Archive for the ‘mission’ Category

Hiatus   Leave a comment

It should be obvious at this point that I’m taking a hiatus from blogging. Something about giving birth and having to figure out how to take care of a baby. I don’t when I’ll pick it back up again. Blogging has been very helpful to me, as a kind of public accountability measure. But it does take time, time that is now in much shorter supply. I’m also not sure just how much anyone else benefited. I already have some ideas for future posts (like the total cost for a home birth, and our take on the diapers we tried), so maybe as our schedule settles down I’ll be back.

Thanks for reading,

Maya.

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Posted February 8, 2013 by mayakey in mission

Safety First, Without Compromising Other Values   Leave a comment

This is one of my procrastinations out of fear right now: there are a number of purchases/tasks when preparing for a baby that are safety related, but for some of them I’ve been afraid that I would have to compromise other values that are equally important to me. The biggest one hanging over my head is the issue of car seat. In order to keep my baby safe in the car, I have to accept the health and developmental risks of exposure to fire retardants, stain repellents, and possibly carcinogenic volatile organic compounds? Based on all of the car seats that I’ve seen in people’s cars, I have no reason to think that I’ll find one that is both safe and healthy. I’ve been afraid to find out. Until today, that is, for this post when I finally did a search online and found that it is correct that I cannot have my cake and eat it too. Healthy Child Healthy World had posted about a press release from Graco that they are phasing out toxic flame retardants, and mentioned that a couple of other manufacturers have already committed to doing so by the end of 2012. (So does that mean I’ll be able to buy one before Baby comes?) But there’s no mention about the stain repellants, or the VOCs that may be offgassing from the foam (this is my biggest concern). Not that a car isn’t already a low air quality air space, but I’m really irritated that I have no choice to put something that may be offgassing something objectionable inches from my baby’s mouth. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Aargh.

At least I can be a little bit more hopeful about a stroller. After explaining my rant to a coworker the other day, she got curious and did a search and found several purportedly environmentally-friendly stroller options. I haven’t studied the list she sent me, but I have hope. At a glance it looks like there may actually be strollers on the market that are made from fabrics that haven’t been coated in known or potentially toxic chemicals, and that aren’t 100% unrecycleable plastic.

One warning that we were planning to ignore was that of not using a secondhand crib. We had an offer to use the crib from someone that I trust to not put their baby in something unsafe. But then they got pregnant again before we did. Then a few weeks ago a coworker offered me a secondhand crib from his family. I did express some skepticism based on the ages of his children, but didn’t rule it out offhand. He crawled up into the attic and measured slats and got a description of it for me, and then I went to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. The conflict that I have with this issue is the idea that a piece of furniture has to be disposable and can’t be reused. I went back and forth a bit as I read the information on the CPSC website. It has a drop side, but that can be immobilized; the slat separation is fine; it doesn’t have cutouts or fancy carvings. BUT it has been sitting in an attic for 10 years. That’s what ruled it out actually, the idea that after 10 years of summer attic heat and winter moisture the expansion and contraction of the wood has almost certainly reduced the structural integrity of the crib with no realistic way to fix it. Eh, so we’ll buy new and use it for both kids. I can wait several years before becoming conflicted about what to do with it when we don’t need it any more.

The most recent safety vs. health issue to be clarified is sleepwear for children. I’d previously seen mention that kids sleepwear is required by federal regulation to be treated by fire retardants. I’m sorry but if there is flame close enough to a baby that fire retardants might make a difference, the problem is already hugely out of control; and I’m skeptical that they would really make a difference if there is flame that close anyway. Back to the CPSC website for me. Turns out that under age 9 months there is no requirement for treatment with fire retardants, and after that they just have to meet a performance standard. So snug fitting sleepwear, or fabrics that don’t easily catch fire may not be treated, and can be labeled as such. Or we can just not buy anything marketed as sleepwear after 9 months and make sure that whatever it is is snug fitting and poses no strangulation hazard. Easy workaround.

