welcome to DEEP GREEN blog!

Greetings! This blog is dedicated to helping you reduce your eco-footprint for personal and planetary benefit.

Although a low-footprint lifestyle is fun and rewarding, it is not always easy, even if you are doing it for your own benefit (for example, to attain financial freedom; to free up your time; to radically simplify your life so you can focus on what really matters to you.) The dominant mainstream culture has waste and hyper-consumerism baked into every layer of life. A person setting out to live light on the earth encounters many obstacles both physical and cultural. (Car-dependent housing developments; unavoidable single-use plastics; buildings designed to require climate control 24-7 … to name just a few.)

That’s where this blog comes in. I’m here to offer you tips, resources, and moral support. The posts aren’t in any particular order; I write about things as they pop into my mind. If you’re new here, you might find it helpful to start by reading these posts:

Cultural Roots of the Eco Crisis

Footprint Isn’t Everything

You could also start by reading my book DEEP GREEN, a concise orderly guide to crafting your own ultra-low-footprint lifestyle. You can read it for free here on this blog; and you can order your own print copy as well.

A final note: I don’t post here every day. I might even go weeks or months without posting. Important as writing is to my mission, it’s only one of my channels for actualizing the “Grassroots Green Mobilization.” Whether or not you see new posts on this blog, I am always active and always here for you. You can engage with me on Facebook or Twitter; you can email or call me; you can enlist me to give a speech, presentation, or workshop for your group.

Enjoy this blog, and thanks for helping me create a kinder, saner, greener world!

Vaxxed Part 1

Today I had my first vaccination. One down, one to go in a month! I felt anxious about ingesting a pharmaceutical, going inside a hospital etc., but feel that getting the vax is the right choice for my circumstances + the public health, so I will be OK. I choose to go with the CDC guidelines and scientific consensus to minimize my risk of being a carrier and infecting someone.

The vaccination was so painless I could not even tell they’d done it! Afterward, while sitting in an area where they had everyone stick around for 15 minutes to make sure we didn’t have adverse reactions, I found a little baby ladybug crawling on me!!! (I’m sure it hitchhiked in on my clothes LOL).

So after my vaccine I had an additional mission of getting him/her/them safely outdoors in 15 minutes. I’m happy to report that the little cutie was last seen crawling into the nice shady shrub I chose as a drop-off point. A happy outcome for all.

(I always do better when I have something/someone to focus on besides myself.)

On a pandemic note, many parts of the USA and the world are seeing a new spike in cases. But leaders in most USAmerican states are either outright opposed to new shutdowns, or are not finding the political will to implement them because there’s so much public opposition to sacrifice for the greater good. This country could end up being a very sad illustration of what happens to a me-first culture.

The backlash against further shutdowns can also be taken more broadly as a cautionary tale for any environmentalist who’s still tempted to believe that some kind of top-down “green program” imposed by governments will be able to save us from trashing our own planet. By now it should be clear that a grassroots cultural shift is our best hope. Good thing so many of us are doing it! Thanks for being part of the #GrassrootsGreenMobilization

No Progress? No Problem! Category Reduction Hacks

If you ever find yourself struggling to accomplish further reductions in a certain category (or in general), join the club! I’m starting a list of “hacks” for each category of daily consumption.

Gasoline/jet fuel/transportation: If you simply don’t feel able/willing to make any further reductions in your travel at this time, remember, if all else fails, carbon offsets are your friend. (Gold Standard are the ones most highly recommended by experts I trust.) They add a mere pittance to the cost of a trip, and you can also use them to offset the footprint of your everyday commute, errands, etc. With some creative hacking, you can even purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the impact of your activities in non-transportation categories.

Electricity: The best electricity-reduction workaround I know of is to spend more time outdoors. If kids or other family members are involved, you might need to bribe them. Becoming more outdoors-centered has a dual benefit: 1) You can turn the climate control in your house way down, or off, during the hours you are out; and 2) Spending time outdoors widens your temperature-tolerance envelope. One fun way to get kids to spend more time outdoors is to set up an outdoor lounge with all sorts of cool fun amenities (solar charging station? rock-climbing wall? trapeze? outdoor kitchen?); they can lounge around outside using their tablets/smartphones to their heart’s content. (Maybe let them design & build it!) And use the many resources now available to get your family interested in shared outdoor nature-based activities; here’s one great resource (Getting Kids Outside & Learning About Nature, with Dr. Jenny Lloyd Strovas). And, teach the kids how to cook outdoors! and let them plan family cookouts. They may never come back inside.

