5 ways I’m saving the world

Meredith, director of marketing for Urth TV and a living green pioneer, believes that our planet is about to go through a monumental shift.

Toward the positive.

That’s right. Meredith is joyfully optimistic, even in the face of global warming, an oil crisis and dying polar bears, because the way society views environmental problems is finally changing.

“This is a very exciting time in our lives, and it’s going to be up to each individual person to take a look at their life and see how they can contribute to themselves and the community and to the planet,” she said. “Really, the question is, what does it all mean to you?”

In a quest to come up with a concrete definition for green living, Meredith sat down with lots of different magazines and cut out words, images and pictures of what it meant to her to be living green.

“When I started doing the research, I came across lots of pictures of surfing and of water and of healthy food, of wonderful groups of people connected and spending time together,” she said. “That’s my definition of living green, but each individual has to figure out what living green means to them. Everyone has a different piece of the puzzle, because green living is interconnectedness. Every single person’s unique take on green living is what makes our lives possible.”

Meredith’s journey to living green began when she started paying attention to what she was eating. By focusing on what she was putting into her body, she became aware of how she was affecting her environment. She became conscious of how her tube of toothpaste could be causing harm to someone half a world away, and she decided to change the way she lived.

Here are 5 suggestions Meredith has for cultivating consciousness and finding the value in living a greener life:

1. Tap into your body.
Taking care of her body is the first place that ecology started making a difference to Meredith. You can follow suit by using your body more, doing yoga or martial arts. Use your body more and you’ll appreciate its abilities.

2. Be conscious of what you’re eating.

One of the biggest improvements came when Meredith gave up caffeine, and discovered that without it in her system, her feelings of insecurity and butterflies started to dissipate.

“Food became an experience for me because I was sitting quietly with myself every day for a little bit,” she said. “By being with my meal when I was eating it, I literally started to look up out of my skin and think, “Oh my, there’s this whole environment around me.”

3. Pay attention to what is in the products you’re buying.

“In order to feel comfortable in my body, I had to reconsider the products that I used in my home,” she said. “It was just another layer of choosing to take care of myself and surrounding myself with good things.”

4. Look for ways to cut back on consumption.

While recycling is something everyone should be doing, Meredith says reducing the amount of waste you create is even more of a priority.

“It’s not just about buying green labels, but thinking, how many pairs of shoes do I really need? How many times am I really running the washing machine every week? Can I make a gift instead of purchasing one?,” she said.

Take cloth grocery bags, for instance. Before you buy a dozen in your quest to help the environment, think about if you already have bags that will work? Can you find any at a thrift shop or garage sale before you buy a new one? Can you share with a neighbor?

5. Help your fellow humans.

“When I stopped putting so much attention on myself, I started helping other people out,” Meredith said. “I was like, ‘Holy cow. I’m living on this gorgeous, beautiful earth filled with bodies of water that are being polluted, and if I want my children to have a life here and my loved ones to be healthy, I better take care of it.'”

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Talk the Talk
Meredith plants seeds of green thought in her Living Green podcast. With interviews and a steady eye on the market, she helps listeners get to the root of the issues.

Watch This
Turns out, Meredith makes a great show host for Urth.TV too. She talks green with some of the most vibrant movement revolutionaries, all for your enjoyment.

The Lights Are On
And they’re good for the environment, thanks to the knowledge you got from Low Impact Living. Go on and look. It’s more than just recycling.

Seeing Green
Recipes. Transportation. Fashion. Oh my. Thanks to Green Living Magazine, it’s never been easier to show your true colors.

Just Do It Yourself
Earth-friendly and wallet-conscious, ReadyMade helps you claim your corner of the world and decorate it just the way you want it.

Color Me Happy
At Green Living Tips, you can learn easy lifestyle changes that reduce your impact on the environment.

Sit & Think
Gaiam, a lifestyle company, offers home furnishings and products with the goal of making sustainable living mainstream.

Eco Bites
Bite-sized, affordable and convenient ways to make small changes to affect big change.

