The Nature Conservancy: Protecting nature. Pre...

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You are what you eat, and how you eat it. Locally grown produce, also known as Slow Food, is not only good for you, it’s good for the environment, too.

On this Earth Day, I pose the question about agriculture because the food industry is an enormous one with a huge lobby behind it. Reducing the need for food transport alone by shopping at our local farmer’s market instead of big chain food stores can have an impact on the Earth.

Nature Conservancy is working with various groups to ensure sustainable food for us all. Here are some of the top stories I’d like to share with you.

1.     Grass fed beef in Arizona

An Arizona beef cattle rancher saves millions of gallons of water by switching to native grasses. Something as seemingly simple as planting native grass is actually part of a paradigm shift for the Mercers. Not only is it a change in how they operate, but also who they work with. (TurfMutt would be so proud of this shift! His children’s plat science education program supports the notion of native plants over imports to sustain the natural habitat and surroundings.)

One change is the market for their beef. By feeding their cattle native grass, the Mercers are tapping into the grass-fed, locally grown beef market. The Mercers sell their beef—under the name Sombrero Butte Beef—at local farmers’ markets and at a gourmet Tucson restaurant.

2.     Sustainable Seafood in California

In Morro Bay, California, The Nature Conservancy worked with local fishermen to to establish 3.8 million acres of no-trawl zones off California’s Central Coast. Historically, groundfish — species that live close to the sea floor — have served as the backbone of fisheries in this region. But the overreliance of traditional bottom trawling — a fishing method that drags nets along the sea floor — led to habitat damage habitat, harm to other marine species and a decline in local fishing income.  The partnership is now pioneering innovative ways to catch fish, and this work has already improved the environmental and economic performances of the local fishery.

3.     Texas Rice Farmer

The Clive Runnells Family Mad Island Marsh Preserve is located near the midpoint of the Texas coast. For more than twenty years, the Franzen family has leased land on the preserve to grow rice, which creates feeding and roosting opportunities for native and migratory birds. The arrangement has benefited their family, the Conservancy and the human and wildlife communities of the Texas coast.

4.     Oysters in Massachusetts

Cape Cod’s Wellfleet, Massachusetts was literally built on shellfish. A century ago, wild reefs bustling with life were so huge ships had to navigate around them, but by the 1970s wild harvesting, pollution and disease had chiseled away the last wild reef.
Now, the Conservancy, Mass Audubon, NOAA and the Town of Wellfleet are experimenting with different structures on which oyster seed can stick, with the goal of rebuilding a reef that would bolster local populations of shellfish and provide benefits like clean water and defense against rising seas.

Happy Earth Day, Ya’ll! Now go hug a tree and bow to the Mother that holds us all!

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Good Housekeeping is one of several periodical...

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Good Housekeeping, that housewife’s magazine that’s been around since 1885, is keeping with the times by developing a new green Good Housekeeping seal for products its new environmental advisory board considers ‘green’.

It’s an interesting concept that shows how far our consciousness has come. But not all green things are golden. As my friend, who works in a consumer advocate’s office herself, once said, “Just because it has a seal, doesn’t mean it’s good for you or the environment.”Organic cookies? They contain sugar, too.

Sigh.

I had proudly swept my hand across a drawer of organic products to show her what a good green person I was! She peered inside, then frowned. I realized how many of them were contained in plastic, with wrapping or had travelled from afar to land in my cupboard.

To quote Kermit the Frog: “It’s not easy being green.” But Good Housekeeping‘s efforts (see below) are admirable and it’s a sign of our ever-changing times. We’re trying, folks. Really, we are!

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING CREATES AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVISORY BOARD TO PROVIDE INSIGHT FOR THE GREEN GOOD HOUSEKEEPING SEAL

A Special Environmentally-Focused Good Housekeeping Research Institute Tour is Open to the Public on Earth Day

Good Housekeeping has created an Environmental Advisory Board consisting of leading sustainability experts from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and media to provide insight for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal evaluations, pinpointing areas of biggest concern, and educating the magazine’s more than 27 million print and online readers through interviews for editorial articles.

Inaugural members of the Good Housekeeping Environmental Advisory Board are: Laurie David, producer (An Inconvenient Truth) and award-winning, bestselling author; Wood Turner, Executive Director for Climate Counts; Suhas Apte, Vice President Global Sustainability for Kimberly-Clark; David Bennell, Executive Director, Textile Exchange; Pamela Brody-Heine, Product Stewardship Manager, Zero Waste Alliance; Jill Dumain, Patagonia; Sally Edwards, Sc.D, Research Associate at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Sustainable Production; Katie Galloway, Earth Fund Manager for Aveda; Reid Lifset, M.S., M.P.P.M, Associate Director of the Industrial Environmental Management Program at Yale University; Erin Meezan, Vice President of Sustainability, Interface; Ursula Tischner, Program Coordinator Design for Sustainability at Savannah College of Art and Design; and Mary T’Kach, Energy and Sustainability Coordinator, Ramsey County, MN.

