Dental Floss

Dental floss seems to always come in some kind of plastic, be it a plastic bag or hard plastic case. I thought it’d be easy to just find a naked roll of the stuff, but not so much.

Here an eco-blogger and book author has written what seems to be a very thorough overview of various floss options. (MyPlasticFreeLife.com)

And I added my own comment to her comments section: Thank you for this thorough writeup. It seems like it should be a simple thing to just offer a floss that’s wound on a cardboard spool, and does not come in a plastic bag or box, and does not come with metal cutting attachment (let people cut it with their own knife or scissors). What I finally tried that worked is Nymo thread, a very fine thread used for beading. It comes on a plain cardboard spool, and I already have many rolls of it in my beading supply kit. I used it plain; and also tried waxing it with beeswax. Works well either way.

BTW, My Plastic Free Life looks like quite an impressive blog. Apparently its author, Beth Terry, has been posting since 2007!

Ms. Terry’s book, shown on the blog, is one I’ve heard of but have not yet read. Looks very worthwhile. (Title is Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.)

Thoughts On Tourism (Reading List — More)

A couple more readings to add to this ongoing topic:

• “Respect Hawaii’s Sacred Land,” by Isiah Magsino in the excellent email newsletter Anti-Racism Daily: “Investigate the motives behind Zuckerberg, the telescope, COVID travel, and the development of sacred burial grounds, and you get one common denominator: money from outside of Hawaii. This contributes to the growing wealth disparity between non-Native Hawaiians and Native Hawaiians, as Native Hawaiians have the highest poverty rate in Hawaii …”

• “Study Hall: Ethical Tourism” (Nicole Cardoza; Anti-Racism Daily): “Isiah’s piece touched on how tourism to Hawaii contributes to its colonization, and how many may not respect its deep history and culture. At the same time, tourism is important to the local economy. When traveling to these spaces, it’s important to listen to the best practices of both the local travel boards and the Indigenous communities that inhabit those lands. Always aim to spend your money with locally-owned lodging, restaurants, etc. Respect the land and don’t leave a visible footprint (recycle, wear the right sunscreen, etc). You can learn more from mindful travel from people like Dr. Kiona that regularly outline these issues.” (This piece seems to be available only in the email newsletter. It was written in response to a reader who asked if they should simply refrain from traveling to Hawaii even though they are interested in the culture.)

Go here to subscribe to Anti-Racism Daily email newsletter. It’s a very practical and insight-filled resource.

And if you missed it, here is my previous post where I started a list of my favorite readings on this topic.

Your Life Makes a Difference

(Copying my own words, from a throwback 2017 Facebook post that showed up in my feed today.)

Unfortunately, most of us at one time or another will have to deal with naysayers and haters. One friend recently had someone say to her, “What have YOU done for the world?” Implying that she hadn’t done much or anything to make a positive difference.

Well, I don’t know who the naysayer was, but I do know for a fact that my friend is a staunch advocate for the wellbeing of Mother Earth and all species, including her fellow humans. And, perhaps even more important, she is a living example of someone willing to be REAL, be herself. In the face of scorn, criticism, and the rough rock-tumbler that daily life can be, a good-hearted person being him/herself is practicing courage and service to a degree that often reaches revolutionary.

We must never, EVER underestimate the beneficial impact of a good-hearted person who’s willing to be his or her own self. This beneficial impact starts in the family or inner friend-circle, and ripples out wide to the planet and the cosmos.

There are many forces against being one’s own self. Thank you for not caving in to them. Thank you (all of you who are reading this) for showing up in the world as YOU, and doing the work you feel is most needed.

(Some very “logical” types might respond, “Well, who else can I be but me?” But most of us know there are lots of other options, including being a half-baked copy of someone we IMAGINE that society, friends, family, or some other admired figure wants us to be.)

#AuthenticityMakesADifference

Why Native Plants?

A friend who I do landscaping work for was just now asking me about a shrub she wants to plant in her yard. I said, Cool, we can find a native equivalent of that. She asked, Why can’t it just be that specific one I like?

This is a very frequently asked question, so I could have sworn I’d already made a post about this topic. But I can’t seem to find it with the search function so I’m putting something quick together for you guys now.

In a nutshell: Native plants provide food and habitat for your local birds, butterflies, and other essential wildlife. Non-natives provide only very limited food, or none at all — because your local critters have not co-evolved with the non-natives and therefore do not recognize them as food.

Birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife aren’t just “cute.” Our lives actually depend on them, as we are just now waking up to realize.

I read somewhere that crape myrtles (a favorite ornamental tree) support ZERO caterpillar species in the USA, whereas a native flowering tree supports some huge number of species. I’ll try to dig up that citation for you. (Caterpillars not only are baby butterflies and moths; but also, caterpillars themselves are the main essential food source needed by baby birds. To raise a baby bird to adulthood, the parent needs to find thousands of caterpillars to feed it.)

Also, here is some reading from the best experts I know.