Home Oil/Gas: Same advice as for electricity above.

Garbage: Feeling stuck in this category? Give each household member their own set of 3 bins labeled Compost, Recycling, and Trash; have weekly “How Low Can You Go” contests with fabulous prizes (later bedtime? getting to choose their favorite meal one night? etc.) Another fun idea for radical reduction in your overall garbage volume: Get a worm bin, introduce the kids to the concept of scraping their plates to feed the precious worms and soil microbes.

Water: Great one for “How Low Can You Go” competitions. (If your family members aren’t into it, have a contest with some of your eco-minded friends.) Also: Build an outdoor shower and rig it so the water irrigates your yard or tubs of plants. Good one for if you just can’t get household members to take shorter showers. Make the outdoor shower really fun and attractive to use. I keep ruminating about an outdoor shower that looks like a rock waterfall grotto.

Food: The top three recommendations I hear (and try to follow to some degree) are grow your own, buy local, and eat vegan. Not everyone is willing or able to be 100% vegan or vegetarian; I myself am omnivore. Full disclosure, I even eat fast food sometimes! I find that placing super-rigid restrictions on myself in the food category tends to backfire (your mileage may vary; I’m a survivor of an eating disorder). What’s working for me is to 1) focus on “eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables” (usually homegrown, foraged, or purchased from local farmers), and 2) expand my awareness of tasty vegan foods and recipes. For meat and dairy, I source from small local farmers as much as possible. The price can be higher by a factor of six or more, but that actually helps me stay motivated to be mindful of the quantities I’m consuming — a good choice for me and for the planet. (I wouldn’t try to impose this on someone of limited means who’s shopping for a large family.) I also find that the less I try to stop myself from indulging in fast food, packaged snacks, etc., the less often I end up wanting to eat those things. USAmerican culture has some seriously pathological attitudes around food, and I can feel those attitudes losing their grip on me. Another thing that helps me reduce my food footprint is to eat with other people. An amount of something that I would eat by myself can magically become enough for two or three people when friends are around to share it. Another food footprint hack I like: When friends/neighbors are throwing away food (vegetables that have spoiled, etc.), divert it from the landfill by composting it. Helps reduce the collective food footprint (as waste is a big part of our food footprint in the USA). You can also teach others to grow an easy vegetable or two, and to forage for local wild edibles.

Consumer Goods: Honestly, there are times when even the most hardcore footprint-reducers need to buy stuff new. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to get something used or make it ourselves. When it’s an option, I buy something made locally. But it’s not always an option. If you’ve reduced all you can in this category but still want to do more, you could help other people repurpose their unwanted stuff or find new homes for it. Check out “freecycle” or “buy nothing” groups in your area. You could also set up a community freebox in your neighborhood or at your workplace, church, or school. Also: if you find yourself compulsively buying stuff you don’t need, try checking in with your inner feelings, beliefs, etc. For example, if you grew up with never having enough, you could be unconsciously continuing to act that pattern out now by wanting to have “plenty extra” of everything. Increasing your awareness of your patterns is a positive action you can take today.

And – some useful resources on reduction in general:

• Definitely check out the group Zero Waste, Zero Judgement if you haven’t already. People from all over the world sharing detailed tips for reducing consumption and waste in every conceivable category.

• You might also find it helpful to read my post Footprint isn’t everything.

Facing Our Feelings: Tough But Liberating

In this blog (and in my book), I devote considerable space to writing about mental/emotional and spiritual wellbeing. There’s a reason for that. Inner peace is the foundational building block of world peace. It also affects ecosystem health: Mental suffering creates inner conflict and interpersonal conflicts, all of which consume huge amounts of resources as well as causing great pain in the world.

One of the keystones of inner wellbeing is the willingness and ability to face our own feelings and be present with those feelings. We might choose to talk about them with another person or we might not — depends on the circumstances — but at the very least we have to be willing to face them in ourselves.

Here are some good links I’ve stumbled on over the past week. Hope you find them helpful!

