Do the Math:’s Call to Arms

Last night, after taking some time to replenish my depleted energy levels, I dragged my mom to’s Do the Math Tour.  Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein spoke about climate change with a major focus on fossil fuels and their link to the environmental crisis in which we find ourselves.  They asked us to walk away with three important numbers:

1.  The world’s governments have collectively agreed that complete calamity would happen if the world’s temperature increases by 2 degrees Celsius.

2.  565 gigatonnes: the maximum amount of carbon that can be released into the atmosphere before we reach that 2 degree complete calamity limit.  It seems like a lot, but keep this in mind: we already release 30 gigatonnes per year giving us only 16 years before we hit that 565 number.

3.  2795 gigatonnes: the amount of carbon that would be produced by burning all the oil and coal to which the fossil fuel companies have currently identified and laid claim.  They intend to burn it all.  It is FIVE TIMES the 565 gigatonnes limit.

Do you know what this means?  Bill McKibben compared the oil companies to nuclear weapons companies in that their products intend to destroy life as we know it, but here’s the biggest difference: the oil companies intend for their weapons to deploy.  They are essentially waging war on humanity and our planet.  Scary thought, right?

It’s time to fight back.  It is no longer the time for merely quiet alternatives.  We must step it up and fight for our right to a planet that functions as nature intended.  This fight will be long, and we may not win on every front, but we have no choice except to fight.  There is no Planet B, no escape route.  Bill and his team at are asking us to stand up and demand that our institutions whether they be schools, universities, churches or our own private investment portfolios be divested from the fossil fuel industries.  He spoke of the fight around companies that benefited from apartheid in South Africa and how the boycott worked.  The time is now.

Want to be more involved? has put together an action kit that will help you figure out the steps to creating this change.  I pledge to fight these companies, to choose even more carefully than I already do, to divest my money is whatever way I can.  Will you join me?  Will you fight for your planet, for your future and for your children’s future?

And when you feel that you are just a tiny person compared to a huge company with crushingly-big resources, remember this photo and how powerful you are:

An Exciting Week

Before I get to all the activity that has been happening here at Sustainable Shanti this week, let me first make a confession: I’m not a very good blogger.  I blog the same way I journal–sporadically and only when I feel truly inspired or fired up about an issue.  When I was growing up, I thought something was wrong with me if I procrastinated.  As an adult, I have come to realize that my attention focuses on the things about which I care deeply and that often leads to living very much in the moment and not in regards to the technological world.  If you’re new here, be sure to check out my post on what it means for me to now own a computer and you’ll get a sense of why I tend to focus more on what’s in front of me instead of what’s going on online.

Now that my confession is over, let’s get on with the exciting news.  This past Thursday, I spent the day at the Brick Church Holiday Fair meeting some amazing, kindred spirited women: Sara Jane Mercer, Dawn Gallagher, Rebecca Casciano, and Britta Aragon of CV Skinlabs.  The day started at the early hour of 4am for me as I geared up, ready to go on a Sustainable Shanti crusade.



And here’s our table, ready to spread the love about Sustainable Shanti salves:


Yesterday was also an exciting day here as Tara Mackey’s review of Sustainable Shanti went live.  She loves the salves and I am so honored to be collaborating with her!  Her man also happens to feel like gold when using our products.  It seemed like the perfect time to introduce a new “In the News” section here on the website.  Check it out!


Brick Church Holiday Fair 2012

Have you heard yet?  Sustainable Shanti is going to be selling at the Brick Church Holiday Fair on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, this Thursday, November 15th, from 10am to 5pm!  Come over, meet the owner, get great gifts for everyone on your list AND help support a great cause!  Sounds like a winning ticket to me.  25% of the proceeds will be going to outreach programs for women and children in Harlem.  See you there!  Now…back to making more organic salve.

Be well, everyone!

