Monday, June 30, 2008

Busting with Environmental Vigor

By Kaitlin Torgerson

This past weekend, I was able to leave Seattle and spend some much needed time in this beautiful creation. I took the ferry over to the Olympic peninsula, spending a few days at Olympic National Park and out to the coast for my first stroll along the Pacific Ocean(insert gasp of shock here). Without a cloud in the sky, I was able to jump into the waves, look at all sorts of creatures in the tide pools, and see a stunning sunset. It cleared my mind and helped me focus on some of the reasons I work at Earth Ministry—to protect these unique species and ensure sacred places like this one are here for generations to come.

Now today, I’m back in the office and wondering what to do with my re-found energy and focus. Maybe some of you are a little like me—you get inspired, rejuvenated, and maybe even a little more self-confident after a some good fresh air. I’m lucky that I could blog today to get out some of this creative creation energy. How are you letting your environmental vigor after this lovely weekend of sunshine? Are you finding yourself just itching to tell others about your love of this creation, but just can’t find a responsive audience?

If you haven’t found some sort of outlet yet, let me suggest one for you: Earth Ministry’s St. Francis Sermon Smack-Down. No gladiator jousting needed—just a love for creation care and a willingness to share a message. This sermon contest is open to anyone and everyone who wants to submit a sermon, homily, or message of faith in action related to care for God’s creation. Three finalists each will be selected in lay and clergy categories to give their sermons at Earth Ministry’s Celebration of St. Francis on October 4.

But wait!! Deadline for submission is only one month away, so get those heads thinking, pens writing, and keyboards clacking. For contest rules, prizes, and details please see Earth Ministry’s website.

Seriously, drag that laptop outside and don’t be shy. You’ve got nothing to lose. And no, saying you've never given a sermon is not a good enough reason and neither is saying you give them all the time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


By Eric Pfaff

Buenos dias!
There are two things I would like to share with you today. First, a link to magnificent pictures of golden sting rays migrating. And second, I would like to share some ideas on caring for chickens in the city, taken from the Seattle Tilth website.

Now I personally don't have chickens, primarily because I move every nine months when classes end. But as soon as I settle down, then chickens will come. In the name of bullet points, I leave you this:
  • For most Seattle households, 3 chickens are allowed.
  • Roosters make noise, and so do hens. Hens are quieter.
  • Hens can lay about 180-320 eggs/year.
  • Chickens can run around the yard, just protect them from predators!
  • After the 2nd year of laying, egg production decreases.
  • The chicken excrement can be used as compost.

If this interests you
, find out more at the Seattle Tilth "Chicken FAQ."

Check here for more information on rules and regulations for owning animals in the City of Seattle (including bee-keeping, which is the new "in" thing).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Intern # 2 Enter Stage Right

Happy Summer!

My name is Mikaila Gawryn and although I'm new to the blog I've been around Earth Ministry for a while. Through school I've had the opportunity to work on a number of different projects with Earth Ministry and I am excited to be returning as an intern after finishing my degree in Environmental Studies at Seattle University. I am thrilled to be a part of this team and working on such important issues!

As a recent graduate it is safe to say that I'm in the process of rediscovering my non-academic interests. In keeping with the traditional bullets, here's the list so far:

  • Food Issues: Sustainability, Equity, Enjoyability & Community!
  • Simple living (and hopefully learning how to do this better!)
  • Sabbath: Keeping it and learning about it.
  • Empowerment: How does it happen? How can we make it happen?

In one of my last days at school I read a statement that shook me. Perhaps it is the time of transition that I'm currently in, or the reminiscing that transition often brings, but the words seemed to wake me up from something. Jose Ortega y Gasset said "Life is fired at us point blank". The imagery he evokes here is sharp and violent, except that it describes the giving of life instead of its end. It reminds me that so often the bad and the good, pain and mercy, injustice and redemption are experienced quiet closely to one another.

As I look at the pain and injustice in our world it is clear that peace for the earth is tied up with mercy and redemption of humanity. At the risk of sounding quite sentimental I am excited to be diving into where all of our futures converge.


Earth Ministry Intern

Friday, June 20, 2008

Alternative Uses for Polycarbonate Water Bottles

By Beth Anderson, Outreach Associate

If you’re like me, you’ve probably responded to the recent news about bisphenol-A (BPA=a component of polycarbonate water bottles and the lining of various canned food containers) with some disappointment and a bunch of questions.

My main question is:
How can I safely reuse the polycarbonate bottles I already own so I don’t add them to the mountains of waste in our local landfills?

