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Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

Crop Mob is alive, well – and a blast

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Crop Mobbing is growing (pun intended) in NC, and spreading all over the country. I’d like to call it progress and innovation, but of course, this kind of collective community is what past generations of farmers counted on at planting and harvest times. Sustainable farming was (and still is), labor intensive. People came together when necessary, to make food happen.

Crop Mobbing today hasn’t changed much in theory, though it’s novelty lends it a modern allure. Just watch this video and try to tell me you don’t want to be one of those people digging in the dirt!

Crob mobs are made up of anyone and everyone who understands and is excited about the local food movement – student groups, experienced and inexperienced gardeners, the agri-savvy or simply the agri-curious. They may do any number of necessary tasks, such as weeding, rock-picking, gleaning, planting, fencing and more. The group on the above link is making a boggy field into a rice paddy (in NC!!) – a job that may have taken months for the two farmer/owners, took this mob of smiling faces about 4 hours.

Although the time, place and tasks of each farm encounter is planned ahead, anyone can join in at any time, and the mobbing looks more like spontaneous fun than grueling work. (More likely grueling work is transformed into fun.) No money exchanges hands, but a meal is shared between mobbers and farmers – one that is surely infused with more energy and fresh deliciousness than I can imagine.

NC is known for it’s plentiful mobbing. To date, The Crop Mob has descended upon 15 small, sustainable farms in the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. And, the trend is spreading into city neighborhoods as well, with the growing popularity of urban farms and edible landscaping.

Educational resources are also showing up online and through community workshops for those of us intimidated by what we don’t know about planting, growing, and harvesting food. Me? I like to connect with nature, but I admit to a tiny lazy streak when it comes to the thought of tending a full garden. But even a small plot can provide a lot to a household hungry for local, organic grub. Now, I just have to find a shovel…

Larry’s Beans Turns the Caffiene Business Cosmic

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I’m always looking for inspiration and when I met my now long-time friend, Larry Larson, I hit the motherlode! Larry is founder of Larry’s Beans, which started out as a coffee company and has since evolved into a living, breathing sustainability whirlwind – with coffee at it’s core.

Larry is the perfect role model for sustainability because he understands what it takes to marry his environmental principles with his business ones, and does it with aplomb. The renovated warehouse – the “Bean Plant” – is so eco-smart and fun, he has opened it up for tours – Willy Wonka style. (Really! He is thinking of getting a velvet suit!)

This isn’t someone who has much down time, yet if you sit with him for dinner – like I have – expect a 2 or 3-hour meal with stimulating and far-ranging conversation. He is as good a listener as he is a communicator. Larry is a bon vivant who loves hiking, dancing and wine as much as he loves coffee – and composting.

Are you inspired yet? You should be! Find out more about Larry’s Beans at this recent news story, or visit the website at

photo by  (That’s Larry on the right!)


Tuesday, March 31st, 2009


The SmartCommute Challenge is an annual six-week regional campaign (April 15 – May 30) coordinated by GoTriangle and SmartCommute@rtp. The goal of the campaign is to encourage Triangle commuters to try an alternative commute (not driving alone) to work or campus such as riding the bus, carpooling, vanpooling, teleworking, biking or walking.

The Challenge is about more than asking people to try a more environmentally friendly, cheaper, and less stressful commute for a day. During the 2008 SmartCommute Challenge over 77% of participants were willing to continue their smart commute at least once a week! Regional transit ridership records were broken during the campaign, 5 new vanpools were started, and over 1,000 Triangle commuters registered to find a carpool partner.

From April 15 through May 30, any employee or college student who commutes to work or campus in Durham, Orange or Wake counties can participate. To enter the Challenge, make your online pledge that you will carpool, vanpool, bike or walk, ride the bus, or telework (work from home) at least once before May 30.

Remember last year’s Smart Commute Challenge? I participated by putting a copy of the bus schedule in my pocket so I could stop using the car to travel downtown when it was raining and I was too wimpy to cover the 2.5 miles on my bike. I learned to like the bus ride and was part of the 2008 savings of 865 metric tons of CO2.

