Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Celebrate Earth Day Everyday, Part I; Reframing Recession Fears to Conscious Consumerism

How to Celebrate Earth Day Everyday, Part I; Reframing Recession Fears to Conscious Consumerism

Every challenge is an opportunity. The recession is a perfect chance to create a shift in your family's values; a chance to move from want-based, status-based, and impulse spending, to sustainable consumer choices.

Of course, the first step is to make that reframe in your own thought process. In this article, you'll see that in many cases the eco-conscious, green, sustainable choice, and the financially sound choice, are one and the same.

It's not always an easy leap to get from habitual, reflex, pattern spending, to more conscious choices. Here are some simple steps to get you, and your family, thinking from a more resilient and ecologically sound perspective.

Reframe Lessons Taught by the Recession to Lessons that Will Last a Lifetime - Or Even Generations.
To begin with, instead of jumping to the blanket statement, "we can't afford a new (insert-item-of-the-moment-here)!" address the question - first in yourself and then with your child - do we need a new (insert-item-of-the-moment-here)?

Need is a complex idea. It might take a while to rebuild your, and your family's, thoughts, feelings, and ultimately values, regarding the question of what constitutes need. It's not as simple as just need vs. want. There's a spectrum.

Here are a few things that can help in the process of creating a new valuation of the concept of need within your family structure.
  • Casual conversation with your family about what need really means. Using examples of less consumer-driven cultures can be illustrative.
  • Age-appropriate documentaries of truly impoverished cultures can help a child ready for a more global picture to understand the scale between need and want.
  • With younger kids, pictures books, folk tales, and songs can help in redefining.
  • Philanthropic acts, couple with conversation. (See my article 5 Ways to Engage Your Kids in Grateful Giving)
  • Volunteering at a local soup kitchen can bring it home that there's trouble, right here in River City. (Again, see my article 5 Ways to Engage Your Kids in Grateful Giving)
As you educate your kids, it's important to couple information about poverty and need with stories of positive change. Even more important, is introducing positive change you and your family can contribute to.

Little steps your child can take to help make the world a better place, even as simple as boxing up a few items and offering them to a local charity, can go a long way in allowing your kid awareness, without overwhelm.

Also important is consistency in word and deed.

During the past holiday season I asked my 12 year old to seriously consider her use of the word need. She did, and we talked about it. We then boxed up lots of unused household items, toys, and gifts, and contributed them to a local "free store", and to a local family in need as part of a holiday project a women's group I'm part of with had taken on.

A few days later, I casually used the word need in a conversation with my husband. My daughter overheard it, raised an eyebrow, and said, "Need, mom?" I quickly retracted. She was right. I truly only wanted what ever the now-forgotten item was.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle -it's actually a pyramid!
The slogan "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is in that order for a reason; it makes more sense to envision it as a pyramid than the circular form it's usually imaged as.

Reduce is the base of that pyramid; the foundation. Reevaluating and reducing our consumer habits is the best thing we can do to decrease our planetary impact.

It's also a softer on the checkbook.

Reducing can be an easy step, or even many easy steps, that add up to a big change. Some of those steps will happen naturally, as a response to the tightening of belts that occurs in times of financial uncertainty.

When gas prices shot sky-high in the summer of '08, my family reduced our number of shopping trips per week. We live rurally, so we planned better, and made each 30+ mile drive to and from the nearest place of commerce really count.

Yeah, it's tiring as hell to go to five stores in one day. But we saved a lot of money (and time), and reduced our use of gasoline by about 3/4.

Even though gas prices have dropped for the time-being, we've more-or-less stuck with the newly-learned habit of 1 - 2 shopping trips a week. And it feels great to know that we're simultaneously saving money AND decreasing our use of petroleum products.

Buying in bulk reduces post-consumer waste, and often helps you save some pennies in the process. In some areas, there are buyers cooperatives that you can join, and go in on true bulk ordering. This saves, again, both money and packaging waste.

Perhaps the most comprehensive way you and your family can foster the "reduce" piece of the puzzle is to reconsider the desire to keep up with the Joneses. Don't get the next gadget that comes along, even though your kid might beg, kick, and scream for the newest of the new of the e-game-component du-jour.

Ideally, as you begin changing your habits, and educating your kids about the reasons why, they will be less inclined to see disposable culture as they once did. Based on your modeling, and the new information they'll receive through family conversation, they're likely to be less prone to emotional response to acquisitive desires.

But in the case that attachment does arise, here are some things to remember, and to remind about; not only does the new thing create future trash, but the old one instantly becomes waste in the process.

And, your wallet gets that-much lighter every time you give in to the consuming-for-consuming's-sake urge. It's up to you how much of that part you want to share with your child. There's a fine line between honesty and over-sharing. You can figure out where yours is.

Finally, remember this; just the process of asking the question, "Do we NEED this?" will in many cases lead to a substantial decrease in purchases.

