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

Archive for the ‘Green Misc.’ Category

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.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 167 user reviews.

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

Like many people, I love to sip. And when I look around me whether I’m at the coffee shop, the co-op or on at a picnic table at Johnny’s, I realize I’m not alone. Hot tea, really good, strong coffee, kombucha, a deep red wine….it’s comforting, it’s social. Now I can add super-nourishing to that equation – because Carrboro is getting a juice bar! When I heard about Carrboro raw and saw the space, it felt so obvious – we’ve all been waiting, whether we knew it or not.

Nice Polid was born in Brazil, moved to the U.S. 25 years ago, spending most of that time in New York, where she attended the National Gourmet Institute for Food and Health. She also obtained certification as a Holistic Health Counselor from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She planted her truck in a small, bamboo-fenced lot across the street from the co-op. Her smile alone is enough to draw customers, but this is not your typical smoothie station. Her juices are extracted and squeezed on demand from raw, alive fruits and veggies coming as much as possible from local and organic farms. Her recipes will also include superfoods, nuts and seeds.

“Our mission is to provide alternative, nutritious and delicious raw beverages that are in harmony with your body and the Earth – made on demand with very good quality ingredients by people who are passionate about life and health!!”

It’s a thrill to know that Nice chose to land here and open Carrboro raw, right in the heart of downtown, but in a way, I’m not surprised, either. Our town is overtly and covertly setting the stage for things like urban farms, co-housing communities, local currency, co-ops, farmer’s markets and – juice bars. It’s a combination of inspiration, dedication, grass-roots efforts, and an energy that holds up through it all.

What is waiting to happen in your town??

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

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

By Tao Oliveto

Burning Man is on again. Below is a re-post from 2007 after I had watched a documentary about Burning Man and came close to attending the festivities myself. It’s 2009, I haven’t yet gone – yet – and still have lots of questions to ponder about the whole thing.

At each Summer’s end, when Burning Man energy begins to build towards this momentous event, I find myself drawn to the experience, yet wrestling with some lingering questions…
As a long-time student of yoga, I’m not a stranger to the possibility and power of the transformational process and I wholeheartedly support this tribal gathering and ritual. Having been subjected to the twists and turns of the spiritual path, I understand that change within (and therefore without) depends on our ability to go beyond our earthly day-to-day responsibilities and find ways to come together and take a deeper look within.

There’s no denying that the survival (and celebration) of 40, 000 people for 6 days in the desert has its environmental impact, but a thorough perusal of the BM web site shows that “leave no trace” is taken sincerely and seriously. As portrayed, most “Burners” pack out what they take in, including trash, compost and ashes. Even used water (forbidden to be dumped) is collected in evaporation pools. Water bottled in plastic is discouraged – most people bring large stainless steel tanks. Although generators are allowed, more are now powered with biodiesel and many use solar powered lighting. Designated “green camps” are growing in number, for those who want to pool together their renewable resources and make a stronger environmental statement.

There’s still the problem of finding your way (from all over the country and possibly the world) to Black Rock City. Booking an airline flight, then renting a car or RV is the modus operandi. Tent campers arrive with carports (or have them sent ahead) for more shaded personal space. This is a consumption issue at best and a pollution issue at worst.

Offsets to the rescue. Burning Man uses, encourages and advocates retail Offsets for all energy use and carbon emissions. And, though not entirely clean, burning the Big Guy is a worthy and life-changing spectacle in my opinion. Fire is more than a metaphor. It is primally linked to all cultures and to our very existence. Destruction before creation, death before rebirth, the mythical Phoenix rises from the ashes transformed. Burn on, Burning Man. My spirit goes with you.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 289 user reviews.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

by Tao

According to an article from the Valley Advocate, published in March 2009, “America is in the midst of a baby boom; federal statistics released last week report there were more than 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. in 2007, more than the number born at the peak of the post-World War II boom. And, according to the recently released documentary, Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, the child-marketers are ready and waiting.

