Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Personal Progress Comes in Tides

Sometimes, it's nice to discover that there's no going back. I find this happens a lot for Greening. It literally hit me in the face today. Or, more exactly, in the olfactory. I, the Good Green Witch, am an apartment dweller, and, as such, I share a laundry room with a handful of others. We're a small building... we don't get in each others' way much. I only needed one machine this morning, and loaded in with my soap nuts and cold water. Upon going down to check on the progress of said laundry, I realized someone was in the other machine before I even got to the doorway. The chemical-laden smell of fresh mountain flowery Tide hit me like... well, a tide. (Maybe THAT'S why they call it that!) It wrapped me from head to toe. It enveloped me. I think my clothes got the smell by proxy, just by being in the next machine.

I won't get started on the fact that this neighbor uses HOT water. HOT water?? In this day and age? With the super-almighty powerful Tide doing the work already? I have accepted that's a battle I cannot win with that neighbor. (It might be evil that, once, I actually changed it to warm after Neighbor left the laundry room, but I was hoping Karma was looking upon the real justification and wasn't going to punish me TOO badly....shh, don't tell anyone) I can't knock on Neighbor's door and lecture on detergent choices. (Can I?) No... all I can do in this case is make sure I'm doing what I need to do. I can try to teach by example. I can accept the fact that marketing works on some people and that I can't change everyone.

What I CAN enjoy is the fact that I need never go back to using those chemicals. Our laundry has been smell-free for months, and we love it. We don't miss dryer sheets, we don't miss soapy residue, and we most certainly do not miss shelling out way too many bucks for so-called concentrated detergent, for which they charge more even though they are SAVING money by not filling extra space with water and have lower shipping charges because the product weighs less.... BUT I digress. These things, I can enjoy. And I do. I like that I am not contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with yet another plastic bottle. There is no going back for me, and I am great with that. This is my Progress... to reject other people's idea of progress with their bigger badder more concentrated super-smelly stuff....

I wear my preferred essential oil. My clothes do not need to be perfumed too. My bedsheets are fine. I don't need to breathe deep into my towels. And, I laugh at commercials for these products. I laugh, because I am NOT falling for it any more! I'm as free from their mind-games as my laundry is from chemicals!

That feels pretty good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keep 350 Day Going

Saturday, October 24th, was 350 Day. Not quite sure what that means? Lemme 'esplain. Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity, according to We currently stand at 387. Boo. Not good. The 24th was an international day of action, to get the awareness out there to the whole world.

Sooo.... it's over. OK. Now what? Now, we work on things to actually achieve getting that number down. What can you do? I'll try to help as much as possible on that with future posts! We'll just do a quick one for now. Consider it your first assignment! I promise I'll be easy on ya. I swear it. It's my philosophy that green is actually pretty easy! So here goes....

Stop buying tissues. Go cold turkey on Kleenex. Just stop. Hankies were good enough for our grandparents, so they're good enough for us! I tend to favor the brightest loudest most colorful bandanas, personally. But there are the cute frilly lacy ones... there are the monogrammed ones... there are the plain whities! Choose your weapon! You can use organic cotton to be even better. You can make your own to be super-green and crafty. You can give them as great green gifts.

There are multiple benefits to this simple action. You save money, because you aren't buying boxes of facial tissue anymore, and because these last forever. Well, they last a really long time, anyway. And the more you wash them the softer they become. Yay! You save trees. That's good all around. You save water. I know you might think you are using MORE water because you have a little extra laundry, but that's not the case. It takes a lot more water to produce the boxes and boxes of tissues than it does for you to wash a tiny little bit of fabric. After all, you were doing laundry anyway. These fit. It's not like you are doing a special load of just hankies.

That's it! And if you can't do cold-turkey, that's OK. I still grab a few pieces of TP to blow into on rare occasion. But really work at it. And lead by example. Be the change. I can't say that enough! And with this simple start, YOU can help get that magic number 350 back to reality. YOU can help.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Disposable" just means YOU don't see it anymore.