Our local outdoor retail giant, REI, will take back any polycarbonate bottles purchased at their stores. That’s a generous gesture, given that the manufacturer hasn’t officially recalled the bottles and doesn’t reimburse REI for the returned items. However, currently REI has no use for the bottles, and so they go into the solid waste stream. (Note: In recycling, #7 is a catch-all category for plastics still awaiting a broadly accepted recycling technology. Until one is achieved, most recyclers discard #7 items.)

Here are a few creative ideas I’ve run across for REUSING polycarbonate bottles:
  • Dry storage container: Kayakers, canoeists, and rafters can use their old water bottles to keep items dry, such as small notebooks, pens, maps, film canisters, memory cards for digital cameras, and cell phones.
  • Lantern: For $19.95 you can buy a solar-powered LED LightCap200 from SolLight and turn any standard water bottle into a weatherproof lantern for the backyard, treehouse, boat, or wherever, no batteries required.
  • First aid kit: Store small first aid supplies in a bottle to keep them dry. Items such as band aids, 2x2 and 3x3 pads, a small CPR shield, a roll of medical tape, alcohol prep pads, iodine pads, small tubes of creams, and small trauma shears can all fit into a wide-mouth water bottle.
Lastly, see this “How to Choose a Water Bottle” article for information about the variety of alternative bottles currently available.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vacations of All Kinds

By Kaitlin Torgerson

I’m not certain, but I think summer might actually be here or at least on its way. Even though the chilly damp weather made me think otherwise this morning, my heart was still feeling the warmth and sunshine of the weekend (the warmth might have just been my sunburned nose; I forgot my sunscreen).

Perhaps some of you are planning upcoming vacations and days off from work this summer, giving yourself a much needed break. However, did you ever think to give your car a bit of a vacation as well? My guess is that with high gas prices, many people are looking for alternative transportation this summer.

Seattle Climate Action Now has launched a program to encourage people to pledge to “Give Your Car the Summer Off.” They are asking people to reduce their driving miles by 1000 miles and find other ways to visit those favorite summer attractions. In return, Seattle CAN gives you a coupon for discounts to different Seattle area businesses. Get 10% the Seattle aquarium or the Woodland Park Zoo. Check out the Burke Museum with two for one tickets. Read more about the pledge and see the other businesses that are granting discounts. Save money and the environment just by leaving your car at home this summer!

Friday, June 13, 2008

No-Bag Lady

By Jessie Dye

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean is a huge, swirling island of plastic the size of North America, the center of an enormous whirlpool called the North Pacific Gyre. It is where the residue of our overconsumption comes to rest, or rotate as the case may be. Deadly for whales, turtles, birds, and plankton, not to mention the future of humanity, it is the non-biodegradable garbage dump of the world. It depresses me, and I don’t want to contribute to it any more.

So, I’m giving up plastic bags, finally. For the last week I have refused all plastic bags offered to me as I went about my daily business (as if I needed these bags in the first place!). No lectures, no explanation of the Gyre in the center of the ocean, no patronizing or faux-enlightened attitude, just no bags for me. A simple, Miss Manners-style “no thank you, I really don’t need a bag” was sufficient. I put a vitamin bottle in my purse, carried groceries home in cloth carriers, and walked out with books under my arm and hardware in my hand. It made no difference in my life and at least ten plastic bags did not make their way to the north Pacific, twenty if you count double-bagging. Some grocery clerks applauded me; a pharmacist said she wished more people didn’t take bags. On several occasions the person behind me in line didn’t take a bag either, watching my example. It seemed to be catching; a lot of people don’t want all this excess packaging but can’t seem to stop it. I did, and I’m proud!

A delicate subject for those of us who have dogs is the need for poop bags on a regular basis. Ah, but only a few weeks ago on a hike I ran into a wonderful woman in Discovery Park who actually exercised a ministry of dog-poop bags. As she walked, she happily distributed bio-degradable bags to those of us out with our pals from the Canis Familiaras species, giving us a better option to protect the Gyre.

