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Springtime in Sumeria

May 6, 2020

Spring rites are upon us! Many of us have recently celebrated Beltane or May Day or may be anticipating another spring celebration. As we prepare for Ishtarfest 2020, let’s take a look at what the ancient Sumerians did to celebrate in their own seasonal style.

The big festival of the day was called Akitu. This word comes from the Sumerian word for barley. However, more seems to be known about the Babylonian version of the festival than the Sumerian. (Probably partially comes from the fact that the Babylonian civilization is slightly newer than the Sumerian, but hey, I’m not a historian.) The Babylonian Akitu was a twelve day festival that celebrated the new year for this region. There would be some prayers for Babylon, some recitation of the Epic of Creation, and a ritual drama in honor of the god Marduk. In fact, a lot of what was done for this festival was in honor of Marduk, Babylon’s patron god. The king of Babylon would travel down river and back and ultimately submit to Marduk at his temple. Statues of the gods of this pantheon were cleaned and dressed before being paraded around for worship. There were songs and possibly sacrifices.

These days, not too many of us are involved in twelve straight days of worship anymore. We’re too busy with work and family obligations, not to mention the myriad distractions we have! But chances are this year, none of us will be dancing around a Maypole in large groups (or small ones), so it might be interesting to think about ways we can modify celebrations to work for us.

As a New Year’s celebration, consider taking this time to make a few New Year’s resolutions. Sure, in Western culture we usually reserve making these for January 1, but any time could be a good time to make a promise to yourself or develop a new, positive habit. Now that we’re in isolation, it might be a good time for some self reflection to decide what you need or time to develop a skill.

As a holiday to celebrate barley, maybe you want to get some planting going or tend to a garden you already have. Plant flowers or crops ready to harvest later in the year. They’re about to get some great sunlight in the coming months! (My husband would say a good way to honor barley is to drink some beer. If that’s your thing, go for it.)

Read up on some creation myths. There are many out there, so familiarize yourself with a new one. Analyze similarities and differences (if you’re into that sort of thing). What kind of shared consciousness might connect civilizations from across continents with similar ideas and stories? Can you find a part of the Sumerian creation myth to honor in your own tradition?

Honor the deities you keep on your own personal altar. Dress them up, or just give them a dusting. Douse them with some holy water. Find a way to show them that this is a time in which you want to show them how much they mean to you.

Have a great spring!

Ishtarfest 2020 is still planned for this October, CLICK HERE for details!

Feeling Ruff? Sumerian Goddess Gula May Have the Cure

April 21, 2020

Ever feel like a good cuddle from your dog helps restore your health?

Thanks to the ancient Sumerian Goddess Gula, you might be onto something!

Gula is a goddess of healing, daughter of the creator God Anu and mother to two sons, Amu and Ninazu, and a daughter, Gunurra – all healing deities. She was helpful to those trying to conceive a child, and we won’t mention how she could also be called on for curses. 

Originally, this goddess was known as Bau, a Sumerian goddess of dogs. At the time, dogs became associated with healing when people noticed how much faster dogs’ wounds healed when they licked them. Ta da! – the goddess became associated with healing as well as canines! 

Doctors’ knowledge of the medicinal arts was said to come from Gula. But at her temples, it wasn’t the snakes of the caduceus but her sacred animal, dogs, that could be found everywhere. Buried beneath the ramp leading to her temple at Isin, the remains of more than thirty dogs were found. Also found were ceramic figures of dogs with Gula’s name carved into them, usually in doorways to protect people from harm. In fact, inscriptions found in the area make it abundantly clear that burying dog figurines, or having actual dogs themselves, were seen as charms to protect homes from evil.

So dog lovers out there – in these dark times, where disease and illness, as well as negativity, are around us in abundance, rejoice! Give your pet a great big cuddle and offer up a prayer to Gula. It may just be all the protection you need!

Ishtarfest 2020 is still planned for this October! CLICK HERE for details!

Disclaimer: Obviously, if you become ill, a cuddle from a dog won’t be all the medicine you need – please also head to a doctor to get yourself checked out!

