Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's Easy Living Green ... When Everyone Else Is Too

From the bean of Green Bean.

I just returned from visiting one of the most gorgeous places on earth. I hiked, photographed wildlife, kayaked, and breathed in fresh air. I did not compost. I brought home groceries bagged in plastic. I rode in a giant SUV.

Despite the beauty, my recent vacation left me with one big takeaway. Living green is really easy - if you are surrounded by others doing the same thing. If not, it is downright hard!

Home in Northern California, it feels like a third of the cars on the road are hybrids (the real kind that get kick ass mileage) or electric vehicles. During my vacation, I spotted one Prius (out of state license plate) and zero EVs.

At home, even if I forget my canvas bags, it does not matter. We have a plastic bag ban and the cashier won't have my bread double bagged in plastic before I can whip out my handy Chico bag. When visiting, or living somewhere without such a law, you are swimming against the tide if you try to avoid single use plastic bags. If recycling facilities are not readily available, you can still recycle but only after hauling your recyclables around and searching out an appropriate drop off. When surrounded by SUVs, one might feel uncomfortable in an itty bitty hybrid. None of these things are impossible, by any means, but they do require much more effort.

Living in a bubble, I assume that the rest of the world is also embracing EVs, with charging stations popping up every time you turn the corner. That solar panels pepper roofs and thirsty rain barrels suck from the downspouts. That customers line up at stores armed with reusable bags and sip from glass water bottles. A turn outside of my microcosm, though, brings home how much progress has, and has not, been made.

A recent study found that states with strong green voices are making much more progress reducing emissions than those states without.  While I am proud of the progress my state is making - and am hopeful that more will be made - how do we extend this progress to states with fewer environmental advocates? How do we amplify their brave voices and encourage quicker change?  How do we make it easier for greenies living in less green states?

And finally, hats off to all you environmentalists sticking to your values even while you are sticking out like a sore thumb!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Love in Nature

Mindful Echo captured two loving acts on camera. 

I snapped this picture at the top of Cape Split (a gorgeous hike in Nova Scotia that crescendos with a breathtaking view of the Bay of Fundy). We had hiked the two hours into the cape, had a snack, ohhed and ahhed at the view, and were heading back to the trail. 

I spotted my partner wandering off just slightly and wondered where he was going. I already had my camera ready so when I realized what he was doing, I took a perfect sneaky shot. 

Any guesses?

If you look closely you can see he's got some gross looking trash in his hand. Was it ours? Nope. Do we know how long it had been blowing around out there? Nope. But he just went ahead and scooped it up in an ongoing effort to keep our precious spaces beautiful and clean. 

Originally my plan was to share this picture to give him some well-earned kudos for this gentle act but when I took a second look, I noticed something else: the two lovebirds smooching in the background.

I certainly can't blame them. The sun was shining, the water was glistening, and the view was positively poetic.

So, when I look at this picture now, I see two acts of love - one with our earth, and one with each other - and it highlights the connection between the two acts. If we work to take care of the natural beauty we live amongst, keep it clean and free of litter, then we allow the space to continue to be appreciated by us all.

Let's be mindful of our footprints, particularly in areas of ecological rarity. Treat them with love so that they can be a place that inspires love in others.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Art, Not Ivory

Are you aware that the elephants are predicted to become EXTINCT from the wild within ten years if something doesn’t happen to end poaching? Most people on a site such as this probably are, but if you aren’t you’re likely not alone.  I have loved and been fascinated by elephants all my life; I even have a master’s degree in elephant behavior. And I only recently became aware of the gravity of the situation!  I thought elephant populations had recovered and poaching wasn’t an issue any longer. In fact, it’s worse than ever.  In order to help spread this important message and raise funds to put towards the anti-poaching effort I have started Art Not Ivory, where people can buy “trinkets” and elephant art rather than ever buying ivory (not that any of us would), and 100% of all profit is donated to elephant conservation.  I had to do something to help in the fight to save elephants. Standing by silently and watching is not an option. As a stay-at-home-mom and artist this was the best option I could come up with.

