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

Archive for February, 2008

Happy Green Days

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Vanessa, a Canadian journalist, is Green as a Thistle. She has been taking growing green steps for a year. Today is her final post and reflections on the journey. Check in to see what she learned and what she will continue to do for a happier life and healthier planet.

Despair is Lazy

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Rob Brezsny saved a part of my heart and soul through his brilliant prose, facts, figures, reminders and promises that spill forth in his book published in 2005,

PRONOIA Is The Antidote For Paranoia, How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You with Bessings.

Birthed in part during Burning Man that year, Brezsny believes in the power of truth and beauty – things that were slowing waning from my view of the world. I devoured this book – a journey of insights, realizations, exercises and experiments. I was so busy absorbing lightness and wisdom that I forgot to give up. In fact, I carry with me one of his most enlightening truths: “DESPAIR IS LAZY.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“At this peculiar turning point in the evolution of our 14-billion-year-old master game, it ain’t easy to carry out our mission. We’ve got to be both wrathful insurrectionaries and exuberant lovers of life. We’ve got to cultivate cheerful buoyancy even as we resist the temptation to swallow thousands of delusions that have been carefully crafted and seductively packaged by those among us who bravely volunteered to play the role of deceivers.

We have to learn how to stay in a good yet unruly mood as we overthrow the cockeyed mass hallucination that is mistakenly referred to as reality.

Maybe most importantly, we have to be ferociously and single-mindedly dedicated to the cause of beauty and truth and love even as we keep our imaginations wild and hungry and free. We have to be both disciplined and rowdy.

That’s especially thorny because of the fact that a genocide of the imagination is raging world-wide. It threatens to render our imaginations numb and inert and passive and tame.”

Lance Armstrong Goes Public

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion, has announced plans for opening a bike shop and commuting center in downtown Austin, TX, in May of this year. It will include bicycle/gear sales, bicycle storage and showers for commuters, a training facility and a cafe. Now you can ride in to work, grab a shower, breakfast and a chat with other riders before continuing to the office (by foot, bus, or pedicab).

Mellow Johnny’s, named for the yellow jersey, is making good-sense use of an existing 1950’s building and it is not just about the bike. Lance acknowledges the importance of encouraging and supporting a cycling culture in growing cities like Austin, “We have to promote (bike) commuting. This can be a hub for that.” Armstrong also promotes the addition of safe roadways for cyclists, positioning the new shop in close proximity to the the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, a path conceived of by a local cycling activist and subsequently funded by the city of Austin, that loops approximately 6 miles through the center of the downtown area.

With the revitalization of urban areas and the move towards mixed-use communities, an accessible mass transit system combined with a commuter bike center and safe bicycle lanes is what every city needs and what an eco-motivated population deserves. And I think many of us are motivated and inspired by new ideas and hope for a liveable and happy future.

And, I’m motivated by heroes like Lance, who, instead of resting on his laurels, is doing what he knows best and doing it for Change. Now I know that I’m riding with the best of them.

Waterless Car Wash – for real!

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

This product showed up at Whole Foods Market last week and I almost squealed with joy. You see, in my naive way, I thought we could save billions of gallons of water by simply learning to love our dirty little cars. Waking up is hard to do, but I’ve seen the error of my wishful ways. For the time-being, it seems we like our cars and we like ’em clean.

Enter the environmentally safe, water-saving, super-effective and easy to use waterless car wash formula. Not a moment too soon. Just spray and wipe. If you don’t believe me, visit the websites, read the testimonials or just check in “down under” – it seems they’ve been using this similar formula there for years.

Now available in the U.S.. In fact, the clean car lover is covered coast to coast by two companies who are in it for all the right reasons. Eco Touch, based in the Northeast, was launched by James Dudra after spending a college semester abroad in drought-sick Australia while the Lucky Earth folks, Jeff and Lisa Peri, on the West Coast, set their sights on eliminating the chemicals used in conventional car washing.

Missions accomplished on both fronts. Now we just have to get it out there. Home washing wastes hundreds of gallons compared to pressurized commercial sprayers, so tell your neighbors, families and friends. Then get the word out to your full-service detailers, car dealerships and municipalities fast. And please, oh please, someone enlighten the well-meaning school-kids, raising money with hoses and buckets at parking lots all over America this Summer!

Bee-Keeping in Arcadia

Monday, February 25th, 2008

My co-housing community keeps bees. I’m still enjoying the last drops of honey from our first hive harvest last Fall and looking forward to more, but mostly, I am enthralled to see nature and humans working together for the common good. As you have heard, the pollinator bee population is in serious decline and as they go, so goes our food and well, just about everything. Give Bees a chance by making your yard and garden bee-friendly, starting your own hive (available to city dwellers!) or hanging a “bee condo” in your area.

