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

Archive for June, 2007

The Tao of Food

Friday, June 29th, 2007


by Tao Oliveto, Mpls., MN
A mainstay of Minneapolis culture and community, Tao Natural and Organic Foods is a gem. As I remembered from my years spent in this ever-evolving yet forever familiar area situated between Uptown and Downtown, Tao Foods was and is a sanctuary for the new agers, health-seekers and the alt-curious. I had a favorite leisurely meal (tempeh reuben) and re-enjoyed the hangout bliss of the herb loft and reading room.

The friendly cafe and specialty retail store offers fresh juices and whole grain meals, complemented with organic and often local vegetables. They also stock specialty groceries, bodycare and supplements, including sea vegetables, raw honey, handmade soaps and kombucha. The earthy decor hadn’t changed much since my years living Uptown – lots of wood and natural light, with posters, tapestries and handmade menu boards. I could have stayed for hours (come to think of it, I did). It’s not just a place to go, but a place to Be – something we need more of everywhere.

As in many progressive cities, local, organic and vegetarian foods are slowing but steadily gaining acceptance and popularity and moving towards the mainstream. I’ve eaten this way for decades but, as a nutrition counselor, still have the opportunity to see the calming and unifying effect that conscious eating of whole foods has on the body, the mind and emotions. A little change can go a long way. See for yourself – follow the Tao of food!

For more, check out this book, The Tao of Healthy Eating.

Tao Foods, 2200 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls., MN  612-377-1857

The Green Book Reaches Far and Wide

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Minneapolis, MN
What happens when you cross a green guide with Hollywood? You get a step by step guide to saving the planet that can reach the masses and transform the greening of America from drudgery to information, inspiration and fashion. Fashion? Yep, fashion. Including thoughts and comments from celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and Ellen DeGeneres gives this book the trend factor that has been missing in past versions. Subheadings such as “The Family Vacation That Ate the Planet” keep the tone kid-friendly and fun. Yet, The Green Book, The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time, doesn’t hold back – it covers every aspect of living in 12 chapters with sections titled, “The Big Picture”, “The Simple Steps” and “The Little Things”.

The authors come with topnotch green creds, including work with the Natural Resources Defense Council, MTV and decades of authorship on social, environmental and business issues. Combine this with a foreward interviewing renowned architect and environmental visionary, William McDonough (as well as eco-hottie, Cameron Diaz) and you have a world-changing publication that even a hardcore treehugger can love.

As the book states, it represents a mere starting point for new greens. Tips on selecting paper towels with “smaller-size sheets” or using “fewer plastic bags” seem a little watered down when we simply need to get rid of the damn things. Suggesting that we cover the swimming pool or turn off the sauna “while not in use” somehow misses an important point. I like the tip about buying organic cotton tampons, but using a Diva Cup or Keeper would eliminate this type of waste entirely.

Still, this informative and encouraging book belongs in every home and business. I happily learned a thing or two. For instance, text messaging uses less energy than sending email, you can print stamps online and using a stapler without metal staples can keep trillions of non-biodegradable waste from entering landfills.

Finishing with an extensive list of references and resources, The Green Book gives all of us a push to action – albeit a gentle one.

For more information, go to

Dying To Be Green

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

by Jerry Stifelman, Minneapolis, MN


“What are you doing, Mr. Spock?! Put down that hari kari knife!”

“But Captain, it is only logical. To save the life of the planet, we must take our own lives. I have made the calculations.”

“I don’t have time for your logic or your calculations, Spock – I have aliens to attend to! I want to discover new frontiers, and explore new worlds! I want to make love to the redhead I met on Planet Micron.”

I’m with Kirk. In all our measurements about our impact on the environment, we need to include life itself. We need to save planet — and the planet needs to save us. If we screw up, the earth will miss our poetry, our rock songs, our graffiti and our endless drama of falling in and out of love with each other. The fight for the environment is a skirmish in the war for our souls — which we are suffocating in a self-induced frenzy of materialism.

It’s easy to forget the magic inherent in living on earth by the dark realizations of our impact upon it. But if we forget that, we lose the forest for the trees.

Our Bodies, Ourselves – cancer and healing

Monday, June 25th, 2007

by Greg Gillette, N.E., H.C.
Nutrition Specialist

Cancer, just hearing it mentioned strikes fear, dread, sadness, and anger: emotions now prevalent in our daily lives. Cancer is “the disease” of these modern times. Why has this illness become as common as owning a computer in this country? Where does it come from? What can we learn from it and what can we do about it and with it?

