Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Post on Sustainablog - Who is Responsible for Sustainable Consumerism?

A new survey of consumers reveals that many Americans think that the corporations should be more responsible for sustainable consumerism than individuals. You can read about it on my post at Sustainablog - Who is Responsible for Sustainable Consumerism. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Going Back to School in Green Style Part 4: Transportation

We're walkers. We live about three blocks from my kids' elementary school, and anyone on our side of town does not get bused to school. So everyone on our side of town is labeled a "walker" by our school system. But just because we're walkers doesn't mean we always walk. 

Last spring I made a decision that we were going to walk to and from school as often as possible. I probably had a 70% success rate. I'm hoping to improve my stats this upcoming school year. 

The transporting to and from school of our children every year creates massive amounts of pollution from buses and cars. Older buses inefficiently burn diesel fuel, and when they idle while they are waiting for kids to get on or off, they pollute the air around the school building and waste fuel. Parents who drive their students to school often drive short, walkable distances. They can wait in long drop off and pick up lines with their cars idling. 

So how do we make this better? We've got to get our kids to school, right? (I know, I know I could home school, but I'm not gonna). Here are some suggestions.
  • If you're kids are walkers like mine - let them walk. If they are not old enough to walk along, walk with them. You may need to be better at time management. Have the kids backpacks ready the night before. Have their (trashless?) lunches ready the night before, too. Wake everyone up ten minutes earlier.
  • If your kids can ride their bikes to school and you think they are responsible enough to do so, let them do it. Tell them they are going to start doing it.
  • If you do drive them to school, don't idle if you have to wait in line. Turn the car off.
  • Carpool with the neighbors. You take their kids one week, they take yours the next. One less car on the roads.
  • If your kids take the bus, find out if the buses idle outside of the school during drop off or pick up. If they do, talk to the administration about getting them to stop.
More Back To School:

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don't Forget to Enter the Contest for Free Envirokidz Cereal

The contest for two boxes of Envirokidz cereal ends tomorrow night at 11:59pm EST. If you haven't entered yet, there is still time. There will be three winners. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Green Term of the Week: Trashless Lunch (Going Back to School in Green Style: Part 3)

First of all, I realized that I completely forgot to do a green term last week. So those of you who wait on the edge of your seat on Wednesdays waiting for a new term - very sorry!

Now, on to this week's green term - Trashless Lunch. I've talked about this before. I think our first mini eco-challenge mentioned it. But with back to school about a month away, it deserves its own post.

When you take a lunch to school or work or anywhere else, if you put everything in reusable containers, bring durable utensils to eat with, and add a cloth napkin to your reusable lunch bag, you have created a trashless lunch. When you leave the table (or desk) you're eating at, there is nothing to go in the trash. It all goes back in the lunch bag to be taken home, washed, and reused again.

A trashless lunch means that no packaged foods are added to the lunch, too. Juice boxes or drink pouches or bottled water. Can't have them. Individually wrapped granola bars. Nope. Make your own and put them in reusable containers.

If students could start doing this in schools, it would be huge. My son's awesome third grade teacher last year, Mrs. King,  talked to her kids about this. I think all teachers should do so.

As you're getting ready for back to school this year, take a look at what you have available to send with your kids to make sure they have a trashless lunch. Here's what I know I need to make sure that both my boys won't make any unnecessary trash.
  • Two lunch boxes 
  • Two small reusable drink containers
  • Two sandwich containers
  • Two reusable thermoses (they like to take soup)
  • old utensils that I don't care if they end up getting lost 
  • cheap cloth napkins
  • a few containers with lids for snacks
There are lots of products available from eco-friendly websites to help you create a trashless lunch, but really, you've probably already got most of what you need in your kitchen cabinets somewhere.

Why are trashless lunches important?

  • Most importantly, they reduce the amount of trash that ends up landfills.
  • They teach kids that living in a "throwaway society" isn't the only way to go.
  • They can be an example to the other kids and the teachers.
  • They will probably end up being more healthy for your kids because they will be eating a lot less pre-packaged processed foods.
Cool Dr. Seuss lunchbox picture courtesy of Wikemedia Commons

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Post on Sustainablog - Small Town Bike Share

I've got a new post up at Sustainablog about a small town bike share program that's being developed in one of my neighboring communities. I love it when one person just takes the bull by the horns and starts something great. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, July 28, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Be More Sustainable with Your Back to School Shopping (Going Back to School in Green Style: Part 2)

