Do We Live in a Post-Environmentalist Society?

At the risk of dating myself, I grew up in the Captain Planet and Fern Gully generation. I participated in Earth Day clean up events before I understood much about the consequences of my ingrained consumerist behavior. When I was a kid, the big environmental problems could be addressed with a grocery bag full of litter and curbside recycling.
This past Earth Day, my normally celebration-happy town square was deserted. I was the only one shopping with cloth bags. I ironically wrote the words “Earth Day” on my “Nature’s Power” themed wall calendar, which had left the square unmarked.

There’s talk of the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, being disbanded. Our National Parks are defunded, and the internet meme is that Smokey Bear is eerily correct … only we can prevent forest fires.
With the CO2 levels in our atmosphere, climatologists are now predicting that there is no way to prevent global climate change.
Do we just give up? Is the environmental battle over? Do we turn in our chasing arrow badges and our planeteer rings?

I would hope that the answer is a resolute and resounding NO! Because, we still haven’t found a replacement Earth. We still live here and we’re still having children and we’re still hoping to eat, to breathe, to drink from the planet we live on. We can’t afford to be blaissez about this issue.
This isn’t a special interest. This is the root of all interests. We can’t eat money. We can’t make products from snapping our fingers together and willing them into existence.

What do we tell our children? That we’re sorry, but the continued existence of life on Earth, and their lives, were just too “fringe” for us to consider?

What Can We Do?

I suggest we do away with “the environment”, a cold, sterile word that seems so “special interest” and refocus on activity that is “Earth-friendly”. Refocus on “Our Planet”. Our connection.
We don’t give up in despair in face of the over-sized problem we’ve fallen into. We fight for as long as we wish to eat, to breathe, to drink, and so on.
You, me, our children and our grandchildren – we’re all in this together. Maybe we all find different solutions to work on. Our interests and specialties may vary, but our passion shouldn’t. This is situation critical. We can’t be lax now.
But if you have no idea what you are going to do. May I humbly make some suggestions to get you started:

  • Consume less stuff. Everything made has an environmental footprint. Check in with yourself before making a purchase. Do I really need this? Will this serve a function in my life?
  • Replace the plastic. If you have a choice between two materials, choose the item that isn’t made from plastic.
  • Avoid single use everything. Figure out how to use and reuse items for as long as you can.
  • Speak up. The reason there was no Earth Day celebration in my local town square, the reason the EPA is in danger of being disbanded, that National Parks are being defunded is because politicians believe we just don’t care. You and I both know this isn’t true.

Notes:

EPA
According to NBC News, in an article written by Avalon Zoppo, “On Feb. 3, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, introduced a bill in the House that would terminate the EPA by the end of 2018”.
How seriously should we take this? The Washington Post published an article reviewing in detail the proposed 2018 budget in an article called “What Trump cut in his budget”. Guess which three letter agency received the largest funding cut.
The Guardian notes, in an article entitled “Donald Trump ‘taking steps to abolish Environmental Protection Agency’”, that eliminating the EPA was a campaign pledge of Trump. The article points to specific and worrying regulations already taking place. “Fears of a purge of EPA climate data, research, and reports have been fuelled by the removal of climate science material on a White House website and a ‘temporary hold’ placed on new publications until they have been vetted by politcal appointees.” (political appointees, not scientists) Let’s be clear, American citizens have funded this research, but we’re not being allowed to have access to the results. For political reasons.

Climate Change

According to a New York Post article, “Carbon dioxide levels hit ‘point of no return’ by Lauren Tousignant, “in 2015, when CO2 levels officially passed 400 ppm, which climate scientists call the ‘point of no return.’ After this mark, they claim, climate change is irreversible.”
Some may think that this is the signal to stop fighting. But consider this, while carbon dioxide is slow to dissipate, methane, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas can trap up to 100 times more heat inside the atmosphere and can dissipate from the atmosphere, if the problem is addressed, much more quickly.
I reiterate: we can’t afford to stop fighting. We may have to change our battle strategy, but we can’t just quit.

Announcement: I’m Trying Something New

I haven’t quit updating or “revisiting” my zero waste behaviors from last year’s challenge. I am choosing to write a little “One Year Later” update within the original post instead. So please check in on your favorite actions from last year and learn how a year’s time has changed my perspectives. You can find these posts in the Eco-Challenges category, the Zero Waste category, or by scrolling way down to the first blog posts on my home page.

Strangely Realistic Faux-Leather (Day 10)

So, this is a question every vegan comes to at some point: to faux-leather (or faux-fur) or not to?

