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

Posts Tagged ‘nature’

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

Don’t Be A Turkey This Season

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Maybe you only purchase turkey once/year. If you live in the U.S., it’s usually in November and/or December. So, if I only buy turkey this one time, how important is it that I buy organic and local? From a turkey’s point of view? Plenty!

Factory-style turkey farms do a huge business this time of year and to meet the “consumer” demand, they have been allowed and encouraged to raise and slaughter these animals in outrageous conditions. Turkeys have long been genetically modified with hormones for better eating (not theirs), causing them to grow flesh twice as big, twice as fast. Most unfortunately, their skeletons are unable to support the excessive weight, leaving them unable to walk and in pain. More messing with their genetics for the preferred breast meat leaves them with absurdly-sized chests, further limiting their mobility. This diabolical science also causes many painful respiratory, heart and skeletal diseases, despite heavy doses of antibiotics.

Turkeys raised in factory farms live in crowded warehouses – government standards require only 2.5 feet square of space for each hen and 3.5 feet square of space for each tom turkey – as many as 17,000 turkeys crowded together. For months, they are left to stand in the bacteria and amonia from their own waste. These unnatural conditions force them to literally fight for their lives, so they are debeaked and detoed without anesthesia. (FYI – You can apply these facts in various forms to all factory-raised animals. For more information (and happy rescue stories), visit Farm Sanctuary.)

I know I probably ruined your appetite, but before you stop reading, understand two things. One – we, as consumers, have allowed these practices to continue (we keep buying) and two, we, as consumers, can put an end to the horror, both for the animals and the environment that is also being abused in factory farming.

I used to believe the entire world could be vegetarians. Then I woke up. I understand now that it is important to change the hows and the whys of our food sources rather than perpetuate a “them and us” standoff. We used to know how to do this right and we can once again bring compassion and common sense back to all farming practices. But to do this, we need to make it impossible for factory farms to sell their products and- make it economically feasible for small (and sane) farming to survive. I support veganism and vegetarianism, but I’ve come to believe that my being vegan was less an “activist” model of change than my now unfailing support of local farms. And I’m not alone.

Humane Farm Animal Care is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives and welfare of farm animals by providing viable, credible, duly-monitored standards for humane food production and ensuring consumers that certified products meet these standards.

The impressive and extensive staff brings in knowledge and experience, including animal science, philosophy, systematic ecology, and government and international relations. Executive Director, Adele Douglass, launched the Free Farmed Program and was awarded the ASPCA’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2006. Their site can tell you more about this process and give you information about where to buy “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” animal products.

Keep in mind that very small family farms, possibly not yet certified, have almost always practiced compassionate treatment of animals and environmental stewardship – it’s tradition. Get to know your local farmers or read about them online at Local Harvest.

X-Stream Cleanup – Update on Chad Pregracke and Living Land & Waters

Friday, September 19th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s a time of Heroes – courageous, creative and determined And, man, do we need them. Fortunately, they are stepping up come all walks of life artists, musicians, designers, writers, photographers, athletes, small farmers, business owners, students, you’ll even find them in Hollywood. Every one of them moves and inspires me. Some of them bring tears to my eyes.

That was the case when reading the story of Chad Pregracke, one dedicated river keeper dude. About 10 years back, as a skateboarding college student broken-hearted about the state of his beloved Mississippi River, he dropped out of school to spend his days in a flat-bottomed boat dragging out trash. He didn’t have a master plan or hoards of people to join him. “It was just something I knew should be done and needed to be done and nobody was doing it.” (That gave me the first gulp). It can be that simple, yes?

After being discovered by roving reporters and curious eyes, Pregracke himself discovered a wealth of enthusiasm from friends and strangers, some longing for a chance to get involved. “You gotta create an opportunity for people to do something.” he said.

True to his word, he soon founded Living Lands and Waters, a non-profit with 12 employees. With a fleet of barges, he and his crew travel down 6 rivers, including the Missippi, Missouri, Ohio, Anacostia, Potamac and the Illinois as part of the annual event, X-Stream Cleanup. The latest and 4th annual expedition covered 31 sites, involving over 1,500 volunteers. To date, they have hauled in over 4 million tons of garbage, recycled much of it and stirred up interest in concerned communities along the way. Rivers get a shot at restoration as they remove numbers of tires, metal scraps and barrels still partially filled with toxic chemicals.

Corporate sponsorship has helped grow the group’s budget, allowing them to extend their efforts and influence into educational workshops and other local programs. Yet, when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Chad dropped everything to be part of the relief efforts. Planning to stay 4 weeks, Chad and his crew stayed 10. To learn more and get involved, go to


IN 2006, Chad and his crews executed 64 cleans ups and hosted the first Big River Workshop, on the Mississippi River.

