Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Doug Fine Lecture Recap

The Doug Fine lecture this past Friday at the Chicago Cultural Center was outstanding! Despite my bad dreams that only 8 people would show up, the chairs filled up (I think there were about 85 in attendance!) and the audience was as lively as the speaker. Doug really inspired and motivated the crowd and we laughed along with him as he told us about his mishaps and successes in going Carbon Neutral. Many of my friends and contacts who attended have sent me updates about how they are looking into what changes they can make after being fired-up at this event. These changes range from starting herb gardens in window boxes to raising chickens in the city and even buying a Diesel car to have converted to run on vegetable oil! Wonderful stuff!

As for myself, I had read Farewell My Subaru many months ago and remember being catapulted to a new level of "green-consciousness" afterward...but now after hearing the lecture and chatting with all these other inspired people, I'm experiencing another burst of eco-motivation! I was talking to my husband about how maybe we could plant some vegetables on our balcony this year, and he said, "Why even do flowers? What about all vegetables?" Awesome! So I am planning to grow all edible plants in my planters and boxes this year, like lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, and a bunch of different herbs (and then if there's room, maybe an annual or two). I am even considering hanging tomato plants like this one since the tomato leaves are toxic to my little one whose curiosity might get the best of him!

We are also planning to start composting in our condo with worms (vermiculture) so that we make less waste and have some great fertilizer for our new "garden".
I'm thinking of hosting a Worms and Wine party after being inspired by an article in the paper, so check out an invitation in a future post when I get the date set.  What could be more fun than sipping organic wine while learning how to get worms to eat your kitchen scraps?
One more change we've made is to run our heater a LOT less.  I used to just have it set at 70 for most of the morning, let it go down a few degrees while we were usually out during the day, and then it was back to 70 from afternoon until bedtime.  Well, now it's usually OFF! We live on the 4th floor of a 4 story condo building, so we do get some heat that rises up from our neighbors, so it never seems to get below 67 during the daytime, and if so, then I'll just turn it on until it warms back up. Of course I have been wearing more sweaters and keeping my socks on, but that's no problem when I saw how much $$ we saved on our gas bill!!

So, what changes have you made lately? Do you have any interesting ones in the works? I'd love to hear about them, no matter how small, and I'm sure they might inspire another reader as well, so feel free to post a comment to share your ideas.

What to do with the Christmas Cards...

A great mom/family-centric site (chicagonista.com) that I write for here in Chicago did a special little video on green projects this past Christmas. I finally got around to doing one of them this past month and it turned out great!

The premise of the project is to answer the question of what to do with all those cute picture cards that your friends and family send each year. You feel bad throwing them away (by recycling them, of course), but why, and where should you keep them? One source revealed to me that she files them away each year and knows exactly where they all are...but when I asked her if she ever looks at them, she sheepishly admitted she does not. So then what's the point? Space in my loft is always at a premium, so I require a really good reason before I can justify keeping anything.

So here's the answer that worked for me. Make a picture wreath! I cut out all of the cuties with a decorative scissors into random leaf shapes, making sure not to always have the faces oriented the same way on the leaf. Then I cut out a ring, about 10" in diameter, from a cereal box headed for the recycling bin. I glued the leaves to the ring, trying to make sure no ones little mug was obliterated, wrote 2008 on the back, and voila! My 2008 Christmas Card Wreath was done!

I think next year when the wreath comes out again as a decoration, I might hot glue some jingle bells onto it. In future years, other embellishment ideas might include finishing the bottom section with the decorative fronts of traditional cards so no one would be covered up by adding a bow, or maybe we could glue on tiny pinecones gathered on a walk. I really liked this idea and I hope as the years go by and our wreath collection grows, my family and I find it fun to look at how our friends grow and change over the years. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Doug Fine at the Chicago Cultural Center!

Come join me at the Chicago Cultural Center on Feb 20th to hear Doug Fine's hilarious yet informative talk and slide show on how to live a sustainable, "off-the-grid" lifestyle while keeping your "Western lifestyle" intact!

I am so excited that Doug will be coming in to do this speaking engagement for us this month, and I hope you can come! In the meantime, check out his great read, Farewell My Subaru (which I got from the library, but since he'll be selling the book at the event, I might be able to get my own copy!), and his web site.

Here's what Doug has to say about the event:

FAREWELL, MY SUBARU: With Humor Rather Than Fear, Author and U.S. National Public Radio Adventurer Doug Fine Shows How Anyone Can Become (Nearly) Petroleum-Free In One Year:

As I travel around the world, talking to audiences about how anyone can get petroleum out of his or her life without giving up any Digital Age comforts (not even car!), I’m often surprised by how difficult folks (and corporations) imagine their transition to sustainable living (and business) would be. Many believe that in some magical future we, as busy modern humans, will develop the technology to live comfortably and in a sustainable manner.

In my 90-minute slide show and talk based on Farewell, My Subaru, I use humor (including my many initial mistakes), rather than fear, to show audiences how anyone can move seamlessly to sustainability, through solar power, vegetable oil-powered autos and a sustainable diet. The message in this live event, as in the book, is, "If this guy can do it, anyone can." After all, when I started, coyotes attacked my chickens, my solar panels nearly electrocuted me, and my vegetable oil exhaust gave me a bad case of the munchies. And yet here I am, a year down the road, with upwards of 90% of fossil fuels out of my life. And I've given up none of my appliances, including washing machine, laptop, and, possibly most important of all, booming stereo sub-woofers.

As I've been doing around the world at institutions ranging from the National Geographic Society to Merrill Lynch, this event, with slides, hysterical story-telling and readingws from Farewell, My Subaru, shows how a regular guy can actually get oil-free, today. All without giving up his “Western lifestyle” or getting eaten by a mountain lion. I simply made it sustainable, without any special skills at the start. This very funny, inspiring and informative talk is followed by an interactive Q&A, as audiences are almost always inspired to ask questions about how they might get started on a carbon-neutral lifestyle, whether at the personal or corporate level. This event is no staid reading. Think "Green Stand-up" rather than a boring or scary melting-ice-sheet talk. Because we all realize that a major societal retrofit geared to sustainability is crucial for the future of the species.

Farewell, My Subaru has been covered everywhere from the New York Times to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (info: www.dougfine.com). Doug Fine's continuing blog of carbon-neutral misadventures, at www.dougfine.com, also has a short film about the book, and samples of Fine's NPR work and print journalism from five continents.