Category Archives: Going Green

It’s all about Bamboo. Sometimes.

IMG_0811I’m a huge supporter of sustainability.  And I love the versatility and strength of bamboo, so I was particularly excited by NatureZway sending me a few of their eco-friendly cleaning solution products to test and review.

I tested Bamboo Perforated Towels (washable and reusable)  and the Bamboo Floor Wipes.   My business by day is pet services (including dog boarding) so I’m constantly and chronically wiping up everything from water spills to pee accidents and more. So I was ready to get cracking the minute the box arrived.  And I have good news and bad news on both products.  The good news is that the Bamboo Floor Wipes are absorbent, easy to use and to pop in the wash.  I tested this product on a full bowl water spill and was able to absorb quite a bit.  It worked as well as any other floor wipe product I’ve used.  However, the appeal of this product is its washability and the wipe didn’t stand up to the washer/dryer particularly well.  The fibers separated quite a bit and I doubt I’ll be able to use it more than one more time without tossing it.

The other product, the Perforated Towels were what really had me excited because I go through paper towels and hand/bath towels like there is no tomorrow.  The good news is that this product stood up better through the wash cycle…however, the towel is not as absorbent as a good paper towel, so didn’t actually sop up the mess…it moved it around more than anything else.  So poor marks on absorbency.   Also, it looks so much like a regular paper towel that several were thrown out by mistake.  Although over time, I suspect the user would get accustomed to tossing the towel in with the wash instead of the trash.

So high marks for sustainability, but medium marks for performance.  I’d definitely give the paper towels a try again on a subsequent iteration or if I didn’t need such heavy absorbency.

Natural, Organic, She’s Ba-a-ack….

We are all on our personal journeys.  I went walkabout.  I’m back for now and thanks for your patience and so many kind words along the way!

Apparently I’ve still got a lot that I want to share and I have a bit more time in order to do so.  My interests are still 50 plus, but as you’ll see over the next few months, some of the areas that inspired me over the past few years have taken hold in a more urgent way.  When I went on hiatus, I just felt there were too many bloggers and facebookers, tweeters, tumblrs and pinterests that were too focused on all the things wrong in the world and I couldn’t continue to be a part of the ranting and raving when so many people felt hopeless…I couldn’t see how another complainer would be helpful to any reader.  There are enough political pundits without me having to give my 2 cents.  There were too many people out of work for too long for any of my suggestions to really be helpful…there were not enough jobs.  Period.

I had to go out and do.  So I did and now I feel that I’m ready to contribute again, in a positive and meaningful way, to the online world.  Hopefully most of you are still around and will be interested in a different, more attuned, and hopefully more joyful perspective on the planet.

In my journey, I’ve had periods of motivation, inspiration as well as the downs that come from change unattained.  The past 6 years have been filled with change and all in a positive way (even though it often felt negative and unempowering along the way) — from corporate executive to continued presence as a  well-known blogger on issues affecting the 50 plus generation, to the development of my other businesses — consulting and a successful pet services company.

Most of this new direction was  accomplished in my late 40s and now my early/mid-50s.  Where the energy came from was a surprise to me.  I was SOOO tired in my 40s.  And the ripple affect across the world from the 2008 meltdown really knocked my emotional socks off….too many friends and co-workers that were so horribly affected.  But I ultimately realized that the overwhelming feeling of fatigue and frustration was anger at myself for not taking positive action in my life.   So, I pulled up my socks (well…took them off, actually, and planted my feet in the grass) and turned my world around.

My new life, now, is the one I’ve always wanted.  I still consult to business, but I’m not bound to concrete.  I’m out of the corporate world on a daily basis and into the animal, natural world.  I spend a great deal of time in the outdoors, with animals and the people who love them. I’ve discovered that I’m a horrible gardener (yet I still plant every year), find delight in swimming every day I can in the summer, love to look at other people’s flower gardens, and can make some terrific breads and baked goods (and a killer chicken curry salad and a salmon with fennel and red grapes that is to die for.)

