Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Are you all ready to stop the holiday celebrating? I'm exhausted. But I'm not complaining, really. We've had time with family, lots of good food, dinners with friends, and times of giving and sharing. And it's not done yet. 

If you look over to the right, you'll see a new feature in the sidebar. It's my official "mini-ad" from Mother Nature Network. If you click on it, it will take you directly to my food blog. Things are ramping up at MNN for our official launch in early January. I'll let you know when we head out of beta and into not-beta. What do you call it when you get out of beta? Are you simply "officially launched?"

If you're on Facebook, you can become a fan of MNN. I'm a fan. My friend Katie is a fan. Come on, I know you want to be a fan, too.

This week on MNN, I'm doing three days of do-good, easy New Year's resolutions that you can adopt as your own. Check it out.

Resolution #3 (will post link when it goes up later this afternoon)

I'll be silent until Monday the 5th. I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recycle Your Christmas Cards and Help a Good Cause

Yesterday, I wrote about a company that will accept your old and broken strands of Christmas lights for recycling. Today, I bring you St. Jude's Ranch for Children that has a program that accepts all types of greeting cards, including Christmas cards, for their recycling program.

Now through Feb. 28, 2009, they are accepting donations of cards that will be turned into new cards and sold to raise funds for the ranch that "rescues abused, abandoned and neglected children of all races and faiths from the vicious cycle of child abuse."

The children participate in the recycling program.
The children participate in making the new recycled cards by removing the front and attaching a new back made with recycled paper. The new card is a beautiful, “green” card made by the children and volunteers. The benefits are two-fold: customers receive "green" holiday cards for use and the children receive payment for their work and learn the benefits and importance of "going green".
Unlike yesterday, where I defended my willingness to donate my strands of lights to a for-profit company that would make money from them, there is no need to defend contributing to this program. 

Cards can be sent to:

St. Jude's Ranch for Children
Card Recycling Program
100 St. Jude's Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

For more information on St. Jude Ranch for Childen, please visit their website. There are many other ways that you can contribute to this refuge for children like the Campbells Labels program and the General Mills Box Top program.
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Recycling Christmas Lights

Good Morning. I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays. We've got a few days break until New Year's hits, so I'm back at work. The boys, however, are not back at school. I feel so blessed that I can work from home and accommodate their schedules. I like it when they are off. The morning get ready for school routine is my least favorite thing of any regular day.

If you drove past my house this holiday season, there would have been a lack of cheer going on outside. Our pre-lighted garland that we've had for years bit the dust. My husband and I talked about going out and buying new, but in the end, we decided we'd hold off for this year. We'd wait until the after Christmas sales and then buy some LED lights. We still had a wreath on the door and candles in the windows, and you could see the lighted tree through the windows so we didn't look like complete humbugs.

The biggest problem was the disposal of the old stuff. That was solved  when I found a recycling program for strands of incandescent lights on holidayleds.com
When we receive your lights for recycling we will remove them from the package and recycle the box. The lights will be processed and any material that cannot be recycled (i.e. loose bulbs)is discarded. Once we have collected a substantial number of sets we take them to a 3rd party recycling facility located in Jackson, MI. The recycling company puts the lights through a commercial shredder, which chops the lights up into little pieces. The pieces are then further processed and sorted into the various components that make up the lights (pvc, glass, copper.) The materials are separated and transported to a region center for further processing. In some cases, the pvc cannot be recycled.
They will also send you a 15% off coupon for the LED lights they sell on their site. I know that this company is making out on this deal. I'm sure they sell the lights that they are sent to the 3rd party recycling plant. And of course, the coupon is to encourage you to buy from them. But I'm okay with that.

I also like that they ask that your lights be sent without any packing materials (the lights are already broken), in a recyclable box, and in the smallest box possible. All of this makes the least environmental impact when shipping the items

If I want to do things like hang holiday lights outside my home, then I need to be responsible with their disposal. I could collect old strings of light myself from others until I had enough to sell for a profit. But I'm not going to do that. Holidayleds.com will do it so I'm willing to spend a little postage to send the old stuff to them and if they make a few cents on it, so what? Allowing them to make a few cents is much better than throwing them in a landfill.

So, I'll be extricating the old strings of light from the garland and sending it away to be recycled. The garland is still useful, so I'll keep that and put the new LED lights on it next year. 

