This is a piece I did a few years back.

Tirza Hollenhorst

Tirza Hollenhorst has led innovative projects in communities, businesses and non-profit organizations worldwide. Her insight and research has contributed to the success and sustainability of mission driven initiatives at the local and international level. Her work is rooted in an interdisciplinary approach and an coherent scientific, philosophical, and spiritual framework. As ifPeople’s President, she is building a professional services firm dedicated to the success of values-driven enterprises.

Living systems seek the conditions that support life. In your body toxins are sequestered or removed, wastes are eliminated and wounds are healed. If you listen carefully your body seeks out the activities, foods, and positions that support peace, and movement in the body. In ecosystems the same things happen, toxic metals are buried in the earth, wastes are cycled, and uprooted earth soon become covered with plants. Life is intelligent. Whether you call it god, consciousness, or nature, this intelligence guides living systems toward sustainability.

Daily we find ourselves knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly making decisions that in small ways destroy our planet and our bodies – pesticides in the backyard, petroleum fueled commutes, carcinogens in our shampoo. While society makes these choices seem easy and necessary, we know that they are wrong. Continuously making choices that do not support life drains us of energy. Exhausted, many of us look at a more sustainable life as requiring even more energy. Composting, washing bags, buying in bulk – sounds like effort. But living in alignment with the intelligence of life does not require more work and it does not require a minimalist lifestyle. Here’s why.

If you take a G-tuning fork and hold it to a well tuned guitar, the G-string will begin to vibrate. This is called resonance. A sound wave of large amplitude is produced by a relatively small vibration (the tuning fork) the same frequency of vibration as the natural frequency of the resonating system (the guitar). When your actions are coherent with your values, the same resonance occurs. Shifting your daily choices requires effort to change the inertia of habit, but then resonance takes over. Composting, washing bags, buying in bulk are small actions that require only a moment of attention. Then, garbage day you realize that your can is practically empty, while your neighbor struggles to close the lid. The energy that comes will propel you forward and you will want to bring even more of your life into alignment.

Making choices that support life, does require that you raise your consciousness enough to see the impact of your decisions. At first this will require the painful breaking of habits and lessons learned from a media society. There are a few changes to begin living more sustainabley that are easy and provide the most momentum going forward.

Composting -Composting is the best was to increase your awareness of one of the most fundamental truths of living systems, “waste = food”. In all living systems what is waste from one process is nutrients for another. Recently, humans have broken the cycle by creating durable materials which cannot or are not reused and by removing biological nutrients from living systems and disposing of them in landfills. Composting is a simple way to bring your kitchen scraps and garden clippings back into the natural cycle. For apartments and those with small yards, I recommend buying a compost bin.. Bins can accelerate the process and keep waste free of pests. In large yards you can build your own bin. See www.greenhome.com and http://www.recyclenow.com/home_composting/ for bins and information. Even apartment dwellers can use there compose for herb beds and house plants. Witnessing the transformation of carrot peelings into dirt, helps everyone in the family understand how natural cycles work. An understanding of systems may even motivate everyone to get involved in recycling TV’s and aluminum cans so they become “food” for other industrial cycles.

Eliminate toxins – Replace cleaning and personnel care products with non-toxic alternatives. Most household cleaners and many personnel care products contain chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment. Non-toxic cleaners can be expensive. Shop around for the best prices and begin by making simple effective cleaners from lemon, baking soda, borax, and olive oil. Learn about harmful chemicals found in shampoo,deodorant,and lotions at http://www.safecosmetics.org/. Be aware that once you have made the switch to non-toxic products, your body may resist going back. When you look under the sink and see a small selection of simple, effective cleaners that treat your home, your family, and the earth gently, the relief and joy may even prompt you to take a look at your gardening products.

Buy organic produce and bulk dry goods. The switch to organic produce comes with a sticker shock, especially here in Georgia where we have few local organic farms. You can control costs by buying in season and shopping farmers markets. Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In a CSA you buy a share of a farmers harvest. You will receive a box of fresh organic produce every week. Buying organic not only keeps pesticides and chemical fertilizers out of our streams and off your diner table, organic produce is more nutritious and simply tastes better. To keep your grocery bill in check, by dry goods in bulk. Bulk sections allow you try a variety of new products, buying only what you need. Bulk is significantly cheaper and you reduce your packaging waste. You will find it easier and more fun to create nutritious meal in a well stocked kitchen. With tomorrow’s beans soaking on the counter and a stock from yesterdays leftover veggies bubbling on the stove, an organic kitchen becomes a wellspring of delicious food.

