Category Archives: Psychology of change

The Building Blocks of a Better Life

Learning how to pickle cucumbers and green beans

Our local sustainability group — Transition Longfellow — has been helping people preserve their garden produce with group cucumber and bean pickling and group tomato canning workshops. This summer we’ve also built solar cookers and Little Free Libraries. Some members have gone berry picking together, toured each others’ gardens, and made jam, jellies and soups together. These are teaching and learning moments, but they are also friend-making and community building moments.

Transition Longfellow First Saturday Discussion Group

How often do you hear people complain that as they get older, it’s harder to make friends. It doesn’t have to be that way. Since becoming involved with the Transition movement, I have not only learned new skills, I’ve met literally hundreds of people with whom I have important things in common. I have made many new – and I hope lasting – friendships. It has enriched my life (and my pantry) immensely.

Learning about – and making – a solar cooker with friends from Transition Longfellow.

While it may be challenging to make significant lifestyle changes to reduce your carbon footprint, to reduce waste, or to grow your own food, building a network of supportive friends who are walking the same path makes this effort much more joyful and rewarding. We are amazed at not only the talent of people in our community, but also their willingness to share and teach. Last weekend, a very skilled carpenter helped a dozen people build Little Free Libraries together, making his studio available for us to use. Just yesterday, a new friend spent most of the day with me teaching me how to use a pressure canner to can soup.

Spreading the word that Longfellow has a neighborhood sustainability group and everyone is invited!

If you are in the Longfellow neighborhood, we hope you will join us. I think you’ll find many opportunities to participate and to build new friendships. We host a 1st Saturday discussion group at the Riverview Wine Bar from 10:30 to noon. We also host a potluck/movie night on the 3rd Friday of each month (starting again in Sept), at Bethany Lutheran Church on 36th Avenue and 39th St. Other events are offered occasionally throughout the year. Of course, if you’d like to lead an event or offer a training, please let us know. We’ll advertise it to our list.

Neighbors get to know one another while building “Little Free Libraries” together

If you live elsewhere, don’t wait for someone else to make things happen. YOU can make things happen. YOU can create a flyer and post it at as local coffee shop to create a sustainability group. YOU can host a reading group at your local library or church. If you are in the Twin Cities, contact the Alliance for Sustainability to see if they know others in your area who are interested in these types of activities or if there is already a group in your community.

September Sustainability Events

As summer winds down and Minnesotans try to fit EVERYTHING into our last month of warm days, September weekends get booked up fast. Here’s some events that should get on your calendar.

THIS Saturday, September 10Parade of Chicken Coops: 10:00AM  to  4:00PM. This is a self-guided tour of volunteers eager to show you how chickens fit with urban agriculture. Thinking of getting chickens? Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply is a one-stop shop for urban chicken-keeping.   

NEXT Friday, September 16 — The Longfellow Sustainability Group Movie Night & Potluck: We’ll be showing “Power of Community, How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.” The U.S. embargo of Cuba and the downfall of the Soviet Union disrupted oil supplies to Cuba, causing massive disruption in systems of transportation, work and food production. People were going hungry. But this island nation showed tremendous character and caring in how it tackled the problem of forced “peak oil” and took care of its people. This is a really uplifting movie. Hope we see you there!

Moving Planet - Moving Beyond Fossil FuelsSaturday, September 24 – MN350 Rally: People around the globe are gathering on September 24 for Moving Planet – a worldwide rally to demand solutions to the climate crisis. In Minnesota, we’ll be meeting at the State Capital to tell our legislators it’s time to move beyond fossil fuels. Minnesotans are particularly vulnerable to the coming climate crisis because of our temperature extremes — more snow means more floods, more days over 100 degrees with high humidity could mean deaths from heat. We need action! (350 is the parts per million of carbon that scientists say is safe for our atmosphere. We’re at 394 – and going up.)

Sunday, September 25 — Tour of Minnesota’s first eco-friendly cemetery, Prairie Oaks: The tour begins at 3. Address is 8225 Argenta Train, Inver Grove Heights, MN. Call 612-250-2655 to learn more.

