Excuse me, may I have some coherence please?

11 02 2010

Our journey exploring alternative ways of living has taken us to an ecologically-oriented farm near Bogota, Colombia. They were hosting an event to celebrate the full moon with kundalini yoga, sacred healing fires and lots of uplifting spiritual vibrations. The purpose of this evening was to heal the Earth and ourselves. Curious about this invitation we prepared a vegetarian dish to share, as all attendees were asked, and decided to go and check it out.

 

Context

As we can read in its mission statement, this place is: “a green-oriented farm, retreat and educational center […] we want to set an example of how to live in harmony with nature by recycling, using alternative energy, responsibly managing waste and water residues, and implementing organic agriculture and farming […] we offer a unique space for contemplation and self enrichment, filling a void in Colombia’s ecoturism market while contributing to outreach programs in the local community.”

Once there, we were very impressed by the imposing colonial house and the more than 2 centuries old tree in the front yard. We were offered some tchai and ginger tea to warm up a bit. And guess what? They were being served in one-use plastic cups. Then, followed the styrofoam plates, the plastic forks and the paper towels.

As conscious individuals we were gathered to sing hindi mantras, light sacred fires and heal the Earth, yet at the same time we were leaving behind paper, plastic and styrofoam! So, on one level we were participating in a healing ceremony for the Earth and on another level – simultaneously – we were polluting it. We cannot say that our actions on one level are more important than the other, we believe both are as important. Far from wanting to judge this place, we want to use this experience to address a general issue:

Conscious people: let’s be coherent!

 

If we talk green, let’s do green

There is a lot of talk about protecting the planet. International organizations have come up with the concept of ‘sustainability’ in order to enforce holistic thinking and the respect towards nature. As a consequence, it has become ‘cool’ to be green. Riding a bicycle to work, cutting-out our meat consumption, and even taking care of ourselves by doing yoga or practicing meditation is seen as trendy. That is great! Now let’s make it more than just a matter of fashion. Let’s make it real!

Courtesy of mortimer - mortimeriadas.com - all rights reserved

In our trip, we have been to eco-zones that use toxic soap directly in the river, ecovillages where there are more water-polluting toilets than dry ones, and lots of ‘holistic’ stores where plastic bags and containers are used systematically. We have come up with the conclusion that such concepts as ‘green’, ‘healthy’, ‘spiritual’ and ‘eco’ have become very popular, and that the market is fulfilling those needs. It seems we are consuming those concepts without paying attention to what they mean. How can we heal the Earth by chanting and meditating if at the same time we are destroying and polluting it?

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.” – Carl Sagan

 

What can we do?

In a previous article, we discussed the importance of reducing our consumption of plastics and changing our consuming habits. More than recycling and managing waste, the point we developed was to avoid wasting. When hosting an event like this, organizers can easily ask the attendees to bring their own plates, glasses, forks and reusable napkins. Another possibility is to provide all necessary dishes and utensils, if one regularly hosts events like this. If worried about cleaning, we can set up a washing station and ask people to clean their dishes after using them. Two or three bassins with water and vinegar are enough. Not only will we be reducing the environmental impact of the event, we will also be creating a sense of personal responsibility amongst the participants. If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment!

 

Spiritual beings in a concrete world

Yes, we are spiritual beings. Which means we have a spirit, an essence or spark that makes us unique. That spirit (or however you want to call it) is capable of being conscious and thus choosing, which is called ‘free will’. But, we live in a material world where our actions have consequences. So, our free will is to be used in this material, concrete world.

The word concrete comes from the latin roots cum and crescere literally translating ‘to grow with’. As spiritual beings we need to be aware that our inner growth is achieved through concrete actions, we need to grow with matter. Ideas, words and wishes have an impact only through action. So, it is great to talk about the environment. It is great to raise awareness around us about protecting the planet. Now imagine how powerful it is to act according to such values.

We don’t mean that our inner realities do not count. They are crucial, and being in touch with them allows us to be in harmony with ourselves. But that interior world has to generate actions in the exterior world in order to be expressed and fully lived.

Our thoughts have an impact on ourselves and they determine the way we feel. Our words have an impact on each other and they determine the way we are perceived by our peers. But it is our actions that have an impact on our planet, and we have come to the point where they determine our future. The more we find a balance between our several facets, the more coherent our lives become and the easier it is to create our realities.

 

21st century: consuming and… what else?

Let’s think about our interactions in society. They are mostly gravitating around consumption. Even the most personal individual-to-individual interaction is linked with consumption. Dates happen in bars, coffee places or restaurants. Birthdays involve food for the guests, gifts, and special clothes. Newborns have become extremely expensive these days, and even passing away is a great business. Those are just a few caricatural examples, but think about all the things we consume in one day. Our everyday actions have become consuming habits. The challenge is to make those habits conscious.

Courtesy of polyp.org.uk (all rights reserved)

 

T.T.A.

Our goal with this post is to encourage all of us to act according to our values and principles. To simplify things, we have come up with T.T.A. which stands for think = talk = act.

1) Think: In advance. Our current consuming habits involve buying, using and throwing away, without even worrying about our garbage and what happens to it. Let’s have it in our minds at all times that we need to reduce our impact on the planet. Even better, let’s remember we can have a positive impact on our environment. Let’s think in advance of what we need. Are we going to need bags for shopping? Did we put our reusable mug in our bags? Will we need plates, utensils and napkins at the event?

2) Talk: When necessary. Our speech is a very powerful tool when used appropriately. Often, we tend to criticize and judge and we get lost in long explanations and debates where different opinions try to overpower each other. We loose our power. To help us, we can privilege words that invite us to action. As Ghandi said, let’s “be the change”, not talk about it.

