Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Green as I Can Be

Everywhere you turn, somebody is urging you to "go green" - act in an ecologically preserving/restoring way. Frankly, some of the urgent "go green" messages are just plain dumb.

A major oil company wants to impress with its green attitude, reinventing itself with alternative energy sources or methods. I will admit to skepticism here. I mean, how great is your commitment to sustainability and conservation when your entire stable of products is based on burning fossil fuels?

While I applaud green efforts by anyone, we need to face reality. There is probably no completely environmentally sound lifestyle or business practice. Think about it. You grind your fair-trade organic coffee beans to make your morning coffee. Even if you use a metal mesh filter, thereby saving a paper filter from the landfill, you're not completely green. You used either tap or bottled water to fill the pot - that tap water most likely went through a filtration or treatment system, the bottled water came from a jug or bottle. You used electricity to pump and heat the water and brew the coffee. Do you add your coffee grounds to your garden, or pitch them in the trash?

Recycle aluminum, paper, plastic or glass? Does the energy expended to recycle something exceed that needed for new production? Are you really practicing sustainability if you purchase carbon credits to offset your flight to Vegas?

There is no perfect sustainability, as far as I can see. So here's what I am doing about it. I take reusable shopping bags with me most days (I am occasionally forgetful, you know), even though I sometimes have to push to get the store to use them. I print on both sides of the paper whenever possible. I reuse paper that's been printed on just one side, or on only one part. I drive a hybrid vehicle and get 52+ miles to the gallon combined highway and city driving. I reuse plastic containers for food instead of plastic wrap or foil. We are changing our light bulbs to low-energy bulbs as they need replacing. I recycle clothing and housewares to charities whenever possible, and I've given away things using FreeCycle.com instead of the trash. I combine trips in my automobile, planning out my errands by the side of town I am visiting. I am the champion of turning off lights when not needed. I recycle my trash for curbside pickup. And I even use Blackle instead of Google to save minuscule amounts of electricity.

Here's where I could do a better job: batteries, wasted food, wasted packaging (buying bulk instead of individual servings), unplugging chargers and appliances when not in use, walking or bicycling more. Really, I need to try to reduce in addition to reusing and recycling - I don't really need so many possessions...except my books, and those I tend to buy from (and resell to) a resale shop anyway.

I know - no matter what you and I do, it falls short. But if we are doing something at all in the right direction, I think we're making the world more sustainable. I am willing to keep trying new ways to save our planet, and I am glad to know so many others are doing the same. Thanks - as the author Terry Pratchett wrote, "ONLY YOU CAN SAVE THE WORLD!"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Maintaining my point of view

Another summer is almost over. A summer full of trips, weddings, parties, food, wine. You may know that I am dieting. My goal for the summer has been to maintain the weight I worked so hard to lose.

I've done it! for the past 12 weeks or so, I have managed to maintain my weight loss, yet still enjoy the parties, food and wine. Now that life is returning to "normal," I hope to settle back into my diet routine and continue losing.

Why is it so hard to stay faithful to a diet plan? Why do I feel deprived and resentful - or even obsessed - if I don't have the cake or sangria or nachos? I wish I knew. Not that knowing would change my behavior, of course.

Last night I ate two - count 'em, two! - pieces of wedding cake. I have no idea why. So...back on the wagon. Tomorrow is a new day, and I start over every day. I just finished reading a memoir of a medical intern. A woman whose husband died, leaving her alone and sorrowful, offered the author some advice that I think is profound. Often, people will say "Live like it's your last day" or "Live like you are dying" - meant to inspire us to look at life with new eyes.

Her advice was, "Live like it's your first day." Every day is new - a fresh start. I like it.
On Sunday, August 24 I staggered off the urban trail after 60 miles. The occasion was the Cleveland Breast Cancer 3-day, a grueling 60-mile hike through lovely neighborhoods, scenic parks, quirky little communities, and stark urban miles with nary a shade tree in sight. Did I mention the heat? The mercury climbed to 90 the first two days. Unfortunately, many of our pit stops did not include shade - oops!

Anyway, the 1,200 walkers who participated raised over $3,000,000 for breast cancer research, awareness, education and support. Some of the walkers were survivors, others walked to honor someone special. I wore a Miss America-type sash bearing the names of 11 women who have been touched by this devastating disease. My wonderful donors contributed over $3,200 for this effort.

One of the names on my sash is Lois Hatch. Lois was my bridesmaid 28 years ago. She handstitched a quilt for me when my son was born 24 years ago. She fought breast cancer twice and lost the second battle in 2003. She is the reason I took on this challenge.

Now, I'm not usually an outwardly emotional person, but I shed a lot of tears this weekend - especially at the end of the trail. When I reached the entrance to the Cleveland Convention Center, I was startled to hear a roar - a stadium cheer went up as I entered the space. A gauntlet of cheering people - walkers who had arrived ahead of me - stood in two long lines, forming a path. They clapped and cheered and held out their hands to touch me as I passed by, tears streaming down my grubby sunburnt cheeks.

Two women who had befriended me on the trail - Kitty, a 1-year cancer survivor, and her sister Beth - shrieked midway down the line and the three of us hugged and jumped up and down for a moment. Then I passed through, was given a victory shirt and a pink rose, food and water. Then I turned around, found Kitty and Beth and began cheering the walkers arriving after me.

The next day, I felt stronger (but a bit stiff) and able to walk tall (that part is figurative - I actually hobbled gingerly, trying to avoid pressure on my blisters). I found myself thinking, "Next year, I'll do this differently" and then catching myself. Next year??? Am I nuts? I knew I wouldn't be walking again in 2009 because the event is planned for the day of my mother's 70th birthday celebration. Except that when she found out about the conflict, mom offered to reschedule her party, and then some friends offered to join me as a team. It looks like I may do this again.

Many thanks to everyone who made this possible. My donation website will be active until about September 24 - if you would like to contribute to the dream of a world without breast cancer, please click the 3-Day icon in the right-hand column. Thank you.