Friday, December 28, 2012

Eco Burnout and Hope

EcoYogini shares some thoughts on acceptance and hope...

Blogger burnout is a pretty common occurrence in the green blogging world. I remember reading about it almost four years ago when I first started blogging and thinking- "No way! That could never be me! I'm a lean green yoga machine! I will LOVE YOGA FOREVER".


It's true though, that it's difficult to keep up hope and not give in to cynicism. Especially with something like climate change. I feel like our entire society has shifted into a cynical apathy with our relationship (or lack thereof) and belief in our political system(s) and governing figures.

I have no idea how Dr David Suzuki has kept hope and advocating for change over the decades. He's my hero.

Even my LOVE of yoga has faded, or maybe more accurately it's my wariness of what is popular yoga and those people that follow. I'm no longer shouting about the all encompassing benefits of yoga from street corners, shaking people while yelling "JUST TRY YOGA!!!".

So yeah, I'm no longer enraged or surprised that our governments aren't doing jack to protect our planet and our lives. I gotta say, a certain level of acceptance has to be healthy, otherwise we would be running on HIGH ALERT and ANGER and INDIGNATION at all times. That's a high level of stress on the body and emotional state.

Spending four days with the in-laws definitely is a hard lesson on patience and acceptance. I need to constantly draw on my yoga practice, to remind myself to just breathe through the challenging and condescending conversations.

I have to accept that I can't change a family member's views of women, how they disregard my ideas, opinions and thoughts, breathe, smile and let it go.

What we do here, our wonderful and lovely blogging family, is a part of this dance between acceptance and doing what we can.

I feel that the biggest lesson of 2012 has been of moving towards acceptance without giving up on hope. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


In which the Homegrown Mama hides from the post-holiday laundry to talk millet and kale...

As I sit here typing, the snow is falling and my 3 year old is still sleeping off the holiday hoopla at 930 in the morning. This year, we celebrated at four different locations in four days. We hardly ate at home and bedtimes were all over the place. I finished unpacking the gifts this morning and was grateful to observe that the recycling pick up does actually come this week!  

As we settle into our regular lives again, I'm looking forward to getting some healthy, healing foods in our bodies again. In the past here at the Booth, our contributors have written about the benefits of Aromatherapy  and I'm thinking today would be a good day to fill our humidifiers with some oils and jump start the health. 

In the meantime, we'll be having a salad loaded with cranberries, grilled chicken and kale for lunch. I bought some kale on Christmas eve so I'd be ready to detox all the rich foods we've been consuming over the last few days! The salad is filled with magnesium, calcium, iron and vitamin C. All of which are beneficial for healing bodies that have been thrown for a loop by eating foods we don't typically eat while celebrating the holidays!

Cranberry and Chicken Salad with Millet
• 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (grilled or baked)
• 2 cups kale, washed and stripped from the ribs
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup dried cranberries
• 1 cup millet, rinsed
• ½ cup balsamic vinegar
• ¼ cup. roasted sunflower seeds
• ½ tsp. paprika
• 1 tsp. dried mustard
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil
Place millet, a tiny pinch of salt and 3 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. When the water is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat, fluff the grains and cover until you are ready to add it to the rest of salad.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet and bring to a medium heat. Add in the onions, kale, and garlic. Sauté until the kale is limp and the onions are tender. Sprinkle with paprika, mustard, salt and pepper. Toss thoroughly. Slice the chicken and add to the skillet. Stir so that the contents are well mixed. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the millet and mix the ingredients well. Serve in bowls topped with the cranberries and sunflower seeds.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Last Minute Gift Idea - T-shirt Scarves

The Conscious Shopper pops back into the Booth to share some ideas for free Christmas gifts.

Like last year, I taught a class at my church this year about making gifts out of recycled materials. This year's idea was t-shirt scarves. Made out of old, large t-shirts, these scarves are quick and easy to make, and end up looking pretty cool.

t-shirt scarves

The simplest kind is an infinity scarf.
  • Cut the bottom hem off of a large t-shirt. 
  • Then cut a 2"-3" loop off of the the bottom of the t-shirt. 
  • Stretch the fabric by pulling on the loop. This will make the sides curl in.
  • Wrap around you neck.
You can make several of these scarves from one t-shirt, and you can embellish them by adding a broach if you like. More detailed instructions here.

t-shirt scarves

This spaghetti scarf is a variation of the infinity scarf.
  • Cut the bottom hem off of a large t-shirt.
  • Cut 1"-2" loops off of the bottom of the t-shirt.
  • Stretch the fabric by pulling on the loops. This will make the sides curl in.
  • Holding all of the loops together, wrap around your neck.
You can get up to two of these scarves from one t-shirt. Patterned t-shirts work as well. More detailed instructions here.

t-shirt scarves

t-shirt scarves

The last two scarves require a sewing machine, but are still simple to make. Instructions can be found here and here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

On darkness

It's that time of the year.  Nope, I'm not thinking of the hustling and bustling, of the hunt for the perfect gift, of  decking the halls, and the like.  What's on my mind is that it's dark.  It's that time when I leave the house in the dark, and often don't get home until after it's dark again.

