Ahh the holidays! When all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold

IMG_0685I’m not a scrooge. I love the holidays. Wild and crazy though they are, they fill me with a sense of satisfaction, tradition, wonderment and love for my fellow man. Whether these feelings are genuinely my own, or prompted by the onslaught of way-too-happy people in way-too-many holiday commercials, is besides the point. It’s a good time of year for my psyche.

On the other hand, as someone who has environmental values, this time of year also messes with my inner soul. I know that sounds corny – and I agree, it is. I just can’t think of a better way to describe the turmoil that boils up inside of me when I walk into yet another store that wants me to buy, buy, buy.

I like to buy, when I really need stuff. But frankly, I don’t need that much stuff. I have one pair of tennis shoes for instance. I don’t understand why I need more. They are white, they go with everything. Would I feel happier with an additional, say,  blue or pink pair. I doubt it.

I’m not a pauper, but neither do I have two or three closets full of clothes. I do have a half dozen or more jeans – but they constitute my working “uniform” for the most part. As a freelancer, I have the luxury of being comfortable at my 9-5. In the same respect, our house is not barren – we have furniture, dishes, towels, utensils, necessities. And I’ll admit, a few knick-knacks.

Which brings me back to this Ho-Ho-Ho season.

I’m not going to swear off of Christmas just to make a point. To me its more than just an excuse to buy until your credit dissolves like icicles on a hot day. It really is about all those things I mentioned earlier. I know, I’m a sucker for sentimentality, family stuff and even commercials that feature puppies with bows and Clydesdales romping in a picturesque snowy landscape.  Sigh…

But this doesn’t mean I throw all my environmental caution to the wind for the next several weeks and dive into the mosh-pit of unrestrained holiday buying gluttony.

It does mean that I’m conscience of my purchases, such as where the products came from and what they are made of. It means I don’t over-do my spending in an attempt to impress or outdo someone else. It means I take a good hard look at what this season means to me, and then I make decisions that reflect my values.

None of this is an original thought, I know. There are probably thousands of blogs out there with identical messages. I’m rarely alone in my views. But I consider this a good thing.

In 36 days it will all be over. We’ll open gifts along with everyone else who celebrates this time of year. We’ll probably eat too much as well. Did I mention that I also love food? But if I stick to my guns, I’ll make my statement nonetheless.

There will be less wrapping paper – who needs a dozen sheets of tissue for every gift bag- and when it comes to bags, new is out of the question in our house. Recycled ones only please – a particular favorite in my family is an ancient Victoria Secret bag, pink (of course) with fake fur along the edge. Priceless.

Food will be served on real plates, with real silverware and honest-to-goodness cloth napkins for everyone’s laps. And a few days later, when we ceremoniously toss our real tree over our deck, it will be hauled down to our brush pile and welcomed by wildlife who seek shelter and warmth during the winter months.

None of these actions are over-the-top, greenie-crazy. But like the holidays, they feel right to me and my family. And I believe in a very small way, we are making a difference in a season when making a difference is the overall theme, correct?

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe it really is all about the shopping.

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Be Green on November 6th and Vote!

Here’s a breath of fresh air. I’m not going to tell you how to vote. I’m sure this is a welcomed change following almost two years of political banter.

Like you, I’m so sick of all the political garbage, I’m ready to toss my cookies, both left and right.

But I am going to tell you TO vote. And for one very green-minded, mega important reason. If you don’t, it was all for naught.

Think about your vote. For a start, it’s worth somewhere in the neighborhood of, let’s say, billions of dollars, give or take a few green backs.

It starts with the tangible stuff: yard signs, direct mail, indirect mail (bulk crap), fliers, posters; plastic cups, hats, shirts, banners, buttons and bumper stickers – the list goes on and on. Assuming somewhere in the neighborhood of 99% of this stuff is thrown out the minute the election is over, that’s just the beginning of the unprecedented election year waste.

