PLANTING A PRAYER

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGE: KAILEA FREDERICK

Inspired by Loam Artist-in-Residence Kailea Frederick's project, Pause Within the Chaos, I've been planting prayers every day to keep me grounded when my eco-anxiety runs wild. It's such a simple practice but it helps me see beauty in my now. I love making my mandala from found materials—seashells I scavenged on the shores of Lopez Island, dandelion greens foraged from my neighborhood, dried flowers leftover from a bouquet—and sitting with this work of living art. And when I'm done, it's liberating to let it go. It's a reminder–shoutout to Pema Chödrön—that things fall apart only to come together. Again and again and again. 

As Kailea writes of her project: "How can we begin to become even more creative when thinking about ways to bridge our personal lives and the work of our lives?" How can we create daily rituals that not only enrich our present but also sustain the hard work of activism? I've found, in choosing to create moments where I can sit with my pain and explore the possibility of peace, the seeds for regenerating my relationship to activism. I've been vacillating between burnout and restlessness, between raw passion and deep sadness these last few months and so it's been especially healing to give over a few minutes every morning to disciplined creation. 

As we wade into the murky, muggy days of summer, I hope you'll explore planting a prayer of your own. Daily rituals for reconnection truly can restore the soul. 

 

YOUR SUSTAINABILITY STARTER SET

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGE: MEREDITH MACKENZIE 

As passionate as I am about trash-light living, I know that it's a privilege to live where I live and have access to the kind of resources—accessible bike paths, bulk stores, residential composting—that make sustainable living a cinch. Learning to live with less is a richly rewarding experience that has saved me money and nurtured my self-sufficiency skills. But it's a path that's infinitely easier for me to walk by virtue of the city I live in, the friends I share a home with, and the support system that Loam has interwoven across the world.

The last few weeks, my friend Andrea of Be Zero and I have been hosting Instagram Lives where we explore what it means to cultivate a circular mindset and answer questions from our community on putting zero waste philosophies into practice. One question we have heard a lot is: How do you live zero waste when you're not in a community that makes it easy? For so many of us, finding the type of regional tools, community, and norms that nourish sustainable living isn't within reach. We might live far from a farmers' market. We might live in the heart of car culture. We might struggle to find a secondhand retailer in our community or a local grocery store we can feel good about supporting or public transportation that's affordable. I have lived in New York, Valparaíso, Portland, San Diego, and Boulder throughout my life and each city has brought with it its own beauties and its own challenges. I've had to find a way to live my values as best as I can even when the streets I walk are littered in trash and finding fresh food is tough. 

Of course, there are a thousand and one ways you can live lighter on this earth no matter where you are. You can choose to mend your clothes rather than trash torn threads. You can refuse single-use plastics by bringing a reusable jar, cutlery, and cloth napkin with you. You can grow a little herb garden on your windowsill. Providing that you trust in the process, show compassion for yourself and others, and embrace imperfection, you will never need to wait on anyone or anything to create opportunities to live sustainably. You are your own permission. 

That said, it's sure nice when living sustainably is simplified—especially when you are new to the wild world of zero waste. Learning to cultivate a circular mindset asks us to radically rethink our relationship to ourselves, each other, and our land. And it's a process that's so much sweeter to sink into when we have some support.

Enter Bailiú. The lovely Meredith MacKenzie's online shop makes it easy for folks to find starter sets that mitigate the everyday plastic pollution challenges that arise within our household. As Meredith says: "I became more mindful about reducing my use of disposables and single-use plastics after a cross-country move from Oakland, CA to Southwest VA.  After a decade of carrying a reusable tote in the Bay Area, I found myself living in a place where Styrofoam and plastic bags were the norm, which felt shocking. I started paying closer attention to the choices I made and asking more questions. Although I found many helpful resources about a adopting a 'zero waste' lifestyle, they felt intimidating and the lifestyle struck me as unattainable. There seemed to be a lack of forgiveness and humor in the options out there. I wanted to offer an accessible way to start making better choices without taking ourselves so seriously, and while maintaining a sense of style. Practical goods should also be beautiful. So I started Bailiú to create a shop for the stylish, beginner minimalist, because you shouldn’t have to sacrifice style to be kind to the Earth."

