Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Home, Sweet, Home

We stepped foot in our front door at about 12:30 this morning from our week in Arizona. It was a fantastic vacation. Our niece was a beautiful, confident bride and she not only got a great husband but two very lovable stepchildren all in one day, and we got three new family members. 

I did resist the urge to post while I was gone, but I have lots of thoughts about traveling, recycling, consuming, and talking about environmentalism. I'll post some of them over the next few days.

I may post later today. Depends on how quickly I can get through the mounds of laundry, mail, voice messages and e-mail that I have to go through.

Don't forget that tomorrow starts A Little Greener Every Day's first challenge. Click here to read all about it. I'm very excited that some of you are on board!
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I'll be Quiet for a Few Days

Things will be quiet around here for the next couple of days. I may pop up with a post or two, but I'm taking a much needed break. Expect to see me back in full force by April 30th!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ten Ways to Conserve Gasoline

As promised yesterday, today I've got some ideas on how to make your gas dollars go further. I have never seen prices at the pumps this high before. My husband and I both work from home and the car we primarily drive is a hybrid, so these high prices aren't killing us the way they are for some of our friends. I can't imagine how much we'd be paying if my husband was still doing the one hour each way commute that he used to.

How can you stretch what's in your gas tank to get the best value for your fuel dollars? Try these tips.
  1. Plan out your weekly errands and take the most efficient route when doing them. Try to only run errands once a week. A lot of gas gets wasted running to the post office today, the dry cleaners tomorrow and Target the next day. If you can do them all in one day and take the most direct routes from one place to another, you'll save gas.
  2. Drive the speed limit. The Department of Energy estimates that for every 5 mph you drive over 65 mph, there is a 7% decrease in fuel efficiency. The slower you drive, the better gas mileage you'll get.
  3. Keep your tires inflated. Americans waste 4 million gallons of gasoline each day simply because their tires are under inflated.
  4. Carpool with others who work with you. Taking the extra few minutes to pick up a colleague or waiting five minutes before you leave work for him or her to finish up may seem inconvenient at first. But by carpooling with just one other person, you can cut your fuel consumption to and from work in half. Add another person to the car, and the savings are even greater.
  5. Forgo warming up your car. Now that the weather is getting a little warmer, this isn't such a big deal. In the winter, however, many people leave their cars idle for 15 - 20 minutes or longer to get it warm. Suck it up and drive in a cold car. It will warm up eventually.
  6. Walk or bike. Not driving your car will certainly conserve fuel. If it's possible to go on foot or by bike instead of in the car, do it as often as you can. This is especially easy this time of year because the weather is not too cold or hot.
  7. Maintain your car. When the oil is changed, the spark plugs are sparking, and all is tuned up, you'll get better gas mileage.
  8. Say no to going out more often. Tell your friends you'll catch them next time. Order a movie off of pay per view instead of running out to the video store. Eat what you've got in the house instead of running out for take out. 
  9. Avoid traveling in heavy traffic. All the stopping and starting, slamming on the breaks, quickly accelerating and decelerating that happens during times of heavy traffic is harder on the gas mileage. If possible, don't drive during rush hour.
  10. Get rid of your gas guzzler. Do you really need that SUV? How much off roading are you really doing, anyway? Trade in your current vehicle for something with better gas milage. It doesn't have to be a hybrid, but don't count them out immediately. 
If you have some other suggestions for getting more out of each gallon of gas, please share them in the comments.
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Americans are Buying Less Gasoline

According to the Associated Press, gas consumption in America fell 1% in the four weeks preceding April 11. This is attributed, of course, to the soaring gas prices across the nation. One percent doesn't seem like a lot, but I can imagine it's millions and millions of gallons.

It makes me wonder, though. For years, I've heard the argument that the government should raise the price of gas so that Americans would consume less. I have never been a fan of the government legislating something like this. I believe people should be responsible to make the right choices without the government forcing them to. But it's clear that in America, we haven't found it important to make the right choice or, more likely, we haven't thought about it at all. Up until a year ago, I was just as guilty as everyone else. I'm still not fabulous with the gas consumption, but it has decreased significantly in our family.

