V ä v a! V e v e! weaving cloth one thread at a time

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How can we be more responsible in our daily lives?

My parents were the forerunners of the recyclers of today.  They reused aluminum foil, and plastic bags, which I hated because I was the one who had to wash them, and they were very hard to wash and actually get clean without destroying them!  They reused paper bags until they didn't hold together anymore.  We handed clothing down through the family, and I ended up having to wear my brothers clothes to play outside, which I thought was just fine since I thought my older brothers were pretty cool.
 yep, that's me!
They brought clothing no longer used to Good Will or Lutheran World Relief.  We rarely had things dry cleaned.  My mother canned things from the garden.
We played outside until dinnertime.  We always had a family dinner together every single night (no exceptions), until each of the kids went off to college.
Rockwell Family Dinner
We were told to always shut off lights when we left a room!  And we kept the thermostat at a steady 68 degrees F.  We had no air conditioning except to open the windows.  We didn't take regular trips to Target; that was only for just before school started, when we purchased paper and pencils (we reused the crayons, scissors, glue, and anything else we were required to bring to class), and a minimum of utilitarian clothing, and the rest my mother sewed for us. My folks told us they never had the money for snacks like pop or potato chips or candy.  Any cookies, cakes or pies we had were baked by my mother.  We often went on family drives to local parks for picnics.  We rode our bikes once a week to the local library.  We only had one phone in the entire house.  And to be honest, I think I had the best childhood ever, even though I had to hand wash all those plastic bags and aluminum foil!

In that little description of my childhood, there about 20 ideas about how we can slow our lives down and be more responsible to ourselves and to our earth at the same time.
  1. re-use those plastic bags in which you purchase your bread from the store.
  2. re-use the aluminum foil more than just once!
  3. re-use the paper bags you get at the store until they no longer function and then put them in your compost pile.
  4. reduce the number of paper bags that you use by sewing up some bags from old worn out jeans.
Photo credit: STC Craft
from "Sewing Green, 25 Projects Made with Repurposed and Organic Materials"
By Betz White
available here 
    5.   Purchase clothing from garage sales, especially for those
          young ones who aren't so aware of fashion and who grow
          so quickly.  Often garage sales have brand new clothing
          which didn't get worn because the young owner grew too
          quickly, or was the right size but the wrong season!
    6 .  Pack up unused clothing and household items and donate
          them to a local charity.

        7.  Purchase clothing that does not need drycleaning!
        8.  Start a small garden this spring and plant some vegetables
             and melons and maybe even some berry bushes!

          9.  Establish a routine of having dinner with the family more
               than a couple times a week!
         10. Don't schedule so much into your children's life, so that
               they have a chance to develop independent thinking skills.
               Let them have some down time, where they aren't having
               to be anywhere or do anything!
            11.  Remember to turn lights off when leaving a room.  It
                   just makes sense!
            12.  And keep your thermostat at a temperature that is about
                   2 degree below your comfort zone, and then put on a
                   sweater!  This would give you all kinds of reasons to take
                   up knitting!
            13. Try going a week without an air conditioner!  See what a
                  difference it makes on your utility bill!  Open those
                  windows and let the outside air in!  Use a homemade fan!
              14. Start to use things until they wear out, and then instead of
                    running to the store for a replacement, try to FIX IT!
              15. Go to the fabric store and see if you can sew something
                    beautiful for your home or for yourself or your family.
                    And don't give up with the first project.  It takes a little bit
                    of practice, and I guarantee you will get better at it!
              16. Start making your own snacks and you may find your
                    health improve, because you will be making them from
                    ingredients you know and trust without added chemicals
                    or preservatives.
              17. Try taking your family or friends on a picnic to your local
                    parks or zoo.
              18. Ride your bike to the grocery store instead of going in
                    your car.  You will get some exercise AND spend less!
                    Plus you will need to do this at least a couple times a
                    week since you can't load up a bike like you can a car.
                    . . . or can you?
               19. Take a trip to your library every week, just to get out and
               20. Reduce the amount of time you spend on your mobile
                     phone, iPod, computer, etc.  Look out beyond the screen!

              Wednesday, March 9, 2011

              The answer to EVERYTHING!

              I have a Facebook Page called "Slow Life"
              ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Slow-Life/127006940668282 )
              in which I started out extolling the benefits of slowing down my life.  Of course, that is easier said than done!   As a hand weaver, my existence is based on doing something that takes time.  I don't necessarily do it slowly, since I am making my living doing this, but it is, by it's very nature, a slow process.  I am weaving fabric thread-by-thread.  But as I started really exploring HOW to slow one's life down, it also became clear to me that as life slows down, one also starts to notice more things, and the things that tend to grab the attention are the things that are out of place.  Things like a McDonald's wrapper in the woods,
              Photo credit - Tim Barnes

              or as I take time to really appreciate my life, it is difficult to ignore the lives of others that aren't so great.  These contrasts are what make us sit up and take notice.  If we don't have some cloudy days, how can we really appreciate the sunny ones, right?

              I found myself at the beginning of a large maze where I could catch glimpses of ideas to improve one's quality of life, through being greener, healthier, more generous.  I could see little snippets of concepts for slowing down so one could enjoy good health, a robust environment, and  good relationships even with people we don't know.  The further my thoughts wandered, the more I realized that the ways our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents lived made a lot of sense.  It wasn't always the most convenient to have to grow all their own food, and then process it, and put it on the shelf for consumption within a few months at most, and do without when things ran out!

              Nor was it convenient to walk to most places, or save every bit of paper because it was such a treasure.  All this took more time and thought!  But it seems that many things they did are things we are trying to do now.  Growing a garden, canning the harvest, walking to places, cutting back on consumption.  And we are finding that all this takes extra time and thought.

