Tag Archives: planetary health

Dreaming of a Green Christmas : 3 Ways to Make Your Holiday Environmentally Friendly

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 9.10.28 AMBy: Elizabeth Eckhart

The holidays are a time of family celebrations, reconnecting with old friends, and celebrating all that we’re thankful for. Unfortunately, the holidays can also be a time of stress, busy schedules, and worse of all, excess. No matter how frugal you may be, chances are you’re finding that extra cold weather and party hosting costs are eating into your budget. And perhaps, if you’re like many other Intent Blog readers, the idea of so much waste, with food and energy, may bother you quite a bit. In order to both keep our habits clean and green, and save some costs, we’ve put together a list of energy saving holiday tricks to get you through the season.

Decorating Tips

If you haven’t already, consider replacing all your holiday lights with energy efficient LEDs, which actually perform better in cold weather. For larger lights, switch to 5-watt bulbs, and place all your lights on a timer or just unplug, ensuring that they won’t be left on during the day when no one can enjoy them. When shopping for outdoor decorations for yourself or others, keep in mind the wide availability of solar powered options.

If you’re really feeling green, you can also decorate with candles. Many families already use luminaries along outdoor walkways on special nights. Consider holiday scented candles, which are a beautiful addition to any home. You can also turn off the lights inside when your brightly decorated tree is on and lit. This will not only save energy; it will immediately make your home feel full of holiday spirit.

Hosting Tips

It may go against holiday tradition, but you can cook some party dishes in the microwave. The typical microwave uses 75 percent less energy than a conventional oven, so even one dish can make a large difference. Using the same reasoning, look up recipes you can create using a slow cooker. Since you’ll still be using the oven for trickier dishes, check progress through the window instead of cracking open the door (which can make the temperature drop 25 degrees in less than a minute!), and feel free to turn the oven off before the food is fully cooked. As long as the door stays shut, your food will finish perfectly and on time. Using glass or ceramic pans also means your dish will cook more quickly, so turn the oven down 20 degrees to save costs.

To keep your fridge running efficiently no matter the number of guests, keep it as stocked as possible — an easy task if feeding a large group of people! You can also defrost items in the fridge instead of a watery sink. Both tips will result in the fridge keeping cooler with less energy.

If you do happen to find your fridge is full, hold off from hauling out the spare fridge, and instead keep extra beverages and holiday leftovers cold by storing them in the garage or in the backyard. And as much as you’d like to clean up quickly following a large holiday meal, your fridge will thank you if you wait until all the food has cooled to room temperature before storing it away.

On the day of your party, turn down the thermostat to 66 degrees. Most people will find this is a comfortable range in a holiday sweater, and the increased body heat should take care of the rest. Keep a few blankets handy for older guests and chronically cold friends. If you plan on setting the mood by using the fireplace, install a tight-fitting set of glass doors and crack open a window nearby. Open-hearth fireplaces actually draw in the heated air from your home and send it straight up the chimney — a problem glass doors can stop. With increased holiday lights on top of heat usage, your bills may still come out higher than expected. If you haven’t already, start monitoring your light usage and reevaluate your energy plan using sites like Energize Connecticut and TexasElectricityProviders.com. Not only can you switch to less expensive plans, you can also choose to have most or all of your energy generated from green sources such as wind or solar.

Gift Giving and Shopping

Although many of us enjoy wandering around decorated stores during the holidays, perhaps even stopping to see Santa, before the perfect gift emerges on its own, you can save time and costs by planning out the gifts necessary for each person. Make use of outlets and strip malls, which mean you have less driving to do from store to store. You can also shop for products made locally or buy materials to craft gifts on your own, which not only supports local businesses but detracts overall from the amount of overseas transit costs and pollution that trucks, boats, and planes cause. The same goes for shopping online  — if you buy your gifts from one store instead of three, you’ll have lower costs associated with packaging and transit.

Regarding the actual gift, aim to buy fewer gifts that use electricity and batteries. An amazing 40 percent of all batteries are purchased during the holiday season, which means a lot of energy is used. If you must buy electronic gifts, definitely opt for the energy efficient versions, and maybe even throw in rechargeable batteries instead of singular usage batteries.