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I’m still infuriated and get enraged at social injustices, but I’ve also regenerated my inner strength by reconnecting with the planet as a creature of nature, by having the time to spend with my daughter, by realigning my priorities in life and being true to myself.  I spend my days in shorts and sandals, or yoga pants and Asics (my sport shoe of choice) and T-shirts and fleece jackets. My suits are reserved for consulting meetings. My dresses, heels and mineral makeup, for going out and having a great time.

Early on, in my pet services business (Poochbuddies if you are curious), as I was getting more exercise, I gravitated to natural products.  Better food, more fruits, vegetables, organics, grass-fed beef, free range chicken (I’m not a vegetarian…still like the meat, but I prefer the meat that has lived a better life).  I like to eat (I think you’ll have figured that out), I like to cook (also obvious).  I love the outdoors.  I love food bloggers and product bloggers and tech bloggers and natural offerings.  I like exploring and traveling and anything that connects me to the world is all good.  I love my smartphone (Galaxy S3…can’t live without it.) It’s all contributed to my better sense of self, a resurgence in vitality, and a reminder that I’m part of the planet.

I’m heading to Expo West this year (totally non-tech!), a massive natural products expo to see what has really changed over the past decade.  A lot, I know…organic, natural has gone almost mainstream…but there are 3 huge floors of exhibition.  Certainly more than one person can walk in a day or two or even three, but I’m going to give it a shot.  3 floors, hundreds of exhibitors, one day.

If any of you are going to be there, feel free to let me know!  Love to meet you.

I’m glad to be back and I hope you’ll continue with me on the journey.

Aaaaaahhhh.

Janet

Gray is Green

I may not be technically “gray” since I do admit to coloring my hair, but the void for boomers and 50 plussers who want to have their own voice in the “green” market is finally filled.  Gray is Green, developed with the expertise of  parent organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council, is grabbing interest with their website and actionables all focused on, and dedicated to giving a voice to our generation on green issues.    Check it out (www.grayisgreen.org) and sign up for their newsletter to stay on top of who is doing what in which communities to promote and protect our fragile blue planet.

A conversation at the pump

Like so many of you, I get overwhelmed by the news.  The creaking, crawling recovery is mind-numbing in the scope of the disaster we sit in, in Amercia, the government polarization disheartening, catastrophic world events that recede from headlines, while people (in Japan, let’s say) are trying to figure out their futures from evac centers, and the divide between the haves and have nots around the world increasing minute by minute. 

There is so little that I, as an individual, can control.  I’m not a lobbyist, a political mover and shaker, or even a major opinion influencer.  I try to advocate on behalf of Boomers and beyond.  I write about what I see from my unique perspective as a Canadian expat.  My sense of social consciousness tears me apart as, at the same time, I am able to function as an entrepreneur in the hungriest consumer market in the world.  I think about best choices for my child and worry about her future.  Cook my own food, try to stay purist in buying organic and local.  Take political action as I have the power to, write to politicians and bureaucrats knowing that I am just another number that gets standardized letters of response.  I donate money to worthy causes and for disaster relief, even though my own coffers are tighter, as a small business entrepreneur.

So to combat these overwhelming feelings of powerlessness, I look long and hard (and just about every day) to what I can control, rather than drowning in what I can’t control. 

Which brings me to today.  Today, as I waited for 15 minutes in line at the Costco gas pumps to save $0.15/gallon, my van (a necessity in my pet service business) stood next to a Prius, both of them drinking the expensive brew.  The Prius’ owner (a well-groomed, attractive man in a jogging suit) and I started a conversation.  I told him my tank cost $92.  He looked at me wide-eyed and told me he’d barely reach $36 AND he’d be able to go about 500 miles without a refill.  I’ll go about 400 miles on my $92.  And then he said something that got me. 

I don’t care how much gas prices go up, now…not with this car.  Not even if gas goes to $10/gallon.