Below is an early Spring update from our Arcadia queen of the bees, Elisabeth. It’s really interesting and I hope, inspiring. For information on home hives, visit Tao

By Elisabeth Curtis, Carrboro, NC

When we opened the hives for the first time since last fall and looked inside on a sunny day last week, we found that two of the hives seem in pretty good shape, with active bees and plenty of honey stores left. Neither had evidence of brood laying, but it is still early for that. The north hive, however, was in a precarious condition, with no more than a couple hundred bees and evidence of the dreaded small hive beetle. We thought we might have seen the queen, but she was not all that much bigger than the bees, so we were not sure. If she is a virgin queen, not yet mated, she would not be big, but the queen we would expect to see in that hive is a mature queen of good size. If the one we saw is the queen, that means that for some reason the hive has replaced the original queen. I put in a quick call to Will Hicks, one of the NC state bee inspectors, and he advised us to reduce the size of the hive so that the bees would have less area to protect.

You may have noticed that the hives are now white, the traditional hive color. We painted them less for aesthetic reasons than to protect the wood and make it last longer. You may see them decorated at some point.

Today we opened the north hive, took the three frames that had bees on them and moved them to a nuclear hive (a nuke), which is a small hive holding only five frames. We saw capped brood (larvae metamorphosing to bees) and some recently-laid larvae and actually saw the queen (and she is indeed somewhat petite) backing up to a cell to lay an egg. Very cool! With so few frames to care for, the small amount of bees should be able to keep the small hive beetles under control. As the bee population grows, we will add more frames and soon should be able to transfer them to a regular size hive body. The extra frames from the hive bodies have gone back to Bubba’s house to be frozen for 24hours to kill small hive beetles and wax moth larvae. Then we’ll store them for later replacement on the hives.

The other two hives show a healthy amount of bees and activity. We did not look for evidence of egg laying, but assume it is happening there as well. We are now feeding all hives sugar syrup and pollen, which will make the queens think spring is here and they’d better get busy. We should be able to stop feeding pretty soon, as the red maples are already starting to blossom.

Use Your Voice

Monday, February 25th, 2008

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

– Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and author

Coffee, Tea & Me

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Did you ever do something simple and immediately realized that you should have done it years ago? It could have been something like started exercising, took the bus to work, quit junk mail or stopped drinking too much coffee. It’s usually, in some way, good for you, good for others, or just feels right.

In my recent case, I bought an electric tea pot. I drink a lot of herbal and green tea, for both health reasons and the pleasure of holding a warm mug while I work or read. When it comes to tea, I like the good stuff and I long ago switched from tea bags to buying in bulk so that I didn’t have to make trash to get my fix. I also compost the used leaves, in case you are wondering.

It all felt pretty good, but I was turning on the stove burner at least 5 times/day to heat the water. This did not feel good. I’d heard about those electric teapots, but most that I came across were made mostly from plastic – ugh – and I felt funny about spending the money on something so gadgety.

Then the Upton Tea Imports Electric Kettle came along. I saw it while at my favorite local coffee/tea house yesterday. Stainless steel, variable temps, auto shut-off. Estimates of energy savings are around 50% of what is used to heat water on the stove. That did it. I won’t bother doing the numbers, I’m certain that for me, this pot will pay for itself ($50) in no time – both in dollars and carbon emission savings.

I can also use this pot to heat the water I use for washing dishes by hand, making my occasional french press coffee, and the pot keeps the water warm for an extended time after turned off. Like I said, I should have done this years ago!

Doggie Dooley Does it Better

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Dog poop is one messy eco-dilemma. Dog and cat poop will degrade on it’s own in open air. Unfortunately, when wrapped in plastic and placed in a landfill, it could be there for decades. We have to scoop the poop in public areas, so what is a eco-conscious dog owner to do? Compost, of course.

I’ve used the Doggie Dooley composter – it’s a great design, but Plenty‘s Annemarie Conte tells us how to make your own for less than $10. In either case, you ‘ll have to dig a hole, so you may as well give the DIY version a shot first.

Go here for complete and super simple directions.

Apartment dwellers may be out of luck on this one. However, don’t give up too soon. Talk to your landlords and/or a few pet-friendly neighbors. Your composter lives virtually hidden underground and will take up very little space.

Unfortunately, the soil where I am now is not porous enough to keep a septic system working well, so for now, I’ve gone back to using the compostable scooping bags from BioBags, which can make a difference once the poop hits the landfill. Of course, using biodegradable trash bags to put them in will help this make the most sense. (I don’t recommend flushing poop because this wastes a lot of water.)

By the way, you can use your Dooley septic system for cat waste from the litter box, too. BTW, be sure to use ammonia-free, natural litter in any case – my favorite is Swheatscoop – it clumps and is dust-free.

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