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

Archive for November, 2007

A Bikers Perspective

Friday, November 30th, 2007

by Greg Gillette, Asheville, NC

Is it possible to live with only your feet, a bike, and some public transportation, in a small city? Yes, it is quite possible, as I have been engaged in a car-free life for almost 3 months. Why? I wanted to be the change I want to see in the world. I had debated this idea for several years and I realized that I had already been getting by without driving, except when the weather was cold and rainy. The only way I was going to experience the real car-free life was to sell my car. One morning I woke up and posted my Subaru on Craig’s List. By the next day, I was car-free and it felt damn good.

I bought a practical and cool commuter bike with fenders, lights, and waterproof panniers. I continue to bike downtown to go dancing; I bike to work, to friends’ houses, and to the local co-op for groceries. It helps that I work part-time out of my house and part-time in town. When it’s wet, I just put on my rain gear and go. To me, it is a feeling of true freedom knowing that I am living simpler, moving my body towards better health everyday – and helping the Earth. I figure I can rent a car when necessary and I’m looking forward to car-share options becoming available, as they are in some larger cities. No Impact Man talks car-share here.

Yes, there is some sacrifice involved and I have no idea if I will live the rest of my life without 4 wheels of some kind, but for the present, it feels wonderful to be car-free. It feels right. It is allowing me to get a bigger perceptive on life by moving a bit slower, as though I am not so entangled in the huge wheel of modern society. Although not everyone can live without a car, everyone can put a little more effort into driving those cars less and taking advantage of the occasions when they can walk, bike, carpool and use public transportation.

After The Consumption…

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC
I do want everyone to buy eco-gifts during this season, and to buy recycled and biodegradable whenever possible and yes, there are companies large and small helping us create healthier goods and it all becomes a way of change that can save us and the planet…

But, even green-minded, biodegradable, post-consumer recycled stuff is still – more stuff. The real question is how much of the stuff do we really need (or even really want) and when will we get to the truth of the matter? Too many people, buying too much stuff wastes dwindling resources and perpetuates a throw-away culture! Remember my post about my online order from Real Goods? Well, I’ve received all of my “good for the planet” stuff – in 7 different boxes! After the third one arrived, I called to point out that this didn’t make much sense to me when the cover of their catalog reads “Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.”

What happens in the days following the gift-giving (ie: “shopping”). MORE SHOPPING! We scoop up all the things on sale and then some. We used up a bunch of fuel driving or flying to see relatives and now we get back in the car and drive, in a frenzy, to the mall for another fix. Because what happens when you get stuff? You want more stuff.

What can we gain when we get off the buy-and-die treadmill? A lot. Things like authenticity, healthier minds and bodies, time, and a long-forgotten thing called, meaning. This visionary photographer explains Post-Consumerism this way:

“Post-Consumerism is the idea that something can have value without having a price tag attached to it. Post-Consumerism revels in the power of the individual: in the belief that a person is not what they buy, own or consume. Post-Consumerism is a re-awakening of humanism; a fatigue of being pushed to the point of purchasing strictly for vanity. Post-Consumerism says that one cannot purchase identity, individuality or self and speaks to those who really should know better.”

— Chip Morton, Adbusters No. 75 January/February

To Read More, go to

The Planet/Your Life – the luxury of thrift

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’ve never thought of myself as thrifty. Even when I’ve had to adhere to a meager budget, I have maintained an aversion to cutting coupons or “one day only” sales. In all cases, I prefer to do without (or pay more at a small store) than to face the perils – and “steriles” of a mall. Usually, whatever I thought I wanted is quickly forgotten. I’ve had more than my share of “stuff” anyway and it started to hit me that the more I had, the more uncomfortable I felt. (Read No Impact Man post for more on this.)

I started to turn things around several years ago. I have come to acknowledge “less is more” and value things that have a little “history”, but some of the old-time quality as well, so I shop at thrift and vintage stores because it’s fun and interesting, not because it’s cheap. Granted, “cheap” helps when it comes time for another specific purchase, when I can use those saved dollars to choose a higher value on something else – like organic, Fair Trade and/or local goods.

Although we are, as a whole, addicted consumers, we are being pushed towards a more reasonable place. “Thrifty” is morphing into a way of life that is not only helping the planet, but is packed with meaning and simplicity. Recently, a[nother] news reporter showed up at our place and talked to Jerry and others, asking questions about our spendthrift ways and explore our co-housing community. His article is a thorough and especially interesting look at our culture and spending. You’ll find it in the RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER below:

What Happened To Thrift?
Prosperity and technology have fed decades of consumerism. But some are second-guessing our thowaway culture.

By J. Peder Zane

Knit One, Green, Too

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Speaking of holiday gifts, handmade/homemade says so much more than, “I went to the mall and bought this for you.” Knitting is the newest of yogic-type activities and is spreading into all social and age groups as a way to slow down, develop a skill and make something. Of course, knitting yarns of old have all the same problems as other modern textiles – cottons and wools and polyesters are full of pesticides and further toxifying in the dying process. I have a distinct and disturbing memory of the rancid smell of the skeins of yarn from my childhood – now I know what it was.

Knitters, don’t despair. It’s now easy to find a wide variety of eco-yarns, many of them also Fair Trade certified. What is an organic yarn? Cotton varieties must meet established USDA standards, grown without pesticides or toxic fertilizers. Wool yarn must not only be processed without toxic chemicals, but come from sheep fed and raised under organic standards as well.