In yesterday's post about assessing what you already have before going out shopping for school supplies, I encouraged you all to buy only what you really need. Here are tips for doing that in an eco-friendly way.
  1. Buy recycled paper products whenever possible. Kids are going to need things like notebooks, composition books, printer paper, and homework organizers. Save a few trees and buy recycled. It may cost you a little bit more, but if you watch the sales, you may get some bargains.
  2. Earth friendly pens and pencils are getting easier to find. Paper Mate makes a good #2 pencil called Earthwrite that can be bought at most office supply stores or online. Pilot makes a line of pens called BeGreen that are made from 86% recycled content.
  3. Shop at second hand stores and consignment shops for clothes, backpacks and other items. You can find a lot of great stuff for your kids and you'll save a lot of money.
  4. If you are going to buy new clothes for the kids, buy them made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, bamboo, or hemp.
  5. Schools often ask for donations of boxes of tissues or antibacterial wipes. Buy tissues from recycled paper or wipes from Method.
  6. Purchase durable, reusable lunch boxes, food and beverage containers to send to school.
  7. If you need to buy textbooks for a college student (or any other student), buy used. Way back when, used textbooks were only available in the campus bookstore. But now, they are available all over the Internet and you can shop around for the best price while saving a few trees.
  8. If you're going to buy the kids new back to school shoes (and I suggest that you don't unless their old shoes don't fit or are in deplorable shape), check out Simple Shoes. They are made from things like organic cotton, hemp and recycled tire inner tubes.
  9. Don't take the kids with you when you go shopping if it's possible. Take your lists and nothing else. Stick to your lists. If you take the kids, they might talk you into buying more than you need or a Hannah Montanna notebook instead of one made of recycled paper.
  10. Plan your shopping to do it all at once and at stores that are within close proximity to one another. Driving all over your region to purchase green back to school items kind of negates buying them, doesn't it?
Some of the green back to school products may cost a little more than their conventional counterparts. Before you go out shopping, reconcile with the fact that you might have to spend a little bit more. If you're shopping for clothes at thrift and consignment stores, however, you just might end up spending less overall. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Going Back to School in Green Style Part 1: Assessing What You Already Have

I'm so sorry to do this - talk about going back to school that is. While actually going back is still weeks away for most our kids, the time for gathering the items on your child's back to school list, stocking up on supplies for the year from the good sales, and purchasing items for your college student's dorm room is at hand. So this week, I'll be doing a series of posts on doing all of these things in as green a way as possible. If I were to wait until the end of August to do these posts, it would be too late. Today, we're going to talk about assessing what you already have.

Assessing what you already have will help to curtail your buying. It will also help you to reuse things that you already have. And, it will save you money.
  1. Make a list of all of the things your student(s) is going to need when school starts. If your school supplies a list, make sure you have that on hand. List everything from school supplies like paper and pens to backpacks to lunch bags to items for the dorm room.

  2. Gather all of the things you currently have that can be used. Then cross those items off your list. If your kids' backpacks are still in good working order, there is really no reason to get new ones. Your kids may stomp there feet and whine. Tough it out. This is a good opportunity to teach them about "making do."

    If their scissors and highlighters from last year still work, don't buy new ones. The same with lunch boxes and pencil cases and even sneakers. Yes, I know, new school shoes have somehow become a tradition, almost an obligation in this country. Buck tradition, be a rebel. Make them wear the sneakers they already have if they still fit.

  3. Put all of the items that you can aside so you know where they will be when the first day of school begins. Of course, you can't put their sneakers aside, but most of the rest of the supplies can be put in a closet out of reach of the kids so they don't disappear before they are needed.
A word about the supplies needed for a college dorm. My kids aren't close to the age where they will be going to college so I'm no expert on what it's like in a college dorm these days. But I do know what I see happening in stores like Target in mid-August. Frequently I see a mom and a college age kid, both with a shopping cart, loading up on bedding, bathroom supplies, lamps, cute rugs, matching desk top accessories, tv's, stereos, gaming systems ... all for the dorm room.

When I went to college, I would cart my pillow, my bedding, even my alarm clock back and forth from home to dorm. (Sorry to say the only time my bedding or towels really got washed was when I went home to visit!). There was never a big back to college shopping trip. Ever. It wasn't even about the money (although there wouldn't have been the money to do it). It was simply that it never occurred to me or my friends to expect all new things for our dorm.

I'd like any parent's of college age kids to please think about how necessary all that stuff is and what type of message you giving your children by buying it all. That's all I have to say about college stuff.

The rest of the week, I'll be focusing on more green back to school topics. If you've got any suggestions, please post them in the comment section.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

South Jersey's Farm to Fork Week Starts Today

The brochure reads "Taste what happens when South Jersey's Hottest Chef's team of with South Jersey's Freshest Farmers!"

