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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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Are We Abnormal?

Recently I asked you all what was the most difficult part of your path toward sustainability (there were great responses on Facebook as well as on the blog). There were a surprising number of answers that focused around people giving us a hard time for living the lifestyles we live.

All right, y’all:  I’m back online, here’s my rallying call!

Right here, right now, I want to encourage you all to turn the conversation around. Show everyone around you how normal your lifestyle is relative to theirs! You are the normal one.  You are living more like humans have lived for thousands of years, and how most humans in the rest of the world still live. Most people don’t use the heap of beauty products and packaged goods that we Americans consume. We are abnormal as a society.

I mean really, is it normal to…

Be ok with who you are, put only a few pure ingredients in and on your body, nurture your health and strive for a gratifying life of longevity?

OR is it normal to…

Be embarrassed about who we are and cover it up with harsh chemicals and fragrances that we buy at a store for generally a lot of money, which are not good for us and often send us to the doctor for medical care (or force us to buy more products to cover up the issues the original products caused), both of which force us to work long hours and make lots of money to pay for it, which makes us not have time to focus on what we put in our bodies, which perpetuates a vicious unhealthy and unhappy cycle?

The other day a coworker told me she’d never thought she needed eye cream to stave off wrinkles, until she saw an ad in the store that convinced her.

There are lots of ads out there, convincing us that we need things:

We need to cover our wrinkles (which are often created by the makeup we use to cover them), we want that take-out hamburger because we’re hungry now and it’s convenient (but it was the sign on the side of the road that made us want the hamburger – what if you’d seen a sign that pictured a luscious homemade meal?), we need a big diamond ring to show others that we are in love (rather than the smile on my face and a little heirloom ring that show it so much more)…

Here’s another:  is it normal to…

Drive to work, sit all day working hard (so you can pay for your car and other things to give you comfort after a stressful day at work), drive home, watch television, take your pills to treat coronary issues or diabetes, and sleep?

OR is it normal to….

Get enough exercise and be healthy and fit and live long because you walk and garden?

What should be normal here? Most people in the world don’t live the way we do in America.

So I encourage you all, the next time someone gives you crap, to very politely acknowledge to yourself that you are the normal one. You are the one who has not bought into the last 50 years of advertising in America, which tells us we need to buy things to make us happy. You are the one who is living more like most people in the world, and most people over many generations.

Whether or not you say this to your friends is your choice. Just as you don’t take kindly to being told you aren’t normal, your friends won’t either. But you know your friends best – try to open their eyes in a way that doesn’t push them away. It might be a very slow process. However, keep in mind during that whole process that you are the normal one.

Am I Right??!

For Older, Wiser Ladies: Green Solutions to Incontinence

The other day a reader wrote me anonymously asking if there were any green solutions to the normal leakage that occurs with getting older.

Our society is just full of “taboos,” right?  I received many emails from women thanking me for bringing up the idea of greening our menstrual cycles.  It’s a shame to me that we don’t talk about these things more readily – especially since they are so much a regular, normal part of our lives!  So I encourage you all to be a little more forthcoming about it, a little more willing and ready to discuss it, a little more ok with the fact that we are women and this is what our bodies do and that is just normal!

And to our lovely male readers – maybe you can help us all be ok with these normal parts of our lives, too?

I would say the same is true for incontinence.  It’s an embarrassing part of growing older and wiser, but it is a normal part.  Our muscles change over time – and that is that.  I want to anonymously thank the reader who asked me to write about this – it was brave, and it was just right on – thank you.  I know you’re not alone in looking for these solutions!