Are higher gas prices what it's going to take for people to start driving their vehicles in an environmentally responsible way? Or is it just going to hurt those without the money to put gas in their cars to get to work? So many areas in America have poor public transportation systems and some people have no choice but to drive to their job. If prices continue to rise, will public transportation systems be improved?

I don't have any answers to my questions. I certainly am not educated in economics. I didn't do well in the one economics class I took in college. But there is something I do well. I'm great at making lists of ways to be more  green, right?

So, tomorrow, I think I'll do a post on ways to conserve on gasoline and get better milage out of the gasoline you do use. 

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Monday, April 21, 2008

A Little Greener Every Day's First Challenge

First, I must wish you all a Happy Earth Day! 

Now, on with the business at hand. The other week, I had my first contest. Today, I'm issuing my first challenge. I was inspired by the Crunchy Chicken blog's very intense challenge, the Extreme Eco Throwdown, for the month of May. She's asking readers to pick something like giving up electricity, giving up driving, or buying nothing that contains plastic for an entire month. 

Although I was inspired by the challenge and awed to see how many people are rising to it, I don't see myself actually participating in one of her challenges. I don't know if I'm just not ready to take these extreme steps yet or what, but I think I need smaller, less intense challenges to start out with. And I have a feeling that the majority of the readers of this blog are ready to take another step further into being green, but not the giant leap Crunchy is suggesting. 

So, here are my challenges. If you feel convicted, pick one and let me know which one. Instead of taking the challenge for an entire month, we're going to do one week. The first week of May. From May 1-7th. 

Challenge #1
Take no shopping or retail bags. No paper. No plastic. Carry your own reusable bags, and if you don't have one with you, buy only what you can carry out in your two hands.

Challenge #2
Take what is known as Navy showers. Here's how they work. Turn the water on. Get wet head to toe. Turn the shower off. Shampoo and soap up. Turn the shower back on. Rinse off. Turn the shower off. Get out.
Now, you may need an extra "turn the shower back on" if you need to condition your hair. But you get the idea. 

Challenge #3
Commit to trash free lunches if you eat lunch outside the home daily. What does this mean? It means that when you are done eating your lunch, there should be no trash to throw away. It probably means you will have to pack your lunch daily in reusable containers. No take out containers, ziploc baggies, disposable cups, paper napkins, etc.

Challenge #4
Hang dry ALL your laundry for the week. And no, you can't just let it pile up for the week and not do it at all. Well, you could, but it wouldn't count for this challenge.

Challenge #5
Read one of the following books: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver or  Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic by John De Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor. Extra brownie points if you get the book from the library, buy it used, or borrow it from someone.

These are personal challenges. If you can get the others in your household to take the challenge, too, that's great. But if you can't, go it alone.

Personally, I'm going to attempt #1 and #5 (I'll read Affluenza). 

I encourage everyone reading to pick one of these challenges. They are very doable. Think about which one you'd like to take and post your choice in the comments section. 
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What Are You Going to D0 For Earth Day?

Earth Day. Macy's is offering 10% off everything you buy if you donate $5 to a certain organization. Donate $5 buy a lot of stuff that will eventually end up in land fills. Yep, sounds like a futile way to celebrate Earth Day to me. 

I have never seen a greater consumer interest in Earth Day than I'm seeing this year. I don't watch a lot of TV, but the little that I did watch over the weekend (mostly cooking shows and a couple of reruns of MASH last night) were riddled with commercials describing what this retailer is going to do on Earth Day if you buy products from them or how that manufacturer has made their product "greener" by putting 30% less plastic in their bottle or removing one chemical from their toxic laden cleaning product.

Earth Day is not about buying. It's about doing. Doing something to improve the health of the earth. 

What are you going to DO for Earth Day?

Yesterday my boys and I showed up with a small handful of other residents to go clean up trash in areas of our town. We picked one of the parks and the Little League fields since we regularly use those areas. The boys worked pretty hard even if they did have to climb to the top of each piece of playground equipment because they were making sure there was no trash up there orclimb on top of the roof of each dugout for the same reason. They had some fun and did some good at the same time.

