Monday, March 30, 2009

Taking a break

Every once in a while, I need to slow down. This week is one of those times. I'm taking a break for a week. A Little Greener Every Day will return Monday, April 6th. Until then, you can still read my stuff on Mother Nature Network. Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, March 27, 2009

I've got your Friday night pizza wine - Releaf

Over on MNN today I've got a review of Releaf, a South African blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz. The company that imports it, Organic Wine Trade Company is pretty impressive itself. Take a look at the review to find out how they are bringing sustainable, responsible wines to the U.S.

Releaf is a perfect choice for your Friday night pizza wine. It pairs well with pizza, it's sustainable so you can feel good about drinking every Friday night, and the price is right - $8.99 at my local wine store.

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Trying something new

I just finished reading Mark Bitman's Food Matters, and I'll be reviewing it for MNN. The book inspired me to try a few things, which I'll be writing a lot more about in the upcoming weeks. One of the things I was inspired to try was a recipe from Chef A - quinoa with sauteed mushrooms and onion. I'd never made quinoa before - it was very easy and really delicious. I'll be making this frequently.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Meet Bethe Almeras

Do you get enough play in the great outdoors in your life? Bethe Almeras makes it her top priority to encourage kids and grown ups alike get out outside and enjoy this world that we're all trying to make a little greener. Her newest venture, The Grass Stain Guru, is all about just that. I've been diligently reading this new blog that is timely, educational and inspirational. Bethe kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us.

What got you involved in going green, or perhaps in your case, being outside in the green?

Well, I grew up an outdoors kid. It was just what you did after school – go outside and play -- come home for dinner. There was never any question about what to do. Have fun – go play! It never occurred to me not to do that, and I was never bored.

I was lucky enough to live in a subdivision with large yards and a wooded area with a creek at the end of the street. Rest assured, if you were looking for me, I was going to be found in those woods -- often knee deep in the creek -- building little dams, catching crayfish, sailing boats made of leaves and twigs, or prospecting for gold.

I would build forts and play shipwreck or detective. I loved to climb trees, look for signs of wildlife, or just hang out with my friends and talk. As I got older, I would pack a lunch and just find a quiet spot to read – a flat rock by the creek or propped up against a tree. It was a good place to think and to dream.

It wasn’t a huge area, but to me it was everything. Whether I was on my own, or with a group of friends, that little wooded area was simply magic. My imagination came alive there -- in many ways, I think that little patch of woods is where it was born. As an adult who relies on her creativity daily, I am ever thankful to those woods. To my creek.

Sadly, like so many places from childhood, that little patch of woods is gone. Development. “Progress.” I am sad for the kids who live in the neighborhood now – they have no idea what they are missing.

I truly believe that time spent outdoors is necessary for every human being, and is an essential part of a healthy, happy childhood.

You are a self-professed member of the Children and Nature Movement. Why is that so important to you?

I have worked for many years connecting people with nature and have always found it to be a powerful way to reach and teach everyone. I guess like many others, I was part of the movement before it had a name or a unified theme.

When Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods came out, it mobilized and unified professionals in a variety of fields. The book really validated what many people where seeing – children are not going outside like they once were, and the consequences of that are large and long-lasting. It got us moving -- trying to make a more concerted effort to raise awareness and inspire societal change. We are raising what is essentially the first generation of kids to grow up disconnected from nature. Due to health issues, most of which can be related to today’s plugged-in, sedentary lifestyles, we are also raising the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents

Connecting people with nature -- it’s a huge issue, and far more serious that its name suggests. That said, it is also a very joyous thing and an exciting movement to be a part of. Connecting children (and adults!) with nature. Unstructured play. Getting outside more ourselves. These are all very good things. How amazing is it that so many people can benefit from something as simple, fun, and pleasant as getting outside more often? Of getting to know and love the natural world in ways that have meaning to each of us?

On twitter, everyone knows you as the #playoutdoors lady. You encourage us all to get outside every day and play. What's your favorite way to play outdoors?

OK, how much do I LOVE that I am known as the #playoutdoors lady?! That brings me joy. You know, I really do feel like an evangelist for play – it is my sworn duty to get us all out there, kids and adults alike, engaged in play and improving the quality of our lives. I truly hope that I encourage people to get outside and play EVERY day. Your physical, mental and emotional health will be greatly improved if you do. Listen to the #playoutdoors lady –she won’t steer you wrong!

My favorite way to play outdoors now as a grown-up? You know, I like to set out with no prescriptive goal for my play time – it’s a mood-based thing. Some days, I love to walk and take pictures, other days I like to sit on a park bench feeding the squirrels and watching the world go by. I love to discover a “new to me” park or trail, or play Frisbee, and there is NOTHING better than a day spent on the water. It doesn’t matter, as long as I am unplugged and outside, something good is coming my way.

