Category Archives: green living

Green Living: Time for a Happy Walk! by Steve Waller

Feeling stressed, tired, angry, lonely, or sleepless? Fighting weight gain or aging? The fountain of youth exists—only two feet away, literally. Look down and count. Two feet? You’re all set. Park the car. Start Happy Walking!

We are built to walk! Our ancient ancestors walked out of Africa to the ends of the earth – Europe, Asia, the Americas, the U.P! The average American spends nine to ten hours a day sitting or driving cars. We’re becoming wimps. If we were built to drive cars, we’d have only one foot!

Google “benefits of walking.” Walking helps you lose weight, reduces stress (lowering blood pressure), decreases anger and hostility (makes you nicer), and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. A regular 15-30-45 minute walk is one of the best (cheapest) and easiest things you can do for your health.

Walkers think more creatively than sitters. Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, increases metabolism by burning extra calories, and prevents muscle loss. Walking triggers your body to release natural pain-killing endorphins. A 10-minute walk may be as good as a 45-minute workout to relieve the symptoms of anxiety. You don’t need to slog it out on a treadmill at the gym for these benefits.

Walking in nature, specifically, reduces dwelling over negative experiences, which reduces the risk of depression. Walks with a partner, a neighbor, or a good friend help you feel connected, which boosts mood. Just twelve minutes of walking can increase joviality, vigor, attentiveness, and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting. The more steps people take during a day, the better their mood tends to be. Walkers are happier!

Since walking doesn’t wear down your body much, it doesn’t require recovery time. For those who are fit, walking is a phenomenal maintenance activity, keeping you healthier into old age.

So, instead of driving to a gym to work out, walk to the gym’s front door. Do Not Enter. Shout out loud, “I walk!” Turn around. Walk home. Your workout is done. No monthly fee!

Start with a walk in the neighborhood. Take it easy at first. Bring the kids. Be neighborly. Walk to the local grocery. Why drag 4,000 lbs of automobile along to buy a 10 lb. bag of goodies? Grab a comfortable recycled bag or backpack or borrow a neighbor’s wagon or a stroller for strolling, and walk. Plan weekends exploring many of the local short or long foot trails awaiting your footprints. (https://www.traillink.com/state/mi-trails/.)

Ready for an adventure? The Iron Ore Heritage Trail traverses 47 miles across the Marquette Iron Range. It’s an outdoor linear mining history museum where you exercise your body and mind with interpretive signage, artwork and connections to museums along the way. http://ironoreheritage.com/

The North Country Trail (NCT) is a 4,600 mile footpath stretching from eastern New York to central North Dakota. As of early 2017, 3,009 miles of the trail are in place, passing through seven states. The longest stretch is 1,000+ miles split evenly between upper and lower Michigan.

In the beautiful Upper Peninsula, the NCT stretches 167 miles from the Mackinac Bridge to the Luce/Alger County border, just east of Grand Marais; 188 miles from Grand Marais through Marquette to the Marquette/Baraga County Line on the eastern border of Craig Lake State Park; then 192 more miles to the MI/WI border near Ironwood. (https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/michigan-upper/)

Do it all or maybe just a part, or just one part at a time. Walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight. Walking with groups of friends outdoors exposes you to fun and creative thought.

Buy less gasoline. Walk. You’ll be happier!

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

 

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Green Living: Answer the Call of the Wild with Your Phone! By Steve Waller

As spring springs, birds migrate, buds blossom, bees buzz, and green returns to the forests. That clean, earthy aroma blows your winter blues away. The temptation to get off the winter-slumber sofa and be there when spring happens is irresistible. Take your phone along, not just to tell your friends to get off their butts and meet you outside, but to help you find interesting living things to photograph with your phone and upload to iNaturalist.org.

I’ve been using iNaturalist.org (iNat) since last summer. It’s amazing. Download the free iNaturalist app (App Store or Google Play). Take a picture of any living thing with your phone through the app (no humans or pets). You get a personalized species life list in your phone and online of what you saw, when you saw it and where you saw it – anywhere in the world! Your phone’s time and GPS coordinates are automatically recorded in the photo.

