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

Archive for October, 2009

Local Theater Beats the Odds

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Community places  can survive the odds.

Most towns and cities have or had them – the small, neighborhood movie theater – with the old-style, worn, but comfy seats. Often located near a college, they are the first to show art-house and independent flicks (and continuing late-night Rocky Horror Picture Show). You know, the place with the best tasting popcorn.

With only 1 – 3 screens, these movie-houses struggle against the super-sized multi-plexes at strip malls. Despite their charm and convenient locations for both pedestrian traffic and transportation, these cultural and historical centers are quickly fading into the limelight.

Our own Varsity Theater, near UNC Chapel Hill, closed back in June for financial reasons. But another local couple put their passion into the project, did some research with local residents and will re-open the 80-year old theater in November with a slightly different business model in place. Paul and Susan Shareshian said they want to do this because, “it’s the right thing to do for the community.”

The show must go on, indeed.

Happier Halloween – ghoulishly green

Friday, October 30th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC


Although as a kid, what I best remember about Halloween is an ongoing stomach ache and mood swings (we all hid our hoards of sweets under the bed and gorged for days, right?), but as an adult, I’ve come to enjoy a day where we are encouraged to put on a costume and take the darkness of life lightly. I’m not just referring to ghosts and goblins, but the idea that accepting and honoring what is no longer living. You know, all that pagan stuff – birth, life, death, rebirth – all celebrated and honored.

As we many of the commonly recognized holidays today, we adopted many of the pagan rituals of “All Hallow’s Eve”  or Samhain – jack o’ lanterns, cauldrons and apples. Yet, somehow, the mainstream culture seems to gravitate towards one overriding aspect of each (Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny come to mind…) With Halloween, the candy companies have cashed in, But between unfair labor practices on sugar and cocoa farms, and chemicals used in candy and costumes, it means the environment and farm workers have to cash out. What’s a green goblin to do?

Buy Fair Trade, organic candy or at least those sweetened naturally, here’s a list of some greener goodies.

Make your own or rent your costume. Consider the safety of face paints or hair sprays and go with natural ingredients for die – I mean, dye.

Get your pesticide-free pumpkin from a local farm and be sure to compost or feed to wildlife afterwards.

And all that stuff about honoring the dead? The pagans used to set a place at the table for the dear deceased, inviting them to visit. Now, THAT’s spooky.

Catalog Choice – just in time for holiday mailing madness

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Remember Green Dimes? I joined last year and yep, for just a few dimes I’ve gotten off and stayed off most junk mail lists. However, another holiday season is approaching and I’m seeing some new catalogs have found me. I’ve been calling some of them to get of their lists, but it usually involves a long hold period, and reciting my name and address endlessly.

Just in time, I heard about a nonprofit, founded in October of 2007, which gets consumers OFF unwanted catalog lists. The online steps are simple and quick and once you’re in the system, you can return conveniently any time a new catalog shows up. This means you can still receive the catalogs you want, but, think twice (or three times) about how much you really get out of these when you can use their websites to browse products and place orders. is free and does not share your information with ANY lists of services. They already have over one million members and have kept over 13 million unwanted catalogs out of the mail. Catalog Choice also has a program for merchants which can help them clean up their distribution lists to save mailing costs, while actually increasing their customer base and respect customer preferences.

I’m signing on today, before the holiday mailing madness really gets in gear. Join me.

Music and Arts Festivals Spread Love and Inspiration

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Music and arts festivals are popping up all over the country. Here in NC, there are at least 5 each year. They happen both in Spring and Fall. Despite trying to get moved, we spent the weekend at Shakori Hills a couple weeks ago. It gets better every year – both musically, sustainably and energetically. Another sign that something is growing and shifting in our culture that is feeding more creative and authentic spirit.

Music and art has always been apart of every culture, since the beginning. We can’t deny it’s importance or it’s influence. At festivals, you experience these things along with sharing food, dancing, and sleeping under the stars. It moves us, wakes us up and calms us down.

My good friend and blog contributor was at LEAF festival near Asheville, NC this month. Here’s his experience:

By Greg Gillette, Asheville, NC

The highlight of the LEAF festival was the Sustainable Health Lecture given by a woman at one of
the healing arts tents. There were 8 of us and we started by doing a native
american movement to honor the spirt and the four directions. We then sat by the
fire, in a  circle and paired up. ( a woman and man) We did various exercises
and rotated to a new partner after each exercise. One exercise we traced the
aura of our partner with our hands. Another one we spoke about our deepest
challenge with each other. Other ones were as follows: We asked to have a
certain part of our bodies to be massaged; we told our partner what one thing
represented our biggest contributor toward sustainable health; we stood back to
back and rubbed each other’s back with our back; we thought of a healing touch
we remembered as a child and asked our partner to perform this touch; we stared
into each other’s eyes and sensed the spirit in our partner. We ended with a
song while walking in a circle, holding hands.