In celebration of Earth Day, at 10AM on Friday, April 22, Good Housekeeping will host a special environmentally-focused tour of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, the magazine’s state-of-the-art product testing laboratory (I’ve never been, but boy! Would I love to go!).

Visitors will have an opportunity to meet the engineers, chemists, nutritionists, and all of the Research Institute’s expert staff, learn more about the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, and visit the famous Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen to hear about the increasing interest in vegetarian recipes and participate in a taste test.  You can sign up for the special Good Housekeeping Research Institute Earth Day tour here.

Good Housekeeping created the Green Good Housekeeping Seal to set a mainstream bar for consumers who want to live a greener lifestyle.  The scientists and engineers at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute worked with Brown & Wilmanns Environmental, one of the nation’s leading green consultants for businesses, NGOs and governmental organizations to establish criteria for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal.

Before being considered for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, a product must pass evaluations for the primary Good Housekeeping Seal, which evaluates claims and measures efficacy to ensure it performs as promised.  If the product passes, it is then reviewed using more in-depth environmental criteria, including the reduction of water use in manufacturing, energy efficiency in manufacturing and product use, ingredient and product safety, packaging reduction (see my post on plastic), and the brand’s corporate social responsibility.

And it seems their evaluations have fairly rigorous standards.

Products that have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal and the Green Good Housekeeping Seal carry a limited warranty: If the product proves to be defective within two years of purchase, Good Housekeeping will replace the item or refund the consumer.  You can get more answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Green Good Housekeeping Seal here.

Continuing to establish a leadership role within the environmental industry, Good Housekeeping is co-sponsoring with The Daily Green the Good and Green conference, a two-day conference on May 11 and 12 featuring a series of environmental-themed sessions, keynotes, case studies and roundtable discussions.  I will actually just miss it as I’m leaving NYC on May 11, but for those who are interested, Good and Green will be held in the Hearst Tower, the first LEED-gold certified office building in New York City. You can register to attend the Good and Green conference here.

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Two years ago my husband and I participated in a TV science program about life without petroleum products for a day. It was astounding how many things we use that are petroleum-based. Plastic is just one of them.

The animal kingdom, the plant kingdom and the mineral kingdom have been trumped by the fourth kingdom we call plastic. Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, investigated the world of plastic that surrounds us and made some amazing discoveries.

Between the years 1941 and 1979, plastic production superseded that of  steel. During that very short time span, plastic had become “the skeleton, the connective tissue, and the slippery skin of modern life.” (page 6)

Today we consume six hundred billion pounds of plastic annually.  In 1960, the average American consumed thirty pounds of plastic products. Today we’re consuming 10 times that!

The quote below summarizes the story of plastic, which she tells using eight every day objects to weave her tale (the comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle, and the credit card):

“We take natural substances created over millions of years, fashion them into products designed for a few minutes’ use, and then return them to the planet as litter that we’ve engineered to never go away.” (page 10)

Other highlights include facts such as these:

  • We’ve produced nearly as much plastic in the first ten years of the new millennium, as in the entire preceding century.
  • All Americans now carry traces of dozens of synthetic chemicals in their bodies – including fire retardants, bactericides, pesticides, plasticizers, solvents, heavy metals, waterproofing agents, stain repellents, Teflon and other compounds. Even newborns harbor chemicals – on average 200, according to one study.
  • Plastic debris is now found in even the most remote places, like the Antarctic Ocean.
  • Though most plastic can be recycled, almost none is. Only plastic beverage bottles and milk jugs, #1 and # 2 plastics are recycled in any great numbers. Even so, nearly three-fourths never get into the recycling stream, and instead wind up in landfill or incinerators

Life without plastic. Is it possible?

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Nature at its hand-made pace

November 22, 2010

With weather like this, all I want to do is graze.

It’s hard to motivate yourself when the daylight hours span 9:30 am to about 3:15 pm. I’m not kidding. It’s getting dark by tea time in Germany now.

 

As captured from Naturally Peaceful

The lack of sunlight elicits a primal response in my body. It says “Hunker down. Do puzzles. Lay low.” My appetite rises as I yearn for more chocolate than I do all year.

What to do?

Go with it.

Instead of beating yourself up, listen to what your body is telling you. Do you need more calories when the light grows dim by mid-afternoon? Honor that.

You can offset it with more indoor activity (keeping the floor clean with two children and four pet rodents that spend a GREAT DEAL OF TIME INDOORS is physically challenging enough!).