In the end, refusing excess baggage to reduce the size of the North Pacific island of garbage may be as futile as stocking up on canned soup in the event of nuclear war. It doesn’t matter; I am only responsible for my own choices and called to lift my own prophetic voice on behalf of God’s creation. Still, changing public policy makes a bigger difference in reducing trash and I am tickled pink at the wonderful leadership of Seattle Mayor Nichols who recently introduced a bill to our City Council to ban plastic bags and Styrofoam. It seems the entire countries of Australia and Austria do this, as well as many others whose names are not as alliterative. If they can do it, I can do it. And so can you. Just say, “No thank you, I really don’t care for a bag.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Greetings from the Intern

by Eric Pfaff
Good morning! I'm new to Earth Ministry, and will be here through early August when I will head back to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma to finish degrees in English and Environmental Studies. Since numerous past entries include bullet points, mine will too:
  • I am a vegetarian.
  • I have just started riding the bus and biking on my commute from Bellevue to Ballard (and back).
  • I will post eight times during my internship--let me know what you're interested in reading about. I am personally interested in: the health of the Puget Sound, animals, composting, raising chickens in the city, eating sustainably, "alternative" modes of transportation, and environmental literature. If you have something in particular you want to know more about, comment!
Maybe you've noticed this, too, but there's been a strong upwelling of environmental awareness--whether it's the new fad, or lifestyle shifts in our culture--people are taking note. For instance, on the New York Times website, the top emailed stories have been one reducing meat consumption and one on gardening (links below). While you might know "meat is bad" and "buses are good," these articles can give you real tips on being successful in changing your lifestyle. And, if you've been a vegan for thirty years, think about emailing it to a friend who eats fifty pounds of beef a week. You could even email your friends a link to this blog:

It's an easy way to let your friends and family know what they can do to be more sustainable. Also, if you've read a good news (or website) article recently, leave a comment with the link so that others can pass it on!

NYTimes article on gardening.
NYTimes article on eating less meat.

Only by sharing our deeper thoughts
and feelings do we communicate
to, and inspire in others, a love
And respect for the earth."

- Joseph Bharat Cornell

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ask Deanna: Green Parking Lots

by Deanna Matzen

Here at Earth Ministry, part of my job is to receive and route general information emails that come into The best part of that task is researching answers to all of the interesting questions I get. I've decided that a good use of my blog posts is to share the answers I come up. Not only does that allow Earth Ministry to share information, but it also allows our readers to share their experience and insight.

Today's question comes from Glenn and is about Green Parking Lots. Glenn wrote us saying,

I attended the Green event at SPU last month and found it very stimulating. But, my congregation wants to know how to have a green parking lot. Do you have any information or leads on this topic?

This is such an interesting question because for all the materials and resources we offer, we have no specific information on Green Parking Lots. Yet, most churches have parking lots, and large ones at that. Luckily, I found some good information on the subject and I'll include links at the end of my blog.

But first, a review of why parking lots are a problem.
  1. The accumulation of contaminants from car tires, car engines, and chemical applications such as pesticides and herbicides are washed into nearby streams causing pollution that is damaging to living organisms.
  2. As water hits asphalt, it is unable to penetrate the surface and therefore runs very quickly into nearby streams, or into storm drains and then into streams, causing a rapid rise in water height. Such rapid changes are in contrast to the slow and steady change in stream volume during rain storms in forests or other natural areas. Fish and bugs living in streams are adapted to slow changes. The unnaturally rapid changes can adversely affect the health of these critters.
  3. Without tree cover, most parking lots get really hot and causes several problems including: 1) increased air pollution; and 2) increased temperature of water entering streams, which is detrimental to fish and bugs.
Basically, there are two issues: temperature and run-off.

The simplest way to green your parking lot is to PLANT TREES. Trees provide shade to cool asphalt, reduce rainfall, and their roots can capture runoff and slow its journey to the nearest stream while filtering contaminants.

A more complicated solution is to switch form asphalt to an alternative paver/surface that allows water to penetrate into the soil or that doesn't heat up as much, such as concrete. Another complicated solution is to build bioretention ponds. These two options require a lot more planning, work and money, but would probably have the greatest impact on your local environment.

For more information on green parking lots, see the following resources.
If you have a question about greening that you'd like help with, email Deanna at or post a comment to this blog.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Irreplaceable Campaign

By Kaitlin Torgerson

I was first introduced to conservation work and creation care during my early elementary school years. My family spent good portions of our summers camping in Minnesota’s State Parks. My parents, always seeking extra educational moments, made sure that we attended the park’s naturalist programming. It was at these talks that I first learned about the wildlife around me and our human impact on their habitat.

Today, we know more than ever about our human effects on climate and wildlife habitat. The more we learn, the more we understand the immediacy of protecting the wildlife that are starting to feel the repercussions of climate change. More and more we hear about the future of the polar bear, but climate change will alter the habitats and ecosystems of all species, including the Pacific Salmon and Gray Whales in our backyards.

