Okay, here's what I DON'T do:

Unplug electronics when not in use
Not watch TV
Take 3-minute showers
Walk or ride a bike everywhere
Make my own cleaning products
Save the water from my showers to water plants and to flush the toilet
Fill the sink with water when I do dishes
Use rags instead of paper towels

Here's what I DO do:

Eat 90% organic
Recycle everything (and in Santa Barbara, I mean everything)
Eat a vegetarian diet (no, that doesn't include the occasional burger or fish taco -- then I wouldn't be vegetarian, would I?)
Shop at thrift stores
Trade books at PaperbackSwap.com instead of buying new ones
Avoid fast food
Carry a Sigg bottle instead of buying bottled water
Wash and reuse plastic bags as many times as possible
Use the same cup all day (and sometimes the same plate, too)
Use reusable shopping bags
Turn off the water when brushing my teeth

Just to give you an idea of where I started from this week...

I joined the No Impact Experiment last Sunday to see if I could be influenced to change some of my earth-impacting ways. The week's not over yet, and I can hardly say I had no impact. But I did learn some great lessons about myself and made a little progress in my awareness.

Day one was "Consumption" day, and I think this is the area in which I have the most trouble. As I posted in the No Impact Project forum:

"If I need or want something, I buy it mostly without a second thought, even if it's from the thrift store. It's been good for me to question my buying habits this week, even down to food shopping.

Hubby works at a specialty foods market and I e-mail him a list just about every day of items I want him to bring home. This week, I've been really conscious about cooking with what I already have. Even though I need peanut oil, can I get by with olive oil for a few more days? Even though I 'need' waffles, can I get by with the other breakfast foods already in stock? Do I really need to buy more food when I already have a bulging freezer and cupboards?"

So on Sunday, I challenged myself. I've been wanting to buy a "banana hanger," both to free up space on my tiny kitchen counters and to keep my bananas from getting bruised in the fruit pile. I was planning to go look for one, but decided to try to make one in order to avoid buying something. I used a coat hanger and bent it in a way that I could hang it on a hook in my kitchen. One less thing to buy!

I mailed a package to a Speak Schmeak reader wrapped in one of my already-printed handouts instead of using a new envelope or other wrap.

I downloaded the application Evernote to my computer and Palm Pre so that I can stop using scraps of paper for my lists, travel directions and to-dos. So far, I love it!

Every time I left a room, I was conscious of the lights. Every time I thought of picking up a newspaper, I realized I could read it online. Overall, I was more conscious of my consumption, my waste, my water and power usage, my driving and other areas of eco-impact.

Even though I didn't make huge changes this week that I can sing from the rooftops, I am proud of my conscious efforts and I believe that this will be the beginning of change for me. Check out the No Impact Project page, and download the How-To Manual for the No Impact Experiment.

It's all about baby steps. What are you taking baby steps to change?


The ubiquitous agapanthus

I've taken a liking to the agapanthus. Also called the Lily of the Nile, the agapanthus is about as ubiquitous as greenery can be. Planted in front of every bank, doctor's office and corporate headquarters, it's a hardy plant that looks good even when not flowering.

In Santa Barbara, agapanthus is everywhere, in shades from deep blue to violet to white, and from tiny varieties to giant ones. I imagine that no one even looks twice at the agapanthus any more (except the hummingbirds I've seen drinking from it); it's meant not to stand out but to fill a space without much thought or concern for its care.

Well, at least I'm a fan of the agapanthus. Its giant flower cluster, hiding in plain sight, is beautiful to me. The individual flowers are delicate, while the flower cluster itself is powerful. I love spotting a row of dwarf agapanthus planted in front of a row of full-size ones. When hubby and I are driving around town, we've been known to shout out "Agapanthus!" at the sight of a patch. Here's an informative page from South Africa that talks about this "magical and medicinal plant."

What have you noticed that's hiding in plain sight?


Second chances

You don't have to come back from the dead to have a second chance at life, but that's exactly what happened to my mom a week ago.

My mom had a heart attack and then went into cardiac arrest, was worked on for several minutes (we don't know how long yet, but the estimate is 15) by EMTs and was pronounced dead at the ER. Miraculously, she started breathing on her own and revived.

At the age of 69, this is amazing enough, but today she is being released from the hospital into a skilled nursing facility for rehab. During her ordeal over the past week she experienced some damage to her lungs, small fractures to her sternum from CPR, breathing on a ventilator, and an infection which made her confused and disoriented for several days.

But the doctors believe that, in about a week, her lungs will be healed, her pain will lessen, and she will be able to benefit from the physical and occupational therapy she'll receive in rehab. She should soon be standing and walking on her own again, and back living the independent life she was living before.

Last month, I wrote about my own experience being in a car accident that changed my life in many ways. But I can only guess at how facing death changes one's life.

Have you been given a second chance at life by facing your own death? Maybe you haven't, but that's no reason not to reassess your life anyway.

How's your diet? Do you exercise? Do you get enough sleep? Are you happy in your relationships, in your job, where you live? Is there something about your life that you would like to change, but haven't been motivated?

"Life is short," as people say. Too short not to live the life you want to live. You don't have to face death to give yourself a second chance. Or a third or fourth, for that matter.

As long as you're alive, you have the option to make your life what you want it to be. Will you?