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

Archive for June, 2008

(Green) Bikinis and Boots

Monday, June 30th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Eno River, NC

Yesterday, after another scorching day, we went to the Eno River at early evening, wearing bikinis and boots and with dogs in tow. Before long, we found a deep spot and jumped in. I found out herding dogs aren’t crazy about swimming, but will be happy to run along the water’s edge while you float downstream. By the time we got out, it was dusk, the sky was growing dark and rumbling. Only our boots made it back on for the hike back. The rain was loud and hard and wet.

It was the perfect mini-adventure.

Well, almost perfect. Those hiking boots and that bikini in the photo above, are both old eco-news. I wear my boots in rough and usually wet conditions daily, so I need durability, comfort and performance. With this kind of wear, I have been (somewhat guiltily) replacing them about every 3 years. I’m happy to learn that next time, I can find all those qualities from “going-green” companies like Patagonia and Timberland, which have several versions of outdoor boots, ranging from light to heavy duty. More recently entering the outdoor shoe scene, (always-have-been-green) Vegan Essentials has these rugged-looking hikers available.

As for the bikini – I haven’t worn out a swimsuit since my years of water-skiing and windsurfing. (I no longer waterski because of the fuel use and my windsurfing equipment went to a friend when I could no longer walk to a beach.) So, a new suit is not in my future. However, “window shopping” is still fun when the suits are sexy without being sinful. At least 5 designers are taking the plunge into green fabrics. There are even bikinis ala recycled plastic bottles by Aaron Chang and Faeries Dance.

Guys who like it wet, can go with quick-drying hemp trunks at Rawganic.

Rainbows and Sparkling Bugs

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Day two of a head cold has left me a little spacey. I was going to write about the hybrid converter, recently available to turn current hybrids into plug-ins…but, I’m not lucid enough to do the research, so I’ll instead give in to my impulse to be dreamily respective instead of informative. My apologies!

Besides, I haven’t quite let go of the experiences in VT – how it felt to swim in the cool river, hike near a mountain in a long warm rain, see so much history in one place, and meet new people who are making change happen. Some of it was just out there, but much of it was simply in the details. Sometimes, just paying attention is what matters most.

On Monday evening, when I stepped out of the airport, there was a rainbow stretched across the sky and that seemed a significant ending to the trip. But the bliss wasn’t over yet…

In fact, I arrived home just after dark, grateful for a giddy greeting from the dogs, whom I immediately took walking in the woods behind the house. Suddenly, we were surrounded by fireflies blinking a strangely blue, sparkling light. There seemed to be hundreds. We stopped and basked in this glow for long, sumptuous moments and in it, I heard hope for the future.

Animals and Nature speak to us every day in many ways. Stop, look and listen to the magic. You never know what you may hear..

More Gardens, More Community

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I met Lisa Frangipane today, resident/owner at The Flats in Carrboro, and founder of the Todd Street Community Garden. A smaller version of the flourishing spot nearby, which has already seen two bountiful harvests, this happy veggie garden is also lovingly cared for by residents and rain barrels.

Whenever I meet someone who is doing something unusual and interesting, it seems like they are doing even more interesting and unusual things. This holds true for Lisa, a teacher and avid cyclist who also commutes on her beloved two-wheels. I met with Lisa and took these photos just before she left for a Summer in MA, where she will be living off-grid with friends and building a yoga studio.

Lisa was inspired to blog about this adventure. You can catch up with her at Wicked Mad NE

Feeling Vermont-ish

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

We were back in VT this past weekend, making more plans regarding our eventual relocation to Brattleboro. We had to fly again, and yes, I have some eco-conflict over that, but will now stick to visiting one/time per year for an extended period, making the road trip in my Hybrid and not driving when I get there. That’s an Eco-promise.

The local food co-op, located downtown, was once again a source of nourishment during this trip, for both my body and soul. Here’s some highlights:

The first thing we came upon after arriving on Saturday, was The Plastic Monster – a mean-looking, definitely UNgreen man made of plastic bags, standing menacingly at the front door of the Co-op. It spoke a loud and clear message regarding our country’s Death By Plastic. I can imagine  that the patrons who forgot their reusable bags in the car were readily walking back to get them. I’m certain this creative plastic presence will plant more seeds in others. Nice.

A Co-op event on Saturday was Member Appreciation Day, where they served local beef and veggie burgers for a $1 suggested donation – the money collected going to stock local food shelves. Sweet.

On Sunday, we returned for lunch to find a group of enthusiastic and adrenalized women outside the storefront, who had ‘Baked for Obama’ – offering up the homemade treats to passersby, in trade for a donation towards his campaign support. They tirelessly engaged people in conversation, asking and answering questions from all. When Hillary’s name came up, one of the Obama Bakers showed me her Hillary button, now retired under a layer of clothing. Smile.

Strolling past again that afternoon, a creatively designed bicycle parked outside caught my eye. Making a trip for groceries with his small daughter, this industrious dad had left the car at home and pedaled down on this awesome kid-carrying bike/cart. He told me a friend from Oregon makes them. Cool!

