Friday, October 31, 2008

Q & A: If You're Only Going to Buy a Little Organic Food, Which Should You Buy?

I got a question on Wednesday's post about organic milk, and I thought this would be a good post. So instead of just answering it in the comments, I thought I'd start doing Q & A's from time to time when a question in the comments section lends itself to an entire post. 

Q: OK, Robin. Here's my issue with organic buying. I'm CHEAP. And organic food is EXPENSIVE! So, if I were to add a little bit to my shopping budget and purchase SOME organic foods, which would you suggest is most important? I'm thinking milk -- the hormone thing with the girls -- but then I'm wondering if they've already been drinking those hormones for a decade or more, will it really make any difference now. What do you think? - gjk

A: I think you're starting with the right frame of mind. Take a small portion of your budget and allocate to organic and/or local foods. Milk is non-negotiable in our house. The boys drink so much that I think organic is paramount. Fortunately, Wegmans has it $4.99/gallon which is still significantly higher than non-organic yet a lot less expensive than other places - even BJ's.

I don't know if it's too late for your girls to start on organic milk as far as the amount of hormones that have built up in their body. If any of the readers can point us to info on that, please let us know where in the comments.

I'm wondering if you've got dairy farms near you. A friend of mine, Susan**, in Maryland just told me she's having hormone free milk delivered in glass bottles from a local farm* and it's not that much more expensive than the store. It's not certified organic, but it's still good stuff. Perhaps there is a farm like that out where you are. Home milk delivery is starting to come back in vogue.

If you're not sure about the milk, I'd probably go with produce next. I'm stealing this next part from one of the posts over at
Green Options
Certain produce, termed the "Dirty Dozen" by the Environmental Working Group, is so highly sprayed with toxic chemicals that, many experts recommend eating them only when they’re organic. These include:

* Apples
* Cherries
* Grapes, imported (Chili)
* Nectarines
* Peaches
* Pears
* Raspberries
* Strawberries
* Bell peppers
* Celery
* Potatoes
* Spinach

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that even after washing, some fruits and vegetables consistently carry much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. The produce you can get away with purchasing as non-organic includes:

* Bananas (though I do recommend purchasing "Fair Trade" bananas)
* Kiwi
* Mangos
* Papaya
* Pineapples
* Asparagus
* Avocado
* Broccoli
* Cauliflower
* Corn
* Onions
* Peas

If you drink a lot of coffee at home then choosing organic coffee for your home brew is a great choice, and it's really not that much more expensive.

Also, if you've got bulk bins in your grocery store and they have organic oatmeal or rice or other dry staple type foods - they are usually a really good value.

Another tip - if your grocery store has an organic meat section, check it every time for those "manager specials." I find that sometimes I can get great deals - even cheaper than the non-organic. I got 10 packages of boneless, skinless thighs once for $1/piece. Wiped out the manager's specials.

Does anyone have any other advice for gjk?

* I never, ever would have imagined that I'd be telling the world one day that I was jealous of a friend getting home milk delivery. Boy, have I changed!

** I've been asked by Susan to amend this post. See, at first, I just wrote a "friend of mine." But Susan says it's "not cool using my life experiences w/o credit." Apparently, if I'm going to tell you all about how much wine Susan and I drink (see link above at her name), she wants credit every time she is referenced in this blog. Fair enough. So, since at least half of the good stories of my adult life include Susan, she'll be popping up from time to time. I think I'll make a specific Susan post just so I can link to it when she's mentioned. 
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Day Before Halloween Roundup

Sorry for the later than usual post. Some days just go like that. I've got a Halloween roundup for you today.

First of all, don't forget that today is National Vampire Awareness Day. Make sure you're really turning off all your electronics when they aren't in use and unplugging your chargers so you don't suck away energy.

Over at one of our reader's blog's Ralli and Rummi Save the World, Theresa has a great post on more natural alternatives to making face paint and hair dye for your kids or yourself.

You've probably received a hundred e-mails about this already, but just in case you haven't heard there has been a recall of Halloween candy that is tainted with melamine (the stuff that made all those babies get sick and die in China recently). The candy is supposed to look like Pirate treasure and comes in the form of gold wrapped chocolate coins.

And, last but not least, here is a list of some trick-or-treating safety tips for the kids. Let them have fun tomorrow but keep them safe.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How Does Your Organic Milk Rate?

