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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Did I fall off the sustainability wagon?

 
Three years ago I realized I needed to spend some time focused on my health and well-being. I declared that I would spend a “Year about me.” That turned into Year Two, and then ultimately three total years “about me.” Yes, it took a little longer than I expected.

A brief look back

For those new to this blog, the brief backstory is this: in 2007, my husband and I left Los Angeles (my home of 10 years) and moved to the outskirts of a town of 1,600 people in Northern California wine country. For a year, we essentially lived off the land.

We turned a barren, over-tilled backyard into a 2000 square foot garden. Every day we had fresh food from the garden, fresh bread from our own starter, fresh cheese we made from local cows milk, and fresh wine from a local organic vineyard.

We also worked to reduce our carbon footprint to just 10% of the American average.

And I blogged about it all.

It was beautiful.

But the recession hit, our rescued cat almost died from pesticides (a canary in a coal mine), I couldn’t find a local job, and we depleted our savings.

We tried back to the land, but it wasn’t right for us, at least not at that time in our lives.

So we moved back to Seattle, my original home, to live sustainably in an urban center. We became involved in our local community, we gardened in a community garden plot, we walked or took the bus everywhere, we made new lifestyle changes.

I started a business that was going to change the world. Matt started a new career path.

And shortly after we moved, the meaning of sustainability changed for me. I realized I was working so hard to “save the planet”, that my body and mind were suffering – for the long, hard work weeks of a startup, plus blogging every day, plus all the volunteer work I was doing.

Thus the year about me began.

Where I am now

Over the last few years, I’ve hinted at some changes. We went on a juice cleanse. And another. I started meditating and doing yoga, and having regular medical massage sessions. I stopped eating gluten.

Daily pains I thought were a way of life are now gone. I lost 10 lbs. and 4 pant sizes (from inflammation loss). I’m doing really great work that I love.

The positive changes

  1. Reduced medications. A reduction my meds means less medications being produced for me, less medications ending up in the waste stream, and probably increased longevity.
  2. Reduced driving. I drive maybe once a week, for an average of 5 miles or so.
  3. I shop locally. More often than I did before. Last year I didn’t make all my Christmas presents, but I did buy them all within a 5 mile radius.
  4. Reduced home/work carbon footprint. I worked within walking distance, and now I work from home. In an apartment. Where our footprint is lower than a house.
  5. Fewer medical visits. My primary doctor is a naturopath, who looks at my body holistically. Often what the American medical system thinks is a big deal, for a naturopath it’s about rebalancing your body (more on that later).
  6. Community impact. I’m now on the boards of two non-profit organizations. One is our local community gardening trust, which I’m leading into a new era of supporting gardens and urban farms throughout the northwest (not just in our own city).
  7. I’m truly amplifying my impact through my work. I am empowering some great organizations and businesses to do more of their work, better.

The less “good”

  1. I travel a lot for work. I recently started offsetting my carbon. And I do a lot of work remotely with great online tools. And I travel with a reusable coffee cup, water bottle and bag. But I still travel.
  2. I don’t worry as much about my waste. We eat packaged food quite a bit. Still organic, often local, almost always recycled but nonetheless packaged. I just don’t have time with work and the other things I’m doing.
  3. I’m not writing as much, which means I’m not amplifying my impact in that way so much. Working on that now!
  4. I buy new clothes. Until recently (after the Bangladesh disasters), I hadn’t looked too much at the supply chains of the clothing I bought. Now I do… some. That’s one to work on together.
  5. I’m not gardening as much. I still have my garden but I’m not an ideal gardener. My garden has weeds, I don’t nurture it the way a good gardener would.
  6. I went back to some products. I still make my own deodorant. A little different from that recipe – I’ll have to post it. But I use packaged shampoo (SLS-free), soap, other cleaning products (natural, organic, local when possible).
  7. I buy from Amazon. It’s technically local – I can see the Amazon HQ from my living room – but it’s hardly really supporting my local economy. I can do better.

So, did I fall off the wagon?

I’m not sure if I’m less or more sustainable than I was 3 years ago. Less in some ways, more in others. I do, however, know that I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been in a very long time.

And that personal sustainability means I’m more productive in the socially and environmentally good work I do in my day job, and I spread that positivity into the world as I go about my life.

There is always room for improvement. I could use a little help from you all to keep me on track for those improvements. So here we are.

Let’s get back on the path to sustainability together. I missed you all!

Changes are coming!

 

After a long hiatus, I am coming back!

This past year (plus) has been about my own personal renewal, refocus, redirection. Physician heal thyself. It’s true that to give all of me, I needed to learn to regularly rejuvenate.

I have done that. Among other things, I have changed my lifestyle to leave room for yoga and – most importantly – meditation. It has benefited me in numerous ways I’ll unfold in later stories here.

In the past year I have created a new business I LOVE, I have healed several physical ailments, I have come back home to myself. It is wonderful.

You’ll see me back here soon. Until then, if you haven’t subscribed you might consider it. It’s free (of course), and that way you’ll receive word as soon as I’m back. You can subscribe via email, and via feed readers.