Yep, it's more work than just tossing the whole thing in the trash and buying new pre-lit garland. Oh well. Sometimes doing the right thing takes a little effort.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!


A Very Merry Christmas from my family to yours!


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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

God Bless You

I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday. I'll be back after Christmas.

Hey, just a little reminder about Amazon's 25 Days of Free Christmas Music. Today's track is from Aimee Man. Cool.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry Little Recycling Christmas

Last year, I ended up picking through the trash cans after Christmas morning to get all the recyclable materials out. I promised myself that this year I'd be prepared. 

Here are a few last minute tips to think about and prepare for before your holiday opening frenzies.
  • Have a bag ready to put wrapping paper in to recycle. Allison from Its The Little Thinks wants to see if she can get her kids to open things neatly so she can reuse the paper. Let us know how that goes, Allison! Me, I'm just going to make sure all paper stays out of the trash.
  • Break down clothing boxes immediately and put away to use again. I usually break them down Christmas morning, put them under some heavy books to help flatten them good, then take them down the basement. 
  • You know those absolutely horrid, annoying, somebody must really hate parents twisty ties that come on so many toys. The ones that make parents spew foul words out of their mouth on Jesus' birthday while their children impatiently wait one hour for a Barbie to be extricated from its packaging. They make fabulous tomato plant ties. Save them and use them to attach tomato plants or other plants to steaks.
  • Packing and shipping materials from all that online shopping should be saved to be reused. If you have so much that you can never reuse it all, give it away on freecycle. There's some avid ebay-er who will be happy to take it off your hands.
One last tip. Don't be the recycling Nazi. If you end up having to dig a few things out of the trash because someone else in your family didn't meet your expectations so be it. Better to dig through trash than to be a nag.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

A Little Greener Every Day's Random End of the Year Favorite Things

This is the first full year that I've had this blog. I started it in the fall of 2007. Yesterday I hit my 350th post. I work hard to consistently post Monday through Friday, and if I know I won't be posting, I try to let you know. 

I don't know how consistent I will be next week, however, with Christmas and New Year's coming. The kids will be out of school for two week starting next Wednesday and then there will be all that celebrating to do. So I thought I'd do an end of the year favorite's list today. This doesn't mean I won't post between now and the end of the year, but I don't know how often I'll get to.

A Little Greener Every Day's 10 Random Favorite Green Things of 2008

Favorite Green Book I Read
Serve God, Save the Planet by Matthew J. Sleeth

Favorite Green Restaurant I Ate At
Founding Farmers in Washington D.C. 
(runner up Le Pain Quotidien in NYC)

Favorite Green Podcast 

Favorite Green Product I Was Sent For Free To Review
(runner up -VeeV)

Favorite Green Meal I Cooked
Yummy Honey Chicken Kabobs using  local ingredients

Favorite Green Website That Helps You Go Green In a Very Practical Way

Favorite (Not) Green Thing I Whined The Most About

Favorite Green Thing My Six Year Old and I Made From Our Garden This Summer

Favorite Green Thing About This Crummy Economy

Favorite Green(ish) Pre-packaged Food
Mother Nature's Peanut Butter Bumpers (almost as good as Cap'n Crunch)
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Buy This to Remind Yourself to Consume Less. What?

So I'm doing a little stumbling today, and I come across a website that sells flags to hand outside your house, gas tank stickers to affix to your Prius, and t-shirts. All these things have a "green pride" logo on them. 

And here's the company's shtick:

It is our hope that when people begin to use these products, they are reminded of the need to consume less and that will lead to even greater action.

Translation: Please buy our useless products to remind yourself not to buy useless products. We're hoping the result may be that your friends will see your useless products and buy some of their own; therefore reminding them not to buy useless products. See, that's how to be green.

Ugh. 
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Working for Mother Nature

I've been writing for Mother Nature Network for a couple of weeks now. I thought I'd share a few of my food blog posts here with you. I post two or three times a day on the site, and I promise I won't bombard you with all of my posts. From time to time, I will let you know about a few of them.

First things first, though. What do you think of this groovy caricature they had drawn of me? That's just a sneak peak of it. It's a full body drawing.

