Thursday, January 21, 2016

Shower Shorter

Mindful Echo loves a nice, hot shower. 

Is there anything better than a long, hot shower? Especially this time of year? Seriously, coming in from a cold walk or after a brisk snowshoe, a hot shower can warm your bones and clean away the sweat in the most refreshing way possible.

Personally though, I find it way too easy to waste time daydreaming and singing my way through Adele's latest hits (badly, I might add), rather than sticking to the necessities of actually getting clean and getting out in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, as we all know, water is a finite resource. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have flowing fresh water at our easy disposal should be cautious to reserve as much as possible, rather than let it flow down the drain.



1. Check out a low-flow shower head.
Unless you have super thick hair, chances are you don't need to have extreme pressure all the time. I know some people think the water should pelt you to an almost painful degree, but if you can still rinse with a little less, then give it a try. 



2. Shut the tap when you shampoo and shave.
The water definitely does not need to stay running while you're getting your lather on. 

3. Set a timer. 
You could use an old-fashioned kitchen timer or, if you know all the words to Paradise by the Dashboard Light, you can sing your way to an 8-minute shower.


4. Cool it down. 
Does it have to be burning hot? Not likely. If you can keep your cool and still get clean, you'll save the energy from heating up all the water needed for your shower.

And here's a bonus tip:

When I was an undergrad my house had an upstairs and a downstairs shower with which a couple of my roommates would have "shower races." Someone would start the timer and whomever made it back to the living room first (clothed but usually still totally damp) would win.

What are your best tips to keep your showers short?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Intentions for 2016: Mindfulness

Queen Composter needs to slow down in 2016.

Like many people these days, I'm not a fan of making new years resolutions that will be long forgotten before the end of February. I do, however, like to reflect upon how things are going and check in with how I'm feeling overall in the lull after the craziness of the holiday season. I like to choose one little word for the year to guide me and help me reflect back upon what is important to me. In previous years I have chosen make, move, breathe and grateful.

This year it is important for me to choose mindfulness. 

I have been feeling like I have lost a little bit of control and have not been present is with my commitment to living what I preach environmentally. Since returning to work full time and being sick on and off all autumn I have done what I needed to survive, even if it has meant occasionally ordering take out food, grabbing food on the go and doing what is convenient.



I have not had time to spend outdoors on a regular basis, and this has been very hard for me. I feel more relaxed, happier, and have more energy after even a short walk along our local river. People care more about making environmental choices when they care about the world around them. When people spend time in nature and connecting with the natural world it is an important step toward living environmentally.



When I get regular exercise and meditate, or even pause to breathe, I have increased clarity, greater satisfaction and I feel calmer and able to deal with what life throws at me.

While my daughters were at their activities, I
chose to take a walk along a local river and stop in my Happy
Place to reflect and breathe mindfully instead of cramming
in several errands. It was a good choice.


This year I am trying to be mindful of what I am doing and experiencing in the moment. I want to treat moments like a walking meditation, rather than something to get through. I realize that there are times when I need to be hyper aware of all that is going on and coming up, and times when I will need to multitask, but I want to balance those with mindful moments. 

In my school district we teach mindfulness as a way to help students self regulate. We teach lessons on the parts of the brain and their functions, what happens in the brain during stress and how breathing calms the fight or flight response. Other lessons focus on being present and mindful with their sensory experience, and gratitude. In my class things get crazy busy and we forget to breathe mindfully three times a day. For the month of January my students and I are working on slowing down, and I have written the word "slow" in a prominent location on the board to remind us to stop rushing through things and cramming in more activities. 


Ways I want to focus on being mindful this year:


  • find ways to increase my time outdoors on the weekends
  • reflect regularly on the choices I make (reducing the amount I purchase, recycle)
  • promote and encourage outdoor time with my daughters
  • continue to grow my own food in my backyard garden
  • find time in my daily routine for regular mindful breathing
  • continue to use a mindful breathing routine in my class
  • limit use of my iPhone when I am outdoors 
  • continue to focus on gratitude in my life 
Time to get back to this spot and breathe: what
do I see, hear, smell and feel?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Feeling Charitable?

From the bean of Green Bean.



If you are anything like me, your inbox is overflowing with year-end requests for donations from every charity you've ever heard of. It can be overwhelming and too easy to hit the delete button. I am here though, to implore you, to send one last donation this year to your charity of choice.