Here are the words to the song:

“Bring your love, bring your gratitude, bring your heart, bring your soul”
“Sisters, gather round, feel the magic, touch the ground”
“Bring your love, bring your gratitude, bring your heart, bring your soul”
“Brothers, gather round, feel the magic, touch the ground”
It was a very beautiful gathering, where love, respect, gratitude and communication were in full bloom.

Hold on to the meaning, let go of the rest.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I’ve been immersed in unpacking – realizing that it is worse than packing. Packing has a deadline, so the challenge is mostly about separating and stuffing. But UN-packing is harder because as you look for places to “put” things, you start to question all of your possessions in a new way and also just where it all came from, if it’s still relevant and important and if not, who might find use for it, and on and on.

There are some things that I’ve moved around with me for a long time and most of them feel special and worthwhile – photos, sports equipment, even old sweaters can hold meaning and nostalgia. And then there are books, I have lots of books that I can’t part with, but I try to keep the ones that I really do look at again and again.

See this glass rabbit? This holds a clear memory. It was given to me when I was 6 years old – my twin sister was given the same one in white. We were swimming in a Howard Johnson’s swimming pool. Another guest came out of the gift shop and gave these to us, saying with a smile, “Twins for the twins.” Nothing more. We left that day and I have kept this with me through around 24 moves.

It was the kitchen stuff that got to me the most- lots of mismatched cups and glasses and plates and bowls. Do I need all of them? I tend to gravitate towards using the same bowl, the same mug, even have a favorite spoon….these I find comfort in having and even holding.

So, it was fun today to find this on NoImpactMan blog today and especially enjoyed this story about a teacher in Japan and his clay mug of 35 years….

Then look around. What possessions hold meaning for you – how can you be sure to keep it around and enjoy quality and not quantity? Plant the seeds of this awareness and you will have a more clear path to meaning and joy in your head and in your home..

moving * changing * being

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

I apologize for my sparse posts over the past few weeks, but I’ve been busy with a plan. Here’s where it all began…

I sometimes have wondered if I’m addicted to Change. I’ve moved around a lot – at times for no apparent reason (though I had several unapparent reasons at the time). It often was triggered by a life change, but more accurately, it felt like a voice whispering in my ear – “go…grow….” Even in – or maybe especially in – trying circumstances, the voice was insistent and the path appeared obvious. Sometimes the “plan” incubated and hatched slowly and carefully and other times it felt more like I turned around and bumped right into it.

Although every new situation had its share of perfections and imperfections, what I remember most is the thrill of newness and the opportunity to recreate myself and my life within that place. Looking back, it all seemed simple and easy – leave here, go there, change this, do that.

But this has been different. Almost 5 years ago, we landed in a place of both sanctuary and community in co-housing, a country setting in an urban area – the best of both worlds, as I often described it. So, the messages we had both been hearing baffled me at first. I thought I’d found my utopia of living small and contained. Then, it hit me – I was living small and contained. It was time to think big again…

This plan has been nagging at both of us for about a year and for the first time, I had tried vehemently to ignore it. But messages from the Universe can be darn loud. No matter how “comfortable” I thought I was, there seemed to be a next thing waiting for us and it became more clear as I made space for the vision. It spoke of another way to commune, to live efficiently and sustainably and to be involved, to share with others what I knew and to learn from them what I yet did not know.

Creato-CommunoSo, we’re moving into an older and bigger house in our downtown area. There are already several urban farmers in the ‘hood and we hope to learn some tricks of the trade from them. There will be 4 of us living in this house, including a longtime friend who is leaving his job and moving back from Chicago. The bad news about an old house is that you need to repair and replace, but the good news about this is that you can get the latest efficient energy systems and take advantage of some significant rebates/tax credits. We’re going to green up the hvac system, install on-demand water heater and insulate the attic. We also found a wood-burning stove insert for the fireplace that can heat 2300sq.feet. Granted, the numbers have to work out for this to happen in the scheme of buying and selling, but sometimes, the Universe helps with that part, too.