Then there’s the yakety-yak-yak. TV ads, radio spiels, Internet banners, YouTube must-sees; town hall meetings, dinners, events and money-making functions. Clogging the airwaves, sucking up energy, wasting food.

Additionally, there’s the myriad of candidate  trips – the parade of planes, trains and automobiles getting the candidates to Podunk, USA, and back home again – which equates to surplus traffic, smog; the sheer amount  of wasted fuel…

I’ve only scratched the surface. Sadly, there’s more, much more, but frankly, my stomach is churning and I can’t go on.

The only silver lining is that it will all be over soon.

I’m not happy with the lead-up to our voting system and I know I can’t change the political machines which drain our resources faster than the speed of light.

But gosh darn, at least I’m going to make sure all that energy, time, money and food are not totally wasted. And although in the grand scheme of things, its seems like small potatoes, but on November 6th, I will go to the polls, pull back the curtain and sit down.

And then, I’ll make a green political stand of my own. I’ll vote.

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First the pigs, and then what? Short orders, shortages and global snafus

When a recent news report indicated bacon will be hard to come by next year, a collective gasp rose up from the masses in response. Not the other white meat! (or as in the case of bacon – not my breakfast fat!). But, I’m sorry, it’s true.  Global warming has finally taken it’s toll on something meaningful in the human world, and frankly, people are fed up.

You can dry up my rivers and lakes; melt my glaciers and destroy my coastal wetlands. You can bring on the heat until we all evaporate, even bury me in snow storms for days, but don’t touch my comfort food. Honestly, there’s only so much I can stand. Come on pork industry – what’s the problem?! We’ve got an overabundance of food in this country – pigs eat anything, right? Toss them something and get back to butchering.

But what so many people fail to recognize when they start pointing sausage-like fingers at any food industry, is that farmers still depend upon Mother Nature. I realize that’s hard to accept as technology takes an even more substantial hold over us. But even today, long after Ma and Pa and all the little houses that once dotted the prairies are gone, human beings can only do so much when it comes to mastering the earth and all it’s resources. In our arrogance, we may think this is our world to dally in as we wish, and do with what we want; but at times like this, we face the rudest of awakenings. We’re far from in control.

John Muir once said, “When we tug on a single thing in nature we find it attached to everything else”. Muir knew what he was talking about.

Today it’s pigs and bacon, tomorrow, who knows. But predicting the next shoe, or foodstuff to fall isn’t all that important. What is important is recognizing it will, and that over time it will become more like dominoes, tip, tip, tipping along.

Which results in some disappointments, I know.  For instance, short order cooks may have to eliminate bacon from the breakfast specials beginning next year. And many of us will cry, and fret, boo-hoo and complain.  But this little snafu is only a taste of what is yet to come if we don’t take the time to understand the complexity of nature and see the bigger picture.

Along with this understanding, thinking more globally is a must. We’re tied together, no ifs ands or buts about it. Globally we will feel the effects, and globally we can make a difference.

But then again, it all comes down to how much you’ll miss your bacon.

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On the search for creative sustainables

I rarely buy anything on vacation. Frankly I have enough gifty-crap items from other people’s vacations to last a lifetime. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the thought, it’s just that for the most part, I only end up Oooing and Ahhhing for a few minutes. After that, the item is destined for storage or the trash bin. I’m simply not a collector of anything. Well, nothing except spoons.

My mother got me started collecting spoons when I was quite young. She was a collector of sorts herself for many years, but never really displayed them. They were closeted away or thrown in a drawer from what I remember, to be gotten out on occasion and loving told the story of their existence. But when I married, my mother gave several unique spoons, many real silver, to help me get started. It was like she was giving me a piece of herself to take along in my new life, when I moved 2000 miles away. And her gesture still touches me today.

