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We are preserving our planet with our lifestyles. We are creating sustainable communities for our children. We are living the lives we want to live. Please join us!

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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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Great Reading

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!

    “75 Frugality Blogs That Will Change Your Life”

    Hi all, apologies for my absence this week.  It’s a busy week at the office, and I’ve been staying late.  I hope to have time to write more very soon!

    In the meantime, Rose sent me a link to 75 Frugality Blogs That Will Change Your Life, which includes One Green Generation at #11.  :)  If you’re of the frugal green variety, there are some great blogs on this list.  Thanks, Rose!

    Vegetable Seed Giveaway Winner!

    Hi everyone, thanks for the awesome response on the Vegetable Seed Giveaway!  Joni at Hometown seeds wrote me the other day and told me how much she’s enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.

    So, from the incredible “True Random Number Generator”, the winner is….

    The winner is....

    Jill!

    Jill, please email me with your address and you’ll soon be the proud owner of Hometown Seeds’ Survival Pack.  (Please email soon – you have until 14 March 12pm PST to email me, otherwise I’ll draw a new name!)

    Thanks for joining in the fun!

    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?

    For Ladies Only: DivaCup Giveaway!

    DivaCup Giveaway!I’m so glad many of you loved my article last week: For Ladies Only: Greening Your Menstrual Cycle.

    If you haven’t made the switch to green your cycle, please jump aboard – I can tell you it has been very liberating for me, and by far the easiest “green” lifestyle change I’ve made!!

    And…

    If you’d like to try the DivaCup for FREE, leave your name in the comments below. Next Sunday at noon I will randomly select a winner, who will receive a brand new DivaCup in the mail!

    I LOVE my DivaCup – it’s a time and money saver with less mess, greater comfort, and better for the environment.  If you have any questions about it, the DivaCup website is full of answers -  plus feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.  Many thanks to Stacey and the DivaCup team for this opportunity.

    Enter Your Name In The Comments For The Drawing!

    Does Living Sustainably Have To Take More Time?

    Our Geyserville Garden

    The Simple Life

    About two years ago, Matt and I were living in Geyserville, CA, population 1,600.  He was working full time, and I was basically taking some time off from a taxing several years working long hours in the LA film industry.

    When we moved there, we planned to stick around for the rest of our lives, living the simple life:  growing and preparing our own food, using very little electricity and water, learning to live as self-sufficiently as possible.  I eventually planned to learn to knit, sew clothing, can and preserve all the food we’d need for the winter, build a root cellar, and even install a micro-hydro-electric power unit and a composting toilet.

    I learned a LOT.  I had a crash course in gardening with our 2,000+ square foot garden.  I almost became a master gardener (before I became fed up with the pro-pesticide stance they take), I preserved, Matt taught me how to bake bread using our own homemade Geyserville starter (and I did it every day), I was thinking about making my own soap and making my own just about everything else.

    Worried Raisin

    But then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Right around the time I rushed Raisin to the animal hospital as she sat in my lap dying from pesticides, Matt became fed up with his life of driving long distances to a low-wage job that required significant manual labor.  And quite honestly, I realized I wasn’t cut out for the full-time job of homemaking.  I had so many ambitions for my life that I no longer had time for.  I wanted to make big positive change in the world, and working an 18-hour job at home, I didn’t have time for much else.

    For several important reasons, our lifestyle was not sustainable.  It was wonderfully fulfilling in some ways – both Matt and I were much healthier, we had time to re-think our life directions, I took up writing and found I loved it, and the flavors of home-grown, home-made cooking were out of this world.

    But we were dependent on driving long distances, we were unable to economically make ends meet due to low-wage jobs in the country and the rising price of gas, and we weren’t happy with the long-term trajectory of living a lifestyle that focuses solely on living simply.  (Those of us who have tried it know that living simply is not so simple!)

    Our City Rooftop

    The Sustainable Life

    So we took the amazing things we learned, and we moved to the most sustainable neighborhood in the most sustainably-minded city we could find (we did a lot of research).  And over the past year and a half since we moved here, I can tell you that one major, major thing that is left out of much sustainable or simple living books and blogs and ideas is this:  COMMUNITY.

    What can community do for you?  Well, cities and towns were built for a reason: to exchange goods and services.  Why make and do EVERYTHING yourself, when you can focus on what you’re good at, and trade what you’re good at for other things you’re not so good at?  Why spend hours and hours making my own clothes when someone who does it for a living can do it much more efficiently in both time and money?  Or soap, or jam, or many, many things?

    Pike Place Market

    Using Community To Find Your Balance

    I’m not saying cease simple living altogether.  It depends on your motivation.  My motivation is living as sustainably as I can, and getting others to do the same.  Well, sustainable living and simple living are not necessarily the same thing!

    So that means I let other people make my food for me sometimes.  I don’t let just anyone make and grow my food – I am careful about who I pick, where they source their food, how they treat their employees, what their values are, etc.

    But not all the time – I still grow some of our own food.  Why?  Because I like it, because there are more flavors and nutrients in the food I grow myself, because it is more sustainable than trucking in produce, and because gardening makes me happy and brings me a sense of peace.  I also like writing about gardening, and enjoy talking and writing with other gardeners.

    So somewhere in there, my family is learning how to balance simple living with an overall sustainable lifestyle where we can still have ambitions to do stuff beyond our home life.

    We’re still working on finding ways to be more sustainable with less time.  In some ways that is the antithesis of the simple living movement.  But it’s important for us to live our lives as we want to live them, and live them sustainably.

    What does that mean?  I live about a mile and a half from work, and I walk to and from work every day.  That takes about an hour round-trip.  I save money on gas and parking (or public transit), I have a zero-carbon footprint commute, and I don’t need to go to the gym.  All in all, it takes me less time and money to walk than it would take me to use the car or the bus, and go work out in a gym.

    That’s just one example of several.  I don’t grow all of our own food anymore – I buy food from local growers and vendors whom I trust; I buy soap from a local organic soap company; I buy used clothing from local thrift stores; I live in an energy-efficient apartment so I am warmer but still don’t need to turn on the heat much (increased quality of life!).  I do make my own shampoo and household cleaners, because it’s cheaper and easier than looking for a local green brand that works.

    And I suppose that is the question Matt and I ask ourselves now:  can we do it ourselves cheaper, more easily, and more sustainably (in terms of the planet)?  If the answer is yes, we welcome it with open arms.  If the answer is no, we generally find a sustainable local source and pay that person to do it.

    This is one of the main ways that our community helps us live sustainably.

    So back to our question…

    Does Living Sustainably Have To Take More Time?

    No.  I believe it’s possible to find a balance between simple and sustainable, where you can simplify your life as much as you enjoy doing so, and utilize your community to help continue on your path to sustainability.

    What Do You Think?

    I’m not alone in thinking about these things today.  Green Bean got me thinking about this this morning, and Ruchi wrote quite a thought-provoking post called “Is Living Sustainably Unsustainable.”  What do you think?  Have you been able to find a balance between living sustainably and living the life you want to live?