Friday, May 30, 2008


If you haven't signed up for June's mini eco-challenge yet, there is still time. I'd love to have at least two more participants so we can beat our May numbers by a whole one person!

The Sesame Street Love the Earth DVD give away contest will run through next Thursday. If you want a chance to win it, you need to leave a comment under the post.

Enjoy your weekend - I'm off to prepare for my younger son's sixth birthday party!
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Lessons Learned in the Strawberry Patch

Yesterday, my five year old (well, he was five yesterday, today he is six!) and his friend and I went strawberry picking. It's an annual tradition we've had since they were two. We picked 14 pounds of strawberries. 

Here are some of the things we learned:

Strawberries are good (I already knew that but my son decided he didn't like them until we coaxed him into picking one and trying it - he loudly declared them good).

Food grows in dirt.

Eating a little dirt can't hurt you.

It's really fun to eat food you've just picked.

Time flies really fast when you're enjoying yourself.

It's important to rotate crops (last year the strawberries were on the other side of the field).

Bending over doesn't feel like such a chore when the reward is a fresh picked strawberry (okay, only I learned that lesson).

It's better to pick early in the day before it gets too hot.

Sharing traditions with friends is important.

Sharing your bounty with friends is important - we gave away a lot of strawberries to neighbors today.

If you want a basket full of perfect, bright red, juicy strawberries, leave the kids at home. If you want to have a lot of fun, let the kids see how things work on a farm, and give them a love for good food and nature, accept the fact that you're going to have a few less then ripe berries. 

Strawberries are good.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Voluntary Simplicity

The existence of Thoreau's Walden somehow completely eluded me until I began my post-baccalaureate studies to get certified to teach English. There were some huge literary holes in my high school and under grad classes. When I finally got around to reading Walden, it impressed me greatly.

The well-known passage

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail."

from the wisdom laden "Where I Lived and What I Lived For" chapter has  always been in the back of my mind. 

If you are familiar with Thoreau at all, then you will know that he went to extreme measures to live a life of voluntary simplicity.

Voluntary Simplicity is a way of life where people choose to live with less so they can have a fuller life. The less is more approach to life. 

If you are choosing to cook more meals at home instead of running through the fast food drive through, you are practicing voluntary simplicity.

If you are giving up your expensive morning mocha, half-caf, skinny, blah, blah, blah in exchange for a good old cup of home brewed morning joe, you are practicing voluntary simplicity.

If you are purposely taking your kids to the park to play instead of heading to the video store to rent a movie to watch, you are practicing voluntary simplicity.

If you've taken yourself off of catalog mailing lists so you don't waste as many trees and you know if you don't know the stuff in the catalogs exists you won't want to buy it, you are practicing voluntary simplicity.

The list could go on and on. The benefits to the earth as people live lives of voluntary simplicity are many. I found this list over at the Great River Earth Institute's website:
  • Less pollution from transportation, and less traffic congestion, accidents and need for new roads.
  • Less environmental impact from resource extraction and manufacturing.
  • Less need for new power plants and new water treatment plants as people waste less electricity and water.
  • More community cohesiveness, resulting in less crime and more neighborliness, safer streets and better schools.
  • More grassroots democracy as people take more interest in how their communities operate.
  • More ecological restoration as people find simple pleasure in connecting with their local environment and seek to heal it.
  • A flowering of local culture--music, storytelling, drama, games, poetry.
I encourage you to click on the link for the Great River Earth Institute. They have a more in-depth discussion of voluntary simplicity.

Have you begun to practice voluntary simplicity in any ways recently (even if you didn't know that is what you were doing?)

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Contest: Win Sesame Street's Love The Earth DVD

Earlier this month I did a review on Sesame Street's Love The Earth DVD.  It was a great DVD, but even though my youngest enjoyed it, he's not about to choose Sesame Street when I allow him to watch a DVD. 

So instead of letting the DVD sit around unused, I'm going to give away our very gently used copy of Sesame Street's Love the Earth.

Here's what you've got to do to win it. Leave a comment to this post telling me one way that you are going to be greener this summer than you were last summer.