Tomorrow, on Earth Day, I'm going into my third graders classroom to read The Lorax and talk about how the kids and their families can do little things to "speak for the trees."

The things you do for Earth Day don't need to take a lot of time and they certainly don't need to cost any many. 

So if you want to DO something for Earth Day, here are some suggestions.

  • Walk or take public transportation instead of driving somewhere
  • Plant something - it doesn't have to be a tree
  • Take your kids somewhere you frequent - like the park or the ball fields - and spend 15 - 30 minutes cleaning up trash. If you have no kids, do it alone.
  • Bring your own reusable bags if you are doing any shopping
  • Take a mug to work so you don't use any disposable coffee cups
  • Educate yourself. Even if you've only got five minutes, head over to National Geographic's Green Guide site. There's some great information on it.
  • Eat lunch outside. Enjoy the world you want to help save.
  • Make an effort to recycle everything that can be recycled. 
So tomorrow on Earth Day, commit to DOING something, not buying something.
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Friday, April 18, 2008

I've Got a Funeral Today

Hey all,

I've got a funeral today so I'm not going to be doing an actual post. 

I want to remind you that Let It All Hang Out Day is tomorrow. I'll have to have my stuff hanging before 7:30 AM tomorrow with the busy day that is planned, but it will be there!

Also, if you have some time this weekend, see what Earth Day events are happening in your local area. Earth Day is next Tuesday and there are celebrations and work days happening all over the place Saturday and Sunday.

My family and I will be helping to do some clean up in our town on Sunday afternoon. I hope the rain holds off!

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And the ChicoBag winner is.....


Thanks for your comments Janine. Keep them coming. 
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

I often get press releases e-mailed to me from marketing companies asking me to mention their website/product/announcement on this blog. Up until now I've just kind of glossed over them, but I've decided to read them carefully and begin passing along the ones I think fit in well with what we're trying to do here.

I got this one today, and since it is about being green about your media (books, cd's, dvd's, etc), I figured I'd pass it on. I've been trying to purchase all of my media used if possible lately, and this is a way to get some it of it in a green and free way.

In honor of Earth Day this Tuesday,, the website where you can trade the books, DVDs, CDs, and video games you have, for the ones you want, for free, will be donating $1 dollar for every trade made on Earth Day to The Sierra Club.

So if getting a free book, DVD, video game or CD was not enough, now by signing up and doing a trade, you will also be donating to America’s oldest and largest environmental organization on Swaptree’s dime!

One of the main reasons we started Swaptree was to promote the idea that we should all recycle more and throw away less. After all do we really need 20 million copies of each of the Harry Potter books? Can’t we just trade and share a few hundred thousand?

In recent studies, it was estimated that every book contributes 8.85 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, while every CD or DVD contributes 2.2 pounds. Furthermore, 100,000 pounds of CDs and DVDs (and their nasty chemicals) are deposited in US landfills every month, while the book industry chops down in excess of 19 million trees yearly. Pretty frightening numbers I am sure you’ll agree. Obviously reducing the consumption of these items would have a positive impact on the environment.

On Swaptree you simply list the items that you have to trade and the items that you want and Swaptree’s two and three-way trade algorithms instantly shows you all of the items you can receive in trade. Swaptree even simplifies the mailing process, by providing you with a perfect postage label that can be printed right from your computer, so you never have to go to the post office.

So there it is is. Check it out or not, but I wanted you to be informed. I think I'll check it out.
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Toys R Us Now Carries Natural Wood Toys

We got a Toys R Us coupon book in the mail yesterday. Inside they have a two page spread on their "all-new ALL-NATURAL TOYS only at Toys R Us!" It's a line of wooden toys that is geared for the ages 2 and up set. There are toys like shape sorters (about $11.00), alphabet block wagon (about $15.00) and a train made of blocks (about $25.00).

According to the advertisement they are made with no paints, dyes or finishes; solid burned wood; large, easy to handle pieces; Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood; 100% recyclable. There is also a picture of their packaging - a cardboard box (I don't know if there is any excess plastic packing inside or not).

From first look, this looks like a good effort from Toys R Us. Simple, basic, safe toys that won't harm the environment. Next time you're looking for a toddler gift, these may be a good option.

