“For a long time, everybody thought of solar panels as something only rich people could afford. But when you think about it, the fuel – sunlight – is free. So if you can make the equipment affordable and accessible, in theory, solar should be a great option for all kinds of Americans…”

Thanks for hosting me, Huffington Post! You can read the rest of it here: http://huff.to/1O7gaih

LIVE HAPPY & EAT AN ABUNDANCE OF FRUIT AND VEGGIES! I highly recommend watching the documentaries Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., and Earthlings if you are interested in changing to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle or if you are just genuinely wanting to educate yourself on the harsh effects of the meat industry on our beautiful planet and beings // art by peytonfulford 

Eco-Friendly Pagan Ritual Tools–On the Cheap

[Note–I originally posted this on my blog, A Sense of Natural Wonder, earlier this year. There’s yet another “paganism on the cheap!” article going around that advocates buying mass-marketed crap at the dollar store, so I decided I’d revive this in return.]

It’s Earth Day, and while my blog tends to be pretty eco-centric year-round, I wanted to write today about a particular topic that comes up a lot in paganism, particularly among newcomers: ritual tools. Now, it’s been said many times by many people that you don’t actually need tools to be a pagan. I do agree that you can perform rituals open-handed, with nothing but yourself and the spirits/gods/energy you’re working with to make things happen. However, some people just like having the tools themselves; they help heighten the ability to suspend disbelief. And some people feel their tools have spirits of their own, thus making them allies in ritual.

A lot of new pagans, especially young ones, look for inexpensive ritual tools since money’s tight. However, a lot of the suggestions I see made are things that are distinctly not eco-friendly. The most common one is some variant of “Just go to Wal-mart/Dollar Tree/other chain store and get your candles, candle holders, bowls and other tools there!” Sure, you could get a four-pack of taper candles for a buck, but what’s the real cost? Here are the likely reasons your candles are so cheap:

–The wax is probably petroleum-based, which means it benefits from fossil fuel subsidies from federal and state governments. The chemical company that developed the dye might also have gotten subsidies as well. This means that these companies are getting money for free, out of people’s taxes, and therefore can sell their products more cheaply. These companies are also usually not required to pay for the effects of the pollution that’s a byproduct of their processes.

–The candles were likely to have been made by underpaid, sometimes abused workers in a factory in China or another East Asian country, with inadequate protection against the chemicals and machinery being used. There’s a good chance that any chemical byproducts of the process are not properly disposed of, and may just be dumped directly into the nearest river, saving them the cost of paying for safer options.

–They were shipped en masse on a boat from their country of manufacture to wherever you are, again using subsidized fossil fuels. The shipping company doesn’t have to pay for the pollution their boats cause to the ocean and the air, so they can keep their costs down.

We don’t have a solid number on the real cost of pollution from the manufacture of these candles, but suffice it to say you’re getting your candles cheaply in part because the entities who made them and their components are passing some of the cost on to the environment. And we add to that, too, any time we burn candles made with noxious chemicals that add to air pollution in our homes and elsewhere. We speak with our dollars when we buy these cheap things–we say “We don’t care, so long as we save a few bucks in the name of practicing a nature religion*”.

So what’s a pagan to do when money’s thin on the ground? Here are some options.

Use What You’ve Got

You may already have the things you need for your ritual right at home. In generic Wicca-flavored neopaganism, common tools include an athame or other sacred knife, a bowl for salt or water, a wand, an incense burner, and something to put it on. A common kitchen knife may not be the most flashy thing in the world, but it will work, and you can decorate it if you want to dedicate it just to ritual work. If you have a favorite bowl in your kitchen, you can reserve that for your sacred work as well. Any stick or rod will work as a wand–I’ve even heard of using a ruler for one! You can easily make an incense burner out of aluminum foil; just make it into a bowl with a few layers, put some sand or dirt in it, and place the incense on that. Then put the burner on a hotpad or trivet, or even a very flat rock or thick ceramic dish, and you’re good to go. You can decorate the dish/hotpad/etc. if you like, though it’s not necessary (and make sure that anything flammable is kept well away from the burning incense!)

These are just a few ideas based on one particular set of ritual tools; you can get pretty creative depending on your needs, so treat it like a grand scavenger hunt! (Just make sure that you’re using only your stuff, or that you ask permission to use anything that belongs to someone else.)

