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!

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!

Wishing on a Star

As I was driving home tonight, I looked up at the crisp clear night and the stars nearly took my breath away.  Their majesty speaks words I never could, and I wish that my photographs captured their beauty better.  For those of you who don’t get to see many stars because of city light pollution, and for those of you who are lucky enough to marvel at them regularly, here’s a small taste of what is outside my window right now:

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you’ll see so many more stars!  At the bottom of the photo, there are five stars that make a slightly-funky looking “M”.  That’s Cassiopeia, the vain Greek mythological queen, and she’s one of the constellations that you use to find Polaris, the north star.  It’s always a comfort to me when I see her in the sky, as though I’m home wherever I am in the world.

And I’ll leave you on a somewhat humorous note here at 1am.  It’s freezing here so I’m forced to snuggle up in the most amazing sleeping bag ever made (yes, it’s a Western Mountaineering!) as I write this post:


Good Night!  I wish you many beautiful dreams of starry skies!

For the Beauty of the Earth, or How I Rediscovered My Inner Spark

This weekend, I’ve had the immense pleasure of visiting a dear friend of mine, Kristen, a talented organic farmer who lives on the edge of the Shawangunk Mountains in upstate New York.  Kristen has one of those beautiful souls that shines through everything she does and says, and visiting her is always like returning home.

As we spent yesterday afternoon covering her lettuce beds in preparation for a possible nighttime frost, I was reminded of how intensely satisfying I find being connected to the earth.  This week has been particularly rough here at Sustainable Shanti with many potentially big, heart-breaking, but necessary changes looming in the near future, and as I struggle to come to terms with these decisions, getting my hands dirty in the soil and laughing in the sunshine was incredible medicine for my achy-breaky soul.

Sitting here in front of the wood stove with a cup of excellent coffee warming my hands, I am able to slow and take stock of life as it currently presents itself.  I believe in giving thanks for those who make our life journey easier, and I am grateful for friends like Kristen, who light my path when I can’t find my proverbial headlamp.  Despite the bumps in the road with Sustainable Shanti this week, Kristen and her farm remind of me of why I care so deeply about our planet earth and how we treat it: it is our home, the place that provides us with sustenance to live.  In return, how can we not find a piece of our hearts to devote to nurturing stewardship in its honor?

While I am a firm believer that we each have an opportunity to change our daily habits into more earth-nurturing ones, Sustainable Shanti is my greater giving platform.  My dream is that it will enable me to not only help others take better care of themselves by utilizing nature’s bountiful sustainable gifts, but I hope it will eventually provide the opportunity to support other women as they embark on their own entrepreneurship journeys.  This business isn’t just a money-maker in my mind; it’s a platform to create positive change in the world.

Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we cannot survive without the planet on which we live.  There is no other alternative.  With that in mind and the dirt still under my fingernails, my resolve to teach love of planet and of self has been reaffirmed.  No matter what changes I will have to make to keep Sustainable Shanti going, I will do it because I cannot stop caring about my home.  I hope that you all will join me in some way on this journey to be well, do good in the world, and spread love to all whom you encounter.

Vile Vinyl

Alright, it’s been a while since I last wrote, but it’s time to get back on the proverbial blog wagon.  The other night I went to a film screening of the documentary Blue Vinyl (available on Netflix), hosted by the Center for Health, Environment, & Justice at the Aperture Gallery in Chelsea, NYC.  If you’re in the city, be sure to go see their current exhibit, “Petrochemical America”.  As an art student in college, I was always warned about the dangers of cutting polyvinyl chloride piping (aka PVC) on the power saws because the dust can make you sick, but I had no idea just how toxic this insidious material is to our lives, to the lives of those who make it, and to the environment.  And it’s EVERYWHERE!

Everywhere??  Yup, everywhere.  PVC, also known simply as vinyl, has permeated so many facets of our consumer culture that it seems amazing life functioned before its invention.  Some of the most well-known forms of vinyl are PVC pipes, vinyl shower curtains, vinyl flooring in schools, vinyl siding for houses, children’s clothing and toys, garden hoses, disposable medical supplies and even those old vinyl records–basically any plastic with a #3 on the bottom.