From July 27th - August 1st, over 50 South Jersey restaurants will be pairing with local farms to prepare 4 course dinners using ingredients from the local farms. The meals are a fixed price of $35 at all restaurants (excluding beverages, of course). It sounds like a great deal.

To see a list of participating restaurants and find out more visit

I don't if I'm going to get a chance to go to any of the restaurants this week, but if I do, I'll let you know where I ate and how it was.
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Staying Green During Tough Economic Times

I've got a busy day today, so no new original post here, but I do have a new post up over at Naturally Savvy about
staying green in these tough financial times. I know it's something that concerns all of us right now when we go to the grocery store and see the prices rise each and every week.

If you haven't entered the contest two
win two boxes of Envirokidz cereal yet, make sure you do so before July 31st. Entering is easy. Just go to the post and leave a comment about what your favorite thing to eat for breakfast.

Have a fabulous weekend!
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Green Back to School Shopping Deal Alert

I sat at the pool with my friend Penny the other night and she said she was already bemoaning the fact that summer is almost over. I tried to reassure her that we've got half of summer still ahead of us, but it didn't do much good.

Then today, I got the circulars in the mail and sure enough - BACK TO SCHOOL all over the place. I put all of them in the recycle bin but one of my local grocery stores' circular. In the circular I found a fabulous green back to school deal.

If you live anywhere near a Pathmark store on the east coast, they have marble composition books (3/$2) and 70 sheet notebooks (6/$1) from Green Way. They are made from 100% recycled paper. 

I don't recommend driving far to a store for one or two items just because they are on sale, but if you shop there anyway or happen to pass near one, stop by and stock up for the school year. I will be.

I am still of the firm belief that my boys and I (and my friend Penny) have half the summer before us, but I'm not going to pass up a deal like this.
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New Post on Sustainablog - FishPhone

I've got a new post up on Sustainablog titled Sustainable Seafood at Your Fingertips via FishPhone
about a text messaging service that allows you to find out about the seafood you're considering purchasing. Check it out.

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Useful Green Stuff: Creation Care Magazine

I'm a Christian. And I know a lot of my readers are too because many of you are my friends. But I also know it because when people make comments on this blog, I follow their names to their own blogs if they have them. And I've discovered a few of you who I don't know personally are also Christians.

I also know that there are probably others who read this blog of another faith or no faith. I haven't made this a "Christian environmentalism blog" and I don't intend to. It's an environmentalism blog that happens to be written by a Christian.

But today, I'm talking about a Christian magazine -
Creation Care. I just received my second issue in the mail yesterday, and I wanted to mention the publication to my readers because I think you should know about it.

It's published by the
Evangelical Environmental Network. It's not a hit you over the head with specific doctrine type magazine. There is a definite message - God created the world and we are to take care of it. But aside from that, there are varying view points by a variety of authors.

It's educational. In the last issue, I learned about colony collapse disorder - the disappearing bee problem that's been happening for the last couple of years. I didn't know much about it until I read the article. Reading the article prompted me to have a conversation with the bee keepers/honey sellers at my local farmer's market. I'm now committed to buying local honey. We even did a taste test in my house with store bought honey and the local honey. There was a world of difference. The local honey was delicious. The store bought - not so much.

In this issue (the magazine is published quarterly), there are quite a few articles that focus around the fact that God reveals himself through his creation, through the beauty of nature. The question is raised, are we hampering that revelation through the abuse of creation?

I find the articles and news in this magazine informative, thought provoking and challenging. Right now, I am slowly working my way through the Bible from an environmental perspective and journaling about what I'm finding. This magazine is helping me with that.

The first issue of Creation Care is free if you sign up on the website. Take a look. You might like what you see.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Contest Time: Win Two Boxes of Envirokidz Cereals

A while back I did a review of two Nature's Path Envirokidz cereals - Leapin Lemurs and Penguin Puffs. Leapin Lemurs is a chocolate and peanut butter cereal that my son loves. Penguin Puffs is a sweet cereal that I really liked.

I've been asked to give away a box of each of these two cereals to three of my readers so I'm going to have a random drawing to determine the recipients. To enter the drawing, all you need to do is a leave a comment and tell me the answer to this: What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast.

Please, when you leave your comment make sure I have a way to contact you if you win. If your name doesn't link to a blog with contact information, please leave your e-mail address in your comment.

I'll start. My favorite thing to eat for breakfast is eggs benedict. Yum!

This contest will close at 11:59pm EST on July 31st. Good luck!
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Follow Me to My New Job...

writing for Sustainablog. I'll be posting two or three times a week over on Sustainablog. The people over at Green Options have a little faith in me and have hired me as a contributing writer to one of their environmental blogs.

first post is about the Ecocab ride that my husband and I took in Dublin while we were there. I'm quite happy to be contributing to this group of environmentally educational blogs.