With any problem, comes many more solutions. Eco-Yarns are now being made from many sustainable sources, including hemp, recycled silk, bamboo and Banana Palm fibre. The natural dyes cast beautiful, earthy colors and I was surprised to find so many styles and colors available at this online store,

Here are other features and benefits:

Vegan friendly & low impact – No animal cruelty or wasted resources

Exceptional lustre & drape – Hangs and hugs the body beautifully

Natural fibre cottage industry yarn – Comfortable and individual (not mass-produced)

Fibre Reactive Dyed – Minimal water used for maximum colourfastness

Hand dyed skeins – No two skeins will be exactly the same

Of course, any eco-conscious knitmaster will want the right needles. Laughing gives you sustainably sourced and unique selections.

There’s not much more meaningful in a gift than something you’ve made by hand with both the planet and your loved one in mind. Enjoy.

I’m Coco-Nuts – coconut oil makes a comeback

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Have you re-discovered coconut oil yet? If not, you’re missing out on something really healthy and tasty! Yep, coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, but get caught up on your health facts before you put it on the black list. Studies done on fats in the 1950’s did not distinguish between different types of fats, processed fats and/or hydrogenated fats. Certain fats are essential to good health and can even prevent disease. The truth is, we need a healthy source of saturated fat in our diet to experience optimal health.

Extra virgin coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat that can prevent digestive disorders, improve cholesterol ratios and support the immune system. It contains caprylic and lauric acids, both anti-microbials that can help prevent bacterial, viral and fungal infections. It is made up of 55% MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides) – an optimal source of energy. The regular consumption of coconut oil can help balance the thyroid gland, raise metabolism and reduce the symptoms of hypoglycemia and menopause.

All this and taste, too! If you’ve ever had fresh coconut (I’m talking about right out of the shell), you’ll know what I mean because a spoonful of the oil tastes much like it. Try mixing it with a bit of raw honey for a real treat. I eat this combo every morning. Traditionalists who prefer cooking with their oils will be happy to know that coconut oil is one of the few oils that withstands high heat without oxidation damage and is perfect for cooking vegetables or adding to whole grains.

Your local health food markets and co-ops will carry good extra virgin, organic coconut oil. I eat so much of it that I buy mine in 1/2 or 1 gallon jars from a family-owned distributor in Minnesota called, Wilderness Family Naturals. They are easy to reach by phone and will gladly and thoroughly answer all your questions.

Here’s a snack recipe from my sister – I’ll call ’em Coco-Nut bars:

Melt 1/2 coconut oil and 1/2 cup rice syrup in a pan. Remove from heat and add 1 cup Granola or cereal, 1 cup raw nuts and/or seeds and one cup whole, raw oats. Add raisins or chocolate chips if desired. Press into pan, let it reset and eat.

Remember you will increase the health value of this treat if your ingredients are organic. Enjoy!

Happy – really happy – Buy Nothing Day

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Don’t let stuff consume-r your holidays. Kill the monster and rebirth rituals around family, friends and nature instead. Create your own traditions that come from your heart, not your wallet. After all, once you’ve consumer-ed the pie and the stuff you don’t really need, you go back to the “vicious cycle”, described by a Geez reader (Fall issue seven, 2007) like this:

“consume, feel guilty, feel desire, consume”

Try it. Buy Nothing today. Then try buying nothing one day/week. Then try buying sustainably, locally and sparingly. Consume-rs created the madness, consume-rs can stop it.

Happy Buy Nothing Day.

The Way Of Change

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

By Tao

When it comes to our efforts towards and equitable, sustainable and green world, I’m more convinced than ever that we are not doing enough. Despite many well-intentioned endeavors, businesses, governments and individuals are stuck in wasteful ways that are desecrating our bodies and the planet and causing worldwide suffering to all living things. Doing more – much more – is systematically available, can change the course of history and bring meaning and integrity back into our consumer-driven lives.

What’s in our way? The misbegotten belief that the changes required in our lives can (or should be) easy, cheap and above all, convenient. This myth is perpetuated by a combination of economics, fear and laziness, causing us to miss an important opportunity. Doing the big stuff requires big change – call it sacrifice if you want to – and we’re more than capable of tapping in to our evolutionary potential as humans.

We’re ready for the truth. Read more at today’s The Washing Post. Here’s an excerpt from Going Green? Easy Doesn’t Do It by Michael Maniates, professor of environmental and political sciences:

“To stop at “easy” is to say that the best we can do is accept an uninspired politics of guilt around a parade of uncoordinated individual action. What of the power and exhilaration that comes from working with others toward bold possibilities for the future? What of present sacrifice for future gain? “


By Michael Maniates

I Am Grateful

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

There’s a restaurant in Berkeley, CA called, Cafe Gratitude. The food is fabulously wholesome, organic, local and raw. But it was the feeling behind the food that sent me back there 10 days straight during last Summer’s visit. Before taking my order, my server asked me what I was grateful for. I casually rattled off a few things and then spent the next days preparing my answers for each visit. I came up with a long list and found out that most of what I feel grateful for today has been birthed by the “change that’s a-foot”. Here’s some of the things that showed up in my Gratitude List.

I am grateful for local and organic food from small farms.

I am grateful for rain.

I am grateful for bicycles and scooters.

I am grateful for people who are willing to do the work.

I am grateful for writers and other artists who keep us thinking and learning.

I am grateful for the activists who speak out and act for what is true.

I am grateful for hiking trails.

I am grateful for hybrid, electric and vegie-diesel transportation.

I am grateful for scientists who are finding ways to help the planet.

I am grateful for animals who love us anyway.

I am grateful for information and creativity.

I am grateful for music that moves people towards the truth.

I am grateful for yoga that makes us aware.

I am grateful for quiet holidays spent at home, without buying stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving, 2007


THE TAO OF CHANGE [the way of a better world]

brought to you by The Change, a strategy and design agency with an agenda to change the world