But back to vacations. It’s funny really, but although I am the one who collects the spoons, it’s really my husband who remembers to look for them when we’re on the road. “Here’s one from Colorado. Have you got one of these yet?” or, “This one has a hole where the spoon part should be” or “what about this one with the toucan?” If it wasn’t for his persistence I doubt whether I would have much of a collection beyond what my mother started me out with 32 years ago.

So, beyond spoon hunting, I do little in the way of buying stuff on vacation. But once and a while I see something that catches my eye, and my wallet.

This summer’s destination took us to Moab Utah. Although I had never heard of this city, it isn’t far from The Arches National Park where my husband and I planned to spend the day. That was until the winds whipped up in tornado fashion and we decided there was only so much sand we could tolerate in our eyes, ears and other orifices. So we ventured back down the mountain to the rather hippy city of Moab where they were having a summer festival. Even there the tents were swaying like palm trees in a hurricane, but there was a pretty good ska band playing, lots of mobile food vendors and a sizable selection of creative people marketing their wares. Since I wasn’t too interested in buying I gave most booths a cursory glance as we meandered through the rows of peddlers. Until I saw something that really made me stop and gawk.

It was a jewelry stand, which under normal circumstances I never venture into. I wear like two rings, and when I think about I put in earrings. But this stand was not just about jewelry, but about spoons as well.

The artist was stooped over the table creating something as we approached. But what drew my eyes were the amazing bracelets, pendants and earrings laid out before me. Each one, more unique than the other – and made from old silverware!

My husband could tell I was in seventh heaven. “Go ahead, try one on.” And I did. Several in fact, before I decided to purchase a bracelet made from a fork, with tines carefully clasping a snowflake obsidian stone. He was right, I was in seventh heaven – seventh sustainable heaven.

It’s so easy to be taken in by good ol American greed especially on vacation, so I’m always glad I normally stick to my guns and avoid falling into that money pit. But I’m also glad in this case, I discovered this amazing artist, purchased something I love, and can pass along her webiste info (at the end of this entry).

Who we are shouldn’t get left behind, along with the mail and potted plants, the minute we take to the open road in search of rest and relaxation. We are just as accountable away from home. But I think many times the allure of being away-from-it-all somehow gives us permission to behave differently, forget our values, and even spend our money ignoring the “sustainable” conscience that guides us so religiously at home.

I love vacation season. Love to travel well, get some R&R, but I’m also glad I normally keep my greenie wits about me. For the most part, I only bring back pictures.

Enjoy this time of year folks. Get out and do the travel thing, whole hog if you’ve got the time and resources. But ignore the gifty-crap. If you see something that makes eco-sense to you, support the vendor or store owner.

And when you return, all sun-tanned and relaxed like like a wet noodle, you’ll feel better.  And so will your landfill.

(the websites I promised for Up-Cycled Antiques) http://www.etsy.com/shop/wearetheedge?page=3 http://www.etsy.com/shop/thefashionedge

 

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Once upon a time, there was compost

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I started composting, really getting into it, about a year ago, when I bought a black plastic bin from the hardware store and proudly set it in my yard. I envisioned creating rich black earth, or as my neighbor so aptly put it, “making free dirt.”

Next I put an old lidded pot, lobster-sized, (not sure where I got it, since I would never submit a lobster to such torture) next to my sink in the kitchen. From then on, I began collecting all my kitchen waste and depositing it the bin, where I also added my yard waste. Soon, everything from celery tops to grass clippings, sticks and weeds were finding a new home, and a new life in my plastic friend.

It was such a simple concept and so satisfying – watching everything turn from garbage and waste into soil – I became obsessive about my mission…at first.

But after a while, my enthusiasm dwindled a bit. Dumping the kitchen waste wasn’t much fun when temperatures dropped below freezing. And turning the compost, which I heard was kind of important, got to be a real drag. I wasn’t totally callused to my compost’s plight, because I still thought about it fondly. But after a few moments, instead of feeding it or infusing it with oxygen, I would find something more fun to do, like reading a book, taking a shower, or thinking about my own oxygen replenishing.

