In Search of Coffee, Vanilla and Monarch Butterflies

In July, my mother said she was considering a trip she read about in the Denver Botanic Gardens’ newsletter to “chase the monarch butterflies” in Mexico with my stepfather.  Wow, I thought, that would be incredible!”.  But, when she mentioned it, I was in the middle of a busy summer and was soon after swept into the tidal wave that is life as a blogger, Mindfulness teacher (with new (paid!) gigs), mother-of-three-teens, Vice President of the high school PTSA, wife, daughter, sister (read “life”).

In October, she said “We’re going. You could come with us!”.  “Oh, I couldn’t possibly!” (read “too busy with life”).  She and my step-dad booked their flights and tours through the Reefs to Rockies tour company.’  I was excited for them and thought I wanna go! [but I can’t possibly leave my husband during Valentine’s Day and my oldest right before her 18th birthday]).

The fall flew by, my dad and I renovated my office at Newport Street Retreat and I dug in deeper to my business, teaching Mindfulness at the local elementary school and booking more Mindfulness sessions at the local middle school, I helped make Angel Talks a reality and grow the committees on the PTSA (#MindfulnessAboutOurCommunity), I meditated daily, and joined the After Prom Committee as the Sustainability Co-Chair and agreed to be the Sustainability Chair of the Park Hill Home Tour again for 2019.  Again, life.  But I really wanted to go.  But, I never talked about it…just imagined how incredible it would be.

Several years ago, I dragged my kids to see the IMAX film about the migration of the Monarch butterflies.  I was so enthralled with the end result of watching several generations of these beautiful orange-and-black-spotted pollinators’ journey from Canada to Mexico in about a year’s time.  Seeking milkweed, tithonia and other pollinator-supporting flora, these dedicated, iconic pollinators overcome natural and unnatural predators, climate change, development and ignorance in their effort to survive.

So, when my mom brought up this #ecotour, I knew exactly what it meant: huge trees covered in beautiful, orange and black butterflies instinctively and peacefully keeping each other warm in Mexico.  And, I could witness that in person!

Late January rolled around and my step-father had to have surgery for his gumball-sized kidney stones.  My mother said “I don’t know if he can make the trip.  I don’t suppose you can go?”.  I had an uncomfortable conversation with my husband and an awkward conversation with my almost-18-year-old. and cleared some space, cancelled about four appointments, got coverage for my meetings and yoga cleaning, and applied for a United Explorer Visa and booked the tickets.  It was surprisingly easy to step out of my “oh-so-busy” life and into an 18-passenger van with a bunch of botany geeks.  And, my step-dad can stay home, rest and recover from his surgery.

So, here I am, bouncing around Mexico for nine days learning about all sorts of things on a level I never could have dreamed…in search of coffee, vanilla and monarch butterflies….

Dealing with Pests in your Compost Pile

Composting is a great, satisfying endeavor.

However, sometimes other little beings decide they want to use it as a food source and sometimes even set up camp.

Mice and rats are not an uncommon variety of these unwanted guests.

Unfortunately, mice and rats can spread disease through their feces and you really don’t want them hanging out in your compost pile.  If you have an above-ground tumbler, this shouldn’t be a problem.  But, it’s good to take precautions if you have a pile (or a box, like we do).

I found this article which is helpful should you find yourself facing this challenge:

Mice in Your Compost?


Create a Car Kit!

Today’s challenge is to set up a car kit to make zero waste shopping and such easier.

It could be as simple as:

a cardboard box,

a reusable coffee mug,

reusable drink bottle,

reusable straws and cutlery,

cloth napkins,

A to-go/take-away kit

a few Mason jars,

mesh bags for shopping

for produce and such,

and 5-10 reusable shopping bags.

We found this great suggestion on Instagram, but you can do any format that works for you:

View this post on Instagram

CAR KIT: being prepared is probably my biggest trick to maintaining as zero waste as possible. while I keep my reusable bags by the front door so I can remember them before shopping trips, I also have a mini kit in my car in case of emergency. reusable canvas tote, burlap sack, three produce bags, two mini cloth bags, one large and one small jar, a tiny jar, reusable coffee cup, measuring cup, spork, bottle opener, cloth napkin, little cardboard roll with yarn, twine and rubber bands. How do you prepare for ZW emergencies on the go? . . KIT DE COCHE: estar preparado es probablemente mi mayor truco para mantener cero desechos como sea posible. mientras guardo mis bolsas reutilizables por la puerta de entrada para que recuerda antes de ir de compras, también tengo un mini kit en mi automóvil en caso de emergencia. bolsa de lona reutilizable, saco de arpillera, tres bolsas de tela, dos bolsas de tela mini, un frasco grande y otro pequeño, un frasco chiquitito, taza de café reutilizable, taza medidora, spork, abrebotellas, servilleta de tela, rollo de cartón con hilo y bandas de goma. ¿Cómo te preparas para las emergencias de acero basura? . #goinggreen #ecofriendly #ditchplastic #incaseofemergency #zerowastehome #reusables #zerowaste #nontoxicliving #sustainableliving #lifewithoutplastic #goingzerowaste #vidasimple #basuracero #residuocero #ecologico #cerodesperdicio #fueraquimicos #ceroresiduo #natural #encasodeemergencia #sindesperdicio #sostenible #productosnaturales #vidanatural #cerobasura