“Dealing with powerful emotions can be challenging, especially when we are going through chaotic, sad, or cruel experiences in our lives. Often, it can seem like we have only two options for dealing with our feelings so they don’t become too overwhelming. We may let our feelings out in an immediate and visceral way, or we may bottle them up by suppressing our emotions inside our bodies. Most people make the second choice, repressing their feelings in an attempt to deny them. The truth is that there are many positive ways to deal with emotions, and experiencing your negative feelings doesn’t have to constitute a negative experience. Denying your feelings is not only unhealthy for the mind and the body, but it may also rob you of valuable information you could be learning about yourself and your life. Suppressing your emotions can even impede your short-term memory. Acknowledging your feelings can help you better understand them and help you recover naturally from change, stress, and grief.” (From “Denying Your Feelings,” by Madisyn Taylor, DailyOM.com)

“As many of us have found out, silence can be violence when it is used in an effort to wound. It is one of the most potent ways to cause deep suffering. And its very effective, particularly when utilized on highly relational beings. Because highly relational beings are built for dialogue. They are ready, willing and able to process the material that comes up between them and those they are connected with. They don’t know any other way. When they are denied that opportunity, they suffer. Because all those unsaid words and unprocessed feelings congeal inside, risking their physical well-being. If you are someone who is still carrying the remnants of unresolved material that was denied expression by silent treatment, do your best to move that material through you. If you can’t do it with the silencing aggressor, do it with a therapist, or with another friend. Don’t allow someone else’s silence to imprison you in a museum of old pain. Express it fully, move it on through. It’s not yours for the keeping…” (From Soulshaping book by Jeff Brown, Soulshaping Institute)

“Befriending Confusion,” a reading from Soulshaping by Jeff Brown. In my personal experience, being willing to simply be present with an unknown, rather than instantly try to “fix it,” “figure it out,” is an incredibly powerful tool for navigating reality and for enjoying life in a deep constant way. I like how Brown talks about shifting from a survivalist way of spending your life to a more authentic one; witnessing what’s true in yourself. The path of disengaging from what he calls our “survivalist culture” (that pooh-poohs inner work as an indulgence), is an uncomfortable path but essential to discovering the bones of who we truly are, and leading our most authentic lives. Great stuff and so relevant to the permaculture concept of “right livelihood.”

(Important note on “silence”: Sometimes it’s appropriate to refuse to talk about an issue with someone (or talk about it at all). That falls under the heading of setting healthy boundaries. The “silence” Jeff Brown refers to above, is silence used as a weapon. Silence as attack, oppression, suppression, gaslighting. If you’ve experienced the latter, you can feel the difference.)

Recycling in Public Spaces

Unfortunately, even when there are cans for both trash and recycling (as there are along the beach in my county), folks routinely disregard the labels. Trash ends up in the recycling bin and vice versa.

But honestly, other than aluminum cans, not much is really getting recycled these days at all, from what I hear. (Maybe it’s better in your geographic area. I hope so.)

Based on what I regularly see in the barrels, a couple of the top ways to reduce the trash problem at the root are:

  • Stop buying bottled water, and refuse it when it’s offered;
  • Refuse plastic bags;
  • Buy soda at the convenience-store fountain by reusing your 7-11 cup etc, instead of buying it in disposable bottles.

Reduce, Reuse, and best of all REFUSE single-use packaging as much as you possibly can!! I know it’s difficult to impossible sometimes. But it feels great every time I manage to avoid one disposable item. Every little victory adds up!!

A Rakish Hero

Local columnist “The Darwinian Gardener” (Mark Lane of Daytona Beach News-Journal) has long been one of my heroes for his hands-off, chemical-free approach to landscaping. But today’s column bumps him up to a whole new level!

(Personally, I have always found it ironic that modern social norms banned cottage businesses such as welding shops and cabinetmakers from residential neighborhoods long ago, yet in more recent years have rolled out the red carpet for a level of industrial noise and air pollution that is every bit as obnoxious or more.)

“The Darwinian Gardener is morally opposed to gas-powered leaf blowers. He would rather live next door to a death-metal band’s practice garage … He has awakened on too many Saturday mornings to nearby landscaping crews operating heavy-horsepower single-stroke engines blowing leaves into the street and nearby lawns, sounding like a mobile sheetmetal works. Now that he works from home, his hatred of oversized leaf blowers that look like Ghostbuster backpacks has grown in ferocity.”

Also this! “Oak leaves are yard waste when they’re in a green plastic bag; they are yard mulch and nutrients when they’re left on the ground.”

Go here to read the rest – it is priceless!

#NeedMoreLikeThis #QuietLandscapingRevolution #LazyLandscapersWillSaveTheWorld

A “Simple Ministry of Presence”

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.

My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.

But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

(Quote from Henri Nouwen, an internationally renowned priest and author who wrote 39 books on the spiritual life.)