I'll still be posting here regularly, and I'll be linking to my Sustainablog posts when they go up.
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10 Easy Ways to Be More Sustainable in the Bathroom

You've probably seen this on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker somewhere - "Conserve Water - Shower Together." While the idea is appealing, let's face it - showering together usually leads to an extra long, hot and steamy shower, right? There may be a lot going on it that shower, but water conservation ain't gonna be one of them.

There are however, plenty of easy ways you can be more sustainable in the bathroom. Here are ten of them:

  1. Take navy showers. Turn the water off when you're soaping up, shampooing your hair or shaving your legs and turn it back on to rinse off.
  2. Install a low flow shower head.
  3. If you've got an older toilet, put an old milk container filled with water in the tank to displace some of the water that would go in there. It saves water every time you flush.
  4. Speaking of saving water when you flush - flush less. You've heard the phrase, "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down" right? If you're family can handle that, go for it.
  5. When you use a towel, hang it right up to dry. If towels are dried properly they won't need to be washed as often.
  6. Use toilet paper made from recycled paper (which is different from recycled toilet paper - ew!). I use the Marcal brand - $.80 for a 1000 sheet roll.
  7. Use only the amount of toilet paper necessary to get the job done and teach kids to do the same.
  8. Got boys? Then you've probably got a canister of wipes in your bathroom to clean up "misses." Method offers an eco-friendlier version of those Clorox or Lysol wipes.
  9. Turn the water off in the sink while you are brushing your teeth.
  10. Make sure that the things that can be recycled from the bathroom such as toilet paper tubes, shampoo bottles, and the boxes toothpaste or soap do get recycled. Sometimes, it's easy just to throw them in the bathroom trashcan. Make the extra effort to ensure that these things get recycled, too.
See - easy.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Monday, July 21, 2008

How to Get a Six Year Old to Eat Pesto without Complaining

To a six-year-old boy, pesto looks like something someone threw up. It's bright green with darker specks. So how do you get a six-year-old to eat it? Here are the steps you need to take.
  • Start about three and a half months before you plan on getting him to eat it by having him help plant the seeds for the basil and parsley that will be used in the pesto.
  • Have him water the seedlings and check on them every day.
  • Let the boy help shovel loads of compost into trash cans from the local department of public works to bring home to dump in your garden.
  • Have him help transplant the basil and parsley into the garden.
  • Check on the plants and water them with him every day.
  • Three and a half months later, let him rip basil and parsley right off the plants.
  • Let him cut up his knuckles while grating the parmesan cheese to go in the pesto.
  • Have him smell each ingredient before it goes in the food processor.
  • Let him turn the food processor on and off many times.
  • Cook his favorite pasta.
  • Put pesto on his favorite pasta.
  • Watch him eat without hesitation "his" pesto.
  • Smile when he's surprised he likes it.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

How do Wind Turbines Make You Feel?

When you see a wind turbine off in the distance (or up close if you've ever had the chance to get close) what feelings does it evoke?

When we were in Ireland, we listened to a lot of talk radio. One of the programs talked about some wind turbines that went up near a fairly affluent area (can't remember where), and the commentator said that people were afraid that "if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere." As if it were something horrible that happened in that area.

This past Saturday, we were at a party and the subject of wind turbines came up. My husband and I were telling everyone that we had seen them all over the place in Ireland, usually in groups of three, off on distant hills as we were driving. We thought they were beautiful sights. The people at the party agreed.

One person said the turbines made her feel peaceful when she saw them. I said that they make me feel hopeful.

The closest wind turbines that we have to our home are off the coat in Atlantic City - about a 50 minute drive from here. As you drive into the city, you can see wind turbines spinning out in the water. I remember a few years ago getting my first view of them and being in awe. This was before I was concerned about energy.

I understand that everyone's home can't have a wind turbine up on the roof because the conditions need to be right for them to function properly. But, there are plenty of places where the conditions are right. Why aren't they being put up as quickly as possible?

Is it political pressure from the existing energy companies? Is it that we don't have the ability to harness the energy from more wind turbines yet? Is it public resistance?

I haven't had a chance to listen to the full speech that Al Gore gave last week, but I plan on getting around to it this week. I know that wind turbines were mentioned. Will this get people moving like his movie,
An Inconvenient Truth, did? You know, I was never thrilled with Gore as VP, but now he's one of my favorite people.

I encourage you to learn more about wind turbines. I'm going to be doing the same.

I'm going to start with
How Wind Power Works on the website How Stuff Works, and if I can wrap my head around the information in that article, I'll get more indepth.

In the mean time. Wind turbines make me feel hopeful. How do they make you feel?