One of my colleagues, Derek Markham, over at Eat.Drink.Better just put up a post about an exposé of factory farm dairy producers and how the various producers of organic milk rated. I'm very pleased that the organic milk that I buy from Wegmans came out on the high end, but there were some very disappointing and disturbing findings for other brands. 

If you regularly buy organic milk, you'll want to read Derek's post:

What’s the integrity of your organic milk?

The Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Dairy Products Scorecard pulls no punches in its ratings of organic milk producers. Which brands are at the bottom? The factory farms of Horizon, Aurora, Woodstock, Natural Prairie, and Shamrock.

The recently updated Organic Dairy Scorecard rates 107 organic dairy producers based on their answers to an in-depth survey asking about:

* the milk supply source (farmstead or open market)
* the amount of pasture time for the herd
* the use of hormones and antibiotics
* the health and longevity of the cows (cull rate)
* the source of replacement animals (organic or conventional farms)
* their organic farm certifier

read the rest his the post,
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Jersey Fresh Canned Tomatoes

I don't know if the rest of the country views Jersey Tomatoes the way we view them here in New Jersey. In my state, if you've got a vegetable garden, you grow tomatoes. It's what New Jersey soil was made for, or so we're raised to believe here in the garden state. I grew up with my father raving about Jersey Tomatoes. In the summer, he loved to eat thick slices of local tomatoes with a huge dollop of Miracle Whip on them (ya, I know - ewww, but that's how he liked them.)

Earlier this year, six NJ farms pulled together to can their own tomatoes, putting them out under the Jersey Fresh label. All of these farms are from the South Jersey region, but for some reason they initially began to sell the canned crushed tomatoes in North Jersey (and for those of you unfamiliar with NJ, they might as well be two different states). I knew nothing about them until a few weeks ago when they showed up at my local farmer's market. There were some women buying several cans of them so I asked if they had tried them. They said they had, and they were delicious.

I bought a couple of cans and used the product for the first time Sunday night to make eggplant parm. The women at the farmer's market were right. The crushed tomatoes are really good.

According to the press release issued earlier this year
Jersey Fresh Crushed Tomatoes are a premium product. It is made with pure, ripe Jersey Fresh Tomatoes. There is no tomato concentrate, no puree, no citric acid, no water and no sugar. It is all spelled out on the label, and no other major brand can make this claim.
So that's it. Just Jersey tomatoes. Excellent. I get to season them however I want including adding as much or as little salt as I want. I like it.

I like it for another reason, too. As much as I admire people who can their own produce, I'm not sure if it is something that I'm going to learn to do anytime soon. If I were to can my own produce, tomatoes would probably be the first thing I'd do. Now that this product is available, I don't have to can my own. I can support local farmers, my food isn't traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to get to me, and I can have the tomatoes year round. The press release also mentioned that the tomatoes are picked, processed and canned within 24 hours. I would assume that means that they are vine ripened and little or no energy is needed for refrigeration throughout the process.

Supporting local farmers is much more difficult in the winter than it is in the other seasons. I'm really glad I've found a way that I can continue to do it in a small way throughout the whole year.

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Do You Buy Fair Trade Products?

If you've read this blog for a while, you know I'm a fan of fair trade. I always buy fair trade coffee and this year I've bought fair trade Halloween candy to give out to the trick-or-treaters. Treehugger is conducting a survey right now asking Do You Buy Fair Trade? They are asking because fair trade products tend to cost more than their non-fair trade equivalents. With money being tight they want to know if people have stopped buying fair trade.

I will admit that I faltered the other day in the coffee isle at the grocery store. A good tasting brand was 50% off and I considered grabbing it "just this once" instead of my fair trade brand. But I ended up choosing the fair trade. But there was another item that I usually always buy organic that I chose an inorganic option of because of the price this time. Like I mentioned in my post earlier today - it comes down to the day to day choices we have to make.

How about my readers? Do you ever buy fair trade? What do you buy? Coffee? Chocolate? Sugar? Had the economy made it more difficult for you to choose to do so?

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Stale Coffee and the Choices we Make

Good morning. I woke up this morning to cold coffee. Somehow instead of the coffee maker starting it at 6am, it brewed many hours ago. Our machine shuts off its warmer after two hours so I have no idea when it was actually fresh. In my efforts not to waste food (or coffee beans and water in this case), I chose to pour myself a cup and stuck it in the microwave. Yuck.

