Friday, October 30, 2009

My Green Initiatives

Corporations everywhere are not the only groups who should be scrutinizing their usages, attempting to reduce their carbon footprint, and other environmental impacts. I think that even though the recession is "over" according to some, a valuable lesson in paring down and keeping things genuine and real was learned in the past few years. Here's my list of things I am doing to reduce my impact, stretch the dollar, and be a little more real:

  • Making Christmas and or Halloween crafts and gifts out of scraps and outdoor goodies you gathered yourself
  • Attend (or better yet: plan) a "stuff" swap- recycle fashions and goodies that you don't need/want/or fit anymore, because someone else may be able to love it more than you once did! (Often these are planned with a $10.00 fee to participate, going to charity, and you can bring and take as much as you want. Everything left over gets donated to a charity or second hand store)
  • Use hard biodegradable soap in your bathroom instead of liquid soap with disposable plastic containers (which often are not qualified to be recycled). If you use a refillable sort, purchase the soap in recyclable soft plastic bulk container
  • Switch to biodegradable soap in your wash. Often these smell better, are gentler and clean just as well as regular detergent.You can also use a lot less than you often do!
Ok. Well. Short and sweet. Tomorrow I go looking for a place to do my internship, instead of my boring one here in Edmonton. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dream Home

As indecisive as I am, I at least know that someday, somehow, I would like to have a home which reflects me and my stylistic choices (read: modern, simple, low key). I also understand that the chances of me finding something perfect is unlikely unless I build it myself. Or pay someone to build it for me at least. But I will not likely have the money to pay a fancy architect to design a whole house around me, nor would I like to spend that much time with such a type A personality as many architects tend to be (I wrote all, then remembered my friends moms original profession, and so changed to many; I can't over generalize...). So. Where do I go from there?

Lucky for me, the modern housing movement has provided tonnes of choice for people who want clean,(sometimes) green, cheaper than building from scratch type housing. While my location (read: occasionally, no scratch that, frequently disgustingly cold Alberta, Canada) means I have to do a lot of research to find houses which will meet my insulating needs, all is NOT lost! This may actually make things easier since I am able to readily dispose of many of the choices available simply because they do not cater to my climate.

Me and my husbands top choice at this time:
The amazing FlatPak. I drool when I visit this site, and love the flicker albums of proud home owners. The approachable rhetoric within the site's FAQ and explanations is inviting, and creates a rapport (with a website... Crazy I know.) The fact that FlatPak is versatile and changeable is part of what gets me excited, because I don't want a house which is exactly like everyone elses, which is the downside to most modular homes.

Second on my list, and mainly due to not having that choice attached:
The Royal Q Series. This Canadian made company certainly offers some beautiful structures. They also have the more traditional modular spaces, but this line of cabins and urban options are quite attractive.

I really admire the m-house which utilizes every nook and cranny of space, and is really cute, but I really desire to have something slightly more open and house-like- as if I was living in a house.... I live in a 500 sq ft loft right now, and the layout for this 1000 sq ft. model doesn't appear much different.

If people are looking for prefab choices for their main home or for vacation homes at their local lake or acreage (I give them props for reducing their carbon footprint by staying close to home!) I suggest these two sites for linking to many different prefab companies:

Fabprefab list
This is my top choice, because it seems to have chosen only the best of the best.

This summary definitely provides a broad overview of many different designer styles, just helping people get going in the right direction.

The secondary portion of this post: do we really need more buildings? There are many places here in Edmonton which are basically abandoned, zoned for business, which would likely be really interesting conversions into single unit or multi-family homes. Yes, they would be industrial and weird and not every ones cup of tea. But would it be better to convert these buildings rather than increasing the urban sprawl and developing yet another piece of land into a residence? Would the amount of structural changes needed cost more than just building new with the innovative choices available from some of the above websites? What if we started using disposed goods to make more things? (If you visit nothing else, visit this link. It's the funnest.) Or would finding ways to use these goods be more work than what is saved?

I could digress further into the cyclical state of our world and waste, and how to solve the ever mounting problems. Instead, I open the floor to you, readers. What's "better"? New green housing, or converting an exsisting space into desired housing?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Edmonton: Green, or greenwashing?

How many people can say that their city puts their normal residential garbage through a giant composting center before going to land fill? I don't know the answer to that, but within Alberta, the answer is almost a million... Which begs the question: How many people actually know what happens to their garbage, aside from it being collected every couple of days?

I am lucky enough to live in a city where recycling is included in my taxes. That means all I have to do is put all paper, plastic, aluminum and other recyclables into a blue bag, and it gets sorted at a recycling center.

