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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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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!


Taking Your Own Advice

Do you ever forget to take your own advice?  Me too.


Today I’m going to spend the day catching up.  I have many emails to answer, little home things to take care of (laundry, cleaning, and organizing), and work projects to finish up.  So I’m not going to get overwhelmed, I’m going to take one step at a time, and I’m going to get it done!


Thank you all for your amazing comments of late – I will spend some time today answering any questions you’ve asked.  And a big open arms welcome to all of our new Challenge participants!


If you’re looking for more to read, try out some of my favorites about Building Community.  It’s the next step on the path of sustainability.  


Have a wonderful day!

 

No ‘Poo: New & Improved!

On Valentine's Day


Well, my first article about washing hair without shampoo spurned such a tizzy of interest, that I thought you all might enjoy an update.


I have been shampoo-free for over 5 months now. I LOVE it!


  • I’m finding I can use a decreasing amount of baking soda and still get the same results. Also, I can now go 4 days without washing or rinsing, if I put my hair up on the 4th day.

  • It’s CHEAP: I have been using the same bottle of vinegar since almost the beginning, and it’s still 1/2 full. I’ve used just 1 small package of baking soda.

  • I love the way it makes my hair look! It’s a deeper, more natural and luscious color.


But mostly, my hair is pretty similar to how it was before. It’s just that now I don’t have to think about buying shampoo and conditioner (baking soda and vinegar are things we always have around the house), I don’t have to worry about what’s going onto my head and into my body, and I’m saving money.


My Containers


There were several questions about containers, how I keep from getting it in my eyes, and other similar points. So I thought I’d share with you my containers:


My Baking Soda \


One is an old shampoo bottle, the other is an old salad dressing bottle. The trick is to be able to get the solution where you want it, which is why I use these bottles with long stems and small holes. It works really well, it has become totally natural for me. For me, this is just the way hair is washed now!


After using either Recipe #1 or Recipe #2 for a while, you might try using the following more diluted method.


Recipe #3: The Simple Method Diluted


1. Use an old shampoo bottle or a squeeze bottle of some variety (see photo above). Mix 1 part baking soda to 6 parts Water. Each time you use this solution, shake well to mix.


2. Squeeze the baking soda solution onto your dry scalp, then massage your scalp for several seconds. (You just need to saturate your scalp, not the rest of your hair.)


3. Leave in for 1-3 minutes, and rinse completely.


4. In an old shampoo bottle or a squeeze bottle (see photo above), mix 1 part Organic White Vinegar to 8 parts Water. You can add essential oils or herbs if you like – I add 1 cinnamon stick (which lasts through several bottles of mixture) and 1/2 t vanilla (or a vanilla stick seen in the photo above). This masks the vinegar smell, and leaves your hair with a faint scent of spices.


5. Leave on hair for several seconds, then rinse completely.


Questions? Thoughts? Ideas?


Have you tried this since I wrote about it? Do you use a different method? Have you tried to do this in the past?


What Do You Do When There’s Too Much To Do?

Mother Teresa In Crowd


There is a lot to do.  There is a lot to do in our lives.  There is a lot to do at home or at work.  There is a lot to do to make the world a better place, and to help make it whole again.


Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  I do.  The world is a big place.  Climate change is a big problem.  Rethinking our culture and the way that we do things is… huge.


I came across a wonderful quote yesterday.  It was an amazing reminder.  A person that changed millions of people’s lives also felt overwhelmed:


“If I look at all the mass, I will never act.  If I look at the one, I will.” – Mother Teresa.


One step at a time, one change at a time, one person at a time.  We change our lifestyles one action at a time.  We improve our communities one meeting at a time.  We change the world one person at a time.


When you are changing your lifestyle at home, do you think about a specific reason why?  I do.  I actually envision a child in India who loses her home to climate change, as the waters rise.  I picture a polar bear, alone and adrift on a tiny bit of ice in Antarctica.  I think of my best friend’s daughter Simona when she’s my age, rationing the precious little oil we left her generation.


Yesterday my grandfather – who is just 6 months younger than Mother Teresa – said to me: “I hope I live to see the end of this Depression.”  He lived through the Great Depression. And it was tough for him, it colored the way he sees the world. Not only did it teach him to survive and become resourceful, but it also allowed him to feel beauty in a way our generation has never felt. He sees beauty in being free from suffering.


But now he feels the suffering of people.  He suffers economically himself. And you better believe I think of my grandfather as I work to change our world.


We have two years. In two years my grandfather will live to be 100 years. And he is working hard to stick around until then.  So that gives us 2 years to fix the economy, bit by bit. I’m motivated!!


I encourage you to think specifically when you feel overwhelmed.  Just do one thing, just start one thing even.  You can’t change yourself overnight and you certainly can’t change the world overnight.  But you can do something.  So do it.


And if it help to motivate you, visualize a specific reason.  Your children, a cute animal, a precious piece of land, whatever helps you imagine the affects of your change.


Mother Teresa And Baby


Mother Teresa said so many wise words.  But here is another of my favorites:


“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”


Happy Sunday

Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Matt and I had a fabulous Valentine’s Day evening at a local restaurant. Truly one of the best dinners we have ever had! I’m still reeling.

 

I have quite a lot of work to do today, to get ready for our official Re-Vision Labs launch on March 2nd. So I am going to leave you with a link to 100 Must Read Blogs By Women. Thanks, Lauren, for reminding me of this great link. And of course I don’t think it’s great just because One Green Generation is #88!! ; )

 

Recipe: Hearty Cauliflower Soup

Beautiful Heirloom Cauliflower


Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  I’m taking my grandfather to lunch, and then having dinner with my wonderful man. Hope you have a lovely day!


Here is a soup that works well as a meal in itself, and is perfect for those still chilly evenings….


Continue reading Recipe: Hearty Cauliflower Soup

The Great Backyard Bird Count

GBBC-button_NORCAR_DLTH2009.gif


My apologies as this one has got away from me, and it begins today!  But it lasts for 3 days, so there is still plenty of time, and it is something incredibly fun and interesting for both kids and adults.  Basically, it’s like stargazing… but it’s beautiful birds in your own backyard!


Here’s how it works:  Count birds for 15 minutes or more between February 13 and 16, and report your sightings at Birdcount.  That’s pretty much all there is to it!  You can count them anywhere (your backyard, at a local park or wildlife refuge, wherever you like), you don’t have to know the name of every bird, you certainly don’t have to be an ornithologist – whatever data you can give them will help.


“Anyone who can identify even a few species can contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to inform conservation efforts to protect birds and biodiversity,” says Audubon Education Vice-President, Judy Braus.


Where Does Your Data Go?


The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, which is critical for conservation efforts.  These projects also help scientists understand the changes in migration patterns and numbers as our climate changes.


As we all know, funding for great causes is in short supply these days.  So here we can help provide our continent with some very useful information, while getting the family outside!  


Steps To Taking Data


1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 13–16, 2009. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like – one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.


2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you’re likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number or each species you see on this checklist.


3. When you’re finished, enter your results at this Birdsource page. You’ll see a button marked “Enter Your Checklists!” on the website home page beginning February 13, 2009. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1, 2009. 


You can also enter a photo contest if you like.


Resources


  • The Birdsource page has tips for identifying similar-looking species.
  • Cornell also has a great website for bird watchers.  It includes a Bird Search, How To ID Birds, and much more.
  • If you don’t have one at home, I recommend finding a bird guide for your region – they’re not very expensive and usually you can find one at a used book store.  And they’re certainly fun to have around the house.


Have fun!