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In keeping with the holiday spirit, I was thinking, how can I express my love and gratitude for all the people who have supported this blog throughout the year, and who have given so generously of their time, intelligence, and knowledge? Now familiar names who surprise me everyday with their comments and emails. And have transformed La Marguerite from a one person effort, into a rich community of passionate environmentalists. What better way than a symbolic gathering on this page, with a link to each one?

Darmok at Ancaro Imparo, Kyle at Green With a Gun, Mary at In Women We Trust, Nadine at Greenadine, Karen at Mother Earth, Richard at Artist As Citizen, Cowrin at Suitably Despairing, Steve at Groovy Green, Cass at Seacat, Jason at Scream To Be Green, Mac at Brave New Leaf, Rob at Sustainable Casa, Amy at Gift of Green, Daryl at Verda Vivo, Beth at Green Stew, Amanda at Enviroblog, Jonathan at Wasted Food, Abby at Urban Sprouts, Kate at Make-A-(Green)Plan, Jenyum at Tacomamama, Jenifer at Product of Compression, Marta at California4Gore, Bill at Algalita, Matt at Environment Debate, Otis at the Thought Kitchen, Courtney at Courtney Watson, Giorgio at Bogianen, Murph at CommonMonkey Flower, Jane at Live the Solution, Mental Mosaic, Stacy at Not Just a Pretty Face, Kamo at Viral SEO, Chris at Marketgreener, Dan at Treebankinginc, Tom at Two-Heel Drive, Mark at Swaptree, Franke James at My Green Conscience, Alina at Closet Environmentalist, Saul at Save Our Environment, Sue at Mobile Technology, Chris at Lighter Footstep, David at Planet Thoughts, Brian at The Daily Green, Ian at Switchboard NRDC, Jonathan at the Nature Conservancy, Crunchy Chicken, Jeff at Obligations of Reason, Meryn Stol, Danny Bloom, Robby at Village Green, Prof. Goose at The Oil Drum, Renee at Enviromom, Carrie at Seconhand Nation, Maria at Maria Energia, Ayomide at Green Clean and Proud, Michael at WiserEarth, Fritz at Cycle-licious, Beth on Life on Avenue Z, Marty at Egg, Dawn at Kaiser Alex, Jean at Farther Faster, John at Why Democracy?, Kendra at Green Dimes, Rebekka at Bek’s Blog, Green Sexy, Kevin at DeSmogBlog, Camphor, Amanda at Amanda’s Tea Room, Aronil, Naught101 at Eco101, Social Scientist at Free Public Transit, Kristina at Kristina’s World, Patricia at Patricia Singleton, Joanne at Nourished Magazine, Random Girl at LinseyMom, Alllison at Rock, Water and Light, Chris and Brea, Alvaro at Sharp Brains, Proletariat, Crafty Green Poet, So Far So Good, Hazel at Law of Attraction, Chani at ChaniBlog, Kathleen at Fashion-Incubator, The Green Miles, Iced Moka, Neal at CleanTech Blog, Scott at Green Bark, Carol at Life is an Ongoing Process, The Healthy Cookie, Lorivillareal, Gift of Green, Dave at Balneus.

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Day 9 of Daily Footprint Project, and still nothing to report in the ‘Non Food Shopping’ area. Pretty amazing, given that only a few months ago, I was still writing about my frequent fashion expeditions to Target and Anthropologie.

From Compulsive Shopper to Passionate Environmentalist

You see, I no longer have the time, nor the desire to shop. My green conscience did not even need to kick in. The urge left me, just like that. Replaced instead by a much bigger passion. The La Marguerite blog has filled up my life, leaving no room for extraneous activities.

I would like to talk about the personal vacuum. There is this space inside, that we all have, and that we need to fill up until it becomes full. Ful-fill-ment. I never realized the true meaning of the word, until now. If we are fortunate enough to find a passion, like I am with this new vocation as an environmentalist, the passion will transform our life, into a meaningful adventure, and we will experience that fullness, that is so essential to our well being.