Secondhand First

I am a huge fan of thrift stores and other secondhand shops. Sadly, here in the U.S. there’s a lot of consumerism, with much more stuff being produced for our demands than is absolutely necessary. I wrote a few years ago about the immense amount of clothing, housewares and other discarded stuff I found at just one Goodwill outlet store in just one city, and wondered how much more goes to waste every day. A lot of it is perfectly serviceable, too. I could easily build a dozen altars with the items found in one thrift store.

Yet there’s this unfortunate superstition floating around paganism that somehow you can’t cleanse secondhand items, that the histories they have will linger with them and will always taint them as ritual items–but of course, all a brand-new item needs is a quick cleansing! I call bollocks on that one. If you can purify a new glass bowl that’s been made in a sweatshop soaked in human suffering and death, created from materials that cause great devastation to the natural environment, and conveyed to your town while leaving a trail of fossil fuel pollution behind it, you can damned well purify the energy of a similar, secondhand glass bowl that sat on someone’s grandmother’s dining room table with wax fruit in it for thirty years. Most of my ritual tools over the years were secondhand, to include items that other practitioners used in their own rites, and I never had a problem making them ready for my work.

So get over that superstition, and start thrifting! You never know what kind of cool stuff you may find. (My only caution is that it’s really easy to come home with a cart full of secondhand tchotchkes for cheap, which may put shelf space in your home at a premium.)

Foraging At Its Finest

Many nature pagans like having sticks, stones and other natural items in their homes to remind them of what they feel is sacred. In fact, you can make your entire array of ritual tools from things you found outside. If you work with the four cardinal directions and elements, for example, you might have a stone in the north, a feather or bit of dandelion fluff in the east, dried wood or moss as firestarter in the south, and a vial of rain water in the west. The best part of all this is that, other than some containers for things like water, it’s all free.

Do keep in mind there are certain legal and other restrictions. Federal and state parks in the U.S., for example, prohibit the collection of any natural items found within the park without a permit (some cities do this as well). You’ll need to ask permission when foraging on private property. And some items, such as some animal parts, are illegal to possess regardless of how you got them; most wild bird feathers in the U.S. cannot be possessed, even if they were naturally molted, as one example. (You can access my database of animal parts laws here.)

Grow or Make Your Own

DIY is a wonderful thing. Not only do you get to cut costs, but you get to gain skills, too! For example, some folks like to use herbs in their spells and other magic, and luckily a lot of these herbs can be easily grown, even in a pot by the window. If you worry about having a black thumb, there’s plenty of information on the internet about how best to care for a particular kind of plant; the most common ways to kill your herbs is through too much or too little water and sunlight, the wrong sort of soil or not enough fertilizer, and disease or parasites. If you notice a plant isn’t thriving, you can research online or in books at the library what the possible causes may be, and you can ask garden shops or people on gardening forums for advice.

Other tools can be homemade, too. If you want to have a permanently decorated altar, maybe with a scene depicting your patron deities or symbols of the four cardinal directions, you can paint a secondhand table with acrylic paints**, or carve or burn the designs if the table’s wood. A well-worn broom can be decorated with dried flowers and ribbon, and even re-bristled with straw and other plant materials. A particularly sturdy branch may make a nice wand as-is, or you can choose to decorate it to your preferences.

Support Local Artisans

It’s okay if you don’t want to make your own tools. Maybe you don’t have the time, or you don’t feel your work is quite up to your own standards***. In this case, you may wish to consider supporting a local artisan. Of course, this may not necessarily be the cheapest option; an individual artist has to pay a lot more for their materials per piece than a factory, and puts a lot more time and effort into the creation, too. However, many artists will have items along a wide range of prices. Some may even have some items on sale or clearance, things they’ve had sitting around a good long while. And some artists are open to barter as well.

You’re always welcome to ask an artisan about their materials. I talked earlier about cheap, petroleum-based candles from the dollar store; however, there are candle-makers who specialize in eco-friendly alternatives like beeswax and natural dyes, and who avoid candle wicking with lead in it. And the same goes for everything from ceramics to woodworking to paintings; usually there’s somebody who specializes in greener materials out there.