Tell us about your newest project, The Grass Stain Guru blog. What do you hope people will get out of it?

I recently started The Grass Stain Guru because I am so passionate about the issues of unstructured play, connecting people with nature, and education reform. For me, all those areas boil down into one larger issue: Restoring childhood, and saving ourselves in the process.

We can talk about the issue in pieces and parts, as many groups do, but in reality, all of those pieces add up to one thing – happy children living in a happier, healthier society. That is something we should all care about, regardless if you are a parent, educator, a caregiver or none of those things. As a citizen, this should matter to you. It’s your society. It’s your responsibility, too.

What is passing for childhood today is just not good enough. We should want better for our children and ourselves. We should want better for this country. More balance and creativity. Better health and education. More opportunities for joy. Real connections with our families, friends, and communities.

I have three main goals for readers of The Grass Stain Guru:
  1. Awareness
  2. Spreading the word on play & time outdoors
  3. Behavior change/taking action
  • Recognize the emotional, developmental, academic, social, and physical benefits of unstructured play (for children, but ALSO adults)!
  • Take a HONEST look at their lives/lives of their families in terms of unstructured play time, time spent outdoors, and screen-time.
  • See the environment as something more than a thing that needs saving, but as a beautiful thing to know, love and interact with. This is really important for children, who are often asked to “save the planet” before they even get the chance to know and love it.
Spreading the Word:
  • Become a part of TGSG community – share your comments and questions and join the Play Outdoors Twitter group.
  • Share your stories and passions about the outdoors with children.
  • Start conversations with other adults about the topics and issues that we discuss.
  • Talk to your children’s teachers, the PTA, principal, etc. about recess and reducing homework load or setting a reasonable homework policy.
  • Be an active member of the voting public. Stay informed and use you voice on issues like education reform, development, and conservation issues. Stay informed.
Behavior Change:
  • Decrease the number of structured activities that kids are involved with so they have time just to be kids.
  • Decrease screen-time for selves and family – unplug more!
  • Increase time spent outdoors interacting with the natural world.
  • Focus less on purchasing toys and video games for kids and spend more time with them instead.
  • Have FUN, be playful and MODEL these behaviors for the children in your world. Model balance and experiencing joy.
  • Explore your communities and find more ways to connect with people and create a culture that supports outdoor play and an increased sense of security in our communities.

And most importantly, I hope that each reader laughs and plays as if their life depends upon it, because in reality, it does.

What's your favorite quote?

Only one?! Well, since I have never been a paint-by-numbers kind of girl, I am giving two:

“Life is too important to be taken seriously!”- Oscar Wilde
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein

Where can we find you on the web?

Play Outdoors Twitter Group:

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e-cards vs paper cards

I got an e-mail yesterday. It was asking if I would promote an e-card website with a specific spin - since mother's day is coming up, shouldn't we honor Mother Earth and send our moms an e-card instead of a paper card. You know, save a tree.

Here's what I want to ask you. How would your mother respond if you sent her an e-card instead of an actual card for Mother's Day? Forget the fact that my mom doesn't use a computer, if she did, and I sent her an e-card instead of actual card, I would never live it down.

I do send e-cards when I think the occassion and the recipient call for it. Susan and I send Hallmark Hoops and YoYo e-cards to each other all the time. Hoops and YoYo can brighten anyone's day.

But e-cards and e-vites set a very different tone than paper cards and paper invitations. Every once in a while, I pick up a little extra work, ghost writing web content. I've written many articles you'll never see my name on about greening weddings, and one of the things I always offer up as an option is sending out wedding e-vites, but I always add that sending an e-vite instead of a paper invitation will set a certain tone for your wedding. A very casual tone. Send a wedding e-vite, you're more likely to get people showing up in clothes from the Gap.

I'm all for making this world greener. But I think that people are most important. So, if it's very important to my mom that I buy her a paper card, then I'm buying her a paper card (and if I can find one made on recycled paper, that's a plus). For other things, like inviting our friends to our annual Christmas party, e-vites are very appropriate. 

The environment is very important, but it's not everything. If you've got a hip, tree-hugging mom who would appreciate an e-card for Mother's Day, then go for it. If your mom treasures her cards, then give her a card. I don't think dishonoring your actual mother to honor Mother Earth is worth it.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Daddy Van's all natural beeswax furniture polish

Anyone who knows me knows that cleaning my home is not one of my highest priorities. I do it, occasionally, but I am certainly no neat freak. So when someone e-mails me and asks if I'd like to try a cleaning product and review it, I think twice. 

