Archive for ‘Environment’

January 13, 2014

Environmindful Monday Tip #8 – Leave your toxins at the door.

I hope this post finds you happy and healthy and that 2014 is off to a good start.

After taking a little time off for the holidays, some school release days and a few days attending a landscape industry trade show its time to get back into the swing of the Environmindful Monday tips!

Environmindful Monday Tip #8

Door Mat

  • Leave your shoes at the door.  Did you know that the soles of your shoes are a major source of transferring not only dirt, but also chemicals and pesticides into your home?  Prevent contaminants from entering your home and ultimately into your skin and lungs by leaving your shoes outside.   In cold climates, especially during the winter, the idea of leaving shoes outside in -30 degree temps might not sound appealing and I can’t say I disagree.  If you have a porch or covered entry it may not be as bad, but you don’t have a good space to leave shoes outdoors then get a good door mat, make a habit of wiping off the soles of your shoes well and leaving them on a door mat or rug that can be washed on a regular basis.  Although it is common to be asked to remove your shoes before entering a home in Europe or Japan, it’s not as common in the United States.  If you’re not used to asking guests to remove their shoes it can feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but as much as it may be tempting to “let” them leave their shoes on, keep in mind that you are protecting yourself, your friends and your family by leaving shoes at the door.  You can help guests feel a little more comfortable by keeping a basket of slippers or big fluffy slipper-socks near the door and offering a pair to wear to keep their feet warm while they visit.  Not everyone will take you up on the offer, but some may appreciate the gesture.

Be. Mindful.

Kate

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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

 

 

February 2, 2013

Connectedness

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
When you take a breath what do you think about?

Do it again. This time, think about your breath and the air you breathe.
Where does it come from?
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Did you think about the plants and the trees?
I know. Many of us don’t want to stop and think about that. We feel weird. Or think others will think we’re weird.
But the plants and trees give us the gift of oxygen every second of our life.
And we, in return, give them carbon dioxide.
We have a relationship with the plants and the trees around us.

But it’s easy for us to forget.
It’s easy for us to forget that we have a relationship with the plants and trees on this planet.
But there’s more to it than that.
We have a relationship with every living species whether we want to admit it or not, we are connected.

When I stop to think about that, it makes me wonder, why is it then, that we find it so easy to abuse that relationship?
Why is it that we get so focused on “me” and lose focus on them?
Why do we find it so easy to ignore the earth and neglect the environment?

I know, some of us, myself included, like to think we’re being conscious of the environment. I recycle, I shut the lights off when I’m not using them, I don’t use chemicals in my yard, I compost and I try to be conscious of the Carbon Footprint I’m leaving behind, but the reality is, I like my life.

I like sitting on my iPad, typing away in my dining room, while the furnace runs to keep me warm on this frigid day. I like my car and the ability to go where I “need” to go whenever I want to.
I like the convenience of the stores that provide the “necessities” within a couple of miles of my home.

I like my life. And the reality is, to acknowledge that I’m connected to this planet, to the air, to the water, to the plants and the trees, and every living being from the microbes in the soil to the animals in the jungle on the other side of the world means I need to take responsibility for it.

Most of us would do anything to take care of our family and friends if they were in need. They are our blood, they hold a special place in our heart and we wouldn’t want to lose that. Yet to ask us to think about the earth, the environment or the living things around us is a different story. We take it for granted. In our lifetime, we’ve always had air to breathe, water at our disposal and food on our tables.

What if you chose not to feed your children or take care of an elderly grandparent or neighbor, how would you feel? Would you feel a pang of guilt in the pit of your stomach? Would you heart hurt knowing you’re neglecting them when you could be and should be doing something to help?

So why is it that when the plants and trees that supply the air that we breathe get neglected or the water that we take for granted that runs from our taps everyday gets wasted and when we abuse the resources that the environment provides for us, by using more than our “fair share” do we not feel equally guilty? Why do we find it so easy to disconnect ourselves from this?

What if we didn’t? What if, instead, when we go out the door or look up from our phones or out the windows of our house or cars, and we started paying attention to the air we breathe, the amount of water we use and the ways we could take care of the world around us a little better?
What if we treated the air, the water and the environment like family? Would you do anything differently? I know I would.

