Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Waste reducing living

Happy New Year! 

It’s the start of a new world. A new life. I feel motivated and inspired to really change my life. 
My biggest dream in the world is to see a more sustainable planet. And in order to do that, I realize that it has to start within. Yes I'm still working on sustainable projects here, very initial stages and I'll be elaborating more on them with time. For now I'll keep you up to date with my progress in becoming waste free and more sustainable. 

For the last few months, I've been really thinking a lot about it, but in the last week I've been making progress with daily sustainable goal setting, which has been amazing. 

I've also garnered a lot of inspiration from the book "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert. 
Basically just putting 100% into your passions and not expecting anything in return, because you love them. And not getting pulled down when things don't always go your way, because that is also life, and what matters is your dedication and nothing else. Your passion also doesn't owe you anything, it doesn't owe you rewards of any kind, monetary, success or anything, it's there to just be there, so we can enjoy this experience on earth, knowing that we lived it with full heart. 

I've started creating goals for myself every evening for the following day, of course I've been learning portuguese so they have involved that, they have involved step by step processes of starting my personal projects and carrying them through, also involving personal health -- so whether it's healthy food prep or exercise, meditation and then also daily journaling at the end of the day to track my progress and prepare for the next day. This has really fueled my motivation in a beautiful way, helping me keep on track with my work and my goals. 

In the past few months, I have stopped using shampoo from plastic containers -- I use bar soap now for everything. I have started making my own toothpaste -- my latest recipe is 1/4 cup of coconut oil 10 drops of organic mint oil, 3 drops of tea tree oil and 2-3 tbsp of baking soda. It seems to work great. However I think for best results also couple it with oil pulling and flossing using -- smartfloss -- I use smartfloss because it is amazing and can absorb essential oils. I realize smartfloss comes in a plastic container but one of my goals is to contact the company if they can sell the product with the plastic/ create a petition for them to sell the product without the plastic container-- or some kind of recycling/reusing program for the container. 

In the past few days, I've also started using water instead of toilet paper. This is no big deal for many other countries, in particular india where I've spent a significant amount of time, yet for other countries, this is unfortunately a new and bizarre concept, with bathrooms not set up for using water. So I bring with me a small bag with a small bottle of water and cloth so I can be prepared, the water for the washing and the cloth for drying. As I write this, I realize that this makes it much easier for women in the west to go toilet paper free as they often carry bags that can accommodate this, for men perhaps its more difficult. But a good start is start in the home. When traveling people usually have to bring some sort of back bag or bag anyway, even men. So anyway. All is possible! Lets save our trees!! 

The other thing is, I travel a lot. I'm not even sure what I can call my home and what isn't anymore.. because wherever I am has suddenly become home.. because I feel like a total vagabond. But anyway. Previously I would only compost in compost friendly homes. Yet now, I am finding ways to compost in homes that aren't set up for it. I recently stayed in an apartment where there were only potted plants. So what I did was make a veggie scrap smoothie and poured it onto the plants -- in particular the plants that were having pest issues. Who knows maybe it can help :) This way the scraps break down much easier and assimilate into soil faster. Helping the plant. 

I've also started to reconsider while shopping and avoiding things that come in plastic, this has meant that sometimes I buy conventional foods over organic foods because they don't come in plastic. However this is a lose lose situation. My heart can't figure out what is better.. conventional foods with agrotoxins.. or organic foods wrapped in material that doesn't decompose. Eeek. Best is to grow my own food... or work harder seeking out organic plastic free foods. Unfortunately I have yet to find in Brazil organic plastic free grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits.. etc. I will have to meet farmers and see what is possible. I have a friend starting a company where he will sell organic produce straight to consumers.. I feel there is an opportunity here, to sell bulk organic foods... but time will tell. Else some kind of movement, petitions, contacting farmers.. may also work. 

Also, a huge part of waste free living in my opinion is reducing our ecological footprint overall. Plant based eating/ eating more plants can help with this. Check out my other blog here, for recipes and ideas :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sociedade Chauá

For the past week and a half I have been staying at a beautiful initiative just outside of Curitiba, Brazil.

