A Year of Drops: Reducing

by Katie LaFond

Step 3: Get Serious About Reducing

  • When you throw things “away,” remember that there is no such thing as “away.” Where does it go?
  • Rinse the trash you DO throw away, so that your barrel does not smell, and you can go longer between using a new (often plastic) trash bag.
  • When possible, buy things in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging you’re also buying with the desired product.  You can bring a cotton produce bag for bulk items.
  • Make a list of everything that goes in your trash and recycling, and determine one thing each week you can stop buying that makes trash. Packaging accounted for much of my
    photo by Bill McChesney; used under a Creative Commons License

    photo by Bill McChesney; used under a Creative Commons License

    waste. Buying things in bulk and at the local farmers’ markets (I’m lucky enough to have both summer and winter farmers’ markets) cut down on much of the packaging I brought home and immediately threw away.

  • It often seems cheaper and easier to just “buy a new one” for example, the drip trays underneath the burners on your stove. They can get really gross! It’s tempting to throw them away and put new ones in, but be aware of the hidden costs to yourself and the world… Soak them in baking soda and water overnight, and clean them. The more often you wash them, the less work it is.
  • Water usage: turn it off! Even in water-rich areas like the Northeastern US, using water requires energy to run the pump, the water heater, etc. When you brush your teeth, don’t let the water run. I like to fill up a glass which I use to wet and rinse my toothbrush. Using a cup of water, as opposed to a gallon, makes a difference. When shaving, put a little water in the bottom of the sink instead of letting the water run.
  • Consider showering by running the water just long enough to get wet. Turn it off, soap up, and then turn it back on for just long enough to rinse. If you enjoy the feeling of soaking in warm water, consider a long bath. (If you’re indulging in a bath, make it worth the water usage: relax for a half hour or more.)
  • Make sure when you are doing laundry, do a full load. Doing half a load of laundry uses almost as much water and energy, but be aware; overstuffing your washer is also inefficient.
  • Get into “shabby chic.” Freecycle and craigslist are a great way to make sure your unwanted items stay out of trash heaps. Acquiring the things you want and need using Freecycle or similar is also a good way to support the reusing effort. Older items can work just as well, and can add a rustic look to your house.

This is part four of a thirteen-part series by Katie on ways to walk more lightly on the Earth.  You can read more here: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse).

Year of Drops: Reusing

by Katie LaFond

Step 2: Get Serious About Reusing

  • Reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags are great. Most of the reusable bags for purchase are made from polyester or plastic (which comes from fossil fuels). Purchase or make reusable bags made of natural fibers (cotton, hemp, etc) that can be composted when they are no longer usable as bags. Free patterns can be found here.
  • Use reusable containers instead of plastic wrap.  Bring them to restaurants for leftovers too! (I keep some in the car because I’m forgetful)
  • Use reusable coffee mugs at the coffee shop. Keep one in your car all the time just in case you have a sudden coffee craving
  • Wash your plastic freezer bags to reuse them
  • Reuse containers that your food is packaged in. Spaghetti sauce jars can be useful for leftover soup, used as a water bottle, making herbal tea, as a candle holder, and to hold dried beans/nuts/etc.
  • Plastic has its place. With a small child, I often use tupperware or rubbermaid containers to send his lunch to school, pyrex having the potential to smash and make an unsafe
    Photo by Kevin Dooley, used under a Creative Commons license

    Photo by Kevin Dooley, used under a Creative Commons license

    situation for the children and teachers. Well-made plastic containers that can be used for decades and then be recycled is preferable to the disposable plastic (or styrofoam) that is often used, even if you recycle it afterward. There are also stainless steel/metal container options that you can research that can be safer for small hands.

  • Remember that the process of recycling often uses a lot of energy and can release chemicals that are detrimental to the  health of the world and ourselves as part of it. It is often better than products ending up in landfills, but reusing is often preferable to recycling.
  • Facecloth sized cotton towels/rags in the kitchen for drying hands/wiping up spills can help you avoid using paper towels. Cotton will compost when you’re done with them). Keep a basket of them handy.
  • Cotton washing rags to wash your dishes can help you avoid using a petroleum based sponge. It’s also more sanitary, because you can throw the rag in the laundry at the end of the day. It can also be composted when it is no longer useful as a washing rag
  • Reusable cotton napkins: keep a basket of them near the table.
  • Reusable batteries. (Make sure to read the charging instructions)
  • Reusable plates/silverware. My husband and I have a small tote that we use to transport 20 plates, cloth napkins, and sets of silverware with us when we attend potlucks. The used dishes go back into the tote to come home with us, and the tote then serves as a dishpan. We wash the dishes, let them dry, and then they go back into the tote to await the next potluck.
  • You can also bring your own plate/napkin/silverware with you when you attend potlucks. Metal pie plates can be very useful.
  • Cloth diapers. If you have a baby, cloth diapers are a great way to reduce the amount of trash you make. Bonus: it saves money! Borrow some prefolds, a variety of covers or soakers, and perhaps some “all-in-one” type diapers to determine your favorite type. See if any of your friends have some you can use, or look on Freecycle/Craigslist to buy your diapers. Washing them is not hard. Be sure not to use traditional detergent which can waterproof what we hope will be absorbent. Here is one resource.
  • Reusable menstrual pads, and menstrual cups. A little pricey, but once purchased, you don’t have to buy products each month, and washing them yourself, you don’t have to worry about what chemicals are contacting your skin. Many different options are available, google “reusable menstrual pads and cups.”