Image from Wikimedia
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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Green Irony of Wall-E at the Movie Theaters

I got a chance to see Wall-E for the second time yesterday when my kids' summer rec program went on a field trip to the movies. We saw the movie when it first came out. I resisted the urge to find all the green messages in it because I just wanted to enjoy a movie with my kids. But this time, my kids were sitting with their friends, and I saw things in the second viewing that I did not see in the first.

If you don't know anything about the movie - here's the premise. Earth has been abandoned for 700 years because it has become nothing but a toxic trash dump. There was an effort to clean it up with robots, but eventually that effort was deemed pointless. The robots that were built to do the cleaning were all (I assume) turned off, and the last humans took off for space. But one robot survived - Wall-E. For 700 hundred years he has been building skyscrapers out of blocks of garbage.

Sounds gruesome and not so much like a kids' movie, but it's actually done very well with humor and charm. The very opening scene, however, is a bit chilling from an environmental perspective. The camera pans in on what can be taken as NYC with its tall buildings and even taller trash sckyscrapers. As it is panning in, it passes by wind turbines that are barely moving and shut down nuclear power plants. Garbage is all around them.

There is a strong sense of failure. The wind turbines didn't save the earth. Nuclear power didn't save the earth. Why? Because humans couldn't stop consuming and generating so much trash that it eventually took over the world. At least this is the message that I took away.

Now, here comes the irony. The amount of trash that is generated during a single viewing of any movie at a theater is great. Soda cups, popcorn bags, and candy boxes are routinely tossed into a trashcan at the back of the theater and by the end of the day, a theater has collected bags upon bags of trash.

At the end of the movie, one of the college aged chaperones stood up and yelled to the kids - "okay kids now go out and save the world." That was followed by another chaperone saying, "Pick up all your trash and make sure it gets put in the trashcan." As the kids all filed out of the theater throwing out their trash, I couldn't help but wish I had had this example way back when I was teaching irony to my high school English students. This was a perfect example of situational irony!

My family loves going to the movies. We're frequently there on opening day for something the kids have been excited to see. But over the past few months, I've become increasingly uneasy with the whole trash problem of the going to the theater.

What's the solution? We don't want to stop going to the movies. Should we sneak in our own beverages in reusable bottles and snacks in durable containers? Theaters are very clear that they don't want you to bring in your own food. And for years I've respected that and bought my snacks from the ridiculously priced concession stand.

But now it's not a money thing - it's an environmental thing.

Here's what I would like to see. I would like to see some company create durable, resusable cups with lids for fountain style sodas that are clearly marked with the amount they can hold. Find the common sizes that fountain softdrinks are offered in at movie theaters (and convenience stores), and create a line of cups based off of that. Do the same with some sort of container to hold popcorn, too.

Then I would like to see the movie theaters allow their customers to bring these in to be filled for their drinks and snacks instead of putting them in disposables.

I don't know how to solve the candy problem, but much of the candy comes in boxes that can be recycled. People could just resolve to take their candy boxes home with them and put them in their own personal recycling.

This would be such a small change but have such a huge effect. It would save tons of trash. It would also save the theaters money, too.

What do you think? Do you think theaters would go for the idea? Do you think people would come on board? Would you?
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Now I've Gone and Done it - Coke's Profits Drop 23% after I Give up Diet Coke

Yep, I've got my drinking problem fairly under control right now. I had two diet cokes while I was on vacation and haven't had any others since the beginning of the month. Before that I had seriously cut back. And the big financial news on Bloomberg today - Coke's profits are plummeting. 

From the article

"Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent, who took over Atlanta- based Coca-Cola this month, said consumers had less money to spend on Diet Coke, Minute Maid juices and Dasani bottled water because of rising food and energy prices."

I have no doubt that the main reason that sales are down is because of rising food and energy prices. But I wonder if they realize that there is a significant portion of the population who are choosing to not buy their products because of the environmental impact of making, bottling, and shipping them, not because they don't have enough money to buy them. 

I know that many of my friends are beginning to shun bottled water. And those who don't are at least thinking about the problems they cause because I get a lot of apologies when people admit they still buy it. As if I'm the one they are hurting. I go easy on them, though. I figure if they are thinking about it, it won't be long until they make the right decision. No green preaching here.

I'd like to see this as one of those problems that actually has some positive results. The fact that less of these products are being bought is good for the environment. The fact that people are drinking less of the soda and Minute Maid juices is good for their health. Hopefully people are drinking more tap water and fresh brewed iced tea. 

So if you've got stock in Coke, please don't be angry at me, but I see this as good news. And proud to have contributed to it just a teensy, tiny, bit.