Each year, I'm a little more prepared for this.  I know what's coming as the long, warm days of summer give way to long shadows.  On sunny days, I've noticed the quality of the light changing.  In my bag, I have exchanged the long-sleeved shirt I carry around in defense of enthusiastic air-conditioners for the woolen hat and the mittens that help advancing winter nippiness at bay. I know that, as of today, the in-breath of the shortening light will yield to breathing out once again.

There's another week and a half before we turn the page to a new calendar year.  But, today feels like that new beginning.  I feel the renewal, the recharge, the energy to say "there was much left undone, let it be, and move forward." 

Indeed, there is so much going on during this "dead" of winter!  The compost piles which were, just a few weeks ago, so full that they would not contain one more leaf, have shrunken down impressively.  I see fresh rounds of hairy bittercress sprouting up in the garden.  The flowering tops of the Autumn Joy Sedum are done, but when I look closely underneath, I can already see new leaves.  

The seed catalogs are out, and I'm anticipating the planting season.  My "food club ladies" and I are exchanging growing notes and experiences as our friendships grow deeper over conversations about veggie varieties, sustainability, and preparedness.

Solstice blessings to you, gentle readers!

Down with darkness, up with light,
Up with sunshine, down with night,
Each of us is one small light.
But together we shine bright.
Go away darkest, blackest night.
Go away, give way to light.
 [ Hear the tune ]

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crafting for the end of the world

Six days till Christmas.
Or two till the end of the world, if you’re into the whole Mayan thing.
I think I’m done going to the store for a while (I am so tired of driving and parking and going into stores and driving some more…), and we are moving into the family tradition part of our holidays. We made roll-out cookies last night and will decorate them tomorrow, we are making labels and cards to go on teacher-gifts—mason jars of homemade granola or apple butter from fruit the kids picked last fall—and the day care center’s Christmas Pageant is tomorrow night. Lots of singing and noise and bowl-licking, and an unbelievable amount of garbage generated.
I have been doing my best to do the Green thing, to avoid disposables and not drive more than I have to and step back from the Huge Consumer Whirl of Doom…with limited success, but more than I have in some years, so it’s sort of a wash, I guess. What is both exasperating and glorious is witnessing my little girl, though, who takes delight in the simplest things that I would otherwise throw away. We were cutting paper circles out of construction paper to go under mason jar lids today (since I’ve run out of labels), and when it was done she looked at the graceful curves of the remaining scraps and proceeded to cut and tape them back together into a long garland she draped over the tree’s branches. (My husband hasn’t seen it yet. If he takes it down, I’ll knock him upside the head.) And she has, in her room, a collection of 30 empty toilet paper tubes. Because she likes them. And might be able to make something out of them.
Turns out, there are a ton of crafts you can make with used toilet paper tubes. An x-wing fighter. Cute animals. And check this site out—the possibilities are endless. (I wish I’d seen this one before December hit!) Which makes me think…how much of the stuff we will acquire over the next week or so could, if nothing else, be transformed into something cool our kids would enjoy, even if it has no other earthly use? The Climate Crusader put up a great post a while ago about the whole reusable gift wrap/bags issue, which will get us a long way (my family still has gift wrap and bags that have been passed from family member to family member for more than a decade; my mother still has some boxes from clothing stores I think closed when I was a kid.), but how far can we take it if we give up a little on “useful” and just go for “fun”?
We will very likely, in the next few days, make paper chains out of cut-up strips of wrapping paper from gifts too small to realistically re-use any further. We might try making a village or doll bed or something out of boxes (with toilet paper rolls as turrets or legs). I desperately need to clean out my sewing room—I bet I could make a cute rag doll or sock doll for my daughter, stuffed with scraps or felt bits too small to save, and let her decorate the face, or even explore some of the adorable no-sew rag dolls on the internet; she would love that. Maybe we’ll even move into making those cool recycled paper beads.
It’s tricky, balancing the “I need to not be weighed down by all this stuff” with the delight of a seven-year-old who doesn’t want to throw anything out, because she sees something beautiful in it. So this year, this week, when I suspect we are all holding our little ones a little closer than we might have a month ago, we will revel in the found objects of the holiday. We’ll cut snowflakes, we’ll craft and glue and gather and build, and we’ll see something beautiful in stuff others would just throw away.
I love it when my kids teach me stuff.
Wishing all a blessed Christmas, a happy Solstice, a joyous Hanukkah,  a safe Mayan end-of-days, and a Happy New Year!
--Jenn the Greenmom

