Archive for December, 2013

December 25, 2013

Environmindful Monday Tip #7

I had the best intentions of writing an inspiring post on Monday. I was going to take a little twist on the theme of Environmindful Monday.

Monday’s tip was going to be about doing something to be kind in the environment around us; the people we meet, pass by the street, see in a store or ride the elevator with.

My tip was going to be: Hold the door. I thought it sounded simple and some of you may already do this, and I was going to suggest applying that concept everywhere you go and in everything you do.

I was going to suggest you hold the door for whomever is behind you, hold the elevator door for the person coming down the hall, ask what floor they are going to and push the button for them. Let someone go in front of you in line (no matter how long the line is). Let someone have that parking spot you were waiting for.

Be of service, in some small way, to everyone you encounter.  Do it with a smile and expect nothing in return. Don’t be offended if you don’t get a thank you. Keep doing it. All day. 

Get coffee for a coworker who you wouldn’t normally grab coffee for (even if you don’t drink coffee yourself).  Do something small, do something nice, then feel what it feels like, deep down inside, to do it “just because”.

This is a busy time of year. People are darting from place to place,  stores are busy and lines are long.  You can feel the stress and could cut the tension in the air with a knife.

I was going to tell you that each of us has the opportunity to make a positive change the environment around us and collectively we can make an even greater impact. I was going to tell you to go out, be merry. Spread happiness and cheer. Be compassionate,  and be gracious because we may never know the value of our actions.

We may help a tired parent get home to their family in time to hug their children before bed, we might help someone be on time for a meeting or we may simply put a smile on someone’s face.

But then something changed. I was out and about, wrapping up the last of my Christmas shopping and was in stores long after they should have been closed.

Heading out after dinner I was grounded, happy, holding doors, smiling,  letting others go first.  Then something happened.  I can’t explain it. The next thing I knew I was in the parking lot screaming at a lady who tried to bully me with the brush guard on her SUV as it was coming at the door of my little car while I backed out of my spot… and I lost it.

Maybe it was that all the holiday rush caught up to me. Maybe it was because my lips were dry and split when I smiled at the last person. Maybe it was because when I tried to take a deep breath in as I got into my car, the frigid, subzero air sucked the life out of my lungs and left me gasping for oxygen.

Whatever the case, rather than being calm and compassionate, when she accelerated at my car, I reacted. I screamed at the lady with the big red eyes and a gigantic scowl on her face, “Seriously?!?  You were at the opposite end of the row when I started backing out!!!  Since when does driving a big fat SUV give you right of way? Where are you going in such a hurry anyway? Nobody else is open at this godforsaken hour! ”

I continued, yelling at her in my rear view mirror too, finally ending with, “MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU TOO!”

Maybe she had a crummy day and just wanted to get home OR maybe she’s the spawn of The Grinch. Whatever the reason for her actions she got the best of me.

So you didn’t hear from me Monday because I didn’t want to be a hypocrit.

But I will say this… I still think we can change our environment. So be nice. Smile. Be caring. Be compassionate. And, yes, hold the door.  At the very least, don’t bully people in parking lots for they may wish for you to get coal in your stocking!

In all seriousness, I wish you and yours a very happy, safe and healthy holiday season and hope someone holds the door for you.

image

Peace

Kate

Advertisements
December 16, 2013

Environmindful Monday Tip #4, #5 and #6 (Tips For a No-Waste Holiday)

Here we are again at Environmindful Monday.

This week, with the holidays quickly approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to share a couple/few holiday preparation tips.

In all honestly, this is one big tip split into three parts: Ditch Disposables!

