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.

Small Changes, Big Impact

Looking for some simple ways to make a big positive environment impact?  Some of the following tips have been said over and over by many, but they bear repeating because the majority of people have yet to implement them.  The changes our planet’s health requires will be mostly small, individually-based ones to make the biggest difference.  It all adds up.  Why not try to incorporate one new habit a week?  Sound like too much?  Try one a month.  Put it on your calender, electronic or paper, to remind yourself of your upcoming pledge to your planet.

  • Change out those lightbulbs!  Replacing your incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient CFL bulbs.  They can reduce your electricity use by 75% and last at least SIX times longer.  Feel they’re too expensive?  Ikea makes inexpensive CFL bulbs.  And don’t forget to recycle them by taking burned out bulbs back to accepting stores.
  • Switch your laundry detergent to a plant-based product.  Laundry detergents such as the ever-popular Tide and All are petroleum-based products.  Everyone moans and groans about how much a barrel of oil costs in regards to gas prices, but most people don’t realize that many of our everyday products use oil, too!  There are many effective alternatives on the market, Seventh Generation and Ecover being two of the most widely available brands.  Do you really want to wash your clothes in oil??
  • Buy organically-grown food.  There is much debate in the media currently about the nutritional benefits of certified organic produce.  For me, the debate shouldn’t be so much about the nutritional content, though it does deserve scrutiny, but more about how our “conventional” food is grown.  Pesticides that wipe out precious pollinators and require haz-mat suits don’t belong on my food, in my body or in the earth’s soil.  Chemical fertilizers are just that: chemicals.  Again, not in my food, body or soil.  Organically-grown food eliminates the chemicals that are damaging our bodies and their well-being, and pollute our planet’s natural resources.
  • Even better, buy locally-grown food.  Have you ever tasted a tomato that was just picked the day before after being allowed to grown and ripen in the fields, living out its perfect tomato destiny?  It is like eating ripe, juicy, glorious sunshine.  Our food is trucked and flown across our country and from abroad, meaning that produce is picked before it is ripe and is many days old by the time it reaches you.  Buying locally not only cuts down on the carbon footprint of your food, it also keeps your dollars where they can do the most good: in the hands of your neighbors, not big corporations.  Small family farms used to be the bread and butter of our agricultural system but they are fast-disappearing.  Help them stay alive by supporting their produce.  You can find out where and how your food was grown, and maybe even make a friend in the process.
  • Use re-usable cloth bags.  Say no to plastic….always.  Get in the habit of using your bags by putting a few in your car (no excuses at the grocery store), throw one in your purse or backpack for unexpected purchases, hang them on your front door handle so you won’t forget them when you leave the house.
  • Take public transportation or walk.  If you live in a city, this one is a no-brainer, but if you live in a more rural or suburban area, it can be a real challenge.  Consolidate your errands or carpool to work if you can.  Biking can also be a great way to travel longer distances and you get exercise and fresh air in the process!  Win-win!

Let these few tips soak into your psyche and see if you can find ways of incorporating them into your daily routines.  I’ll post more ways to go green later on after you’ve had some time to get these to seem normal.  One more parting thought:

Saturdays = Farmer’s Market

What an absolutely gorgeous day to wander around the Union Square Farmer’s Market!  The bounty of the season seems almost surreal: bicolor corn, heirloom tomatoes in so many colors and shapes, Peruvian Purple potatoes, fresh mozzarella balls made from local milk, gigantic watermelons, juicy peaches and apricots and plums!  The list simply goes on and on.

So what’s all this buzz about farmer’s markets and eating locally?  Why the big fuss?  Well, think back to what a fresh, just-off-the-vine tomato tastes like.  It’s like the sun has been captured in a fruit.  The taste is absolutely divine.  Now, think about what a tomato in the middle of winter tastes like: dry, mealy, bland.  Different foods grow better in different weather (asparagus are the first harbingers of spring in late April, morphing into strawberries in early June, and on and on).

Eating through the seasons is not only a constant new adventure for your tastebuds, it’s also the way Nature intended.  Winter is a time to slow down, yielding squashes, beets, potatoes, carrots and parsnips.  Spring is a time of rebirth and we see the first eager signs of summer yet to come: asparagus popping up through snow.  Summer is an explosion from every plant, and when the living is easy: food takes less preparation–a handful of blueberries, slices of watermelon, corn and tomato salads.

Buying from local farmers helps keep dollars in their hands and in your community instead of sending it to a big box store executive.  You have power as a consumer–every dollar counts–and you can vote to keep your neighboring farmers in business.  Buying directly from them also presents an incredible opportunity to really learn where your food comes from.  They can tell you how they grow their food, and what they believe in terms of environmental stewardship.  Plus, there is nothing like the excitement of watching (and tasting!) the seasons roll through your life.  It’s a connection to the earth, no matter where you live or what your lifestyle is.

Want to find local farmers, but don’t know where to start?  Check out LocalHarvest, a website dedicated to connecting consumers with farmers, markets and CSA shares.  Time for me to go make a basil, heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella sandwich!