A Mother’s Memo: President Donald J. Trump? Yes, It Can Happen.

My Dear Fellow Americans,

Can you believe it’s been nearly 15 years since September 11, 2001 occurred? For most of us  in our late 20s and 30s that date clearly served as a psychological marker for when reality hit regarding the United States’ image in the world–let alone how extremist Islamic groups viewed us.

Here we are now, May 2016. The presumptive nominee for the GOP is Mr. Donald J. Trump and the Democrat establishment is trying with all their might to prop up their previously coronated, long-awaiting candidate Hillary R. Clinton.  Everyone seems to be incredulous at the idea of these two being our main choices for President of the United States.

Big names like Jeb Bush say they’ll vote for neither, others are proclaiming that the jig is up for the old party barons and then there’s the millennial generation that don’t think it’s odd at all to expect that they should receive handouts/free stuff from their respective candidates (read: Feel the Bern, seriously?).

Truly, I feel sad for former Secretary Clinton, she actually did have a shining moment that was good for securing the presidency–back in 2008. Today it’s still possible but truly only out of default and after the first presidential debate I’m willing to bet that most folks will recover quickly over their self-imposed gag reflux and vote for Mr. Trump without reservation.

Here now Speaker Paul Ryan who say’s he’s “not there yet”.  Mr. Trump’s quick response to that sentiment reflects the reason why up to this point he’s garnered the amazing number of votes in the primaries.  He doesn’t pause to say the “proper” things to appease others–he just moves forward with what he feels and believes. For better or worse, our nation seems to have evolved into a population that is craving for a leader to just lead without reservation as to how the party herd trends.

I believe I’m speaking for most Americans when I say that although this election cycle seem to be distasteful and on the border of absurd when it comes to the two main candidates–somehow it really all will be okay and if Mr. Trump should win by a landslide vote in the fall, he will be able to delegate appropriately so that America can move forward and perhaps aspire to be greater than it already is at the moment.

This nation is currently blessed even if we are blind and too self-absorbed to acknowledge that right now despite our “party affilations”. Happy voting!

Your fellow citizen,

R.V.S.B.

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2020 Forecast: Tin Depletion, Tiaras and Tarnished Touchscreens

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Have you noticed that your days are flying by quickly? It will be 2020 one day and what will that year be like for those of us living?

Rin Tin Tin

My humble yeoman’s guess is tin will be depleted in the global supply and hopefully the companies producing touch screens will have found an alternative that is both lucrative and practical.  It has been embarrassing that our U.S. journalism media outlets have not made more of a stink of the “blood diamond” type of material tin really is.  Everyone is so addicted to “swiping” and pushing these devices to their energy-draining babies and children that we’ve remained blissfully ignorant of how there are other humans dying and suffering to mine this resource that will one day be exhausted.     It will be an involuntary humanitarian success if we can literally clean our hands of where and how that tin material came about.

For your own research I have provided the following links via a google search:

The Princess Bubble

The years before September 11, 2001 had their burst bubbles like the “dot.com bubble” and in following years like the “mortgage bubble” and so forth.  I believe 2020 will bring about a whole new bursting that will make the millennial’s coming-of-age seem like a spa day.

In an endearing effort to help cushion our children from the horrific realities of fanatics, terrorists and frankly mentally ill people who take others lives and properties without remorse–we enjoying playing and paying into the princess factor (and most recently Star Wars fever) and our only dialogue with our children can become a nonstop obsession into those fairy tales of doting on the princess, et cetera.

Let me be clear that I don’t think it’s wrong to let our children have these fun roles to play and toys as such.  I would be a hypocrite myself as my husband and I discern how far to take child entertainment with our own progenies.  It becomes a disservice, however, when our children become teenagers and we’re not talking to them about real life.  Just trying to secure them a good college education, distinguish a career path and “keep them out of trouble” is not going to cut it.

In 2020 many “princesses” will come of age and look around the world and realize that their daydreams went a little too far like “Alice in Wonderland” when growing up.  Disillusionment may set in and it could take them some troublesome years through their twenties trying to figure out how they should operate in the 2020 world of political disarray, wars of a cyber-kind and no way to “let it go”.

