Friday, December 31, 2010

Let’s do some off-settin’!

‘Tis the season to think back on how much impact I’ve had on the planet this year.

It’s not a secret that I love to drive long distances (and conversely hate to fly, but sometimes it’s unavoidable for work) so I figured I’d add up all my miles on the road this year and head over to Terrapass and offset the carbon I’ve created.

Car Travel
2 round trip cross country trips (and a good 6 months of Los Angeles driving) in the ’03 Civic Hybrid totaling 20,216 miles, which equals 9,316 lbs of CO2.

Air Travel
7 plane trips totaling 12,049 miles of air travel equaling 4,148 lbs of CO2 emitted.
All told, 1,000 lb offsets at Terrapass are $5.95 each, so for under $84 I’ve offset my yearly travel with donations to renewable energy sources such as wind farms and livestock methane capturing. A very small price to pay for my contribution to global warming.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The wonder drug… (that’s not even a drug.)

I may be feeling a little cocky, but I have to declare, that I do believe I have found the magic elixir that will prevent you from getting the flu, getting the common cold, the magic pill that keeps you in fine fettle and out of the doctor’s office. What could it be and how could I make such a bold statement? It’s none other than acidophilus, bacteria’s goody two-shoes cousin. And after the last 2 months of driving 3,500 miles cross country, interspersed with several weeks of highly stressful 90-hour work weeks, capped off with a round trip plane flight, I have put acidophilus to the test and come out without a trace of the sniffles, fever or chills. If I can survive this test of germs, stress, (not to mention that many changes of water quality) with just one simple capsule, imagine how well it could work for those working a governmentally approved 40-hour work week and not crossing time zones every few days?

*Of course every body is different and we are all responsible for our own well-being. Its not to say that you no longer have to monitor your own health and ultimately I am in charge of keeping myself healthy and taking care of myself if I do get sick.

Sunday, October 10, 2010's 10/10/10 Day of Climate Action... the wrap up

10/10/10 the 40º weather is putting a damper on the 45 mile bike ride I had planned. Now it's time to implement plan B!

10 for 10/10/10: Keeping it local today, with 10 simple climate actions you can do at home...

10/10/10 #1: Even though it's dipping down to the 40ºs today, no heat! Throw on a hat indoors and an extra fleece instead.

10/10/10 #2: In order to warm yourself up when it's 40º outside, 2 hours of vigorous raking keeps you from having to a) drive to the gym and b) allow the lawn to not get strangled by dead leaves over winter.

10/10/10 #3: Prep the outdoor worm bin for winter use indoors!

10/10/10 #4: make the outdoor compost pile for yard waste:

10/10/10 #5: Help keep your favorite waterbody clean. (thought my lake was pretty clean, 1 quick trip out to 2 coves: 6 aluminum cans, a coffee tin, a styrofoam bowl, 2 plastic bags, 1 plastic water bottle and a broken Timex GPS(!?)

10/10/10 #6: wash in cold—90% of energy in the washing machine goes to heating the water, and pressing the cold/cold button saves as much energy as "driving about 9 miles in a car or the production, transportation and storage of a six pack of beer." (

10/10/10 #7: Turn off that dryer! (a bit of a cheat for me, since I haven't used a dryer since 1998, but it's so easy to do, even without a clothesline.)

10/10/10 #8: Put the car in park! Rather than drive 45 miles (round trip) today for some socialized activism, I decided to stay home and focus my attentions on local changes.

10/10/10 #9: Clean up your 'hood! 20 minutes on the side of a busy roadway and I filled 4 bags of trash and recycling.

10/10/10 #10: and when all is said and done, just keep it simple and relax... it takes considerably less energy to just enjoy what nature gives us rather than to run around trying to keep up with life.

Monday, October 04, 2010

God, I love the dump.

