With the holidays fast approaching, many people are ramping up to prepare for decorating, celebrating, and, of course, gift giving. Those who are concerned about the environment have more options than ever this year to ensure that their gifts are not going to have long-lasting negative effects on the world.
At this time of year, the decorating options abound. From plastic banners to plastic trees, it can be a real dilemma to be both festive and environmentally conscious. Luckily, some of the best decorations this time of year are natural, and you can find all kinds of wonderful, naturally-biodegradable options in your backyard and supermarket. Fruits like cranberries and oranges make a big statement when placed in large glass containers, and holly and evergreen boughs can be draped over almost everything to add color and fragrance to your home. The most important thing is to try and think about decorating from a natural standpoint so that when the holidays are over in your home they don’t live on in your landfill.
2. Place Settings
It’s true that disposable place settings make clean-up a breeze during the holidays, but plastic and Styrofoam plates, cutlery and cups end up clogging our landfills with materials that almost never decompose. Luckily, there are choices for the eco-friendly hostess. Look for recycled and/or biodegradable options instead. Products made from corn are durable and useful, but the break down in a landfill after a few months. By using these products instead of paper, plastics and Syrofoams means less energy is used to create them and there is almost no damage to the environment.
When planning your menu choose organic and locally-grown foods, which require less of energy to get to your table and leave less of an impact on the Earth’s resources. Foods certified USDA Organic are produced without the use of petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers. Additionally, they are based on meat not treated with antibiotics and growth hormones, both of which have been shown to pollute water sources like lakes, rivers and the ocean. Genetically modified organisms, which reduce biodiversity, are not used in Organic foods. Finally, Organic foods do not undergo irradiation to kill bacteria.
At the very least, remember to have a recycling bin available at all of your holiday gatherings so that all those cans and bottles can be easily recycled by your guests. You may also want to seek out some great organic and natural choices when it comes to the drinks themselves. From sodas to wines, you can seek contents and packaging that are more environmentally friendly. For example, Whole Foods carries an organic wine packaged in Tetra Pak paper-based cartons.
1. Intangible Gifts
Some of the most eco-conscious gifts are those that don’t involve any wrapping paper. These gifts provide resources that last long after the holidays are over and are an excellent way to give someone something that does good for the world. Ideas include: donating time or money to a charity that means something to the recipient; buying carbon offsets on behalf of the recipient; planting a forest in the recipient’s name; or sponsoring an endangered animal.
2. Educational Gifts
If you have people on your list who have expressed interest in being more green, but simply don’t know where to begin, you can give them something that helps them become more aware of the Green movement. Almost all bookstores carry a broad array of choices, including books like “Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet.” If the recipient enjoys cooking, you could try one of many organic food cook books, like “The Organic Cook’s Bible,” and if he enjoys gardening, “Organic Gardening for Dummies” might be a nice choice.
3. Traditional Gifts
You don’t have to look far to get wonderful traditional gifts like toys, linens and clothing that don’t negatively impact the environment. For example, you can find clothing made of organic cotton in many major retailers today. Bamboo towels, socks and bathrobes are amazingly silky-soft, and have antibacterial properties in addition to being environmentally sound. Wooden toys built from sustainable trees are also an excellent choice for children.
There are many healthy, green options available on the market for the holidays, so make the extra effort this year to pick products that will bring joy today without negatively impacting our tomorrows.
Feng shui, for the few folks out there who havent heard about it, is the ancient Chinese science of determining and altering the effects of the environment on our lives. If you listen to some of the claims made for feng shui, it holds all the secrets to health, wealth and happiness wrapped up in a few coins and some wind chimes. All you have to do is anchor your house with a Black Turtle, get a Red Phoenix to nest in front of it and find a White Tiger and a Green Dragon to protect its flanks. If all that sounds suspiciously like semi-mystical mumbo-jumbo, it may be because our practical English isnt informed by the cultural mythology of China. Before you run out to find green dragon and white tiger statues, read on and learn a little about finding your perfect home with feng shui.
Feng shui proposes that in addition to the energy forces that we can see and feel like wind there are also invisible and unfelt forces of energy that affect our bodies and our minds. Some practitioners have tried to explain these forces by using the metaphor of a magnet. We cant see the attractive and repellent forces themselves, but we can see their effects if we try to push together the wrong ends of two magnets. The magnetic forces repel each other.
In feng shui, the life force is called chi (or qi). There are two opposite types of chi yin, the female, passive, receptive force, and yang, the male, active and repellant force. These forces are in constant flow and movement on, in and above the earth. Certain land formations and structures can help attract, channel and direct both types of chi. Thats the basic concept that underlies most practical feng shui.
So whats that got to do with picking the right house?
When you choose a house, you look for congenial neighbors, good schools, the distance to and from work and other destinations, the view why not look at the land forms and structures around the house and how they may or may not encourage positive energy to flow into your home and stay with you? Thats essentially what a feng shui consultant does examines the flow of energy and makes suggestions based on his or her observations. Ideally, a feng shui consultant will also want to know the birth dates of the people who will live in the house to help him or her determine specific suggestions for locating rooms and furnishings, but there are some general guidelines for situating houses that you might find helpful.
In feng shui, every house has four guardians. These guardians are given the names of mythical Chinese animals. If you stand facing your house, the left side is the place for the Green Dragon and the right is where you should find the White Tiger. At the back of your house, there should be a Black Turtle and in front of it, a Red Phoenix. The Green Dragon should be stronger than the White Tiger. The Black Turtle should be higher than the house, and the Red Phoenix should be lower than the house.