(Shameless plug for my own recycled hide and bone and other natural materials art here, though there are many artisans within the pagan community and elsewhere whose works would be lovely ritual items. Try Etsy, Artfire, and Storenvy for some possibilities.)

Conclusion

I hope now that you see that buying ritual tools on a budget doesn’t have to feed into environmentally harmful processes and practices. In fact, taking care in one’s shopping choices can be an act of spiritual devotion in and of itself. If you feel nature is sacred, then let that speak not just through your rituals and special moments, but in your everyday actions as well.

* With the understanding, of course, that not every person who identifies as a pagan focuses their paganism on nature, and there are some pagans for whom the gods, for example, are central.

** While not without their pollutants, acrylic paints are some of the safest paints that are easily obtained commercially. There are more eco-friendly recipes for homemade paints out there, but acrylics are best if you don’t want to go quite that far in your DIY-dom.

*** The effectiveness of a tool, by the way, is not in how pretty it is or how perfectly crafted. Even if you don’t think you’re an artist, it’s the intent behind the creation that matters. So don’t let that get in the way of making your own tools if you’re so inclined.

‘Not that long ago, people who ate food that was healthy, environmentally friendly, and caused no animals to suffer were considered health nuts, while those who ate food that caused disease, took a staggering toll on the resource base, and depended on immense animal suffering were considered normal. But all that is changing.’ - John Robbins #redefiningnormal #sustainability

IG @mango.margaux

Yeah, it’s way more developed, because it isn’t trying to do the same thing. Beyond Meat is essentially a more meat-like veggie burger from pea protein, so making a non-meat seem meatier, just like Quorn is trying to make more and more chicken-like mycoprotein. Lab meat, on the other hand, is quite different in process, as it is from actual muscle and possibly fat tissue cells grown in a culture, which is far more technically difficult, even for the “ground boneless meat” versions, let alone trying to replicate a full cut.

If you ask me (I know, nobody did!), the smarter concept for selling people on substitutes for less meat consumption would be ingredients stretching real meat, rather than trying to fake it with 100% purity-compatible products. McDonald’s already did a 10% seaweed burger (not for eco-reasons, and admittedly it was a flop). If they sold a 50% beef, 50% seaweed (or some other easily produced plant-protein) “McEco” burger, it would probably be cheaper than either the boutique vegan veggie burgers or the lab meat, and yet taste beefier with less research needed or processing required (due to the real beef providing beefiness) and have much wider appeal (again, from the beef, so no ick factor from the lab meat and less wondering what ultra-processing went into the vegetable proteins). One could do all sorts of things with sausages, too, with such extenders like some beans in them, but retaining a lot of the flavor. Then again, I love lots of beans with just a bit of ham to flavor the pot anyway.

10 ways you can help earth everyday - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

1. Turn off the lights

Use less electricity.

Coal and natural gas are the most common sources of energy that gets turned into electricity. The burning of these substances is a major factor in world air pollution. Reducing your reliance on electricity is a great way to play a part in saving the planet.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Use solar power for home and water heating.
  • Shut off electrical equipment in the evening when you leave work.
  • If you have central air conditioning, do not close vents in unused rooms.
  • Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120.
  • Turn down or shut off your water heater when you will be away for extended periods.
  • Turn off unneeded lights even when leaving a room for a short time.
  • Set your refrigerator temperature at 36 to 38 and your freezer at 0 to 5 .
  • When using an oven, minimize door opening while it is in use; it reduces oven temperature by 25 to 30 every time you open the door.
  • Clean the lint filter in your dryer after every load so that it uses less energy.
  • Wash clothes with warm or cold water instead of hot.
  • Turn off lights, computers and other appliances when not in use.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs to save money and energy.
  • Plant trees to shade your home.
  • Replace old windows with energy efficient ones.
  • Keep your thermostat higher in summer and lower in winter when you are away.
  • Insulate your home as best as you can.

Drive and fly less often.

Cars, trucks, planes and other vehicles emissions are another big source of air pollution that has led to global warming. The manufacture of the vehicles, the gas needed to run them, the chemicals they burn, and the production of roads all play a part. If you can drive and fly less often, you’ll be doing a lot to help save the planet.

