An exercise in abundance

Draw a circle. List all the areas or aspects of your life. Makes these pieces of the pie or like spokes on a wheel of your circle. Things like, finance, health, romance, family, work, ect.

I like to call this your abundance wheel. Now rate these from 1(lowest) to 10 (highest) on how complete or abundant you feel in that particular area. Want to work in an area of your life? This is an easy way to see where you are today. Choose one area and decide to do something today NO MATTER HOW SMALL to moving forward in that area. If you want more friends, call the ones you have, look in the paper/online/message board somewhere for groups you could join that have your interest. Remember, JUST looking counts. If that’s too big of a step (usually you will know if it is, because you can’t seem to do it), break it down into smaller ones. How about just say to yourself, ” I want to have more friends” or write that down and say it everyday for a week or a month. Then, do the next step towards that goal.

My dad often said, “The definition of insanity it doing the same thing over an over again an expecting a different result”. Good advice. Adding to that advice, is take SMALL STEPS towards change. Moving from a 2 in health to a 10 is so scary and new that we often can’t seem to create change. We often are stuck in ways of being and it gets so big to move at all. This is where the small steps come in. You can not lose 30 pounds in one night. Some steps and different habits are needed. Be gentle with yourself as you try new habits and allow them to take hold slowly……. How about a goal of loosing one pound a month? Break that down, how do I do that? Eat a pint of ice cream every night before bed? How about eating one bite less each day for a month? How about not beating yourself up eating that pint of Ben & Jerry’s and actually allow yourself to enjoy it before, during and AFTER you eat it? Couch potato? How about standing up during one commercial and walking in place to begin some exercise and go from there.

Today, I’m working on creativity. SO, I’m taking out the paints (I love to paint with my fingers) that are dusty in the closet and I’m going to paint something. I do not care what I paint, what it looks like, as long as I can keep my ego in check:) I’ll focus on the feeling of the paint on my fingers, what the canvas feels like, what the colors look like. That will be my small step towards feeling more creativity in my life!

Here is to making our “abundance wheels” roll a little bit smoother!

True power is not about force or control…

Abundance guy - True power electricity hitting water

” Most rarely align with their true power, because it seems illogical to them that there is power in relaxation, in letting go, or in love or joy or bliss. Most people do not understand that their true power lies in releasing resistance—which is the only obstacle to their true power.

Most people do not expect their path to great abundance to be one of ease and of joy. They have been taught that struggle and hardship and sacrifice are requirements that must be met before the reward of great abundance can be realized. Most do not understand that the very struggle they deliberately involve themselves in, in their quest for success and advantage, actually works against them.

There are so many things that you have been taught to believe that are counter to the powerful Laws of the Universe that it is difficult for you to think your way out. And that is the reason that we present this path of much less resistance.

We want you to breathe rather than try, to relax rather than offer effort, to smile rather than struggle, to be rather than do. For your true power is experienced only from inside.” Jerry and Esther Hicks

I have experienced this first hand, when I push or force things to happen, I find it hard, difficult or a struggle as they stated in the quote above. The amazing thing was when I actually tried the other way by connecting deeper with myself and letting go of trying to control things or people around me to see it my way, I realized it was much easier and everything I needed was there…

For example, have you ever had the experience when you want something that when you let go of the outcome, you often get it? Think of a business situation or personal relationship where this has been true for you – remember that sale you really let go of and you got it or that relationship where you were true to yourself first and then it worked out for the best. This is the power of aligning with your inner understanding rather than being effected by the events or situation outside of you.

 

Stifled Grief: How the West Has It Wrong

I have had some loss in my family recently and thought this article from the Huffington Post might be helpful for all of us.

 

After nearly seven years of personal experience surrounding loss, I can tell who is going to read, share and comment on this article and it’s not necessarily the audience I’ve intended. Those who have walked the horrific road of loss will shake their collective heads “Yes” at many of my points below and share with pleads for the rest of the Western World to read, learn, evolve and embrace these concepts. Unfortunately, my words will fall short for my intended audience because the premise does not yet apply to their lives…yet. In time, my words will resonate with every human on the face of this earth, but until a personal journey with loss takes place, my words will be passed over in exchange for articles about gorillas and fights over public bathroom usage.