And when you really stop to think about it, we should. Because whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are connected. We’re connected to every living thing around us just like we’re connected to our families and friends. Yes, we have a direct relationship with some, and a more distant relationship with others, but it’s no different than the relationship we have with our parents versus our distant cousins. And while we might feel a tighter bond with our mother or father or siblings than we do with our great aunt she is still family nonetheless.

So let’s pretend, even if it’s just for a moment, that the air is our mother, the water our father, the soil our siblings and the oil our grandparents. Let’s pretend we love them and value them the same as we do our families. Let’s pretend we care. Because if we do, we might change how we treat them. We may start paying attention to them. We may begin feeding them, nurturing them and watching out for them. We may restore the neglected relationship we have and start living in harmony again.

Let’s pretend for a moment that we are connected to the entire world around us. Let’s pretend that if we care for that world, that it will care for us.

Because guess what? She’s not called Mother Nature for nothing. We are connected.

Kate

May 6, 2012

Would you like weed killer with that?

I’ve been very disturbed lately, trying to process how we came to value a perfect lawn over people.

The other day, as I walked with my son to school, we passed house upon house with little signs posted in their yards saying “chemical treatment – keep children and pets off until: such and such date” or “pesticide application: keep off until dry”.  I’m sure you’ve seen them.  We’ve all seen them.  We’ve become accustomed to them.

But have you ever stopped to wonder why they post those signs?  Why just children and pets, is it safe for adults?  Why a three days?  Why is everything okay once its dry?  Is it really?  It is okay?  Can we really put chemicals on our lawns that kill plants and insects but have no effect on us after just a few hours or a few days?  Or are we simply ignoring the possibility that it might have an effect?

Let’s think about this.  We grow grass, we feed it with chemicals to make it green, we layer on more chemicals to kill anything that isn’t grass, then we layer on even more chemicals to kill off any insects, beneficial or otherwise, who might be living in the soil because we don’t want them to ruin the grass that we worked so hard to get perfect and green.  But for what purpose?  Can we walk in it?  Can we play in it with our children?  Ca we let our pets go out and sniff the ground?  Can we do all of those things without the little voices in the back of our heads saying “Are you sure that’s safe?”?

Now I realize some people, a lot of people, might not like to think about this.  In fact, I’m guessing they stopped at the subject line and didn’t read any further, or they started reading but stopped at the second sentence.  But if you’ve read up to this point then I ask that you bear with me and read through to the end.

There are times in our lives when we learn things that we don’t necessarily want to hear.  We hear things that put us on the defensive and make us not want to listen any further.  We, as human beings, have a conscience, and we don’t like to admit when we may have made a mistake or been a part of a greater problem.  My goal is not to put anyone on the defensive, but to just get us all to stop and think and maybe, change our behaviour.

If you use chemicals in your yard or garden I’d ask you to honestly ask yourself one question: Why do you do it?

Why do you use chemicals?  Why chemical fertilizer?  Why insecticides?  Why pesticides?  Why herbicides?  Is it because it’s how you were taught and you don’t know how to do it differently?  Is it because you think it will take too much time or too much work to not use chemicals?  Is it because you’re worried about what the neighbors will think if you have weeds in your yard? (After all  you’ve heard how they talk about the other neighbors, you don’t want that to be you.)  Is it because you can’t stand the sight of weeds because in the back of your mind there is a stigma with weeds and laziness?  Do you just think of weeds as interruption of the span of green and are therefore ugly?  Do you truly believe that the chemicals won’t harm anyone?  Or do you just not want to be bothered?

Let me ask another question.  If you knew today that you, your child or your pet would end up with Cancer in a few years, would you still do it?  Would you still expose yourself, your family and your pets to lawn chemicals?  Would you still value your lawn the same way you do today?