  • Walk or ride your bike instead of driving, whenever possible. Find bike routes in your town and use them!
  • Join a carpool or vanpool to get to work if biking or walking isn’t an option.
  • Report smoking vehicles to your local air agency.
  • Maintain your vehicle properly. Purchase radial tires and keep them properly inflated for your vehicle. Paint with brushes or rollers instead of using spray paints to minimize harmful emissions.

2. Recycle

Look for Recycling guides just like this one

Recycling helps to conserve raw materials and often helps to save on additional energy that manufacturers would otherwise use in producing new products from scratch. Recycling also reduces the amount of material going into landfills, which is a big bonus given that many countries are fast running out of space for landfill. In addition, recycling can lessen pollution involved in waste disposal and reducing the consumption of raw materials helps to conserve our natural resources.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels motivated to recycle and indeed, it can sometimes seem like a complex undertaking. Yet, coupled with understanding the benefits, once you know how to recycle, you’ll realize it’s not that hard and it soon becomes second habit. Start by making the commitment to recycling in your household and work your way right through to persuading others of its benefits too.

Know what can and cannot be recycled.

Many items are recyclable and over time, more items are added to the list of what can be recycled. Although recycling is dependent on your local collection point’s capacity and facilities, as a general rule, most of the following items are recyclable but you do need to read the policies relevant in your area:

  • Glass drinking bottles (leave the lids off)
  • Milk cartons and other cartons
  • Paper, including magazines, newspapers, waste office paper and Contact books (Contact books can have a special collection time in some places); and don’t forget your greeting cards and cereal boxes
  • Aluminum drink cans; in some places foil trays and foil wrap can be collected, but not all recyclers will collect these latter items
  • Steel food cans (also known as “tins” in some places), paint tins, aerosol containers (minus lids and note not all places accept these), coffee tins, bottle tops and jar lids––how do you know it’s steel? Use a magnet. If it sticks to the can, it’s steel.
  • Plastics with recyclable symbols on them; usually PET or type 1 plastic and H.D.P.E or type 2 plastic; leave the lids off bottles
  • Some supermarkets collect plastic bags (unless they’ve been banned completely, in which case, bring your own bags)
  • However, see the next step for exceptions, which can include recyclable products just because there are no practicable recycling facilities in your area.

Items that cannot be recycled yet. (keep an eye on what new items can be recycled in your area):

  • Light bulbs (although some places provide drop-off areas for compact fluorescent bulbs, to avoid mercury contamination of the landfill)
  • Plastics without recycling symbols might not be recyclable
  • Drinking glasses, crockery, Pyrex or other oven-proof glass, ceramics
  • Carbon paper, foil wrapping, laminated paper, gift ribbon, gift wrapping
  • Stickers
  • Foil potato chip/crisp bags
  • Aerosols are not accepted by all recycling places
  • Mirrors and window glass
  • Broken glass
  • Items contaminated with food spills such as take out containers and pizza boxes; this can vary according to municipality though
  • Items such as Tetra-paks (wax coated or lined cartons), batteries, paint (tins), oil, polystyrene, tin foil, clothing, etc. may be recyclable depending on what processing plants are in your vicinity. In most cases, these items need separate sorting and often require a specific drop-off rather than being collected from your household; even then, they may not be able to be recycled at all in some areas… yet.
  • If your area doesn’t collect milk or drink cartons, reuse them for many home uses including garden use or donate to a school or kindergarten for art projects. Ditto for foam peanuts, polystyrene and clothing.
  • And some things that shouldn’t even have to be said but have unfortunately turned up in recycling from time to time––dead animals, medical waste, used diapers (nappies) or sanitary ware, used syringes and unwanted live animals. Adding such items (and in the latter case living beings) is simply irresponsible, cruel or ignorant.

3. Save your leftover

Buy local goods.

Buying local helps combat air pollution in two ways. You don’t have to travel as far to get what you need, and products don’t have to travel as far to get to you, either. Making smart choices about where your food, clothes, and other goods come from can help make a dent in air pollution.

  • Shop at farmer’s markets and buy food that was produced as close to your home as possible.
  • When you’re online shopping, pay attention to how far the items you order will travel before they arrive. Try to find items that won’t have to travel long distances.
  • Pay attention to where your clothes, electronics, home goods, and other possessions were made. As much as possible, buy items that were made in your region.
  • Never throw away the remains of food, and when it is possible in restaurants ask for a doggy bag.

