If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. Joseph Wood Krutch

Monday, December 31, 2007

My New Years Resolutions

Here is my list of New Years Resolutions.

Well, that's the short list. The long list is actually not any longer. The truth is, I make resolutions to myself all year long, with absolutely the best intentions, but soon the real me emerges, I forget and then just go about life the same as before. So why worry about resolutions. Duguet once said "The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention." To be honest, I have no idea who Duguet even is, but he sure made up a great quote.

Most of us are programmed from birth and childhood to live life in a certain way. I am currently reading a book called "Upside Down, A Primer for the Looking Glass World". It is an excellent book so far about this issue--reality. I am only a few chapters into it ; but I highly recommend it from what I have read so far. Here is a brief excerpt:

"Fast food, fast cars, fast life: from birth, rich kids are trained for consumption and speed, and their voyage through childhood confirms that machines are more trustworthy than people. When the day arrives for the rite of passage, they will be handed the keys to their first four-wheel-drive all-terrain corsair. In the meantime they construct identities by driving full speed down cybernetic highways, devouring images and merchandise, zapping and shopping. They feel at home navigating cyberspace the way homeless children do wandering city streets."

I began my life in the fifties and now I am once again in the fifties, but this time the age is a little more personal. My natural inclination, when I am not thinking consciously, is to fall back on the way things have always been for me. I simply do what I know and not necessarily what is right. What seems perfectly natural, my reality, is not necessarily what is perfectly natural and may even be harmful for me. But it is what I learned in my early life and is what I know. Unless, of course I seek a better way. As a late baby boomer, I grew up in the "disposable" decades. I learned to buy things, use them, then just throw them away and let them become someone else's problem. Out of sight, out of mind. That is, unless, for example, I travel to the middle of the Pacific where a vast swirl of floating plastic twice the size of Texas exists and will never go away. Oops. Oh well, someone else will fix that...right? I mean they always do...right? You know like the landlord or the maintenance guy or...

So anyhow back to my resolutions. This year, no more resolutions. Not on the first day of the year or even on the three-hundred-sixty-fifth. This year I hope to unlearn a few more of my basic learned instincts from childhood and then do a few small good deeds instead. Just like Duguet said. I hope you will too.

I do plan some change this year to my blog. Hours and hours sitting and staring at a computer for quite a few years has exacerbated an eye condition I have so, by necessity, I have been scaling back my screen time. That is not very easy for me since I love to Google and research lots of things. Input...need input. My goal this year for the blog is to post on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Three times per week instead of the five or six, or sometimes more I was doing. Some have commented to me, and they are right, that my blogs sometimes tend to be long. We live in an abbrev. world now and so I will strive to be more succinct and less enamored at my own verbosity.

Have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Below is a story I wrote last year for Christmas.   I first set out to write a story about the passage of time and, with no specific plot in mind, this is the story that developed.  It has gone through numerous tweakings and revisions but the story that unfolded on the page in the first draft was essentially the same story as the last.

Some feel this is a very sad story, and there certainly are some very sad elements, but I did not write this to be a sad story and feel the essence is actually one of happiness and is indicative that a true gift is not measured by its monetary value but rather by the amount of wealth it draws from the heart. I hope you enjoy it.




On the morn before Thanksgiving, on a hill just south of the Wembley woods, a little boy stood playing on a drum made from an old barrel, a piece of cloth, and a faded  rope with two matchsticks.  The sound the drum made was very soft but, being very poor, his parents could afford to give him nothing better.  His parents loved him dearly and he, not realizing he was soon to be orphaned, thought all of life was well. Each day, just before dawn, he would rise from his bed, get dressed, then walk to the top of the hill where he would play his drum with his matchsticks, just like a soldier, as the sun marched its way across in time.  Made by his father, the drum had been given to him as a gift on the Christmas just passed, and he loved it more than anything else.

At exactly three days prior Christmas, and to the hour, a serious fate befell the boy’s parents, making him an orphan. The boy, upon hearing of his parents’ demise, did not cry as he wanted to look very brave, but a smile left his heart that day and would not appear again for a very long time.  On the next morning, exactly two days prior Christmas, the boy did not climb the hill as he usually did and he would never climb that hill again. The sun still rose on all the days that came after, but without his drumming it did not seem to shine as bright as before and moved just a bit slower on its journey across the sky.

It was at the stroke of noon, by the constable’s watch, exactly on Christmas day, the boy was told he was to go live in a village close to the town of Southaven far beyond sight of the Wembley woods and the hill where he loved to play his drum.  Told he would leave on that same Christmas day he was allowed only one small sack for his things and the drum he loved remained behind with his toys made of old spindles and threaded yarn. It now sat lonesome in a box on the hearth of the empty house that was once his home.  For three long days, and by carriage, the boy journeyed to the other side of the Wembley woods. As he passed through his beloved woods, he spoke his quiet goodbyes to the trees and the hill where he once played his drum. The hill and the trees bid him a goodbye as well but silently as they disappeared from his view, but never from his memory.

On the fourth days after this same Christmas, and at precisely one after midnight, by the carriage driver’s watch, the wheels stopped turning in the village far from the Wembley woods but close to the town of Southaven.  In this village lived a man with a great tall hat and an ivory pipe who, as it was understood, was the brother of the boy’s father. The man, who cared for his brother deeply, and upon hearing of his untimely demise, pledged to care for his brother’s son forever and for always.

At the point of six hours passing, by the clock on the table in the hall, and on this fourth day after Christmas, the boy first met the man who was to care for him forever and for always.  Placing his hand firmly on the boys head, the man gave it a gentle twist from side to side, smiled, and then without a word simply walked away. However, the boy found a welcome entrance into his home, was shown to a very large room, and was told it was to be his own forever and for always. 

The morning of the fifth day after this same Christmas was like any other. The sun still rose outside the bedroom window but to the boy it still seemed to shine less brightly and still marched a little slower across the sky above that village close to the town of Southaven. The boy did not rise early on this day, remaining instead in bed; head under the covers, until a maid and two menservants brought him breakfast, drew a bath and presented him with new silk clothes.   Sitting up slowly in the bed the boy ate his breakfast silently and then rising from the bed, took his bath, dressed and sat quietly the whole day at the window looking toward the Wembley woods. With a tear in his eye, and an ache in his heart, he wished only for the drum and matchsticks his father had so lovingly given him one Christmas ago and for nearly three long years he spoke not a word. 

It was on the eve of Thanksgiving, and after nearly three years passed, the man who was the brother of the boy’s father, taking the boy on his knee for the very first time, gave him a hug.  For just a slight moment, a smile appeared on the boy’s heart but disappeared long before it could be brought to his lips. As he looked across the shoulder of the man and out the window, he could see that a light snow had begun to fall.  The man, having spoken very little to the boy, on this day inquired what he wanted from the tree on Christmas morn.  With a tear in his eye, the boy spoke only one word as he still rested on the man’s shoulder.  “Drum”.

It was exactly one week, six hours and seven minutes after the boy spoke this one word, the man found a drum at a mercantile in the town of Southaven which was close to the village in which he lived.  He purchased the drum for the boy and paid a very large sum. Bringing it to the maid and two menservants he gave instructions they should polish it, wrap it in fine satin and place it in the closet beneath the stairs. Here the drum would sit, secure, protected, and finely wrapped, until the eve of Christmas when, as the boy still slept, it would be placed under the tree with three other packages containing a pair of socks, two shirts and one wooden horse.  

On this third Christmas after his parent’s demise and at precisely six o’clock, by the clock on the dresser in the corner of his room, the boy woke and watched from his window as the sun marched slowly across the sky. The maid and two menservants brought him a special breakfast of gingerbread cookies, eggnog and a tall glass of apple cider which the boy ate quickly then removed himself to his bath. Returning to his room a short time later, he put on a new shirt made from red and green silk, some brown woolen britches and a pair of heavy warm socks then descended the stairs to sit very still in the parlor, in front of the tree, and wait for the man to rise from his sleep so he could open his presents. 

