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

Archive for January, 2009

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

As it often happens, the best intentioned logic – if not completely thought through – isn’t actually logical. I was talking to a friend, Bill O’Luanaigh, today who made me painfully aware of this fact with one critical example. Read on.

There is a lot of dead wildlife alongside the road. Is it bad timing? Bad luck? Or simply, the sad truth about our attempts to integrate automobiles and the natural world? All of the above certainly applies. BUT – and this is a big BUT – we HUGELY compound these problems when we throw apple cores, banana peels or other seemingly innocent edibles out of our car windows to biodegrade or to provide a snack for some lucky wildlife. Oops…lucky? Harldly. Think it through – I had to.

Wildlife attracted to food along roadsides or in parking lots (or in urban areas in general), are at greatly increased risk of becoming road kill (or at the very least, unhealthy, if the scraps are not animal-friendly). But keep doing the math. Vultures, birds, mice, and other scavengers are attracted to the road for a meal and likely to meet the same fate. Owls and hawks now see the mice and fly in for breakfast and….well, you get the picture. In fact, this same friend, on the Board of Directors of The Wildlife Center of Virginia, told me that currently, 80% of the owls in rehabilitation have been injured in car accidents. Wow.

So, please make and keep this New Year’s Resolution – don’t litter, period, even with food scraps. And, while we’re at it, let’s make sure our composting piles are not in an area that put wildlife at risk. My broader resolution is to always “think it through”, which leads me to other related and important considerations on this topic:

If you see an injured animal, stop if possible and please take some action to help (I keep my local wildlife rescue numbers in my cell phone). Believe me, some of the most seemingly unlikely rescues have happened simply because someone stopped. I once picked up a Beagle along the highway, drove 2 miles to the next exit and happen to see a truck driving through a plowed field nearby. The driver was looking for his lost dog – a Beagle.

If you see a dead animal, call your local authority to have it removed and help avoid the chain reaction of killing that is sure to follow. I keep that number in my phone also, so that I can give the location more accurately.

If you see a stray dog or a cat that appears to be lost, don’t assume it can make it home on it’s own – please stop to help. I keep leashes, a blanket for picking up an injured animal if necessary, and pet food in my car. The best food to keep with you is canned – it’s non-perishable, and will be more alluring to a hungry dog or cat.

For more rescue advice, visit this site at

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Monday, January 12th, 2009

Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

“Endure” is a word that has a lot of meaning and a lot of negative connotations. But, since my experience with the horses last week, I’ve realized that somehow and for many yet unknown reasons, I’ve been meant to “endure” the physical and emotional pain from my injury. In general, I’m learning about myself, about acceptance, about will, balance…it’s growth. Specifically? Well, it’s slowly beginning to show up…Not coincidentally, I’m certain, I then read a post on NoImpactMan, by Sean Sakamoto, who blogs at He wrote about his experience this Winter, living in rural Japan without heat, this way:

“It is what the Japanese call “Gaman.” It means “endure, ” or “tolerate” but there’s more to it than that. It ascribes value to enduring something difficult. To Gaman is a principle, its a virtue. It’s a cross between hanging in there and fighting the good fight.”

This makes me think of so many things beside my “poor me, my leg hurts” experience. What about the ways we are changing our earth/resource depleting lifestyles to become less tethered to luxury and convenience and to learn what we really “need” vs what we think we really “want” ??? Walking/cycling short distances instead of driving, turning out the lights, cutting down on industrial meat consumption, choosing reusables instead of disposables – they may feel like a lesson in enduring as we begin. But what happens next? Sean, who is not just turning down the heat, but using quilts and hot water bottles in place of it, really should have the last word here today:

“There are times when gaman is a pain. Sometimes enduring hardship as a virtue when the situation could just as easily be made more comfortable seems nuts. But as a cultural value, doing your best and enduring hardship is refreshing….The connection between comfort, consumption, and happiness seems to be more tenuous than I once thought. Here I am in Japan, my fear of a heatless winter come true, and I’m happier than I’ve been in years.”

Thanks for sharing your experience, growth and wisdom, Sean. And Namaste,


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Saturday, January 10th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Animals and their spirits have guided me before. I don’t know why I keep finding myself surprised and in awe when they continues to show up when I need them, but I guess that’s what it’s all about – recognizing the medicine.

As you know, I’ve been struggling with a severe muscle injury in my thigh since a fall on December 1st. My chiropractor/naturopaths have been helping me heal immensely, both physically and mentally, and I’ve continued to slowly improve – but I’ve been frustrated with a continued limp and pain, and worried by the feeling of a “dead zone” in my leg which has not allowed me to take even a few hurried steps or raise my lower leg.

Yesterday, I was driving alongside a pasture and two horses ran out in front of my car. My first reaction made me pull over but my next thought was, What can I do? I can’t even walk normally!? But, I got out anyway and saw a girl hurrying with halters and leads in both hands. “Can I help??” I asked. “Yes!” she blurted, handing me a halter and taking off down the road in pursuit. I paused, looked down at my leg and said out loud, “This is it, leg. We have to do this.” (Yep, I really said that.)