Thanks for waiting! And thanks to all of you who have sent encouraging emails and comments.

Wishing all my best to everyone who is a part of this community,

Melinda

What would you like to see here?

Happy 2013!!

As you can see, it has been a while since I’ve posted. I’m working on a lot of different aspects of my life and lifestyle, all of which take time. Time is, of course, a limited resource, so my writing has faltered as a result.

However, I’m constantly thinking about One Green Generation – the many wonderful relationships built here, the resources shared, the motivations we provide one another. And I want to continue this is some way.

So, what would you like to see here? The sky is the limit, for the moment – please let me know what One Green Generation means to you, and how it might help you.

For instance, I’ve been pondering:

  1. A community website and forum (where anyone can blog and share tips & tricks for sustainable living)
  2. A blog I post ~ once a week
  3. Focus on sustainability challenges (I put a challenge out once a month, and we all report in)
  4. Let One Green Generation go (instead I’d focus on my work blog about strategy, branding & storytelling for social & environmental change)
  5. Something else I haven’t thought of 

I’d love to know your thoughts! Please share them with me in the comments or via email. This post will remain here for a while, so please let me know when you can.

Thanks.

Wishing you a wonderful, sustainable 2013,
Melinda

A Year About Me: Year Two

I’ve spent a lifetime of working to help others and save the world, often to the detriment of my own health and well-being. So in retrospect, I can’t believe I thought I’d be able to dedicate one full year to myself… and then feel completed.

It seems that this will be year two of the “year about me”!

To be clear, I don’t want to change my dedication to helping others and making a large impact. In fact, if there is one thing I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that taking care of myself makes my work with and for others MORE effective.

2011 The Year About Me: Nurturing and healing my body

I made vast improvements to my health, the result of which is that I am only taking one asthma medication (from a high of seven medications at one point), I am gluten free, I have significantly decreased my waist size, I have fewer migraine headaches, I am regularly exercising and doing breathing exercises (pranayama) to increase lung capacity and decrease stress. I’m also finally learning how to relax. These are among many other improvements.

This quest for bodily awareness, nurturing, and healing is of course not over – but several things are put into motion so that I can focus on the next layer of my own well-being.

2012 The Year About Me: Nurturing and opening my mind

Compasssion

In the beginning of this year, I picked an outgoing word and an incoming word that help describe my vision for 2012. The outgoing word: judgment. The incoming word: compassion. Out with judgment, in with compassion.

As I began thinking and reading more about compassion, I quickly realized that compassion has a solid root and foundation in self-compassion. Without self-compassion, compassion for others falls flat. Without self-empathy, I don’t believe you can feel deep empathy for another being. (There are likely many layers to this equation – for instance, self-knowledge is a large part of self-empathy…. and so on.)

Early Results

Already I’ve noticed that in devoting time to nurturing my mind – namely with meditation and “breath walking” – I have been able to work more efficiently, and I have been able to see the bigger (strategic) picture of my work more readily. I’ve become a better interviewer when I’m creating documentary films. I’ve become a better strategic thinker when I’m working with my startup clients. I’ve become more creatively inspired when working on graphic design or brand storytelling. And I’ve even become a more pleasant person in basic interactions with strangers – like at the grocery store, at a networking event or just walking down the street.

They are little changes: it’s not like I’ve become fundamentally different person! But many things that I do take a little bit less effort to accomplish, and I feel like I’m accomplishing them just a little bit better than I was even a few months ago.

By nurturing my mind, I believe I’m becoming more effective at nurturing the world. This is similar to last year: by nurturing my body, I found I was less focused on pain, pharmaceuticals and just getting through the day.

And the most amazing thing is that my pain has improved even more as I nurture my mind. Half of meditation for me at the moment is exploring the many layers of bodily relaxation. (The other half is exploring mind relaxation.) As a result, there have been a few moments when I’ve realized that I am feeling no pain at all – anywhere in my body. It’s incredible, almost surreal.

How does this impact One Green Generation?

I don’t know what this year has in store, but I will share it with you! One of the ways I’ve found throughout the years to nurture and open my mind, is to write. I am a writer, and the times in my life when I have regularly fed my writing instincts are the times when I have transformed most.

Thank you for your encouragement!

I still receive regular emails asking me questions, thanking me for writing, and hoping I’ll return soon. Without my writing much lately, each day there are still about 2,500-3,000 of you who visit to look through the archives! So this is a community I hope to more actively nurture again.  It would be amazing if we could help one another more along our sustainable journeys.

It will be a process getting back to it: letting myself have the time for writing regularly again. But I believe it will happen. Feel free to prod me via email or comments if you see I’m absent for a while here. :)

And thank you all for your continued emails and comments. They mean a great deal, and I’m glad to have helped some of you along your own journeys.

And how are you?

How is your year going? How are you progressing with your hopes and dreams for the year, and for your life? Are you on a path that nurtures you?

All those of you who have done some of this self-exploration and self-nurturing, please recommend any resources that have helped you! I may benefit from your recommendations, as may other readers here.