Even if you can’t identify the flower or critter in your photo, iNat’s amazing artificial intelligence engine will quickly analyze your photo and find the name for you! If your photo is good, the artificial intelligence is really good at identification. Photos can also be imported into iNat from Facebook, Picasa, or Flicker.

But wait, there’s much more waiting online when you get home. Go to your free iNat account. Someone else, a naturalist, an actual human, another iNat user has probably viewed one or more of your online photos and either agrees with your ID or corrected it. I’ve had iNat users from all over the United States and Canada, Italy, Norway, even Australia help ID my photos! Many of them are experts in their fields.

If two or more people agree with the name of the thing in your photo, it moves from “Needs ID” to “Research Grade” and can be used by researchers and organizations around the world who scientifically monitor and study nature. Your phone photos can contribute to the world of citizen science!

My Painted Lady and Red Admiral butterfly photos from Marquette are migrants from Texas. I never knew that! Those observations were found in iNat and used by the Vanessa Migration Project and by eButterfly North America.

While online, view the iNat map to discover instantly a species’ range, who else found it, when and where. Or specify any map location and all the observations by all the observers in that location will appear. Go to Marquette County, MI, US (my area) and you’ll see my observations along with others. View the “People” tab. My avatar is “nonfictionsteve.” iNat built a fantastic 2017 Year in Review page for me featuring my photos: inaturalist.org/stats/2017/nonfictionsteve.

I strive for extra high-quality photos with a DSLR camera and lenses, but that’s just my choice. Many iNat observers just use a phone camera with great results. Just be sure your subject mostly fills the photo frame, is reasonably clear, and is well lit. Use the phone’s focus and flash when necessary for a good exposure. Remember, you are trying to upload an image that can be recognized from millions of life forms on this planet: bugs, plants, reptiles, amphibians, fish, etc., so details are important.

Once you’re familiar with iNat’s features and power, you could host a “BioBlitz” where a group of friends, children, or adults can iNat one location en masse and photograph 50 to 100 species in just an hour. It’s educational, amazing, and fun.

Grab your phone. Get outside. Connect with a community of over 500,000 scientists and naturalists worldwide who can help you learn more about nature. For details, visit inaturalist.org/pages/getting+started.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Going Green… Permanently, by Nicole Walton

You recycle. Every bit of plastic and paper you can find is collected and set aside on trash day because you can’t stand the thought of it sitting in a landfill for the next billion years. It just doesn’t sit right.

But have you ever considered what will happen when you shuffle off your mortal coil? How will your body or ashes commune with the earth when you’ve gone on to bigger and better things? Will your final disposition be environmentally sound?

The movement to be more earth-friendly is manifesting itself as “green burials” in today’s funeral homes. People are choosing alternatives to the traditional embalming process, caskets, and final resting place in an effort to be kinder to Mother Earth.

Mark Canale is the owner and director of Canale Funeral Homes in Marquette, Gwinn and Ishpeming. He says in a green burial the embalming fluid normally used would be replaced with one that degrades naturally. Traditional fluid contains formaldehyde, which is excellent for preservation but is also highly toxic. The casket would be made of plain wood, wicker, or bamboo, and would not be held together with any nails, bolts, or screws. It would be placed directly in the ground instead of in a concrete vault. Cremated remains would be put in some type of biodegradable urn.

Canale says he’s all for green burials, being a recycler himself. “Funeral directors sell burial vaults, but you’re putting a piece of concrete in the ground, and the concrete continues to cure for over 100 years and it will never, ever disintegrate,” he says. “So you’re putting all that stuff in the ground for what? The purpose of the burial vault was to prevent the ground from collapsing over a period of time, creating a sunken grave and additional cemetery maintenance, but I’m one for using wood caskets and putting them directly in the earth, or going the green burial route.”

Most people in the Upper Peninsula aren’t aware of the options they have when it comes to recycling their most precious possession. Canale says the green burial movement is growing in metropolitan areas, but not many of his clients in this region question him about it. He has, however, brought up the possibility of creating green spaces with local cemetery directors. “They all have plenty of acreage to set aside a little plot of land for green burial, which would mean that there may be walkways but there can be no bituminous or concrete, no roadways, no grass to mow,” he says. “So if you buy a little section of land for your eventual burial place, you receive a GPS coordinate.” Some green burial areas don’t allow any markings at all, but others will let people indicate the spot where the remains of their loved ones lie with a simple, natural stone.