At the stroke of ten on that Christmas morn, by the chime of the clock in the entryway, the man entered the parlor, sat in his chair, placed his pipe in his mouth and gave permission to the boy to open his gifts.  One by one, the boy opened his presents of a pair of socks, two shirts, and one wooden horse; which for a moment or two he galloped across the floor; then placed it again under the tree and sat on the man’s lap. 

The man, at fifteen past that same hour, gave instructions to the manservant to bring the finely wrapped drum and place it on the boy’s lap.   The boy loosened the bow letting the silk wrapping fall from his lap onto the floor. Inside he saw the drum, which shone very, very bright and without a word turned and kissed the man on the cheek, then set the drum on the floor, under the tree, and went to his room to sit in the window and look out toward the Wembley woods. As he watched, the snow continued to fall and after one hour, and with a tear in his eye, he retired to bed and dreamed he was a soldier standing on a lonesome hill without a drum.  

On the morn after this third Christmas, the boy did not rise from the bed or eat his breakfast as outside the window the snow continued to fall. At precisely noon, by the watch in his pocket, the man, being worried about the boy, called to him. The boy, still in his pajamas and heavy warm socks, descended the stairs, sat on the man’s lap, then began to cry.  Holding him close, the man inquired what made him so sad. The boy, who had not spoken a word in nearly three years, save one word “drum”, began to speak. 

“On one Christmas past, I do not know which; my father made me a drum from an old barrel, a piece of cloth, and a faded rope. My mother wrapped the drum in her favorite apron and she gave it to me on the eve of Christmas as we ate our bread and soup. Every morning, in the Wembley woods, I played this drum on the hill, just like a soldier, while the sun marched quickly across the sky and shined bright. The drum you have given me is bright and beautiful but belongs to another little boy, not me.  My drum is in a box on a hearth in a house that was once my home by the Wembley woods.”  Then after he had spoken these words, the boy would speak no more and went to his bed to sleep.

On the evening of hearing these words, the man did not sleep and in his heart and in his thoughts knew he must recover the boys drum from the Wembley Woods. At six a.m. precisely, by the clock on the mantle in his bedroom, he called for the two menservants instructing them to make ready his carriage, as he would make the long and perilous winter journey to the Wembley woods. There he would find the drum on the hearth in the house that was once the home of his brother’s son and bring it to the boy whose heart no longer smiled. 

At precisely seven minutes past nine o’clock on the morning of New Years day, by the carriage driver’s watch, the man found the house that was once the home of his brother’s son and on the hearth in a box sat the drum and a few toys made from old spindles and threaded yarn. Next to the box were two matchsticks. The man picked up the box with the drum and the toys and placed them safely in the back of his carriage for the long journey home. For ten perilous days, he traveled back through the snow arriving precisely at four minutes past noon by the clock in the entry hall.  Weary from his long journey he gave the drum to the little boy then set the box with the toys made from old spindles and yarn on the table by the chair and retired to his bed to sleep.  The boy, hugging his drum tightly in his arms, and leaving the toys of old spindles and yarn on the table next to the chair, walked up the stairs to his room to sit by his window and watch the trees in the yard as the snow no longer fell.

Upon rising early from his bed the next morning the boy went to the pantry to find two new matchsticks, then stood in the garden behind his home, next to a trellis, and played his drum like a soldier as the sun marched into the sky. The sound he made was very soft but, having been poor and not yet knowing he was very rich, his parents could have afforded him nothing better. The sun marching across the sky that day cast its rays a little brighter on the village close to the town of Southaven and a smile appeared on the boy’s heart and soon found its way to his lips. He remembered now the hugs of his father, the kisses of his mother and the hill where he once stood in the Wembley woods to play his drum.  Then holding his drum tightly in his arms, the boy ran to find his father’s brother. Upon finding him he spoke only four small words “I love you papa.” and then he never spoke another word again for as long as he lived.  However, in his heart, and on that day, he pledged he would someday care for the brother of his father forever and for always.

After exactly fifty-one years, seven months and sixteen days passed the man who had cared for the boy forever and for always became very ill, and the same day died.  The boy, now long grown, had done all he pledged in his heart to do and had cared for the man who was the brother of his father forever and for always.  The sun, having already risen on that day, marched slowly overhead and shone just a little less bright.  The boy, now long grown, at the tide of evening on that same day, went with his drum to the garden next to the trellis, and just like a soldier, with two old matchsticks drummed to the sun as it finished its march across the sky and then disappeared. 

For exactly three days, four hours and twenty-five minutes, after learning of the man’s demise, a smile did not find its way to the lips of the boy, now long grown, but it still remained on his heart. Having lived a rich life, and upon learning the man who had cared for him so deeply forever and for always had left him all his worldly possessions, the boy, now long grown, went to the mans grave, placed his drum on top, then simply walked away.  For the rest of his days, which were precisely twenty one years, eleven days, twelve and a half minutes, the boy, now long grown, lived as a wealthy man who had also in his life been very rich.


© Copyright 2006 by Scott Haas       Revised 2007 by Scott Haas        All rights reserved.


p.s.  I received a very kind e-mail recently asking where my posts have been.  There is a long answer to that... but...the short answer is that I needed a break, I took it, and I will be back in the New Year with new vigor.  I hope to approach this blog from more of a correspondent view in the new year, with a few interviews scattered about and most likely a few field trips as well.  Have a Merry Christmas, a joyous Kwanzaa and a belated Hanukkah blessing.  And for the rest of you, Happy Festivus if you please. Oh yeah, Happy New Year too! See you then in a weird net blog sort of way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Imported from China

In nearly every major port along the Pacific Coast you will find a container terminal.  Each day huge container ships dock at these terminals and twenty-four hours per day computerized cranes rapidly offload an average of 71,000 containers of goods, most from China.  This flow of goods is regulated by the government, mostly, but there is another import from China slipping past our borders which has become impossible to regulate and it is making people sick.  I'm talking about dust.

China is rapidly becoming a desert. Each year 950 square miles of China's heartland is converting from fertile farmland to desert.  This is due to overgrazing of cattle, deforestation through clear cutting, urban sprawl as factory cities are built practically overnight  and drought.  The sand has become so pervasive in some areas of China entire villages have disappeared beneath the sand.  And now this sand is being exported to the world.  Here are a few links: 

China's Dust Storms Raise Fears of Impending Catastrophe

China Dust Storm

The Pacific Dust Express

China Losing War With Advancing Deserts

There is another side to this coin as well. Many of the electronic products purchased from China and used here in the U.S. are soon discarded.  If it is recycled, many times it ends up right back in China to be "recycled" in open-air dumps. The toxins and heavy metals become mixed with the soil, which then becomes dust and is then exported as toxic dust as the winds carry it back to the U.S. I could fill up pages of this blog with links on this problem but simply Google "China Toxic Dust" for one-million two-hundred-ten thousand links on the subject.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

World Bicycle Free Day?

Note: This post has been "Censored". Apparently my attempt at humor was misunderstood by some and so my dry wit has been doused with water and the post edited. My apologies if anyone was offended by my previous humor. It was only intended as humor and nothing else.

Last Saturday, September 22, 2007 was "World Car Free Day". The intent was that everyone celebrate by leaving their car home for the day and get around some other way; transit, bicycle, on foot, roller skates, wheelie shoes, perhaps even by horseback. Judging by the number of cars on the road though, this day of celebration didn't have quite the same appeal as Christmas. Perhaps next year.

I, on the other hand, being fully in the mood to celebrate, put together, at the very last minute, a small spontaneous bike ride down the Springwater Corridor Rails to Trails from Portland to Gresham. I posted the ride on Craigslist for less than a week, but didn't really expect much of a response but I did receive one endearing e-mail though from R. L., who is obviously one of my greatest fans. It read, in it's entirety:

what i would prefer is a "World Bicycle Free Day," particularly the
Peter Pan dorks in spandex like they're in the Tour De France,
retarded Lance Armstrong wannabees. let me know when that happens.
P.S. I used to ride a bike, WHEN I WAS A KID. then i grew up.

