Sunday, November 22, 2015

Show Up, Stand Up.

From the bean of Green Bean.

Next week, the climate talks in Paris will begin. Over 200,000 were expected to gather outside to rally our leaders to take meaningful action but, due to the horrific attacks in Paris earlier this month, that march has been canceled. This means that the voices of the people may be muted during the international talks.

Give A Shit

We cannot let this happen. Organizers of the Paris march have called on all of us to stand up, show up and join local marches. To protest on behalf of those who cannot. There are thousands of marches and rallies planned this coming weekend, November 28 and 29, as well as the following weekend, December 5 and 6.  (Click here to find a rally near you or to learn more about the Global Climate March!Please join one.

Climate Change Action Needs ALL Solutions ALL Parties
This past Saturday, my family and friends attended the Northern California Climate Mobilization. That is a mouthful but it was also a kick off to the global climate march. Let me start by confessing that I am not a marcher. I feel awkward waving a sign and shouting a slogan. But I also grasp the severity of the situation. If we do not act on climate change, it will be far worse than my feelings of discomfort or than my kid missing a soccer game so he can attend (nay, lead!) a rally demanding climate action.

My son leads fellow marchers in a cheer. 
All misgivings aside, we made signs. We marched. We chanted. We made friends. We made noise. We felt empowered.

"Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain." - Pope Francis
Please join us by showing up to a local climate march in the next two weeks. Stand Up for Mother Earth.

Stand Up For Mother Earth


1) I've never been to a march before. What do I do? 

Find a march near you. There are thousands to choose from. Show up. It is that simple. Bonus points if you wear an environmentally themed tee-shirt or hat or if you bring signs. Most likely, though, there will be free signs provided by rally organizers or brought by fellow marchers. There may also be free coffee, bumper stickers, buttons and more. It is a collegial atmosphere and everyone is willing to share.

Turn Up The Heat on Climate Killers. Divest From Fossil Fuels NOW

2) I don't want to go alone. How do I recruit others to join me?

Start with your significant other or family. Then expand your circle by asking environmentally minded friends. Make a day out of it by planning lunch or an outing after the rally. If you have children, let them invite a friend. Host a sign making party beforehand to get others invested. See if a local chapter of or the Sierra Club or similar group is sponsoring buses. You can then go with a group of activists from your community.

Homeland Security (Earth Is Home)

3) But will it even make a difference?

I feel powerless all the time when it comes to global warming and our environment. I feel frustrated that our leaders are not listening and that many of my fellow citizens do not even believe in climate change. Nothing, however,  is more empowering that standing up and making noise. President Obama did not reject the Keystone XL Pipeline because folks sat home and worried. He did not cancel Arctic drilling leases because we grew our own vegetables and biked to work. Those personal actions are important but do not underestimate the power and importance of personally showing up.

4) How do I expand my reach?

Take LOTS of photos. Share them on social media. Email or text them to friends. Post them on a blog, like this one. Share articles covering marches on social media and amplify people you follow on those platforms by sharing their experiences of the rallies they attended. Make noise!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

10 Quick Green Living Tips

The Climate Crusader's life is changing ... and she's wondering how to keep it green.

When my daughter was born in 2005 I transitioned from working full-time to working part-time. Then shortly after my son was born in 2008 my company underwent a massive downsizing and so I transitioned to working part-time from home. It was good. I was able to spend more time with my children during their early years. I volunteered in classrooms and baked my own bread. I gardened and upcycled and read books on green living.

I have always been concerned about the environment, but having children increased my stake in our planet. And working a reduced schedule, much of it from home, gave me the time to research green living and make changes. I have been lucky, and I know it. Not everyone has the resources to do what I have done. When you're pressed for time and money it's that much harder to spend your evenings on green do-it-yourself projects. I get it ... and I am about to experience it first-hand.

In a week and a half I am starting school full-time. For the next 12 months I will be working hard to earn my teaching degree. Once I have earned it, I will (hopefully) be working. At minimum, I will be working to secure a job.  So for the first time in more than 10 years I am going to be out of the house for eight hours or more a day, five days a week. I will simply not have the time to live the lifestyle I've built as a mom who spends all her time at home. So I have been researching ways to live green when you don't have a lot of time. Here are the top 10 ways I will be going green while studying full-time.