Homegrown revolution, so easy a baby could do it

You don’t have to retreat to a cabin in the forest to grow your own tomatoes and raise chickens, you can do it anywhere. People are growing cucumbers on windowsills in a Los Angeles and harvesting honey on the rooftops of New York City. A new way of participating in the food/life cycle is blushing on the horizon. We are living in the dawn of the ecotarian. People want to get back (don’t make me say it) to their roots (gotcha!).

A relatively new movement, urban homesteading takes “simple living” to the next level (sorry Martha) through incorporating small-scale agriculture, sustainable and permaculture gardening, and home food production and storage into every day life. By growing their own food and harnessing natural energy, city dwellers are reconnecting with their land while planting seeds for the future for our cities.

Over the past 4 years Michelle has transformed her tiny “cement jungle” of a patio into an urban homestead complete with compost piles, laundry lines, and edible produce. Pretty impressive for a girl who couldn’t keep a spider plant alive a mere four years ago.

“My grandfather lived during the depression, and that was reflected in the way we were brought up,” said Michelle. “He taught me about our relationship with the land. Waste not, want not. You didn’t move until the food was gone.”

Lover of a good challenge, Michelle couldn’t resist the chance to translate her grandfather’s wisdom into a townhouse in the middle of Florida. It all started with a little dollar bamboo plant she bought in college. After a series of botanical tragedies that tiny ikea wonder broke the one-year survival threshold–the not-so-green thumb would hold her back no longer! Michelle and her daughters carefully composed a 22’x16′ ecosystem one (recycled) container at a time.

“In our world, we are so distant from what is around us. Trees and life and love have been replaced with things: Wii and iPhones and name brand products of every sort. Our food comes to us via truck with no farther thought about where it has been and what it has seen prior to our grocery store shelves,” said Michelle. Shifting our lifestyles to reflect the cyclical processes of nature–thereby appreciating the things that sustain us–is just one more step in the right direction.

Izzy and Sol, Michelle’s girls, are not growing up in an off grid house with living walls and raise chickens, bunnies, goats and open a nursery (at least, not yet). They are growing up in a townhouse in the middle of town, within walking distance to the library, across the street from their preschool and with a cement backyard no bigger than your living room.

But, thanks to motherly wisdom (and a healthy dose of imagination), that backyard has taught them lessons that most people will never know in their lives… and it all starts with a seed.

“Seeds bloom, the animals come, caterpillars munch and butterflies emerge from cocoons, we have tea parties made from herbs we pick from pots on the wall and they help me gather things for dinner,” said Michelle. “The relationship they are building, the understanding of their place in this world beyond what is fed to them from the TV and magazines: this is almost as important of a lesson as the ability to be self sufficient, but even that pails in consideration of the over all lesson they learn: treat everything with respect, hurt none, and watch out for the little guy. You are the keepers of the world.”

Ready to get your kids in the garden? Here’s a few ideas to get your imagination juices flowing:

1. Plant edible flowers and herbs for curious mouths. Try mint, sunflowers, or pansies or visit kiddie garden for a more complete list of toddler friendly plants.

2. Encourage birds to come visit your garden and make a bird feeder (or birdie snack shack). You may even want to head to the library to reserach the specific details on your local birds, their favorite foods, and favorite styles of dining table.

3. Gather caterpillars and build a butterfly garden. Check out these twenty butterfly gardening tips to get you started.

4. Reserve rainwater in large containers to demonstrate between rain and plant growth. You may even want to make an extra rain water bucket for playing in.

5. Grow cuttings and seedlings indoors and transplant them into the garden. Watch Michelle’s instructables video for a quick and easy cutting propagator.

For updates from Michelle’s urban homestead visit her blog at we’re all mad here.com.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Michelle’s Instructables
Step-by-step directions for creating an easy to maintain small space garden

Avante Yard
75 tricks to get your kids outdoors

Homegrown Evolution
Kelly and Erik are the authors of The Urban Homestead coming out in June of 2008 from Process Media. They have researched and experimented with small scale urban agriculture since moving to their tiny bungalow in Los Angeles ten years ago.

Pick up some homesteading skills
Like how to make a self watering container

Save cash. Be greener.