There is nothing sexy or exciting about grief.

There is nothing that grabs a reader with no personal interest to open my words and take heed to my writing.

I’m here to say that the West has the concept of grieving all wrong.

I’d like to point out that we are a culture of emotionally stunted individuals who are scared of our mortality and have mastered the concept of stuffing our pain. Western society has created a neat little “grief box” where we place the grieving and wait for them to emerge fixed and whole again. The grief box is small and compact, and it comes full of expectations like that range from time frames to physical appearance. Everyone who has been pushed into the grief box understands it’s confining limitations, but all of our collective voices together can’t seem to change the intense indignation of a society too emotionally stifled to speak the truth. It’s become easier to hide our emotional depth than to reveal our vulnerability and risk harsh judgment. When asked if we are alright, it’s simpler to say yes and fake a smile then, to be honest, and show genuine human emotion.

Let me share below a few of the expectations and realities that surround grief for those who are open to listening. None of my concepts fit into societies grief box and despite the resounding amount of mutual support by the grieving for what I write below, many will discount my words and label us as “stuck” or “in need of good therapy.” I’m here to say those who are honest with the emotions that surround loss are the ones who are the least “stuck” and have received the best therapy around. You see, getting in touch with our true feelings, embracing the honest emotions of death only serve to expand the heart and allow us to move forward in a genuine and honest way. Death happens to us all so let’s turn the corner and embrace the truth behind life after loss.

Expectation: Grief looks a certain way in the early days. Tears, intense sadness, and hopelessness.

Reality: Grief looks different for every single person. Some people cry intensely, and some don’t cry at all. Some people break down, and others stand firm. There is no way to label what raw grief looks like as we all handle our loss in different ways due to different circumstances and various life backgrounds that shape who we are.

Expectation: The grieving need about a year to heal.

Reality: Sometimes grief does not even get started till after the first year. I’ve heard countless grieving people say year two is harder than year one. There is the shock, end of life arrangements and other business matters that often consume the first year and the grieving do not have the time actually to sit back and take the time to grieve. The reality is there is no acceptable time frame associated with grief.

Expectation: The grieving will need you most the first few weeks.

Reality: The grieving are flooded with offers of help the first few weeks. In many cases, helping the grieving six months or a year down the line can be far more helpful because everyone has returned to their lives and the grief stricken are left to figure it out alone.

Expectation: The grieving should bury the dead forever. After a year, it is uncomfortable for the grieving to speak of their lost loved one. If they continue to talk about them, they are stuck in their grief and need to “move on.”

Reality: The grieving should speak of the dead forever if that’s what they wish to do. When someone dies, that does not erase the memories you made, the love you shared and their place in your heart. It is not only okay to speak of the dead after they are gone, but it’s also a healthy and peaceful way to move forward.

Expectation: For the widowed – If you remarry you shouldn’t speak of your lost loved one otherwise you take away from your new spouse.

Reality: You never stop loving what came before, and that does not in any way lessen the love you have for what comes after. When you lose a friend – you don’t stop having friends, and you love them all uniquely. If you lose a child and have another, the next child does not replace or diminish the love you had for the first. If you lose a spouse, you are capable of loving what was and loving what is….one does not cancel out or minimize the next. Love expands the heart, and it’s okay to honor the past and embrace the future.

Expectation: Time heals all wounds.

Reality: Time softens the impact of the pain, but you are never completely healed. Rather than setting up false expectations of healing let’s talk about realistic expectations of growth and forward movement. Grief changes who you are at the deepest levels and while you may not forever be in an active mode of grief you will forever be shaped by the loss you have endured.

Expectation: If you reflect on loss beyond a year you are “stuck.”

Reality: Not a day goes by where I am not personally affected by my loss. Seeing my children play sports, looking at my son who is the carbon copy of his Dad or hearing a song on the radio or smell in the air. Loss because part of who you are and even though I don’t choose to dwell on grief it has a way of sneaking in now and again even when I’m most in love with life at the current moment. It’s not because we dwell or focus, and it’s not because we don’t make daily choices to move forward. It’s because we loved and we lost, and it touches us for the remainder of our days in the most profound ways.

Expectation: When you speak of the dead you make the griever sad, so it’s best not to bring them up.