Virtual Travel

April 9, 2020

Most of us are following the recommendations to stay home during these challenging times. I don’t know about you, but getting out into Nature and traveling to new and fascinating places has always been my passion. Since that is not possible for the time being, I thought I would share some suggestions for movies and books that I found online to help keep our sanity. Maybe we can’t get to these places now, but it’s great that we can – at least virtually – bring these places to us!

Stay safe, Everyone! Blessed Be.

Gaia

NOTE:

The following suggestions and synopses are from The Discoverer Blog

#1.  Ken Burns: The National Parks – America’s Best Idea

A deep-dive into the history of the United States’ National Parks. Like all Ken Burns documentaries, the cinematography is beautiful, the narration and expert commentary is insightful, and — maybe most importantly — the series is really in-depth!

Available on PBS or Amazon Video  

#2. PBS “Nature” Series

This long-running PBS series covers everything you could possibly want to know about nature, from “The Story of the Horse” to “A Squirrel’s Guide to Success.” Ten seasons are currently available for PBS members, while Amazon Prime subscribers can see one season plus several standalone feature films.

Available on PBS for PBS supporters and on Amazon Prime Video

#3. Free Solo

Being stuck on your couch with your feet firmly on the ground won’t seem so bad after watching climber Alex Honnold attempt to become the first person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. That means climbing the 3,200-foot natural wall without assistance, ropes or other gear. The film won the 2018 Academy Award for best feature documentary.

Available on Hulu or for rent on Amazon

#4. Mountain 

The Hollywood Reporter called it “one of the most visceral essay films ever made” due to its musical score. It premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 2017. This film explores the highest peaks around the world and it is more visual art than it is a storytelling piece. 

Available on Netflix

#5. Expedition Happiness

A couple and their adorable Bernese mountain dog take you on a trip in their refurbished school bus across North America. Once you’ve seen this film, you’ll be tempted to use your extra time at home to start renovating a van or school bus to replicate their journey. Send us pictures. 

Available on Netflix

#6. Dancing with the Birds

After watching this Netflix original documentary, I have come to the conclusion that birds are severely underrated. This film takes you on a deep dive into the lives of birds, It turns out they are quite

bizarre, intelligent, and preformative. The video footage is exact and takes you into remote areas to get the most stunning shots of these underrated creatures. 

Available on Netflix

#7. Elephant

Megan Markle narrates the story of an elephant named Shani and her spirited son Jomo in the Kalahari Desert. It’s a compelling look at the dynamics of an elephant family. Spoiler alert: You’ll learn we are not too different. 

Available on Disney+ 

#8. Ice on Fire

Using beautiful camerawork and hard facts, this critically acclaimed HBO documentary reminds us what’s at stake if we don’t take aggressive action to curb climate change. Importantly, the filmmakers also offer workable solutions to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Available on HBO, and via Amazon Prime with an HBO subscription

#9. African Cats

African Cats follows a pride of lions and a family of cheetahs across a national reserve in Kenya. It’s a stunning adventure in storytelling as you will get quite attached to the characters. 

Available on Disney+ 

#10. Jane

Most people will know exactly what this film is about when they see the title and a picture of a ‎chimpanzee. The movie pulls from more than 100 hours of unseen footage from Jane Goodall’s timing studying primates in Tanzania. Jane Goodall’s life is a great story to show your 8-year-old little explorer. You never know who will be the next great anthropologist!

Available on Disney+

#11. 180 Degrees South

If you’ve always wanted to make a trip to Patagonia, this is the film for you. 180 Degrees South follows Jeff Johnson through Chile, while he attempts to mirror Yvon Chouinard’s (founder of the company Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins’s (founder of North Face) trip down south in 1968. This is not a nail-biting documentary. Instead, you will leave with intense feelings of wanderlust. 

Available for purchase on Amazon  or YouTube

#12. Seven Worlds, One Planet

In seven episodes, this documentary series explores how the distinctive geography of Earth’s seven continents has shaped species’ evolution and animal behavior. 

Available on BBC America with a cable subscription or YouTube

#13. Honeyland 

This Oscar-nominated movie tells the story of Hatidze Muratova and her ancient bee-keeping techniques. There is a lot going on in the film so it will require your undivided attention. Between conflict with neighbors and raising seven noisy children, Muratova’s life, set against the backdrop of the Balkans in Macedonia, isn’t one to miss. 

