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

Archive for the ‘Voluntary Simplicity’ Category

Consuming Kids – the documentary

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.

Good Ideas can create good systems

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

We may not be able to get “big politics” to change policies overnight, but we can make change happen in our communities if we bring individuals and ideas together. Here are some recent examples:

The Belgian city of Ghent is declaring a veggie day every Thursday, when all civil servants and elected officials will vow to eat no meat, schools will serve vegetarian meals, and all restaurants will promote a vegetarian selection. Why? Because livestock production is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions (more than cars), and to help decrease obesity. How did they do it? City council members teamed up with Flanders’ Ethical Vegetarian Association and threw a party – with free vegetarian fare and recipes, along with a veggie street map, guiding enthusiastic participants to the town’s veggie restaurants.

And in the UK…In further recognition of the impact that livestock has on the environment, Wycliff College in Stonehouse has offered a 10% discount on tuition for vegetarian students. How? Founder, GW Sibly was a passionate vegetarian, establishing this policy himself.

Derek Beres writes about the science of creating systems that work with this example:

We can “create our own systems to accommodate the good of the many. One friend recently forwarded me a link to her doctor in Brooklyn, whose company works by each member paying a monthly fee, instead of the one-time whopping bill. The fees are manageable for most, and the doctors reply by text messaging and emails, and always — I repeat always — follow up within a day. Generic prescriptions are free, and from what I understand they are very popular. (Last week they had a flu shot party at the office with a live DJ!) So here you have on a small scale a system that has become so in demand that the four doctors have to open another location in Manhattan. They were fed up with the healthcare system, and so founded their own, to help others, and to improve their own careers. Everyone wins, and the science of medicine, not the economics of it, takes precedence.”

What do you want to see change in your community, school, workplace or world? Reach out. Stand up. Make it happen.

World Naked Bike Ride – nature friendly transportation

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Perhaps, in the end, we are not what we wear. After all, what is more freeing than being naked? Probably being naked on a bicycle. I don’t know because I haven’t tried it – YET. But this sure makes it look tempting. And I can’t think of a better way to peacefully and positively express our support of a nature-friendly mode of transportation.

“A peaceful, imaginative and fun protest against oil dependency and car culture. A celebration of the bicycle and also a celebration of the power and individuality of the human body. A symbol of the vulnerability of the cyclist in traffic. The world’s biggest naked protest: 50+ cities and thousands of riders participate worldwide, including around 2,000 in the UK in 2008.” This year’s rides will take place between June 12 – 14th. Visit for more info. – and photos!

I was looking at this with a friend yesterday and we were wondering just how many people we could get to join us on a naked ride through Carrboro…we decided that if there were at least 25 people, we could find the verve to take it all off …..then I read the part on the web site where it said this year’s event in the UK expected thousands of riders. THOUSANDS!?!?

Let’s get the U.S. up to speed and get naked. Start organizing in your town. I’m going to!


Earth Day Trivia (or Trivial?)

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s officially Earth Day – year 39 and counting. Have we become more aware of saving the Earth? I think so. Has naming a day for the earth helped or hurt the cause? I’m not sure. It’s possible that designating one day for the earth has had a placebo effect. If it’s a national holiday, that means somebody is out there taking care of things, right….? Take a look at Earth Day History from and see what you think.

In fact, in the early years, Earth Day events were a little like the debate over LiveEarth – a lot of trash and carbon for a little awareness and fun. Even just a few years back, Whole Foods decorated the stores and handed out lots of plastic party favors in the form of balloons and buttons, all in the name of the Earth. Fortunately, most events now have a handle on compostables, recyclables and offsets but as the writer, Jennifer Oladipo points out here, the Earth Day impact may have lost its luster.

However, Earth Day is a miracle marketing tool for green zines and green goods, so if you have been thinking about finally getting those CFLs, a composting bin, or LEDs, now’s the time to browse sites like, who is offering 20% off popular items.

This Earth Day celebrates more green orgs and efforts than I can keep up with, so I’ll tip my party hat to that. Al Gore had a hand in starting it all and he’s still at it with and RePowerAmerica, where he says, “In order to solve the climate crisis, we can’t just change light bulbs — we need to change laws.” Let’s think bigger than balloons, so we will really have something to sing about. Happy Earth Days. Tao


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

The Last Straw

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter – but sometimes, it’s not. Just like “extra soft” toilet paper, there’s some things that are pure, ridiculous luxury, but still don’t seem to be going anywhere soon in this culture. So, attention and alternatives to the small things matter. Like plastic drinking straws.

They are at most eating establishments. Surprisingly, even my local co-op still has a straw-dispenser with plastic straws. I understand the child issue, but most of those kids, not old enough to drink out of a cup, come equipped with their own baby bottle or sippy thingy, so I can only conclude that there is a whole slew of us who, for some baffling reason, prefer to drink our beverages toddler style – through a straw. Are so many of us grown-ups really stuck in this “oral” stage of development?

I’d find it simply amusing if it wasn’t another single-use, unnecessary, wasteful habit which is creating more disposable, non-biodegradable, non-recyclable, full of chemicals, plastic Stuff. Then it becomes simply annoying.

If you really have to suck on something, there are a lot more interesting things to choose from, and as the drinks go, grow up or BYO (Bring Your Own). Yep, they have ’em now – stainless steel and/or glass, reusable drinking straws. IdealBite turned me on to this, so here’s the link for more info., but if you ask me, any Stuff that is this needless, simply Sucks.

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!

Back Alley Bikes – and me

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I didn’t think it would happen, but it did. I haven’t done a bicycle commute since December. No, it’s not only the Winter issue. It started with my thigh injury on December 1st – I couldn’t even consider riding for the first 6 weeks. And I missed it. I mourned each day when I would be driving the 2.5 miles into town, missing the pedaling, the feeling of moving over the ground by my own strength and I especially missed the feeling of belonging to the bicycling community.

I tested out my leg around week 7 – pedaling with my dog, Ayla, around our our old farm route and found out that it felt pretty good. In fact, the therapist assured me that it was a good place to continue my rehabilitation. But, it has been a bit Wintery since then and I admit it – I’ve lost my bicycling groove. I’ve lost the rhythm of “gearing up” and getting on my way. Somehow, it seems daunting at this point and the car keys are just sitting there. Yeah. This is how it happens, I suppose. Denial. Defeat. But in the end, I know I’m missing out – not just on greening my ride, but on the fun. Hmm. Now what?

Then it happened. Last weekend, while wandering around downtown Carrboro, I stumbled upon a bike shop I hadn’t noticed before. There was a hand-painted sign hanging above the window, that said, simply, “Bike Shop”. Needing a spare tube, I wandered in and immediately felt at home. I’m not sure why since the atmosphere fell somewhere between grunge bar and tattoo parlor. But, I sensed art, purpose and a little bit of rebellion at work. As well as the friendly, laid-back attitude that strolled out from the back room to greet me – from behind a door which said “Santa’s Playroom”.

Back Alley Bikes sells, repairs, and custom rebuilds exclusively used bikes. They know their sh*t, they love to ride, they offer great rates and service, they promote conscious-commuting and they don’t need to prove anything to anyone but themselves.

There is a resident dog, some random art-like displays and t-shirts with obviously original designs that looked a lot like this cool image above from their website. When I saw that the shirts themselves came from the fair-trade U.S.-based company, American Apparel, I bought two. I couldn’t resist. I was back. I wanted to gear up and I wanted to ride. And nothing is going to stop me. Thanks Back Alley Bikes – for being the real thing and helping me re-discover the real me.

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

brought to you by The Change, a strategy and design agency with an agenda to change the world