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Archive for the ‘Green Misc.’ Category

Where Balloons Go To Die

Monday, June 14th, 2010

I run or hike on trails in the woods every morning with my dogs and I appreciate the fact that I’m out there on nature’s terms. It’s not exactly Wild Kingdom, but I’ve been up close and personal with snakes, turtles, raccoons, deer and was even followed by a coyote one day (ok, that one was not my favorite, but still, all part of the package). This morning, I came upon a very baby possum, living proof that all things in infant form are adorable.

So, it felt entirely out of context to come across these deflated party balloons in the woods yesterday. What’s up with balloons anyway? There’s a store down the street that sells nothing but balloons. Really? So much for form and function.

Ok, I really do have a life, but still, I had to look up a little balloon history:

The first balloons were invented/discovered in the 18th century in France and made from paper. By 1803, we made balloons in the first rubber factory, and now balloons are made from latex, which is rubber mixed with chemical additives. Some of these chemicals, of course, end up as waste in the manufacturing process – the others? Well, most end up as waste in their burst balloon state – like these in the forest, after just a few hours of use. Although rubber and latex will slowly degrade, the coagulant chemicals – or the ribbons tied onto the tails – will not.

Watching a helium-filled balloon float off “into space” is only a fantasy. Those balloons inevitably end up earthbound, tangled in tree limbs, on the ground, or in waterways, where they endanger wildlife and the environment.

Bountiful Backyards Shares “Beautility”

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

As enamored as I am with the entire idea of “food, not lawns”, I’m still intimidated at the idea of caring for a large garden of my own. I managed to get my tomato plants in the ground last week, along with a couple fig trees, but I’m hesitant to take on much more. Still, plenty of my neighbors have abundant “Victory Gardens” and don’t appear to spend hours working in the hot sun – one of my big garden fears. A Crop Mob may be able to give me a communal push if I had a plan, but what my household needs is information, ideas that will fit into our yard and the amount of time we want to commit to the whole process. Where else can I turn?

Enter Bountiful Backyards, a team of designers, landscapers, educators, artisans and motivators who can make any yard (or parking lot or street corner, for that matter) into an edible landscape.

Bountiful Backyards will consult and evaluate the potential of your yard and help you turn it into something that is both feasible for your space and your lifestyle. They will do as much or as little as you need in the areas of design, preparation, installation, education and guidance.They will design to help you grow and yield at your own pace.

By creating a mutually beneficial relationship between you and the environment, you can trade the time you spend at futile attempts to tame weeds and lawns into a way to feed your family fresher, healthier food for most of the year. You will also be improving soil and creating a much-needed friendly habitat for birds and beneficial insects, all while cultivating your own connection to what happens in those rare moments away from streets and sidewalks.

Bountiful Backyards believes in sharing “Beautility”. Besides their professional services, they offer donation-based workshops on things like backyard bee-keeping and outdoor worm composting.

MOON CYCLES and the Diva within me – better than tampons, period.

Friday, May 7th, 2010

yoga mudraHere it is again – information on the simple, convenient, healthy, money-saving, no-waste Diva Cup and The Keeper for women. If you haven’t made the switch, read on. If you have, send this to a friend. This is great news for women and for the planet! Tao

The environmental question lurking behind that time of the month. Throw away or wash/reuse? Traditional tampons and pads are made with bleach and other toxic chemicals. Friendlier feminine products are now available and although better for your health, they don’t solve the problem of using resources and creating waste.

All of you green goddesses will be thrilled to hear there is another option, good for both you and the planet. The Diva Cup http://and The Keeper http:// are reusable menstrual cups made from silicone or latex rubber, respectively. They are convenient to use,waste-free and super-economical since they will last up to 10 years. I love my Keeper! In fact, these woman-friendly products are so freeing and comfy, that I really hope the word gets out in a big way, so pass it on!

While we’re at it, why don’t we embrace the entire experience with awe instead of dread? As it turns out, in pagan times, when nature was revered and honored, the menstrual cycle was celebrated and acknowledged as a woman’s link to the cycles of the earth and the planets. Wow. It turns out that not only can I use this altered state to contact my inner goddess, but I can now buy and waste less in the process!

I’ve had more than a few students and friends try this. I always encourage them to not be intimidated by the insertion process the first few tries. Embrace the newness and it will soon become second nature! Namaste!

More info. on Yoga practice during Moon Time below.
Tradition:  Women don’t practice during their moon time (menstrual cycle) because their energy is better used for this cleansing process. Using the time for restorative postures and seated meditation is recommended. It is a wonderful way to check in with your emotions, thoughts and the other messages being sent by nature and your body.

Practical application: Once you are proficient/fluent at engaging bandhas, it becomes more logical from a physical perspective not to practice asana since these deep contractions can restrict the menstrual flow. Holding inverted postures can further upset the body’s natural inclination to flow with gravity.

