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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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The Importance of Living Locally

I’m writing over at the Simple | Green | Frugal Co-op today – please join me there!  Here’s an excerpt:

As the economy ebbs and flows – but mostly ebbs – many economists, politicians, bankers, and people like you and I are taking a step back to figure out not only how to survive this economic downturn, but also how to prevent being hit so hard in the future. There is a lot of talk about Wall Street versus Main Street, and where our stimulus money to should go, where our concentration of effort should lie. …

This post includes The Benefits Of Supporting A Local Economy and The Importance Of Living Locally, two subjects that are right up our alley here at One Green Generation.  I hope you’ll join me over at the co-op today!

Redefining Wealth

Office Nomads, A Great Coworking Spot

Re-Defining Personal Wealth

The simple living movement has done an amazing job of redefining personal wealth.  No longer is wealth about money or material possessions, it is about living a nurturing, filling, and happy life.  Many people add more layers to the simple lifestyle, so that it is also about becoming debt-free, living an environmentally-sustainable lifestyle, and working toward social justice.

Wealth comes from a richness of relationships, flavors of fresh homemade and homegrown food, being within and a part of nature, contributing more good to the world, and deliberately paying attention to and fulfilling the needs of your self and those around you.  It’s a beautiful, selfless, and self-fulfilling life.

So how can we take this to our work place, to our businesses, to our world economy as a whole?

Re-Defining Business Wealth

In the small towns of Mexico, the stores close during mid-day, as shop owners take a few hours to have lunch with their families.  They return to work renewed, ready for the second portion of the day.  But in the United States, often we each lunch at our desks while working in isolation, and we may send someone out for a quick cup of takeout coffee to get us through the day.  In Australia, Turkey, several parts of Europe – many parts of the world – there is an afternoon break for tea.

What do those breaks accomplish?  A freeing of the mind and eyes, an informal community-building interaction between neighbors and coworkers, a renewal of strength and agility for the rest of the work day, and a sense that life itself matters.  Here we are valued for who we are, we are recognized as human beings with needs, and we work better when we are happier.

How can we re-define the way we do business, so that the people – who are both our customers and our employees – can feel that their happiness, health, and life matter?

Can our workplaces take on the principles of simple living?

And … Where Do We Start?  

That’s the real question, isn’t it?  Have you been able to take your simple lifestyle to your workplace?  How have you done that?  

I find there is a disconnect between my home lifestyle – where I’ve made a conscious effort to simplify and live sustainably – and any work environment.  Do you feel that way, too?  How do we take the first steps to change this?  As I begin a business focussed on sustainable solutions, I realize the incredible need to bring these elements into our operating structure.  

Wealth of a company relies on the emotional, physical, and economic health of its employees, its relationships, its surrounding communities – both online and offline.  As I’m working within a new company, I’m realizing what an incredibly difficult thing it becomes to implement these ideas, however – even with a group of people who do care!  With how much each of the 8 of us knows, there is still much unknown and even undiscovered.

(I would love any advice from those of you who may have tried this.  Or any books you may have read?)

Re-Defining Worldwide Economic Health

And once we find a solution to re-define wealth in the workplace, how can we take that further, and re-define our entire economy?  We know that there are some major problems with how we do business.  Is the problem an overall lack of sustainability – economically, socially, environmentally?  I think it is.  I think it is the same problem each of us is trying to change at home, as we move toward a simple and sustainable lifestyle.

I’m full of questions today!  Please, answer any questions you can here.  The main question is, I suppose:  How can we improve quality of life in work, as well as at home?

I Have Officially Launched A New Business!

Re-Vision Labs

Boy, it is never easy to start a new venture. I’ve been working hard these past few weeks, but finally we have officially launched Re-Vision Labs!

Here’s the scoop:  8 of us came together last fall, feeling the changing tides of both our economy and our environment. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do, but we knew we wanted to make a strong positive impact on the world. For months we toyed with different ways to do this, as we continued with our “day jobs.”  

And then, at last, we came upon the answer.  It was so simple – right before our eyes!  Each of us has come from entirely different backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common:  we have realized that community building is the key to regenerating our world.

So… introducing Re-Vision Labs, where “Our Business Is Community.” We plan to help create the economic and environmental changes that are so necessary in our current world.

The website is still in progress, but please check it out and let me know what you think!

Why Buy From Mom And Pop?

My Grandfather Working in the Grocery Store in the Early1930s

I wrote this over a year ago, and wanted to share it with you because as I walk around my neighborhood, I can see signs that neighborhood business owners are stressed during these difficult economic times.

My grandfather worked several jobs over the course of his life.  During the Depression he was a fireman, and also worked as a grocery store clerk (above).  For years he saved his money and finally opened his own hardware store, just down the street from his home, where my dad grew up.  He built it literally from the ground up, building and all, and took it to great success.  His brilliant idea was to make a self-serve hardware store, where people could peruse the aisles and pick out what they wanted.  It’s standard now, but that was unheard of at the time.  