I mean I realize that’s not a phrase you hear everyday (or even once a decade) especially because most people these days don’t even come within miles of the dump any more. And to be honest, my ‘dump’ isn’t even a true dump, but a delightfully titled ‘Transfer Station’ where town residents bring all sorts of unwanted items to transfer onto the next station… whether it be the actual dump, the recycling facility or someone else’s living quarters. The great part about having to package up and carry your waste to a separate location is how conscious it makes you of how much you make. When you drop another bag in the bin and then drag that bin out to the curb once a week, you don’t think twice about how much is in the bin, much less where the contents go once the bin is returned to you empty. Having to put that bag in your trunk and then drive it down the street, well, that’s another story. When I see that my bag is joining the hundreds of other bags of my neighbors, I have an instant reminder of how dirty trash can be—take a deep whiff, that smell only gets worse the more people add to the pile. Right next to the compactor is a little area where people drop off usable items that they no longer want (sort of an in-person Freecycle corner). Head to the recycling area and you’re responsible for sorting your cans, paper and plastic… but turn the corner and that’s where the real fun begins. Piles of scrap wood, appliances, toilets, furniture (all categorized but free for the taking if it’s something you want) And on Sundays, I’ve seen people just hanging out sitting in the furniture section, shooting the breeze…when’s the last time you got social about your garbage? I think the only way we’re going to be able to solve our trash crisis (and thus the environmental crisis) is to make everyone more conscious AND responsible for the waste they create.

Monday, September 20, 2010

'1,000-Mile Summer' Wrap Up

So the ‘1,000-Mile Summer’ officially ends tomorrow (fitting that summer officially ends tomorrow...) But how'd we do? Since June 1st, the total miles ridden on my bike topped out today at 730.6 miles, considerably less than my goal of 1,000, (though I did manage a respectable push on the last day adding an additional 20.7 miles). But even more respectable, the total number of miles DRIVEN during that same time frame: 1,421 miles—(considering 6 day weeks x 11 weeks at 28 miles round trip to work is 1,848 miles right there, plus whatever galavanting I would have done on the other 39 days).  And if you include the mass transit miles into my bike mileage total, it surpasses the 1,000-mile mark easily.

But what did I learn from this experiment? First of all, it can be done--you can have a job with crazy hours and travel to and from IN LOS ANGELES by bike and mass transit. I learned its not so scary to ride at night (most areas I rode through were almost as bright as daylight, I always wore my blinky light and often even at 10p or later there were other cyclists on the road. I learned that LA has a vast mass transit system that may be flawed in many ways, but is still often faster than auto travel many days. (and seriously Transit Authority, no one except me is paying to take the subway. You should look into that.) I finally learned out how to get myself a pay-as-you-go bus/rail pass, even if it meant traveling 35 miles to the closest location, only to find out that Culver City government offices were on a work furlough that day. (Thanks to my Culver City-resident pal Dina for loading up my card and then mailing it back to me.)  I learned that on days when I rode to work, I was calmer and more positive. I felt stronger top to toe (my shoulders felt way less tense) and I ate like a horse to keep up with all the calories I was consuming. I learned that I’m way more apt to ride to work when there’s a challenge involved, and this was a challenge not even backed up by peer pressure or wagering. Imagine how far I could go with a little financial incentive behind me!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Doc Review: Fuel (2008)

In addition to my errands by bike this weekend, Josh Tickell’s documentary Fuel came up on my Netflix rotation and it was the perfect complement to a weekend where everyone wanted answers to what they could do about the Gulf oil spill. Made in 2008, there are some eerie statistics and images of Louisiana (did you know that an amount of crude oil the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill was released during Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area? No, that’s because no one reported it.) that seem quaint now compared to our current crisis. Tickell’s main sell is bio-diesel fuel, rather than ethanol or even gasoline-based hybrids. I got on board thinking ‘great let’s trade in the ‘brid and buy an old VW and get off oil dependency!’ but not so fast, Tickell puts the brakes on the positive side of biodiesel halway through the film by telling the audience that all the advances made to the biodiesel industry (the announcement that every single diesel engine in the country: buses, trucks, trains, could run on biodiesel today WITHOUT ANY MODIFICATION dropped my jaw) had all been shut down due to scientific studies and reports that biodiesel was not as clean and safe as everyone was led to believe. Definitely an interesting way to prove a point. In the final act, the documentary begins the uphill slog after these setbacks by giving updates on the biodiesel industry: companies that harvest used cooking oil, the planting of mega trees that have shorter growing spans and can be harvested for biomass fuel production, and the most intriguing: algae-based biodiesel farms which use waste water from other industries to grow algae quickly, cleanly and in a very small space. The film easily proves its tag line: change your fuel, change the world.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