A post shared by Heidi Violet (@zerowastechica) on

…from ZeroWasteChica (Instagram)

This is a really great break-down:

(see this blog featured image)


And, here is a great solution for your purse, back pack or carrier bag:


Mindfulness @

When I was 10, my parents were in the middle of a nasty divorce.   One morning, I woke up and my chest hurt.  I struggled to breathe.  I told my dad “I need to go to the hospital…my chest hurts”.  I thought I was having a heart attack.  I started walking to his car.  I may have even grabbed his keys.  He put his arm around me and gently walked me back into the house.  He had me lay down and he put his hand on my stomach and said “breathe”…My breath pushed his hand up and down and he had me only focus on that.  It probably took less than a minute, but the pain went away and I was o.k.  I had had a panic attack.  My dad taught me what is now called “Mindfulness” in that moment.

I’ve used that breathing technique through moving to Australia…seven months pregnant,  job change, losing my best friend to life-saving surgery that failed,  birthing three babies without pain medication or an epidural,  before tests,  before flute performances in Europe, NY’s Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House… through a horrific accident in Africa.   I’ve had moments when I’ve thought ending it would be so much easier.   But I didn’t because, I knew how to find my breath.  That breathing gives the brain enough time to hear “this is not the end” and all the latest research shows the calming effect it has on the nervous system.

Life today is full.   So full that we barely have time to even notice if we take a breath in a day.

You might say “I don’t have time for mindfulness.”

I say “you don’t have time not to.”

You might say “kids won’t sit still for it.”  Well, last year, in a single session, we had a record 73 middle school kids voluntarily come for Mindfulness.

Mindfulness has been proven to improve concentration, reduce stress, improve test scores and reduce bullying.

And?  It’s just breathing.

Sustainable Three Blog

I have always had a deep love of nature. Essentially a Colorado native, I grew up daydreaming in the fields of my elementary school smelling grass and playing with dandelions (turning our skin yellow when they were yellow and making wishes when they were grey and puffy). My family and I also frequently went to the mountains to our tiny cabin on 3/4 of an acre. We would hike and collect and smell the fresh air. We would pick wild raspberries and eat them, right off the cane. We would use the outhouse which involved walking up rickety steps my dad had nailed right into the side of the hill. Mostly, I remember having the space to enjoy nature.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to enjoy gardening. The most exciting presents arrive daily throughout the spring and summer.

Additionally, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to notice trends that make me sad. When I was younger, in winter, we would witness the “Brown Cloud” over the downtown buildings of Denver. The air pollution would hover just over the buildings. Now, that “Brown Cloud” stretches from Colorado Springs to Boulder…and I can SEE it with my own eyes – in my lifetime! So, we’re talking thirty years. I see litter. I see waste. I see people throwing recyclable and reusable items in the garbage rather than the recycle bins – the city now provides roll-away recycle bins and the recycling is single stream. I see recycling containers in restaurants and parks and the zoo. Upon closer investigation, items that are not recyclable are in the recycling and items that are recyclable are in the garbage. I see that brown cloud. I see the increase in traffic and water usage. I see harmful chemicals being sprayed on plants, trees and grasses.

But, I have hope. Because we used to have to take our recycling to a facility. We used to have to separate our items. We used to do a lot more work. Slowly, it’s getting better and easier. Perhaps one day, recycling will truly be single stream and we won’t even have to separate garbage from recycling. Perhaps we will teach ourselves to reuse rather than recycle in the first place. Perhaps we won’t feel as though we need so much stuff.

I get that it’s a pain to have to do any of it. It’s so much easier to throw things away. But, I can tell you, these days, with all the catastrophes happening in the world, it feels GREAT to do SOMETHING to make a difference for the better. That’s where I come in. Follow me on my journey to attempt to achieve a more sustainable household. We live in the city, so we most likely will not have cows grazing in our backyard. We won’t have enough crops in our garden to feed our entire family for the entire year. But, we will continue to try to decrease our carbon footprint, increase our handprint and increase our overall resiliency.

The concept behind Sustainable Three is simple: Choose three habits to change at a time. Or, do three things once each until they start to form a habit. Be gentle with yourself. But, be optimistic. If nothing else, these three steps should help you “get the ‘should’ off your back.”