But it kind of fits in with what I wanted to talk about this morning - choices. I've come to realize that being green, or taking care of this creation that I feel called to help to take care of - really involves a bunch of little choices every day. I can make huge, sweeping commitments to things like energy conservation, not wasting food, supporting local agriculture, line drying my laundry... but those commitments don't always translate well into the realities of my day to day life.

There are limitations - time constraints that don't always allow me to walk or ride my bike. Financial constraints that have me choosing cheap non-local pumpkins to carve instead of buying them for $9/piece from the farmer's market. Relationship constraints that have me not overriding my husband's choice to turn on the heat when I think we can all just put on one more sweater.

These choices aren't made without consideration, however. Take the pumpkins. I went to the farmer's market with a specific amount of money. I intended to buy food to eat and pumpkins to carve. But when I saw the price of the pumpkins, I needed to make a choice. Spend almost half of my money on pumpkins or spend most of my money on healthy, local foods for my family to eat and save a few bucks for some pumpkins at the cheap produce store. In the end, I chose to spend the money I had set aside for the farmer's market on food to eat. The farmers were still supported.

Now, I know there is another choice that could be made here. I could choose not to buy pumpkins at all. But, I promised my six year old we would carve pumpkins this year. We never got around to it last year, and he remembers how disappointed he was. So, now I've got the relationship limitations to think about. That doesn't sound too great - describing my six year old as a relationship limitation to being green, but it's the truth. But, while I believe that taking care of this earth is exceedingly important, I do not place my commitment to doing so over my commitment to my relationships. So, ya, I'm limited by those relationships, but I'm okay with it.

My children, my husband, my family, my friends - they cannot come second to my environmental mission or I'm working in vain. I think it's important to teach my children good environmental habits. We don't go to fast food restaurants at all anymore and telling them that we aren't going and explaining why we're not going will not harm my relationship with them. But promising to carve pumpkins and then breaking that promise to "save the world" would harm my relationship with my son.

See what I'm talking about with the choices? For each of us, those types of choices to put relationships or financial needs over our environmental commitment will be different. But it will need to be done from time to time, and we need to be okay with that. Make the right choice and then don't feel guilty, because it is the right choice. There is nothing to feel guilty about.

If you're nearby this afternoon stop by my house. We'll be carving cheap pumpkins. I'll heat you up a cup of stale coffee if you want.

Image courtesy of
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Your Garden Just about Done?

Well, I promised you an upbeat post today, but I'm talking about the death of my garden. We've had our first frosts and my garden has taken a beating. And, that's just fine. It's the way it's supposed to be. Sure, I'll miss being able to go out back to grab fresh basil for my dinner or a basketful of Roma tomatoes to make pasta sauce, but I had a rewarding educational and environmental experience with the garden and I know it will be back next year - bigger and better.

Here are a few of the things I think were so great about my garden this year
  • I did it from start to finish with my six year old and it deepened his interest in food and cooking
  • The garden was all organic - I resisted the urge to use chemical critter deterrents
  • I made my own pasta sauce, pesto, salsa, and tomato bruschetta - most of the ingredients came straight from the garden
  • I saved a lot of money on fresh herbs - it cost only a few dollars for the basil, parsley, and oregano seeds and I had fresh all summer long
  • It forced me to spend a lot more time outdoors than I would have
  • I know what types of tomatoes I will plant again next year, and which ones I won't
  • I got to share fresh vegetables with friends and neighbors and even my kids' crossing guard
  • I spent time talking with my neighbors on either side about our critter problems and how to fix them 
  • I took on a greater interest in writing about food (which has led to a new gig that I will give you more details about at a later time - very excited about it, though)
  • New recipes got tried this summer so I could use up some of what was in the garden
So is your garden just about done? Only my peppers still look happy. I'll probably gut most of my garden this weekend - I'll leave the peppers and the one Roma tomato plant that doesn't seem to be caring about the cold weather.

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Green Saves Green Month is Ending Early

Good Morning, All. I am officially ending Green Saves Green month a bit early. The readership is down. The comments are down. And I'm thinking that perhaps everyone is a little tired of hearing about how to save money and being reminded about the stinky economy. 

For those of you who were enjoying it, I tend to write about ways to save money frequently anyway, so please keep coming back. Tomorrow, I'll have a happy, uplifting post. For today, I'm just going to point you to some of my other blog pieces that I've written in the past week or so for Green Options. Perhaps you'll find something you want to read in these posts:

Are You Ready for a Four Day Work Week?