Meredith's bridge into building Bailiú embodies many of the philosophies that I want to see better put into practice within the zero waste movement. Showing kindness to others, asking questions of our community, exercising compassion, humor, and open-mindedness—cultivating these characteristics as environmental advocates truly helps us to regenerate our communities as we reduce our waste. It's true that you don't need to buy anything to begin living with less. And learning how to make your own alternatives to plastic-based and plastic packaged goods is a viable (and sometimes really fun!) option. But as an environmental educator and lifelong student of sustainable living, I deeply believe that creating starter sets when we are just beginning helps us find our footing as we pursue new pathways. It's like gathering your supplies for the first day of school or supporting your dream of being a writer by investing in a gorgeous notebook. Sometimes, you need the tools to get started.

Herewith, a breakdown of Meredith's Kitchen Starter Set. Use it as a blueprint for beginning your zero waste journey at home.

BENTO BAG

Bento bags are beautiful cloth constructions that you can transform into everything from a reusable bag (I use mine to store bulk goodies from the grocery story and stash cherries from the local farmers' market) to a placemat for camping trip meals. Meredith selects her bento bags from Ambatalia, a Mill Valley-based textile supplier that creates goods to guide a non-disposable life. 

MESH TOTE

A mesh tote is super easy to fold up and bring with you in your day bag so that you'll always be prepared for the type of surprise situations—fresh fruit stand by the side of the road, post-work grocery store run—that crop up during our day-to-day lives. I love that I can carry this tote in my backpack to the market and fill it up with imperfect produce to share with friends.

BAMBOO STRAW

Americans trash more than 500 million plastic straws PER DAY. Sip sustainably with a bamboo straw and always make sure to ask for drinks at restaurants without a straw. 

ABEEGO WRAP

Bee's Wrap is a truly indispensable part of any sustainability starter set. I love Abeego's beautiful designs and minimalist mission. I've used their wrap for everything from storing goods and covering bread as it rises to rolling up sushi. 

UTENSIL ROLL

One of the most impactful switches you can make when are diving into your zero waste journey is to refuse single use disposables by carrying reusable cutlery with you. A utensil roll is useful because it helps you keep your straw, spork, and knife in one place (I've lost many a reusable fork to the depths of my jam-packed book bag) and creates conversation when you sit down to share a table with friends! 
 
 
As Meredith notes of her starter sets: "A big part of the joy that I get from Bailiú is curating a collection of products that I would gift to a dear friend. Gift giving is my love language!  I love the idea of introducing a dear friend to a product that will make her home and her heart a little happier." Meredith's sentiment is a reminder that learning how to live with less is really about making room for more love in our lives. To truly love what we have and to care for it translates into how we love and care for ourselves, for each other, and for our earth. So get to it, loamy loves. Sustainable living is always within reach. 

 

RITUALS FOR RECONNECTION

WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER

Nearly every evening this week, I've taken the same 4 hour hike close to my home. I walk the forty minutes from my apartment to the trail entrance tucked behind a cluster of old homes before weaving my way up the yucca-seeded hillside. At the top I like to sit on the same lichenous rock and read; and on the way back, I connect with a secondary trail that takes me straight to a verdant field alive with orange poppies. My route (and my routine) doesn't change much but each trek brings with it fresh discoveries. Clusters of freckled mushrooms straight from the pages of Alice in Wonderland. Silvery junipers that stretch toward the sun. White-bellied birds with inky blue feathers who gather within the skeletons of shrubs and sing. I've been so restless lately, hungry for my next adventure, ready to move, that learning how to be where I am—right now—is truly a balm for the soul. 

