Push on

Let’s cut the crap. Literally. Lawns are the most toxic “crop” in the United States, but they don’t have to be. You can go “drug free” on them (I have put nothing but grass clippings on mine for more than ten years now, and dogs and kids can play on them safely at any time — see Drug-Free-Lawn). You can also eliminate part or all of it and grow other stuff instead (that’s how I created the food-and-pollinator gardens that surround my home); and you can do what my neighbor Jason does. In fact, let’s kick off with the How-To Bonus Content this week because Jason (pictured) is such a great example of pushing on for the planet (and, frankly, I love this photo). Not only does he work for an environmental agency and bike-commute to work each day, but he also greets most Saturday mornings with a push-reel-mow of his lawn. “It has zero emissions, and it’s quiet so my wife Paige can sleep,” he told me when I rolled by after this harrowing bike ride recently.

How to push-reel-mow your lawn

Jason has been push-reel-mowing his lawn for years (since around I stopped doing it on my lawn because my push-reel-mower needed sharpening and there is, like, one guy in the nation who offers that service and he lives in maybe Tucson, Arizona and it would cost more than the price of the mower itself to keep it maintained). If you’d like to give push-reel-mowing a whirl, Jason offers this advice:

I'd say the faster the better, so it's a great way to knock out your lawn chore and your cardio workout in one activity. Also, go for a mower where the blades don't touch. I think that's why mine is still working. Don't know if you want to add this,  but I do two passes at different angles. Helps get those stubborn weeds and adds the finishing touch. :-)

So, that’s Jason. My mornings have started differently this week. I could barely get out of bed today because pain is shooting through butt muscles I didn’t know I have. That’s because I’ve spent the last four mornings running backwards for 75 minutes while a 12-year-old girl with Down Syndrome has been riding toward me on something called a roller bike. She is a camper at the week-long I Can Bike camp for kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the metro Atlanta city of Alpharetta (hosted by the police department). It’s offered by a nationwide nonprofit named I Can Shine which also offers I Can Dance and I Can Swim camps.

The goal at the end of the week is for all the campers to be able to ride regular two-wheelers outdoors so they can ride with their families. About 80% typically achieve this, and family members are trained as spotters to help the rest achieve this at home. The process for getting to that goal is fascinating and involves a variety of bike experiences and a whole lot of figuring sh*t out as we go. My takeaways so far? People of all abilities want to have their voices heard in how they learn, and they want to have choices along the way. And just like in life in general, the journey is rarely linear, and fun matters. Action step: Check out the I Can Shine website and consider asking your city to host a camp.

The Good

So hang around in the access-for-all advocacy world awhile and you’ll hear the phrase “public storage of private property” when referring to on-street motor vehicle parking spots and, like me, you may start thinking differently about how our precious public space is used. (Did you know something like 90% of the public space in our cities is streets?) An annual event on the third Friday in September since 2005 called Parking Day showcases the wide variety of opportunities lost when this public storage of private property remains the default in your city (see a brief history of it here). Increasingly, these repurposed spaces as parks, playgrounds, gardens, and more, are becoming permanent and my heart skips a little beat each time I see one, such as the one I passed earlier this week. See more images of what’s possible here. Action step: Get involved in Parking Day near you this year. Now’s the time to start organizing a group and a project.

The Bad

So my younger daughter (who is home for just a short time this summer) and I have been taking evening walks this week (which I don’t normally do). It’s just a slow saunter up a killer hill in my neighborhood and back home again. A mile round-trip. About twenty minutes. And you know what we see in that time? Maybe all of one lightning bug. Where the hell are the lightning bugs, folks? Action step: If you are “of a certain age,” pass on information to younger generations about how the natural world is a shadow of what it used to be, just your lifetime, and try to take small steps (up big hills, or not) to reverse the damage.

The WTF?

No. Just no. With the increased incidence of debilitating chemical sensitivities being experienced by people in our communities (including in my family), we are not going to allow chemical attacks like this in public spaces such as the bathrooms at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Just stop, Georgia Pacific. Frankly, this hand-activated air freshener next to every toilet should be illegal, and, in fact, the use of devices such as this is already banned from all buildings owned, operated, or leased by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as outlined in this 13-page CDC policy report. It’s like an Uber ride from hell every time anyone uses the bathroom now. And for any company pumping artificial fragrances into the air outside your bakery or Italian eatery in order to entice folks to come in, no, no, no. Action step: Speak out about companies that are bombarding our shared spaces with artificial fragrances and do not allow this to become normalized. Here is the exact wording from page 9 of the CDC report that applies to these devices:

C. Building Occupants

  1. 1. Non-Permissible Products Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC. This includes the use of:

    • Incense, candles, or reed diffusers

    • Fragrance-emitting devices of any kind

    • Wall-mounted devices, similar to fragrance-emitting devices, that operate

      automatically or by pushing a button to dispense deodorizers or


    • Potpourri

    • Plug-in or spray air fresheners

    • Urinal or toilet blocks

    • Other fragranced deodorizer/re-odorizer products

      Personal care products (e.g. colognes, perfumes, essential oils, scented skin and hair products) should not be applied at or near actual workstations, restrooms, or anywhere in CDC owned or leased buildings.

      In addition, CDC encourages employees to be as fragrance-free as possible when they arrive in the workplace. Fragrance is not appropriate for a professional work environment, and the use of some products with fragrance may be detrimental to the health of workers with chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma, and chronic headaches/migraines.

Thanks for joining me for some random food-for-thought about our changing world here on our shared FoodShed Planet.

Push on, folks, in whatever small or big way you can. You don’t need to do it all. Just do something. And be sure to follow along so you don’t miss an issue:

Trust the journey,