Tuesday, August 24, 2010


...Is one allowed to take a second blog vacation, a mere 3 months after launching said blog? I hope so! I am collecting MUCHO post ideas, but am unable to convince myself to come in from the summer fun to write about them. Come fall, watch out, Greenesters! You won't know what hit you. Until then...

BeautyFullyUsed says, "Have a solar-powered drink on us!" and GimmeSomeOven (winner of this week's prize for cutest name) goes the mason jar route. Either, it's a cool sip of summertime. Enjoy!

Photo: GimmeSomeOven.com

PS: Happy Summer Birthday to Courtney Bassett at BFU!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Better World Shopper

I found this little volume of Greene-in-every-sense shopping tips on a friend's kitchen counter and proceeded to devour it on the spot. I couldn't put it down, and stood there flipping pages until I had a drawer-handle imprint on my tush and my head was swimming with new awarenesses about how my trip to the corner grocery store (oh, who am I kidding? Market Basket!), or my choice of airlines can have a significant effect on society and the earth.

It's a careful consumer's dream! Organized by category (LOTS of categories - cars to computers, pickles to pet care), in alphabetical order, this pocket-sizer offers a report card, from A to F, of major  manufacturers and vendors, some of whose ratings really surprised me. (Poland Spring, for shame! But, ladies, you'll be glad to know that Nordstrom's made the Nice List...)

I see that the Guide may be on the simplistic side, and author Ellis Jones (co-author of The Better World Handbook) admits as much. I mean, you can only fit so much research in your handbag and still have room for dental floss, lip stuff, and scribbled notes about future KIG posts. Seriously, since I've been blogging, I've had a chance to gather feedback from folks who see things a little differently than I (amazingly, there seems to be another side to the WalMart debate! More on that later.), and these conversations have been eye-opening.

Still, I appreciate this Cliff's Notes version of social and environmental heroes and rapscallions. It's cheap, it's reader-friendly, and it even comes with some handy Top Ten Lists. I'll skip the Corporate Devils, because they see their names in print enough, and, instead, I'll end with a shout-out to the heroes of detergent, decor, designer duds, and so much more.

Greenesters, give it up for:
Seventh Generation
Tom's of Maine (one astute high school pal likened the deodorant to "anchovie slime," but I love the mouthwash)
Dr. Bronner's (I guest-blogged about them here)
Ten Thousand Villages
World of Good

This list is in no particular order, mind you. It's just what jumped off the page at me. What? You want it spoon-fed? Buy the book!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ms. Moneybags

Ellen Remmer, President and CEO of The Philanthropic Initiative, writes on Philanthropy Central that "Women will in large part shape the future of philanthropy." She points out that women are making more money than ever before, and are taking on more leadership roles within civic and nonprofit organizations. (As every fundraiser knows, your loyal volunteers are often among your strongest donor prospects!)

Oh, my goodness, those Canadians are so darned cool.
Just LOOK at how they take action in support of women's economic wellness.

I consider myself moderately philanthropic. My best guess has me giving a bit over 2% of my salary to nonprofit interests. Remmer's piece made me want to give more generously, partly for the privilege of being one among the sea of women using their economic power to effect positive changes in the world, and partly in appreciation for my own . My four years at boarding school opened up the world to me, and led me to a college experience for which I am ever more grateful as time goes on. Neither would have been possible without: the sacrifices (and backbreaking hard work) of my parents; nor the charitable gifts of many; and the extreme generosity of a few women "sponsors." These set me on my course as a professional fundraiser and an amateur philanthropist, forever paying forward the joy and privilege of what I received from others (mostly women, as it happens).

Women & The Economy, a project of United Nations Platform for Action Committee (UNPAC), confirmed my hazy recollection of this factoid: "Studies show that women are responsible for buying 80% of household goods." As they put it, "Women's role as care givers has meant that women play an especially prominent role in buying things that provide sustenance for home and family."

Philanthropy definitely falls under the category of "sustenance" in my book, and I love the idea of moms and stepmoms, grandmothers and aunties, unpacking a spiritual shopping bag of generosity and laying their philanthropic inspiration out on the kitchen counter where the kids can absorb it as they reach for a (real, edible, non-spiritual) after school snack.  Goggles and cape: optional.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pain for Vain?

This is yet another doom 'n' gloom post about chemical nastiness. Sorry to dwell! A huge part of being Greene is taking good care of ourselves, inside and out, so I think it's worthwhile to reflect on these questions. 

A friend asked me for suggestions about non-cell-destroying hair coloring options. She writes,

"I'm planning to get highlights later this month, but I'm scared! I offered to bring a special dye (Naturatint from drugstore.com) into the salon but the stylist convinced me that wouldn't be a good idea since she's never worked with that dye before and I might pick a bad color. Guess I have some sacrifices to make for beauty, huh?"

Will I really be beautiful enough unless I risk all kinds of nasty side effects?
Image: naturalhairdye.com.

I had to admit that I routinely fry my locks, and potentially my health, with the good, old-fashioned (by which I mean, bad, potentially hazardous), Hard Stuff. I really hadn't given the subject much consideration.

According to this very comprehensive article from NaturalNews.com, it's something one might want to consider, or at least research. As an "enhanced" blonde, I take a wee bit of comfort in the article's assertion that darker dyes are more dangerous than lighter ones, but I know that's splitting hairs (sorry!).

Has anyone tried the less toxic coiffure options? I'm not surprised that the stylist took a pass on this one, because I'm sure she doesn't want to be responsible for any Rapunzelistic disasters. Does anyone know of salons that specialize in not giving us cancer?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Urban-ish Garden: 10 Thoughts on Eating Very Local -- Part II

Picking up where we left off with our guest blogger (Part I, if you missed it). The lessons, please, Professor!