Reality: When we talk about our lost loved one we are often happy and filled with joy. My loss was six and a half years ago and to this day, my late husband is one of my favorite people to talk and hear about. Hearing his name makes me smile and floods my mind with happy memories of a life well lived. It makes the grieving sadder when everyone around them refuses to say their name. Forgetting they existed is cruel and a perfect example of our stifled need to fix the unfixable.

Expectation: If you move forward you never loved them or conversely if you don’t move forward you never loved them.

Reality: The grieving need to do what is right for them, and nobody knows what that is except the person going through it.

Expectation: It’s time to “move on.”

Reality: There is no moving on – there is only moving forward. From the time death touches our lives we move forward, in fact, we are not given a choice but to move forward. However, we never get to a place where the words move on resonate. The words “move on” have a negative connotation to the grieving. They suggest a closure that is nonexistent and a fictitious door we pass through.

Expectation: Grief is a linear process and a series of steps to be taken. Each level is neatly defined and the order predetermined.

Reality: Grief is an ugly mess full of pitfalls, missteps, sinking, and swimming. Like a game of shoots and ladders, you never know when the board might pull you back and send you down the ladder screaming at the top of your lungs. Just when you think you’ve arrived at the finish, you draw a card that sends you back to start and just when it appears you’ve lost the game you jump ahead and come one step closer to the front of the line.

Expectation: The grieving should seek professional forms of counseling exclusively.

Reality: The grieving should seek professional forms of counseling but also the grieving should look strongly towards alternative modes of therapy like fitness, art, music, meditation, journaling and animal therapy. The grieving should take an “active” part in their grief process and understand that coping comes in many different forms for all the different people who walk this earth.

Expectation: The grieving either live in the past or the present. IT is not possible to have a multitude of emotions.

Reality: The grieving live their lives with intense moments of duality. Moments of incredible happiness mixed with feelings of deep sadness. There is a depth of emotion that forever accompany those who have lived with a loss. That duality can cause constant reflection, and a deeper appreciation of all life has to offer.

Expectation: The grieving should be able to handle business as usual within a few weeks.

Reality: The brain of a grieving person can be in a thick fog, especially for those who have experienced extreme shock, for more than a year. Expect forgetfulness, a reduced ability to handle stress and grayness to be commonplace after a loss.

I’ve just scratched the surface above on the many areas where grief is misunderstood in our society.

One hundred percent of the people who walk this earth will deal with death. Each of us will experience the passing of someone close that we love or our personal morality. It is about time we open up the discussion around death, dying and grief and stop the stigma that surrounds our common bond. Judgment, time frames, and neat little grief boxes have no place in the reality that surrounds loss. Western culture asks us to suppress our pain, stuff our emotions and restrain our cries. Social media has given many who grieve the opportunity to open up dialogue, be vulnerable on a large scale level and take the combined heat that comes with that honesty. As a whole, society does not want to hear or accept that grief stays with us in some capacity for the rest of our lives. Just like so many other aspects of our culture, we want to hear there is a quick fix, a cure-all, a pill or a healthy dose of “get over it” to be handed out discreetly and dealt with quietly.

The reality is you will grieve in some capacity for the rest of your life. Once loss touches you-you are forever changed despite what society tells you. Stop looking at the expectations of an emotionally numbed society as your threshold and measuring stick for success. Instead, turn inward and look at the vulnerable reality of a heart that knows the truth about loss. With your firsthand knowledge escape the grief box and run out screaming truth as you go. If we make enough noise maybe someday societies warped expectation will shift to align with reality.

Just ask

Asking for what I want is one of my favorite things in conversations I have learned to do more of. Wasn’t really easy at first, for a somewhat shy Midwestern boy, but I practiced and now I’m occasionally asking for some pretty big things. Things I would have never asked in the past. I still feel uncomfortable in certain situations, however, it just feels so much better to be honest with my feelings, intentions and desires. It’s so easy to fall in the trap of hoping the person your wanting something from is going to read your mind. Gosh, if you have been in a relationship long enough, you are supposed to be able to do that, right? Likely, that thinking will lead to disappointment and frustration as I haven’t met many mind readers that get it 100% right out there.