Tarnished Touchscreens

Every time I hear “a recent study shows that…” I realize that we all are living subjects of the next “study” to be done in future years.

  • Studies will show that children growing up with too much touchscreen time will have an even greater level of impatience than the guy trying to side-swap you today when merging onto the interstate.
  • Studies will show that overuse of touchscreens helped in human de-evolution when it comes to reading certain social cues in people’s facial expressions, voice tone and body language in general.
  • Studies will show that we had no idea how much radiation was too much or too little when interacting with these touchscreens.
  • Studies will show that many adults recall their early emotional memories (either positive or traumatic) involve some dark rectangular object with a piece of an apple being bitten out in a shiny circle.
  • Studies will show that many children assume that the clouds in the sky really do hold their family photos and verbal vomit of their strung-out parents.

5 More Years

Is there anything to be done about the next five years? Without hitting the mid-century mark in my age group, I’ve learned that it is much easier to tackle major projects with minor changes–albeit diligent ones. Here’s a few ideas that would help evoke healthy progress for our human population if applied en masse:

  1. Forget about resolving the “climate change” debate. It’s happening, it’s been happening since before we had the history or ability to track the weather data. I’m over the arguing about it just like when you hear two toddlers going at it over a simple toy.  What we need to do are the little things to help make the big changes come to fruition:
  2. Minimize. I’m not talking about your “Microsoft windows”. We must try to minimize our “stuff”. It can reduce stress, waste and budget expense. When we see trash outside, pick it up! When dealing with our own household garbage, let’s do it responsibly (reduce, re-use, recycle).  Try to change the producer-consumer balance.  How embarrassing will it be when the future historians write that during the times we fought about whether or not humans were affecting the earth’s environment adversely our consumer product companies continued to come up with new convenient and wasteful items like K-cups and baby food squeezes (full disclosure: I am guilty of being the consumer gobbling up these very products and I am not proud of it).
  3. Hope. May we still have hope that we will figure out how to love God/Creator/Creation and each other regardless of what year we’re living in.

R.V.S.B.

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Once, Twice, Three Times a Turtle: A Local Reflection

Bees, Trees and Turtles

Along with rain forest deforestation and honeybee colony-collapse disorder talk in recent decades, the plight of the sea turtles has come onto our radar as a serious environmental concern.  Deforestation affects many other species of plants and animals—not to mention the oxygen supply and possible overall weather patterns.  The honeybee issue is atrocious in its severity although much of the general human population hasn’t realized it yet but may if our food supply is abruptly altered one of these days.   Meanwhile I live in south Florida where it so happens that a few endangered species of sea turtles come to nest annually including the Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtle.  As a child growing up on the east coast here in Florida it wasn’t uncommon to come across a nest of turtle eggs and there were no public pushes to “save them”—little did I know that one day I’d be a grown-up where turtle talk would be critical to our survival in addition to those of other plants animals such as the bees and trees.

Turtle Walk: Not What First Comes to Mind

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is located in Juno Beach, Florida and their website is www.marinelife.org .  It turns out they have something called a “Turtle Walk” where attendees arrive on a scheduled evening and learn more about the details of the sea turtles’ habits and the kind of research and direct assistance to the sea turtles that the LMC provides through generous donation of volunteer time and public donations.  At the same time, there are “spotters” in communication with staff indoors as to whether there is a turtle sighting—they inform if is there a female turtle approaching the shore in order to lay her eggs in the dark.   If a turtle comes ashore that matches the species allowed by state permit for LMC to view with a tour then the visitors are chaperoned down to the shore in the nighttime with the assistance of red flashlights that will not hamper or scare the turtle.  The general purpose of this Turtle Walk is to educate visitors through education and viewing in real-time the tedious work of a sea turtle to try against many odds to secure the next generation’s survival.

