Thursday, January 29, 2009

How to Recycle Cell Phones

I told you a couple of weeks ago I was finally going to get rid of my Chocolate devil phone and purchase an iPhone. I finally got around to it last week, and now I've got my old cell phone sitting here waiting to be responsibly disposed of. What are my options?

Donate it

Google the phrase "donations of old cell phones" and you will come up with pages of organizations that accept old cell phones and repurpose them to be used again. Here are just a few:

Cell Phones For Soldiers - This organization actually sells the cellphones they collect to ReCellular, and they use the money they make to buy pre-paid phone cards for American soldiers. The organization was started by by teenagers Robbie and Brittany Bergquist, and they have donated over 500,000 pre-paid cards to date.

Phones for Life - This organization distributes free emergency cell phones to those over 60 years old, victims of domestic violence, and those with serious physical disabilities.

Support Network for Battered Women - Reprogrammed cell phones help victims of domestic violence call police when needed.

Recycle it

This is the option I'll be going with for the devil phone. It would be cruel to saddle someone else with a phone that doesn't want to call out when you want it to. Especially someone who would be using it in an emergency.

Old cell phones, like most electronics, are considered e-waste and should never be put in the trash to end up in a landfill. Most municipalities have e-waste recycling programs or you can go to Earth911 to find the closest place that will accept your old cell phone for recycling.

One last thing

I read over at MSN money that "A user needs to perform "an advanced hard reset," which is typically outlined in the phone's user manual, to permanently clear the memory." 

If you can't find your manual, you can go to Wireless Recycling, and give them the manufacturer and model of your old cell phone along with your e-mail address. They will then e-mail you the instructions to safely erase all personal data from your phone.

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Envi: The Boston eco-friendly fashion boutique and my new Kim White bag made from Mustang seat fabric

On our trip to Boston last weekend, my friend Susan and I attempted to give the economy a little boost with a shopping trip to Newbury Street, the street that our concierge described as the Rodeo Drive of Boston. Now, a shopping trip is a bit of a conundrum when you are trying to be environmentally responsible. 

I was excited when I found Envi, an eco-friendly fashion boutique. The clothes were fabulous, and when we were there a week ago everything in the store was 50% off except the jewelry. I didn't buy any clothes because I'm currently successfully losing weight, and I didn't want to buy anything that I wouldn't be able to keep for years. If the timing was right, I would have walked away with this dress.

I did buy a great Kim White little clutch bag. All of her handbags are designed from textiles intended for use in American automobiles from the 70's and 80's. My bag is from fabric made for a 1978 Ford Mustang. 
Kim White uses dead stock never-used textiles intended for use in American automobiles: cars, trucks and vans. She fortuitously unearthed an entire warehouse of automotive fabric, which may be the last existing stock anywhere in the US, and she is the sole owner of these amazing textiles.
Each Kim White Handbag is tagged with the year and make of the fabric, so you know exactly what car your bag comes from (i.e. 1983 Camaro or a 1978 Ford Mustang). Kim White Handbags specializes in automotive fabrics from the 1970’s and 1980’s, when color was de rigueur in the automotive industry.
If you read this blog regularly, you'll know I'm not all about boutiques (eco-friendly or not) and high fashion. But every once in a while, it's fun to check out what's out there and get something new. 
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Green term(s) of the week: mercury and high fructose corn syrup

Environmental Health released a study earlier this week that found that about half of the samples of high fructose corn syrup that they tested contained levels of mercury. Some of those levels were high enough to be concerned about, and those who conducted the study believe it could be a significant source of mercury found in humans that hasn't been considered before. 

Mercury is toxic. It can damage the brain, kidneys and harm developing fetuses. 

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been linked to obesity and diabetes, and now there is the evidence that mercury can be added to its health detriments. 