So…  Here’s the thing:  I’m not there yet, so I don’t know personally.  However, I did do some research.  Here’s what I found…

Panties for Incontinence

Green Solutions to Incontinence

  1. Lunapad – I asked Morgan, who so graciously offered the Lunapad Giveway.  Here was her response: “Cloth pads and pantyliners are a great eco-friendly solution. We have quite a few customers who use our products for just such purposes. Here are our recommendations.”
  2. Moon Pads – In addition to their cotton pads, Moon Pads have a line of waterproof pads that they recommend for incontinence here.
  3. Sckoon Organic Underwear – Sckoon has a line of Organic Cotton Reusable Urinary Stress Incontinence Underwear, where the liner is built into the product.  Check them out here – they look like a pretty light-weight solution, if you just need a little safety mechanism.  (They’re also available on Amazon, if you prefer shopping there.)
  4. HealthDri Cotton Panties – Available for men and women, there are several styles to choose from here.  They vary from light volume to much heavier volume.
  5. NatraCare Organic Cotton PadsThese incontinence pads are not reusable, but they are organic cotton and available in most natural foods stores.  I imagine they are much more comfortable and comforting than Depends.
  6. Nighttime Pants – If you need more protection in the evenings, I found these washable bedtime pants that are quite discreet.
  7. Bedding – You can find small bed pads at almost any department store, which you can just slip beneath your sheet.  I won’t list them all here, as there are so many good options I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding them in the bedding and nursing sections of a local store.
  8. Other Resources for Panties, Pants and Pads – While I don’t know these companies, I found several online that have quite a lot of options:  P&S Healthcare, Metro Medical, and LL Medico.  Each of these has a variety of styles, several of which are quite beautiful looking.

What About You?

Please let me know if you have tried any of these, or if you know of other good solutions.  If you’re shy to write a comment, please feel free to send me an email instead.  Or, in this special case, feel free to comment as “Anonymous”!

And younger ladies, feel free to share these tips with your mom!

What Renews You?

I’ve been working a whole lot lately, which has made me cranky and a bit down on the world.  It has also made me forget (a little bit) why I live the lifestyle I live.

It’s so easy to re-enter the old normal, isn’t it?  Sometimes, not always of course.  But sometimes when you are so busy, it’s easy to get take-out, or eat frozen packaged food from many miles away, and shop til you drop, and drive instead of taking the bus or walking, and in general just buy lots of stuff because it seems easier…

Usually my redefined normal is enriching, renewing, and embracing.  But sometimes… sometimes it feels like deprivation.  It feels like if I just stopped thinking about my impact on the world, it would be so easy.

And yet just writing this is giving me perspective again.  The reality is that we are not the only ones on this planet.  The reality is that we have a large impact on other people, other species, and other generations of people and species.

The diversity on this earth is mind blowing.  And it’s shrinking.  That thought is devastating.

But we can do something.  We can do lots of little somethings.  And when we do lots of little somethings, we have a positive impact.  When we live as though we care (because when we think about it, we really do care about other people and other beings), we are happier and healthier and more enriched.

My husband is gone to the Middle East for a business trip, and so I’m alone at home at night.  It is so easy to consume as if the rest of the world didn’t matter.  I walk past so many people every day who probably don’t think about all this, who don’t worry about the impact of their consumption.  And it is so easy to say “why not just be like that and not care.”

But once you care, once you know, once you understand and begin to redefine normal… You can’t really go back can you?  Now if I buy takeout I feel guilty, because I know what it’s doing to the planet, I know I’m supporting an unsustainable model.

All this circuitous writing is to say that today this is what brings me back, this is what renews me:  you.  Writing and the ability to be heard and be understood  – i’s a very powerful thing to have people around me who care and share in my journey.  Thank you.

So, my dear friends –

What Renews You?

What keeps you on your path, or what gets you back on the path if you step off?  Is it thinking about the future, talking with friends, reading to your children…. what renews you on the path of sustainability?

For Ladies Only: Lunapad Giveaway!

LunapadsFor all you ladies who are looking to green your cycle, and you didn’t win the DivaCup, I have a new one for you!  Lunapads was so excited by the DivaCup giveaway that they have offered to give away a Lunapad Intro Kit.  Lunapads are available in all sorts of sizes and fabrics, including organic cotton.

The Kit Includes:

  • 1 Teeny Pantyliner
  • 1 Mini Pantyliner
  • 1 Mini Pad
  • 1 Mini Liner
  • 1 Mini Wing Liner
  • 1 Maxi Pad
  • 1 Maxi Liner
  • 1 Maxi Wing Liner
  • And I’ve said this before, but if you haven’t made the switch to green your cycle, I highly encourage you to do it – definitely the easiest “green” lifestyle change I’ve made.