R.L., if you read this in my blog, which I doubt, I did actually enjoy your e-mail, it gave me a very good laugh and there's no hard feelings. Really! Oh, and about the kid part...thanks! I love being a kid still and the last time I flew like Peter Pan on my bike was just quickly over my handlebars when I hit a deep patch of mud in Port Angeles. It wasn't that much fun. Oh, and I do in fact wear Spandex but only when it's hot. Not because I look cool, but rather because I stay cool and it has a little extra padding on the posterior where I am, ahem, a little lacking now. That is always helpful on a long ride. Most of the time I just wear pants and a t-shirt though and no one has yet confused me with Lance and asked for my autograph when I wear the spandex. I'll set them straight though, if they do, and let them know I'm just a wannabee and not really him. Honest.

There was a magnificent crowd that showed for my ride and I documented the occasion with a picture. As you can see it was just me, and uhhh, me. It was a great ride anyhow though. How can you not love a trail which takes you through a place called "Beggars Tick Wildlife Refuge"? I'm sure there's a history behind that name but I'm not sure I really want to know.

The highlight of the ride was a stop at the marsh just before you reach Gresham. I was greeted by a French-fry chomping nutria--essentially a huge amphibious rat with a long thick tail---who was looking for an additional handout from me. He looked very well fed by other passersby and certainly didn't need my help on his way to a rodent coronary. He flirted with my "Gorge Delight Just Fruit Bar" for a few minutes, but headed for the water when he discovered I don't feed wildlife and was just pulling out my camera for a quick shot instead of more food.

I hope to be a little better organized for this ride next year. I didn't find out about "World Car Free Day" until less than a week prior and jumped on it the best I could. China actually closed some of their roads to traffic in honor of the day and Portland, being alternative transportation friendly, I feel should follow suit next year. I'll see what I can do. Hmmm, another thing to feed my polyphasic mania.

Note: I traveled roughly thirty-five miles by bike and roughly the same by light rail. Total fuel expenditure: an unknown amount of electricity for the light rail train, one and one-half cups of oatmeal, a small handful of raisins, a generous splash of "Pacific Foods Oat Beverage (Plain)", about a cup of rice, a cup of beans, some plantains, a few slices of yam,Pico de Gallo, salsa and one "Just Fruit" Bar. Had I traveled in my automobile I would have consumed about 4.5 gallons of petroleum plus the above mentioned food items as well.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Nature deficit disorder in children

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going on a backpacking trip with a friend and two of his boys. It was the first time the boys had ever been out in the woods, even just to camp, much less backpack, and they had a great time. The older of the two was a natural and was very disappointed to leave. So many kids now are simply into TV and video games, I can't tell you how good that made me feel.

Our pack trip took us to the Indian Heaven Wilderness in Washington State where we spent nearly three whole days. I had never been packing in this area before and discovered one of the most beautiful places on earth, right in my own backyard. The whole area was dotted with small lakes right next to giant meadows. There were several rock spires; one of which we climbed and peeked over the top into the meadow below; and surprising little wildlife. Based on the huge amount of steaming, bright blue, berry laden, bear scat we saw my assumption is the other wildlife were hiding out until the huckleberries disappear along with the bear. Never actually saw a bear, just the tell-tale signs they were not far away.

I believe each of us is programmed to love nature and the lives we live among the hustle bustle of the freeways and shopping malls disrupts that programming, or even turns it off. Time spent with nature though has a way of reprogramming us again if we let it. I also believe if we introduce kids at a young age to the wonders of nature, let them experience it close up, perhaps even get a little grimy, pick up toads and throw some rocks they will be less inclined to take nature for granted later and thoughtlessly destroy it. Having grown up myself in the era of John Denver, and others who sang of the earth, I learned a deep respect for walking in nature with a light footstep. On this trip we left no scar on the ground that would give away our presence except the small bit of dirt we took away on our boots.

I just discovered a new book titled "Last Child in the Woods, Nature Deficit in Children" which some are likening to "Silent Spring". Silent Spring is the book most credit with being the impetus behind the ecological movement of the 70's. The light of that movement has never truly died, even though the candle has definitely dimmed. I have not yet had an opportunity to read this book but it is high on my "read list" now; currently about twenty books long; and when I do I will post my comments and feelings about it. If you want to help in this effort, please send "Powell's Books" gift cards to... Just kidding, but if you do want to help, and you have kids, and have not taken them into the backwoods, even for a day hike, please do so now. Nature shows as much love to us, as we show to her. It is best to learn that love at an early age.


Spread the word! September 22 is "World Car Free Day". "WORLD CAR-FREE DAY" started in the 70's and 80's in different forms but is now a regular planned event, and each year just gets bigger. "Car-Free Day 2007" may end up being the biggest yet. Even the government of China is planning official events in more than 100 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. They even plan to close some of their roads to private cars.

Our cities, towns and streets don't have to be dominated by cars. It was not long ago they weren't. We can convert our cities and streets into avenues for people-powered transportation once again, it just takes enough voices to make change. Cities can easily be traversed by foot, bike or,for longer distances, bus, light rail, subway or train.

Let's all make "Car Free" day a special event.

Note: Have a blog? Please cut and paste this text into your blog, including this note. Think viral!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cars, cars and more cars

In the U.S. there are 239 million cars and light trucks on the road. All these vehicles log roughly 2.7 trillion miles every year. That is a 160% increase in miles driven just since 1970 and the amount increases every year. It costs all of us, in the form of taxes, 66.3 billion dollars every year to build and maintain the roadways for all these cars. Public transit sees about one-tenth that amount of funding and Amtrak sees even much less than that.

In the U.S. we account for just 5% of the worlds population, yet we contribute 45% of the global pollution from vehicles. Some states, like California, have decided to get tough on this pollution, but only fifteen other states have decided to follow their lead. The rest have lax, or no standards at all. And here is something that may actually surprise you. The big three automakers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, have actually called for a cap on global warming emissions yet, despite their call for a cap, there have been no federal bills passed to cap, or even reduce, pollution from ANY source. Hmmm...

Source: The Environmental Defense Fund


Spread the word! September 22 is "World Car Free Day". "WORLD CAR-FREE DAY" started in the 70's and 80's in different forms but is now a regular planned event, and each year just gets bigger. "Car-Free Day 2007" may end up being the biggest yet. Even the government of China is planning official events in more than 100 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. They even plan to close some of their roads to private cars.

Our cities, towns and streets don't have to be dominated by cars. It was not long ago they weren't. We can convert our cities and streets into avenues for people-powered transportation once again, it just takes enough voices to make change. Cities can easily be traversed by foot, bike or,for longer distances, bus, light rail, subway or train.

Let's all make "Car Free" day a special event.

Note: Have a blog? Please cut and paste this text into your blog, including this note. Think viral!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Car Free Day is coming!-September 22

Spread the word! September 22 is "World Car Free Day".  "WORLD CAR-FREE DAY" started  in the 70's and 80's in different forms but is now a regular planned event, and each year just gets bigger. "Car-Free Day 2007" may end up being the biggest yet.  Even the government of China is planning official events in more than 100 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. They even plan to close some of their roads to private cars. 

Our cities, towns and streets don't have to be dominated by cars. It was not that long ago they weren't.  We can convert our cities and streets again into avenues for people-powered transportation, it just takes enough voices to make change. Cities can easily be traversed by foot, bike or,for longer distances, bus, light rail, subway or train. 

Let's all make "Car Free" day a special event. 

Note: Have a blog?  Please cut and paste this text into your blog, including this note. Think viral!

Bike to the Future

Last weekend I participated in a 28-mile bike ride called "Bike to the Future".  It was initiated by the "Coalition for a Livable Future (CLF)", which I had never heard of before this ride, but they seem to be doing some pretty good stuff. CLF coordinates the efforts of over ninety sustainability organizations in the Portland Metro area plus does some major research on sustainability practices. One of the greatest things they are doing right now is a program they call "Shift the Balance". Even if you don't live in Portland, click on the link and read the list of ideas.  It's a great list.  It really is a forward thinking agency and the stuff they advocate doesn't necessarily requires solar panels on the roof or a wind farm in the back yard.  