On to some posts:
  • Holiday food gifts: pumpkin bread recipe - this is the recipe I use when I make small loaves of pumpkin bread to give out as gifts. It's moist and flavorful, and if you're not careful you'll eat the whole loaf in one sitting.
  • Restaurant review: Washington DC's Founding Farmers - I ate at this farm-to-fork restaurant in DC that I can't rave enough about.
  • Tackling the bulk bins: brown basmati rice - I've started a feature on tackling the whole grains in the bulk bins. From time to time, I'll be cooking up something wholesome I've scooped from the bins, discussing what it is, and sharing a simple recipe that I've tested.
  • 10 uses for unloved bread ends - You all know I've been trying to waste less food. The ends of bread are food even if we don't show them the love we show other food. I've got ten ways to use 'em up.
That's just a sampling of what I'm doing at MNN. I've posted dozens of other posts and you can see the entire list, here. I could use some feedback so if you read something that strikes your fancy, please leave a comment on the site. Once the site goes out of beta, I'll be writing more current food news posts in addition to what I'm already doing.

I can't believe I get to do this for a living.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Look What I Did for my Christmas Party

Okay, after yesterday's post on not screaming about how green your holiday celebration is, I am going to show you one thing I did for my Christmas party over the weekend. I'm not very crafty so I'm a little proud of this (not that it was difficult at all).

Instead of going out and buying poinsettias to help fill in a few of the bare spots around the house, I pillaged my neighbors holly tree. I only took from the branches that overhang in my yard which is totally allowed.  I put holly branches on the top of my china cabinet and put some in vases, too. Look at this:
Poinsettias, pretty as they are, are not grown locally. That means they have to be shipped far. In the past, I've bought them from the cheap produce place that imports all their stuff from Mexico and South America. To sell it that cheaply, I can only assume it's not grown in any manner resembling organic. Add those facts to the whole "we need to go lighter on Christmas spending mentality" around my house (and every other house in the U.S.), and I decided to nix the poinsettias this year. 

The holly option was certainly local, taken from a tree that requires no chemicals to sustain it, and free. I've got a bunch of vases in the basement, so I didn't even need to buy those.

Now, while it's my opinion that we shouldn't go screaming our greenness at our holiday celebrations, it's acceptable to do a little showing off in this forum. So, what have you done differently this year, or added or taken away this year, in the name of being green?
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Subtle Green Holiday Party Ideas - Not Happening

You know, I was going to make a list of green party ideas that didn't scream "I'm a green party idea." As I was thinking about the list, it occurred to me that it isn't the food or the decorations or the lights that would be the ones screaming "I'm green." They are inanimate objects and very few people are going to wonder if your candles are parafin or soy, your turkey is free range, or your lights are LED. The only way your guests are going to know these things is if you scream about them.

So here's what I think. I think that your holiday celebration isn't about celebrating green. It's about celebrating the birth of Jesus or celebrating the miracle of eight nights of burning oil lamps or simply celebrating friends and family.

So go ahead. Make your holiday party as green as you want. Buy the free range turkey, serve the organic wine, play holiday music downloaded via mp3's instead of going out and buying physical cd's, buy all your linens from a thrift store, and re-wear last year's Christmas sweater. Just keep your mouth shut about it all.

Don't spend Christmas dinner talking about why your real tree is greener than your brother's artifical tree. Don't let everyone know that the paper plates your using for dessert are made from recycled materials and are completely compostable. Don't make this holiday about being greener than everyone else at your table. Be a gracious greenie this holiday season.

Oh, and the above picture is this year's tree that we decorated last night. And I'm not going to tell you if we bought it from a local source or if the light's are LED. I know and I don't need to scream about it.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Free Ecofont for Greener Printing


I know I promised a list of green things you can do while entertaining that don't scream, "I'm greener than you" today, but today has gotten away from me. Monday - I'll have that list for you.

I thought I'd simply share with you a post one of my fellow Sustainablogers wrote about a new free font, the ecofont, that looks a little like swiss cheese letters. It reduces the amount of ink needed in printing 20%. 

Little things do add up.


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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Green Celebrations: My Christmas Party and an Inaugural Ball

What do my annual neighborhood Christmas party and an upcoming inaugural ball have in common? 

This Saturday night is our annual Christmas party. We invite our friends from the neighborhood and have a kid-less evening. Last year, I did the best I could to make the event green, but this year I'm adding a couple of additional earth-friendly elements. 

After lasts year's party I wrote a post When It's Okay to Use Paper Products. Check it out. It holds up well. 

My party is not the only green one on the horizon. I read that that one of the pre-inauguration balls has gone green.  The first eco-friendly inauguration celebration will be held on January 17th.

