American Apparel…What a concept!

This is a blog short…I want to share my recent experience that was really a fluke but I’m glad it happened since I may be addicted now.

There is a store in some malls, maybe one near you, called American Apparel.  The first time I saw one was about 5 months ago in Boca Raton, Florida and it looked like a bunch of clothes from the 80s that I wasn’t too attracted to walk in and check out any further.

Instead, it took me until last Thursday when I yet again stumbled by another American Apparel store and actually decided to walk in and take a closer look since I had satiated my dear son with some mango sorbet.  Don’t worry, I asked the nice young ladies behind the register desk if I could bring my stroller in with my toddler slurping sorbet.

Again, I was a bit overwhelmed by the clash of Broadway meet the Eighties and Dirty Dancing scattered about in the style of clothes.  But then I finally saw something that caught my eye, it was a sign near the cash register describing American Apparel true appeal: this is an American owned and operating company that uses an “efficient, vertically integrated system” that “means heightened quality control and greater flexibility in design”.

Basically, this racket operates out of Los Angeles where they knit, dye and stitch the fabric together to make clothes for infants through adults, boys and girls, men and women. Made in the U.S.A.  You can look them up at http://www.americanapparel.net

In addition, they strive to use organic cotton where possible and I only bought three items but am ecstatic with them.  One is a toddler fine jersey which I washed and put on my son today.  It is so soft and the design is a basic shirt but you can tell the stitching is of good quality.  It’s full price was $11–yes,that seems steep, but it really felt good to put a piece of clothing on my child that was made in our country under good conditions and intentions.

I also bought a scarf that I wear on my head like a Greek island villager, I LOVE it and have vowed to go back and get more or at least order some online.  The third item is a cherry red collared shirt for my son, its stitching is notably of good design and I look forward to dressing him in it soon.

Moral of the story is that one shouldn’t immediately dismiss a store because it may seem like they carry 1980’s throw-backs.  Even though American Apparel definitely can give off that vibe, their company methodology makes it worth trying to find what styles may fit our wardrobe and ease our over-stimulated-with-Made-in-China consciences.

RVSB

Beach Cleaning or Sorting the Smokers from the Cruiseships

This past Saturday I participated in the Great American Cleanup Day in
conjunction with my husband’s company Florida Power and Light (FPL)
Power to Care event held at John D. MacArthur Park in Singer Island.
It was a company family event where participants wore matching FPL
Power to Care green volunteer shirts and yes my son was adorable in
his little shirt dubbed as a volunteer-in-training.  If you are
interested in the general information on Keeping America Beautiful
Inc, including their most recent campaign you can check out their
webpage at www.kab.org

I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder concerning beach cleanups mostly
because I consider them to be an ineffective means of keeping our
shores clear of trash on a regular basis but also for the reason that
Saturday mornings were always a tough day for me to be available.

Still, I’m glad I joined my son and husband for the FPL team event as
I was able to participate and witness the pros and cons of a beach
cleanup scenario.

As a side note, did you know that the beach is also known as the GIANT
public access ashtray?  I find it unbelievable every time I step foot
on the sandy shores of Florida that I always end up stepping on a
cigarette butt of some sort.  Is it truly that difficult to take your
empty water bottle, fill it with sand and then dump your butts into it
and toss into the trash bin on your way out from the beach?  Talk
about the perils of your child playing in the sand.

Back to beach cleanup, we entered the beach and were handed gloves,
bags and these tools that grab the trash in an extended fashion so you
don’t have to bend over.  The gloves I accepted and after about a
minute I ended up returning the trash contraption because I just don’t
think it’s helpful.

During a beach cleanup, the bulky trash items are picked up en masse
in less than fifteen minutes.  The reality is that there is still a
load of trash available to pick up but it must be sorted through by
hand, the tools will just slow you down.

Instead I recommend cleaning methods like getting on your knees next
to a pile of wet or dry seaweed with good gloves on.  Proceed to turn
that seaweed/debris pile over and you will find more trash than you
imagined there at first glance.

Looking around during the beach cleanup I was disheartened to see that
folks weren’t really looking for garbage unless it jumped out at them.
 While searching through the piles of seaweed myself, I was astonished
at how much is hidden in the shorelines and overwhelmed that it seemed
it never can get clean enough.

