Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm Just A Bill

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

Mikaila did a great job of laying out the four Environmental Priorities for 2009. I am excited to be a part of Earth Ministry's advocacy efforts this year, but I still have a lot to learn about the legislative process. I would like to run through a quick step-by-step of how a bill becomes a law in an effort to educate myself and remind others of the process as well. Some of you may have fond memories of the old School House Rock video "I'm Just a Bill" which also walked through these steps in a more musical fashion. Click on the picture of "Bill" or this link to watch the video of this TV classic.

I compiled the information here from two publications created by the Washington State Legislature's office.

How A Bill Becomes A Law
  1. A bill may be introduced in either the Senate or House of Representatives. The procedure by which a bill becomes a law is much the same, wherever the bill originates. For our purposes, we will say the bill was introduced in the Senate.
  2. A committee studies the bill and often holds public hearings on it. The committee will then meet to consider the information it has gathered.
  3. The committee is now ready to report back to the Senate. If the majority is in favor of the bill the chairman recommends the bill for passage. The committee report is read in open session of the Senate, and the bill is then referred to the Rules Committee.
  4. The Rules Committee can either place the bill on the second reading calendar for debate before the entire body, or take no action.
  5. At the second reading a bill is subject to debate and amendment before being placed on the third reading calendar for final passage. Depending upon the degree of controversy, debate may last a few minutes to several hours--or even several days.
  6. After passing in the Senate, the bill will go through an almost identical procedure in the House.
  7. If the bill is passed by the house, but is amended, the Senate must concur in the amendments.
  8. When the bill is accepted in both houses, it is signed by the respective leaders and sent to the Governor.
  9. The Governor signs the bill into law or may veto all or part of it. The Legislature can override the veto by a two-thirds vote of both houses. That's how a bill becomes a law!
We hope to see all of you at the Legislative Workshop on January 10th, Environmental Lobby Day on February 19th, and Faith Advocacy Day on March 17th. For more information about these three critically important days please visit Earth Ministry's website

Happy 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from Earth Ministry

by LeeAnne Beres

For the past week and a half, Seattle has been covered in a blanket of white. This is the longest stretch of snow that I can remember in eighteen years of living here, and I have to admit I like it. Seattle is woefully unprepared for this much snow, and much of the city has ground to a halt.
Instead of fighting it, I embrace it.

The snow has forced us all to stop, to pause in the mad dash up to Christmas. Streets in my hilly neighborhood are impassable and bus lines are disrupted. All of my carefully laid plans of the last week have also been disrupted. Last minute shopping, several social gatherings, and even my mother’s planned visit over the holidays have all fallen by the wayside due to the inclement weather.

Yet there are blessings to discover in the snow that uncover the true meaning of Christmas. Streets closed to cars mean that I’ve seen more people out walking in my neighborhood this week than during the sunny month of July. People are pulling together and looking out for one another. The sense of community is palpable – friends are loaning snow shovels, neighbors are checking in on seniors, parents are watching kids sled down closed streets, and strangers are helping to push cars stuck in the snow.

It is this sense of community that lies at the heart of Christmas and reminds us that people, not presents, are what really matter. As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, we also remember His last command to the disciples – to love one another. We may not always be called to do so in ways we expect. I expected to spend the week with close friends and family, but instead I’ve grown closer to my neighbors and have shared Christ’s love with strangers. What a wonderful Christmas gift.

From all of us at Earth Ministry, I wish you a joyful and blessed Christmas. May you rejoice in the light and love of Christ within you and share it freely with others.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Introducing the 2009 Environmental Priorities

By Mikaila Gawryn
Earth Ministry Outreach Associate

This year Earth Ministry and 23 other environmental organizations from around the state of Washington will join together to advocate for the environment! As the legislative session draws closer we are preparing for an important season of democracy in action.

Since 2003 the Environmental Priorities Coalition has identified and tackled the most pressing environmental issues in the Evergreen State. By working together these groups are able to create large-scale change in the capitol while continuing their work in specific environmental areas around Washington.

Over the last four years Earth Ministry's membership in the coalition has been central in demonstrating the leadership of people of faith. We take Creation Care seriously. In fact, our representatives and fellow citizens now realize tha
t we take it seriously enough to engage in the legislative process.

This year we have four vital priorities and we want your help to pass them!