Posted August 20, 2012 by mayakey in conscious living, mission, pregnancy, shopping

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Awash in Greenwashing   Leave a comment

Environmentalists are a picky lot. It’s definitely true that there’s really no such thing as “good enough” when it comes to being environmentally and socially friendly. As a result every green claim can be considered greenwashing to a certain degree. There are some outstanding companies that are committed to fair trade, organics, zero waste, 100% renewable energy use, and beyond the buzz words, but those are a definite minority. There are also a few companies that don’t use their sustainable practices as part of their marketing. However, then you have companies that blow one little change way out of proportion. For some reason lately it seems like I’ve seen a higher of the latter lately; and even worse seen things advertised as “green” that most definitely aren’t.

The one that sticks out to me the most is Quiznos. We had Quiznos for an all-staff meeting at work last week and the napkins and boxes were all emblazoned with this “Eat Toasty, Be Green, Do Your Part” logo. I spent most of the meeting, the remaining work day, and the following day puzzling over how eating Quiznos could possibly be a “green” choice. That catch phrase is designed to make you think that by eating one of their sandwiches, you are doing something good for the environment, or at least that’s how it reads to me. I was stumped by how eating a non-organic, meat and cheese sandwich wrapped in paper, made in a chain restaurant with a very wide distribution network, and served with an overabundance of napkins, could possibly be a decision that could be considered “doing your part”. Especially since if you compare Quiznos with many other sub shops, wouldn’t Quiznos have a higher energy usage since they toast all of their sandwiches? After mulling this over for a while I read the fine print on one of the napkins that I had kept while I figure this out. It says: “Our first step is making environmentally responsible choices with our packaging.” All this marketing, the super catch phrase, the green ink printing, the fancy logos, big recycled symbol, is all because the use 100% recycled paper for their napkins, towels, and tissue. That’s it?!?!?! And further investigation reveals that it says 100% recycled, not 100% post-consumer recycled, which makes the claim even less impressive. As I said, environmentalists are good at saying “but you could do more!”, but this case is a great example of greenwashing where one minor change is blown up into something way more than it is. For as little effort as converting to recycled napkins requires, the marketing is huge.

It is hard not to succumb to greenwashing, since it requires always thinking (that’s part of the “conscious” living thing) about the claim. Does the claim make sense? Does it even apply to the product (like a big “fat-free” sticker on a bag of hard candy that is 100% melted sugar, flavor, and color)? How trustworthy is it? Third party certification is best because that means an unaffiliated party agrees that it meets a specific set of criteria (think USDA organic certified by Oregon Tilth, sustainable forest products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, or fair trade goods certified by TransFair). Self-certification claims often hold no water or are not backed up with any publicly available evidence. Of course some things have to be self-certified because there are no certification programs. And there are, unfortunately, non-reputable third party certifications. Finally, I always ask myself if the particular product is the best option available, because if it easy to “go greener” (or not too difficult anyway) than why not do it?

One Year Blog-iversary   2 comments

Wow, I’ve been blogging here for a whole year! I hope someone enjoyed/got something out of something that I have written here. This has been INCREDIBLY helpful for myself on my journey, and I really hope that I’m not the only one. I’ve debated stopping, but I enjoy writing and at the least I know that I get value out of it so I hope someone else does too. I still don’t feel like I’m very good at blogging, since I don’t know that I’ve really found my voice yet. Part of the problem is uncertainty about my audience. At the outset I planned for my primary audience to be family and friends with a secondary audience of people I don’t know in person. But after a year I’m not really sure who my (tiny) audience is, and that adds to the challenge of deciding what/how to write. I’d absolutely love feedback, and a hint of who actually reads this blog. My big wish for the blog would be more comments and less of me writing into a void. I would really love to eventually use the blog to help me write a treatise that I have planned on rights and responsibilities, but that would require 1-an audience and 2-commenters. I intent to continue writing, because I’m having fun and can’t keep up with all of my post ideas. Time is definitely the limiting factor here.