After making these changes, you might be surprised to find yourself asking what’s next, how can I make more decisions that support life. This question will be answered differently by everyone, for some it is reducing their dependence on oil for electricity and transportation, for others it is growing their own food, for me what came next was building a business that is coherent with my values. I was inspired by two books written by Paul Hawken, “Growing a Business” and “The Ecology of Commerce”. Hawken taught me that business is both the cause and solution to much of the world’s environmental destruction.

My company ifPeople provides information technology and consulting. When I founded the business I began to look around for models of how technology firm could be sustainable and contribute to the healing of the earth. I did not find many examples and so we invented our own model. Three years later we are an organization of 30 and nearly everything we do runs contrary to what is expected of a technology firm. We are a carbon neutral company, offsetting the greenhouse gases we produce in travel and paper use by planting trees. We have an organic growth curve fueled by a business model built for continuous innovation, not a quick sell. We believe that the people who use the our technology should be our central focus, not what we can sell the quickest.. It is not easy to challenge the system. Everyday when I come it to work and see the piles of things to do and say, “Hello beautiful business” I know that I am nourished by a vibrant business that is working everyday to support all life.


Tonight I went to the first meeting for 2010 of the Mushroom Club of Georgia. It was my first meeting (thanks for Robert Hamilton for pointing me towards the group), and I felt at home right away. The room we were in was packed (apparently there was word that morel season is about to start and everyone wanted to know more!). I went to learn about the club and they did a nice overview presentation, with many members giving insight into what they do, including:

  • Walks: this is definitely the highlight. Wander in the woods with knowledgeable folks and collect mushrooms, identify species, etc. The first hike is on April 3, free and open to all. Most walks are members only though, so be sure to join.
  • Educational meetings: the club meets on the second Thursday of the month and has informative talks. Next month includes a biochemist talking about how medicinal mushrooms actually work.
  • Fun events: there is an annual event for southeastern groups on Oconee. Everyone who went had a hard time describing it but clearly enjoyed it massively!

I’m looking forward to my first walk and am hoping to go on April 3.

At the meeting, I found I had something to contribute so I figured that meant I should share. I’ve had some exposure to mushroom identification and collecting, thanks to some friends, and tonight I even got some further backing for what I learned about a medicinal mushroom from a health practitioner, so here goes…

Turkey Tale Tea!

Turkey Tales are an incredibly common mushroom, even in the city. It’s easy to identify, gorgeous, and medicinal.

Note that the underside of Turkey Tails are pourous (not gills) and are white.

The easiest way I know of to access the medicine of turkey tails (believed to be a general anti-viral and anti-bacterial) is by boiling. The recipe, known as Turkey Tail Tea, is easy – just throw a handfull of Turkey Tail mushrooms into a crock pot and let simmer for 48-72 hours. After that point the good medicines are released. Just get a cup and drink!

I was amazed the first time I had this – these mushrooms are very pleasant and have a mild, nutty, aromatic taste. Drink some and stay healthy!

I wrote an article a while back on the impact of changing yeast choice on the economics of homebrewing. That certainly is a theme I’m brining into the blog and today I found some more goodies on the subject.

Today I pulled a couple samples off of two brews that are almost ready. While searching quickly for a alcohol % calculator (I found this ABV one here and found out that my beers are 5.4% and 5.8%…but into the later I poured 16 oz of bourbon!) and in the process found:

  • Pie charts breaking down distribution of costs in homebrewing vs commercial brewing. Most annoying part:
  • “The relative cost of commercial beer to the consumer is 70% marketing, packaging, and taxes!”

  • A breakeven analysis for homebrewing to help you see – based on the complexity of your setup – how many batches it takes to start saving more by doing it yourself, even if you spend a lot on a setup. Highlight:
  • "If you just want to make ales, you can break even after only four batches. Some starter kits are so cheap, you can break even after less, but the more ‘tools’ the more fun and the easier the job becomes."

    Note to self…using bourbon as an ingredient in beer does not improve the economics of homebrewing.