Re-Post: What to Do If You Are Scared by Sandy

Colin Beavan, also known as the No Impact man, is a huge inspiration for me as an ordinary person who decided he had to change his habits because he didn’t want to be a negative impact on the planet.  Rather, he wanted to see if he could be a positive impact–energy-wise, carbon-wise, community-wise.  I have learned much from his journey and have made many many changes in my life because of his example.

Colin has written an incredible post about Hurricane Sandy and I urge you to read it.  His post follows, and the link is here if you want to visit his site.  And if you live in Brooklyn, seriously consider voting for this man come Tuesday.

What to do if HurricanE Sandy scared you

Dear friends,

I don’t say this often but I am scared. Not scared to the point of paralysis. Not scared enough to run away. Not scared enough to stop trying to help. Not scared enough to think we’re doomed. Just scared enough to feel worried for myself, my family, my friends, my community, my country, and my world.

I was lucky when Hurricane Sandy hit. My daughter Bella and I put on our waterproofs in the early hours and ran around Brooklyn’s Fort Greene park in the wind and rain with Frankie–our dog–and our Occupy Wall Street activist friend/hero Monica Hunken.

That night, the lights flickered a couple of times. I lost my internet for three hours. Frankie the dog hid in the upstairs bathroom bathtub. That was the extent of it.

But when I woke up, lower Manhattan was flooded and without power. All the coastal parts of Brooklyn and Queens from Red Hook to Coney Island through the Rockaways and Hamilton Beach were hammered. The wind had driven a fire through Queens that destroyed so many houses. And the world’s most amazing subway system was brought to its knees. To say nothing of poor Staten Island and coastal New Jersey.

We in the Tri-State Area didn’t get Katrina. But we got a taste of her.

Yes, there are some good parts. New Yorkers have been showing up some of the emergency shelters in such numbers that they have been turned away. There are donation drives and volunteer efforts. And about a gazillion New Yorkers have taken to cycling.

But there is a lot of suffering. And a lot of fear not of what Sandy brought. But of what next year’s storm will bring. And the year after that. And after that. First Irene, now Sandy, for how many years in a row can New York City withstand a “once in a century” storm, people are asking?

I hung up the phone with a friend just a few minutes ago. She said, “In some ways, this is way more scarey than 9/11, because you get the feeling that it could happen again and again and again.”

In a coffee shop this afternoon, everyone at every table was talking about climate change. People are talking about where they will go next time. To an aunt’s in New Hampshire. A friend with three cottages in Maine. People are talking about their escape plan for when New York stops functioning.

Katrina, Irene, Sandy, droughts all summer, busted corn crops, water shortages in the southwest: it’s hard to believe we aren’t seeing what the climate scientists predicted. But sooner. Way sooner than they said.

It feels ironic and sad. That the war in Iraq sparked by 9/11 may have got us what we wanted–control over more oil. But that burning that self-same oil has brought us another mini-9/11. Except that this one we are kind of doing to ourselves.

Fracking–the drilling for natural gas by injecting poisonous chemicals into the same rock formations that our drinking comes from. Fighting in the Middle East. Drilling in the arctic. Mountaintop removal in Appalachia. Mining the Canadian tar sands. Building the pipelines. This is bonkers.

Especially when the sun shines everywhere. The wind blows everywhere. The rivers run everywhere. We can generate our power in better, cheaper, safer ways.

Of course, there are reasons for resistance. Our economy is based on fossil fuels. Changing it would be a gargantuan effort. There would be a cost to a transition. But the costs of not making the transition will be much higher. Ask the NY Mass Transit Authority, which is still pumping out the tunnels. Or ask the citizens of New Orleans.

But this isn’t a bitch fest. It’s an appeal.

Years ago, when I did the No Impact Man experiment, I went on the Good Morning America show and I said it wasn’t important that all Americans did as much as I did. “We must each just do something,” I said.

I was mistaken. We must each do a lot.

We all–including me–have a tendency to think that shaking our fist at the TV news or leaving an angry comment on a blog or “clictivism” is some sort of an expression. We need to do more. Not just more at home, but more in our civic engagement, more in the citizen guiding of how our society moves forward.