The ride itself was great and the hills were always perfectly timed with the areas I wanted to spend more time looking at, or vice versa.  It was also a great introduction to some really nice neighborhoods I never knew existed in North Portland. That's actually one of the great things about bike travel is that you see and experience what is around you, rather than just view it out your window like a dull movie with an NPR soundtrack.  Just keep an eye out for the cars because some of them are not keeping an eye out for you. Bright yellow clothing and flashing lights on your bike don't make you less cool, and they just might make you less dead someday. <<<<Safety message to some of my fellow bikers who equate "think safety" with wimpiness.  And to the guy who told me my bike looked like a Christmas tree, (I have one flashing light on the back end) I forgive you and wish you maximum visibility when you most need it. OK, repeat after me.  Lights...cool! Dead...not cool!  Lights...cool! Dead...not cool! 

There were three slightly interactive rest stops on this ride but the one I enjoyed the most was a brand new neighborhood called "New Columbia Housing". It is a project of the Housing Authority of Portland and is a superb example of thoughtful planning. Essentially what they have done is bulldoze what was once a crime-ridden community of ticky-tacky, industrially painted, drab, low-income only housing  and replaced it with a genuine neighborhood of  great looking low income, middle income and luxury homes, along with  low-income senior housing and apartments. To this they added parks, a recreation center, play fountain, play yards, lots of trees and grass, a brand new school and the most humongous upside down tree you ever saw. CHECK OUT THE PICTURES!  They even bulldozed AROUND the old trees, left them standing where they were and designed around them. Great thinking...really!

By realigning the roadways the housing authority was able to add more units in the process and serve more people. The entire project was also specifically designed to bring people together by the addition of walk-throughs and adding open spaces and trees making it feel more like a true community than a development. It was all built with sustainable practices in mind and I was quite impressed.   to read more about how this development was built sustainably.  If other cities are not studying this as a model of housing done right, they should.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A beauty to behold

There was quite a difference in our ages but I was still very much in love.  She had just come out of a long term relationship with my brother and, even though they had seemed in love and were quite inseparable, that ended suddenly in a big blow-up on the way to the store. My brother just walked away, left her sitting all by herself, and then called someone else to go get her. He didn't ever want to see her again and, looking back, I'm not sure I really blame him. They had been through a lot together. This was not the first time this had happened.  In fact, it was actually quite a frequent occurrence. When all the facts were laid out, it was always clearly her fault. But this final incident pushed my brother to the edge, and any love he had for her was gone. That's how I ended up in a relationship with her. 

I picked her up at my brothers place and she was there waiting in the parking lot of his apartment complex when I arrived. I drove her home and, despite her tendencies to blow up without warning,  I loved everything about her.  We would have several similar incidents over the next year or so, and more than once I also left her sitting alone, but I always went back for her. I understood her problems better than my brother did.  She had lived quite a fast life, had been quite abused in her early years and was just more sensitive than others. Years later I also found out she had some pretty nasty scars from being hit but she kept them covered very well with make-up.

I am no longer in love with cars. Not like I was with that 1965, bright orange, with black stripes and black interior Opel Kadett Rallye. She had been used for racing and the original owner had modified the engine in a way that dramatically increased oil pressure. This was great for the bearings and camshaft but it also meant changing oil pump gears and pan gaskets on a regular basis.  I never knew when the oil pump was going to blow and it always happened in the worst spot. But I had gotten her absolutely free from my brother and so she came cheap. My brother was  sick of her problems but I, being eighteen, fairly mechanically inclined, and "needing" wheels didn't care about her frequent blown oil pumps and pan gaskets. She was still a beauty to behold and I just kept a spare oil pump in the glovebox and tools in the trunk. It was a nuisance but wasn't really a problem.  After a small fender bender I discovered the entire drivers side quarter panel had been plastered with about three inches of bondo and then repainted.  The sight of those huge chunks of bondo on the pavement was hilarious and made a very small accident look like a major collision.

I still think of vehicles as necessities but they are just expensive  hunks of moving metal to me now and no longer a love interest. In many ways I have started to hate the automobile. They are troublesome and expensive.  I hate driving around town and enjoy riding transit and reading a book much better than driving most times.  In truth, I don't think automobiles are quite the necessity we all think they are.  Personally I've grown used to having a vehicle I can use at a moments notice because it eliminates the need to plan ahead and  leave a little earlier to get places by transit, bike or on foot but I am working to break myself of this bad habit. Perhaps the truth is that while I have fallen out of love with the automobile, I am still in in love with her twin sister, Convenience, and they are quite inseparable. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Junk your Junk Mail

I want you to pledge. No, this isn't PBS.  I'm not asking for money.  I just want you to pledge to fight junk mail. 

If you have a half-hour, you can print and mail a few free forms  which will dramatically reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. I used the site on Monday and it is a piece of cake to use. It will also help you send letters to your state representatives to start a junk-mail opt out list.

So do this, pledge first, then start printing your forms.  The trees are waiting.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry

A boy, probably no more than twelve, sits at a sewing machine about to be struck by his employer with a club. He sits at this machine for ten hours every single day and earns just $1.00 but the upside is that we in the U.S. can buy T-Shirts for just $5.00 a piece. Isn't that wonderful! This means we can wear it just a few times, then give it to the Goodwill, who will sell it back to a third world country as scrap. Welcome to the world of "Fast Fashion".

I had another post lined up for today on junk mail but I received an article in my Inbox this morning I felt was important enough to share right away. Please read this article. It is long, so you may want to approach it when you have a little extra time, but even if you have just a few moments the pictures speak volumes.

Confession: I have a mountain of T-Shirts in my drawer. I volunteer a lot at bike rides and other events and always end up with a T-Shirt. I certainly don't need it, it's just a reminder I helped out and they usually look pretty classy. I'm going to print this article now give these shirts back in order to raise awareness these cheap clothes come with a terrific human cost.

One recent exception. FlexCar. FlexCar gave me a T-shirt this last weekend that was made in Downtown L.A., USA and is made from 100% Organic Cotton. These were being given free to all members. If they can do it, why can't everyone else? The answer: They can, but probably not at $5.00 a piece.

Please read this article, download the .PDF and hand these cheap T-shirts back with a copy of this article. Most people are not aware.

Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ruminate on this!

I love the smell of a farm. There is something pleasing about the aroma of fresh dung in a field coupled with the bellering of cows and the cackling of chickens. Perhaps not all share my view but if you grew up around this smell it holds a particular sentiment and nostalgia. I honestly do love the smell.

But just exactly how much sentiment and nostalgia comes out of the back of a cow. Here are a few statistics that will probably surprise you as much as they did me.

They typical dairy cow produces 120 pounds of sentiment every day. Let's see, 120 times 365, give or take a pound or two, throw in a leap year every four, average for water content differences and divide the result by 2000. There it is, each cow produces 22 tons of sentiment every year. In Oregon alone, according to the Dairy Farmers of Oregon*, there are roughly 122,000 dairy cows creating such nostalgia. That means 2,684,000 TONS of new sentiment are created every year. I think if you are the guy with the shovel, this sentiment may quickly lose it's nostalgia though. Either way that is a lot of sentiment and there are not that many people, like myself, that wax nostalgic about this stuff. So, what to do, what to do?

Here is one idea. NW Natural, (our local natural gas company) has hatched a new plan to pick up all this sentiment, let it decompose in a sealed environment, and create BioGas which will then turn a turbine and generate electricity. There is even a plan that it could be "cleaned" and mixed with the the regular natural gas supply as well. I guess gas doesn't actually come much more natural than that anyhow. I'll ruminate on this a while and get back to you when I find out more.

(*Source: Portland Tribune: Friday September 7, 2007, Page:A 10)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lighter Footstep - Train Yourself to Give Things Away

Well, I'm back from my backpacking  trip in the Indian Heaven Wilderness in one piece with no sore muscles. I not only had a great time, I was also able to commune with quite a few bears who made their presence known all along the trail but never stopped by to chat. Perhaps that was just as well. I also met a great guy named Rip Caswell, an artist, who shared his campfire and lots of stories with us each night. It was a great trip.