10 Quick and Easy Green Living Tips

  1. Pick up Trash - We all see trash on the sidewalk, right? Picking up someone else's garbage can help keep our world a little cleaner. Here's how one person does it.
  2. Carry Reusables - I have a couple of reusable nylon bags that fold up really small stashed in my purse and my backpack, and I carry a stainless steel water bottle, to reduce trash.
  3. Soft Copies - One of the big changes from the last time I was at university is how much material can be accessed online. Whenever possible I opt for e-textbooks and keep articles and emails online. Since I already have a tablet and laptop this lowers my eco footprint.
  4. Pack Garbage Home - My university has composting and recycling stations, but many schools, workplaces and public spaces don't. When I have recyclables or compostables and no place to put them, I bring them home to dispose of them properly.
  5. Take Shorter Showers - I love to luxuriate in my shower, but I will no longer have the time. Luckily, by reducing your time in the shower you're also reducing your energy and water use.
  6. Skip Straws - When you do find yourself eating out, skip the straw. You don't need it and it will just be thrown away. Or bring your own glass or stainless steel straw.
  7. Turn Down the Water Heater - I admit it, I love hot water. But heating water uses energy. Turning down the thermostat on my water heater takes seconds, and saves money and carbon.
  8. Program the Dishwasher - I can set my dishwasher to run in the middle of the night ... but sometimes I don't. If I make this change I will be reducing the load on the power grid during peak hours, and possibly saving myself money in the bargain.
  9. Update the Thermostat - Like many people I have a programmable thermostat. It's currently set up to reflect the fact that I'm at home all day, though. Updating this will again take almost no time, but save money and carbon.
  10. Source Non-Toxic Personal Care Products - I've been making my own deodorant and experimenting with other green personal care. Some of it is easy - like not washing my face - but some of it takes time I just won't have. For those things that will be harder to swing I'm cutting myself slack and buying greener products. If you're currently using conventional products this a very easy change to make, replacing each product as you run out.
Do you have any quick and easy green living tips? I could use your ideas!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Voting is the Greenest Thing

The Climate Crusader is working to green her vote.

Here in Canada a federal election was recently called. Things work differently here than in the US. Rather than having fixed election dates, the Prime Minister typically decides when to call an election. A law was passed in 2007 stating that elections would be held on the third Monday in October every four years, but they can be called sooner, as our last election was in 2011. That's an aside, though. My main point is that I'll be voting soon. And my feelings on the environment in general and climate change in particular will impact the decision I make in the polling booth.

Unfortunately, making a decision about who to vote for isn't always as straightforward as I would like. Some parties have a lot to say about the environment. Others have a lot to say about the economy. Others have a lot to say about the green economy. There's a lot of greenwashing and double-speak out there, and sometimes politicians change their positions to increase their chances of winning as a campaign rolls on.

In spite of the confusion I think it's extremely important to vote. As citizens of any country voting is our big chance to make our voices heard. This is the time lawmakers are paying the closest attention to us and what we want, because they can literally lose their jobs if they don't. So I do my best to research and ask questions and make my voice heard while I have the ears of my elected representatives. And I make sure they know I will show up at the polls so if they lose my vote it means that their opponent is gaining it.

Sometimes it feels like in spite of the time and effort we take as citizens to inform ourselves and vote, nothing changes. Election promises and positions change once someone's elected. Some lawmakers spend more time courting big donors than listening to the people they represent. And here in Canada our representatives are more or less forced to vote the party line regardless of how they feel. But I still think it matters, and I still believe we can make a difference, especially if more people show up to vote.

In the last federal election in Canada in 2011 had an official voter turnout of 61.1%. The popular vote went 39.6% to the Conservative Party, 30.6% to the NDP and 18.9% to the Liberals. But those popular voting percentages are based on the people who voted. The actual voting percentages are 38.9% - No Party, 24.4% - Conservative, 18.7% - NDP, 11.5% - Liberal.

If we do the same math for the last US presidential election in 2012 we get 41.8% - No One, 29.7% - Obama, 27.5% - Romney.

Here's my point: if the people who didn't vote got involved, asked questions, made their voices heard and showed up at the polls the results could be totally different. Non-mainstream parties could win. Incumbents could be unseated. Change could be made. The power is in our hands.