Thrifty Thursdays: How to Feed Your Cookbook Addiction without Breaking the Bank

It’s Hip to Drink Tap: 7 Reasons to Give up the One-Time Use Bottle

Will You Risk Your Image for Sustainability? How about Your Property Value?

24 African Countries Double Their Yield Using Organic Farming Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Give the Kids an Allowance and Save Money

When your kids want a new pack of Pokemon cards are a download from iTunes how do they pay for it? Do you buy these things for them because they are relatively inexpensive purchases or do you require your children to pay for them out of their own money?

Giving your kids an allowance and requiring them to make their own purchases will save you money in the long run and keep your kids from acquiring more useless stuff. Here's how it works. 

"Mom, can I have a bakagun?" 

"How much do they cost?"

"I don't know. Can I have one?"

"Let's look up online how much they cost."


"The start kit costs $18.99. Do you have $18.99?"


"Okay, when you get $18.99 let me know and we'll go get a bakagun."

Your kids won't be happy at first, but after a while they'll get used to it. And chances are, they'll loose interest in the bakagun before they save the money or they may just save the money and buy it, but it will take weeks. In the meantime, they aren't buying anything else with their money.

When my boys wanted a Wii, we had them save up for the entire thing. They saved birthday money, report card money from Grammy, allowance, tooth fairy money and any other money they could. Then they held a yard sale and sold a lot of their toys. Not only did toys they weren't using find new homes, they realized how much stuff they could do without.  They also understand the value if that Wii a lot more than if we'd handed it to them. They take good care of it.

My boys don't buy everything. We buy their clothes, food and other necessities, of course. We treat them once in a while, too, and buy them birthday and Christmas presents. But they need to figure out how to get most of their toys throughout the year. My six year old, who wanted the bakaguns ended up trading his Ben 10 watch that he had paid for himself to get them.  

The result, they have less toys (and don't seem unhappy about it), they leave a lighter footprint on the earth, and my husband and I can use our money for other things - like the gallons of organic milk we go through each week.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back Up! Back Up! Back Up!

Today's post is coming to you from my children's computer because my macbook went on strike last night. All that will show up is a ghostbusters sign minus the ghost. Not good. I'll be leaving soon to be first in line at the Mac store this morning. No green saves green post today, but I do want to remind you to BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER.

Fortunately, mine is backed up, but if it wasn't, I'd be ?(*&%^%$% (sorry for the strong language). And, my computer is only backed up because my husband gets on me about it. So thank you, honey.

Have a good day. I'm not beyond asking for prayers for my computer.
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Buy Ingredients and Save Money

Green Saves Green 
Day 20

I've come to look at foods in basically two categories - ingredients and processed foods. These are my own categories, so please don't take them as official.

To me ingredients are ones you can eat as is or by simply cooking them. This would be fruits and vegetables, grains, pastas, meats, eggs, cheeses, milk and other dairy products.

Processed foods are the ones where the ingredients have already been put together to form something like a cookie, a loaf of bread or a frozen meal. 

I've noticed something. Bread made from ingredients costs less than processed bread bought at the grocery store. The individual ingredients for my meat loaf (which I'm making tonight) cost less than a family size Stouffers frozen meat loaf dinner or the pre-made, uncooked meat loaf at my grocery store that is ready to cook. Homemade cookies usually cost less than packaged cookies. 

When I buy ingredients instead of processed packaged foods and make my own foods, it costs less and I have much more control over the quality and earth friendliness of the ingredients. Right now, I've got a huge pot of chicken noodle soup on the stove, and at least half of the ingredients are organic. Others are all natural. This whole pot is costing me about $20 to make (I've doubled the recipe).

Making your own food from basic ingredients may cost you time, but buying processed packaged foods for the majority of your meals costs you more in money and quality, and it costs the earth. Take a look at the ingredients in a frozen dinner. They can come from all over the world and by the time that frozen meal hits your table, it's much better traveled than you may ever be. 

Even if you can't get all of your ingredients locally, buying ingredients instead of processed foods will still minimize your food miles. Add that to the fact that your food will be better quality and cost you less, and you can see why it's a better choice.

I know not everyone can cook from scratch every night of the week. I can't. But several nights a week, I make sure I organize my time so I can do it. If you never do it, try it just once this week. 