What happens when the vacuum stays empty for too long? It feels just like that, empty. And it drives us to look outside for fillers. This has been an ongoing thread in my blog, starting with ‘The King of Buthan’, and more recently, in ‘The World Needs Some of That Gypsy Spirit‘. Al Gore, during his interview for the Nobel Peace Prize, qualified the climate crisis, as ‘a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity’. I would like to add, that part of the solution to that challenge, is also of a spiritual nature. By spiritual, I mean the universal human need to transcend one’s condition with extra-ordinary meaning. A love so great that it literally takes our breath away.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #9

Water

personal:
flush toilet 2
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
two showers at the gym
mom:
communal:
rinse dishes
wash veggies
water for soup

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 4’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all day
mom:
cook cream of wheat
communal:
lights

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmon
tea
organic milk
mom:
cream of wheat with organic milk
mango tango juice from Odwalla
communal:
organic soup with leftover chicken and veggies
organic salad
wild fish

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
sheets of paper
mom:
communal:
vegetable peelings
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
milk bottle
junk mail

Transportation

personal:
drive to appointment, stopped by grocery on way back 5 miles
drive to gym 6 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

 

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My second guest in the BlogActs Series is Adam Brock, from The Wild Green Yonder. WYG is a blog about grassroots urban sustainability, alternative economics, and ecological design. It is one of my favorite green guys’ blogs. In this post, Adam shares with us his preparations for Footprint Forward, a very exciting eco-project he is helping organize, and that will take place within the university community of NYU, of which he is a part of. A wonderful example of BlogAct and truly an inspiration for all his fellow green bloggers.

NYU is huge – like, small city huge. Making progress towards sustainability in an institution of 70,000 people can be a slow and often painstaking process. But every so often, I get the chance to work on something really incredible that makes it all worth it.

My favorite campus greening project so far this semester is Footprint Forward, a university-wide challenge to live with as minuscule an impact as possible for a week. Participants will have the opportunity to calculate their footprints before and after the challenge, but Footprint Forward isn’t intended to be a competition. Rather, it’s an opportunity to build community and discover how low-impact living can enrich their own health as well as that of the planet.

The week will kick off with a lecture by our neighborhood low impact expert, No Impact Man, to be followed by an introduction to ecofootprinting led by yours truly. A group called the Gallatin Consciousness will be using the week to start a campaign to ban bottled water on campus, and we’ll be cosponsoring a talk by “Post-Carbon Cities” author Daniel Lerch. With a participant handbook, a plethora of volunteer opportunities and workshops, and even a Footprint Forward blog, there should be no shortage of opportunities for participants to connect and share tips.

As part of the community-building spirit of the program, we’re extending an open invitation to the New York community at large. If you live in the area and are interested in participating, you can sign up here.

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About resistance

Jim stopped me right in the middle of our supervision. ‘Do you really think I have the time to read all your notes?’ I was shocked. I had been so proud of myself, taking meticulous notes on all the sessions with my patients, complete with thoughts, feelings, transcripts, interpretations, and many questions for Jim. That was years ago, I was a social work trainee at Loyola University of Chicago Doyle Center, and I still remember Jim jolting me with his comment. Jim went on to interpret my behavior as a form of resistance. According to him, I had unconsciously inundated him with material, to avoid doing some of the harder work that would inevitably take place, if we focused on only one issue.

Resistance: ‘The discovery of the unconscious and the introduction of it into consciousness is performed in the face of a continuous resistance (Widerstände) on the part of the patient. The process of bringing this unconscious material to light is associated with pain (Unlust), and because of this pain the patient again and again rejects it. It is for you then to interpose in this conflict in the patient’s mental life. If you succeed in persuading him to accept, by virtue of a better understanding, something that up to now, in consequence of this automatic regulation by pain, he has rejected (repressed), you will then have accomplished something towards his education. For it is an education even to induce a person who dislikes leaving his bed early in the morning to do so all the same.” (Sigmund Freud, 1959/1904, pp. 261-262, parentheses in original)

Blogging as a form of resistance

This is not unlike my circling process of these last few months, looking at every angle of my life as a Green Girl Wannabe, of which this article is yet another manifestation. Blogging away to avoid making any behavioral changes. While I write about the details of my hours, I do not have to act. And I can stay in the illusion of thinking that I am doing some good, discussing the details of my green soul searching. I am rationalizing by saying that I want to spend time understanding the psychological underpinnings of my resistance to change, with a twist of grandiosity, consisting in wanting to extrapolate my findings to the general population. One person who is not fooled, is Green Guru.

