5 Green Living Changes for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, and the start of Earth Week. I encourage each of you to incorporate one green living change into your daily life. Below are five simple, yet impactful changes you can make.

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1.  Adopt or Donate an Indoor Plant

I have a Golden Pothos from when I first moved to New York City in 2003. I can't even remember who gave it to me, but it was a housewarming gift. This plant is so hardy, it's survived and flourished through weeks of forgetful watering and even a dark ground floor apartment. In feng shui, house plants bring life energy into a indoor space. They can create a softer and more vibrant energy in a home or office.  Living plants are wonderful for improving overall indoor air quality. The Goldon Pothos is said to be particularly good for removing formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.  

What I love about the Golden Pothos is that they are easy to propagate. Simply cut off a 3" or longer piece, just below a leaf or a node (or joint). I like to take cuttings and place them in a glass of water. Alternatively, you can plant them, or you can wrap them in a wet paper towel and give them as gifts.

Orchids are also very common houseplants. What most people don't know is that after the flowers die, the remaining plant is still alive! The plant is dormant, and you can keep it. It's such a reward to see my orchids bloom every year.  

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2.  Switch to a Renewable Energy Provider

An easy way to minimize your carbon footprint is to switch to a renewable energy provider. There are many different companies, and it really depends on where you live. It can be overwhelming to weed through all the companies, but it's worth it. The EPA gives some information on where you can find renewable energy companies for residential and commercial locations.  

Switching to Green Power does not typically mean that you need to install solar panels or a windmill on your roof. Although that is sometimes an option, in most urban areas this simply means that you can call your electricity provider and request you switch to a Green or Renewable energy source. In New York City, there are a handful of Energy Supply Companies (ESCOs) that provide a green option. You may see a small increase in your monthly bill, but in my experience it's very minimal. Probably around $10/month for a one bedroom apartment. You can also look into Renewable Energy Certificates RECS to offset your DIRTY electricity usage.

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3.  Reduce Bottled Water Usage

Contrary to popular belief, the National Resources Defense Council NRDC says that bottled water is “subject to less rigorous testing and purity standards than those which apply to city tap water.”  If health is a concern, plastics are terrible to eat and drink from.  There may be Bisphenol A (BPA)s or other toxic chemicals and substances in plastic containers that will affect water quality.

In New York City, we have excellent quality tap water. I recommend those outside of NYC use a high quality water filter and drink tap water whenever possible. I use reusable glass bottles and my Soda Stream seltzer machine as much as possible at home.

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4.  Buy Post Consumer Recycled Products

Most of us know by now, we need to recycle.  Reduce, reuse and recycle!  Note, recycle is last on that list.  

We put our glass bottles, metal cans, plastic bottles and paper/cardboard in the bins and out on the curb.  But what happens when we recycle? Sadly, not everything gets recycled. The recycling carter or your municipal recycler picks up the waste-- but if no one wants to buy the recyclables, they can put the unsellable material into the landfill. Glass, metals, cardboard and paper are typically easy to recycle. There is a market for these materials. Plastic is another story. Not all plastics are recyclable. The plastics that can be recycled have a shorter lifecycle, require more energy to recycle, and are not as valuable.

So.. what can we do? Purchase more Post Consumer Recycled products! "Recycled" typically means that the content is made from pre-consumer materials, such as the leftover waste from manufacturing. It's good, but not the same as Post Consumer. "Post Consumer Recycled" indicates that the recycled portion is from the recycled waste that you and I have put into our recycling bins. If we make an effort to purchase more post consumer recycled plastics, we in turn create a demand for the recyclable plastics. This will also cut down the creation of new plastics. 

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5.  DIY Water Saving Toilet

My final tip is for those of us with a tank toilet. This is a toilet where there is a tank behind, rather than in the wall or with a flush-o-meter. It's super simple to make your own water saving toilet. Take an old plastic bottle (the ones you're no longer using!), and fill it up with water. Open the toilet tank cover, and place the plastic bottle inside. Be sure to avoid and not obstruct the toilet flap, ball, handles, etc., inside the tank. Voila! The water filled bottle will displace water in the toilet tank and reduce the water usage each time you flush.

