Adventures in Natural Building: Strawbale Studio

Walking into Deanne Bednar’s Strawbale Studio in Oxford, Michigan is like walking into the future…or maybe the past.  Either way, it is at the same time homelike as it is ethereal and dreamy.  It is a wonderful, welcoming space in which to find oneself.

Here, you are immediately immersed in a more nature-based state of living: jars of herbs, kombucha, and kefir line the counters, whittling projects lie about the room, and natural trinkets like spiraling wood, herb bundles, and dried flowers can be found in every corner and adorning the walls.

What is more unique to those unfamiliar with natural building techniques are the wonderful Earthen plasters that soften edges, relax the eyes, and bring the outdoors into the home.  Continue reading

Clean it Green: Laundry Detergent

We recently went to a Sustainability Symposium at the Botanical Gardens. It was a day filled with a variety of lectures related to the impacts of climate change in Northeast Ohio, gardening, and green living.

One of the lectures discussed green cleaning products.  At one point, the presenter showed a picture of what it looks like in the cupboards underneath the sink in a “green” home — lots of cloth rags, vinegar, baking soda, and maybe some borax or washing soda.  She then asked, “How many of you have cupboards that look like this?”

I was one of very few people that raised a hand.  Hmm…I guess there’s still a lot of educational work to be done!  Continue reading

Permintic Health and Wellness

What does permanent, integrative, and holistic wellness for a sustainable world look like?

There aren’t too many models at the moment, but Permintic Health and Wellness is leading the way with a new vision of what healthcare could be.

Permintic Health and Wellness is one of the next steps in the path that my partner and I are following to foster the change to a sustainable, equitable, and exciting new world that works with the Earth for the benefit of people and planet.

Here is some selected text from the Philosophy page that Michael has written: Continue reading

We Must Be the Change

As I observe people around me, I’ve been noticing a trend –most everybody, in theory, wants to save the Earth.   The problem, however, is that far too few people are willing to make the lifestyle changes necessary to ensure a livable future.  The appeal of constant financial progress, of fast food and perfectly temperature-controlled rooms is too great.  The ease of processed foods, disposable diapers, and commuting by car to work is too alluring.  The abundance of cheap clothes, out-of-season foods, electronics, and toxic beauty products is too pervasive to pass by.  We have become perpetual children – looking to others to easily assuage our hunger, temperature, and state of mood.  We expect governmental regulations or some technological breakthrough to fix global warming and the ecosystem issues we fear.  We are unwilling to take the risk that moving toward a new way of living requires.  Continue reading

Experimental Earthen Painting

I don’t know anything that draws as many people from different backgrounds, generations, and skill sets as permaculture.  People from all walks of life are waking up to realize that our current culture is destructive and unsustainable.  It’s wonderful to be in presence of people who are interested in and excited about creating the alternatives!

Yesterday, I had another opportunity to be in a group of peraculture-type people as we met to play around with Earth-based painting techniques.  We were working in a gorgeous old apartment building built in the early 1900s.  Through years of wear and tear, some of the units are in better shape than others, and we were practicing in one that is being completely redone.

So why were we playing around with Earth-based painting?  Continue reading

A Night in the Dark & Echinacea Tincture

Hello Light Footsteppers!

I think today is another hodgepodge of a post for me.  It seems that I have been busy, busy lately.  All good things — friends visiting the states from South America, a conference, event planning, trying to continue a regular habit of eating well and taking walks in nature.  It’s all left me with a lot of ideas for what I imagine to be profound posts, but time slips away quickly and then I wonder if it’s all still relevant.  Continue reading

Hands-On Permaculture

After almost two weeks of intensive living and learning, I have my Permaculture Design Certificate from Midwest Permaculture! It’s my first full day away from the course and I’m a bit sad that it’s all over.

During these past weeks, I learned that life can be full of community, of learning and working with others, of meals and conversations and a fullness that seems to be lacking so often in “the real world” (or is experienced fleetingly). I felt like less of an outsider on the planet and like I had found some place that I have always been looking for where people want to learn to live in harmony with the Earth. I felt connections and relationships blossoming in ways that I rarely do in my day to day life.  And I was learning a tremendous amount on a daily basis.  It’s hard to leave that behind.

Continue reading

Who’s Considering Sustainability in Healthcare?