The power of interpreting

There is a paradox to this. I do believe there is some value to my work of self-exploration, and I do think it can be used as a source of greater insights into the why and hows of human behavior relative to the climate change problem. It is also important to not kid myself, and to call attention to the reality of my non actions. The reality is that it is much easier for me to come up with great insights, than to, let say, go out and buy a $2 clothes line, and stop using the dryer. Blogging has become my primary form of resistance. From that interpretation, may come the possibility of real change.

The pain underneath

The intensity with which I have been blogging, is also symptomatic of the level of resistance, and the pain involved. What is being asked of me – and others as well – , is a profound alteration of my lifestyle, not just in one area, but in all aspects of my waking life. This cannot be underestimated. For every green hero, there are thousands for whom the perspective of such a change is simply daunting. I have used blogging as my ploy. For others, it could be denial that there is any problem to begin with, or bargaining and rationalizing certain behaviors in the face of ‘all the good work I am already doing for the environment’, or subscribing to a catastrophic scenario and following a ‘why bother, we are all doomed anyway’ logic.

 

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I have the great honor of hosting Canadian artist and writer, Franke James, for this new BlogActs Guest Series on La Marguerite. Franke James’ unique philosophy on fighting climate change is to ‘do the hardest thing first‘, so she can relax and enjoy life! James environmental visual essays have been featured in newspapers, on radio, TV and many online blogs including Treehugger, Worldchanging, Eco-Sherpa, and What is the Next Message. Franke adapted her ‘Green Winter‘ visual essay into a narrated animation, with music composed by David Gray, Big World Songs. It was recently featured in her presentation ‘Six Tools to Make Climate Change Art‘ to 150 high school students at The McMichael Gallery. ‘A Green Winter’ will also be published in an anthology of readings for Canadian university students entitled Perspectives on Contemporary Issues, to be published by Thomson, Autumn 2007. James has a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Victoria, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Mount Allison University.

“Turn off that light!” That shrill command has been ringing in my head since last winter when we got serious about reducing our hydro usage.

If I ignored it — it was followed by a voice mocking me, “Do you own shares in the electric company, dummy?” Whoever or whatever planted that annoying voice in my head (I think it was my smart-a*s brother-in-law), it worked…

Yesterday, I opened our electricity bill and found an insert: “Congratulations and thank you for reducing your electricity use by 10% this summer!”

I studied the bill carefully… Only a 10% reduction? Not that I’m competitive or anything but I thought we’d done better than that! In fact, we have reduced our usage by over 20%. But Toronto Hydro is not awarding gold stars for overachievers. The good news is we earned a 10% Summer Savings credit. Not bad. And thankfully we didn’t have to sign up for any program — Toronto Hydro just went ahead and did it. They awarded the 10% discount to any consumers who qualified. Super easy. No red tape. I like that.

Now you’re probably imagining us as heroes for doing without electricity… But it was so easy.

#1. We threw out the TV and read books by candlelight.. (just kidding)

#2. We unplugged the Beer fridge (not kidding). We finally gave it the heave-ho in September. More room in the basement now!

#3. We turned off lights whenever we left a room. It’s a habit that’s easy to pick up if you think about money being wasted.

#4. We switched to the new curly (CFL) light bulbs. But we also have lots of Halogen lights, so that didn’t make a big difference.

#5. We reduced the use of our air conditioner by opening skylights and windows (clever inventions). We also raised the thermostat to 24 or 25 degrees. (If you wear shorts, it’s a very comfortable temperature.)

#6. We reduced the use of our electric dryer with the installation of a low-cost solar linear-drying device — otherwise known as a clothesline. (Thanks to Green Party Leader Frank de Jong for that fancy moniker.) I would have used the clothesline a lot more but I haven’t solved the problem of scratchy, sandpaper towels. I tried eco-fabric softener but that only helped a little.

Admittedly we still have a few ‘vampires’ sucking energy so I can see we can still do better…

But, hey… this feels pretty good. I’m encouraged that our little actions made a difference in our pocketbook. And in reducing our footprint. We’re adapting to the new reality of climate change.

Now if I can just reduce our use of water….

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Just went on Technorati, to check on my blog. The first thing I see, is this head banner from Discover Card, flashing, ‘More is Better‘. I will leave it at that . . .

