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).

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
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.


  • 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


  • 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!

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!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Plants That Always Thrive

The Climate Crusader is looking at weeds through different eyes.

It has been a hot, dry summer here in the Pacific Northwest. We are usually known more for our liquid sunshine (read: rain) than actual sunshine, but so far 2015 has been an exception. My lawn long ago gave up the ghost and turned brown. If I forget to water my garden for a couple of days some of the plants look more than a bit parched. But amid all of this, there are some plants that continue to do well.

They are green. They are flowering. Lush, even. What are they? Weeds.

Only, not really.

Let's get down to basics and consider the question of what a weed is. Wikipedia has this to say about weeds:
Traditionally this classification was applied to plants regarded as undesirable... Today the designation is less often used as a classification of plant life... Many native plants previously considered weeds have been shown to be beneficial or even necessary to various ecosystems.
The plants that are thriving on my lawn and garden this summer are mostly plants that I didn't put there. Rather, they're plants that took root themselves. These are plants that clearly handle summer weather better than my tomato or basil plants. And many of them are native species. That is, they evolved here in the Pacific Northwest.

It's no surprise that native plants need less tending than non-native species. After all, native plants evolved here. They do well in local soil, and tolerate local weather conditions well. They grow whether humans plant and water them or not.

Not all of them are pretty or tasty. But native plants have many benefits. For instance, native plants provide habitat and food for other native species, such as birds and insects. Native pollinators? They have co-existed with native plants for millenia. I already mentioned that native plants require less care, which also means that their environmental footprint is lower.  And native plants contribute to biodiversity, just by being their own fabulous selves and sending their pollen out into the world.

Antelope brush ecosystem

Last summer I visited the South Okanagan, a beautiful region in my home province of British Columbia. This area was originally covered by antelope brush, a humble looking plant that nevertheless sustains many other species. More than two-thirds of the antelope brush habitat has been destroyed, though, and with a thriving agricultural industry in the region the rest is under threat. If the antelope brush disappears, the consequences will echo through the rest of the species in the region.

So what is my point? My point is that we should re-consider the way we look at weeds. While some truly are invasive species that force out other plants, others are helpful native species. By nurturing these native species, and giving them space in our gardens, we're making our lives easier (since they'll grow with our without us), we're helping to protect the ecosystems we call home by providing plants that nurture local wildlife.

Here's to plants that always thrive!


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