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

Archive for June, 2007

Friday, June 15th, 2007

It’s called, “Practice”.

Yamas – Outer Observances

Ahimsa – Don’t harm yourself, others or the planet.

Satya – See what is true and tell the truth – especially to yourself.

Asteya – Don’t steal anything from others or from the earth.

Brahmacharya – Practice moderation in all things.

Aparagraha – Don’t try to possess or cling to things, people or situations.

Niyamas – Inner Observances

Saucha – Be pure and clean in heart, mind and body.

Santosh – Contentment – love what you want and want what you have.

Tapas – Use discipline – remember what you want and act accordingly.

Swadhyaya – Study the self (before studying others).

Ishvar Pranidhana – Surrender to wisdom and live with awareness.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 216 user reviews.

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I admit it, I become infatuated easily. It’s not the bad boys I fall for (well, there was that Mick Jagger thing…), lately I’m starry-eyed over the green guys. Adrian Grenier’s character on Entourage drives a Hummer, but in real life, he’s an eco-hottie, sustainably renovating a historical home in Brooklyn and helping TV production go green. Then there’s Ed Begley “heart-throb” Jr., who powers his computer with a stationary bike, has solar and wind power on his house, developed his own line of eco-friendly cleaning products, and is a spokesperson for just about everything sustainable – oh, the sleepless nights! As for you non-famous types I trail at home, all you have to do is drive a vegie diesel, bicycle to work, wear hemp or show up at the Food Co-op with your reusable bag and I’m yours!

Sorry, boys, move over. No Impact Man has arrived and I’m smitten! He has a great story, an inspiring message and a real life with a wife and kid in New York City. You can learn about it on his site and you won’t be able to resist sharing his journey and, hopefully, following in his eco-footsteps. Although I’ll warn you, he’s not messing around.

In fact, here I am, bragging on this blog about my new, super-duper, energy-efficient appliances and No Impact man has turned his off! That’s right – no refrigerator, no washer. While I’m proud of managing to ration just a few hours of air conditioning each week over the summer in my ground-level dwelling, he’s a/c-free on the 9th floor! Forget CFLs, No Impact Man uses candles.

You’ve stolen my heart, No Impact Man, and my eco-aspirations. Most of all, you’ve given me hope, and that’s not a bad thing to be infatuated with.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 210 user reviews.

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Speaking of the good ol’ days, remember when people carried handkerchiefs? Me either, actually, but doesn’t it sound like a great idea? Americans don’t seem like an especially tidy bunch by the look of our littered parks, parking lots and highways, but we certainly love our paper napkins and towels! Give a guy a cup of coffee to go and he’ll grab 5 or 7 of them to take along. That $4 latte? It may just include a little napkin subsidizing.

Ironically, it gets worse in places like Whole Foods food and salad bars, where a soup and a hummus plate seem to require handfuls of napkins. Add kids to the mix, and you’ve practically felled a tree. I’d call this an exaggeration, but when it comes down to the math, sadly, it’s not. According to Ideal Bite, Americans use approximately 2, 200 paper napkins per person per year.

Public restrooms. Paper towels. Same problem. Which brings up another distant memory – those blowers that dry your hands after washing in restrooms. They require electricity, so the solution wasn’t and isn’t perfect (at least until alter-power kicks into high gear), but somehow, they seem like a good trade-off to the piles of paper used up and thrown out daily.

Solutions? Here you go: Take only what you need. Use sparingly. Move more slowly (less spills). And, last but not least, BYO! Although I appreciate knowing a few new and cool companies are providing vintage, hemp and organic alternatives to the paper stuff (see Ideal Bite link) for home use, you don’t need a trip to a kitchen store to go reusable. Cut up old fabric, t-shirts or towels into nice neat squares. If you want to be fancy about it, get out the tye dye – wait a minute – I don’t remember, was that stuff toxic?

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 267 user reviews.

Friday, June 8th, 2007

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Whatever happened to good ‘ol clean fun? I was cycling past a neighborhood last weekend and the first thing I heard was the sound of generators – the big, loud sort. I wondered who had lost power and why, but when I got closer, I saw that the generators were powering a large, blown up play land of sorts that kids where jumping and sliding on, their screams of delight drowned out by the engines required to keep the contraptions blown up to their one-story height.