In fact, I’d argue that we–all of us–need to find a way to dedicate at least some part of our lives to solving our problems. Climate change we need to fix, yes. But also we need to accept that the economic system we live in is driving that climate change. Consumption, as the basis for economy, has become like a winter coat that needs to be shed. It no longer serves us.

Now, I’m not going to claim that I know what each of us should do, how each of us should help to bring about the Great Transformation. I don’t think anyone exactly knows. This, by the way, was the great criticism of Occupy Wall Street, back in the day. That they didn’t say exactly what we should do. They didn’t make their demands clear, the press kept saying.

That was Occupy’s strength in my view. The willingness to bring attention to problems we don’t quite know the solutions for. Occupy didn’t have concrete demands because none of us quite know what we should be demanding quite yet. Occupy was saying “stop ignoring problems just because we don’t know the solution!!!!!!”

You may disagree with me. You may say, we know the solution, it’s renewable energy. But where is the political will to bring that change about when the fossil fuel industry has spent $150 million in this election cycle?

You may say, the solution is getting corporate money out of politics. But how do we do that when the politicians we need to vote for such a thing are the beneficiaries of that self-same corporate money?

You may say, the solution lies in measuring Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product. But how do we get that done?

We have lots of ideas about what would fix things, but we have no idea how to actually get those ideas instituted. That’s kind of where we are at a loss. How do we actually bring about the change?

It’s not to say we can’t bring it about. But it is to say that a lot more of us are going to have to join the search for the solutions and the effort to institute them.

In a way, what I am saying is the same as what Occupy said: “Stop pretending that you can’t help just because you don’t know exactly how to help!!!!!!”

We all have to start dedicating some of our lives to these problems. Not just voting for the right people. Not just leaving comments on blogs. Not just having intense conversations over coffee.

So what then?

Here’s a thought. Decide to dedicate five to ten hours a week to helping figure out what to do. Then use those five to ten hours to bring your personal gifts to the search for societal solutions and the means of implementing them.

If you are political then, whatever side of the aisle you are on, start going to your party’s meetings and insist that they address themselves to the major, new-world problems we are facing instead of grumbling over the same stuff they have for 50 years. Get them to try to be leaders instead of winners.

If you are an artist or musician or writer, use your talents to bring more and more attention to our problems and the quest for the solution. Be a constant reminder of the peril our society and world faces.

If you are a therapist or life coach, find a way to introduce to your clients the idea that the problems they face are the same problems all of us are facing. Financial insecurity, for example, is something we can fix together better than any one of us can fix alone.

If you are a banker, bring your personal values and your heart and soul to work with you. The expression “it’s only business” has to be jettisoned. This idea that the free market will fix things so we can ignore the dictates of our conscience needs to be fixed.

If you have a spare bedroom, find an activist who can’t drag themselves away from the work they are doing for all of us long enough to earn themselves some rent. Home and safety for those on the front line of social change is a wonderful service.

If you have two feet, march with my friends at whenever you have a chance.

All of us have our own ways to help.

One thing is clear, whatever our individual contribution, every one of us needs to be moving back into the political system and the democracy. We are all so disgusted by it that our instinct is to abandon it. In this case, our instinct is wrong. We totally need to Occupy our democracy. We need to flood it with people, with us.

Overall, though, my point here is that all of us have a role to play in our cultural healing. There is no leader who can tell us how to contribute. Each of us has to look around us and use our own minds and souls to see what needs doing and how we are best suited to do it. Each of us must contribute in our own way.

I began this piece by saying that I’m scared. Because I am. But my fear is just a sign that I need to do something. There is really only one thing I know how to do–to write. And so I’m doing it. I don’t know if if will help. But it is the one thing I know how to do.

What is the one thing you know how to do? What is the one thing you can dedicate a slice of your life to?

We can’t leave it to the politicians or the designers or the Occupiers or the activists. It’s up to each of us.