But it’s my soul was searching for more than a more green footprint. My housemates and I began to brainstorm about our plan to build community and relationships while nourishing our own creativity.  Jerry and James will be continuing to grow their work in filming and editing now in a more conducive work space for screening – Jerry has been focusing on local music videos. There will be a band using the garage for rehearsal. We I’m going to once again have my own studio space for yoga classes, practice groups and yoga therapy. Since we have a front, sunny room (with lots of outlets!) we hope to co-office with friends and new neighbors. After all, more people working and hanging together means keeping the wood-burning stove going with less work, a steady source of inspiration and movtivation and in general, a lot more fun.

What do you think? A logical way to get more out of community life? We’re not, of course, the first people to think of it – check out this recent NYTimes article about this growing trend.

Whew. The moving truck just left. Now the real fun begins. I’ll keep you posted.

Better For Babies, and Grown-ups – achoo in perspective

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

I received this comment last week from another eco-conscious reader – thanks Marney Whitney – I’m glad to know that awareness of our wasteful habits is growing and that others are getting into the details:

Hi There,

I have a cold today and was thinking just how many tissues I wasted in one day.  Even more disturbing is how many tissue boxes I have in my house and continue to buy. It would be so nice to refill my tissue boxes just like I do my napkin holder / paper towels, etc. I try not to use paper products but inevitably
I do end up using some so a refillable tissue holder seems logical to me. Any thoughts on this?

You’re right, Marne, tissues add up when you have a cold. I do usually break down and get a box when I get a bad one. But, the rest of the year, I use a cloth for sniffles. As I’ve mentioned before, I carry a bandana with me as a napkin, hand-dryer and more. At home, I cut up old cloth (old soft t-shirts work well) into squares for napkins, rags and lots of other uses. I keep two metal buckets in the corner of the kitchen – one with clean cloths and the other for those headed for laundering. In the bathroom, I will use toilet tissue instead of tissues or cotton balls because I can tear off small amounts (I never thought Sheryl Crow was joking about the one square!) and it will biodegrade in the toilet.

There’s lots of little habits we could break that after a short time, we wouldn’t miss at all and I think it would help us get a handle on the difference between needs and luxuries. If we all only used a box of tissues when we have a cold (hopefully we’re all getting bad colds only about once/year!), it wouldn’t be an actual problem.

Of course, the entire issue has a solution – REUSABLES from Leah Carter and her husband, Zac, started with the creation of baby products  – BetterFor – and have followed up with reusable hygiene products for the rest of us, including tissues and cotton rounds.

It’s the same with a lot of things we have become accustomed to having without actual need. For instance, if only the people who needed trucks or vans had them (perhaps for a home business or carpooling), then there would be a lot less fuel-hogs on the road. Sadly, our perspective is way off in this regard and we could benefit by simply starting taking at new look at the small things – if you start with tissues, then paper towels, then paper plates, then napkins….and then the big things begin dawning on us. And, even with something as simple as tissue use, considering the numbers, this alone will save lots of trees (and all pollution and water waste) that goes into production of these luxury items.

Evolution. Revolution. Solution!

Thanks for thinking small and doing BIG, Marney. Get Well Soon. Tao

Ten Things (for a good green start)

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Tao, Carrboro, NC

With the flood of green news and ideas out there and growing, it can at times be hard to keep your priorities straight as a consumer. Here’s a quick glance cheat sheet from

10 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER BUY: styrofoam anything, paper towels, bleached coffee filters, teak and mahogany, chemical herbicides/pesticides, chemical household cleaners, PVC plastic toys, plastic utensils, farm-raised salmon, rayon

8 BODYCARE TOXINS TO AVOID:  mercury/thimerosal, lead acetate, nanoparticles, placenta, hydroquinone skin lightener, phthalates, petroleum by-products, fragrance

10 FAIR TRADE PRODUCTS TO LOOK FOR:  tea, chocolate, bananas, sugar, rice, vanilla, clothing, wine, olive oil, coffee

10 OF THE WORST CORPORATE CRIMINALS TO AVOID:  Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Monsanto, General Motors, Dominion, Citigroup, Shell Petroleum, McDonald’s (To learn what they are doing wrong – and how you can stop them – go to, click on Responsible Shopper.)

5 THINGS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BUY GREEN:  Paint (no or low-VOC), paper, light bulbs, appliances (Energy Star), fruits and vegetables (organic, local, in-season)

“Green America is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982. (We went by the name “Co-op America” until January 1, 2009.) Our mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.”

Green America works focuses on economic strategies, working to mobilize business leaders in a way that links social justice and environmental responsibility and empowers both personal and collective action. For more, visit

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