Sunday, December 30, 2007

Another Piece to the Puzzle

I'm about 2/3 of the way through Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The book has got me thinking about organic food (which I have been buying some, but not all, in the past few months), sustainability, small farms, shopping locally, growing a vegetable garden this summer, and it's got me thinking about a lot of other things, too.

This is another part of the whole green puzzle that my family and I are putting together. I've been focusing on recycling and conserving energy over the past few months. Now I feel called to incorporate buying as much local, organic food as I'm capable of and starting a vegetable garden this summer. 

When I asked my five year old what kind of vegetables he would like to grow in a garden this summer, he said he wanted to grow a carrot tree. Both he and I have a lot to learn about growing food, but I'm looking forward to learning about it with both of my boys and my husband. 

It's two days until the new year. I'm thinking 2008 is going to year of a lot of new experiences for us.
Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Tis the Season to Freecycle

In my last post, I relayed how I was putting all of my shipping/packing materials left over from buying online onto Freecycle. Within 24 hours someone had come and picked it all up. I also was able to find someone who needed the kitty condo that our cat never uses. That was gone within 24 hours, too.

Over the next few days I'm going to doing what I always do the last couple of days of every year - going through the house looking for no longer used things to donate to Good Will. One last tax write off before the year ends. Every year there are things that can't go to Good Will because they don't accept them or they are too cumbersome to haul there. This year, I'm going to be freecycling those things instead of letting them sit around. As we make room for all the new things we got this Christmas, I'll be finding new homes for the things we no longer use but are still very useful. None of it will go to waste. None of it will end up in a landfill. 
Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Hate Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts have got to be on my top ten most annoying things ever list. Not only are they bad for the environment, they have malicious little minds of their own. They fly all over the place, stick my hands and my clothes, and take forever to scoop out of a box. There is no easy way to get a box full of packing peanuts emptied. And the entire time I'm trying to empty a box, my cat is jumping inside the box trying play.

Why this rant today? I just spent about 45 minutes gathering up all of the shipping boxes and packing materials that I had thrown in my downstairs shower (which no one ever uses) while getting ready for Christmas. I do a lot of shopping online. I'm always amazed at the huge box that one little CD can arrive in.

In the past, I've always recycled as much of the packing materials that I could, but this year I decided to go one step further. I've neatly put all the boxes, packing peanuts, air pillows, balled up paper, and anything else that can be used for packing/shipping together in the biggest shipping box and offered it all up on Freecycle. There has to be someone out there who sells on ebay or has other shipping needs who can use it all. This way, it can all get reused at least one more time before it is recycled.

Today is glass/plastic/paper pick up day in my town, and as I look down the block, I see tons of useful boxes put out at the curb. I'm not judging - it's being recycled and that 's a good thing. In the past, my curb would have looked just like the rest. But it feels good to know that I'm doing just a little bit to curb the waste instead of putting the waste out at the curb.
Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Picking Through the Trash

I wasn't prepared. I had been so busy in the days leading up to Christmas that I hadn't thought to plan ahead to make sure that all of the trash generated yesterday got disposed of properly. And I certainly was not of a clear enough mind when my husband and boys woke my up at 6am (hubby was up first and woke the boys - he's such a boy himself) to open gifts to make sure things got saved to recycle instead of thrown in trash bags. All of the wrapping paper and boxes that the toys and other gifts came in went in to one trash bag.

So today, I went through the trash bag and pulled stuff out. Yep. That's what I did. 

Next year, I'm going to make sure I'm prepared. And I'm putting it on my calendar for late next summer to query some publication about writing an article on being eco-conscious during the opening frenzy.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, December 14, 2007

Anyone want to gift wrap Manhattan?

I read this today on

If 40% of Americans used just 2 less sheets of gift wrap this season, we would save enough paper to gift wrap Manhattan.

We all wonder if the little bit we do each day really does make a difference. See. It does.
Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Expanding my Vocabulary

I read a new term the other day - greenwashing. It's when a company or an organization claims to be doing something green when in fact they aren't being very green at all. They are simply jumping on the green bandwagon since right now it's hip to be green.

Today I heard a commercial for the local mall. A husband and wife are talking about shopping. Wife says she's going to save the environment by doing all of her shopping in one place. She then goes on to name a gazillion products she's going to buy in that particular mall - products that of course are not helping the environmental problem at all. Her husband congratulates her on doing her part for the ecology.