So let’s break down the problems with this plastic beyond “it’s toxic!”  There are major problems with the material from the beginning to the end of its life cycle.  The chemicals used to make vinyl are highly toxic, and scientists have shown that there are links between workers’ exposure and greatly increased risks for liver damage, bone softening and rare forms of liver cancer known as angiosarcoma.  Additionally, the communities where the vinyl factories exist are being poisoned by the toxins release by the factories.  Dioxin, a small family of potent carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), is a by-product of the manufacturing process and is released into the air.  They have been linked to severe health problems including cancer, endocrine disruption (meaning they interfere with the reproductive system), endometriosis, neurological damage, birth defects and impaired child development, and finally, reproductive and immune system damage.

That’s right….the people who live in the communities surrounding the factories are literally breathing in toxic air.  Is the name Erin Brockovitch starting to pop up in anyone else’s head?  Or is that just me?

The lights of the chemical factories in Cancer Alley, a section of the Mississippi River that stretches from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo credit: Richard Misrach. From “Petrochemical America”, Aperture Gallery, NYC.

Hang in there with me: we’re far from done.  To make vinyl flexible, a la the ubiquitous smelly shower curtain, additives called phthalates are added to the production line.  No surprise, they are extremely toxic and carcinogenic, and are linked to severe health problems including increased asthma rates, reproductive problems in boys including decreased sperm counts and genital mutations, and cancer.  Naaaasty.  Heads up, ladies cause phthalates are also on the list of the top ten most dangerous chemicals in cosmetics.  They are pervasive to say the least.

Alright, so the factories are poisoning their communities and workers….let’s move on to what happens when vile vinyl hits you, the consumer.  We have all experienced the joys of opening up a brand-new shower curtain: that smell that makes you suddenly not want to be in the room!  The shower curtain is “off-gassing”, also known as the evaporation of volatile chemicals.  This process can continue for many years after the initial installation, meaning that you are constantly being exposed to these chemicals in your home, your car, your schools and your office.  Are we having fun yet???

Vinyl can also be dangerous to consumers if it is burned, such as in a house fire.  The very innocent-looking vinyl siding suddenly becomes a toxic hazard to you and your neighbors. Think about how sick people have become from their exposure to the World Trade Center towers burning.  (N.B. The people closest to me will tell you that I have strong feelings regarding discussions of September 11, 2001 and abhor its mention in most circles, but it is one of the best-known examples of the extreme dangers of burning vinyl.)  We sheath our houses in materials that can potentially kill us and our neighbors.  Is the convenience worth it to you?

Lastly, let’s look the end-stage of vinyl’s life.  Because it is not a recyclable plastic, there are only two other options for disposal: burning it in incinerators, the dangers of which I’ve already covered, and dumping it in our landfills.  The latter option means that a material which is harmful throughout its life now sits for untold centuries, without degrading in a safe manner.  Plastics don’t degrade in the same way that organic materials do.  They photo-degrade, meaning that they break up into smaller and smaller more toxic particles, which enter our water supplies, our fish populations and ultimately, us, the animals we raise and eat, and the plants we grow and consume.

Before you throw your hands up in despair, let’s look at solutions to this massive problem.

Life did exist and function quite well before vinyl came onto the market.

First of all, avoid buying it wherever and whenever you can!  Be an aware consumer.  Building a new house or building?  Find out what’s in those building materials.  Don’t buy PVC piping–use copper or HDPE pipes.  The Center for Health, Environment & Justice have many resources to get started in learning about their campaign to remove PVC from our lives.  You can check it out HERE.  They are currently working to get the New York City Public Schools to go vinyl-free in their buying habits and are happy to answer questions.

I’ll leave you with this ultimate question when it comes to any toxic material: what is it worth to you?  By buying and using products made from vinyl, we are making a moral decision on whose life is worth more.  Are you willing to buy a product that you now know harms those who make it in order to have a more convenient or less expensive lifestyle?  Making environmentally-friendly choices involves being aware that there are other peoples’ lives at stake in this world and in the future.  What are they worth?

Be well, do good, and spread the love,