Has anyone actually seen the toys yet? I rarely go to Toys R Us. Perhaps once at Christmas time if I can't find what I'm looking for somewhere else. So if you've seen these toys, let us know what you think.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Question for My Readers

I know I've got some faithful readers out there. Thank you. I've got a question for you and anyone else reading this blog. I'm going on vacation next week. Our niece is getting married and there will be a mass migration of family members from the east coast out to Arizona for the big event.

Now, I've read comments from bloggers and writers about how they can never really take a vacation. They always have to be writing - especially bloggers. Some are able to write ahead of time and post date. But many say they still need to write everyday or they are going to loose readership.

I was just out to lunch with my husband, and we were talking about this. Should I write posts ahead of time and let them post every morning. Or should I truly take the week off. I've arranged it so I don't have any paying jobs that will be hanging over my head that week. 

Lately, I've been trying to live a lifestyle of NOT keeping up with the Joneses. So I'm wondering, just because all the other bloggers blog while on vacation, does that mean I have to? Just because they say it's impossible to leave work behind, do I have to believe them? Can I risk loosing a few readers if I don't post for a week? Will I actually really loose readers?

Will you forget about me if I go on vacation?

Please let me know your thoughts.
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Green Term of the Week - Source Reduction

Source reduction (aka waste prevention, pollution prevention) is the process of eliminating waste before it's created. It's an integral part of waste management because it creates less waste to actually manage. It's a proactive approach to the problem of waste.

There are lots of ways that families can implement source reduction in their homes. Here are some ideas:

  • Opt for paperless statements from the bank, your credit card company, and any other place that offers to e-mail you your statement instead of mailing it.
  • Use reusable grocery bags when you buy your groceries.
  • Use cloth napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and paper towels.
  • Save gift bags that you have received and reuse them.
  • Buy cleaning products in concentrated form - you'll get the same amount of cleaning power with less packaging.
  • When buying two or three of the same fruits or vegetables from the grocery store don't put them in the plastic bag that is offered. Just throw the produce in your cart and group them together on the check out conveyer belt. 
  • Return hangers to the dry cleaners and the generic flowers that flowers are delivered in to the florist.
  • Use both sides of paper. 
  • Don't buy things you don't need! If you weren't planning on buying it you probably shouldn't buy it just because it's a good deal. (Here's a helpful hint - if you're going into a store where you inevitably end up buying more than you intended, don't grab a shopping cart. Make a bee-line for what you intended, pick it up with your hands and go straight to the check out.
There are thousands of other ways to implement source reduction in your home. Feel free to share some ways that you stop waste before it even starts in the comments.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mama Mirabelle’s Home Movies celebrates Earth Day

National Geographic's children's series Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies will air an episode inspired by Earth Day. I got a sneak peak of the episode "Kings and Queens of the Savannah" which will air on local PBS stations this weekend.

Here's the info from the show itself:

This special episode celebrates Earth Day by celebrating the circle of life. It emphasizes the important balance in nature and how every animal plays a role in maintaining that balance, from the bee that pollinates the flower to the elephant that eats leaves from the trees. When Mama overhears Bo, Karla and Max having a discussion about who the true king or queen of the savanna might be, she takes them on a nature walk and shows the kids that every animal, no matter how big or small plays an important role in nature.

I'd never seen Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies before so I wasn't sure what age group the kid's show targets. It is definitely for the preschool set. The show does very simply explains the circle of plant life in the savannah to children. It teaches how bugs, birds, and animals all have a role to play in how plant life grows and how each creature is very important for the circle of life to keep repeating itself. 

The show only focuses on the circle of plant life. There are no animals eating animals mentioned in this show. In fact, one of the main characters is a cheetah, and it is never mentioned that the cheetah would be participating in the circle of life by eating some of his friends. I suppose this is because the program is aimed at the youngest viewers, but if you do watch it with older children, the carnivorous part of the circle of life might get mentioned when the show is done.

If you're looking for something to watch together with your little ones this weekend to help them understand a little more about nature, this would be a good choice. Earth Day is not specifically mentioned in the program, but that's just fine. Educating children about the earth shouldn't be left to just one day out of the year.