1,000 Mile Summer

So in lieu of attending the big cross country rally “Hands Across the Sand” yesterday to protest offshore oil drilling (to attend I would have had to drive approximately 60 miles round trip to stand at the beach for an hour), I decided to continue with my trying not to use my car and did all my errands by bike again. Still on that same tank of gas from May 17th, though the ‘low fuel’ light is starting to pop on and off. (Great thing about a hybrid is that light can go on and off for 20-30 miles depending on your current gas mileage). But a new realization came to me while I was riding yesterday, that I am now officially addicted to not driving my car. The more I ride my bike, the more I want to ride my bike. I had one of the best rides yesterday and I am realizing that I can do pretty much all my errands using my bike or my feet. I can go to the library (I remember once carrying 10 books home in my CamelBack). I’ve carried a 6 pack of beer and a bag of chips home in that bag too (separate occasion, of course). And this week I rode my bike to work 4 days out of 5 with my brand new computer strapped to my back. It can be done! So during yesterday’s errands (pharmacy, bank, grocery store, 2 libraries) I devised a little challenge for myself: I am naming this the “1,000 mile Summer” to see if I can ride my bike at least 1,000 miles this summer. Including what I’ve ridden this month so far, I’m up to 96, but there are at least 10 weeks to go. The big challenge is that while I would ride my bike to work every day if I could, I have a job with hours that wildly fluctuate (sometimes I’m in as early as 7am, and out as late as midnight, sometimes 6 and 7 days a week), and the summer temps in LA get up over 90º. But that’s why they call it a challenge.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Simple Solutions: Helping the Gulf and Getting Back on Track

I've been out on the road for about 45 days now and while I'm the first to admit that I have slipped in my attempts to live the simplest life possible (my credit card statement is the smoking gun) I am trying to get back on track to living the life I truly believe in. News of the devastating oil spill in the Gulf region just crushed my heart this week, but in the midst of this tragedy I discovered an organization that has found an amazingly simple way to help. Matter Of Trust is an organization that has been using natural and man made surplus products in creative ways to solve ecological issues. What's so amazing about this organization is that they are collecting hair clippings (and wool and fur trimmings) to create 'hair bats' and 'hair mats' to help adsorb oil from the water. And while I don't personally have an excess of hair clippings, wool snippings or fur trimmings, there are 370,000 hair salons in the U.S. that average a pound of clippings a day. So I decided my mission this week (having a little down time here in Chicago), would be to take my daily walks armed with Hair Mat Oil Spill Program flyers and just stop by any hair salon or pet grooming place I passed. With my 20 second spiel, I let the flyer speak for itself. One salon I went to had even just been talking about the program before I walked in, and one of the pet groomers was by far the most excited about the idea. It was quite possibly the easiest and simplest environmental activism I've ever attempted.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Oopsie Poopsie...

So an eco-confession to make… despite all my attempts to make the adventure cat into the eco-cat, I have begun to realize that I've made a pretty big oops. He's been eating his organic cat food since he was a mere furball, he's been using the post-consumer pine pellet cat litter and I was putting the used litter sawdust (non-feces) in the green waste recycling bin until I got the cease and desist from the city… then the sawdust was going in the worm bin. The poops, I was always dropping right into the toilet and flushing away. Unfortunately, I'm finding out now (after 10 years of reading environmental books, magazines, blogs etc…) is that flushing cat feces is actually illegal in California and probably should never enter the municipal sewer system anywhere. The issue is a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii that many (but not all) cats carry and it can lead to Toxoplasmosis Gondii, the main reason pregnant women are told not to be the one change the litter box. There's no way to treat for the parasite's eggs at waste treatment plants and when that water heads back into the ocean, the parasite goes with it. The parasite is blamed for a high number of deaths of sea lion and sea otters.

