I wrote the following in my personal journal… I’m at home today after having my wisdom teeth taken out. I’m a little hungry, a little swollen, and enjoying the soothing effects of vicodin despite my position on most medications. This entry will not provide you with helpful links or recipes, but I hope it will provide you with something to get you thinking and more information on who I am as a person, beyond being a blogger with an alias. I hope to hear some feedback from you readers I would love to hear your thoughts.

me: hi honey
Jon: hey you!
bah you beat me
how you doing?
me: 🙂
emotional as hell
i finished watching sicko
and was crying for the last 20 minutes or so
4:18 PM Jon: wow, i heard it was pretty powerful
me: the revelations of injustices are generally powerful
4:19 PM Jon: like i told you, the head of one of the nations biggest health care providers sent that memo that got leaked whree the first sentence was something like “The only way anyone watching this movie isn’t going to get emotionally affected is if they don’t have a pulse” and thats from the effective enemy of the movie
me: yeah
its interesting because the whole cuba 9-11 fire fighters thing wasn’t until the end of the movie
4:20 PM it was mostly about health care options in other countries
mainly Canada, the UK and France
it made me want to move to france
😛
Jon: hehe
or canada!
me: i dont think canada has government paid nannies
4:21 PM or mandatory 5+ weeks of vacation for part time employees
its like all the major western countries are moving towards the lifestyle i am aiming for
Jon: yeah most of europe has crazy vacation
me: and we’re living in their dust
4:22 PM Jon: like dad was saying about the grand canyon etc
me: yeah
i just dont see how this is possible when we are supposedly the greatest nation on earth
Jon: yeah i know
4:23 PM me: we have a lot of smart people in this country, i truly believe that
i just dont know where the fuck theyre all hiding right now

As I wrapped up my conversation with Jon the Beatles “Revolution” popped into my head. Through my swollen cheeks and lips I managed to hum the beat and mouth a couple words. I thought about the history I’ve fallen in love with tales of love fests in golden gate park, hippies putting flowers into the barrels of police guns during protests, Rosa Parks not moving, MLK’s sit ins… that was here. That was America.

That… was America. Now we live in a society in fear of and controlled by the government. We perform our duties with out question. We clock in 9-5 M-F and live in sprawls of tract houses, shop in Walmarts and- as far as I’ve seen- don’t think much about the possibilities of something different.

This post isn’t about the movie Sicko nor is it about health care for all! or a free college education. Its about what we Americans deem as important and what we are willing to do to make sure our government also sees that it is important.

Maybe its the vicodin talking, but I want to be apart of a revolution. I want to bust out shop windows with bricks and turn over cars. I want my government to fear this five foot two, one hundred and ten pound body. I want them to listen to me.

And yes for ages I have talked about wanting to move outside of the US… first to New Zealand and then Canada and then Amsterdam and South America and Spain and France… but I’d be running away from the problem.

By escaping the problems this country faces by changing addresses sure I might end up with free health care, my future children might have free college educations, I might spend 5 weeks out of each year on “holiday”I might be happier.

But where would that leave you? Or the rest of my family? The rest of my community? The rest of my country? You would still be facing these problems head on. Some living in fear everyday that Gosh I hope I don’t get sick because… I can’t afford it.

I understand that packing my bags and running away is not the answer. But how much change can I make alone?

What if for one day a spark ignited in everyone’s mind and they turned off their television and thought for a moment about their day, their life, their career, their country. What if for one day they stopped being afraid of the inconveniences our government can put on them… and they spoke.

What would we say?

We are the United States of America, the united states… if we stood bound together by the rage, disappointment, and passion ignited within us at the realization of all the injustices going on in this land of fruited plains. Would the America we live in still be so beautiful? Or would the community we are finally choosing to stand up and be apart of be more beautiful than any amber wave of grains or spacious sky could ever be?

And if we stood together who could deny our demands? Who could continue to give a united people injustice and ill treatment? Who then could not be afraid of US?

