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

Archive for July, 2007

Whole Lotta Croc – Shoe Fad Falls Short

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Sometimes, consumer trends come along that feel more like an invasion rather than a fun fad or good idea. Crocs managed to appear on the – dare I call it “fashion” – scene at warp speed. I barely had time to take in the sight of this obtrusive, brightly-colored, space-age-looking footwear before it seemed to land everywhere on earth. Whole Foods Market already stocks a glaring, overflowing rack of these things in every color and size, stealing space from their usually earth-friendly products.
Attempting to decipher the vague description of ingredients in these fully plasticized shoes makes them all the more suspect. Although I found information about a material called, Croslite PCCR (proprietary closed cell resin), it told me only that it is a petroleum based foam. Not good news for the environment or the animals and people in it.

I’m sure this stuff wears well (meaning it will last forever in a landfill) but the marketing that comes with it encourages consumers to own a pair in every color. Of course, accoutrements followed – stick-ons made of more Croc material, sold for $8.00/set. How long can these things stay “fashionable”? After all, just how many pairs of acid-washed jeans are hanging out in landfills as we speak?

Ok, I know these shoes make some sense if you say, live on a boat or, for growing little kids who always need durable shoes at a reasonable cost. I suppose they can be handed down as they grow out of them and are actually a little bit cute on the foot of a of a five-year-old. But, can we grown-ups just – well, grow up? If you have other, um, observations to make, go to and let it out.

Instead of unthinkingly jumping on another brain-washing trend wagon, look into the generous selection of sustainably-minded, eco-friendly shoe companies who are establishing their reputation for quality, fashion and consciousness. My feet are particular to Blackspot and Earth. Also check out Simple Shoes and Worn Again.

Got another Earth-friendly favorite in Footwear? Let us know about it!

Got Dirt? Start a Community Garden!

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Not long after the ground was lovingly broken and tilled in May of 2007, the Carrboro Community Garden is flourishing! I stopped by last weekend and met Jay Hamm and April MacGregor, the founders and farmers of a project producing more than food for the community. In fact, when asked about where the harvest would end up, Jay scratched his head – that was part of the plan still in the making. The important part seemed to be the reaping, building and growing of relationship – to both the earth and people. In the meantime, they have planted and sowed much more than food.

Jay and April brought their idea to town officials, after noticing a future urban park site sitting idle. Jay said finding volunteer gardeners was easy – all he did was ask. Connections were made and motivated supporters soon showed up.

Jay, April and other volunteers obviously know an abundance about growing vegetables and flowers organically, though inexperienced gardeners are warmly welcomed. Jay talked tirelessly to everyone about the project’s story and April showed me around, enthusiastically describing the organic growing process and pointing out the many edible flowers. April also owns and runs Farmers Daughter brand of Carrboro (919-259-3946), offering baked goods and fermented foods at the local Farmer’s Market. I especially like her homemade sauerkraut with juniper berries .

People of all ages were stopping by in cars, on bicycles and on foot, some to don garden gloves, some just pleasantly curious. Many of the regulars were working steadily and quietly while some newbies – like me – hung about, waiting to get our hands in the dirt and share this communal experience.

One young man had a video camera. When I asked him about his filming, he told me he wanted to post a YouTube video so that more people would possibly take the idea into their own communities. He interviewed a few of us and seemed very taken with the scene.

After all, what existed previous to this piece of Eden, was a typical “lawn”, in need of mowing and otherwise unused – similar to the sad story in most residential and business areas. Is there a spot like this in your neighborhood or city that you could turn into an abundant harvest? Try planting some seeds in your own community, bringing people together in awareness and love for the earth and each other. You could be starting something big.

For more information about community garden projects across the U.S., start here. For news about Carrboro Community Garden Coalition, go here.

Tae Kwon Do It

Friday, July 27th, 2007

I took my first Tae Kwon Do class the other day. I’ve done lots of sports and enjoy the edges I find within them, so, after 13 years of practicing yoga, I was curious about this similar martial art. The metaphor of doing battle interested me since I often feel like I’m personally at war – with my own efforts to change things and the need to accept and detach from those same efforts. I sometimes feel ready to “fight” and am not always sure how that fits into my life and my purpose.

