Archive for ‘Mindful Living’

May 13, 2015

Before you spray…

A Scott’s sales rep came to the door yesterday telling me he could spray to kill all of the dandelions and other weeds in our yard, fertilize the lawn and spray to get rid of all of the mosquitoes. I politely told him, “No thank you. I don’t mind them and am actually growing plants to attract insects and pollinators instead of kill them.” He then offered to use their organic line and estimated that it would be $56 to “take care of” our yard. Again, I smiled and said, “No, thank you. We’re not interested.” at which point he offered me his business card, told me he was also a realtor and offered to do a property value estimate if I’m ever interested.

We have no plans of moving.  Part of why we bought this house is because it’s just behind the nature center which has a lake. Mosquitoes, whether we like it or not, come with the territory.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate mosquitoes just as much as the next person, but the SPRAYS they use ARE NOT SELECTIVE. That means they don’t just kill mosquitoes, they also kill everything else including bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

I realize a lot of people don’t like insects, but we NEED these insects. Our food system relies on them. I don’t think most people know or understand the impact that spraying their yard for mosquitoes has on our food system.

Yes, I’m a gardener and every year I hope for an abundant harvest from my garden, but this isn’t about my garden. This is effecting food on a much larger scale. This is about the food on everyone’s table.

Our pollinators are disappearing at alarming rates and our food is going to follow. This isn’t something we can ignore or pretend isn’t happening. It’s not going to be okay or correct itself on its own.

This time of the year, when everything is in bloom, my yard is typically abuzz with bees and other insects feeding on the nectar and pollen from dandelions, creeping charlie, flowering crabs and dogwoods. This year I have seen a couple of wasps pass through and a handful of flies. That’s it.

It would be so easy to blow it off and try to reason our way out of why I don’t see them in my yard, but the truth of the matter is that I work to create a bee, butterfly and insect friendly yard and they are not here. My yard is a minute sample of the greater picture. Looking at my yard is like looking through a sample under a microscope. If the insects aren’t in my yard, that means they aren’t around.

Am I worried that the fruits and vegetables in my yard won’t get pollinated and will produce less fruit? Of course. But what really bothers me is that the fruits and vegetables on a greater scale aren’t getting pollinated,  which is a much larger problem.

All of this makes me so sad. They are making it so fast, cheap and easy to kill-off the insects that we think are a nuisance but fail to tell people that they are also killing off insects  that pollinate the plants that give us our food.

We have smoking policies in place to protect people who don’t smoke from breathing in second hand smoke.

Spraying our yards doesn’t work the same way. If we spray, we are not just impacting our yard and our neighbors, we are impacting life on the larger scale.

We need to stop pretending that what we do in our yard is our choice and that it doesn’t impact anyone else, because it does. It impacts EVERYONE else.

The next time you go to buy groceries, look at the produce section and imagine it empty or sparce with extremely expensive produce. Imagine coffee so expensive that it becomes a luxury. Do you hate spending so much money on groceries? It’s going to continue to get more and more expensive and we will have less and less available if we don’t change what we are doing.

We need to fix our system, fast. Some states are banning neonicotinoide pesticides. A couple of cities in the Twin Cities metro area have also banned them. But until they are fully non-existent we need to be our own advocates.

That’s not to mention the detrimental effects directly on people. Pesticides are also hormone – altering (endocrine disruptors) which alter the natural function of our bodies in many, many dangerous ways.

If our world were balanced, it should be ungodly expensive to spray both herbicides and pesticides because the effects are damaging on a global level. Damaging to our health, damaging to our food system, not to mention damaging to the soil, water and air we breathe.

It shouldn’t cost $59 to kill everything that lives in a 1/3 of an acre lot, it should cost at lot more than that because in reality, it does.

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March 11, 2014

Renegotiating Environmindful Monday and Tip #14: Why You Don’t Want To Use Fabric Softener

You may have wondered what happened to Environmindful Mondays.  Well, quite honestly, I did too. After doing a little reflecting I realized that the reason I haven’t been posting isn’t because I ran out of environmental posts but instead because I realized that with some of the posts and things I’ve been doing in my home, I realized I was missing pieces of the puzzle to be able to fully explain why some of these topics are important, which I think is crucial to making change.

If we make a change in our lives just because someone told us we should but we don’t understand why we are doing it, chances are it won’t last.  On the other hand, if we understand a situation/problem and understand how we fit into or contribute to that situation/problem, then it makes it easier to understand why we should change and what the impact is if we choose not to.

For example, let’s say a friend says, “You should really stop using fabric softener.”  You ask why and the response is, “Because I heard it’s bad.”  At first you think, “Oh, geeze. Okay, my friend says fabric softener is bad. I’d better stop using it.”  So you do.  Time goes by and you forget the conversation with your friend.  You forget the details (because there weren’t any).  Over time you start to miss the scent of freshly washed clothes and start getting annoyed with static.  Or, maybe your spouse asks, “What’s so bad about it?”  You can’t remember.  You can’t justify your decision, so chances are you’re going to buy fabric softener and start using it again.