Now from what I've read, it seems that if you have a septic system and don't live near a water body, you should be okay to flush cat poop, but if you're on the city's sewer system sadly, the only safe way to dispose of cat waste is to wrap it in plastic and send it off to the land fill. It can ONLY be composted in a pile that has temperatures over 160º or below zero, as those are the only temperatures that will kill the organisms (and NEVER use the composted material on plants that you eat). The internets are surprisingly mum on ideas on how to face this problem ecologically-there are special composting bins for dog feces but the parasites in cat feces are neglected. If some creative and scientific mind (I really have to get myself an MIT intern) could get on a solution to this problem I bet the owners of the 90 million U.S. cats would sit up and start to listen.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why we need simplicity, now more than ever

I awoke to the news of the second catastrophic earthquake to hit the western hemisphere within two months. Photos of collapsed buildings, bridges and roads are a sobering reminder of just how powerful nature can be. And earthquakes suck. A lot. There is no warning and there is almost little you can do to completely prepare for them. We are always looking for someone to blame when catastrophe strikes, but it is hard to point the finger at an enemy when an earthquake hits (though most start with construction that fails and those responsible for help that is slow in response time).
What is most frightening is the fact that both earthquakes hit in areas that had not had a major quake for centuries. It makes people wonder, 'where next'? There is most likely going to be fatigue in donations after the big push for Haiti, and with hope, I pray that the loss of life will be infinitely smaller than Haiti.

Living simply can give us the ability to prepare for the occasion when disaster strikes-conserving your money and your energy for when you may truly need it or, when it is needed to help others who cannot help themselves.  You could live your life in constant fear, or you can live your life aware that it is finite and beautiful. Simplicity helps you accept that possessions are just “things”, so that if they are lost, it can be of lesser consequence. Use less resources, keep the environment clean, and pace yourself, for life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Help get “The Simplicity Connection” into the Los Angeles Public Library!

Go to this link, and fill in the blanks (the answers are The Simplicity Connection, C.B. Davis, Trafford Publishing 2009, ISBN: 978-1-4251-4998-7) you don't even have to be a card holder to suggest a purchase. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reading List: Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days (Vanessa Farquharson)

I picked this one up based on its title and cover, and decided to give it a fair chance because these days, I pretty much will ready anything with the word 'green' on it. The title is pretty gimmicky, most likely aimed at urban 20-somethings like Vanessa who love their designer purses and trendy cocktails but can't seem to silence the voice that reminds them of their childhood diet of environmental education. She gets kudos for taking on some big issues that I personally can't convince myself to do (giving up the car, shutting off the cable, and unplugging the fridge) but with a goal of 366 environmental challenges (the project fell on a leap year), the list is quite a bit uneven in places (like: 68. Using a natural bronzer, 250. Not using any toothpicks, 356. Going skinny dipping, and 363. Deleting all spam and stale emails from my Gmail inbox)

The highlight for me was when she got No Impact Man Colin Bevan to admit how exactly he and his family gave up using toilet paper for their own year-long challenge-information that was not included in Bevan's book or  documentary and answers he would give to interviewers were always curt and left the question unanswered. She did write one of my favorite new quotes about: “the compost hitting the wind turbine”.

If you're looking for solutions, it is worth a scan only if you are new to the challenge of being more environmental but if you've been around the eco-block a time or two, the list will leave you thinking you've heard it all before. (or you can just head to her blog, which she's since stopped updating, the full list of 366 changes is:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Go 'dils!