While attending a rather large business dinner earlier this week, it was glaringly obvious to me that it has become way to easy for us to create garbage, particularly at the holidays. It’s no secret that we generate literally tons of trash with gift wrap every year, but the volume of paper and plastic plates, plastic ware, paper and plastic cups and glasses is no better.  It has become commonplace, particularly when having a large gathering to use disposable, well, everything.  What I realized at the dinner I was at was that it didn’t even phase most of the people in the room as to the volume of trash we created in a matter of minutes.  I commented to one person as I carried the pile of heavy-duty plastic plates from my table, that it kills me to throw them away.  She responded with a smile and, “I know!”.  I was briefly relieved to hear that, thinking she understood.  Just a minute later she proceeded to tell me how she brought the same plastic plates for Thanksgiving, had her kids paint hand and foot turkeys on them and then glued another clear plate on top of the first one so the food wouldn’t rest on the paint.  Then she proudly said, “Then we through them all away after dinner!  Simple clean-up!”  I thought I was going to lose my dinner right there on the spot.  My head spun with thoughts of, “Oh, Lord. She used two plates for every person there!”  “She already told me she has three kids, that means she’s training three of them that it’s okay to double your waste for easy clean-up.”  Oh, yes the thoughts carried on, but I’ll stop there.

This post is not meant to rant, rather to encourage everyone who reads it and who forwards it to their friends and family members, who forward it to their friends and family members, to make it a goal to ditch disposable this holiday season (And better yet forever!) and opt, instead, for something reusable both in gift wrapping and in serving ware.

Environmindful Monday Tip #4

  • Rid yourself of wrapping paper and wrap in something re-useful. Instead of buying, wrapping, ripping and tossing wrapping paper, consider using reusable gift bags, scarfs (the wrap becomes part of the gift), burlap, baskets, buckets, flower pots, pots and pans and grocery bags.  Coordinate your container with your gift!
Burlap Bag

Burlap Bag

Trader Joes Bag Gift Wrap

Trader Joe’s Bag Gift Wrap

Chalkboard Painted Grocery Bag

Chalkboard Painted Grocery Bag

Vintage Lidded Pot

Vintage Lidded Pot

Environmindful Monday Tip #5

  • Ditch Disposable! Use “real” dishes, glasses and flatware instead. It doesn’t have to be your finest china, although it could be if you felt so inclined, but by choosing something that lasts over something fast you will help make an impact and minimizing waste whether it’s entertaining for the holidays or everyday dinner.  There are so many options available for this.  If you don’t mind mixing and matching, heading to thrift stores and second-hand stores can be a fun, inexpensive way to come up with dishes and flatware for a few or a crowd.  If you like uniformity, you can etch mismatched glasses, use Sharpies to create a design on dishware and use beading or dip the handles on flatware to create symmetry.  Other inexpensive options to purchase something new are IKEA and Pier1 among other stores.  Oh, and the “I hate washing dishes!” excuse?  Good news!  Studies have found that dishwashers use less water than hand-washing dishes!  Don’t have a dishwasher?  What better way to bond with family and friends over the holidays than conversation in the kitchen after dinner!
Mismatched Plates

Mismatched Plates

Dipped Flatware

Dipped Flatware

Etched Glasses

Etched Glasses

 

Environmindful Monday Tip #6

  • Opt for cloth.  Napkins are another use n’ toss item and just in my own personal observation, often times they get used to wipe a finger or two or mouth once during a meal, then it’s tossed and a fresh one is grabbed for dessert.  Or worse yet, a fresh pile of napkins is placed on a table, never touched during the meal, but the whole pile hits the trash when the meal is over.  Cloth napkins don’t have to be anything fancy.  In fact, it could be anything from a basic white cotton napkin, to Grandma’s old stash, to a crafted napkin from an old dress shirt, to an assortment of colors with something stamped on them. Or use the napkins as placeholders by putting your guests names or a message on them with fabric markers.   Get creative.  Your napkins just might become part of the holiday conversation!
Oxford Napkins

  Oxford Napkins

Tea Towel Napkins

Tea Towel Napkins

Upcycled Denim Napkins

Upcycled Denim Napkins – Just think how cute snowflakes would be on these!

 

Fabric Marker Message Napkins

Fabric Marker Message Napkins

eat drink be merry stamped napkin

eat drink be merry stamped napkin

So there you have it.  Three great tips for a no-waste holiday and a table filled with conversation pieces!

