favorites for fall planting are hyacinth, tulip and crocus.  I know something else is planted out there but I cannot for the life of me remember what it is!  Spring plantings have been a little less successful simply because I have the worlds shadiest yard and most of the popular flowers for summer demand an intense amount of sun (never shall I get to enjoy a lily)  But, my luck has been with begonias and anemones.  Everyday I leave the house I always peruse the garden bed which stretches from underneath my living room window to the driveway.  There has been snow, drenching rain, hard freezes and lots of wind this winter, but I am astonished to report that right on schedule, my crocus from not last November but the November before that have come back with force and became a thick strip of orange, white and purple edging.  This in concert with the peeking tulips (both old and new), hyacinth (old) and a couple of lavender plants that beautifully wintered has made me absolutely appreciate the effortless work of Mother Nature. I realize that any effort I make to add to my surroundings will be met with just the right energy from Mother Nature.  With this thought in mind, I will be grabbing some seed packets, picking a pretty good spot and forging ahead with sunflowers, potatoes and beans.  Hopefully Mother Nature agrees with me 🙂

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Hello all,

As you can see I have sorely neglected my blog and I am now hoping to get back on track with it.  My goal is to deliver on a regular basis.  What I have to say may be small, but I want to show you, the reader, something new as often as possible.

Unfortunately, my first post of the now old new year is going to be a bummer.  After some unexpected research, I have discovered that one of my beloved cleaning ingredients has been implicated in health problems and now takes its place in the pantheon of things to avoid.  That ingredient is BORAX.  I found the article at www.motherearthnews.com which then led me to an environmental health blog along with a liberal helping of site user comments on both.  Disappointing yes, devastating, no.  I went to my cleaning supplies and dumped out my bottles of all-purpose cleaner and made an experimental substitute.  Instead of Borax I used baking soda, this could be a problem since the baking soda and vinegar in in my recipe are going to react with each other, but we shall see.

This problem brings me to another thought.  Much of the “green” culture is based in a fear of the things we don’t want in our lives and fear of the things we used to do.  You can’t just throw anything you don’t want in the garbage.  You can’t use most of the cleaning and hygiene supplies for fear of industrial chemicals.  The foods we eat are genetically altered or covered in pesticides and pumped with hormones.  While I will always agree that you should be educated about your world, at a certain point the perspective needs to change.  If what we know about our world is true, then how do we prefer to live?  How do I buy/grow/support food I want to eat?  What should I clean with?  How do I want to organize my recycling?  Education and understanding can quickly lead to negativism and paranoia because it can be almost too easy find whats wrong.  Changing my own lifestyle and in hopeful extension others’ lifestyles, is what interests me most.  This recent borax discovery emphasizes the need to focus on finding the positive alternatives as we educate ourselves about what we use and depend on.

This was a wordy post, I hope to get down to nuts-and-bolts in posts to come!!

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So, before I begin another post about the wonders of cleaning green, I wanted to touch on the use of the word “green” itself and how it gets used in less than satisfactory ways by companies to convince you to buy their product.  When I peruse the store aisles for green labeled products it is very inviting to simply pick up the first bottle or box with a tree or swath of greenery and flowers on it.  Upon closer inspection, many of these items stop being “green” once the packaging is stripped away.  From simple trial and error this is what I have discovered about the differences between “real” and “fake” green products:  its all on the label.  Turn over that bottle or box and look for an ingredient list.  If there isn’t one, its safe to say that you would not be happy with what is in it.  If you turn it over and do find a list, read it.  Sure, there are going to be ingredients that you don’t have a Wikipedia-sized knowledge of but what would you rather clean with?

Water, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil, Tea Tree Extract, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol

OR

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Decyl Glucoside, Fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Chloride, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Sulfate, Polyquaternium-7, Citric Acid, Poloxamer 124, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, D&C Red No. 33, FD&C No. 1

The first soap is the tea tree oil variety of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the second is a common brand of hand soap.  I can’t make any claims against the ingredients in the second hand soap.  I have read a pretty large chunk of text that lists out various toxic compounds and chemicals that are used to produce everyday household materials.  Its a disturbing thought and I vote to use the kind of products whose ingredients are simple and straight forward, to me that is one of the definitions of “green.”

Consider another angle to the concept of a “green” product.  I have been out and about reading articles and blogs that concern this topic.  Something I see a lot of is the idea that what may be directly “green” and beneficial for your home and family-such as a kitchen cleaner that doesn’t require an additional rinsing to make the surface food safe-may continue to contribute to other environmental issues such as non-recyclable packaging or the use of non-renewable resources to produce the product.  It ends up being a lot to think about when turning your life green!  More posts on this in the future, I want to do a little more research on how people handle this balancing act.

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The topic that led me to a more green, human and environment friendly approach to living, is that of cleaning. It certainly does not sound thrilling, but it can be especially satisfying to realize that you can get the same (and often better!) results by using what are being considered eco-and human-friendly substances. I don’t use the term products, which to me denotes a specific conglomeration of materials,  because a majority of the items I use for cleaning are simple ingredients that often alone or in concert with just one other ingredient can get all the work done.

Here are the top items every house should have on hand for cleaning:

  1. Vinegar
  2. Baking soda/Borax
  3. Vegetable-based liquid soap

Thats it, really.  You can use these in a variety of recipes that create everything from a soft scrub for the bathroom to an all-purpose spray.  A lot of times I find myself just grabbing the baking soda and soap and mushing them together on whatever surface needs some cleaning.  I have recently developed a drain cleaning fetish (do with that what you will!) But I love scrubbing around a drain with some baking soda and a cloth, smooshing the soda down into the drain and throwing a little vinegar down after it-make sure to cap the drain to let the fizz do its work!  Follow this with a boiling water rinse and you will be reminded of the original look of your pipes.  This is only the beginning!! Remember, your entire way of doing things is not going to change overnight.  Sometimes its nice to start with the small things and being green is as much about using responsibly as it is about nixing the chemicals.  Try to use up the cleaning supplies you have left.  Have 3/4 of a bottle?  Research your local household hazardous waste facility or give away to someone who will use them.

Coming soon, more discussion on the Big Three cleaning ingredients and what to do when concocting your own laundry detergent is just not practical!

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