Lessons from my Garden

29 06 2016

This summer began with a new development in my home garden: after the first few years of shade-gardening with native plants, a light-gap has opened in the woods from a tree falling last year, allowing me to finally pursue a dream of vegetables. My husband and I put in the small, square raised bed; I planted a modest selection of tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper plants; and we fenced it in for protection from ever-present, hungry wildlife.

The first lesson I am confronting is patience.

I believe the seemingly contradictory qualities of impatience and distraction are responsible for my long history of a black thumb. Sometimes I smother my plants with eager watering and prodding; other times, I forget my charges, and they wither from neglect. I have begun to see that vegetables are delicate; if I want any kind of yield, I have to be diligent but not clingy.

Still, as I water them daily, I purse my lips and examine the stalks (gently!) for signs of new flowers.

I also have newfound gratitude for rain. I have always loved rainy days almost more than sunny ones, but rain takes on new meaning now, a direct sign of divine providence. “No need to water today!” I think, with a sigh of contended relief. It’s work lugging the big watering can up to the light gap, far from the hose’s reach.

All this watering gives me greater respect than ever for our crops’ tremendous strain on resources. Just seeing the daily amount my four plants require easily paints a picture in my mind of that amount magnified across our groaning planet. And it occurs to me that all of us, whether omnivore or carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, should be humbled by what it takes to provide for our needs on a daily basis.

Who knew such lessons await in such humble, green places?





Cutting the Beauty Habit

20 10 2010

This one is especially for the girls, although guys can learn something as well. The lovebirds over at Young House Love have cut back on personal care products in some unconventional ways – see their post on the topic and the lively comment discussion.

Like this couple, I have all of my cosmetics in one small case, although it’s a mixed bag of natural products and drugstore staples (I love L’Oreal’s Bare Naturale mascara and Alba’s TerraTints mineral lip balm with natural color and SPF). Unlike them, however, I prefer my hair and body wash to smell differently than my husband’s; we don’t really share products.

What are your thoughts on the pared-down toiletry kit?





KFC Getting Green Praise

2 10 2010

This just in: KFC, maker of the controversial “Double Down” sandwich, is getting positive press for replacing most of its Styrofoam with truly reusable take-home containers. The tubs are dishwasher and microwave safe, require 25% less energy to make than foam, and produces 50% fewer greenhouse gases. For their efforts, KFC even won the 2010  Greener Package Award.

This isn’t a new idea, but it is one that may be over-due for a comeback. In the 80s, some restaurants issued reusable dishware as an incentive, like toys in a Happy Meal. The idea has good and bad points: on the one hand, the containers still use non-renewable petroleum, but KFC plans to limit this somehow. On the other hand, preliminary studies are showing that customers are reusing them, at least for several weeks. Some might argue that biodegradable plastic is the only way to go, but the material is still cost-prohibitive for many companies.

What do you think – is this a step in the right direction or just a step sideways?





Because it’s there

8 09 2010

Most of the time we do things just because they present themselves to us first.

We tend to the screaming child, when the silent one has needs unseen. We do the chore most visibly urgent. We read the magazine on the table, not the books on the shelf. We talk to the people we see daily, forgetting long lost friends.

I think that this kind of rut is entirely different and more dangerous than ordinary laziness, because non-lazy people do it, too. We all do it. But remember how good it felt to reconnect with that person, or complete that scrapbook you had to dust off to hold? Change up your life by moving things around on your shelves and tables. Really look out your windows and appreciate your wall hangings. Take a deep breath, a long look, and what can you find?

Do one little thing differently every day, and you will begin to see how easy it really is to change habits when you change this one habit of seeing something just because it’s there. Your creative flair will flourish.

You might find it’s also easier to pick up a habit that gives back – taking a few moments to find local produce at the store; grouping your errands to save more gas. Green habits are one form of daily creative rebellion, and that’s something we all could use.





Creativity and Being “Green”

5 09 2010

There is something funny about creativity. Mention it and people get nervous. I think this is why some invent inaccurate meanings for it; they don’t understand creativity, and this makes them uncomfortable.

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, a boss told me I was not as creative as my predecessor. He said it so matter-of-factly that I almost laughed in that “are you serious?” way. I, of course, am heartily inclined to disagree, not because I have proof to the contrary, but because I believe he has no right or means to make this assumption. And I have to say, this may be the one thing of value I gained from his leadership: the will to prove him wrong.

Recent research shows that we can actually cultivate our creativity, even when we may not have a genetic predisposition to certain aspects of it. Other research shows that the traditional ways we try to encourage creativity, such as “brainstorming,” don’t work. We need to feel safe, not forced, to be creative. This was the issue with this boss of mine, and this is too often the issue with people who feel they aren’t creative. They simply don’t feel that they have permission from the world to create they way they would if left to their own devices.

I believe that more people would live a “green” life – making more alive and gentler choices on the earth – if they felt free to expand their thinking beyond the 9 to 5, beyond merely getting by. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs supports this; we cannot care about being the best person we can be without our basic needs of nourishment and love being met. But we needn’t wait for others to give us permission and freedom to create; we can be the authority in our own lives!

I am recommitting myself to creativity. To not caring if some, in their small view, find me less creative than others. In reality, they don’t know us – who we really are when given the freedom to expand to our full potential.

How will you expand?





Potential Pet Problems

17 01 2009

I may be embarking on a highly controversial topic here, but have you considered the most eco-friendly ways to approach pet ownership? In our consumer culture, we are often suprised to find that certain problems even exist as a result of common behaviors. Take your pet’s poop, for instance; I never thought that having too many pets could contribute to landfill and water contamination issues–until I read this article by Sheryl Eisenberg of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She explores the delicate issue of poop disposal for dogs and cats. The bottom line? Trash disposal is best, but if you leave the waste on the ground, it’s best to keep it to your own yard–and to keep the pet population to a minimum.





Recyling water filters

17 01 2009

After much petitioning, a grassroots campaign has succeeded in persuading Brita water filtration company to provide a recycling program for their plastic water filters. Go here to learn more, and go here to refill your own! (Thanks IdealBite!)








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