I haven't really gotten back into the swing of things since I returned and so I have missed a few posts. This one today is probably going to be a little light.

I subscribe to another blog called "Lighter Footstep".  Sort of like mine but without the occasional rant.  Below is a link to a short post about giving things away.  It is not long, very well written and it is something I am in the process of doing right now myself, having just moved.

I have been using FreeCycle like crazy, have posted a number of things on e-bay, which I practically gave away, and put a thing or two on Craigslist as well. If you don't belong to your local FreeCycle you should get involved.  It is a great way to get rid of stuff and let me tell you, it feels good to get rid of stuff.

Here's the link.  Oh, and don't miss the link at the end of the article about "How to give stuff away" You might need it.

Lighter Footstep - Train Yourself to Give Things Away

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mr. Green Jeans

I have discovered if I really wanted to be fully green, and self sufficient, it would take a pile of the other green....money. That is something I don't have a lot of right now.

I don't currently have 40 acres and a mule, I don't even have five acres and a riding lawnmower. I just have a condo I rent with a small backyard. I may be able to grow a little of my own food back there but, feed myself...forget it. I am reliant on the local grocer for that.

I have electricity, natural gas, water in the pipes, the drains run into the city sewer, and the landlord takes care of any problems I have. In other words, I am dependent on the community. That is the good part.

The bad part of that equation is that if the community chooses not to be so green, it is difficult for me to be fully green. Portland area is quite green but the manufacturers of the products I buy are not. This, I think is the entire premise behind the title of my blog, "Least Footprint". Could I make a lesser footprint than I do now? Absolutely! Should I? Of course. Then why don't I? The answer is simple. I don't yet know how but I am working on it plus it is also true that there are few products anymore that meet the fully green status. Being fully green is not easy.

I sometimes wonder if someone who reads my blog; I don't think there are too many right now actually; came to my house, would they expect I would be Mr. Green Jeans with solar cells charging batteries in the attic, tubes circling the roof to fill my hot water tank, a large greenhouse in the backyard full of tomatoes, peppers, radishes and zucchini and a couple of chickens running in the yard. To be honest I would welcome that life, but as I said, that takes money. Money I don't have. It is a goal though. However not eating chicken any longer those hens would have a pretty good life.

I pretty much began the whole green thing with eating better and that somehow led to starting recycling. I think it is because I started going to sustainability fairs and my eyes were opened to what my lifestyle was actually doing to the planet. It took a while to get really good at recycling but now my trash cans see very little waste. I'd estimate less than 10% of what we throw away now ends up in the landfill. (Unless the recycle station has dumped it there, which I hear does happen.) I am an avid recycler of everything I can now and when I can't recycle something now, and have to throw it in the trash can, it actually makes me sort of cringe. I have a stack of Styrofoam in the garage waiting for someone to start recycling it. I would think they could just grind it up and make something new out of it but I guess not.

My next step, after learning to recycle better, was to reduce the amount of stuff I actually buy. Less purchase, less waste. I have been partially effective at doing that and I still want, I just don't buy as much. I'm still working on that line between want and need.

I think my next step in this process is to learn to eat with the seasons and locally. That is not going to be easy in the winter. September, as it so happens, is "Eat Local" month and so now is a good time to get started on the local eating program I think. I'll report back how it goes.

Green Tip: It is no longer necessary to make a decision on cloth or disposable diapers. g diapers from Australia have just been introduced in the U.S. and they are made right here in Portland Oregon. Kind of makes me wish I had a baby just so I could see how well these things work.

g diapers can be flushed or even composted. Were you aware that 50 MILLION disposable diapers end up in the landfill EVERY DAY! Average time to decay...about 500 YEARS. g diapers completely ends that problem.

For only $26.99 you can try them out. After that you just buy refills and flush. A case of refills is $52.00 for 128 diapers. You can also use cloth inside the g Pants during the day and use then use the flushable at night.

Want to learn more? Visit the videos.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers but as fountains of life." John Muir, 1898

I am taking John Muir's advice and will be communing with the birds, the bears and the trees in the Mount Adams wilderness for a long weekend. I call it "tree time" and it is a necessity for me to help maintain my sanity from living in the city. My heart lives in the hills and meadows of the backwoods, but my feet are still stuck in the city.

Note: My next post will be on Tuesday, September 4, 2007. Have a happy Labor Day. Get out in nature this weekend and show a tree a little love. You'll breathe better for it.

Oh yeah, check out my new "nature quotes" feed over there to the right. See, something new while I'm gone anyhow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A trip to Ikea

When the Ikea store opened in Portland this last July the news harbingered huge traffic jams and the papers displayed  diagrams of how to avoid the traffic.  However, the biggest story, prior to the grand opening, was of those that camped out in line, some for a week, to be one of the first five-hundred in the door. I knew right away this was a place I wanted to avoid until things cooled off.

As it turned out there was not a single traffic jam, the ones who sat in line for a week, thinking they were going to get a free chair, simply got a coupon for a free hot dog in the cafe, and the doors opened on time to the sounds of Swedish oompah's by a brass band. I think there were a few dignitaries to cut the ribbon.

Well, yesterday, we finally took the light rail down to check the place out.  After all, if they build such a large cathedral to shopping it might be worth the time to at least step inside the door and find out what was doing with everything yellow, blue and square.  It was dizzying.  You are free to shop where you want but if you came with no specific plan they have conveniently put huge arrows on the floor to route you around the mouse maze interior. Ten-thousand different items made from wood,  plastic and paper in every form conceivable that is square.   They pride themselves on being square.  Appropriate for a store that resides in such a big box I guess.

Here is one big kudo to send Ikea's direction though.  If you want a plastic bag, they charge you a nickel.  They beg you with signs  not to use the plastic bags, or if you must they will sell you a large reusable bag for fifty-nine cents instead of the disposable.  They cite these facts in their plea:

The amount of plastic shopping bags that we all use once and toss is overwhelming:
-The average family of 4 accumulates 1460 plastic shopping bags a year.
-100-billion are given away each year in the U.S.
-It can take up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to break down in the environment!

The nickel they charge for the bags is routed to American Forests, reported to be the oldest non-profit conservation association.  Every dollar donated to American Forests plants a tree apparently.  I had never heard of this organization until this trip to Ikea but a quick look at what they do made them seem like a worthwhile charity.  They will plant trees in your, or another persons name and would make a nice gift.

Ikea also had several displays showing how to live pleasantly in very small spaces.  One display showed how a family of three could live quite comfortably in 580 square feet. Quite livable actually.

Well, that was my trip to Ikea for the first time. I'm not  in a hurry to go back.  In the end we bought six glasses made in Russia for $3.54. The old glasses in the cupboard, the ones we got free at Spaghetti Factory years ago are headed on to Freecycle today to be adopted by a new family. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shopping Junkie

Do you ever just wake up and feel like you want to run out and buy something? Do you think it will make you happy?  Do you walk into a store and pick up things that are "on sale" knowing you don't really need it but it is "such a good deal" to pass up?  Do you grab the Sunday paper and sort the ads out, so you can read them first?  Don't want someone else to see the ad first and take them all before they are gone...right!   

Hi, my name is Scott and I am a shopping junkie?   "Hi, Scott!"

It is commonly thought that "women are the "shop-a-holics" but I have watched and men are just as bad.  It's just that we are drawn to the electronics, sporting goods, hardware and expensive things like boats, cars, snowmobiles, etc.  Personally my draw is books and camping supplies. I love camping supplies.  It used to be electronics too, but I have much better willpower now, although I still look. 

No, I am not going to list off a twelve step program in this post. Instead I have a video that is just a few minutes long and gives all the instructions you need better than I ever could. You won't regret watching it.  It is so "American".


Monday, August 27, 2007

What's wrong with reducing?

There was a day when I was motivated for another kind of green. Cash! Over many years I tried different "get rich quick" schemes and attended real estate seminars looking for the "easy life". You know, the one where I would just sit back on my pile of cash, with little care for what happened around me, as long as I was comfortable and had a good remote for my HDTV. This, I thought, is what would make me happy. It didn't work out too well, I'm still not "rich" and actually I am quite glad.