What initially attracted me to visit this place was:
1) Their dedication to preserving and regrowing the Araucaria Forest, a type of forest within the Atlantic Forest. They do this by, locating rare and endangered tree and plant species in the wild, harvesting their seeds, germinating them in the lab under various conditions to understand the best techniques and then planting those seeds in their nursery. The nursery provides these trees and plants on an non-monetary exchange basis to other NGOs, governmental organizations and land owners.

2) They take care of rescued birds, they have parrots, a toucan and cockatoos.

So far, while being here I have:
1) Helped feed the animals in the morning, which I love doing. I get to feed the toucans, the parrots, the pheasants, the bunnies and the sheep. The toucan and the parrots love visitors, they always come sit close to me while I am filling their bowls with fruit, seeds and their other special food.
I tried to teach one of the parrots, the more friendly one how to say 1, 2 and 3 in english, he got stuck on the 'th' part, and it was the cutest thing I ever witnessed for him to repeat that over and over. It struck me that he maybe hadn't heard that sound before as it's not a sound in Portuguese. These birds are in large enclosures, the wild would be the most ideal, however they have been living in captivity their whole lives and don't have the skills needed to survive on their own :(.

I decided to buy some bird toys for these sweet animals who maybe would like something additional in their homes. And in my search for bird toys on some dirt roads just outside of Curitiba, we happened to stumble across 4 pet stores all of which had very sad toys for birds, finally the last place we went directed us to go to 'birds paradise' just straight down the road.

We landed up at this place, and granted they actually had bird toys... and as I walked in with my friend, and we looked up and over... hundreds... of birds... locked in small cages.. isolated. Singing the saddest songs I'd ever heard. The energy was so overwhelming, I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. I had to walk away. I felt so helpless, and as these pet store managers sat there with their nice clothes helping the customers, I couldn't help but feel so strange inside.

I know people are ultimately just trying to provide for their families, and they do what makes money, and at the present moment, slavery, animal slavery in the form of entertainment pays well. The guy next to us bought 500 reias worth of bird stuff. Granted I did give money to this institution which I wasn't happy about, but I felt that the potential joy to these birds I've been caring for was worth it. And I pray that as a human family, as a society we recognize the pain that we create in our world through our use of animals. How we treat them as objects, devalue their worth, their quality of life, for our taste, pleasure, entertainment, products, snacks, clothes, meals... anything and everything.. we choose which ones we love, we choose which ones we eat, which ones we torture, or which ones are too 'stupid' to know the difference. These are OUR choices.. not theirs. Even the 'stupidest' person among us.. no one would smile and agree that that person is deserving of being killed brutally for their physical properties. We can live without animal products and animal entertainment. In fact, we can live much happier lives without this. We can embrace peace in all aspects of our lives not just conceptually, and I believe it starts with how we treat those otherwise treated the worst in our society, which are animals. Some believe that it doesn't make sense to do anything for animals, that there are 'better' things to give attention to such as human rights. Yes, I agree, absolutely give attention to human rights, it's necessary. Just because we believe in human rights doesn't mean we shouldn't believe in animal rights too, or do anything for the animals in addition.

Okay that was a long tangent, but all things animals related are too close to my heart to avoid tangents.... anyway, back to my work at Chaua :)

2) Helped reuse and recycle the plastic coverings for the seedlings, empty the containers, and refill them with soil. This is actually a huge job, and unfortunately most nurseries don't even do this, they would more likely throw the containers away and buy new. So it's a great effort to keep plastic from entering our waters, soils and being ingested by animals and people.

3) Editing an English proposal they have for a European environmental organization. Their proposal is in creating educational trails around their property featuring the rare and endangered plant and tree species of the Araucaria Forest, this would enable them to create more activities on their property in showcasing these plants and trees in their full form.

4) Helping to plant a native garden, featuring native peach trees and beautiful flowering bushes surrounding a small pond. Since the soil is super clayey, we needed to use a mixed soil that included compost, potting soil and sand.

5) Weeding in the nursery

6) Drying of shade clothes for the nursery plants

7) Building beds to expand the nursery area

8) Cleaning

That about sums it up for now :)

Some pictures from my stay so far:

The kitties finding my bed on the first day :) 

Brazilian ducks.. 