"Disposable: Made to be thrown out ofter use." Let's think about all the things we throw out. We have disposable razors. We used to have disposable cameras before digital came around. There are disposable forks spoons knives plates, napkins, etc. Some people think cell phones are disposable. And there's the big one that I hate: disposable diapers.

When something is "disposable", that doesn't mean that once you are done with it, it goes into magic garbage land far far away on another planet in another universe. It goes into the landfill over in the next county, or the next state, or the next country; and it especially goes into the ocean. ( This is not OK. It's not OK for the planet and it's really not OK for your kids and their kids. Sure, when you throw that diaper out, it's gone from your mind, your home, your life. Right? Wrong. That little plastic poopie-bomb will be around for the next 3 or so generations of your family. At least. Nice legacy to leave for them.

Do we really NEED disposable things? Razors: nope. The replaceable heads on a non-disposable razor not only work better, they last longer and mean much less waste. Remember, waste doesn't just happen when you throw it away; there is the waste of producing the products in the first place. There's a whole lot goin' on there. Plates and utensils? Nope. These are next-to-never necessary. (Ever?) Some would argue that the water needed to clean regular plates etc. makes up for the waste caused by throwing the paper or Styrofoam plates and plastic sporks away. Nope. There is much more water used in the production of these products that we use washing the real stuff. Do you want to argue convenience at a picnic or time saved because you are too busy to wash? Nope. Not worth the price to the planet. Single-use plastic bottles? Covered that one in a previous blog! And as for the big one: diapers. NOPE. Disposable diapers should be the extreme exception, NOT the rule. Again, the water needed to wash cloth diapers makes up for itself in the water saved by not producing plastic diapers. Cloth diapers are made so well these days that there is no excuse. The smell, the gross-factor? Guess what: you had a baby. Babies poop. Babies smell bad sometimes. Babies need changing. You knew this when you signed on to have one. If you don't want to deal with the mess, you shouldn't have HAD a baby. Babies are messy. Deal with it. Remember the legacy I mentioned above? Is that really why you had a child -- so they would have to deal with the after-effects of YOUR wasteful ways? I hope we can say, "Of course not!" Do we want to leave them a nice clean healthy planet, or one where the Oceans are full of plastic and the landfills are taking over and cancer is everywhere because of what we've done to the planet?

Guess what: that's what's happening now. We have to change. We have to quit being so disposable. Because "disposable" doesn't mean it goes away forever. It just means it goes away from YOU.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Change is Scary. Apparently.

Being a little greener in our everyday lives is actually a very easy thing to do. Heck, I have a book out about it. It just takes the tiniest little bit of change in thinking...

AHA. There's the problem. "Change." For some reason, we are reluctant to change. Oh, it's OK so long as it comes slowly and we barely notice it. But active change? That we have to think about? Nah. I get it. I was reluctant to learn my new cell phone when I got it. I was comfortable with my "old" one, even though it was becoming a cumbersome brick. Change can be hard. Heck, just this morning I had to force myself to take a different route up my hiking path. We become accustomed to certain things in our lives, and we hit a comfort level that we think we like. And if we change one thing, maybe we'll lose control in other areas? Is that what it is?

The changes we need to make really aren't so significant. A lot of it is remember the things we have forgotten how to do. Things like, washing tennis shoes when they get dirty, rather than getting a new pair. Turning off lights like Dad told us to when we were little. Not flushing after #1 because we saved water where we grew up with the wells and the septic tanks. We USED to do things, but we CHANGED... it's just that we changed so slowly that we didn't notice. We call this progress, I guess. Is it really? (That's a topic for another day!) I just think that some of the change we have to make to be greener is to change BACK to things we used to do. And that's not so scary. After all, we've been there. Is it the fear of going in the wrong direction? Does the Green movement make us think we aren't making progress? That's a deep thought... hm... more on that one later!