Reusing is the second-best option; once you've purchased an item and put it into circulation, the more times that item is used, in a sense, the less the overall impact. This is just as true for a plastic bag, a yogurt container, a t-shirt, or a computer.

Of the four items mentioned, only the shirt is biodegradable. And, at that, only truly biodegradable if made of organic material such as cotton or silk. So reuse it! (Or, Repurpose it - the fourth R. Stay tuned for my next How To Celebrate Earth Day Every Day article for more on repurposing.)

The plastic bag can be reused - as a sandwich bag for your kid's lunch, a container for left-overs like pasta, or even a hair cap for dying your hair. But once it's done with, it's landfill - no ifs, ands, and buts.

The yogurt container is a sturdy alternative to Tupperware™ (and basically free, if you bought it for the yogurt, right?). Or, if you're starting your own "Victory garden" this year, you can use it for starts for your veggies.

Once the container begins to fall apart, it goes into the recycling - that is, if your town has a recycling program that accepts that kind of plastic.

Of all the items mentioned, the computer has the most problems with waste - much of it toxic, from batteries in laptops, to the metals used in the construction of the insides of the machine.

There's a new term that's been created in recent years; e-waste, or electronic-waste. Your phones, TVs, and computers all fall into this category.

E-waste is becoming a larger and larger issue. It's a problem that's grown to the extent that companies which once shipped used computers to countries like Africa have stopped, due to the accumulation of e-waste.

Instead of being a benefit, the well-intentioned act of offering our older technology to countries where there was less available has become a liability, and in a sense, an inadvertent sort of "off-shore dumping" program.

This article goes so far as to say that once you buy electronics, you should consider them yours for life.

The longer we can keep any of these items in use, and better yet, in use in our own household, the better for the environment - and our pocket.

So use your electronics until they're totally unusable - and then make sure they're either disposed of properly, or refurbished for further use.

There's a line-up in my house for my coveted machine when I eventually upgrade, but if your kids are too high-falutin to take your old laptop, there's always someone who would be glad to get a few months use out of that outdated computer, or even your "beater" of a car.

(See my next How To Celebrate Earth Day Every Day article to read about freeecycle, for a nearly effortless way to spread the "reuse" love.)

Recycling is probably the most mentioned, but least effective of the three Rs. Of the four items mentioned above, only the yogurt container can be recycled. And at, that, only at some recycling centers. The shirt and plastic bag are landfill. Over time, the shirt will rot away. The plastic bag will not.

Of all the items I mentioned, the computer is most problematic. There's a new term that's been created in recent years; e-waste, or electronic-waste. Your phones, TVs, and computers all fall into this category. Ne recycling here!

But even with items that are recyclable, the value of the recyclable item as a measure for decreasing waste is variable. It's complex, and I don't even begin understand the level of math that goes into figuring it out, but it takes energy to recycle. In some cases more (soda can back into soda cans), in some cases less (post-consumer waste like office paper into toilet paper).

But, more or less, recycling uses resources. Don't get me wrong - I'm not telling you to give-up on recycling. I'm just saying that the other two options, reducing and reusing, are the ones that are going to be softer on your pocket, and gentler on the earth at the same time.

And that's something you, and your family, can feel good about. Twice!

My next article on How to Celebrate Earth Day Every Day: The Fourth "R" - Repurposing! Freecycle, Exchanges, and More - The Art and Science of the Give and Take

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good News Over Here!

Today is a GOOD day for me. I'm so grateful for all the amazing news I got today that even though I'm taking a day off, I wanted to shout it out to you all.

First, my case study is a WINNER at the Hot Mommas Project! The name of my case study is Finding Balance in the Extreme: Working with Bipolar Disorder. It's an honest and open piece of writing about why I chose, and continue to choose, to be an entrepreneur. And the things that were said about my study by the judges were to rewarding and touching, they literally brought tears to my eyes. (Follow the link above, and take a look.)

Winning the case study competition means a lot of things, but most notably, it means that Finding Balance in the Extreme: Working with Bipolar Disorder will be included in a Prentice Hall textbook. And, the case study is already being used in mentoring programs for women everywhere.

Second, my Twitter friend Sarah Bray (@SarahBray) interviewed me for her blog series, MaTweeps. The interview is all about #GRATITUDE, the Twitter meme I started back in August, and why it's become such a Twitter phenomenon. Take a read, and if you're moved, leave a comment. (While you're at it, follow me on Twitter. I'm @Yoga_Mama there.)

Third, a blog entry of mine was included in today's Mom's Carnival of Bloggers. Read, and enjoy!

Aside from all that, as I said up at the top of this post, I'm taking the day off - an accomplishment, and reward, in itself. So, signing off for now. Just had to share my good news with my peeps.

All love. And as always, peace, and gratitude.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Born Again American...

Don't let the name fool you; Born Again American (.org) is sure to be an inspiring site for all of us! Watch the video, listen to the lyrics, and take the pledge. I did!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome, President Obama!