So, here I am in this gym, running around on a mat, doing push ups and sit-ups and yelling “yes sir!” – ninth-grade gym class meets Boot Camp! Once we were sweating, we started doing side kicks, 40 at a time – hard – into mats held by my classmates, complete with a warrior cry and intermittent bowing. I admit, it felt good, though by the time I was done, seemed less like a spiritual, life-changing practice than “Tae Kwon Do It”.

I was grateful to return to my yoga mat the next day, though I have to say that I brought a renewed sense of vigor with me. Ashtanga provides a balance of hard and soft, ease and effort. It made me wonder, can we be peaceful warriors in this fight to save the planet? Can we tap into the strength and determination we need to “push the iceberg” without losing our compassion and peace? Yoga tells me yes, though I worry about our culture’s willingness to dig deep into what it takes to change.

Ron Kauk, a climber in El Portal, CA spoke to me through a quote I read in Late Summer Patagonia catalog, “How are we supposed to evolve when we’re so caught up in material things? Society is so anxious. We want so much and we want it all, now. Man…you need to work at it, you need to put in the time in order to be rewarded.”

Can we survive disillusionment and bridge the gap between knowing and doing? I believe it’s all in the flow – that balance of ease and effort, work and surrender and our willingness to rediscover both inspiration and purpose. Perhaps it takes sweat, focus and making some noise. But within that, we can find our peace.

Think Globally. Stretch Locally – yoga growing eco

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Early into my yoga years, I felt and realized the practical and metaphorical connection between the yogic path and earth stewardship. Yoga is about flow, connection of the mind, body and spirit, and oneness of the Universal energy – much like the cycles of nature and its ecosystems. As it’s said in Japanese, ““Shi Do Fu Ji” – The Soil and Body are One.

When I opened my neighborhood studio in 2000, it became a place to explore these ideas and put them into practice. I introduced one of the the first green yoga mats, as well as the idea of yoga as activism. My seemingly new and revolutionary teaching of yoga as a “green state” was warmly, albeit tentatively, received by my trusting students. Framed on the studio wall, was a letter written by Shannon Gannon, of Jivamukti Yoga Center in NYC, published in Ascent magazine in March, 2004. Here’s an excerpt:

…”Most crucial to the future of yoga in North America is the courage of its practitioners to embrace the spiritual and ethical practices of yoga. It takes a lot of courage to go against the grain. The most profound act a person can do these days is to have the courage to care about the suffering of others. In our times, I believe that the atrocities committed against animals in the name of human progress is an important issue facing us all. Many other issues are related to it, including water pollution, air pollution, soil erosion and pollution, all forms of violence including war…Traditionally, the yogi has been that member of society who devoted himself or herself to the pursuit of enlightenment through finding means to live harmoniously with the Earth and all her creatures. Now that is a very radical concept for anyone these days to embrace. “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Shortly afterwards, the green yoga movement became official when Laura Cornell founded the Green Yoga Association in CA, with a mission “dedicated to fostering ecological consciousness, reverence and action in the Yoga community”. Studios are now signing on to the Green Yoga Association Green Studios Program, installing bamboo flooring and solar energy, using soy and beeswax candles and and educating students about eco-friendly habits.

The yoga = sustainability idea has grown by leaps and bounds since then, with the introduction of pvc-free mats, cork blocks, and other supplies made from sustainable materials. Many yoga clothing lines, like Blue Canoe Bodywear, are also now offering organic cotton, bamboo and hemp yoga wear alternatives.

Keeping in mind that yoga was once done on the ground, at sunrise outside of a temperature controlled studio with skylights, I’ve taken to practicing outdoors much of the year. I love to really feel the weather – the humidity, the breeze and the mist of early morning, and hear the animal sounds. I’ve learned even to welcome the buzz of insects and occasional mosquito bites.

The Change on Branding – Jerry Speaks on TreeHugger

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Jerry’s series of posts on TreeHugger are attracting a lot of attention (at last look, the second post received 513 Diggs!). This makes us Changers very happy and excited because if there’s one thing we want people to do, it’s to keep talking and sharing ideas and information. Here’s part of last week’s post. Go to TreeHugger to read more and visit daily for all your green and sustainable news.