Of course, this doesn’t let us off the hook for being aware of the feelings the people in our relationships are giving off and “helping” them out now and then by checking in with their needs. But, be careful there, if you do this too much, then your trying to read the person so much it circles back to trying to figure out what they want. Though most of us likely don’t do this consciously, we often use some kind of manipulation to TRY to get want you want. If I do this, then can you do this or that for me? Or we go through some elaborate strategy or emotional drama to “guilt” someone into doing what we want. Hey, we have all done it. My view is let’s just clean it up with some honesty and trust that WE will be okay no matter what the outcome of our “asking” is.

Also, this doesn’t mean we always get a yes when we ask for what we want. We can still have some disappointment or frustration to work through, however, with your clear communication, it often leads to greater opportunities to talk about those things that are important to you or maybe work out a “yes” sometime in the future.

 

It’s May…How are those new years resolutions going?

I read somewhere that 97% of new years resolutions fail. Not sure how someone comes up with a stat like that, but kinda makes sense to me. Usually, we have made large “resolutions”, sometimes even things we have been wanting to do for years. Fill in the “thing” for you. In tackling these resolutions, there can be some things that get in the way of creating new habits to lasting change, often emotions and old ways of thinking leading the list. What I have come to believe is that whatever we want to accomplish has a much better chance of working and lasting past January if we break down those resolutions into smaller steps.   Small steps often allow us to move through these emotions and old ways of thinking much slower so we allow ourselves time to adjust to our new habits. If your used to seeing yourself 30 pounds overweight, and you are unhappy about it, you have probably have an ongoing way of thinking about yourself when it comes to your weight. A story you, and others, may say over and over again. I am not a psychiatrist, however, even if you could lose 30 pounds in one day your thoughts of “old self” will not have lost “the weight”. When we take a new habit and break it down into smaller steps that are more easily achievable it helps keeps our negative thinking a bit more in check. Actually, there is a book on small steps I really like called “One small step can change your life” by Robert Mauer. He brings up what I have read in other places is that the part of our brain, the amygdala, that controls our fight or flight response is very sensitive to new things. Sensitive, in that it often senses fear in most new things, and will actually put up mental and emotional road blocks to doing the new thing. This part of the brain was a lot more useful when we were cave women and men where danger and death was often around the corner. It kept us from wandering too far, eating new things, leaving the cave at night. But now, most of us, really do not need to be as overly sensitive and the way we are designed has not caught up with the last 20,000 years or so. Actually, in my abundance work, I sometimes see people feel better about this (me too!), that their problems with integrating new habits have probably much more to do with the way we are designed than what we think is just our own lack of discipline.   To get around this “design flaw” Dr. Mauer recommends this small step strategy I’m eluding to. Make your steps to your goal so small that it keeps this part of our brain in check. For example, if your trying to loose 30 pounds, how about focusing on loosing one pound a month, if that is not scary to you. You keep the fear down, because the brain says, “wow, I don’t have to change my whole life right

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away, I can lose just one pound by doing this or that”. My personal one, is that I have been desiring to add more stretching to my daily routine. Right now, I’m doing 4 different stretches, 10 seconds each, every day. Only 40 seconds, my “brain” isn’t scared. Next step… I’m just leaving my yoga mat on the floor, as a visual reminder. Mostly I trip over it more than I do any stretches, but some days I do a bit more. Part of the practice is to give myself credit for these little steps. Of course, sometimes my negative thinking pops in and says negative crap or judges my small steps. I can’t control my thinking, so I let my brain think whatever it wants and practice choosing not believing those negative thoughts and just come back when I’m ready to pat myself on the back for my small steps. As a guide, if your not accomplishing a step you make for yourself repeatedly, likely your not making your steps small enough. What many people find with a small step practice is you allow momentum to build and you allow some of your old ways of thinking to slowly change so your habits are much more likely to be permanent. As the old proverb says:   a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Being thankful leads to happiness

Well, I’m getting caught up on some of my emails and videos that we all seem to get around holiday time and wanted to share one. If you have 14 minutes there are some nice messages in here on the concept I guess we all know that gratefulness leads to happiness, not the other way around. I just think I/we forget that a lot of the time.

