Last week, I was featured on THE MANY SHADES OF GREEN
The Many Shades of Green delves into topics that affect the environment in Brooklyn and beyond, as we move to raise social awareness via culture, politics, music and the arts. We all have to learn to think outside the box, to promote ideas that will make the world a better place for this and future generations.
Many Shades of Green, August 2013
BBox Radio Interview
Anjie Cho founder of Holistic Spaces and LEED Certified Architect is my guest this week. We discuss the green benefits of feng shui in design, and how the energy of “chi” brings spirituality, beauty and sustainability to your home or office. Find out why the number 9 is important and why eco-conscious behavior will help you put the “ohm” in your home. Go to anjiecho.com to get more info on Feng Shui and other eco design tips.
#1335: Anjie Cho
Syd: Hi, this is Syd from Rock and Wrap it Up, and you’re listening to The Many Shades of Green on Beat Box Radio. Ciao.
MMR: Hi, I’m Maxine Margo Rubin, and this is The Many Shades of Green, our program that explores environmental and social issues that reflect the greening of our communities. The Many Shades of Green delves into topics that affect the environment, both locally and globally, as we move to raise social awareness via culture and politics, music and the arts. There are many variations, or shades, of environmental consciousness which affect what actions we take to protect the planet. Everyone has a shade of green that connects them to the natural earth.
Our guest this week on The Many Shades of Green is Anjie Cho, a LEED certified architect, interior designer and founder of Holistic Spaces, which uses the energy of chi to bring spirituality, beauty and green design to both residential and office spaces. Anjie is also the co-chapter manager of the New York City chapter of the International Feng Shui Guild. We must all apply balance within our own spaces so that we can make and take better care of the earth. So Anjie, welcome to The Many Shades of Green in beautiful downtown Dumbo. How are you doing?
AC: Hi Maxine, it’s such an honor to be back here again.
Ah yeah, you’re a friend to the show. Like Saturday Night Live has all these hosts that are the five club, so now you’re in the club. Welcome to the club.
I’m very flattered.
And you’re a worthy club member. So if you had to pick a shade of green, what shade would you be?
Well, I think that changes all the time, and it really depends, but I think today maybe I’m lime green.
Okay and lime green, expand on that a bit.
Lime green. I think lime is very vibrant, and it’s very bright, and it exudes a kind of glow, so that’s how I feel. That’s the shade of green I feel like today with the work I’m doing.
Great. So we got a lime green. We got lime greenie in here today. That’s a good thing. I like limes, because they’re green. They also have a sour flavor, which makes my cranberry juice taste better.
Because it adds that…
It’s very alkaline too in your body.
It’s very alkaline.
Alkaline things are good for you.
It’s something people need more of in their nutrition, and when they’re drinking things and eating the right stuff, they’ll get a better balance, correct?
I guess. I mean, I’m not a nutritionist but I’ve spoken to enough of them for them to yell at me about that. So how does Feng Shui...now is it “Feng Shwei” or “Fung Shwei?”
We say “Fung Shwei.”
Even though there’s an F – E – N – G component, okay.
But you could say in any way you want, because anything you do is absolutely the right thing to do at that time.
Okay, so I’m going to go with “Fung Shwei,” since that seems to be the right one.
That’s the way I say it.
Okay. I think, is that the way most people?
That’s the way my teachers say it, and my teachers from China say “Fung Shwei.”
With the emphasis on the “Feng,” “Fung Shwei.”
Emphasis in the “Feng,” “Fung Shwei,” okay.
I did not know that. See? We’re getting an education component going here. So how does Feng Shui intertwine with issues of sustainability? I mean, how does that work?
Well, I like to say that Feng Shui is the original Green Design, because, one, it’s an ancient philosophy, thousands and thousands of years old, and it’s based on the cycles of nature. It’s really about looking at your environment and looking at the cycles and patterns of nature and seeing how those affect your life and using them to your advantage to create a really harmonious life. So being in tune with the environment creates this harmony, and also it makes you aware of the effect the environment has on you and, in turn, the effect that we have on the environment, so it really creates a sense of responsibility too.
Really? How does that responsibility come out? To me, almost...Feng Shui when you’re doing interior design and you’re with a client, it’s not only getting...you need to read the client. It’s almost therapeutic, it’s almost like you’re a therapist in many ways.