A little hint - the more you do it, the less it will cost you. Once you get used to cooking from scratch and become familiar with favorite recipes, you'll be able to buy more and use an ingredient in more than one dish. If a dish calls for half a red pepper, diced, you can also plan to have kabobs that week and use the remaining half a pepper on the skewer. You'll be able to waste less, saving even more money. That type of planning takes time to learn, and I don't have it all down yet, but once in a while, I have a week where it all comes together.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

Host a Swap and Save Money

Green Saves Green 
Day 17

I gave up a while ago trying to come up with clever blog titles for this month's Green Saves Green posts. Sorry about the redundancy. But really, we're all looking to save money, right? And people doing a search for being green and saving money are more likely to come across these posts if I don't give them clever titles. 

Our topic today is hosting a swap. What's a swap. It's an event where you bring items and other people bring like items, and then you swap them. Not very difficult, huh? What kind of items can you swap? Pretty much anything but popular swaps are clothing, books, music, and unused kitchen items. 

Put all the items you have for the swap together, and then let everyone take turns choosing one new-to-them item for each item they brought.

It's a great way to reuse and recycle items, and it can save you a lot of money - especially if you do something like a children's clothing swap.

Another type of swap is a food swap. Everyone agrees to make one dish, preferably one that freezes well. They make as many of that one dish as number of people who are participating in the swap. Then you meet, maybe make it into a girls night with some wine and a chick flick, exchange food, and everyone has a freezer full of pre-made dinners. While this isn't necessarily green, it can save money because the food for the meals can be bought in bulk which is usually cheaper. It can also save trips to the grocery store because you don't have anything for dinner (which is sort of green - keeps your car off the road for a bit). 

What type of items do you have that you can swap for items that you need? Chances are you know people who would love to participate in this type of event and save some money along with you.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Philadelphia Event: Green Living Panel and Community Discussion

I was asked to pass this along and since it's local, and a lot of my readers are local, I thought I would. Unfortunately, I can't be there, but a green living panel and discussion held at a brewery sounds like me kind of event.

Green Living Panel & Community Discussion to be held at Dock Street Brewery in West Philadelphia, PA on Sunday, October 26th

(Philadelphia, PA) – October 14, 2006 – Dock Street Brewery and Building Open Opportunity Structures Together (We Are BOOST) cordially invite the public to a special community event “Why Live Green? Options and Opportunities for Better Jobs, Careers, Housing, Business, and Education” on Sunday, October 26th from 3PM - 6PM at Dock Street Brewery located at 701 S. 50th Street (50th & Baltimore Avenue) in West Philadelphia, PA.

The event will include panel and community discussion featuring topics by seven sustainability, conservation, and green living community leaders. Also featuring special guest appearance by Christopher Zelov of the Knossus Project and director of the eco-education film, City21, which explores the green initiatives that are shaping the 21st Century City.

There will be a Q&A session, Brewery tour, giveaways, appetizer buffet (included), and networking following the panel presentation.

A cash bar will also be available.'

For more info go to
We Are BOOST Stumble Upon Toolbar

Brew Your Own and Save Money

Green Saves Green 
Day 16

Coffee. MMMMM. I must say it again. Coffee. MMMMM.

You know, I really didn't drink coffee until I began freelancing, but the late nights that I spent meeting deadlines early on in my career became fueled with coffee. And I probably fit everyone's stereotype as a writer because I often hang out in local coffee houses and work. Sometimes I've just got to stop staring at my office walls.

But for the most part, my coffee comes from my good 'ol Mr. Coffee maker in my kitchen. That wasn't always the case though. Both my husband and I work from home and for quite a while we were making at least one coffee run through the drive thru at Dunkin Donuts (yes, my friend Suitably Despairing in Scotland, we have drive-thru coffee here!) or running to the local mini-mart.

Not cheap and not green.

So we started making our own coffee at home and started saving money and lessening our impact on the environment. It's obvious how it saved us money, but how much did it really lessen our environmental impact. Think about this:
  • Every take out cup of coffee we got came in a disposable cup - sometimes a styrofoam cup. Making our coffee at home saved at least two disposable cups a day (now when I do get coffee to go, I almost always have my travel mug with me).
  • We used up a lot of gas and created a lot of pollution driving to and from our coffee destinations. And when we went through the drive thru, our car would idle for quite a while, too. Now we just walk to the kitchen.
  • At home, I can be certain that the coffee I am brewing is Fair Trade and Organic. The majority of coffee grown around the world is grown in such away that it harms the environment and it harms those who pick the coffee beans. Fair Trade, organic coffee is better for the earth and the workers. I also use organic milk and sugar in the coffee, something that isn't available at take out joints.
  • Additionally, less stir sticks*, individual paper packets of sugar or sweetener, and little paper coffee sleeves are used when we brew our own coffee.
So for a small investment of a couple of travel mugs and some good Fair Trade, organic coffee (which isn't all that more expensive than regular coffee), you can save quite a bit of money and tread more lightly on the earth at the same time.

