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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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How To Manage Time

I mentioned yesterday that I’m working on managing my time so that I can do everything I want to do.  I think time management is extremely important to talk about and share ideas about, because we are all busy with “life.”  And it’s tough to make time for our “simple” and sustainable lives – like cooking, cleaning, baking, sewing, and all of the other things we do at home – let alone make time for community building.

But… it’s important.  I wrote the other day that Voluntary Simplicity + Building Community = Saving Our Children.  This is something I firmly believe and I know many of you believe this as well.  So… how do we make time for these important things?

Some Of The Things I Do (Or Don’t Do) To Save Time:

  1. I don’t watch television (occasionally we do watch dvds).
  2. We have many of our groceries and locally-farmed veggies delivered by a great local company.
  3. I live in a neighborhood where I don’t have to drive much – I can walk or take the bus quickly to most anywhere I need to go.
  4. I work at home and near home.
  5. My volunteer work is all within walking distance.
  6. My doctor, dentist, and just about every business I frequent is within walking distance.
  7. I have a good working calendar, and a good working to do list which I consult and update often.
  8. I prioritize my to do list so that the things that are least important are the ones that get put off if necessary.
  9. I set short-, mid-, and long-term goals and focus on accomplishing those (which helps prioritize my to do list).
  10. I work with my husband so that when he works late I cook, and when I work late he cooks (I work late more often – ha!).
  11. I’m learning my limits, learning to say no to some things that are less a priority.
  12. I consolidate errands and meetings into similar locations and consecutive times.
  13. I stay healthy by eating healthy food, having regular physician check-ups, and exercising every day (by walking to my meetings!).
  14. And, probably most importantly, I have a loving husband with whom I can relax and unwind.

I LOVE my life.  I am so happy doing all that I do.  But I would really appreciate hearing ways that you manage your time, too, so that I might be able to do a better job of keeping everything in line and moving forward, without stress.

How Do You Manage Your Time?

What tricks to you have?  What have you read?  What are you working on in terms of managing time?  How do you do everything that you do?

I’m Going to Mend & Make-Do – How About You?!

I’ve been busy lately – have you noticed? I apologize that I’ve left you all without tasty tidbits to read lately. I’m working on a better system, trying a few different time management ideas, and we’ll see how it goes!

So… I’ve been watching Rob’s new challenge for a while, sitting off on the sidelines. And it kills me to sit on the sidelines of such a great challenge! It’s brilliant. Particularly brilliant because it perfectly falls in line with the Buy Sustainably Challenge.

Make-do and Mend Challenge

Here’s How It Works

Don’t buy it new – fix it and renew! The challenge is simple, really, instead of throwing out something and adding to the waste stream, try repairing it instead.

Yeah, that’s it. No more complicated than that!

How Do You Repair?


By sewing, gluing, caulking, hammering, screwing, patching, replacing parts, …even repurposing. There are some things that you just can’t repair, and in those cases I do everything in my power to find a new purpose for it or give it to someone else who can repurpose it. And, if I can’t find a repurpose for it, then recycle it. And if I can’t recycle it… then I recycle all the recyclable parts in it. (And oh yes, it is fun to take things apart!!)

Rob has a Do It Yourself blog with some great tips, and I will be writing about how to fix and repurpose household items in the coming weeks. As a part of the Waste Prevention Grant I’ve been working on with Sustainable Capitol Hill, we’re planning a Repairing and Mending Workshop with neighborhood residents. So this will be good research for me!


These skills are also incredibly useful during difficult and uncertain economic times. So I’ll also try to share some of the things my grandfather tells me about getting by during the Great Depression.

If you’d like to join me in the Make-Do and Mend Challenge, head on over to Rob’s World. If you’d like to join the Buy Sustainably Challenge, sign up in the comments here. And if you would like to informally join, that works too! I know many of you don’t have blogs and just come here for inspiration, so take from these posts whatever you can and start applying them to your lifestyle!