How will it be eco-friendly? Here is what is planned:
  • catering will be 100% organic and include vegetarian and vegan options
  • the bars will feature local and organic beverages
  • food waste and flowers will be composted
  • glass bottles will be recycled
  • lighting will be LED
  • efficient lighting and energy entertainment systems will be used
  • energy usage will be offset by the purchase of wind power credits
It think this is great, and while I can't do all of this at my own party, I'm inspired by the example which is exactly what the event planners hope to do. Except they aren't looking to inspire me. One of the planners of the celebration says the
goal is to bring attention to this issue while the Presidential Inaugural Committee and many other groups are still early in their planning. We hope to set an example to other organizations and encourage them to green their events, as well
Good for them.

Now here's my question for you. What can you do this holiday to inspire those around you without being the obnoxious green person? Think about it. Tomorrow, I'll have a list of things that you change or add to your holiday celebration that won't scream "I'm green" but will be smart choices.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Free Christmas Music - MP3's

It's easy to see how buying your music via mp3 download is greener than buying a physical product. What's even better than music that's greener? FREE music that's greener. A while back I did a post with the places where I find legal free music downloads. Two of those places are iTunes and Amazon.

During the holiday season, both sites offer free Christmas music. iTunes usually offers two songs each week, with the new songs being offered each Tuesday. This week's offerings are from Faith Hill and Brian McKnight.

Amazon has a much bigger selection of free Christmas music than iTunes. They are doing a 25 days of Free music. Today's free selection - Greensleeves done by Vince Guaraldi. Much cooler than Faith Hill or Brian McKnight. The selections are free all month so if you've missed days 1-10 so far, it's not too late. A new selection is introduced each day. They also have a free holiday music sampler with artists like Bing Crosby and The Beach Boys. If you poke around a bit, you can find other free music, too.

So there is my early Christmas present to all of you - free music. Get downloading.

Last minute addition: I'm adding this to the list because I just found out about it. My favorite radio station in Philly, WXPN, is doing a 12 Days of Local Christmas Music. All the downloads are from Philly Local bands. Today is day 3, but you can download past days' songs, too. And, of course, it's FREE!
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Better Holiday Candles: Soy and Beeswax

I need candles for the candle holder in fireplace candle stand. We don't light the candles in there that often, so it's been a couple of years since I bought them. The last time I bought them, I went to the dollar store for them. I was able to fill the stand with candles for less than $10.

I need new candles for it, and I priced them out over the weekend - to the tune of $48. Have candles really gone up that much? No, the conventional dollar store candles are still available at the dollar store. I'm not willing to buy the conventional candles anymore. I'm looking to buy soy candles. Here's why.

Conventional candles are made from paraffin. Paraffin candles are made from petroleum and emit harmful carcinogens when burned. Their creation is bad for the earth's environment and their use is bad for the environment inside your home.

In contrast, soy candles are made from soybeans and are non-toxic. No carcinogens are emitted when they burn. They usually cost more than paraffin candles, but they burn longer. They don't need to be replaced as often. 

Another option is beeswax candles. Beeswax is a completely renewable resource. Beeswax candles burn longer than paraffin candles and they are almost dripless making them a good candle to put on top of a tablecloth - no difficult wax drips to try to clean off. Like soy candles they bur clean, and like soy they are more expensive than paraffin.

Sometimes better, cleaner, more environmentally friendly costs more. This is one of those times. I don't know if the soy and beeswax candles burn long enough to cancel out their higher cost. I do know that I'm not willing to pay $48 for the candles in my fireplace. I'm either going to find them cheaper or do without for now.

But, considering it's the holidays and a lot of candles are going to get burned in the next three weeks or so, I thought I'd let you all know what the better choices are.
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Monday, December 8, 2008

Saving Paper a Half Inch at a Time

First of all, if you're new to A Little Greener Every Day, welcome. Last week saw 3 times as much traffic as I've ever had here. Most of that traffic came this way from Stumble Upon. I also want to say thank you to those who take the time to submit my posts to Stumble. I appreciate it.

Last week, I read a post on someone else's blog (and I can't remember which blog or I would certainly give them credit) that suggested that everyone change the margins on their Word documents (or whatever word processor you use) to help reduce the amount of paper used. 

I have always done this, but I've never mentioned it here. Of course, I didn't always do it to be green. I started doing it to save money. The less paper I used, the less paper I had to buy. When printing out documents that I needed to read over, I would adjust the margins to .5 inches. Sometimes I'd change to a smaller font, too.

