Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009: Love Your Planet

I write a monthly column in the Cape Cod Times called, "Be Green" offering readers ways they can do more to live a green life. Last night I spoke at an Earth Day event here on the Cape and complied the list below as a handout. Thought I'd share!

Remember EVERY day should be Earth Day, not just once a year.

Ten Things You Can Do Today To Be More Green:

1. Unplug your cell phone chargers and other small appliances when not in use. Ten percent of our energy is wasted on items that are plugged in and not in use.
2. It may not be realistic to give up all paper napkins or paper towels, but think before you grab an armful for one spill, or a half dozen napkins for a bowl of soup.
3. Switch from petroleum based paraffin candles to soy and beeswax ones. Cheaper candles also often have lead in the wicks, so you're breathing in that along the oil-based wax fumes. As a bonus, beeswax candles last longer too!
4. Summer is coming, and instead of slathering yourself with chemical-laden sunscreens, (some of which contain oxybenzone - a chemical that has been shown to cause hormone disruption, low birth weight in children and allergies). Health food stores are chock full of natural choices. Use those. Brands like Kiss My Face and Badger Balm are considered safe for the whole family.
5. This is simple and you are hopefully doing it already - recycle. Don't throw away anything that you can recycle. Paper, magazines, old phone books. cans, plastics, cardboard and glass. Get some bins and just do it.
6. If you take your lunch to work or school pack it in reusable containers.
7. By now you should know to not be buying bottled water. Buy a bottle and fill it. If the water in your area isn't great buy a Brita pitcher or a filter for your tap.
8. No matter what kind of shopping you're doing bring a reusable bag with you. Not just to the grocery store but every kind of store.
9. Buy locally grown food as much as possible. The less your food travels, the less the impact on the environment. The good news is local is often healthier as well.
10. Switch to online bill paying. If everyone did this it would save lots and lots of paper, and fuel driving those bills around. To see the impact the switch would make check out this Web site.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle: Perfect Just As She Is

Like many people, over the last couple of days I've been hearing a lot about a lovely Scottish woman, Susan Boyle with an amazing voice. This sweet, unassuming woman sang a song from "Le Miserables," so beautifully it even softened the often-grouchy Simon Cowell and caused the audience to rise from their seats yelling and clapping.

But, it's started already - the desire to make her over. A writer whom I love, Ann Leary, wrote about how women are often critiqued for their looks on her blog yesterday, and it caused me to follow through on something I'd been wanting to write about.

I saw Simon Cowell and the rest of that British audience rolling their eyes at Susan Boyle. See, she's not pretty in the conventional sense. I confess I had those thoughts as I watched her, wanting to "pretty her up." You know, wax the brows, fix the hair, convince her dark hose with white shoes isn't a great look. But then I thought about it and asked the question: Says who???

We are all awfully opinionated about how we should all look. Hey, I buy into it. MY hair is highlighted. I pluck, pumice and preen with the best of them, and I like it. One of my best friends, who is one of the most incredible people I know, isn't at all into that stuff. She'd rather chainsaw down a tree, play her fiddle or teach a child how to do math than fuss with her hair. She does however, paint her toenails. When I've pointed out the incongruity of this girly pursuit, she just shrugs her shoulders and says she like having her toes painted. God how I love her.

I was watching "Access Hollywood" or "Extra" last night - they're pretty interchangeable - and they had a makeup and hair person do a virtual makeover on Miss Doyle and showed her all prettied up. And it made me sad. What is wrong with the way she looks now?

If Susan Doyle wants to change her look she should, but my hope would be that if she doesn't that it wouldn't change her trajectory for success. But I know that won't be true. I can see it now - some stylist will get their bony hands on her and style her to be something different, something they feel is better - something the masses will think is an acceptable amount of pretty.

Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. I know the lens through which I look at others refocuses when I see beyond what I might initially see. I remember when my son Ben was in high school and had dreadlocks. I would see the looks he got, especially from older people who judged him without having a clue as to who he was. What they didn't see, beyond the hair, was the captain of the football team, the honor roll student, the REALLY nice kid who would hold a door or carry groceries for them.

Not everyone wants to be waxed, Botoxed and trussed like a turkey. Susan Boyle is sassy, brave, funny and incredibly gifted. So back off you crones with the scissors and makeup brushes, let the woman be who she is, I think she has a lot to teach us about what beautiful truly is.