Available on Apple TV

#14. American Experience: Into the Amazon

Not long after losing his bid for a third term as president, Teddy Roosevelt trekked into uncharted territory in the Amazon. This PBS documentary tells the story of the joint Brazilian-American expedition in 1914, led by Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon.

Available for free at PBS.org/show/american-experience/

Netflix movies

Jack Whitehall Travels with My Father

Our Planet

Sense8

Travel Movies

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

India There’s a romance to train travel, and getting around India by train is arguably the best way to see the country. That’s exactly what three quirky siblings, played by Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, do in Wes Anderson’s take on the family road trip. While the movie focuses on the brothers’s attempt to rekindle their relationships, it is set against a stunning backdrop of the desert vistas and hilly landscapes of Rajasthan. Visits to temples, encounters with humble villagers, and conversations with fellow train travelers offer an authentic insight into life in India.

Into the Wild (2007)

Trek to Alaska – based on a true story

Based on the real-life story of college graduate Christopher McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp), this is a bona fide get-up-and-go tale. After donating his entire savings to charity, McCandless walked and hitchhiked his way to Alaska while seeking a vagabond lifestyle, foraging and sleeping in the wilderness. Scenes shot in mesmerizingly beautiful places, such as Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe and Alaska’s Denali National Park, make the nomadic life seem an attractive one. He even found time to run with wild horses and kayak down the Colorado River. It all looks good until–spoiler alert–things take a turn for the worse.

The Way (2010)

The Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a rite of passage for pilgrims and backpackers alike. In this fictional drama, Martin Sheen brings its spiritual reverence to light by following the footsteps taken by his recently deceased son. Sensational footage of mountainous landscapes, green valleys, pretty villages and country roads will make you want to lace up your boots and get walking. Along the way, Sheen joins up with colorful characters such as a sensitive Irish travel writer and a bitter Canadian divorcee. Those with firsthand experience of the trail can appreciate how accurate these character portrayals are.

Tracks (2013)

The Australian Outback – based on a true story

The Camino de Santiago is a rite of passage for pilgrims and backpackers alike. In this fictional drama, Martin Sheen brings its spiritual reverence to light by following the footsteps taken by his recently deceased son. Sensational footage of mountainous landscapes, green valleys, pretty villages and country roads will make you want to lace up your boots and get walking. Along the way, Sheen joins up with colorful characters such as a sensitive Irish travel writer and a bitter Canadian divorcee. Those with firsthand experience of the trail can appreciate how accurate these character portrayals are.

Looking for a great book about nature?

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. “The Big Burn is a really great, interesting read about the terrible forest fire that raged through the Northwest in 1910. It shows the role of President Teddy Roosevelt and Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot advancing the very idea of public forests.” 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. “Bryson perfectly captures both the euphoria and the mundane and pain of long hikes.”

Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. “I grew up in the intermountain west, in the shadow of the Nevada nuclear test site, just as the author did. Her beautifully haunting personal account of the consequences of radioactive fallout alongside the story of a salt-water flood in a wildlife refuge sticks with me, years after I read the book.”

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. “Ok, so Wild isn’t exactly a book about nature. But the memoir, which tracks Strayed’s solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, is a gorgeously written story about the healing power of solitude and wild places. And, it’s a powerful reminder of why we need to preserve special places for future generations.”

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. “Mr. Abbey combines a love for the outdoors with a call to action and throws in a lot of humor along the way.”

Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone by George Black. “This is a fantastic deep dive into how our first national park came into existence, including the genuinely complicated conflicts that made it imperfect. It also put visiting Yellowstone incredibly high on my bucket list — hopefully it reopens soon!”

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. “My favorite book about nature changes all the time, but I keep coming back to A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. He writes about our relationship to the natural world in a way that is deeply personal and moral, without self-righteousness or condescension, as evidenced by his first two sentences in the forward: ‘There are some people who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.’”

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner. “Cadillac Desert, a highly-entertaining history of water development in the American West. Great characters and it’s just stunning how badly we screwed up the environment and managed to do so at an economic loss. A really good cautionary tale. I basically only read non-fiction and this one is way up there on my list.”

Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel by Robert Gipe. “This book has a lot of personality, which is easy to spot in its endearing illustrations and its bold, wry main character, 15-year-old Dawn Jewell. The story is especially significant to me because it centers on Eastern Kentucky, where I was born, and the blue, rolling mountains of the region, a piece of nature that is precious to everyone from Southeast Appalachia. Dawn gets roped into her grandmother’s radical protests against mountaintop removal and finds a passion for preserving nature and protecting the unique mountaintops of her home.”

The Overstory by Richard Powers. “The Overstory is Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 novel about trees. It’s been described as a ‘masterwork,’ a ‘visionary, accessible legend’ and a reminder that ‘we walk among gods every time we enter a forest.’ This book is like no other, and it will stick with you forever.”

It's Spring and What a Spring It Is!

March 22, 2020

It’s Spring, but this is a Spring unlike anyone has seen in their lifetime. Rather than the earth waking up and the world getting busier, we’ve all been put on pause and are semi-hibernating. The hope and beauty of Spring still promises all the good things of the wheel turning. The trees will soon be green. The flowers will soon splash their vibrant colors over the ground. The birds will sing and chatter, oblivious to human concerns.

We stand here at the brink of change. Looking inside and pausing our busy lives, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate what’s important and what isn’t. The Goddess has given us the chance to reset the world and it is up to us as one race, the Human Race, to do so.

I invite you as magickal people to envision the world as a more beautiful place, as the Utopia that it could be and was always meant to be. Remember that the Goddess provides and we are all under her protection and care.

I keep thinking of the Abbi Spinner song “Held in the Heart” (https://spiralwound.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/held-in-the-heart/). The song reminds us that we are “here in the heart of this holy moment.” I believe that this is the moment we have all been waiting for, the moment when real change is possible. We have to find new ways of doing the things that we need to do.

Humans are unceasingly creative and innovative. It’s part of what makes us who we are. I believe that we will find energetic connection when we can’t have physical closeness, the ability to work when we shouldn’t leave our homes, and the courage to help each other rather than only to look out for ourselves.

There are no coincidences. This is a time of great change at the beginning of the Aquarian Age. Business as usual is impossible so how will we replace it?

What is this Spring growing in you and how will you blossom?

Good News for the Environment

March 5, 2020

Here’s some more optimism for healing our planet:

  • A court rejected a BLM plan to allow oil and gas drilling in Colorado’s Western Slope, finding it failed to consider real-world impacts on climate.
  • A judge prevented risky offshore drilling in the pristine Arctic Ocean and deepwater canyons of the Atlantic.
  • Another court case stopped fossil fuel companies from avoiding paying millions in royalties for mining and drilling on our public lands.

Coming to you from Pronoia-inspired Network News.

Source: NRDC

Good News for the Animals

February 20, 2020

Last year our theme for the year was Heal Mother Earth. We often hear negative and scary news. In the spirit of Pronoia (the antidote to paranoia, a term coined by astrologer Rob Brezny), here are a few environmental victories in 2019:

  • An NRDC lawsuit forced more endangered species protections for giraffes.
  • The Gulf of Mexico whale has been granted endangered species status.
  • Stronger protections were put in place against the trade of Asian otters, giraffes, sharks and vaquitas at the global summit on endangered species.

Stay tuned this year as we report some of the positive changes that our world has made toward Healing Mother Earth.

By the way, our theme for 2020 is Dancing With Light and Shadow. Come to our events or check back here to find out more about how Hands of Change interprets this theme.

Source: NRDC

 

Dancing with Light and Shadow at Imbolc

February 6, 2020

There is no light without darkness; there is no shadow without light. This is a time of year that reminds us of how inextricably woven the light and the dark is. The light and dark can be many different polarities including God and Goddess, warm and cold, sound and silence, Yin and Yang. The truism is that one contains and is dependent on the other.

So what does this little bit of philosophy mean at this time of year? Here in the Northeast the weather is cold and although the days are growing longer, the nights are still longer than the days. Looking out my window at 7 a.m., it is still pre-dawn — there is light, but it’s a muffled light shrouded in a bluish darkness that hasn’t yet welcomed the sun for the day.

Although we may be longing for longer and warmer days in February, many of us thoroughly tired of the winter, this cold dark time serves a purpose. It’s a time when we can be indoors and spend quiet time looking inward. Especially with Mercury in Retrograde coming up, this inward focus on personal goals and projects is strengthened. It’s a time to regroup before the energy of the sun is at its fullest, drawing us outside into the hubbub of spring and summer.

