Category Archives: holidays

Labor Day 2013, Americans are Working Everywhere

Labor Day 2013President Obama is adamantly clear that Labor Day is important to “the working men and women of America”, and that he wants more for the middle class, countering “the forces that conspire against working Americans”. Yet what I see is a country in which Labor Day is all about the “end of Summer” and making money … which means many Americans are working today. The Labor Day sales of retailers ensure that many “working Americans” are at work today. For others, the once-clear boundaries of the office are gone with the advent of mobile technologies, the Internet, and the expectation that one can work anywhere, any time. The U.S. Department of Labor tells us that Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” By 1894, Labor Day was a national holiday, to be marked with parades and speeches celebrating the workforce that made this country great. Today, the fast-food workers reported to work as usual. The retail store workers also reported as usual. Construction workers were on sites building. Yes, the Federal Government and many businesses are closed. Yet many of the bottom-of-the-rung workers are working, because they can’t afford to take the day off without pay. Or because they simply don’t even realize what Labor Day is supposed to mean. The very people for which this day is supposed to honor are being treated as if it’s just another day. And these same people have lost their Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Year Days as everything must remain open every day now. While there is much not to like about the unions responsible for Labor Day, they did once improve the position of this core of America – the worker – and they deserve some thanks. will work for foodIn 2013 workers are the center of some huge arguments in America. From a faltering economy to a pending healthcare plan to immigration debates, the lower and middle class workers are not only the focus of discussion, they are key to the success of this country. People with hopes and dreams are working to survive, and many expect to make their lives better. Yet we can’t even take one day off from the massive mindless consumerism that defines our culture. So as some of us bask in the sun waterside of those soon-to-be-closed swimming facilities and beaches, let us at least stop a moment and thank our workers, all of them working today, from the janitors to the farm workers, from the bus drivers to the nurses, from the teachers to the information-age workers. Tell them today, Labor Day 2013, or tomorrow or any day that they are appreciated. If you own a business or have influence in one, show the employees some respect.

If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. Abraham Lincoln

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Happy Green Year!

14472145-new-year-2013-on-the-beachIn this new year, about half of adults make resolutions; many of us have resolved to lose weight, exercise more, and otherwise make improvements in ourselves.

According to history.com, the practice of making resolutions began about 4000 years ago, with the ancient Babylonians. They figured resolutions to pay off debts and return borrowed equipment would help them fare better with the gods.

The blog 43Things shares that, “a University of Washington study found 47 percent of the 100 million adult Americans who make resolutions give up on their goals after two months. This figure has grown to 80 percent in the past decade, according to recent research completed at the University of Minnesota.”

How can we keep resolutions? One of the Washington study’s lead researchers suggests:

  • Have a strong initial commitment to make a change.
  • Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up.
  • Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the better you will do.

Of course, there’s also an app for helping you keep resolutions.

And you are likely to fail when you are:

  • Not thinking about making resolutions until the last minute.
  • Reacting on New Year’s Eve and making your resolutions based on what’s bothering you or is on your mind at that time.
  • Framing your resolutions as absolutes by saying, “I will never do X again.”

What about green resolutions? None of these will change the world, but we can all help. I scoured the Internet for decent green resolutions, but none of the lists caught my attention. I’m not big on making resolutions – I try to live every day in a mindful way as much as I can. It’s better to do a little bit than nothing at all. So here is my reluctant list that I think is reasonable for about anyone to easily achieve in 2013:

  1. Grow something. Plant a tree or a tomato plant. It’s simple. Of course plant the big garden if you can; the food we grow ourselves is the best food we can eat.
  2. Educate yourself and others. Maybe you worry about climate change. Perhaps your passion is organic food or fighting GMOs. Learn something and teach others; you will benefit and so will others.
  3. Eat less meat. Better for the planet and for your health.
  4. Think of water as gold. Water is the key to our survival yet many of us take it for granted. Related to this – ditch bottled water because the plastic used for them is staggering.
  5. Buy less. What can be easier than not doing something?
  6. Of course, you have to buy some things. Buy fair trade and local. Go to the farmer’s markets and Join a CSA. And bring your own bags to the store!
  7. Read this blog.