Like I alluded to in the first paragraph, Edmonton composts all garbage sent to their facility. They also manage one of the most advanced recycling and electronics recycling facilities in North America. I am happy to live in a community with a progressive stance on sustainable living. Out off all our garbage, only half ends up in the landfill. Last year I wrote a policy proposal to institute the use of biodegradable utensils and take out packaging within the city. This would likely reduce the amount of plastics remaining in the garbage system, reducing the amount of remaining waste to between 25-40%.

That said, problems are present. Currently, the industrial composting system has regular outages, when all garbage is rerouted directly to the landfill facility until the system is running again. This means that for what could be weeks at a time, our supposed amazing facility is down for the count. When the last assessment was done, there was the suggestion for a complete replacement. This was unfortunately not done, and as such the whole waste management process within Edmonton is hit or miss.

That doesn't stop Edmonton from propping themselves up whenever possible, touting their amazing feats of green. We have a parks space which is more than 17 times larger than Central Park in New York. While this is admirable, and I have recently come to realize just how special Edmonton is, Edmonton also has a responsibility as a progressive city to admit the issues which are present, and address how the city will tackle the challenges in the future.

I am excited to see what the ideas are, and how I can help.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My buddy Jodi

So. I am tooting the horn of my excellent education: The Department of Human Ecology finishes ones incredibly well rounded education with a firm dose of reality: a 6 week practicum within a business, government agency, non profit organization related to your chosen field of interest, and uses it to make sure you have something recent and relevant to add to your CV. Not totally necessary for an old cat like myself who has some generic office work already under my belt, but it also gives people a great starting point for a master's thesis... Case and point: Jodi!

Jodi came back from Nepal motivated, happy, experienced, and ready to educate all of us on how every choice we make can help or hinder. Her discussion over a lunch of grilled cheese and fries was much more relaxed than the interview provided in the link, and attentions were split between this experience and her recent decision to marry the love of her life. Her words regarding the poverty which she encountered had an impact which brought me back to my desires to live simply, ethically, and happily.

I know that globalization has brought us all closer, and there is no way to go back to each country producing only for itself, which I don't think ever really happened anyways. But historically speaking, most people were able to trade or bargain and receive something with relative value compared to what they were providing. At this point in history, the glutton in us is not playing fair with people in a "some food is better than no food" situation. I would like to one day own a business, and I want to do so without pulling the wool over the eyes of someone less fortunate than myself. I think of it this way: The only reason I am in my shoes and not making them is a twist of luck. If I keep that in mind, perhaps I will be a business person I respect, and who makes an impact on the way things are done, even if just in my chosen corners of the world.

Jerry had an epiphany about becoming the type of agent good athletes deserve. He found a passion for something he was good at, and revelled in that passion, not the money he made. This is what life is all about. This is why people endeavor to DO things.

Please. Think about who you are, who you want to be, who your kids would have been if they were born to someone else across from where you are in the world right now. And begin to do right by these people. By these people, I mean all people. By the people who you live near, who need encouragement to make smart choices. By the people who live far from you, who cut the threads from your jeans before you wear them*. By your family, who deserve a you who makes responsible decisions. Do right by yourself- you deserve to know you make a difference. You deserve clothes made by people who got paid a living wage. Make this world less of a consumer driven machine, and revere it's natural beauty and potential.

Viva Fair Trade!

*See this movie. It is amazing, and makes you realize that things here may be cheap, but people 'pay' for low cost clothing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Time For Change

Reflection brings personal scrutiny. Scrutiny brings about a personal needs assessment. Personal needs assessment leads to action plan. Action plan leads to acting on plan. Action leads to results.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Death in the Time of Cookies, and other comedies.

I went to a movie last night. Me and some fellow students went to a delicious new movie about roller derby. That's right, W.hip It. It was amazing. I am not a lover of girly movies just because they're girly. I like movies that last in my mind. Ones that say something real. This particular movie was a great example of such. There was some feminist rah rah go women message mixed in, but it was done in a very tasteful way. It did not overpower the story, and the story itself was sweet, and not as altruistic and perfect as most other girly movies. It wasn't good because the main character wins everything shes always dreamed of, manages to do it all, have her cake and eat it, get the perfect boy who makes everything work just right. It was actually perfect because many of those things weren't there, and they weren't necessary. And that made it awesome.