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Holiday Wish List

The tagline of The Green Phone Booth is Where Ordinary People Become Eco-Heroes. But today, as I sat down to write the first post following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I didn't feel like donning my mask. While I believe that the planet needs to be our priority all the time, I'm not feeling very much like the Climate Crusader at the moment. While I live on Canada's West Coast, nowhere near Newtown, Connecticut, like many people I am feeling deep sadness. It doesn't feel like the right time to put on a costume.

This is why, rather than share tips and tricks for going green over the holidays, today I am sharing my holiday wish list with you. Now, more than ever, I feel like I could use a little bit of holiday magic. I'm choosing to believe that if we all wish hard enough - and then pitch in to do our part - we can make good things happen.

Power outage

Holiday Wish List

  1. I wish that everybody would take a moment to sign the Sandy Hook Elementary School National Sympathy Card. It only takes a minute to add your voice and express your sympathies to those impacted by this senseless and unthinkable tragedy.
  2. I wish for tragedies such as this one to cease, so that all families can spend the holidays together, and so that no parents need to lose their children too soon.
  3. I wish peace for those who are suffering, whether because of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, or for any other reason. The world can always use more peace.
  4. I wish for more time spent with those who matter most to me, and I wish the same for everyone else, too.
  5. I wish for more time spent in nature, for myself and especially for my children. Spending time outdoors helps connect us to this planet we call home, and gets us away from the hectic pace of day-to-day-life.
  6. I wish for meaningful memories, rather than stuff. I don't know about you, but I already have way more stuff than I need.
  7. I wish for a world where we can all work together for the greater good - people, governments, businesses and other organizations. That's how real change happens.
  8. I wish for fair trade, organic chocolate. Just because I like it.
What do you wish for this holiday season?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In case Santa needs some help...

From the laundry basket of the Homegrown Mama...

I'm done with my Christmas shopping. *happy dance* This year, I am excited that I purchased fair trade chocolates, handmade hairbows from Etsy, wooden toys and had a friend make a blanket from organic cotton yarn. I'm excited because this year, I feel that each item was actually chosen for a reason and with my values in mind.

What is your go-to gift for children this time of year? My favorite for sure are either art supplies like the Climate Crusader shared with us recently, or books. Combine those two and you have a gift that not only entertains but stimulates their developing brains. See why it's my favorite? Books are the perfect gift idea because they stimulate and educate and inspire. We read a LOT in this house and so I'm always on the hunt for something new to slip into our shelves that will join the ranks of being read dozens of times throughout the day.
Jack's Garden

The Little Composter

On Meadowview Street
I'm always excited to find an ecofriendly book during my library visits... it's how we test them out prior to purchase. 

But, if your bookshelves are already full or you're switching to the eReader format and need other ideas for Christmas, we here at the Green Phone Booth have a long list.  Check out these posts for more ideas!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Doing Nothing in order to Reconnect over the Holidays

EcoYogini ponders on the importance of doing nothing over the holidays...

Do you ever just want to lock yourself in your room, pick up a fantastic book and disappear into the fluff of fiction?

The holidays tend to do that to us. Everything comes to a point. Work deadlines, children concerts, family obligations and holiday gift shopping. It's like the world conspires to make us have insomnia, break out into hives, constant exhaustion, short fuses and general feelings of hatred towards all things holiday-y by the end of it.

It's really a colossal shame. Cuz no matter your beliefs, traditions or religious practices, this should be a time for happiness, family and friends.

So- how to reconnect?

I truly believe that an important, and often overlooked, step in the process of reconnecting with a joyful holiday experience, is the 'do nothing' and 'let it go' part. We talk about creating meaningful memories, more time for family only- important for sure, but this still requires planning and DO-ing.

During this month of lack of sleep, of GO-ing, of planning of socializing and shopping and DO-ing...

Take one day (or half day) a week and specifically DO nothing on your list. That includes cleaning. Sleep in, eat Kraft Dinner cuz it's easy, practice yoga in your living room, read a book all afternoon curled up with some tasty coffee. Tell your partner your "do nothing" day plans and ask for their support- delegate tasks, pawn off the children if you have to.

Put everything on pause for a good chunk of hours. The world won't implode if you put the shopping for tomorrow. I have discovered the world won't end if I don't sweep, or bake cookies or do all my shopping RIGHT NOW.