Doug Tallamy: Native Plants Support Local Food Webs (ecosystemgardening.com): Our traditional view of gardening has been to treat plants as if they are merely ornaments and to ignore their ecological roles. Your garden is part of the greater landscape, and each of us is responsible for becoming a steward of our properties as a healthy contributor to the environment around us. Native plants support local food webs. Invasive plants disrupt local food webs, and ornamental plants offer very little in the way of contributing to the local food web.”

Meet the Ecologist Who Wants You To Unleash the Wild On Your Backyard (Jerry Adler, Smithsonian magazine): “Fed up with invasive species and sterile landscapes, Douglas Tallamy urges Americans to go native and go natural. … All around him plants were in a riot of photosynthesis, converting the energy of sunlight into sugars and proteins and fats that were going uneaten. A loss, and not just for him as a professional entomologist. Insects—“the little things that run the world,” as the naturalist E.O. Wilson called them—are at the heart of the food web, the main way nature converts plant protoplasm into animal life. If Tallamy were a chickadee—a bird whose nestlings may consume between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars before they fledge, all foraged within a 150-foot radius of the nest—he would have found it hard going in these woods. Tallamy knew, in a general sense, why that was. The plants he was walking among were mostly introduced exotics, brought to America either accidentally in cargo or intentionally for landscaping or crops.”

More thoughts: It’s not that we need to rip out all the existing nonnative plants in our yards. And it’s not that we have to restrict ourselves to planting 100% natives. For one thing, most of the plants we grow to provide food for ourselves (fruit trees, grapevines, vegetable plants, etc.) are not native to the places where we live. For another thing, a yard can provide wildlife sanctuary and support biodiversity if even 70% of its plants are natives. So you don’t need to go ripping out that favorite shrub, and you don’t necessarily have to refrain from planting some nonnative plant you’ve taken a fancy to. (Just do your research to make sure the plant isn’t listed as a top-category invasive in your area; those can be illegal to transport or cultivate.)

Also: There’s room for variety. Say you want a hedge or a grouping of shrubs. No reason why it all has to be one type of shrub. The nonnative bush my friend mentioned is one she loves for its fragrance. The fragrance is quite strong and sweet, and carries far, so even one or two bushes of it planted by the porch will deliver that olfactory delight to her nose.

Or say you liked that fragrant nonnative bush, and wanted a whole hedge of it. You could instead plant a predominance of native shrubs, with just one or two of “that fragrant nonnative bush” in the mix. (By the way, there are native shrubs that have fragrant flowers too!)

Some of the prettiest hedges are a mixture of various types of bush rather than one uniform mass. A mixture also has the advantage of being less likely to all get killed off during a drought or extreme long rains or extreme temperatures, all of which we’re seeing more of these days in most places. Also, big advantage here, a mixed hedge is mixed, so there’s not the onerous fussy task of constantly having to try and keep it maintained to a visually uniform texture and height. All of this makes a mixed hedge better for your wallet, better for your precious time, and better for the planet that is our only home!

Just Take It In

Just take in the following. I’ll write a followup later with my thoughts, but first simply taking in the situation is an essential step. Sometimes we (at least I) am too quick to jump right into proposing solutions because the reality is so painful, morally wrong, etc. But we really have to let ourselves feel these things. (Not wallow; just give due time to fully feeling the impact. There is a difference.) The willingness to let the reality sink in will help us bring about real change.

States Grapple with Eviction Crisis (AP, Sara Cline; published in Daytona Beach News-Journal): “‘We are forced to make decisions between which bills to pay – rent, car or groceries,’ said Bowser, adding that they may have to sleep in their car, stay on friends’ couches or move to another state to crash with distant relatives. ‘We don’t know if we will have a home next year.'” … “About one-third of U.S. households say they’re behind on rent or mortgage payments and likely to face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.”

How the United States failed to meet the deadly coronavirus pandemic challenge
(USA Today — Gus Garcia-Roberts, Erin Mansfield and Caroline Anders; published in Daytona Beach News-Journal): “Even though one of the symptoms of COVID-19 was abdominal pain, the hospital had apparently ruled it out without a test. They had him share a room with a fellow patient. ‘No, they didn’t test him,’ Gina told Sevil when he asked about their father’s treatment. “They don’t think it’s that.” … “There was a window of opportunity in early spring— before Americans were dug intractably into separate trenches, before wearing a face mask had somehow become a defining political issue, and militia members were caught allegedly plotting to kidnap the Michigan governor over lockdown orders — when the country could have unified in order to beat back the virus.” … “Boyd had lost six relatives or close friends to the virus, including his brother. He saw the growing apathy toward the virus in Alabama as a result of policy-makers learning that Black people were most vulnerable. … The hospital where Boyd’s brother died had a policy allowing loved ones access if they were near death, and he described sharing a waiting area with those who were about to say goodbye to a patient. ‘It was an ugly sight, and I saw all Black people,’ Boyd said.” … The section on the meatpacking industry, and how workers have been treated as subhuman revenue units, commanded to get back to their stations even as they were experiencing symptoms (“I’ve sent home 38 people already today; you can’t leave”) is similarly horrific.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his wealth grow by SIXTY-FIVE PERCENT this year, and his company has shown record sales and profits, as the pandemic has boosted demand for shipping. Meanwhile, many fulltime Amazon warehouse employees struggle to pay the bills. Amazon is opening new warehouses in the United States at the rate of about one a day. And, it’s exerting downward pressure on warehouse wages. “… it’s transforming the logistics industry from a career destination with the promise of middle-class wages into entry-level work that’s just a notch above being a burger flipper or convenience store cashier. Union workers who make comfortable livelihoods driving delivery trucks and packing boxes consider Amazon an existential threat.”