My first thought - GREENWASHING! I was amazed at how quickly that word entered my vocabulary. So great, now with my constant nitpicking of commercials and advertisements - bad grammar and faulty logic abound everywhere - I'll be scrutinizing them for greenwashing.

It's a good term, it's just bad for someone with my idiosyncrasies.
Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, December 10, 2007

When it's Okay to Use Paper Products

We had a neighborhood Christmas cocktail party over the weekend. If you look our my back door right now the piles of beer and wine bottles along with the boxes they came in are enormous. They all must wait until Thursday for the recycling to be picked up.

We had so many people at the party, I simply did not have enough plates and cloth napkins to accomodate them. So this, I decided, is when it's okay to use paper products. I found festive Chinet plates that were made from recyclable materials and were biodegradable. I bought recycled paper napkins. I even brought the paper towels out from under the sink where I hide them out of site. I did use real silverware (well - not real silver, but you know what I mean). 

When I was planning the party, I started to think about how I could make the entire party green. I'm becoming known as the "green" expert in my circle of friends, and I didn't want to seem like a hypocrite by using paper products. But then I thought about how making the entire party green would be difficult. And I didn't want my party to be difficult - I wanted it to be fun. I didn't want to stress over planning it, and I didn't want to stress while the party was happening.

Part of what I write about is finding a way to make green fit my lifestyle. I know that if I don't, I'll probably give up somewhere along the way. So I decided to do the best I could. I made the decision to use some paper products, and you know what? In the end we used about 30 recycled, biodegradable plates, 50 recycled paper napkins, and perhaps 1/4 of  roll of paper towels. That is not so bad considering that the rest of the year, I'm very diligent about not using paper products.

So this Christmas season, as you are getting ready for guests, give yourself a break. If you must use some paper products, find the most eco-friendly ones you can, and then just let it go. Enjoy the party. 
Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What is Fair Trade Certified?

Have you noticed the "Fair Tade Certified" label on certain products at the grocery store like cofee or rice? Do you wonder what it's all about? Here's the basics:

Fair Trade Certified products must meet certain social and environmental standards. Those standards are:

Farmers are paid a fair price for their products and in turn those farmers pay their workers a fair wage for their labor

Workers must have decent working and living conditions. Forced child labor is prohibited.

Farmers must farm in a sustainable fashion - that includes farming organically.

The farmers must make investments in their local communities.

This process of fair trade raises the standard of living for the laborers and their communities all over the world. By buying Fair Trade Certified products, you are helping to contribute to the environmental and financial stability of people in developing nations.

This is, of course, a very simplified explanation of Fair Trade Certified. For more details, you can visit, the website for TransFair USA - the only independent, non-profit certification agency for Fair Trade products in the US. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is blog action day - One issue. One day. Thousands of voices.

Today's issue is the environment. It's not as if I don't blog about this every day (well almost every day), but it's worth noting that today bloggers all over the world will be addressing the issue. Even if their blog doesn't normally talk about environmental issues, today it will. I wonder how many people who never give the environment a second thought will read something today that will make them decide to make some changes. Every small change counts.

Check out the 365 Day Pledge to Go Green

It has one small change idea for each day of the next year. Changes like unplug your cell phone charger when not in use and cook a vegetarian meal. Very doable small changes.

I challenge you to make one small change each day so you can be a little greener every day. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Greening Your Kids Lunchbox

Everyday (except for the two days a month I allow my son to buy lunch), I pack my eight year old a lunch to take to school. Two years ago when he was in first grade he threw out a lot more than just the sandwich he didn't feel like eating. He threw out two or three ziploc baggies each day. One for his sandwich, one for his snack, and one that held the 40 cents he took each day for milk.

Today, there is very little in his lunchbox to throw away except an apple core or banana peel. I send everything in reusable containers. I put his milk money in a little canister that came from a roll of camera film.

I just found this great reusable sandwich wrapper at

It wraps a sandwich, becomes a placemat while you're eating the sandwich, and then wipes right off to use again. I love the idea and wanted to share it with everyone.

