The Triple Goddess of Sustainability

When we talk about sustainability, the trifecta of actions we can take to help it along consists of “Reduce”, “Reuse”, and “Recycle”.

I don’t really use the Triple Goddess concept in my personal practice, but this fit too perfectly into that framework to pass up! And honestly, the more I look at this the more I think I might have finally found a trio that works for me!

So. Here is my fun little exploration of the Triple Goddess archetype as seen through the lens of environmental sustainability.

Recycle: This lovely Maiden transforms that which is used and discarded into something completely new by restoring it to a base state. A blend of scientist and activist, She rattles off plastic grades while advocating for neighborhood recycling programs. I picture Her as a college student, maybe, checking off an address on Her clipboard (or ticking a box on Her tablet) as She tosses another bag of cans into the bed of Her pickup truck. She’s convinced that new up-and-coming technologies are the key to saving the planet, and She sees recycling as the first step to that. She also steers us away from things that can’t be recycled, helping us find better and more sustainable alternatives. Recycle teaches us that what’s old can be made brand new again, if we’re willing to go through the necessary work to make it happen.

Reuse: I picture Reuse as a lovely earth mother and DIY goddess, with a messy knot of paint-spattered hair and a toolbelt. Her creativity overflows when She sees the potential treasure in someone else’s trash, and She’s got the skills and know-how to bring it out both practically and aesthetically. That abandoned dresser on the side of the road? A little of Her magick turns it into an absolutely gorgeous showpiece in Her bedroom. Or maybe instead it becomes an entertainment center, a kitchen island, or a changing table – Her carpentry skills are matched by her vision. She’s the Matron of the thrift store, too, able to turn that 80s prom gown into something absolutely smashing for next month’s wedding. Reuse thinks answers to sustainability lie within the land, the natural world, and what’s available to us right now. She’s a proponent of plant-based diets and the glories of compost. She teaches us that a little creativity and elbow grease can breathe life into something thought dead and useless.

Reduce: An often-neglected part of the sustainability triad, Reduce is a strict task-mistress. She teaches us that the best, most effective way to walk with a light footprint is to carry less to start with. Reduce encourages us to embrace zero-waste groceries, no-buy commitments, minimalism, and smaller and simpler homes. She also helps us see that our quality of life doesn’t drop – and is perhaps even enriched – when we step away from our consumer-driven lives for something a little slower and more present. I picture Her as an older woman in a simple off-grid cabin, serving sun tea in old mason jars on a covered country porch. Reduce thinks that the key to sustainability lies in tradition, and looks to the lifestyles of the past (within reason) as the best inspiration for living in the present and prepping for the future. She’s the cautionary one of the three, teaching us that sacrifice is necessary for sustainability too.

Of course, Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce don’t exist in vacuums. The three generations of the Sustainability family are incredibly close-knit, and each takes joy and satisfaction from sharing Her approaches and discoveries with Her kin. Just think of the things we could learn from talking to all three, and following Their lead in our own lives!

And there you have it – the Triple Goddess of Sustainability! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and encourage you to invite this triad into your life for 2018!

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It’s the Little Things: Rethinking the Lighters on Our Altars and Shrines

When I was learning magick back in the day I was warned away from using matches because they contain sulfur on the tips, which was said to introduce “unwelcome energies” to whatever workings most of us were doing. I was steered to lighters instead, and have used them since.

It’s time to rethink that.

Every year 1.5 BILLION disposable lighters end up in landfills, they can’t be recycled, and there are gruesome pictures of birds that have eaten them and then died – the shineys look like fish. (Don’t Google “albatross chicks” and “lighters”, y’all. It’s horrible.) And all that’s before we even get to the carbon footprints of both the manufacturing of the plastic lighters AND burning the fuel within!

Refillable lighters save the lighter from entering the landfill (at least temporarily), but what about the plastic bottles the refillable lighter fuel comes in? That’s usually considered hazardous waste, so recycling can be dicey depending on local rules. Butane has to be kept under pressure, which makes their containers more process-intensive to manufacture and even worse from a recycling perspective. And, again, refillable lighters still burn petrochemicals, which add to our carbon footprints.

Either way, THAT is energy I don’t want to bring to my workings!

So, back to the humble match. I did some research, y’all. Diamond Greenlight matches (the only brand made in the US) are made from either sustainably harvested trees or 100% recycled paperboard.

For wooden matches, one tree can make up to a MILLION matches, and they can even grow back from the same root system after being felled. Burning wood is carbon neutral*, too – the same carbon is released whether it’s burned or it naturally decomposes.

The paperboard ones are a little more flimsy, but they’re made from completely recycled material and, again, they’re carbon neutral*.

The tips of both styles do have trace elements of sulfur on them, in addition to a couple of other things like glue, but the amounts are so minimal per strike we can’t even calculate a toxicity on them. They pretty much burn away instantly, relying on the wood or the paperboard to maintain the flame until being extinguished.

As an aside, I’m not a fan of big business or anything, but back in 1911 Diamond voluntarily released the patent on its safety matches so competitors would stop using the way more dangerous white phosphorus in their products. I can approve of that!

Still concerned about the sulfur on the tips? Sulfur is often used in banishing magick, sure, but that’s because it’s associated so strongly with protection and purification workings. An infinitesimal trace of it when we light candles or incense isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

I just picked up 320 small wooden Diamond Greenlight matches for $1.49 at the grocery store. Better deals are available on Amazon, though – here’s 1000 of the paperboard ones for $5. The latter is both made of recycled material and recyclable.

Why does this even matter? Because the little choices we make echo through our lives and our world in ways we often don’t consider. Getting into the habit of thinking about these kinds of things in relation to our sacred and magickal work will hopefully help us learn to be conscious of the choices we make in other parts of our lives too. That can only be a good thing.

*Note: There’s some hedging about whether burning biomass is truly carbon neutral, and most of that hedging seems to revolve around sustainable forestry practices. In this particular case I’m inclined to go with the carbon neutral take, especially for the paperboard matches since they’re recycled to start. However, that’s me. Please do your own research and choose accordingly.