I don’t.  And here’s why: A few years ago I lost my dog to Cancer and I’ve lost far too many people in my life to Cancer, unexplainable Cancer.  And while I don’t have a background in science or chemistry or medicine, I can tell you my theory.  We are surrounded by chemicals in every facet of our lives.  Our food contains chemicals, our homes contain chemicals, our air is full of chemicals, we put chemicals on our skin in the form of lotions, sunscreens, make-up, deoderant and anti-perspirants.  We have chemicals in our toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, soap, laundry soap, fabric softener and house cleansers.  There isn’t an area in our lives that isn’t exposed to chemicals.  So why can’t scientists figure out what causes Cancer?  My guess is because everything causes Cancer.  Can I control everything?  No, I can’t.  I’m sure I’m exposed to Cancer causing chemicals far more than I’m aware of and I can’t control that.  But what I can do is eliminate the chemicals from the areas in my life that I can control and hopefully, that will be enough me and my family to live a long and healthy life.

My parents weren’t “hippies” or “tree-huggers”, in fact we used products daily growing up that contained all sorts of chemicals, mostly because it’s what we knew.  As I’ve grown and life has taken me on many paths, including working for an Organic Certification Agency over 20 years ago, I became increasingly aware to the dangers of chemicals and just how long they stay with us.  Did you realize that if you wanted to start an organic farm (or garden) today, but you were using chemicals on it yesterday, that your crops wouldn’t be considered “organic” for at least three years?  Why?  Because it’s not just the chemicals that get applied to the current crop that makes something organic.  It takes three years for the chemicals to break-down in the soil enough that they don’t show up in toxic amounts in our food.  Three years.

So transfer this to our lawns.  When we use chemicals, we are typically on a schedule, we keep adding them to our lawn multiple times a year.  We add more, and more to get the best results.  And there it sits.  It sits in the soil that grows our grass, the soil that grows our flowers and our food for years to come.  But we continue to tell ourselves that it’s okay.   We post signs, telling people when we’ve put chemicals on our lawns.  And after a couple of days its safe, right?  When our dogs put their nose right on the ground and sniff, it’s okay.  When our kids sit in the grass, pull up the blades and put them in their mouth to make the blade of grass whistle, that’s okay too.  When we walk barefoot or have a picnic in the front lawn or when we eat veggies out of our garden that shares the soil with our lawn, it’s safe, right?  Or is it?

My thought is this.  If the guy spraying our lawn is supposed to wear boots, gloves and a mask to apply it (which they are supposed to do to limit exposure) and make sure not to spray on a windy day, or the warning on the bag or bottle of chemicals that we’re applying on our lawns or gardens says not to ingest and to call poison control or a doctor if it is ingested, then why would we trust that after just a couple of hours that it’s “safe” for us to be on, that it’s “safe” to eat, that it’s “safe” at all?

We do many things in our lives out of habit.  Change can seem difficult at first, but I urge you to question what you’re doing, what you’re using and if you don’t have a clear conscience, then look for alternatives.

If you have been using chemicals and you’ve thought about eliminating them from your yard but you don’t love dandelions and aren’t friends with creeping charlie or plantain or what have you, don’t sweat it.  There are alternatives.   There are more and more organic lawn care companies that will do the work for you if that’s what you’re accustomed to.  Or, if you want to convert it yourself I would recommend the book The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey.

Please, if you’re in the area, do not use my lawn as an example of what organic lawn care looks like!  My yard, particularly the front, is definitely not picture perfect.  Other than mowing, aerating and watering, our lawn has not truly been cared for in the past few years.  In fact, the current dandelion population makes me cringe.  However, when I weigh the dandelions against the health and well-being of my family and pets, they don’t seem quite as bad.

Think of it this way, if you were to go into your local coffee shop but instead of asking if you would like cream they asked “Would you like weed killer with that?” what would you answer?  Or, if you sat down at the dinner table and asked someone to pass the salt and pepper, but upon receiving it you realize its filled with weed n’ feed, would you use it on your dinner?  If your response is “no” then I ask you to seriously consider whether you think it’s truly “safe” to put these same chemicals on your lawn and in your garden.  If, in the back of your mind you have doubt, even the slightest bit, I urge you to change.  For you.  For your family.  For your pets.  And for those to come after us.

Afterall, is your lawn really that important?

Kate