*If you're ever next to me at a take out coffee place, I'll probably hand you my stir stick and say something like "I hate throwing these things out after only one use. Wanna use mine?" I've never had a person say no, but I have gotten some very strange looks while being told yes.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Being Green for the Planet AND the People

"Ridiculous can’t you just leave the poor children alone to enjoy a holiday?? Just more ecoguilt where you think you can throw money at the problem to fix your conscience."
The above quote is a comment I received to a post I wrote on Eat.Drink.Better a few weeks ago about fair trade Halloween candy. Here is an excerpt from the post.

What is so special about Fair Trade chocolate? For chocolate to be Fair Trade Certified, the farmers who grow the cocoa beans must be paid a fair wage for their crop. Some of the other criteria for Fair Trade Certification include using sustainable growing practices, providing workers with safe and healthy working conditions, and making sure that no abuse of child labor occurs.

It’s this last condition that I find so important when considering buying Halloween candy. In the past, I never thought about how the candy that I bought to hand out for Halloween came to be. But now, I feel it’s right to think about the fact that there could be children in other countries who work in unhealthy conditions on the farms that supply the cocoa beans for a lot of the mainstream Halloween candy that is sold in the U.S.
I also wrote in the post that I decided to participate in a program called Reverse Trick or Treat, where my children will hand out some Fair Trade Chocolate to some neighbors to educate them a little.

Apparently, the commenter believed I was ruining Halloween for the "poor" children. I resonded
which poor children are you talking about? The American children who come home with bags and bags full of candy? They aren’t poor.

It’s the poor children in other countries who end up being taken advantage of so that we can have $1.99 bags of mini chocolate bars that we need to have in mind. This isn’t eco-guilt. This is plain old loving your neighbor, following the golden rule, doing unto others stuff that most of us were taught when we were two years old.

My children will enjoy their holiday just as much this way as they would have minus the fair trade chocolate.
Of course, like many commenters who attack a post, he never responded.

Like those $1.99 bags of mini-candies, many of the consumer choices that we make here in America have devastating consequences for the poor around the world. We want inexpensive hamburgers from a drive thru window; the corporations that supply the meat for those hamburgers chop down millions of acres of rain forest in South America to make room for the cattle needed for our wants; the moisture from those rain forests that previously was carried across the ocean to Africa is no longer there; Africa experiences a drought and the impoverished in that country become poorer.

We need little trinkets to put in the goody bags for our children's birthday parties, but we don't want to spend too much on them. So we go to the dollar store to stock up on little plastic toys that will most likely end up in the trash in about a week filling our landfills with toxins. Those little plastic toys are often made in factories in other countries where workers work for long hours in unhealthy conditions for wages that keep them in poverty.

While I do believe that we need to be taking care of the earth for the earth's sake, this is God's creation that he gave to us to be caretakers of, I believe it's equally as important to take care of the earth and make wise consumer choices so that we don't make it more difficult for those who live in poverty to climb out of that poverty.

It's the beginning of the holiday buying season. There will be many consumers choices for us to make in the upcoming months. I urge you to think about the choices that you make, and how they can help or hurt, the poor.

Today is Blog Action Day. All over the blogosphere, bloggers are writing about this year's topic - poverty.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Going Greener with Your Music Can Save You Money

Green Saves Green 
Day 14

In addition to my serious book habit that I discuss here once in a while, I have a serious music habit. I'm not the only one in the house with this habit either. My husband and nine year old son have it, too, and my six year old only wants an iPod for Christmas (oh, and bakaguns and pokemon cards, but really he only wants an  iPod). 

A good portion of our disposable income around here goes towards music, but we download a lot of our music or buy used CD's. Both of these ways of getting new music save us money and are greener than buying new CD's. 

Downloading music is greener because you never end up with a physical item. It saves resources, it saves shipping, and it's usually cheaper to download an album than buy it on CD new. Plus, if there is only one song you want, you can purchase just the one song instead of the whole CD. 