Priorities 2009

Cap and Invest
By implementing real limits on global warming pollution, we will create new jobs and stimulate the growth of a clean energy economy here in Washington State.

Efficiency First
Promoting energy efficient homes, businesses and public institutions will save money, enhance energy security, and significantly reduce global-warming pollution.

Transit-Oriented Communities
Washingtonians want to live in affordable, walkable and transit oriented communities. This priority would revise the state's transportation and land-use planning framework to assist local jurisdictions to plan for growth in a sustainable and climate-friendly way.

Invest in Clean Water
From Puget Sound to the Spokane River, clean water is Washington's lifeblood and our communities can't thrive without it. This package of targeted polluter-pays fees will protect the taxpaying public and ensure that polluters take responsibility for the impacts of their actions.

How Can I Help?

Attend our January 10th Legislative Workshop-
Learn more about the four priorities and how to talk to your representatives about the importance of climate protection. Make new friends and join long-time ones in this ongoing and important work.

Mark your calendar for Environmental Priorities Lobby Day on February 19th! Join Earth Ministry members and hundreds of other citizens and have your voice heard! Travel to Olympia to speak to your representatives about what matters most. Register here.

Grab the hot-lists - Each week throughout the legislative session the environmental community provides a list of ten (or fewer) highest priority issues being decided upon. A title and quick synopsis gives you an idea of what the issue is, and the position tells you how the Coalition advocates that representatives act. Just grab the list and start calling!

Check out the Environmental Priorities Coalition - Find tips for meeting with your elected official, writing letters to the editor and and information on past priorities with updates.
Find this and more at the Environmental Priorities website.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Watching and Waiting

The season of Advent is a time for attentiveness. It is a season to spend extra time with friends and family, noticing that a calendar year is almost over, and recalling the memories of the past months.

Advent is also a time of looking ahead—not in an impatient, can’t-wait-for-the-next-thing-to-happen kind of way, but in a thoughtful and reflective manner. There are many teachers, many places to look for advice on how to move forward…and many distractions along the way.

In the spirit of this season I’d like to share a few words from a Celtic Advent hymn:
O Wisdom,
You come forth from the mouth of the Most High.

You fill the universe and hold all things together

in a strong yet gentle manner.

O come to teach us the way of truth.

O come, O come, Thou wisdom from above;

the universe sustaining with Thy love.

Let us look to all the beings of the universe for wisdom as we gaze forward to the blessings and challenges of a new year!

Prayer found in Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Holiday Season to Remember

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

I like to eat. In fact I love to eat. You could go so far as to saying that eating is one of my favorite activities. Over the last four months I have rediscovered my love of hearty and delicious meals and realized what a true privilege it is to have a bounty of food in the kitchen cupboards. The Lutheran Volunteer Corps gives each of us $95 for food that we pool together as a house (there are five of us) to buy groceries for the month. This is, in fact, plenty of money to get us through the month nourished and healthy. BUT...and this is a big but for me....I find that I do not have the plethora of food choices that I have had at all other times in my life, nor the general abundance of household food that, previous to LVC, I took for granted. We live on a limited budget which means that we need to get the basics, make sure that we have enough for supper each night, and maybe one extra "luxury" item each week. There aren't many snacks, leftovers, or taste enhancers in our house.

At first it was a struggle for me, especially since my housemates are vegetarians so we do not buy meat (a choice that I wholeheartedly support, although every once in awhile I get a craving for a turkey sandwich!). As the months pass by, however, I am learning to adapt and adjust to the food situation. The new limits have also allowed me space to become thankful for the food I do receive.

Thanksgiving held new meaning for me this year. My housemates and I were invited to the house of a former LVC member to share the day with her and a number of her friends. It was a potluck meal and as I stood in front of the kitchen counter I found myself thinking how thankful, absolutely thankful I was for all the food that was in front of me. It was a shared meal made from the wonderful generosity of 18 different people. I ate my fill that evening and savored every single bite.