Experience:  I have found through my own experience and that of former students, that the beginning stages of learning Ashtanga does not have a significant effect on the menstrual flow. I’m guessing that this may be because it takes a long while to learn to actively engage the lower bandhas and/or use a full Ujjayi breath. Also, in this first stage, we are not doing or holding inversions more than 5 breaths. So, during this period, I recommend taking off your home practice, but feeling free to participate in a class. if your flow is heavy, you may want to exclude all closing inversions.

If you are a more advanced student, I recommend avoiding asana practice at home and possibly avoiding class – depending on how far the instruction has moved into the series. If you are unsure, talk to your teacher.

Other no-practice days: Tradition dictates that there is no vigorous practice on Full or New Moon Days, due to the high “lunar” energy that may cause distraction. Many women flow with the dates of the Full or New Moon, so this works out nicely. If you do not yet do this, you may find you cycle slowly adjusting to this calendar – if you keep up a regular practice. Energetically, this is optimal, so look forward to it!  If you do not flow with the Moon phases, still skip practice on Full or New Moon Days. Restorative or seated meditation practice is a wonderful experience on those days.

To view full/new moon dates

Music Matters

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

What came first – the music or the muse?

Since the sixties and perhaps earlier, music has been linked to revolution, counterculture, the dawning of a new age. Unlike Hollywood celebrities, musicians are also referred to as artists and you know what they say, Make Love Art. Not War. Todays musical artists are no less restless, enraged and willing to speak and sing out for Change.

Grist lists 15 Green Musicians of 2007 as: Pearl Jam, The Root, Sarah Harmer, Green Day, Jack Johnson, Thom Yorke, Willie Nelson, KT Turnstall, Guster, Perry Farrell, Sheryl Crow, Bare Naked Ladies, Cloud Cult, Bonnie Raitt, Moby. How and why? Go here. This list is only a short version of the many performers playing a new green tune. In fact, late in 2007, Peter Garrett, the former lead singer of rock group Midnight Oil, was named Australia’s environmental minister.

Live Earth spotlighted this voice for change and perhaps tipped other artists into a greener arena. When you live by using your voice, your gift and your passion, it’s only a matter of time before the [CFL] light bulb turns on.

Peace, Love and Rock ‘n Roll.

Epilogue: Above is a post i wrote in 2008. I had just tapped into the idea of how much “Music Matters”. Live Earth had just happened. More and more artists were arriving on the music scene all over the world. Older mainstream artists were resurfacing (some straight out of rehab) with the same passion and energy to share and show the world.

There are still more local music shows and festivals. There is more acceptance and integration of different styles and musical genres. What I think is different is that some of the rage has been transformed to a more authentic love and lightness. Kind of a surrender to the journey. Although the world needed and still needs practical measures to bring change and healing, the music seemed to become the place to go to refuel the sacred activist within. And, I know i needed refueling.

As I said back then, this is not new phenomenon. But it is interesting that what I thought was a peak in the musical world then has risen to higher and more meaningful depths 2 years later. We continue to seek what is transformational – looking for the creative energy in the midst of chaos.

All I can say is thank the Universe.

X-Games on a Vision Quest

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

(Seeing the BMX ramp yesterday reminded me of my friend, Michael May, who I posted about (below) in 2007. Though he’s since weathered a broken wrist, elbow, and nose, he’s still following his riding bliss.)

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I have a love/hate relationship with sports – you could call me a reformed sports addict. Although strictly amateur, I pushed and pulled myself through many athletic endeavors since puberty. In fact, discovering sports as a teenager is definitely why I survived puberty! I ran, played softball, basketball, tennis, did high jump, some gymnastics, skied and ran some more. Later, I discovered the more extreme sports like windsurfing, water skiing, mountain biking and triathlons. I found and committed to yoga just in time to save my body from injury and overuse and my mind from imploding into a ego-centric mess. We all have our journey, eh?

I’m relieved and satisfied that I moved on, staying active and outdoors-loving but finding a balance I missed earlier. I still have an ongoing admiration for the ambitious passion of most athletes (though I question the purity of professional sports) and I’m especially enamored with the people who play and/or compete with an unadulterated mind/body/nature connection. Windsurfing still mesmerizes me, as does surfing and snowboarding. Not too long ago, I connected with an especially impressive skateboard and BMX enthusiast. A quiet and focussed intensity surrounds him and he continually expresses an inspiring blend of road warrior, artist and buddha. That’s him above.

It’s not a surprise to me that the leaders in the Green movement in sports comes from the professional skateboarding and BMX community. Pierre Andre Senizergues segued from pro-skateboarder to owner of Sole Tech, an athletic shoe company with buildings powered by solar panels, including an extensive recycling progam and waterless urinals that save at least 250,000 gallons of water per year (or 2 1/2 million bottles of beer). Sole Tech is currently launching a line of sustainable footwear and apparel. This guy practices what he preaches, living in an eco-house and becoming a primary backer for Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental film, The 11th Hour.

Skateboard Professional turned guru, Frank Scura, once immersed in the traditional mainstream culture of the action sports, journeyed out (you gotta check out his wolf story!) and back in with a different perspective on himself and the world. Returning to the sport scene with a new set of ideals, he founded AESC (Action Sports Environmental Coalition) in 2001, an organization set on educating its young athletes about how they can contribute to environmental efforts and sustainability through conscious consumption. Read more about Scura’s corporate marketing strategies – “a three-prong attack on business as usual” at Grist.

