Connecting with Nature to Save Her and Ourselves

A magical connection exists between those who actively work to grow plants and the subtle essence of the world. The gardener or farmer, whether the sower of flowers or vegetables, feels the changing of the seasons and the weather in a deeper, more soulful way. For non-growers it’s easy to look out the window, wishing for rain or hoping it will go away. They also feel the heat of the sun or the coming coldness but a gardener = experiences it on a more profound level.

For instance, when the summer heat is high or days pass without rain, a gardener or farmer feels sympathy and perhaps some fear at the droop in the plants’ leaves or their curling up and browning. The workers of the soil connect intimately with the dying process of those plants which should thrive under their hands. The smell and color of the blossoms make them smile for ripening “fruit” isn’t far behind.

My garden on a hot July day. One section is empty because I already harvested the snow peas.

Thus, gardeners immerse themselves in nature from the earthworms in the soil and the buzz of pollenating bees to the wetness of a dew-covered harvest. This wonderous relationship make us appreciate the interconnectedness of all things and feel the threads of fear when something goes missing.

Case in point: Bees and Butterflies.

I usually plant at least four pumpkin plants for the blossoms every year. Their long vines stretch and cross the stepping stones and weave around the green beans and tomato plants. My family has two recipes for pumpkin blossoms, one of which dates back at least four generations and we love these delicacies.

I go out in the early morning to pluck my future food when the vines produce their large yellow flowers. The blooms last for only one day and they close by 10 am. Therefore, I’m usually harvesting at the same time as the bees. Just five years ago, this activity would take more than thirty minutes because I picked the empty blossoms while waiting for the bees to finish rolling around in their flowers. The buzzing sounded like early morning music. I was never as brave as my mother, who could pinch the blossom tips shut, trapping the bee inside. She then plucked the flower and lightly shook it before releasing a pollen laden, slightly drunk-acting insect.

Bees are quite magical in their own way. For a long time, scientists didn’t understand how the fat little bodies could fly. The hive mind is alien to us independent thinkers. Yet these seemingly insignificant yellow and black fellows give us so much: honey, wax, nectar, royal jelly, and even bee venom, which is used in some alternative medicines. All of these industries now suffer with the bee population’s decline

Butterflies have their own magic too. They produce smiles as well as being pollinators and bird food. When one lands on us, we don’t slap it away or kill it. We don’t think it’s eating my sweat or they may have just come from a dung pile dinner. Instead, we take a moment to soak in their beauty and the serenity of their flight. They are the embodiment of small, beautiful blessings from God.

Back to My Garden

This year, I planted spaghetti squash which is a second cousin to the pumpkin. The blossoms are also bright yellow and large, although I don’t harvest them. When I go out in the early morning to pick my green beans or peas, silence greets me. The bees aren’t around.

The other plants are suffering too. My cucumbers, also a favorite of the little fuzzy insects, are not producing well. The flowers are not getting pollinated. If my few vines are doing poorly, how are the farmers’ crops getting along? This is not just a case of our food prices going up. Without the pollinators, our food won’t grow. Farmers depend on the pollinators, so the use of dangerous pesticides will ultimately lead to us starving ourselves

Save the Bees and Butterflies to Save the Earth

This year so far, I have seen three bees in the clover and one lone butterfly despite the fact that I planted flowers for their enjoyment. What sadness this season brings as the world becomes a little quieter and a little grayer without these small lives. Yet, nature will endure if we just give it a chance. If we can quit using dangerous pesticides and plant more, then vegetables, flowers, bushes, or trees will all heal mother Earth again. The bees’ and butterflies’ populations with grow again. Climate change will slow. If enough of us do plant anything to flourish, we might even save the world as we know it now. We will also fight climate change, the ultimate killer. That is a win-win situation for humanity.

So put a pot of flowers on your apartment deck for the butterflies and bees or add a sapling tree to your back yard so the world’s amount carbon dioxide will decrease. Give mother nature a helping hand in rebalancing our world and you enjoy the beauty she gives back.

An Eco-friendly Hotel: Tru by Hilton

During a drive to Texas, I stopped for the night in Little Rock, Arkansas. And wound up in a south side hotel behind an outlet mall. The hotel, Tru by Hilton, impressed me so much that it warrants a blog because of its emphasis on sustainability and low carbon footprint.