For more in depth information on the study and the effects of mercury, you can read my post on MNN, Study: Mercury in high fructose corn syrup

Do you know how many of the foods in your pantry and your refrigerator contain HFCS? I thought I had done a good job purging the majority of it from my kitchen. I knew my pancake syrup had HFCS in it. I've tried to move my family over to real maple syrup, but they have been very resistant. I think they aren't going to have a choice now. But I didn't realize how many of our other foods still had this man made sweetener in them. Take a look at the picture above. Those are the foods that I found with a quick two minute search. I'm sure I didn't find all of them.

The boys looked at the pile as I was taking the picture and new it wasn't good news. A conversation something like this ensued. 

"What's wrong with these foods, mom."

I explained a little bit about the study to them.

"Well, we're not going to get rid of them, right? We're not supposed to waste food." (Don't you love it when your kids throw your rules in your face?)

"No, we'll finish what we've got, but I probably won't buy any of these again."

Utter panic. If you look at the top of the picture, there is a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints. 

"Mom, I've got to say, and I don't care if this gets me in trouble. If you never buy Thin Mints again, you suck............on lollipops."

Okay, how do you respond to a nine-year-old with a devilish grin who just says that to you? I laughed, hugged him, kissed him on top of the head, and swatted him a little extra hard on the butt. I suppose that's how you respond.

And how do you respond to the news that mercury is in HFCS? You stop purchasing those foods made with it (except perhaps the Thin Mints - the HFCS is very low on the list of ingredients, and I think all three of my men will pack up and leave me if I ban the cookies from the house).

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

10 Easy ways to be more sustainable with your purging

My hallway is piled up with stuff that has to go. It doesn't matter how many times I purge, it seems there is always unused stuff around my house. Considering that I've become much less of a consumer in the past two years, it's really a mystery where it all comes from. The easiest thing to do would be to dump it all at the curb and let the trash men take it away, but when things are still useful, that should never be done. 

So what can you do with your stuff that needs to go?
  1. Give it to someone you know needs it. I give the clothes that are too small for my boys to a friend who has two smaller boys. If there is anything else I have that I want to get rid of that I know someone specific might find useful, I ask if they want it. 
  2. Sell it on e-bay or Craigslist
  3. Put it up for grabs to someone nearby to come pick up on freecycle.
  4. Donate to Goodwill, Purple Heart or some other charity.
  5. E-mail everyone on your list and ask if anyone wants it. A friend of ours did this with a futon, and now our boys have a futon in their basement playroom.
  6. Trade it in. There are places that will take books, cd's, dvd's, video games, etc. as trade-in's for credit on other books, cd's... Some will even give you cash for them.
  7. Video tapes, old cassette tapes, cd's, dvd's, and even old floppy disks can be donated to ACT.
  8. Hold a yard sale.
  9. If you have a lot of books you are getting rid of, donate them to a local library that holds a library book sale. 
  10. Recycle everything possible that you can't find new homes for.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Confessions of a harried eco-mom

Sorry there was no post on Friday. I was on my way up to Boston for a wine expo. And I have a confession to make. No, it has nothing to do with how much wine I drank at the expo. It has to do with the days leading up to going away - trying to get everything set up so my husband and boys could get through the weekend without me.

In my perfect eco-world, I would have spent time preparing organic, healthy meals for them so all they needed to do was pop them out of the freezer and all would be ready. But, I had many deadlines last week so that didn't happen. Here's what did happen.

I had to leave at 5:45pm on Thursday to drive to my friend's house to spend the night. We were catching an early flight to Boston on Friday. When I woke up Thursday morning, I had not packed, I still had laundry to do, there was no easy food for the guys to make while I was away, and I had some writing I had to do.

I went to the store, and here is where the confession begins. I bought hot dogs, chips, chicken nuggets, frozen meatballs and various other processed, unhealthy foods. And I forgot my reusable bags. So all of that garbage went into plastic bags! I rolled my cart out of the grocery store feeling like a huge fraud, opened the back of my car and found a stack of reusable bags. 

Then came the audible swearing just as the mom with her two-year old-daughter  was appearing from in between my mini van and the one next to me. There is no doubt, she and her impressionable daughter had heard me. I got the "righteous mommy" look from this woman that I've given many a person as they let fly words that I don't want my children to hear. I gave her the "I'm so sorry" eye crinkle and shoulder shrug, but she wasn't having any of that.