Use this time for introspection and completion, to work on the things that you have been putting off. This Sunday’s full moon in Leo is excellent energy for motivation, courage, and rekindled passion. Take advantage of the coming month to really dive deep inside and focus on yourself.

The goddess Brigid is traditionally called on at this time of year, not only for inspiration, but also as a goddess of hearth and home, assisting us in kindling the fires within as well as the more literal fires of heating and cooking. Look inside for that fire seed that will give you the courage to create anew.

We ask Brigid now for her blessings that she may inspire us during this month and provide healing, creating, and joy throughout the cold times.

Bright blessings!

Chemical Overload

October 2, 2019

This month’s blog is a request to all of you to be mindful of what chemicals we pour onto our Mother Earth. There has been an assault on insects that humans consider pests over the last 75 years. The chemical companies have come up with more and more ingenious ways to poison the natural order of life.Unfortunately, these pesticides not only destroy the pests that are targeted, they also kill essential pollinators.

The article below was sent to me by Environment America, and is reprinted with permission.Please, read, and remember that we all can make a difference for good or ill by both our actions, and our inaction. It is not enough to not use these poisons ourselves, even though that is imperative, we must also be willing to go further and do our best to curb their manufacture and use around the world. Please, get involved, write your congressional reps and put pressure on these short-sighted corporations that think only of their profits at the expense of the planet. And those of you with the resources, I suggest you research environmental organizations, and donate to those that do the things you consider important.

Blessed Be,
Gaia

IN JUST 3 MONTHS, PESTICIDES KILLED MORE THAN 500 MILLION BEES IN BRAZIL.

If 500 million dead bees aren’t proof that we need to rein in the use of bee-killing pesticides, I don’t know what is.In August, the BBC reported that that’s how many bees had died in Brazil in just a three-month span. The cause? Pesticides such as neonicotinoids (or neonics), which are known to be deadly to bees.

It’s the latest piece of devastating news for bees. Here in the U.S., beekeepers lost nearly 40 percent of their colonies last winter –making it the worst winter on record for bees. Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Turkey, South Africa and Russia have all experienced mass die-offs of bees over the past several months. We can’t afford to lose the bees. Bees are essential to our food supply, and the health of our bees is reflective of the health of our environment.

That’s why Environment America is working to stop the most common and problematic uses of neonics. We are working with members of Congressto ban the use of neonics in wildlife refuges – something that never should have been allowed in the first place. Of all places, bees should be safe in wildlife refuges.

At the state level, we’re working to ban the sale of neonics to consumers, similar to the bans our national network helped win in Maryland, Vermont and Connecticut. We’re also working to expand bee habitats by passing state laws to require pollinator-friendly plants along roadsides and other state lands.This work takes resources, and that’s where you come in. Your support allows us to get our advocates in the room with decision-makers in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols across the country.Thank you for making it all possible.

Sincerely,
Ed JohnsonPresident

PS from Gaia:

For those of you who are gardeners, here’s a list of brand names that contain neonicotinoids…

-Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease, & Mite Control
-Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control
-Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed
-Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control
-Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care concentrate
-DIY Tree Care Products Multi-Insect Killer
-Ferti-lome 2-N-1 Systemic
-Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Spray
-Knockout Ready-To-Use Grub Killer
-Monterey Once a Year Insect Control II
-Ortho Bug B Gon Year-Long Tree & Shrub Insect Control
-Ortho MAX Tree & Shrub Insect
-Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care granules
-Green Light Grub Control with Arena
-Amdro Quick Kill Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer
-Amdro Rose & Flower Care
-Maxide Dual Action Insect Killer
-Ortho Bug B Gon Garden Insect Killer
-Ortho Bug B Gon for Lawns
-Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer
-Green Light Tree & Shrub Insect Control with Safari 2 G
Safari
-Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control Plus Miracle Gro Plant Food
-Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Killer
-Ortho Rose Pride Insect Killer

And here’s a partial list of foods pollinated by bees – just to give you an idea:

  • Honey (obviously)
  • Tree fruits such as apples, peaches, apricots, plums, lemons, limes and cherries
  • Bananas, melons, mangoes and papaya
  • Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, elderberries, blackberries, raspberries and cranberries
  • Onions
  • Almonds, cashews and coconut
  • Avocados
  • Beans varieties such as green beans, adzuki, kidney and lima beans
  • Coffee (!!!!!!)
  • Tea plants
  • Vanilla
  • Sunflower and sesame oils
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes (and, therefore, wine!)
  • Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, turnips and Brussels sprouts
  • Beetroot, pumpkin
  • CHOCOLATE
  • Sugarcane
  • Agave (vital for tequila!