In my lifetime I hope I am able to witness change. And I hope to be at the front lines of rallies, marches, and other protests. I hope my soft spoken voice can rise above others and truly fight to be heard, and I most certainly hope that those in charge learn to fear me– not out of violent acts mind you, but out of the realization of all the potential we have.

With a perspective,
Lilea Duran
Sonoma, CA

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Photo courtesy Flickr

I visited my father in Las Vegas, NV over the past week. I realized early on how much of a bubble I had been living in here in the cozy hills of Sonoma, CA.

My biggest realization hit the day we went grocery shopping. I decided to cook for my siblings, father, and of course Jon while there– mostly to take advantage of the gorgeous kitchen my dad has. We worked as a team in the local grocery store harvesting items off the shopping list from various shelves and bins.

I was stunned to find no local produce. The organics section was small and didn’t offer much. I hoped to find some organic meat and my dad simply replied “You’re in Vegas” with a laugh.

Its true. As I looked around my eyes were filled with the glittering lights from slot machines just past the cash registers and the swirling fumes of cigarettes. Some of my family members joked about nothing being able to grow in a place like that. My heart sank. Honestly the experience left me depressed. Not only did I feel alien in such a place, I also felt disattached from reality. Is this how people live? I wondered as I watched a lady in a bright colored baseball cap and leggings take a long drag of her cigarette. Has nothing changed?

A cashier rung up my purchase. A bagger asked if I would like paper or plastic, I said neither and handed him my own bags. Their expressions were a mixture of confusion and disgust. The bagger delicately filled my hemp bags stained with juice from farmers’ market berries like he would catch some disease.

My hope and pride in the “Green Movement” felt punctured. The bubble I called home in Sonoma felt fake. What have I been trying to convince myself of?

I visited The Strip and walked through casinos, at night I looked out over the ocean of multi colored light, I read and wrote and pondered how people were living in Sin City. How anyone could allow themselves to be so wasteful and so oblivious to the damage they are responsible for.

At one point I had had enough. Jon and I went in search of Las Vegas’ Whole Foods Market. Back in Sonoma I knew a man who called it “The Evil Empire” since it was taking patrons away from the local grocery stores and health food stores… here in the desert it felt like a safe haven. I stepped out of the blistering heat to suddenly find myself sampling fair trade chocolate and looking at jars of local honey.

I made some purchases and when asked if I wanted paper or plastic I smiled and said neither as I handed the bagger my own bags. The cashier beamed. The bagger turned to her and said “That’s four in a row!” The cashier let out a booming laugh as she remarked “MY customers are Good people, they bring their Own bags.”

A spark ignited in my head. All was not lost. Even in Sin City there are those who care and take responsibility for their actions. Just in front of me had been 3 customers who took the time to BYOB (Bring your own bag) in this city of all places!

I practically skipped with joy as I walked out of the store. On the way out I passed ladies talking about the benefits of fair trade, hybrid cars, and dozens of like minded people walking, biking, and driving back into the bowels of Las Vegas continuing to try and walk the walk despite the obstacles the city throws in their way.

Many of my family members and friends have given up on environmental awareness concluding it is too difficult because it is not accessible to them because of their location, living situation, etc. Visiting Las Vegas showed me that even in the most unlikely of places a Green lifestyle is attainable. If you can look beyond the canned corn and flashing marquees you can find sanity in small, sustainable everyday actions.

If you, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or anyone you know have doubted the sustainable lifestyle rethink it. Maybe last time you tried it the changes you attempted were too drastic, too unrealistic. Maybe you didn’t have the support you needed to make living lightly on the Earth permanent. Maybe its time to give it another go. Start small and work your way up.

You never know whose live you’ll impact by bringing your own grocery bag.

//www.morganlovell.co.uk Sustainable Office Design

I was sifting through my emails this morning among the spam emails for replica purses, calendar reminders to go to the bank today, and strange chain emails my mother constantly forwards me… I found todays CoopAmerica newsletter. The headlines intrigued me as usual and I figured reading up on TheGreenOffice.com would give me some advice to pass along to my younger brother before he moves to college this weekend.