Well it may be February, but spring has definitely sprung here in southern California. The daffodils have been in bloom since late January, but today was the first day over 70º and you could feel the city just breathe a sigh that the cold rains are seemingly gone. I found it a great day to pull down the curtains and run them through the wash to get rid of the winter grime. The sun gave me a new creative energy that's propelled me through the day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

So it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to write about The Cove, the now Oscar-nominated documentary about dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. When first released last August, it didn't make much of a splash (no pun intended), in that it stayed mainly in the art houses and the reviews I read didn't even inspire me to drop the ten bucks to seek it out. But now, hopefully since its release on DVD and the press it will receive from award season, more people will give it a chance. I expected another activist/eco-documentary, but what I didn't expect was how affected I would be by the story. Called “Ocean's Eleven-meets-Flipper”, it follows a team of marine biologists, adrenaline junkies, high-tech filmmakers and animal activists on a journey to expose the horrific slaughter of 23,000 dolphins each year in a small inlet in Japan. The true reason for why this community feels the need to exterminate so many dolphins so brutally is not really made clear (is it because their culture depends on dolphin meat for food? Because the fishing industry fears that dolphins eat too many fish? Is it that protecting dolphins under International Whaling Commission guidelines would call more attention to Japan's whaling industry? And if any of these are actually the reason, why are they treating the cove as such a dirty little secret?)
The cast, with their movie-star good looks and top-of-the-line equipment (courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas' company that most notably created all those Star Wars movies and creatures) lead a covert operation to capture on video what hides behind the stone walls of the cove and expose to the world the truth about the slaughter. The music was beautifully done, the narrative so suspenseful it gave the plight of these animals even more urgency. I would have liked to seen more interviews with Taiji locals, surely more than just the 2 councilmen featured (and the angry fishermen who threaten the filmmakers' and cover their cameras) had some insight into why their community was a part of this practice. There is some highly graphic footage contained in the movie, but by the time you reach this part of the story, you are so drawn in by the suspense of learning the secret of the cove that can't look away. And hopefully, the world won't turn away until the slaughter stops.

Learn more about the movie
Take action
 Buy the DVD at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jumping in the Freecycle Pool

Well, I've taken the plunge and joined the other free-cyclers in my neighborhood and I have to say what a great way to both get rid of something you don't use and also try to find something you truly will use all without spending a cent. I lurked on the message boards for a few weeks before trying to decide what it was I wanted to ask for (a battery operated pump for my balance ball-still no offers though) but after seeing a WANTED post for a Roomba and realizing mine was just sitting in the utility closet collecting dust, I figured why not pass it on to someone who could appreciate it. Most freecyclers arrange time and place to make their exchanges, but the cheapest and easiest way for all parties I figured was to just leave the item on the porch and the WANTER could just pick it up at their convenience. No fuss, no muss. And no hard feelings if or when the item breaks because it's all for the low low price of FREE! And even better there's no obligation—say you really need a new blender, what do you have to lose by posting a request? If you find one, you've saved yourself the money (and the manufacture of a new product), if you don't find one, you're no worse for trying. To find a group in your area:
And Freecycle's not the only place Care2 ran a list of 5 other online free or trade sites.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Okay, I think I'm back on track here... off for errands yesterday and despite driving to Pasadena, I managed to stumble upon everything I needed to do on my to-do list. Started the morning with a little YMCA yoga (my teacher remarked she was excited that she for once knew the teams in the Super Bowl but didn't know whether to root for the Ponies or the Angels...refilled the printer in cartridges at Cartridge World... got some organic (relatively local) fruit from Whole Foods (farmer's market most likely was canceled due to rain)... stopped at the Glendale Library to feed my addiction of eco-themed books (Cheap by Ellen Ruppel and Two Billion Cars by Daniel Sperling & Deborah Gordon)...and found a giant Salvation Army thrift store having a 50% off Saturday with which to test my new theory: "Ugly Sweater, Pretty Yarn" (so stay tuned to see if I can actually create something attractive by unraveling and re-knitting). Impact was relatively minimal, I'd say probably an 85% on the simplicity scale, best yet, it was an enjoyable way to spend a drizzly Saturday morning, which I believe is what simplicity is truly about.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I’ve been feeling a little lost in my practice lately—things that I would have easily been able to handle, now they seem like a chore, or worse yet, I don’t even second guess taking the easy way out. Errands to do on my only day off, and I’m in the car driving all over the city even though it’s a beautiful sunny 65º day and everything is an easy bike ride away. I’m feeling very uninspired in my simple life and stuck with moving my book forward to the masses…I hit IKEA yesterday and came out with a bag full of stuff that I know I don’t truly need (though I can try to defend it all only closer examination 36 hours later, it really is all just disposable superfluous crap)—I can’t even blame any of it on the winter doldrums (though I suspect too many carbs and not enough exercise are partially to blame). So what to do when creativity hits the wall? Turn to those who know the challenge first hand: tonight’s viewing of No Impact Man (the documentary) sparked some embers: it’s time to get back to the farmer’s market on Saturday for local fruit. It’s time to get back to local environmental activism and volunteer. It’s time to stop taking the easy way out by cranking the heat when I’m chilly and sitting in front of the computer all day refreshing my Facebook page. It’s time to try a new motto on for size: [NOTHING NEW] and to use it as a guiding principle in moving forward. There’s big new projects on the horizon and I’m going to need all the help, guidance, and inspiration I can get.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Doc Review: Garbage Warrior (2007)