Ayay.  At $10/gallon, I’d never be able to fill my tank in one sitting.  I’d have to drastically change all my routing (even though I’m extremely well-routed now.)  So it gave me a good think…about what I can control.  I bought my 2007  Buick Terraza in Januray 2008…and sadly, it is a lemon.  The warranty is about to expire and at this point, GM has spent more money on repairing my car and covering my car rentals while the car has been in the shop than what I paid for it.  Because of its age, it isn’t worth it to try and pursue lemon law legal relief (although I should have much earlier on.)

I still owe for the 0% loan that I took out on the vehicle and, this morning, looking at the beaming, shining, happy face of that Prius owner, I decided that I am selling my van.  He LOVED his vehicle.  I TOLERATE mine.  Big difference. 

Now comes the dilemma.  With the horrible crisis and shortage of car parts from Japan, do I go for a Honda or a Toyota?  Or do I stick with American and take my chances, again, with a higher mileage American made vehicle.  I know a few of you would have strong opinions.  I’m still in need of some sort of utility vehicle (like a Honda CRV, Subaru Forrester), and I like my little accessory luxuries, although I’m willing to do without for the sake of better gas mileage. 

What would you do in my shoes? If you have an opinion or recommendation, I’d love to hear it (even better if you are a lawyer!! or a mechanic!!! or Marine engineer!)  I’ll be making the switch within the next couple of months.  You can post your comment, or email me at wspiegel@genplusua.com

Organic reinvention

A few months ago, I watched a film called Food, Inc that so impacted my way of looking at food and how big business has literally changed the food we ingest, that I radically changed our family food preparation and consumption.  (For past posts, head over to the “Health and Fitness” category in the sidebar or click the link. 

In order to avoid the massive amounts of hormones and antibiotics in beef and chicken from most of the major growers, I switched over to organic meat — meaning the cattle and fowl are free range.  Cows are grass-fed in pastures, chickens in natural sunlight. If they are being fed corn it is not genetically modified…basically they are living a life closer to what nature intended than in the cattle and chicken farms that show very little respect for the lives that they raise and slaughter.  I’m not a vegetarian and I have nothing against raising cattle or fowl for human consumption.  But to see cows standing knee deep in their excrement in vast, acres of excrement and mud…no.  That doesn’t sit well with me.

On the fruit and vegetable end of things, after much deliberation, I’m buying a combination of organic and locally-grown produce.  I’m shopping for most of my food at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, which both offer me a good range of meats and produce and they fit my food choice preferences. I get most of my local produce at the Tapia Brothers market (if you are in LA, at the corner of Havenhurst and Burbank) where much of their product is from their farm across the street or brought in from a range of less than 50 miles.  So it is farm-ripened rather than truck/transit-ripened.

Because I’m lactose intolerant, I have to ingest soy milk if I want to have a semblance of milk in my diet or cooking, so I purchase organic and limit my intake to about 8 oz a day max.  (The isoflavins in the soy milk are good for you in small amounts, but not in the large amounts that we are ingesting by virtue of all the soy fillers in most prepared foods.)

AND, the biggest change is that I’m ONLY buying fresh food and making all cookies, cakes and avoiding any packaged goods.  Once I started reading labels and discovering just how much soy and corn is added to just about every packaged food, I couldn’t, in good conscience, continue to keep ingesting it.  My own theory is this:  soy and corn fatten up the cows and chickens, and if we have such huge amounts of soy and corn fillers in OUR foods, then we will fatten up as well.  In addition to this, the changes to our food supply really started within the past 10-15 years — coincidentally the same period of time as I’ve had trouble losing belly fat.  You could say it was my age.  You could say that I wasn’t getting enough exercise. 

In my case, I radically changed the foods  I put into my body and those of my family.  I’m NOT dieting.  In fact, I’m eating whatever I want, whenever I want…however ALL the food is chock full of goodness and not an artificial filler in sight.  I’ve now officially lost about 8 pounds over the past three months.  No diet.  No change in my level of activity.  Just no preserved/packaged foods (i.e. no soy/corn fillers), fresh local or organic produce, and free-range organic beef and chicken.  The fish is often farm-raised, but then I’m making sure it is organic (so even though corn-fed, it is not genetically modified corn) or wild-caught.  I have my own continuing battle over farmed fish vs. wild-caught because of the wild fishing methods being harmful to other sea creatures…so I’ll keep having a think on that one.  I don’t see a clear answer yet on the fish front.