Recently, I invited my partner to consider writing a post (or posts) for These Light Footsteps.  We both share a common dream for the future, the center of which acknowledges that a cheap and abundant supply of oil will not continue forever, that our relationship with the natural world is broken and unsustainable, and that a better, healthier way of living is possible.

He recently completed his Master of Science in Nursing and as a healthcare practitioner, he has a very unique take on sustainability, especially as it relates to human health.  After he sent me his first draft of a post, I knew that others would be interested in what he had written and I encouraged him to submit it to a few other websites.  Soon thereafter, an edited version of the article appeared on Health After Oil, and it received subsequent attention from several other sites (see Energy Bulletin). Very exciting!

Continue reading

Why Step Lightly? It’s the right thing to do.

We must always ask the question, “Is this contributing to the repair of the world or its destruction?” (see full quote below)
The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want this to be a positive space. I like having a place to share my adventures in attempting to live more sustainably and I want others to know the joy that can come from moving in this direction.

Ultimately, I like doing things that bring me closer to nature because it makes me happy — I know that it improves my psychological and physical health and I know it helps others in these ways, too.  However, it’s important to also consider more profound reasons for making these lifestyle changes. Because regardless of the benefits, it can be easy to put off these choices due to feelings of being too busy or too tired.  It’s also easy to stay distracted and to ignore the larger picture of what is happening in the world and how we are all contributing to global problems. It’s much easier to think of the troubles or desires we know in our day-to-day lives.

But we can’t ignore the large issues and our role in them any longer.  Whether you understand it from a spiritual, scientific, or some sort of hybrid standpoint, we are all connected and everything we do has an impact. We all have a responsibility to consider how our actions will impact other people and our home. If we do not address these issues, they will become a part of our day-to-day troubles in the future.

So, why step lightly? Here’s part of it, and I hope to be drafting additional “why step lightly” posts in the future.

Today I came across a 60 page report sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation that explains why the current mental health system is not prepared to address the effects of climate change (see also: Global Warming Will Mean Mental Shock and Adversity for 200 Million Americans).  Largely, the report calls on the mental health profession to address the lack of adequate training and the number of individuals that will be needed to address the psychological impacts of increased weather disruptions (think tornadoes, floods, droughts, heat waves) that will inevitably lead to destruction.   People will be displaced or die, food systems will be ruined, and a lot of us are going to have a hard time coping with the coming changes.

There are also psychological issues of guilt.  How do we feel and cope with knowing that our industrialized lifestyles are likely to be the cause of this madness and that we are forever changing the lives of people and cultures who do not contribute nearly as much to climate change? Will some of us begin to feel badly that we couldn’t slow down our consumption or use our cars less often?

There’s also fear, anxiety (where do we go so that we’re safe? how to we adapt?), and sadness over the suffering and the loss (200 species are estimated to be going extinct every day, albeit from a combination of Earth-destroying factors and not just climate change). How will people cope?  How do we inspire action instead of apathy?

Stop for a moment and think about this. How does this information make you feel? It’s very easy to push off the implications if global changes haven’t yet caused you any personal suffering.  It is easy to say that others will solve the problem, that our individual lifestyles are not contributing that much, that the issues are out of our hands… but are they really?  We’re participating in this destructive culture and we can start shifting our behavior so that we aren’t any longer.

To me, this report reminded me that I have lived in ways that have contributed to the destruction of the planet, human suffering, and species extinction and that this is not okay. I am determined to change the way that I do things. It is not up to policy makers or other people to change first. It is up to me. Hopefully, more and more of us will do the same and the policy makers will follow.

I have my fair share of anxiety about climate change and how we will manage to adapt.  Sometimes I wish that I didn’t even think about environmental issues because it can be so overwhelming, sad, and everyone seems too busy to be bothered with the news that we have to deal with these problems now.  However, I know that some of this suffering and some of the destruction can be lessened if we live more lightly now, and we will also be better prepared to adapt to the coming changes. I want to live in this way and I want to inspire others to do the same. Despite my forays into sadness, I feel very excited about the possibilities for  sustainable lifestyles to spread on a larger scale; I think that this will eventually lead to greater satisfaction and joy in our personal lives.