We were told by one of the wildlife officers that a majority of the
trash they find every year is caused by the cruise ships offshore.  I
vaguely remember someone in the past telling me that the cruise ships
do end up dumping debris while at sea, although I can’t remember if it
was just limited to sewage or what not.  That completely horrifies me
and there must be a way to help stop that practice sooner rather than
later!

I was glad that my son got to see other people picking up trash on the
beach since most of the time he only sees his mama doing that when we
go to the beach together.  I don’t want to be a naysayer against beach
cleanups, they are a good team building experience for work and
schools, I just wish people could take that mentality with them when
they go to the beach themselves.

If you have the opportunity to participate in a beach cleanup, go for
it with an open heart and mind.  You may find it to be more rewarding
than first thought, I certainly did and if nothing else learned how to
better find debris to trash.

RVSB

Apple Juice and Arsenic: A Recent Story I Missed!

This past Saturday consisted of a day road trip to my Alma Mater University of Florida along with my husband and son T.A.  It was UF’s Orange & Blue spring exhibition game and basically a fun time for current students and alumni and their friend and families to hang out and say go Gators!  My son T.A. took it all in stride and even clapped in delight during the scrimmage.  However, it was dinner conversation that night with my old college roommate that affected me the most Saturday: she asked me if I’d seen the report from the St. Petersburg Times regarding the amounts of arsenic found in apple juice. What?

First, I needed to read the story written by Mr. Tom Marshall, dated March 14 and I’ve provided a link for you if you are interested as well from Florida’s St. Petersburg Times website: http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2010/reports/apple-juice/

The overview of this report is that the St. Petersburg Times decided to commission independent testing of apple juice at least 18 different  juice brands including Motts, Apple & Eve and Tree Top to name a few.  More than 1/4 of those apple juices tested reflected arsenic levels between 25 to 35 parts ber billion (ppb).  To give you and I a better explanation to compare that test result, the FDA since 2006 considers that the nation’s drinking water supply should not have more than 10 ppb of arsenic occurring.

I further discovered how ignorant I am, or perhaps how little I learned in chemistry as a teenager, because evidently arsenic is “naturally occurring” and there is no way to avoid it completely.  The same goes for arsenic in items such as our drinking water but the apple juice issue (and in the past other testing reports by others on pear and grape juice) is more sinister because the arsenic is actually applied in the groves as an ingredient in pesticide.  Great-so we parents have already become super-paranoid about all the poisons and pollutants in our food supply and then we learn that the brilliant farmers in not only China but even our own country have settled on arsenic as a deterrent rather than utilize better options.

China does happen to be supplying more than 60% of our apple juice concentrate at this time.  Other countries include Argentina, Turkey and ourselves.  Yet American control over the apple juice market happens to be less than a 1/5 of the market.  I gleaned from this article that the individual companies that produce and package the apple juice seem the ones who are responsible for testing the concentrate they receive from abroad.  Although there is one instance cited where the FDA did step in and alerted their border officials of incoming pear juice from China in 2008 only after it was Canada officials who tested and found that the juice contained between 28-32 ppb of arsenic.

If you’re wondering what our government, basically the FDA (food and drug administration) is doing or saying about this subject of arsenic levels in juice, this quote is a great summary:  ‘ “We don’t have any evidence at this point to say that we feel there’s a risk issue that you need to be mindful of,” said P. Michael Bolger, the Food and Drug Administration’s chief of chemical hazards assessment.’

Following talk of the 2008 Chinese pear juice incident at our neighboring border with Canada, Bolger then went on to say: ‘ “the FDA has found some apple juice samples with more than 25 ppb of arsenic following increased testing. But the average for those tests was 9 ppb. More evidence is needed to justify setting limits on arsenic in juice, Bolger said. “We’ve got to generate the appropriate information, because you can’t fly blind,” he said. “You have to have some good data to back it up.” ‘

Thankfully, the general consensus among scientists interviewed for this particular article did say that low levels of arsenic in our water and juices does not pose serious health threats.  Of course, if arsenic is showing up in higher levels consistently and as for our children who may drink a large quantity of juice, the arsenic rising in our body’s chemistry can contribute to cancerous conditions as well as hormonal changes, et cetera.

I invite to read this article if you have time and maybe even jump on www.fda.gov for more information.  From what I can tell in the St. Petersburg piece, there isn’t a federal standard yet provided for our juice companies to follow regarding what levels of arsenic are safe.  Some companies use the water standard  of no more than 10 ppb of arsenic allowed, but I do believe if the government espouses to protect its nation’s food supply, then a juice regulation is required.