His hardware store was very successful for about six years, until the idea caught on and bigger national stores moved in near his store.  Quickly recognizing that he couldn’t keep up with “price gouging” of the big chains, my grandfather moved his store to a small nearby town that didn’t yet have a hardware store.  That town still had gravel streets and only a few businesses.  If any of you are familiar with the Seattle area, that small town was Bellevue.

So my grandfather sold his hardware store within a year of moving it, and stayed on for a year to help the new owner learn how to run the business. 

Today he and I lamented at how few mom and pop stores remain in our consumerist world.  When he ran that hardware store, my grandfather loved helping people build their houses, and he worked hard to cater his store to his customers’ needs.  Sure it was a business, but he also considered it a personal, community service.  

I believe the disconnect between the past system of personal service and the current system of corporate greed is a part of why seniors have such difficulty navigating the world today.  Just opening the mail is difficult, as so much junk mail looks like an official document (sometimes “official document” is even stamped on the front).  When seniors learned to navigate through the world sixty or eighty years ago, “official document” meant something.  Service truly had the individual’s best interest at heart.

There are a few mom and pop stores left in my town – maybe in yours too. Some of those stores do still have an individual’s best interest at heart.  But those stores are still slipping away into nothingness due to “price gouging”, as my grandfather calls it.  By supporting the large international chains to save a bit of cash, we are paying the price in other ways: we’re losing those individual interactions between community members, that special service, the unique items you don’t find in large stores, and the support of our local economies.  

So I encourage you not to fall into a trap of price gouging, and really pay up front what an item is worth.  Support a local mom and pop or boutique store to ensure that they stick around and continue to bring uniqueness, income, and service to our communities.

Cellphones Are Becoming More Environmentally Friendly

Click Image to Enlarge.  ”Cell phones” by Chris Jordan

Photographed at a landfill in Orlando, 2004

It’s the things we are most tied to that seem to be the worst for the environment.  Cars, computers, cellphones…

Well some good things are coming out of this economic downturn.  This week was the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Cell phone companies have been hit pretty hard in the current economy, so it seems they’ve been working on lots of green and low-cost innovations to entice us…

Motorola has come out with Renew – a cellphone made from recycled plastic bottles which can itself be recycled. The phone comes in 100% recycled packaging, and includes a prepaid envelope for you to send in your old mobile phone for recycling. Additionally, Motorola is paying to offset the carbon emissions from manufacturing, distributing, recycling, and using the phone. Motorola is calling this the first carbon neutral phone.

Samsung has just revealed Blue Earth, a solar-powered phone made from recycled plastic and “non-toxic” materials. It has lots of ways to reduce energy usage in “eco mode” and has a 5-star energy efficient charger. Plus it comes with “eco walk” – built-in pedometer that calculates how much CO2 emissions you reduce by walking as opposed to driving. (I must say it’s kinda pretty, too – you know, for that extra enticement.)

Nokia has come out with several “green” applications for its phones – including ones where you can offset your CO2 emissions – and they are running a competition to make the best environmentally-oriented application.

But the highest impact change is this: 17 of the world’s largest cellphone companies have joined together and signed an agreement that a majority of new handset models will include a universal charger by January 1, 2012. That means no more having to throw or give away your charger when your phone dies!

Does that sound like a small change? Last year an estimated 1.2 billion cell phones were sold, along with between 51,000 and 82,000 tonnes of chargers. That’s a lot of garbage for our landfills, and a whole lot of wasted resources. It is estimated that “the standardization of cellphone chargers could cut energy consumption by as much as 50 per cent globally and could reduce greenhouse gases by as much as 13.6 to 21.8 million tonnes per year.” 

Pile Of Cell Phone Chargers At A Landfill

Click Image to Enlarge.  ”Cell phone chargers” by Chris Jordan

Photographed at a landfill in Atlanta, 2004

Little changes add up.  As we said earlier this week, one step at a time can add up to make a large impact!

Me & The Weight Of The World

Me in Oakland with Raggedy Ann

Rob has tagged me for a meme.  (Thank you, Rob.)  I’m not a big fan of memes, though.  So I was thinking about ways to honor his recognition and interest in finding out some things about me, and I thought I’d delve into how I came find who I am and what I care about.

With the economy continuing on its downward path, and climate change now looking to be somewhat irreversible, there is a lot to be down about.  Sometimes reflection helps remind us who we are, and why….  Here goes!

(Note:  as always, mouse over the pictures for more information.)

Me Licking the Beater on My First Birthday

I was born in a lower-middle class family.  My mother was a first grade teacher when she was pregnant with me.  During those days (the early 70s) she was lucky to have a job, and she literally hid her pregnancy as long as she could so she wouldn’t lose her job.  But finally she could no longer hide her pregnancy and became unemployed.  

My father was in the Peace Corps in the 60s, and searched for a job where he could support his family but still do good for the world.  He settled into a government job, working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  He stayed there until retirement – long after the HUD scandals of the 80s, and after he came to the realization that as a government worker he was working a lot more with red tape than actually helping people.  This all made his life quite frustrating for him, which carried into our family life.

Shivering young me.  We still have this towel, now used as a “dog blanket”!