    Note to self 2…investigate making bourbon 😀

    On Outrage

    At several key moments of my life I have consciously and clearly chosen the path of positive solution.  I have witnessed and selected not to go down the path of activism, protest, and litigation, preferring to dedicate my life to creation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration.  I would rather design new ways of being than to fight against poor choices. But lately I find myself being called to express outrage.

    Outrage, not anger. Outrage has an element of surprise, of innocence. To be outraged is to be dumbfounded by a pattern of behavior. Anger comes from a place of judgment. Outrage from compassion. Anger moves to violence and no positive change can be made from a place of violence. You may train a child to obey through violence, but you simply cannot teach a child to make right, wise and joyous choices with violence.

    If we can accept that there are basic principles that support the conditions for life, that life creates the conditions for life, it a matter of calling on life’s intelligence to see that some human behaviors are not acceptable. This is not a matter of judgment. Judgment relies on morality, on what is right and wrong. Life’s intelligence makes no distinction between what is right or wrong, only what supports the conditions for life.

    My first experience of outrage was when I learned about “pollution”. I remember learning the word at about 6. My second grade reader had story about the future with dark, smoky illustrations of skies that could never be bright. Almost all the in the school readers at that time had one such story way in the back. Most teachers never taught that story, but at that time of my life I read everything. When I understood that the adults around me were actually allowing poison to be released into water and air, I was outraged.

    At about 8, while with a babysitter we watched some of the China Syndrome. With little elegance, the sitter explained to me the nuclear bomb. I was contemplating this new knowledge at the playground with my regular afternoon sitter. She came over to find out what I was brooding about alone. I told her about my concern. She explained to be the concept of shared mutual destruction, assuring me that no one would push the button because the other side would too. I thought that was a ridiculous argument. But of course I said nothing. It would take a very special person to listen to an 8 year olds argument against their beliefs. The issue in my mind was not whether we are going to be wiped out by an enemy. The issue is that it is simply outrageous that we would even conceive of creating a nuclear bomb in the first place.

    Somethings that I find outrageous

    • Hormone disruptors
    • Child trafficking
    • Slavery
    • The cutting of what remains of our old growth forests
    • Nuclear bombs

    I made a commitment this year to turn outrage into action. I know that I must speak out. I will put my voice behind existing efforts. I am not an 8 year old afraid of challenging adults and I will not just watch in outrage.

    At this past Evolver Atlanta meeting, I presented a brief overview of how the Mayan Sacred Calendar (Tzolin) can provide insight on how you relate to others in the community. The calendar itself contains an amazing amount of information, and when we change the layout, we get an easier way to view the different overlaps with others. In particular, we arrange the Clans into a vertical arrangement (4 vertical columns – one for each clan – side by side). The upper right corner is Ahau (yellow Sun) and the bottom right corner is Cauac (blue storm).

    Here’s a quick overview of the 3 dimensions of collaboration that emerge with this view:

    1. Partners

    If you are in the same column with someone, you are in the same Clan. Those in the same Clan create the same type of energy. These are thus your Partners, the people you work with.

    Partners are those in the same clan (vertical column) with you

    2. Friends

    If you are in the same row as someone else, you play the same role in the tree of your clan. These are your friends and you speak the same language. You can get together to share experiences and thus learn to do your job better.


    Those in the same row as you are your friends and speak the same language.

    3. Play mates

    If you share the same color tools with someone else, you make good play mates. You play together to sharpen your skills. The tools are the same color across the diagonals of the signs.


    If you have the same color tools as someone, you can play together to sharpen your tools.

    If you’d like to learn more about this, please see the writeup here.

    If you’d like us to prepare a Tzolin Personal card for you with all the information about where you fit in, you can sign up for one here.

    Saturday 23, 2010  I am out into the cold morning and off to pick up Carter.  Alon didn’t sleep well last night and I feel like I didn’t sleep at all.  No time for coffee, if this sale is anything like the Trees Atlanta sale its going to be packed when it opens at 9.  We arrive at the Food Bank and 9:10 and there are mobs of people.  Surely all these people are not here for the tree sale?  But surely the Food Bank would not schedule another event for today.  The Organizational Change Alliance has their meeting inside starting at 10 and thats enough to ask of one parking lot.