In the meantime, use your best judgement as a parent, you always make the right choices for your children so trust that.  If you feel better about watering down juice, your kid’s dentist will applaud you.  If you want to use more organic juice products just be aware that they all haven’t stopped using China-sourced apple juice concentrate and arsenic still can occur in soil years after it was used in an orchard. 

Hopefully, through parent-pressure, we can encourage the powers-that-be to nudge the FDA on this one.   And thank you to my old college roommate for alerting me on a recent story that I missed because I’m so busy like all of you mamas and papas!

RVSB

Re-Use: A Not So Original Idea That Bears Repeating

Had one of those epiphany moments earlier today while driving from Chick-fil-A to my grandparents-in-love’s house.  You know the sort, a magical proposition hits the mind and you know it would help change things for the better if only you could ensure its widespread and instantaneous implementation.

This idea of mine certainly can’t be original, in fact I know it draws on inspiration of the homemakers of the past going back hundreds of years.  I just think it’s about time that we use the resources of today to accomplish our green goals for tomorrow.

Have you ever noticed how much trash you have to sort when you dispose of your cereals, pastas, rice, cookies, crackers, et cetera?  Your contents are gone, you pull out and toss the opaque white plastic bag inside, then you attempt to fold and flatten the cardboard container which sometimes has those handy clear plastic portion for see-through capability but you wonder if that’s recyclable or not.  Or you may not deal with this dissection process at all and just toss the doggone thing entirely–which if you do, I cannot judge you as I’ve been guilty of doing that at times even though I kick myself for not being “greener”.

Now, if you’ve inducted yourself into a potentially smug society like the Whole Food cult following, then perhaps you’ve just taken matters into your own hands and have glass or ceramic containers at home that you fill with your bagged bulk items from their candy store-like aisle for dry, nonperishable goods.  However, I think I can speak on behalf of many busy parents that we simply cannot carve out that time and care to do that meticulously although we may fantasize about that for our retirement years (that is IF we can ever retire).

My idea is to help encourage companies like Post, Kellogg’s and other staple name brands as well as store brands like Kroger’s, Safeway, Publix, etc to find innovative ways to package their dry products so that they can not only attest to being more green-friendly but save in packaging costs as well.

I propose that reusable containers are sold by the company that are sturdy and reliable in terms of airtight quality that consumers can utilize to house their staple items.  The containers can vary in material, re-used material is best, but anything like glass, plastic, stainless steel can do the job.  As an incentive to buy these one-time purchases, a company can offer a discount for those customers who have accumulated a certain amount of proof of purchase labels from the goods–this reinforces the fact that the consumer will buy this good repeatedly and therefore benefits by buying this reusable container.

Of course, lots of advertising would come out of a product transition like this, but it would again be beneficial for the company advocating this move and make the consumer feel better by simply buying  into it and therefore contributing to helping the environment.

The reusable containers of course could bear the name of the company as well as the specific product.  Next step is for the company is to then overhaul the majority of its packaging for these mainstay products.  Either they could go the route of the Whole Foods wave of offering goods through big containers that the purchaser then takes out themselves by the pound or they could just reinvent the wheel a little by putting their products in mundane packaging.  The purpose of the new packaging is not to be attractive, rather it must safely contain the product for the consumer to empty at home in their reusable container and then dispose of in their recycles bin.  Packaging can range from biodegradable substances such as paper or plastics that can be recycled.

What about the ingredient and nutrition labels you ask?  Well, if you purchase the reusable product container from that company, it will have that on the back automatically.  However, as they are required by law to provide it to the consumer each time they purchase the good I believe there are a couple of solutions to this.  There is the soy-based ink that can be used on a paper packaging, the labels can be provided separately in a dispenser on the supermarket shelf that the product is housed on or as every other company seems to be advocating the information on the nutrition label could be available on the internet or in a phone app (thank you Apple iPhone revolution).

Again, I certainly don’t claim intellectual property rights on this idea, I simply have thought about it over the past few years as I’ve noticed just how much we waste and that there really is another way.  Additionally, I concede that the convenience packaging can’t be entirely eradicated as there’s reason we have “convenience stores” especially for the traveler.  Yet I know that this is a plausible scenario that actually can benefit both profit-seeking company and conscientious consumer while helping de-clutter our Earth of our needless trash.