However, it’s just not enough and so many people are unaware that we might lose elephants. Permanently.  This past weekend I went to lunch with my besties, my soul-sisters, women I have known for over 20 years. We studied wildlife management /biology together in university and there are no mysteries between us.  They know how passionate I am about elephants, that I started Art Not Ivory, but still, and much to my surprise, neither of them was aware that elephants are predicted to go extinct.

If my friends didn’t know it’s possible yours don’t either.

How do we make everyone else aware so that we can save elephants? Maybe it’s simple, costs nothing, and only requires copying and pasting this message to share it in your newsfeed, and asking your friends to do the same:

African elephants are predicted to be extinct from the planet within ten years.  They are being killed at alarming rates for their ivory tusks. It’s caused by man; It can be stopped by man. Never buy ivory, and never sell it. If you Care, SHARE.  Copy and repost this message. #if youcareshare #endextinction #SaveElephants

A Guest Post by Carrie Yang

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Becoming Part of the Solution - Rooftop Solar!

From the bean of Green Bean.

For years, I have passed homes with the "We're Going Solar" sign out front.  I have watched friends and neighbors have panels installed on their roofs.  Strolling through town, I have admired sunlight's glint off of residential solar panels.  And this spring, we did it!  We went solar!

Green Collar Jobs! A team installing our panels.
I assumed that solar salesmen would be begging me to throw up panels and that it would happen in a matter of a few weeks. Turns out, though, the solar industry is booming. Indeed, residential solar had its largest quarter ever during the first three months of 2015.

We sought and received bids from three different solar companies - two local and one national solar company.  After choosing the most comprehensive bid, we signed.  And then waited.

A month or so later, a crew showed up and outfitted our back roof with enough solar panels to cover 80% of our electrical needs (including charging my husband's EV).  We had to wait another couple of weeks until our utility company and the city signed off but now ...

We are powered by clean, green energy.

Here is what we have saved in the last month.

Have you thought about joining the rooftop revolution?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Green Lessons from my Father

With Father's Day approaching, the Climate Crusader is reflecting on what her father taught her about the planet.

Father's Day is coming up this weekend. I lost my dad over 20 years ago, in 1993, when he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 43. Even before that, Father's Day was a little bit complicated for me. I came from a broken home, and I had a difficult relationship with my dad.

Looking back on my childhood, however, I can see that my father gave me many gifts. One of the biggest was my love and concern for the natural world.

My father loved to hike and camp and spend time outdoors. As a child I remember spending most weekends out in the forest. At the time, it often felt as if I were being dragged out against my will. I got tired on our hikes. I got bored on the long drives to my dad's favourite spots. I would rather have been at home watching TV or reading.

I may not have been an eager participant, but I learned a lot of things. I learned what it feels like to wade in a cold stream. I learned how to identify edible berries. I learned how to start and tend a fire, and how to roast the perfect marshmallow. I learned how to climb. I learned that the best playgrounds are not made by human hands. I learned how the woods smell in different seasons, and I saw my world in different ways when I viewed it from the top of a mountain.

It wasn't just that my dad took me out into the forest, either. He shared an ecological sensibility in words and actions, whether it was pointing out garbage on a trail, expressing concern as development overtook the wilderness, or working to build community with like-minded individuals. Clearly, some of that rubbed off on me, whether I knew it at the time or not.

Those lessons from my father continue to inform my life, and my environmentalism. I've seen with my own eyes how some of the wild places I frequented as a child have changed over the years and the decades. I am concerned about what those changes mean for my children, my grandchildren, and the planet at large. And so I work to share what I learned with my own children. Whether or not they always enjoy the time we spend together, or agree with what I tell them, I trust that they are listening.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Being Honest on the Internet- Bath Bomb Fail

EcoYogini keeps it honest on the internets...