Now lets cut away the poetry and talk in plain English. Ideally, your home should be protected on both sides and in the front and the back by some structure or land formation. You can see how practical this advice is if you consider that wind is an energy force. If energy currents carry life force, then it only makes sense to locate your home in such a way that it is protected from destructive forces while inviting and holding protective ones.
Feng shui experts will tell you to look for Black Turtle behind your house. Black Turtle supports your house. Traditionally, its a hill or a mountain, but these days a wall or building behind your house could serve the same purpose. If you can find or build your house so that there is a hill, mountain or other tall land form behind it, Black Turtle will have your back. If not, you can always build a wall or plant a hedge of trees. Practically, it makes sense to shield your house from high, strong winds and lashing rains.
At the front, the feng shui ideal house would have a lake, pool or meandering stream which encourage the good energies to pool and remain with your house. A lawn or grassy field makes a good Red Phoenix, as does a street with little traffic. According to feng shui wisdom, a house with a strong Red Phoenix, like one facing a busy highway, will tend to drain its residents of energy. Imagine the unconscious stress of the constant rush and noise of a busy street right outside your front window and you begin to see how it all makes practical sense.
Green Dragon and White Tiger
The auspicious home also has protectors to the right and left sides of the house, usually in the form of elevations a hill, a wall, another building even a row of hedges or a fence can serve the purpose. In feng shui terms, the green dragon and white tiger guard your home (and you) against bad energy. In practical terms, they serve as privacy screens and wind breaks.
What if the house you love has bad feng shui?
You could just figure that if you love the house, the feng shui cant be all bad. But any good feng shui consultant can recommend cures to mitigate any bad feng shui. You might plant a hedge on the right side of the house to bolster the white tiger, or put a fountain in the front yard if your red phoenix needs help.
When you consider how practical many of the suggestions offered by feng shui consultants are, its really not surprising that many of the most beautiful and congenial houses youll view have good feng shui. If you dont believe me, look for the white tiger and green dragon next time you go house shopping. Youll see.
(c) 2008 Virginia Ginsburg
It seems as if everywhere you go someone is talking about being “green,” but what exactly does being green mean? And why should we do it? Most importantly, how far do we need to go to make an impact?
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
In its simplest definition, being green means taking into account the Earth’s health when making choices about how you live your life. This means considering the ecosystems that support all inhabitants of the planet. In the big picture, being green means making choices based on the impact they will have on our water, land and air resources.
Humans take a large toll on all three of these critical resources – every product that we purchase involves taking resources from the Earth. Take a look at a simple organic apple. Feels pretty virtuous, right? It absolutely is, but keep in mind the requirements of bringing that apple to your table:
1. Energy: the farmer relies on vehicles and machinery that run on electricity to grow and harvest the apple, and the apple must travel in a vehicle to reach your home
2. Water: the farmer must use water to irrigate his fields
3. Air: the farmer’s vehicles and all transport vehicles involved emit carbon dioxide
So you see, even for a very simple, good fruit, we rely on the Earth’s resources. Many more resources are required and drained when producing a non-organic apple, and even more when creating the thousands of products that we rely on each day.
THE GREEN SCALE
Going green can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be – it all depends on the depth of your commitment to the principles behind the movement. Regardless of where you fall on the “Green Scale” of commitment, you can still make an impact in an everyday way.
The Hard-Core Greenie
This type of person makes every decision based on having zero negative impact on the Earth. Additionally, they frequently seek to make decisions that have a positive impact on the Earth. This Greenie tends to make decisions that may have a negative impact on their lives in exchange for the positive impact he believes he is making on the World.
The Moderate Greenie
This person tries to make green decisions, but sometimes must sacrifice her goal to be green for comfort, convenience, cost or effectiveness. Comfortable in the middle-ground, this kind of greenie weighs the cost-benefit ratio of her own desires with environmentally-sound concepts.
The Light Greenie
This type of person means well, and is indeed making a positive impact on the Earth, but the fact is that there are a lot of other priorities in her life, and so she doesn’t always make decisions based solely on how green they are, and tends to forget that she even has green choices.
10 SIMPLE STEPS FOR ALL GREENIES
Which type of Greenie are you? Regardless of your level of involvement in the movement, it is important to remember that even the smallest steps make an impact on the green movement, and everyone can always add just one or two more things to his list of green choices and move up the spectrum depending on life circumstances at any moment in time.
Here are some simple steps that every Greenie can take to move up the spectrum and ultimately make a greater impact on the green movement:
1. Buy direct from farmers, co-ops and free-trade distributors
2. Eat minimally-processed food
3. Stick with organic and/or sustainably-grown foods and textiles whenever possible
4. Reuse any materials that you can before you buy new ones
5. Recycle paper, glass and plastics
6. Do not dispose of toxic waste (e.g. batteries, cell phones, computer electronics, light bulbs, paint, etc.) in the trash can
7. Take public transportation, carpool, walk, or ride your bike instead of driving alone in a car
8. Lower the heat in winter and raise the temperature in the summer; install fans to help better circulate the air rather than using energy to heat/cool it
9. Lower the temperature on your water heater
10. Buy only Energy Star appliances
No matter how hard-core you are, we still all make an impact on the Earth just by living in it. This is called our “Ecological Footprint.” If you are curious about the impact you make on the Earth, take the Ecological Footprint Quiz and compare yourself to others in the U.S. and worldwide. http://www.earthday.net/footprint/index.asp