As for history, it really does hold some nuggets of wisdom that we should note.  Although pestilence and disease was much more rampant, our ancestors did buy their goods in bulk as well and often used reusable containers that weren’t glamorous.

I’m slightly discouraged by how small I feel as a stay-at-home at times, but I think that by sharing this with you and even trying a small letter-writing campaign, maybe someone will notice and help make a change that will cause a chain-reaction for the better in this small subject area of nonperishable, dry goods we all love and use.

RVSB

Our Children and Nature: A Relationship Worth Fostering

Last week I was relaxing with my husband in our bed watching a favorite sitcom via www.hulu.com and between show segments were these short 30-60 second commercials.  Usually I’m pretty oblivious to the ads except for one that made me nearly fall out of bed in disbelief.

It was a short public service type message that was speaking to the lack of outdoor play time that our children get these days.  The piece closed with a mission proposal to parents that we get our children outside for at least an hour a day along with a website: www.greenhour.org

I read recently in our local newspaper about the current statistics out from the National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org)  and was astonished at the idea that many kids get no more than 5-7 minutes a day with nature outside.  I don’t know if that includes accounting for those who play outdoor sports but I also don’t think that really matters.  Bottom line I just can’t believe that this has happened under our noses and am consumed with avoiding such a hazard for my son and any other children we may have.

Boggled by the recent news article and the commercial computer ad, I did an internet search and came across congressional testimony before the Interior and Environmental Subcommittee by Richard Louv at the U.S. House of Representatives on February 27, 2007 entitled “Leave No Child Inside”.  I highly recommend pulling this up and reading it if you would like a concise overview of the problem our nation is facing with the next generation being disconnected with nature.  Mr. Louv is also the author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”.

In Mr. Louv’s testimony he brings up several reasons why this dramatic decline in children’s outdoor play has occurred in recent years.   There are the obvious technology boom of video games, DVD players, iPods and the Wii (an interactive video gaming system).  While although more muted of a reason, it is a nonetheless pervasive mentality that we have as parents today of being phobic that our child will be the next Fox News or MSNBC poster abduction child.

However, as we delve deeper into this issue I believe you’ll agree with me that the adverse effects of our children having less contact with nature makes the risks of allowing/fostering their interactions outside a small issue.  For instance, there is scientific evidence through various studies to indicate that spending time outdoors helps our children’s cognitive development.

You don’t have to be a “tree-hugger” to also appreciate the fact that we need our children to be in touch with nature so we can ensure our Earth’s future by having conservationists and so forth emerge out of the next generation to replace the current ones who aren’t getting any younger.

Maybe it was my son’s newborn jaundice but I really cannot recall him being kept inside too long on a daily basis.  This also includes the days I wrapped him up like an Eskimo baby and tucked him into the Bob jogging stroller while I attempted running in my postpartum blue days when it was in the 20s and 30s outside in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

I even introduced him to all the trees in our yard at that time and later in my family’s yards.  Nothing special, just a ‘good morning’ and patting the bark.  That was when he was less than a year old, nowadays he’s interested in what’s in the trees like the squirrels and the woodpecker.  He also enjoys feeling the different types of bark.  It goes without saying that he’s in love with those trees that give him stuff like oranges and tangerines here in Florida.

I’m not going to say it’s easy to get your children outside, especially if they’ve never really had a relationship with nature.  It’s a definite sacrifice for parents to get children into nature especially if they are school-age as you contend with their school schedule, any extracurriculars, your work schedule, homework, dinner and so forth.  Of course, if you’ve chosen home-schooling, you have a time advantage that I hope you’re using effectively.

What I’m trying to say is that this is a relationship important enough to foster even if it means you need to adjust dinner time or what TV shows you want to watch–whatever sacrifice it may take on our part as parents is truly worth the dividends for our children to grow up connected to the natural world that we ourselves depend upon for everyday living.

RVSB

Book Review: “The Unhealthy Truth” by Robyn O’Brien

Immediately I offer the disclaimer that I haven’t finished Robyn’s book but I have been ingesting what she has to say as I’m three-fourths through it and can hardly read quickly enough to keep up with my eagerness to know more from her research in this work.

“The Unhealthy Truth” was not a book readily available at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore, I had it ordered and sent to my mailing address.  I encountered this book title in one of the women’s magazines I love (my personal trifecta: Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Ladies Home Journal).  The short paragraph review indicated that by journeying through her children’s allergies and food sensitivities, she uncovered more information leading to her conclusion that our food industry in America should be scrutinized more closely.