Environmindful Monday Tip #14: Why You Don’t Want to Use Fabric Softener

On the other hand if your friend says, “You might want to reconsider using fabric softener.”  You ask why and the response is, “There are a lot of dangerous, and even, toxic chemicals in them.  Some cause asthma, some are hormone disruptors (meaning they can cause birth defects) to both people and wildlife, and the scents you smell are typically carcinogens, which are toxic chemicals linked to cancer.  This stuff isn’t just bad for the people who use it either.  All of these toxins are in our air from our dryer vents and they are even finding it in our ground water and drinking water from using liquid fabric softeners in our washers.”  You try to justify your fabric softener addiction for a minute and say, “But I hate static.”  Your friend says, “Oh, then you’re just over-drying your clothes.  Don’t dry them so long.  You won’t have static.”  If you’re like me, when I first heard all the information on fabric softener I had to hold onto my stomach.  At the time, my son was about 3 years old.  When I realized I was putting all of these chemicals directly on his skin via his clothes, into the air and into our water I felt sick.  But you know what?  It made an impact.  I stopped using fabric softener immediately.  I also haven’t forgotten the dangers these chemicals pose to myself, my family, our air, our water and the rest of the environment.  And I definitely have not had any sort of urge to use fabric softener, in any form, in my home since.

I still want to honor the commitment I made to Norwex and the Norwex R.A.C.E., myself and you, as my readers to continue to share environmental posts, but I am renegotiating with myself (and you), to make sure I honor that commitment in the best way possible, therefore, you will continue to see Environmindful Monday posts, maybe not every Monday, but on Mondays that I believe I have content that is worth sharing and that I am clear on why these topics are important and why we should all be committed to making a change.

Oh, and yes. I’m aware that this Environmindful Monday post is coming to you on Tuesday.  I’m working on that too. 😉

May you have a clean and healthy day filled with fresh scents of a real spring breeze.

Kate

February 3, 2014

Environmindful Monday Tip #13: Wash Your Hands of Antibacterial Soap

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Everyday we get up, we fight a battle.  Our enemies surround us, yet we can’t see them.
We’re told that they are there. We’re told they will get us when we’re down. We’re told they can make us sick… or worse.
How on Earth are we supposed to fight an enemy we can’t see? “Use this!” they say. So we do. And we use and we use, but since we can’t see the enemy to begin with we don’t really know if it’s working or not.
Years go by and we come to find out that the weapons they gave us to kill our enemies didn’t kill them after all. It killed some, but not all. The ones we left behind got more and more powerful, so strong they now have super strength, because you know what they say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. ”
What’s worse, is the weapons we chose, instead of killing them, are killing us.
This could be the plot of any science fiction movie, but instead it’s the state of what we have done in our battle against bacteria.
Triclosan, the word might not roll off your tongue, but trust me, you know what it does, or shall I say, what it was supposed to do. Triclosan is the chemical in antibacterial soaps, dish soaps, and yes, even toothpaste. And Triclosan is the weapon we chose to fight bacteria.   It’s time to lay that weapon down. It’s not working and studies are finding that it’s doing more harm than good.
I know, it seems scary at first, to let go of that antibacterial soap we’ve become so accustomed to using. It feels like you’re saying,  “Hey, Bacteria! Yeah,  you, look here, I put my weapons down. I’m defenseless!” but the reality is, we’re not.
By choosing not to use products labeled antibacterial,  we are choosing to take our lives back. We are choosing to take the super powers away from the bacteria and leave them simply as bacteria. And when we choose not to buy antibacterial products with Triclosan,  we are choosing to take our lives back from Cancer, from infertility and from many other diseases that sound way worse than bacteria if you ask me.
So the tip for the week?
Environmindful Monday Tip #13: Wash Your Hands of Antibacterial Soap and go back to regular soap and water. Wash your hands. Wash them well, for at least 20 – 30 seconds, scrubbing the germs off and then rinse them down the drain. When you’re done, wipe your hands on a towel to grab any stragglers that may have gotten missed.
The simple act of washing our hands is just as effective as Triclosan and way less detrimental to our health.

Be healthy,  be safe,  be well.
Kate

January 28, 2014

Environmindful Monday Tip #12 – Recycling Is Not An Option

Recycle

When did you first become aware of recycling, do you recall?  My first memory was in high school, Freshman year, or maybe slightly before, but in the mid-1980s.  Why do I remember this?  Because we got a can crusher!

I remember thinking that was the coolest thing ever.  At fifteen, most things were cool… unless of course they weren’t.  Anyway, my dad hung the can crusher just outside the door from the house to the garage in our new house.  I loved that thing!  I couldn’t wait for someone to empty a can of pop (soda for those of you who don’t live in Minnesota) or beer.  I would grab the can, set it on the little shelf, pull down the lever (which doubled as a handle) and C-R-U-N-C-H!  Ooo… the power I felt crushing cans was awesome!  When I was done I’d take my little disc of metal and toss it in the bag below the crusher.  I would repeat.  Set, C-R-U-S-H, ting…  set, C-R-U-S-H, ting… Yeah!

