Some people clear their heads by running. Others practice yoga, hike to a mountaintop, or walk in silence. A labyrinth is another form of moving meditation, spiraling its participants toward its center and back out again. The non-branching path, while meandering, is singular. Where a maze confounds, a labyrinth clarifies.
Eco-friendly initiatives, from zero-waste living to reducing meat consumption, are no longer concepts relegated to cities, progressive coastal communities, or the tired trope of yesterday’s “hippie.” With growing scientific evidence of the roles we all play in polluting our waterways, affecting climate change, and harming fragile eco systems all over the world, choosing to “live green” and tread more lightly aren’t fringe ideas at all—nor are they new in the north country.
By Nicole Caldwell for Stacker
About 300 million tons of plastic are produced from oil each year. Almost half of that is used for single-use packaging, such as plastic wrap on food, containers for personal care items, bottles for cleaning products, and other everyday purchases—including the plastic bags we carry them home in. Worse, only about 9% of all the plastic ever created has been recycled. And things are getting worse, not better: Almost half of all the plastic ever made has been created since 2000, the production of plastic is way up, and recycling alone can't stop the flow of plastic pollution into the world's oceans.
As more statistics come out about the volume of plastic ocean pollution (18 billion pounds annually from coastal regions alone) and the effect that is having on marine life (267 species worldwide have already been adversely affected), people have begun eschewing plastic products for zero-waste, eco-friendly options. Most global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products, which has inspired thousands of companies to seek alternatives to plastic items from zero-waste personal care products and kitchen items to office equipment and ethically sourced, sustainable clothing.
Stacker has pored over the research and scoured product reviews and company backgrounds to compile this gallery of 50 easy, eco-friendly replacements for common plastic items in your life. Prices have been provided, and represent the cost for long-term use, except in the case of items that run out, like toothpaste. Those numbers should be compared to an individual's or family's spending on similar, single-use products over time for items such as sandwich bags or disposable razors. Wherever possible, products listed in this gallery represent less expensive options over time to their plastic, disposable counterparts.
In the interest of being most serviceable, Stacker has left two of the most ubiquitous, eco-friendly items—stainless steel drink canteens and reusable shopping bags—off the list in order to make room for items that may be less well-known. Wherever possible, products referenced come in zero-waste, plastic-free packaging, as well.
The Contemporary Art and Architecture Triennial has returned with a splash to the northwest Belgium city of Bruges, featuring poignant works of art and architecture exploring this year’s “Liquid City” theme.
Peppered among the city’s famous canals, medieval buildings and beloved cobblestone streets rises a trail of installations by artists and architects from around the world that will be on display through Sept. 16. At one poignant spot—where the canal dips underground and disappears—rises a particularly noteworthy installation: a breaching, four-story tall whale called “Skyscraper,” made entirely of plastic plucked from the ocean.
The healthiest, most economically advantaged and sustainable cities on the planet share one trait: their walkability.
Walkable cities are better for the environment, people’s overall wellness, and positively impact levels of wealth. Unfortunately for those of us in the United States, a lot of our cities were built around cars — not feet. For as much as folks love the walkability of New York, Boston, Minneapolis, and Savannah, they dislike in equal measure the sprawl of other beloved cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Dallas.
A charitable grant from the Ford Motor Co. has made possible a "mobile farm" partnership between the automaker and a Detroit charity that promises to educate children on healthy eating, provide food for the hungry, and teach people to be more self-sufficient by growing their own food.
Two essential (if unlikely) pieces required to make this project happen? A 40-foot-long shipping container and an F-150 pickup truck.
Green Matters teamed up with WeWork for the month of April to celebrate Earth Day 2018 with a #workgreen challenge and Q&A series spotlighting sustainability-minded WeWork member companies. In this installment, we’re sitting down with Dr. Lisa Dyson, CEO of Kiverdi.
By Nicole Caldwell for The Thousand Islands Sun
After several months of working almost exclusively on writing and editing projects, padding around the farmhouse in pajamas and slippers, and enjoying some much-needed vacation time, safe to say the seasons have shifted at Better Farm.
Spring has brought with it a fresh crop of visitors from all over the world to repopulate the farmhouse over the course of the next half-year. Sun up to sun down is once again a peppering of farm tours and projects, maintaining the property, setting up rooms for overnight guests, and planning curriculum for students. At breakfast, the 12-foot long dining table is mostly filled with folks discussing environmental issues, books, politics and ideas.
All the hubbub is a gift to be sure, not that I feel entirely ready for it yet. For one, it’s still so chilly out. And two, I so enjoy the natural ebb of intensity winter brings. Where I lived in relative quiet, in that soft space with my partner where words aren’t always necessary and formalities scarce and I could quilt, embroider or do nothing at all, I am now surrounded by curious visitors and excited travelers. It’s a bit like walking out of a very calm, dark room into a brilliantly sunny day.