Voluntary Simplicity + Building Community = Saving Our Children

I’ve just written a new post at the Simple | Green | Frugal Co-op.  Please come check it out and let me know your thoughts!

Voluntary Simplicity + Building Community = Saving Our Children

Planting Native Plants

St. Mark's Greenbelt Trail

Sunday was the Third Annual Green Seattle Day, where around 700 people turned out to replace invasive plants with native plants in 20 parks around the city. As part of our new Urban Gardening Committee at Sustainable Capitol Hill, several of us worked with others in our community to plant native plants in our neighborhood greenbelt.

Planting for erosion control on the slope

And… did I mention that in the morning it was ABSOLUTELY POURING DOWN RAIN??! But we braved it!

Alexis Battling Invasive Holly

We met and huddled under cover to learn basic tool skills and safety information. And then we set to work, clearing ivy and other (mostly English) invasives, and planting oregon grapes, yews, dogwood, ferns, and much more.

Gabriel Trimming A Damaged Branch

Jill planting dogwood

Fortunately later in the day we were rewarded with beautiful sunshine, some very sore muscles (!!!), and - most importantly – a feeling that we’d helped make this park a welcome home to native wildlife.

The tired but happy SCH Green Seattle Crew

Melinda, Gabriel, Jill, Alexis, Clayton (left to right)

For more information about native and invasive plants – and what you can do to help, please visit:

Update:  LatigoLiz has shared two great resources:  


Recent Awards – Thank You!

Uber Amazing Award

I have received an Uber Amazing Award from Chile Chews recently. Thanks, Chile!

Per the rules, I must nominate someone else for the award. You know I love you all right? Seriously. I love all you contribute here. So I hate to play “favorites” or anything along those lines.

Instead, I’m going to see this as an opportunity to point you to some new blogs. So for the Uber Amazing Award, I’d like to point you to the brand new Green Phone Booth, comprised of five bloggers I love and respect very much. Check it out if you haven’t already!

Brillante Weblog Award

Also, quite a while ago I received a Brillante Weblog Award from both Sunbeam Soapbox and One Size Fits All. Thanks, Stephanie and Beany!

So I must choose seven blogs for this one… yikes! Ok, again, ditto what I said above: I love you all, and I’m just going to take this opportunity to point you to some new blogs. I also know some of you have already received this award, or other awards from me, so I’m going to try to branch out to others. Here we go…

  • These Days In French Life - I love Riana’s writing, and I’m fascinated by the latest twist in her journey to live simply.
  • Dustpan Alley – Angelina has a wonderful voice and doesn’t hold back. She is setting up a new simple living magazine and navigating the tight job market during the heart of a serious recession… yes, she and I have similar battles at times…
  • The Blogging Bookworm – Several great bloggers have come together to bring us a comprehensive listing of green and sustainable books. I think this blog is far too often overlooked for the amazing resource that it is. And psst, they’re also giving away a free book every week. Less tv more books, I say!

  • make-a-(green)plan – Kate is an extremely prolific writer who has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to talk about them. She has a unique and extremely intelligent voice that I value very much – both on her blog and here at One Green Generation.

  • Kale For Sale – Katrina is a former “neighbor” of mine, living about 50 miles south of our Geyserville house in Northern California. She’s a beautiful photographer and a poetic writer.
  • Beauty That Moves – Heather is a fellow writer at the Simple-Green-Frugal Co-op, and I’ve only recently discovered her blog through that partnership. Her blog is a window into her stunningly beautiful and simple lifestyle.
  • SouleMama – Oh boy, I hesitate to share Amanda’s blog with you for fear that you’ll leave me for her! ; ) It’s a gorgeous blog, that has gained an amazing popularity. You may have come across her recent book, The Creative Family.


“Food Fight” Joins the Growing Ranks of Media About Local Food

Food Fight

“Food Fight” adds to the new wave of local and slow food media like  King Corn, The Future of Food, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, Super Size Me, Black Gold, The Meatrix and other short filmsAnimal Vegetable Miracle, 100 Mile Diet, Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Slow Food Nation, The Future of Food and many other booksand a myriad of great local food blogs and websites.