As I scrolled down to the article my eyes caught an advertisement on the side panel… and off my attention went. Soon I was reading about the “holistic, alcohol free, vegan, intrinsically political, community building experience” that is Sustainable Energy in Motion‘s bicycle tour. My eyes wandered and once more diverted my attention as I caught their slogan: What are YOU doing to CHANGE the world?

What was this feeling? Assault? I stopped reading and in my head began trying to name all the environmentally friendly things I do and tried to justify the not so environmentally friendly things I do. I cleared away my anxiety as I realized the question would not be intended as an assault, but as a serious question to get you thinking about your actions.

So what do I do? What do you do? I decided to compile a list of simple things everyone should be able to do to change the world.

My feelings always seem most passionate when there is something wrong close to home. I greatly sympathize with the passing bumper stickers that shout “Think Globally, Act Locally,” though many of my actions, like not purchasing cane sugars for example, have an impact I cannot directly see. It is the small injustices that can seem easier to deal with they don’t overwhelm us to a point where our actions seem insignificant.

A side story:

A few weeks ago, the managers at the company I work for decided to blow off some steam by having a cocktail party after work. The managers in all departments were invited, the sales department was invited- which included my partner Jon, and since Jon was invited I was invited.  Jon told me about the invitation and honestly I think he was a little excited to get to go along to such an event… I on the other hand was outraged.

This isn’t fair I told him. Why is it that only the managers and sales department are invited ? Everyone in our company, everyone in our company is working  just as hard as anyone else. Everyone is taking pay cuts and working extra hours and on weekends to help our company come out of the tough slump it is currently in.

If our co-workers are getting together to blow off some steam it should be an invitation extended to everyone who needs to blow off some steam and not only extended to those who managed to reach a certain status or be hired into a certain department.

As I spoke I thought about the co-workers I have in my department.  One of the ladies  apologizes for getting emotional when under stress. Another has a sick mother who is under going  a risky operation soon, she’s  changed her schedule to come in  two hours early every morning (6AM) so that she can leave 2 hours early to be with her mother. The engineers at our company haven’t had a weekend in months since they are trying to finish a difficult project. Why did these wonderful people, these hard workers not deserve an invitation?

I declined the invitation as did Jon. The next day I listened as managers cracked jokes about sake bombs.

As I write this the question once more pops into my head: What are YOU doing to CHANGE the world?

In the workplace

Since we are on the topic of work already, I figure that’s a good place to start.

#1  Follow your values

When I was in high school I didn’t have a good perception of working a “real” job. My father would come home most nights complaining about how his boss treated him badly, took advantage of his skills, or is forcing him to work overtime this weekend. Often times this would change the plans we had as a family and I quickly learned I disliked my dad’s job and his employer. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could get stuck in a job they disliked… Why can’t he just quit? I would often wonder.

Now that I’m older and have received more experience in the job world I realize that following your values isn’t always easy. However, if you desire happiness I can’t stress how important it is.

Following your values can mean many things. Perhaps you dislike violence, but work at a company that manufactures weaponry… why not work at a company that promotes peace and non violence through their work? Perhaps you believe in having high self worth, but work in an environment where your superiors often take advantage of your skills and abilities by making you work overtime or toss you more projects than you can comfortably handle… why not work in a place where your abilities are used in projects that follow what you support? Why not work in an environment where you are comfortable in saying “No” without feeling like you will be chastised? Perhaps you believe in developing a strong family unit and raising your children with your personal values… what will coming home every night complaining about how much you dislike your job teach them? What example do you want to set?

In today’s world our jobs often become the majority of our lives. Because of our jobs we develop a status, because of our jobs we are able to make decisions about where we can or cannot go for vacations, what we can and cannot buy, what we wear in and out of the office, and what we do with our free time. Because of this it is incredibly important to think about our jobs beyond what type of pay check they will offer us. Beyond what type of health care benefits we will receive. If we are spending 40 hours of our time a week at our job, what are we doing with that time? What are we promoting? And do these answers match up with what we want to be doing with our time? What we want to be promoting?