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Green Things I Saw in Ireland

Sure, all of Ireland was green. The color green, I mean. Seriously, green plants and grass are everywhere. They don't call it the Emerald Isle for nothing. But I saw some environmentally green things going on in Ireland as well.

Here are a few:
  • No plastic bags. In 2002, Ireland placed at 15 cent tax on each plastic bag. People stopped using them very quickly. All of the stores I was in used paper bags - but I refused them and put stuff in my back pack. The only plastic bag I was given while I was there was the clear plastic bag that my duty free items were placed in at the airport.
  • Eco Cabs. In Dublin, we were given free ride in a man powered Eco Cab. I'll be writing more about that next week when I begin a new writing job when I'll be telling you about soon.
  • Individual toilet paper squares. Many public rest rooms (do you ever feel like you spend half a vacation looking for a bathroom?) had toilet paper dispensers that gave you little square and a half sized papers. Sure you could take more than one, but it's a good idea. I'm sure it cuts down on the amount of unneeded toilet paper used.
  • Very few disposable cups, plates, utensils, etc. Even the smallest of places that we stopped to eat used durable items unless we specifically ordered something to go. Coffee was always in a coffee mug. Drinks were always in glasses. We weren't given plastic silverware or disposable plates anywhere but the airport and the plane.
  • Tiny little showers that discouraged long bathing sessions. In the B&B's we stayed in (which were above pubs) the showers were all business. Get in, get out. The one place even had a button to push to get the water that only dispensed (COLD) water at ten second intervals.
  • Lots of bicyclists - even in the hilly mountainous northwest.
  • Very few SUV's, a few minivans, lots of small fuel efficient cars.
Those are just a few of the things that I saw that I think are helping to make the world a greener place. I wasn't specifically looking for green things. This was a non-working vacation. But because I'm trying to make being green a natural part of my life, it's hard not to notice these things.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Useful Green Stuff: Wired Magazine's Monthly "What's Inside"

My husband subscribes to Wired  and a couple of month's ago they had a controversial article on what it will really take to fix the carbon problem. I usually don't read Wired because it's mostly a techie magazine (or so I thought), but I read this article and then I proceeded to read the magazine from cover to cover. It's a really great magazine and written in a way that even someone like me can enjoy and understand.

They have a monthly feature called "What's Inside" where they break down the ingredients of common household products. Last month, the product was Easy Off. This month, the product is Just For Men Shampoo-In Hair Color.

"What's Inside" explains what the individual ingredients in the product do in that particular product and what they are used for in other things, too. I'm sorry I can't find last months copy because the Easy Off stuff was really scary. But here are some of Just For Men's ingredients.

Trisodium EDTA - in this product it's used to "suck up copper in tap water, which might otherwise react with the product to create damaging radicals." What else is it used for? According to the article it's used to clean up after radioactive spills.

Ethanolamine - in this product it swells the hair's out layer so it can absorb the dye. But, it was also an ingredient in Easy Off that worked as a solvent.

You can see how information like this might be helpful in choosing whether or not to use a product. Reading an ingredients list on products is often like reading something in a foreign language. Now when my husband's Wired magazine shows up each month, I'm going to be reading it, too, hoping to get some useful information.
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Green Term of the Week - Jet Lag

Okay, I know jet lag isn't really a green term. Many people may call it an ungreen term. I've been in Ireland for the past week. Sorry about the infrequent posting. I had wanted to pre-post items while I was gone, but I didn't get around to hitting every day.

Anyway, Ireland was wonderful. I'll have lots to say in the upcoming days about it. In the mean time, I'm back and will be posting as usual by tomorrow (maybe even today if I can wake up).
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Be More Sustainable at the Grocery Store

I used to love grocery shopping when I was first married because I got to spend money. The budget was extremely tight when we were first married, and food, rent and bills took all our cash. 

Now, grocery shopping is a bit of a chore. I have to find time to go - preferably without the kids. But, we all like to eat, and I don't see my backyard garden fully sustaining us anytime soon. I make a lot of green decisions at the grocery store - some of them are not so easy. But there are also some easy things I do, and you can do to, to make sure that my grocery shopping has a lighter impact on the earth.
  1. Take your time to make a thorough list so that you don't forget things you will need. This will save you from making unnecessary extra trips during the week.
  2. Always, always, always, bring your reusable shopping bags. Carry one with you at all times, like a Chicobag, so that you are never caught without one.
  3. Consider purchasing reusable produce bags so you don't need to take the plastic ones.
  4. If you've only got two onions or two zucchinis or whatever, don't bother taking a produce bag. Just place them next to each other on the check out belt so the cashier can ring them together.
  5. Buy your meat from the butcher section instead of the prepackaged section and get it wrapped in butcher paper instead of styrofoam and plastic.
  6. Buy organic food when possible
  7. Look for local foods - especially produce. Food that doesn't have to travel far to the store doesn't create as much transportation pollution.
  8. Buy foods in season.
  9. Stay out of the seasonal isle - not the seasonal produce isle, but the holiday seasonal isle. It's full of little things that you look at and say "Oh that's cute. I want it." But you don't need it. Stay out of the isle and you won't know it exists.
  10. Carpool with a friend to go shopping.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Recycling Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL's) Just Got Easier

If you haven't started switching out your conventional light bulbs for CFL's, you now have one less excuse not to. Home Depot will now be accepting unbroken CFL's for recycling.