Get home, finish my work, pick the boys up from school, take them to various friends' houses, come home, pack, pick the boys up from various friends' houses in the mini van even though they were only blocks away, greet my mom at the door as she comes to stay with the boys while I take off because my husband wasn't home yet, fly out the door, get about 20 minutes down the interstate when I remember, "I forgot the wine expo tickets!" Drive to the next exit, turn around drive home, grab the tickets, kiss everyone again, and start back down the interstate - now having driven a good 40 wasted minutes.

Forgive me.

You know, I'm not really into kicking myself over my eco-sins.  And  a year ago, I probably wouldn't even have thought twice about my preparations to go away. I know I can't be perfect all the time. What this reinforced in me, though, is that a lot times I make choices that are bad for the environment simply because I'm crunched for time and I'm a fairly disorganized person. I am the stereotype of a writer. My office is in shambles, there are coffee mugs all over my desk, and if you could see the disorganized thoughts that bounce around in my head all day, you'd run for cover.

Can I change? Probably. Will it be easy? No way. But I'm going to try to become just a little more organized. The bad food, the plastic bags, the 40 minutes of extra driving, just don't sit too well with me. I'm not going to dwell on it and feel bad. I'm going to try to use it to remind myself to maybe write a few things down (I know, I'm a writer, writing lists shouldn't be that hard), and start planning a little earlier for big things.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Database of Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency

I just found out about the database through a client. I can't believe I didn't know about this before. It allows you to search by your state what rebates and other incentives there are if you make energy efficient upgrades to your home (among other things).

The DSIRE project tracks information on state, utility, local, and selected federal incentives that promote the use of renewable energy technologies. For more information on federal incentives, see What federal incentives does DSIRE track. On the DSIRE website, incentives are grouped into two categories as follows:

(1) Financial Incentives: tax incentives, grants, loans, rebates, industry recruitment, bond programs, and production incentives.

(2) Rules, Regulations, & Policies: public benefits funds, renewables portfolio standards, net metering, interconnection, extension analysis, generation disclosure, contractor licensing, equipment certification, solar/wind access laws, and construction & design standards (including building energy codes and energy standards for public buildings), required utility green power options, and green power purchasing/aggregation policies.

When I search by my state, I see that there are quite a few incentives for solar power, which is good because when we FINALLY get around to putting the addition on the house (there always seems to be a good reason why now is not the right time), that is one thing we are strongly considering.

This is a fabulous resource. I hope you find it helpful.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Green Term of the Week: Hopeful

Every once in a while I do a green term that's not really a green term. It just lets me move into a discussion. That's the case with this week's green term.

I blew off work for an hour yesterday, sat down in front of our new big flat screen tv (Circuit City's bankruptcy is my husband's gain) that gets really good reception on HD channels even though we have no cable hook up, and watched everyone arrive at the inauguration, listened to the prayers, saw President Obama stumble through his oath, and then sat mesmerized as he gave his speech.

Barack Obama can speak. I know, we already knew that. But I mean, this man can speak. After the last two presidents, Bush, who fumbled words often, and Clinton, whose voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, listening to Obama speak is refreshing to this word girl.

It's no secret that I did not vote for Obama. I had a tough time choosing between the candidates. For the first time in a long time, I found that both candidates seemed worthy of the job. So when Obama won, I was not disappointed. 

I found throughout the afternoon yesterday as I returned to my laptop and my writing, yet still mulling over what I had heard and seen on the TV, that I felt hopeful. And I wanted to have a different word for what I was feeling because this word girl did not want to have to use the clichéd "hopeful" when referring to President Obama. Yet, there was no other word. I am hopeful.

There are several reasons, but here is the one that keeps going through my mind. He inspires people to want to do good. He asked Americans to honor MLK this past Monday with a National Day of Service, and they did. 