I feel like a small  animal, hamstering away goodies to keep my body fed. If I didn’t, the kids would inhale my treats in one day. So little by little, I feed from the trough of delight. A little bon-bon here, a cup of ginger tea there.

Recently, in an interview on Ageless Sages with Natalie Tucker Miller, I commented how nature goes at its own hand-made pace. You don’t see fall rushing through its season, do you? The same goes for animals. They go at their innate pace (which varies, depending on the season).

So for now I’ll be content to hunker down. With a puzzle. And some chocolate for grazing away the winter at a slightly slower crawl…

 

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On Savoring

July 14, 2010

“Can we talk later?” My Munich friend breathed into the phone. She had just come off a three-week marathon music tour. She said she needed time to digest all that had happened over the past few weeks so we agreed to put off our conversation for another time.

It reminds me of what Renee Trudeau recently blogged about. She and I had talked at length about our work ~she’s in the ‘renewal business’, helping women live powerful lives while I’m about the business of time and what we do with it. We rarely allow ourselves to digest what it is that we experience. We consume, but do we absorb those experiences down to the fiber of our being?

She blogged about some of the thoughts provoked by our conversation. She writes:

What revelations might we all be missing because we’re yes, moving too fast, but also not creating big spaces of time in our lives to really allow ideas to deeply seep into our bones? To fully digest concepts that may surface, but are quickly swatted away, like pesky flies.

She is now on a delicious month-long writing sabbatical.

The creative process deserves (and demands) moments of quietude. To do things with the utmost of our being, we need beingness. I recently pushed off a creative assignment until the next morning, knowing it required my full creative awareness. I needed that deep listening that the birthing process of art demands. To capture it all hungrily is my ultimate desire. For that I need the silence of the deaf to truly listen.

Sound is something we are surrounded by. Anyone who comes to where I live remarks how truly quiet it is. I love the softness of the air, kissed by the trees that exhale our sustaining lifeforce. The sweet sound of silence enriches us all.

How might you quiet your mind today to all the white noise around you to savor your moments? It starts in the heart where your life’s truest purpose dwells.

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The garden is a mythological place. It’s the main stage for the beginning of humanity ~ in Biblical terms, that is. It is the showcase of Nature’s riches. And it is the place from which I have learned more about life than just about anywhere else.

You see I have an ancient apple tree outside my office window. I stare at it every day when sitting at my desk, which I do often. It stands strong against the hurling winds with equanimity, just as it plays host to swarms of nearby bees that drink from its blossoms. That is, until last year…

My husband, that merciless plant warrior, pruned its branches beyond recognition after our neighbor complained that its fouling apples dropped too numerously upon his property.

“I’ll be back,” it whispered to me through my tears as I watched the dead branches being neatly stacked for the recycling bin.

The next spring no blossoms sprang from its branches and its leaves were crushed in a hail storm. Haggard and worn, the tree stood in silence as summer folded into autumn, which was soon follwed by a relentless winter that lasted until virtually last week.

As spring finally got around to Germany on Saturday, I worried we’d never see another verdant thing hanging from its limbs. There were indeed leaves emerging, but the blossoms were nowhere to be seen! I found myself comparing a neighboring tree.

“You see! Their tree has blossoms. And ours, well, I suppose it’s all over now…” My own pessimissim surprised me.

Sunday morning I asked my husband if that white reflection I detected without my glasses really was a blossom.

“Nope,” he exhaled, clearly tired of my fretting.

A few hours later, the house was wrapped in silence. The children and my husband were off to their various athletic activities while I sat beside the tree, gazing heavenward.

As I scooped a spoonful of yoghurt into my mouth, I saw it! A merry carousel of buds holding strong against the sun. Then, as if by magic, I detected another and another! It was as if the tree’s promise was unfolding before my very eyes. Funny I hadn’t see it until now…

It had  taken a year to recover from the vigorous purging of the old. It had sought shelter against the storm and had meditated in silence, as any tree does: still, patient, majestic in its unwaivering decision simply to exist. Right here. Right now. Just as it is. With or without blossoms.

What I learned from the apple tree is a precious life lesson. I learned there is a reason for every season, that sometimes we are pregnant with hope and renewal; sometimes we are shattered and torn; and sometimes we need dormancy before we can emerge in all our beauty, too.

As I write these last lines, I see the bees are memorizing the tree’s DNA so that, in time, they will drink from its abundant nectar supply once again.

Thank you, my arboresque friend. You are indeed the poster tree for slow!

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We all know the feeling of impatience when things take longer than they ‘should’. We tap our fingers, pace the floor, or shout unkind words in our heads or at the windshield, depending on the proximity of others or the level of their so-called offensive slowness.