Back to Change. Here are some of the super-easy changes we can make every day, tiny little things that take the tiniest tweak in thinking, and that will lead to easier changes every week!

1) For the love of all things holy, TURN OFF the running water while brushing your teeth. I have lost count of how many times this gets put out there and people still don't do it. I don't know how it gets any easier than that.

2) Follow that up by not wasting a lot of running water while doing the dishes. See how easy these things are? And by doing them, we're just a little bit greener!

3) Skip the straw in your beverage. All the time. Just forget it. No straw. Give yourself a no-straw law. You can even start small, with just a few days a week. I'll wait.

4) Use less toothpaste, shampoo, dish detergent, etc. Scale back until you find the level of the least amount that works. You might be surprised to find how much less you really NEED.

5) Lower your thermostat/air conditioning. Instead of making it super-toasty during the winter, lower the heat a few degrees and throw on a sweater. In the summer, put the a/c up a few degrees. Do you really need to freeze? Put on a tank top and shorts. You're at home. No one cares how you are dressed.

Look at that! There is a week's worth of ways you can be the eensiest-teensiest bit greener, with SO little effort, and I've even given you the weekend off! Green does NOT have to be hard. What it is, is paying ATTENTION, and making some changes. That's not really so bad, is it? And you don't even have to preach to others. Just lead by example. BE the change. We can do this.

We have to.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Not OK. It's Poop. Scoop it!

Roughly 6 out of 7 days, I enjoy a nice power-walk up the nearby Hollywood Hills. My Runyon Canyon. I can walk to it, and I love it. It's a beautiful city park, mostly wild, not a lot of pavement, home to snakes and, I'm sure, more than a few coyotes. It is also an off-leash dog park, which I love, even though I don't have a dog. I get to see dogs of all shapes and breeds and sizes, and all of them are just happy to be out and walking and not one of them ever bothers me. They make me smile.

Dogs are great. I love dogs. What I do not love is their people. Not all of them... just those who feel they do NOT need to scoop the poop. What gives?? It's poop. It's gross. I don't want to smell it. I don't want to look at it. And, let us not forget, it is actually the LAW to pick it up. So why? Why the complete and total lack of compliance? Just because I have the audacity to want to walk where dogs also walk, that means I have to be the one who avoids the doggie-bombs?

"So what? We're outside." Yes we are. We ALL are. I'm here too. And I am not here to look at/smell your dog's excrement. I'm here to get some fresh air and exercise. YOU chose to have a dog. Part of having a dog is picking up the poop. You knew it pooped when you got it. "Outside", contrary to being a reason to leave it, is actually a reason to scoop it. It's poop. We are not that far from the ocean. So much poop was not meant to wash into the eco-system. And do you really want to think about swimming in poop run-off when you're at the beach? Um, ick.

But back to the more immediate issue: it's poop. Is there a reason you think it is OK to leave it lying there in a pile for all to see/smell/step in? "It's natural. It's biodegradable." So's my poop. You don't see me leaving a crap by the side of the trail. Is it really that much more acceptable to have dog poop there instead of human poop? (If you say yes to that, you have to show your work, BTW.) Yes, yes, it's biodegradable, but in the time it takes it to biodegrade, it attracts flies and puts off a lot of smelliness. This is not OK. It is unsightly, it is unsanitary, it is unhealthy. Above all, it is unnecessary.

I go back to an earlier point: you knew the dog produced crap when you got it. You know that when you take it for its walk, it is going to poop. You know it's the law. (You'd better, there are signs EVERYWHERE.) It is your responsibility, not only as a dog person but as a fellow human to the rest of us, to scoop that poop. There is absolutely no excuse to do otherwise. None. Nada. Nope. Nothing. Scoop it. Period.

Obviously, making it a law to "curb your dog" has no effect whatsoever. What's the answer? Can we shame people into cleaning up after their dogs? Unlikely. More vigilance? Hard to do. Personally, I dream of installing a doggie poop composting system at Runyon, because if even half of what is left is no longer left, it's an improvement. I fantasize of banning the irresponsible from having dogs at all. But that's just me. I tend to be extreme.