3) Act: Consciously, so we brake the habits we have created through time. Every action is an opportunity to have a concrete impact on our world. When our actions reflect our values, they give us strength. It’s simple, if we go against our values we are sending the message to ourselves that they are not important. By acting according to our principles we are sending the message that “Yes, our values are dear to us, and yes, we can do something about the issues we’re concerned with”. We can act.

 

Judge a tree by its fruit and a human by its actions

How many times do we hear people say something and do the opposite? How many times have we said something and done something else? Many, and we all do. So the best way to stick to our word is to say as little as possible and act. How strange is it that we need to talk about the things we are going to do… Doing them is enough!

To finish, here’s a quote we find to be very valuable:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” – Author unknown

 

Take it further!

To estimate your personal impact on the Earth, also called ‘ecological footprint’ go to: myfootprint.org/en/

There several movements that want to rethink our relationship to consumption. Here are some links to learn about the most popular ones:

To learn more about actions, habits and how to brake them, try it for yourself and please let us know how it goes!





Plastic World

15 01 2010

Everyday our lifestyle produces tons of waste. We consume unnecessary things, sometimes unwillingly, such as free-trials of many sorts, informative flyers, and lots of packaging. Have you ever opened a bag, that was in a box, that was in another box protected by plastic paper that you brought home in a shopping bag? We all have, then we all know what this is about.

Ideally, this should not exist, but it does. Sometimes, we can give this waste a second life. In other cases, just as many other types of unrecyclable waste, it ends up polluting our environment. Indeed, it’s been around 10 years that our wonderful planet has a “7th continent”, made out of plastic… This post is about reality and how to change it!

Here’s some things we can do:

First, avoid!

Avoid unnecessary plastic and any other material. Everyday we get lots of it: shiny business cards, plastified flyers, shopping bags, extra shopping bags, bottles, tetra-bricks, coffee cups… You name it. Most of the time we know these things will end-up as waste. The easiest thing to do is to say “no, thanks” and/or have your own alternative. Also, when shopping, look for big sized-containers or ideally buy in bulk. Some stores allow you to bring your own containers in order to buy all kinds of things: nuts, dried-fruit, cereals, rice, beans, herbs, soap and shampoo, etc. According to wasteonline, a UK-based organisation, 35% of the plastic used is for packaging (source: click link).

Second, replace.

Make it a point to always have an alternative with you, in your school bag, in your purse, or in your vehicle. If you are a coffee drinker, get a reusable mug. If you drink lots of water, get a water bottle you can refill anywhere. When going shopping bring your own bags, hopefully made out of long-lasting materials (ideally natural fibers). When offered a bag, you’ll be able to smile and say “thanks, I’ve got one already”.

Buying in bulk also allows you to replace unnecessary wrappings and containers by bringing your own. This is a tendency that is starting. By increasing demand, we encourage it. In Spain, milk producers have ‘gone back to the future’ by installing milk vending machines in gas-stations, allowing people to bring their own bottles and buy their milk straight from the producers. Other countries have followed, like Slovenia offering raw milk!

Third: reuse.

In a previous post about aldeafeliz, we commented on a technique that consists in filling-up plastic bottles with all kinds unrecyclable waste (plastic that is not recyclable in your city, cellophane, styrofoam, already-used adhesive tape, bags that can’t be reused, etc). In some communities, people use these bottles as bricks to build houses, schools and many other structures.

Again, if you buy in bulk, you can use and reuse your containers. Do the math: if you buy detergent every two weeks, that means by buying it in bulk (and reusing the container) you’d be saving 26 plastic containers a year. Think of it as a way of living and you’ll see the enormous impact one has over the environment. As a general rule, before putting away any waste, ask yourself what can be done with it. Can I use it for the same purpose it’s already been used? Can I use it for something else? The key is to be creative!

As a last resort: recycle.

Recycling is an important step in taking action, yet is far from being the best solution to our over-consumption problem. Socially, it is very easy to feel satisfied thinking we are improving our environment, when in reality we are not doing so much. In fact, recycling often requires considerable amounts of energy and is not free from toxic by-products. But hey, companies are running out of raw materials, they need our help to keep producing!

The more we think about it, the more it seems that buying stuff in bulk is a pretty efficient way to reduce the amount of waste we put into the environment. Given the amount of people living on this planet, if we want to keep on satisfying our needs from trade this is the next step. It requires a little extra responsibility, that is true. But don’t we owe it to our future? To our children? To our planet, our home? We think we do.

Take it personal!

We have reached a point where it’s crucial to be very conscious of our individual influence and impact on the world. We have been the ones polluting our eco-system by over-consuming all sorts of goods. We are the ones that can make a difference. Being responsible (response-able) regarding our consuming habits involves paying attention to our everyday actions. Why is that important? Because we do it every day!

We want all of us to become conscious and responsible of our consuming habits. It’s time to become actors in making this world cleaner and nicer. Let’s take that extra time to find a store where we can buy our goods with less packaging!

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Please share your comments or ideas on how to reduce our impact on the planet 🙂

Take it further:

To get inspired and start transforming your plastic waste into usefull items check out these links:

http://earth911.com/blog/2009/08/31/8-ways-whys-to-reuse-plastic/

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/368582/reusing_plastic_bags_ideas_for_the.html

To learn more about plastic, the different types and the impact on the world go to: http://www.wasteonline.org.uk

To learn more about the plastic continent go to: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2007/12/are-there-reall.html

To see an example of building with plastic bottles in Guatemala click here