For the A.D.D. crowd, go to about 8 minutes in as David kinda sums up a nice grateful practice. I really like part of that where he describes we would all be more grateful if we installed stop signs in our life’s to be more present.

Enjoy!

 

http://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful.html

10 Things Happy People Do Differently

Read this article and I thought I’d pass it on. I always like simple thoughts and lists, so I can take a small step in some way by looking at one of the points. For me, I’m going to look at more things around me and smile more today.
10 Things Happy People Do Differently August 20 by Scott Christ

 

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

-Dalai Lama

Think being happy is something that happens as a result of luck, circumstance, having money, etc.? Think again.

Happiness is a mindset. And if you’re looking to improve your ability to find happiness, then check out these 10 things happy people do differently.

 

1. Happy people find balance in their lives.

Folks who are happy have this in common: they’re content with what they have, and don’t waste a whole lot of time worrying and stressing over things they don’t. Unhappy people do the opposite: they spend too much time thinking about what they don’t have. Happy people lead balanced lives. This means they make time for all the things that are important to them, whether it’s family, friends, career, health, religion, etc.

2. Happy people abide by the golden rule.

rule

You know that saying you heard when you were a kid, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Well, happy people truly embody this principle. They treat others with respect. They’re sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people. They’re compassionate. And they get treated this way (most of the time) in return.

3. Happy people don’t sweat the small stuff.

One of the biggest things happy people do differently compared to unhappy people is they let stuff go. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. Happy people realize this, are able to take things in stride, and move on. Unhappy people tend to dwell on minor inconveniences and issues, which can perpetuate feelings of sadness, guilt, resentment, greed, and anger.

4. Happy people take responsibility for their actions.

Happy people aren’t perfect, and they’re well aware of that. When they screw up, they admit it. They recognize their faults and work to improve on them. Unhappy people tend to blame others and always find an excuse why things aren’t going their way. Happy people, on the other hand, live by the mantra:

“There are two types of people in the world: those that do and those that make excuses why they don’t.”

5. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people.

happiness surrounding

One defining characteristic of happy people is they tend to hang out with other happy people. Misery loves company, and unhappy people gravitate toward others who share their negative sentiments. If you’re struggling with a bout of sadness, depression, worry, or anger, spend more time with your happiest friends or family members. Chances are, you’ll find that their positive attitude rubs off on you.

6. Happy people are honest with themselves and others. 

People who are happy often exhibit the virtues of honesty and trustworthiness. They would rather give you candid feedback, even when the truth hurts, and they expect the same in return. Happy people respect people who give them an honest opinion.

7. Happy people show signs of happiness.

smile

This one may sound obvious but it’s a key differentiator between happy and unhappy people. Think about your happiest friends. Chances are, the mental image you form is of them smiling, laughing, and appearing genuinely happy. On the flip side, those who aren’t happy tend to look the part. Their posture may be slouched and you may perceive a lack of confidence.

8. Happy people are passionate.

Another thing happy people have in common is their ability to find their passions in life and pursue those passions to the fullest. Happy people have found what they’re looking for, and they spend their time doing what they love.

9. Happy people see challenges as opportunities.

Folks who are happy accept challenges and use them as opportunities to learn and grow. They turn negatives into positives and make the best out of seemingly bad situations. They don’t dwell on things that are out of their control; rather, they seek solutions and creative ways of overcoming obstacles.

10. Happy people live in the present.

While unhappy people tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future, happy people live in the moment. They are grateful for “the now” and focus their efforts on living life to the fullest in the present. Their philosophy is:

There’s a reason it’s called “the present.” Because life is a gift.

So if you’d like to bring a little more happiness into your life, think about the 10 principles above and how you can use them to make yourself better.

Conscious Consumer – a few simple ideas

Abundance guy - conscious consumer - choices we can make

I often write about ideas and thoughts on how we can do things to become more in balance as individuals. Of course, we also live in a world that operates in a balance as well. This balance can sometimes precarious. We are certainly hearing a lot about this today.

I feel that sometimes I really don’t have very much power over something as big as “helping” the world become more in balance. For me, having more “power” started with more awareness in my choices. For example, my friend Kasey, who worked at a recycling center and encourage me to take my recycling to the center back in the late 90’s. I still do this today despite no convenient pick up in the towns I live in. As I saw what the center was recycling, I added a bin or two and filled up the car more. So, Thanks Kasey!