You can check your local PBS listings to find out when Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies airs on your station.
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Monday, April 14, 2008

Another Lorax Project Update

I've been remiss in checking the website for The Lorax Project, but I just checked this evening. There is something there now. It's still not very clear what the project is all about, but you can sign your name and e-mail address to receive information on when the Lorax returns. 

When I clicked on the button to sign myself up (the button says "speak for the trees" by the way) it took me to a thank you page that had a little  card on it. At the top of the card it said "Truffula Seed Pledge." 

I'm hoping that the site gets a little more involved by Earth Day. Check out what's there now yourself at

I also found a little info at the Sylvania lighting's website. Apparently, they are a part of this project, too. Click here to see how they are a part.

So that's what I've got for you. It isn't very clear what this whole thing will be, but it is clear to me that a lot of people are interested in it. When I look at what people are googling when they find my blog, the number one thing that sends people here is when they google "The Lorax Project." So a lot of people are wondering. 

Earth Day is next week. I'm hoping we find out more then.
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Let it All Hang Out Day - April 19th

Don't forget about the contest I'm running to win a ChicoBag. Click here to find out how.

Over the past few days I've read a few things about National Let it All Hang Out Day. It's a day where people are being challenged to hang their laundry outside instead of drying it in their clothes dryer. It's actually a Canadian thing, but people in the US are beginning to pick up on it, too.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about greening the drying of your laundry. I won't repeat myself - you can just click here if you want to read it.

One of the suggestions in the post, of course, was hanging your laundry out to dry. I hang some of mine in the basement, and I've been meaning to get a clothes line for outside. Reading about this challenge has made me decide that now is the time. By this Saturday, I will have a clothes line in my back yard.

Anyone want to join me and put a load of laundry out to dry before you get busy this Saturday with little league games, gardening and whatever else your Saturday holds?
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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday Bragging About My Boys

I almost decided not to write this because the same two boys I'm about to brag about gave me a hard time about doing some weeding and raking for me today, but they deserve a shout out.

Yesterday, my five year old and I spent the morning at the garden center choosing things for our flower beds and our soon to be organic vegetable garden. He is really excited about planning the veggie garden with me. He choose tomatoes and carrots and we also choose some radishes specifically to grow for my mom. He also really wanted to buy zucchini, but I explained to him that zucchini takes up a lot of room, and we are trying to do a small garden so we have a chance of actually being successful. He also picked up basil, parsley, oregano, and lavender. 

He was so excited to plant the seeds. We spent an hour before he had to go to kindergarten filling the yogurt containers we had saved all winter with organic potting soil. Then we planted our seeds and put them on a table right in front of the dining room window. It's only been about 24 hours and he keeps checking to see if anything has grown yet. 

I'm really excited about our garden. Most of the planting of the garden is going to be done by my five year old and me in the mornings before he goes to kindergarten. The eight year old will be on board to help weed over the summer.

Now on to that eight year old. He is in the Care Club at school which is an environmental club. He and his really good friend entered a design contest for the club's t-shirt. Their design won. Isn't that cool. His artwork is going to be on an environmental t-shirt! When we get the shirts, I'll try to get a picture of it up on the blog.

I'm really proud of my boys. They weren't raised to be green. We just started on this journey together as a family about a year and a half ago. But little by little, they are beginning to make this a part of who they are. It's not just a thing mommy does. 
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Friday, April 11, 2008

A Foray into Thriftstore Shopping

I've written many advice type articles about how many aspects of being green can actually save you money. One of the things I always write about is second hand clothing. Especially for kids. Accepting hand me downs or shopping at thriftstores can save you a great deal of money.

But, I have a confession. Up until last Monday, I had never actually bought clothing at a thriftstore. I had bought clothing at consignment shops, but never a thriftstore. It's taken me a while to get past my middle class snobbery. 

In a week and a half, we're flying out to AZ for my niece's wedding. We all need something to wear. I've lost quite a bit of weight recently and don't have a summer dress in my closet that fits. The boys - well they've just grown; they were going to need new clothes anyway. And my husband rarely shops and could use something new for casual occasions. 