Rituals for reconnection often arise for us when things are rocky. The decision to take this daily hike was in many ways a remedy for my unemployment. I was feeling blue and shaky and unsure what to do next and so I sought to ground myself in the foothills close to my home. But taking this daily pilgrimage has affirmed for me just how soul-nourishing rituals are. I want to set myself up for the kind of rituals that can sustain me thru the good and bad–thru my next move, thru the next setback, thru the next success. The world has felt so wild lately, so full of suffering and sadness and resistance and regeneration. I am starting to see how even the smallest rituals—a daily walk, a morning cuppa tea on my creekside balcony—can keep me rooted during this roller coaster.

Whenever I am feeling frustrated or fearful, my first instinct is to move. I know I'm not alone in this. Many of us search for new surroundings, new names to learn, new places to explore, when we're overwhelmed—even though we know, too, that if we haven't set things right in our soul, we'll continue to carry that restlessness with us no matter how far we go.

This is why I love cultivating a daily ritual the connects me to place. This isn't a place that I'll call home for much longer but it's where I am right now and it's where I've been for nearly a year. To learn how to love the present for what it is, to sink into the beauty of the world even as I'm filled with fear for her future—this isn't an easy practice but it's vital to do. 

My hope for you this week is to sit with yourself and dream up a ritual, no matter how small, that can connect you with somewhere or someone or something that you've been feeling separate from. Take a walk and wonder; or turn to your journal to write. Find one thing you can do every day and be disciplined about doing it for as long as you can (and forgiving of your sweet self when you forget). Rituals for reconnection give our lives light—and during these dark days, that's a gift we need to give. 

RISING STRONG POST-PARIS

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

It's been a weird & heart-wrenching few days. Trump's decision to leave the Paris Accord has been one of the most violent attacks from our federal government on our collective right to life. It makes me furious that many of our federal representatives are continuing to promote policies that will accelerate climate crisis across the world and further threaten the lives of people of color in climate vulnerable communities. It's f*cked up. It's unfair. And it's not something that any one of us can abide by. 

It's okay to be angry. The U.S. is one of the biggest contributors to climate change on our planet; by refusing to take federal action, Trump is sowing the seeds for climate chaos and social injustice throughout the world.

It's important, however, to understand what's really going on (herewith, a helpful summary of what actually happened) and to use this major misstep as an opportunity to affirm the growing power of the people. Don't let Trump knock you to the ground. I know, I know—easier said than done. But the fight for an international call to arms against climate catastrophe is far from over. The resistance has been making major gains, communities have been activating incredible change, and folks across the world have been inspired to act passionately and persistently toward building a better world. 

In the spirit of finding opportunity in catastrophe, here are three ways to rise up in the aftermath of this disastrous challenge to international diplomacy. 

SUPPORT THE GROWING COALITION OF CLIMATE ADVOCATES

In the aftermath of Trump's decision, more than 200 city mayors, state governors, companies, and university presidents are working to submit a plan to the U.N. that will help America continue to mitigate climate catastrophe. This signals a major shift from relying on our federal government to protect us (a dead end if there ever was one) toward catalyzing change from the private sector.

There are many ways to be a part of this movement. You can participate in any one of the powerful OFF Fossil Fuels events that Food & Water Watch is coordinating across the country; you can join your local Citizens' Climate Lobby chapter to learn how you can advocate for your own city to be a part of this independent body of climate advocates; and you can send messages of support through 350 to those countries and communities that are continuing to fight the good fight. 

CREATE YOUR PERSONAL CARBON-REDUCTION PLAN

The power to catalyze change is truly with the people. For too long, we have fought for the federal government to create the kind of radical policies our world needs if we do not want to lose land and lives to climate catastrophe. And as important as it is to activate federal change, we have to bring that work on home. We need to act in alignment with our values and be vigilant about embodying hope in our everyday lives. We need to ignite change within our hearts and homes. 