My previous solution was to make it clear that I did not support skin clothing by not wearing anything that resembled it. It helped that most of the faux-furs and faux-leathers in my budget were cheesy (can I use cheesy? 🙂 knock offs.

I wore canvas shoes, for example.

Then, for the holiday season, my husband bought me a pair of really cool looking faux-leather riding boots and a matching faux-leather jacket. I am thrilled. They’re beautiful and well made but don’t support the leather industry directly. (Maybe they lend tacit approval by looking fabulous.)

The difficulty is when you’re trying to explain why you don’t want to accept a leather belt or wool sweater and the person you’re talking to looks you up and down.

I think these faux products have a place. Especially in historical reenactments, the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), LARPs (Live Action Role Play), and Cosplays for vegans and vegetarians who don’t want to compromise their ethics while playing along.

[I also still have animal-based products (mostly in my gear for the above mentioned hobbies, but no longer in my regular wardrobe) that I’m very attached to. Some I hand sewed or wove. Some I thought were more authentic, more beautiful because of their material. It’s kind of an area of cognitive dissonance for me. I haven’t really been able to say goodbye to this stuff out right, though I will work towards finding vegan alternatives and gifting these items as time goes on.]

Anyway, I’m prepared to point out to others that my jacket and boots are not real leather if asked. I might even take the time if I get another up-and-down-judgy look. But there will be so many more people who will make assumptions about my integrity and not ask. There is that running joke about the vegetarian in leather shoes. I was that guy, or gal, I guess who didn’t eat meat, but couldn’t find a viable alternative to her hiking boots when working as a Natural Areas Ranger.

So this begs the question. Should I avoid faux-leather (unless maybe for reenactment / costuming purposes) ? Many vegans say that wearing faux-fur normalizes fur and has led to greater acceptance in our society. Does this also apply to leather? I mean, wearing leather is so universal that it is invisible. People don’t really think of leather as dead skin. So if I avoid faux-leather, will it have any effect? Probably not to strangers.

But to those I know, it could. I will no doubt remain conscious of how real it looks (and that it is made from a petroleum product), but I think I’m safe to give it a try. Maybe it’ll spark an important conversation for someone.

How about you? What do you think about faux-leather? Faux-fur? Are there places where it is more acceptable?

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

 

Face Blend

I use this on my face to clean, moisturize and to “feed” my skin. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 roller bottle
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil
  • 20 drops frankincense essential oil
  • 10 drops melaleuca/tea tree essential oil
  • Jojoba oil to fill

Procedure:

Add ingredients to roller bottle. A small funnel can be very helpful. Fasten the plastic roller bottle on and cap the bottle to prevent oils from evaporating.

Safety Note:

If you use essential oils, please be sure to buy high quality and never use anything labeled for “aromatic purposes only”. Please make safe choices as the essential oil market has a tremendous range in quality.

To Buy DoTERRA:

If you’d like to purchase doTERRA oils, please consider buying them here. Your purchase will help me out at no extra cost to you.

Baby Bottoms and Landfill Diapers (Revisited)

I just finished filming a video on my new diaper stash today. Then I sit down to discover that this was also the topic of today’s eco-challenge revisit.

Last year, I made resolutions to use cloth diaper wipes and to try to get my younger son outfitted in a cloth diaper as often as I could with my remaining stash. I figured that potty training was pretty imminent for both boys. I also didn’t know we were going to have another baby.

The overall effect of these resolutions were pretty minimal. I ended up laundering wipes and taking bag after bag of diapers to the garbage can. There’s just no going zero waste as a parent of small children without coming to terms with this issue.

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So, a year later, my oldest son is wearing underwear to pre-school and having at least one landfill diaper a day for bedtime. We’re trying to keep him in underwear, but he has frequent accidents and sometimes we just give in to his lack of attention by outfitting him with a landfill diaper. We’ve introduced a “potty watch” to remind him to go to the bathroom.

My second born tends to wear landfill diapers all day long and at night. We use cloth wipes for bum cleaning and he experiments with the potty.

Going Forward

Since we had to renew our supply in anticipation for our incoming baby, I’ve decided to outfit my second born in the new cloth diapers day and night. He might be done with diapers in 9 month’s time. Maybe. If not, I would guess that getting the older boys nighttime diapers will complete the cloth picture.

I anticipate a complete switch to cloth by the end of this month with much more underwear and pottying practice. The only exception would be a landfill diaper for my eldest at night and, if the new diaper laundry detergent can work its magic, we might be able to resurrect some of the old Bumgenius diapers for night time use.

So, I’m much happier with this zero waste resolution now. How about you? Did you dodge the diaper bullet in your zero waste journey? How do you answer the waste issue if you have kids? Let me know in the comments below!