I mean, how does that component work within getting the person to change their behavior?
It’s very much an intuitive process and absolutely can be, for some clients, therapeutic and like therapy, like talk therapy, but the difference is I recommend to the clients things that they can do, shift in their environment, whether it be to move their bed around or add a plant, whatever it is. Make a small shift, a physical shift, to let the universe know they really want to implement these changes in their life. And if the client wants to go there and really look into what the issues are in their life, I can help them, but if they’re not ready to do that, I could still advise them to add a plant. By adding a plant…
We’re talking a green plant, some nice plant…
A living, yeah, a living household plant, and that, in a subtle way, creates a change in a person’s life that they start to have to take care of something. So many of my clients come to me and they say, "I have no idea how to keep a plant alive. I just have a black thumb and I’ve had so many problems keeping plants," and it’s amazing.
How do you not take care of a plant? I mean, what do these people tell you as their excuses? Like I have, I don’t have a green thumb or I can’t take care of a plant, what does that say? I mean, how do they explain that? I mean, what don’t they do with a plant? I mean, how do you get them to even change their mindset to be able to take care of a plant?
Well first, I think that we’ve really sadly lost touch with even taking care of a plant, which is really indicative of where we are in our society. We’ve lost touch with how we’re taking care of our environment and the earth. So just taking a small thing like a plant, people get scared. They’re too scared to take care of plant. They don’t know what to do. It’s a living thing. It can die.
So what I suggest, sometimes I give them a plant from my home, because I create lots of little cuttings, and I just teach them. First, I try to have them do it on their own and then they usually...
This is plant 101. We’ve got it right here on The Many Shades of Green. We’re talking about getting green plants into your home and Anjie’s telling us how to do that and how people deal with it.
So I ask them to bring a plant to their home and position it in a certain place in their home to represent something. Plants represent growth, flexibility and it cultivates human heartedness and connection to other people and to the earth. So, first they might overwater it, usually. Either they neglect it completely, and it dies because there’s no water, or they overwater it, and when they get to that point, they let me know. "Oh, I killed the plant because I overwatered it or…"
I killed a plant, okay.
Only in New York folks. Alright, go ahead.
So then, I say, you know what? Just take your thumb and just stick it, or your finger, and stick it in the soil, and what do you feel? And they’ve never even done that. They don’t know how to get their hands dirty. So, is it wet? Is it dry? Is it moist? Is it completely flooded? What’s going on there? And then you can respond to the plant, and when my clients start to see that they can actually nurture a plant, it creates a huge shift in their lives. So even something as simple as asking someone to add a plant to improve overall indoor air quality, it adds life energy. There’s so many positives to it. And in another way, it creates connection to the earth and the environment, and it allows people to start to care for something.
Right, if it’s not, as I said once before, a Chihuahua, then a Dieffenbachia might actually work. So that’s pretty amazing to just get people to take care of plants, because that disconnect with nature is something that’s a problem.
People are so connected, and the question about changing behavior, I mean, how do you do that? So if you have a client and they’re in a small apartment in the city, can you tell the minute you walk in what’s off about the person?
Well, I do have a little cheat sheet, usually, when I come in, because they send me their floor plans. By looking at their floor plan, I can usually glean some information, and they also, before I go in, they tell me the issues they want work on. Usually it’s, they want a relationship, they want more money or they want to figure out their career. And those are kind of superficial issues, and when I talk to them and during the consultation, I get in deeper, but I can see by what they told me they want to work on and issues and their floor plan, I can pick up what their underlying issues might be.
What are the most underlying issues that you can usually tell, I’m just curious, about a person when you walk in to their house?
Well, for instance, I’m thinking of one client. I walked in, and she showed me (she’s an artist) where she paints. And she squeezed all her things for painting and her easel and everything right in this tiny foyer right at the front door. So her back is facing the door and she’s just really tight, in this tiny space, and that’s where she’s doing her art. That really tells me, you’re not honoring yourself, you’re not giving yourself the space that you need physical and emotionally and creatively to do your work, so that’s a really obvious metaphor.
Mhmm. So what’s the biggest space you’ve ever worked in?
Well for architecture, I’ve worked on spaces 40,000 square foot, 2 floor law firms and…
Well that’s interesting. Talk about chi in that, who knows! Can you actually have chi in law firm? Do they actually have nice balanced, pretty spaces or you have a lot of plants in there to cover things up? I don’t know.
