a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for May, 2007

Blog Love

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Tao of Change has a love life!

I’m so happy to be reviewed by Megan Prusynski of Green Options, a great green read! A wonderfully written review that confirms by blog life!

Megan is a web designer for Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and also does freelance design for green businesses, non-profits and other causes she believes in. Visit her blog and web site at the link above.

Thank you Megan! Tao

My Big Phat Washing Machine

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Now that I’m thinking about appliances, I have to address the laundry issue. When I found out how much water is used in traditional top loading washing machines – 40 gallons! – I kind of freaked. I have an obsession with the wet stuff and can’t stand to see it wasted, so running my washer was starting to make me crazy. And, as the periods of drought in my area became more frequent, I knew something in my laundry lifestyle had to change.

The first steps towards efficient washing were darn simple. First, I stopped washing my clothes unnecessarily – sheets, towels, jeans, t-shirts and even socks can pull double duty more than you think (the smell test says all). I washed only full loads and even started using water from my rain barrel to fill the wash cycle. That felt pretty good, but not good enough.

When I eventually moved, I left my top loaders behind and was able to switch to a front-loading washer. I asked for the most efficient version and ended up with something that can wash 17 pairs of blue jeans at one time (long story), which I now love, but any front loading machine will give you significant water savings and there are more compact versions available. Front loading washers use up to 50% less water – as little as 17 gallons – and up to 60 percent less electricity than top loaders!

Although I hang most of my laundry to line dry, I live in a humid climate which can make this difficult at times so I ended up getting the front-loading dryer, too. (I now find I use it so infrequently that I would rethink this decision.) Energy Star appliances that use 18 – 25 gallons of water per load, are now widely available, as well as more creative options like what I heard about on – a water-free washer, developed by Industrial Design students at the University of Singapore that uses negative-ions and compressed air. The future looks bright!

Washers always use a lot more energy when set on warm or hot. I’ve read in many places that cold water cleans clothes just as well and my experience over several years have shown this to be true. If you’re germ phobic, try adding a few drops of tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil, both natural and safe cleaning boosters with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

(P.S. If you haven’t already, ditch the toxic laundry soaps and look into the many available and effective green substitutes!)

The Coolest Cool – Eco-Fridge

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

No Impact Man is going refrigerator and toilet paper free and he’s a bigger man than me! Honestly, I appreciate and admire the incentive to raise my enviro-bar – I’ve been on the wagon for years, but this site truly inspired me to go even deeper into my eco-efforts It’s true, that the more ways I find to be more sustainable, the more ways I find to be more sustainable…I love this stuff. But more on that and impact guy later.

For now, I am grateful to have refrigeration, especially since I found and purchased one of the most efficient models around. This Con-Serv refrigerator by Vestfrost of Scandinavia, really changed the energy – both the footprint kind and the feeling kind – of my kitchen by being super efficient, CFC free and really, really quiet. It’s cool looking and offers especially usable, compact space, too.

I found this super eco-fridge through Oasis Montana, an appliance company into all things renewable. Besides selling the latest in energy-efficient appliances, they offer solar and wind-powered systems and promote activism for alternative energies through their web site and newsletter. Plus, they actually answer their telephone and were really nice to talk to.

If your current refrigerator is in good working condition, consider donation. Otherwise, search for a recycling center that will accept appliances. My town, like many, provided pick up and recycling for a small fee.

Eco-Underwearing Becomes You – socks and undies go green

Monday, May 28th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

A few things we just have to get new – like underwear. So, I was happy to see Green LA Girl’s post on buying them responsibly by going organic and fair trade. This post says it all, so check it out. I also want to point out that an 8$+ pair of undies is a reasonable cost for something that should last a good, long time (I’m going on 7 years with some of mine) so spending more up front for sustain-a-wear is definitely the eco-friendly and eco-nomic way.

As long as we’re going under, once you’ve worn a pair of organic cotton socks, you’ll never go back to enviro-ugly 3 packs at the chain stores. I promise – try one pair of Maggies Organics socks and you’ll be hooked for life and for the planet. Maggies also brightened up my under life with all the warm and friendly earth colors – including tie dye – available in both socks and tights. You can find Maggie’s Organics, including camisoles and women’s tops, at many stores which carry health foods and/or products or you can visit their website and be inspired by their story. This company is on a mission of sustainable practices both for the planet and people and committed to making good quality stuff. Really, I challenge you – try one pair!

Remember those bamboo t-shirts I love? Well, Bamboosa now makes socks! Bamboo has the added benefit of being moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial, so these crew, 1/4 and ankle socks are a great choice for sports or your average smelly feet. Besides offering green products and using sustainable practices, Bamboosa is a member of 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses donating 1% of their sales to environmental organizations.

I have discovered that all my clothes hold up best when washed in cold water and dried on a clothesline, which, of course, saves tons of energy, too. Hang a good day!