In 2007, Chad and LL&W founded the Million Trees Project. With the help of communities collecting acorns, a nursery was established with the goal of planting a million trees within the following 5 – 10 years. Chad and National Geographic release, FROM THE BOTTOM UP, the story of the creation and evolution of his river passion and his non-profit organization.

Chad continues to write a weekly column in the Quad City Times in Iowa and has delivered over 300 presentations to corporate, public and student audiences worldwide.

The workshops expand to the Missouri and Illinois Rivers and the LL&W crew plants over 20,000 trees in a five-state area.

LL&W keeps on doing what it does best until Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast.  Within days, LL&W cancels aall projects, doubles the crew size, unloads the barges of garbage and fills them up with building supplies.  The fleet and crew head to New Orleans to assist with the relief efforts.  Planning to stay for 4 weeks, the crew stays for nearly 10.

LL&W continues to make an impact, hosting 64 community-based cleanups along seven of the nation’s largest rivers.  Working with over 30,000 volunteers to date, LL&W estimates total refuse collected to be over 3 million pounds!

LL&W’s Big River Workshops host their first excursions–taking 60 teachers on a 3 or 4-day voyage up the Mississippi River.

LL&W expands Adopt-A-River Mile program to include the Illinois River.

Chad releases From the Bottom Up, with National Geographic–the story of the creation and evolution of LL&W, its successes and challenges.

LL&W launches its newest endeavor—The MillionTrees Project.  By starting its own nursery and soliciting the assistance from the community to collect acorns, this project aims to plant a million trees within the next 5 to 10 years.

Fun With Grass and Shrubs

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Every morning, I’m in the woods, I enjoy seeing the imperfection of nature. I know these woods well, yet constantly am seeing new and interesting things – trees growing from under rocks, branches shaped like question marks, stones shaped like a smile – designs of nature, some constant, some ever-changing. It provides a very strong contrast to to what we see in many of the manicured and edged neighborhoods. How wonderful if we could treat our backyards with respect for it’s true “nature” of wabi sabi beauty and give it and ourselves the freedom to create! I was considering this at length when I noticed something strangely interesting while biking through town.

Yesterday, I noticed two rubber balls  – the kinds little kids play with – stuck in the end of a row of bushes. I was curious, but assumed it was simply kids up to mischief and biked on past. Today, I noticed this same bush, balls still in place, obviously trimmed, so I looked more closely. There were two long and bushy branches standing up above the rest. Interested, I slowed down and coasted by (something I couldn’t have done safely in a car!) and looked at the rest of the row, neatly trimmed in a curving shape. Aha! I stopped and laughed and said out loud, “It’s a catepillar!” I turned back to see the ball “eyes” again and the long branches above them – perfect antennae!

I haven’t stop smiling yet today – or thinking about that oddly shaped orange bush in my own yard that looks a little like a dancing bear…

Have fun. See all nature has to offer, not just the straight and narrow.

Rainbows and Sparkling Bugs

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Day two of a head cold has left me a little spacey. I was going to write about the hybrid converter, recently available to turn current hybrids into plug-ins…but, I’m not lucid enough to do the research, so I’ll instead give in to my impulse to be dreamily respective instead of informative. My apologies!

Besides, I haven’t quite let go of the experiences in VT – how it felt to swim in the cool river, hike near a mountain in a long warm rain, see so much history in one place, and meet new people who are making change happen. Some of it was just out there, but much of it was simply in the details. Sometimes, just paying attention is what matters most.

On Monday evening, when I stepped out of the airport, there was a rainbow stretched across the sky and that seemed a significant ending to the trip. But the bliss wasn’t over yet…

In fact, I arrived home just after dark, grateful for a giddy greeting from the dogs, whom I immediately took walking in the woods behind the house. Suddenly, we were surrounded by fireflies blinking a strangely blue, sparkling light. There seemed to be hundreds. We stopped and basked in this glow for long, sumptuous moments and in it, I heard hope for the future.

Animals and Nature speak to us every day in many ways. Stop, look and listen to the magic. You never know what you may hear..

Minneapolis – fountains of sustainability

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s good to be back. It spent time with my family and explored what’s new in my big city – one of those making significant strides towards a sustainable future. I’ve heard that the Twin Cities have held a high green ranking for decades and the city lakes, free of motorized boats, are some of the cleanest in the country. A stroll around a few busy spots will show you some of the most litter-free places on the planet. I saw street sweepers in the neighborhoods, doing the seasonal clean-up of curbside debris to keep it from entering the sewer system and waterways, my former local co-op is now solar-powered and stocks a wide selection of local farm products and I saw a few urban vegetable gardens where lawns used to be. A newish downtown Farmer’s Market is thriving. The city lakes and parks, populated by an abundance of cyclists and pedestrians, have been made more friendly for wildlife with natual rain gardens and flowering trees and plants. Out in the ‘burbs, a new light rail system is in place.