The "get rich quick" schemes I tried seemed devised to make sure someone else got rich quick, not me. That is, unless I was willing to enslave my friends and family to be my sales minions in my own little army of vitamin salesmen. They would then enslave their friends and families to be minions in their own little army, and so on. Once I got these dollar signs out of my eyes I realized I wouldn't feel right enslaving my friends and family for my own personal gain.

I also tried the real estate thing, attended seminars, and even signed up for two different mentoring programs. I got dumped by both of the mentors because I refused to be slick and dishonest when dealing with homeowners in my quest for a cheap deal I could flip fast for a lot of dough. Selling vitamins through my friends and family was one thing but selling my integrity to buy a cheap flip was something I simply wouldn't do. It didn't take long and those dollar signs faded quite fast for me. The people I spoke with called it "the New Gold Rush." Here is the statistics on the last gold rush, in the Klondike. One-hundred-thousand began the trip to the gold fields. Only thirty-thousand actually made it. Of those thirty-thousand, only about four-thousand actually found any gold. Of those four-thousand, only a small handful found any substantial wealth. (Source:National Park Service, Klondike Gold Rush Museum) Keep those statistics in mind if someone invites you to the next gold rush.

I believe it was these experiences that caused me to re-examine my goals in life, so they were not a complete waste. My search now is for a different kind of life and a different kind of green. I started this blog as a way to hold myself accountable for my actions. I have been schooled my whole life in consumerism and it is a difficult transition to live more simply and desire less stuff. It also requires a lot of reading, research and contemplation. Old habits die hard.

I believe our desire for personal comfort is really just a basic part of human nature and always has been. The problem we have now, in our day and age, is that technology allows us to consume so cheaply, easily and quickly we each have the potential, right at our own fingertips, to inflict great damage to the earth without much effort. Just the flip of a light switch, the push of an accelerator pedal, the spray of a can, the pull of a plastic bag from a roll, the quick purchase of an electronic gizmo is all it takes. Moments of our life that can cause damage that will take thousands of years to repair. When we do that over and over it is deadly to all life, including our own.

Some have devised a way in which we can offset our guilt by just paying money. I have been approached by several of these organizations over the last couple years asking me to "offset my carbon footprint". The plan is that by paying someone to find a technological solution and commit a positive act this would in turn "offset" any negative act I choose to perform and get me off the hook for my overconsumption. This never quite sat well with me when it was presented and while it sounded good on the surface, I kept coming back to the same question; What's wrong with just reducing instead? I'm sure the money generated from the "carbon credit markets" goes to quite a few good projects but if we all reduced what we used instead, would many of these projects even be necessary? Here is an example of one of these projects.

A few days ago I read an article about a plan to dump one-hundred tons of iron filings into the Pacific Ocean off the Galapagos Islands in an attempt to increase the plankton count, which would absorb more carbon, thus slowing global warming. The company responsible, Planktos, is seeking funding through a "carbon offset fund". Here is a quote from their website that states it well.

Our Market

Carbon credit markets are opening up around the world, including in the USA. These markets have been created by new government policies and regulations in response to growing climatic and environmental concerns.

The largest carbon markets are driven by the Kyoto Protocol, which is designed to annually reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 600 million - 1 billion tons. As part of the Kyoto Protocol, European nations began trading carbon dioxide emission credits in January 2005. And since emissions of CO2 are so extensive, the trading market is of substantial size and value, and growing quickly.

Because of the fast growth in the market, an increasing number of participants have sprung up to provide liquidity, trade exchanges, and financing. Beyond the public exchange floors, large market players conduct many private direct trades adding substantial volume to the trade. There are now also a significant number of investment funds established for the sole purpose of investing in CO2 credits.

When you read "since emissions of CO2 are so extensive, the trading market is of substantial size and value, and growing quickly.", you begin to realize there is a lot of cash being generated by "offset". I am not condemning offset entirely. I think offset funds are probably a good thing overall but not when they are used to absolve the personal responsibility to reduce. Reduction never seems to play into the goals of the funds.

In this example, the iron they intend to dump, at a cost of millions of dollars, will absorb the annual emissions of about five coal burning power plants. There are roughly four-hundred coal power plants in the United States alone, many more in the rest of the world. What do we do about the other three-hundred-ninety-five plants in the U.S.? How much simpler would it be to just reduce the amount of electricity we use?

Here is the link to the article on dumping iron in the ocean from the Wall Street Journal, no less. It's not very long and well worth reading.

Energy Roundup - WSJ.com : Upset About an Offset

Friday, August 24, 2007

BBC NEWS | Americas | Midwest awash after heavy storms

Perhaps Global Warming is not really real.  Perhaps all of these weather records being broken day after day is just a fluke of nature and it will soon all go back to normal.  But then, perhaps not.  Do we continue rolling the dice and hope for the best? 

BBC NEWS | Americas | Midwest awash after heavy storms

How to recycle your move

I believe boxes, like cats, should have nine lives. If you've moved recently you probably discovered boxes are just not very easy to come by anymore. In the olden days one went down to the local grocery and there was a bin right up front, just inside the door, where they threw all the empty boxes. The early bird always got the best boxes and most of them disappeared every day. Not anymore. Now the boxes go to the back stockroom, get shoved through a hole in the wall, are crushed, then are sent off to be remanufactured into a brand new box. I am not clear why that makes sense, economically or any other way, but it must because the stores invest major money in these huge crushing machines. Just another example of how our society has become geared toward disposability and not reuse.

Unless you know someone who has a cousin who knows a guy that has a sister with a boyfriend that works in the back of a store you are pretty much out of luck. I am fortunate to be married to someone that knows a guy in the basement of the hospital and if she went first thing in the morning she could get all the boxes we needed. Most I fear are not so fortunate though.

Here is an option some may not have considered. FreeCycle. After my recent move I posted my stash of lightly used boxes on FreeCycle. They were spoken for in literally five minutes after hitting the web. I was life two for the boxes and through Freecycle these boxes are now seeing a third life. Since this person intends to FreeCycle them when she gets to Boston these boxes will then have four lives and still be going strong. So, if you are moving and need boxes, post it on your local FreeCycle site. Have boxes you are done with? Post those too. It is a great way to recycle your move. Oh, you could also pass along any excelsior or bubble wrap you used as well. Reduce, REUSE, Recycle.

Afterthought: Don't stop at boxes. Put everything you don't want on FreeCycle. You would be amazed at what people are looking for out there. It may seem like junk but there may be an artist looking for exactly what you have. Freecycle.

Green Tip: Got a clogged drain? Forget the noxious chemicals. Boil a large pot of water. Add one cup of Baking Soda and once cup of vinegar all at once. Pour down the drain immediately. If your drain was fully clogged then let water flow until it clears completely. Cheap and effective. Try putting this concoction down your drains once a month to keep them cleared too.

If you want to see an endangered species, get up and look in the mirror.
John Young, Apollo astronaut

OK, that one was cynical but realistic. Here's the positive one.

We don't need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.

Donald Horban

Yeah, I like that one. It's a lesson I am still learning.

A correction

As I stood at the sink yesterday rinsing some dishes I noticed that the "Mason" jars I have are not Mason or Ball. They are Kerr. Who knew?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mason Jars Don't Use a Secret Handshake

I love Mason Jars. Our pantry used to be full of plastic bins and bags. Now it is full of a standing army of Mason Jars. (Truth: There are still a few plastic bins and bags left but we are using up the contents and they'll be gone soon.) Anyway back to the main story.

We buy bulk now whenever it is available. Flour, beans, lentils, rice, oatmeal, spices, there are hundreds of things you can buy in bulk. It is always much cheaper and there is no packaging to throw away. I also like the fact that my food is in contact with glass and not plastic. Did mention that I hate plastic now?

I know some people are out there washing and reusing plastic bags, and I've tried it, but I could never quite get the hang of it. Mason Jars are so much easier and it's glass!