Here is another pretty easy one that I did on my own five or six years ago. I bought a water filter and a water bottle and now I have better water from my facet than buying that over priced bottled water in a plastic container. Some estimate we throw away 50 to 100 million plastic bottles a day! Common sense says that’s a balance that can’t be sustained. Here is a link if you want more info on the impacts of bottled water http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/01/15/dangers-of-drinking-water-from-a-plastic-bottle.aspx.

About two years ago, I hired an energy consultant, Elizabeth Plumb, to help me improve the energy efficiency of my home in Breckenridge. I learned a lot about new and different choices I could make in being a more conscious consumer. With her guidance, I now feel like I have made steps improving my choices when I consume things. From “smaller” things like when I have a choice in buying a product, buying the one with less packaging or in the example of how I buy pineapple. I would often buy the pineapple already cut in a plastic container. Now I buy the whole pineapple and I just have to have a bit more patience to wait for it to ripen. Passing on those yummy looking berries from Chile in the middle of the winter as the reason their so expensive is how far they had to travel to get to the market. So, I just buy organic frozen from the states. Again, not a perfect choice, but a better one. Elizabeth also guided me to make an investment into my house through things like more insulation, more efficient household appliances, new hot water heater and a solar system. I cut my gas and electric bills more than half! And a lot of those savings were a bunch of small things, with modest costs. Thanks, Elizabeth!

I may not directly see the world changing as I consume less resources, but I feel better that I am making a small impact. Of course, that’s how we all can make a difference together. If we all can make just one new or different choice we can make a huge impact in the world being more in balance. If you have the time, read the below article from Ross Bishop (an author who helped shaped my thinking on abundance) and review his ideas on being more a more conscious consumer. There can be a lot of guilt attached to this issue, which for me, is not the best motivator. I prefer to move from a new awareness and then a new choice. Focusing on the positive changes I have made and being open to new ideas. So, is there one new choice you could make, even part of one? Can any of you make any simple suggestions?

ARE YOU PROBLEM OR SOLUTION?

By Ross Bishop

There are many problems today – the soft economy, the housing market, global warming, ineffectual schools, the political system, uncaring corporations, Wall Street corruption, natural disasters and European economic collapse. So what can you do? You can’t change the world, right?

Not quite.

You, your friends and neighbors have enormous power, but until you collectively use it, you defer that power and to the special interests who are only too happy to take it. You would be amazed at what can happen when a number of us make changes in our everyday choices.

We live in a world of incredible convenience, but every convenience comes at a significant price, whether it’s energy consumption, refuse in landfills, downstream chemical pollution or adding to global warming.

Today your choices encourage marketers to continue creating “convenience products” to serve your desire to have an easy life. And so long as you are willing to pay the cost for not being “inconvenienced,” the corporations have no incentive to change.

And that’s the problem: being a responsible consumer is inconvenient. It is easy to throw your laundry in the drier rather than hanging it outside. Scratch cooking takes time and planning. Microwave foods are convenient. Recycling is a hassle. Buying at the Farmer’s Market is expensive and it means an extra shopping trip. Bringing your own shopping bags is a nuisance. Eating organic is expensive. Eating meat is the American way. Buying sweatshop made products at WalMart saves money. Saving energy means the house won’t be as comfortable.

No one is asking you to carry water in a bucket, use an outhouse or churn your own butter, but many of our convenience choices have a significant impact on the planet and really don’t provide all that much in return. Your life would actually improve if you dumped some of them.

The problem with conveniences is that each individual thing may seem small but in the aggregate, the impacts can be devastating. Tossing a plastic bottle in the garbage is not a big deal, but 35 billion plastic bottles in landfills each year creates an enormous environmental problem. Consider just a few other examples: If every household in America replaced just ONE BOX of 175-count facial tissue with a 100% recycled product, we would save 385,000 trees, 140 million gallons of water and almost a million cubic feet of landfill space.

If every household substituted just ONE BOX of petroleum-based laundry detergent with a plant-derived detergent, we would save 165,000 barrels of oil (that’s almost 7 million gallons). That is enough to heat and cool 9,500 homes for a year! Plus there would be an immense reduction in the need for wastewater treatment! That’s for one box of detergent! The average family goes through a dozen or more of those in a year.