Last week’s NY Times column, by Elizabeth Royte, (author of Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It) also informed me that Minneapolis recently committed to spending $500,000 on drinking fountains that will be placed in areas of high foot and bicycle traffic. This is part of an effort (joined by San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom), to reduce bottle use – and the huge carbon footprint that goes along with it.

Now there’s another (like electric cars and electric hand-dryers) retro-solution to both plastic and water waste issues! Remember when most places had drinking fountains? They used to be in markets and department stores and in all parks. No cups, bottles or trash cans required. And it stands to reason that they conserve water, too. I’ve long wondered what happened to what used to be available to all – a cool, clean drink without the cost, waste and inconvenience of carrying a bottle. Germ-phobics can’t claim this one – fountains are designed so that the treated water coming from a spigot is safe. I shudder to think the bottled water industry had anything to do with the demise of the fountain, but then, what gives? More importantly, how can we reclaim a sane way to keep all of us quenched? I’ll be looking into this one – stay tuned.

BTW, thanks for the comments and thoughts about my mom. She is enjoying the Spring weather just arriving in MN. On the day I was leaving, we found a bird’s nest with 3 small eggs, hidden in a potted plant outside her front door. It made all of us smile. Nature has a nice way of speaking.

To Be Happy – and make CHANGE HAPPEN

Monday, May 26th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Several years ago, I received one of many phone call inquiries regarding my yoga class schedule. After a short, informational conversation, this person, whom I had never met, said he felt compelled to pass something on to me that had been shared with him at an important time in his life. Being forever curious and interested in spontaneous and mysterious opportunities, I accepted the invitation to listen. This is what he told me…

There are 8 things you need to be happy –



A loving connection to others

To contribute beyond yourself

A feeling of uniqueness

A feeling of importance

A compelling future

A personal relationship with Nature

I was, at this particular time, in the midst of making decisions about my life and future and what he told me later became a guiding force in all of it.

Although I never spoke with him again, I’ve always remembered what I learned in that call and, on occasion, have shared it with others. I now see that happiness is a large undertaking, requiring us to be wholly engaged and involved in the big picture of life – the joys and the sorrows – and to find the meaning in everything. I believe that these things will not only make us happy, but in doing so, can help us change the world.

A Green Death Becomes Us

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Now that I have this death and dying thing on my mind, it brings me back, of course, to the earth and the environment. There’s something frightening about embalming bodies with chemicals and placing them in elaborate caskets, made of non-biodegradable and even toxic materials, to be buried underground. Although there is an important place and purpose behind rituals and ceremony for honoring life and death, we’re polluting the earth and contaminating large amounts of land in this outdated process.

I had already told my entire family that I insist on being cremated when I go – no wasted casket, gravestone, plot or polluting hearse for me. If it fits into your personal and/or spiritual story, cremation seems to make eco-sense. Right?

That was then. This is what I know now. Although technology has improved, the cremation process turns our bodies into air pollutants. In fact, incinerating bodies emits at least 7 toxins and contributes .2% of global emissions of dioxins and furans. It is also a large source of airborne mercury.

So what if you are dying to be green?

“The Green Burial Council (GBC) is an independent, nonprofit organization founded to encourage ethical and environmentally sustainable deathcare practices, and to use the burial process as a means of facilitating the acquisition, restoration and stewardship of natural areas. In a natural burial, the body is prepared for burial without chemical preservatives and is buried in a simple shroud or biodegradable casket that might be made from locally harvested wood, wicker or even recycled paper, perhaps even decorated with good-bye messages from friends.”

Land sites used for natural burials are maintained naturally, without irrigation or pesticides. The grave markers are made from natural parts of the landscape, creating a natural and native landscape that invites wildlife and people alike.

The council is creating a certification system for deathcare providers, education opportunities for consumers and an endowment fund to help create approved “Conservation Burial Grounds”. For more on traditional funeral services, cremation and natural burial, visit here.


After my mom’s funeral a couple weeks ago, Jerry and I continued a standing discussion of how we were going to “go” in pure green style. As mentioned above, cremation saves land space as well as the resources and chemicals that go along with a burial. Just what to do about the air pollution involved in incineration? Jerry said, “I’d like to simply float out to sea.”

Well, it ends up he wasn’t so far off. Air pollution not withstanding, it turns out your ashes can be made into an artificial coral reef which can help restore coastal fishing habitat. Hmm, nice thought. And if you go to the website of Eternal Reefs, there’s a description of a sweet ceremony that goes along with it.

I’m still not satisfied – I’m determined to find a carbon-neutral death if it kills me.

Next Up, green guru, Umbra, from, gives me some hopeful news about a woman in Sweden is perfecting a process that uses liquid nitrogen to reduce the body to dust, avoiding incinerator pollution. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Think about it. Then rest in peace.

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