Archive | September, 2009

The world would be so much shitter without you, Colin

29 Sep

Colin Beavan that is. You are probably like me and have never heard of him. And if you are anything like me, you will probably appreciate his efforts, his findings and his writing just as much as I do.

Recently I was in LA airport with a few hours to kill before my flight to Sydney. I had wandered around all of the shops and was trying to cure boredom while not spending any money, but was not really succeeding. I had already bought a copy of Dwell magazine, a milky way and about 6 bags of reece’s pieces (for gifts I swear).

I was feeling the effects of constant traveling and movement over the last two weeks. My body was struggling with just being in one place, that wasn’t bed, for more than an hour. I felt like I was moving even when I was sitting perfectly still. I needed… nothingness. I found a spot to sit by myself, listened to some relaxing music on my ipod and drifted into a dream, just being. I visualised places far more lush and peaceful than the grimy airport terminal and when I opened my eyes about 45 minutes later, I was completely relaxed.

Even though I was feeling totally at peace, I had an urge to walk… back to the bookstore that I had visited twice already to buy candy and a magazine. I wandered through the aisles of books with no expectations as I had already walked through here earlier and found nothing worth buying in american dollars. And then, there it was. Way up above my head on the top shelf, Colin’s book “No Impact Man”. I had to climb up on the the bottom shelf so that I could reach it. I did this without even considering what anyone might think of me.

The raw cardboard cover grabbed my attention, the blurb connected with me and after I flicked through a few pages I knew that I would enjoy this book. I decided it was worth an extra international transaction and read 1/4 of it before we boarded the plane, laughing and nodding out loud to myself.

Basically he spends a year of his life trying to reduce waste in his life as much as is humanly possible. Whether that be wasting plastic, water, power, emissions, anything.  Oh yeah and, he lives in an apartment in New York City.
It’s not like it’s anything ground-breakingly original. It seems that these days it’s cool to be green anyway. But the beauty of Colin’s story is that he is not trying to be rad or to have all the answers, in fact, throughout the book he confirms that he is just like you and me… someone that is concerned about the planet and climate change but feels that they can do nothing about it.

He proves us all wrong. He shares his challenges along the way and I connect hugely with his feelings of guilt when considering doing something that you know is ‘bad’. Sometimes it’s such a dilemma, especially when you take into account the old saying – When you know better you are expected to do better. Even if it’s only yourself that expects it!

This book makes me want to be a better person. I have become more conscious of things that used to be automatic, for example:

Bob and I normally share a container of roll-on deodorant. He has taken it away with him for a few days and I thought I had a spare one at home but I don’t. I had planned to buy one during my lunch break today at work and did not see that there were any other alternative apart from just simply buying a new one… until last night.

I was reading No Impact Man and Colin mentions that he has started using baking soda as deodorant. I consider it and then talk myself out of it before going to bed. When I woke up this morning I considered it again and then decided to stick to my original plan and to buy some today at lunch. It will get used right? It’s not really a waste is it?
I began to wonder about how I would go without deodorant at work until lunchtime. I opened the pantry and found the baking soda. This time I talked myself into it with the rationale that if it didn’t work I could at least buy some at lunch.

You might think that I’m crazy for rubbing baking soda into my armpits, but I tell you what, it worked better than any deodorant that I’ve ever used. I am going to use it again tomorrow and if it’s successful again then I may well make the switch permanently. This girl did. Read her blog, she’s awesome.

This got me thinking about not washing my hair again. I have major envy of many of the guys that I know who don’t wash their hair. I’ve found that with longer hair it’s alot harder to get away with. So far this year I’ve done a few week-long stints without washing my hair to reduce my it’s need to produce oil everyday. It works but it gradually goes back to wanting to be washed every day.

But today, my shampoo is almost empty and I’m inspired. Watch this space for an update.

So back to Colin… If I open the floodgates on everything I think and feel about this, we could all be here for a long time so I’ll just say this:

Read it.

I’ll lend it to you so you don’t have to buy anything new that comes in polluting packaging that’s designed to last forever yet to only be used once.


Glass o’ Whine

25 Sep

I’ve always said that I wish I liked wine. There seems to be a lovely culture around it. Well sort of, apart all the wank and money.

But unfortunately to me it just tastes wrong. I know that I will never acquire a taste for it. I’d much rather be a chain smoker than ever have to ingest this repulsive goo. I find the smell and the taste disgusting, I can’t stand the way that people’s mouth and teeth turn purple after too much red wine and frankly I’m not too keen on what it does to you. If you know me then you know that I’m not all that interested in hanging out with drunk people (like the sort of drunk where you stop making sense and can’t think straight and say really dumb things and embarrass yourself and offend people and have purple lips).