If not then perhaps its time to take a leap and leave our current positions and seek out something that will fulfill and enrich our lives. There are plenty of jobs in this world that could change the world for the better. Whether you want to educate others on native plants and wild life, tutor children in low-income communities, work on renewable energy, bring organic foods to those in need, or whether you simply want to fall asleep assured that the actions of your company will have positive impacts on this and future generations… there is a job out there for you. Here are a few links to help you start looking:

http://www.ecoemploy.com

http://www.greenjobs.com/public/index.aspx

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/jobs/

#2 In the small things

What can you do to help your office be more green? It could be as simple as setting up a recycling center for your department, bringing in your old coffee mugs to reuse in place of plastic or paper ones, or reusing printed drafts as scratch paper.

Many people forget (or just don’t know) how easily they can reduce their waste so spread your wisdom.

Your voice deserves to be heard, don’t be afraid to talk about your ideas or make suggestions to make your office greener.  Ask your boss to think about how much money the company could save if they installed a water filter in place of buying bottled water, or how much money would be saved on paper and ink if your company had a printer that offered double sided printing and a “draft” print option, how about getting everyone a stapler alternative that is reusable?

#3 Organize

Transportation: If co-workers live near by you organizing a car pool would help reduce emissions. If you and you co-workers live near the office organizing a bike to work day will not only help with exercise and allow us to explore our community beyond our windshields, but you will be able to share the knowledge of and experience first hand the wonders of self-sustaining transportation.

Waste reduction: The company I work for organizes an electronic waste removal drive within the company every six months. This means every six months you can bring in old TVs, broken computer monitors, and other electronics that would be dangers in the land fill and one of our co-workers will drive to the electronic recycling center with a truck full of goods to safely dispose of. This helps keep electronics out of our landfills and spreads awareness of proper waste disposal. You can also set up a free table at the office where co-workers can bring in all those items they no longer need but are too good to throw out. Kind of like Freecycling. Bring in your old junk may not seem like a big deal, but consider the ripple effect… by donating your items to someone else you are 1. Keeping waste out of already crowded landfills, 2. Getting as much use out of an item as possible, 3. Giving someone something they might really need, 4. Saving our resources by giving someone the opportunity to not buy, etc.

Nearly four decades ago Neil Armstrong hailed our technological victories as “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” apply the same statement to the small victories we experience daily when we recycle, compost, or choose fair trade bananas over commercially grown ones. These actions may seem small and perhaps even insignificant today, but these are the same actions inspiring and educating those around us. These are the same actions that will pave a more sustainable future in the days ahead.

Tune in next time for more world changing tips in your house, car, and… life!

Nosegay from About

When we shut our eyes and think of weddings our heads become filled with many iconic images of these ceremonies. The cake with plastic bride and groom toppers, the dress worn by the bride, and the cute little flower girl tossing petals!

Flowers (and flower petals) play a big role in some wedding ceremonies. They are used in the flower girl’s role, decorations, and that famous bouquet tossed by the bride.

Commercial flower production is labor intensive and growers often use herbicides and pesticides to deal with “damaging pests” like caterpillars, mites, beetles, and whiteflies.  Tina M. Smith, the Extension Educator at the University of Massachusetts’ Floriculture Program states: “Unfortunately, not all of the material you apply actually reaches the target insect” What doesn’t reach the insect ends up in our air, soil, and water. Commercial flower productions can also be an unhealthy and abusive environment for those who work there. One article from organic consumers called the working conditions “sweatshops in the greenhouses.”

But don’t fret! There are options for finding beautiful, socially and environmentally responsible flowers for your special day.

Be Organic

Along with helping find local farms, vegetarian restaurants, and farmers’ markets Local Harvest can also help you find  organic flower growers in your area. Just enter your zip code!

California Organic Flowers also offers a wedding / party pack of 12 large bouquets that can be shipped overnight to anywhere in the US.  These flowers come from CCOF Terra Bella Farm in Pleasanton , CA.
EcoFlora the Fair Trade & Organic florist for my friends to the North.