All I can say is-wow what a week. Working on the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon was truly both the most surreal and the most rewarding experience of my alter ego's career. (I mean it's not every day one gets to work side-by-side with George Clooney) And to top it all off, we were able to raise a lot of money for relief and recovery. Spent the weekend recovering from the emotional and exhausting roller coaster ride of live production and finally had the chance to finish watching Garbage Warrior, the 2007 documentary about Michael Reynolds, the New Mexican architect who has been creating “Earthship Biotechture” (Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills. Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.)-otherwise known as houses made of cement, used tires, and empty beverage containers. Reynolds found much resistance to his creative solution for home building from the NM legislature, but in 2004 after the Southeastern Asian tsunami, he and his crew headed to the devastated Andaman Islands where he taught locals a quick, cheap and sturdy way to build new homes. One can only hope he's already bought his ticket to Haiti and is plotting how his skills can help create new homes there as well.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Take that Swiffer!™

I'll be the first to admit that my kitchen floor is pretty disgusting. The linoleum is probably at least 20 years old and no matter how clean the bottom of my shoes are, it always seems to attract dirt and grime. So early on, I gave up even trying to keep it clean, just seemed simpler to let nature take it's course. And don't think I wasn't slightly jealous when I watched my friends using their fancy new Swiffer-type mops with built in cleaner in the handle. I thought, 'At last, here could be the solution to the issue at hand.' These fancy cleaning tools only run about $20 for the hardware and then $6 or $7 for the refill wipes, but before I succumbed to the temptation of just letting corporate/chemical America fix it, I decided to see what a little ingenuity (with a big dose of inspiration from the hard working Props team of AGT) would get me. The simple solution? Take an old mop (one of those rectangular sponge types), 2 rubber bands and an old terry cloth towel. Rubber band the towel to the mop head, and use a spray bottle of vinegar to hit the spots you need to clean. No rinsing, no toxic fumes, no fuss, no muss. Voila, in your face, Procter & Gamble! With this simple (and practically free) solution, now I'm at least 14% more likely to clean my kitchen floor more than once a year.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Resolving to Resolve

Wow, a whole new year, a whole new decade. Wonder where that came from? I’m not really big on making resolutions on January 1… probably because I’m so busy making them the rest of the year. I mean I have list after list of things I want to accomplish (I even spent yesterday’s flu-ish day on the couch reading a book about To-Do lists. And proud of it. Sasha Cagen’s To-Do List, good read so far.) I have weekly to do lists, I have monthly to do lists, I have daily to do lists. I have list after list of things that need to get done, things I keep putting off and things I put on there just so I’ll cross them off quickly and think that I’m accomplishing something. But if I were asked to make a resolution for this year, I’m going to go with a bad habit or two—stopping my disposable plastic habit. No more take away silverware, or throwaway cups. If I’m eating out, I’m eating in and asking for it unwrapped, and bringing my own cup. I’ve failed miserably at this attempt in the past, but I think with the right amount of preparation, I can get it ingrained enough to be like bringing my own reusable bags. It’s just a matter of having the right tools on hand when you need them. So happy first day of 20-10, y’all.