But 8 pounds?  Just from avoiding the fillers?  Does it take me more time to prepare all my foods?  Yes.  Definitely.  From soup stocks to baked goods…a lot more time.  Is this higher quality of food more expensive?  Yes.  Definitely.  However, I’m no longer spending a cent on packaged anything, so it seems to even out.  Am I wasting food?  Very little.  Most leftover bones, and vegetable scraps go into my freezer for soup stock.  It took me a few weeks to realize that such fresh food goes bad more quickly, so I’m heading to the store and local farmer more often, but other than that, it is becoming a fairly easy and enjoyable way of life.   I really feel that I’ll lose another 5 – 10 pounds over the next 6 months to a year as the belly fat continues to dissolve without fillers and excess estrogen (from pesticides and preservatives) to keep it there.

I don’t worry about when I eat out or if my daughter desperately wants something that is filled with corn syrup and fillers, because it is the rare occasion and not the rule. 

I feel incredibly healthy.  So, there is the update.

2010 TechConnect Conference

I’ve been invited to participate in the 2010 TechConnect conference taking place next week in Anaheim.  The program is all about clean energy, creating smart grids and community use of energy on and off the grid.  Timing is perfect with the Gulf Oil spill top of everyone’s mind.  Some brilliant minds from top universities, BC and California power companies, and private “clean” industry will be conducting workshops focused on the British Columbia/California combined resources and it should be very exciting.  I was blown away at the conference I attended a few months ago and expect more of the same.  The public doesn’t often hear what is going on behind closed doors, particulary when it comes to smart energy and this type of conference is an encouraging invitation to what the future could be.

One person.

Here I sit, again, writing at my dining room table, with doors fully open, the smell of jasmine and roses, lavendar and rosemary gentlingin on the breeze.   I’ve just been reading news reports and emails regarding the oil well explosion tragically killing 11 workers and the resulting break in the pipeline that is decimating the Gulf of Mexico and the life in it.  How can we be on the same planet?  In my small world, I try to do good deeds, treat others kindly, be a good role model for my child, and earn an honest living.  My fruit trees, flowering garden and vegetable patch are a reflection of my desire to keep nature flourishing — at least in my home environment.  As I learn about new things (like the food chain as depicted in Food, Inc.), I embrace that knowledge and do my best to be even more of a responsible creature who has been given the opportunity to share life on this planet with all the other creatures here.  I’m one person.  So it makes me feel a bit overwhelmed and under-powered, to think that one person can change the planet. 

If you think about it, though, one person made the decision to build an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  You can say that a Board of Directors at BP made the decision, but ultimately, one person put the idea out there and pushed it forward.  One person did something wrong in the construction that caused a weakness and ultimately an explosion.  Doesn’t matter who, for the sake of this argument — but it could have been an overtired worker, engineer, planner, who put or didn’t put, the wrong thingamajiggee in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or didn’t adequately tighten a bolt.  Or who was smoking next to flammable materials.  Or who approved sub-standard materials in construction.  Who knows?  But it was likely one person who did one wrong thing that has killed a whole bunch of workers and now, untold amounts of marine and marine-dwelling life.

If a nuclear bomb went off, it would be one person who would be responsible for that decision.  In whatever country, at whatever time.  One person would say “go”, or one person would punch in a key code, or one person would turn a key, or one person would push a button, and our world would change forever. 

The earth will continue, even if we destroy it.  But human life and the creatures who live on earth could very well end.  Because of one person.

The general belief is that it takes less muscles to smile than to frown.  But according to one plastic surgeon, who looked at the basic muscle functions needed to create a smile and a frown, it takes 12 muscles to smile and 11 to frown.  One more muscle to go to good from not so good. 