I hit the local consignment shops first for me, but came up empty handed in the dress department. I did find one fabulous skirt I bought, but it's not appropriate for the wedding. So I decided it was time to put my snobbery beside me, practice what I preach, and head for the local Good Will.

I went through an entire wall of dresses that were not divided by size or any other factor, and once again came up empty handed. I found only two dresses in my size that were summery, and neither suited my taste. So then I went over to the kids racks. Again, I had to route through racks of unorganized clothes, but I got some real bargains.

brand new Levi's with tags still on for $3.99
a short sleeved dress shirt for my older son to wear the the wedding for $.99!
two pairs of boys cargo type shorts - $.99/each
one boys t-shirt - again - $.99

$7.95 for all of that - it was all in good condition

When discussing my finds with some friends, I was told that I went to the wrong thriftstore. That if I had gone to one that is located in a certain other town, the options would be much better because it's in a ritzier area and better quality stuff is dropped off there. I will be checking out that one when I have the opportunity.

Based off of my one thriftstore experience (I know, not exactly scientific research) here are my thoughts:

  • Go without the kids, if possible. I was there much longer than I would have been at a traditional store because the clothes aren't divided into sizes. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to search through everything. 
  • Go with cash. The store I was in doesn't accept debit or credit cards.
  • Have a really good idea of what sizes you need. If you're shopping for someone who is not with you, have measurements written down. Purchases were not returnable, so if I bought something that didn't fit, I was stuck with it.
  • Be prepared to have your sense of smell assaulted if you're fragrance sensitive. Walking through the racks of clothes all I could smell was a mixture of various detergents and fabric softener sheets. For me, it was almost migraine inducing (I am very sensitive to fragrances). 
  • Bring your reusable bags with you to cart home all your purchases (I had my Chicobag with me, find out how to win your own Chicobag, here).
I did end up finding a dress, but at a traditional store. It's really pretty. I love it. It would have been great if I could have found a "pre-owned" dress, but it just didn't happen. And I felt like wasting the time and the gas driving to every consignment/thriftstore within reasonable distance would have negated the fact that I was trying to buy used. 

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Combatting Perceived Obscolescence

Hey, don't forget I'm running a contest right now for a free ChicoBag. Click here to see how you can win (and then come back here!)

Wow, I'm posting very late tonight. It was such a beautiful day, and I spent much of it outside. But I didn't want the day to pass without finishing the discussion I started yesterday about perceived obsolescence

I've got this cell phone. It's really a pain in the butt. It's one of the first Chocolate models - Cherry Chocolate to be exact, and I got it when my cell phone plan allowed me to upgrade my phone for next to nothing. There was nothing wrong with my old cell phone, except that it was old. It had no camera. It didn't look cool. The Cherry Chocolate - it looks cool. Honestly, that was it's biggest selling point. 

So I traded in my perfectly good, useful, but boring phone for one that has a mind of its own. It calls people indiscriminately. It's very touch sensitive when I don't want it to be, but I have to touch the send button ten times, pound down on it actually, when I want to make a call. Oh, and although it has call waiting, there is actually no way to answer the call waiting. The feature doesn't work. 

The perceived obsolescence of my old phone led me to get this piece of junk phone. And now I'm stuck with it. Why? Because I refuse to get a new phone. I'm trying to buy less stuff, trying to be more wise about the stuff I do buy, and trying to turn my back on mindless consumerism. I think that maybe if I force myself to suffer with this phone, I'll think twice about getting rid of something completely useful just because I need the newer model.

Like my mini van that hardly ever leaves the driveway. Sometimes, I think it would be nice to have a new mini van with a built in DVD player and those seats that turn around so the kids can face a table in the center of the van. But one look at my crummy phone makes me think straight.

I don't think however that forcing myself to live with this sometimes useless phone is the best answer to combatting perceived obsolescence. So how do we combat this concept that causes us to create waste and pollution?

