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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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10 Ways Meditation is Green, Frugal, Healthy and Sustainable

I realized the other morning that there may be folks who wonder why meditation is something I’ve started mentioning at One Green Generation.  Meditation in our society is sometimes perceived as selfish, intangible, hippy-like silliness, time-wasting or… there are many other terms that could work here.  I’ll admit that I, too, had some of these misconceptions not too long ago.

But since I started a meditation practice a few months ago, I have come to understand how much it can play a role in our daily lives as we strive to be as sustainable as we can be.

If any of you are starting to wonder what meditation is and how it can play a role, or if you’re struggling to make it a part of your lifestyle, I hope this will help encourage you!!

How Mediation is Green, Frugal, Healthy and Sustainable

  1. It can take the place of or reduce medications that cost money, support the pharmaceutical industry and can become hazardous to our waterways and fish habitats.  This includes pain medication,  antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, asthma and heart medications, and more.  (Obviously make sure to work with your doctor on this!)
  2. It brings about compassion within yourself that radiates far beyond you to other people and other living beings.  I personally believe compassion is one of the keys to people chosing to live sustainably.
  3. It increases productivity at work, at home, during daily tasks and in daily thoughts.  I’ve heard it several times, and I believe it’s true: meditation actually puts more time into your day.  If you put 30 minutes into meditation, you get at least 30 minutes back via increased productivity.  It’s shocking (and makes “I don’t have time for meditation” a weak excuse!)
  4. It strengthens relationships as you learn to pause before letting anger blindly strike, to listen more effectively and compassionately, and to become more intuitive and caring in your actions and reactions.
  5. You are more likely to think about the honest consequences before doing something – which can affect your health, your relationships, and the environment.
  6. It’s free psychotherapy – meditation can help you break through anxiety, depression, childhood issues, and, I’m finding, so much more…!
  7. It can make your community stronger. If you meditate with other people in your community, it ties you with stronger bonds to those around you, it brings you together so your compassion ripples outward with stronger effect, and it strengthens, deepens and helps sustain your own practice.
  8. It can reduce your desires for material things, and heighten desires for non-material experiences.  This may be a personal effect on me alone, but it is a strong effect: material things don’t seem to matter as much.  Plus I’m more likely to read a book, go for a walk, chat with my husband or do other energy-saving activities – rather than watch tv or do something that requires driving and/or money.
  9. It makes you more thankful for the beauty and insight around you, more aware of your surroundings, and happier while doing every day chores.  Being present in the moment has made it more fulfilling, calming and meditating as I do the dishes, make dinner, bake bread, even do my taxes.
  10. It facilitates becoming more involved in your community, even in small ways like saying “hello” as you walk by someone on the street, going into a local shop instead of a large chain store, gardening or going for a walk, volunteering, or finding your own other route for becoming involved. Because you have more time in your day, different priorities for your time, and more devotion to well-being.
  11. There is one more big one for me: it has helped me transcend my every day labors to understand my own potential, where I want to head with my life and my work, and how I might best go about it.  This doesn’t happen so much while meditating as it does afterward, in the open spaces in my mind that meditation has cleared for just such important thoughts.

My meditation practice is truly becoming richer by the day.  This is my personal list of ways I believe meditation strengthens our sustainable lifestyle – there are several other resources and studies out there that show the health benefits of meditation. When you start to delve into it, it’s pretty incredible what you’ll find!

What about you?

Did I miss anything?  Do you have a meditation practice of your own?

It's Earth Day. Do Something!

Let’s Do Something.

I have an email box full of marketers’ pleas to feature products on Earth Day.  There are loads of conferences all over the world this week.  And then there’s a huge backlash of bloggers coming out against Earth Day and all the bad it now stands for (over consumption, etc).

But don’t get caught reacting so hard against commercialization that you lose sight of the reason Earth Day began. Make it your own.

Take it back. Take Back Earth Day.  Don’t use this day to buy stuff, but instead DO SOMETHING.

Sure, every day is (and should be) Earth Day.  But today it’s official, so DO SOMETHING BIGGER than you normally would.

There is a song that has been inspiring me lately.  I’ll share it here in case it inspires you.

