Canary In A Coal Mine
When I was in college, I entered a new medical system and had to start with a brand-new doctor. I had been a sickly child, and I was a sickly adult, so I saw this new doctor regularly right at the beginning. On about the third appointment (and the third case of bronchitis, or strep throat or whatever it was), he asked me what I was taking for my asthma. “Asthma,” I asked? He said, “what do you mean, nobody has ever told you you have asthma?” I didn’t know.
How many times I felt like a fish without water, struggling to breathe… now it all made sense.
After that moment, I began taking allergy shots and taking rescue medications for my asthma. But not only that, I also was put on a regime to rid my indoor environment of the dust mites and allergens that were plaguing me. It was during that time where I began to realize how much my indoor air affected my well-being.
Once I began thinking about how the dust mites were affecting me – and protecting myself from them in a variety of ways I will share with you in a later post – I started wondering if maybe other things affected me, too. I used to get rashes on my face from time to time, and it was always breaking out. So just to test a theory, I stopped using perfumed soaps and moisturizers, and started searching for a soap and a moisturizer that might stop my face from breaking out. At the same time I searched for make-up that wasn’t as caustic. It was a search that lasted several months, but eventually, I found products that worked, and my face stopped breaking out. That was about 19 years ago, and my face has been clear ever since!!
Over the next year or two, my awareness grew. I learned to look for natural products weren’t tested on animals, weren’t full of ingredients I didn’t need to be putting on my body, and were much more sustainable. I started looking for shampoo, conditioner, and other personal products.
After a few years of living in different homes through college and afterwards, I learned that there were other indoor materials that could make me sick: formaldehyde in the floors, lead in the walls, mildew on the ceilings…. all sorts of neurotoxins and volatile organic chemicals that don’t need to be there. And I learned how to get rid of them.
Can you guess where I thought about next? What went inside my body. I started cutting out processed foods and fast foods. (I also became a vegetarian, and maybe I’ll go into that at some point but now is not the time.)
The Nut Girl
Well, about five years ago I met a man who was the perfect man for me. We fell in love. And then… he moved in. And he thought I was nuts! No chemicals, no fragrances, no preservatives, no fast food… and what was this air filter always humming in the background? He thought I was nuts.
But the good sport that he is, he went along with it. He stopped using fabric softener, he started using my shampoo, and soon enough he fell in with my indoor environment.
And now? He can’t stand perfumes – sneezes when he smells them. We both get stuffed up when we eat something processed. We both break out when we used some hotel shampoo somewhere. We both truly like breathing clean air, using clean products, and eating natural food.
Some of you reading may think it’s crazy to live our lives this way. I think it’s crazy not to. Putting carcinogenic chemicals in your body, putting neurotoxins on your skin – it’s not enough to do these things because everyone else does. As an asthmatic, sometimes I feel like a canary in a coal mine. Well, here I’m a canary who has cleaned up those toxics so I don’t die. Please learn from me!
What’s The Point Of All This?
We have discussed building our communities, living locally, growing our own food, and generally playing our part to make the world more sustainable. But the truth is that my quest for sustainability began inside my home, the most local place of all. And once I paid attention to the air I breathed, the fluids I drank, and the environment I surrounded myself with, I stopped getting sick, my thoughts became clearer, and I looked and felt so much better than I’ve ever felt. I am a more effective human being that enjoys my life so much more!
So this is a challenge to start changing your indoor environment. Start at the root of your world, where your children live and breathe, where you family spends most of its time. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned over the years about how to green our homes.
Please sign up! Join us – for yourself and your whole family.
Ok, But What Is The Challenge?
To start greening your own home.
First, start paying attention to what you put on your body, in your body, and around your body. Right now.
And then over the next few months, put it all into practice: take solid steps to green your indoor environment.
If you don’t know where to start, follow my articles as I talk about what we’ve done over the next several weeks!
To add the button to your blog, right-click on the image and save it to your desktop. Then upload it to your blog as you would any other image, with a link to:
Oh, and once you’ve uploaded the image, check to make sure the link works and the image loads correctly. Feel free to email me if you have any problems and I’ll see if I can help.
Will You Do It?
Please join us. Sign up below!
60,000 Plastic Bags -
The number used in the U.S. in 5 Seconds according to this artist
Did I mention that I love this city? On Monday the Seattle City Council voted 6-1 to approve a 20-cent charge for paper or plastic disposable shopping bags. And it gets better: they’re going to send each household of the city at least one free reusable bag.
They’re also working with food banks, the food stamp program, and other services to get more bags to low-income families and seniors. Food banks will be accepting donations of the bags as well.