A kid in the junior high in my town came up with the idea to clean out the food pantry and organize it at a local church. There were about 25 kids there on Monday, including my two boys. These kids worked. In an hour and a half, all of the outdated food was weeded out, cans and boxes were organized into categories, floors were swept, and the pantry was ready for those who need it. 

This happened because Obama suggested it. 

After 9/11 there was a short period of good will in this country. People gave. People were grateful for the things they had. People were friendly. But something has happened in the 8 years since. I blame it on reality TV and social networking sites. Or maybe reality TV and social networking sites just reflect it. But people have gotten meaner. 

But right now, people have an outpouring of good will again. And it's centered around the hope that they see in this man's leadership. 

He's got high expectations to live up to. There are those who are more than hopeful. They are in a frenzied euphoria, believing that now that we have President Obama, all will be fixed. I think he tried to address that belief yesterday in his speech when he said

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

I wonder if those in this frenzied euphoria will have the patience to give him and his administration the time needed to properly address our problems or if they will begin to declare him a failure when their specific issues don't magically become "fixed."

There is much to be hopeful about on the green front. 

He said things like
We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.
The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity (this one made me actually shout out loud, "He's read Affluenza or at least someone on his speech writing staff has!)
that let us know the environment is part of his agenda. 

After his inauguration, President Obama also put on hold all of the "midnight regulations" that the Bush administration put into place - many of them considered harmful to the environment.

So today, I am a clichéd hopeful. How about you?

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Someone deserves an award

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that every once in a while I participate in a little thing called First Thursdays. It's a challenge from Michelle at Thursday Night Smackdown that tests the mettle of our cookbooks. Each month, she puts up a challenge category, and those who accept the challenge find a recipe they've never made before in their cookbook collection and make it. 

I love Michelle's blog, and I love her challenges because I end up making dishes that are outside my usual choices like White Bean Horse Radish Spread. If you've ever followed me to her blog after one of my First Thursday posts and enjoyed her blog, then perhaps you'd like to help her win an award. She is up for Best Food Blog: Humor on the Well Fed Network, and she'd really like to win. And she really deservers to win. She does cook with humor and her joy of it all inspires those of us who read her regularly.

If you are so inclined, please click here and vote for Thursday Night Smackdown. Come on, look at the pot pie at the top. Doesn't the girl who threw that together this past Monday deserve an award.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

10 Easy ways to be more sustainable with your mail

Mail. It comes six days a week, and I throw 75% of it out immediately. I've got less to throw out now than I did in the past, however. There are some things you receive in the mail that you are never going to be able to avoid, but many of the things you do receive can be managed. Here are ten easy ways to curb the amount of mail that comes into your box and the paper waste that you generate.

  1. Get paperless bank statements. Most banks will now e-mail you your monthly statements instead of sending them in the mail. If you want to make sure that you keep track of everything, you will need some sort of banking software that will allow you to download those statements.
  2. Go paperless with your monthly bills. The phone bill, the electric bill, your insurance bills, your credit card bill - many of them can now be sent to your e-mail and then paid online. Not only does this keep paper from coming into your house, it saves you money in stamps.
  3. Get rid of unwanted catalogs by going to Catalog Choice and opting out of individual catalogs.
  4. Contact non-profit organizations that send you requests for donations (the ones you don't donate to) and ask them to remove your name and address from their mailing list.
  5. Don't renew magazines that you never read.
  6. Visit to get off of many direct marketing lists.
  7. Go to to find out how to opt out of all sorts of mailings such as credit card offers, flyers, advertising supplements, and sweepstakes.
  8. Send e-vites for casual get-togethers instead of mailing formal invitations. 
  9. Save the return envelops from mailings you do receive to use for things like making grocery lists on and sending money into school with your kids.
  10. Recycle all unwanted mail. Anything with sensitive information on it should be shredded first then recycled.
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Monday, January 19, 2009

National day of service: How to participate even if you have no time

In a few hours my boys and I will be heading over to a church in our town to help clean out their food pantry, check expiration dates on the food, and help organize it. The project was put together by the student council of the junior high, and the elementary school children were invited to join in. Yesterday, we hit the local Shop Rite Can Can sale (lots of canned food on sale) and loaded up bags of soup, baked beans, peanut butter, jelly...

