Hello all, happy weekend! And thank you for taking the time to read this. Today I have some reflections for you on word choice:
A few months ago, a chance encounter with a fancy man named Dr. Clotaire Rapaille had my mind a bit blown.
After applying to work for a landscape design company and making friends with the adjoining gallery’s manager, I was invited to attend a luncheon featuring Dr. Rapaille and a few other folks associated with the gardening company. Not quite sure what I was getting into, I jumped right in–just like Goosey here…
With a striking presence and refined air about him, I was pleasantly surprised when Dr. Rapaille began the meeting by asking all of us to introduce ourselves. I was surprised he would even bother to get to know any of us ancillary people personally.
After introdcing myself as an “environmental activist,” he immediately stopped and asked why I would use those words to introduce myself. Didn’t I think that was a rather negative way to characterize myself?
Holy balls. He was right. Activist does have somewhat of a feather ruffling air about it (think: eco-terrorist)…BUT its what I learned to call myself in school and thought was an appropriate title for what I do…I’d never thought to question the label before.
In any case, he had a point, and for a few moments we brainstormed other lablels. I came up with Environmental Spokesperson, Environmenal Advocate, and “Lorax” after he turned down Conservationist and something related to sustainability. Who wants to merely conserve when we could flourish and grow? This was the Doc’s point.
All in all, I found the whole converstaion quite interesting and mind boggling after so many years of thinking a certain way. If this type of thinking could be applied to Environmental Studies coursework, I think it would make the discipline easier to swallow and produce less anxiety for everyone…oh my nerves:
Beyond the activist label, Dr. Rapaille went on to discuss word choice as a tool in marketing, specifically for the landscaping company. He highlighted words such as growth, and advised us to shy away from words such as sustainability and conservation, since these terms suggest limits. Very interesting.
So, after all this, I wonder, what can I say about myself now? WHAT AM I?
I suppose now I’ll consider myself an environmental advocate.
I’m still searching for a replacement work for sustainability….any ideas??
Think about it as the word pops up in your life.
I hope this article in some way leads you to re-think the words you use to label yourself and encourages you to swap out any stale or limiting words. Just a fun exercize.
Its a funny thing to get fired from an organization that nicknames itself “SOL.”
Well, that’s what happened to me after getting the ax at Songs of Love, a charity organization that makes music for kids that are sick or have special needs.
Feelings aside, I wanted to write up a little something about one of the profiles I came across while working at Songs of Love:
Sophie! Cute little thang…
Like many kids today, Sophie is just 2 years old and has cancer. She is being treated for a type of cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Her family has set up a fundraiser to help cover the cost of medical bills, which can be found here: Go-Fund-Me Fundraiser. I think this is a good cause, so I’m spreading the word. The fundraiser is called Road to Recovery #cancer stinks, which can be reached by following this link:
Greetings to my new readers: Cindy the tap dancer and Kimberly from American Field!
Thank you for following my blog…welcome to the brain drain!
Today I’m departing from writing about upsetting environmental issues like turtles getting plastic straws stuck in their noses and chimpanzee refugees displaced by mining activities to cover a more light-hearted topic: Percussive Shoes!
What is the difference between tap shoes and Irish clogs?
Its a question I have been asked quite often and wondered about myself, so here we go:
Noise Making Shoes (Percussive dance), Demysified
First, a quick youtube video to illustrate three dancing styles which are often confused: Irish Step, Tap Dance, and Clogging:
As you can see, these three dance styles use different movements to express music with their feet, aka dance. Which brings me to…
The Shoe Breakdown
Tap shoes look like this:
There are high heel versions as well:
Irish step shoes look like this:
And Appalacian Clogs look like this:
Appalacian dance can also be done with no taps, which makes the dance called flat-footing, I believe, and with regular tap shoes.
Without doing much research, I can tell you the taps and soles are different on all three shoes. While the appalacian clogging shoe has a thinner sole and more intricate taps, which makes for a more jingle-y soud, the tap and irish step shoes have a thicker wooden sole. Tap shoes have four metal plates screwed to the bottom, attached to the toes and heels, and Irish dancing shoes have fiberglass tips on the bottom, according to this Celtic Heritage blog. For an expalaination of the difference between the taps on clogging shoes vs. tap shoes, watch this nice mother-daughter video and you will sort-of understand, like me!