As I look upon our society as a whole and examine the overall infrastructure, I feel and see a society that is ill; overrun with materialism, competition, coldness, sadness and a sincere lack of true community and a sincere lack of having a real interest of and heartfelt thinking towards each other. I peer through these facts from an objective view, since I have experienced these feelings and pressures of life. Striving to see the positive, I know many folks are waking up and seeking and building community, peace, a higher calling to serve mankind, and heartfelt thinking and feeling towards one another.

However, cancer is not going away anytime soon, and why is that? From the spiritual/emotional/ mental aspect, I sense that isolation and loneliness, coupled with the lack of real communication and the over stimulation of our senses with materialism, is a core factor. People, on the whole, are rather lost and isolated in the true sense of human connection and community. Loneliness, anxiety, separation, and stress all lead to a feeling of despair, a feeling of life as a struggle; this in turn weakens all of the bodies that make up the human being: physical, etheric, astral, and ego. When the bodies are not properly aligned, illness and disease can manifest. Two quotes by Rudolf Steiner come to mind in regards to disease and suffering.

“There is exactly as much suffering and pain in the world as there is interest only in the physical and material. And for the whole human being, there is hardly anything worse than being far away in the soul, with one’s heart, from what the head must perform. The more people have to do what does not interest them, the weaker they make their ether body.”

From these statements, we realize the gravity and seriousness of why cancer is so prevalent in our society. Most folks, including myself, have experienced that painful feeling of doing something with your head that your heart has no interest in. Now, I am not saying this in regards to doing chores or other obligations and responsibilities of life, but in regards to a vocation or project that you have no interest in or a relationship that is not fulfilling, yet you are afraid to leave it and move on. These things can literally tear your soul and drastically weaken your etheric body. This, I feel, is a huge phenomenon in life, especially the working of a job that is slowly killing your soul. New creative jobs and community-based industries that support the local economy in all aspects are needed to create a feeling of worthiness and respect for many people and for the good of the entire community.

The quote about the relationship of pain and suffering and an individual’s interest only in the physical and material holds true, though not in direct proportion to the person who only has material interests. Many people diagnosed with cancer are loving and caring individuals and many people with only material thoughts and interests do not contract this disease. Perhaps those with cancer are better able to deal with it, or perhaps they are taking a higher role in taking on the consequences of all the material and physical thoughts that are produced every day in the world. I really do not know, but it is definitely a huge and deep thought to ponder. What are the spiritual aspects behind someone contracting cancer? I think deeply on this because my mother, Kay Gillette, lived life with a passion for helping others with love and kindness; yet, she left the physical world at the age of 63 from the effects of a brain tumor.

We also need to look at the prevailing materialistic forces, as they are definitely influencing mankind in a way that is out of balance. These forces go hand in hand with modern diseases like cancer; they strive to infuse materialistic thoughts in everyone, with no inclination toward spiritual forces and a living spiritual world.
Unlike in the past when different forces influenced diseases infused with heat (fever), accompanied with hallucinations, vivid images and a sense of lifting out of the physical body, the materialistic forces of today are connected with cold, accompanied by hardening, homogenization and a feeling of being driven deep into the physical body.

Our society is cancerous and it is deeply affecting everyone. Looking to the physical world, we have to take into account, the “toxic load” of this world in which we live. There is no need to go into detail as it is blatantly obvious that the water, the air, the commercial food, and the chemical products that are a part of our daily lives are affecting the health of everyone and the health of our society and are, clearly, a part of this cancer epidemic.

Therapeutically, what can be done to decrease the risks of cancer and effectively nourish someone who has this disease, with a high possibility of transforming that person’s health so that the cancer is no more an issue and health and vitality are restored?

The total view of life must be taken into account when someone is working on breaking free of cancer and breaking into a new life. Aspects of nutrition, relationships, spirituality, mental/emotional powers, movement, vocation, and other life attributes have to be brought into balance and harmony. New ways of living, feeling, willing, and thinking must be brought forth.

In addition to cleansing the body with organic whole foods, supplements, and other natural protocols, the home must be cleansed of all toxic cleaners, detergents, body care products, etc. The water for drinking and bathing must be filtered. Even the clothes a person wears should be natural, like cotton, wool, and silk.

To a certain extent, those with cancer need to get back to nature as much possible, including walking with and enjoying Mother Nature and all her healing and comforting attributes. Furthermore, any negative relationships, vocations, and or mental/emotional states need to be addressed and guided back to harmony through diligent and courageous inner work.

Although cancer is normally seen as a tragedy in our society, a new prospective must be considered. Cancer must be looked upon as a calling to change our society and ourselves: a deep change that brings life back to a balanced living state where the physical and spiritual worlds are working together and guiding mankind to why we are really here: to evolve as the universe evolves with higher spiritual thinking, to fully grasp and understand the spiritual mysteries, to develop heart felt and loving relationships that can be continued into the spiritual world, and to develop a true sense of brotherhood and sisterhood by sincerely becoming interested and concerned with how your fellow human beings are doing and living.