We lived in Oakland, CA, where a drought in the 70s forced us to take infrequent baths, all four of us bathing consecutively to reuse the water (taking turns being the last one, as that was always the coldest!).  The bath water was then used to flush the toilet. 

I can remember having a friend of the family over for dinner once.  He was staying in a hotel in San Francisco, and was surprised to hear that there was a drought.  He said he’d taken a 20 minute shower that day, not knowing about the drought.  We were all utterly horrified… and a wee bit jealous at the same time.  (Sometimes I think of this today, when I see others being frivolous with precious resources as I continue to work on reducing my impact.)

My sister (2 years younger) and I holding a doll my grandmother made for me for Christmas. It was my favorite doll for a long time.

While we were rationing water, we were also rationing gas due to the energy crises (and here).  I remember sitting in lines at the gas station for hours, my mom fretting that the gas station would run out of gas before we got to the front of the line.  We had to plan very carefully, because we could only buy on odd-numbered days and gas became very expensive for our family.

Me as a Brownie, Marching in a Community Parade

We almost missed the parade because we ran out of gas on the way there.  I was very sad that I didn’t get a chance to make a sign : ( .

But just so you don’t get totally depressed, we did have a good time during those days! I just discovered this photo of my parents, which I think is hilarious:

My 70s parents.  The hair, the clothes, the Michelob...

And then it all changed in the 80s.  We moved from the Bay Area to Seattle, to be closer to my grandparents.  I believe you’ve met this guy:

My grandfather at his 50th wedding anniversary, wearing a gift from my father (golden shoes for their gold anniversary, I believe).  That’s his Cadillac in the background, btw.

We moved to a house with a pool (that we never used), 

Our Seattle Pool

and we did a lot of traveling.  Life was good in the 80s… For us, anyway…

My grandfather went to Hawaii for a business trip, and he took us all with him. (From left to right: my grandmother, mom, me, my sister, and my grandfather.)

My life change considerably on two separate trips my family took.  The first was a train ride to the middle of Mexico, in Baranca del Cobre (“Copper Canyon”):

Fleeting Views From the Train: People Living in Old Box Cars Deep Within The Canyon

Girls Younger Than I, Selling Baskets

The second was a trip around the US in a tiny borrowed trailer we slept in.  Not only did we get to all sorts of tourist spots, like historic Williamsburg (that’s my sister in the guillotine, below):

Lori In Williamsburg Guillotine

…But we also stayed in trailer parks, rode public transportation through Washington DC, and drove through miles and miles of farmland.  I’d never seen severe poverty in the US, massive industrial agriculture, nor the many historic battlegrounds where we fought Native Americans, British, and each other.  (Interestingly, I have no pictures of those things that made the biggest impression!)

We also did crazy things occasionally, like learn how to build an igloo (we stayed one night inside – amazingly easy and warm!).

I’m in black on the left (in a “different“ phase of my life), standing next to my sister.

I think there’s a lot I can learn from my own history, and my own experiences, as we look forward toward an uncertain future.  I’m seeing cycles of economy, I’m realizing I’ve learned some useful skills to adapt to changing circumstances.  And somehow looking back at history grounds me within a wider scope of reality.

Things are not perfect right now.  Not by a long shot.  But we can – and must – work hard.  We have new and useful technologies that we can bring together with the skills we’ve had for decades!  We can adapt, but we can also improve as we move forward….

Now, that was only the first half of my life.  You’ll get the second half whenever I get another meme (no encouragement here!!).  Let me dissuade you with this lovely, lovely, 80s photo:

High School In The 80s

And now I turn it over to you:  is there anything you can remember from your past that would be useful in the current state of our world?

How Do We Choose Between Budget and Environment? Here Are 25 Ways To Do Both!

Change is brewing. Yesterday was a very powerful day for many of us, as we listened to the first African-American president, full of dreams for a better world mixed with the reality of what is at hand. I am thankful that a new hope has spread across the world. I am hopeful that we will unite together and bring our world into a new, mindful era. I have written more about these thoughts here.

The future holds many promises.  But at home, the reality of our economic situation is beginning to set in for most folks. Here in the United States, we’re feeling the effects of the global recession every day. I’ve heard many people use the word Depression who wouldn’t have dreamed of using that word only a few months ago. It is grim. It is getting worse. And it will get worse still before it gets better.

Unfortunately, this poses quite a dichotomy. The Recession makes it difficult to get by, to save, to spend any more than we have to spend.  Yet the pressure of climate change and the ethics we’ve taught ourselves says we must buy what is good for the environment and our communities.

Often doing our best to leave a lower impact means paying a little more, doesn’t it? How do we stay true to our values while simply getting by during an economic crisis?  

So I made a list of the different things we do at home to save money and save the earth.  Some of these may be old news for you – in that case think of this as a reminder! – but hopefully each of us will find some gems in this list. Please do share other ideas that come to mind! 

25 Sustainability Changes That Save Money

Please visit the rest of this post I’ve written at the Simple | Green | Frugal Co-op.  I think you’ll enjoy it, and I’d love your input!!