I'll keep the contest open until Thursday, June 5th and I'll pick one random winner from all the replies.
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

June's Mini-Eco Challenge

It's hard to believe it's almost the end of May and that Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. I had a really, relaxing, enjoyable weekend. Our community pool opened and we walked or biked to the pool each day (I'm going to do a post later on in the week about how to make your pool membership greener). We went to two BBQ's. Saw the Indiana Jones movie. And last night we had an impromptu neighborhood party on our friend's front lawn until it was time for all the kids to go in and cleaned up for bed. 

It's time to get back to work though, and I thought I'd turn our thoughts A Little Greener Every Day's next mini-eco challenge. In May, we had five people including me choose one or more of the challenges that I put forth. This month, I'd love to have six people (or more) participate in a one week challenge that will run from June 1- June 7. 

Here are this month's challenges:

Challenge #1
Cook a dinner made with only locally grown, raised, or made foods. The farmer's markets are open now and many of them offer more than just produce. You can get meats, eggs, and breads at most farmer's markets. 

Challenge #2
Ditch the paper towels. Use rags to clean up messes instead of paper towels. Of course, you shouldn't just throw the paper towels in the trash. Stash them away where they are out of sight, out of mind so when a kid throws up or a cat coughs up a fur ball, you've got them for the truly gross jobs.

Challenge #3
Make your own coffee with organic, fair trade coffee for an entire week instead of heading out to the coffee house. Heading out for coffee in your car uses up gas, creates pollution, and usually ends up with a paper cup, a cardboard sleeve and a stir stick in the trash. 

Challenge #4
Walk - Buy a pedometer and set yourself a challenging goal in miles. At least half of those miles must be walked by taking yourself somewhere on foot that you normally would have driven in your car. This will take some time management, but you can do it.

Challenge #5
Pick one of last months challenges. They included taking no plastic or paper retail/shopping bags, taking navy showers, packing trash free lunches, hang drying all your laundry, and choosing from a list of environmental books to read. They were good challenges. No reason to exclude them. If you choose one or more of them last month and have continued past the week, challenge yourself with a new one. 

I'm going to take on challenge #1, #4, and #5 - from last month I am choosing another book but one that is  not on the list (I've read all those). I'll be reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. That book can be added to the challenge list.
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Monday, May 26, 2008

A Greener Memorial Day BBQ: An Update and a Really Great Potato Salad Recipe

I posted early last week about greening your Memorial (and all summer) BBQ's. Last night my family and I attended a BBQ that was held at a park near our church with some other church members. 

I was really impressed by a lot of what I saw. So many people had brought their food in reusable bags and containers. I didn't purposely go around checking out bags, but they were sitting on top of all of the picnic tables and it was hard for someone like me not to notice it.

I also noticed that we weren't the only ones to bring durable plates and utensils to eat off of. 

Since this was an everyone bring your own food event, I had picked up two steaks at the farmer's market on Saturday morning. They came from free roaming, pasture grazing, happy cows. I didn't have time to marinate them so they went on the grill as is. Really great flavor. We did cook them too long, however, but they were still enjoyable.

I also need to link you all to the potato salad recipe that I found. We had a different BBQ to go to at a friend's house on Saturday night, and I was asked to bring potato salad. I think I've only ever made it once before so I needed to hunt down a recipe. I found this one at, and although it was labor intensive, it was so worth it. Delicious. I bought all of the ingredients for it except the mayo, bacon, salt and pepper at the farmer's market (oh, and I substituted green onions for regular onions in the recipe).

It felt good knowing that this year, my Memorial day festivities were a little greener. What evidence did you see over this holiday weekend that shows you people are starting to make green a part of their lives?

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Time to Have Your Air Conditioner Serviced for Best Energy Efficiency

Summer's coming. It unofficially starts tomorrow, and over the next few weeks the weather will be warming up and air conditioners will start their summer jobs. If you haven't done so yet, you should have your air conditioner serviced by a professional so that it runs the most efficiently this summer. 

I used to think that it probably cost more to have it serviced than the amount of money I saved by having it run efficiently. But now I realize that the cost of not having it serviced is more than just monetary. 

If you don't have it serviced annually, it's estimated that your air conditioner unit will lose 5% of its efficiency each year. 