I did a piece for Sustainablog back in the fall about how the food pantries in the US had seen a jump in people who needed their help. I can only imagine that since last fall the need has become greater. In fact, the 2008 statistics for food insecurity (based on 2007 numbers) revealed that 36.2 million Americans, including 12.4 million children, are in danger of being hungry on any given day.

A lot of people aren't able to participate in today's National Day of Service because they have to go to work. And they are thankful that they have a job to go to at this point. If you are one of those people, but you'd still like to do something, why not stop by your local grocery store this evening after work and pick up some food to donate to a local food pantry. I don't think it matters if you can't get the food to the pantry today. Just get it there as soon as you can.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

2009 Go Green Expo

Next weekend the first of four Go Green Expos that will be held around the country will be held in LA. It looks like there will be many exhibitors showing everything from food products to cleaning products to home remodeling products to tech products (and more).

From the Go Green website:
A truly unique event from the ground up, Go Green Expo will change not only the public's perception of environmentalism but also how events like this are produced and managed. Inviting companies large and small to showcase what they are doing to reduce their respective carbon footprint, consumers will have hands on experiences with "eco-friendly" alternatives to current everyday products and services.

Even the event itself is environmentally friendly utilizing a ZERO Carbon footprint approach to event production. Biodegradable trash bags, eco-friendly printing, table coverings, recycled signs, compostable sponsor banners and more. Event waste will be separated and sorted to ensure the least amount of refuse going to the landfills. Staff travel and a portion of every ticket that is purchased will be carbon offset.
Here is the list of cities and dates for the expos:
I'm glad to see Philadelphia on the list. That means that I'll be able to check one of these expos out. I've looked at the list of vendors that will be there, and there are quite a few that I am personally interested in checking out and a few that will give me material for MNN. 

The Philly one is being held at the PA convention center which means I can take the speedline in, making it an even greener event for me. Tickets are only $10.

What about you? Do you live near any of these cities? Are you thinking about checking out one of this year's Go Green Expos?

Image: Go Green Expo site
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Organic and Natural Coupons - Mambo Sprouts

I tend to stick with buying the same items in the pre-packaged organic section of my grocery store. The packaged organic foods tend to be much more expensive than the fresh organic foods by comparison. In my grocery store, organic bananas are only 20 cents more a pound than non-organic, but canned organic soup can run twice as much as its conventional counterpart. 

I wouldn't mind spending the extra money if I knew what I was buying was going to be eaten by my family, but there is no way to know.

Enter coupons. It's becoming easier to find coupons for organic and natural foods, and one of the easiest ways is to sign up for them to be delivered right to your e-mail inbox at Mambo Sprouts.

Right now they have printable coupons for:

* $2 Off any 2 boxes of Ian's Chicken Nuggets, Patties, Stix or Tenders
* $1 Off any Country Choice Organic
* $1 Off Any Biokleen Product
* $1 Off any one Lifeway Product
* $1 Off any MaraNatha Product
* $.50 Off any method product
* $1 Off any Tropical Source Baking
* $1 Off any Sunspire Baking Chips

The website also features the latest natural health tips, nutrition facts and healthy organic food product news and information as well as recipes.

Mambo Sprouts also has a seasonal coupon book that you can receive in the mail by signing up here. These books can also be picked up at places like Whole Foods or other other retail outlets. I picked one up the other day at a local prepared food shop the other day. I'm going to allow myself to pick up a few packaged organic goods that I've been curious about trying since I've got coupons for them now. Products like Lundberg Risotto that I pick up and put back on the shelf each week. With a $1 off coupon I just might be persuaded to buy it.

There are also coupons in there for products I already use like Kashi cereal and bars and Organic Valley milk, cheeses and eggs - $1.50 off a dozen eggs. Not too shabby.