If doing this is worth the effort for me, think of how advantageous it would be for a company to have their employees change the margins on their documents. It could save reams and reams of paper each year.

Next time you need to print something, go into the formatting section of your word processor and change your margins to .5. It's a small thing, but I believe that doing a whole bunch of small things can make a big difference.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

White Bean Horseradish Spread for First Thursdays Over at Thursday Night Smackdown


I missed the First Thursday challenge last month on Thursday Night Smackdown. Each month Michelle challenges her readers to test the mettle of their cookbooks and issues a challenge in a certain category. For her orange food challenge, I made sweet potato fries. For her grilling challenge, I tried grilled pizzas for the first time.

This month's challenge was to make an appetizer. Last month, when we were in D.C., I picked up Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen by James Beard Award winner Lorna J. Sass at a used book store. It's an interesting cookbook because it was written in 1992 so there isn't any talk about everyone trying to be green. This was a cookbook written by a woman who has been part of the environmental movement before it was 
hip. I thought it was a great find. 
 
For the challenge, I made White Bean-Horseradish spread. It's really a dip. But there's no mayonnaise, sour cream or cream cheese in this dip. It's all healthy stuff - cooked great northern beans, prepared horse radish, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, dried rosemary and salt. I suppose you could put this in the hummus category, but not really.

The dip was easy to make, but it's not something you can whip up at the last 
minute. The beans need to soak overnight, and then they need to be cooked for at least an hour and a half. But once those ten hours or so are over, it's a quick and easy recipe.

It's tasty, too. I did add a little more horseradish and salt than called for after tasting it, and if I make it again, I'll probably add more horseradish. It's an unexpected alternative to the normal party type dips you're used to. But that's okay because it's much better for you. 

My kids took one whiff of it and wouldn't go near it. Horseradish is potent stuff. I wouldn't have gone near it either as a kid. My husband thought it was bland. Like I said, I'd probably add more horseradish next time and probably a little more rosemary, too. But I liked it enough to put it in the "try again sometime with modifications" category. Most first time recipes end up in that category.
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Friday, December 5, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Packing and Shipping Materials

Just about now during the holidays, if you shop online, you're being inundated with boxes full of gifts. But those boxes probably contain more packing materials than gifts. It's amazing the over packaging that some companies do.

What do you do with all of those packing and shipping materials that end up piled high in the dining room? There is on thing you shouldn't do with them. Throw them away. There are lots of ways to avoid them becoming landfill.

Reduce

You have no control over how a package that is shipped to you is packed. But you do have control over the packages you ship. Try to find appropriate sized boxes so you don't have to put more filler than needed in. You'll save money, and you'll save some greenhouse gasses? How?

It may seem miniscule, but every little bit of extra weight in a package means that the vehicles used to haul it needs to use more fuel. If you make your package as light as possible, and others take the same measures, fuel will be saved.

Another way to reduce when it comes to shipping is to ship directly to the recipient. Do you order gifts online for friends and relatives you live far away, have them shipped to your home, wrap them, and then re-ship them to the recipients? You're doubling the carbon footprint of that packages travels. 

If the company you order from offers gift wrapping, let them wrap it and send it directly. Or, if you're buying for kids who live far away, let their parents know you are sending some gifts and ask if they wouldn't mind wrapping them for you once you arrive. My in-laws do this frequently. 

Reuse

Packing and shipping materials can be reused over and over. I have a spot in my basement where I have broken down boxes, bubble wrap, air pillows, etc from items that have been shipped to me. When I need to ship something I never need to buy anything new (except packing tape once in a while).

What if you don't have the room to store these materials or you end up with more than you will ever use? Giving it away is easy.

Many packing/shipping stores will take things like packing peanuts, air pillows, and other fillers. They won't pay you for them, but it's worth it to donate them to keep them out of landfills.

If you have any friends who are ebay sellers, they will probably happily take these materials off your hands.

Another way to give these things away is to list them on Craigslist or to Freecycle them. If you have a collection of packing/shipping materials there is someone out there who wants them, and that someone is checking these places to see who has them. 

Last year, as the boxes came in with online purchases, I threw them all in the downstairs shower (we never use it - it's more like a closet). After the holidays, I put it all together and listed it on Freecycle. Within a couple of hours, someone had come to my house and collected it all. It felt really good to know that all of this stuff was going to get reused at least one more time.