Consuming Kids is one of the best films I have seen in years that explores the various ways in which the identities, values, and future of young people are held hostage to a world shaped by the poisonous culture of consumption and commodification. Every school should buy this film and learn from it. And every parent, educator, and concerned citizen should watch this film if they believe kids deserve a more just world and future.”
– Henry Giroux | Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University | Author of Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?

The sections of the film cover a lot of ground, including, “The Floodgates Open | By Any Means Necessary | Under the Microscope | Brand New World | Cradle to Grave | Rewiring Childhood | Our Future”. I haven’t yet seen it, but it sounds like a message long over-due. Take a walk into Babies/Toys/kids R-Us and look around and you won’t need much more proof.

I could (and I have) touted the merits of green goods for kids, but consuming green goods is still consuming and it’s not enough to save our earth or our children’s perceptions and mental health.The critical step in cultural and social change is to reboot the brainwashing process that has convinced us of what we “need” both as adults and as adults consuming in the name of our children. This film is a good start and is hopefully making its way through all libraries, schools, educators and non-profits as we speak.

Written and directed by Adriana Barbaro and Jeremy Earp, watch a preview and learn more here.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 196 user reviews.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I spent last weekend at the bi-annual Shakori Hills Music Festival in Silk Hope, NC. This a beautiful piece of forest and fields which hosts a green-style, grassroots event that once experienced, captures your heart and soul. At times like this, I’m reminded just how much Music Matters – it brings us together and it spreads positive and passionate energy like wildfire.

Four music stages, a dance tent and an almost never-ending drum circle around a bonfire at Shakori provides all styles of musical magic. A young local group, The Beast, highlighted Saturday afternoon with their Hip Hop, soulful jazz. The band has been described as “beautifully rebellious and refreshingly conscious.” The lead singer, Pierce Freelon, brought down the house with his heartfelt lyrics and tribute to his mom, grammy-winning Jazz vocalist, Nnenna Freelon, who came up on stage to sing with her son, finishing with a moving bearhug between the two. In fact, it didn’t finish – the audience pounded the stage for an encore.

Saturday night brought the “old time” sound of Donna the Buffalo, as well as one of my favorites, an electrified blues rock group called Scatterbones, which rocked me into a second wind that I used later to drum into the night. In fact, sleep was not a top priority once the stars were out and it’s probably not an accident that the dance tent is next to the Coffee Barn, serving up Fair Trade and Organic Larry’s Beans coffee, “25 hours/day”.

This festival is also a model of mixing fun with green-ness. All food vendors are required to compost and recycle, a portion of the lightlighting was solar powered and a bio-deisel bus brought people in from stops all throughout the Triangle for 4 bucks/ride.

Why does music matter? Because it has the ability to bring us deeper into ourselves, beneath the layer of conformity and apathy. Because music carries messages, subtle and otherwise that can plant the seeds of Change.

More and more musicians are gaining green creds, from Radiohead to Black-eyed Peas, an inspiring part of our collective journey. Go to IdealBite to download a playlist by the artists doing right by the planet.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 186 user reviews.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Is using NetFlix more eco-friendly than renting videos at a store?

I’ve been wanting to take on this question for awhile, but since I love my local video store, maybe I’ve been putting it off because I don’t really want to know the answer – ? Fortunately, or not, The Good Human tells it like it is – even shopping local for your weekly (or more) habit of video viewing is less green than the Netflix mail membership program.

But, wait a media minute, what if I ride my bicycle to my locally-owned video store rather than drive my car?

Well, that helps, but not enough. Video stores have lots of lights, a/c and heating units, and usually a television that is on 12+ hours/day. Like most businesses, many lights are kept on even after hours to deter break-ins, making this high energy use a 24-hour affair.

I”m not giving up yet. I know the employees at my my beloved VisArt store. I’ll just ask them to switch to compact flourescents and recycle those thousands of paper receipts generated each day. I enjoy stopping by and browsing the “employee picks” section on Friday evenings and I’d like to see these people keep their jobs.

So, there it is. NetFlix is more green, but local is my choice in this case – for now. What’s yours?