If you are on the fence regarding which charities to support, Charity Navigator is a great place to start. Here are my favorites:

BIG GREEN: It may be the lawyer in me but I have a soft spot for EarthJustice. They have a 4 star Charity Navigator rating. Moreover, they have won some crucial court battles this year, including overturning the approval of a bee-killing pesticide.

MEDIUM GREEN: WildEarth Guardians is another 4 star rated charity. They are fighting to end/decrease fossil fuel extraction on public lands, protect endangered species, ban trapping and more.

LITTLE GREEN: I was blown away earlier this year by a small group of grassroots activists who fought a massive development to save a colony of prairie dogs. They appealed to all the big and medium green organizations and no one would get involved except Wildlands Defense. The group has since morphed into Wildlands Defense Colorado and is working to save habitat and protect endangered species by slowing down development and getting more people involved in local government. Watching the prairie dog fight unfold over social media, I decided to make sure I always donate at least some of my charity budget to small, grassroots organizations. They are more nimble and able to respond in many situations.

POLITICAL: Last but not least, I regularly donate to a super PAC. You read that right! I donate to Climate Hawks Vote SuperPAC, which is devoted to filling government with leaders who will make fighting climate change a priority. ClimateHawks have ranked congressional leaders to see where they fall on climate related policies and the super PAC handpicks a few candidates a year to endorse and support. Even if you do not donate to this group, I hope you will sign up for the mailing list. The super PAC was formed by the Chair of the California Democratic Environmental Caucus, RL Miller, whom I greatly respect. Among many things, RL authored California's bill to divest its largest pensions from coal and ensured its passage.

These are my favorites. Which charities do you support?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Solve All Your Problems with a Norfolk Pine Living Holiday Tree

As much as I adore decorating for the holidays, my flat doesn't have a tonne of extra space that lends itself easily to setting up a big ol' tree. Not to mention, I definitely don't have the storage space for an artificial tree to be boxed up for the rest of the year.

My plan for 2015 was to get a small, real tree to set up in my window and I hadn't really given it much thought beyond that. It was a total shock when I came home last week to a good-sized potted Norfolk Pine just begging to fill that holiday void!

I hadn't done much research on living trees and so I've spent the last few days reading up and learning about all the wonders of this magical holiday plant. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the answer to every problem I have in my life.


Real tree or fake tree?
NEITHER GET ONE THAT'S STILL ALIVE (and will continue to be after the holidays).

Thirsty?
Make yourself a cup of tea. Dilute what's left and share a little with your tree friend.

Need a cuddle?
The boughs of the Norfolk Pine are shockingly soft. Give your tree a gentle hug.

Need to hang your ornaments?
The Norfolk Pine has plenty of willowy branches to highlight the gleam of your favourite bits and bobbles.

Love glitter?
The plant store that carried my Norfolk Pine thought it would be a fun touch of whimsy to sprinkle the branches with a dusting of glitter. Thanks to them, I'll be finding that sparkly magic for weeks, and maybe months, after the holidays.

 



For bonus low-impact points, I decorated my tree only with second-hand vintage glass ornaments. At a time of year when our consumption is at a premium, it's nice to know that I can celebrate in a clean way, as well as have something that will last well beyond the season and, hopefully, for years to come.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Night Before Giftmas

'Twas the night before Giftmas, and all through the house
All the creatures were merry but for one little grouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney in wait,
But the grump that was grousing had a major complaint.

“The presents look festive snug under the tree,
But I can’t help but notice there’s not much for me.”
Me in my bathrobe, and Dad in his pants,
Just stared at her blankly, as she started to rant.
She yelled and screamed and raised such a fuss,
And pondered out loud “What’s the matter with US?”.
“My friends all have presents and presents galore.
There’s not enough here – I hope I get more!”

Dad looked at me, and I looked at Dad.
And both of us felt like we’d done something bad.
We thought we were doing our child a favor
By decreasing the volume of crap that we gave her.
And we tried to be kind to the planet, in fact -
By purchasing things with the smallest impact.
We shopped mostly local and made our own gifts,
We bought vintage on Etsy and procured at the thrifts.

And now our small child was a panicking mess
For the lack of Barbie in a sparkly blue dress.
“I think that you’re missing the point, little one
More is not better, too much is not fun.”