As far as money is concerned, going green would cost less than a traditional burial. Canale says he doesn’t know exactly how much a lot would be since area cemeteries don’t offer green space as yet. He’s guessing it would range from $1,000 to $1,200. A traditional casket costs roughly $800, and dispensing with the vault is a $1,300 to $1,400 savings. Canale says some cemeteries may even allow a body to be placed directly into the earth without a casket; it depends on what the cemetery draws up in its bylaws for green burial.

If it’s not a traditional burial, is it any less sacred? Not according to Canale. “No. If anything, it’s probably a little bit more sacred and has every bit of meaning because that’s where your loved one is interred—their early remains—so whether it be in a fancy cemetery with a well-manicured lawn and a fancy granite marker, or whether it’s in an area where there are plenty of trees and the leaves fall and they’re never raked up, it’s still sacred ground,” he says.

Should you want something a bit larger than a stone for a marker, something that will contribute to the earth’s well-being, you now have the option of purchasing a biodegradable “egg” and planting a tree above it.

Capsula Mundi was created by two Italian designers who wanted to give people a different approach to the way they think about death. Their project focuses on the biological cycle of transformation. According to their website, “In a culture far removed from nature, overloaded with objects for the needs of daily life and focused on youth, death is often dealt with as a taboo. We believe that this unavoidable passage, so meaningful, is not the end, but the beginning of a way back to nature. Inspired by these reflections, we decided to redesign the coffin – an object entirely left out of the design world – using ecological materials, and [non-religious] and universal life symbols, such as the egg and the tree.”

A small, egg-shaped pod made from an organic plastic holds ashes of the deceased. It’s buried like a seed in the earth, and a tree of the person’s choice is planted above it to serve as a memorial. The pods’ designers envision cemeteries allowing space for “sacred forests” that connect the sky to the earth, where family and friends continue to care for the tree and honor the departed.

Capsula Mundi for the body is still in the beginning stages, as that type of burial isn’t legal in all countries. The body of the deceased is placed in the fetal position inside a large pod and is buried just like the urn. For more information, go to http://www.capsulamundi.it/en.

A funeral with all the traditional accoutrements may make us feel better, but if we want to help the earth as well as respect our bodies as our souls’ temples, green is the way to go.

Nicole Walton is the news director at Public Radio 90 in Marquette and a freelance writer. She loves to hug trees

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Practical Solar for Northern Regions?

Click here to watch a video of Green Living educator Steve Waller’s presentation at last Saturday’s “Myth-Busting & Self-help Tips” forum, in celebration of our 10th anniversary.

And while you’re there, subscribe to Health and Happiness’s Youtube Channel to stay in the loop for more great video presentations!

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What Is . . . . Marquette Growth?

More and more we hear about the lack of understanding of the connection between our food and where it comes from, but how many of us are actually doing something about it?

In 2012, a group of friends asked each other what they’d do for our community if they had a million dollars, and realized they all wanted to empower the community’s ability to grow food. This led to the creation of Marquette Growth. Marquette Growth is a non-profit community garden initiative aimed at providing access to free, healthy, organic, growing sites and education for the community, with a focus on getting food from farm to school.

As Vice President Scott Lawrence describes, “We heard the same reasons over and over for why people don’t take responsibility for a portion of their food—no time, space, money, or education. We realized a free educational community garden group was the answer, where people can donate time for fresh produce.”

It took months of sustained effort for group members Tyler Phillips, Jess Zerbel, Miriah Redmond and Scott Lawrence to find a place to start the program. Thankfully, Marquette Alternative High School Principal Andrew Crunkleton believed in their vision and work began on the hoop house at Graveraet, where the school was located at the time.

Lawrence also began a Kickstarter Fund in 2013, which raised $2500 to start a food forest of fruit trees and other perennials, plus annual garden beds at Vandenboom Alternative High School. Marquette Growth facilitated a full day of gardening workshops leading up to the actual planting of the trees and other perennials, which was accompanied by live music. Annual gardens were also planted, which the students help maintain.