[This is the second in a series of five guest posts (on Thursdays) that Jerry is writing for TreeHugger, taking a look at the importance of brand strategy and effective marketing for green and ethical businesses. For post one, click here.]

by Jerry Stifelman, The Change Strategy

“The key to marketing sustainability is making it relevant to values consumers already hold. Instead of trying to convince people they need to care about “sustainability” — it’s more productive to talk to them about honesty, responsibility, fairness and innovation – all the things sustainability, at its core, is about.

A quite impressive 1.4 million people read Treehugger in the course of a month — yet that’s not enough to sustain a movement. For sustainability to be sustainable, it has to instigate a permanent structural change in how MOST PEOPLE live their lives. To reach a majority of people, we need to make our values relevant to a majority of people. And the majority of First World earthlings don’t wake up planning to save the planet. Instead, they’re hungry for breakfast, concerned about their family, curious about the newest episode of CSI, and wondering how they’re going to get through their day. It’s important to understand what captures the imaginations and anxieties of the folks outside our 1.4 million circle of tree huggers. Here are some numbers…”

Read more…

Bugs – Green Rx for yard, home and pets

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Bugs – can’t live without ’em, but do we have to live with them? Yes, sort of, but there are ways to find a balance. We had been living with ants in our kitchen for a couple years when we decided on the direct approach – we politely and sincerely ASKED them to leave. We haven’t seen an ant since. I’m serious. It worked.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had this result with my yard and pets. Since I’ve been a pet-owner in a southern climate, I’ve had to come to terms with using flea and tick products. Recently, I’ve faced a new problem with one dog who has contracted hook worms 3 times in one year, an intestinal parasite that can live in the soil. Normally, they are not found in a North Carolina climate, but global warming has changed that. Although the animal can be treated with dewormer once infected, there’s no preventative available.

In a bit of desperation, I went in search of a way to treat the soil in my yard, but resolved to only use something that would be safe for the environment and other critters.

Much to my surprise, I found a solution at CedarCide Industries, a company using the safe and natural essential oil of cedar to control fleas, flies, ticks, mosquitos, chiggers, mites, no-see-ums, ants termites, moth and venomous snakes. The best news is that there is no effect on other animals like birds or squirrels, or beneficial insects such as ladybugs, butterflies, frogs, toads and garden variety snakes. The website is packed with information. I emailed to ask about the hookworms in my yard.

I heard back immediately from Ben, who has 50 years in the business and sure knows his stuff (you have to read about this guy!). This is only part of what he sent back:

CedarCides PCO CHOICE Insect control concentrate. I know that it’s biggest attribute is its ability to dissolve the insect egg and larvae. This is critical when controlling hook worms. When one can interrupt the egg layer cycle, create a barrier of entry, then you will subsequently eliminate the next generation of insects.

Hook Worms are predominately found in the Tropical South. Normally they are not that common in North Carolina. PCO CHOICE comes in gallon or quart bottles. It is supplied with a hose end sprayer calibrated for outside use with this specific concentrate. The concentrate will provide a total of 8 applications or 160 gallons of spray. I suggest that unless you have a huge yard, this will last all season. To use, just put four ounces of concentrate into the cup, fill to 26 ounces with water, reattach to the sprayer mechanism and initiate spraying.

PCO CHOICE can also be purchased with a two gallon Compression Sprayer for use inside the home. Mix 2 oz per gallon of water. It will not stain and leaves a temporarily pleasant Cedar Closet aroma which is lethal to insects such as Scorpions, Roaches, Fleas, Carpet Beetles, Crickets, Silverfish and many others.

Dr. Ben Oldag

800 842 1464.

I’m ordering soon and will follow up with my results! CedarCide is Cedar-Wise!

A/C-Free? Rethink Cooling Needs

Friday, July 20th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I vowed to cut way back on using my A/C this Summer. I live in North Carolina where the humidity and heat is sometimes brutal, so I made a reasonable deal with myself. Only 4 hours/week of A/C in June, 8 hours in July and 12 hours in August. So, far, I made it through June with flying colors – no A/C at all! I made excellent use of my ceiling fans, awnings and blinds, and it’s true, the more I do it, the easier it gets.

