Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday.  For those who survived Black Friday, it is another chance at unbridled consumerism. For some, it is an alternative to the crushing crowds and ungodly early store hours.  Depending on your perspective, it can be either a blessing or a curse.

Support environmentally-conscious businesses as much as possible.  When available, choose to offset your carbon footprint.  Of course, be sure to use local businesses whenever possible, and carpool with friends or family to cut down on gas consumption.

Until next time...become the change you imagine.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Surviving in the next age: Ancient skills for a modern world.

So much has been written, in recent years, about the end of the Mayan calendar and a possible apocalyptic end to life as we know it.  We are certainly living through some of most turbulent, globally calamitous, times in recent memory.  War, famine, economic insecurity on a global scale - the list goes on.

Times like these usually create a variety of reactions from people. Some turn to religion, some turn to escapism through drugs and/or alcohol, some give in to despair and take their own lives, or the lives of others.  In the midst of this type of highly-publicized and sensationalized media fodder, there are the intrepid pioneers of the modern world. By adapting ancient traditions to fit a contemporary world, we see hope for the future.

Bartering, and barter economies, are springing up everywhere in response to our continuing skepticism over the stability of our financial institutions.  Think that bartering is some random process among a few New Agers?  Guess again.  It is prevalent enough for the IRS to have established tax guidelines for it.

Survival courses and camps are springing up all over, teaching folks the skills of our pioneering ancestors.  A plethora of books have been written on the subject, and honestly, there are some things everyone should know.  Skills like sewing, building a shelter from natural materials, basic first aid, starting a fire from scratch, finding food in the wild, growing your own food, food storage processes, and making herbal remedies are just some basics if you ever find yourself in a primitive environment.

When I was growing up I learned some of these things while I was a Girl Scout.  Camping was an excellent way of teaching some of the skills mentioned above. And the s'mores - mmmmm...but I digress.  So let's talk about food, and the future of growing, and eating food in the next age.

Frequent readers know that I am an avid fan of the Slow Food movement, sustainable agriculture and a fervent supporter of local farmers and CSAs.  Much is being written about a resurgence in "victory gardens", such as the ones grown by families during World War II. Backyard farms, and urban gardens make sense in this age of questionable food safety and nutrition.  Food produced without hormones, antibiotics, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides are often too expensive for the average family. Growing your own food just makes sense, or purchase it from a local farmer who uses sustainable, organic processes. 

If you live in the United States, you need to be aware of the Farm Bill.  It comes up for renewal on September 30, 2012 and what your lawmakers vote on is going to affect trade, health, agribusiness, the environment, and so much more!  Here's some information:

The Farm Bill: Better Food Starts Here

Whatever your philosophy, educating yourself in practical survival skills can be fun, and economically advantageous!  The future isn't something to be feared. It is something to be prepared for.

Until next time...become the change you imagine.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Local Support in a Global Village

Our current technology enables us to reach out to people across the globe and have access to instant information.  While there are certainly many benefits to this, there are also some less desirable consequences. Face-to-face conversational skills, as well as other social skills, seem to be going the way of the dinosaurs.  But I digress...

Jill Pendleton
One definite advantage is the ability to meet amazing people all across the planet.  I recently had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Jill Pendleton - a Dartmoor landlady for over twenty years - who is a huge supporter of local farming in her area. Please check out Jill's Blog and her website. If you are traveling to Dartmoor, Devon, check out her information on accommodation, food, and things to do in that area.  In these challenging economic times it is important to support small family businesses.  Doing so also keeps rural cultural traditions alive.

No matter where you live in this beautiful world of ours, take time to explore the world around you and meet the people who cherish, and share, their way of life.

Until next time...become the change you imagine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Industrial Ecology and the Future of Sustainability

Industrial Ecology has been defined as a "systems-based, multidisciplinary discourse that seeks to understand emergent behavior of complex integrated human/natural systems". The field approaches issues of sustainability by examining problems from multiple perspectives, usually involving aspects of sociology, the environment, economy and technology. The name comes from the idea that we should use the analogy of natural systems as an aid in understanding how to design sustainable industrial systems.