I haven't decided yet how I will vote in this election, but I can promise two things. First, that I will make a thoughtful choice. And second, that I will show up at the polls and cast my vote. If you're Canadian too I urge you to do the same. And if you're not Canadian I urge you to take the opportunity to vote whenever you have it, too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Upcycled Crafts with Jeans

Queen Composter shares an alternative to donating clothing.

I am an avid crafter, but as someone who cares about environmentalism, I am ashamed to admit how much I spend on buying new craft supplies.

I have kicked the dollar store habit because of the unknown toxins in the products, but with my list of crafting hobbies growing (knitting, bead making, DIY jewelry, card making, scrapbooking, sewing, embroidery, crochet, homemade personal care products) I often have to spend money to buy supplies to feed my habit.

There are so many reasons to be mindful when buying new supplies for crafting. First and foremost is that by purchasing at big box stores it feeds the never ending cycle of consumerism which is drowning the world in plastic waste, harmful production practices, human exploitation and carbon output. I am working on buying supplies from local artisans and craft stores, but this can be more expensive and does not eliminate all the issues.

When I am able, I try to upcycle supplies that I may have around the house or from other people, and Pinterest is perfect for generating ideas. Full disclosure: I am horribly addicted to Pinterest.

One recurring idea that I see on upcycling and crafting Pinterest boards  is how to upcycle blue jeans. In the past when I have cleaned out my drawers and closets I have donated my clothes, but recently I have begun saving them to upcycle into something else.

For most projects using old jeans it is important to cut off the hems and other seams so that the material is not too thick, especially if you are machine sewing them. Depending on the size of the projects, if I plan ahead how I will cut the jeans, I can get two to even three projects out of each pair of jeans. I also save all unused parts of the jeans for future projects. For example, the thick bottom hem of each leg makes a perfect drawstring or rope, the zippers can be cut off and reused again, and the pockets (both front and back) are perfect for instant pockets on bags.

Here are some ways I have given old jeans (or other clothing and bedsheets) a second life as material and fabric in crafting projects:

Jean Backpack

I saw this project on Pinterest with no accompanying tutorial. For a novice sewer it was a challenge to deconstruct the pictures into a workable project, but I am proud I did it. Now I wish I had taken step-by-step photos so I could do my own tutorial. I can no longer find the original source, but a quick search will bring up many tutorials for doing something similar.

The inner closure is a drawstring made from old shoelaces,
and the flap closure is from the waistband button and buttonhole.
The outer pockets are the back pockets of the jeans. 

Jean Baggies and Project Bags

These can be used for storing crafting supplies, knitting projects, snacks on the go, pencils, or whatever you need to stash somewhere out of sight. Blue jean material is great for these because they are sturdy and do not require lining or using interlining (fusible material). In each of these projects I used the wrong side of the jeans for a lighter colour so I could stamp images onto them.

These baggies have zippers (upcycled from other clothing).
They are great to make for reusable snack baggies.

This project bag has a drawstring closure (the drawstring
was made from a skinny cloth belt from an old skirt)and is big
enough to hold one of my larger knitting work in progress.

Jean Gardener Apron (No Sew)

It is difficult to use the top waistband on jeans because it is so thick (I've broken a few sewing needles  using them), so I love this new sew idea to make an apron for gardening, or for whenever you need accessible pockets. Just cut down the side seams on both sides, cut up to the waistband on the front (trim off the pockets and zipper), and leave the waistband and button intact. To use simply button up the jeans and wear the back pockets in the front. Ingenious!

Garden Bunting Flags (minimal sewing required)

I cut up jeans (and up cycled bedsheets) into rectangles and decorated them with my daughters using fabric felts and paint (yes, I bought them new at the store). Then I sewed them together and decorated my garden.

This was one of my daughters' favourite projects to do with
me, and they proudly tell people they helped to make them.

Here are some good links for upcycled jean projects to get you started:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Power to Change

From the bean of Green Bean.

Have you read the latest report on climate change? Environmental degradation? Mass extinction? It does not matter which one. They are all bad. All depressing.

It is enough to make one bury her head in the sand. And, while there are days that I definitely feel like doing that, yesterday was not one of them.

Yesterday, I donned my superhero cape and rocked the environmental world. That is how I felt, at least, when I visited my local legislator with a small group of concerned constituents.

It is so easy to say no but when I got the phone call asking me to attend this meeting ("Why did I give them my phone number?!" was my first thought. My second was "Why did I answer the phone?!"), I somehow said yes.