I'm goign to order one, and I'll give a product review once my son tries it out for a while. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Choosing Your Green

I have no advice toay - just questions. I was at the grocery store this morning, paralyzed in the laundry detergent isle. Like most people, I have a budget that I have to work with when it comes to the grocery store. Now, most of the green changes I've been making in my family's life have saved us money. But the grocery store is the one place, where if I made all the eco-correct choices, I'd completely blow my budget.

How do I choose between organic milk, eco-friendly laundry detergent or fair trade certified coffee. I can't afford all of them. It's a big conundrum.

How do you pick and choose what to buy at the grocery store when you want to change everything, and chang it NOW? Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I spoke too soon

Yesterday I wrote about getting my ink cartridges refilled. I may have spoken too soon. It's a great idea, but unfortunately, the colors are all wrong on my refilled cartridge. I'm going to take the cartridge back. There is a guarantee. I just looked at the web site and it claims a 100% satisfaction guarantee, but what that means, I don't know.

I'll report more as I have it. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, October 5, 2007

Reuse Your Ink Cartridges - Have Them Refilled

I saw a tv commercial the other day for Walgreens. At certain locations, you can take your empty ink cartridges to them and they will refill them. It costs $10 to refill b&w cartridges and $15 for color. I had empty cartridges in my office that I had been meaning to recycle so I took them to Walgreens. The price I paid to have them refilled is half of what I would have paid for new, and I don't have to worry about disposing of the old cartridges properly.

That's a good deal! Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Another Socially Conscious Christmas Idea

I just discovered another Christmas gift idea that can give back. Plow and Hearth has pewter Plant-a-Tree ornaments. For each ornmanet sold, the Canadian company that makes the ornament will plant a tree at a site around the world that needs reforestation.

There are 11 different ornments to choose from and they only cost $9.95 each.

Here's link to their website:§ion_id=2009&search_type=featured&search_value=4118&cur_index=1

I also noticed as I was looking through Plow and Hearth's catalog that they plant two trees for every one tree it takes to make their catalogs. They have my approval. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Greening Your Music Collection

Years ago when my husband and I got rid of all of our music cassettes (we donated them), we made a list of all of the ones we wanted to replace on cd. From the hundreds of cassettes we got rid of, we came up with a long list that we wanted to replace. Of course, we couldn't run out and buy them all at once. We had discovered a marvelous used cd store in the same shopping center as our favorite movie theater and started replacing them with used cd's, one or two (okay sometimes more) at a time. It became a regular part of date night. Dinner, a trip to the used cd store, then a movie.

We started replacing the music this way because it cost us a lot less. Eventually, the store started selling used dvd's also. The prices there were so great that we even gave each other permission to buy used music and movies as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. My kids don't even realize most that the dvd's and cd's we've ever bought for them are used.

What we didn't realize at the time was that we had also started restocking our collection in an environmentally friendly way. Instead of buying new, we were buying used. You know the mantra - reduce, reuse, recycle. We were resuing someone else's old cd's and dvd's. When we feel the need to thin out the cd collection, we now recycle the ones we don't want by taking them to the used store.

Buying your music online in the form of mp3's is another way to make your music collection greener, also. There is no physical product, no production waste, no packaging waste, no trash created when your 3 year old cracks the cd trying to take it out of the package.

I will confess, though, that once in a while I do buy my cd's brand new. I have no idea if it makes a real difference or not, but I have it in my mind that buying a just released cd in the store counts more than purchasing it off of someplace like iTunes. When there is an artist that I really like who is putting out a new cd, and I want to show my support for tht artist, I buy the cd new. I think the last time I actually did it was with Edie Brickell and New Bohemians' last album Stranger Things put out last year. I felt like buying the physical cd on the first day it was released was a show of support for my favorite group. Did it really make a difference? I have no idea.

But I do know that buying the majority of my music and movies either used or through an mp3 format does make a difference. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dr. Seuss was a Tree Hugger

I just finished reading my five year old The Lorax. I love, love, love that book. It is such a gentle introduction for a child on the importance of caring for the earth and yet a pointed lesson for the adult who reads it to the child.

I love what is said near the end:

"But now," says the Once-ler,
"Now that you're here,
the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not.