Take a step back, plunk down and take a deep breath. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Outdoors in the City

Julia from Color Me Green reflects on wanting outdoor space in the city

Ever since reading David Owens' Green Metropolis, I've felt that urban living is more environmentally friendly than rural living in many ways. The smaller and more compact our homes, the less stuff we have, the less heat and electricity we need, the less natural habitat we are replacing, and since the distances we travel are shorter and public transportation more efficient, the less gas we need to use.

Yet, when I went apartment hunting earlier this year, I was set on finding a home with outdoor space. I would have been happy with at least a balcony to grow a few plants, but ended up with what seemed like the holy grail of New York City outdoor space - a private, grassy backyard.

So how then, do I justify wanting outdoor space? If everyone in New York wanted and could have a yard, it would be a sprawling suburbia and not a city anymore. I can only have it because I can afford to be picky about where I live. Community gardens are the solution for many farm-lusting urbanites, but they often have long waiting lists in NYC. While it's nice to have a private yard, at the same time I sometimes feel bad that I can't share it more with my upstairs neighbors or let neighborhood friends have their own little raised bed (the only access is through our apartment).

And why do I want the outdoor space? Because I grew up watching my mom garden and raise goats. Because our culture tells us we should want our own house with a white picket fence and a yard, and bits of that have stuck with me. Because I've been inspired by people like the women in the Green Phone Booth and other eco blogs. Because I'm the kind of person who likes to do things the from-scratch-eco-friendly-DIY way and my visions for my life involve being able to spend time outside doing urban homesteader type activities: Hanging clothes to dry on a line. Bringing my food scraps to my own compost bin. Planting flowers in the ground and growing vegetables from seed. Hosting barbecues and potlucks.

However, it turned out that my Brooklyn yard is subject to unusually high levels of mosquitos that swarm you when you step outside. I did my gardening this summer while sweating underneath long pants and a mosquito head net. I planted fall vegetable seeds that only grew into seedlings and then refused to grow anymore - my best guess is from too much tree cover. I can't grow herbs directly in the ground and watch them grow bigger each year due to high levels of lead in the soil. Though we did turn a trash can into a giant compost bin, which will hopefully produce black gold for the raised beds we'll build next spring. I realized that a clothesline doesn't make that much sense when I would have to a bring a load of wet clothing home from the laundromat down the street. I have the room for a chicken coop (and it's possible the chickens could help eat the mosquitos) but not the time to take care of them. So it's not exactly an urban homesteading dream come true.

Are there things about where you live that limit how you can use and benefit from outdoor space?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reusable Gift Wrap: Yay or Nay?

The Climate Crusader considers reusable gift wrap.

A number of Christmases ago I made a decision: I was good at sewing, so I would sew some reusable gift bags. It seemed like a winner of an eco-friendly idea. When I went to look at the big plastic bin containing all of my wrapping supplies, though, I realized that the last thing I needed was more gift bags, reusable or otherwise.

My gift wrap collection, a number of years ago

Good-bye Wrap, Hello Bags

As paper and plastic gift bags overtook gift wrap in popularity, I amassed a massive collection. Each Christmas, birthday, and other special occasion I only added to it. I decided, instead, that I would use all of the gift bags I had on hand, since reusing something I already owned would surely be the greenest gift wrap option. I even had lots of tissue paper, which was still almost entirely wrinkle-free after its brief trip in a bag.

The Bags Keep Rolling In

Some four years later, I still haven't used all of my gift bags. In fact, with two young children who are well-loved by their extended family, I have even more. Many of the bags in my collection are on their third or fourth go-around, having been passed between family members over the course of a number of years. Once again this year I considered sewing gift bags, and once again I opened the bin and saw that new bags are the last thing in the world I need.

Reusable Overload

I love the idea of buying reusable products rather than disposable products. This is why I used cloth diapers, why I carry a stainless steel water bottle around with me, and why I have a lot of reusable bags. However, I think it's important to know when to draw the line with buying more reusable products. For instance, this summer I had to pass along some of my reusable bags, because I had more than I could ever use. People keep giving them to me, and having a bunch of them sitting in my closet collecting dust isn't really doing the earth any favours.

When to go Reusable

I feel the same way about gift bags as I do about shopping bags. If you don't have any gift wrap, opting for reusable over disposable seems like the obvious way to go. But if you have a whole bunch of gift wrap that will just go to the landfill, it makes more sense to get as much use out of it as possible, rather than buying something new. This is why, while I try to be as green as possible, you won't catch me sewing my own reusable gift bags. Although if someone wanted to use them for my gifts, I would absolutely keep them and reuse them, along with the rest of my gift bags.  

Do you have reusable gift bags? If so, what do you do with the disposable bags that come into your home? And do you ever suffer from reusable overload, when you just have too much of a good thing?


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