I had not heard of Nouwen until just now, when someone in the Socially Conscious FIRE group posted this quote as his reason for pursuing FIRE. It so aptly sums up how I have come to feel recently, particularly in the past year or so. And, like Nouwen, I’m finding it is “not as simple as it seems.” It’s well worth practicing though.

The “simple ministry of presence” that he mentions is actually a cornerstone of societal transformation.

There’s No Retirement on a Dead Planet

“There’s no retirement on a dead planet. Invest accordingly.”

This was the text of a recent post in the Socially Conscious FIRE group on Facebook. (A group I have permalinked in the sidebar of this blog, and refer to fairly often in my posts.)

It was very timely to me, because I had been thinking for awhile about posting a question to the SC-FIRE on this topic but wasn’t sure how to word it. “So, those of you who are planning for retirement in 20 or 30 years, and are plugging away at your paycheck jobs in the meantime … Are you so sure we have 20 or 30 years?”

Or, “Those of you who are investing with an aim of attaining financial independence: Does climate change factor into your investment plans and calculations at all? If so, how?”

So I’m glad a more “insider” person brought up the climate thing. (I feel like a bit of an edge-dweller in the SC-FIRE group, as someone whose main focus is footprint-minimization, occupational freedom, climate adaptation-in-place, and economic resilience, as opposed to financial independence and early retirement.)

I don’t really ever plan on retiring; I feel like as long as I’m alive there’s going to be work I need and want to do. BTW if I were to try to be an active member of a regular hardcore FIRE group (as opposed to the Socially Conscious one I participate in), I wouldn’t just feel like an edge-dweller; I’d feel like a total freak from an alien planet. If you want to know what it’s like in some straight-up FIRE conversations I’ve seen, think: unexamined geo-arbitrage; Wall Street worship; no-work house-flipping; Bitcoin fever; extreme land-hoarding; and other forms of personal neo-colonialism. It can feel very soulless. So I’m very relieved to find the SC-flavored version of a FIRE group.

In the “Further Exploration” section of this post, I’ve shared some links representing what I felt to be the most useful comments made by other people on the the SC-FIRE “dead planet” thread. The experts referenced in these comments are three of the top experts I know of in the arena that’s often referred to as “regenerative investment” or “financial permaculture.” Those experts are Vicki Robin, Laura Oldanie, and Marco Vangelisti. I know you’ll enjoy reading their insights.

Also, here, I’m sharing some of my own thoughts on “There’s no retirement on a dead planet. Invest accordingly.” My thoughts also address the question of the ethics of FIRE in general, since it involves stockpiling a surplus that could be much more beneficial to others. (Someone on SC-FIRE just now brought up that ethical question.)

It feels to me like time is running very short. I’m often startled to hear people casually talking about even 10- or 15-year horizons, let alone 20 or 30 years. That could be just the Doomer in me, but the fast-and-thick parade of weather- and climate-related disasters in recent times just seems to be getting faster and thicker. And I will say I’ve never been harmed by hypervigilant planning, even when I’ve erred on the doomy side (such as around 2007 when I started feeling in my bones that the entire world economy was about to collapse, and it turned out to be just the U.S. housing market).

Anyway! I am no financial whiz, for sure. I’m pretty much driven by a combination of gut feelings and my own moral compass.

Here is what “invest accordingly” looks like for me:

I plan to work til I die, because I love my work (freelance artist, writer, eco activist) and even tho I’m just one person, I never want to stop contributing to humanity in this way. I aspire someday to be that 110-year-old woman, standing on a ladder with a paintbrush or reading poetry at an open mic. Or wielding a shovel (and a community library of eco books) to help a community stave off desertification and extreme heat.

I’m more into FREE (Financial Resilience, Economic Empowerment), and I use my low-footprint thrifty lifestyle to maintain creative and occupational freedom while helping the planet.

My work has not at least thus far been considered to be of high monetary value, so I learned to live well on 13k (before taxes) per year or less. (One year or three it was 7k but that was pretty rough.)

Before I was able to buy a house free and clear in my LCOL area (with money inherited when my parents passed), I maintained creative & occupational freedom on a low income by finding super cheap shared apartments, or using bookcases to turn a 1br into a 2br so I could have apartment-mates, etc.

Now that I own a house mortgage-free, I’m able to have my same lifestyle without having to worry about my landlord dying or selling, jacking up the rent, building being condemned because it doesn’t meet code etc. — all things that were constant worries to me as a renter. I am also able to provide stable low-cost housing to housemates.

