Better & Bolder the Blog

how to be kinder to the environment in a pandemic

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You haven’t bought a single use water bottle in ages, and you know to bring your own bags to the market. But we can’t bring those bags into the stores anymore, and when we want to support local businesses, that means carryout containers. Here are suggestions for changing habits now.
 
We’re all going to be washing hands more often going forward. Instead of keeping hand-sanitizer in my car, I’ve got a small glass bottle with soap. I bring a water bottle and wash my hands before and after I enter a store. Soap works better than a hand sanitizer, and I don’t need to buy an item that comes wrapped in plastic. It's a bit messy but it works. 
 
Cart your groceries to your car and transfer them to the reusable bags you leave in your trunk.
 
Support farmers and other local food providers. I mentioned last week that Vida Verde has fantastic organic herbs and vegetables. They also have add ons each week: eggs, beef, bread, pastries. The Downtown Grower’s Market invites us to choose from a variety of vendors, pre-pay, and pick up at a set time.
 
Get your greens out of plastic bags and put them into cotton or mesh ones. They’ll last longer. Cotton bags are easy to throw in with your other wash. These and these have a tare weight tag so they can be easily used post-pandemic for bulk items that must be weighed at the store.
 
Consider compostable bags to line your trash cans. I also go to each can and dump its contents into one bag that gets taken to the trash bin outside. That way, I am using a plastic liner for months but dumping the trash each week. Compostable bags are expensive, which means we treat them as precious rather than easily disposable. That’s the point.
 
Avoid buying items stored in plastic as much as possible. Use a shampoo bar, which is similar to a bar of soap.
 
Re-use before you recycle. There are divine olives from the co-op that are sold in small plastic containers. I'm being real here: I'm not giving up my olives even though they are packaged in plastic. When we’ve demolished the olives, I wash the container to use to store leftovers. I used to freeze extra food in plastic bags, and now I reuse the plastic containers. I bought some sillicone Stasher bags, too, which are easy to clean.
 
Be thoughtful and careful about what you put in the recycling bin. Don’t put in plastic bags, which can get caught in machines. Clean cans and plastic milk or juice containers thoroughly.  KOAT reported last summer, “Albuquerque and their partners with Friedman Recycling said the contamination rate of recyclable goods is about 29%, meaning 29% of what goes into the blue carts can't actually be recycled. The plant collects 70 tons of trash every day that has to be taken to the landfill.” Here’s the list of what we can and cannot recycle in Albuquerque.
 
We don’t really need toilet paper. Consider using rags to wipe yourself dry after a pee. I know! How did we convince people to use paper in the first place? Wash the rags with your underwear. We also don’t have to flush every time we pee. That's high level stuff. Feel free to ignore that one. 
 
Wash your clothes less often. Hang clothes, even your workout wear, after use. If there isn’t a funky smell after it’s been hanging, wear again. Wash your workout clothes inside out, separate from cottons, and consider either hand-washing to release fewer microfibers into the water or putting these synthetic items in a bag that catches the micro-fibers that are released during washing. The reviews on the Guppy Friend bag are mixed. Another option for a Cora ball and a filter on a washing machine is discussed in this article. I haven't tried those options yet, but I'm hand-washing more. Using a bag or hand washing means your clothes will be in better shape and last longer. Always hang workout clothes to dry.
 
For those of you with little kids, let them wash their clothes by hand. Kids love soap and water for play. Take a bucket outside and let them at it. For older kids, they get to learn the value of doing boring things. Pump up the jams or play the podcast and have one person washing, another rinsing, and a third hanging to dry.
 
When you do use a washing machine, choose the cool water option; heat doesn’t help clean clothes so it’s a waste of energy without any benefit.

 
This article motivated me to be much more thoughtful and active about how I reduce the plastic I buy and re-use the plastic I have.
 
Watch Our Planet on Netflix. It’s gorgeous, informative, and motivating.

All In

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Did you dance with me at UNM? That picture above is from the UNM studio where I taught from 2003 - 2008. Nell and Erin took promo pictures for me, and Jess came to help be in the photos and dance. That was a really fun day. 

I earned my Nia White Belt in October 2000, so I'm counting this October as my 20th anniversary. I taught first at the Dance Factory where I had found Nia as a student of Carrie Peters. I probably fell in love with Nia at first dance, but I distinctly remember knowing the day we danced Mystere that I was totally all in. The music for Mystere is from Cirque du Soleil, and the moves are complex, lyrical, and joyful. 

When Carrie headed out of town for a weekend, there was no one to sub for her. Though I hadn't trained as a Nia teacher yet, I was eager to try. I spent a weekend practicing Fantasia non-stop. I'd been coming to class in a baggy short-sleeved sweatshirt and purple baggy pants, but on the day of my teaching debut, I realized I had to show up in clothes that showed my body; students had to see how I was moving. Just that, wearing form-fitting clothes, was a challenge.