This is part three of Katie’s thirteen-part series on ways to walk more lightly on the Earth.  You can read more here: introduction, step 1 (recycle).

A Year of Drops: Recycling

by Katie LaFond

Step 1: Get Serious About Recycling

  • Many communities have curbside recycling or transfer stations that accept recycling. Utilize these options
  • Grocery stores often have plastic shopping bag recycling stations, as well as bottle and can return facilities

    Recycling!  Photo by Katie LaFond

    Recycling! Photo by Katie LaFond

  • Electronics stores, like Best Buy or Staples, often accept old electronics for recycling. Go through your basement and drawers for those hidden old electronics that can get recycled which cleans out your house and frees up the resources to make new items
  • Aluminum is an example of a resource that is much less costly to recycle than to produce from scratch. Recycling aluminum requires only 5% of the total amount of energy that is used for making new aluminum.
  • Paper can be recycled about five to seven times before the fibers become too short to be recycled again, and saves many trees along the way (also be careful not to misprint copies, and to only make what you need… double sided, perhaps)
  • No recycling available while you’re out? Put the bottle in your bag, and put it in the recycling bin at home.
  • Not sure how to recycle it? Check Earth911.

This is part two of a thirteen-part series by Katie on ways to walk more lightly on the Earth. You can read the introduction here.

A Year of Drops

by Katie LaFond

I celebrate the Earth as Sacred, and it started me down a path many years ago that has borne some surprising fruit. Below is a collection of simple things you can do to help live more lightly on the Earth. I consider each of these an act of prayer.

The tips are organized into 12 sections. [Editor’s note: we’ll be posting them once a week here for the next little while!] A lot of these cross over, but this will get you started. Focus on one section at a time.

This is one of the rings made in the visioning ritual at Twilight Covening.  It reminds us that we can create new ways of being in the world.

This is one of the rings made in the visioning ritual at Twilight Covening. It reminds us that we can create new ways of being in the world.time. Really incorporating these habits into your life will take time. Be patient with the process and with yourself. It has taken my family many years to incorporate these changes into our lives.

Do these at your own pace. With 12 sections, you can choose to focus on one area for the amount of time that feels right to you. If you find the pacing too fast/slow, you can always modify your habits. The point here is to see how easy it can be to weave some of these into your life. Remember that this blog post is only the beginning. This can be a lifestyle change, and will take you on interesting adventures along the way. Every drop in the bucket makes a difference.

  1. Get serious about Recycling
  2. Get serious about Reusing
  3. Get serious about Reducing
  4. Start Composting
  5. Use your car less
  6. Locate your local food options
  7. Where do your things come from? Try to source as many of the things you use within a 100 mile radius of your home
  8. Start a garden
  9. Look into buying “Environmentally Friendly” products.
  10. Energy consumption
  11. Get Crafty
  12. Educate yourself

This post is the first in a series of thirteen posts by Katie on ways you can walk more lightly on the Earth.  Stay tuned for the rest!  

Spinning Yarns with Llama Clan

This post is by Katie Birdi.  Katie follows an Earth-based spirituality and has studied Anamanta and Blackheart Feri. A third-generation fiber artist and a flutist, Katie has taught workshops in a variety of pagan disciplines, and lives with her family amidst a sea of wool in Western MA.

Llama Clan was born of Wool and Magic. My life has been threaded through with fiber arts, music, magic, and stories of my ancestors.

spinning…Hi, I’m Katie and I’m 4 and three-quarters years old. I love dancing and my doggie and my Nannie is teaching me how to spin yarn, knit, and crochet. She’s got a big wheel that spins around and around and she lets me push my foot on the pedal while she moves the fluffy stuff through her fingers and tells me stories about magic.

…Hello, I’m Kathryn, I’m in the eighth grade, and my Mom, Aunt, and Nan just made me a special dinner. I recently became a Woman. They gave me special earrings, told me stories, and my Nan joked that I wouldn’t be a “real” knitter until I could knit on US size 2 needles. My Aunt’s knitting takes my breath away, and she talks about it like it is a living thing. I’m starting to understand that it IS a living thing!

…I’ve been unable to walk for 4 years now, so I’m really grateful for my Mom, flute, television, and my knitting needles. Nan, Mom, Auntie and I sit, knit, tell stories, and have tea and cookies. Sometimes as we tell stories, my eyes get heavy, and I feel like I’m dreaming. The stories are more complex now, and when I knit, they get woven into my project. I’m starting to feel the love and the stories in the sweaters that my Mom knits for me.

…Birdi here. Had surgery, walking again. My favorite meditation tool is garter stitch, and college is great. I miss my Mothers, but I’m learning so much, and I’m hoping to be in Crow Clan this year.