Its not often that we are made to face the privilege and prosperity that so many of us blindly grow up with in the United States. For me, food has always been one of those things I have not had to think about. I always had the means to buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store, but for billions of people around the world that is not the case. As I said before we are in no way starving at our LVC house and I do not mean to compare our situation to the truly dire situations of many, but just that LVC is giving me the chance to step back, to think about my place in our global food system. How I eat and what I eat is intimately and ultimately linked with planetary social and environmental justice issues. There is something powerful in living out a way of life that is different from your own. For me, LVC is giving me a clearer understanding of many issues just by placing me in situations that were foreign to me until now. As I think back to my excited anticipation for my Thanksgiving meal and look forward to the many shared meals with family and friends over my Christmas break, I know I will be ever more grateful for the gifts I am given and that this will be a holiday season I won't forget.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winter Sowing

by Deanna Matzen

Advent is a season of waiting in expectation for the coming birth of Jesus Christ. This weekend I started another season of waiting in expectation...for my spring vegetable garden.

I recently learned about winter sowing from my mother, who learned about it from some friends and enthusiastically shared the method with me. Perhaps she was tired of listening to me whine about how poorly my seeds did when I tried to start them indoors - the seeds grew but were always much smaller than the seedlings you can buy at the store and it seemed like my garden was perpetually behind everyone else's. I'm sure that if I invested in the right technology, growing lamps, warming bases, all that good stuff, that they would do much better. But if I can start seeds outside and let mother nature do the work...that's my kind of gardening!

So what is winter sowing? It's a simple and cost effective germination method to start seedlings. All you have to do is make a mini-greenhouse (perferably with reused container), make sure it has holes for rain to come in and go out, and fill it with the right kind of seeds. As winter transitions into spring and the weather warms, the seeds will germinate when the time is right. Before long the seedlings will be cold hardened and ready for transplant. So simple!

You can use almost any kind of container, but please try to reuse one that can't be recycled or you already have on hand. My mother suggested those large plastic containers that fruits and vegetables come in (like grapes purchased from Costco) or an old milk jug, etc.

If it doesn't already have holes, make some of your own - on the top to let the rain in and on the bottom to let it out. If you use a cardboard container, just make sure to enclose it in a plastic bag and add slits on top and bottom.

Any old potting soil will do.

This is the tricky part. Not all seeds can be winter sown. Look for these key words:
Needs Pre-chilling (freeze seeds, refrigerate seeds, stratify for x amount of days or weeks), Needs Strarification, Will Colonize, Self Sows, Sow outdoors in early Atuumn, Sow outdoors in early Spring while nights are still cool, Sow outdoors in early Spring while frosts may still occur, Hardy Seeds, Seedlings can withstand frost, Can be direct sown early, Wildflower, Weed (such as butterfly weed, joe pye weed, jewel weed.)
Since I'm a vegetable gardener, here's the list I'm working off of this year:

Allium family (onions, shallots, garlic, chives)
Artichokes (zone seven and warmer)
Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, etc)
Corn (select an "early" type as it can germinate at lower temps)
Curcubit family (cukes, squash, pumpkins, melons, gourds)
Herbs (edible and ornamental)
Nightshade family (eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes - from real seeds....not "seed potatoes" ;-)
Oriental veggies (any)

This weekend I started kale, turnips, and leeks - the only seeds I had left from last year - and then ordered more seeds online from Seeds Savers Exchange - four tomato varieties, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach. But you may want to get seeds for free through seed trading.

I hope you will join me in sowing some seeds this winter as a reminder of the expectant waiting of Advent. I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out this spring! For more information on winter sewing, see

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Safe Cosmetics News -- Parabens

Thinking about buying a gift of lotion, perfume, makeup, or even soap this holiday season? Before you make your purchase, be sure to do your homework to find out what you’re really giving.

Many personal care products contain questionable ingredients that are unregulated by the FDA. Some of the specific ingredients to look out for are parabens, which are used as preservatives in many cosmetics. Parabens may appear on a product’s label as methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, ethylparaben, or butylparaben.

Parabens mimic estrogen, and at least one study has shown that parabens “support the growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells grown in tissue culture.” Click here for more information about breast cancer and environmental risk factors from Cornell University’s Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research.

Take a few minutes to watch this video about preservatives in beauty products which aired recently on KING 5 News.

Or check out "Think Before You Pink" (a project of Breast Cancer Action) for a list of paraben-free cosmetic companies.

To check on the safety of a particular product, you can always use the very informative Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, put together by researchers at the Environmental Working Group.

Give safe and healthy gifts this holiday season, and educate your friends and family about the importance of knowing what’s in their personal care products. Let's care for ALL creation--including our own bodies!