Today is the Friday in the second to last week of classes. I can’t tell you how excited I am – only one more week of classes and then finals before I get to write, write, write and read, read, read. Anybody have an “Amen” for that? (For a nice “end of the semester” post, check out Horace’s blog.)

Now on to business – Emily has started an Eco-Challenge (using the premise of book challenges) to get a web-based, grass roots movement to encourage personal changes in our routines that will help our planet. Here’s the main idea, from Emily herself:
So, here is how this challenge will work. The first step is for anyone who wants to participate to pass the link onto at least five other people (or even if you don’t plan to participate, if you like the idea, please pass it on). If you have a blog of your own, this can easily be accomplished merely by linking to this site in a post on your own blog. Below is a list of things you can choose to do. Once every quarter between now and April 21, 2009, I will add to this list. Your challenge is to choose something from this list, to experiment with it, and to post about it here. Or, if you’d rather not post, that’s fine. You can just choose what you want and leave comments on this blog. You can choose to implement as many or as few from the list as you would like. You can choose to stick with one (or more) for an entire quarter, or you can mix and match (one — or more — this month, a different one next month, etc.). My hope is that by the end of the year, at least one item from the whole list will have become a way of life for you and your family. And if you’re already doing some or all of these things, come up with others you want to do, share them with us, and post on them instead.

To join the blog as a posting member, please send an email to: ecojustice08 AT gmail DOT com with your user name and the email address you’d like to use for the purposes of this blog. I will add you to the list of users. Also, please post on your own blog, if you have one. That’s it. And now, here are your choices for this quarter:

1. Choose one day a week in which you will not use your car at all (barring a major emergency, like having to drive your spouse/child to the hospital for stitches). Before you immediately dismiss this one, because you have to drive to and from work every day, please think about it. Is there no one with whom you could carpool two days a week? If so, the day you’re not driving would be the perfect day not to use your car at all.

2. Choose one “black out night” per week. All lights and all electrical appliances are off by 7:30 p.m. and don’t go on again until the next morning. What will you do without lights, television, your computer? Well, the weather’s getting nice where many of us live. Sit out on the porch/deck and tell stories. Read by candle light. Write letters by candle light. Play games by candle light. You know, people did this sort of thing for thousands of years. My guess is that if you have kids, this will be an exciting and fun challenge for them.

3. Choose two days a week in which you are only going to eat organic and/or locally-grown food. Do you know that inorganic farming is one of the best examples of evolution that we’ve got going these days? All the pesticides that have been used to grow our food have helped to create “super bugs” who are becoming more and more resistant to our chemicals. We’re definitely losing this battle in more ways than one. Talk to the people at your local farmer’s markets. Many of them are growing their food organically anyway; they just aren’t certified, because it’s a difficult and expensive process to be so. Buying locally, of course, cuts down on the oil used to transport food long distances.

4. If you need to go anywhere that’s within a 2-mile round trip radius of your home, walk or bike. Where might this be? The first place that springs to mind for me is your children’s school bus stop. Perhaps the post office is close to your home. The library? For me, it’s both the post office and the bank. If you’re super lucky, maybe you have a farmer’s market that’s close by. Or maybe you don’t live close enough to anything, but you do work close by to that deli, say, where you always drive to pick up lunch.

5. Read that challenging book about the environment that you’ve been putting off reading, you know the one you don’t want to read, because it might make you a little uncomfortable (e.g. The World without Us, Diet for a Small Planet, Affluenza). Read it. Post about it. Maybe implement an idea or two based on what you’ve read.

6. Buy only those things sold in recyclable packaging and make sure you recycle that packaging.

I will be taking on items 2, 5, and 6. . . I’d like to do the others, but where I live they’re much harder. I’ll do what I can toward those, but focus on lights out, reading (of course), and recycling.

In this vein, I also do a couple of other things. I grow my own veggies – this year it’s radishes, carrots, sweet peas, and cucumbers. I also grow herbs including kitty Oscar’s favorite – cat nip. Additionally, I don’t rinse my plates before they go in the dishwasher; if need be, I scrape them first and let the dishwasher do the rest of the work. I don’t use a clothes dryer – I bought a $20 drying rack and hang them there instead. Also, just this morning I signed the We Can Solve It Petition, and I urge you to do the same. Their website has great ways to help industry and the media support climate change.

I list these things, not to brag – there’s certainly far more I could and should do, but to show people some other options for sustainable living. What do you guys do?

As part of Emily’s challenge, she asks us to tell five people – so I’m telling you guys and asking you guys to tell your guys and so on and so forth. Post about this on your blog if you will. Send emails if you can. Spread the word. And be sure to tell Emily all about it. (Thanks to TJ for the tip.)

A couple of award announcements worth mentioning.
1. Nancy Zafris, one of my former teachers at Antioch, has been named the Series Editor for the Flannery O’Connor award this year. (Thanks to Madam Mayo for the link.) She’s also looking for submissions, so think about submitting work by May 31st, if you’re interested.
2. Cynthia Ozick has won this year’s PEN/Nabakov Award.

A couple of fairy tale-related items for all of you in the Once Upon a Time Challenge. First, The New York Review of Books has a great write-up by Alison Lurie on a Rapunzel revival that is ongoing.

Then, take a look at Nymeth’s post on a great book of modern fairy tale retellings.

Finally, giveaways!! (in brief). These end today or tomorrow, so post quickly.
1. Andi
2. Wendy
3. Kim

I’m off tomorrow because the parentals are visiting. Look for me again on Sunday. Have a great weekend.