I did, however, accept some furniture polish from Daddy Van's because polishing furniture isn't too painful. It's not like scrubbing the tub or anything. They sent me two tins of beeswax polish - one unscented & naturally baby safe and the other lavender with sweet orange oil.

Here's what Daddy Van's says

Daddy Van's is natural and simple, and leaves wood nourished, healthy, and glowing.

Only pure unrefined beeswax and the finest natural emollients go into Daddy Van's All Natural Beeswax Furniture Polish. No petroleum byproducts. No solvents. No artificial fragrances.

And every ingredient is renewable and Earth-friendly.

Healthy homes matter, and we are excited to offer a product like this one that is safe for the environment and for your family - and it outperforms all of the traditional alternatives.

Unscented, Baby Safe Furniture Polish - This is the original Daddy Van's Unscented Beeswax Furniture Polish all dressed up in a new Baby Safe label that touts the exceptional qualities of Daddy Van's.

Daddy Van's Baby Safe Furniture Polish is Non-Toxic, Chemical Free, and Food Safe - safe to use on furniture and wooden toys that Baby touches every day.

Ingredients: Pure Rocky Mountain Beeswax, Carnauba Wax and Olive Oil. That's it! No petroleum derivatives, no scary solvents and no toxic chemicals.

Lavender with Sweet Orange Oil Furniture Polish - Daddy Van's All Natural Lavender and Sweet Orange Oil Beeswax Furniture Polish is perfect for cleaning and protecting wooden kitchen cabinets.

Ingredients: Beeswax, Carnauba Wax, Olive Oil, Sweet Orange Essential Oil, Lavender Essential Oil

Here's what I say

I am what is technically called "fragrance intolerant." Most chemical fragrances and some natural fragrances can give me a migraine very quickly. So I was glad that one of the tins they sent was unscented. But you know what, I threw caution to the wind and took a few good sniffs of the lavender with sweet orange oil polish, too. Then I waited to see what would happen. Nothing happened. I didn't get a migraine. I can't promise it won't give others with my issues a problem, but I'm impressed by that fact alone.

I used the unscented polish in my living room and worked nicely. The top of the coffee table looked very nice when I was done polishing.

I can't use the lavender and sweet orange oil on my kitchen cabinets because my cabinets have all been painted.

Cleaning with natural ingredients is really important to me (when I clean). The chemicals that are in traditional cleaning products give me migraines, and I don't believe that they are good for my health and more importantly, my children's health. I will continue to use this furniture polish because it worked well and isn't full of toxic chemicals. 

You can order Daddy Van's products online or see if there is a store near you that sells them. Online, one 5 oz tin sells for $11.95.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Agave nectar, Michelle Obama and Earth Hour

Here are some things I've written about recently that I thought you'd be interested in.

I've been using agave nectar as a substitute for sugar in some places recently (like this peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar recipe). I wrote about agave today over on MNN - Agave nectar: a sweet alternative. Check it out if you'd like to know more about this natural sweetener.

By now, you probably know that the Obamas are planting an organic garden on the White House Lawn. Michelle Obama has been talking organic, local, and healthy lately, and I'm becoming a fan of the first lady. 

I've been completely fascinated by the comments people are leaving on my MNN posts about the subject and many other posts around the web. They are anywhere from highly enthusiastic to downright racist to highly nitpicky about the method that's being used.  It can be both infuriating and extremely fascinating at the same time. 

Over on Sustainablog, I've got a post about Making the Most of Earth Hour with some ideas that go beyond just turning out the lights. Remember, Earth Hour is this Saturday night. 

Tomorrow, I'll be reviewing a product for you that actually got me doing a little housework and I hope to have my next interview for you on Thursday.

Happy Monday!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Life is a highway

Adam Shake from Twilight Earth is back this month with another guest post. Read more about Adam at the end of the post.

When was the last time you had a song in your head that you just couldn’t get rid of? Well I’ve had one in my head all day. No, I take that back. That’s a lie. I’ve had “Life is a highway” in my head all week long.
Well, life's a road that you travel on
There's one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind
-Life is a highway by Tom Cochran
Now I don’t believe in coincidence, so why has this song this song been worming it’s way through my subconscious all week, and what exactly does “Life is a highway, and I’m gonna ride it all night long” mean? I want nothing to do with highways, or cars, or oil or CO2 or….. I’m about as deep green as you can get and if you knew how I “really” felt about some things, I’d probably be banned from the internet. You’ll never find me lying on a beach, and my idea of a vacation is living on the side of a mountain above tree-line and eating wild blueberries for breakfast.