Friday, May 25th, 2007

Stewards of the Earth

“We must recognize immediately what it means to be citizens of the planet. It means accepting our obligation to be stewards of the earth’s life-giving capacities. As homeowners, we wouldn’t neglect or damage our houses until they weren’t fit to live in. Why would we do that to our planet?”

– Kathyrn Sullivan, Astronaut

Men in Kilts – Utilikilts on a mission to freedom

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Can a business be socially, environmentally and economically responsible and still be fun? Utilikilts says yes and then some. Yep, I’m talking men in kilts and not just the Scottish variety (no plaid flannel going on here) – think Mel Gibson crossed with Metallica.

These are no ordinary kilts – they are as utilitarian as the name implies, constructed from American-made sturdy fabric, complete with enough cargo space to house a six pack. There are different styles for doing just about any damn thing (snowboarding was on the list) – as the photo gallery on their web site demonstrates. Here’s head Changer, Jerry, in his Utilikilt (UK) at Sami’s wedding.

The mission? To set an example of more conscious captialism. The fun? To create an alternative to jeans that provides comfort, edgy style and freedom. If you want to know what men are freeing themselves from, go to the Customers Top 100 Reasons (now up to 135) To Wear a Kilt complied by a loyal fan base of both men and women.

After the fun read, I was really smiling when I read their Mission Statement, part of which I’ve reprinted here:

“Utilikilts seeks to set a global example, defining “business with a conscience”, driving a worldwide paradigm shift toward a more conscientious form of capitalism, and channeling company gains and resources back into the community.


  1. The Utilikilts Company does not accept preconceived limitations as our own.
  2. Utilikilts Company will only be publicly represented by actual and proven Utilikiltarians.
  3. The management of the company will not exploit cultures, peoples or environments to achieve capital gains.
  4. The company will only grow, act, and react at the speed our customer base demands.
  5. “Form Follows Function” is our modus operandi.”

Refashioned Fashion is Fashionable

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I love art and I love clothes and here’s a green trend that combines both! Refashioned fashion marries thrift and reuse with creativity. Artists have a special talent for remaking with flair but we can all feed our inner style child through some simple reworking at home. Last Summer, I made two halter tops from second-hand fabric – they are super comfy for hot days. It was so fun and easy that I then made several personalized versions for friends.

This experience so fed my DIYness that this time I’m going to try a T-shirt redo via Megan Nicolay’s new book, “Generation-T – 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt”. (I read about this book in the May issue of Plenty Magazine.) Don’t underestimate the influence of creative ingenuity – Megan’s book was released in March 2006 and she has since toured 15 cities and appeared on Oprah. Megan “I could so make that” Nicolay published this book in the spirit of environmentalism and anti-consumerism and as a way to “bring fashion to the people.”

Refashioning is not just for thrifters. Style Will Save Us, a green-minded digital magazine, put a well-deserved spotlight on Parisian collaborative, Andrea Crews, an art and fashion collective whose designers have been establishing the true cool of reused since 2002. The movement also works to connect sustainability with art and commercial fashion, fostering social consciousness in both industries. Like all things both smart and cool, this trend is catching on quickly, with refashioned designs showing up in stores, including BTC Elements, one of my favorites in online eco-fashion shopping.

Refashioning is a way to refresh your old stuff and find your own style as well as feed your creative side. And I’m all for any efforts which bring us closer to our authentic selves. For, once we’ve realized our true selves, we can reach out to the rest of the world.

Tools Are Us – community tool share makes sense

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I was walking through the downtown neighborhoods with my dogs the other day – enjoying the relative quiet of the old and narrow streets, lined with creatively loved and lived in little houses. I stopped when I saw a homemade posting board near the curb. Here was a note about a lost chicken and another with a Buddha-like drawing. But the real made-me-smile message was from someone suggesting that they form a tool co-op, storing tools collectively in a community shed. The note invited neighbors to start a conversation about what they had to share.

I’ve often wondered at the lack of logic in the practice of people living on the same street but each owning separate sets of yard tools, house tools, ladders, etc.. Unless someone is spending way too much time doing yard work, most of these tools are needed only occasionally, so sharing makes economic and ecological sense. It could even make it feasible to invest in some of the new and improved mowing options, powered by solar. You can find some good tips here on Mother Earth Living. I was excited to find out you can even convert a gas mower to solar-electric power! Of course, hopefully we are all using push mowers whenever possible and/or considering filling your open space with Food Not Lawns (if you haven’t read this book yet, please take a look).

We share tools here in Co-housing and it works out fine. Since there are no garages in our intentional community, we are also considering building a bicycle shed. Sharing stuff lightens the load on the earth, our wallets and our minds. Do you share anything with your neighbors or friends? I’d love to hear about it!

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