...And so my garden grows, with real dirt and real seeds.  I have learned these important lessons along the way:

•    Take pictures.  Your garden is like your child, and it will change overnight.  The daily immediacy of its demands will obscure the big picture and the work that you’ve done, until it is easy to forget where it all started, back then in a sunny patch of dirt.  So take pictures to document the journey. 

•    Keep a record.  I use a wire-bound purple notebook in which I’ve pasted my charts of companion plantings, drafts of my garden plans, scribbled notes on planting and germinating times, and records of which seeds I bought from which company.  Just like with the pictures, I know that next year I will have forgotten what I did when and my garden plans will help me stay organized as I plan next season’s crops.

•    Fork it over for the expensive garden gloves.  My garden has eaten through four pairs of gloves so far, as even the latex-coated fingers get shredded by the work.  On the other hand, save your money on garden ties and scrounge in your sock drawer for old pantyhose, which works great for tying up your crops.

•    Start small, and then expand.  A garden is more work than you think it will be, especially in the beginning.  To make my garden from scratch has been labor-intensive.  I dug the fence-post holes, I built the fence, I cleared the ground, I tilled the soil, I primed, painted and built my garden boxes, I dug up the dirt to make the boxes, I sifted the dirt for rocks and clumps, I mixed in amendments that I lugged back from the store because my dirt was nothing but clay, I planted seeds, I weeded, I tended seedlings, I built a drip irrigation system, I staked, trained, and pruned plants, I built several wood and twine trellises, and I’m still not even close to having my whole garden up and running.  My modus operandi is usually to take a flying dive off the deep end, and then leave half-finished projects in my flailing wake.  This time, for this project, I somehow had the wisdom to work in more bite-sized chunks.  My garden will eventually be 14 4’x6’ boxes, but I’ve started with the materials for 7.  It’s taken 8 months to get my first 4 boxes fully up and running. 

•    Seed catalogs are very tempting in January.  I still haven’t planted all the seeds I bought in my seed-buying exhilaration, as I imagined both the exotic and the mundane for my backyard garden.

•    Grow heirloom.  I always knew my garden was going to be organic, or else defeat its basic purpose of subverting modern industrial farming.  Then the more I learned, the more I knew that my garden, this throwback to a life less rushed, would also only make the most sense if I grew heirloom seeds, which have been cultivated over generations and help save the variety in our food.  Hybrid seeds are too much agribusiness inventions and too little connection to the dirt.  Heirloom seeds restore a sense of purpose in your food when you start to realize that a carrot is not just a carrot, not just an orange root shape in your cellophane bag, but that there are hundreds of types of carrots (and not all of them are even orange).  Plus, although hybrid seeds are more fool-proof (at least for the first round; all they grow are sterile crops), the variety in heirloom seeds enables you to find a type that is already matched to your climate and soil type and gardening ability.

•    Trust the dirt.  Plants want to live, and will go to great lengths to do so.  If you provide the intersection of seed, soil, sun, and water, just step back and watch what nature does with it.  I have tomato plants now thriving that were on the verge of death when I transplanted them.  I have a rogue cucumber growing in my tomato box because that used to be a cucumber box, but when all of my first seedlings died (sub-lesson: hardening your seedlings is not optional), I switched to tomatoes, and that little seed survived the parched spell in the transition and is now wending its way through 3 types of tomatoes.     


•    When they recommend spacing for plants, listen.  I didn’t want to be presumptuous, so I didn’t put up cages for my spindly tomatoes.  I was in a rush to get more plants in before the scorch of summer hit, so I planted a jumble of seeds in one box.  Cue to: my tomato jungle, battling with my cucumber jungle.  Cue to: my hedge of peas.  Cue to: my squash plants crowding out my pepper plants.  I suppose there is another sub-lesson here regarding the wisdom of thinning your crops, but I just didn’t have the heart to rip out pea plants which obviously wanted desperately to live.  I didn’t think that my cucumber plants, which started so small, would engage in their own urban sprawl through their own box and into neighboring boxes.  So I’ve installed an aftermarket trellis, in the hopes of just containing them off the walkway, and I’ve learned a lesson about maximizing vertical space as well as horizontal space.        

•    Gardening is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  On the one hand, if you just provide that crucial intersection, you are gardening.  On the other hand, you can get an advanced degree in soil chemistry and crop rotation and integrated pest management.  My learning curve has been steep, since I don’t want this to be my full-time job but I do want to make my efforts fruitful, but that has been part of the fun.  It is also like teaching in that there will never be a sense of completion, no time when I have accomplished the job perfectly, because there is always room to learn and fiddle and try and reflect and try over in an effort to make improvements.

•    And the number one, supreme lesson I have learned: be patient.  I’ve found myself taking plants out too soon, or fretting over their lack of progress, only to find that I was merely being impatient.  Gardening is not an instant gratification venture.  On the one hand, your garden is like a child, whose growth spurts happen overnight, right before your eyes.  On the other hand, the period between germination and fruit production is an eternity.  Even watching my tomatoes grow, and grow, but not ripen, has been weeks of waiting.   Patience is what lets me take small steps to get my garden up and running.  Patience is what makes the harvest still tasty even when you’ve been waiting 76 days for it.  A garden forces patience and forces the kind of gentleness that careful cultivation cultivates.  A garden is the opposite of traffic, of texting, of locks and keys, of caffeinated mornings and clock punches.  A garden is a solution, is psychotherapy in the dirt, is ancient and sacred and restorative.   So co-opt the language of imperative motivation, and just do it: grow something and eat it.  You’ll see what I mean.

Guest Blogger Maria Thibodeau grew up on a leafy chunk of glacial detritus and now cultivates her seeds, both literally and metaphorically, in Los Angeles, CA, where she lives with her wife and 3 dogs.