The holidays are the perfect time to show appreciation for those around you. Whether it be through gifts, parties, or decorations, the holidays can be exciting, albeit expensive. But, if you plan accordingly and shop wisely, you’ll find the damage to your wallet and the earth can be greatly reduced.

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

How I’m Moving Forward in the GMO Food Debate

Bosworth Battlefield (2)

A few weeks ago I wrote a post, “The Genetically Modified Food Debate”, which introduced a series of articles by Nathanael Johnson, a Grist.org writer that’s taken on the big task of sorting through the GMO debate to provide the straight story on where the science, politics and implications to people and planet truly stand.

As someone who’s followed the topic of GMO for many years, I’ve often wished for a series of articles just like this. It’s a heroic effort and having the opportunity to go on an exploration of sorts through these articles has helped me crystallize what I believe are the biggest issues and necessary next steps in the GMO food debate. If you’d like to read Johnson’s series, you can start here and find links to subsequent posts at the bottom of each article.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that as humans we are hard-wired to experiment, research and evolve our understanding of the world. Given what I know of evolution and farming, biotechnology seems like a logical place for exploration in science. It’s in the application of this science that things can get complicated. My sense is that, like most things, the best scenario for people and planet as it relates to genetic modification is toward the center from either side of the extreme.

My primary concern about genetically engineered food crops is not so much about the study of biotechnology in plants, but the ripple effect the application of these crops is having on current farming practices and our global food community. Here are some of the things I find most troubling:

  • GMO are often bred for resistance to herbicides and pesticides. As a result, weed-killing herbicide use on genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton increased by 383 million pounds in the U.S. from 1996 to 2008.
  • GM crops support the practice of mono-cropping (growing only one type of agricultural product in a large area of land, year after year). This approach has an economic benefit in that it simplifies farming operations and decreases labor costs. However, mono-cropping depletes nutrients from the soil and decreases crop-yields over time creating a need for increased synthetic fertilizer use. Although there may be a short-term economic gain, there’s a larger long-term cost to the health of the planet.
  • Implementation of GMO and mono-cropping practices in developing countries has impacts that go beyond just human and planet health. Traditional knowledge about how to farm the land, what indigenous plants provide nutrients of need and seed saving techniques to maintain biodiversity…all this wisdom that is passed from generation to generation may be lost and maybe more importantly, be seen as inferior to modern conventional methods.

The biggest hurdle to finding a path forward that is acceptable to groups on both sides of this issue seems to sit within science. Through Johnson’s articles, it’s clear that the methods we have to determine safety and the impact to human and planet health are flawed. The questions we’re asking through testing simply do not provide the answers many people are seeking to understand. This is an issue that’s much bigger than just GMO, but yet one that is effectively stalling the ability of the food community to find consensus about how to move forward. Until we evolve both the methods of testing and what we’re testing for, I don’t see how we’re going to come together.

So, what to make of all this? Well, as for me, I plan to keep looking [read: hoping] for an evolution in testing, particularly in the form of support from our government to investigate new approaches to better answer the valid concerns around GMO’s impact to people and planet health. In the meantime, as we continue to navigate our way to better answers, I believe the right thing to do is provide as much transparency and through that, education, as possible. We don’t have the answers, and until such a time that we do and this matter is settled, why not let people make their own decision? Let’s label GM foods, raise awareness and hopefully get to a place where we can argue towards solutions.

If you’re interested in doing some digging of your own into this issue, Johnson also did a recent article that provides a “Cliff’s Notes” version of some of the most popular books on GMO. You can read this article here.

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Tornadoes, Bombings, and Kidnappings – How Tragedies Activate Our Higher Selves (Part 2)

PrayClick here for part 1.

Author Seth Godin shares that, in today’s world, big change doesn’t happen top-down – by governments or companies deciding what to do. Big or epic change happens from the ground up. It happens as thousands of people decide how they want something to be and then go do it. We can influence this string of tragedies between people by a creating a groundswell of respect and appreciation by people who recommit to seeing the good in others, valuing others and using their unique abilities to see and solve today’s challenges.