Other tips for keeping your unit running more efficiently:
  • Change your filters regularly. When you have it serviced, the filters should be changed. But checking the filters monthly after that to make sure they are clean will ensure that the unit runs more efficiently.
  • Get a programable thermostat and learn how to use it. A programable thermostat can regulate the turning off and turning on of your unit when it needs it. It won't run longer than it needs to.
  • If your home is particularly humid, get a separate dehumidifier. Air conditioners work overtime to get the humidity out of the air. Get an Energy Star certified dehumidifier, and your air will be more comfortable while your air conditioner works less.
  • Close your blinds and drapes. Open blinds and drapes let the sunlight in and heats the inside of the home causing your air conditioner to work harder. Keeping them closed during the day will keep your home cooler.
  • Watch out for heat producing appliances. Washers, dryers, ovens, dishwasher, even showers can raise the temperature in your home and often add humidity. Run appliances early in the morning or late at night when the outside temperature is cooler. Use toaster ovens, slow cookers, or cook outside instead of heating up your oven. Take a cool bath or shower.
An added benefit to running your air conditioner efficiently is that it will save you money.
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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Five Ways to be Greener Today that Save Money

Because both my husband and I both work from home, the rise in gas prices has not affected us badly. We still grumble when it's time to fill up the tank, but since we don't have to fill up very often, we're not scrambling to figure out how to afford it. But I know many people are, and they are looking for ways to save in other areas so they have more money left for gas (or food or clothing).

Of course, the best way to save on gas is to drive less, but for some people that is just not possible, yet. So here are five ways to save a little green by being a little greener (wow, I wonder how many people have written a variation on that sentence recently?).
  1. Wash your clothes in cold water and hang them dry. When you wash your clothes in warm water, your hot water heater has to work harder. When you dry your clothes in the dryer, again, you use energy. If you wash in cold water and hang them dry, you'll save energy (being green) and your energy bills will be lower (saving green).
  2. Be your dad. Run around the house saying, "This place is lit up like a Christmas tree!" while turning off all the lights. Okay, that's being my dad. But seriously, if you turn off lights and electronics when not in use (being green) you can use up to 45% less electricity a month (saving green).
  3. Eat your leftovers. If you have leftover night once a week (where you pull out all the leftovers and have a smorgasbord), you'll have to buy one less dinner's worth of food each week (saving green) and not as many animals and plants will need to be consumed (being green).
  4. Drink tap water. You've stopped drinking bottled water by now, right? But what about other things that come in bottles. Soda? Juice? Sports Drinks? Iced Teas? Energy drinks? By drinking plain water instead of those other beverages, you won't be adding to the plastic bottle problem (being green), and you won't be spending money on drinks that are probably bad for you anyway (saving green).
  5. Visit your local library. Cancel your movie rental subscription or stop going to the video rental store, and borrow your DVD's from your local library. Borrow books, too, instead of running out and buying the latest bestsellers. Libraries are free (saving green) and you won't be purchasing books and DVD's that will end up in a donate pile in a year or so (being green).
It may take a while to see the savings from some of these suggestions, but some of them will start saving you money today. 

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Downcycling

When you dutifully put your plastic bottles into your recycling bin each week, do you know what happens to them after they've been picked up? Do they get turned into other plastic bottles? In fact they don't. They are usually downcycled into plastic lumber or carpet padding. For a plastic bottle to be truly recycled it would have to become another plastic bottle.

Downcycling occurs when materials that are being recycled lose viability or value during the process and cannot be recycled back into the same product. One web site described it like making of a photo copy of a photo copy. The original is the best quality. The first photo copy looses some quality. Each successive copy looses even more quality. That is what happens in the downcycling process.

Although downcycling is beneficial because it keeps things out of landfills (for a time at least - the plastic lumber or carpet padding made from bottles will most likely end up there some day), it doesn't stop the need for more and more resources to be used to make more plastic bottles.

So chances are, when you buy something in a plastic bottle, it's new plastic that you're purchasing. That new plastic took natural resources to create. Sure, you'll recycle it when you're done with it, but its creation was still harmful to the environment. That's why it's a good idea to curb your plastic bottle consumption.

Plastic bottles aren't the only thing that are downcycled.

Next week we'll look at the other end of the recycling spectrum - upcycling.

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New Website Lists Eco-Friendly Giveaways and Savings

There's a a brand new directory that lists hundreds of eco-friendly giveaways and deals – everything from sweepstakes for hybrid cars to coupons for organic foods. It's called Ecobunga!.