On the front cover of her book below the title reads: “How Our Food Is Making Us Sick- and What We Can Do About It.”  Cue that along with the photo image of a brown grocery bag with the skull and crossbones poison symbol that is full of specific basics being corn, milk, peanut butter, soybeans, eggs and bread–you have the simple introduction of what this book will dissect.

This is a must-read for parents that are concerned about what your family eats, that find yourselves getting stuck in a supermarket aisle because you are trying to read/comprehend the nutrition and ingredients label and so forth. My personally professed paranoia is axis of evil foods: genetically modified corn, soy and wheat.

She chronicles how she became more aware of allergies and food sensitivities after her baby daughter was diagnosed allergic to eggs, later she would also deal with a dairy issue with her son (in all she has four children, she names the children with the particular allergy/food sensitivities in the book).

The part I’m currently enthralled with although I admit is a bit dizzying reading for late at night is the chapter that begins on page 146 entitled: “True Colors”.  I have been pouring over this chapter, re-reading portions that refer to a 2007 study that came out of U.K.’s University of Southampton with findings related to the effects on children who ate food with artificial colors and preservatives. The results of the double-blind study (‘neither the subjects nor the researchers know who gets the real stuff and who gets the placebo’) were that those children that got the food coloring and sodium benzoate in their systems had specific behavioral changes like having trouble with attention span, more hyperactive and less calculated/more impulsive.

The chapter goes on to list other studies in Europe and Australia, particularly noting a food coloring that many of us American parents encounter every week: FD&C Yellow 5 or E102, also known as tartrazine.  Basically the stuff that helps your quick Mac-n-Cheese look like a nuclear orange party on macaroni.  Again, this is not easy reading through all these excerpts of various studies, however, it is most riveting and informative (and boiled-down, this Yellow 5 is NOT good for our kids, or us for that matter)…and downright humbling to our American food companies as other companies like Norway and the United Kingdom have dealt swiftly and thoroughly with questionable, unnecessary ingredients like Yellow 5/tartrazine.  For example, the following is the quote from Kraft Foods U.K. as relayed in O’Brien’s book:

  •           “Kraft Foods UK has no products aimed at children that contain the ingredients highlighted in the FSA [Southampton ] study…[W]ith our recent Dairylea Lunchables reformulation in the UK, we reduced fat and salt, as well as removed artificial colours and flavours. Without compromising quality, taste and food safety, we will continue to see where we can make changes and still meet consumer expectations.”

Without reading any further, ask yourself now if Kraft Foods in the UK made these changes to their food distribution, including removing the nuclear coloring that in some children has found to increase irritability, hyperactivity and insomnia…why wouldn’t the American division of Kraft Foods follow suit for their products that many if not most American families rely on? Your exasperation is magnified as O’Brien relays everything she learned so far.

The overall hilarious irony in this book is that O’Brien likens herself to the conservative/GOP soccer mom mold and yet through this personal journey and research has come to find that the gross ties that lie between government entities and food/pharmaceutical companies in often non-partisan.

If you get this book and find it a little paranoid in her information sharing or chunky with regurgitated research studies I do believe that it is worth the money for at least two parts of the book:

  1. Chapter 8: “This Is A Carrot” on page 225 helps walk you through how to begin reducing the amount of junk additives in your family’s menu, something I believe we can all agree is a good idea.
  2. Appendix: Organic 101 on page 271 breaks down what the difference is between “Organic” and “All Natural”, once again helping educate us in an area important to our family’s nutrition or giving us more confidence on what decisions we make.

I do recommend this book to everyone, even if you’re not a parent because food is still food and we all eat it and should know more about what we are taking into our bodies if we don’t grow and hunt our own stuff.

RVSB

Can We Afford to Be “Granola”? (Part 2)

In Part One of my essay series “Can We Afford to Be ‘Granola’?, I touched upon the environment and how most of the public can pitch in with helping preserve our resources by each doing our part with trash reduction and combating litter in public places like our shorelines.

I’ve thought about it over the past few days and have decided that our food choices and clothing options should be covered in Part Two.

We Are What We Eat

In the past decade there has been a clear divide forming between two main types of grocery consumers in our nation.  Those who must have mostly organic/locally produced products and those who cannot buy (literally) into this greener/sustainable streak and continue to purchase what they need at the lowest possible price regardless of content.