Well, it depends. There’s so many different types of attorneys, right? But…
Maybe the environmental ones. Maybe that’s how you can do it. Was it an environmental firm?
No, it wasn’t. But I’ve worked for all different types of client, and they all have their own needs, and I don’t go in with any judgments. I try to give them what they need, and sometimes they just need plain architecture, and I put in the Feng Shui there. They might not even know about it, but I can’t design without it anymore.
So how have you stayed faithful in your own self to the green movement in your personal space? I mean, how do you fit into your own space? What have you done?
Well, I nag my husband every day about putting everything things in the recycling, so I incorporate recycling and composting, and I do my best. I don’t take plastic bags; I bring bags to the grocery store, and those are really simple things. I’ve also, about 5 years ago, I stopped using toxic cleaners and store bought cleaners, and I make my own.
How do you make your own cleaners?
I actually give all my clients a list of do-it-yourself, green, non-toxic cleaners. You could take things like vinegar and water, and I like to mix it up with maybe some eucalyptus oil, some lavender, whatever essential oils you like, and I create my own cleaning products.
Wow, is that good for just a general thing or you can use it...? So, instead of getting stuff with chemicals, you can just use vinegar, water and some eucalyptus. Where would you get that? Health food stores or something?
Mhmm. You could get at health food store, they have essential oils in little tiny bottles.
How much do you put in there? Like a tiny little bit?
I put 9 drops.
9 drops. Is there any reason?
9 is most auspicious number in Feng Shui. It’s a number of completion. It’s the last single digit integer, and it represents completion.
Wow, is that why they have it repeating in one of the Beatles’ songs? The number 9, number 9, number 9?
Maybe. Well, 108 is a multiple of 9, because 1 + 0 + 8 is 9 as well, and actually my book is also 108.
Yeah, we’re going to talk about your book after the break. 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces for Healing and Organic Homes, is that…
Mhmm, for homes.
Okay. You’ll have to come to my house, and maybe I can be guinea pig or something. So we’re here with Anjie Cho talking about Feng Shui, “Feng Shui,” I’m going to get this all wrong, and we’ll talk more about it after the break. You’re listening to The Many Shades of Green.
And we’re back with Anjie Cho and we’re talking about chi and maybe a little yantra, might sound foreign to you. She has a new book she’s working on. Right now, I guess you’re still just writing it?
I’m still writing it. The book is called “108 Ways to Create Holistic Space: Feng Shui and Green Design for Healing and Organic Environments” or “Homes.” I haven’t decided yet.
That’s a nice title. Now, let’s try to get into what you’re writing. What chapters are you up to and what do you, or are you going to explain what’s in this book now?
I’ve read so many Feng Shui books, and I have a huge library of Feng Shui books, and they’re great for me because I’m a Feng Shui practitioner, but I found so many people are interested in Feng Shui and don’t know how to implement it. When they get a book, it’s so overwhelming, because there’s so much information about the philosophy. Being a New Yorker, I am very efficient and to the point, and I really want to make Feng Shui and Green Design something that people can do for themselves in easy ways. So I want to give different tips, simple tips, that are easily implementable in to their homes and, I think we’re just going to focus on the home.
So just 108 different ways to incorporate Green Design and Feng Shui principles.
And 108 again is, the meaning behind 108?
Well, there’s actually 108 beads in a mala which is, Vedic prayer beads are called the mala, and there’s 108 beads. In a lot of traditions, Buddhist tradition and Vedic tradition, 108 is a sacred number. It’s also a multiple of 9, because if you add 1 + 0 + 8, it also equals 9 and it’s 9 x11, I think. And 9 is number of completion. It’s something that we use a lot. We do everything in multiples of 9 in Feng Shui.
It’s interesting, because in Judaism, 18 is a number of importance and luck and greatness, and if you add 1 and 8, you get 9. So there’s a definite connection. Okay, so there’s 108 tips that are going to be in the book. So what would you start with first in your house as a number 1 tip? Where would you start?
Where would you start? I would start at the entry where you walk in.
And I always encourage, well, your entry represents your face to the world and how the universe sees you and how opportunities come to you. So I suggest to my clients and friends that they should create a nice, welcoming entry. This means making sure there’s a bright light. You don’t have to use that light all the time, but put in a bright light bulb so you bring light to your face to the world. You have the ability to be seen.