    So…Enter Your Name In The Comments For The Drawing!

    I will randomly select a winner next Wednesday at noon, and will announce it here.  Good luck!

    An Interview With Melinda on Living Sustainably!

    BizyMoms Top Blogger

    I’m still working away on some amazing projects that are keeping me beyond busy.  I’ll be back soon!!

    In the meantime, I’ve been interviewed by BizyMoms as one of their Top Home and Garden Bloggers of 2010.  So cool!  I’m honored to be in the midst of  Ronda Hetzel and Susan Harris, both wonderful bloggers I admire.  Here’s what they’ve said about us:

    Meet some of the world’s most exclusive bloggers on Home and Garden issues

    Bizymoms has chosen some of the world’s top-notch bloggers who are maintaining hugely popular blogs to discuss everything related to home and garden. Bizymoms recognizes these wonderful men and women for their great endeavor to reach out to humanity using the extraordinary power of blogging in such a positive way. This is an exceptional series of interviews with these bloggers to get an insight into their bright minds, and to understand what they stand for when it comes to home and garden. This series comes exclusively from Bizymoms for its reader community. Check it out and learn something new and unique from each of these world-class bloggers.

    It’s awesome to me that they’ve included a representative that writes about sustainability in their Home and Garden top blogs.  I do believe that is a bit of redefining normal, don’t you think??!

    Anyway, please go check out my interview!  I’d love to hear what you think (comments there don’t seem to be working – sorry, they’re working on it, some tech problem – so until they fix that feel free to comment here).

    Ten Ways Cloths Can Save the Planet Paper and Save You Money

    Saving paper is one of the easiest ways to save both trees and money as you’re redefining normal on your path toward sustainability.  Some of these changes are difficult to get into at first – for some reason we have a mental barrier against making these types of changes.  But once you’ve passed that initial barrier, it is extremely easy to get used to using cloth.

    10 Ways Cloths Can Save Paper and Money

    1. Handkerchiefs – instead of paper tissues.  Quick tip: if you’re going to buy handkerchiefs, try to buy ones that will look ok to you without ironing – it’s a handkerchief after all!
    2. Cloth Napkins – instead of paper napkins.  There is an elegance that cloth napkins add to a meal as well!  Again, make sure to buy napkins you don’t need to iron – 100% tight-weave cotton seem to work best for us.
    3. Rags - instead of sponges or paper towels in the kitchen or around the household.  Make these out of old worn towels – if you don’t have any old towels, you can find some in a local thrift store.
    4. Kitchen towels – instead of paper towels.
    5. Cloth Diapers – instead of disposable paper diapers. There are so many diaper services now, that if you don’t want to clean them yourself, you can just send them out to be cleaned!  However, if you can handle doing it at home it is sooo much cheaper!
    6. Glad Rags or Luna Pads – instead of menstrual pads.  You can read more about greening your cycle here.
    7. Cloth wipes – instead of toilet paper.  While I have not yet been brave enough for this change, Crunchy Chicken is full of cloth wipe challenges to get you started on the path.
    8. Dusting Cloths – instead of paper towels.  You can use the special microfiber dust cloths (I have some of these), or just cut up an old t-shirt or cloth diaper.
    9. Cloth Bags - instead of paper (or plastic) bags.  I wrote about how to make these very easily here.
    10. Cloth wrapping paper – instead of paper wrapping.  I have loads of cheap scarves I’ve been collecting over the years from thrift stores.  Several times I’ve wrapped gifts or flowers in old scarves and given them away – it is a beautiful wrapping paper that can be reused over and over again!

    Many times using cloth instead of paper ends up emoting a feeling of nostalgia for older times.  That rag that used to be your favorite beach towel, that handkerchief that used to be your grandmother’s, the dusting cloth that was once your husband’s favorite t-shirt or your grown child’s old infant blanket….  So come, try it out!

    What Else?

    I’m sure several of you have more clever ways to save money and paper – please share.