Last Tuesday: No Turtle Show

I had the opportunity to participate in a Turtle Walk event last Tuesday at the LMC in Juno Beach.  Unfortunately our group didn’t have the chance to view a turtle laying in real-time, however, the information I was able to learn in a couple of hours from some of the staff that evening was really enlightening.  Among my favorites: learning that the water evacuating from the pipe from rehabilitation turtle tanks has been treated with a hydrogen peroxide solution that affirms my intuition that has allowed my children and I to enjoy the water play by the shore from it, the fact that leatherback turtles are our best friends because they eat their weight in jellyfish(!) and that LMC’s presence in our area has helped to make significant changes that benefit humans as well as turtles with keeping the nearby beaches cleaner and calmer with less ambient light.  Also, “hot chicks, cool dudes” was the phrase coined to describe the fact in the 1980s biologists realized that sea turtles undergo temperature-dependent sex determination–i.e. the temperature of the sand encloses the egg nests on the shore will sway whether an egg hatches a male or female sea turtle.

Mean Green Clean

If you have had the opportunity to read some of my earlier blog posts you will already understand my anger about our shorelines being treated as an open sand landfill or ashtray—seriously, what possesses us humans to think it’s okay to discard our trash on purpose in a place we all share with each other and the other animal and plants?  On July 5th the LMC organized a beach cleanup and invited the public to come out and utilize tools to pick up any and all trash that could be found after a major holiday.  I brought one of my young children along and when faced with a tantrum I gently sang to him as to why we needed to clean up—for the turtles, for the trees, for the bees and for you and me.  It was both impressive and sad to see how much the public had left in the sands only inches and feet away from wooden markers indicating a sea turtle nest.  Although it is great to have public beach cleanups organized, I feel it’s incumbent upon anyone who steps on a beach to refrain from littering and to pick up any rubbish they see and properly discard.

Local Paper Highlights

Within the same week of attending a LMC Turtle Walk night and participating in a public beach clean up our local paper The Palm Beach Post had a fun Accent front page story entitled “On the trail of turtles” written by Barbara Marshall and photographs by Greg Lovett: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/lifestyles/on-the-trail-of-turtles/nYc6g/  It was a fun piece that highlighted a snippet of what volunteers, biologists and physicians do at the LMC to help ensure that the leatherback turtles who nest on our shores are able to continue their calling as part of our ecological balance in the ocean–did you know they may actually be natives of the Asian oceans? Also, they eat jellyfish, I repeat: THEY EAT JELLYFISH.  There is more to be written on the need to assist the sea turtles, of course, but it is good to see that the information continues to come out no matter how big or small.

Turtle Time

It is understandable that we can get so overwhelmed by any news that affects the survival of animal species, plants and the frightful fluctuations of our climate on this Earth—so that we actually are moved to not move, we become paralyzed and apathetic.  My hope is that we can at the very least become more aware of our immediate environment where we respectively live and do our best to assist outstanding issues with wildlife other concerns.  We cannot disassociate ourselves from the fact that we depend on each other and other building blocks in our physical world to survive and thrive as we strive to become a better human race overall.

R.V.S.Bean

Some newsworthy links:

recent article on honeybee CCD: http://science.time.com/2013/05/07/beepocalypse-redux-honey-bees-are-still-dying-and-we-still-dont-know-why/

recent article on rainforest destruction: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22706402

“Nature-Deficit Disorder”: The Real Child Epidemic That Should Concern Us

In the few weeks following my second son D.A.’s birth, I was well aware that my first son T.A. needed more stimulation that just a crying newborn brother in the confines of four walls. Empowered by the nursing privacy and versatility of a sling for the baby, I loaded my two boys in the car and headed for the local Palm Beach Zoo.

I was glad to be outside and although I would love to do more activity with my sons, the newborn’s needs and my healing process will have to delay those desires. As I pushed my older son in a stroller through the manicured trail of the zoo, we came upon a small group of adults huddled around a speaking podium. My verbal toddler didn’t want to stick around but I gently admonished him in Greek that we were going to wait and see what this was about. I’m ever so glad we did.

It turned out this fateful morning that the Palm Beach Zoo leaders and the neighboring South Florida Science Museum were hosting a small talk and news conference for the visiting bestselling author Richard Louv. His most recent publication is “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”. It was during his speech that I had already determined I was going to purchase this book as he spoke how our zoos and parks should be the “gateway” for our children and their interaction with nature.