According to the information they sent me, at Ecobunga!, shoppers can find discounts, free shipping, contests, sweepstakes, and more on all sorts of green products and services. Consumers are not the only ones to benefit. Businesses with earth-friendly offerings can add their deals anytime for free.

I took a quick look at the site, and I think it may be worth your time. I signed up to receive some free samples of tea and I entered a giveaway contest to get reusable produce bags. 
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

11 Ways to Save Money on Organics over at Tree Hugging Family

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about continuing to buy organic food while our food dollars are shrinking. I haven't followed up on it like I said I would in the post, but I can point you to some more tips.

Today over at Tree Hugging Family there's a similar post. They've got some good advice so please, click here, and check it out. 
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Follow me to The Lohasian

I've got a new post up at The Lohasian - Helping Kids Keep Their "Green Glow". Hop on over and take a look. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Greener Memorial Day BBQ

Can I tell you how much I'm looking forward to this weekend? Indiana Jones. The unofficial start of summer. Our local pool opens. No little league game at 9am on Saturday morning or karate at 10:30am. A bbq on Saturday afternoon to go to and another one on Monday afternoon. 

Yes, two bbq's. We're not hosting either of the bbq's, but at some point over the summer months, we will have a bbq or two in our own backyard. I'm coming up with a list of things to do now so I can share them with you who are having cookouts this weekend, and I'll have it ready when I have my own.

  • If you can, use cloth tablecloths and napkins, and durable plates, utensils and cups. Sure it will take a while to wash it all, but think about all the plastic cups and utensils that will be going into landfills after this weekend. Do you really want to add to that.
  • If you are going to use disposable, do it wisely. Find products that are made from recycled materials or that are biodegradable. Chinette makes sturdy paper plates that are made from recycled materials and are completely compostable after they are used. You can usually find them in the paper plate isle of your grocery store (note: they aren't marked as "eco-friendly" or "green." It's just their regular plain paper plates." If you want an easy, quick way to get all your more earth friendly disposables at once, try ordering them from ecoproducts.
  • Using traditional plastic wear? It doesn't have to be thrown away. Put a big bowl by the trash can with a sign on it that says, "Please put plastic utensils here." Wash them, and save them to be used again.
  • Do the plastic cup and Sharpie thing. Keep a black Sharpie by the plastic cups, and have people write their names on them so they don't use more than one cup for the afternoon. I used to hate it when people did this, but now I'm a fan.
  • Make some of your dishes from local, in season food.
  • Offer organic wine or beer choices and other beverage choices.
  • Make recycling easy - have clearly marked receptacles so people can easily put them where they belong.
  • Be a trash picker when it's all done. I know it's gross, but pick out things from the trash that shouldn't be there and put them where they should. 
  • Don't buy decorations that are going to be thrown away at the end of the evening. 
  • Let your guests know that you are trying to be more green with your bbq. If you don't let them know, it will be harder for them to help out.
  • Don't be the green, preachy police. Enjoy your event and do the best you can, but if someone uses two plastic cups, get over it.
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Saturday, May 17, 2008

How to Recycle Denim

The other week when I went to collect the trash, I noticed that my husband had put a pair of old jeans in the trash can. He wears his jeans till they are truly unwearable. The more faded and more holes, the more he loves them. But I suppose there comes a time when even his jeans become unwearable. I knew those particular jeans could not be donated so I let them be thrown away, and now I've felt guilty for weeks. 

So I've decided to figure out now what to do next time there's a pair of jeans to dispose of. Here's what I've come up with.
  1. Donate or hand them down - If they are in wearable condition but you no longer have a need for them, make sure they get into the hands of someone who can wear them.
  2. Fix them up - Did you know you can have your jeans repaired, not just patched up, but actually have threads resewn into them to repair them. This may not be worth it for all of your jeans, but every once in a while you get a pair that you absolutely love. Visit Denim Therapy to find out more about having your jeans repaired.
  3. Turn them into a craft project - I'm not particularly crafty, but some people are. Here's a list of creative things to do with an old pair of jeans - turning them into wine bags doesn't sound like such a bad idea to me. This isn't the only site dedicated to recycling denim the crafty way. If you do some searching, you'll find dozens of sites with creative ideas.
  4. Recycle them - From Blue to Green is a movement that is collecting old denim jeans to turn into insulation to be used in Habitat for Humanity houses. It looks like they hold various denim drives throughout the year.
  5. Hold your own denim drive - You know you're not the only person with old, unusable jeans. Contact your local Habitat for Humanity and find out how to hold a denim drive and donate your jeans plus a whole mini van full or more of everyone else's to be used as insulation.
  6. If you live in the UK, you can have them made into sandals for you - is a UK company that turns your old jeans into your new sandals, but they only ship to the UK mainland.
If you have any other ideas for how to recycle denim, please share them by adding them in the comments.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Reusing and Recycling - A Lesson from Grandma Prisbrey