But I digress. I think I’ve got it figured out. I believe that I’ve been contemplating this Environmental journey that I’ve been on, wondering not where I’m at, but how I got here and where I’m going. Life is a highway, after all.

I was recently interviewed, and as I’m sure Robin can attest to, when an environmentalist or green writer is interviewed, there are two questions that are standard. How did you get involved in the green movement and do you have some green tips for us? It’s kind of a running joke between those of us who do this kind of thing. This wasn’t my first interview, but it really got me thinking? How DID I get here? Where am I going?

How I got here isn’t as important though as how you got here. How did you get to the point in your life where you find yourself reading Robins blog, right now? You could just as easily be reading any other type of thing.

What drives us down the highway of life is not ourselves; it’s the people and things around us. After all, if we didn’t have anywhere to go, we’d never get in the car.

Some people realize that we all live in one big house that we call earth, and that by taking care of it, protecting it, we care for and protect the people we love. Turning down the heat at night, buying locally grown organic food, recycling and breathing fresh air tells our spouses and children “I love you.” The people we love have brought you here.

Some people realize that we have an intrinsic relationship with the natural world. This is a relationship that we have know for thousands of years and have only within the last couple of hundred, forgotten about. The world around you, outside your home, car and office has brought you here.

Some people realize that though the onus of responsibility for the environmental catastrophe we face can be laid at the feet of “Society,” there is something in them, which takes some of that responsibility upon themselves. Your integrity has brought you here.

Some people have people in their lives who respect them for caring for the ones they love and humanity in general. These people ask you questions. They respect your answers. They look to you as an example. They could be your friends, your co-workers or your own children. The people who count on you and look up to you brought you here.

Some people disagree with you. Some people think that you are being silly, or worse yet that you are crazy. Some people may even call you pretentious. Some of those people are vested in a consumer and energy consuming lifestyle that does not allow them to change without giving up certain things, and those things have a higher priority to them than working toward a sustainable future so that their own children will be able to live some semblance of a normal life. The people who hurt our home have brought you here.

Some people think that we have to solve a problem before we can fix a problem. We live in a world of instant access to any type of information. Want to know how to build a house? It’s on the internet. Want to know how to talk to your teenager? It’s on the internet? Do you want to know what day your wedding anniversary will fall on in 12 years or what your body fat index is or how long you have left to live based on your lifestyle? It’s on the internet. Want to know how to solve Global Warming? Uhhh, hmmm, I can’t seem to find that. What, you saying I’m the cause? Well umm, there’s no such thing! Skeptics and deniers have brought you here.

Only you know what brought you here. The question is, where do you go from here?

In Don Henley's “Boys of Summer” he says, “Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. A little voice inside my head said you can’t look back, you can never look back.”

It’s kind of like that, isn’t it? Is there any looking back now that we are here? Can we ever go back to our care free consumer lifestyles? Would we want to? The farmers market I go to is a great place. Garden raised vegetables, picked right off the vine in my own yard taste so good. Plants grow so much better when the soil comes from my own little composting bin. Putting my toilet paper rolls in my recycle bin is like thumbing my nose at the paper companies. But nothing beats being an advocate for a greener world, being an activist and being a writer, except maybe the fact that I’m going to the woods this weekend, and even if it’s wet and cold, I’ll feel more alive than I would sitting in my office a couple blocks from the White House.

There are different shades of Green just like there are different roads. Your shade is different than mine and that’s great. You don’t have to stand in front of a coal plant gate with 2,000 other people and risk arrest, but I’ve done it. Maybe you are a Vegan. I am not. Sometimes our roads intersect, like they have just now. When that happens, there is nothing sweeter.

Today is the first day of Spring. It’s a new season, a season of growth and renewal. The highway of life has brought you to this day, to this moment. This article is the Deadhead sticker on the Cadillac. Please don’t look back. Please never look back.

Adam Shake is the founder of
Twilight Earth, a blog that brings news and excellent commentary on what is going on with the environment worldwide that we need to care about. Whether he's educating about the environmental impact of things like coal or simply sharing his breathtaking photos of nature, I always learn something at his site. Visit Twilight Earth and look around (and check out my guest post on his site today).

On his blog he says "I’m about sharing with you what I know, what I’m learning, and what I’m ignorant about in reference to this huge subject that we call the environment." That's what we appreciate around here.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Growing a container herb garden

I'm in full garden mode right now, and I'm talking a lot about it over on MNN and a little bit about it here. I think that growing something is important for several reasons, but I also know that there are many people who don't have the time or the space to do a traditional vegetable garden.