Saturday, October 1 — Solar Tour: It’s called a solar tour, but it includes other forms of renewable energy as well. This is a self-guided Tour of 50+ homes, businesses, and institutions that have incorporated renewable energy, from geothermal heat pumps to wind turbines to the many incarnations of solar energy.

It’s harvest time! How far did your food travel?

Oh Bounteous Garden…

Pickled peppers

August was supposed to be the month we looked at reducing our carbon footprint in the area of transportation. What was I thinking?! I’m spending any non-work hours trying to stay ahead of the garden. We have learned how to can and pickle and ferment.

We’ve pickled green beans and peppers, cukes and beets and cherry tomatoes. We put up stewed tomatoes. I’ve got two containers of tomato puree in the fridge, a big mess o’ green and purple beans, and an abundance of fridge pickles cuz I let the pickling cukes get too large.

Garlic harvest

Produce from the garden

I’m waiting until all the pickling is done before I freeze the remainder of the 16 heads of garlic – absolutely luscious and interesting to experience the drying process. We had to dry them indoors because of the high humidity in July. We’ll be doing that again.

The tomatoes are starting to slow down now in the cooling weather. The peppers are still going strong – we’ll have a big batch of jalapenos and hot hungarians and a few more gorgeous green peppers. The eggplants are still going strong – we have purple and long, thing green ones. Collards look nice but didn’t get very big.

While I was out harvesting, a neighbor came by. I like him a lot and usually think he’s a very sensible guy, but he said he sees no value to gardening. He knows where he can get a tomato any time of the year – at the grocery store.

I pointed out that my tomato only traveled 10 feet, was picked in its prime and was never exposed to toxic chemicals. He thinks it’s a waste of time. While the industrial food system is working, he wants what he wants, when he wants it.

Canning and pickling

My neighbor believes in global warming but he doesn’t think there is anything we can do about it. Getting food closer to home – reducing the carbon footprint of food – is not a meaningful solution to him. On the other hand, he believes we have an “excess population” problem and coming food shortages are nature’s way of balancing.

That’s a pretty scary thought. I would rather be more hopeful and life-loving. I would rather enlarge my garden and learn how to grow more and preserve more. Maybe my garden can’t get us through a winter but let’s see what we can do with my garden and local farmers.

We’re learning. We thinking about issues. And I guess I was paying attention to my transportation footprint after all, in the form of food.

The Morality of Coal

“Our people are dying from the poisonous waters and air. Cancer death rates soar in my homeland, making it one of the highest of any area in the nation. I thought I lived in the “land of the free,” but the only thing free in central Appalachia is the free hand that the coal corporations are given by our state and national representatives to bomb and kill our land and its people. It’s murder, damn it! And any state or national elected representative who supports this Mountain Bombing for coal should be charged as an accessory to Murder!” — Mickey McCoy, former mayor of Inez, Kentucky.

Recent scientific research has shown a dramatic increase in birth defects among children born in areas in which there is mountaintop removal for coal. Millions of pounds of ammonium nitrate explosives are detonated daily in these communities, leaving toxic residue in the wind, the soil and the water.

It’s easy to blame these problems on the coal companies and on the politicians who do their bidding. Certainly some of the blame falls there, but we also need to look in the mirror. Minnesota has no fossil fuel resources yet 57% of the energy we use comes from coal. We are #22 in fossil fuel use in the country.

Continue reading

The Challenge of Change: The Power of Role Models

Change is difficult, even when something isn’t working. For most of us, we go along and go along, doing the same thing we’ve always done until we literally cannot continue because the pain or the barriers are too great. We change because we are forced to change.

But some people have the ability to change without the pain of outside pressure. They are the visionaries who want to create something better. They are the pioneers who want the challenge or who see some change effort as a game (I’m thinking of those engineers out there). The environmental movement and the sustainability movement have a lot of these people. By writing and speaking, they inspire all of us.

But if we aren’t visionaries or pioneers ourselves, how do we actually change now, before it becomes painful, before it’s too late?

Continue reading

Longfellow Sustainability Group – I’m Loving the Support

The Longfellow Sustainability Group meets on the first Saturday of every month at 10:30 am at Peace Coffee on Minnehaha and 33rd. We get to meet new neighbors almost every month. We discuss our experience with the prior month’s mini challenge, share tips and  resources, and have a great conversation.