Just take it in, just let it sink in even if you already knew most or all of this stuff — even if you yourself are among those who are actually experiencing this stuff first-hand. Take in what it says about our society.

Plastic Wrap Made of Lobster Shells?

Students in London have developed a way to make single-use plastic wrap from lobster shells (Business Insider). My reaction:

1) Kudos to the students, and to millions of students all over the world, who are using their creativity to tackle world problems. At that age I was using my creativity largely to refine my verbal insult skills; and to sneak alcoholic beverages into concerts and football games.

That said, 2) We humans will really go to great lengths to avoid just doing away with the concept of single-use plastic, won’t we? This process looks like it requires a smilar amount of energy input as regular plastics manufacturing processes. Granted, the fact that it’s biodegradable makes it better for oceans. But plastic trash shouldn’t be getting into oceans (or rivers, or landscapes) in the first place. Plastic trash shouldn’t exist in the first place. (NOTE: The students are also using their process to make plant pots and other reusable plastics. Reusable plastics still degrade into bits that pollute the land and water, and harm wildlife, so biodegradable is surely an improvement in this regard.)

The use of a biological resource is a step up (plastics made of plant matter fall into this category as well), but to be really green we need to focus on eliminating single-use plastics, period. We got along without them for millennia.

To get really green we need also to focus on greening the processes of making products. And even more, question the need for certain product categories (such as single-use plastic wrap; bottled water) in the first place.

There are other similar examples of this mind-set I’ve run across; will start a list as I remember them.

List:

• “Green” paper towels –> just don’t buy paper towels. Cloth rags work better. Ditto paper napkins; just use cloth napkins.

Cutting News Clutter

“News Is the Last Thing We Need Right Now,” David at Raptitude says in his recent post, which is possibly the best thing I’ve ever read about the value of limiting one’s “news” intake.

Of course it’s important to stay informed about news that’s important to us. But what’s “informed”? And what’s “important”? We have to decide consciously, in order to avoid getting burnt-out and letting our brains be overrun by clutter.

I take in a mixture of global and local news, but I’m very picky about what I give my attention to, and how much time I spend taking it in. I’ve been on a “news diet” for maybe 15 years now, and it really helps keep me focused.

Generally, I feel well-enough informed. And I feel strongly it’s best not to devote too much attention to bad news we can’t do anything about (whether because it’s beyond our sphere of influence, because it’s beyond our chosen areas of focus and we only have so much time and energy, or what have you.). David expresses a similar mind-set.

Yes, there was the time I was having a phone visit with some friends in DC who I hadn’t spoken with in 30 years. They were shocked when they asked, “What do you think of <name of some federal bigwig in the news>?” — and I confessed I didn’t know who the person was. Among the inside-the-Beltway intelligentsia, such ignorance (both having it in the first place, and confessing it) is unheard of. And is akin to confessing murder or letting your dog poop on the sidewalk and not picking it up.

Once they told me who the person was, I remembered: “Oh yeah, that guy.” I had heard enough news, that had made it through my news filter, to know the situation; I just didn’t remember the guy’s name. All in all, my news filter works exactly as I need it to. (BTW I no longer remember, or need to remember, who the person was at all, or what the newsworthiness of him was. Some confirmation hearing or other.)

Anyway! I will probably have more thoughts about news-filtering, news-diets. And when I do, I will come back and add them to this post. In the meantime, go read David’s article! It’s a jewel! And I hope you find it helpful in taming the mad noise of the modern world, so you can enjoy some inward peace and also so you can better focus on your chosen works.

OK. More thoughts:

A conscious decision to limit one’s news intake is a form of surrender. Not to be mistaken for apathy, it’s actually a very ethical and compassionate choice. It’s recognizing, “Hey! I can’t take all of this in.” Recognizing and surrendering to that reality.

And by making that surrender, we free ourselves up to give due attention — the amount and kind of attention we’ve decided is appropriate — to the things and events we’ve decided are important to us.

Similar to the radical news-intake reduction is a choice to reduce one’s “social aperture” in order to be able to devote the proper care and attention to the relationships we consider important.

Social media allows us a huge range of contacts. It can feel like a fire hose. Sometimes I’ve seen myself get so scattered responding to everyone’s updates, that I neglect to check on my closest friends. So that’s a thing I’m fine-tuning right now. I have a lot of contacts because social media is a huge part of my work. It’s a major channel for my efforts. But I’m experimenting with a bit of a “diet” or “discernment boost” of the social aspect of things. It’s early in the effort yet but seems to be yielding some success.

Here’s another great read for you: Madisyn Taylor (DailyOM) on “Control.” “The answer to control is practicing surrender.” Perfect that this showed up in my email box today.