Archive for May, 2008

ILoveMiceElf.com – Treat your senses

Part of falling away from the grid involves rethinking your purchasing power. Instead of supporting Walmart, which imports a staggering 30% of all goods that enter through US ports, aim to create local relationships and to buy products that eliminate or minimize the “distance to table” effect which governs not only food but all your purchases. With the amazing power of the internet, “local” can be anywhere in the world: support an individual or team of craftsmen rather than mega corporations.

ILoveMiceElf.com

Ever since I ran into the founder of ILoveMiceElf.com, heard her speak about her organic hands-on approach to crafting bath products, and then ordered some of her creamy soaps, I’ve been in soap heaven. Most bath products are so heavily perfumed and are filled with glycerins and alcohols and ingredients I can’t pronounce. The natural products at this website, however, are hand-crafted using only natural materials that are so good you could almost eat them. Which you shouldn’t do: I have to tell you this because you may actually be tempted by some of their flavors. The cinnamon oatmeal soap is the best I’ve ever tried, anywhere. Very creamy, great scent, and exfoliating oatmeal throughout.

According to Ms. Green, the master craftswoman, she sought to create products using only natural ingredients that won’t cause allergic reactions and would appeal to even the most hard-core natural products users. And this devotion shows in each batch. Try it to believe.

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America’s First Wind Powered City

It’s official: at least one city in the United States has finally ponied up for a wind powered station that will meet the entire city’s needs.  Meet Rock Port, Missouri, poised to take that trophy home for America.  Fortunately situated near a bluff and with a windy enough climate to sustain a projected 16 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, Missourans are about to get a healthy does of green in their power mix.  Annual consumption has historically only been around 13 gigwatt hours, so that power company will also be able to sell power across the grid to other places, as well as to supply electrical power when winds are down.  With this year’s tornado season as evidence, I don’t think that will be happening too often! 

For more information, look up Loess Hill Wind Farm, the company pairing with the government to provide this service.

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Ride the BioTour

More Information on joining the BioTour here

BioTour Across America

If you’ve been looking for an inexpensive way to spend a week of vacation while still contributing to a great cause, how about taking part in BioTour’s journey across America?  Biotour is a big school bus, converted to run on WVO (biodiesel) and solar energy.  A rotating cast of characters pilot the bus across the country making presentations to school children and politicians alike about the importance of renewable energy in our lives. Along the way, crew members educate themselves about the deeds and processes of progressive companies and towns across the nation.

The BioTour Bus

You can stay with the crew for up to a week for a suggested donation of $0-$100 dollars, a good CD of music to share, and some snacks for everyone.  They aren’t running an alt-travel agency, so you’re signing up to be part of the crew, slinging grease and working on broken parts alongside everyone else.  The past tour dates have included some impressive stops, and many interesting ones in between: it’s safe to say your week will be unlike any other that’s transpired in the past.  So pack up your backpack and hit the greyhound station to meet them along they way for a week of french-fried country education and fun.

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BOOK REVIEW: Peak Oil Survival

Peak Oil Survival: Preparation for Life After Grid-Crash

Peak Oil Survival

Just the name alone drew me to the book. Of course I want to know how to live after the bottom inevitably drops out from under us. The book was really a quick read. It looked much more dense textually than it turned out to be. But there was a lot of good information here, centered mostly upon three areas of expertise: Finding and preserving clean water, finding and making light, and heating and cooling of both environment and food.

The chapters are very short, and each show a few different ways to achieve the stated goal, depending upon your location and particular circumstance. Neither bending toward warm or cold weathers in bias, the book has something to offer for everyone. The one thing this book ISN’T is a handbook for surviving in the wilderness. Most of the projects use salvaged materials from a more populated locale than the wilderness affords. No, this is just what it says. How to make soda can shingles and dig an outhouse when Home Depot goes under and you no longer have city water running through the pipes.

I enjoyed reading the book, and found I came out with a fair understanding of most of the topics covered, especially the importance of water in a person’s chances for long-term survival. If you’re smart, you’ll put many of the ideas in here to practice long before the arrival of grid-crash. The only thing I felt missing was a solid discussion of making shelters, as I suppose it flew too far toward the wilderness for their intended audience. If they eventually write a companion guide to cover that enormous topic, I’ll gladly be in line to buy it.

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Take the King Corn Challenge

About the Corn Challenge

Corn is in Everything!

It’s always nice to have someone to commiserate with when making even slightly painful lifestyle changes be they in the name of good. It’s great motivation. (For some reason, introducing the bad stuff always comes easily, especially with company!) Here’s an interesting look at two filmmakers and the challenge they put themselves up to after making a film about corn in the American diet, inviting others to join. And one author, Katherine Pryor, did just that. Read about her three corn-free days here.