First off, I’m not trying to advertise for Hilton. I’ve heard Marriot has a similar type brand that also emphasizes low carbon footprint, but I couldn’t find the name of it with a simple internet search. Other hotel brands probably are pursuing sustainable options in a similar way. If you know of any, I would love to hear about them. I believe in voting with my money when it comes to companies and politics. Therefore, anyone that creates situations that encourage less waste, less plastic use, and more energy savings is far more likely to earn my business.

The Tru hotel was quite lovely and modern looking. It did not skimp on the standard amenities with the exception of no swimming pool. Given the rising global temperatures and increased water issues in the south, this seems like a wise decision. On the other hand, they had a pool table in the lobby for socialization. I’ve rarely seen this.

Their degree of sustainability and yet workability was subtle yet everywhere I looked. For instance, the open architecture lobby included a number of work stations for laptop use. Even the comfortable couches and chair areas had plugs within easy reach for those with a modern electronic life style. One wall featured a quick charging station, while another held a water bottle hydration station. I had never seen these in a hotel before. All the newspapers and magazines were tucked into a display area for those that wanted it. No newspaper showed up at my door in the morning as I’ve seen in years past at different places, although my husband tells me this is the new norm for most hotels.

Below is a list of ideas that I saw at Tru and hope other hotels will adopt as their new norms too. These simple changes make sense for any business wanting to improve their ecological footprint.

Hotel Wide Approaches

LED lights used throughout. As you may know, LED lights last longer, provide better illumination, and use less energy.Tru water area

Only paper plates and cups in the breakfast area. No plastic lids, cups, or straws in sight although the utensils were plastic. In short, most of the breakfast dishes will decompose easily and not harm the environment. In addition, the food offered included healthy options like range-free white and brown eggs, fruit, and greek yogurt.

One ice maker for the whole hotel. On one hand, it sounds like a pain to go down to the lobby for ice. However, having one machine saves on energy and water while still offering the amenity to anyone who wanted it. The plastic containers were kept at the ice machine rather than in individual rooms. This made me wonder if they did not have to wash the containers quite as often.

Room Specific Approaches

Tru bedroom

No plastic garbage bags in the garbage cans. Rather than plastic bags, each can featured a removable inner hard-plastic liner that could be cleaned. This is a wonderful idea, given the amounts of plastic grocery bags clogging up our water and landfills.

Reuse towel service. This refers to not replacing the towels every day. I’ve seen this service in many hotels but noted the cleaning staffs often replaces them anyway. I hope the Tru system pays more attention to this factor.

Cloth shower curtains without a plastic liner. Many hotels seem to switch these as well. Certainly, their washability is wonderful as compared to replacing plastic curtains when they start to look nasty.

No small bottles of shampoos, lotions, or soaps. Instead of the two-use, wasteful bottles and tiny bricks of soap, the hotel installed large, squeezable tubes of supplies near the sink and in the shower. Each tube looked like it could hold more than fifty doses of shampoo or soap, which means fifty tiny plastic bottles are not entering the landfill.Tru soap tubes

No box springs. The furniture included platform beds which use a board and a mattress rather than a box spring and a mattress. Many hotel guests may miss the importance of this decision. Beds often must be replaced about every five years, so not having a box spring saves wood, metal, and fabric and decreases the material going into the dump.

Open Closets. What I mean by this is the closet didn’t have walls and a door. A bar in an alcove serves for the hanging space and flowed into the overall design of the room. The hotel didn’t use excess lumber and drywall in building a tiny room in each of the bedrooms. This saves more trees and again provides less waste.

Other Desired Factors

Although I didn’t see this in the Tru by Hilton, other factors hotels should adopt include the use of solar or wind energy where possible. It would reduce their enormous electric bills. In fact, I would love to see more use of solar glass and solar panels in all kinds of businesses so our cities can be a part of the energy solution instead of the global warming crisis.

Given that the electric cars will someday be the norm, a few charging stations in the parking lot seems like a great idea. I saw them at the Little Rock outlet mall, but not at the hotel.

Overall, this hotel made me feel good about staying there because I didn’t feel like I was going against my greenie nature. As the younger generations demand less plastic and waste and more sustainability, I suspect many of these features will become standard in all of the brands. However, Tru by Hilton seems to be leading the way, and I will continue supporting its efforts.