In addition to all three of these noise making shoes, there are flamenco shoes which also have some sort of metal stuck on the toes and heels, but instead of metal plates, looks like they are tiny pins.
And to round it all off for today, here is a video of an amazing Flamenco band and dancer. The reason I am including it and not a tap dance video is because the singers in this video are quite….special.
Check it out:
Ok ok and here, some clips of me tap dancing so you can see progress in motion:
Hello all and happy Memorial Day. I hope you’re feelin’ groovy and not too traumatized by my last post about turtle noses and plastic straws. Got a new topic for you, one that connects many dots for this blog and gives me mucho hope and confidence in a sustainable future for the us and the apes, who are one.
Fair Trade Electronics
So, you’ve heard of fair trade coffee, right?
And perhaps fair trade chocolate?
But how ’bout fair trade electronics??
According to internet sources, and the lovely Jane Gooddall (see video), some very key components of electronics come from Chimpanzee and Gorilla habitat in the Democratic Repubic of Congo. Thats over in Africa–(great song), see map below, DRC is in red:
It is in this region that Chimpanzees and Gorillas roam wild and free, and where today, large and small scale (artisinal) mining operations are moving in to extract minerals like Cobalt, Tungsten, and “rare Rarth metals” including Coltan, or Tantalite, which are all used in the making of electronic devices.
People are moving into once uninhabited areas in order to make a living through mining–cant blame ’em for that, baby’s gotta eat. Unfortunately, however, an unintended consequence of this migration is habitat destruction and species loss. People even hunt Chimpanzees and Gorillas for eating or selling on the illegal pet trade and bushmeat markets. Sad. Look, this chimp is pouting about it:
Here are some photos of these materials which are essential to the functioning of our electronics and represent much conflict:
And a photo of a two different Cobolt mining operations, one industrial and one artisanal:
To clarify, the difference between Industrial and Artisanal mining is the Industrial operations are organized by large, often foreign companies, while the Artisanal operations are conducted by individual miners.
There are issues with both levels of operation. Ultimately, not only is land and habitat being ravaged, or at least altered, through the mining process, but also people, child laborers included, are working under dangerous conditions for less than fair wages to supply us with these materials. Here is a video that explains the extractive/mining industry and the perspective of artisanal miners:
For me, the main takeaway from the clip above is from 1:44 til 3:14, a segment which reveals an artisanal Cobalt mine and a discussion with miners about working conditions and wages.
Because they are not part of a company or union, these miners have no representation on the market and often end up getting ripped off by buyers, most often Chinese companies, who buy at low prices and then make a profit, reselling the materials to electronics manufacturers at a 30% markup (statistic provided in video).
The miners, who often enter a mine and stay in there for 2-3 days at a time, feel they are not receiving fair pay, especially considering the profits other people are making off of their labor, the price of finished electronics, and the rate of electronics consumption worldwide. They would like to be paid fairly. I can dig it.
Now, I’m not sure if “fair trade electronics” is an official term, but the concept is there, and leading the way is a Netherlands based company called Fairphone.
Fairphone, founded in 2013, is pioneering the movement towards fair-trade electronics by changing the industry from the inside, providing an ethical alternative to all other cell phones on the market, the Fairphone.
Through painstaking research and partnerships with organizations like the Dragonfly Initiative, who advise businesses in the “extractive industry” on sustainable purchasing, Fariphone has made an effort to purchase from with “Conflict-Free” mining operations that do not use child-labor, who pay their workers fairly, and who strive to reduce their environmental imapct.
Although Fairphone does not boast to have a 100% fair phone, they are working towards that goal and at least provide a “fair-er” alternative to other smart phones on the market, creating a demand for fair electronics. Their goal is to promote “positive social and environmental impact[s] from the beginning to end of a phones life cycle” by incorporating long lasting design, fair materials, good working conditions, and promoting reuse and recycling (Fairphone Goals).
So, thats about all I’ve got to say about that. Fairphone is paving the way for all electronics to bear the Fair-Trade certification. If you are considering a new smartphone, consider Fairphone and help build the movement.