Sadly, my bin started feeling the consequences of my neglect. It’s breaking-down processes slowed to a snail’s pace and it started to smell kind of funny. At this point, I knew it was beyond help; but frankly so was I. I wondered about looking into a some kind of 12-step program? “Hi, I’m Molly, and I’m a bad composter.”

So, I went to a composting lecture at our local university (who knew they even had such things) where the speaker touched a chord in my greenie heart. Basically, he reminded me why I started composting in the first place. It wasn’t about creating awesome dirt from bits of old lettuce and some twigs. It was more about changing my carbon footprint, one step at a time. I needed to be reminded of this – that every green thing I do, isn’t for me. It’s for the earth and for future generations.

I came home rejuvenated.

It’s been few weeks since that lecture and my composting enthusiasm has returned. Oh, perhaps part of my renewed interest stems from the warmer days – no more butt-freezing bin deposits now that spring is here. Additionally, I’m in the yard more and it just seems more practical, and a whole lot easier, to dump unwanted vegetation in the bin rather than leave it in a bag out on the curb.

But then again, I’m also paying more attention to turning the compost regularly, and my bin is reaping the results of my attention. It’s healthy and successfully breaking down yard stuff and leftovers and making that rich soil I love so much.

That lecture helped me bring my compost bin back from the edge of death, yes. But it sparked in me a renewed sense of being green. I was reminded that every green thing I do today isn’t about me, even when it seems so self-satisfying. It’s about what we will leave behind.

Once again, it’s a simple concept. But one we can’t afford to forget.

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Finding your “green” soulmate

My daughter loves her job, the people she works with and where she lives. So what’s the downside? The shortage of available men. See, she works in fashion in a retirement community – which means most of the men she meets are either gay or over 70 – a double-whammy for a young heterosexual woman. In addition, she’s stuck with relying on friends or co-workers to play match-maker. With the pickin’s pretty slim to begin with, this mode of operation isn’t getting her too far.

So I got to thinking, maybe she needs to widen her dating horizons. Perhaps online dating?

But where does a vegetarian, yoga-practicing, health-nut go to find someone who is more passionate about saving turtles than hitting all the right clubs?

I googled, of course…

First stop: http://greensingles.com/ Like most dating sites, this one offers a chance to meet singles in your area, but with a green twist. According to Green Singles: “Meet progressive singles in the environmental, vegetarian, and animal rights communities and other like-minded green singles.” Interesting tidbit about this site: It says it’s been matching greenies since 1985 – which seems a bit of a stretch computer-wise. Hmmmm. But they do have the “Green Safety Shield” which, though sounds like primary-colored condoms, is actually a privacy-protection thing, so your info, messaging, etc isn’t up for grabs by everyone who visits the site. And you can advertise your “green market” (business) which is kind of a perk.

Next up: http://www.planetearthsingles.com/ Launched on Earth Day 2006, this one caught my eye because it offers green events and conscious retreats, and defines themselves as eco-sexy – which equates to romance in an earth-friendly way: i.e. “…romantic candlelight dinners to save electricity, showering together to save water (oh really) and sleeping in sheets made from 100% cotton, bamboo or hemp.” No mincing words here.

A home-page picture on this next site: http://www.green-passions.com/ made me snicker a bit at first. A man is hugging a rather large tree (compensating for something?) But actually, the visual gets their point across – love me, love my obsession with nature. Enough said?

There are others, but the last one I’m going to talk about is http://www.ecodater.com/ New to the green-scene, 2009, this little upstart boasts it’s “the fastest growing green dating & networking site with members from all over the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, and beyond.” Personally, I’m quite interested in the beyond aspects, but that’s just me. It also fans the romance fires but offering a limited free premium membership. Is this like sitting in first class on the love plane?