Buying used CD's is greener because no new materials are used to make them.

However, I get a lot of music free, too. How? There are several sources online that I use to download free, legal music. 
  • If you use iTunes, you probably already know that each Tuesday they offer two or three free downloads. It's hit or miss if they are songs you will actually like, but I always check them out (along with any other free downloads like tv shows, videos or books) each week.
  • offers free music each Tuesday, also, and I usually find it to be more to my taste and there are usually 5 or 6 choices. Every once in a while, they'll offer an entire album. Actually, if you follow the link, you'll find over 400 free songs there right now. You can also sign up to receive a weekly e-mail that will let you know what there free songs of the week are.
  • The XPN blog. There is an amazing member supported Philadelphia radio station, WXPN. Each week day they offer My Morning Download. You have to sift through the blog for each day's entry because they are in with all of the other blog entries. Go to 10/10/08's My Morning Download for a free Bob Dylan song.
And while you can't download music for free from this next place, it's so cool I need to mention it. creates a radio station based around an artist or song that you request. It's a free service, and it plays from your computer so if you're a little tired of your current music collection, but don't want to pay for new music, go to Pandora, input a fav song or artist, and let it create a playlist that it will play for you. It's also a great way to hear songs from your youth that you would be embarrassed to actually buy (Bay City Rollers radio anyone?).

For more on greening your music, check out my post on 10 Easy Ways to be More Sustainable with Your Music 
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Blogging Roundup

I had a very busy week last week so my posting over on Green Options was a little lighter than normal. But I did manage to get a few posts in.

A little note about this post. It hasn't gotten a lot of traffic. I suppose the title turns people off - with the economy so bad right now, we're all in need of something. But what I've found interesting are the people who have commented on the post who have a problem with me pointing out the need. Go see for yourself.

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Go Paperless Where You Can and Save Money

Green Saves Green 
Day 13

For many of us, one of our first steps in being green was recycling paper. It may not have even been a conscious green step. Our communities started a curbside recycling program and we participated. 

Paper comes from trees and our world needs trees to provide oxygen, clean the air, provide shade, keep topsoil from washing away, and a host of other really good things that trees do for our world and for us. So using less paper is definitely green, but how does it save money?

First of all, you've got to think beyond the paper that you use in your printer or to write letters on. Think about the other paper products you use in your home. Namely napkins, paper towels and plates.

Get rid of the paper napkins and get cloth napkins*. Cloth napkins don't need to be expensive. The majority of mine came from Ikea, and if I recall correctly they were $1.99 for a four pack. They aren't all cotton or organic, but they've lasted me for two years and so no sign of wearing out so I think they're a better option than the paper napkins. And not buying paper napkins every two weeks saves me money.

Not using paper towels saves me even more money. We use rags to clean up our messes. You don't even have to buy rags. You've got something around the house that can become a rag. Old t-shirts you never wear. Dishtowels that are no longer attractive enough to hang over the stove handle. I haven't bought a single roll of paper towels in about a year and a half. 

Paper plates are another costly habit. You most likely have regular, durable plates. It's not that difficult to use them or wash them. 

Over at Crunchy Chicken, she had a challenge ditch toilet paper and go with washable wipes/rags, but honestly, I'm not there yet. But it is an option. I do, however, buy toilet paper made from recycled materials (which I have to remind my boys often is not the same as recycled toilet paper!)

On the actual paper side of going paperless, opting for your banks and credit cards to e-mail you paperless statements and bills will help save paper and paying those bills online saves you money by saving the cost of a stamp. I can't keep up with the rising price of stamps these days.

*Note about cloth napkins: A lot of my friends ask about the difficulty of using cloth napkins - washing them, ironing them, getting out the stains. Honestly, I don't care about ironing or getting out stains. I have all white napkins, wash them each time I do a white load and hang them out to dry. If they are stained, oh well, we're only using them to wipe our mouths and hands. Wrinkles - who cares?

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Ditching the Bottled Water Will Save Money and Perhaps Even More

Green Saves Green Day 10

The other day my Green Saves Green partner, Allison, wrote about tapping the tap - drinking tap water instead of bottled water. Bottled water is so much more expensive than tap water (about 1000 percent) and the environmental effects of bottled water are devastating. Plus, there's a 40% chance you're just drinking tap water anyway when you drink bottled water.

There's a movement by that is asking people to pledge to break the bottled water habit. 