Then, there is the myth of the 100th monkey (thanks to reader, Shelley, for passing that along yesterday), which was based on a real study of monkeys using water to wash sand from yams set out for them on a beach.  As one monkey washed sand off the yams, other monkeys followed suit.  Eventually all the food gatherers washed sand off their yams.  They didn’t achieve critical mass in that the behavior didn’t spread outside their small group, but the concept is heart-warming. 

I’m going to stick with the one more muscle to smile than frown theory, because as I look around my world, I seem to see more people frowning than smiling.  Just a little more effort might be needed to smile.  And as anyone who knows me knows…I’m a smiler.  I’m constantly using that extra muscle.  What if I apply that to the effort I might need to be the one person who adds to the critical mass to make the world a cleaner, healthier, better nutrified, more responsible and respectful place to be?  And what if you do that too?  Then we all add muscle to positive direction. 

My choices?  Shopping local — going to the Tapia Brothers farm down the street and to my local Farmers market.  To grow vegetables.  To compost and put my landfill back into the earth.  To eat grass-fed, free-range beef.  To purchase only free-range poultry and egg.  To avoid corn and soy fillers (and most preserved food).  To impact the multi-national businesses with my few dollars and cents.  To continue to walk 4-5 miles a day.  To be a creature of the planet.  To be kind to animals.  To give love to my child, my family and to humanity.  To be  mensch on this planet.  One person.

What’s your choice?

Reader comment

A reader happened upon a post from 2006 (pre-crash) about finding a job at 50 plus.  The comment:

… I really do want to know about starting a NEW career at 50+. I worked my way into my last career, NO COLLEGE DEGREE, making $95k+, laid off, and after two years of searching realize I’ll probably never get back into my old niche. I’m looking at descriptions of Associate Degrees, Certificate Programs, etc. How can I find out which career is more friendly to older applicants? For instance, I’m considering Para Legal (possible La, or Web Design, or Physical Fitness Trainer. Am I fooling myself into thinking anyone will hire someone close to 60 with new degree/certificate in hand?

It’s a good question and one that job seekers are asking even more often.  So let’s look at this situation.  The reader is correct — at close to 60, coming off a $95K job and being jobless for 2 years, the chances of finding someone to employ at this salary level is pretty low, although not impossible.  However, it makes more sense to look at where industry will grow as we come out of the bad economy and either repurpose your skills, or develop new ones to address where the need will be. 

Right now, the job market is so bleak, it really isn’t about whether you are too young or too old.  Any employer looking to fill a position can find exactly the right person, with exactly the right skills set for any given position.  That means finding a job by applying online will put you in the database mix without much of an edge and with no “in” to the company.   There are employers hiring, but there are less open positions than there are available workers.  Think of it this way.  You are hungry.  There is a barrel of apples in front of you and you can choose whichever one you want.  Of course, you’ll look through at least the first part of the barrel and find the best looking apple you can.  That is today’s econony.  Hundreds of people applying for each job.  First, best one to the table gets the foot in the door.

In a good economy, there might only be 3 apples to choose from — so your chances would be much greater of getting picked…especially if you were shiny and unbruised.

Now, take a look at the job market.  Who is hiring?  Well, not many.  The biggest arena is health/medical related jobs.  You’ve got openings in the medical field, which is still pretty stable, although feeling some of the trickle-down this year.  Education looks like it is in for an overhaul, so there will be opportunities there.  And the other great area of advancement is in renewable/sustainable energy solutions and all the companies that support that field.

If I were going to get certified, it would not be as a paralegal, when clients don’t have money to pay their lawyers.  It would not be in web design, where coming in at entry level in a field ripe with talent.  I don’t think I’d go for a physical trainer either, although I’m not going to say to shut the door there.  While there are tons of unemployed physical trainers, there is also several decades of an aging population ahead of us, so if you can find a way to marry a trainer position with healthcare, that might be worth looking at.

But for my money, if I were going to start all over again and I didn’t have the skills to start my own business, I’d get green certified and look for work in that field.  I’d go to green conferences, events,  companies, websites, and network myself into that arena.

Any other thoughts?