This was obviously a well-intended day of community fun gone astray. I couldn’t help but think back to my own kidhood when our neighborhood hosted an annual Summer Frisbee tournament. We set up markers in an open space at the end of the block where various contests and games that went on into the night. I remember lots of homemade food, lemonade, and music. Between games, we played leapfrog and horseshoes and waded in the creek, cooling off and looking for crayfish.

The adults also participated, running the games and giving the kids tips on Frisbee skills – I remember that each year I got a little bit better at throwing, something I felt proud of. As it was getting dark, the kids would all gather to toss the discs skyward and watch the bats dive after them as we ran for cover. The night would end with a few sparklers and s’mores. As a kid, there wasn’t much else I needed to have a perfect day.

How sad that having fun as a kid has gotten so complicated, expensive and “dirty”! What ever happened to the days of croquet, jump rope, and kick ball? I know we all want our kids to have the latest and best of experiences, but sometimes we lose perspective regarding what actually serves them best. These kind of games were not only fun, but provided exercise and a challenge to our developing motor skills. And, as I pedaled on that day, away from the noise and smell of gasoline, I realized, that the only energy required was that of our bodies.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 182 user reviews.

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC

Back in the ‘old country’ (I’m originally from the UK), my friends would be skipping after-school community service, doing more hip things, like raiding their parents’ drinks cabinets or writing on park benches. Meanwhile, I’d be at the local Friends of the Earth offices writing yet another letter warning about the dangers of environmental destruction. I remember sometimes feeling embarrassed about these activities and certainly don’t remember having much fun.

Then I discovered Reclaim the Streets or RTS. These events would involve groups from 100 to as many as 10, 000 people, gathering on public roads to protest against global warming, pollution and car culture. Spaces that were usually filled with nothing but traffic jams and noxious fumes would suddenly be alive with public celebration, transformed into a carnival-like atmosphere. This was a far cry from my Wednesday afternoons licking stamps – this was rock n’ roll!

On July 13, 1996, one RTS party became a legend in the annals of direct action. After eluding police, a celebration was staged on a major motorway. While a gigantic sound system blared techno music, dancers on stilts, wearing huge, wire-supported skirts hid protestors wielding jack hammers and shovels. After the “party”ended, the dancers retreated, revealing the work of the concealed activists – a mini-forest of planted trees.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t naive enough to assume that RTS had everyone’s support or what they were doing was “right”. Every time we blocked a road to assert our right to clean air, we stopped someone else exercising their right of getting where they wanted to go. Perhaps tax money spent on repairing the tarmac could have been spent on schools or hospitals (though most likely it would have gone to more roads or guns). Nevertheless, at the time, it was the only way I felt I could have a genuine impact on a system that seemed so hell-bent on its own destruction.Whatever the rights and wrongs of direct action, I certainly learned one thing from RTS – social change can be fun. While I may not block streets too often these days, I still value the humor and irreverence of those parties. If we are to create a truly inclusive vision for a sustainable future, we’ve got to make people want to join us. That means remembering to laugh, both at the status quo we aim to change and at ourselves. It means doing things not just because they are right, but because they come naturally to us. It means remembering to think beyond narrow issues, and to start talking about values. In short, it means embracing and celebrating culture. If we are going to change the world, we need some good times (and possibly some very big stilts!).




Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 207 user reviews.

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC
I kicked the plastic bottle (and other plastics) habit several years ago, both for health reasons and for the planet. The environmental issues of plastic loom large – beyond even my imagination – and include the littering of every part of the ecosystem. Yes, all those drinking bottles can be recycled, but no matter how convenient cities, campuses, parks and/or merchants make it to drop that bottle in a recycling bin, not as many people recycle their plastic bottles as you may think (look in trash bins anywhere). Of course, those that make it into the recycle stream are still a part of a continuing polluting process.

The health implications of plastics come with controversy, but evidence is mounting. Umbra provides a mega-dose of current information about the poison of plastics on Gristmill in her post on Plastics and Kids. You really must visit this link to be fully informed, but here’s the bottom line: “Immediate threats to human health from plastic food containers include phthalate softeners and the resin bisphenol A. Dioxins, which result from the manufacture and disposal of polyvinyl plastic, have been identified as a major long-term threat to the environment and mammal health.” Keep in mind that these toxins are produced and released into our bodies and the environment during not just immediate use, but the manufacturing, recycling and disposal process. Not much chance of escape.