According to their press release 

At each The Home Depot store, customers can simply bring in any expired, unbroken
CFL bulbs, and give them to the store associate behind the returns desk. The bulbs will then be
managed responsibly by an environmental management company who will coordinate CFL
packaging, transportation and recycling to maximize safety and ensure environmental

I know that disposing of CFL's has been a big concern with many people because not all municipalities have the resources to recycle them yet. This makes it possible for the majority of the country to have a nearby recycling program for them. 

So stop making excuses and start switching out those bulbs. You'll love the energy savings when your bill comes and the environment will love it, too.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Upcycling

Back in May, one of our green terms of the week was downcycling. At the end of the post, I stated that next week we would look at what upcycling is, but I simply forgot. So here it is two months later. Sorry for the delay.

Upcycling is when instead of disposing of something that is no longer of use, it gets transformed into something of greater use and value. For example, weaving plastic shopping bags into a durable, reusable shopping bag or turning old denim jeans into insulation would both be considered upcycling.

It's really a form of recycling, but some environmentalists are distinguishing between recyling, upcycling, and downcycling. True recycling is turning something into the same thing. Glass bottles can by recycled into new glass bottles. Plastic bottles, however, are not turned back into plastic bottles. They loose integrity during the recycling process and therefore the products that come from them are considered downcycled. The plastic is not as good.

Upcycling, downcycling and recycling all keep things out of landfills, so they are all important endeavors.

Image from Etsy

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Green Term of the Week - Downcycling
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Be More Sustainable with Your Music Habit

Three out of four of us in our house have serious music habits, and I'm sure it won't be long before my six-year-old develops one, too. You should hear my eight-year-old hold a conversation with someone about that person's cd collection. He can get a little snooty at times.

As far as its environmental effects, music has a fairly low impact as long as you're not traveling around in a Hummer following your favorite band from city to city. But, every little bit helps and even a music habit can be greened.

Here are ten easy ways to be more sustainable, even with your music habit.

  1. Buy used. Used cd's already exist (there's your no duh statement for the week). No new materials are used in the making of them. You can buy used music in used music stores, on eBay and other Internet resellers or at yard sales. It's also much less expensive.
  2. Donate your unwanted music to charity or sell it to a used music store instead of letting it take up space in your house or worse, throw it away.
  3. Buy a lot of your music in mp3 format. Since there are no physical cd's, mp3's are very green.
  4. Take good care of your burned cd's. Sometimes I buy an album in mp3 format, but I end up burning it onto a disk so I can listen to it in my car. My husband often does the same. In the past, we haven't taken very good care of these burned cd's because they are inexpensive. We can burn a new one easily if need be, but that's wasteful. I'll take better care of them from now on.
  5. Have a cd swap. Have your friends all bring their unwanted cd's and swap the with each other. You'll all get some new music without leaving an impact.
  6. Turn off your stereo equipment completely when not in use and unplug it. When you leave stereo equipment plugged in, the parts that still light up draw energy. By unplugging it, you'll save some electricity.
  7. Don't trash your old electronic equipment. Electronic waste (E-waste) is a huge problem in landfills. Donate, give to a friend, or sell your old stereo's, speakers, mp3 players and other electronics.
  8. Purchase a solar mp3 charger if you charge your player every day.
  9. Borrow music from the library to see if you like it before you purchase it. It's not always possible to get a feel for an entire cd from the 30 second snippets you get on iTunes. By borrowing the entire cd, you can tell if you like it, and then you can purchase it if you find it's a keeper.
  10. Attend local outdoor concerts. Enjoy music in the wonderful nature you're working so hard to save. Our county freeholders sponser fantastic free concerts in the park. This summer I've seen Dar Williams and Chuck Prophet - both fabulous. Take your own trashless drinks and snacks, too, and you'll have a great green night.
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Monday, July 7, 2008

July's Mini Eco-Challenge Final Check-in

This month's mini eco-challenge officially ends in 10 minutes. 