My "Green Thing" has been DIY Beauty Products. It's like my special green superhero power. I know that's a bit weird, but the boothers all have one. I've made bath melts, body butters, whipped body butters, soap (which is pretty easy actually), face oils cleansers, hair pomade and scrubs.

I've heard that copy cat Lush bath bombs are easy peasy to make, so this week I decided I would make some.

The first recipe I tinkered with and it was kinda a flop. The bombs stayed mushy, I figured it was the result of me substituting epsom salts (which I didn't have) for brown sugar (which has a higher moisture content).

No prob, I can learn from failure.

The second recipe I stuck to. Everything was exactly as it should be. And STILL they are a mushy, somewhat poofy mess. Oh they still foam pretty well. But they look like crap.
(my bath bomb failures...)

My conclusion? One of the (few) drawbacks to living on the coast is that the air has a higher moisture content which is preventing the bombs to dry out properly.

On a whim, since I had the epsom salts out and since it had been a while I decided to whip up a sugar scrub last night. I tried it this morning and am flabbergasted with how soft and smooth my skin is. I didn't even need to put on my typical body butter moisturizer!

I may be crappy at bath bombs, but I sure make a mean sugar scrub.

Sweet Rosemary Mint Sugar Scrub (time- 5min)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup epsom salts
1 tablespoon honey
2.5 tablespoons of sweet almond oil
3 drops orange essential oil
5 drops peppermint eo
5 drops rosemary eo (or whatever oils you want)

Whisk dry ingredients in a ceramic bowl. Add sweet almond oil and honey, whisk. Add essential oils (to scent preference). Store in a small mason jar. In the shower scoop a tablespoon per limb after cleansing. Rub gently and rinse. Done!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Water, Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink

It never ceases to amaze me - the breadth and depth of the stupidity of man. Just when I think that we, as a species, can't possibly get any dumber - POW! We invent something totally idiotic, like a shoe umbrella or goldfish walker. Next thing you know, our global IQ has dropped another ten points. Honestly, I feel dumber for just having looked at those products.

Now, it's one thing to spend money on inane tchotchkes that were probably manufactured by an underpaid, overworked, nine-year-old in a sweatshop in China. Let's admit it, at one time or another we've all bought a stupid solar-powered dancing flower or a bedazzled keychain with our name on it for absolutely no reason. But rarely do we see greater collective stupidity and denial than when we discuss the future of our fresh water supply on planet Earth.

Contrary to what Princess Vespa thinks, there actually are only a precious few things we truly NEED to survive. Chief among these basic human needs are water, food and shelter. Let's forget for a moment what we are doing to our food supply with genetically modified Frankenfoods, bee-killing pesticides, antibiotic-doped meat and giant breasted chickens. Let's also put aside the fact that, in 2005, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights estimated that there are 100 MILLION homeless people in the world. And let's just focus on the most vital of these three needs: clean, fresh, potable water.

Human beings are made up of 60% water (give or take - some days my ratio is more like 55% water, 5% tequila - but that's another story). And while humans can live for almost a month without food, and years, if necessary, without shelter - we would die in less than seven days without water. So, as the most intelligent and compassionate living beings on earth, it's kind of our duty, don't you think, to not totally and knowingly fuck up the planet's drinking water?

Well, funny story.

Recently, the EPA completed a study* on the safety of hydrauling fracturing, or "fracking", as it is more commonly known.  Fracking, for those of you who are unaware, is the process of injecting a water-based chemical slurry deep into the earth to push up the far-reaching reserves of oil and natural gas.  This process took off in 2003 when natural gas exploration really started in earnest in the US.   (Coincidentally, that's when gas prices hit an all time high.)  In 2004, the industry got a boost when the EPA released a study that said, in effect, that fracking posed no threat to the nation's existing drinking water supply**.  But the really big boost for fracking came when the Bush Administration exempted hydraulic fracking from the Safe Water Drinking Act in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 AKA, the "Haliburton Loophole".  I am not making this shit up.