Here are the lyrics:

Don’t they know that there’s something going on
What they’re harming with their indecision
But who will be left standing when I’m gone?
There’ll be nothing left but a vision

It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to the light
It’s too easy to bow your head and pray
There are some times when you should try to find your voice
This is one voice that you must find today

Are you hoping for a miracle
As the ice caps melt away?
No use hoping for a miracle
There’s a price we’ll have to pay

It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to the light
It’s too easy to bow your head and pray
There are some times when you should try to find your voice
This is one voice that you must find today

If this doesn’t inspire you, find something that does inspire you and then go do something.  Because it won’t get any easier.

And then, try not to let a day pass where you don’t do something.  No matter how small.

Take your kids to a park, call or write a Senator, compose a blog post or a letter to the editor, support a local non-profit, volunteer, read, unplug for a day, attend a local community gathering, cut down on your electric bill, … do something.

Have a lovely, productive Earth Day everyone!

What Are You Doing Today?

What Fertilizer Do You Use for Tomatoes and Peppers?

Kevin’s Question…

Hi Melinda,

I appreciate the information you provided on your website about how to pollinate tomatoes and peppers.  Thank you.

Currently I am using Miracle Grow as a fertilizer… (I know…BOOOO!  HIIISSS!)…but I am hoping to move away from that once I feel more comfortable with my abilities as a gardener.

What is a more natural substitute and does this subsititute provide similar results to Miracle Grow?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.  Thank you.  :)

Take care,
Kevin

I just received this email this morning, and thought I could throw it out to all of us to answer:  As you’re planning your gardens for Spring in the Northern Hemisphere (or putting them to bed in the Southern Hemisphere)…

What Do YOU Use to Feed Tomatoes and Peppers??

 

Cleanse: Day 4 and 5 - Olive Oil

Tablespoon of Olive Oil

Drinking Olive Oil During A Cleanse

Someone very wise told me recently, “you can do anything once.”

On day 3 of the cleanse, our bowel movements were a bit… less than fluid.  Still present, but not quite what they should be (“like peanut butter”) according to Dr. Junger.

Side note: I never, ever thought I’d be writing about bowel movements in public view.  LOL, how my new normal has changed!

I had been adding some flax to my smoothies, morning and evening.  That helped, but wasn’t enough.  So… one night Matt and I decided to take the plunge: Olive Oil.  Straight up.  Before bedtime.

Ick, right?  Kinda goes against our instincts.  A. Drinking oil seems icky.  B. We try to minimize oil intake to minimize fat intake (knowing you need some fat, of course).  C. It seems weird… and icky.

So we got out the olive oil, poured it into our tablespoon, and… stared at it.

Olive Oil... for drinking?

Then we laughed.  “Who are we?  What are we doing?”

“Ah well, you can do anything once,” I said, and I took a deep breath and downed it.

Then I quickly grabbed my lemon water and chased it down.

It was… oily.  And a bit spicy.  And a bit icky.

My husband downed his next and made a funny face.  Then we laughed together.

“Well, that was an adventure,” Matt said.

So… Did it Work?

Yep, the next day and the following day:  like peanut butter.

The Cleanse Day 4-5

Blueberry smoothie for breakfast.

Lentils, brussels sprouts, rice for lunch.

Tropical Smoothie for dinner (mango, pineapple, coconut milk, agave syrup).

Blueberry smoothie for breakfast.

Smoothie at a juice bar for lunch.

Salmon, brown rice, greens at a restaurant for dinner.

Tropical Smoothie

Well-Being Meter

I love it so much, I’m already telling everyone about the cleanse – is it too soon to be touting this?  What will happen in week 2 and 3?

There’s this hill I have to climb every night on the way home from work.  Some people just fly by me, walking up that hill so fast and seemingly without effort!  Are they younger than I am? No. Are they lighter than I am? No.  Are they more fit than I am? Doesn’t look like it most of the time.  So what then?

I found out today.  They have ENERGY.  And now, so do I.

Suddenly I’m the one passing other people while walking up that hill.

Feels good.

Natural, Non-Toxic, Frugal, and Organic Hair Color

My New Red Hair

I don’t wear makeup very often, I use virtually no beauty products regularly… but I have colored my hair for YEARS.  Since I was a sophomore in high school in fact!  My natural hair color is a dishwater blonde that doesn’t really flatter my skin tone and it makes me feel very much like I recede into a crowd.  Coloring my hair is fun, makes me feel good, and allows me to shape how others see me.