I have no solution. All I can do is try to catch people in the act, one at a time, and hope to make a tiny change.

Oh, and make sure to watch where I step.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What'll it take to give up our SUPpies?

I have made the change. It wasn't hard. It took a little thought and some action, but otherwise, it was next to effortless.

I have stopped using Single-Use Plastic Bottles. SUP's, for the catchy title peeps out there.

The worst people are the reformed, and I fall right in there. Ex-smokers make the most militant anti-smokers. Converts to religions are quite frequently the most gung-ho in the building. So that's me. I am a converted, reformed, SUP-user and I am here to say C'MON!!!! WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!

The warnings are all there. Icky things are leaching into your water from the bottles. Sure, you won't drink from it after it has been sitting in your hot car, and you don't dare re-use it like you could/should because, well, "ick". Don't you realize that bottle has ALREADY sat in a hot warehouse or hot rail car or hot truck, and has already leached ickiness before you even paid way too much for it? It's like when you use a straw at a restaurant because, ick, you wouldn't want your lips to touch the glass, but funny how you can use the silverware that got washed the same way as the glass. We need to THINK about things beyond what's in front of us!

I digress. Back to the point: it really isn't hard to NOT drink SUP bottled water. Tap filters are sold everywhere and are easy to install and are simple to use, and you can't spit without seeing reusable bottle for purchase. When you break down the costs, it evens out just fine. Plus you aren't lugging those pallets of water around. So. We see that is is simple to replace SUPs in life. Why don't we DO it?

Is it convenience (that evil word again!)? Is it status? "I have to be seen drinking better water that YOU." That can't be it. We can get so-called status by having a better reusable bottle, if that's what it takes. Seriously, folks. Is it that our tap water is THAT scary? In many, many places, it is not. And, again, a tap filter will easily cure that. There are exceptions, but not to the point that we use SUPs. So, what's the fascination?

I have no answers. I don't know why we are so stubborn, why it is so hard to break the SUP habit. Maybe we feel we are entitled to such "luxuries" as bottled water. (After all, tap water is so... pedestrian.) I don't understand why seeing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch doesn't send people screaming to the hills, the way it does me. I can't wrap my mind around the concept that people think, just because the SUP goes in the recycle bin, that it actually GETS recycled. Or that, if thrown in the garbage, it will magically get transported to a recycling facility on its own. I just don't get it. I may never get it.

For now, I'll just have to content myself with glaring at people with their SUPpies. Who knows? Maybe if enough of us glare hard enough, we can make the change happen.

The Price of Convenience

We got it so easy these days. Think about it: our water comes conveniently pre-packaged and sanitized for us. We don't even have to turn on the faucet. Our cleaners do the work, so we don't have to. Our dental floss comes on nifty little plastic handles so we don't have to work at flossing. Our little prunes come individually wrapped (???), and all kinds of foods come in perfect little serving sizes in perfect little plastic containers so we never even have to worry our little heads about portions. Heck, even dog food comes that way.

There is a price to pay for all this convenience. Our landfills are filled, our oceans have giant swirly patches of garbage (visible from SPACE!!!), our kids are slowly being poisoned with BPA... should I even mention the oil needed for all this stuff? Our cleaners are so strong that we can't breathe when we spray them. We don't want to have to scrub. I have to wonder, what is so wrong with using a little elbow grease? We are so consumed with being fast, easy, efficient, that we have forgotten that it's OK to have to WORK once in awhile. "Our grandparents had it so hard." Really? Actually, I think they had character and knew how to DO stuff. They were pretty cool. They were tough. They weren't afraid of a little hard work. They didn't need products to do their work and thinking for them.

