On the Ninth day of Christmas

My True Love gave to me… Nine Lords a leaping.

leaving Amsterdam in May 2010

Leaping from place to place is what we do across the nation and the world. We love to travel the globe. I did my first trip abroad this year, going to the Netherlands to visit some college friends. I would really love to do more but wonder about my impact on the planet.

I’m currently reading a book by Joan Dye Gussow called Growing Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables. The New York Times calls Joan a nutritionist and matriarch of the eat-locally-think-globally food movement. But in this book she journals about all things environmental as well as understanding her feelings about losing her husband of 40 years to cancer and growing older.  In one of her rants on travel, she talks about how so many of the people of “money” seem to think they need to escape their large homes for an exotic locale. Joan feels that, if they are so unhappy in their homes, with swimming pools and tennis courts, that they need to escape to some other place, then they must not be really happy and that if we all stayed home more we would be happier and the planet would be better off. And what about those people in the slums who really deserve a chance to escape to one of those island paradises.

She had read an article in the NY Times about Penguins in Trouble World Wide because global warming was melting the ice on which they lived and later in the day she emailed a farmer friend this letter:

“I had an Aha! today when I saw in the paper that the penguins are disappearing. My first thought was “Oh, God, I’ve got to go see them before they disappear.” My second thought was “It’s that sort of impulse that is helping them disappear.” If we all travel all the time to see things before they’re gone, we’re helping warm the planet, which means they will be gone. We’ve gotten used to thinking that because we can do everything technically, we also can do it, so we go ….on and on.”

One of the points Joan is making is that we can’t create livable communities if we are out escaping to somewhere else. She sees this as a moral issue. By burning fossil fuels, which raises the CO2 level of the atmosphere and causes parts of the planet to warm. This, in turn, accelerates the melting of the polar ice sheets, thus threatening the wildlife and their food sources.

Lonely Planet has a wonderful article about Responsible Travel and how our tourism has had an impact on cities across the globe turning them into shopping meccas and disrupting the infrastructures of these places. They have made a commitment to advise travelers to be more responsible. They say, and I totally agree, “that it’s only through travelling, through meeting people that we begin to understand that we’re all sharing this world. We are all coming along for the ride, despite the barriers which governments, religions and economic and political beliefs often seem to build up between us.”

One way to have less guilt about travel is to purchase carbon offsets. Climate Care is the site that Lonely Planet recommends and Green Irene has a series of carbon offsets for not only air travel but also SUVs that you may own. You can also offset your large home or a small car. Carbon offsets are set up to pay into a company or project that is creating efficient energy. The most common project type is renewable energy, such as wind farms, biomass energy, or hydroelectric dams. Others include energy efficiency projects, the destruction of industrial pollutants or agricultural byproducts, destruction of landfill methane, and forestry projects. Some of the most popular carbon offset projects from a corporate perspective are energy efficiency and wind turbine projects.

While carbon offsets, like Cap and Trade policies, are somewhat helpful, I don’t think they are the end all fix. To me, it is basically paying a fine in order to be allowed to break the law and trash the planet. Interesting article about that here at Green Living Review.

street scene in Haarlem, Netherlands

I have told my Facebook friends who do lots of traveling that I can go to so many places by looking at the photos they post. Many of them are traveling, not so much for pleasure but out of necessity for family or work. While they go they take photos and share with me so that I can take virtual trips. This year, I have been to Rome, Greece, and China virtually and physically to the Netherlands. I dream of places I’d love to see before I die but know in my heart I may never physically see. I feel good about the efforts I am making in my own backyard to make my own little place my exotic escape.

Season’s Greetings?

1990 card

When Herb and I got married in 1980 we didn’t have a computer and it would be several years before we did. Home printers were not really something everyone had and if you did it was the old dot matrix kind that were not what you would think of to do a Christmas card with.

My first computer job in printing was in the day of film and laminated proofs and I was able to do our Christmas card that year as a stand up tree. It was mailed out flat and the recipient would be expected to fold it into a triangle and tape it so that it would stand as a sort of pyramid tree. I was able to get the scanner operator at my workplace to scan the photos of my family and then I assemble the card on a Scitex computer system and then output film and sent it to a proofing department.

back side right

If  I remember correctly,  they had some old materials they were not going to use for production and they made me about 10-15 cards. This would have taken them forever to do because each color would have to be exposed and then the next color laid/laminated on top of that one until you build up the 4 colors to create the four color image. These proofs don’t exist anymore and technology has advanced to where proofs are now viewed remotely, meaning that you send the customer a virtual proof that they now add virtual sticky notes onto to request their color corrections.

back side left

Then came the digital world and my boss now refers to us as the Jetsons because we are really into the ability to produce projects on a home computer and printer.

2002 letter

Over the years, we have sent out cards that have chronicled our previous year in photo form. Some years they take on the collage look like this one from 2002. That year, Thomas had gone to China for 3 weeks with George Mason University and John had graduated high school and he and his buddies did a trip up the east coast and into Canada so the background was a map and photos of their trips placed onto the map.

Over the years we have gotten cards from people saying they are in anticipation of our cards. So every year the pressure is on. I think the trick to doing a successful Christmas letter/card is to not send out something that is single spaced, several pages of babble that the recipient has to stand and read and read and read, but to give them a visual of the year with maybe a few sentences telling the highlights. I don’t think they care that we took brownies to a picnic in the spring. (We have actually received similar letters)

2005 card

In 2005, the card was a structured collage and each thumbnail was numbered 1-14. Then the inside of the card listed the numbers in red and green with a caption of that photo. That way they could look for the number and figure out what that part of our year was about.

2006 Andy Warhol inspired

And in 2006, the family photo with John at graduation from VA Tech was the inspiration. I cropped each of our mug shots out and posterized them in the style of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe painting.

And in 2009 we had taken on the task of painting our 100+ year old house and so that year had to be the story of the house colors and the process of painting. We also had to say good-bye to our sweet dog Bill of 15 years and so a panel of the card was also in memory of him.

2009 outside

2009 inside

Handy An's Business Card

So, as Thanksgiving is fast approaching, it is time once again to think about what this year’s card will be. My friend HandyAn sends out a card to her clients that she has done work for during the year and she always comes up with clever cards too. This one she sent last year and the year before that she put herself up on a steel girder with construction workers on a skyscraper, probably in NYC. She was sitting there with her lunch bucket just like one of the guys.

I went to the Netherlands in the Spring so maybe I need to find some Dutch master paintings and put us in one of those. What do you think?