For other sources of valuable coupons, see my post on Mother Nature Network, Find coupons for organic products

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Green Term of the Week: Farm to Table

Whenever I go to a major city, I always try to find a farm to table (also called a farm to fork) restaurant to eat at. Back in November, my husband and I visited Founding Farmers in Washington DC, and we had one of the best breakfasts out we've ever had (see picture at left).

Farm to table is a term that is used to describe "a restaurant where the ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, which means that they tend to be very fresh, and they have been through a minimal series of middlemen, if any, literally going directly from the farm to the table. The farm-to-table restaurant trend is part of a larger movement to eat as locally as possible, taking advantage of seasonally available fruits and vegetables and focusing on the environmental and cultural impacts of farming." (source:Wisegeek)

Why do I make it a point to eat at farm to table restaurants? I believe in
supporting local economy - both the food and business economy. By choosing a local farm to table restaurant when traveling, I'm not only supporting local food, I'm also supporting local business in general. Plus, you're always in for the unexpected at a farm to table restaurant. At Founding Farmers, I was able to order vanilla bean cream for my coffee - cream that was heated up with vanilla beans to order. No fake vanilla creamer. It was delicious. I've never seen that anywhere else.

I'll be heading to Boston in a few weeks, and I'm having trouble locating a farm to table restaurant in that city. If anyone knows of any, let me know.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

10 easy ways to be more sustainable with your water usage

Welcome back to my 10 easy ways to be more sustainable... series. I took a little break from my regular weekly series over the holidays, but I'm finally back in the swing again.

Water. We all use it. Here in the U.S., it's easy to come by in most areas. Just turn on any tap and there you have it. I don't live in an area that has frequent drought problems so sometimes its hard to make conserving water a priority. Still, conserving water is important.

I need to remember that all of the water that goes down the drain in my home has to go to a treatment plant to get cleaned and put back into the system. That takes a lot of resources and energy to do. So while there isn't an urgent, immediate need in my region to save water for fear of losing our supply, there is still an environmental reason to conserve it.

Here are 10 easy ways to more sustainable with water use.
  1. If you are washing dishes by hand, turn off the faucet unless the dish is under the water at the moment.
  2. Always do a full load of laundry, or if you simply don't have enough to fill the washer but want to use it, adjust the fill level so it only fills to the point necessary.
  3. Turn off the faucet when you are brushing your teeth.
  4. Use water used to boil pasta or vegetables (but not water that meat has been in) to water inside and outside plants.
  5. If you're letting the kitchen faucet run until the water gets hot, catch the water in a pitcher and put it in the fridge. Then use that water for drinking and cooking.
  6. Put a low flow shower head in your shower.
  7. When you are done with your bathroom towels, hang them immediately so they don't get all musty. You can go longer between washings.
  8. Moderate the time of your kids' showers.
  9. Place a toilet tank displacement device in older toilets so they don't use as much water when they flush.
  10. Don't wash your car often. When you do, take it to a car wash that recycles its water.
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Monday, January 12, 2009

Do you get your shoes repaired?

I cleaned out my closet last weekend. I found a pair of shoes in the back that I had forgotten about. The upper had started to separate from the sole, and I had meant to take them to get repaired, but they ended up in no man's land. 

In the next town over, we have this wonderful shoe/leather repair man. He's 80 years old, speaks in broken English (I don't know where he's from), and takes so much pride in his work. Several years ago, I took him a leather handbag that had marker that bled through from inside the bag and formed a big black circle on the bag. He said he'd do what he could. When I returned to collect that bag, he told me that he had worked on it every day, but it wasn't done yet. He needed more time to do it right. I still have the bag today and I use it all the time. 

We also took him a leather jacket that our cat had put scratch marks in. Two years ago, my husband got me a cat for Christmas. I got him a leather on jacket. On Decemeber 27th, he hung the jacket on the back of a chair and our new cat used it as a scratching post. Thankfully, we still have the cat and the jacket. I'm sure our leather repair man has a lot to do with that.

Do you get your shoes repaired or do you just go out and buy new ones? Not all shoes are repairable. A pair of worn out sneakers aren't likely to get new life breathed into them. But a pair of my husband's dress shoes can look good as new with new soles and a careful polishing. 