But in the last 2 years, as I learned to live an increasingly sustainable life, I couldn’t bring myself to use those nasty chemicals anymore!  They are really bad for your skin, your health, and the planet.  I even tried some of the “natural” hair tints in the natural foods store, only to look up their ingredients and find they weren’t much better than the “non-natural” varieties.

A few weeks ago, however, I was feeling low and frumpy and overworked, and I hit my limit.  I needed a change!  I couldn’t bring myself to go to a salon and use all the crazy chemicals there.  So I went to the natural food store and read every single package of hair color.

Ick. This or that kind of alcohol or sulfite or SLS or – wow – I was so disappointed that there really wasn’t anything!

For twenty minutes I stared at these packages, hoping that somehow the ingredients would change before my eyes, or that maybe one of the colors didn’t have nasty stuff in it.  But alas, I began to walk away, giving up.

And then…

In the same packaging it had when I used to color my hair in college 15 years ago… Henna.

Ingredients:  Henna.

That’s all.

I was a bit apprehensive.  There were only 4 colors, and I’m used to having a high amount of control over the color process.  But it was only $6.  Yes, $6!!  So I bought it.

I got it home and looked inside the package:  green powder.  I remembered henna being pretty and giving my hair some nice, natural color and shine.  But I was still unsure.  So just in case, I looked up how to get out the hair color if I hated it.

How To Get Henna Out Of Your Hair

There are instructions inside the box for how to use powdered Minute Maid to remove the color.  Here are further instructions from Light Mountain – they recommend using the first two options within 24 hours:

A. For darker shades make a mixture of baking soda and molasses using equal parts. Make up enough of the mixture to be able to coat all of your hair. Apply this mixture to your hair and let it dry, a blow dryer can be used, until it is hard then rinse out.

B. For lighter shades make a mixture of Crystal Light lemonade mix  and a rinse out cream rinse/conditioner using equal parts. Use 1/2 cup of cream rinse/conditioner to one tub of lemonade mix. Apply to your hair and let dry, a blow dryer can be used, then rinse out.

C. If the treatment is older, more than 24 hours, you can try using a high detergent shampoo and a deep conditioner. The conditioner should be one that you leave on the hair for 20 minutes. You can also try a “clarifying” shampoo, also known as “swimmer’s shampoo”.

Easy enough.  Ok, I took the plunge…

Henna in Hair

Applying Henna To Your Hair

I followed the very detailed instructions that came inside the package.  It’s like putting mud on your hair – it takes a little getting used to.  (Yes, redefining normal:  it’s ok to put a mud-like substance on your hair rather than a chemical mess!)

  1. Protect. The package comes with gloves.  Use them!  Henna will color your hands a pretty color, too!  Also moisturize your face beforehand, and apply some kind of oil to your hairline around your face – I use jojoba oil, but olive oil or any other type of oil will work.  This keeps the henna from dying your face.  But don’t worry – chances are that you will drop some on your skin, and just make sure to get it off right away so it doesn’t sit there long enough to dye your skin.
  2. Mix. Pour the henna in a NON-METAL bowl with NON-METAL utensil.  In a NON-METAL container, boil 3 cups of distilled or filtered water.  Gradually stir in enough water for it to be thick but not too thick – about the consistency of pudding.
  3. Let it Sit. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to 2 hours – the longer you let it sit, the deeper and faster the color (I let it sit for 2 hours).
  4. Apply. Apply it as you would apply any hair color:  divide your hair into sections with a NON-METAL comb or brush and NON-METAL clips.  Apply from the roots outward with your hands, comb or brush.  Cover with the plastic bag that comes with the henna.
  5. Heat. Optional.  Heat will enhance red shades in particular, and decreased the amount of time you need to leave the henna in your hair.  I blow dried my hair for about 20 minutes – I felt guilty about using the electricity but was too vain not to.  You can also sit in the sun if it’s a warm day.
  6. Leave In. Up to 2 hours.  The longer you leave it in, the deeper the color.
  7. Rinse. Rinse with warm water.  If you like, you can use a dilute baking soda mixture to help rinse out the henna, but don’t shampoo.  Wait for 24 hours before shampooing, so the color has time to set.

Hair drying henna

The Result

Seriously, my $6 application of henna came out just the way a $125 hair color would (and has) in a salon!  Not only that, but it is healthy for my hair rather than a depleting process, it doesn’t make my skin break out the way salon dyes do, it smells nice, and I’ve received a whole lot of compliments.

I’m hooked!  And I’m glad I didn’t have to use the Minute Maid.