Over the next year, the number of bags used in Seattle is expected to decrease by at least 184 million bags. Over a 30-year period, the change is expected to cut greenhouse gases by 112,000 tons.
In a vote 7-0, the Council also voted to ban plastic foam take-out containers and grocery store packaging. The Bag Fee and Foam Ban will begin on January 1, 2009.
Julia Steinberger at WorldChanging Seattle has a good point: it’s not enough. But I think it’s a good thing – it raises awareness, it sets an example for other cities, it is a stepping stone for other positive change.
Detail of the image above
What Do You Think?
Do you use reusable bags? Do you think this Bag Fee is a good thing? Do you think it will hurt the local economy in a time of recession (this is one of the arguments against it)?
For More Information:
Seattle City Council Press Release
City OKs 20-cent fee on plastic, paper bags
Seattle City Council approves shopping bag fee
Say Goodbye to Free Shopping Bags
Now that we’re settled in the new pad here at One Green Generation – and there have been several new subscribers of late – I just wanted to make sure everything was working well in your feeds.
I received an email a while back that Bloglines was still linking to the old blog, but try as I might (for hours!) I could not figure out how to change it. Anyone know if that issue has resolved?
Please let me know if you ever any issues with the feeds or any anything else on the site. And if you like what you’re reading here, and you haven’t subscribed yet, please consider doing so now.
Many, Many Apologies
Well, here’s my first glitch in the new blog: Most of you saw the fabulous post that used to be here. Full of great information about growing things! I um… wrote over the whole thing by mistake. Can you believe it??!! Yeah, I can’t either. I loved that post.
What you don’t see here anymore are all the wonderful reasons to grow your own food, all the amazingly enticing things people have written, and how much we would love to have you join in the fun!!
So don’t let this little mistake stop you from joining us! There are currently 155 people who are excited to be a part of this challenge – please join us! Just head on over to The Growing Challenge Page and check out what it’s all about! (And in the meantime I will find someone who can help me find the backup of the post, so that I can reinstate it… I hope!)
Will You Do It?
Who’s in? Sign up, Check In! What are you veterans up to? New participants, please introduce yourselves!
Yesterday I wrote about Tackling Your To Do List (assuming some of you have one, Rob and Guyz). I personally need a To Do List, because I need to know what my priorities are, and like Kate, I need to feel that sense of gratification in checking off what I’ve accomplished. Without a list, I feel stuck in a vicious circle of dealing with whatever comes my way then and there… which means sometimes the bills sit for weeks, the laundry never gets done, the important favors for friends never quite materialize. So I need a reminder that my To Do List is important, and that those steps toward tackling it are necessary to stay on top of my own life.
Creating Long-Term Goals
Matt and I often ask ourselves what we envision our lives to be like in five (or ten) years – this exercise is extremely important to both of us. Once we have envisioned the life we want to live, we enact a plan to work toward those visions. Other people I know find it useful to write down their short-, mid- and long-term goals, and then evaluate them from time to time. And once they’ve identified their goals, they work toward them – keeping in mind that they will change, and life will take them in new and unforeseen directions – but always moving forward.
Regardless of how you set goals for yourself, I firmly believe that if you set out to accomplish what you want with your life, you will get further toward living the life you want to lead.
Taking Steps Toward Your Goals
A way of life takes time to change – all big changes take time and are composed of a multitude of small changes. I want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but I can’t just go to bed one night and wake up as someone who is completely sustainable. I would become totally overwhelmed by that, and chances are that I’d end up stopping in the middle of it because I couldn’t take it anymore. No, it has to be easy for me, I have to make gradual changes as I’m ready for them, and I must do only what I find comfortable. I don’t even have a list of specific acts I want to take to achieve my goals, because I like to take it as it comes and I constantly find new opportunities and new solutions as I go.
My advice is to keep your eyes on the prize, but allow yourself to walk through life and find your own way toward that prize.
Example: Riding The Bus
When I grew up in Seattle, riding the bus was something everyone did, regardless of race or class. When I lived in Manhattan, it was even more so. But in LA, it was different. The bus system is pretty bad in LA, the buses often to go through bad parts of town and they rarely run on time, it’s split up into multiple and distinct municipal bus systems so it’s hard to navigate, and it is largely a transportation system utilized by the people who have extremely low incomes. Nearly everyone who can afford to drive, drives. It sounds weird for me to even write that, but there is certainly a negative connotation to riding the bus in LA. (I’m especially proud of Arduous for stepping past that.)