I took a few steps, then broke into a slow jog. Wobbly, but without pain, I continued to run. The horses were far ahead, still trotting and running and weaving down the road. Cars were driving around them, then continuing on. We both realized we couldn’t catch up and she yelled again, “Go back to your car, drive up and try to head them off!” I took a deep breath, and broke into a run once more. I reached my car and was able to pull alongside the horses just before they turned left to follow the road. Forced towards the right, they entered the Town Operations Center – a large area filled with vehicles – but one that was fenced!

Still, a horse that doesn’t want to be caught, well, won’t likely be caught, especially without a halter on. Thankfully, town employees appeared and began closing gates. The two horses paused in a corner area, still looking for a path to follow. I reached them first because I had driven in with the car. I heard the girl yelling from behind me, “Grab the mare!”

For the first time, I noticed the size and beauty of the animals as they danced about. I stepped in, grabbed some mane and held on. The mare gave me a half-hearted hip check. I laughed and trembled – at the same time, I think. In a few more moments, both horses were haltered and munching on grain from a bucket. They were safe. The girl and I laughed and cried a little. Lots of thank yous.

I wanted to stay with the horses. I wanted to ride off into the sunset. I wanted to hang onto that mane. But I returned to my car, sat a minute, holding my hand on my injured leg with a shaky smile and then drove off, waving. The horses knew the whole story. That was enough.

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Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto

Remember carbon off-setting? I loved the idea when it arrived on the green scene and I love it now. I offset my car, my flights and the energy use of my house each year with TerraPass, one of the leaders in what is one of the new green “industries” – you know, where the hope lies for the future of both our planet and our economy. It’s affordable for most of us who fly and own a home and in case you think otherwise, consider the incentives to then “offset” your offsets through more greening efforts like driving less, using CFL lightbulbs and turning down/up the thermostat each year.)

The effectiveness of Offsets in terms of increasing use of alternative energy and/or helping slow down global warming has been debated since the off – I mean, onset. That has died down some and it’s been established that, In general, offsetting counts, especially when it comes to unavoidable eco-sins like airline flights.

In fact, according to the NY Times blog, Green Inc., San Francisco International airport has joined with 3Degrees, a local offset company, and has spent $163, 000 on kiosks now available for passengers to purchase their travel offsets at the terminal. Other airlines are offering their own offsets directly and Virgin Airlines even allows passengers to purchase while in flight. Hmm, sounds a lot better than the two vodka tonics or the latest in-flight movie being offered.

Remember, you can offset your energy/fuel use anytime for travel – it doesn’t have to be purchased ahead of time. So, all the holiday travelers can catch up now. Happy New Green Year.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 282 user reviews.

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Green Weddings are making their way into the REAL world for REAL people and if there is one thing certain, they capture the real essence of wedded bliss – extending beyond the happy couple and their guests. So, I especially loved this post by J. and N. over at Not only did they green the whole affair with self-crafted decorations, no disposables and a lovely pre-worn dress from ebay (with a simple pair of flip flops underneath), but after all was said and done, the dress will be passed on again and the leftover decorating materials were FreeCycled. I loved hearing about the other green wedding ideas and seeing the photos. I plan to follow this light-hearted and wholehearted couple as they celebrate more green life.

We have monthly Really Free Markets in Carrboro, but I’d almost forgotten about online Freecycling. I’ve make great use of thrift stores for my unwanted stuff, but there are plenty of small, somewhat used things – from old hobbies or abandoned projects – that I stockpile since even the goodwill is not interested in salvaging. N. listed her half-used paints, markers and other craft materials on and they were readily claimed by a fellow crafter in her community. How cool is that?

At least 4, 662 groups at FreeCycle exists globally, with 6, 326, 000 members and growing. Each group is moderated by a local volunteer and the website gives a lot of detail about freecycling procedure and etiquette. With a mission of reusing good stuff, reducing waste, saving resources and building community,

You know that “clean sweep” I did with my cd collection on New Year’s Day? Well, I’m ready to take another look through the house and see what can be put to good use elsewhere. FreeCycle is gifting bliss!

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 214 user reviews.

Monday, January 5th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’m thrilled to be once again hosting TreeHugger’s Carnival of The Green, a green web party of sorts, celebrating some of the many bloggers talking, living and writing about their passions in sustainable living. To find out more about the carnival or hosting, visit this link at

Last week’s carnival was hosted by Philip Booth of Philip works in the mental health field, believes we need more “Nature Playgrounds”, and is a district councillor over 3 counties in the UK. He is passionate about many things, including social justice and how we care for the planet. I find his site inspirational.