Tragedies get our attention. Tragedies interrupt our daily flow – they demand us to step into larger and more responsible roles. When life is fine – we are less intentional in our approach – almost going through life in autopilot. In these moments, we are less focused on how we can connect with each other more significantly or find ways to live more safely on the planet. But when something unusual – painful and tragic – happens, we dig deeper, find resources within ourselves and work more significantly with others to give, improve, support, and care. We are more responsive and more compassionate.

Eckhart Tolle shares in his book A New Earth, “As unhappiness increases, it also causes an increasing disruption in your life.” And when the pain is great, we change. When tragedies strike, we are shaken out of our normal, self-centered worlds and have a glimpse of our greater humanity, greater suffering, and greater need. In this moment, we connect to what is best in us and we solve, invent, work together, and let petty differences disappear. Remember the unity we felt after the Boston Marathon bombings, 911, the Oklahoma tornadoes and hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

The planet and people are the greatest sources of our tragedies. We can’t do much about the planet other than to understand it and use our collective genius to work together to learn how to live safely on it. We can however, learn to be more focused on each other’s greatness as the way to discuss our differences instead of attack, to work through problems instead of shooting or bombing, and to consider that every life is as valuable and important as every other life, regardless of faith, career, social status, or ethnicity. We are each born awesome; when we each are able to know ourselves and know our world, we can then unite to connect the best of ourselves to address today’s needs, challenges, and opportunities. Our problems and our solutions are in our humanity.

As my mother used to say to my five siblings and me when we complained about some physical attribute we inherited from our family that we didn’t like (long arms, unruly hair, Italian nose), “Look deeper. You have enough of the right stuff to make a profound difference in this world. You have what others need in the way of ideas, intellect, compassion and awareness to invent what needs to be invented and to learn to see the divine abilities in every other person.”

What if each of us learned to respond in “tragedy-mode” even when there were no tragedies? What if we cared more for others to help them reach their potential and soar in life instead of taking them down? What if we used our amazing intellectual abilities and wisdom to develop ways to keep people around the planet safe, regardless of what the planet was doing in its life cycle, then hurry to respond if something larger than our solutions happens?

Tragedies have the ability to help us discover and live what is best in us. The better question is why must we wait for a tragedy to access our more expansive, wise, and compassionate selves? If they are present in tragedy, then they are also present in happier and less dangerous times. All we need to do is to call on them.

So, maybe tragedies occur to remind us that we have greater power and influence over the outcomes of things than we think. That perhaps tragedies exist to show us that we have what we need to proactively stop future tragedies from happening. It is our choice to show up each day respecting and caring about others, and understanding our world to know how to live in it safely and wisely. And when the unavoidable humanity and planet collisions occur, that we quickly, wisely and compassionately respond.

Tornadoes, Bombings, and Kidnappings – Making Sense Out of Tragedies (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 3.58.18 PMIn what seems to be a period of an unprecedented amount of tragedies, we ask what is happening with our planet and with the people in our world? Tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and super storms; bombings, kidnapping, civil wars, battles over land and beliefs, and centuries’ old sectarian violence is all we hear about. Today’s news seems to report crisis after catastrophe after calamity. Why do these tragedies happen and what sense can we make out of them?

What if tragedies were the interruption in our lives to get us out of our mindless approach to our days – to be “shocked” into being greater, more compassionate, more creative, and wiser? What if the reason for tragedies were to force us to learn to reconnect with others as each important and valuable, and to use our collective genius to learn how to live better and more safely on our changing planet?

In a closer review, it seems this string of tragedies is centered on two areas – our planet and our humanity. Perhaps by looking at each, we can start to make sense of why these events happen and determine if there is anything we can do about them. Let’s start with a look at the planet.

Our planet is alive. It is constantly shifting, growing, and regenerating. Earthquakes are the natural process of the collision of shifting tectonic plates and the bringing up of new materials from deep in the earth to feed the surface. Hurricanes are the natural reaction of changes in our atmosphere whose winds clean and reconfigure the face of the land. Their rains replenish all life forms throughout all ecological systems. Violent tornadoes are the intersection of cold and warm fronts, influenced by topography and geography.

