When I was twenty-one, living in Los Angeles and doing the waitress-actress thing, I made a friend named Linda at a restaurant where we both worked. She was a spitfire- a smack talking, no B.S. taking, teasing, fun-loving career server 7 years older than I.  She was one of those people who went out of her way to make others feel important, cared about, and rooted for. Droves of loyal customers would book reservations with Linda specifically, knowing she’d take great care of them, and even remember their special occasions and decorate their tables. She subscribed to a “what’s mine is yours” mindset through and through. She loaned her car out to my boyfriend & I weekly so we wouldn’t have to take public transportation to go on dates, handed over keys to her apartment to whoever needed them, and gave away anything anyone admired, no matter how valuable. She was also my greatest cheerleader. In the few times my face hit the big screen, even for a few seconds, Linda would rally a troop of supporters, fill up rows of seats, and scream like crazy. She was beautiful inside and out, with a gorgeous long mane of hair.

Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years after we met, had surgery, went through treatment, and lost her hair. And in spite of giving it everything she had, of having a troop of her own cheerleaders, and amazing doctors who tried everything they could, she lost the battle at only 32 years old. She left an indelible mark on many hearts, including mine.

A few of years ago I began growing my hair to donate in honor of Linda to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. They create wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments.  But I have to confess that as life got hard, my hair became a security blanket of sorts and I’ve had a hard time letting it go, or even cutting it. It seems out of character- I’m a gal who’s shaved/cropped her hair twice, has had every color and length of hair, often short, and yet here I am rivaling Crystal Gayle in the name of security. But then again, I think it speaks to exactly why it’s important for me to donate. As Pantene states on their site: “A real-hair wig allows a woman to look in the mirror and at least see a familiar face while she fights to regain a sense of normalcy in her life.” My challenges don’t have to be as big as battling cancer for me to relate to the idea that sometimes it’s not “just hair.” And in the end I think I can help someone and still feel like myself…perhaps even more like myself.

So I made an appointment for yesterday, Earth Day. I thought the day was a good one, as by donating my hair (recycling!) I’ll use less water and hair products, which also means less waste or recycling of hair product bottles. This Crystal Gayle impersonator has some atoning to do after all. ;)

So here’s how it went:

My awesome hair stylist Tracy whom I- ahem- hadn’t seen in awhile, measured my hair and then snipped off some split ends

She added a hair band (donated hair must be bound) making sure there was at least 8 inches of hair beneath it

Whack! Tracy made the cut above the hair band

Voila! 9 inches of hair ready to donate

I got to check out my new do after just a little more snip snip, wash, and blow dry

Then I went to an Earth Day birthday party, where friends and I wished the new owner of my hair a full and speedy recovery and a long, happy, healthy life.

There are a handful of organizations you can donate hair to, but I chose Pantene Beautiful Lengths because they provide women’s wigs free of charge to the American Cancer Society, who also provides resources and emotional support. They felt like the best fit for honoring Linda. Their minimum ponytail donation length is 8 inches (other organizations range from 8-12 inches) and you don’t have to be a woman to donate.

It felt so good to do, I really wish I hadn’t waited so long, and I’m sure I will do it again. And it doesn’t take nearly as much as you might think. For example, donating another 8-inch ponytail now would still leave me with a chin-length bob.  In other words, you don’t have to have Crystal Gayle hair to donate. ;)

So what do you think? Ready to shed 8 inches or more? Or maybe you already have? Tell me about it!

In the wake of my separation, I temporarily began spare-bedroom hopping and relying on friends, public transportation or my own two feet to get where I wanted to go. And while incredibly grateful for it all, I craved the ability to have my new independence reflected in all parts of my life without having to commit to more permanence than I was interested in. I wanted a little space of my own and I wanted a way to get around to be free and see loved ones.  And then one day I had a crazy thought. It came in an instant, and felt like it took over my whole face. You know that part in the Grinch that stole Christmas when the Grinch gets the “wonderful awful idea” to pose as Santa Claus and steal Christmas from Whoville? That one right there < ? Well, kind of like that…except that this green gal uses her ideas for good rather than evil ;)

The seed for this idea was planted long ago, when I was an actress in Hollywood. I worked with a cute young guy on many sets, he became a friend, and I was fascinated with him. He had the simplest life. He lived in his car- a station wagon of some sort- with just a cooler on the floor at the passenger seat and a bar between the front and back seats to hang his clothes.  He worked, like many of us did, on different sets every day, and between the craft service table, free meals, and long hours, he didn’t have to worry about buying food or even having a place to hang out. And with a gym membership to shower and stay healthy, he was pretty well set up.  It was the freedom- the unencumbered nature of his lifestyle- and the adventure of it that appealed to me.