There are times when I purposely set out to give my children a lesson about the environment and there are times when the lessons just come up naturally. One of those times was the other day when my son noticed that there was some plastic trash in the compost we had picked up for the garden. I was able to explain about how long it takes natural elements to break down and how long it takes plastics to break down. Quick, easy lesson.

Another lesson came later that day when he and I sat down to read some of the books we'd gotten from the library. I've taken to picking out one age appropriate biography for him and had grabbed a book called Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey.

In the 1950's and 1960's, Grandma Prisbrey built one room "houses" out of bottles that she had found at the local landfill. Beautiful, colorful houses. She furnished everything in these houses from things she found at the dump. People began to view these houses as art, and eventually Grandma Prisbrey built walkways out of things she found from the dump so people could easily come to visit.

These houses still exist in Simi Valley, California, although they suffered damage in the 1994 earthquake. 

The book is beautifully illustrated and the author makes these bottle houses sound so inviting that my son and I want to go see them. NOW. We can't do that, but  there are several websites that we were able to visit to find out more information and see pictures.

What I loved is that reading the book led into a natural discussion about reusing and recycling. The book never once uses the words "reusing" or "recycling." It's not written as a book that was meant to be an environmental lesson. It's a loving tribute to Grandma Prisbrey and her folk art. But the lesson is naturally there, anyway.

Here are some of the websites I found.

Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village - This looks to be a site put together by those who run the village.
Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village Tour - a YouTube video with footage from the village set to a Modest Mouse song. My five year old really likes to watch this over and over.
Bottle Village Walkway of Fame - Another YouTube video that has close up shots of the materials that were used in her buildings, and also tributes to those who contribute to its preservation.

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Ride Your Bike To Work to Save a Polar Bear

Today there are two national eco-type days.

It is National Ride Your Bike to Work Day (which comes conveniently at the end of Ride Your Bike to Work Week).

This week, the Interior Department officially declared that polar bears are an endangered species. They said that the loss of Arctic Sea ice will likely result in two-thirds of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century. This seems to be putting them on the fast track to extinction.

I don't talk much about global warming on this site for several reasons. The main reason is because I don't believe I understand enough about it to whole heartedly say I believe in it. I'm not saying that I don't believe in it either. I just know I'm not informed enough to have a definite opinion.

I don't think it matters whether I do believe in it or not, though. I do believe that we are polluting this world and not taking care of it the way that we should. I'm trying to live a green lifestyle because of that.

Doing things like bicycling or walking instead of driving whenever possible is one way to curb pollution. There's a chance that it will also help to save the endangered polar bears, too.

I don't have to bike to work because I work in the room next to my bedroom. However, I do have children to take to school. I'd love to bike there with them, but for some stupid reason, the school doesn't permit kids to ride their bikes and leave them locked in the bike rack that is at the school. So even if we biked there, I'd have a problem getting their bikes home. So we walk as often as possible. 

Can you bike or walk to work? If not, can you take public transportation? Are there other places that you frequent that you could bike or walk to? 

I truly believe that every little bit helps. They add up to lots of little bits, and if my lots of little bits help the polar bears, too, then I'm glad to help.
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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thoughts from Affluenza are Consuming Me

I think I've mentioned this before on here, but it bears repeating. Economics is not my thing. I hated the one economics class I was required to take in college, and I've paid little attention to how our economy really works ever since.

So now I'm reading Affluenza. I know it seems to be taking me a while to get through it. There is so much information to take in that is taking me a while. I frequently have to stop and reread passages. Sometimes I have to stop reading altogether because what I've just read is making my head spin.