I don’t know. Maybe this is just a trend and not something my daughter would be interested in. See, she wants to date, pure and simple. The icing on the cake would be finding someone with like-values and interests – basically what everyone else is looking for, period.

Perhaps the internet is today’s favorite aunt or best friend who knows just the person you’re looking for and offers a portal into the relationship market these days.

But, whether you’re hoping to find your soul-mate or simply get your green-booty call on,  what the heck – trying something new might open a few new doors. It’s all about taking life by the horns (apologies to vegans) and stepping out of your comfort zone.

One thing I am sure of – there are some pretty cool environmentalists out there also looking for love. If your lucky, you just might find each other if you’re willing to let the computer do the walking for you.

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Las Vegas: Green?

I just got back from Sin City. It was a hoot.

Everywhere you look, glamour and glitz, over-the-top decorations and barely topped show girls. I spent most of my time walking The Strip, or the main drag in Vegas, hours and hours of one foot in front of the other, while my head spun around faster than a roulette wheel, trying to take it all in.

Massive themed-buildings towered overhead like monoliths to the great God of greed. For no money at all, I could step into ancient Greece, traipse through New York or even visit Venice. (Ah Venice, as Indiana Jones would say).

And the crowds of people who shuffled alongside me  were just as interesting, as well as the street people hawking their wares – whether CD’s, t-shirts or just the chance to take pictures with them. The latter certainly ran the gamut – Elvis was there, but so were various transformers (quite impressive outfits) as well as Hello Kitty, Yellow M&M and Elmo (isn’t he a bit too young for this crowd?)

And yet, although everything and everyone stood out in their own special way, the one “attraction” I can’t quite get out of my head was the plethora of pornslappers. These are the people who line the sidewalks and hand out trading-card-sized pictures of girls who will “do” you, Vegas style.

Though amazed with the trade itself, what really took me by surprise was the proximity of these hundreds of hander-outers: often only a few feet apart. I tried to reason this as best I could by thinking marketing: the slappers were “covering their asses” so to speak. Case in point, if say a horny passerby happened to be looking up at perhaps a phallic-shaped building and missed getting a card, by having the slappers so close, the aforementioned horny passerby wouldn’t miss getting their Las Vegas freak on and the slappers retained a sale. Good advertising.

But, then again, as an environmentalist I noticed these back-to-back pleasure-card folks were distributing more than just good old-fashioned porn. They were also distributing tons of litter.

It was sort of an OMG moment when I realized that as tittilating as the first one or two cards might be for the common passerby (and yes, the pictures left nothing to the imagination from the waist up) after a while, they lost their sex appeal. Even the loneliest Las Vegas businessman would feel numbing effects after the first dozen or so I would think (not that I can speak for the opposite sex) and instead of accepting the cards which are literally thrust in your face, they would toss the surgically enhanced snapshots. (And yes, Virginia, that’s exactly what happens).

In fact, piles of bountiful beauties in provocative poses fill every nook and cranny of The Strip (and probably every side street crevasse as well, as no open area is sacred in the city of Sin). Even with boob-litter surrounding them, the slappers keep on going, thrusting cards and chatting up their babes as if their lives depended upon getting rid of every augmented picture. (Which might truly be their motivation – I never asked them).

Of course, although the scantily-clad (no, let’s be real: un-clad) women are eye-sores for at least half the population, the resulting litter from the slappers is distressing to everyone, to say the least.

I guess if Vegas, who by the way is upping it’s green image, really wants to clean up it’s act, it could enact legislation that would ban the card-slapping altogether: (although they tried in 2007)

But for now, maybe they could simply encourage mega-wealthy casino owners to part with a smidgen of their hard-earned (yea right) money and place porn card recycle bins along The Strip. That way, at the end of each day, the slappers could come along, riffle through the tossed cards, retrieve their own and hand them out once again. It’s not a perfect solution, but then again, with a problem of this magnitude, or should I say “large” (since size matters in Sin City), you gotta start somewhere.

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