My New Red Hair

What Do You Use?

Do you color your hair? If so, what do you use?

Time-Saving Tips For Sustainable Living

When I asked you all recently what was the most difficult part of sustainable living, many of you said “not having enough time.” I will admit this is my number one issue as well. So let’s tackle it!

I have been perusing the internet searching for time-saving tips that are in line with a sustainable lifestyle. Below are the best ones I found – many of which I know…. but don’t practice. So over the coming few weeks, I’m going to tackle this list. Please feel free to join me!

And if you are one of those people who has begun to master the art of getting everything done that you’d like to get done, please tell us your tricks!!

Time-Saving Tips For Sustainable Living

  1. Give Up Perfection and Focus On Being Human. I am a perfectionist.  I want my garden, my home, my work, and my life to be just the way I imagine them.  That is to say, I want them perfect.  Like the movies, like advertisements, like the picture in the recipe book or the photo I took on my own blog a year ago.  Alas, it’s time to give up perfection for something slightly more human!
  2. Find Something Constructive That Releases Stress. Most of us have the urge to plop on the couch after a long day’s work in front of the television.  Even those of us who gave up television, might go through phases of watching tv or movies via the internet or video rental (cough, cough).  And while that de-stressing time is incredibly valuable, I will be looking for ways that help me de-stress while at the same time being constructive.  For example, reading my book for my new book group, or planting greens on our balcony, or looking up tips for saving time.  Some of you might find knitting or sewing or cooking does the trick.  I’m going to start working on the latter more!
  3. Keep a Notepad Filled with To-Dos and Ideas. Keep a running to-do list to keep track of what you need to do on a daily basis, and group your to-dos into logical chunks.   Write down ideas you have throughout the day (I do this with blog post ideas all the time).  Also make sure to keep these all in one place, so you don’t have search for them and so you don’t have ten to-do lists in various spots.  (Right now I think I have 5 or 6 running to-do lists in various spots on paper and on the computer!)  Finally, make sure to check off things you’ve accomplished.  That’s the best part!
  4. Play Speed Games. While a slow and deliberate life is important, there are likely some to-dos on your list that just don’t need to be done very deliberately, or you don’t have time to complete them slowly.  My sister and I used to play “speed dishes” when we were kids:  who could get done all the dishes fastest, without breaking anything of course!   Maybe play speed grocery shopping, where you focus on getting everything on your shopping list as quickly as possible.  Or play concentrated cleaning, or if you’ve brought a little work home for the night play speed work and get it done quickly.
  5. Delegate Tasks. Whether you’re at work or at home, sometimes you can delegate work to someone else and have it done more effectively and efficiently.  At work, teach your coworkers or interns how to help.  At home, teach your children – teach them to tidy their rooms and those of the rest of the house, to do the dishes, to clean the laundry, to mend, to walk the dog, and to water the garden.  I am incredibly grateful my mother taught me these things!
  6. Organize and De-Clutter. You should see my sock drawer!  Sometimes it’s full of nicely folded and matched socks, and sometimes it is an array of odds and ends.  I cannot believe how much time it takes me – let alone the frustration – to find 2 matching socks when the drawer is in disarray.  The same goes for anywhere I keep daily items.
  7. Prioritize and Be Ok With Not Doing Everything. At work in particular I find it difficult to say no when a colleague or employee asks for help.  At home too, I want to go to every social function and take advantage of every event in my building.  But sometimes I have to say no.  It’s a tough balance I’m still learning.  I believe the most important thing is to figure out my long-term goals, and make sure I prioritize the tasks that will get me there.
  8. Create a Routine. I always feel better when I get up at the same time each day, go to bed at the same time each evening, and have a pretty steady routine in between.  It helps me plan my day better and I don’t have to think so much about each element of the day.  Big bonus points when I make my lunch as a part of that routine: it’s cheaper, easier, healthier, and often saves time.  I might just try making it the night before…
  9. Cook In Larger Quantities. Whenever we fill the crock pot for dinner, I have my lunch ready-made the next day.  We’re not very good about eating the same thing for dinner two nights in a row, but we do freeze unused portions for later.  Ok, time to do more crock pot dinners!
  10. Calendarize. A year ago, my husband told me I needed to live by my calendar.  I hated the thought, and felt it was way outside of my personality.  But slowly, I started keeping a regular calendar and using it to prioritize my day, schedule my week, and see the big picture.  I can track my goals, so I accomplish the things I want to accomplish!  I don’t forget birthdays (much), or anniversaries, or important social events.  I can also see my husband’s calendar and know what he’s up to, which is surprisingly useful.  This is one thing I do pretty well – phew!