But I ask you, what are we rushing toward? Why does the ‘is’ upset us so drastically? Because it often is not in alignment with our own personal ‘should’.

I was talking to a friend about some recent changes that were made after our server got updated. It took our six-person team about a week to adjust to the new system. Emails were ‘slower than usual’ and sometimes bounce-backs occurred (I remember when a bounce-back referred more to an immediate relationship after ending a long-term one. Being on the rebound meant you could bounce back to normal only after the fling had ended…)

“You know, Christine,” my friend sagely pondered outloud. “Maybe our Emails are supposed to take a little longer. I mean really ~ isn’t there power in slow?  I, for one, still own a rake. I’d rather plod along my yard to the scratching noise it makes than zip around, emitting sound and CO2 with a leaf blower.” Not to mention the fresh air and exercise. Moving at the speed of a rake sounds good to me.

Oftentimes we think there is no benefit to doing things slower. We tend to believe doing things faster is somehow better. But what about the auxiliary effects of going slowly?

  • Walking to the store instead of driving (exercise, light exposure, green, meditative)
  • Raking your yard instead of leaf-blowing it (exercise, light exposure, green, meditative)
  • Taking time to provide a thoughtful answer to an Email (you may remember to include more things, thereby reducing Email traffic considerably)
  • Managing expectations ahead of time (reduces upset, especially around the holidays)

If you doubt the power of this, try walking just one pace slower today. Notice how you feel as you bring yourself to move at a slower speed. Do you feel impatient and anxious? Or do you feel yourself opening up to new possibilities and ways of thinking? Along the path, toss a few ‘shoulds’ in the drink. Then tell me how it went!

Gadgetless Travels

June 20, 2009

The call came in just as I was leaving the parking lot. My casting agent asked if I might dash over to another TV show set to fill in for someone who didn’t show up. I had just wrapped up filming a TV drama. I played a small role as a secretary in a foreign office and was pleased that we were done by noon. So I agreed, as long as she could show me how to get there.

I met her in her office briefly to discuss travel details. Without a GPS I wasn’t sure I’d find my way. After two years, we had to return the company car whose GPS we christened Nancy the Navigator. She was unfriendly, but efficient. Or so we thought.

It turns out I found the place just fine with the mental directions stored in my head. In the process I noticed my surroundings much more. My awareness was raised because it had to be, otherwise I might have missed a turn. It made me realize how mind-numbing gadgets can be.

I used to rely on Nancy’s steady, insistent voice to turn this way or that. With her gone I was a little uncertain. But then I realized an ounce of faith can take you a long way. So I put faith, not in technology, but in myself.

It was a freeing moment of gadgetless travel. I liked it. You might want to give it a try!

A New York publicist recently asked me how she might bring more ‘slow’ to her day.  With a busy firm and a client list the length of her arm, she is often overwhelmed by the rigors of her workday.

As with other people I have spoken with recently, I find bringing Nature closer to home creates a relaxing atmosphere. No matter whether you live in a city, as she does, or elsewhere, surrounding yourself with beauty is the first step to leading a mindful life.

You know the feeling of fighting against your own environment? The cars, plantthe noise, the pollution? The simple act of putting a plant or flowers on your desk can make a huge difference. Add a portable water fountain. The sound of water is a proven way to calm the mind. These things serve to remind you to slow down, hear the rhythm of your own heartbeat, and remember your inner self.

Light a scented candle while you watch TV. Improve your diet by adding one thing from outside (and in its original state) to every meal. For instance, eat a carrot stick instead of a sugar-laced juice drink. Think natural to natural. The natural state of the carrot blends with your natural state of health.

There are many more ways to bring slow to your day, at least 101 alone between the covers of The Power of Slow!

The Gentle Gardener

April 21, 2009

Nature is balm for the soul. Whenever I feel stressed, I step outside my office and into my garden to dig around in the dirt for a few minutes. Studying the landscape, I inevitably regain a sense of balance and beauty about my surroundings. Internally, I simply feel better having stepped outside the scope of my day-to-day routine.

april-2009-080Even urban folks who work a mile-high in the sky can benefit from Nature’s bounty. Rooftop gardening has gained popularity in recent years. The Chicago City Hall has designed a garden atop its building. Tokyo, with over 30 million in the greater metropolitan area, enjoys over 100 hectares of stories-high greenery. In fact, the Tokyo government has ordered that number grow to 1,000 hectares by the year 2017. Rooftop gardens contribute to the cooling of the building and of the Earth itself.

If you’re in need of a quick alignment to reembrace the power of slow, go green by going outdoors. Even a houseplant in the wintertime can yield a sense of calm. Dig your fingers into the soil. You might even find a snail, the ultimate slow-goer!

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