He’s into “seed-planting”, not preaching, but found young people really want to hear from their heroes – people who embrace their lifestyles yet show them a way to contribute outside themselves. Scura confirms my observation that the yogic nature of what X-athletes do – the ability to be fully present – is a formula for commitment on many levels. He says, “The beauty of it is – it’s exactly what action sports needs. The ultimate punk rock rebellious act to fuck the Man and fuck the system is to be environmentally and socially conscious. That’s exactly what they don’t want you to do.”

Daylight What?

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I’ve been trying to roll with it, but Daylight Savings Time is killin’ me.

On a purely physical level, I’m annoyingly sensitive to my sleep needs – lose sleep and I’ll lose energy and attitude – making parts of the day a struggle. So, I made a deal with my body. I’ll work at sleeping and rising at consistent times and you give me full-on energy during all the other hours. I had to throw in a few extras – like a good diet and exercise, but overall, it works well – I get to operate full-on most days and can even manage late night music shows once/week w/o too much trouble. My body and brain know when to wake up and when to shut down. It’s a pretty good system.

Unfortunately, the craziness of changing the clocks twice/year really messes with it. The well-laid plans, dating back to WWI – of saving fuel/energy, has not panned out. But, we humans don’t like to change or admit that we are wrong, so we keep moving clocks up and back. It turns out, our futile attempts at energy savings actually costs us more in electricity and heating and pollution emissions. These facts are no longer debated – look at this from Grist.

My body knows when to wake up, so when it’s darker and colder and actually an hour earlier, it complains a lot about being pushed from sleep before the restoring process is finished. And, that’s exactly what it feels like – making my whole self feel out of sorts every Spring. Looking at a bigger picture, it’s painful to watch kids standing at the school bus stop in the pitch dark, and I don’t really know what the farmers and other early outdoor workers have to deal with, but it can’t be helpful.

It takes me weeks to adjust, but I eventually will. Of course, then it will be Fall and we’ll do it all over again. Spring Forward? Not me.

A People Towel to call your own – No more paper towel use.

Friday, December 4th, 2009

By Tao, Carrboro, NC

Remember my post about alternatives to using paper towels for hand drying? These 3 ideas are still echoed throughout the green community – nothing high tech or complicated: First, businesses can install hand dryers – they have an energy cost (solar options should be forthcoming??) but do save a lot of waste.

For those of us out on the street, the simple solutions are cost-free: my personal favorite is to shake well, then use the seat of your pants. Of course, the third choice is much more civilized – carry with you one of the many cloths you have at home – doesn’t everyone have a bandana tucked away somewhere? Or an old, soft t-shirt to cut up? Everyone uses backpacks, fanny packs and handbags to carry around a lot of stuff anyway – including a reusable shopping bag and water bottle, right? So throw in your cloth and, and voila, no more paper towel use. (I throw in two and have a reusable napkin, too.)

If you’re the type who likes things “official”, then check out PeopleTowels – a big square cloth that you can keep with you for drying your hands after washing! They are made from 100% organic cotton and come in some nifty colors and designs, so hanging it outside your bag is like an accessory.

Can I now say, I told you so? We don’t have to buy anything new to take up this eco-habit, but hey, I’m not going to argue with a great idea. So, whether you decide to go cowboy style, t-shirt, or are dying to fly your eco-freak flag on your bag, just say no to paper towels and napkins.

(photo from


Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

Just days after moving in to our 40+ yo house, Jerry and I shared a look – one that said, “This inefficient toilet is driving me crazy!”. Sure, it worked fine, and we had done the brick thing, and we were “letting it mellow”. Even so,  waiting for that tank to fill back up after flushing seemed endless and made me cringe every time. And, I literally lay awake at night, certain that it just had to also be leaking.

I started my research with Umbra on Grist (my fave eco-guru). First, I found out that toilets consume up to 30 percent of household use. And traditional toilets can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush – eek! Then I learned that the newer High Efficiency Toilets have kept improving – they work better and cost less. I searched the Watersense EPA site for a list of choices and found a supply store in my area.

I chose a low-end model that uses only 1.7 gal (they will go as low as 1.2) and has the newer powerful flushing mechanism needed for solid waste. I learned from the shop owner that the problem in the old version was not about amount of water, but about the flush action being insufficient. That has now changed – in fact, this new toilet “whooshes” like nobody’s business!

I spent $350 on my new toilet – an expense not factored into the reno budget, but as they say, the feel-good factor is “priceless”. We still mellow yellow and pee on the earth, but flushing when necessary is now something I can handle.

$350 is not exactly chump change, but worth cutting back somewhere to save enough to do it. In the meantime, check for leaks — you don’t always hear them (my old toilet did indeed leak), use a method of displacing. YOU are making a difference in water conservation. And you’ll enjoy it, I promise.

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

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