Remember when your dad would always tell you to turn off the lights when you leave a room? And your inner sassy self would say, “Daaaad, it only costs 6 cents a year to keep a light on all day, every day. Don’t be so cheap.”

Well, it turns out that Dad may have had more on his mind than penny pinching. In these hazy days of going green, we’re learning more and more about how our greedy energy practices are affecting not only our children’s futures, but also the lives of our global neighbors.

The trouble is… we like soft clothes dried in the dryer. We hate doing dishes. We prefer not to feel helpless and the deeper we dig, the more impossible saving the earth seems. But, as Zan Dubin Scott has learned, going green doesn’t have to be black or white.

“The exciting thing about living a greener life is that we can all do something,” she said. “And most of the things we can do are simple and won’t cost anything. In fact, they typically end up saving us all money.”

Here are a few things you can try to lessen your family’s footprint and put some extra cash in your pocket.

  • Connect the dots.

“For every action we take, we must make a connection,” said Zan. “When I go to the gas station, and I buy that gas, I am funding the war in Iraq. I am responsible for the young men who are dying in Iraq. I am contributing to that problem. Do I want to do that? I can shut my mind and decide to be in denial and not make that connection, but that connection still exists.”

Zan said that the best way to make those connections is to stay informed. Read the paper, watch the news, listen to the radio. It’s all there for us, but we have to open our minds to the information.

  • Turn off the lights.

If you’re leaving a room for more than 10 seconds, flip the switch. Zan credits her husband with teaching her this habit when they first got married, and now, to remind her of its importance, she always visualizes a smoke stack when she leaves the room. Not wanting to be responsible for polluting the Earth, she makes this small gesture, which ends up making a big difference.

  • Dry your clothes on a line… most of the way.

No one wants stiff blue jeans, but Zan’s found that if you dry your clothes most of the way on a rack or clothesline outside and then throw them in a dryer for 5-10 minutes to finish the process, you get the same amount of softness as if you dry them entirely in the dryer.

“It’s a great compromise,” she said. “I get softer clothes but that luxury doesn’t cause as much damage to our environment.”

  • Use reusable bags.

Zan said a lot of cities are banning plastic bags, so whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to make the switch to reusable bags. Buy a few canvas bags or organic cotton bags or keep an eye out for sturdier bags from conferences or special events. In many cases you can build quite a collection of bags without spending one penny.

  • Water your plants less.

“I heard from a local utility that you don’t need to water three times a week, that the plants can do just fine on twice a week,” said Zan. “I cut back on my watering, and my plants are doing just fine.”

  • Drive consciously.

It was a bit of a political joke when Barack Obama suggested fighting global warming with inflated tires, but maybe it was only funny because it’s true. Appropriate tire pressure is key for good gas mileage; better gas mileage means using less gas.

Zan also suggests pacing yourself in driving. Don’t accelerate too quickly and don’t brake too hard. Try to coast as much as you can.

  • Buy in bulk.

If you start looking at packaging –cardboard, and then plastic wrapping, and then paper instructions that you’re just going to throw away – it becomes more obvious why there’s a panic over landfills. By buying in bulk, you’ll reduce the amount of packaging headed to the landfills. And if your favorite items don’t come in bulk, you’re not a green failure if you buy them.

“I love string cheese, and I love the individually wrapped string cheese,” she said. “And I’m an environmentalist. To make up for my individually wrapped string cheese, I try to buy in bulk in my other choices at the market.”

Really what is all comes down to, Zan said, is common sense. We all know to reduce, reuse and recycle, but knowing and practicing it as much as we can are two different things.

“It’s amazing how once you start getting into the habit of using less, of reducing your consumption, how easy it is. You start really thinking about what you need,” said Zan. “If I can just make one change in my life, that will make a vast difference. And if each of us just made one change today that we weren’t doing yesterday, you add up all the numbers across the country and we can vastly improve our planet because of the power of numbers. That’s all. Simple.”

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Soul Crushing
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Join the club!
Want to find some like minded electric car fans? Take a look at the Electric Auto Association and get info on how to rally for the cause.

A Trusted Advisor
Get the latest news and advisories on green automotives through Edmund’s Green Car Advisor.