There’s big money in bottled water, but not much else. An article from The NY Times last Sunday quoted Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, saying, “The rationale for buying bottled water is a fantasy that has a destructive downside.” Although the bottled water industry does a great job selling the illusion of purity, Dr. Solomon goes on to say that there is no reason to believe that bottled water is safer than tap water. One thing is certain, bottled water bites the pocketbook.

Designer water sold in food markets can top $3.00 or more and, according to the Times article, restaurants give bottled water the highest markup of any item on the menu – as much as eight times. To their credit, a few eco-minded California restaurant owners are eliminating (non-sparkling) bottled water in favor of local tap water, served hospitably in reusable carafes. Hopefully, other restaurants will quickly catch on to the idea of “drinking local” and show a commitment to this kind of trend-setting eco-activism.

For alternatives to plastic containers and drinking bottles, check out the links on Umbra’s post or go to Klean Kanteen.

For more on plastics and the environment, check out this recent post on No Impact Man – but don’t say you weren’t warned.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 202 user reviews.

Monday, June 4th, 2007

Let Our Medians Bloom
By Ken Moore, Assistant Director, NC Botanical Gardens

Excerpted from The Carrboro Citizen,

“Grass is the most abused of all plants!” decried Steve Warner, a cherished older friend of mine, an Ohio landscape architect who many years ago retired down on a farm on the White Oak River near Swansboro. Part of his property is now a streamside nature trail of the North Carolina Coastal Federation. Steve was a lively, talkative and very opinionated individual whose life experiences gave him credibility as he worked hard to protect the wild nature of our landscapes. I remember him describing to me his response, soon after settling in coastal Carolina, to the sincere question: “Steve, when did you become an ‘environmentalist’?”

His response – “What’s an ‘environmentalist’?” – was so typical of Steve, who was simply living the life of what he expressed. And if striving to place a softer footprint on our turf is called an “environmentalist, ” then so be it.

So I find myself reflecting on Steve’s wisdom daily as I move back and forth along our local community’s roadways. This past week I have been driving (I should have been cycling) back and forth, while substituting at Wood’s Charter School. What a pleasure it has been to enjoy the exuberant hummocks of white and yellow and pink clovers filling the median from the county line until their termination at the town limits, where both Chapel Hill and Carrboro Public Works personnel are doing a superb job of responding to our citizenry’s demand for a weekly mowed short-turf effect. For years I have grieved during late April and into May, when our town’s medians were just becoming so festive with the clover flowering, to find how swiftly that six-to-ten-inch exuberance of clovers was swiftly cut short, returning us once again to the boring uniformity of tightly trimmed turf, to which Americans have been addicted since the British invaded our wild landscape centuries ago.

My mind can’t help but jump across our town’s border to that slope of frequently mowed turf in Meadowmont. I think Lawnmount is a more appropriate signature. That clipped turf is such a contrast to the beautiful natural brooms edge and wildflower meadow of pre-Meadowmount days. If the mowing of that meadow could be curtailed to only a couple of times a year, wow, just imagine the savings of money, not to mention the reduction of pollutants into our air, plus the beauty of that former meadow would slowly return.

If we all would only become aware of the polluting effects of our mowing machines, leaf blowers and other urban and residential landscape management equipment, we could perhaps find that mowing half as frequently (better only once a month and even less) would significantly move us toward reducing air pollution, and some of our lawn plants – like dandelions, violets, blue-eyed grass and lyre-leaf sage, to mention only a few – would be allowed to add some color to our otherwise short-cropped uniform green turf. Even the grasses, like our native brooms edge, when allowed to flower and persist through the winter, are quite ornamental.

When will we ever gain freedom from our rigid homeowners’ associations and feel secure that turf allowed to grow tall enough to flower and otherwise express itself is not a life-threatening situation?

Read this article in it’s entirety at the The Carrboro Citizen.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 253 user reviews.

Friday, June 1st, 2007

By Buddha

Right View

Right Intentions

Right Speech

Right Action

Right Livelihood

Right Effort

Right Mindfulness

Right Concentration

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 280 user reviews.

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