Such was the case yesterday when the book got me seriously thinking about the Gross National Product. Not just thinking about it, but taking an interest in it. I spent the better part of yesterday, thinking about the GNP (that was of course after I spent the morning shoveling compost). 

Here's the concept I read about yesterday that really grabbed my attention.  In our country the marker of progress is the making of stuff. When we hear the news anchors talking about our Gross National Product, they are talking about the health of our country. 

Here is what I wrote in the margins of my book (I never read nonfiction without a pen and a highlighter). "I have never thought about this before. How dangerous and counterintuitive (if you take the time to listen to your intuition) this seems. We always have to produce more whether or not we need it or our country will fall apart economically. If a majority of the people were to embrace to live simply, it would cause havoc."

Now, not being someone who is particularly schooled on US economic theory, in the past I would have read this and thought "hmmm. I wonder if this is true?" and then forgot about it in the next chapter. 

But my times, they are a changin', and I now think. And I started to connect some economic dots that made me realize that this could be true. Right now our country is in a "recessionary climate" (as opposed to an actual recession, huh?), and our government is not telling us to tighten our belts and wait it out. They aren't scolding us like a good government should and telling us that we lived beyond our means, we made our beds, now lie in them. Instead, they are giving us money, in the form of economic stimulus checks, and telling us to spend more! 

What's going to get out us out this mess? Buying more stuff that we don't really need. Raising our GNP. If we can do that, then we'll appear healthy. 

Perhaps its time we rethought what the indicator of health in the United States is. Because this current indicator seems to be an indicator of insanity. We have more than we could ever need in this country. Sure, I understand that it is not distributed evenly, but the "haves" consuming more and more is never going to fix that. That's a different problem that needs to be fixed. 

To produce more, to consume more, only to keep us "economically healthy" is a never ending vicious cycle that will cause people to always feel the need to work more so they can make more money so they can buy more things. When they've spent all their money on things, they'll have to start working even more to get more. And all of these things that we must buy are contributing to our environmental problems. Insanity.

These are simply my first thoughts on this subject, but I wanted to share them and see if you have any thoughts or words of wisdom. If you do, please share them.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Composting

I sometimes have to just reflect on how "earthy" I've become. If you had told me a few years ago that I'd be taking trash cans and shovels in my mini van to scoop decomposed leaves, grass clippings and leftover food scraps and then haul it home, I would have never believed you. Seriously. That's what I did this morning with my husband and son. We went to a neighboring town's public works and shoveled our own compost for our garden.

Composting is a  process whereby organic wastes, including food wastes, paper, and yard wastes, decompose naturally, resulting in a product rich in minerals and ideal for gardening and farming as a soil conditioners, mulch, resurfacing material, or landfill cover. 

It's good for your gardens and its good for the earth. By using compost, I'm told, that I won't have a need for chemical fertilizers. It's a natural way to get nutrients into the ground that I will be growing my vegetables on. I'm told my vegetables are going to love it, and I'm inclined to think they will.

If you're still in the process of putting together your garden this season, consider using compost instead of chemical fertilizers and foods. Your food won't be contaminated with hazardous chemicals, the earth won't soak in the chemicals, and the animals in your backyard won't ingest them when they are stealing your veggies. 

Call your local department of public works to find out if they are any neighboring towns have compost that you can haul away for free or a small fee. If not, some garden centers do sell it.

We've decided that if we are successful gardeners this year, we'll start our composting center in the back of our yard. Wow, how I've changed. 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Green Product Review - Sesame Street's Love the Earth DVD

Yesterday, my five year old and I sat down to watch Sesame Street's Save the Earth DVD which is being released today. It's been a while since we've watched any Sesame Street around here, and I wondered if it would keep my son's attention. It did.

Here's the premise: Elmo, Zoe and Baby Bear go to the woods with Papa Bear in search of an elusive bird that they must spot to get a badge on their Bear Scout sashes. While trying to find the bird, they learn about littering, recycling, the importance of trees, reusing items and conserving water. 

In between each new segment that was created for the DVD, there are clips of older Sesame Street segments that reinforce the lessons that were just learned by the three friends in the woods. 