The night before, my stomach in knots, I wondered if I could back out, feign illness or just not show. It would be easy.

I have already done easy though. So instead, I pulled on my big girl boots and met my fellow activists outside of my legislator's office. We talked briefly about what we would say and then headed up.

Frankly, it was an easy sell. The two staffers we spoke with were fully on board and we were assured of our legislator's support of the bill (SB185 to divest California's pension funds from coal). They shared advice on what more we could do to ensure the bill's passage. After high fiving my cohorts, I strolled out the door feeling a little less depressed and a lot more empowered.

We all have the power to create the change we want to see in the world. We just need to get out from behind our keyboards and do it!

If you are considering taking action (and I hope you are!), check out Activism for Introverts. Now go change the world.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Why You Should Share Green Good News with Your Kids

person, girl, garden, young

Recently I've been reading and writing about How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott P. Sampson. The chapter on "The Rewilding Revolution" included a passage that grabbed my attention:
"One of the greatest gifts we can give to children is an optimistic outlook on the future. Particularly for kids in early childhood, avoid negative stories about the natural world and the declining environment. This can lead to emotional detachment rather than caring. Recognize, however, that kids in middle childhood will likely be getting a doom-and-gloom message about the state of the world, even if it doesn't come from you. It's important to listen to kids' fears for the future, to respond honestly, and even to share your own fears. Equally important, however, is balancing any fears with positive, hopeful stories of change, stories that demonstrate how people are working to solve the problems, and how youths can be part of this critical work." (emphasis mine)

This immediately rang true for me. Not long ago my husband had shared with my kids that California has one year of water left. You know, in an effort to inspire conservation. My poor six-year-old took this so literally that she kept asking me if we were going to move to a different state soon. She also ran around the house turning off the water while people were washing their hands (which I encourage people to do, but she was getting a bit fanatical). She would also hound me any time I was using water (doing the dishes, etc.), insisting that I was "wasting it." When friends moved away, she told me it was because California was almost out of water. I had to reassure her many, many times that we would only run out of water if we continued using water the way we had but that everyone was going to make changes to make sure that didn't happen. I told her it was important to do our part to conserve, but that it was still OK to use water and she didn't need to worry that it would run out.

My son, entering the third grade, gets plenty of doom-and-gloom without us, just as Sampson suggests, just from his voracious reading of non-fiction literature about animals, natural disasters, and so on. While my husband often points out that people can be selfish and short-sighted, I like to emphasize how many good people are trying to change things for the better. Sort of like Mr. Rogers' mother's advice to "look for the helpers" after tragic events. I also often point out that sometimes we are dealing with habits and situations that began before anyone knew better. I'm not interested in my kids having a black view of humanity either.

It is my opinion that no child should have to grow up believing that the world is going to be a wasteland or even merely a worse place to live when they grow up, however realistic such information might be. Some days after browsing the environmental headlines (as I do most mornings) I feel so depressed and hopeless that I avoid reading the news for several days. We all need hope. We need inspiration. We need examples. And so I continue to highlight the positive. Read these stories, and share them with your kids. And when your kids come to you with a fear about the future, tell them a story of hope. If you don't have a relevant one at the ready, look one up here or here.

A delightful read:

When You Give a Tree an Email Address (The Atlantic)
The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.

Clever teens making a difference 

Girls’ decoy grouse lure birds from drilling-rig noise (WyoFile)
Two 8th-grade students advanced greater sage grouse science this spring by making dummy strutting males to lure birds from a nearby drilling rig so they could better hear mating calls.

Proof that big change in a short time is possible

From open sewage to high-tech hydrohub, Singapore leads water revolution (Reuters)
Fifty years ago Singapore had to ration water, and its smelly rivers were devoid of fish and choked with waste from shipbuilding, pig farms and toilets that emptied directly into streams. But it's a very different story today.

If they can do it, so can we!

Achieving "zero waste" might seem impossible, but these cities have implemented plans that are getting them very close. Now it's time for the rest of the world to follow along.

Be the change you want to see

Dutch Man Cleans Up Entire River Bank On His Daily Commute to Work (Good News Network)
Tired of having the beautiful river view along his route to work spoiled by mounting trash on the bank, a Dutch man decided to start picking up litter during his daily commute. This story reminds me of a FB page I recently came across called Trash Walking Moms.

Do you have a tidbit of environmental good news to share? Please do!


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