    Crossing the street, it was clear that all those people were here for the tree sale.  I went straight for the persimmons and pomegranates that were my reason for coming – gone.  Sold out at 9:15. I grab a plum tree and look around raspberries – sold, blueberries- not a trace, pawpaws – gone.   I am not committing to apples or pears unless I know a lot about the variety and the root stock. I have about 1/8 of an acre for fruit trees and thats not much space if I plant full size trees.

    Almost all fruit trees are made of two different trees – the root stock and the cultivar.  The root stock is chosen for its hardiness and its size.  The tree will only grow as big as the root stock allows.  Put a Macintosh apple cultivar on full size root stock you get an apple tree that will get a tree that is 20-40 feet tall.  Put the same cultivar on a semi-dwarf or dwarf root stock and you keep the tree to as small as 4-6 feet. I prefer to put in small trees and have more variety.

    So I took my plum (a pollinator friend for a plum I already own) and got into the long, long line.  Waiting was no bore, because I ran into at least a dozen friends.  Even people I don’t know were coming up to me and saying hello.  ALFI wisely set up a line for ordering trees to be delivered next week.  I would have ordered 4 times more, but I am going to SOCON 10.  So I bought my plum and headed over to Cafe Campesino’s booth to get my cup of coffee.  They just opened a shop selling organic, shade-grown, fairtrade coffee in the Atlanta Curbside Market.

    I spoke with Kyla after the sale.  She says that the sale was so successful ALFI will be able to hire a full time employee next year.  The difference between being an all volunteer organization and being having a single employee is a massive step for an organization.  It allows for consistancy of communication, planning, and volunteer organizing.   Orders may be up to 5 times the amount of plant material sold the day of the sale.  Amazing.

    Heres what I think ALFI did right

    1. Well designed invitation.  With a catchy title, neutral but attractive colors and clear information.  I saw this invite on a lot of different websites, on Facebook and in emails from several friends.

    2. Fiscal sponsorship.  ALFI is not an independent organization.  It is a project with fiscal sponsorship from Georgia Organics, this means that the project operates under the umbrella of GO.  All of ALFIs money must go through GO.  GO probably takes a small percentage to cover bookkeeping and accounting expenses.  ALFI doesn’t have to set up its own legal entity.  I am a huge fan of fiscal sponsorship.  It creates synergies and helps prevent duplication of efforts.  It also slows the outrageous proliferations of nonprofit organizations occuring now.

    3. Grow it Yourself.   ALFI hit the message right on.  Grow it yourself, Do it yourself, Take care of yourself. People are looking for self-reliance.  The recent turbulence in the economy and the growing instability of the globe has people seeking more control over their lives.  Whether its growing their own food, doing home improvment projects, or taking control  of their investments, people are taking charge of their lives.

    4. Organization.  This event was well organized right from the start.  They had clear lists of which trees they would have.  At the event they had pre-printed order forms and booklets of information about the trees.

    5. Tap into communities. ALFI got their invite and messages firmly planted into different communities. If 3 of your friends are going to the same event, you might as well go also.  They successfully tapped several functioning communities including local food fanatics, community gardeners, tree planters, and food bank supporters.

    May all the baby trees be blessed with a well dug hole, regular watering, and safe passage through their first year.

    For the last several years, many in the Atlanta tribe have been exposed to the Mayan Sacred calendar, or Tzolkin. There have been some great teachers in the area over these years and we have come to understand that the calendar is a gateway to effective collaboration and provides the insight to how we work together and relate to one another. With the looming concerns about 2012, there’s no better time than now to get to work as a community! We’re already working to make the world a better place and now we want to expand our impact by growing the circle.

    I would like to invite you to join in this process in and around Atlanta. We have a number of nodes in our network already and we need to expand the number of participants and organizers.

    • To participate, all you need is to show up with open heart and willingness to learn and engage with others locally. You will need to know your places on the calendar and we ask that you make a contribution to support the effort (which will also get you all the info you need about where you are in the calendar!).
    • To help organize, all you need is a willingness to participate by learning a little about how the calendar works and keeping up to 5 other people updated about timings. The idea is that you will help these people get together during times of collaboration for work, play or conversation (depending on where you want to work!).

    To join up and stay in touch with events, please fan the Nomadslounge facebook page and join us for one of our upcoming events.

    To get started right away with your contribution to the community and get your calendar reading, please follow the link here (and click the Google Checkout button to complete).