I wonder what I'll do when my shoe guy is gone? Will I be able to find a new one? With the renewed interest in simple living and the push to reduce, renew and recycle, will someone see the value in becoming a shoe/leather repair person? It's not a craft that too many people aspire to master. I don't even know if my shoe guy has an apprentice. 

One of the ways to make sure there will always be people like my shoe guy is to use people like my shoe guy. Give him business. Help others see that there is a need for those services, and maybe others will chose to learn the craft.

Next time you've got something that can be repaired like shoes or a handbag, hunt down one of these trained craftsmen and let him do his thing instead of going out and buying something new to replace it. 
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Friday, January 9, 2009

I Have No Advice Today

It's late in the afternoon. I have written my fingertips off this week. It's been awesome, but I'm tired and I want to go spend time with my family. So I have no new interesting post for you today. Please forgive me.

Feel free to stop reading if you're tired of me talking about Mother Nature Network

Here's a couple of things I'm really excited about today:

and we've got a tiny little blurb on Time's homepage as well:

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

BarterQuest: New Site Helps You Trade Your Stuff

Come on. Confess. There is a gift or two that you got for Christmas that you are never going to use, and you don't know where it was bought so you have no way to return it. I have the solution for you. Instead of allowing a perfectly useful item sit around and collect dust until you eventually donate it to Goodwill, trade it for something you do want on BarterQuest.

BarterQuest is a trading platform designed for the individual. Goods, services, and the use of real estate can be traded, from anyone to anyone, anywhere in the world. It will be the first trading site to fully exploit the advantages of the Internet and allow people like yourself to realize the possibilities of getting stuff for stuff, of excluding the middle man, of avoiding the need for money to get what you want. Anyone who has anything that may be of value to anyone else can be a successful user of our site.

The site is still in beta, but there are already many people putting up items for trade. I did a little test with an item. I have a classic brown leather Coach bag that I picked up a yard sale once for $5 that I didn't need, but it was a $5 Coach bag in  good condition so I snagged it. Consumerism rearing it's ugly head. It just sits in my closet. 

I typed in Coach and I was sent to page where I could see who had Coach bags and who wanted Coach bags. I clicked on the tab for those wanted Coach bags and found a couple of things that I could possibly receive if I traded my bag  - an 80GB iPod, Tiffany earrings, or tattoo services. Not too shabby. 

BarterQuest has the ability to help people who need or want items find what they are looking for without having to purchase them new from the store. It keeps goods that already exist from going unused and keeps goods from being created unnecessarily. It's a good idea. 

I did a search for some reviews from people who have used the site, and I was unable to find any. I can imagine that with any other site where you are getting items from individuals there is always the chance of the other person not keeping up his end of the bargain or items getting "lost in the mail." Not too many of the traders are rated yet, but I'm sure as the site is around longer that will change.

If you've got a holiday gift that you aren't going to use, check out BarterQuest and see if someone else wants it and has something you could use. It's better than perfectly good items going to waste.

Image from the BarterQuest website

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Socially Responsible Food Choices

I wrote a post for MNN yesterday titled Why I Buy Organic Bananas. I don't buy all my foods organically because the food budget doesn't allow it. My general rule of thumb is to choose organics for the foods that would have the most negative effect on my family in their conventional forms. If I can afford to buy others organically after that, I do. The fruit of a banana is fairly well protected by its thick skin from the pesticides and other chemicals sprayed on the plantations. Because of this I used to buy conventional bananas, but not any more.

Here's why:

Although I pay attention to the miles that much of my family’s food travels to get to our table and I buy a lot of local food, there are certain things that I can never get local. Bananas are one of them. I still buy them.

I have two growing boys who want to eat them. I also buy them grapes and apples out of season because quite frankly I’m afraid of having to take them to the doctors one day and finding out they have scurvy because it isn’t local fruit season.