This year, I had a new idea – and this one is good. You know that one 32-mile drive/week that I make into Raleigh for work? Well, I can’t avoid that car travel since there is no public transport there during my hours, but I realized, happily, that once I’m there, I can at least avoid the driving back and forth across town to the 3 different locations where I teach.

And, in fact, a supportive friend is going to allow me to store a bicycle (my used spare collapsible bike which I knew would come in handy one day!) in his garage so that I can park there and ride through the city instead of driving. I’ll have to allow a little more time and bring a change of clothes when it starts getting really hot, but I think it will actually make my day more enjoyable and will certainly be an additional fitness fix. There is a lot to love about this idea and I’m surprised I didn’t think of it sooner.

Sometimes it takes a Challenge to make a challenging decision.

How SMART are you about your daily commute? Tao

Scrabble, Transitioning a Town, and a little whining

Monday, March 30th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I spent a beautiful, wet, green Spring weekend with a lot of ah-ha’s. First, I found out that candlelight at night is really fun, especially playing board games (how did YOU spend Earth Hour on Saturday night?)

Second. Last night was our 4th meeting for Transition Culture planning and I learned that even realtors can do a lot to help move us towards environmentally conscious living/owning of properties…

…and third, that there are all different ages and kinds of people that are willing and ready to work towards Change for a more positive future.

But, more on that later – my biggest ah-ha was when I was biking home – it had gotten dark, the temperature had dropped, and in my “it’s Spring” excitement, I had not packed an extra coat. So, I was pedaling along, getting a little bit whiny about the cold wind whipping through my shirt and my positive mood from the meeting was feeling threatened. But then, as I rode along, I asked myself an important question, “Would I rather be anywhere else, or in a car right now? I immediatedly answered, “no”, even as I shivered as an extra cold gust came up. When I got home, it occurred to me:

There’s a fine line between whining and LIVING.

Help me think more about this. In the meantime, below is what last night’s group put together as a more detailed description of Transition Town process. Take a look below – and consider the possibility of your own town in “Transition”.

The Nuns Have It

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Although I wax and wane like everyone else when it comes to feeling inspired – I mean, truly and unreasonably inspired – but after 2 months of injury and 2 varieties of the flu, I’ve found some. First, there was Back Alley Bikes, giving me back my bicycling groove, and today, the nuns.

Okay, so there’s this convent in Brooklyn…It’s been around for awhile so the nuns are between 50 – 87 years old – or young, I should say, because these women are nothing if not ready to rock and roll with Change – and into a green life. Although it took awhile for the Order to reach consensus when the conversation began a decade earlier, they are now whole-heartedly committed to life on Earth as well as in Heaven.

Where to begin? They belong to the local CSA, they grow food, shop otherwise organically and fair trade, they compost, they sold their van and joined a ride-share and needless to say – waste not, want not. Wait, there’s more. They are looking for a supplier to make their habits out of organic, fair trade cotton and will soon be building an even more green living space – complete with living roof and solar-energy system. Even composting toilets are under consideration.

It’s cold. My leg still hurts and I just got my appetite back after 5 long days. But, I’m inspired and I’m smiling!


Thursday, August 7th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It all started with Big D. I saw him with his water truck, vaccum and rags in the lot behind our co-housing community. He was waxing a car and it was shining. I mean really shining. I felt a brief moment of clean car envy, but I shrugged it off and turned down the road on my bicycle, leaving our dirty little cars behind.

The next time I saw him wasn’t so simple. Big D was wiping down another car, inside and out and and it glittered – almost “happily”. My Pruis and Jerry’s Bio-bug sat nearby, dusty and dull. I took note of Big D’s system – no running hoses (his portable, non-potable water supply seemed to be used extra sparingly), no strong chemical smells, just some good old-fashioned hard work and elbow grease. I know, I’m the girl who thinks the need for clean cars is simply part of our American pathology, but this time, I just had to talk to Big D.