This is a comment from a reader of the blog, Little Blog in the Big Woods“I DO know from multiple times visiting home during college that your body DOES adapt to non-air conditioned um, conditions. And it takes several DAYS. When you’re used to leaving the air-conditioned house for the air-conditioned car to go to the air conditioned mall or store- it’s a shock to live in the real world at first. Bloody hot! But in 4 or 5 days suddenly it will feel mostly comfortable. It will NOT happen in one or two days.”

Awesome, I thought, upon reading the above – I can do this! July got warmer and in the beginning, I was getting by just cooling things off around 8pm for a couple hours and then opening the windows again at bedtime. I had heard that it could cost more energy to let your house heat up during the day and then try to cool it all at once, but a small house like mine was cooling off within 20 minutes, so this was working.
We’ve now hit mid-July and the real humidity and heat has moved in. I was losing sleep at night, tossing and turning even under the ceiling fan. Sleeping in my attic-like upstairs in Summer is not ideal and has also made me worry about the dogs. I’ve thought of sleeping downstairs, but my floors are cement, I don’t have a full-size couch or even the space to lay a futon mattress. So, upstairs it is right now and being loyal companions, my thick-coated friends insist on sleeping in the tiny family “den” rather than retreat to cooler temps below (the cats, being less co-dependent, were pretty much “outta there”). Consequently, I’ve started turning on the A/C all night – meaning I’m using about 8 hours/night instead per week Oh, the eco-guilt!

I think about No Impact Man and his family often – sleeping in a NYC Summer on the 9th floor without even fans. Could I really adapt? What about the animals? The dogs spend most of even the hottest days outside, staying cool enough underneath the deck in a pile of cedar chips, but they still sound darn uncomfortable upstairs on the hot, humid nights, panting continuously. (Can anyone tell me how much more they can adapt? Am I putting them at risk? One has a fairly thick, husky-like coat…)

I may end up using more hours as Summer continues, but I’ve managed to cut back A/C use at least 50% and have adjusted to that and a setting of around 82 degrees just fine. It feels great to be living more WITH the elements rather than hiding from them. As we used to say about spending time outdoors in 40 degrees below zero temps in Minnesota, “It builds character.”

It’s time for all of us to Re-think our climate control needs and remember that we can start small. Turning your thermostat down one, two, or three degrees can mean a significant savings for the planet. Learn to enjoy the relative coolness of the morning air. Invest in a window coverings. After that, you can go for even more A/C-free time. Build a sleeping porch (next on my idea list). Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – making friends with your body and the natural world’s changing seasons is full of surprising rewards.

Sassy Knitwear Remakes Fashion Well

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

You haven’t seen anything in the refashion world until you’ve seen Sassy Knitwear from Minneapolis. I was wandering through the new Farmer’s Market last month, which, interestingly, is located in the very heart of Downtown, complete with sky-scraping condos, shops, restaurants and a River walk. The place was booming with local vendors, including a few chickens and a donkey on a leash. Down on the Farm meets Urbania!

My eye was caught by a large, lovingly displayed selection of clothing in one corner, separated in sections for men, women and babies. And, there they were, a man a woman and a baby, the owners and designers of this comfortable-looking, urban-yet-casual clothing and accessories business. The couple themselves looked fashionably relaxed – this really cute baby sat on Dad’s back and I couldn’t resist saying hello and browsing through their area – even though I was still adhering to my “buy nothing new pledge”.

Then I read their sign more closely and realized that these luxurious items were all made from vintage fabrics and pre-worn, remade clothing – the highest quallity and most unique styling I’ve seen yet. I dove in and immediately found something really special that was like nothing I’d seen on anyone. This purchase was a feel-good deal all around – reused, locally-made, one of a kind, keep forever experience and I had kept my pledge. Here’s me in my super-fantastic Sassy Knitwear top!

Sassy Knitwear is getting a big, stylish start for a small, family-owned company, selling weekly at this Farmers market and featured at a few local places in town. Their web site selections are growing. Check it out and read more about their mission at Sassy Knitwear.

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