Monthly Archives: March 2010

Live: Story of Stuff

After putting Girly to bed and kissing the Boys goodbye, I headed for a rare treat of an intellectual night out. I was jazzed to see my new personal guru Annie Leonard, the intrepid “host” of The Story of Stuff at my favorite place: Powell’s City of Books. 

It’s hard to express how energized her talk made me feel. I feel like we both just touched the tip of the iceberg. I found so many personal connections to her own story. Like Annie, I’ve been thinking and learning about environmental/social issues for twenty years. Annie talked about how peers told her that she needed to get out of her head and listen to her heart. One of the wisest people I’ve ever known, tribal elder Grandma Aggie, once told me that the longest journey we will ever take is 9 inches, from our head to our heart. Like Annie, I’ve had my own challenge of taking issues and myself too seriously and I feel like I’m finally finding my voice by sharing my story in bite-size blog posts. Unlike me, Annie has already reached over 8 million people worldwide with her video! Like me, Annie is an activist at heart. I started my career in the non-profit world as a climate activist, and now consider myself an “online activist” and I’ve already shared some of my favorite organizations/causes with you (check activism category). In spite of being highly educated about the issues, Annie is also hopeful. She reminded me of my all-time favorite quote, the Hopi Nation Prayer, which ends like this:

“The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Suffice to say, Annie’s story left me totally inspired.


So, I broke a cardinal rule, and bought her new book. Annie even signed it to “Green Mama” so if you’re in Portland, I’d love to share it with as many Mamas as possible. I’d also encourage you to consider buying a copy yourself (already on the NY Times best seller list!) to share amongst your friends.

The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-And a Vision for Change


Lastly, Annie’s message resonates so deeply with me that I can’t help but share more with you about her book as I read it. I hope you’ll make the connections with me and together we will find ways to live in sustainable abundance, without all the toxic stuff!


Are you an Annie Leonard fan? 
Who inspires you?


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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Pipes Cost

You might want to plan on spending more money on your family’s basic water and sewer utility costs in the near future and for generations to come. The amount may vary depending on your location, U.S. or otherwise, but the trend is definitely upward. 


Before I go any further on this topic, I want to give a big hallelujah for being eternally grateful that my family enjoys these “services” for a relatively minimal price. It is awe-inspiring that generations before us were able to accomplish such engineering feets, and gut wrenching to know how many people around the planet cannot rely on this simple “luxury.”

Water
In p-town you can buy 4 gallons clean water for a penny!  So if you’re trying to save your family some money, don’t even think of grabbing some bottled water…but do watch the new video! 

Even though the current distributions systems are pretty inexpensive, aging infrastructure is going to be costly to maintain. Public underfunding of this critical human service needs to be addressed. Most Americans spend way more on bottled beverages than we do for all the water we use to drink, bathe, wash everything, play…you get the point! (More info on EPA’s Water Infrastructure page)

While traditionally known for advocating to protect and restore rivers, American Rivers is now campaigning to maintain a cost-effective water supply and fund clean water infrastructure in order to prevent pollution. This is not your typical sexy mega-fauna activism topic, but what would the burden be on on our children’s generation if we don’t pay for the infrastructure maintenance now?


Sewers
Certainly less glamorous than a glass of clean tap water, our sewers that whisk away waste and storm water are like an unsung hero in the world of city infrastructure. Storm water is the top source of non-point pollution; meaning we don’t really know where its coming from, but it’s being gathered off roofs and streets and in many cases flushed to the river.


Sewers/storm water management can also go a long way toward continuing existing urban environmental problems or being part of the solution. Green stormwater solutions actually cost less than traditional discharge fees, but industries and municipalities have to be proactive.




Recently the “sewer” portion of utility bills actually explains that we each pay a Portland Harbor Superfund charge. River clean-up actually hasn’t begun yet, since industry is bickering over who is most potentially responsible, but the bottom line is that we are starting to pick up what will amount to be a very big tab to restore the river. Check out Willamette Riverkeepers’ site for more info on how to get involved. 

Do you think your water/sewer rates are fair?
What would pay to buy the convenience of reliable infrastructure? 


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Sustainable Family Finances  The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.


Ultimate budget buster – bottled water

I’ve been an advocate of tap water for a long time. I was outraged the first time I saw a bottle of Fiji brand water, I had just returned from this South Pacific paradise and couldn’t believe that someone was getting rich exploiting Fijian resources. On the remote island where I stayed local Fijians barely had access to clean water and were experiencing fish storages (a.k.a. going hungry). Fiji also happens to be 5,000 miles away!!! I wondered how they could possibly afford to make a “profit,” Annie’s brief video explains how:

Back on the mainland, in Portland there’s an I Love Tap Water campaign. I sport several fun stickers on my stainless steel water bottle, but I feel like this doesn’t go far enough any more. I really like how Annie advocates for public investment in water infrastructure. There is also more info on the Story of Stuff about simple and powerful actions your family can take.

Has your family taken a pledge to drink only tap water?
Are you ready to take more actions to end this “manufactured demand”?

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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Beach Clean-up

My first SOLV beach clean-up was sometime in my teens, and it had a big impact personally. It was empowering see volunteers dotting the beach on a common mission to restore the beach to its natural beauty and remove the hazards of humanity. I don’t know if I should feel proud or disgusted, but SOLV reported over 50,000 pounds of garbage removed at the last beach clean-up. I haven’t participated in a formal beach clean-up since college, and I’m ready to make this a family tradition. It’s a simple and fun way to feel both an immediate gratification and a long term connection, both socially and environmentally. 

We’re also going to be “yurting” with friends at a campground, which will certainly make it an affordable getaway. If you haven’t been to a yurt before, they are semi-permanent tents (originally from Mongolian nomads.) Oregon’s state park yurts include beds to sleep up to five people with lighting and small heaters. Yurts are like hybrid-camping with basic amenities in a campground atmosphere, and a great way to get in nature during the off season. We’ll get a campfire and s’mores without the need to bundle up like marshmallows ourselves. We’re also not going to be roughing it entirely as we’re staying near a small coastal town and will be grabbing pizza on Friday night and planning brunch on Sunday. My only advice is to plan early, at least in Oregon, yurts are so popular that they are booked six months in advance…so plan your next family adventure soon!

Do you participate in clean-ups with your family?
How about yurting?

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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

PS The Spring 2010 beach clean-up totaled over 70,500 pounds! 

To-Do List

I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with to-do lists. My Hubby teases me because I have multiple lists: grocery lists, weekly, monthly, longer term, camping list, party list, life list…a list for almost any occasion. I vacillate between feeling like my to-do lists keep me very productive and inspired, and feeling like they make my dreams appear further away than they really are.

I’ll be honest that while I’m really good at dreaming up my longer term goals and envisioning how I want things to go, it can sometimes feel like the day-to-day demands trump my deeper desires. So, I’m continuing with my baby step strategy and I hope that you’ll cut yourself some slack too. Reminding myself to live in the moment and be grateful for the abundance we have already created.

The other challenge is that while Hubby isn’t in the habit of writing down things, he does have his own mental list of things he wants to accomplish and do as a family. Communication isn’t always easy with two small kiddos who want every ounce of your attention. So, sometimes there’s a disconnect.


How do you manage your family’s “to-do” list?
What’s at the top of your list?

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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.