Some stores ( most stores?) will weigh your jar and note the tare weight on it so it can be deducted after you fill it. I don't bother with that, I just carry cloth reusable bags into the store,fill them up, then transfer the contents when I get home. The cloth bags can be easily washed then line dried and will last for years. Spices are the exception. For spices it is easiest just to buy it once in glass jar and then keep refilling that same jar over and over. No need to label as long as you don't ever run the jar through the dishwasher. (Don't forget to have the tare noted though before you fill the jar!) The bulk price of spices is a lot less than buying prepackaged stuff. Don't be fooled by the label on the big jar at the store that says it costs like $26.99 per pound. The spices weigh so little it usually comes out to only a few dollars when you fill the jar.

Mason Jars can be bought at most groceries, especially during canning season. Often in the off season they are piled on top of the freezer cases and require hunting down an employee with a ladder to get one down. I guess they just don't have the same appeal as candy bars which are always at hand level and everywhere. Here is another way to get jars though. Some products, like spaghetti sauce, come packaged in regular old Mason jars. Just buy the product, eat it, wash the jar, get a lid and you are set. "Free" Mason Jar.

If you decide to convert your pantry to an army of mason jars, here is a tip I learned from experience. I labeled the jars on the front....Wrong! Label the lid instead. It is much easier to find what you are looking for when they are four deep in your pantry. And don't forget, if you drop one and it breaks, don't throw it away, it still recycles. If the lid gets crusty you can recycle the lid in the metal bin. New lids can be bought separate from the jars in a little cardboard box but since you are not using the jars to preserve food (canning), they can get a little crusty or be bent out of shape and still be OK for pantry use.

I read the Fake Plastic Fish blog every day now and, as Beth has found out, it takes a long time to rid your life of plastic. I second that notion. I am on a much smaller campaign than Beth to rid the plastic from my life but so much comes in plastic now, I sometimes scratch my head at how it is really possible to fully eliminate plastic from my environment. Even the computer I write this blog on is made of plastic. Well, a lot of it anyhow. Slowly but surely I am ridding my life of as much plastic as I can. The Mason Jars (OK, sometimes they are Ball Jars) are a very good start and the way they look like an army of glass in the pantry is rather cool looking.

UPDATE: Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has come up with a great way to clean lids from spaghetti sauce jars. Here's the link to her post.

"It is not so important to know everything as to appreciate what we learn." - Hannah More (1745-1833; author, philanthropist,educator )

Green tip:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLFS) are used in shampoo's, toothpaste, dishwashing liquids, soaps and many other products as a sudsing agent. There is evidence they are a carcinogen and also can inhibit eye development in children. These chemicals are absorbed quickly through skin and mucous tissues so ingestion is not necessary to be exposed. SLS is also lethal to fresh water fish and since it does not break down well in the environment any put down the drain stays around for a long time. Don't forget that what goes down the drain goes to the sewage treatment plant. The solids are then removed and are commonly pumped onto the edges of roadways and into fields as a fertilizer. The SLS and SFLS enters the environment again at this stage and can wash into fresh water sources.

The Materials Safety Data Sheets for SLS cautions workers to avoid body contact. But this same chemical is put into most body and hair care products. Is that weird or what?

ALWAYS READ THE LABELS! Avoid products with these ingredients.

Another freebie quote-I love this one

"The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives."

The Sioux Indigenous Peoples

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Moving is a pain

OK, I know I have harped on the moving thing a bit, but really, it was not my fault.  The apartment I lived in went condo and I had to buy or leave.  It wasn't that great of an apartment and an even less great condo so...I left.  Besides the empty lot next door, full of feral cats, was plowed under and turned into a subdivision of asphalt and concrete.  Really sad for the cats and I lost a great view of the natural world.  

Well, I am in the new place now and it is very quiet and rather peaceful. Boxes still strew the floor but it is getting there.  We sit back in the trees and lots of plant life. I love it.  It took a lot of looking to find the right place and being green topped the list.  Here are just a few of the green advantages of the new place.

1. We have gas...the natural kind. I mean for heat and water, not the umm other kind of um...natural gas. 

2. We are walking distance  to the store (1.3 miles), library (1 mile), bus (.3 mile), light rail (1 mile), and lots of other stuff. 

3. We have a backyard big enough for some raised beds and a compost bin.  Zero garbage, fresh peppers and winter greens, here we come.  (One advantage of the Northwest, you can grow lettuce and other greens year round. (sssshhh...keep that quiet though.)

I have been making good use of Freecycle and CraigsList to rid myself of stuff and so this move is taking a little longer as I carefully sift out what I really need.  If you live in Portland area and read my blog watch FreeCycle because I plan to make it very busy real soon with stuff large and small.

I do have a personal confession though and I will make it short.  No Impact Man had a blog recently about reality and optimism. I find his blog posts, and the comments that follow, fascinating and am usually inspired to write my own comment or two or three, plus the occasional diatribe. However after going back and reading my own comments and then comparing  it with others views I was forced to look in the mirror a bit. Staring back at me was (gasp)...a pessimist.  That was a little odd to me because I always considered myself an optimist.  How strange to find the real me.  It woke me up a bit though and I have pledged now to become a realistic optimist, if that is actually possible.   I am realistic in  knowing I will never change the world alone but I can certainly hold out hope and be positive about changing me and hopefully inspire another to change. After all I was a plastic devouring, can loving, junk food eating, electronic gadget junkie who loved to just get out and drive to nowhere for no reason and threw everything into the same garbage can and dump it into the dumpster with absolutely no thought for where it would end up and I saw the light.  I did draw the line at littering though before, there were fines for that after all. See my first confession.  In short though, I was a pig.

Well, I am sure I will still be compelled to yell a bit about this and that in my posts because I do still hate what is happening to the earth and it does upset me I can do nothing about it but, for my own sake,  I plan now to end each blog with a quote or a positive statement plus a green tip of the day.  So here is today's positive statement about mindless consumerism. Oops, was that a pessimistic statement?

Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.

      Doris Mortman (No idea who Doris is, but I love her quote)

Here is the green tip for the day.  Want to get rid of junk mail?  Move...it doesn't follow you! Sure, that is drastic but it works.

A freebie quote

"Take everything you like seriously, except yourself."

- Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why "the market" alone can't save local agriculture | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 16 Aug 2006


Why "the market" alone can't save local agriculture | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 16 Aug 2006

Why The Economist's recent assault on "ethical food" missed the mark | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 03 Jan 2007


Why The Economist's recent assault on "ethical food" missed the mark | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 03 Jan 2007

Water, Water Everywhere, but Guilt by the Bottleful - New York Times


Water, Water Everywhere, but Guilt by the Bottleful - New York Times

On the anti-bottled-water bandwagon - Los Angeles Times


On the anti-bottled-water bandwagon - Los Angeles Times

Co-op America: Summer 2007 CAQ: Corn Ethanol Isn't the Answer (A Co-op America Expose)

I need another day or two to get situated in my new place and then I will be back with my regular blogs.  In the meantime this is a great article on the truth of ethanol.  I was not aware it takes seven barrels of oil to produce eight barrels of corn fuel.  Interesting article. There are many other reasons this is not a solution as well; pesticides, land usage, food crop converted to energy crop, and much more.   In the end, the only solution is to reduce consumption of energy.  There is some debate now on whether global warming is even real.  Even if it is not, there are many other very good reasons we should all reduce our energy consumption.  

Co-op America: Summer 2007 CAQ: Corn Ethanol Isn't the Answer (A Co-op America Expose)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nano_Sunscreens.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Nano, nano was funny when Mork said it to Mindy but when it is in your sunscreen and other products it is no laughing matter.  This is a sixteen page report but it is an easy read and  very valuable information.  

Nano_Sunscreens.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ilovemountains » Blog Archive - End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining » Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: King Coal Pillages Beautiful Land

I grew up in the era of John Denver and one of his most famous songs, Rocky Mountain High, contained the words:

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

The year he wrote those words was 1972.  I don't think  he even knew at the time how far we would go as a nation in tearing down the mountains. We literally scrape the tops off and discard the tailings in the valleys and hollows.  Below is a link with further details.   This is so sad to me it seriously brings a tear to my eye. Read it and weep?  Conserving electricity will help more...tons more!


ilovemountains » Blog Archive - End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining » Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: King Coal Pillages Beautiful Land

An Astronauts Perspective

Donald Williams, born February 13, 1942 became an astronaut in 1978 and logged over 288 hours in space on two separate flights before retiring in 1990. He had this to say about our planet.