Over the years I’ve thought of him and wondered how long he ended up doing that. I’ve often mentioned to friends in those “would you ever?” conversations how while I wouldn’t want to have to live in a car, I think I’d want to, to see what it was like. As I got older, fewer and fewer friends would agree and more and more would say I was crazy.

I’ve also become a much more environmentally aware person in the last decade, and began following the tiny house movement and minimalist and green lifestyle proponents. I started reading Natural Home Magazine, and oodles of books and websites, eating up info and using what I’d learned to renovate our fixer-upper house and try to create a smaller footprint.

So it was, fresh off a split from a ten year marriage, of giving up a house and most of my possessions with a plan to give up more when the dust settled, when I was craving all that I’ve mentioned here, that this crazy thought would nearly topple me with excitement…my eureka! moment.

I want to live in a vehicle. Not just travel in a vehicle, but live in a vehicle. A space in which I can live, work and travel with all, or at least most, of what I own. I told my friend Leslie, who studies sustainable systems my plan. She loved it. “But it can’t be some big, ugly old, gas-guzzling thing that makes me feel like divorce is leaving me destitute!” I said. Or absolutely kills my budget for that matter. She cracked up, knowing that I am debt-free (aside from the house we’re likely selling that Francisco currently pays for) and have good savings. “It has to be CUTE and GREEN!” I went on. At some point, with a slip of a tongue (Leslie’s) cute and green became CREEN, and with that portmanteau as my umbrella criteria I began the hunt that led me here

Where we gleefully agreed that this 1976 Toyota Chinook was most definitely creen. How?

SHE PUTS THE GREEN IN CREEN:

She’s Used (but not used up!)- buying a vehicle produced 35 years ago means the large carbon debt to manufacture it has long since been paid. And speaking of debt, the real kicker is that I own my car (house!) outright, and it cost less than my MacBook Pro. Yes, really!

Her Emissions are Low- she passed California’s strict smog test with flying colors.

She’s Fuel Efficient- the Toyota Chinook is one of the tiniest RVs ever made, with a 4-cylinder engine that according to vintage ads got a whopping 29 miles per gallon, and still gets around 25. That’s fantastic for an RV, and rivals that of many new economy cars. Of course buying a used diesel RV and doing a veggie-oil conversion would be greener, but that was way too cost-prohibitive for me at this time.  But I really, really want to do that in the future!

Her Condition is Good- the interior living space, the coach, is in remarkably good shape for it’s age, so I’m able to lightly modify and not tear out and redo. That keeps material out of the landfill and means I have to purchase fewer replacement supplies.

She’s Off the Grid- she’s what is referred to in the RV world as “self-contained,” meaning that she doesn’t need to be plugged into a campsite’s utilities to be functional for living. She’s an independent lady. ;) She has a functional 2 burner stove, a small refrigerator and a heater that all run off a clean-burning efficient propane tank, a sink with potable water storage, a camping toilet, and an extra deep-cycle battery that powers the coach electricity and recharges while driving.

She’s Tiny- the coach is less than 50 square feet- smaller than the average bathroom in the U.S.- which means I’m forced to have less stuff and consume less energy.

SHE PUTS THE CUTE IN CREEN:

This, of course, is totally subjective, but think she’s really cute and I have a low-waste, eco-friendly vintage decorating plan that will make her even cuter.

OTHER THINGS I CONSIDERED:

Safety- buying this RV, where I can jump from my bed to the driver’s seat without going outside, rather than a truck hauling a vintage trailer (which I adore!) felt like the safer option for this solo gal and my intended use.

Ease of Driving- as I said, she’s tiny, is an automatic, only 16 feet bumper to bumper, and small and narrow enough to easily fit in a compact parking space or single car garage.

Stealth- being so small and looking similar to a truck with a cab makes her less conspicuous than a big RV or truck & trailer, and will hopefully enable me to park and sleep (dry camp) wherever I want and blend in.

So now that the Chinook and I have found each other, in the next couple of months I’ll be getting her ready to be my new home. We’ll then take off on a big adventure through the U.S. and parts of Canada until my free flight benefits start in 2012. Stay tuned for more details about the eco-renovation, how I’m prepared (or not) to live in 50 square feet, what environmentally-minded antics I’ll be getting us into on the road, and where we’ll, and then I’ll, be going in the next couple of years. :)

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