What else?

I want to say again that I truly enjoy living deliberately and slowing down when possible.  But with my own business still ramping up, I work more than I want to and don’t have enough time in the day to do the community building and living locally that I’d really like to do.  So over the next few weeks, I’ll be working hard on prioritizing and using my time more deliberately and effectively.  Please feel free to join me, everyone!

Also, please share what has worked for you as far as time saving goes – and special tips you’ve come across?

How To Recycle A Computer

As you all know, my beloved but old computer went kaput a few days ago.  When I took it into the shop… gasp… they called it vintage!  It was at the top of the line just 6 years ago!

The reality of our computer age is that technology is only built to last a couple years.  Televisions, mobile phones, mp3 players, refrigerators… they are all stuff that is improved upon quickly: faster, more energy efficient, prettier, better.

But have you ever seen a landfill?  It’s grotesque.  Filled with stuff we throw away.  Stuff full of metals and plastics.

I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t throw it out.  My computer was dead, but it was big and didn’t belong in the dump.  Also, it was still pretty.  I am a Mac person, and the bulk of the computer is made of brushed aluminum.  How many aluminum cans would have made up the aluminum in that computer?  A lot.

But I didn’t have to look far.  It turns out Apple has a recycling program, where they recycle phones, iPods, monitors, laptops, and hard drives. That was easy!  I just brought it into the store and them to recycle it.  That’s it!

But it got me wondering what all you PC owners out there can do.  Here’s what I found:

Where To Recycle A Computer

  1. Tech Soup.  A large listing of non-profits and schools who accept donated computers in the US and Canada.  The services they list “can make sure your equipment gets to schools and charities in good working order, and can install legal software, wipe hard drives, and dispose of expensive e-waste.” They also have a great list of ways to extend the life of your computer.
  2. National Christina Foundation.  This is a non-profit that matches technology donations to charities that need them.  They accept desktops, laptops, printers, monitors, keyboards, software, and more.
  3. e-Stewards.  All US computer recycling companies listed have signed the “e-Stewards Pledge Program,” which in essence means that they have ethical and environmentally sound recycling programs.
  4. E-cycling Central. A national service, they list 52 recycling programs in my state via their easy search function.  They even have a separate website just for Washington that includes locations (some are even pick-up services) and collection data (14 million pounds of recycled electronics were recycled last year in my county alone!!).  You can recycle tvs, desktops, laptops, and monitors.
  5. Reconnect. A joint program created by Dell and Goodwill, reconnect has dropoff points at most Goodwill locations.  They accept monitors, desktops, laptops, printers, scanners, hard drives, keyboards, mice, speakers, cords/cables, ink cartridges, and software.  Wow!  Many locations also recycle tvs, phones, and appliances.  They’re still expanding the program, so most locations are in the southwest, midwest, east, and northeast US, plus Eastern Canada.
  6. Apple.  Apple recycles desktops, laptops, monitors, iPhones, iPods, and Mac batteries.  If you bring in your old iPod, you’ll get a 10% discount on a new one.  If you buy a new computer, recycling the old one is free.  Recycling programs are available in the US, Australia, Asia, and Europe.
  7. Dell. Dell will recycle any Dell product for free (online or in store).  If you buy one of their computers, they will recycle your old computer and monitor (of any brand) for free.  They don’t just recycle the computers, though:  they refurbish and donate ones that can still be used!
  8. HP.  A global recycling program that accepts old computers, batteries, monitors, printers, and more for recycling, trade-in, and re-sell.
  9. Ebay.  You can sell, donate, or recycle your computer via Ebay.  They even have instructions for how to erase your data before sending it off.
  10. Freecycle.  Chances are, someone somewhere would love your old computer because they want to save money and/or resources.  Maybe they only need a word processor.  It’s easy to list, it’s nice to feel a part of your community via Freecycle.

If you have exhausted this list and still haven’t found anything in your area, check your local dump or landfill and find out if they recycle computers or know where you can do so.  You can also try Earth911, a comprehensive listing of all types of recycling programs in the US.

Other Resources?

Please add them in the comments, everyone!  We all thank you!