Three Simple Tools to Change Your Life

Tool #1: Limits

I find it strange that I can wake up in the morning so full of gratitude. There is food in the pantry, a roof over my head, water, heat, and clothes waiting for me after I shower. I live in a comfortable home with security and love. All my needs are met. Then, I go to buy some winter boots (you know, not utilitarian, but trendy) and find a beautiful, faux-leather jacket, a blouse, and a pair of Pjs that look and feel oh, so comfortable. Where did all that contentment go? Suddenly, I experience the lack of things that I didn’t know existed this morning.

Many of us, myself included, confuse our needs with wants. I submit to you that it is the pursuit of unquenchable desires, rather than our basic needs, that sabotages our happiness. Needs are finite and few. For survival, we need air, water, food, shelter, heat/temperature regulation, and security. Any decent survival guide can teach you this.

Our wants are boundless, limitless, and striving after something that can have no end results in never feeling satisfied.

I’m not saying that everyone should eschew trendy boots or that faux-leather jacket. There are useful and beautiful things that can bring joy (until they fall apart). I am saying that I believe we could all benefit from focusing first on our needs, and then putting some kind of cap on our wants. Minimalists use this trick all the time. The exact practice of limits will vary from person to person. Two pairs of pants can feel meager – unless you’re living out of a back pack. A two-story home with a book habit might benefit from limiting books to one shelf.

The lesson here is that we can all be masters of our limitations and see how putting a self-imposed cap on accumulation can free us to experience not lack but plenty.

I mean, who doesn’t want to be happier while saving money?

Tool #2: Know Your Core Values

I’ve slogged through to-do lists without an ounce of passion. Who hasn’t? I’ve signed on to a job that has brought me no joy. Again, who hasn’t? I’ve felt that familiar desire to bolt, screaming, from the reality that I’ve found myself in.

I mean, I’ve worked at McDonald’s. As an environmentalist. As a vegetarian. And while my example may be specific to me, we all find ourselves at one time or another completely out of sync with what matters to us.

This is why the second tool can save you time and frustration. It can lead you to follow a life of meaning and alignment with your values. Your life can be infused with passion.

I can’t tell you what your values should be because they are unique to you. You won’t feel passion for another’s list. But identifying what matters to you can help you make the great life decisions that you deserve.

How do you do this? Start by thinking about a time when you were proud of yourself. Why were you so proud? How about when you were really happy? Create a list of qualities that you aspire to and spend some time with them. Are two pretty much the same thing? Is one thing more important than another?

I have a numbered list from 1 to 10. And everything on that list infuses my life with passion. I have begun to go to that list when it comes to the big decisions. And, every day, I feel more in sync with my core values.

Tool #3: Clutter Control

Clutter is the meaningless stuff that fills spaces in our lives. Ultimately, clutter can crowd out what we really want. It can add stress and steal joy.

We can have clutter in our homes (that garage that no one wants to enter – filled with forgotten stuff that breeds resentment). We can have cluttered schedules too. Since all of us only have 24 hours each day, why do we crowd our free time with the hobbies of yesteryear? Clutter control can take away stress and leave time for friends, family, and those hobbies we do love. Clutter can even invade our minds and hearts when we worry over problems we have no control over, invite toxic relationships to stay, or spin our wheels in circles over the mysteries or vagaries of life.

Of these kinds of clutter, the clutter of our spaces is often the easiest place to start. Most people begin with the physical stuff crowding them and when they discover the advantages of living with less, they begin to apply the philosophy to their schedules and thoughts too.

If you’re eager to start decluttering now, begin looking around you. Is there one thing you own that doesn’t bring happiness? Isn’t useful? Can it be sold, given, re-purposed, recycled? And if you continued with one thing every day for 365 days, what would your home and life be like in one year?

I hope that these tools bring value to your life.

Composting Floor Scraps

Almost everything picked up with my broom or vacuum cleaner is compostable. 

Whether it’s the mountain of food accumulated under the dinner table after feeding my young kids or the popcorn crumbs in the living room after movie night, or the dirt tracked in on a rainy day or the “magical” mess that appears every day. It’s almost all compostable. 

That said, I’m going to pick out the stray plastic item off my dustpan and dump the remainder in the compost bin. And I’m going to empty my vacuum cleaner’s canister over the compost pile! (No more dust storm inside the house!)

(I’m never going back to a vacuum cleaner that requires a bag.)

It’s actually amazing that I didn’t even consider this before my aha! moment. But all these scraps previously went in my garbage.

How About You?

Does the idea of composting your floor waste strike you as odd? Or is it already a part of your routine? And if it is something you already do, was it going zero waste that made you do it? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!