You would see a real impact if you eased up on your consumption of meat. Producing meat is an incredible resource hog. The biggest single contributor to global warming (20% of the total) is from the meat industry. Raising animals for food requires more than one-third of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the United States. More than half of the U.S. water supply goes to livestock production. It takes 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water and 15 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. That’s the monthly water use for a family of four, and fifteen pounds of grain would feed your entire neighborhood!

Doing something about these excesses requires making sacrifices, and frankly, we’re not very good at that. Our grandparents did that sort of thing. . . But without asking you to turn into an eco-freak, there are some fairly simple things that everyone can (and should) be doing:

THINGS WE ALL SHOULD DO

1. Hang out your laundry. It smells better, is better for the clothes, the environment and it saves a lot of energy. Your clothes dryer is a huge energy hog.

2. Eat meatless one day a week. It is much healthier, and the benefit to the planet would simply be incredible!

3. Recycle. It is mind boggling how much reusable trash gets thrown into landfills every day! 35 billion recyclable plastic bottles each year, 100 billion plastic bags, 2% of which are ever recycled. One thousand miles off the coast of California and New York are islands of floating plastic, each twice as large as the state of Texas, fouling the water and killing wildlife.

Consider this: every piece of plastic that has ever been made sits somewhere in a landfill. The stuff does not degrade! Very little of it can be recycled and very little of what can be reused ever is.

4. Use Eco-friendly cleaners, laundry detergent, dish soap, recycled paper products, etc. They may be more expensive, but this is the sort of sacrifice we all need to make in order to reduce the burden of chemical toxicity and deforestation on the planet.

5. Use your own shopping bags. Europeans have done this for years to no discernible detriment.

6. Eat organic as much as you can afford. It’s much better for your health and is enormously better for the planet. If I could show you the terrible nutritional content of the fresh produce you buy from the store, you probably would not believe me. Modern factory agriculture is not your friend.

7. Plant a garden! It’s one of the healthiest things you can do for your family, it’s great exercise, it’s fabulous for the planet and it will save you a lot of money!

8. Save vegetable kitchen scraps (freeze them) for soup stock, or bury them in the garden instead of tossing them in the garbage. It reduces the burden on landfills and is good for the soil.

9. Shop at your local Farmer’s Market. It’s more nutritious, reduces industrial transportation and supports the local economy. Yes, it’s more expensive, but consider it an investment in your family’s health.

10. When you shop, try to buy whole unprocessed food. Yes, it means more cooking and planning time. Avoid buying processed food whenever possible. Especially avoid: processed meat, hydrogenated oils, GMO products, artificial sweeteners, benzoate preservatives, high fructose corn syrup (sodas, fruit juice, etc.), Olestra and any ingredient you cannot pronounce or that your grandmother would not recognize.

11. Be careful of franchise restaurant food and restaurants that serve factory made, pre-prepared entrees. Most of it is loaded with chemicals and preservatives. There are a few franchise exceptions like Noodles & Company, Chipotle, Cosi, Panera and Au Bon Pain. Some franchises are starting to offer healthier choices. If possible, eat at locally owned restaurants that use healthy local ingredients and cook from scratch. Those who do this will be proud to tell you if you ask.

12. Become a more responsible consumer. Take a little time and learn about the products you buy and the companies who produce them. Is your coffee or chocolate produced under slave-like conditions? Was your cell phone or running shoes made in a sweat-shop? What about your jeans? Now that I know more about them, I feel better about buying things from companies like Burt’s Bees, Newman’s Own, Kashi, Ben & Jerry’s and TOMS shoes, etc. A couple of these have been bought by large corporations, but have kept their integrity intact.

There are a number of web sites that rank companies on their social consciousness. Some even have cell phone apps that allow you to scan bar codes and learn about your prospective purchases. The Ethical Consumer (http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/) is great publication for the UK, but I have not found anything similar here in the states. Web sites I have used are: http://www.free2work.org/ mobile app, www.chainstorereaction.com, www.shoptostopslavery.com and
http://www.betterworldshopper.org/rankings.html.

There is more you can do if you want to take these ideas further. The web is a great source of information.