4. Be nice to the worms

As an earthworm feeds, organic matter passes through its body and is excreted as granular dark castings. You may see these small casting piles in your garden. An earthworm produces its weight in castings daily. Worm castings are a wonderful fertilizer, rich in nutrients otherwise unavailable to plants.

5. Share a book

Ever heard of BookCrossing? Leave a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then will do likewise. We all keep old books unused, and sharing is a way to promote culture and avoid wasting and save precious books from waste.

6. Plant a tree

  • Trees combat the climate change absorbing CO2
  • Trees clean the air
  • Trees provide oxygen
  • Trees cool the streets and the city
  • Trees save water
  • Trees help prevent water pollution
  • Trees help prevent soil erosion
  • Trees shield children from ultra-violet rays
  • Trees provide food
  • Trees heal

7. Use both sides of the paper

Reduce paper usage

  • Think before you print. Do you really need to print it?
  • If you only need one page of a document, only print that.
  • When printing a web page, copy and paste the text into a word processor so that it is formatted correctly for printing.
  • You can print on both sides of the paper with most modern printers. This is often referred to as print ‘duplex’.
  • Adjust margins on your documents. The smaller margin of .75 inch (1.90cm) is becoming more common.

8. Save water

Wasting water is one of the biggest ways individuals impact the health of the planet. Taking measures to use less water is something you can start doing right away. If you live in an area with a water shortage, this is even more important for the health of your region’s environment. Try to check off as many items as possible from this list:

  • Check and fix any water leaks. A leaky faucet can waste a lot of water.
  • Install water-saving devices on your faucets and toilets. A low-flow showerhead could be a good start.
  • Don’t wash dishes with the water running continuously. Use a method that requires less water to get the dishes clean.
  • Turn off washing machine’s water supply to prevent leaks. It doesn’t need to be on all the time.
  • Replace old toilets with new ones that use a lot less water.
  • Wash and dry only full loads of laundry and dishes. Doing a half-load wastes water.
  • Don’t use too much water to water your lawn.
  • Don’t leave the faucet running while you brush your teeth.

9. Clean up trash

Before adding some items to recycling, ensure that they’re clean. Rinse food or drink residues out of bottles, cans and drink water. Do this at the end of your dish washing, to save water and to benefit from using the suds.

  • Don’t add broken glass or sharp items to recycling.
  • Don’t add non-recyclable items just because you can’t be bothered doing anything else with them. This sends an unhelpful message to recycling authorities that citizens aren’t so capable of sorting! Be recycling proud and use common sense about the additions to your recycling.

Dispose of toxic waste the right way. Paint, motor oil, ammonia, and a host of other chemicals should not be poured down the drain or into the grass. They’ll soak into the earth and end up in the groundwater. Contact your local sanitation department to find out where the closest toxic waste disposal site is.

10. Put your underwear in the freezer

What You Need

  • A pair of dirty (feeling) jeans
  • A large Zip-Lock Bag
  • A freezer with some empty space (ie. not too much ice cream)

Instructions

Fold your jeans neatly and place inside bag. Seal bag and insert in freezer. Remove after one week and wear as new.

While this process won’t remove stains and isn’t really intended for “work jeans” (I think), it is touted to kill any living organisms and make your jeans FEEL crisp and clean again.

Become active

# the earth book todd parr 10 ways I can help earth everyday recycle recycling guide reduce reuse recyclerecycling reduce reduce reuse grow ecology eco sustainable lifestyle sustainability earth hour buy localconserving water environmentalism natural environment climate activism climate action climate changegreen anarchy go green turn off the lights save water save life save water

4

This Organic Skyscraper Is Designed To Literally Grow As Its Residents Recycle

The architecture giants at Agence Chartier Corbasson have imagined a design feat worthy of a green future.

Their new, London-based conceptual project, “Organic Skyscraper,” proposes a high-rise building built from the recycled materials of its residents. The building would essentially “grow” vertically as inhabitants discarded waste like plastic bottles and paper, their garbage turning into insulated panels for floors to come.

Read more.