Be mindful.  And remember, no waste = more green space!

Kate

 

 

December 10, 2013

Environmindful Monday Tip #3

If I were to be paid a dollar for every one of my good intentions that slipped away I would be sitting on a beach in Maui sipping Mai Tais, but alas, I’m not.  Instead, I’m sitting in my home in Minnesota looking out on a white-blanket-covered-landscape on this brisk, 4 degree, -11 windchill, Tuesday morning writing my Monday post.

Why?  Well let me tell you.  Back in the sweltering heat of August, I signed on with Norwex to be an Independent Sales Consultant.  With this new job, much like the gardening related work I do during the summer, I don’t work the traditional 9am – 5pm, nor do I work a standard Monday – Friday.  Instead, I work when it works best for my customers, which means I pay closer attention to the date than day of the week, so it is easy for me to lose track of what day it is.  It also means that when I woke up today… I thought it was Monday.  It wasn’t until I was getting my son ready for school that I realized I’d already gotten a uniform ready and packed a lunch once this week which meant, yikes!  Today is Tuesday! I didn’t do my Environmindful Monday post yesterday!

So, in the spirit of keeping my good intentions in motion and keeping the ball rolling on Environmindful Monday Tips, if it’s alright with you, I thought I would just proceed forward pretending today is Monday and post another tip.

Environmindful Monday Tip #3

  • Reuse envelopes for grocery lists. We all get envelopes in the mail, almost daily, and sometimes we even get an envelope inside an envelope. Rather than just tossing envelopes in the recycling bin, there are some great ways to reuse them.  Typically there is only printing one side of the envelope, which leaves the other side clear for reuse.  And… envelopes just happen to be a great size for a grocery list.  But wait!  They also come with the added bonus of a pocket perfect for holding coupons!  As you find a coupon for your future grocery trip, slip it in the envelope, add your item to your list and when you’re ready to go shopping just grab your list and go!  (Slick and slick, right?)

We keep a stash of envelopes in a drawer in our kitchen to use for grocery lists and scratch paper, but I keep another stash in my office because they are also great for stashing checks/cash to take to the bank: cash on the inside, itemized list of deposits on the outside.

IMAG6045

We hold our grocery list to the side of the refrigerator with clip with a magnet on the back.

IMAG6047  IMAG6048  IMAG6049

You could also easily make a full tablet, similar to this notebook my son made at the Green Gifts Fair by punching two holes in the top of a pile of envelopes, pushing a rubber band through the holes and looping the ends of the rubber band around a popsicle stick, stick or other found object (such as cut up game board as shown in the photo).

That’s the tip for this week.  See you in 6, if not sooner.

Less waste = more green space.

Be. Mindful.

Kate

December 2, 2013

Environmindful Monday Tips

IMG_3472

It was November 18th, I was driving my car heading to my physical therapy appointment.  My mind was racing, thinking about all of the things I needed to do that day.  Remember this.  Don’t forget that.  Write that down when you park the car.  Send yourself a message to call that person back. Then the report on the radio, that had been nothing more than a hum in the background of my noisy thoughts just moments ago, caught my ear.  They had a guest on from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and were about to release a waste composition report, called The demographics of garbage: What are Minnesotans really throwing away? highlighting the current recycling trends in Minnesota.  Awesome!  I was so excited.  (Okay, yes, I know, I get excited by weird stuff.)  Did I have enough time to listen?  I checked the time.  If they time it right I will.

I was so excited, sitting there in my car smiling, because I was certain I was going to hear good news.  I was positive they were going to tell me that Minnesota is making some serious headway, that things are starting to look up.  They were going to tell me that Minnesota folks are “getting it”, catching on and realizing that recycling and being mindful about waste is as straight forward as tieing your shoes.  They were going to say that we have less waste than the last time they did this study and that we are a great example for the rest of the United States.