WordPress’ stats are helpful at knowing if people are actually reading what I write and yet not because of all of the spam referrers. The blog stats page tells me how many page hits, referrers (websites from which someone clicked to my blog), and search engine hits. Unfortunately there is a chronic problem with spammy referrers messing up the stats for small blogs like this one, so I can’t tell how many people have read a particular post. Supposedly there have been 2,663 page hits over the last year, but it looks like around 15% are completely bogus. For example: fifa-world-cup-2010-info.blogspot.com, onlinedegree.ebonito.com/, tramadol-segregative.blogspot.com/2011/01/discount-tramadol-author-arron-newton.html ??? Apparently these sites send out bots as a way to promote the websites. I have to admit that at first I did occasionally follow a link, and they’re usually an ad or a fake blog. Some people reeeeeally need to get a life, and realize that bots are a really ineffective tool for promoting a website. Spam comments at least make sense from a sleazy-person-promoting-something perspective. And while there have been 158 comments, I have deleted 1,011 spam comments. Most of those spam comments were gibberish, some were in asian or eastern european languages, and most are very obvious if only by the completely advertise-y email addresses (nothing in the spam queue right now to use as an example).

It has been very surprising how may search engine hits this blog has gotten. It still totally weirds me out that this blog shows up on a search engine, but I have no objection. The most popular search terms have by far been related to carpet recycling in Sacramento and the Bay Area. Other popular search terms that brought up posts from this blog have been related to cable boxes, marmoleum, junk food, solar gas stations, smoothies, and whether pregnant women should pump gas. It’s fun looking at the particular search terms that people use.

So, again I say I hope that you’ve enjoyed some of my writing, and I’d love to hear from you!

Posted March 2, 2011 by mayakey in mission

The Quest to Recycle Carpet   1 comment

Back in early July when we closed on our house, the first order of business was to rip out the old carpet. Well, since I was focusing on getting the house cleaned and ready for move in, the old carpet just got rolled up and piled in the back yard. Recent rains (and a friend’s home renovation) have reminded me that I need to restart my search for a carpet recycler. Carpet recycling is the hip new thing, right? But Sacramento is also a very non-“green” town.

In early July I wanted to make sure that there was an option to recycle the carpet so I did a web search and found the CalRecycle website, which lists carpet recyclers in the state. There was one listed for northern Sacramento, so I called them. The receptionist at company A said they only recycle carpet that they remove, but she’d have the owner call me. He never did, and I got distracted by other things.

After the rain, I started looking for company A’s name and phone number but couldn’t find where I had written it down. Going back to the CalRecycle website, I found that they are no longer any listed for the Sacramento area, and only three in the Bay Area. One of the Bay Area listings is for Goodwill in San Jose, and I am kind of skeptical that they are recycling and not reusing the old carpet. Plus driving to San Jose might be too much even for me. Union Recovering located in Hayward only accepts carpet pads, not carpets. But before I committed to hauling my carpets to Oakland, I decided to do a bit more searching.

Another web search led me to the Sacramento County website listing two local companies for carpet recycling. But one of them, Habitat for Humanity, does not accept used carpet anymore. I called the second, G&B Carpet Recycling in Lincoln, which only just opened in July. I called, left a message, called, left a message, and waited.

The G&B Carpet Recycling website led me to Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), which only lists the San Jose Goodwill as a Northern California reclamation partner. I was about to give up. By sheer chance, I found the Rancho Cordova Recycling Guide and Handbook, which lists a couple more local companies.

So I called L&N Pad and Foam Recycling and left a message. I tried Sunshine Padding and Foam Recycling where someone actually answered the phone! He told me that they only accept carpet pads, and are only open M-F 7-3:30. Ugh. At this point I tried G&B Carpet Recycling again, and got a hold of a live person. Who told me that they no longer accept carpets for recycling, even though “there is demand”. He told me that Oakland is the nearest carpet recycler currently. So I called Carpet Recyclers in Oakland. They are open M-F 7-4; but they don’t accept rolls that have been tied with string.

At this point there was a little voice that said re-rolling all of the carpet, renting a truck, and driving to Oakland (all while using what little vacation time I have left at work), and then possibly paying a fee to give my old carpet to someone to recycle is absolutely insane and I shouldn’t do it. Then the angel on my other shoulder piped up, commenting that part of my commitment is to go beyond what “normal, sane people” would do so that I can make inroads and make it easier for those normal, sane people to take the same actions.

So now I have to re-roll the carpets in accordance with Carpet Recyclers’ instructions, and then take my road trip before it rains again. I think I will take the padding to the local company to demonstrate that there is local demand for carpet and pad recycling.