I’ve also noticed that wine (red wine especially) tends to generate terrible hangovers, for most people I know anyway.

So why bother?
Most people say that wine isn’t about getting drunk, it’s about enjoying, romancing and accentuating something… so my argument is, what is stopping you from enjoying that very thing – without the wine??

Bob and I had this debate recently and he wasn’t quite able to explain it. I understand that there is a strange relationship between wine and food where they apparently make each other taste better. This has obviously been proven. I don’t see a problem with this. It’s the other things that wine apparently makes better that I don’t understand.

The most common thing I’ve noticed people associating wine with is relaxing and unwinding. They say, “I want to just…

…sit on the balcony with a glass of wine
…cook dinner and talk about my day sharing a bottle of wine
…watch the sunset over a glass of wine
…have a glass of wine relaxing with friends
…have a relaxing, romantic evening (and you can’t have this without wine, right?)

What is it about this mysterious liquid that makes things “better”?
explains that alcohol causes a chemical reaction in the brain which is perceived as relaxation and is actually caused by a slowing in brain function. Alcohol is a depressant after all so it sort of makes sense that people would enjoy using wine to relax.

What I’m suggesting is that maybe it would be possible to learn alternative ways of relaxing to break down the belief that we need wine to do it. Well not just wine – alcohol in general. Why do you ‘need’ to have a beer after work? Because it’s a habit? Because you want to relax? How else can you relax? What do you get out of feeling relaxed?

Here are some things that I do to relax: walk, write, eat, breathe, meditate, talk, stretch, think, do nothing, read, shower, mindlessly surf the net, pat the cat. And what do I get out of these? A sense of wellbeing and health, joy, happiness, fulfillment, awareness, knowledge and pretty much the opposite of tension and stress. This is an interesting read on the link between alcohol and stress. It seems ironic that alcohol use may well contribute to stress (in some people) and yet is commonly used to eliminate feelings of stress. A vicious cycle if you ask me.

When you think about it this way, it’s easy to see how people become alcoholics. Not that I’m suggesting that people who prefer to have a glass of wine to relax in any way have a drinking problem. I’m just stating that other things are also relaxing and can be less addictive, with less health risks and are generally more wholesome. A hot bath is probably better for you than a beer after work, but a beer is … easier? It’s certainly not cheaper.

I wonder whether people choose alcohol because it is easier than taking time out for themselves or because it’s easier than taking charge and doing something proactive. I’ve noticed that most people tend to have looking after themselves at the bottom of their to do list. I am guilty of this. Has the glass o’ wine become a quick fix because it takes too long and requires too much effort to find another way to relax? Or maybe we’re just hooked on the relaxed ‘feeling’ that the wine gives us?

Considering that being relaxed means to be ‘less tense’, there are probably a number of ways in which you could achieve this by simply changing your thoughts/perpesctive or by reducing the cause of the tension in the first place. Doesn’t this seem healthier and more logical than using alcohol to give you a perceived sense of relaxation while actually doing nothing to remove or reduce it?

I’ll leave my rant about how I reckon all of this effects you subconsciously for another day. This one is getting quite lengthy as it is.

So once again, if you know me, you know that I’m pretty much anti alcohol and drugs so of course I will have a biased opinion of this topic. I suppose that’s why I’m posting this in a space that allows other to share their thoughts because I imagine many people will want to challenge me and defend their love of wine and say that I will never understand the joy that is believing that wine can make any situation more relaxing that it otherwise could be. Please go ahead, enlighten me. Without your challenges I may never understand.

This is merely an exploration of the idea that perhaps a “glass o’ wine” could be replaced with any number of sumptuous, splendid, sexy and satisfying activities to generate an equal or better result. And I do, of course, love exploring – the brain just as much as the world.

Special Fridays – on the phone!

4 Sep

Before I moved Sienna and I had created "special Fridays" where we would meet for lunch and then sit around talking and drinking coffee all day. In most cases the only reason we would go home would be because we had dinner obligations or partner-guilt. I often wondered how long the chats would go on for if we didn’t feel the need to break it up. Still 6 or 7 hours is a pretty good effort.

Since the move we’ve both been committed to keeping in touch over the phone. After missing each other a few times this week we scheduled a time to chat – on Friday! We started early and had breakfast and lunch together. We saw sun and rain and didn’t achieve much at all around the house. In the end the only reason we hung up was because we were a little scared about the cost of the phone call. We spent close to the equivalent of an average working day talking shit on the phone. If only I could get paid for this.

After a hung up, I was still thinking about things I wanted to say 🙂