The good folks at GOOD (for people who give a damn) have published a story this week that makes my heart glad!  A former meatpacking plant in Chicago is being re-purposed as a self-sustaining vertical farm. Wait, there's more!  The Plant, as it is called, is focusing on becoming a net-zero waste facility.

Reduce, reuse, recycle...the 3 R's of sustainability.  Anyone who knows me, knows how excited I am. We have so many opportunities in this country (and around the world) to take abandoned, unused, buildings and make them useful again.

Farming in the inner city is a worthy goal, indeed, and this is just what the slow food movement is all about. Locally produced, healthy foods, grown in a sustainable fashion. Utilizing new processes as well as established traditions to create an environment that produces, food, jobs, and hope for the community.

“Industrial ecology—the concept of using other people’s waste as input—is fascinating. In nature, there’s no waste, but there is so much waste in human consumption and development,” says Melanie Hoekstra, The Plant's director of operations. “This is an obvious problem that we can resolve with a building that can do so many things. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s really close.”

Watch this video about the exciting things going on at The Plant.

Why not try your own sustainability project?  Here are some ideas:


Until next time...become the change you imagine.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Where Do iPhones Go to Die?

A reader forwarded a link to me for some feedback, and I was so impressed that I felt the need to share it. Thanks to Jen R. and her team for a great, and very pertinent, presentation on currently technology and it's effects on the waste stream.  Please feel free to leave comments, and let me know what you think.

The True Cost of an iPhone

Until next time...become the change you imagine.

P.S.  If you are interested in the effects of electronic waste, and possible solutions, I posted an article back in 2009 called Mining E-waste: The New Gold Rush? Check it out!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Future of Food and Farming

In 2002 the US government counted farmers - the last time they have done so - and found that the average age of a farmer was 55 years old. The good news is that thousands of young people are becoming farmers, especially organic farmers. Truly good news for society, food production, and awareness of the need for greater sustainability in agriculture.

According to a story in NPR's food blog, The Salt, there is "a new surge of youthful vigor into American agriculture — at least in the corner of it devoted to organic, local food. Thousands of young people who've never farmed before are trying it out."  The old priorities of corporate ladder-climbing and the pursuit of big paychecks is giving way to the lure of the outdoors, and a return to living off the land.  Our current global economic crisis is, at least partly, responsible for encouraging some to try growing their own food.

Victory gardens were started during World Wars I and II as a way for civilians to counter extreme shortages in the food supply. In the same way, today's families could benefit from a small garden planted with vegetables, raised organically, to provide healthy food for little money.  Apartment and condo dwellers with sunny patios or balconies can plant container gardens with vertical supports for pole beans, tomatoes, peas, squash, etc.  Strawberry pots can be used for growing a kitchen herb garden - several common herbs all in one container.

Small family farms have been on the decline for decades.  One idea for making those farms profitable again would be for small farmers to offer plots of land to individuals or families who want to grow their own food. The plots could be rented monthly and the revenue would help keep land in families that have farmed for many years, but can no longer make a living at it.

Small farms are also ideally situated for CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. The farmer sells "shares" for each growing season.  The investors help the farmer share the risk, and the reward is fresh, locally grown, usually organic, produce, eggs, milk, and meat.  Local Harvest is an excellent resource for finding local CSAs, farms, and farmer's markets.

The slow food movement also makes a case for growing and consuming locally produced food.  Slow Food began in Italy with the founding of its forerunner organization, Arcigola, in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonald's near the Spanish Steps in Rome.  Promoted as an alternative to fast food, Slow Food strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.

Jennifer Maiser is the editor of the Eat Local Challenge website, which is a place for authors nationwide to share their experiences with finding locally grown and locally produced food.
In her article, 10 Steps to Becoming a Locavore, she states:

"Locavores are people who pay attention to where their food comes from and commit to eating local food as much as possible. The great thing about eating local is that it's not an all-or-nothing venture. Any small step you take helps the environment, protects your family's health and supports small farmers in your area."

In these difficult times there are opportunities for all of us to become closer to the land,
re-establish healthier eating habits, and support a way of life that is on the brink of extinction.

Until next time...become the change you imagine.