The Irreplaceable Campaign recognizes the need to protect all of God’s creation. This partnership of faith, science, justice, and art groups have come together with the common goal of educating policymakers and the public about the impacts of global warming. Through the use of stunning photography, a traveling photo exhibit is making its way across the country and will be exhibited at the Burke Museum from July 11-August 10. These images are striking and moving as we recognize the need to protect these imperiled species.

As the exhibit travels across the country, the campaign is gathering signatures for a “Call to Care.” This letter asks policymakers to protect these plants and animals and to take serious action to save them. Please see our website to read and sign this important letter.

The closer we get to the exhibit’s arrival, think about getting your church to take a trip out to see the exhibit after worship or on a Saturday morning. Gather an outing for your vacation Bible school to see this beautiful photography and learn about these plants and animals. Host a table at coffee hour to have people sign the Call to Care letter. Please feel free to contact me, Kaitlin, at Earth Ministry (206-632-2426 or for questions or to get materials for your church. To get a taste of the exhibit and to learn more about species in the Northwest that will feel these impacts of climate change, check out the Irreplaceable Campaign's website.

The greater knowledge we obtain, the more we talk to our neighbors, and the faithfulness of which we communicate our values, will help to influence our policymakers to protect all of this great creation.

Irreplaceable Campaign Photo Exhibit
July 11-August 10
Burke Museum-University of Washington campus
Corner of 17th Ave. NE and NE 45th St.
Time: 10AM-5PM daily

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Practice Resurrection

By LeeAnne Beres

These are the last words of Wendell Berry’s famous poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, a poem that never fails to stir my soul. Berry challenges us to “every day do something that won't compute” – to embrace with joy all that makes us truly human, truly children of God. Resurrection is the great gift and hope of being Christian, and to practice it daily takes courage, faith, and most of all, practice.

To practice resurrection is a challenge, and to be successful we have to work at it over and over again. Like learning to ride a bike, play the piano, or sort out our recycling, garbage, and compost, we need to consciously choose to put time and effort into living into the promise of a risen Lord. This is why we need church – we need a faith community to support and nurture us as we try, fail, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try again. The process and path is as important as the goal. So my friends, thank you for being part of the Earth Ministry community. Together we will continue to practice resurrection, and plant sequoias.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

…So, friends, every day do something that won't compute.

Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace the flag.

Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot understand.

Praise ignorance,

for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium.

Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion--put your ear close,

and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world.

Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable.

Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap for power,

please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head in her lap.

Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and politicos can predict the motions

of your mind, lose it.

Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn't go.

Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Connecting Mind, Body, Spirit, and the Natural World Through Movement

As a graduate student exploring the realm of spirituality, I am intensely interested in interconnectedness. And in these last days of the spring academic quarter, I find that most things in my life are connected to the end of the school year—this blog entry is no exception!

In one of my courses this term, we have been looking at various methods of decision-making or discernment. Each of the paths we’ve studied incorporates some form of spiritual practice and a reliance on information from one’s body and felt senses in addition to the information one receives from the rational mind.

I could go into much detail about specific forms of discernment, but that is not my goal here. Instead, I would like to share one the practices that our class has been using to center ourselves at the beginning of our time together.

The practice of Shibashi (also known as a form of Tai Chi or Qigong/Chi Kung) draws on the wisdom of the natural world, and practitioners use the simple movements to promote healing and a balanced perspective.

When I first saw a description of Shibashi, I was struck by the poetic and evocative names of the eighteen movements:

Waving hands by the lake,
Expanding heart on mountain,
Painting a rainbow,
Parting the clouds,
Floating silk in the air,
Rowing a boat in the middle of the lake,
Presenting a peach to the sage,
Gazing at the moon,
Wind rustles lotus leaves,
Hands in the clouds,
Scooping the sea and viewing the sky,
Rolling the waves,
Dove spreads its wings,
Dragon emerging from the sea,
Flying wild goose,
Windmills turning in the breeze,
Bouncing the ball in the sunshine,
Nature’s fragrance drifts up.

As I enter into the practice of Shibashi, I connect my own human experiences to those of my fellow beings in the natural world—How does a wave feel as it crashes to shore and then rolls back out into the sea? What would it feel like for a dove to spread its wings or for a wild goose to fly in formation with its flock? Even if I practice indoors, I can imagine the touch of the rustling wind, the warm sunshine, and the cool water of the ocean.

I encourage you to explore a practice that nurtures your unique place in the interconnectedness of Creation!

To see a video of an individual practicing all eighteen Shibashi movements, click here. As you’re watching, keep in mind that each movement is repeated three times.