But our darling young sprite would not let it go
“Santa will bring more – this I just know.”
And I looked at Dad and Dad looked at me
And I motioned in silence to meet by the tree



I whispered to him “Maybe she’s right –
What if we run out real quick tonight?”
“The mall is still open, we could get a few toys
Wrap them from Santa and give her some joy”

Dad nodded and said “It would be a shame
If she thought Santa shorted her. Ok - I’m game”
So after our angel was snug in her bed,
With visions of plastic toys dancing in her head,
I grabbed my keys and sped off to the store
To buy her the Barbie, some minions, and more!

There wasn’t much parking, the stores were all packed
I wondered what on earth these people all lacked?
They were surly and rude and none of them merry
Their arms were weighed down with all the gifts they could carry.

I pushed and I shoved through the throngs in the mall
I glared at the shoppers – I hated them all.
I’m not sure how I got caught in this last minute dash
But before I knew it – I had spent all my cash.

But I found that Barbie with a convertible car
And I got her an EasyBake, a bike and guitar.
I kept right on shopping till wee in the night
Then I went back home to wrap the delights.

But while I was wrapping things ever-so-nimbly
I heard a strange-something come down through the chimbley.
I went to the living room, bat in my hand
Ready to pounce on whatever should land.
Imagine my surprise when out of the flue
Stepped a fat guy with a sack – well, I’m sure you know who

“My dear”, said the jolly, fat, elderly elf
“Put that bat down and get a hold of yourself.
I came to spread cheer, I heard the girl cry
And I had to come down to find out just why.”

“Don’t worry Santa, I’ve got it all fixed
I went out to the mall and got her more gifts.”
I tallied them up – and there’s presents aplenty
When we add yours to ours we should have more than twenty!
I’ve wrapped them up and they’re snug under the tree,
So Christmas is saved, thanks to little ol’ me.”

“My darling, you’re wrong” was his blatant rebuff.
“Christmas is not about buying them stuff
Christmas is giving that comes from the heart
It’s not some piece-of-crap plastic that came from Wal*Mart”

And with those words, he turned his fat back
And pulled one teeny present out of his sack

I looked at him and my jaw dropped a bit
“You’re leaving JUST ONE? ARE YOU KIDDING? THAT’S IT?!”
He just gave me a wink and then went to his sleigh
And I watched in stunned silence as he flew away.

But I heard him exclaim, as he rode away fast,

"It’s not the presents you count, it’s the blessings, you ass!"

~ Merry Giftmas from The Coe Family

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Monthly "Yoga" Boxes: Prettily Packaged Wastefulness

EcoYogini gets real about monthly "boxes"...