Be Fair 

TransFair USA started a fair trade program for flower growers and workers. This fair trade label would assure that those working with the flowers are protected from pesticides, fair wages, child care, and more.  The label also assures that flowers are grown organically and sustainably.

If you are involved with flowers in retail, wholesale, import, or production I highly recommend you look into this fair trade program.

Be wild!

You can cut back on electricity, emissions, and cost by picking your own local wildflowers in place of flowers that are shipped across the country or stored in a fridge at the florist. If you have time (and space) you can also try growing your own wildflowers so you can get the colors and styles you would prefer.

When creating your own bouquet think about what style you would like before you go picking. This will make it easier to decide what you need to pick. If you don’t know your nosegay from your sceptre check out these links:
http://www.aboutflowers.com/holidays_b1e.html

http://www.weddingflowersdenver.com/weddingbouquetstyles.htm 

You may also find it helpful to read up on flower arranging or how to make specific types of bouquets you might be interested in, like a hand-tied bouquet, prior to starting your own.

If you do decide to go with a vendor, make sure you are getting bang for your buck. Check out these questions to ask a vendor prior to placing your order: YourWeddingCompany

Incorporate you conscious blooms beyond your bouquet.  Flower girls can easily toss  small wildflowers or fair trade rose petals, the groom and groomsmen can use local greens, mosses, berries, and flowers in their boutonniere, centerpieces and other decor can incorporate wild flowers, fruit, branches, and vegetables or you can use potted plants that guests can later take home.

Image from Get Conscious

You may not know it, but your humble blogger is currently engaged and actively planning a wedding!

My partner and I started planning several months ago. We came up with a list of all the people we wanted to invite, sampled caterers, found a location, looked at dresses and rings and realized not only could we not afford to pay for all this stuff and invite everyone we wanted, but the plans we were making did not follow our core values. They did not promote sustainability and we were compromising our tastes to be traditional.

So we came to a cross road, either forget tradition and start over or start cutting back the invite list until it was affordable.

We like our friends and family so we chose them over tradition.

Our wedding is still in the planning stages, but already I feel I have tid bits of experience to share with others entering a similar situation:

First and Foremost this is your day

My mother in law stopped my partner and I early on in our engagement when we decided to have a secular wedding and told us in the nicest possible way that the day was not about us and we would be upsetting many of our family members by not having a traditional Christian wedding. We have had many odd looks when making decisions about our wedding everything from not wanting to have bridesmaids or groomsmen to others discovering that I asked Him to marry me.

This was incredibly discouraging at first, but I remembered a conversation with a lady at a jewelry store when we were shopping for rings. She said “Remember this is your day. Ultimately you do not need caterers or a band, you don’t need to invite hundreds of people, you don’t need to buy a fancy dress. You just need each other, the rings, someone to marry you… and a photographer is always nice.”

Taking a deep breath after you dive into planning a wedding is important. Remember this event is about you and your partner. Be comfortable, be yourselves, and have a good time.

Here comes the bride

Ok, now that we have the understanding that the event is about the couple… lets remember that all eyes will be on the bride! I’m not saying its right or that I agree with it, but its bound to happen so ladies show off some sustainable style!

Dresses

When contemplating your wedding dress there are 3 environmentally friendly options.

1. You can buy a dress made from sustainable materials such as hemp silk.

Check out these options:

2. You can recycle

Vintage gowns can be a great blast from the past. Reusing a family heirloom can cut costs tremendously (just pay for tailoring!)

Try these:

You can also look for vintage dresses in consignment, resale, thrift and antique shops. Or try ebay!

3. Get out the thread and needle

Working with a tailor to custom make your wedding dress will allow you to express yourself creatively and get the exact results you want. If you are looking into custom making your dress you should also look into sustainable fabrics like those found here:

Personally

I am combining option #2 and #3 and customizing a vintage dress!

I hope these dress tips help in planning your own green wedding. Stay tuned for more wedding tips!

Looking for advice on turning a particular situation green? Leave a comment or send me an email!

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