With the rest of my inheritance, I am keeping a modest reserve for emergency home repairs. Other than that, I have invested in

  • plants (food and medicine and shade for human inhabitants; wildlife habitat; pollinator support) for my sustainable urban homestead
  • rainbarrels, solar oven, solar charger, pergola, and other durable goods for running my sustainable homestead that also serves as a demo site for urban permaculture and low-footprint living
  • becoming a fractional owner of a permaculture farm and education center in my home state
  • donating to local nonprofits that are addressing food-insecurity
  • donating to nonprofits that are preserving rainforests and other ecologically important lands while being careful not to displace the indigenous human inhabitants
  • donating to local nonprofits that are helping to preserve trees, pollinator habitat, and biodiversity
  • donating to anti-racist organizations
  • donating to organizations that provide free or low-cost mental-health services
  • investing in my continuing education via online classes related to ecosystem restoration and urban revitalization

No, there is no monetary return for the donations, but I believe in investing in community; and also, I feel that contributing to planetary health and doing all I can to ensure the planet’s livability for future generations is non-optional.

On the theme of investing for the planet, I have started to specify (to the organizations who publicly list the names of their donors) that mine should be listed under Daytona Beach Permaculture Guild, rather than under my personal name. This gets the word “permaculture” out into the community in association with a variety of relevant causes.

I have more peace of mind from knowing that I have set things up so I can work and make enough to live happily on til I die, than any amount of hoarded lump sum could bring me.

With the remaining money from my inheritance, I am considering passing some on right now to my young adult nieces (since I am single and have no kids, and I believe in giving the young generations a boost right now rather than making them wait for me to die — assuming the financial system as we know it even lasts that long).

And with the remainder, I’m seeking out small eco/social enterprises to invest in, in a couple of my favorite key fields. Right at this moment I’m considering various options such as compost toilets, regenerative landscaping, a hardcore eco-focused PR agency to popularize low-footprint living, and starting a mobile outdoor cinema troupe focused on eco/socially conscious films. And anything about waste reclamation: retrieving/refurbishing plastic waste and using it as material to make essential stuff etc.

For myself, at this particular point on my path I feel morally OK keeping maybe 20k around in cash reserves (for aforementioned emergency home repairs and other misc stuff). My intent is to decrease that amount, in light of 1) the growing planetary emergency, 2) income flows from investments I make in small eco/social enterprises, and also 3) as I’m building more and more social capital so I don’t feel so dependent on keeping a stash of money.

My ideal would be to keep $2,000 or less in stored money. One fellow permaculturist says he rarely has more than $100, as he keeps his money constantly in circulation in his community in various ways.

This is just one 58-year-old self-employed writer, landscaper, activist, permaculturist, eco foot-soldier’s take on things.

Regarding regenerative ethical investment, the best writer/thinkers I know on this topic are Laura Oldanie and Vicki Robin, both of whom are active members of the Socially Conscious FIRE group.

Further Exploration:

• Marco Vangelisti offers courses on investing in accordance with your values. Here is one upcoming course, “Towards Aware and No-Harm Investing,” with Marco Vangelisti.

• Vicki Robin (author of the bestseller Your Money Or Your Life), commented on the thread mentioned above with this advice: “Consider investing locally in small businesses. As I said in Your Money Or Your Life, I’ve loved doing that, seeing my money build farms, solar projects, restaurants, a flower shop … seeing people in my community flourish. … Involvement in community building gives me reputational power which means people more willing to help me out if needed. … I’d love FI to develop a reputation for building main street rather than Wall Street.” You can check out Vicki Robin’s wonderful blog here.

• I recommend these two posts by Laura Oldanie: How To Invest Locally: Suggestions from Michael Shuman; and A Crowdsourced Guide to Social Justice Investing. And I recommend Laura’s blog Rich & Resilient Living in general (it’s permalinked in my sidebar), not only for ethical investment but also as an example of the exuberantly creative lives we can lead by reducing our dependence on strictly financial capital. Speaking of which, do also read Laura’s post on the many forms of capital besides financial. Her post includes a link to Ethan Roland and Gregory Landua’s article “8 Forms of Capital,” which is well-known in permaculture circles. Mainstream society tends to way overvalue financial capital in relation to, for example, social capital, but it’s a huge mistake, not only for the planet but also for our personal wellbeing.

• And, my series of posts “Becoming a Local Investor” offers some ideas on different places to channel your money besides Wall Street, that can help enrich your community and your own life. Hope you find them helpful!