Recycle

If any of these items truly are unusable, say a box has just gotten to beaten up to reuse, make sure it hits the recycling bin and not the trash can.

It's tempting during the busy holidays to just get these shipping/packing materials out of our way by sending them out for the trash men to pick up. It takes extra effort to make sure they end up being used and reused and disposed of responsibly. So decide now to be make a commitment to being responsible with them so you won't be tempted to put those evil packing peanuts in the trash can.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is Being Green More Difficult in the Cold Months?

I was thinking yesterday about how I don't feel as green as I did a couple of months ago. Let me explain.
  • It's been over a month since I've been able to hang clothes on the line to dry. November was a very rainy month, and now it's too cold.
  • My garden is gone and so is the farmers market. My produce is no longer local.
  • With the cold and the rain, I've been driving to places that I would walk to if the weather was better.
  • My communion with creation is much less. Over the summer I was sitting at my picnic table at this time of the morning, writing and noticing the different types of birds and critters that share my backyard with me.
Could it be that I miss being outside? When's the last time that happened? When I was a kid? I've spent so much of my adult life indoors. While that has slowly been changing over the past couple of years, it changed greatly this past summer.

I think I'm going to have to learn to deal with the cold and get outside in it. I'm also going to have to put a clothesline in the basement. There isn't enough room to be able to dry all the laundry down there, but I could do a little of it. And what happens if I hang laundry out when it's 40 degrees? It will eventually dry, right? It might be cold when I bring it in, but it will warm up, right? Hmmmm. It's going to rain today (of course), but tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and 40. I think I'll see what happens if I hang out something light like bed sheets.

So how about you? Are you finding your greenness fading to a bit of a lighter shade with the early fading of daylight? Will there be times where it's possible to be greener than other times or am I just a wimp?


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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Green Term of Week: Congreenience (which you can read more about on Mother Nature Network)

I came across a new term the other day: congreenience. It's used to describe something that is convenient and green at the same time. As in congreenience store. As in the Simply Green congreenience store that just opened up in New Hampshire that sells biofuel, fair trade coffee, pastries and sandwiches from local sources and has solar panels on the roof, bamboo on the floors and LED lighting throughout the store.

I wrote more about this congreenience store over at my new blogging job on Mother Nature Network(MNN). And now I'm inviting all of you to head over there and check it out. Take a look at my posts, register on the site, and leave a comment or two.

I've been hired to be their food blogger, and I'll be blogging two or three times a day on cooking, food, groceries, dining out, gardening, farms, beer and wine. I'm really excited to be part of the Mother Nature Network team. The website covers all aspects of the environment. Once you're done checking out my posts, feel free to browse around for a while.

The site launched in Beta on Monday so the tech guys are still working out some kinks. We've been asked to invite friends and family to head over and be the first to discover what it has to offer. 

Even though I'll be over there two or three times a day, A Little Greener Every Day won't be going away. This blog is very important to me. I'll still be here daily, Monday through Friday. I'll be talking about MNN a lot in the future, though, so if you want to know what I'm talking about, you need to head there now. 
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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Be More Sustainable with Holiday Gift Wrapping

This post doesn't just pertain to holiday gift wrapping, but since it's December, I put holiday in the title. Cause I try to cater to the search engines, at least in my titles. Anyway, it seems everyone is buying less this season, but people are still buying. This means that people will still need to wrap. 

Have you ever considered what a waste wrapping paper is? It's paper that is created to be thrown out. Really. Think about kids' birthday parties or a baby shower or Christmas morning. There is always a plastic trash bag standing by just to collect the wrapping paper because everyone knows it is going to get thrown out. 