Carrie was, by the way, a third-generation Duncan dance instructor and graduate student of dance at UNM. She was a fantastic mover and a fabulous teacher. I can't even imagine what students thought when I stepped in to sub. It wasn't long after I'd started dancing that Carrie told us she'd be moving to the Bay Area. There were no certified Nia instructors in Albuquerque. If I wanted to dance Nia, I'd have to teach it. That's how it happened, folks. I fell in love and couldn't be without it.

I was working full-time, teaching reading and writing at the community college, and my kids then were 4 and 5 years old. To become certified to teach Nia, I traveled to Denver to take the first weekend of the seven day White belt training, came home to teach my CNM classes, and then went back up for the second weekend. I took over classes at Dance Factory when Carrie left, and a few students stayed. One student told me he wouldn't be coming to class and that it wasn't personal; I just wasn't Carrie. I couldn't disagree. 

The Dance Factory closed not long after that. By 2001, I had a spot at Midtown Sports and Wellness. I've taught at multiple other places, including Nahalat Shalom. The sound there was funky and the floor was cold and hard, but the spirit in that space was incredible. Less incredible was dancing at a capoeira studio. I had to clean it, especially the bathroom, before every class.  The man who rented the space was growing marijuana in the rafters, something I hadn't realized while I was subletting from him but that made a ton of sense in hindsight.

Our desire for a great floor, dimmable lights, and fantastic sound led a group of Nia teachers to found the first Studio Sway on Jefferson. We literally left blood, sweat, and tears in that space as we built it out together. It wasn't large enough, though, which is how we ended up at San Mateo and Lomas. We've had multiple changes of ownership there. I appreciate the experience I had as a co-owner of Sway, but I never wanted to own a studio. I just wanted a great space to dance. I have that now. We all do. I'm still dancing and teaching Nia, and I'm still all in.

Teaching at Studio Ilo, via Zoom, is a new challenge. Those of you who beta-tested with me in the earliest classes: Thank you so much for your help and then for sticking around! Because those first few classes were kind of terrible. Each class, I learn more about how to do this better. I'm figuring out the sound and my floor and my cues and how to show you what I'm doing. I'm working on the music and the moves to keep this experience fresh for everyone. I adore that Nia is so adaptable and that two decades in, I'm still being challenged and learning. It's exciting. There's no reason I can't be doing this for another 20 years. Are you in?

Right Now

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This week we celebrate both Passover and Easter. These spring holidays have me thinking about renewal and hope. I’m thinking about what it means to have enough.  Most of all, I’m thinking not about last year or next year but being right here, right now.

If we’re very very fortunate, we will spend three months staying at home, safe, healthy, and with enough of everything we need. Many in the world will not be safe or healthy and will not have enough. I’m not going to ask you to feel grateful for what you have because others have so much less.  I am asking you to inhabit this life we’re living right now.

How we live right now, with businesses shuttered and contact with those we love curtailed, is temporary. In the span of our lives, these few months are short.

While we’re in it, though, each week feels long, in part because we don’t know how long this situation will last. Of course, we never know how long our present situation will last, but we happily operate under the illusion of stability.

I want these months to be rich and unique rather than a big waiting room. I want to honor this experience with my attention and respect.

Ilene reminded me at the end of one Zoom Nia class that we should end the way we do at Studio Sway, with three claps. This is when I began to see that our Zoom classes are not a pale imitation of classes at the studio. We are not dancing in a waiting room. We have students joining us from Taos, from California, from Portugal. We have students who left New Mexico and are rejoining us and students who have never done Nia before. These classes have their own life and are deserving of a unique name and rituals.

Welcome, everyone, to Studio Ilo. I chose the name Ilo because it means joy, delight, happiness, and pleasure. It’s also a super cute word. Thank you, Finns; I am borrowing from your language.

We begin class with opening our palms and thinking about our class focus. We then bring the focus to life with three claps.

We end the class by clasping our hands together. Our class experience is there in our clasped hands. Shaking the hands together, vibrating our palms, we bring our hands first to our bellies, then to our hearts, and then to the sky.

When we closed Studio Sway, I grieved. When I began teaching Nia from my house, I was – even after all these years – surprised by how good it felt to be teaching. I know you guys need this. I’m not sure you know how much I need it.

Now that I’m teaching from my living room, livestreaming via Zoom, I’m all in. This is a great opportunity for me to grow into a stronger teacher. Of course, I’m looking forward to being at Studio Sway again. I can’t focus there now, though. My focus is right here, and what we’re doing now is this little miracle of technology, desire, and good fortune that we can see and hear each other to dance together while we’re apart.

I want to acknowledge that for many of us, right here and right now is scary and uncomfortable at best -- and life-threatening at its worst. This feels like a tsunami that is far out enough that we’re not feeling the whole of it yet but we know it will be devastating when it hits. And the aftermath, oh, how much we will need to hold and support each other in the months following this seismic economic shift.

I’m not asking you to enjoy being right here right now. I’m asking you to find the joy and seek the pleasure and experience the connections because those are here, too. I’m telling you that I smell the wisteria in my front yard, in its fullest bloom. I have maybe a few days like this with the scent so strong I can smell it from my kitchen when the front door is open. I know any moment the wind can take those blooms away. 

Right now, I breathe in.