Since then smaller sites have also been established, including at Cherry Creek Senior Living, behind the Wild Rover, Ore Dock Brewery, Sandy Knoll Elementary, Black Rocks Brewery, Teaching Family Homes and Sweet Water Café, with items such as sunflowers, a mint garden or fruit tree.

Lawrence explains, “The hoop house is open to all community members, young or old. We like the way that gardening connects all walks of life. We all eat. Why not eat the best quality food? We are happiest seeing young working next to old, poor working next to wealthy. We want to bridge the gaps of our community through growing high quality food. And get kids excited about growing their own food, or at least give them the knowledge of where their food comes from.”

At Gravaeret Elementary, students have access to hands-on agricultural education through the school garden from seed to fork. They help as much as possible in the hoop house, which is watered, planted and maintained solely by volunteers, and their garden produce is implemented in school lunch options. “Last year’s 4th graders even sold seeds and seedlings to raise funds for a field trip to MSU North Farm as part of an educational unit Marquette Growth ran in partnership with MSU Extension, Marquette Food Co-op, Transition Marquette, and the school district. Students toured the farm, seeing how the transplants used in the school garden were started, and saving seeds from these and other plants,” describes member Miriah Redmond.

Marquette Growth would like to help establish hoop houses at all of Marquette’s public schools. Once approval is obtained, the group will seek funding. Already, “hundreds of pounds of food, lots of enlightened/educated community members, and tons of new relationships have been created,” describes Lawrence. He’s passionate about the need for this initiative, explaining, “We are at the end of the food delivery routes. Major grocery stores only have enough food to support our community for two to three days. If fossil fuels seize to exist, so will our food. We need to work together to build a food sovereign community. Younger generations need to be educated on these matters to encourage them to take responsibility for a portion of their own food. Together, we can build a more resilient community. Spread the word of Marquette Growth, get people excited about growing food and bridge any gap in existence to get us all working together.”

New helpers are welcome to join Wednesday work nights at Gravaeret Elementary, as well as additional open hoop house hours, various workshops, and Facebook.com/groups/marquettegrowth. The initiative can also be supported by financial contributions through Paypal by contacting mqtgrowth@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2016 issue.

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Gifts from Nature: Autumn’s Look Within, by Kevin McGrath

As I sit amongst the trees on the banks of the Chocolay River, on this summer-like autumn day, gazing at the placid lifeblood of this Greatest Lake of ours, I can’t help but realize the correlation between the trees’ evolution with nature’s flow, dropping their color and beauty to become future fertilizer and soil, their trunks and branches sending energy inward and down toward their root systems, and us humans sending our kids and students back to school.

This back-to-basics time, working on a core human feature – our brains, can be likened to the inward journey of our hardwood brethren, the aspens, tamaracks and birches, to name a few, as we potentially learn to reclaim ourselves from the inside out.

For me, as I contemplate this renewal, I ask myself, “Am I living up to my personal standards? Am I living life on my terms? Am I being the person I truly want to be?”

I have more questions than answers at this point, but as fall starts giving way to winter, my contemplation period can develop into devising a plan in early winter, so that sometime during the new year, a personal yearly manifesto is constructed and written down, enabling me to look back at it when the need is there. It’s a New Year’s resolution of sorts on how I plan on being a better person. I observe shortcomings in myself and attempt to rectify them through new actions.

For example, I never used to dance. Somewhere along the line in growing up, my perception was that real men didn’t dance. Even though it looked like a lot of fun, I avoided dancing at all cost. I was afraid of appearing vulnerable and inept, and becoming the target of jokes.

As I turned middle aged, I had an a-ha moment, realizing “Who cares what others think or say? Deep down I want to dance!” Now I dance whenever I can, and to help with my two left feet, I started taking Zumba, an exercise dance class, where to my surprise I discovered I love it, even though I’m often the only male there. I move a little more smoothly now, and it’s really helped my city league basketball game.

So as I take this time to evaluate where I am in life, like the trees focusing inward and our schoolchildren going back to learning, I look to this time of renewal to help tweak the real me into becoming the person who feels completely happy and comfortable with himself.