Perhaps this year, we can all try to be more responsible with our gift wrap - both in the choosing of the wrap and the disposing of it. Let's go green with our gift wrapping. Here are ten easy ways.
  1. Take stock of what you already have. You may not need to buy anything if you've got a stack of half roles of wrapping paper from years' past. Use it up.
  2. Skip the bows. Those pre-made bows with the stickies on them never stay on the package, get crushed if you need to stack packages up, and end up in the trash immediately (unless you're like my family who spent all Christmas morning being told to "save the bows, save the bows" only to find them completely crushed and reusable the next holiday season at the bottom of a box - then they got thrown away).
  3. Keep your scraps. When you're wrapping a big gift, there are usually scraps that are cut off. They can usually be used to wrap gifts in a stocking.
  4. Skip wrapping the really big stuff. Throw a blanket over a new TV just to retain a little of the mystery or hide a kids' new bike in a remote area of the house and give him directions to go hunt for it. But don't use a mound of wrapping paper on a large item.
  5. Here's an oldy but goody suggestion - use last year's Christmas cards as gift tags on this years packages.
  6. Get untraditional with your choice of wrapping paper. The colorful Sunday comics (my mom is famous for using Sunday comics for wrapping) make great wrapping paper. Old maps, kids' artwork, paper bags, leftover wall paper, or pages ripped from magazines (for really small items) all can be used to wrap gifts. Check out this cool way to wrap wine bottles with newspaper.
  7. If you're going to buy new wrapping paper, buy wrap made from recycled materials.
  8. Get creative with boxes. Cereal boxes or cracker boxes are usually very clean and can be used to place items in before being wrapped. If you order gifts online, reuse the boxes that your items are delivered in.
  9. I never buy gift bags, but I have a ton of them. Do you have gift bags stashed away somewhere. Dig them out, dust them off. See which ones can be used for the holidays.
  10. When you unwrap your gifts, make sure to be responsible with the wrappings. If it's reusable, save it for another use. Flatten clothing boxes and gift bags and put them away for another use. Make sure all wrapping paper that is not going to be used again gets put in a recycle bin and not a trash bin.
I've seen a lot of suggestions this year about greener wrapping, and many people are saying "the greenest way to wrap is not to wrap at all." I don't know - maybe. But, unwrapping gifts is part of the magic of the holidays. Can you imagine being a kids, running down the stairs on Christmas morning, and finding your gifts under the tree unwrapped? I'll be wrapping this year, but I'll be doing it much more responsibly than I have in the past. How about you?



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Monday, December 1, 2008

Blogging Roundup

Happy December 1st. I have a feeling this month is going to be nuts. Even nuttier than normal. My to-do list is a mile long today, and I've decided that today's post topic is going to turn into tomorrow's 10 Easy Ways... post.

I have been working hard over at Mother Nature Network and soon (perhaps sometime today even) there should be a soft launch of the website. When that happens, I'll be provide a couple of links when I'm told it's okay, and ask anyone who wants to to check it out and make some comments. 

Here are a few links to some of my other blog posts and whatnot around the web from last week. As always, I'd love it if you'd click on one (or more) and read. 
And something completely unrelated - the other night I picked up The Hooters Nervous Night at the used 
CD store. I forgot how great this album is.  I'm listening to it right now, and it's making my hectic morning kind of bouncy. 
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Leftover Turkey? Try My Turkey Pot Pie Recipe

Good Morning! Is your fridge stuffed with leftover food from Thanksgiving like mine is? In the past, we would eat some of it, but usually about two weeks from now, I'd be throwing a bit of it away. This year, I'm determined not to let that happen. I've talked about food waste before. In the U.S., we waste about 30% of the food produced in this country. If you consider all of the resources that went into making the food and all the energy that went into transporting that food, that is a heck of a lot of waste.

So I'm going to make sure that I use up the leftovers. I'll be making turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwiches, turkey soup, potato pancakes, and my turkey pot pie. This recipe originally called to be done traditionally in pie crusts (which I still do on occasion) but an easier, very tasty way to do it is to make the filling and then ladle it over biscuits.

Turkey Pot Pie over Biscuits

Ingredients
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup milk (I use 1% and it works fine)
  • 10 oz. hot water
  • 1 tsp. chicken bullion
  • 3 cups cubed turkey
  • 16 oz. partially cooked mixed vegetables
  • biscuits
Directions

1. Melt butter in large saucepan
2. Stir in flour, salt, marjoram and pepper - cook until smooth, stirring occassionally
3. Slowly stir in milk, then water
4. Add bullion
5. Bring to boil, reduce heat and stir constantly until it thickens
6. Add turkey and vegetables, cook for 20 minutes - make sure turkey and veg are cooked through
7. Serve over homemade or store bought split biscuits

I challenge you to get creative and figure out how to use up all your leftovers yesterday. Don't let any of them go to waste. Give them away if you need to.

And the picture above really has nothing to do with this particular post. It's just my cat, sitting at the table last night, waiting for dinner to start. She seemed rather surprised when my husband pushed her off the chair and sat there himself.

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