Who loves getting mail? Right, we all do. When I was in university my mother would send me regular care packages filled with home made cookies, Kraft Dinner and a few times, bottles of green apple vodka.
There's just something special about getting presents in the mail.
And wouldn't it be fun if we could get presents EVERY SINGLE MONTH? YOGA PRESENTS!!!!
Enter monthly curated "boxes". I get it, I seriously get their appeal. I was tempted. I mean, the idea of getting a monthly box filled with yoga themed goodies sounds amazing, right?
Except... no. It's actually NOT amazing for a whole planet caring, wasteful to hell, bunch of reasons.
Essentially, these boxes are fancily packaged swag bags for products you've PAID to have delivered (and we know that unless you have a drone dropping this off it's trucks burning fuel) to your doorstep that you would never have otherwise bought and may not necessarily ever use.
In a world that is self-destructing with the amount of over consumption, this "monthly box" concept screams of wastefulness and feeds directly into our love for shiny new things. I get that, at heart I am a total crow. (SHINY!) But I've been working hard to decrease the amount of extra crap that I bring into my life.
Even "ethically sourced" boxes contain little trinkets that, let's be honest, likely wouldn't ever have been purchased otherwise. Instead, it's a great swag bag advertisement in a pretty disguise.
Let's take a look at the September "Buddhi Box" for example (review):
The cardboard box comes in another, larger cardboard box. Contents wrapped in a pretty green paper (sorry, but just because the colour is green doesn't automatically mean all that packaging is good for the environment- why the extra box? Why the paper wrapped stuff in TWO boxes?).
Every month a donation is made to a different charity. That's great. But ya know, I could actually choose a charity on my own, save some money and donate directly. Then I'd be able to control where my money was going, how much of it was being donated and how it was being used.
  1. A cute little asana card... which what. Goes on your fridge for a few months? Seriously, that piece of paper would never become a permanent part of my yoga practice. Recycled.
  2. Plastic wrapped macaroons. Which I would never have bought. I would be more likely to treat myself to a macaroon made by a local baker, sans the plastic wrap. I will very unlikely actually order from a random company for something edible that will be shipped hundreds of miles (and potentially across a country border).
  3. Special laundry detergent for sports clothes. This person ordered a giant jug of it. NoSweat Laundry detergent doesn't divulge it's ingredients. Which is sketchy. Nothing anywhere on the packaging says it's good for our waterways and environment in any way. I'm sorry, but having my yoga clothes be "extra" non sweaty simply isn't worth it. My Bio-Vert eco-friendly laundry detergent that is safe for our water and our planet cleans my yoga clothes extremely well, thank you.
  4. Jar of body butter. Well sure, this stuff is nice and eco-friendly, but it's made in Colorado (which for me is virtually on another coast and in another country). And... well I could either buy something similar locally OR make my own.
  5. Essential oil blend for headache relief. Something I would never use. I would either give it away or it would get lost somewhere and eventually be found years later, gone bad (since essential oils actually GO bad when they are in clear glass containers) and then I'd have to figure out a way to either recycle the glass bottle or it would get thrown into the landfill to last forever in a garbage bag.
  6. Organic spice blends in a "waste free single use packet". Um. Just to point out that single use products, by definition, are wasteful. Unlike the spices I buy in glass jars that last years and get used until the very last drop. Or that I purchase in bulk without any packaging at all.
  7. Reusable snack pouches. Now these I'd probably use. But did I really have to wade through all the other stuff I would never need and pay 30+$ for a pair of reusable snack bags that I could have purchased locally?
  8. Free live yoga streaming for a month. Again, would be nice but not something I necessarily need.
Only one of the eight things would I have used or purchased on my own. Even if you upped that percentage: say you average 6 or 7 out of 8 each month. In 12 months you are getting 12-24 "things" that will either get recycled or sent to their forever home- the landfill.
I think it's important not to be fooled by clever marketing and to see monthly curated "things" boxes for what they are: advertising ploys that encourage wasteful consumerism wrapped in a pretty, green package.
If you'd like to get a fun mail package each month, consider getting together with another yogi (or a small group) and sending each other one or two consumable or locally sourced "gifts" or inspirational notes or cards each month. You could set a price (say 5-10$ per item) and guidelines (only buy from local artists, focus on consumables).
Or- consider making your own curated "yoga" box as a one time gift for the yogi on your holiday list. Either give them the box all at once at Yulemas, OR send them an item each month of 2016.
Or maybe just invest the  396$ US (WHAT?????) a year you would have spent on a monthly, swag filled, box- in yoga products you need or would actually use (a yoga "wish list" let's say).

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Handmade Holiday Gifts: Personalized Cards

Queen Composter is making gifts instead of buying new this year. 

I find gift giving to be a source of stress this time of year. It is hard to give gifts that are appreciated while at the same time ethical and ecologically friendly.

In my experience most people to receive something homemade, and everyone loves to receive something personalized.

I am a teacher, and as much as I appreciate every gift students give me, like mugs and chocolate, I know that I prefer something that a student has taken the time to make for me.

Cards are not exactly ecologically friendly because they are typically used once and then tossed. They are, however, thoughtful, and when used, contain messages from the heart, which makes them harder to throw away (or hopefully recycled).

I am a big fan of quick and easy and making personalized cards fits the bill.

This project is great because it uses small pieces of left over card stock.


Materials:

  • white (or desired colour) card stock for the base of the card (preferably paper with recycled fibre) 
  • computer and printer
  • stamp and stamp pad 
  • strips of coloured card stock
  • adhesive 
  • scissors

Method:

  • In a word processing program, select landscape layout and divide page into two columns

  • On the bottom of each column, type the desired phrase (such as "from the desk of")

  • Do a test run on scrap paper to see if the words appear where you would like them. To do this, trim the printed paper into the desired card shape and determine if you need to move the words, centre them, etc.

  • Once you are satisfied with the placement of the words, print on the card stock paper and trim to the shape of the cards.

  • Trim scraps of paper to fit the size of the card. I have an embossing machine so I emboss these scraps to give added texture, but this is unnecessary.

  • Glue the coloured card stock onto the card base.

  • Stamp the chosen image (I like a typewriter for a vintage look) onto scrap card stock and trim using scissors.

  • Adhere the stamped image on top of the coloured card stock. I like the added depth of puffy glue dots, but this is unnecessary. 

  • Pair the cards with envelopes and wrap the gift for the recipient. If you have recycled boxes that may fit the cards, package them in it. Better yet, make your own card boxes using recycled cardboard!

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