Today we celebrate the strides made since the world-forming speech Doctor Martin Luther King gave 46 years ago at the Washington Monument.

In the same place where Dr. King uttered the iconic words, "I have a dream," that same dream is coming true. We, as a nation, have found our way to the mountain top.

May President Obama bring us finally into the new millennium, and shine a light of understanding on this land, from sea to shining sea. May this nation be redeemed.

God bless our country, and God bless the President. God bless the world. Peace in our time. The time is now. Let freedom ring.

Join my Gratitude Games Inauguration Day Give-Away! In the comment box below, write what you are most grateful for about Obama's inauguration.

I will choose a winner from the comments on Wednesday morning, and post her or his name by 10 AM Pacific time. Please come back and see if your comment won!

Monday, January 19, 2009

In Honor of Doctor King

In Honor of Doctor King

on the eve of the inauguration of President Barack Obama - May All Dreams as Bold and Beautiful Come to Fruition

Racism has not come to an end, but today we can celebrate the strides made since the speech at the Washington Monument.

Tomorrow, in the same place where Dr. King uttered the iconic words, "I have a dream," the dream is coming true.

May these words by Dr. King, and songs that shape them into a contemporary tapestry, inspire you, and bring a moment of pure reflection. We, as a nation, have found our way to the mountain top. The time is now. Let freedom ring.

Mr Fingers - Can You Feel It (Martin Luther King mix).

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year's Eve!

I'm part of an amazing group of women called the Mom Entrepreneur Support Group Check it out, and tell them I sent you.

Yesterday someone on the group put a shout out for New Year's Resolutions. I got into the spirit of it and jotted some intentions down. I want to share them with you, and hope they might inspire you to do the same.

My Intentions for 2009:

to live into ease.
to meet pleasure gently, right where it is - not try to chase it, or coerce it into coming to me.
to make goals that stretch me, but don't tear or break anything.
to find the level that is right in any moment, even if it means bringing it down a notch or two.
to invest in love, because it always has a great roi.
to breathe in gratitude, walk in gratitude, sleep in gratitude, sit in gratitude, plan in gratitude, dream in gratitude, play in gratitude, work in gratitude, relate in gratitude, love in gratitude, live in gratitude.

I call these intentions because they aren't exactly goals. They don't have a start date and an end date, but are a commitment to practice of my personal values and ideals.

In this, I remind myself that every day is new, and that every moment is an opportunity to create positive change.

If you take up this "challenge" and write out your own intentions for 2009, I invite you to send them to me, and I will share them out, anonymously or with full credit, in my next newsletter.

As part of my personal gratitude practice, I do a gratitude shout out on Twitter daily. Others have joined me in practicing gratitude, and we have all found the collective witnessing to be powerful.

Thank you for witnessing my intentions. I'd love to witness yours in return. Together we will build new worlds.

May the coming year be filled with joy, presence, ease, and abundance for us all. Here's to a grateful 2009!

-LaSara ~

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Win Some, Lose Some - An Election End-Note from Yoga Mama

Win Some:
I truly believe I have experienced what may be THE definative political event of my lifetime; the first black American president has been elected. By a landslide, in fact.

Not only that, he's the first president who is more Gen-X than Baby Boom. And, as advertised, as much as Obama is proof of change, he's harbinger of change. Don't quite buy it yet? Check out the new President-Elect's website: Seriously! Change dot Gov. And it is a change - Obama and his team are ready to drag this country, perhaps kicking and screaming, into the new millennium. (Hey, we're only eight years late, right?)

Web 2.0 savvy was part of what delivered this heroic victory. And, Obama has been nothing but generous with the praise for a country that heard a message of hope, and went for. Motivated to achieve it.

I look forward to seeing what the country looks like in a year's time, four year's. We have an opportunity to take a lead from an honorable man, and embrace change. This is only the beginning. We are the change that elected this president, and we can be the change that rises this country from the ashes to fly strong again.

Lose Some:
In California, widely considered at least one of the most liberal states in the union, the citizens voted in Proposition 8, the nefariously worded "Protect Marriage Act." It's is a proposition that "protects traditional marriage" by disallowing anyone but one man and one woman the rights that marriage affords.

However, the fight goes on. As I write, people all over the state are demonstrating against Prop 8.

To paraphrase a facebook friend's update the day after the elections; I never thought I'd see the day when I was proud to be an American, and ashamed to be a Californian. Well, here it is. (can't recall who that was from, or I'd give you a link...)

And, an end comment on the election from Yoga Mama:

So, the struggle for rights - equal rights for everyone, regardless of color of skin, sexual orientation, sex or gender - continues unabated. But still, I have hope.

Hope possessed of a leader. Hope for, and trust in, the country that elected him. Hope that a day will come when the changes that are coming have come and gone, leaving a sweeter memory behind. To quote a great man;
"Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is...better than the one we inhabit today."
-President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama
Peace, and hope.