I had heard about this author before while reading a magazine in the past where his writings were mentioned. I’m surprised I hadn’t read his material earlier as I believe I’ve had a parallel passion for the fight to make sure our future generations don’t become so engrossed with the ever-encompassing digital age that they lose touch with actual reality in our true 3-D natural surroundings.

Let me share a quote from Mr. Louv’s Introduction in his book “Last Child in the Woods”:
“’One evening when my boys were younger, Matthew, then ten, looked at me from across a restaurant table and said quite seriously, ‘Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?’… He was right. Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that seems, in the era of kid pagers, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.”

His book covers a wide variety of ways to approach what he calls the emergence of a “nature-deficit disorder” among children today. He astutely conveys that in our efforts to keep our children safe, for instance, we have made nature a dangerous, off-limits place that is best appreciated through video or virtual reality. My favorite quote based on Mr. Louv’s childhood love for climbing trees: “The woods were my Ritalin”.

The most interesting point that Mr. Louv has made in this book (I have yet to finish it but am close to it as I read it during night feedings) is that our culture has made “saving the environment” such an important mantra for the education of our children. Yet, at the same time, we have made it increasingly difficult to allow our youth to really know and experience the very environment we preach to them is so critical to maintain. From Mr. Louv : “Parents, educators, other adults, institutions—the culture itself—may say one thing to children about nature’s gifts, but so many of our actions and messages—especially the ones we cannot hear ourselves deliver—are different. And children hear very well.”

If you are able to spare the time to read this book, I strongly recommend it. Louv brings up the fact that time spent in nature is very therapeutic not only for young ones but for adults as well. There is something healing about the wind, the plants, the animals, and the time that is not set by boundaries of software or physical hardware.

RVSB

A Study Report You May Have Missed This Week: Link Between ADHD & Pesticides

Good Thursday to all of you!  It’s been a busy week yet again in my personal orbit but I haven’t forgotten the one little Associated Press report I read in my local paper that had been stuffed/hidden in page 7a.  This was released back on Monday, May 17th, you can Google search to find it or just go to this Time publication link: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1989564,00.html

The title of the report simply describes it: “Study Links Kids’ ADHD to Pesticides”.  It turns out that a recent study has scientists buzzing about and clamoring for more research studies to be conducted on the possible health effects of pesticides on children.  A quote worth remembering from the study: “In the body, pesticides break down into compounds that ca be measured in urine. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children.”

That’s right, whether or not the pesticides themselves can put our children at greater risk for health problems such as ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) is going to be up for more debate as more research studies is needed–however, the sad and sobering truth remains that we are absorbing these chemicals into our bodies when exposed and our children being smaller are really taking a hit physically.

Unfortunately, this particular report doesn’t determine/reveal how the children in the study were exposed to the pesticides: had they eaten food treated with it, breathed it in the author or swallowed it in their drinking water?

The findings that were published on Monday in “Pediatrics” have the lead author Maryse Bouchard from the University of Montreal saying that one way we can limit our family’s exposure to pesticides is to eat organic produce when available and scrub all produce to get external residue off (regrettably, some things like blueberries and strawberries will have the highest concentration of pesticides absorbed in the fruit-so do try getting organic fresh or frozen.)

For my own family, I do try when available to purchase organic produce, but it’s not always in the store right?  That’s probably why I also try to grow in my garden items that our family regularly consumes in our weekly menus so that I can control what the plants are exposed to.  But what about rain that may fall with pollutants from the atmosphere?  We have to temper our aversion to the reality that our human society is polluted whether we like it or not.  As consumers, we still have some power play left as we can guide the market to reduce its dependence on poisons such as widespread pesticide use.  However, we must educate and arm ourselves with information as to what we want ourselves and our families to be exposed to when eating certain products.  Ultimately, you make the choice as to what path your household will consume whether it be based on environmental or cost-effective terms.

Here are a couple of helpful online resources for your own personal research needs: www.organicconsumers.org , www.organic-center.org and www.heathlychild.org, www.chemicalfreekids.com , www.centerforfoodsafety.org , www.foodandwaterwatch.org , www.ewg.org  .

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

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)