While we're at it, let's exempt Nuclear Plants from radioactivity testing.  And maybe we could exempt pilots from vision testing.  Obviously, we've already exempted politicians from demonstrating any basic human ethics or common sense whatsoever.

And in case you're wondering what fracking has done - and continues to do - to the our fresh water resources, let me slap down some numbers for you, courtesy of Environment America:

Fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012.
This toxic wastewater often contains cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, and has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico.
In New Mexico alone, waste pits from all oil and gas drilling have contaminated groundwater on more than 400 occasions. 

Meanwhile, the oil industry continues to blatantly lie about the safety of fracking, while studies have proven that it does, in fact, contaminate drinking water. Take a look at some of the well water collected by Scott Ely of Dimock, PA and tell me that looks like something you'd drink:

Well now, doesn't that look refreshing? And not at all like a toxic sludge fest!

So how the hell do we little crunchy granola folks fight big business? We could protest. Sure, we could do that. After all, there's nothing that scares a giant billion-dollar conglomerate like a dirty hippy carrying around a homemade poster with a catchy slogan. Perhaps we could change the laws in this country so that our water supplies are provided at least as much protection as the Homecoming King carries in his wallet on prom night. It doesn't always work, but we should probably at least try.

Or maybe it's time to finally tie the proverbial albatross around the necks of the politicians in this country. They created, they funded, and they, in turn, are supported by these morally-challenged conglomerates. It's like a giant, circular daisy chain of idiocy and greenbacks. If we can get the money out of Washington, maybe, just maybe, we can get some laws passed that protect the PEOPLE instead of the PROFITS.

Step one: Find out how much YOUR politicians receive in Dirty Energy Money.

Step two: Write a letter to your Congressman or Senator or Governor or whoever else is on the take. I suggest starting your correspondence with something like "Dear Moron", but I'm not one to micromanage - you write what you like.  In this letter, ask them why they are taking this dirty money and then inquire as to what, exactly, are they are giving the oil companies in return. I'm betting it's more than just a nicely-worded thank you note.

Step three: Mail the letter to said politicians, along with a nice bottle of water. Not the cheap shit from Costco - something good, like Evian. After all, you're going toe-to-toe against the big boys - you don't want to look like you can't compete. Of course, if you're reading this blog, you probably kicked the nasty bottle habit long ago, so just go steal one from your neighbor's recycling bin and fill it with water.  I hear Scott Ely has a nice source you could use.

Now in this letter of yours, be sure to let your elected official know that, if they continue to allow themselves to be bought and paid for by the big oil industry, the water in their hands will soon be worth a lot more than the monies they receive in campaign contributions from these Corporations of Doom.

Will it accomplish anything?  I don't know... I guess I'd be kind of sad to find out my politician is cheap enough to be bought by a bottle of Evian.  But it's better than watching from the sidelines as the gas and oil industries continue to flood our earth with chemicals and the polluted waters rise to fill our streets and the sons-of-bitches in Washington float around in their lifeboats made of dirty money.

Although, in a poetic-karmic-justice kind of way, that's when we'll really see if the Devil knows how to row.

*This "study" included dubious science collected from - you guessed it - a number of the large oil and gas companies that currently profit from the practice.  When the EPA asked them for information regarding various aspects of the fracking process, they refused to provide certain information, and cherry-picked the data that they did hand over.  The holes in this report are so big, you could drive an oil rig through them.

**By "no damage", they mean "no widespread and systemic pollution".  They do, in fact, admit that there have been a number of incidents where water supplies have been poisoned and people have been harmed.  It's just not 'systemic' yet.  Tell that to all the people in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, WyomingTexas, Colorado and other areas near fracking sites that have been sickened by the effects of these wells.  Maybe it will make them feel better.


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