Some of us start the new year taking a fresh look at just how we piece together our livelihoods. The bigger picture of investment and personal finance can be an intimidating one since capitalism on the green front requires some bigger views of the future. Fortunately, there’s help out there for those of us wondering what is the what when it comes to sustainable investing., a site outlining responsible personal finance, is dedicated to helping us see the forest AND the trees. Check out this post deciphering the systems of Socially Responsible Finance.

I’ve been weaning myself from unnecessary auto addiction over the years and was excited to discover, where Aaron and Sebastian follow “the Pulse of the Electric Vehicle industry”. This post rated the top scooters available this year in the U.S. by design, capability and innovation standards – and they’re talking real commuters here, not “glorified toys”. Scoot-curious myself, I’m going to bookmark this page.

Recycle Cindy over at opened my eyes to the world of green crafting and, more specifically, the possibilities of crocheting with “Plarn”. Many of her products and ideas are made from this yarn-like material made exclusively from plastic shopping bags (about 80 to a roll) but they look and function like designer goods! She shares really simple instructions on how to make plarn as well as all of her many other designs which include denimn crafts, doll clothes, kitchen supplies and more.

The sister blogging team of Sally and Sadie Kneidel at keep us up to date on news and their experiences in sustainablity. And, they’ve written another book this year:  Going Green – A Wise Consumer’s Guide to a Shrinking Planet. Their carnival post for today shares some shocking statistics about the shrinking fish populations in oceans and rivers – 40% of species in North American are currently in peril – a number which has doubled in just the past 20 years. If you eat or want to continue eating fish, be sure to read this post and also go to the Fish Selector to find out your best eco-choices. reminds us to send your expired greeting cards to St. Jude’s Ranch, a haven for neglected and abused children. They have a program were the kids reuse the artwork on the cards to make new cards for sale for next year. Find out where and how this works on her site. Laurel and Kate bring lots of green thinking to our home and lives through this site.

Lynn from talks about how most  bloggers agonize over posts, debate  how often to ask for a Stumble, and analyze web traffic more often than they care to admit. All that time adds up, and she cautions bloggers not to forget the “real world” outside their doors. A great read for all web-linked people!

A money and personal finance blog, sends out some good messages about “economizing” your life, pointing out how, as the economy slides downwards, behavioral trends are also shifting as people are making the necessary adjustments to the new financial realities they face. As certain economic realities begin to dawn upon most of us and we start feeling the pinch of higher prices, lower investment returns and a slowdown in the job market, we’re finally taking stock of our financial situations and actually making some concrete changes.

A nice follow-up to the above is a post at who tells us that Frugality is back in Fashion, offering basic money tips for the economic recession and a whole lot more.

Though some readers found keeping the heat off/down to save energy and money extreme, I loved the post over at I don’t think that the heat needs to be off in Winter – impossible, of course, in many climates – but being frugal about your setting is not as hard as you think. I, too, wear comfy silk long johns under my clothes in Winter, keep two pairs of socks and warm slippers on my feet while at home and like a small down quilt over my lap while doing quiet home activities like reading. If I’m moving about cleaning or doing laundry or cooking, body heat does the trick, even at a setting below 60. I recommend experimenting and remember that every degree counts when it comes to the planet.

I probably fall close to the category of extreme green-geeks who count every detail of green-living, but I also try hard not to lose balance in my own life as well as faith in even the most simple efforts by others. The post at shares some nice commentary about the perfectionist in some of us.

Last but not least, Homesteader Belle is giving away some quick change cloth menstrual cloths. Get in on the gifting here. (Don’t forget to check out the Diva Cup, too.)

Next week’s Carnival of the Green will be hosted by, a site written by a real-life mom, who explores ways to entertain and excite teensy green beings (kids) without all those plastics and gadgets.

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Friday, January 2nd, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I hope you had a happy, hopeful new Year’s celebration. Although, in many ways, I’ve landed with a thud at the bottom of my mountain in 2009, a little battered and bruised, I’m still feeling ready to pick myself up and continue on the path towards change (after all, as Joseph Campbell reminded us, “The warrior always says yes.”).

I usually have a feeling of settling down and “cleaning things up” when January arrives and although I’ve toned down most of my past holiday raceabout, I still get in this groove this time of year. It’s tempting to want to simply sweep things up and out to the curb – gift boxes, decorations, packing materials, food containers and the like…but don’t get stuck in that moment! More things are recyclable than ever before and you can start your New Year off well by getting the job done right.

Don’t know where to start? Go to and find out why, how and where to recycle anything in your area (conveniently listed by zip code).

For instance, my most exciting holiday gift was a cd rack that found for $4.00 at the thrift store – I happily spent some of New Year’s Day FINALLY pulling year’s worth of cds out of shoe boxes and arranging them for more convenient access, discovering long lost and favorite music along the way. I ended up with a couple dozen “dead” disks, which I am shipping off to to be recycled.

I’m cleaned up at home without messing up the planet – ahhh!

Happy, Healthy Year! Tao

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 256 user reviews.

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