Thanks Dr. Seuss, for helping me to teach my kids at a very young age to care a whole awful lot. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 1, 2007

Read a Banned Book

I'm veering from the green today to let everyone know that we are in the middle of Banned Books Week (Sept 29-Oct 6). The purpose of BBW is to celebrate our freedom to read and write whatever we want even if others find it undesirable.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for parental censorship of what my children read, watch and listen to. I believe it is my responsibiity to do so. But parental censorship is different from banning books altogether. I have an 8 year old whose reading level is really high, but I wouldn't let him read The Catcher in the Rye (yet). But there are other books that are on the top 100 challenged books list that I think my 8 year old should be reading including Madeliene Lengle's A Wrinkle in Time. It's the book that changed my life when I was a kid, and I have always been dumbfounded by the fact that there are people who want it taken out of school and public libraries.

Ms. L'engle died early last month, and I can think of no better way that I can honor her than to encourage everyone to read banned books and to cherish the freedom we have in our country to read and write whatever we want.

Here is a link to the 100 top challenged books:

It's an eye opening list, isn't it? Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh, the Pressure!

There are lots of little, easy things that can be done to make this world a little greener. Making sure the tire pressure on your car's tires is where it should be is one of them.

I read the other day that Americans waste 4 million gallons of gasoline each day simply because their tires are under inflated. 4,000,000 gallons! Some simple third grade math (okay, actually some simple computer calculated math) tells me that’s over 1.4 billion (1,460,000,000 to be exact) gallons a year.

I must admit. I have no idea how to put air in my car's tires. I've always had my husband do it because I'm afraid the tire will explode on me. Before I was married I suppose the tires only got inflated properly when I took my car in for service.

I think this weekend I'll have my husband teach me how to inflate my tires.

There are other things you can do to your car to help it achieve more efficient gas mileage. For more tips go to: Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reuse THEN recycle

I go through a ton of printer paper. As a writer, I need to proofread everything I write, and for me that means printng out a hard copy. Some writers can proof from the computer screen. I don't feel comfortable doing that. Sometimes I need to print an article out two or three times as I go through the editing process. These edited papers always end up in the recycle bin.

I have found a treasure trove of free paper - right in my kid's backpacks. Every day they come home with announcements from school - always printed on only one side of the paper. They also come home with graded worksheets (again - only one side of the paper is printed on). I used to put all this paper in the recycle bin - anywhere from 5-15 sheet of paper every night. It occurred to me at the beginning of this school year, that I can print on the back of those papers.

I know - not a particulary earth shattering realization. I should have realized that a few years ago. But sometimes I'm slow. So now, I put all of those papers in a bin on top of my file cabinet. When I need to print out something to proof, I let the local grammar school supply the paper. When I'm done with the proofed copy, then I recycle it. I reuse THEN recycle.

Not an original concept, I know. But one we all need to take into consideration more often. What else can we reuse before we recycle it? Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Socially Conscious Christmas

Yes, I know it's still September, but I bought my first Christmas gifts the other day and now this is on my mind.

Every year I buy all of our brothers, sisters, and their spouses something from William and Sonoma for Christmas. Something fun that you probably would never pick up for yourself. But this year I'm going to try to do something a little different. I'm going to try to find gifts that not only will be enjoyed by the recipients but will make a difference in someone else's life, too.

We've got a big family and we buy a lot of gifts at Christmas. We don't spend a whole heck of a lot of money, but I figure what we do spend might as well do some good, right? I got the idea the other night at church when I bought some gifts for my neices that were made by some women in Uganda. The proceeds from the sale will help to pay for a Ugandan man who needs medical help to be flown to the U.S. to be treated by a doctor who is volunteering his services.

So now I'm on the hunt for socially conscious Christmas gifts. One site I've already explored is It's a non-profit that makes small loans to women who need to buy supplies so they can create things and sell them. They lend to women all over the world and the woman can pay them back with products that they made that are then sold on the website. There is some great jewelery. I love the whole idea of buildanest.

I've just started coming up with ideas for socially conscious Christmas presents. I'll post more as I find them. I'd love some of your ideas. Stumble Upon Toolbar

A Little Greener Every Day - Day One

As I have been researching for my new green column in Primal Parenting Magazine, I am coming up with so much green infromation and it can't all go in the column. I'm starting this blog so that I can get more information out there.

It's going to have some tips, some statistics, some rants, some inspiration, some ideas, some insanity, and who knows what else. It will often be about green topics, but it's my blog, so sometimes my posts will be about whatever I feel like. Stumble Upon Toolbar