As you can see, in today’s processed food markets, even dropping one ingredient can have far-reaching implications for your overall diet. It required from Ms. Pryor a reconsideration of her local food buying habits, and put a strain on the two filmmakers to figure out a way to eat while on the road without actually consuming any corn. If you could pick one ingredient to drop, what would it be? High fructose corn syrup? Caffeine? Processed grains? Added salt? There are so many options out there it’s hard to choose just one. But when you do make a commitment to one, even a little one you don’t encounter every day, you learn as much about the process of making choices as you may about your current diet.  I’m going to start a food database page on the blog (check the top bar for the link).  If you know of any ingredients that contain certain foods, chemicals, or byproducts, please, comment and add to the repository of information. You might never want to eat again after starting down this path to learning.  Until then, happy eating!

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Quickie – Food Politics

Here’s a link to a good article about what’s happening to our global food supplies, and why it’s translating to more at the register.

Read the full story here

The Presidential Candidates

As we deepen into our self-created oil and energy crisis, we can only expect more articles like this, and more future costs, not fewer. Consider planting a garden if you don’t have one already. It takes a bit of trial and error to discover how particular plants grow. If you have something you “can’t live without”, try growing it a few times. Soon, it may be the only way for you to get it!

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COMMITMENT: Community Service

So I just finished doing a few days of community service around Los Angeles. Out here, you can end up doing community service for almost anything. Jaywalk? Community service. Broken headlight? Community service. Forget your seatbelt…? You guessed it. Specifically, I was in Macarthur Park, made nationally famous by Donna Summer in 1979, but integral to the history of LA much longer than that. Back in the early days, it was owned by the governor’s family, and became a garbage heap, then a huge park at the turn of the twentieth century. In the eighties and early nineties, it was famous more as a place to find drugs (and bodies floating in the lake), but these days, it’s settled back into a respectable place, albeit one where the shop keepers don’t speak English as often as they do.

So as I picked up trash off the grounds and skimmed the lake with a long skimmer, clearing more trash and several varieties of dead animals, I started thinking about trash. What else, it’s all I’d been looking at all week! Even as a kid, my family and I used to go a few times a year and volunteer at the local park cleaning trash, mostly stuff that had floated downriver in a flood and somehow ended up on the banks. It’s not that people didn’t use the park. Sometimes it was downright crowded in the picnic areas. But I don’t remember people leaving a lot of litter behind. And I’m not that old yet, so this isn’t a “I remember when…” story!

Now Macarthur Park is a different story. It’s almost all human trash, and people just have a picnic on the lawn and leave everything there when they leave, like the lawn is some plastic dinner tray that can just be picked up taken to the dishwasher at the end of the day. If I’d melted down the plastic bottle caps I swept up those few days, I’d easily have gotten a chunk the size of myself. And as all you greenies know a plastic cap on the ground isn’t going anywhere anytime soon from biodegradation. At several points, the park director said not to worry about little trash, just newspapers and boxes, and plastic cups… big things you can see from across the park.

This illustrated to me the national situation we find ourselves in with our waste systems. We produce SO much trash that we end up only trying to clean up “the big things”, because we think we don’t have time to concentrate on all the little things. Well, I disagree. You see, if you’re going to do a job, do it right. That’s the motto of 90% of successful people, rich or otherwise. After a day of doing what was asked (and watching people throw things right back onto the half-cleaned areas), when skimming the lake I thought, why do this halfway? A lake that looks sort of trashy will quickly invite people to think of it as a place for more trash. A pristine lake is a scene for enjoyment. So I started skimming, and then when I finished, I went and did it again, checking my work. In the end, the whole lake was clear, and I was feeling pretty good watching the ducks feed their ducklings in an area free of plastic bags and soda bottles. And to prove my theory, I saw a man take out his camera and take a few lovely pictures of the now clean park, and several patrons even stopped and thanked me for cleaning up their lake, asking questions about the wildlife and the lake itself.  All that positivity for a few hours work!

Another thing that I see so often in our current societal system is that we work at odds with ourselves. After three days of cleaning the park, the park managers received word that, in response to anticipated large turnouts at the immigration rallies planned for this year’s May Day celebration, all trash cans must be removed from the park, so they couldn’t be used as weapons against the police (never mind that every barrel was chained down). No plastic bags or paper receptacles either, as they could be torched. What about the trash of the ten thousand or so people supposed to show up? The police’s answer… throw it on the ground. Having just been that person picking up trash for three days, I felt the frustration of someone who watches their sandcastle washed away by the tide. True, picking up trash once won’t cure everything, but couldn’t we as a society learn to coordinate everything a little better so that we don’t expend our resources repeatedly attacking the same problems when we know that by not changing the underlying patterns of consumption we won’t stem the problems themselves?

So community service wasn’t so bad after all. I’m glad not to be getting up at 5 am, but I kind of enjoyed being in the park all day. And when I walked away from the last day’s work, I felt good seeing the green expanses trash-free because of me. It looked like I imagined it in the old days. So here goes, I’m going to make another COMMITMENT. I will find a place, somewhere in LA, and adopt it as my own. It will stay trash free and maybe even sprout a few more plants. People may or may not notice, but hopefully the birds will. Will you do the same? If everyone just adopted a tiny little spot, we could create communities and scenes for enjoyment rather than half-cleaned vistas, waiting to accept another gift of trash.

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