Would that be a LED light? Are you are proponent of kind of lights that you’re using? I mean, do you tell your clients, and in terms of being green when you actually are practicing Feng Shui, I would imagine you would say hey, use green products, use lighting, use woods that are better and stuff like that. So is that something you also have in the book?
Yes, I suggest switching to LED or compact fluorescent lighting, which is more energy efficient, and they last much longer. And whenever I specify any fixtures, I do my best to specify those more energy efficient fixtures. And using natural materials is really important in terms of sustainability and with Feng Shui, because when you have synthetic materials that 1: don’t biodegrade, 2: you have to create more plastic, it also, in the Feng Shui world also represents kind of dead energy.
Mhmm. So you want to surround yourself with natural products that have their own power. It’s so easy to ignore what you can’t see, or ignore what you’ve gotten used to, like toxic chemicals in your environment. I was talking earlier about having cut out all those store bought cleaning products. As soon as I did that, it took about a year, but now I’m so sensitive when I go to a space where they use synthetic toxic cleaning products, and I immediately get a headache. That didn’t happen before because I was desensitized to it.
Yeah, I can’t walk into Home Depot at all.
The minute I walk in, sorry Home Depot, but there’s so much stuff in the air from the woods and the plastics that it takes me literally 60 seconds, and I’m out. So that’s something that’s pretty crazy. So what else in the space do you recommend? I mean, colors and what else is positive and also is environmentally friendly?
One thing I also promote is to use a gas stove, actually. So if you have an electric stove, that’s okay, but it’s better if you put in a gas stove. That’s better for the environment to not use electricity, if it could have the natural gas, but it’s also better for your food, because you’re actually using fire to cook your food. So that’s something I’d suggest. I also always recommend that you have to keep your stove clean all the time, because the stove represents how you nourish yourself in the world, and that, in turn, represents wealth and money. How well you nourish yourself affects how much money you make in the world so I…
Really? There’s a cause and effect for how you nourish yourself and how much money you make?
I never would put that, sort of, together, fear and food. I mean, I wouldn’t really put that together. Now that you’re making me think about it, I could see your point, to a degree, but that’s something I never would have thought of. In a lot of places, they have to have electric stoves, because they don’t have gas, and now there’s also a big commotion about gas pipelines coming in to the city. It’s one giant mess. We have to start getting solar stoves going, because there’s pipelines now bringing gas into parts of the village right by a playground and underneath beaches. You can be sitting on the sand and it can be a pipeline under your butt and boy, you can have a really good time.
So maybe I shouldn’t recommend gas.
Well, it depends what it is. It depends. I mean, there’s all sorts of stuff. I mean, I’m not going to say poo-poo to having fire. I mean, I have a propane tank in the side of my house to just have. But I want to have a solar heater, but they said I couldn’t do it because of the angle of the sun, so I do have a fire, and I do face towards the door so I guess that’s good.
Well, what I do in the morning is, when I stir my tea or my oatmeal, I stir in positive energy. So that’s similar. So if you’re in a situation where you’re at your stove and you’re not in command, where you can’t see the door, then you’re under a level of stress and you’re putting that stress into your food and that therefore affects how you act in the world. So I recommend that you be able to face the door. If you can’t, you put a mirror. And also to use your stove every day and to also pay attention to what burner you use. Like I always used to go to the same burner all the time…
I do sometimes.
So which one’s your favorite?
It’s actually on the left. The front left is the favorite I use mostly.
So, a Feng Shui cure is to start looking at using a different burner every day, and instead of just going to the same thing, your go to, every day, try a different burner.
Because I lean to the left, I guess.
Well, just try different burner. Maybe that opens up opportunities in your life and in your career, and it creates a metaphor for you.
Well, if I’m using more than 1 pot, then it’s 3 burners, but the one on the back right, I never use.
Oh, is it broken?
No, I just don’t use it. I don’t understand why.
So your challenge is to use that.
Use the back burner. I’ll let you know next time, but that’s pretty crazy. Now, we’re trying to get people to change behavior, but we’re also trying to figure out, sometimes there’s a dilemma. People have too much in their brains, so they’re not sure where to go first to try to be either better citizens or greener citizens, and we had, in a prior conversation, spoken about, okay, so how do we clean the yogurt that just spilled on this table? What would you do?