Love the hair... :) 

Love this parrot sooooo much <3 

They are so beautiful, I wish there was a way to rehabilitate them back into the wild... maybe there is

Getting comfortable...

I'm initiatives and goals at the moment in Brazil....

In between my wwoofing adventures, I stay with my good friend and together we are actually looking for a property to buy where we can host ecological training for both kids and adults, in addition to holistic healing retreats that include energy, food and nature therapies and meditation.

Projects currently involved with include:
1. Proposal writing for a vegan agroforestry community where the plan is to have ecological trainings with local farmers on how to be sustainable and profitable even with degraded soil, with the use of certain plants.
2. Developing Brazilian vegan industrial recipes for an otherwise non-vegan friendly factory that creates a lot of snack foods.
3. Bee green, an organization dedicated to waste free living. Their biggest project as of now is promoting reusable cups at bars and restaurants, to replace the disposable plastic cups. In addition to cloth bags in replacement of plastic bags.

1. At some point this year actually I would love to go waste free, make a commitment to not buy anything that comes with packaging, or containing plastic. And in the case that it's necessary for some reason or another, keep it limited to once a month and compose letters to the company that was bought from about how and why their practices are so wasteful and further, mail their packaging back to them using upcycled packaging, and in addition documenting and recording this new lifestyle, to help contribute to and propel this movement.
2. At some point this year become raw vegan again--or mostly, in addition to going fully local. This initiative will further reduce negative impacts by reducing oil and gas consumption, gas emissions and fracking.  In addition to just having amazing impacts on the body.
3. For the carbon used in transportation, fund efforts in tree planting to make up the difference.

And the journey continues

Six years ago, I started an adventure.

I had one backpack, a laptop bag and plane ticket. 

I was going to India for the first time. I had just graduated from Binghamton University. Interned at Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, and decided I needed more life experience. I decided to apprentice under Rico Zook, permaculture teacher and consultant, an American who worked and travelled India 6 months every year.

I fell in love as the plane hit the ground. 

It was my first time to a largely tropical country. The palm trees, the humidity. I felt I was home. 

I started a blog, "To India", documenting my amazing adventures and experiences. 

It was easily one of those most magical and beautiful times of my life. 

Experiences compounded on each other, and the next thing that I knew I was going back to school for a masters in Soil Science. 

I've always felt a pull to go to South America, however never really had a clear opportunity. I'm not really into the whole touristy scene, so if there is not a clear purpose for a trip, I won't go.

It has been within the last year that I started contact with someone in Brazil who wanted to start a vegan permaculture community. This community would hold farmer trainings to facilitate farmers moving more towards agroforestry, in a way to preserve the soil and the land. Otherwise soil in Brazil typically starts to degrade at year 5, under conventional practices.  Working with trees allows the ecology to be more in a natural state allowing the soil to be in a higher state of health. 

Things started to come together, as I also was able to connect with someone who could translate for us because I don't speak Portuguese and he didn't speak English. 

I also reconnected to a friend I had met in India, in Sadhana Forest -- a vegan community dedicated to reforestation. 

There was a time slot in June, where everyone could gather, and we could discuss the initial phases of this project. I didn't think that I would be able to make it to that, however radical changes in my life suddenly propelled me in that direction. 

The moment the plane hit the ground in Brazil, it was surreal, as if I had done it a million times, as if I was already there.

I must say, flying over the Amazon at sunrise was one of the most beautiful scenes I have been able to witness. It was gorgeous and I will see if I can post some pictures, although, pictures don't always capture the essence of the emotion felt at the time-- in addition to my phone breaking and I'm not sure I can recover the snaps. 

I went back to the US, to finish my masters, and now I am back in Brazil for the second time, currently wwoofing.

My plan is to stay a minimum of three months, wwoofing, learning from permaculturists and agroforestry experts, researching on my own time on initiatives in wildlife protection, preservation, soil, water and forest restoration, and other initiatives of communities, NGO's, government and institutions in this environmental work.

In addition to possibly finding funding for a vegan agroforestry community project, me and a close friend of mine who lives in Brazil are looking at properties to possibly buy in order to provide workshops on ecology, meditation, and alternative therapies.