Because–and I’ve said and written this many times–the question is not whether each of us is the type of person who can make a difference. The question is whether we are the type of people who want to try to make a difference. And Sandy has told us we all need each other to try.


PS I’d love to hear in the comments what you are doing or plan to do.

PPS If you want to let your Brooklyn friends know that I’m running for Congress and ask them to vote for me on Tuesday, that would be great too.

Hurricane Sandy Sale: 25% OFF!

Hi Folks!  Hoping to score some great deals before the madness of holiday shopping is upon us?  Looking for that perfect hostess gift for all those holiday parties I know you’ll be attending?  You’re in great luck, then!  We’re hosting a Sustainable Shanti sale over at our store.  You can get to it by clicking HERE.

The details:

25% Off Select Items (In the Hurricane Sandy Sale section)
Quantities are limited and the sale lasts as long as the supplies do.
Shop early to get the best selection.

Be well, do good, and spread the love!

Biking to the Wreckage

This afternoon, I decided it was time to leave my 8th floor encampment and venture out into the muck that Manhattan has become.  It has been strangely quiet and calm here in northern Harlem, though I had to laugh that there were still some guys hanging outside the deli during the worst of the storm.  Guess they weren’t around when brains and common sense were being distributed.

Ironically, Hurricane Sandy turned Manhattan into what New Yorkers think it is: an island unto itself.  We’re often accused of being a bit snobbish regarding our city roots, those of us that were born and raised here especially so, but when we lose our electricity, subways, buses, airports, taxis, bridges and tunnels, many of us find ourselves bewildered.  There was a flurry of facebook postings that mocked our inability to actually prepare for a natural disaster.  Since Sunday evening, though, this city has slowed down–perhaps it takes a hurricane to make the city that never sleeps stop its incessant pulse.

My trusty steed, aka my mom’s steel-framed road bike from 35 years ago, and I headed downtown–all the way down to the Battery.  Our neighborhood here in Harlem emerged from Sandy’s wrath relatively unscathed and I had to see the destruction for myself–afterall, I have spent the past two and a half days cooped up in an apartment only to see images on the news and hear the wind howling outside.

What I saw today, was nothing short of stunning, even moving me to tears at points.  I encountered the expected: the broken crane on 57th Street and 6th Avenue, the lack of street lights down most of 9th Avenue, the gushing hoses full of water from basements working tirelessly, and the mud, dirt and piles of leaves strewn about the streets.  Biking past one entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, I was immediately surprised at how dry it was.  Clearly the pumps have been going and going and going.


However, when I went slightly further south to the other tube of the tunnel (there are two), I was shocked; my hand rising immediately to my mouth as I gasped.  Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.  The tunnel was filled to the ceiling, piled with debris and barricades once placed with the best intentions.  It was so sad, such an in-your-face smack from the hurricane.

Being there and seeing the aftermath actually reinforced my belief that we, every single one of us, will be called upon to make potentially drastic changes to our lives and lifestyles because our environment demands it.  We have a choice, though: we can choose to respect the earth with our actions, understanding that we will perish before the mass we call our planet does.  Or, we can ignore what our natural world is telling us: our planet needs help, desperately.

My eleven mile ride home was a race against the encroaching darkness (remember: no street lights!), and a good hour to digest what I had seen and how I can be of service to this world.  As I biked through the streets of Battery City, a smile came across my face when I saw the families returning, many of them toting costumed children for their night of trick-or-treating.  This city of mine is a tough, stubborn bi-atch at times and we will always find a way to adapt to our situation, but perhaps this adaptation calls for something more than a sheer rebuild of what previously exists.  I hope that the companies involved in the rebuilding use this time to think out of the box and assess what can be done to prepare for our changing climate.  Given that this is my third hurricane in the northeast in three years, I cannot believe that we are only at the beginning of a pattern which will become the norm in the future.