Cancer can take our society and us on the present currents of fear, isolation and gross materialism, or we can alter the currents and change the direction of cancer with love, a real sense of community, the cleansing of our bodies and the environment, and the persistent and devoted work we must perform with each other and with the spiritual world.

note from Tao: This article, soon to be printed in Lilipoh Magazine, was just sent to me from the author – a good and old friend. He did not know about my mother having cancer. Greg lives in Asheville, NC, working and writing as a Nutrition Specialist. He can be reached at 828-252-9874 or

Mom Knows Best

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Miinneapolis, MN

There’s something about being home that brings out my ranting side. I’ve been working on this, but usually, I get here and immediately begin stomping my feet – maybe it’s that inner child thing. So even on my first visit, I was going on about the perils of plastics in the hospital, about drought and lack of water in my “City of Lakes”, about the pollution from idling cars and so on. Normally, my tolerant family does their best to listen, but eventually I wear on them.

But my mom surprised me this visit and chimed right in. Sitting in her hospital room, one day after surgery, she was willing to be outraged – not about her cancer, but about Al Gore and his private jet! She agreed emphatically as I ranted on – we’ve got to change things before it’s too late. Here is where I sometimes go cynical on her – perhaps because my child-self was nothing if not dramatic – but I concluded, in a pout, that it was already too late – we couldn’t save the world.

“I don’t think it is too late”, she said, so quietly that I don’t think anyone heard her but me. (Of course, it was meant specifically for me.) This from a woman who is facing chemotherapy and surgery. This from a woman who lives within the comfort of a caring family and a 60-year marriage, who has no reason to get involved with these issues now, to start fighting outside of herself. So, if she says we can do it, I believe her. Thanks, mom, you gave me the courage to go on. I hope I can give you the same.

Give me Your Sick….plastic perils in hospitals

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Minneapolis, MN

I missed posting for two days because I’m in Minneapolis visiting family. My mom is in the hospital and I arrived just after her surgery. She is fighting cancer and I was relieved to see her looking bright and strong. Being at the hospital produced a mix of thoughts and feelings, some personal and some drifting – in my usual way – to the world we live in.

When I was 16, my first job was as a tray passer in a city hospital. Three of us would work just a few hours each evening, loading the dinner trays onto a cart and pass them out over 17 floors, go back and pick them up again. I was a typical junk food-loving teenager at that point, but remember still being perplexed at what I uncovered on those trays. It all looked processed and wilted, faded to shades of gray. The most sick patients, coming out of surgery, received a can of soda and a serving of Jello – in other words – sugar and chemicals.

So I wasn’t surprised when, decades later, it appeared not much had changed. My mom was served some version of what I saw in my tray passing days. What did shock me, however, was that the food was now being served in plastic – styrofoam cups included! Back in my hospital days, they were at least using glass plates and stainless steel utensils. This is progress? This is how we treat the sick?

I can’t help but imagine, not only the environmental assault from this waste, but the already struggling immune systems of patients facing the added stress of unwholesome food and exposure to the dioxins and other chemicals in the plastics surrounding them. Read below and visit an earlier post to learn more about the dangers of plastics.

Hospitals and plastics. Dioxin prevention
Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

CHLORINATED DIOXINS and related compounds are extremely potent toxic substances, producing effects in humans and animals at extremely low doses. Because these compounds are persistent in the environment and accumulate in the food chain, they are now distributed globally, and every member of the human population is exposed to them, primarily through the food supply and mothers’ milk. An emerging body of information suggests that dioxin contamination has reached a level that may pose a large-scale, long-term public health risk. Of particular concern are dioxin’s effects on reproduction, development, immune system function, and carcinogenesis. Medical waste incineration is a major source of dioxins. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, as the dominant source of organically bound chlorine in the medical waste stream, is the primary cause of “iatrogenic” dioxin produced by the incineration of medical wastes. Health professionals have a responsibility to work to reduce dioxin exposure from medical sources. Health care institutions should implement policies to reduce the use of PVC plastics, thus achieving major reductions in medically related dioxin formation.

It looks like our awareness and our efforts towards change need to go beyond the world of take-out containers and plastic bags. We have so much to learn, so many important steps to take to heal our bodies and the planet. Be a voice for the earth and the people you love.

Disposable? Not so fast…

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Paper towel and napkin use and overuse has long been one of my eco-peeves, but now that a reader alerted me to another shocking statistic concerning our disposable habits, I have to get back in the saddle on this issue.