So, recognizing my feelings about the bus was the first step. The second step was getting on one. Notice that I did not say that the first or second steps were to make myself ride it every day. Why? Because that is overwhelming. I’d probably do it for a week and then stop. No, the second step is just getting on the bus….
One day I was headed out to my garden, and I realized my day was pretty open, I had a little extra time. So I checked the bus schedule. I saw that the bus was to arrive in five minutes so I grabbed my bag and headed out. I thought to myself that if I hadn’t already missed the bus, I would jump on, but if I missed it, no big deal, I’ll just drive this time and take the bus another day.
Well, the bus was there waiting for me, so I hopped on! And on that first ride, my feelings about the bus changed. I enjoyed it – I felt alive and a part of my community. I found I could write and read and pay attention to parts of my community I’d never seen before. I also didn’t have to worry about the cost of gas, nor the parking at either end. And to boot, I got more exercise with a bit of a walk to and from the stop (not much – the stop is pretty close – but a bit).
Since, then, I have taken the bus there every time I haven’t been in a hurry or carrying large items back and forth (like pots and soil for the gardens). No pressure on myself, just whenever it is easy. And it has changed my perspective toward the bus. Rather than the bus making me feel guilty, it has become something I see as a relaxant: aaaah... when I’m on the bus, I relax and enjoy being a part of the world, I’m able to look around without worrying about traffic, I’m contributing less carbon,….
And I’m slowly adding routes to my repertoire. Now I know two bus routes: one to my garden and parents’, and one to the far reaches of downtown. Soon I’ll probably add the route to my best friends’ place in West Seattle, the farmer’s market in Ballard, and my grandfather’s place in North Seattle. But I’ll take it as it comes, and let myself have fun with it.
This has worked for many big changes I’ve made in my life. Becoming a vegetarian didn’t happen overnight either. Once I decided that it was for sure the right choice for me, I phased out meat from my diet. Going cold broccoli (vs cold turkey!!) was not possible nor healthy, and would have become totally overwhelming. So I started very slowly, taking one meal at a time, not pressuring myself, and having fun with it. And over the course of 6 months, I slowly became a vegetarian. I was definitely a sustainable change: I’ve been a vegetarian for 19 years!
Geraniums Outside My Window (for Katie)
Reaching Long-Term Goals – 7 Things to Remember
1. Start slowly, and take steps whenever it feels right
2. Recognize any inhibitions you have – don’t try to change them, but let them fall away in time
3. Don’t pressure yourself, but look for opportunities
4. Have Fun - if ever you’re not having fun, try a new approach
5. Regroup when you need to – allow yourself to alter goals as your awareness grows*
6. Life Happens – sometimes you take two steps up and one step back and that’s ok
7. Remember you’re only human, but do the best you can
This works for lifestyle goals, and it also works for other long-term goals. What about house renovations? Well, can you really afford to do it all at once or will that leave you with overwhelming debt? If the answer is that it will leave you with overwhelming debt, then you might want to take one step (or “Phase”) at a time. And when it feels right to add the next phase (eg, you have your Christmas Bonus in hand), take that next step.
I look back at my own lifestyle and mind frame just a year ago, and I cannot believe how much I’ve changed, how many steps I’ve taken, how much I’ve grown. And all those changes occurred one step at a time!
*Thanks for the reminder, Deb G!
What’s Your Take on This?
For all you veterans who are living a sustainable life right now, what would you say to someone just starting out? How did you set out to change your lifestyle?
And for those of you just beginning this journey, are you struggling or is it coming easy?
Three Boxes of Local Strawberries
These were kindly given to me by my mom yesterday,
but they’re now impatiently waiting for me to make jam with them.
Do you ever have one of those days where everything on your To Do list seems totally overwhelming? And overnight, it seems, those days turn into weeks. Even a month or two….
Well, here I am nearly three months after the move, and there are a LOT of things on my To Do list that have been there for a long time. I have a blogging to do list, as well: I have a list of literally a couple hundred ideas for articles, just waiting to be written.
But I am just one person. So as I add new things into my life, like the blog and local community-building, it’s important for me to stay organized, stop doing things that aren’t as important to me but keep doing things that are important to me, and continue to run through my To Do list.
The Strawberries 10 minutes later, laid on a cookie sheet to be frozen.
I decided to freeze the berries and wait make jam when I have more time.
How I Tackle My To Do List….
And Keep From Becoming Overwhelmed
The number one priority is to not become overwhelmed. When I follow the list below, I feel happier as I continue to get things done.
1. Keep putting things on the list. Just because your list is long, doesn’t mean you should stop putting important things on the list. Having them in your head, where you’re trying to remember them on top of trying to get everything done at once – that’s a surefire way of becoming overwhelmed.