Kevin McGrath can be found dancing amongst the trees, tweaking the direction of his life, or as Jim Carey told Marshall University graduates, “hitting the reset button as often as it takes” to become the true him.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2014 issue, copyright 2014, Intuitive Learning Creations.

*Did you know you can find exclusive Solar Products for the U.P. online at www.upgreen.org? Great hiking and off-grid products included!

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Green Living: Clear Your Way With An Electric Snowblower! by Steve Waller

Being a maverick is in my up-north blood. I live by an old “Wallerism” – “If nothing changes… nothing changes!” So I challenged ancient Yooper wisdom that says you need a 350 lb., 36” wide 2-stage snow-blower driven by a 15 horsepower gas engine to clear snow from a driveway in town. (Can it really require the power of 15 horses to clear a driveway? The filthy, noisy, gas guzzler price tag, anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500?) So last year I did the (almost) unthinkable – I bought an electric snowblower and put it to the test.

I endured all the “What, are you crazy?” comments, did some research, then ordered an 18” wide plug-in (not battery-powered) electric snowblower for only $135 and used it last year to move snow from a double-wide driveway at my daughter’s house in town. Based on experience, here are the advantages and limitations of an electric snowblower:

The electric model is a snow thrower not a snow blower. Blowers have two stages: an auger to scoop the snow into the blower, then a separate fan to blow the snow out 30’. The snow thrower has only a single stage that does both and throws snow 15’. Plus, the small electric motor versus a heavy gas engine means the thrower is only 32 lbs. versus 350 lbs.! It’s easy to lift in and out of garage doors or basements or to lift up stairs to clear off porches. This is especially convenient for older, smaller or younger people who can’t wrestle 350 lb. machines. In summer you can easily hang it up on the garage wall, out of the way.

Electric throwers have replaceable rubber edges that won’t tear into grass, won’t grind your stairs or other obstructions into sawdust, and are better able to clear snow all the way down to the driveway surface so you don’t have to shovel that last half inch. The narrower cut (18” vs. 36”) lets you clear tighter spots and is easier to navigate.

It’s easy to start an electric thrower. Just push the button and you’re blowin.’ No yanking, no cussing, no chokes, no fueling, no filling tanks, no oil changes. Since no gasoline is used, the electric thrower is cheaper to operate, needs way less maintenance, is much cleaner and environmentally friendly and above all –  is much quieter. No earplugs needed.

Since it doesn’t have driven wheels, you don’t have to do “the snowblower crawl.” Move at whatever speed is convenient and efficient. If there’s only 3” of snow, you can almost run! When moving to a new spot, just drag it at your normal walking speed. This freedom to move quickly really shortens the time spent blowing.

There is a cord on my model but that is less of an inconvenience than I thought. You must use

a heavy 14ga or 12 ga extension cord tied to the blower handle but if you blow starting near the outlet and work your way out (just like vacuuming a carpet) the cord stays pretty much out of the way and keeps blowing all day. If the idea of a cord really bothers you, there are new lithium-ion battery models for about $400 that will run for about 30 minutes per charged battery (get spare batteries).

BUT DOES IT BLOW SNOW??? Yes! The 350 lb. gas guzzler will blow snow 30’ if you need that much power, but the electric is plenty powerful for clearing 8” – 10” of snow from a 15’ wide driveway, sidewalks, etc. I LIKE using this electric blower. It’s fast and efficient. Consider it.

Links:

A video of my model snowthrower clearing 10 inches of snow (2.5 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETHpvHf-zdA

My plug-in blower: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0040X4VBC/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

A slightly more powerful plug-in blower: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-SJ622E-15-Ampere-Electric/dp/B008FV5R18/ref=pd_sim_sbs_lg_2

A Battery powered blower: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-iON18SB-Rechargeable-Lithium-Ion/dp/B00E3OXF6A/ref=cm_wl_huc_item

Spare battery: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-iBAT40-Lithium-Ion-Battery/dp/B00F8FLB3W/ref=cm_wl_huc_item

Battery charger: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-iCHRG40-Lithium-Ion-Charger/dp/B00F8FLB2I/ref=cm_wl_huc_item

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind and solar powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970’s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2013 – 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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