The Abyss of Pain

Many of you have written wondering where I’ve been. Many thanks to all of you who left me good wishes via email and Facebook.

A few weeks ago I started feeling a dull pain in my elbow. A week later, I had pretty severe pain in my neck. Soon after, the pain radiated from my neck, through my shoulders, down my arm, and into my fingers. Finally, it was accompanied by occasional numbness and a feeling that my elbow was on fire.

Over a few weeks, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t think straight!

First Stop

First stop on the road to wellness, I went to a conventional physician – a new one because we have new health insurance.  She evaluated me for 2 minutes or so (no kidding) and told me I had nondescript pain in my neck and shoulders, with fairly severe tennis elbow.  Then she gave me a referral to physical therapy.  And that was it.

Second Stop

I promptly called physical therapy, and they told me I couldn’t see one person for those three different things: they had a neck and shoulders physical therapist, and an elbow therapist – I’d have to see both.  And the next available appointment was 1 week away for the neck and shoulders, and 3 weeks away for the elbow.  Oh, and they were in two different locations.

Trying to explain that my neck bone was connected to my shoulder bone, and shoulder bone is connected to the elbow bone… didn’t work. Nope, there wasn’t anyone who could do that.

I was in so much pain my eyes were tearing, I was grumpy, and I was having real difficulty concentrating on my work.  The only time the pain subsided at all was if I was lying in bed in one particular position. And here I was faced with another 3 weeks of this sharp, radiating pain before comfort was even in sight.

Third Stop

So I made an appointment with my Naturopathic Doctor.  He saw me just 2 days later.

Instantly Kevin sensed I was in a lot of pain.  He spent 1/2 hour with me, learning exactly what was going on – by talking, moving and feeling my joints, and testing my strength and mobility.

His diagnosis:  Nerve pain in my neck.  I have a bad disc in my neck, that was probably injured back when I was in a car accident long ago and has now been re-injured.  Ah, I realized, I’ve had tingling in my fingers for a long time.

At the same time, I managed also to get tennis elbow – probably from hyperextending my arms in my new yoga practice.  So the two injuries were aggravating one another.  (Because the neck bone is connected to the shoulder bone… and so on.)

Kevin gently and carefully adjusted my neck and back. He gave me exercises. And pharmaceuticals (at that point I was ready). And specific vitamin supplements – for short-term and long-term healing. And orders to rest and ice as often as possible. And orders to make my desk even more ergonomic than it already is.  And to modify my yoga postures when I go back to yoga.

That was 2 weeks ago. I am finally able to concentrate for a full day at work.  Though I still get awfully tired – I have a difficult time getting up in the morning and I’m ready to go home by 4pm, exhausted. The pain is still there but it’s not mind-numbing anymore.

The Abyss Of Pain

I’m sure some of you have been to this place:  the abyss of pain.  It’s a cloudy-headed, self-absorbed, cranky and impatient, dark hole of dispair and disrepair.  In that abyss, your brain can really only focus solidly on the immediate needs before you.

Have you been there?

It’s terrible. I’m lucky that the people around me understand, support and forgive me.

If  you ever find yourself in that abyss, first be sure to tell others around you what you’re going through – otherwise they won’t know, can’t support you, and might be less willing to forgive you for your impatience. And second, be sure to advocate for yourself until you get the care you need to overcome the pain.

Now it’s like a fog is lifting. I can write again. I can see the bigger picture again – the bigger picture of life, of business, of the planet…

Hello again.

Thank You

I am deeply mired in finishing up a Report for a deadline this afternoon, but I wanted to pop in to say thank you to each of you.

I’ve really enjoyed reading all your comments over the last few days.  Thank you all for contributing so much to this community.  And thank you so much for the lovely things many of you have said about me and this website.

It’s your comments and emails – and the amazing sunsets I see from my office (above) – that keep me going on long days!

Please always feel free to discuss, comment, ask questions, follow the Facebook and Twitter conversations, or just listen if that’s where you are right now.  I’m glad you’re reading.

It’s sunny and beautiful in Seattle this morning.  I hope you’re having a lovely day!

What are You Up to This Weekend, btw?

I’m excited to do some good garden work – and to get outside and away from the computer!  I’ll be planting lots of seeds and seedlings – carrots, greens, peppers, beans, peas… can’t wait to sink my teeth into their fresh goodness in a couple months!

What about you?  Are you trying anything new?  Participating in any community activities?

How Is Your Local Government Doing During The Recession?

A few months ago, my husband and I created a video for Countywide Community Forums.  It’s a program that brings policy makers and citizens together to talk about local issues – a really fabulous idea, don’t you think??

We’re creating another film now – I can’t wait to tell you about it.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share the video we created about how local governments are suffering during the Recession – and how we all suffer as a result.

Most of these issues are not specific to our county, or our state.  Most of these issues are not even particular to our country during the Recession.

So if you have a few minutes to spare today…

Government in Challenging Economic Times on Vimeo.  (If you’re curious, you can see a few of my other videos here.)

Sadly, our local government budgets have only decreased since we made this video.

How is your local government doing?