Posted September 29, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, home, mission

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What I Mean By Conscious Living   2 comments

Recently I looked at my list of categories and tags and realized that this blog looks like it is all over the place with no focus. I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to attempt to describe what I mean by “conscious living” to explain why my tags are so diverse.

The short description would be: It’s a license to over-think everything.

For the slightly longer description I’ll go to the dictionary. The first definition of “consciousness” in the the dictionary is “a: the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself; b: the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact; c: awareness, especially concern for some social or political cause.” By conscious living I mean all three of those parts, really.

The first part of that definition is for me the most important. I desire to be very will in touch with myself, which I feel brings peace and contentment. I crave inner quiet and peace, and yet I find this aspect of conscious living to be the most difficult. It is easy to get caught up in the rush of the mainstream world and deny/ignore what the self (body, mind, heart, spirit, and intuition) say and need. This is definitely a journey not a destination!

The second and third parts of the definition are entwined in my thinking, and they make up the most active part of what I refer to as conscious living. I try to think out everything that I do so that I maximize benefits to myself, the people around me, the people directly or indirectly affected by my actions, and the biosphere in general, while minimizing negative effects to the same. That means thinking about how my life affects those around me, doing a lot of research, thinking about the webs of connections, and constantly navigating fields of gray (see what I mean by “license to over think”? no rational person would choose to live like this).

I sometimes think that the different parts of the definition of consciousness actually conflict with each other. Is it really possible to strive for it all? I don’t know but I’d love to try.

Posted July 20, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, mission

Being the Body   5 comments

This Sunday’s homily is inspiring me to write a post about how I found myself on this journey I call conscious and conscience living. I usually enjoy hearing what inspired other people to become interested in social justice, or going green, or living simpler lives; so here I share my story. To be completely honest, I’m not really sure how it happened. It just kind of did. Maybe there is something in my personality that helped me gravitate to this path. There is also a definite “nurture” aspect since my parents sowed many a seed in me that have grown into different aspects of my calling.

Looking back at my personal history, there really isn’t a starting point or a turning point, but I generally think of college as the practical starting point. College was for me the phase of life dedicated to becoming an independent and independent-thinking adult. It was the time when I had to develop my own value system out of the value system that I was raised in at home. In developing that value system I can cite two strong influences: fantasy books and the Catholic church (might explain why I’m proud to proclaim myself one of those “new age Catholics” that the Vatican doesn’t much like).

Many works of fiction are studies in humanity: how we deal with life’s problems, how our personalities are affected by our surroundings, how we relate to those around us, and how we evolve as a society. In my opinion, almost all fantasy and science fiction stories are such studies. Often characters are distilled down to a few elements. For example, in Star Trek there is a purely martial race, a purely intellectual race, and a purely commercial race, which allows us to think about the consequences of those predilections in ourselves without feeling threatened. Often the plot lines are apocryphal, with some threat, be it social or environmental, looming over a nation or the world. And most of the fantasy books that I read are chock full of great lessons about the divide between the rich and the poor, governance, care for the environment, wanton overconsumption, war, isolationism, loss of history, segregation and discrimination, and gender relations. I soaked those lessons up, and especially in the case of my leaning towards pacifism, I have to say my fantasy library is the primary inspiration.

In college, not only was I able to buy as many fantasy books as I wanted, but I was able to return to the church after a couple of years away to overcome my co-dependency on religion. I was really looking forward practicing my Catholicism again, all the more so after I started going to Mass at St. Mary’s (the Newman Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor). At St. Mary’s I found an invigorating, inspirational, and living Catholicism that overcame the negative and dying Catholicism of my youth. I learned to think, to question, and to understand. I learned more about the Catholic church and it’s teachings in a couple of years than I had in the previous 18 years. Every week I learned something new about my faith that gave me hope. I came to really feel the teaching that we are the Body of Christ, and I came to realize that I needed to live that in my attitudes, decisions, lifestyle, and relationships. Eventually I felt my personal calling to being a pioneer living this lifestyle, hoping that by my example and my dollars I could make it easier for others to make green/socially just decisions. I am thankful that I don’t have to be a true pioneer, since most of the trails have already been blazed, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

Posted June 6, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, mission

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