It’s a surreal experience to live where you work. On a daily recurrence this home is transformed into a stopping place for people I’ve never met before and won’t again. My backyard becomes a living lab for people to study sustainability, art, environmentalism, organic gardening and animal care. Every day—sometimes every few hours—I watch the space transform in and on top of itself again. Residence to inn. Homestead to petting zoo. Private to public.
I have to remember to change out of my pajamas before I leave my bedroom. I brush up on my stock answers for what exactly I’m doing here, and what inspired such a strange place to come into being. I recite home tours and crack the same jokes.
Also though, I relish the daily reminder that what is happening here is something unique and dear. That the stars you can see in the sky in this part of the world are absolutely spectacular, and that living in an area like this with all these dips and valleys and forests and yes all this water is an unbelievable privilege. I am so thankful for all these travelers curious about the world, and students hellbent on making it better.
I couldn’t be more grateful for those reminders. And for the swift kick in the butt it gives me to gear up for a spring and summer season even busier than the last, which was busier than the one before it. There are so many things just out ahead over the horizon.
Until next time, better be.
Green Matters has teamed up with WeWork for the month of April to collaborate on the #workgreen challenge and we invite you to share how you're incorporating sustainability into the workplace. In this three-part Q&A series, we’re spotlighting different WeWork member companies around the country making great contributions to sustainability. In this installment, we’re sitting down with Pashmina Lalchandani, co-founder of Bar & Cocoa.
By Nicole Caldwell for the Thousand Islands Sun
I was outside checking on our beehive this morning when the drumming started.
Somewhere ahead of me, through the feathered edge of young forest running along the east property line at Better Farm, came the unmistakable thud-thud-thud of a lawnmower or small motorcycle starting up somewhere in the woods.
It took me a second to realize what the noise actually was. Every winter, I forget some of the sounds from the seasons before. I had a small laugh at my expense when I realized what I was actually listening to.
The source of this steady rhythm was a chubby, round creature barely bigger than a pigeon who suffices to beat his wings together for a few seconds at a time, over and over, in order to find a girlfriend. All the while this little cherub is thumping his feathered arms together, his bird-brained friends bother with the silly nonsense of calling in their mates with song.
The coloring of ruffed grouse makes them blend seamlessly into their surroundings. The birds are all shades of neutral browns, greys and tans, with a spiky little hairdo that makes them appear permanently alert—if you can find them, that is. Their elusiveness is part of their charming, notorious drumming. These guys seem to come from nowhere, even though ruffed grouse often select the same stump or log upon which to stand while thundering their wings together year after year, for upwards of a decade. They live in New York State throughout the seasons, waiting (mostly) quietly for the freeze to break, savoring winter for its still silence.
Spring is for singing. Chirping. And drumming to one’s heart’s content.
I have no ambivalence about my love of spring sounds, not the least of which being bird calls. I’m a terrible birder, but have through the years acquired the unimpressive ability to discern between an owl and whip-poor-will, chickadee and golden-winged warbler. Generally, I just enjoy hearing the symphony outside. But there’s something about that drumming that evokes a sense of restlessness. The sound, once you hear it, surpasses all other sounds of nature in my backyard.
Neuroscience research confirms that talented drummers have clear, anatomical differences from the rest of the herd; namely, an intuitive understanding of rhythms and patterns happening all around us. That intuition gives human drummers a leg up when it comes to analytical thinking, perception, and logic.
The purpose of drumming, at its essence, is communication. That’s true whether you’re a ruffed grouse or part of a marching band. The drum has been central for all time to dance, sporting events, ceremonies and religious rites, and even as a lead-up to war. Each of these is a method for communication, necessary or frivolous. Their universal use has allowed drums to firmly plant their flags in every culture on earth. All this is to say, you can’t separate the drum from our experience as human beings—or as animals.
In nature, we’re designed to seek out rhythms. The noises you hear on a warm night outside might collectively present as a disorganized jumble of high and low notes. But as you suss out the separate sounds therein, you find unmistakable rhythms and measures. Bird songs, frog croaks, bat calls, and those lovable cicadas. We’re hardwired to appreciate the repetition of a steady beat.
Which must be why I lingered in that chilly morning air, looking out toward the woods and waiting for the next lick of buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh to sound.
It did. I smiled.
Until next time, better be.
Nicole Caldwell is an author, journalist and editor in Redwood. She is also co-founder and CEO of Better Farm, a sustainability campus, artist colony, animal sanctuary and organic farm. Learn more about Caldwell at www.nicolecaldwellwrites.com.