I didn't buy any beverages in individual bottles/cans/cups for the entire week. I know my husband bought a few and the kids got a couple at the pool when they were friends, but they aren't the ones who signed up for the challenge. I even refrained from taking these types of beverages when they were offered to me at the salon or at a BBQ. I'm hoping that I can keep it up.

I also was able to wake up every morning since my mid-week update, but the weather has been too yucky to actually go outside. It's been raining or threatening to rain for days and days. 

And, we have successfully raised the thermostat. It's been two to five degrees higher all week and it hasn't been that big of an adjustment.

I'd love to hear how everyone else made out and if you ever have a suggestion for one of our eco-challenges, please let me know.
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The Organic Stereotype

Over the weekend, I was asked to sample some organic vanilla yogurt at a grocery store that isn't particularly known for its organic or natural foods. It was a Greek style yogurt, which I've never had before so I'm not familiar with what it is supposed to taste like. I found it to be very tart. The woman behind the cart asked me if I liked it. I responded that I had expected it to be sweeter.

The woman behind the cart said, "Well, it is that organic stuff. It's usually not as good."

Of course, my experience with organics over the past year has proven the opposite to me. Organic foods are usually much better than their conventional counterparts. But I wasn't surprised to hear this woman's comment. I hear it often.

Most people think organic equals cardboard. Granola type food (but not the Quaker Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars that my kids love) or Tofu (which isn't automatically organic).

When I mention to people that I am growing my garden organically, many people crinkle their nose. It's like they are expecting the food to taste more, I don't know, dirty or something.

Organics are important for both the earth and our health. If misinformation is keeping a lot of people from buying them, perhaps we need to spread the word not just about how their health benefits but also about their superior quality.

Before you started eating more organic and natural foods, what was your opinion of organic? Do you think the general public needs more education on what organic is and what it isn't?
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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Corn at the Farmer's Market is Finally Here!

I just got back from the farmer's market where there was corn everywhere you looked. Last week, one stand had a small amount of corn, but everyone knows you don't trust Jersey corn until after July 4th. 

It's interesting. I was not raised to think seasonally or locally when it came to food except for corn on the cob. It was unheard of growing up as a kid to buy corn at the grocery store (not that they didn't have it). We only bought corn from farm side road stands. We used to drive 1/2 hour to a certain farm that my father swore by. I remember my father trying to grow it one year, but it wasn't very successful. That's probably why I've never tried to grow it.

Anyway, our local meal of the week is going to burgers and corn on the cob. YUM!

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Friday, July 4, 2008

July's Mini Eco-Challenge Update

Happy Fourth of July! I spent last night sitting in a neighbor's driveway watching the fireworks through the trees because one of my boys doesn't like being very close to them. But it was great being with my neighbors, and we didn't have to hide our adult beverages.

So, it's halfway through this month's mini-challenge. How are you doing?

Me, I haven't bought any individually bottled beverages. It's been tempting, but I've stuck to my guns. I was at the salon earlier today, and they offered me a bottle of water or diet soda, and I said no thank you. It's been a bit of an effort remembering to keep my reusable bottles washed for the pool and other places, but not so much of an effort that it's not worth it.

As for waking up early. I haven't done so great. I've been staying up later than I should - I've got some deadlines I need to meet, but I've gotten up two of the four mornings so far. I'll try to make sure I get up the other mornings.

AND, my husband has turned up the air conditioning FIVE degrees! I didn't even ask him to. He's been doing a lot of his own green thinking lately. 

I'm sure you all are busy today, and I'm gonna be heading out to a parade this morning so that's it for today's post.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Another Way to Recycle Wine Bottle Corks: Terracycle

A while back I did a post on recycling wine corks. It's ended up being one of my most searched for pages. Apparently, a lot of people are interested in recycling them. Including me. 

Today, I came across Terracycle's Cork Brigade. You can send them your used wine corks (they accept as few as 5) and they will be recycled into useful objects. There are very few places in the U.S. that recycle wine corks, so this is a welcome addition to the ones that do.

Something I found interesting on their website is that they suggest you send them the corks in upcycled packages. They suggest things such as a potato chip bag that has been washed and turned inside out. I suppose you tape it up, slap a label on it, and use it as your packaging material. HMMM.. I'll have to try this!

Terracycle also has programs to recycle juice pouches, yogurt cups and other materials that usually end up in the trash. Some of the items they will even pay for. I'm going to be contacting the superintendent of my school system about the juice pouch program. I'll report more on that in a later post.

You'll probably be opening a few bottles of wine this holiday weekend. Save the corks. Ask your friends and neighbors to save theirs, too. Save a potato chip bag from one of your BBQ's. Then do some good and send it all to Terracycle next week.

Image from Terracycle's website

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