If you have seen most of those movies and read most of those books and websites, you may not learn a whole lot from watching “Food Fight.”  But it does have some great interviews with Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Wolfgang Puck.  The film also spends a large portion of time following the history of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, which is interesting.  And it spends a few inspiring moments following Will Allen, who just won the MacArthur Award for his work in inner-city Milwaukee.  

Overall, my hopes were too high for this movie.  I really, really, really wanted to like it and to give it a glowing review.  As a documentary director and editor myself, I think the filmmakers have a lot of great material here, but need another pass at the editing:  it lacks cohesion and doesn’t quite capture the energy, vitality, and diversity of the local food movement.   Having said that, however, I am glad I saw it – it is a film that has added value to my life, unlike many films out there.

Ann Marie (who writes a great deal about local food) sent me this film and asked that I write about a November 8th screening in LA.  Due to the crazy week last week – full of an election, writing a huge grant application, getting the Sustainable Capitol Hill website up, and working on the a new business – I was unable to post about it in time for the screening.  I apologize!  But there is a Facebook group and a website, where you can sign up to receive screening information for your area.  And there are more video clips on Food Fight‘s YouTube page.




My aunt and cousins:  Omari, Nadira, Aunt Susan, Hadiya (from left to right)

I have three beautiful cousins who are being raised by their aunt in Florida. They’re African-American, two girls and one boy: Hadiya, Nadira, and Omari. I love them dearly – they’re amazing people. Some of you might remember my visit with them, where I stopped to see them on my way home from filming in the Dominican Republic in the spring.

The first night of my visit, we were all sitting on the porch eating a yummy dinner and Nadira, the youngest, asked who I was going to vote for: Hillary or Barak. All three of them said they were voting for Barak – and they were beaming when they said it.

Later that evening my aunt and I were talking after they’d gone to bed and she said, that it doesn’t matter so much who wins. What matters is that here are three children who are growing up thinking that it is normal for a woman and a black man to become president.

When I was a child in the 70s, we were still coming out of the Civil Rights Movement. Women’s Lib was the current phrase. People were fighting hard for basic rights. The Equal Rights Amendment didn’t even pass.

And here we are today, a woman ran for president. An African-American ran for president. And another woman ran for Vice President. And wow, our country has elected an African-American to become our new president. What a victory for tolerance, for diversity, for the American dream as our ancestors immigrated here hoping for a better life, for equal footing, for respect, and for the chance to be who they dream to be.

Impromptu Neighborhood Street Party on Broadway

The party grows and attracts local media

Hailing the bus!

Here are some pictures I took with my cell phone as Matt and I walked home from an election party on Tuesday night. This is the center of our neighborhood, on Broadway and Olive, just up the street from our house. Hundreds of people were dancing in the streets for hours. White, black, hispanic, gay and straight – all dancing together, celebrating diversity, celebrating hope, celebrating a new America.

We have come a long way. Here in Seattle, we voted to extend our new mass transit system. We voted for more parks. We voted to refurbish the aging downtown farmer’s market. Californians voted to extend animal rights. It was a good night to be an American.

In this neighborhood where I live, a large portion of the population is gay. And while we made great strides toward equal rights this week, we are not finished with this process. Three states voted for a ban on gay marriage. So we still have a long way to go.

But I am hopeful that we have come so far in my 35 years. I am hopeful that the children of my many gay friends will see great strides during their lifetime, that they will see tolerance grow, that they will experience the breadth of the American dream, as people of all types live here hoping for equal footing, for respect, and for the chance to be who they dream to be.

This week I am proud to be an American. Whoever you voted for on Tuesday, I hope you are proud too. Here’s to increased tolerance, to extended mass transit, to more parks, to improved farmer’s markets, to animal’s rights, to diversity, to respect, and to a wonderfully improving America!

Update: Just found this video of our neighborhood party…