Donald and I had an enjoyable conversation – he smiled a lot as he explained that he wanted to make this his “retirement” job – work he enjoyed, that was much easier than the hauling and loading he had been doing for years. I watched him work on those other cars – not much of it looked easy to me – but I took his word for it. He took a look at my two cars gathering dirt and dust, gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I made an appointment for the next week.

Our cars still don’t get out much, but they look darn happy sitting in their spots with a gleam in their headlights. Big Donald explained the importance of an occasional waxing and I will admit that afterwards, my first generation Pruis looks years younger. The best part, of course, is that I’m participating in the loop of local economy and helping a hard-working person work a little less hard and enjoy a new line of work. In fact, I started daydreaming about how to make Donald the official detailer for the neighborhood…

I’m reminded that everything we do is best done on the middle path. I still don’t feel we need to wash and polish cars as often as we do, or justify using large amounts of potable water to do it. I think many of us can reach a point of driving less, car-sharing or kicking the car habit completely, and that that waterless car wash products will play a role in our future. I have managed to drive little and may even go totally car-free when possible. In the meantime, I’m glad I found Big D and I’m glad he can clean more and haul less.


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

There’s a lot of us out here making some basic changes in our living and driving habits and finding out that it not only doesn’t suck, but it’s a whole new world of suprises that feel good. My friend, Jeannie (watch her weekly posts on this blog) reaping the rewards of small town life in a camper with a dog and a bicycle. Another friend, Greg, living car-free and self-employed in Asheville who contra-dances his heart out regularly in his community. Of course, there’s the abundant declarations of No Impact Man and his family, who experimented during a year of off-grid, off-stuff life in NYC and never went back to much more than a laundry machine and lights.

It was an article I saw yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle that drove this happiness message home for me. It describes a more conventional family of three, including a 12 year-old son, living small outside the city with lights but no television, a non-potable water supply for everything except drinking, a hand-crank clothes washer and only a fireplace for heating. Though one parent needs to commute to the city for work (he carpools with 2 others in a Prius), when the other was laid off, they decided that their cost-efficient lives could be supported on one income, stating, “Living simply makes it easier to weather what could otherwise be hard times.”

To sum it all up from the closing paragraph, written by journalist, Kevin Fagan:

The two say that if they suddenly became so rich that money was no object, and their impact on the environment mysteriously didn’t matter any more, they still wouldn’t change much in the way they live.

Good enough for me.

Rental Cars and Happiness

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’ve had to rent a car twice in the last year and was frustrated and disappointed that I could not find hybrid rentals. Although it feels somewhat “better late than never”, it appears the car rental industry is beginning to get it’s green act together, at least in the bigger cities.

An article from the LA Times filled me in and it’s sounding good. Enterprise, National, Alamo, Avis and Budget are all stocking their fleets with hybrid vehicles, starting with the large, highly traveled cities. Simply Hybrid, based in LA, rents only hybrids and offers free delivery and pickup in some LA locations with a 3-day minimum rental. Enterprise has also started WeCar, a car-sharing service in St. Louis, MO.

Even bigger news – because it can reach travelers in all 50 states – comes from Enterprise, National and Alamo, who are offering carbon emission offsets through Terrapass. (I’ve been using TerraPass for a couple years now – here’s my previous posts about it.) The offset project includes the purchase of clean energy from wind farms, farm animal waste; or capturing methane from landfills. Using one of these rental companies, you can offset your driving emissions during travel with only $1.25 per rental.

This is encouraging news in the world of driving, but keep in mind, we have to be willing to choose these alternatives being offered, whether it’s hybrid cars, organic food or low-flow toilets. In many cases, this will mean extra cost upfront. Still, I’m asking you – do it anyway – and then support a friend in the same choice. In doing so, you are supporting a larger community focused on helping each other – something proven to make us happier. Keeping perspective and looking long-term will quickly reveal what we eventually save and what we will gain. And it’s more then dollars.

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