2. Prioritize. Give things a priority: Low, Medium and High should be good enough. High priorities for me tend to be the most imminent ones, the ones relating to work (losing a job would cause more problems), and the ones that relate to close friends and family (ie, you don’t want to lose friends because you didn’t have time to do something important for them).
3. Knock off at least one High Priority per day. And two per weekend day. Do it first thing in the morning, before you get started on the rest of your day. Then you’ll relax a little more for the rest of the day, since it won’t be hanging over your head.
4. Keep the Medium and Low priority items in order. For instance, as you knock off one item, the next in line rolls up to be done. As you think of something new, it goes to the bottom of the list. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but the point is that you do not want one item to remain at the bottom of your Medium priorities for eternity. An alternative is to move Medium priorities up to High if they’ve been there more than 1 week.
5. Knock off at least one Medium and one Low priority per week. And if they’re quick ones, do one per day.
6. Don’t stop doing things that are pleasurable. If you’re stressed out and watching a movie lowers your stress level, go for it. But before you watch a movie, stop for five minutes and tackle one small thing on your list. Then check it off and enjoy the movie. You’ll feel better.
7. If life gets in the way for a day, that’s ok. (Notice the rhyme – always allow yourself rhymes!) Some days, things come up non-stop and you just don’t have the chance to get out from under the day-to-day. Don’t beat yourself up about it. But the next morning, make sure you get up and tackle a solid, good item on your To Do list – even if you have to do it as the birds are waking up the neighborhood. You’ll feel better! (And you’ll sleep well that night!)
8. Save time doing everyday things. Do you make pancakes a lot (hmm, I know a few of you who do)? Why not double the recipe one day, and refrigerate the second half for tomorrow’s cakes? Need something at the store? Can you wait until you go on your long grocery trip tomorrow, to consolidate your trips? And even better, when you go shopping tomorrow, why not go to the grocery store, hardware store, library, and any other upcoming errands – all at the same time? That will save you gas and time.
When we were kids, my sister and I we assigned to do the dishes. I’m not sure who thought of it, but we used to challenge each other with “speed dishes”: essentially, do the dishes as fast as you can, without breaking anything of course! Amazing how much faster you can get things done if you put your mind to it. In my adult life, I’ve certainly used this idea for Speed House Cleaning, and just tonight I did some Speed Dishes. My husband and I enact the “Get In, Get Out” rule before going into a store. The idea is to go in, go directly to what you need, pay for it, and get out. This is not always the best way to live your life, but in a crunch, it saves time to do important things on your list.
9. Keep your head clear. Caffeine is ok (and for some of us it’s essential), but don’t binge our you’ll end up with a caffeine low soon afterwards. Exercise helps many people keep their blood flowing and ideas fresh. Stay Healthy (see #10). Breathe fresh air (outside, if it’s fresh, or artificially with a HEPA filter). Make sure you step outside for 20 minutes each morning, for your vitamin D (absorbed through your skin) and your circadian rhythms (stimulated by UV light).
10. Stay Healthy. Eat well and exercise. Don’t forget to take your vitamins and any prescriptions you normally take. Wash your hands before eating. Eat at least 3 meals a day, with whole foods (not processed), in regular intervals. Drink lots of water and avoid sugar and preservatives. Sleep at least 6 hours a night.
What About More Long-Term Lists?
Everything I want to do does not go on a To Do list. For these items, I tackle them differently. Visit the next post in this series: How To Keep From Becoming Overwhelmed — Part 2: Reaching Long-Term Goals.
What Do You Do When Your List Becomes Overwhelming?
Ok, I’ve mentioned it before. Now it’s time. Come one, come all, it’s time for a local blogger meet-up!
I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of meeting the Shibaguyz. And Laura. And Lesley. I have plans in the works to meet with the great Crunchy Chicken. But I know there are a lot more of you out there, and I am dying to meet the rest of you! Crunchy Chicken and I have been discussing the idea of a regional meet-up for a while, as have Laura and I. And since I previously mentioned the idea, a few of you have emailed me with great interest…. So, how about it???!!!
Worldwide, bloggers will be getting together on August 24th. That’s actually Kitchen Gardener’s Day and I know not all of us are gardeners, but that seems like a good a time as any. However, we’re up for whatever works best for everyone!
What Say You?
Let us know what you think! Yay or Nay? Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas?
Feel free to spread the word on your own blogs, and ask your readers if they’re interested – the more the merrier! Just make sure your readers make their way here, so we can see how many people are truly interested.