I’m one of the fence-sitters.  I really do want to have the pesticide-free produce.  I’d rather consume and give my family non-GMO wheat and soy products.  I like my cows to eat free-range and vegetarian instead of ground-up chick (as in baby chickens) meal and cloistered in smelly, stuffy conditions.  I do admit to buying “happy cow” milk like Horizon or Stonyfield Farm.

But practically speaking, it is very expensive to do this effectively-at least for my family’s checking account.  So how can we approach this problem with a compromise solution?

I do believe it is possible in most places to acquaint ourselves with what is locally available in our immediate geographical area.  For instance, I live in South Florida where I can actually pay less for much of my produce needs if I avoid going to the supermarket chain and instead visit the local produce stand off the side of the road or the green markets in local towns on the weekends. (check out www.localharvest.org)

For those of us unfamiliar, there are still programs like cheese (for Wisconsin residents example is: www.burnettdairy.com) and meat/poultry co-ops available whereby for a certain price you are able to receive a variety of products contingent on what’s seasonal.

Simple changes like using organic canned tomato sauce as a base for your pasta recipes instead of buying spaghetti sauce can be affordable and delicious.  It is also cheaper at times to purchase frozen veggies/fruits and still enjoy the flavors as they are frozen at their peak.

As for wheat and soy products, I have found it to be more cost-effective to eat less of those products overall so that we can afford to purchase the non-GMO types that I prefer to feed my son and husband.  That may be too far for you and of course that’s alright, these are the executive decisions we all must make for ourselves and our families based on what we believe is the best course of action.

Clothing Clutter

I don’t know if there’s ever been a poll or survey taken, but I’m curious to know how our wardrobes rank in our pack-rat tendencies in America.

After living a semi-gypsy life this past year, I’m still astounded by the amount of clothing that I possess.  I have tried to donate items and afterwards I spot something on sale or some item I must have and purchase more-ending up with the same amount.  So you can imagine my downright disillusionment when I noticed clothing that was ‘organic’ or made from ‘sustainable’ sources like bamboo.

Honestly, I haven’t delved enough into the area of textiles and how our clothing is made specifically.  Although I do sigh each time I notice that my clothing is made in China–I keep imagining sweatshops even though I don’t know how bad those places really are.

Funny enough, “granola” people seem to have this stereotypical image that they always dress in neutral colors like oatmeal, brown, beige and grays.  But if there is a true granola way of dressing, what would it be?

My theory is still in drafting mode as I am struggling to reduce my amount of clothing, but I will share it with you:  First step is what I’ve been saying, take a survey of your wardrobe and note what you haven’t worn in at least 6 months-one year’s time.  Those items should be the first you pull out for possible donation/Ebay/yard sale.  However, you may have an emotional attachment to some; write that down and read it back to yourself and ponder whether you’re truly that attached (if you are, no shame, I still own the dress my husband met me in 13 years ago!).

Next, evaluate your turnover status with your clothes on a daily basis.  In other words, do you wear an outfit just once and then throw it in the hamper even if there are no stains/noxious smells?  Consider wearing some clothing more than once if possible and professional.  I found in the past that the dryer and the iron did wonders for my suits and other items that I wore often.  Of course, this course of action excludes certain items like socks and intimates (although it has been recently surveyed that many women wear their bras more often than they should between washings-eek!)

Applying even just these two main actions-reducing wardrobe and laundry loads-can dramatically help cut down on the energy spent on cleaning and cost of clothing overall.  Once again, this would truly make a “green footprint’ if everyone participated in such an overhaul in clothing habits.  This of all my “granola” pointers has to be the most difficult for us. In the latter part of the 20th century and now early 21st century, we have no idea what it’s like for us to  have-to make our own clothing-we can buy it so cheaply at Walmart or even a garage sale.

By delving into areas like our physical environment, our grocery consumption and our clothing I have come to the yeoman’s conclusion that we all can afford to be “granola”–except that the cost is still pretty steep for us as it takes discipline and personal accountability.  These traits are tough to be consistent with when we are battered with our never-ending responsibilities and unforeseen stresses.

Perhaps if you’ve taken the extra few minutes to read this you’ll think about what you can do and apply it slowly to your daily habits until it takes root like a seed that’s sprouted slowly and thoroughly in the soil after constant care.

RVSB

Can We Afford to Be “Granola”? (Part 1)

What is Granola?