Start whenever you want. Let others know what you’re doing. Let us know about your progress at themindfulconsumer [at] gmail [dot] com or on facebook.com/themindfulconsumer.

 

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Boxing Day is Really About Charity, Not Shopping

Yesterday was Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas and is a day celebrated in all places British. Being a naïve American, I thought this was something about celebrating the sport, however it is instead akin to Black Friday in the U.S. — all about shopping.

According to BBC News, there were record numbers of online shoppers in the U.K. yesterday, and analysts have suggested that DIY and gardening will see the strongest performance in the retail sector in 2013, compared with 2012.

In Australia, says The Age, Boxing Day transactions rose by about 30 per cent from last year, according to data from National Australia Bank.

tzedakah2Yet Boxing Day might have had its origins in helping the poor. According to My Daily News, its origins are thought to date back to the late Roman era when Christians would leave a metal collection box outside of churches for the Feast of Saint Stephen. Later, in the Middle Ages in England, Boxing Day became popular as a day designated to give gifts to those who were poor, and fill boxes with money and presents for tradesmen.

As we focus on mindful consumption this time of year, it is important to help those in need. Regardless of your faith, whether it’s in the spirit of Christmas, Muslim zakat, or Jewish t’zedakah, as humans we should do our part to help those less fortunate.

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Patch Up Your Relationship with Pumpkins

2012 pumpkin

This time of year pumpkin moves to the front of our collective consciousness, not only because of their inexorable association with Halloween and Thanksgiving, but because they just seem to be everywhere. From the pumpkin pies to pumpkin donuts and bagels, to the pumpkin iced lattes to pumpkin-scented candles, we are bombarded with these funny-looking orange spheroids until we are out of our gourds.

One media outlet shouts, “Pumpkin is the New Bacon” lamenting the growing ubiquity in food and drink.

Of course we also decorate with them. Many of us carve or paint pumpkins before displaying them on our front porches in a seasonal ritual, their toothy grins and triangle eyes flickering in the darkness of Halloween night. Pumpkins and gourds are in the Cucurbita family and thus are relatives of cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash, and watermelon.

According to the Cooperative Extension Service The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, gourds were probably one of the first plants domesticated by humans and were used for utensils as early as 2400 B.C.E. And come in sizes up to more than 2,000 pounds. A man in Rhode Island grew on to 2009 pounds this year, according to the Pumpkin Nook. The smallest are generally decorative Jack-o-lantern pumpkins range from 10- to 25-pounds.

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University, in 2011, pumpkins valued at $113 million were harvested from 47,300 acres in six states: Illinois, California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Most pumpkins end up in canned pumpkin pie mixes. Nestlé Food Company’s Libby’s® pumpkin processing plant cans more than 85 percent of the world’s pumpkin each year.

It turns out that pumpkin is pretty good for us to eat. Self Magazine says that pumpkin, cooked, boiled, drained, and without salt is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Of course we often then add sugar, salt, eggs, and milk to pumpkin in our recipes.

You might be getting more than pumpkin when you get them, so know your source. Cucumber beetles, squash vine borers and squash bugs go after them. Says Planet Natural, bacterial wilt (spread by cucumber beetles), powdery mildew, downy mildew, and anthracnose are common plant diseases affecting pumpkins. Many pesticides are applied to fight these maladies. You can grow your own pumpkins organically, if you have the space; they can need 500 square feet for a single plant. At the very least, try to find your pumpkins at a local farm, rather than buying one shipped in from another state or county. After you finish carving and using the pumpkin, add it to the compost pile.

Think about that pumpkin

  1. Grow them yourself — or buy local and organic, if possible
  2. Eat the edible parts – they’re good for you
  3. Compost the parts you can’t otherwise use
  4. And this final tip from Sara — Do NOT put your wife in one’s shell!

 

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