In real life, the occurrences which often make us happiest are not often the ones we were planning. They are the anti-obvious, the strangest, most peculiar endings to the story. This is what gives people the motivation to take chances, open up to new ideas, embrace the world outside the safe zone. It's the knowledge that sometimes the rewards are intense, and well worth it. It is a bizarre experience to know that you feel incredibly pulled in a particular direction when it is in exact opposition to your nature. I, for instance, was certain I would never decide to get married, and was not looking for any kind of relationship. Then at 19, I became friends with my husband through school. One day, while discussing my desire to move (to a different city eleven hours away) with another friend, I mentioned that I knew I would always have DH in my life; I expected that most college friends would eventually fall out of touch. When she looked at me strangely, and asked why I thought that he was different, I was at a complete loss for explanation. I wasn't particularly better friends with him than others within our group, and he was seriously dating someone he had met in high school. There was no romantic intention behind my statement, I just knew that he was a friend... forever.

This tendency to jump in with both feet to strange situations does of course also put us at risk for failure, loss, and brutal rebuff. I think the soul is far more fragile than our physical body- the injuries we receive to our heart and mind will never fully heal. The scars we get when we fall down on our knees are far stronger than the scabs which will always be fresh and bruised on our souls. I have realized that over the years I have lost some people who I counted as desperately close friends, and this loss makes me judge myself more than any other criticisms I have received. I never want to experience this loss again, and I am driven to reflect this commitment through my actions with friends I have now. In that way, sometimes the things which cause us the most sorrow are the experiences which make us the best versions of ourselves. These hurts and losses are what make us feel empathy, allow us to make better decisions in the future, and inspire us to move on.

I'm sure it may be noticeable, but I will say it: I have entered a phase of melancholy. This is not a mood I dread, I am able to moor myself to my deepest truest feelings when I am reflective and a little dour. It's not depression, or unhappiness, but a quiet reserved veil where I see things not in the fun, fast, instant gratification way that I usually do. I think this reflection and evaluation may make me more capable as a human ecologist, as I possess the will and desire to do better, to be more, to fully represent my true personal self. This is an inspired and creative time. I think it's kind of what the government tries to make a person feel with their crazy intense 'join the armed forces' commercials, where everyone looks a bit misty eyed and very patriotic, flags waving in the background. Since I have no intention of feeling passionate about fighting fights I may not agree with, for a government that makes a lot of bad choices, I will use this strange, perceptive, quiet time to watch for some mysterious and beautiful opportunities to act upon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vancouver, Mommies, and Thanksgiving

Yes. Canadian Thanksgiving, my birthday, my friend R's wedding, my trip to Vancouver all occurred this weekend.

First: My Mother in Law is out of the hospital. The doc's sent her home because they need her to eat, and hospital food is the pits. So now it's her job to eat things, and if her infection flares up again, she may have to go for IV antibiotics by day. Best news ever! Or at least the best we could hope for, at this time! Hip Hip Horray!

Wedding: Funnest ever! Pictures to follow! Drive took forever, so we missed the rehearsal dinner, which was no fun at all.
Birthday: Funnest ever! Drove all day, but then after missing the rehearsal dinner, got to snuggle with husband, sister, and her boyfriend.

Mom #2: Got a text message from a long time friend that she had her baby the day of the wedding, a day after my birthday! was SOOOO excited that everyone is safe and happy!

Thanksgiving: Sis is a celiac vegitarian, so she made us some awesome gluten free yam/squash perogies, a crazy awesome pair of wheat free chocolate cakes (hers was soy based, I am allergic to soy and so mine was made with dairy), and delicious salad.

Mom #3 On the way home, we went through Calgary. My mother was so sick a few weeks ago that she couldn't make the trip up to see my brother and us in Edmonton, and so she has been a little down. She found out that she has gall stones, so she is either going to have surgery or other treatment, but until then she is stuck being quite uncomfortable. So that's mom #2 stuck under the weather. When we showed up at her house, my dad having kept her awake and hour and a half after her normal bedtime, she cried and was all snuggly. She told us about

Mom #4: Cousin who had been told early this year that she would be unable to have a baby. She gave away all collected baby clothes etc. A few months later, at a normal physical, her doctor asked if she could be pregnant. She explained her medical issues, and then her doctor proceeded to do a normal ultrasound for routine check up stuff. And then he, the nurse in the room, and my cousin cried as they celebrated the impossible together.