I also wanted to mention the importance of recycling E-waste. According to a video I saw on facebook, only about 15% of electronics are recycled. That is not very much. Considering how much work goes into extracting the materials that go into our electronics, considering that little children and chimpanzee are suffering in order to bring us the latest version of the Iphone, the least we can do is make an effort to discard our electronics correctly, ie make sure they are recycled, not junked in the trash. There is actually gold in our electronics, are we really going to throw gold into the garbage?! Times, they are a changin. Those 49er gold-miners must be rolling in their graves.
Now, I realize electronic waste recycling is not easy or convenient. I don’t know of any city that provides municipal electronic waste collection, so that leaves it to you and me, the consumers, to go the extra mile to bring our electronic waste to an e-waste recycler. That takes effort, I know, its annoying. But its our responsability, and perhaps the price we have to pay for all the work that goes in on the front end to bring us relatively cheap electronics (considering the labor and environmental costs that go into production).
Ok, off the soap box.
Recycle your electronics. Don’t let me find them on the ground or I will make art with them.
Cheers to progress, peace, and love, and a happy day to you,
I saw this video a few weeks back and have been wanting to share because I found it so…striking, but hesitated because its pretty icky. If you needed a reason to forgo plastic straws, here you go. Now when I see plastic straws, I think of this clip.
Warning, this video contains “harsh” language and nauseating content.
Here is another disturbing video with a turtle with a plastic FORK stuck in their nose. Forking fork fork this is not acceptible folks.
On a positive note, in my recent travels to California, I learned that San Francisco has banned plastic straws and many other cities are hopping on board. Woo hoo! We are evolving.
And in Texas, I ate at a restaurant called Youngbloods which provided straws only upon request, and those straws were paper straws, which worked quite well. If you own a food establishment or use straws at home, check out AARDVARK straws for an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws. Amazon sells them in smaller quantities.
Another alternative to plastic straws, if you like to use straws regularly, is metal or bamboo straws. Here is a link to The Package Free shop, based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which provides a variety of reusable products, including a few different re-usable straw options.
Now, I haven’t found any of those big straws used for smoothies and my beloved bubble tea (see below) but I will say, they are quite re-usable and rinse-able. Just takes a bit of habit shifting to remember to hang onto your straw and bring it when you know you’re going to get a drink while you’re out. I am working on that. Takes diligence, man.
Sometimes I add one of those straws to my To Go Ware bamboo utensil kit so I have it when a straw moment strikes.
Love the bamboo utensils by the way, haven’t used many plastic utensils since I got mine 4 or 5 years ago.
Well, that about sums up my thoughts on plastic straws. Something I’m really noticing these days as I’m making an effort to live a “Zero waste lifestyle” is how proactive I need to be when ordering food. For example, on a recent flight I ordered a tea and received not only my cup of tea, but also a plastic cup with tea-accoutrements in it, including…dun-dun-dun….a little plastic stirring straw. I saw it and instantly got hit with the turtle-nostril image. Whabam!
Moving forward, I’m training myself to ask questions about packaging before I order food. It is a work in progress. Now the mission is to figure out a way to phrase things without coming across as self-righteous, annoying, or doom and gloomy.
I hope this note finds you well. I started writing you this message during a visit to sunny Austin, Texas a few weeks ago, where I was delighted by songbirds, artsy storefronts, and a new food concept: the breakfast taco (not pictured because I ate mine too fast).
One business I was particularly impressed with is a store called Fortress of Inca which sells sustainably produced shoes, handmade in Peru.
The “S” word
“S” for “Sustainability” and “S” for “SHOES!”
These words together pulled me into the store like I was caught in a lasso.
Admittedly my first thought upon seeing the shoes on display, a variety of funky oxfords with cut-outs, was to wonder if they could be converted into tap shoes. The answer is probably, since these well-constructed shoes all have nice leather soles, but as I perused the store and chatted with the owner and a few employees, I learned a bit about the business itself, which left me inspired and eager to spread the word about another creative, sustainably-minded business.
Here are those cut-out oxfords, potential tap shoes:
Fortress of Inca was born 10 years after Evan Streusand, founder of the business, went on a wonderlust adventure throughout Peru and bought a pair of handmade boots along the way. Upon his return to the States and as time went on, he noticed the shoes lasted forever and realized he wanted to make those shoes available in the US.
Evan wanted to create a sustainable, ethical business, so took strides to do his research, connect with like-minded people in Peru, and create a business that benefits the triple bottom line*: people, the planet, and pocketbooks, rather than simply generating profits.