I thought the DVD was very well done. The lessons were simple and very age appropriate for young children. Children as young as two are capable of understanding the concrete lessons that were taught:
  • you shouldn't throw your granola bar wrapper on the ground
  • you should put some items in recycling bins instead of trash cans
  • paper comes from trees and it's good to use both sides and then recycle it
  • many things can be reused
  • use water when you need it and no more than you need
For my son, none of these messages were new, but if you've got young ones and you're trying to introduce them to being environmentally responsible, this is an entertaining, gentle way to do so.

When I asked my son what the DVD was all about after it was done, he gave me one of those "why are you asking me a stupid question, mom?" looks. 

"It's about taking care of the earth, mom. I know it's important." 

This DVD will help other children know it's important, too.

When we were done, my son  went to the paper recycling bin and took out some food boxes and reused them to make other things, just like some of the kids in the video did.

A few things to know:
  • The DVD runs about 45 minutes long
  • It's only available at Walmart or Sam's Club
  • Its suggested retail price is $14.93

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Monday, May 12, 2008

The Lorax Project - Final Update

It just occurred to me that I never ran a final update on The Lorax Project that we'd been wondering about. One of the reasons is because on Earth Day, when their website was to be up and running, there were only a couple things on the site, and they were all marketing things aimed at adults. One was to raise money for a environmental organization. The other was for CFL bulbs. 

I was very disappointed. There was nothing for kids on the site. But, I've visited since and the site has been expanded. There are activities for kids on the site now. Like this list of 20 things kids can do to "speak for the trees" or these games.
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Planning a Trip to the Farmer's Market

A lot of people will be making their first trip to a farmer's market this season. Over the past year the local foods movement has grown considerably. Awareness of the negative environmental impact that our conventional way of growing and distributing food has grown, also. 

If you're considering checking out your local farmer's market for the first time (and I highly recommend that you do), here are some things to help you on your first trip.

Finding a Farmer's Market 

 If you don't know where your closest market is, there are some websites that will help you locate one. 

Arming Yourself

There are some things that you will need to take with you to make your trip successful.
  • Cash - Most of the vendors at farmer's markets work on a cash only basis.
  • Reusable bags - Sure the vendors will have plastic bags for you to carry your food, but taking your own bags helps the environment and saves the vendors a little money.
  • Your own coffee mug - Farmer's markets usually don't just have produce, meats and flowers. Many of the larger ones have local coffee houses, bakeries, and crafters set up tables, too. When I get to the market at 8am on Saturday morning, I head right for the coffee table first.
Arriving Early

Things can sell out quickly at farmer's markets, so if you're looking for something specific, get there early. I've seen fresh flowers gone after the first half hour of the market. The first week that corn is in season creates a frenzy that you have to see to believe.

However, arriving right before closing time may have its advantages, too. Some vendors may cut their prices so they don't have to haul everything home. This doesn't always happen, but if you can't get to the market until later in the day, you may get some bargains.

Making the Rounds

Do a quick once around before you begin purchasing. One vendor may have zucchini at 2/$1 another may have them at 3/$1. Or you may spend all your money before arriving at a vendor who has something that no one else had. Doing a quick survey of what is offered and the prices the different vendors have before you begin to purchase is a wise idea.

Asking Questions

If your interested in buying only what is in season, buying only organic, or buying only locally, you'll have to question the vendors about their products. Just because something is at the farmer's market does not mean its in season, organic or local. I know that the bananas, lemons, limes and grapes sold at my farmer's markets are definitely not local and never will be. 

Don't be afraid to ask questions about the items being sold. If a vendor doesn't want to answer your questions, move on to the next one. 

Some questions to ask:
  • Where was this grown?
  • How was it grown?
  • When was this picked?
  • How far did this item travel from where it was grown to this market?
  • What conditions did the hens live in who grew these eggs?
Many vendors are also more than happy to give you advice as long as they don't have a long line of customers to attend to. This past Saturday, I had a couple who run an organic farm happily answer my questions I had for my personal garden. People who are passionate about what they do are usually passionate about talking about it. 

Taking the Kids

It's a great idea to take your kids. My kids will often eat vegetables or fruits they helped pick out at the farmer's market that they would never eat if I just brought it home from the grocery store. Give them a dollar or two and tell them that they can spend it on whatever type of produce they want as long as they promise to eat it in the next couple of days. 
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