And through the past three days, as since October 1886, our Statue of Liberty, our beacon of light, promise and hope, stood today still guarding our harbor as the sun set.  This New Yorker roamed her crown as a child, and as an adult, I was heartened by her sight, strength and courage to meet our storm head-on and with conviction, as she has so many immigrants and families–mine included.  I only hope that all the communities devastated by this storm have the same conviction to find life, joy and hope in the wreckage.

Business Beware Show


We’re being quoted on Business Beware’s show, currently focusing on small business owner advice.  Check it out HERE!  The quotation is about half-way down, but in case you don’t want to search for it….

“My best advice to someone would be to do your homework. Whatever aspect of a business with which you’re dealing, you need to understand the steps you need to take to be successful, whether it’s filing the proper legal documents or handling unhappy customers.” –Emily Trower-YoungSustainable Shanti

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

Monday Miracles: Session Three

Every day, women are bombarded with the message that they aren’t enough for the world as they are.  Our hair isn’t straight enough or curly enough; our eyes aren’t the right color; our legs are too long or too short; we are too smart or not smart enough; we are too thin or aren’t thin enough.  The list goes on and on, and there are many markets that seize upon our insecurities and magnify them.  Now we should all know that one shouldn’t look at a magnified mirror too often lest we begin to think that our perceived imperfections become our reality.

Sadly, I know this pressure to be perfect all too well having grown up at an girl’s school where perfection was the golden standard by which we were all judged.  According to my classmates and teachers, and therefore to myself, I came up embarrassingly short on the list and I had a difficult time believing in my own beauty or worth through my geeky braces and glasses, despite having a strong, positive mom and grandmother around me.  The other cacophony of messages was simply louder than theirs.  It has taken me many years, and much struggle, to come to realize that while I am not perfect, I do not have any desire to be so.  Our imperfections and quirks are what make us individuals.  Why do we strive to be a cookie-cutter image of a magazine model, when it is merely a contrived image of a fake ideal?

Young women growing up today have many more challenges with their self-image than I ever did, as the internet all too often becomes a pathway to bullying and despair that they don’t “measure up”.  It seems apt to me, then, that today’s Monday Miracle organization  aims straight at the heart of these problems.  As a social action campaign, Miss Representation seeks to empower women of all ages, finding actions and steps we can all take to foster healthy body images and ideas of self-worth in young girls and women alike, as well as taking on sexism wherever it exists.  Inspired by a 15-year-old named Shea Backes, their current “Take 5 Campaign” asks us to bring a conscious eye to our daily routines with the number five in mind–can we reduce our makeup spending by $5?  Or spend five less minutes to get ready?  Or eliminate five products from your makeup routine?  The purpose of this challenge is to shift our focus away from habits that remind us to grasp at our perfect ideal.  As the women at Miss Representation wrote in the campaign announcement email, “When you consider how many other ways society seems bent on holding women back, it’s a shame that we spend so much of our time on outer beauty. What might be possible if we used that time to educate ourselves, help others or solve some of the world’s problems instead?”  We are all perfectly imperfect, and I for one, want to live my life loving my quirks instead of trying to be someone or something I’m not.  It certainly feels better to put my time into actions that make positive changes instead of trying to perfect the color on my eyelids.

This challenge very much made me think about my daily habits and how I could add some more positivity to my life.  As I don’t wear makeup (I steal my mom’s mascara when I absolutely want to wear some!), I can’t spend less money on products or less time on getting ready or reduce the number of products I use.  Instead, I’ve chosen to take five minutes a day to meditate on some good old love of self.  Mind you, not the selfish, unaware of others kind of attention, but instead practicing some more thoughts of self-worth.  Starting a company such as Sustainable Shanti is inevitably exhilarating and simultaneously stressful: taking five minutes in my day to ground myself will not only benefit me, but also ultimately the company’s future.

So tell me, will you take Miss Representation’s challenge?  And if you decide to join us change-makers, what habit will you transform by the number five?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

As always…be well, do good, and spread the love!