As a final feng shui tip - be sure to keep your toilet bowl cover shut. The bathroom is a place where water is always coming in and out of the home. In feng shui, water represents wealth and money flow. Make sure you keep the toilet seat closed, as well as the bathroom door. This will keep the wealth from flowing away from you!

by Anjie Cho 


Q&A Sunday: Goldfish for Feng Shui

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A few months ago I bought fish tank. I started with nine goldfish. Last week, three died, and I replaced them. After two more have died, one orange and one black, I now have four goldfish left. According to Vaastu/Feng Shui, are we supposed to keep nine goldfish and one black fish, or eight goldfish and one black fish? I was also told to keep my 37 gallon tank in the North corner of my house. Can I keep fewer fish or get an extra, smaller tank and put three fish in that tank to make total of nine?

Vana R., Brampton, Ont.

Hi Vana, 

Thank you for your question! Before we begin, it might be helpful for you to look at two of our previous answers, Question of the Month: What About Goldfish? and Q&A Sunday: A Feng Shui Aquarium. You may find useful information there as well.

In your specific situation, my intuition tells me the true issue isn't necessarily about how many goldfish you have or how big your tank is. Life isn't isn't always about following rules tightly or too loosely. In Buddhism and in feng shui, we have the concepts of being tight and loose. If you're too tight, you follow things too closely. If you're too loose, you don't follow closely enough. I am feeling that you are too tight.

Fortunately, you can take a lesson from the flow of the water in the aquarium and be a little looser in your life. It's good that these questions are coming up, because you're curious and dedicated to shifting things. But there is also a tightness coming across. I can be a very tight person too, but just like with the strings of an instrument, if they're too taut, the music isn't right. If they're too slack, the music isn't right either. It's about finding and feeling the balance.

One of the reasons one may want to use an aquarium in the home, at least in BTB feng shui, is to add more flexibility, flow and openness, like water. This is the feeling I'm getting from your question, so I encourage you to look at what is appropriate for you, rather than what the "rules" dictate. In an aquarium, the water is always circulating and moving. It's a metaphor for creating a flow and resisting getting stuck or creating solid rules.

Another thought, ask yourself why those fish died. Did they die because you weren't taking care of them, or was it an accident? Did they die randomly, or were they perhaps not high quality fish? I think it's important to really consider these factors.

The answers to that question will help with the next part, which is figuring out what's best for you and your lifestyle. What size aquarium works best for YOUR space? If you've worked with a Vaastu or feng shui practitioner, and they recommended keeping the tank in the North corner, go with what they advised. It is worth noting that 37 gallons is considered a medium size tank, so if it seems like it's a bit much for you to keep up with, you might want to try a smaller option. It may help to go back to your practitioner and ask why they made the original recommendation and if you can downsize. I can't really advise on this, since practitioners are all very different, but I recommend looking at whether this size is appropriate for you. Keeping fish in your space can be good feng shui, but if you can't maintain them, it could defeat the purpose. 

In your case, it seems that you actually want to try a smaller tank. You can definitely keep fewer than nine fish. In one of the previous questions about goldfish mentioned above, I do share that three is also a good number for fish, but I can't give you a solid answer here, because I feel it's something you need to challenge yourself with. Don't try to just follow the rules and be super tight; really look at what works best for you and add some looseness. Return to the practitioner you originally saw for advice. What was the reasoning behind their recommendations? I also suggest looking for a bit more openness, looseness and flow in your life. That could help you to find the answer you're looking for.

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


Holistic Spaces Podcast, Episode 051: Creativity and Feng Shui with Laura Morris

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5 Ways to Embrace the Summer Solstice

It's officially summer! As of today, the 2017 summer solstice, we've moved from spring to summer and are welcoming the fire season after a cold winter! The earth will travel its closest to the sun today, bringing longer days, warmer weather and the official beginning of a new season in the northern hemisphere. We're always fans of the summer season, and in feng shui terms, it's a great time to refresh your space and prepare the coming fire element. Here are our favorite ways to switch to summer in a holistic space!

Clear Your Space

I recommend space clearings on a regular basis to my feng shui clients. They are great ways to refresh the energy in your home, send stagnant energy on its way and welcome positive qi to your space. There are any number of ways to clear the space, but I prefer the BTB feng shui orange peels method or our Holistic Spaces white sage mist during the summer months! The Space white sage spray is finally back in stock, and it's also perfect to travel with during the summer. You don't always want to burn sage when you're staying away from home, so the mist is a brilliant way to clear the space of that guest room without setting off any alarms!