Back to School

September 7, 2019

Here we are in September already. A busy Summer is winding down and I hope all of you had a wonderful time. Here at HOC we had a successful Ishtarfest, Pagan Picnic, and Full Moon ritual as well as several personal trips, camping and picnic events by individual members.

As I’m sure you all know, school will soon be starting. There is a good chance that those of you with young children will sometimes be sending them in with a packed lunch. I urge you to think about not only their health, but that of Mother Earth as well. Rather than a plastic bag of munchies, send them in with a piece of fruit, preferably locally grown and organic. Apples and pears will soon be filling the farmer’s stands, as well as lots of fresh vegetables right up until frost and while the supermarket won’t have locally grown offerings in the winter, they will have organic to choose from.

For sandwiches, puddings, cut up fruit, chicken legs, cheese, left-overs from dinner the night before – whatever you’re sending – consider putting them in reusable containers with snap on lids instead of throw away plastic zip lock bags. Let the young ones pick a cool lunch box – the choices are plentiful – and help them understand the importance of caring for the Earth by using a thermos with a screw top lid instead of plastic water bottles. If your kids like using straws, use paper or the reusable kind instead of the plastic used once and thrown away.

For those of you with older kids, encourage them to either join, or form, an environmental club in their school. Campaign to ensure their school has a recycling program and that the trays and cups they use in the cafeteria are not Styrofoam, but either reusable or compostable.

If we are to have a livable planet teeming with life and biodiversity to leave to our children, and their children, we MUST change the way we do things. And we must educate the next generation. It’s up to us. If we don’t, how do we face our grandchildren and tell them we did nothing while their planet drowned in plastic?Thanks to all our you for caring!

Blessed Be
Gaia

Zero Waste Labor Day

August 31, 2019

My hobby for the past couple of years has been to collect as little new plastic as possible, from packaging to products. I even tried composting in an apartment composter for a while until I had several infestations of other insects and my worms died. While I am certainly not living a zero waste life, I have endeavored to have less trash and to be aware of what I’m bringing into my home that I eventually will have to throw out.

Going totally zero waste may not be your thing, but can you do it for one day? All over the country Zero Waste Labor Day celebrations are springing up to bring awareness to how much we contribute to the landfills. The average American makes 4.4 pounds of trash a day. Outdoor picnics are one of the biggest contributors to an individual’s trash because everything is typically disposable.

If you’re hosting a Labor Day event this weekend, consider using real silverware and plates and washing them. If you are going to someone else’s house, lug a mug, a plate and silverware to avoid using disposables. I keep a set of bamboo eating utensils in my purse and a metal container in my car for leftovers.

Here are some picnic tips:

  • Use glasses instead of plastic cups
  • Label trash, recycling and food waste bins
  • Repurpose decorations from other holidays
  • Pack leftovers for guests
  • Use foil instead of plastic
  • Choose a drink in a recyclable bottle or can

If you aren’t going to a picnic this weekend, challenge yourself to see if you can go one day without throwing anything into the garbage can. Use recyclables when you can. Compost food scraps – if you don’t have a compost bin or live somewhere where that’s impractical, collect your food scraps and bury them in the back yard or forest at the end of the day. Make sure everything is bio-degradable that you are burying.

Noticing what goes into the trash bin is the first step in reducing your footprint on Mother Earth. Few of us are aware on a daily basis of the packaging of our food items that goes into the garbage. Even fruit and veggies usually have plastic labels on them, which are easy to peel off but don’t recycle.

Most of all, though, don’t feel bad if you can’t do zero waste. Our society really isn’t set up to make that easy. But the first step in solving any problem is always awareness. Make Labor Day your day to work on the planet’s health by using the day as a meditation on what you can do to heal Mother Earth.