The stats from American Dryer:

A typical fast food restaurant uses 25 – 35 cases of 4,000 multi-fold paper towels annually which means 9 trees are cut down, 1,000 pounds of landfill waste is generated and 20,000 gallons of water is polluted with chemicals. It is estimated that 35% of landfill waste is paper towel. Although paper towels can be made from recycled materials (and without chemicals), they cannot be recycled.

In the last 25 years, cups and plates disposal’s gone from 190,000 to 930,000 tons. These are things we use for just a few minutes each!

How to take action? Let’s slow down be aware, care, and Bring Your Own. Many places offer real plates, glasses and utensils but we end up taking the disposable stuff out of habit. Do you grab 10 napkins or towels when one is enough? Can you air dry after hand washing? I always carry a bandana in my bag for this purpose.

You know those public restroom hand dryers I mentioned from the “old days”? It turns out they still exist in their new and improved form. I plan to alert my local coffee shops and eateries and encourage a switch. Remember, most service industries pay close attention to customer requests. Don’t be shy – give a damn and make change happen.

When in Drought – Landscaping Lies

Monday, June 18th, 2007

With rising temperatures and more frequent drought everywhere, the future of water supply looks bleak. Drought notwithstanding, it is critical that we change how we view and use our water.

There are many ways that we misuse water in our personal and professional lives, and we may well be landscaping ourselves into deep trouble. We’ve been fooled into thinking that we need to manage our home or business landscapes beyond reason. There’s something almost eerie about those manicured lawns around most homes and businesses and the water used on it’s upkeep is the living nightmare. Here’s what my local botanist and eco-hero, Ken Moore, has to say about it. Excerpted from his column in The Carrboro Citizen:

Sadly, the xeriscape concept [of landscaping] has been recruited as a grand promotional scheme by the irrigation industry. The well-intentioned gardener, homeowner and urban and corporate landscape supervisor are all advised that a well-designed automated irrigation system is required for the survival of their landscapes. It is declared that irrigation systems guarantee that plants get the water they need when they require it and this is generally once a week – frequently, daily. This is described as responsible (i.e., environmental, sustainable) watering.

We are steered away from realizing that in nature plants and whole landscapes can survive long periods without rainfall. The great diversity of irrigation options from homeowner-designed and -installed trickle-and-drip hose systems to highly elaborate, computer-automated, professionally designed and installed mist and overhead impact systems are designed to turn plants and landscapes into “water addicts” far from the true meaning of xeriscape. Frequent shallow watering results in shallow root growth and thus the plants become addicted to frequent watering. Slow, deep watering, evident when there is no water runoff, encourages deep root growth; and with well-established deep roots, all plants are better conditioned to survive droughts.

Daily observations of typical irrigation systems operating in our community include: water streaming off of well-watered sidewalks and roadways into adjoining storm drains rather than settling into the root zones of plants in need; clouds of fine mists carried off by gentle breezes away from the intended plants; and perhaps most disgusting are the frequent sprinkler systems throwing out water at full throttle during periods of natural rainfall. My complaint to the manager of one local bank about the huge lawn being watered during a downpour was met with the response: “Oh, our landscape contractor has the irrigation system on a timer and we can’t do anything about it.” Such systems seem to be justified with accompanying signage: “We use well water to irrigate.” Whether private wells or our public water resource, all the water comes from our region’s waterways and the underground water resource. We should not be wasting our precious water resources as storm water runoff, especially keeping acres and acres of grass green during droughts. Have any of you noticed how green all those unwatered, brown lawns following the recent rain have turned? Now I may be able to appreciate keeping a small plot of turf green as a special feature in a garden, if a grassy plot is held as special as flowering plants, but keeping acres and acres of lawn areas green by supplemental watering during droughts is sadly reflective of our society’s general disregard for living responsibly.

After many years of observing multitudes of irrigation systems, I freely admit that I have an intense disregard for such mechanized technology. They are expensive, inefficient, wasteful and require constant repairs and maintenance vigilance. The only dependable irrigation system is a thoughtful gardener on the end of a hose. This singular watering system will insure that needed water does not flow away from the intended plants, but is applied slowly around plants, encouraging deep root growth. Be observant next time you water; if you see water flowing away over the soil surface, it’s not helping your plants and you need to correct your watering technique.

As a responsible citizen, you have great influence. On the home front, you can began by designing a drought-tolerant landscape, selectively watering stressed plants by hand from water collected in rain barrels and, most importantly, when you see an irrigation system performing wastefully – i.e., water flowing off streets and sidewalks and operating during rainfalls, go inside and let the manager or homeowner know that they are wasting our water! Go ahead, you can do it – and enough of us expressing ourselves will make some meaningful waves!

Longtime resident Ken Moore retired as assistant director of the N.C. Botanical Garden in 2003 and now enjoys part-time work and volunteering in and around Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

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