Can crushers made recycling fun.  That’s right.  I thought recycling was fun!  Then can crushers went away.  “They” said we didn’t need them any more and in fact didn’t even want us crushing the cans.  Bummer.  Somehow tossing them in a paper bag didn’t have the same effect as smashing them down to bits, but, whatever.  I continued sorting the cans.  Then the bottles.  They had to be sorted by color of glass: a bag for clear glass, a bag for brown glass, a bag for green glass. Oh, and newspaper.  A bag for that too.  I have a self-diagnosed split personality (not like Jekyll and Hyde… although maybe my family disagrees) no, I have my über organized side and my über, shall we say, “creative” side.  My über organized side LOVED sorting and organizing the recycling.  Seriously.  I took this on as a very serious task when I was a teen.  I’m not sure what it was at that point in time that made me realize that recycling was important, but I did.

And I still do.  Today, however, my focus is different, most likely because I have a child and I want the absolute best for him (or at least as best as I can offer).  These days I am a little less obsessed in the organizing the recycling mentality and way more obsessed in the “we gotta do this” mentality.  Recycling has been on my mind a lot lately, and by lately, I’d say at least the last year.  Okay, in reality it’s probably one of those thoughts that are always swirling around in the back of my mind, but in the past year it’s been demanding a little more attention than it has in the past.

Remember a few of months ago when I started this Environmindful Monday post?  I was pretty torqued about the report I heard about the amount of trash that we are producing in Minnesota.  After thinking it over for a while, I realized that part of what made me so upset was the volume of material going to the trash heaps that could be recycled.  It got me thinking and questioning why people aren’t recycling?  Yes, I realize you probably think I’m crazy, but this is indeed the stuff I spend a lot of time thinking about when I’m not focused on the current task at hand.

I was questioning accessibility.  Are there designated places for people to put their recycling when out and about?  Although they aren’t in every location yet, in general, I would say that even if you have to look a little bit, most places have a recycling bin.  So that’s not it.  Are people just lazy?  I think sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Don’t people understand the impact?  Have they not been educated on the importance of recycling?  I’d have to say that for most, you’d have to have been living under a rock for the past 30-plus years to literally not “know” about recycling.  Even my nine-year-old son can be found singing “Re-cycle, re-cycle, recycle now… da, da, da…”

So what is it?  Here is the conclusion I came to.  Over the holidays, and even into January, I attended a number of parties varying in size, age of attendants and formality of the event.  What I observed at these events, and in general, is that the mindset of the majority of people who I observed is that recycling is “optional”.  Are you following me?  People think that recycling is a choice like should I buy Coke or should I buy Pepsi?  Do I feel like making my can garbage today or recycling it?  The mindset of the general public, and yes, I’m generalizing, is that recycling is an option.  There isn’t a law saying that we have to recycle.  So we do when we feel like it and don’t when we don’t feel like it.  We also, when given a situation where there isn’t a recycling can next to a garbage can, will throw a plastic bottle or can into the trash, letting ourselves off the hook with the thought of “I didn’t have an option, there wasn’t a recycling can”.  Another example: I was at a party in someone’s home recently and when I asked if they had recycling somewhere they giggled and said, “No… I’m being bad.  I don’t have one today.”  As much as it bothered me that A) they didn’t have recycling and B) they were aware that they should, I didn’t want to insult or offend them so I didn’t say anything… and proceeded to throw my can in the garbage.

In a different circle, I never would have done that.  Had I known them better, I would have said something, but that, I believe, is our problem.  We aren’t in a place where recycling is mandatory.  We are still living with the mindset that recycling is optional and that it’s not our place to tell another person what to do.  If it were mandatory or not optional in everyone’s mind, that situation would have been different.  They either would have had recycling to begin with, or because it isn’t considered optional, the conversation would be easier to approach.

So how do we change this?  That’s what my mind will be mulling over and tossing around for the next, who-knows-how-long.  Until we all decide that recycling is important, that it’s a necessity, and not an option, things aren’t going to change.  But it needs to change because there really aren’t any reasonable excuses any more.  We wouldn’t go to a party and ask where to throw the trash and have someone laugh and say, “Oh, I’m being bad today.  I don’t have a garbage.” That’s not an option.  Neither is recycling.

The difference is, our trash, doesn’t create jobs.  Okay, yes, it creates a few jobs for those who haul it and move it and dig holes for it and try bury it and those who do toxic soil remediation.  But our recycling?  Many businesses and products are based on reusing glass, plastics and paper, and by choosing not to recycle, we are choosing not to support our economy and that just doesn’t make sense (or cents).

Whether you care about the environment, the Earth, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the soil we grow our food in or you care about the economy, both local and global, take that and make it your reason to care about recycling.  Pass that on.  Share it.  Educate people.  Talk about it. And recycle.  Always.  Let’s make recycling mandatory.  Because it is.

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

Kate

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