My personal perspective is there is no intentionality or malice in these events; these are not curses or punishments. They, instead, are the natural cycle of life of our living and changing planet. These events have existed on our planet long before mankind inhabited this blue and green ball. As we live along fault lines, in areas lower than sea level, along riverbanks, on flat windy plains, and along the coasts, we put ourselves in nature’s way. Nature does what it does to sustain itself, regardless of where we live, shop, attend school, or work. Though beautiful, nature can also be violent. Tragedies happen when these planet life-events collide with where humans live and work. But the solution to living in a vibrant and thriving planet is directly connected to the second focus in this discussion of tragedy – people.

In addition to our collision with our planet, we are also in collision with people. Wars, conflicts, bombings, genocide, kidnapping, assaults, and rapes happen because we are colliding with cultures, values, beliefs, and traditions. In these collisions, we have forgotten that each of us is intrinsically great, special, unique, and divinely created. In conflict, we do not consider others as equally important, valuable, or as great as ourselves. We lose the understanding that we are a collection of people – all uniquely gifted and capable of not only solving the issues we have with each other to eliminate personal tragedies, but by using our intellect and gifts to discover how to live on our evolving planet.

I am reminded of the message in the Hindu greeting Namaste – “may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you.” Science, religion, and philosophy rarely agree. But they do agree on this one thing – there is an element of greatness or divinity in each of us, evidenced by the uniqueness of our talents, strengths and passions. Reconsidering this inherent value in everyone and living with the respect and appreciation for the true greatness in others, not only can reduce the collision of people, but can be used to resolve the collisions of people with the planet.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Illusion and Saving the Planet

Question:

If this life / experience is just an illusion, why are we so busy in saving the planet? Also i know of people storing up food for the coming disasters planed by the so called illuminati. By doing this I sense that I am feeding the illusion? I would really like to know.

Answer:

I don’t agree that life is an illusion. It is the perception of separation that is an illusion. The misperception that my body is separate from my mind; that my consciousness is independent from others’ consciousness; that I am isolated from the existence and intelligence of the universe. It is these errors that constitute the illusion the sages speak of. This ignorance of reality is also what lies at the root of humanity’s degradation of the planet. The reason we need to be busy saving the planet is because recognizing that our existence is tied to planetary health is part of the process of saving ourselves from ignorance and the illusion of separation.

As far as storing food goes, I don’t see any problem with the act itself. It’s just a question of the driving emotion behind that action. If it is driven by fear and insecurity, then yes, you are feeding the collective illusion of fear and separation. If it’s just a neutral act of prudence that you do with a light heart, then you are not contributing to the collective fear in society.

Love,

Deepak

deepakchopra.com

Follow Deepak on Twitter

Spiritual Solutions #22: Our Health, the Health of the Planet

2011-01-06-EarthHeart.small.jpg

By Deepak Chopra and Annie B. Bond

Our Consciousness

Think of the universe as a single, huge organism. Its vastness is a perceptual, projected reality; even though “out there” you may be seeing a big football stadium filled with thousands of people, the real phenomenon is a small electrical impulse inside your brain that you, the nonlocal being, interpret as a football game. Yoga Vasishta, an ancient Vedic text, says, “The world is like a huge city, reflected in a mirror. So too, the universe is a huge reflection of yourself in your own consciousness.” It is, in short, the soul of all things.

Adapted from The Essential Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, by Deepak Chopra.

Our Homes

Wendall Berry, in his book Home Economics, reminds us that in the original Greek, economics—oikonomikos—means “house” plus “steward” or “manager.” Sharing the same root, oikos, the word “ecology” is closely related in concept—it is the relationships among among organisms who share the same home. Thus, as Berry explains, a most important measure of the health of the planet is the health of the households. All of us bring food, packaging, cleaning products, building materials, appliances, and more into our homes. All of this has an impact on the environment and on our health.

Adapted from True Food, by Annie B. Bond, Melissa Breyer, and Wendy Gordon (National Geographic, 2009).

 

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