Now that the wedding and my midterms are over over, I have been going over all the e-mails between my dad's brothers and sisters regarding the future care of my Grandma,
Mom# 5, who is delving further into the labyrinth of dementia caused by Alzheimer's. They are attempting to make a sound reasonable decision of where she should be placed to ensure that everyone is able to visit, and how to prepare to make her quality of life as positive as possible. I am so impressed by how loving they are, how amazing my family is, how they all pull together and try to be unbiased. I was particularly touched by my new aunt, who has only been within our family for 2 years, who has only recently become a Canadian citizen, from Chile. She sent out an impassioned Spanish letter stating that my grandmother would surely be well taken care of by herself in her and my uncles home. The fact that I am the only family member with a reasonable understanding of Spanish made it all the more amazing.

I guess those are the things I am thankful for, the things I love, and the things which make me certain that I want a profession which engages my heart and my brain.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

So Speaking of Communication

Alright. So. Apparently I put my cranky pants on this morning, and stirred up some trouble on my friends blog. Perhaps it was only between me her and the wall, but perhaps I should have kept my thoughts to myself.

I am a fiercely typical indecisive Libra... I tip my brain from one side of the issue to the other, and when I read something which seems to ignore the possible aspects within the story, it usually irks me. I feel like it's not representative.

So when I recently went on my friend Dear Fitz's blog and read her latest entry, her small aside where she calls crazy brain on Jenny McCarthy... made me annoyed.

Sometimes things are better left under the rug. It had nothing to do with the rest of her well written article which I agree with pretty much orgasmically (Yes, Fitz, that was for you, so you can snicker all you like). The scary right wings always find weird ways to make protecting yourself or young women some sort of pulpit to preach ignorance, and a recent death from a reaction to the HPV vaccine sadly bolsters their argument, however crooked. That's bad news bears because all those things that people have been fighting for for years- equality, relevance, choice, safety, kindof get squished in the name of pious righteousness. I just thought that it was fair to ask for representations of why she thinks all vaccine haters are crazy. She responded to my response, and I responded in kind. We may have been heated, but we are very close and I am usually just saying stuff to drive her crazy. I don't think that shows well in blogspeak.

The thing I find interesting is that its the most fun I have had on her blog in a while. It was rich with ISSUE, and debate, and made me want her to write MORE goodies about how the state of the world rags on the common woman. Commenting is what you're supposed to do! I think it generated more comments than usual. So perhaps stirring the pot, on the internet, for funnsies, when all I'm asking for is a fair balanced review of the MANY opinions on the matter, is a good thing... right?

Whatevers. Fitz I love you and you know it. But I don't think I'll hold back on your blog because I think it's good for you.

By the by... my MIL is doing ok, but not awesome. It's all very uncomfortable, but I am staying positive. Thank you for the loving words all.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Message and the Madness

If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
Simple, and not always possible. Great advice for children, until they get old enough to learn that tact isn't lying, it's not covering your true feelings, it's not hiding it all inside. It is finding the most sensitive way to convey a message.
Some people just don't learn that lesson.
For instance:
After a woman has been in the hospital for weeks, and has been in isolation for days, and you as a physician find not MSRA, but an equally icky Staph infection, you review her file and find that she is allergic to all antibiotics. You ensure that you and a colleague agree: that her only courses of action are to die, or take antibiotics which may kill her anyways, and have a minimal chance of recovery.

When delivering this message you:
a) sit at her bedside, and discuss the issue since she is a nurse and is well versed in her medical history and the issues at hand
b) stand 10 feet away in the doorway of her room and say "You can go home and die, or we can try another antibiotic you're allergic to and run a lot of benadryl. You'll probably still die
c) ask the patient if she really is making a good decision even when she agrees to treatment after delivering news via option b).
d) dance a jig and then pee on the floor

If you picked C, congratulations, you're the worst person imaginable, and the evil doctor my MIL faced ALONE, at NIGHT. I find you vile, and I might consider telling the medical board that your complete lack of bedside manner even in the literal sense is so abysmal that you absolutely should not be allowed near conscious patients.
Even the ugly truth can be easier to handle with some sensitivity and understanding.

On the upside, my MIL didn't really think that the "choice" offered was a choice. The drugs leave her doped, and she has some breathing issues and itching, but the antihistamines seem to be keeping things at bay. She is eating and keeping food down. Between a slim chance and no chance, why not gamble, when the payout is LIFE. It is time with her granddaughter (my amazing niece), her husband, and her children. Before this issue, which was meant to be a simple battery change in a pacemaker, she has been through far worse. She has faced cancer three times, and even when things are dire, there is no quit. Perhaps this knowledge- that things have been bad before is what gave her the courage to choose the gamble. I suppose this is what brought the second question from the doctors, who have only seen her be in pain and ravaged this one time. They obviously don't understand the love and tenacity that defines this small beautiful woman that I am happy to call Mom.