Clean Out Your Closet

We all know the value of closet space, and though it might be necessary to leave out a few warmer pieces for the spring season, summer is hot and vibrant, and it's the ideal time to pack away those winter clothes and make space for light, comfortable summer clothes. You may even find there are clothes you haven't worn that you can get rid of! Each piece of clothing that leaves your space leaves room for a new, quality piece you love. Check out some of our past posts about cleaning out the closet!

Stock Up on Fruits and Veggies

Just as we change our eating habits at the beginning of fall, winter and spring, the summer season brings with it a new list of optimal foods, most notably raw fruits and veggies. With the rise of the heat, fruits and veggies offer a healthy, nutritious way to cool the body, and many (think lettuce, watermelon) even contain a high amount of water to help combat the fire season! My favorite thing is to make watermelon juice. Be sure to juice the rind, too! Watermelon rind contains a wealth of nutrients not found in other fruits and can even help improve blood circulation! 

Swap Out Design Accessories

If you changed up your holistic space to get cozy during the cooler months, it's time to switch back to breezy, cooling accessories for your space. Replace darker colors with light blues, greens and pastels; swap heavy drapes for thin curtains; opt for airy, organic linens and maybe even throw in a few summer-themed pillows! Check out our next My Favorite Things post for our favorite summer design accessories.

Add the Water Element

June is the peak of the fire season, and the best way to balance out excess fire is to add water. You can do this by adding actual water, kidney shaped items, dark blues and blacks and representations of water. Check out my favorite ways to add water to a space!

by Anjie Cho


Q&A Sunday: Can a Mirror Face a Window?

I wanted to verify something with you if you're willing. Is it bad placement to have a mirror face a window? Thank you!

Lisa R., NYC

 

Hi Lisa

Thanks for writing in, and what a great question! Mirrors are used a lot in feng shui, and there’s often much confusion as to how to use them. In this case, no it is not “bad” or unfavorable to have a mirror face a window. In fact, it can be an auspicious placement.

In general, mirrors can symbolize and bring in water energy in areas of your spaces that lack water. An example would be if you have a fireplace (fire energy) in the Abundance (earth) area. Adding a mirror is one of the numerous ways to add water energy to tone down the fire. 

Another use for mirrors is that they can expand, extend space. For instance, if you have a toilet or bathroom in an inauspicious location such as the Fame gua (fire), then you can place a mirror on the outside of the door so that the bathroom energetically “disappears”. The reflection in the mirror expands or extends what’s reflected into the Fame area where the toilet sits.

Another example that answers your question specifically is an adjustment I personally have in my office. I have a convex mirror above the Abundance area of my desk. It reflects the image of my window, where there is a view of the East River. I have the mirror specifically reflecting the window and image of water, to bring that water (Wealth & Abundance) energy across the Knowledge, New Beginnings and Abundance areas of my desk. This brings in so much auspicious qi for my business. I also have something similar in the kitchen, where a convex mirror reflects the window and view of water over my stove. The stove represents wealth so this increases that energy of prosperity, as well as adjusting my stove location!

So, no it's not "bad" for a mirror to face a window! 

As in many cases with feng shui, the adjustment really just depends on the person and situation. If the circumstances mentioned above are similar to yours, the choice to face a mirror towards a window may well be auspicious, but if you aren't sure or have doubts, feel free to follow up or book a 15-minute consultation call!

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


Holistic Spaces Podcast, Episode 042: Clutter and Five Elements with Katherine Metz, Part 1

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Holistic Spaces Podcast, Episode 031: Nine Star Holiday Dynamics with Rosalie Prinzivalli

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My Favorite Things: 6 Sacred Art Must-Haves

Welcome to My Favorite Things! Each month, we highlight products to help you create a holistic lifestyle that inspires and nurtures you, so that you can be happier and feel supported.

Last month we talked with my Tibetan Buddhist art teacher, Carmen Mensink, on the podcast. Carmen shared her experience with sacred art and how we can use it to enhance our holistic spaces, so this month, I wanted to share my favorite ways to do just that! Whether you're an experienced artist, a beginner or just a fan of pretty pieces, these six items will help make your house into a holistic home filled with intention and inspiration


Tibetan Buddhist Art

As we shared last month on the podcast, Carmen Mensink is a talented artist with many beautiful pieces of Tibetan Buddhist art, including painted thangkas like this one. 

Each thangka contains deep symbolism and is an original piece of art by Carmen. This one is the Medicine Buddha, the embodiment of the buddha's healing qualities, both physically and mentally.