Inspired by Mark Trahant's recent essay in Yes! Magazine, I'm taking time today to create my own carbon-reduction plan. It's a personal Paris Accord that I hope will provide me with a tangible roadmap for continuing to slash my carbon footprint and cultivate regeneration and resiliency within my life.

DIVEST

Trump's tone-deaf policies stand in defiance of the far more powerful market forces that are driving renewable energy from the margins to the mainstream. Continue to nurture divestment from fossil fuels at home and across our country by moving your money from major banks into credit unions, investing in community-owned solar and wind projects through companies such as Arcadia Power, and challenging higher institutions to invest in green technology and living economies. As Valeria Costa, Alec Connon, and Emily Johnston write in this practical essay: "To stop the flow of oil, we need to stop the flow of dollars." 

 

This is an end only if we let it be. Continue to resist, loamy loves, and to remember the power within you. 

DIY RECIPE: CALENDULA BODY BUTTER

WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER

The utter deliciousness of spring always makes my heart feel a little lighter. The purple wildflowers that frame my walk to the library; the sweet, succulent evening light; the light rain and chilly air. I love how everything seems to turn green in a day. You wake up, or leave work, and suddenly the whole world has changed. 

We're weathering a late-season snow in my neck of the woods but the spirit of spring still persists. I've found my energy for DIY herbal remedies has reawakened. Each morning, I pore through my favorite reads—A Wilder Life and The Healing Kitchen in particular have been guiding lights—and find a recipe that soothes something in my soul. 

My favorite herbal remedy to make is a calendula body butter, adapted from Rosemary Gladstar's recipe for face cream from "Medicinal Herbs: Beginner's Guide." For this recipe, I infuse the calendula oil myself. Infusing calendula oil isn't hard—you fill a glass jar with calendula buds and olive oil and let it steep in the sun—but it takes 3 to 4 weeks. Still, it's worth it. There's something magical about watching the midday light filter through a glass brimming with yellow buds. And there's something powerful about making something that most of us buy in plastic packaging.

The change in seasons is an invitation to be gentler with our sweet selves. I hope the act of creating this luscious body butter will remind you every day to be good and kind to yourself. 

ROSEMARY'S FAMOUS FACE CREAM

3/4 cup calendula oil

1/8 cup cocoa butter

1/8 cup coconut oil

1 tablespoon grated beeswax

1/4 cup aloe vera gel

3/4 cup distilled water

A few drops of lavender essential oil. 

TO MAKE THE CREAM:

  1. Combine the calendula oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and beeswax in a saucepan over very low heat and warm until everything is melted together. Pour into a measuring cup or bowl and let cool for at least several hours or overnight, until the mixture is firm, thick, and creamy.
  2. Scrape oil mixture into a blender. In a separate bowl, combine the aloe vera gel, distilled water, and essential oil. Turn the blender on at a high speed and slowly drizzle the water mixture into the oil, continuing to blend until all the water mixture has been absorbed by the oil. The blender should "choke" as the mixture thickens and becomes white and creamy.
  3. Scoop the cream into glass jars and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. 

MAKE YOUR OWN MAGIC

WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER

We remember that every act of kindness and mindfulness counts, and that progress can happen in small increments. Anger isn’t a sustainable motivator, so we create moments of joy.

Erica Neal

Since Erica Neal—Loam's latest contributor and the modern homesteading mama behind Yellow Swing Garden—shared these words on embodying hope with me, I've found myself thinking hard about what it would take to bring these principles into practice. It's SO important to remember that the radical revolution our world needs is in the details. Progress happens because of the small steps we take, day after day, to cultivate sustainable ecosystems and nurture healing communities. 

In that spirit, I've been dreaming up ways that I can make my own magic. How can I create moments of joy in my life and in the lives of those I love that deepen our ties to one another and to this earth? How can I cultivate experiences that help my community honor our roots and give us the nourishment we need to fight the good fight? These questions have brought me closer to the realization that moments of joy need the same time and thought I put into moments of activism (and sometimes, the two are one in the same!)