Fortres of Inca, a small retail shop located in South Austin, works with several small shoemaker companies in Peru who use sustainably sourced materials (rubber, leather, and wood) to make their shoes. Workers enjoy excellend working conditions and are paid fairly, with benefits like social security and health care.
While their shoes are not the cheapest on the market, Fortress of Inca shoes fairly reflect the actual cost of their products in terms of the triple bottom line. Consumers pay more, but at least that is not at the expense of the people who make the shoes and our environment. This is a fair and sustainable pricing structure and business model that I hope more business will come to adopt.
Check out the Fortress of Inca website for more information about the company and its products, or stop by the store if you’re in the area!
I’d like to make a special shout out to all the new people and/or robots who have begun to follow this blog and to acknowledge those who have been following from the get go. Thank you for joining and welcome aboard!
In other news, today I wanted to share some information presented this weekend on The Food Chain Radio Program about grocery shopping and organics. Ultimately, the show provided a list of fruits and veggies that are more and less important to buy organic. Meaning, there are some fruits and veggies we can save money on by buying the non-organic option without worrying too much about ingesting chemicals. Phew and woo hoo!
–Produce containing high levels of pesticide residues, even after being rinsed and peeled. Good idea to buy the organic versions of these fruits and veggies.
Notice most of these items have thin skins, aka more permeable to pesticides. And note that the pesticides found on non-organic versions of these are linked to brain damage and cancer, are outlawed in many European countries, and yet are approved by the US Government*. Wonderful.
–Produce containing minimal levels of pesticide residues when grown conventionally. Aka, we can buy these products non-organic without worrying too much.
Notice most of these have thick skins or shells which protect the part you eat from contact with the pesticides.
**Sweet corn, papayas, and summer squash are often genetically modified crops, so if you want to avoid being part of the “greatest global experiment known to mankind” (quote from acupuncturist Jenny Johnston of Santa Cruz), best to go organic with these crops. Note I did acupuncture as a groupon deal just to try it out. It was ok.
All in all, I was very relieved to come across these lists, espeicially the Clean 15, since I’ve been busting my own balls paying pretty much double for organic avocadoes, broccoli, onions, etc. over the years. Recently canned from my latest job, I’m now watching my spending a bit more. Que conundrum:
In general, I like to buy only organic products on principle, to “vote with my dollar” as they say, to support farmers who have gone out of their way to certify themselves and adopt safer and more sustainable growing practices. Yes, its more expensive, but I figure I’d rather feed myself good food and maintain my health than spend money on anything else.
Anyway, I cant help but wonder: if we all buy non-organic, Clean 15 produce, how will this impact the agricultural market?
Conventional farmers will continue as is, while farmers who grow organic produce will be out of luck, unable to compete with the low prices of non-organic produce.
By selecting non-organic options, we as consumers are telling farmers that we value cheap food and that it is ok to use harmful chemicals on our food. Thats what “voting with your dollar” means to me, by the way. When you buy something, you are supporting someone and encouraging them to keep on keepin’ on.
It is important to note that produce on the Clean 15 list still did test positive for pesticide residues, just not at the high levels of the Dirty Dozen. Pesticides do have environmental and health impacts which someone is going to pay for down the line, either through medical bills or contaminated water or another Dust Bowl, something like that.
By buying organic, we are telling farmers that we value organic farming and the extra efforts they are taking to build a sustainble food system. Buying organic today, even though it is more expensive, will encourage all farmers to adopt safer and more sustainable growing practices and prices will eventually even out. I’m no economist, but I’m pretty sure thats how supply and demand works.
I’ve seen it happen with organic strawberries in Santa Cruz. I was surprised and a bit delighted last year to see the organic and non-organic strawberries pretty much the same price.
All that being said, we can only do what we can do. I’m probably going to start going non-organic for the Clean 15, but definitely going to opt for organics when it comes to the dirty dozen. Our health is all we’ve got, some say.
I hope this post helps you make up your mind as well.
Thank you for reading and wishing you all the best this week and beyond,
Rooftop Meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn brings native species back to the city, but not where you might think…
Continuing the quest to find out what “sustainable living” looks like in a big city, I found myself this past Friday at Kingsland Wildflowers, a rooftop meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, right next-door to New York City’s wastewater treatment plant. See this surprisingly beautiful facility below:
Friday was the first “Field Day” of the 2018 Season, an opportunity for community members to explore the roof and learn about the project.