Well, one way to look at it Feng Shui- and green-wise, or sustainability-wise, is, if you had a bull’s eye with concentric circles, and you’re in the middle and the biggest circle is the universe. You go to universe, then you move in to, like the US, and you move in to New York and slowly, you get down to your house, your bedroom and then you. And what you have around you, you have the most effect on. So the energy, or the chi, around you, like your bedroom, that’s the area that you can affect the most. So with green initiatives and with Feng Shui, we always recommend that you work on that area closest to you first, because that will have a butterfly effect.
So once you make these changes with yourself, and then maybe make some changes in your room and in your home, you start composting, you switch out to green energy, you make some Feng Shui changes and shift things in your environment around, then that will affect the next circle, which will affect the next circle, and that’s the way that I work with people. How do you make small changes, simple changes and don’t get overwhelmed? Take one thing at a time, and start with yourself, and then you can move out and really start affecting the circles outside of you, and then hopefully maybe we’ll reach the universe.
Well, yeah, I booked the flight on the Virgin Air thing. So I know you have a nice affection towards Brooklyn. We’re in Dumbo and so what is your favorite moment, Brooklyn moment?
Well, my favorite Brooklyn moment was May 29th 2011 when I got married, just down the street here, at 1 Main Street to my husband. That was a really, that was my favorite moment.
Where did you meet him by the way? Because I know there’s a backstory here and hopefully, we’ll get your in-laws on the show...just quickly.
Well, actually we met online.
Ooh, that’s green, you don’t have to…okay, but his parents are?
Oh, his parents actually, well his mother and his stepfather, teach biodynamic farming in Australia and in the US. It’s very interesting. I’d love to get them on the show. I think you would really be interested in what they do. They incorporate biodynamic farming. They work with farmers, and they incorporate holistic techniques to create rain and to stop pests instead of using pesticides.
I’ve been catching pests and throwing them out the door. My husband thinks I’ve lost my mind, but now he’s doing it. So even the strange little moth in my house or whatever, except mosquitoes. I’m sorry guys. You guys have to go, I hate to say it. But I try to find whatever and just throw them outside.
I do that too, except for the mosquitoes. I just…
I’ve been, I must be a feast for them so, but anyway, anyway. So where can people...give us a couple of tips real quick on Feng Shui and then tell us where people can get information about you and your…
Well, they can find tips on Feng Shui, actually, on my blog which is called Holistic Spaces. So it’s www.holisticspaces.com, that’s spelled H – O – L – I – S – T – I – C spaces.com, and my personal website, my work website, is anjiecho.com which is spelled with a J so it’s A – N – J – I – E – C – H – O.com
Okay, that’s cool. And just really quick, people were asking me about e-Waste. Where in the city can people go on a website they can check so they know where to send it?
So we originally met because I used to work for the Lower East Side Ecology Center.
Right, exactly, exactly.
So the Lower East Side Ecology Center is a really wonderful organization, and they have an electronic waste warehouse in Gowanus. You can go in their website, it’s L – E – S as in Lower East Side, ecology E – C – O – L – O – G – Y center.org.
Cool. Alright, so now people know where to give their e-Waste.
Yeah, it’s pretty important, because people don’t know where to put that stuff. It doesn’t break down well, so you need to bring it somewhere where they’ll take care of it. So anyway, well thank you so much for being here and giving us little more of a Feng Shui education, and you do great things and we’ll have you back again, because you’re in the club now, and I appreciate you being here.
Thank you. You do great work too.
We try, sometimes. So we’ve been talking with Anjie Cho, founder of Holistic Spaces and Feng Shui practitioner extraordinaire. Her philosophy is to help people design spaces that give them chi, positive energy, and balance within their personal lives. This in turn will help create more eco-conscious behavior and awareness of the need to take care of mother earth. So Anjie, thank you again for being here, and thanks for joining us for The Many Shades of Green, our program about environmental sustainability, culture, the arts and community. Listen to the show on your laptop, tablet, desktop or smartphone. Visit us on Facebook, send us a twit at @TMShadesOfGreen. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.
About the host
Maxine Margo Rubin has been involved with the media business as a content producer and part-time co-host for Air America (Marc Sussman’s Money Message), and hosted and produced Village Green on WDFH, a show which focused on topics of environmental sustainability and progressive social issues.