With the summer solstice a few weeks away, planting seeds for beautiful, dreamy gatherings feels especially needed. So here are three things I'm doing to make my own magic this coming month. Share what you're growing in the comments!

A HOMEGROWN PICNIC

In one of my favorite features in the current issue of Loam, Sita, Saqib, and Jocelyn of the People's Kitchen Collective share their belief that the kitchen table can be fertile ground for a revolution. It's a beautiful sentiment and one that holds true even when we transform the kitchen table into a farm-to-table spread to savor outside. Gathering together with friends over food really is a simple recipe for building community and deepening our delicious love for this earth. My dream is to bring a farmers' market haul rich in luscious fruit, veg, breads, and spreads to share with friends by the lake close to my home. We'll page through books and talk life. We'll watch the sunset. It's a simple idea but one I can't wait to bring into being (and lucky for me, it's not so hard to do so!)

RADICAL INHABITATION

My friends Lizzy and Matilda introduced me to this idea and I think it's such a powerful way of bringing the wild home to wherever we are. I want to bring my bed into my friend's backyard and sleep under the stars; I want to camp by the creek close to my home. These are places I pass by or walk through nearly everyday and it feels magical and inspiring and exciting to me to teach myself how to inhabit these pockets of nature.

CREATIVE CONNECTION

Making herbal remedies, working on my book, dancing outside—these creative acts bring me infinite bliss and make mundane days feel full of magic. Yes to that, please. 

 

 

BURNED OUT?

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

I've been feeling really burned out lately. I take my own advice—I rest and luxuriate in simple self-care rituals. I plant things and gather together with loved ones for good food and energizing hikes. But I still feel tired, every day. I forget to call my Senators. I skip out on strategizing sessions. The energy that powered me through the first traumatizing, terrifying 100 days of Trump's Presidency is tumbling from a waterfall into a still pool. 

Burnout makes me feel guilty. I look at my life—how profoundly supported I am by my family, how beloved I am by my friends, how lucky I am to live into a city mapped by towering trees and burbling creeks—and I think how is this not enough to keep me perpetually motivated? Burnout makes me angry at myself too. To feel dejected, to struggle to fight—those experiences are gifts we give to our fascist regime and man, I'm not interesting in giving those capitalist cronies ANYTHING. 

It took a post-run collapse on the hill outside my home for me to realize the transformative potential of burnout. I sank into the grass, out of breath, and stared up at the mottled blue sky. Rain clouds coming in blanketed the bright green arms of budding trees in grey. There was a soft wind rustling the grass—the blades luminous in the golden hour light—and I felt so awake to everything that was around me in a way I haven't as an activist the last couple of weeks. I held the world and let her hold me. 

Burnout is like any emotion. The only way to work through it is to dive into the heart of the storm. Fighting burnout only made me more exhausted. Sitting on the hill, in love with the light, grass, trees, with this world that renders me speechless every day, I saw my burnout as an opportunity to change the actions I am taking—to refocus my work on rebuilding, to recenter my writing as my activism. I thought about ways I could carry my moment of golden hour communion with me. What about this moment made me awake? And what can I do to bring that sense of aliveness, alertness to life in my every day work?

The next few weeks for me are going to be about exploring new pathways. My intention is to ground myself in daily rituals—evening runs, morning watercolors—that nurture my creativity and offer consistency during the hard, uncomfortable, illuminating work of finding fresh channels. I'm going to learn about different ways I can inhabit and enact activism. So if you have any strategies, loamy loves, please share. We are capable of building the world we want. Even in my burnout, I know that to be true. 

RESOURCE GUIDE: SHOPPING THE SEASONS

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Spring always fills my heart anew with hope. I love when the farmers' market opens and I can sift through bountiful bundles of asparagus and brightly colored stalks of chard. Supporting local farmers who are cultivating biodynamic farms is integral to divesting from industrialized agriculture and nourishing soil. But it takes a little know-how to navigate the market (especially on a budget!) Consider these four modules, below, a primer on shopping the seasons.