Next group meeting is July 2. We’ll be reporting in on our local food efforts.

The group has been a wonderful addition to our family’s greening lifestyle. We really enjoy hearing what other people have done. We learn a lot and every single time we come away with new ideas. I’m really grateful for the people who have come, whether once or several times. Because of you, we’ve:

  • Signed up for the Shop the Coop class (and the home pickling class while I was at it)
  • Gotten involved in the Southside Food Hub
  • Met the wonderful owner of Gandhi Mahal restaurant
  • Fearlessly moved forward in a lifestyle with less toilet paper (Who knew that this was such a hot topic! But I guess we’re a pretty cosmopolitan bunch here in Longfellow and once you’ve traveled the world a bit, you have a better understanding of what is and is not a necessity.)
  • Begun worm composting
  • Diligently kept moving forward on reducing our energy use because we want to report back that we’ve made progress

Thanks, everyone, for making this community a better place to be.

Counting My Blessings: Happy to Live in Longfellow

Tonight I attended the annual meeting of the Longfellow Community Council, cleverly called “Pies, Not Pie Charts” and featuring a wide assortment of pies! (Special thanks to the person who brought my favorite, French Silk.)

It was wonderful to meet a new neighbor who works in sustainability, to elect a neighbor to the LCC board who does sustainability work, and to hear from Hennepin County officials who are working on a sustainable community project.

Last week, at the Sustainability Conference in Minneapolis, keynote speaker Don Shelby said that while it may seem like we are working on these issues alone, in fact, more than 100 million people across the globe are working on some aspect of the transition from fossil fuels. We are part of a tidal wave of change. That was very evident tonight.

Continue reading

4 tips to make recycling cleaner, easier and more efficient

One way to really stick with behavior goals, in this case, the goal of more recycling, is to change the environment to make it more conducive to success. To improve our in-home recycling efforts, I made the following changes to make recycling cleaner, easier and more efficient:

  1. Added an easy-to-use, in-home recycling station by the kitchen
  2. Added recycling stations in a few other rooms of the house
  3. Switched to reusable curbside recycling bags
  4. Replaced tall kitchen trash cans with smaller trash and compost bins

Take a look! It’s now really easy to get ready for recycling day. And we’ve reduced our trash tremendously.

Sustainable choices and quality of life

Attempts to live more sustainably remind me of the saying, “cheap, fast or good – you can have any two, but not all three.” Take breakfast for example:

Leslie and I were grocery shopping. She wanted little packets of apple-cinnamon instant oatmeal. It’s fast and (relatively) cheap. But I think it’s slimy and involves wasteful packaging. So I bought oats in bulk, and apples for applesauce to stir in. Simmering the apples made the whole house smell wonderful. I used the hand-crank food processor we got at the fair instead of the electric processor. It was easy and gave me perfect control over the texture. The sauce is delicious, and the reusable container won’t have to be thrown out or recycled.

But Leslie was skeptical, objecting to the time it would take to make “real” oatmeal in the morning. She could have it good and cheap, but not fast. I offered to make it for her because I usually get up first anyway. But it makes me think about the choices, drawbacks and benefits of more mindful living. We have to slow down, be more mindful and adjust our routines. So far, I am enjoying the creativity and higher quality results.

An Interview With Naomi Kline About Climate Denial

It’s not about the science…

This is a really interesting interview with Naomi Kline and Amy Goodman about climate denial and identity. Finally, I get why some otherwise smart people are denying the reality of climate change.

“We’ve just ended the hottest decade on record. There’s overwhelming evidence that climate change is real now. It’s not just about reading the science. It’s about people’s daily experience. And yet, we’ve seen this remarkable drop, where (in a 2007 Harris poll) 71 percent of Americans believed climate change was real, and two years later, 51 percent of Americans believed it. So, a 20 percent drop. And we’ve seen a similar dramatic drop, just the floor falling out, in the same period in Australia and in the U.K.

“It’s not happening everywhere. It’s happening in countries that have very polarized political debates, where they have very strong culture wars.”