Apples and imported grapes (most of the grapes I can get in winter are from Chile) are two fruits that should be bought organically because the conventional ones are heavily contaminated with pesticides. They are #2 and #9 respectively on the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen Foods.

Bananas fall way down at #37 on their list.
continue reading here

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Eco-friendly Covers for the iPhone

I am finally giving in and giving up my piece of garbage Chocolate phone. Last April, I wrote about how I was going to stick it out with the phone even though it worked poorly because I was trying to buy fewer things.

Well, the plan on the phone is finally almost up, my Chocolate is getting more and more difficult to operate, and I'm sending it to the big recycling center in the sky. And now that I'm this big fancy blogger who is all over the Internet (look to the right, please), I'm going to get a phone that will allow me to get my e-mail when I'm out of the house and fix typos in my posts on the road (I've done that from my husband's phone). I'm getting an iPhone. The decision has been made. Don't try to talk me out of it.

I'll be getting the phone soon, so I started researching covers for it, and I came up with a few that are eco-friendly.

Agent 18 Eco-Shield - This is the only shield that is labeled eco-friendly on the Apple website. It's made from eco-friendly material with minimum carbon impact and it's packaging is made from recycled materials. It costs $29.95 on the Apple site, but I saw it on some other sites for less expensive. 395 reviews on the site gave it four out of five stars.

Solar Powered Charging Case
- This case is both a case for the iPhone and a solar charger for its battery. It looks a bit bulky - it's not a sleek skin type case. It runs $45.95 on the Solar Arcadia website.

Belkin Eco-friendly Recycled Material Case - I really like the looks of this one. Simple. Slim. Recycled. Unfortunately, it looks tough to get a hold of. Overstock lists it as out of stock (apparently, it's not very overstocked). If they did have it, it would be $29.99.

Black ECO Canvas Case - There isn't much info on Amazon about this case made from "environmentally friendly materials" and there are no reviews. But at least it's in stock. It's $19.99.

Elan Cork Case - A cork case would certainly say to everyone "this is an eco-friendly case." I think it's kind of cool. Amazon lists it for $15.71. One of the things that a reviewer mentioned was that the cork soaks up the oils in your hands and gets kind of grimey after a while.

JAVOedge Cork Back Cover
- Another cork cover. It looks a little less bulky than the Elan. Lists for $19.95.

These are the cases my search has come up with. I'm leaning towards one of the cork cases unless I can find the Belkin in stock somewhere.
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Green Product Review - Cynergreen Water Bottles

My kids have lost many water bottles over the years on sports fields so I wasn't willing to buy them expensive stainless steel bottles. But when CynerGreen contacted me and asked if I'd like to review their new line of bottles, I figured it was the perfect chance to get the boys some bottles for their lunch boxes. I was sent two CGKidz 350ml Bottles, and once again, my children became my partners in  product testing whether they wanted to or not.

Here's what CynerGreen has to say about their bottles:

The CGKidz 350ML bottle is our most popular for lunchboxes and backpacks. Great for toddlers and babies as well as a sippy cup.

For adults, it's a great refillable option to toss in any bag to keep drinks cool all day. Sports the fun CG Kidz "green" eco friendly logo.
This bottle is:
BPA Free - Chemical Free
304 Stainless Steel
Comes with Pull Top Drink Cap

Here's what we have to say about the Cynergreen CG Kidz bottles:
  • The boys like the look of them. 
  • I like that the caps stay on while drinking them and don't easily detach. Much less of a chance of them getting lost.
  • They were the right size for lunch boxes.
  • Both boys said their water tasted just like water when they got to lunch.
Unfortunately, one of them leaked. When my son brought it home the first day and said it leaked, I thought that perhaps he hadn't screwed the lid on tightly. The next day, I made sure that the lid was screwed on well, but he came home with a wet lunch box again. 

The other bottle - which is exactly the same, does not leak at all. Perhaps we got a faulty screw on lid.

The bottles are still perfectly usable for taking to the sports fields or sticking in the outside pouch of a back pack. But for being inside a lunch box where they get tossed around  a lot and don't always stay upright, the one is not a good choice. 

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