But that isn’t what I heard.  In fact, for this urban farming, tree-hugging, enviro-friendly, sustainable, permie, green girl… the news was devastating.  Instead, they reported the following:

  • The amount of plastic thrown away has increased from 11 percent of the waste stream to 18 percent since 2000.
  • Paper in the waste stream has decreased from 34 percent to 25 percent, likely due to decreased printing of newspapers.
  • Twelve thousand tons, or 24 million pounds, of aluminum beverage containers were discarded in Minnesota in 2012—the equivalent of 3.6 million aluminum cans per day.
  • Over 543,000 tons (1 billion pounds) of recyclable paper were discarded in Minnesota in 2012.
  • 21,000 tons (41 million pounds) of PET beverage container plastic were discarded in 2012.
  • Organics (food) accounts for 31 percent of the waste stream, which is a 21 percent increase from the 2000 study.

My heart sunk, I felt sick and my eyes welled with tears.  For this girl who tries so hard to make a difference, who tries to teach by doing every single day, writes for herself and anyone who will listen, hoping that at some point it will impact at least one or two people, but dreaming that she will help create a shift, for her, the news was defeating.  So I sat.  I sat and listened.  I listened about how we are producing more garbage and more food waste today than we did just thirteen years ago.  I listened to how they have to dig bigger and bigger holes to bury our garbage, how so much of this “garbage” could be stopped before it hits the piles and recycled, reused, turned into other materials, turned into jobs, jobs that could help our economy and how nearly a third of this garbage is food waste which could be composted and turned into soil!  And worse… they don’t know what this means for the next generation because they are running out of places to put the garbage! Hearing this report made me doubt myself.  It made me doubt my belief in the good of people, of humanity and of the intelligence of the Minnesotan if not American society.  It made me doubt why I bother trying.  Why I bother doing what I do.

Then, I paused.  And I got pissed. I started yelling in the car.  WAKE UP PEOPLE!  Seriously!  What the hell is it going to take for you to wake up!?!?  What are you waiting for?  For them to come a dig a damned hole in your back yard and start piling garbage?!  Do you not realize you live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?!  Do you not realize that we live for our lakes?  For the North Shore?  For “up north” and cabins?  Do you really think you can keep doing what you’re doing and it will have no effect? Do you think you can just keep throwing more and more away and it’s someone else’s problem to deal with?!?  Wake the hell up people!  It’s not going to happen!  YOU ARE KILLING YOURSELF AND TAKING THE REST OF US WITH YOU! (Whew!  It felt good to get that out.)  As I glanced around the parking lot, making sure no one saw the crazy lady screaming in her car.  I regained my composure and headed for my appointment.

All throughout my appointment I kept losing focus.  My mind kept coming back to “what am I going to do about this”? I wasn’t sure.  I’ll blog about it.  No, I can’t blog about it.  People will think I’m crazy.  I have to do something though.  I decided to let it gel for a while.

Fast forward to November 28th.  As a relatively new Norwex consultant (I signed-on at the end of August, but became active in November) I was cruising all of my emails and saw the promotion for the Norwex R.A.C.E. (Race Against Chemicals in our Environment) raising money for food shelves.  On the webpage they were asking for consultants and customers to commit to make a small change in lifestyle that will take you on a path to reducing chemicals in the world.  In return, Norwex is donating a dollar to a local food shelf for each commitment that is posted.

That’s when I decided.  I made three commitments, one of which is to post one enviro-friendly tip each week on my blog.  In trying to decide which day of the week to do it, I remembered that I had designated Monday as Mindful Mondays last year, it seemed like an appropriate day to post such tips.

Since today is my first enviro-friendly Monday post, I thought it would be nice to share the two other commitments I made on the Norwex R.A.C.E. page.

Without further adieu, Environmindful Monday tips #1 and #2:

  1. Use only one sheet of paper towel in public restrooms, doubling the absorbancy by folding it in half, based on this awesome TEDxTalk: How To Use One Paper Towel: Joe Smith at TEDxConcordiaUPortland
  2. Create a system in my home and car to stash my reusable bags so I never have an excuse to use a new paper or plastic bag in stores

Be. Mindful.

Kate