    Redefining Health

    As I lay here in bed nurturing a cold, I am realizing that as a part of redefining normal in my mind, I have redefined health.  From a small child through my young adulthood, I was sick very often.  A normal cold often turned into a three- month long disaster that ended in bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections, mononucleosis, strep throat, or any number of things – often more than one at a time.

    But this year, I went through almost the entire winter without a single cold, even as many coworkers and friends were sick time and again.  Why is that?

    Ways of Redefining Health

    1. Emphasize Preventative Health.  As a result of eating local, seasonal, organic foods I eat a diet low in additives, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and other things that aren’t good for me. Instead, my meals are high in nutrients and amino acids that boost my immune system.  I also take extra vitamins, go to my doctor annually, and I take good care of the ailments I do have – like asthma.
    2. Nurture Yourself When You Are Well.  In the same way nutrition and health maintenance is important, so is emotional maintenance.  Nurture yourself, allow yourself time to relax and unwind, learn quick and easy destressing mechanisms like meditation or concentrated breathing.  Give yourself family time and self time often, and leave work behind when you do.  Spend your free time doing things that make you happy!
    3. Pay Attention To Your Needs.  Something I didn’t learn until a few years ago is to see the warning signs in my life and in my own body.  For instance, when I get stressed out I often clench my jaw or tense my shoulders.  Doing yoga a while back actually taught me to notice when I’m tense, and to then relax those muscles.   Also, I know that certain foods don’t make me feel good, so either I don’t eat them at all, or in the case of acidic or spicy foods sometimes I take an acid reducer beforehand.  Know your limitations, know when your body is telling you something, and know what to do to make it better quickly.
    4. Wash Your Hands.  Huge.  No need to be paranoid, but before you eat make sure to wash your hands.  If you’re in a public space or shaking a lot of hands or wiping kids’ noses, don’t touch your face or mouth until you wash your hands with hot water and soap.  So easy, but so often forgotten.
    5. Sleep Well.  Eight hours a day keeps the sickness away!  Your body needs to regenerate, so let it do its job.
    6. Reduce Stress.  Stress can make you sick or leave you more susceptible to illness.  If you think you’re doing too much, you probably are, so allow yourself to say no and set boundaries.
    7. Nurture Yourself When You’re Sick.  Rather than filling yourself up with pills and tonics and all sorts of things to make you feel “normal” while you’re sick, stop and relax.  Make yourself take the time to heal.  You will ultimately be more productive if you’re out for 3-4 days, rather than sick and in the office for 10-12 days.  Plus you’ll save your co-workers from becoming sick as well.
    8. Weigh The Pros and Cons of Taking Cold Medicine.  Your body rids itself of germs by fighting them internally and getting them out of your system with mucous.  When I really can’t sleep because I’m coughing all night, I sometimes take a decongestant to help my body sleep – so that my antibodies can fight off the germs.  But during the day, I often let my body do its thing without medicines.  As a result my colds are usually quicker!

    The only thing that costs money here is #1: Preventative Health.  And only that costs money when you visit a doctor  for checkups and to take care of your chronic health issues.  Ultimately that is cheaper than ending up paying for the months of care you will need if you don’t take care of yourself in the first place:  for example, if you end up with bronchitis you’ll need multiple doctor visits, xrays, antibiotics, a humidifier, and any number of other things that cost money.

    Redefining Health As A Society

    As a society we still don’t value preventative health enough in my opinion.  And it is extremely unfortunate that many of us don’t have the money to pay for preventative care.  At the same time, I think we often don’t effectively prioritize our spending as a society:  we often value cable television more highly than preventative doctor visits, for example.

    We also punish ourselves at work by having to take time off when we’re sick, which is a deterrent for taking time off.  Instead, it seems like we could be rewarding productivity, which might force people to take a few days off to get better so they could be more productive in the office.  Suddenly regenerative health would make sense from an economic perspective as well.

    If you are an employer you can help redefine health at your office by encouraging people to take time off when they’re sick, and rewarding them with their level of productivity when they are healthy.  You can also keep people from becoming sick by helping them destress, encouraging them to nurture themselves, and providing preventative health care.

    And as a family member and friend, you can help others to learn how to redefine health in a way that most benefits them.

    What Ways Have You Redefined Health Over The Years?