Even if I’m wrong and we are not responsible for our own behavior, or things aren’t as urgent as they seem, I love this passage I found that highlights the myriad reasons for changing our behavior and suggests that even if all of these reasons are wrong, it is still a way of living that brings joy. It might just be a new manifesto for me. I hope you’ll take a moment to enjoy it, too.

The real and most essential moral questions of our lives are the questions we rarely ask of the things we do every day: “Should I eat this?” “Where should I live and how?” “What should I wear?” “How should I keep warm/cool?” We think of these questions as foregone conclusions: I should keep warm X way because that’s the type of furnace I have, or I should eat this way because that’s what’s in the grocery store.  The Theory of Anyway turns this around, and points out that what we do, the way we live, must pass ethical muster first.  We must always ask the question, “Is this contributing to the repair of the world, or its destruction?”

So if you announced, tomorrow, that the peak oil issue had been resolved, we would still keep gardening, hanging our laundry to dry in the sun instead of using a dryer, cutting back and trying to find a new way to make do with less.  Because even if we found enough oil to power our society for 1000 years, there would still be climate change, and it would still be wrong of us to choose our own convenience over the security and safety of our children and other people’s children.

And if you said tomorrow that climate change had been fixed, that we could power our lives forever with renewables, we would still keep gardening and living frugally.  Because our agriculture is premised on depleted soil and depleted aquifers and we are facing a future in which many people will not have enough food and water if we keep eating this way.  To allow that to happen would be a betrayal of what we believe is right.

And if you declared that we had fixed that problem too, that we were no longer depleting our aquifers and expanding the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, we would still keep gardening and telling others to do the same, because our reliance on food from other nations, and our economy impoverishes and starves millions of poor people and creates massive economic inequities that do tremendous harm.

And if you told us that globalization was over, and that we were going to create a just economic system, and we had fixed all the other problems, and that we didn’t have to worry anymore, would one then stop gardening?

No. Because the nurture of a piece of land would still be the right thing to do.  Doing things with no more waste than is absolutely necessary would still be the right thing to do.  The creation of a fertile, sustainable, lasting place of beauty would still be right work in the world.  We would still be obligated to live in a way that prevented wildlife from being run to extinction and poisons contaminating the soil and the air and the oceans.  We would still be obligated to make the most of what we have and reduce our needs so they represent a fair share of what the Earth has to offer.  We would still be obligated to treat poor people as our siblings, and you do not live comfortably when your siblings suffer or have less.  We are obligated to live rightly, in part because of what living rightly gives us: integrity, honor, joy, a better relationship with our deity of choice — and peace.

–Sharon Astyk and Pat Meadows in the book Green Spirit edited by Marian Van Eyk McCain

I live this way because it fulfills me. I live this way because I think it’s necessary. I live this way because I love it.

I only hope to do it better.  I want to feel connection. I want to feel alive. I want to feel like I am contributing to life and not causing undue suffering.

I invite you to live this way, too.

Would reducing work hours help to create a better world? It just might!

I was happy to find this video on the multitude of benefits that could come from a reduced hour work week…

A change toward a reduced hour work week is likely to be necessary as we move into a future that understands our relationship with the planet and into a time of dwindling carbon resources.  Not only would this change be beneficial so that we could improve our lives by having more time for friends, family, personal development, exercise, and creativity (in addition to other reasons mentioned in the video…), but this change may also be necessary as oil becomes less readily available and as we make more sustainable lifestyle choices that lesson our contribution to issues like global warming, pollution, or human exploitation (who really makes all of your products and what is their quality of life?).

Being less dependent on oil and living with the good of all beings in mind means that we can’t outsource all of our needs to other people and ship our products/food hundreds of miles around the world — we will need to depend on our own ingenuity and local communities to provide most of what we consume.  I feel that many of us will need more time to do this (more than than is available after a 40+ hour work week, anyway).  This is especially true if we’re talking about a future where we’re not just sustainable from a resource perspective, but where we’re also sustainably healthy — both physically and psychologically. We need to spend time doing things that give us meaning, and we need to feel some sense of balance (however elusive that may be!).

It is exciting to think there could be a future ahead where people have more time to pursue things that increase their well-being and to step more lightly upon the Earth.

For some other ideas related to this, check out the Center for a New American Dream. Their mission:

We seek to cultivate a new American dream—one that emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and a celebration of non-material values.

Sounds good to me!