So, have we made a better world for ourselves? Or have we just fallen prey to what the leading companies want us to buy? I can't help but feel that our values have fallen off target amidst all these "modern conveniences". I see a lot of mentality that we don't want to have to work as hard as our grandparents did, and we want our children to have it easier than we did. I'd like to challenge that mentality. Weren't our grandparents pretty cool people? My grandpa was a guy I really wanted to know. He died when I was a little too young to appreciate him, but from what I know of him, I wish he could have been around a lot longer. He had the best garden I have ever seen. He built his own house, and it was a GOOD house. He could go into the woods and find all the food he would ever need to survive. Not that he would have ever gotten lost. And he didn't need a cell phone or a GPS. I'll bet he had forgotten more than most people today know how to do.

I think about this a lot. It occurs to me that perhaps we should never have forgotten these things that we "used" to do. We need to get back to them. I understand, it's all in the name of progress, and it is a necessary evolution. But I wonder what progress has brought us. We are fatter, we are lazier, and we are darned near helpless without all our "stuff". The little bit of fresh water on the planet is polluted with all our super-chemicals. Our immunities are shot because we think we have to use antibacterial soap everywhere and we don't dare expose our kids to the germs they NEED to be exposed to. Allergies, asthma, autism. THESE are just a few of the prices we have been paying, and our kids are holding the bills.

Why rake? We have leaf-blowers. It's easier. Why shovel snow? We have snow-blowers. It's easier. Why scrub? It's easier to spray down the shower and walk away. We sure don't have time to do any of that anymore. After all, we have to spend much more time at our jobs... we have pallets of bottled water to pay for. And gym memberships, to make up for the exercise we aren't getting anywhere else.

I think I'll go unwrap me a prune now. They're just so darned convenient.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Clothesline = Poor. Seriously???

Back East, when the Good Green Witch was small enough to duck under the clothesline, Spring and Summer meant we could hang clothes out to dry. We had the room in the back yard, and hanging the bedsheets out there just made sense. Why use the dryer when it was already too warm in the house? It was our yard, no one could really see behind our house, and pretty much everyone did it. Did we equate it with being green? Nope. It just made sense. Did we equate it with being "poor"?? Nah. It was the sensible way to do things. That's all.

Nowadays, people dwell in condos and apartment buildings and pay dues to the neighborhood associations. Such a thing as hanging clothes outside is simply not acceptable. It is unsightly! It would bring down property values! It's downright unseemly! Proper folks just don't do that! Do we want people to think we are poor??? Don't only the "poor" hang out their clothes to dry??

Whoa. Wait a minute. There's something behind this mentality. It is true: it has become a sign of "lower income" to think that one must use a clothesline. Where does this come from?

We have fallen pray to advertising for many years. Think about it: companies don't care how clean your home is or how sanitary your toilet is or even if you have e. coli running around your kitchen counters. They want to SELL you their products. They sell ideas, they sell fear, they sell status. That is how they sell products. Way back whenever, people who were hired to sell dryers had to compete with all the Great Outdoors... However can a drying machine compete with FREE? Challenge the status, of course! If you were well-to-do, you bought a newfangled washer and dryer, which meant you didn't have to work as hard at your laundry and had the leisure time and luxury afforded to such wealth. Only those poor families down the street had to work so hard, because they couldn't AFFORD a dryer. See? Clothesline = poverty.

But today, we can see around and beyond that mentality. We can think for ourselves, and not be ruled by advertising. We realize that hanging clothes outside is better for our electricity bill, gas bill, etc. It's not a sign of poverty, but rather a sign of sustainability, of Green-ness, of concern. Dare we say, frugality? These communities that forbid clotheslines... we need to change that way of thinking and realize why we are bound to these incorrect beliefs. We need to remember that our grandparents really knew what they were doing. We need to realize that convenience is not our best friend.

We need to open our eyes and ears, and start questioning what we see on TV. We can start to ask. "Hmm. Do I REALLY need that?" Sometimes it's OK that the answer is no. We don't need that! And no, just because we like the fresh smell of Sun and wind-dried clothes and to save a little energy, doesn't mean we are poor. It means we're trying, and we are Green.