I believe it was about 5 years ago when one of my friends mentioned the state of being a “granola mom” when recalling her birthing experiences with her two children.  At the time I thought it was a pretty corny way of describing being “earthy”, “natural” and the tendency to lean toward products labeled “organic”.

As usual, in life we sometimes end up swallowing our own sarcasm as we walk right into the realm of possibilities we earlier thought ourselves immune.  I currently refer to myself as a “granola mom” but with a stipulation that I aim for the 80/20 rule (80% of the time I try to do the best for my family in terms of food and home purchases–that’s not to say I actually make that goal consistently).

In recent years as “living green” and propaganda films like former Vice-President Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” have become common jargon and an underlying mantra for Americans and other citizens of planet Earth.  Yet, I have noted flaws in the system of environmentally friendly living that set up many folks for failure when they try do better for themselves and their families.

THE ENVIRONMENT

Let’s begin with one of the most ominous terms; the connotation is so heavy and complicated when we dwell on the word: environment.

As compelling as “The Inconvenient Truth” may have been to some of us and other programs by local groups or cable networks like Discovery and History Channel, these messages have rarely been able to mobilize the majority of those who view them.  My guess is that although books and media presentations can espouse protecting the environment, saving the environment and such as strong messages, they lack the simple instructions that the everyday person truly needs.  How can I, a mother, a father, a single person help to save the environment?  Forget owning a Toyota Prius, it has to be more involved than just one major purchase.

Here’s one idea, how about our personal waste habits?  I’m not just talking about having your multicolored recycling bins–although that is a start for many who still just throw everything into the same trash bag at home.  Picture this if you can’t get motivated:  take a shovel and dig a hole in your backyard (if you have one, if not, imagine a large open trash bin outside your door).  After digging the hole, proceed to dump your daily trash into that hole and watch it pile up over the course of the week.  In addition to the stench and attraction of bugs, et cetera, you may be getting the idea of how this will go without actually doing it.

That’s what we are all doing every week: we are dumping all of our trash into a big pile in our soil, the soil that feeds us, feeds all the animals around us, some of which we eat, some of which fertilize the other living things called plants that you eat if you are a vegetarian or a vegan.

So my offering is that perhaps all of us (including my flawed self) should actually do something we have sincere control over.  Let’s minimize our trash.  It costs us next to nothing to do so.  It just means we have to be more (gasp!) accountable to ourselves and make the extra effort.  Maybe we buy less products that aren’t already packaged in recyclable materials.  For those more ambitious, you can email or send snail mail to those companies who don’t use recycled or recyclable packaging.  Get your children involved in how they discard trash, they are much more adaptable than us rigid adults–perhaps they could show us the better example!

Another simple instruction that I can envision most people being capable of evolving as a part of their daily habits is directed to those who live near bodies of water used for recreation: beaches, rivers, streams, springs, ponds, lakes and the like.

I love taking my son T.A. to the beach, I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of land and water life crashing into each other on the shores.  As I’ve grown older I’ve become highly sensitive to the amount of trash found on the sand at public and private beaches: even the millionaire Palm Beach island is not immune to this tainted condition.

After several years of personal “tsk-tsking” and so-called goals to attend the next annual beach cleaning event (which I NEVER get around to), I finally found initiative after my son tangled himself in beach trash as an infant last year.  I grabbed one of my plastic grocery bags usually reserved for the surprise #2 item diaper and used it as both a glove and trash receptacle to pick up the trash around us.  A sense of peace descended on me as the sand finally was free of trash around and the bag was chock full of discards.

As I left the beach that fateful day, I looked back as we walked up the stairs to the street level and saw that a young woman was seating herself where we had been and was sitting in what seemed to be the start of a yoga meditation.  My heart warmed that we had helped someone else enjoy the beach for their personal purposes without the stress of enduring unnecessary trash.

Ever since I always pick up trash with my son during our beach visits, I know it may not make a huge difference in the big scheme of things.  However, imagine the possibilities if everyone who stepped foot onto a beach around the world either picked up trash or avoided littering?  The sad reality is that even my beloved Greece’s postcard-worthy beaches are becoming shore landfills with sometimes up to an inch thick of junk on the rocky and sandy shores.

Again, it doesn’t take throwing hundreds and thousands of dollars into drives to clean the beaches and advertising beach cleanup days that even the independently wealthy scarcely attend.  It simply takes you and I not allowing ourselves to trash or to ignore the trash by our water hole of choice.

To be continued…in Can We Afford to Be “Granola”? (Part 2)

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"