"For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us."

We live together on a big blue marble breathing the same air, drinking the same water, sharing the same resources. Yet we act as if, should we mess this planet up and make it uninhabitable, we have somewhere else to go.

Perhaps we should all step back just a bit and look at our planet as Saturn sees us. We are that tiny speck of light, smaller than a pinpoint at about 11:00 just inside the faint outer ring. Can you see us? Has your perspective now changed as well?

Photo taken of the outer solar system through Cassini's cameras. Cassini is an unmanned deep space exploration craft on a mission to Saturn and Titan. At this time, Cassini was nearly 1.5 billion kilometers (930 million miles) from Earth. The earth and moon in this photo are not more than a few pixels across.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My stuff is calling and I'm on Hiatus


Meat is murder on the environment - earth - 18 July 2007 - New Scientist Environment

I eat a plant-based diet but I do this primarily for my own health benefit more than environmental purposes. Heart disease runs rampant in the men in our family and under the advice of my doctor I eat a low-fat plant-based diet. I am in my 50's now and have normal weight ( I lost 45 pounds), blood pressure (from 135/85 to 110/65), cholesterol (I never checked this before so I have no idea but it is at the bottom of the scale now), blood sugar (I used to be severely hypoglycemic and was on the verge of Type 2 diabetes) so it must be working.

I do share concerns with others about what factory farming and unnatural livestock practices are doing to the environment I live in. This link goes to an article on this problem in the New Scientist magazine. Unlike some of the vegan and vegetarian publications they have no axe to grind, they are just reporting facts. It is short and straight to the point with references to the back-up research. I did find it interesting that a bovine fed naturally (grass-fed), rather than a concentrated feed diet (cattle yards), emits 40 per cent less greenhouse gases (methane) and consumes 85 per cent less energy during its growth cycle. That's a considerable difference. Multiply that by the millions of cows in feed yards and you can see this is a substantial amount of avoidable energy usage.

Meat is murder on the environment - earth - 18 July 2007 - New Scientist Environment

Note: The packing is nearly done and the days have finally arrived to actually move all the crap that owns me from one house to another. I have been filling my blog with articles of interest of late and will do so for the remainder of the week since I will be very busy. I'll get back to normal posts next week.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Suspect in bee die-off: Insecticide Widely used bug spray may be behind deaths of millions of bees- mlive.com

I do not use insecticide any longer.  If I have an insect pest problem I use a combination of Dr. Bronners Peppermint soap and a few essential oils.  With this mix I have rid myself of a major ant infestation and kept hornets from building nests under the eaves.  Right now we are in the middle of a catastrophic bee die-off and there is evidence it is chemicals that are the culprit.  Here is a link to a good article on the subject.  


Suspect in bee die-off: Insecticide Widely used bug spray may be behind deaths of millions of bees


For the recipe to get rid of ants follow this link to "The Invisible Gardener" and look for his "Dances with Ants" instructions.  Andy is a sheer genius when it comes to pest control and organic gardening.  There is a small fee to join his site for a lifetime but well worth it. Look for his Internet only specials.

Climate Change : Yahoo! Green

Global warming!  More oil! Yeaahh?

Climate Change : Yahoo! Green

Friday, August 10, 2007

Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences -- Robinson et al. 161 (8): 792 -- Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

This link is for a technical paper which is about six pages long.   It is not necessary to read the whole thing to understand it.  The beginning of the report explains the methodology while the second half of the report gives the results.  Most telling in this report is that young children even thought carrots tasted better if they came in a McDonalds wrapper.  There was also a direct relationship between TV watching and the prevalence of eating at McDonalds. 

McDonalds was chosen because they are the industry leader however these results, I am certain, cross over to others, such as Burger King, Taco Bell, etc.

Think your kids aren't being manipulated by TV ads?  Read these results and you decide.

Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences -- Robinson et al. 161 (8): 792 -- Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

Well, I've finally done it this time!

Here is a shocking statistic. Americans throw away more than 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags EVERY YEAR and only .6 percent are recycled per the WorldWatch Institute. Five of these bags floated by my car window, blown by the wind, the other day on a trip of only five miles. Having previously seen the and information on and the information put out by WorldWatch Institute on how plastic bags can literally float for miles and end up in trees, waterways, etc. it didn't really truly sink in until I saw these bags float past my windshield. I have started seeing them everywhere now and knew I had to do something.

Here are some of the basic facts as reported by Reusable Bags.com.

  • Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
  • Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.
  • As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected.
  • Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group harvests 30,000 per month.
  • According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone "from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere from Spitsbergen 78° North [latitude] to Falklands 51° South [latitude].
  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

    (Source: Reusable Bags.com)

    After I watched these bags go by I began to think up solutions to the problem. I was even tempted for a moment to jump out of the car and chase the blasted things but since I am unable to run as fast as the wind I decided it was not the best option. I thought about this for quite some time that day and have come up with an idea that could, if successful, make a large dent in reducing the stray bag population nationwide.

    I call it the PUP Brigade. PUP stands for Pick Up Plastic and I'll leave you to your own devices (dictionary) to figure out the brigade part. The PUP Brigade, when in full bloom will help eradicate a considerable amount of the plastic littering our planet. However I cannot do it alone. I need your help.

    Here's how it works. Just click here to go to the site and enroll. There is a welcome statement that will give you a few more details and enrolling doesn't obligate you to anything except noting your desire to pick up plastic when you see it. If you want to be more actively involved you can be an area coordinator. More on that later. If you are simply interested in grabbing and recycling every bit of plastic you see and perhaps weighing it and reporting how many ounces or pounds you have pulled out of the environment and recycled then simply enroll in the group and get started all on your own. By enrolling in the group you will have a chance to converse with others all across the nation who share your same interest in eliminating plastic waste as well as encourage others to Pick Up Plastic. I also envision Parties with large groups, organized by a local coordinator, picking up plastic in a public park, beach, square, road or wherever plastic is a problem. I have established a Google Calendar so these events can be listed in a central location.

    If you are interested in being a Coordinator simply e-mail me and I will let you know the details and other contact information. Coordinators will be needed in every city across the nation and would be responsible for finding a location that needs cleanup, then notifying the media as well as performing other general organizational duties such as contacting service groups, schools, scout troops, etc. It would be volunteer work but should only be a few hours every month to accomplish. How much time you spend would be up to you and duties could be shared among several individuals in a large city. As a coordinator you would have access to the calendar to post dates for events and would notify the media of the dates the event would occur. You would not need to be present at every event.

    Rather than reinvent the wheel I have set this up for now as a Google group with a web accessible calendar. As time goes by I will move this to a dedicated website but for now this will suffice and there will be no delay waiting for web development.

    Please, if you are reading this blog, and have an interest in eradicating plastic from our streets, parks, beaches and waterways...sign up now. If you can be a coordinator simply e-mail me and we can work out the details.

    I have mentioned several times and as a nod to the recent post about reusable bags and Reusable Bags.com I suggest a review of her August 2,2007 post before rushing out and buying reusable bags. She has some very valid points. Ones I hadn't previously thought about.

    Please join PUP today even if you can only get out and pick up bags and plastic on your daily travels. The life you save may be a turtle, a seabird or perhaps even that of the the whole planet. I need your help.

  • Thursday, August 9, 2007

    EIA Kids Page - Waste to Landfill

    This is a great site for learning how landfills work. It is geared toward kids but if you are an adult...don't let that stop you. It's good for you too.

    A Kids Page - Waste to Landfill

    Do plastic bags really take 500 years to break down in a landfill? - By Juliet Lapidos - Slate Magazine

    Please enjoy this article while I take a slight hiatus from my own posts.

    Do plastic bags really take 500 years to break down in a landfill? - By Juliet Lapidos - Slate Magazine

    Wednesday, August 8, 2007