…I’m a clan leader now. After a couple of years co-leading Nightingale Clan, enjoying the magic of music, these beautiful recurring dreams come to me where I get to share the magic of knotwork, the crucible of intention that runs through my hands while spinning, and the chanting that can be done while knitting lace. I have all these ideas burning in my soul that I want to share. Every step in fiber working is full of magic. I’m seven months pregnant, and I know that while I knit this baby blanket with my hands, I’m knitting together the tissues of a body with my own. How sacred my belly button is, that it connects me to my Mothers, and to Those who will come after…

Llama Clan was born of Wool and Magic. My life has been threaded through with fiber arts, music, magic, and stories of my ancestors. As a clan leader, I weave clans together drawing from my own magical work, and the magical tools that have best served me. I’m grateful to be able to offer Llama Clan again, to help facilitate a unique Twilight Covening clan experience. I hope you will join me.
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Twilight Covening is a continuous three-day ritual that connects us with the seasonal shift from light to dark in order to seek inspiration and tools to fuel our practices through the winter.  The intensive work of Twilight Covening takes place in practice-specific Clans of 10-20 people and in full-community rituals that flow together through the weekend.  This year, the gathering will be held October 11-14 in Western Massachusetts.  Registration is open until September 25!  Learn more or register now.  

Offerings

by Katie Birdi

The world is (among other things) a cycle of give and take. We breathe out, the plants breathe in. The plants breathe out, we breathe in. Offering doesn’t have to be about sacrifice. It can be joyful gratitude for the bounty we are surrounded by, a connection with our prayers, a gift of service, and the passion we are compelled to express.

My offerings come in cycles, as a part of my daily practice. I offer something daily, weekly, monthly… and they connect me to different rhythms in my life. Daily, I offer my breath to the plants, keenly aware that their existence, and my own, is locked in an elegant (covalent) bond. Weekly, I offer a bowl of rice to the spirits of the land I live on in respect and gratitude for the Unseen Ones that populate this place with me. Monthly, I donate newborn and preemie hats (knitted with love) to the local hospital. Every other month, I also head downstairs to donate a pint of my blood, a very physical offering, and one of my favorites. I give thanks that I am healthy and strong, watching my blood flow out of my body, and wish with each drop that whoever receives my blood also be healthy and strong. I do my best to stay open and aware, and I give other offerings as they seem appropriate. I do my best to do it with a clean, clear heart, and with respect and honor to the world which is my home and family. One of my favorites is to leave nuts in the holes of trees. I will do this to give thanks, sometimes in supplication, and sometimes just because it feels right to do.

Offerings come in many forms. Gifts of service are particularly humbling to me. I have friends who host gatherings, musical performances, and I have one friend who consistently does the dishes after a group meal. What an amazing, oft overlooked offering! I am touched each time a person holds the door for me, offers water to a dog that needs it, chooses to ride a bike instead of drive a car, or offers to help someone change a flat tire. Recognizing these offerings makes each moment of my life sweeter.

My son turned two in February of this year, and we enjoy frequent walks in the woods. I am so glad to have the opportunity to show him all the wonders that the world so passionately expresses. I was dismayed at first, that my son was most fascinated by the trash he would find in the forest. Running past a snail, a fallen tree, a pine cone and a forest of fiddleheads, he triumphantly points his finger at a smashed plastic cup and its blue straw, sticking up pathetically from the wreckage. “Bwoo! Bwoo!” he says, looking for affirmation that he has correctly identified the color of this amazing thing he’s found in the forest. “Yes, blue” I say, proud that my son is developing in language, awareness, and ability. I’m also dismayed that the forest I’ve brought my son to, hoping to teach him about the sacredness of the Earth, is filled with trash.

It occurs to me that the trash I’m surrounded by is an offering. The people who have left these offerings have shown, with their actions, how much they value the Body of the Earth. What are you offering? Is it the best of who you are and what you have to give? If offerings are a prayer, what are you praying with? What sorts of unspoken things are you saying to the world and your community with your habits? If the only offerings we make are the convenient offerings of coffee cups, wasted food, and misprinted copies, we invite similar energy into our lives. Take a moment. Take a breath. Take only what you need, and give of yourself in return.

I do my best to help my son learn the vital lesson of the Thank You letter. Gratitude is something I wish to nurture in his nature. I do my best to teach him that an Intentional Offering isn’t always a thing. Sometimes it’s money, food or goods, but sometimes it’s an offering of time, skill, or consideration. Sometimes it means inconveniencing ourselves for the good of the World. Carry a reusable water bottle. Enjoy your reusable mug. What do you “throw away” on a daily basis? Where does it really go?

When we go shopping, my son has his own, toddler-sized reusable shopping bag, and his own toddler-sized water bottle. Children learn by imitating adult behavior, and as Mama carries a reusable bottle & shopping bags (offerings of consideration), he needs one of his own. One of his first chores was to help Mama sort the recycling. We talk about reducing, reusing, and recycling every day. The concepts are clearer to him now than the words are when he says them, and I am a Proud Mama…and now our walks in the woods include a bag for the trash we find, which we sort for recycling later.