In many parking lots throughout town, particularly at schools, there are “No Idling” signs which asked people to tun off their engines when stopped. Ahhhh

On Sunday afternoon, we found a swimming beach secluded along the River, just a short bike ride out of town. Although it was obvious that this is a popular Summer gathering spot, it was clean and free of trash. And the water was warmer than I expected! Double Ahhhhh.

On Sunday evening, we sat overlooking the River with our new VT friends, and enjoyed watching some young Brat Boys below. There, in long shorts and shirtless, they did what young men do…when Summer comes North…and the River runs. Sigh.

Some things just feel right. OM

Recycled, mold-proof shower curtains – NO PVC

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

The curtain I wrote about last week, has arrived from Health Goods. I was first pleased that it was sent in minimal packaging, with NO promotional materials included. The good news just kept on coming when I read the cover sheet (which was printed on recycled paper with vegetable-based ink):

100% RECYCLED polyester fabric

Water-repellent and anti-microbial

Fabric and product made in USA

Requires no shower rod hooks – buttons made from sustainable  Tagua nuts

Each full size curtain saves 130,000 BTU’s of energy

It comes in 3 sizes, so I was able to get one for my stall shower without all the extra material. I’ve used it a few times now and it truly is water-repellent and has no smell whatsoever. I’ve been fighting mold on my hemp/cotton curtains for so long, that this is a thrill for me. This curtain will never need to be replaced – it’s heavyweight and obviously durable – what a happy thought!

To order or for more info., go here. Pass it on to your showering friends!

Grid-Free and Off the Beaten Path

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

by Jeannie Newell, Crested Butte, CO

Sooooo sorry I missed posting on Sunday — I guess part of ‘off the grid adventuring’ is that you really have to plan for things, because internet access is not as easy to come by when you live in the woods. Here’s what happened yesterday in my new town:

Sunday was the 4th annual Bridges of the Butte tour.  It’s a 24 hour all ages non-stop bike ride that people take in teams & in shifts.  Some people do the whole 24 hours by themselves to win pretty sweet prizes like ski passes, but others just do it for the fun.  Also people wear their everyday garb or outrageous costumes!  This town is very into playing hard and wearing costumes whenever possible.  Michael and I took a couple of shifts for the fire department’s team, so I threw on a weird looking outfit, feather boa and went riding!  I realized 5 minutes into it, that it was just good for the soul.  The loop is an easy 2.5 miles and you take it as many times in your hour as you can, my legs were burning by the end of it!  And that was just one of the several races that have been going on here this week – Ride the Rockies, Fat Tire Bike Week and The Wildflower Rush are all going on….

This is a place all it’s own.  It’s a place where a person can be as normal as they want to be, or really nurture their inner weirdo.  All transitional moments aside, I think I might like it here.

The Green Buzz – Be Informed and Evolve

Friday, June 20th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

According to a recent article in the NY Times, market research done by the Shelton Group, consumers surveyed in 2007 were between 22 and 55 percent less likely to buy green products than in 2006. That’s more than HALF as likely to prioritize sustainability. What’s up? This sounds crazy, considering the increase of information and availability of green alternatives to just about everything. According to this study, that seems to be precisely the problem – green information overload. Also known as green fatigue, or eco-burnout.

Environmental organizations, working hard to reach and keep a reluctant “soft middle” (meaning, most of us) are scrambling to simplify their message by offering “cheat sheets” to being more sustainable and a “tiered” system of choices according to how much you are ready to do for change. Although I’m all for anything that will get the many balls rolling, but I’m not so sure we can afford to dial back what has barely gotten started. We’ve reached one of what is bound to be many bumps in the road to Change – let’s not turn back now. It’s time to evolve.

It’s fairly obvious that it was lack of information and truth that got us here, so it’s time to keep talking, not rationalize away our efforts. Denying “consumers” information about the industrial process certainly wasn’t an accident – marketers knew that there were some things better left unsaid. The popular quote by Paul McCartney, “If slaughter houses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian”, speaks loudly about all types of consumer habits. If we actually could see the sweatshops, the polluted waters, the chemicals and the waste – most of us would automatically be more conscious participants in the economy.

Unfortunately, transparency in the corporate world has never been suggested, let alone encouraged or required. With governments still slow to regulate “business as usual”, we are left with not much but the hope that consumers will make informed, social and environmental choices when available. When it comes to information, this is when we should be asking for more, not less. When it seems and feels complicated, we can start with our common sense – we know more than we think – and we can change more than we think. We’re at that familiar crossroads when there are only two roads to travel upon and one is no longer an option. We are in the midst of a social and cultural evolution.

When I was a kid and easily overwhelmed with learning, my father used to say, “Put on your thinking cap”. It always worked.

Seven Deadly Withouts

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Mahatma Gandhi

Seven Deadly Sins:

Wealth Without Work

Pleasure Without Conscience

Knowledge Without Character

Commerce (Business) Without Morality (Ethics)

Science Without Humanity

Religion Without Sacrifice

Politics Without Principle

Stephen Covey of Franklin Covey and author of Principle Centered Leadership, explains,

“Mahatma Gandhi said that seven things will destroy us. Notice that all of them have to do with social and political conditions. Note also that the antidote of each of these “deadly sins” is an explicit external standard or something that is based on natural principles and laws, not on social values.”

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