I was particularly fascinated by the history of this site, which I learned from a knowledgeable bird-loving photographer who works for the NYC Audobon Society (go figure) and was at this event to dispense information and take pictures.
According to this man, the Dutch were the first people to settle this area in the 1850s and described it back then as a marshy, shrubby landscape much like the photo above. Today, that marshy environment no longer exists, having been replaced by concrete and buildings over the course of the last 150+ years. Now it looks like this:
I was pleased to learn there is still a prominent waterway that runs through Brookyln and Queens called Newton Creek, which unfortunately was majorly polluted by an oil spill during the 1950s. Due to the buildings and the spill, the creek habitat has suffered and the native species that once inhabited the ecosystem have diminished.
Before it was polluted by the spill, the creek had been an important habitat for native plants and insects and was a stopping point for migratory birds and bats. After the oil spill however…not so much. Guess who was responsible for the spill by the way…. remember the Exon company? Exon Valdez ring any bells? Same company. But we didn’t hear too much about the Newton Creek Spill, did we? Curious.
Today, the Creek is a superfund site, which means the US Government recognized the extreme environmental damage that had occured due to the spill and set up a fund to fix it. That is how the Kingsland Wildflower project is receiving its funding. Exon was sued for damages, and the proceeds of the lawsuit are being used to restore the nature that was damaged by the oil spill. Since space is limited, and people are smart, this project was developed to provide a home for native plants, insects, and animals that once thrived in the Newton Creek environment.
Kingsland Wildflowers is a wonderful project that exists soley to give back to the Earth. The project began a few years ago and is already proving successful. Data is being collected to show the increase of native species both at the creek and on the rooftop. Today, this is one rooftop with about 1/2 acre of space where plants and grasses have been planted. The concept is that the rooftop is replicating what would have existed on the ground if the building were not there. Imagine the good that could be done for the planet if more rooftops were like this in the city. The benefits would be great, species would have a home, maybe bees would start coming back, plus, what a pleasant escape for people it would be, and is. My short visit to Kingsland Wildflowers reminded me of the nature I have been missing while living in a primarily human and concrete environment. I was reminded that there are birds other than pidgeons passing through in their seasonal migration, that there are insects other than bed bugs and flies, and that this whole city used to look so different, that its waterways had so much influence on the ecosystem, that it is an ecosystem today!
Anyway, I could go on and on but I wont. For now I just wanted to share a great project and hope for the future with everyone.
Just wanted to send a little Hello to all my peeps and anyone else who has stumbled upon this post. Greetings!
Thankfully the weather is getting a little warmer over here and the sun is shining today, which is helping me emerge from what I’ll just call “winter hibernation”…baby’s first winter…that was ROUGH! Actually I dont think the cold is over yet, but I’m taking this nice sunny day as an excuse to hit the beach and visit papa Poseidon! Last time I came here (Rockaway Beach) it was a few months ago and it was MUCH colder. I put my toes in and immediately regretted it. Today, we will see. I am still learning that even though the sun is shining, it does NOT mean that it is warm outside. Sunshine is not an indicator of warmth. Oh how I have been spoiled by sunny Santa Cruz!
Anyway, updates from me are as follows:
I spent the last week waking up early to tap dance in the subway with my ballerina-roommate friend before work. It has been quite successful! But I am not quitting my day job (yet), promise! Living with a rag-tag group of girls from Korea, India, Senegal, Italy (and me), I have never been so thankful for my American Citizenship, not matter how (insert own word or phrase) our government is.
While I am collecting “Chump Change for Chimps,” she is collecting money so she can buy a ticket back to Italy and get the heck out of NY before her visa expires…it is very hard to live and work legally in the US if you aren’t a citizen, I am finding throught the grape vine, and I am feeling lucky that I can live and work where I want to with relative ease.
Here is a photo of us doing our thing. Its a work in progress, but even in our early stages we have gotten warm responses from people. Its nice to see smirks and smiles replacing blank and sullen stares in the dingy subway platforms. The classical music helps too, I think. Anyway, it is a nice way to start the day and improves my attitude while sit there and make eyes with the computer screen at work for the rest of the day.
Awlright, thats it for now. Time to check out the sand and sea. I hope you all have a very nice Sunday and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air if you get the chance.