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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tree Hugger

Photo credit: Flickr/KbH

Tree Hugger. Granola Girl. Eco-Freak. Crunchy Mama. There are lots of ways to describe me...and all of the aforementioned names are compliments in my mind. My path to "green living" has been slow and steady...definitely not an overnight conversion. Every piece of knowledge has led me in a new direction, and helped spark interest in other areas (i.e. I cloth diapered, so it was a natural fit to use cloth toilet paper). As a Christian, I feel even more compelled to be a good steward of the earth. It's not just about stopping global warming or saving trees, it's to honor God and to be wise with the resources He has abundantly given us. We live in a nation of excess and ease...we need to get back to the basics and "live simply so that others may live" -Gandhi.

After reading a great thread on Mothering, I thought I would do a quick overview of the things I do to reduce my footprint on the earth (and things I am still working on). It will be a reminder for me to remain diligent in them, and will hopefully encourage you to start or continue in your own journey towards natural/green living.

When you know better, you do better. -Maya Angelo

  • Use clothesline/hang clothes outside. Our landlord is going to build me a clothesline this summer...I could not be more excited! In the meantime, we do hang some clothes on a rack inside.
  • Be mindful of what lights are on and turn them off when not in use. We do have lots of natural light in our apartment, so this is pretty easy.
  • Keep the thermostat set low. This is so difficult for me to do because I LOVE being warm. Our utilities are included in our rent, so I'm not motivated by the money savings. I must decide to motivate myself for the pure ecological impact.
  • Reuse clothes that aren't dirty. This is another hard one, especially with Bella. She changes clothes about 5 times a day...and yes, they are all dirty. It's so easy just to run a load now that we have our own washer and dryer. Luckily, it is an efficient front loader and the dryer has a sensor in it. However, still not a good excuse.
  • Decrease garbage. With recycling and composting, this has become easier. We go through about 1 bag a week. Go check out "Garbageland" to understand the business of garbage better. I think it should be required reading for everyone!
  • Use cloth bags at the grocery store. I have been out of my "routine" with this for awhile and need to get a system in place so I have them when I need them.
  • Use hand dryers in public restrooms instead of paper towels.
  • Carry stainless steel water bottles for drinking when away from the house. (Sigg or Klean Kanteen). I phased out all of our Nalgene bottles a few years back due to health concerns, especially regarding women. This is controversial, but when it comes to plastic, I don't like ANY of it. Especially for food. They just haven't been around long enough to perform long-term studies.
  • Use cloth hankies/bandanas instead of tissues.
  • Use cloth napkins.
  • Use cloth towels for cleaning.
  • Use cloth mama pads and The Diva Cup.
  • Use cloth toilet paper/family cloth.
  • Rinse/reuse plastic bags and aluminum foil.
  • Use glass jars for storing food in fridge and for bulk items.
  • Recycle everything.
  • De-clutter and donate on a continual basis.
  • Don't buy anything new.
  • If I must make a purchase, buy locally...from small stores.
  • Shop at thrift stores.
  • Buy more in bulk to reduce packaging.
  • Use natural bar soaps with few ingredients for hand/body washing.
  • Use all natural body care products.
  • Would like to wear only natural fibers (wool, cotton, linen, flax, hemp...).
  • Dreaded my hair. I am now able to use less products and less electricity.
  • Use earth-friendly/homemade cleaners (my next blog will be about natural cleaning products...stay tuned).
  • Would like to get rid of particleboard furniture in the house (off-gassing).
  • Would eventually like to get an organic/natural mattress. I have my eye on one of these...they are locally made.
  • Replaced all Teflon and similar cookware with cast iron and stainless steel.
  • Replaced plastic containers with glass storage containers for food storage (dry goods and in the fridge).
  • Compost! We are just starting to compost and I am amazed and saddened at how much food we have wasted in the past. I am very aware of how much food I toss because we don't have a disposal either.
  • Eat organic foods at home...we are at about 90%. When we are out and can't choose our meals as much, I try very hard to avoid the "dirty dozen". This is not only for our health, but for the health of the earth by reducing pesticides, etc.
  • Eat more raw foods as a way to prevent disease, feel more alive, and save energy by not cooking. To learn more about raw foods, check out Alissa Cohen's site. Eating raw food doesn't have to be difficult...just add a smoothie for breakfast and a big salad for lunch and you're on your way.
  • Eat a vegetarian diet. Read "Diet for a New America" or "Food Revolution" to learn how your food choices affect more than just you.
  • Buy locally grown foods when possible.
  • Breastfeed Bella for optimum nutrition.
  • I'd like to learn to can and freeze this year.
  • Start gardening this summer.
  • Walk more, drive less. Even in the winter, we can walk to the co-op to do grocery shopping, get coffee, etc.
  • Ride bike more often. Obviously this will be easier when it's not snowy and icy...but I am so excited to bike to my errands! Wheeeee!
This is by no means an exhaustive list..because it's always changing and growing...but it's amazing to me how adaptable humans are. Five years ago I would have laughed out loud at the thought of most of the things on this list. So, if you are just starting your journey, take heart! Just pick one thing at a time to change and keep moving forward.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Journey

Dreadlocks. The mere mention of the word has my grandmothers running for the hills. But I love them...and I have always wanted my very own. So, after we moved West, I decided that life is too short to keep wanting. I didn't want to turn 80 and wish I had done dreads when I was younger. So, I did it. My lovely and amazing friend, Becky, flew up from South Carolina to visit me and she helped start my hair on it's dreading journey.