              The creation of time-saving devices and the idea of circumventing inconvenience both seem to start out with good intentions.  Time and convenience seem to be the commodities that have spurred so many 'improvements', from the washing machine and dryer to the car and robotic assembly lines. These things do save us time and do make things more convenient in accomplishing the objective of the various devices, but it seems we are finding there is a huge cost.  I have a multitude of time-saving devices and modern conveniences; a car, a coffee maker, a washer and dryer,

              That was then.
              This is now.
              For which I am thankful!

              a vacuum, canned food from the grocery store, electricity, automatic heating and cooling in my insulated home.  But the question is, do I really have more time as a result of all these time-saving additions??   Is my life really better with all these things?  I think it is more affluent . . . . but better??  That has me really thinking.  If we have all these conveniences and time savers, why is it that I am still so short on time, and I am always finding that I am inconvenienced?!  The answer is simple:  All these wonderful time-saving devices and modern conveniences cost money and in order to be able to afford them, I have to work longer hours.

              Are we just chasing our tail here??  Does it seem a bit puzzling that to save time we have to spend time and in order to have things more convenient we have to be inconvenienced??

              Now we are getting closer to the center of the labyrinth.  Because very few of us are capable of doing everything to sustain our lives in a comfortable way, we have specialized, each of us doing something that we are really good at doing, and we have brought specialization to such a fine razor sharp edge that sometimes there is only one group or even just one person in the world who provides a specialized service or product!  Many steps now need to happen and there are many more people on many more levels involved in accomplishing one task.  From garden to plate, there could be hundreds of people involved in getting that broccoli to you.  As a result, each of us as a consumer is so far removed from the actual production of a product as to make it's production almost non-existent.  The example of the thousands of children who have never seen a real farm animal comes to mind!
              See that hamburger in your hand?  It came from that herd of huge animals over there called cattle!   Most children stare in disbelief!  Shock is next.  Then comes the, "Ewwww!"

              So now, at the center of the labyrinth, I realize that, of course, we can't go back to exactly how things used to be for our great-grandparents.  We have distanced ourselves too much from each aspect of producing what we need to live.  So now we are back to having time-saving devices and modern conveniences, but with a twist.  All of the things we consume we need to scrutinize.  We need to be the oversight committee for all the things we eat and use.  We have trusted others with our welfare and are now becoming aware that the trust may have been misplaced!  We are realizing that our welfare may not have been their primary concern, but rather, profit and the bottom line.
              It is becoming apparent that we may have turned our heads while individuals and corporations with money hired lawyers to find a way to point fingers at anyone or anything else for mistakes that have been made which ultimately have damaged us, others or our earth.  It is no longer something we as individuals or the earth can ignore or even bear.  Whether on a corporate level or a personal level, having enough money to hide mistakes is not something with which our children can exist.  Now that we are an interacting PLANET of knowledge, commerce and powerful  nations, more than ever we need to take responsibility for our actions.  Today our mistakes don't just affect the guy sitting next to us.  They can affect the guy down the street, or the group in the next county, or the nation that is the poorest and can't afford to protect themselves against drought, famine, and disease, resulting from climate change.  Each of us needs to accept the responsibility of taking care of ourselves and our earth.  We need to read labels at the grocery store and buy things grown without pesticides and artificial hormones.  We need to be aware of our food sources, and know that humane treatment is provided to the animals we process into food.
              This is a picture of life for a corporate farmed egg-laying hen.
              Note the de-beaked, featherless hens, packed 6 to a cage with a floor the size of a newspaper.

              Take a close look because we are what we eat!!  Perhaps there is some correlation between our horribly treated farm animal food sources who are highly stressed during their whole lives, and the level of stress in the world today!!  But that's a completely different topic!  I want to know that my food sources are pure and grown in a positive manner.  The same holds true to everything else we consume!  If we only knew some of the corporate secrets!  The treatment of 3rd world labor, the pollution just under the surface, the frightening toxic things added to products that we consume, the profane treatment of animals that are raised for food, the presumption that if the consumer buys it, everything and anything is justified for a profitable bottom line.

              Each of us was raised with the naive idea that corporations keep our best interests at heart.  We have the innocent belief that what we don't know, won't hurt us.  We have the dangerous misdirected trust that if it is on the shelf it is okay to buy!  Too much has been been done for the benefit of the bottom line to put our health and well-being in anyone's hands but our own.

              So we have reached the end of this maze and here is what we have found:  At work we need to demand a more gentle planet. . . each of us needs to take responsibility and do the RIGHT thing!!

              We need to speak up when something isn't right, we need to step up and absorb costs rather than sidestepping them by abusing something or someone for that extra profit.  We also need to take responsibility at home and quit assuming that all things in the store are suitable for purchase.  Much of this does take extra time, and it certainly won't be convenient.  It may even involve risk.  But it does come down to YOU AND YOUR CHOICES both at work and at home!

              So, this maze wasn't so very huge, but maybe it was full of  twists and turns.  In order to enjoy a slower life filled with better health, a sparkling environment, and more positive relationships apply the following checklist:
              1. Read those labels!
              2. Make responsible decisions, and assume that each decision you make affects you directly!  (. . . because it does, eventually!)
              3. At work and at home, treat others (even those you can't see) with respect and dignity, as you would want to be treated!
              4. Do the right thing in all aspects of your life!
              This all takes more time and effort and thinking, but in the long haul, we all benefit!  In my next post I will talk about how you can do this in your everyday life.  Stay tuned!