From their website:

Everything we consume has a climate impact, but manufacturing and trucking water bottles to homes with clean tap water seems particularly wasteful. The Beverage Marketing Corporation reports that Americans consumed 31.2 billion liters of water in 2006 – nearly 9 liters per month for every man, woman, and child.

Manufacturing all those bottles requires 900,000 tons of plastic, the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, and emit more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. Trucking around all those heavy bottles emits even more greenhouse gases. Beyond the climate impact there’s the massive waste – 86% of water bottles aren’t recycled -- and water bottling is also, ironically, a very water-intensive endeavor. The Pacific Institute tells us that it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water!

Read the above paragraphs again. Those statistics need to change. Are you ready to save money and help save the environment? I'm going to be taking the pledge. How about you?

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Go Meatless and Save Money

Green Saves Green Day 9

I'm beginning to think I've covered most of the ways to be green and save money in some post or other over the past year on this blog. I know I've mentioned this one before. But it's worth repeating for Green Saves Green month.

Producing meat can cause environmental problems. A lot of resources go into keeping and feeding the animals while they are alive. In America and several other developed countries we demand meat, particularly red meat and chicken, at very low prices. That give those who raise the animals a reason to justify pumping up man of the animals with hormones and antibiotics which are passed on to us when we eat the meat. The animals are also fed cheap, unnatural diets which at the very least cause them severe gastro-intestinal discomfort. 

Once the animals are turned into meat, the packaging, the shipping, and the refrigeration of the products also harm the environment.

Two ways to combat this are to eat organic, truly free range meat (which is always more expensive but for a good reason) or eat less meat. Since the first option doesn't really serve our green saves green purposes, today we'll talk about eating less meat.

Vegetarian dishes are usually less expensive to make at home than dishes with meat in them. By switching to one or two meatless dinners a week, you can cut your grocery bill and cut your environmental impact at the same time.

Some meatless meal ideas that don't involve tofu or faux meat products (because when you start adding those ingredients, your family will fear you're trying to actually turn them into vegetarians instead of just making some minor changes in the way you eat)
  • Hearty soups like 17 bean and barley or minestrone (I will personally testify to the yumminess of both of these recipes)
  • Grilled cheese and tomato soup - don't just stick to white bread and american cheese. Use wheat or grain breads and pile on combinations of your favorite cheeses. Personally for my tomato soup dipping, I like a combo of American and Swiss on Wegman's 9 Grain Bread
  • A vegetarian lasagna like this artichoke/spinach version
  • Vegetarian chili - mmmmm.... with a side of creamy mashed potatoes
  • Pizza - as long as you don't add pepperoni, sausage, ham... on top
The ideas for meatless meals are endless. My favorite recipe site is If you type in the word vegetarian you'll come up with hundreds of user rated and commented on recipes to choose from.

Photo from the artichoke/spinach lasagna recipe on

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Green Your Laundry and Save A Little Cash

Green Saves Green Day 8

I've written about this quite a bit, but the environmental impact of washing and drying our clothes often is worse than the environmental impact of the production of the clothes. There are plenty of ways that you can lessen the environmental impact of caring for your clothing. The really good news is that you'll save money, too.
  • Wash your clothes and linens in cold water. The energy that it takes to heat up the water for doing your laundry is one of the biggest environmental offenders when it comes to laundry. By simply washing in cold water, you'll save energy and you'll save money on your energy bill.
  • Hang dry your clothing. Each time you run your dryer, it averages about 5 pounds of greenhouses gasses emitted into the atmosphere. Multiply that by the number of loads you do in a week, and hanging that line outside doesn't sound so bad. Not running your dryer will save you money, too.
  • Don't wash your clothes every single time you wear them. Sometimes, clothes need to be washed after just one wearing, but most times they do not. Wear those jeans a second (or third time) before throwing them in. And if you hang your bath towels up to dry when you're done, you can use them for several days. You'll end up doing less loads of laundry this way which will save you money, and your items will last longer if they are laundered less. You'll have to replace them less often, saving you even more money.
  • When you do run your dryer, make sure the lint trap and the exhaust line are cleaned out regularly. Dirty lint traps and exhaust lines cause your dryer to run less efficiently. It will take longer for your clothes to dry, you'll use more energy, and you'll run up your energy bill. Regular cleaning can help to avoid this.
These are just a few suggestions. For more details about being more green with your laundry, check out these past posts.

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