I encourage you to take a look through Carmen's work to find a thangka that embodies what you need most in your life and space!

Available at: Tibetan Buddhist Art


Planet Mandala Coloring Book

This coloring book is the work of one of my other teachers, Mavis Gewant. Mavis is a highly trained sacred arts teacher with whom I practice the art of yantra painting. 

Yantra mandalas are my favorite form of meditation, and this coloring books makes them easy for those with any artistic skill level! Mavis even includes color guides for each mandala as well as a duplicate so you can try out the colors of your intuition. 

Among all the trendy coloring books on the market for adults, this is one of my favorites and is a great way to engage in sacred art and meditation to find inspiration and peace. 

Available at: Amazon


Buddhist Art Coloring Book

Another beautiful option for adult coloring books, these Buddhist art coloring books by Robert Beer put each of us in Carmen's seat...sort of. 

Though we may not all be talent and well-practiced like Carmen, we can each indulge in the sacred Tibetan Buddhist art form through this unique coloring book! 

Not only does the book provide an accessible route to sacred art meditation, it's a great way to produce some art to display in your holistic space, even if you can't draw a stick figure! 

Available at: Amazon


Prismacolor Blenders

I love Prismacolor pencils. They're absolutely wonderful for use in coloring books and other sacred art.

Maybe the best invention ever for coloring is the blender pencil, and these Prismacolors are my favorite. 

Blender pencils blend separate colors together so well, giving work a beautiful look. The only thing better than sacred art is stunning sacred art!

Available at: Amazon


Tibetan Calligraphy Book

Another of my favorite ways to meditate is through calligraphy. This book is a great way to practice Tibetan calligraphy, even if you're not skilled in the art or even familiar with the Tibetan language. 

Sacred calligraphy is a great way to learn to let go, and you can even pair this guide with a Buddha board to keep your practice neat and add the water element to your space!

Available at: Amazon


Sacred Mandalas

Like the sacred Tibetan thangkas in Carmen's portfolio, mandalas are also a fantastic, symbolic way to add meaningful art to your space. 

Our shop has many varieties of sacred mandalas to match whatever area might be lacking in your life. This Jupiter yantra brings expansion and illumination and is wonderful as a feng shui adjustment to a holistic space. 

Try out our Mandala Matchmaker to find the best sacred mandala for you and your space!

Available at: Holistic Spaces



Feng Shui for Your New Apartment, Round 2

Last month we talked moving into a brand new place, clearing the space, laying the bagua and more. Of course, there are many small feng shui adjustments we can make when turning a new apartment into a holistic, nourishing home - so many it's a bit much to cover in one post! So this week we're back with a few more tips on saying "Hello!" to your new home in feng shui-style. 

Add Nine Plants

Yes, nine! It may seem like a big number, but adding plants to your new space is a great way to welcome more life energy. Plants symbolize the Wood element in feng shui, which relates to new beginnings, life, joy and flexibility, all of which are wonderful for creating a new holistic space. Plants also bring nature into your home, which has been proven to increase quality of life, and work tirelessly to enhance indoor air quality. Why nine? It's the most auspicious number in feng shui!

Add a Welcome Mat

Plants welcome positive energy into your spaces, but they aren't the only way. Pick up a black "Welcome" mat, about the same width as your door, and place it at the main entrance to your new home. Keeping a welcoming entrance is great not only for you, when you come home, as well as your guests, but also for positive chi! Black is the most absorbent of all colors and can attract, absorb and transfer positive energy into your holistic space. In addition, black is representative of the Water element, which can increase career success when used in this area.

Fill in Cabinet Space

We're not talking the inside of cabinets, here. Depending on how the kitchen and bathroom are designed in your new apartment, you may or may not have empty space between the top of your cabinets and the ceiling. If you do, it's important to pay attention to these areas, as they can serve as a space for dead energy. Dead or stagnant energy in your spaces can manifest itself as problems with health and prosperity, and no one wants that! To adjust for this, add a plant (maybe one of the nine mentioned above!) or a personal item to this space to transform it into a place of positive energy. 

Hopefully your new apartment is starting to feel more and more like a holistic space every day! These feng shui tips are pretty easy to implement but can make such a huge impact! If you've just moved and are trying out these adjustments, please share your experience and / or send us photos. We love to see the difference feng shui makes in your lives. :) And don't forget to keep an eye out for the final set of feng shui tips for your new space!

by Anjie Cho