Archive for September, 2007

I just finished separating the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle into two piles of equal height. The sections I read, and the other stuff, what I will not read. In the ‘will not read pile’ are mostly ad booklets for various advertisers. In France, the Sunday papers are a tenth of the size of their American counterparts. As far as I know, French newspapers are still making money. My question to the American newspapers is this: why do you need to use so much paper? why do you need to have so many sections? why do advertisers need to take so much space? can’t you start working with advertisers to reduce all that waste of paper? I know we live in the land of ‘bigger is better’, but in this case, bigger is clearly worse. And I am a passive accomplice, as long as I keep on subscribing to the stuff.


To-do-list: 1) stop subscribing to paper version of newspaper; 2) even better, start public dialog on issue, boycott.

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Lynette Evans wrote a great article, ‘Save the Money by Saving the Planet’, about the win win strategy of buying natural cleaning products instead of the usual commercial paraphernalia. Her maths are pretty convincing:

Commercial products: Windex Original, $4.39; Pine-Sol Cleaner, $4.69; Kaboom Shower Tub & Tile Cleaner, $5.69; Chlorox Disinfecting Wipes, $6.19; Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner, $4,19; Palmolive Ultra Original Dish Soap, $3.49; Clorox Bleach, $2.29; O-Cel-O Sponges, $2.59; Swiffer Duster, $6.09. Total: $39.61.

Natural cleaning products: Heinz Distilled Vinegar, $3.90; Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. $1.15; Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, $3.49; Mule Team Borax, $4.39; Hydrogen Peroxide, $.59; Old cotton towels, $o; Crumpled newspaper, $0. Total: $13.52.

Lynette did the maths. $26.09 savings for us, and for the planet. I wrote a similar post a while back, where I stated my good intentions. The smell of all those chemicals was getting to me. Yet, I did not take any steps. Our cleaning cabinet is still filled with the same poisonous chemicals. Seems like another item to add to my green to-do-list.

To-do-list: get rid of existing cleaning products and buy natural substitutes instead

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Two days ago, I started making a list for my personal green infrastructure. List of things I need to buy, and do, to get myself set up for easy green living. The list has been floating around in my head. It pops up, whenever I have an idle moment, and begs for action. So far, I always find something better to do. I need to write in my blog. There is this marketing document I promised. Dinner is in a few hours, and I still haven’t gone to the grocery store. I want to take my daily swim . . . I feel ashamed.

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Now is payback time

Great article from Vaclav Havel in the New York Times yesterday. He was able to put in words what I have been feeling for a long time. ‘Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer.’

The bargaining problem

I can so well relate to the internal bargaining part, this vain attempt on the part of my ego to negotiate with nature. In my case, I am not questioning the need to repay with some kind of personal sacrifice. I am just wondering if, maybe, I can get away with not paying all of my personal debt back. OK, I will cut down on all the things that don’t deprive me that much, but the ones I really like, such as shopping for clothes, could I please keep on my to do list? I am also tempted to abdicate some of my personal responsibility and to turn it over to policy makers.

We are all responsible

I will leave the last word to Vaclav Havel. ‘I’m skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics – a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.’

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If only I spent the time, setting up the right kind of personal green infrastructure, I would not be struggling so much everyday. Many times, when I fail on my promises, it’s because I am not set up well, to begin with. I look at Green Guru and I see how much ground work he has done to get our family off to a good start, building a green house, insisting that we buy a hybrid car, stocking up on spare FCBs, insisting that we adopt green practices, like unplugging our appliances, turning off the lights, minimizing the use of our dryer, . . . Green Guru deserves his name. He’s got green embedded in his blood. Following in Green Guru’s footsteps, I started to think, what is it that I need, personally, on top of what he’s already put in place ? Here is the beginning of a list: a bike, a helmet, a clothes line, a composter, a registration with Green Dimes.

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Why Democracy?

This is a great project. Please check it out:


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Once a week, Prad and I go out to dinner to Il Fornaio, our favorite Italian eatery in town. Last time, we went with the children. Everybody was hungry, and we forgot our habit of splitting every order in half. We ended dinner with most of our plates still half full. And a doggy bag to take the stuff home. America is the only country I know, with doggy bags. One could say, it is a great way to avoid food being thrown away. I look at it differently, as another manifestation of the super size phenomenon. I can’t count the number of times when our doggy bags’ remnants linger in the fridge, until we end up throwing them away.

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When I am inside my house, I feel protected and safe. Almost invincible. Nothing can get to me. I just thought of that, late last night, as I was reading the results from the International Panel on Climate Change Working Group II report on, ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’. Scary stuff. Yet, all these disastrous predictions felt abstract. I started wondering why. Why was I feeling so calm and detached? That’s when it hit me. In the sanctity of my house, I am removed from nature, on a primary, physical level. The prehistoric man in his cavern, had to respect nature. There were no screens between him and the outside world. Nature was all around and made its presence felt, with all its awesome power. Now when lightning strikes, I don’t have to be so afraid. I’ve got the thick walls of my house and a concrete roof over my head to shelter me.

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Today, in my mailbox: 1) Cabelas Deer Hunting catalog, a remnant of my days as a performance artist, when I was looking for a camouflage outfit; 2) Garnet Hill clothing and home decor catalog, addressed to my husband’s ex, and still coming to our house; 3) Van Dyke’s taxidermy catalog, from the times when I was making sculptures. Today is a light day. Usually, we get a lot more junk mail. With Green Dimes, there is really no reason why I should tolerate such wastage any longer.

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Whole Foods is as much a social place, as a grocery store. I will seize any excuse to go there, just to break the monotony of a whole day spent working at home. Since I work from home everyday, that pretty much means daily trips to WF. Green Guru thinks I am not being efficient. I should be planning better, and find other ways to entertain myself.

What I need: Exorbitant gas prices that will make me think twice before I get in the car. Even better, citywide bans on private vehicles, like in Bogota, where cars are only allowed to circulate at certain times of the day. A city bike lane infrastructure, where cyclists don’t have to share the road with cars.

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