For those of you who don't know anything about dreads...this will be a wonderful chance for you to open your mind and broaden your horizons. Dreads are not just for pot smokers, homeless people, hippies, African-Americans, or Rastafarians. Basically, ANYONE can have dreads if they stop combing their hair. They have been around for a long, long time. There is a great book I recently added to my collection called "Dreads". It has tons of stories and beautiful photos.

Here are a few excerpts of dreadlock history:
The first known examples of the hairstyle date back to ancient Egypt, where dreadlocks appeared on Egyptian artifacts. Mummified remains of ancient Egyptians with dreadlocks have even been recovered from archaeological sites.

The Old Testament also recounts the tale of Samson and Delilah in which a man’s potency is directly linked to ‘the seven locks on his head’ and according to Roman accounts, the Celts were described to have ‘hair like snakes’ Germanic tribes, Greeks and the Vikings are all said to have worn dreadlocks too.

Dreadlocks are a universal phenomenon in the East as well as in the West.
Spiritualists of all faiths and backgrounds incorporate into their paths a
disregard for physical appearances and vanity. And so, throughout the world,
such seekers often cease to comb, cut, or otherwise dress their hair: This
is how "dreadlocks" are born (click here for more info).

Dreads are hair that is knotted, matted, twisted...and uncombed. Stop combing your hair today, and in a year or two, you'll have some dreads. However, you can help the process along. There are several different ways to make them, but I chose back-combing. Becky separated my hair into random 1" sections and she used a metal comb to backcomb every section. It took 3-4 hours. I did have the option to use wax (a beeswax concoction) to help them stay together more, but decided against it. This is the method advised by dreadlock megasites Dreadhead HQ and Knotty Boy. However, I have heard way too many horror stories about dreadlocks and wax gone bad. It will take longer for them to "lock up" without the wax, but it's worth the wait.

One of the main misconceptions about dreads is that if you have them, you can't wash your hair. This is absolutely untrue. You can wash your hair every day if you want. Of course washing your hair everyday isn't good even if you don't have dreads. In the beginning, it's best to wait at least a week while they mature a bit. However, what I've found is that because I'm not using any products at all, my hair stays nice and clean for a long time! Every 2-3 days is more than enough. You can always spray your hair with some yummy essential oils if you feel like it. Peppermint is good.

I have had many people ask me why I finally decided to go for it. Here is the short list:

I like them. I think they look cool.

Profound, I know.

I wanted to simplify my beauty "routine".
Prior to dreads, I used (and toted around when I traveled):
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Mousse
  • Volumizing Spray
  • Comb
  • Round brush to straighten my hair
  • Blow dryer
  • Pomade/Wax
  • Hairspray
Now I use:
That is just mind boggling to me. I never realized just how freeing and simplifying having dreads would be. It has been so wonderful not having to "do" my hair everyday. I've had less stress...and more time. I use less products...and save more money. Hair products are expensive! Another perk is the added space in the suitcase! I love traveling light.

They are a reminder to me that I am set apart for Christ.
The entire journey is very spiritual. Dreadlocks are rooted in spirituality...back to ancient times. In these last 2 weeks, I have learned so much about myself and who I am in Christ.
    • I am learning patience. My dreads will take about 3-6 months to "settle down" and about a year for them to be completely locked up. Dreads are constantly changing and forming. There are lots of photos in this set of dreads I love. Whenever I'm discouraged with them and the process, I go and look at photos of people with mature dreads and I am encouraged.
    • I am learning non-judgement. In purposely becoming unlike anyone else around me, I can relate in a new way with those people who feel judged by others.
    • I am learning about commitment. Dreads are long-term. If I want them to look how I will take time. The same is true with my commitment to Jesus. It takes commitment become to become like Him! Every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded of recent commitments I've made to Him.
So there you have it. I'm going to be posting photos of my journey on this Flickr set. It will be fun to watch as they lock up.

About a year ago, I read a great book by Anne Lamott called "Traveling Mercies". I wrote several quotes from that book in my Moleskin journal and found them recently. I love them and this is a great place to share them:

"No one knew the effort it took to make my hair look like it hadn't taken any effort at all (p. 234)".
  • This was definitely me BEFORE I dreaded my hair. It took so long for me to get my hair looking like I wanted it. My hair is very fine with no body at all...and it took a lot of coaxing to make it work.
"How much longer am I going to think about my hair more often than about things in the world that matter? (p. 235)"
  • So true. Hair is big business. Women (and men) are consumed by it most of the time. How it looks. What color it is. If their mother-in-law approves of the style. I'm not saying I will stop thinking about it...but I really want to focus on other things that are way more important.
"Dreadlocks would be a way of saying that I was no longer going to play by the 'rules' of mainstream white beauty...but that I was going to CELEBRATE instead (p. 234)"
  • Doesn't everyone want to CELEBRATE? I do.
The best compliment I've gotten came from my sweet daughter, Bella. We were talking recently and out of the blue she said,
"You're a good mama. These dreads are cute."
Children always know just what to say to make you smile.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Come Out, Come Out!

If you read any other blogs...I'm sure you have heard that it is National Delurking Week. Being that I have been traveling for the last week, and will be gone for another week, I probably won't post any blogs for a bit.

SO, it's YOUR turn to "blog my blog". I would LOVE to hear from all of you that read...where you are from, your interests, how you found my blog, etc. Basically anything interesting you can think of. This is especially for those of you who never comment...but I want to hear from my regulars as well! I am so encouraged by all of your comments and I appreciate you so much!

Have a blessed week...


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