Here are few simple ideas:
  • Buy with the long term in mind. Whether it's fashion, furniture, electronics or automobiles, don't go for what is trendy. Go for what is made well, what you like, and what is the best you can afford. 
  • If yours isn't the latest and greatest get all zen about it. So what? Let it go. I have an older iPod nano. It doesn't have video on it. It does however play music and podcasts wonderfully. If I didn't know the new nanos played video, would I care about video? No. Do I really want to watch video on that tiny of a screen anyway? No. 
  • Don't care about the Joneses. You can never keep up anyway. 
These aren't earth shattering ideas. They're just simple common sense. 

How do you combat perceived obsolescence? 

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Locavores (and Wannabes) - Get Familiar with the Farm Bill

I'm a little behind in reporting this, but I just discovered it. On March 1 there was an op-ed piece in the NY Times written by a small organic vegetable farmer from Minnesota, Jack Hedin, titled My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables). Please, take a minute and read this articulate and concise letter (then come back here!).

Seems he needed more land to grow his organic fruits and veggies on to help keep up with the increasing demands for locally grown produce. He rented an additional 25 acres (to supplement his 100 acres) from two neighboring federally subsidized farms that normally grow corn. 

When the powers that be found out that fruits and vegetables were being grown on the land instead of corn, the owners of the land were penalized. Their subsidation for those 25 acres was taken away and they were penalized the amount of money that the crop brought in. Mr. Hedin, ended up owing the 2 landlords over $8,000 to pay for the fines!

If corn had been grown on the land, there wouldn't have been a problem. But here's the kicker, if NOTHING had been grown on the land, there wouldn't have been a problem either. It's outrageous.

The piece goes on to explain how the a certain part of  the Farm Bill  protects the big fruit and vegetable growers in CA and FL who throw money at those who create the Farm Bill. It's a jaw dropping, eye opening, powerful read. 

I'm going to be writing to my representatives in Congress and ask them to please read this op-ed piece and fix the farm bill so that it doesn't penalize small farmers for providing their communities with exactly what they want - healthy, locally grown food for their families.

For a sample letter that you can send to Congress, see this from the Crunchy Chicken blog.

I know many of you are as excited as I am about the farmer's markets opening soon. If you want to keep the farms that sell at these markets in business, if you want them to be able to sell their produce at a price you can afford, if you want to make sure that your food doesn't travel 100's or even 1000's of miles before it hits your table, please take a minute and write your representatives.

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A Little Greener Every Day's First Contest - Win a ChicoBag

Yesterday, I told you how fabulous Chicobags are. Today, I'm giving one away. Here's how to win.

The person who leaves the most comments between now and next Wednesday, April 16th, at 11:59pm EST will win the Chicobag. I know there are a lot more of you out there that are reading than are commenting, and I'd like to hear from you.

There are a couple of rules about comments though.

  • They need to contribute to the conversation at hand - add something new. Not just "I agree" or "Great Post" or the like.
  • No breaking your comment up  into several different posts just to get more - if you comment three times with five minutes, I know your trying to stuff the ballot box as it were.
The prize may be small, but it's a really great little bag. 

Good Luck!
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Perceived Obsolescence

I think the first time I fell victim to today's term, perceived obsolescence, was the first day of seventh grade. I was sitting in homeroom on my first day of junior high and this boy that I had never met before turned around from in front of me and said, "Do you still like disco?" The word still should have been my first clue, but I didn't pick up on it.

"Yes, I like disco." 

"Disco is dead. Nobody who has any taste in music likes it anymore," was his reply. He turned around, and I can't remember if he ever said another single word to me the rest of the school year.

That was it. I was suddenly indoctrinated into the world of perceived obsolescence - the idea that something is no longer useful because it is no longer in fashion; something new has come along and even though the old thing is still completely useful it is "out."

How does this relate to green? Perceived obsolescence is responsible for a good deal of the waste that now fills our landfills and the rampant consumerism that causes us to buy more stuff than we need. That stuff costs us more than just cash. That stuff uses up resources and creates pollution in its manufacturing and shipping.

Whether it's music, fashion, electronics, cars, toys, or whatever else it is that was cool yesterday but not so much today, when the perceived obsolescence of an object gets ahold of a consumer, a lot of waste is generated.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about how to combat perceived obsolescence. Think about it over night.