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On November 5th, look for the first edition of the ‘Green BlogActs’ Carnival, on La Marguerite. To participate, just click on the link, and submit one or several posts from your blog. Submissions should be about small acts of environmental activism you have personally engaged in. You may have started writing about some issue at first, and then decided to take action. Or you may have taken action first, and documented it later in your blog. Either way, the idea is to show the possible connections between the act of writing in blogs and acts of personal activism out in the community. Because just writing in a blog, is no longer enough in face of the planetary emergency facing us. One example I like to give is of me writing about a documentary I saw about ‘The Digital Dump’, and then taking action the next day, by writing a letter to the Computer History Museum, and writing about it.

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Blogging + Activism = ‘BlogAct’, a new word I just created in honor of Blog Action day . . . Starting today, I am adding a new category to my blog. The ‘BlogActs’ category will feature acts of ‘blogging + activism’. I would like to offer the La Marguerite blog, as a place to host ‘BlogAct’ stories from other green bloggers. You just send me your story, and I will feature it as a post on my blog, with links back to your blog.

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Below is a copy of the email I just sent today, to the Computer History Museum, that is based here in Silicon Valley:

Hello,

I am a blogger here in the Valley, and just featured a very powerful movie, ‘The Digital Dump’, in my blog. The 23′ documentary was produced by the Basel Action Network, and will be shown as part of the United Nations Association Film Festival, next week at Stanford University. ‘The Digital Dump’ is about the scandal of junk electronics, mostly computers, that are being dumped by the US and Europe, into developing countries such as Africa. The mountains of unusable computers end up being burnt, right in the middle of residential neighborhoods, resulting in extraordinary environmental health hazards, especially amongst children.

It struck me that ‘The Digital Dump’ story is a part of the computer history, here in Silicon Valley, and I was wondering if that is something you would consider showing in the context of your museum?

I look forward to your response.

Today is Blog Action Day, featuring the Environment. I felt moved to act, beyond just blogging. And felt stirrings of activism brewing.

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It is one thing to deliver content, and another to organize it in a way that is consumable by readers. I had been so busy writing, that I had lost track of the most important person, you, the reader of this blog. Something had to be done. I just went through my entire blog, reassigning tags and categories, to better help sort through all the information. The main challenge was deciding on which categories and how many? Looking at other green blogs, people are all over the place. Some are using tags as categories. Some have short lists, others super long ones. Some category names make sense, others don’t. I decided to do my own thing, and think first of the main topics I like to cover in this blog.

  1. Blogging: I did not plan on writing on my experience as a blogger, but it is turning out to be an important part of my life as a Green Girl Wannabe
  2. Ecopsychology: The main focus and raison d’ etre for the La Marguerite blog. A little talked about part of the solution to the climate crisis. Basically, the study of how personal psychology affects human behavior towards the environment. Including strategies to induce positive behavioral changes.
  3. French life: Because I am French, and references to my French experiences permeate this blog. I find it interesting to compare the two cultures, French and American. And of course, I am a bit biased . . . the French always end up looking good!
  4. Green domesticity: Mostly my interactions with Green Guru, my husband, and in residence green conscience. A narrative has been developing, at times funny, and always a source of insights into the dynamics of families, and how these impact environmental choices.
  5. Green solutions: An emerging category, and one I want to spend more time on in the future. Separately from this blog, I am working on a locally based green initiative. I will keep you posted.
  6. Internet: Living in Silicon Valley, I cannot ignore this most incredible tool, without which this blog would not exist in the first place. Things I love: social networks, wikis, blogs, green Internet solutions, anything new under the cybersun.
  7. Thoughts on society: The place for deeper articles on the macro problems, global solutions, comparisons between cultures, modern thinkers. An opportunity to cross-pollinate and tap into my multidisciplinary background as an engineer, marketer, advertiser, shrink, and artist.
  8. Zen moments: To capture all those times when I become zen, and go down, down, to that still place, where things just are.

That’s eight categories total. A good, manageable number. For other bloggers, interested in going through this same exercise, I would like to share a resource I just found through Daily Blog Tips, an article from Engtech, Climbing out of Category Hell”. I wish I had read it earlier. There are a number of things I did not do, did not know to do, and should have done, to minimize fallouts from my ambitious reorganization. I will only mention one, ‘to turn trackbacks off before you start reorganizing your categories or you’re going to spam the crap out of yourself as you resave all of your posts’. Ouch . . . I ask all to forgive me. This may explain the mysterious fall in Technorati ranking from the last few days.

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