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 244 user reviews.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Maybe we fall somewhere in between on this one. But when it comes to moving towards sustainability and our health, eating to live may be the Yin to the Yang. To me, this simply means considering one thing with every bite – why am I eating this and what am I supporting when I do? Yes, food can and should be about celebration and enjoyment, but if the short answer doesn’t involve nourishment and a certain consciousness, you may be making your food choices more difficult and less healthy than you realize.

The biggest and most welcome change I made in my diet years ago (even more than becoming vegetarian) was to get over the idea of eating imaginary foods. You know what I mean – the things that may have started as a food, but have been processed into something entirely different – and empty nutritionally. The obvious? Soft drinks, processed salt and sugar, white flour and processed fats. Those are the absolutes – as in, we absolutely don’t receive nutrition from these foods and they in fact are harmful to your health.

Then there’s the borderline foods which aren’t much better – things like boxed cereals, cheese crackers, pita chips, soy cheese, or “sports bars”. Also beware of relying on the term “organic” as a shopping guideline. Sure, you can find “organic” versions of cookies, waffles, even jelly beans, but organic junk food is still junk food and not any kind of answer to sustainability issues. The big truth is that relying on processed and out of season foods means junking the environment, our health, family farms and more.

It was a huge relief to me to finally pare down what could be confusing choices to one category – real food. Even coffee, tea, wine, beer, chocolate, sea salt, maple syrup and other natural sweeteners all fall into this group! I’m definitely not suffering from lack of enjoyable eating experiences – in fact, I’m discovering new foods every day, like the jerusulem artichokes I tried at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend. And no, I really don’t miss bagels, pasta or soy bologna.

Keep in mind that many small farms cannot afford to become officially certified as organic but are aligned and committed to growing practices that are not exploiting our health, the animals or the environment. Local is usually a more sustainable, socially conscious, and healthy choice than buying organic products shipped across continents. Once you start thinking about the real things, it’s easy, fun and delicious. Each season, you can look forward to what is naturally available in your area. Delicious and wholesome whole grains can replace flour products. You may feel satiated for the first time in your life, while participating wholeheartedly in the joy of eating without conflict.

(After writing this, I found this topic covered beautifully by Mark Bittman, author of Food Matter: A Guide to Conscious Eating”, in the NYTimes this morning. Enjoy!)

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 176 user reviews.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s beginning to look like I just might make it happen – an off-grid Summer. Since last year, I’ve been planning and hoping and dreaming about a low-carbon adventure in Vermont for the Summer. I’ve found a spot near Brattleboro – it has a small 100-year-old building on it which used to be a blacksmith shop. No frills, that’s certain, but a hopefully non-leaky roof over my head. The rest? Minimize and create is my mantra. Here are some of my ideas so far:

I’m ready to use a composting toilet, and solar shower, filled in a nearby pond. Bonfire and a candle lantern at night will be enough to get me through the limited hours of darkness during these warm months. I’m used to eating mostly raw food during this time of year so I won’t worry much about cooking, though some kind of makeshift root cellar would be nice for vegetables – I’m still working on that one, so if you have ideas, pass them on. Although I’ll be next to 100 acres of preservation and near a State Park, I will also be within a 6mile bicycle ride to town, so I can feed myself healthily without refrigeration by making the trip every few days.

Everything but the kitchen sink, right? Well, actually, I found a couple versions of that, too! If you’ve been to music or other festivals, you’ve probably seen the “Use Yer Foot” washing station, made here in NC. One soapy jug and one fresh water container is perfect for washing up on demand. I can also collect the grey water in the tub below to wash dishes. For the more portable “sink”, you can also try the collapsable nylon and cable versions holding between 5 – 20 liters by Sea to Summit. Fill at your nearest water source, then carry back to camp.

This one I’ve been waiting for – grid or no-grid. The collapsible Solo Pack, by Fozzils – a bowl, plate, cup and spoon, made from bisphenol-A-free plastic that fold perfectly flat and weighs only a few ounces. The cup is what I’ve really been after – something more convenient than a water bottle that I can have with me everywhere.

What will I be doing up there in the North East, you ask? Getting back to the basics, doing some outdoor yoga on used plywood, hiking with the dogs, and writing and dreaming about a simply sustainable life for everyone. After that, I’ll let you know!

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 251 user reviews.

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