And come back later today, when I'll post my first contest - the winner will receive a ChicoBag.

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ChicoBag - Helping Humanity Kick the Single Use Bag Habit

I've been asked to do another product review. This time it's for ChicoBag. 

I don't know how many times I've unexpectedly stopped for a few items at the grocery store and didn't have my reusable shopping bags with me. The same goes for shopping at other stores. I end up taking a lot of bags I don't want because I've forgotten my reusable bag.

Enter ChicoBag. It's a nylon bag that folds into its own little carrying bag that is sewn right into the inside lining of the bag. It has a little clip on it so you can clip it on a belt loop, back pack, key chain or you can just toss it in your handbag. What differentiates this from your other reusable bags is that you can carry it with you easily. You have a better of chance of actually having it when you need it. I've used my ChicoBag at least once every day since I got it last week. 

Here are some facts about the bag:
  • It weighs 1.5 oz
  • When unfolded it's approx. 18" x 18"
  • It can carry 20 pounds
  • It has a one year warranty
  • It is machine washable - hang to dry
  • It's made in China by a fair labor, fair manufacturing company 
  • It's made in a variety of colors
This is one product that I really like. 

Oh, and if anyone reading this is in charge of fundraising for a school or organization, ChicoBag has a fundraising program that seems like a perfect alternative to the tired old wrapping paper sale.

I was sent two ChicoBags for this review. I'm going to share the wealth. Come back tomorrow, and I'll let you know how you can win a ChicoBag.
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Monday, April 7, 2008

Putting Together A Green Gift Basket

Several times a year I end up involved in putting together gift baskets for charity auctions. The men's group at my church asked for gift basket donations for an auction they are doing, and some friends and I decided to put together a green basket for the auction. 

Here's what went into the basket (which wasn't really a basket because we used a huge reusable tote bag):

  • organic coffee
  • a couple of organic chocolate bars
  • a travel coffee mug
  • a reusable beverage container
  • a packet of CFL's 
  • the book Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • 5 reusable grocery bags
  • an assortment of green cleaning products - probably 6 or 7 different products 

I'm so pleased with what we put together that I'll be tempted to bid on it myself on Saturday.

I'll be putting together a similar basket that will be donated by my town's green committee for our little league auction.

What would you add to a bag like this?

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Greening Your Coffee Habit

It's hard for me to believe that I didn't start drinking coffee until about a year ago. Whether or not it's good for me, that's a conversation for another day. But how I can make my addiction a little more environmentally friendly, that's something I'm willing to discuss right now.

Here are some tips on leaving less of an impact on the earth whether you're drinking your first or your fifth cup of the day.

Make Your Own Coffee
It's amazing how sometimes it seems easier to get in the car and drive to the local Starbucks or WaWa to get coffee than it is to shlep on down to my own kitchen and make it myself. But sometimes, it happens. But it's been happening less and less around my house. 

Why is making your own greener? 
  • You save gas and emissions by not driving your car just to get a cup of coffee
  • You save waste - no paper cup (or worse - styrofoam cup), plastic stir stick, paper packet of sugar, or little plastic creamer cup to throw away when you're done
  • You can ensure that the coffee itself is green (see next point)
Purchase Fair Trade, Shade Grown or Organic Coffee
Any one of these options is grown in a manner that is healthier for the earth. The coffee of choice in our house currently is Paul Newman's Special Blend. It's organic and fair trade certified. It costs a bit more, but since we're making our own coffee much more often, we're saving a lot on coffee and can afford some better beans.

Reuse Your Grinds
There is a great post over at Sustainable Enterprises on recycling grinds as compost and fertilizer and the like. 

Choose a Better Filter
Buy brown, unbleached paper filters or better yet, purchase a reusable one.

Take Your Own Travel Mug to the Coffee House and Beyond
For those times when you go beyond your own kitchen for your coffee, do what you can to avoid the paper cups.

We have a fabulous little coffee house in my town, and they welcome those who bring their own travel mug. They'll even rinse it out for you if need be. I also often take my own mug to my mom's group, church meetings, and other places I know there will be coffee offered.

If anyone has any tips I haven't thought of, please post them in the comments section.

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