I do think, however, that most people have the ability to grow one container of something. If you're trying to get the most bang for your buck, herbs are the way to go. Herbs cost very little to grow, yet are pretty expensive at the store. You usually buy an herb in a large bunch, and chances are you use what you need for a recipe and the rest ends up going bad before you need it again.

Growing your own will both save money and keep you from wasting money and food. It will make a huge difference in the taste of your food. It may even encourage you to try new dishes. 

I found this very informative video series over on that takes you one step at at time through creating an herb container gardening. The first video is here, and you'll have to go to the website to view the rest.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Organic labeling rules

I was sent a copy of Sara Snow's Fresh Living to review for MNN, and I'm really impressed with the book. I've been entrenched in this green stuff for about two years now and no longer consider myself a newbie. So when a book that is meant to discuss the basics of what you can do around the home both teaches me things and holds me attention, it's a good book. 

One of the things I learned in the book was about the standards that the USDA has for labeling a food organic.
  • For a product to say it is 100% organic, it must be 100% organic by weight with the exception of the water and the salt in the product. It will, of course, also carry the USDA organic seal.
  • A product that isn't 100% organic, can also carry the USDA organic seal. 95% of the content by weight (except for the water and the salt) must be organic. It can have the words organic in the name of the item or on the package.
  • Products that are made with 70% or more organic content can say on the front that it is "made with organic ingredients" as long as the other ingredients meet a USDA approved list. If the product is not at least 70% organic content, it cannot mention organic content on the front of the box. It cannot carry the USDA organic sea.
  • If the product has less than 70% organic content, the ingredient panel can mention the organic ingredients, but it can't mention it on the front of the package. It cannot carry the USDA organic seal.
This is helpful to know, don't you think?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Recycle your denim jeans and help set a world record

National Geographic Kids magazine is asking kids to help them set a Guinness World Record. They want to create the world's largest collection of clothes to recycle, and they are asking kids to send in old denim jeans to be recycled into insulation through the Cotton. From Blue to Green program

Recycling denim into insulation is a good use for old jeans that are too worn out to be handed down or donated. The problem is that it's not always easy to find a place that will take them. Now it is easy. They can be sent in to:

NG KIDS/Set a Guinness World Record
P.O. Box 98001
Washington, Dc 20090-8001

However, you don't have to send them and pay the postage. If you drop by any Build-A-Bear Workshop between March 27-29, 2009, you can donate your jeans there, and you'll get a free virtual gift to use at Just don't let your kids suck you into making a bear while you're donating.

All jeans must be received by June 30, 2009. Any denim is accepted, not just jeans.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Baby bunnies in my garden bed

My husband ran across a little snafu today when he was cleaning out the garden bed. Baby bunnies right where the tomatoes should go. I'm looking for advice on when and how to safely move them.

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National Geographic's true green home

I was sent a copy to review of true green home: 100 inspirational ideas for creating a green environment at home by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin. It's a beautifully photographed book of quick ideas that those who are new to going green can implement in their home.

What I liked most about the book is that it was set up one idea at a time - making it easy to pick and choose which ideas you might like to implement. In a very un-overwhelming way, the book allows its readers to flip through and grab onto ideas that are doable for them.

I also like that the authors didn't just write about the how-to's; they wrote about the why's, too. For example. idea #69 is "the paperless home." They explain ways to go paperless: saving documents electronically, banking online, etc, but they also give statistics. 
Research has shown that by switching to electronic bills, statements and payments, the average household can save 6.6 pounds of paper, avoid the use of 4.5 gallons of gasoline, and prevent the production of 171 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year.
It's information that is concrete and more likely to leave an impression on a reader than a simple "you'll save trees."

There is also a list of websites in the back of the book that give more information on a lot of the green ideas they give in the book, and a helpful glossary of terms.

If you are well entrenched in being green, this book probably won't have much in it that you don't already know, but if you're new to trying to create a greener home, this book has some practical starting points. It would also be a helpful gift book.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saying thank you

I won a contest last weekend and the other day I received two steaks and two pounds of grass fed ground beef from La Cense out of Montana. Tonight we made burgers with the ground beef, and I wanted to thank La Cense for providing our dinner.

A little about why grass fed is important, straight from La Cense's website:
Grass is the natural food for cattle – not grain, which is difficult for cattle to digest and can necessitate the use of antibiotics. The introduction of even a little grain into the cattle's diet diminishes the quality of the beef, reducing both health benefits and the real beef flavor. Most beef in most supermarkets and butchers comes from gigantic industrialized meat processors, who are more concerned with their bottom line than with raising healthy cattle in humane ways. They pack cattle into feedlots where the animals are fed grain laced with antibiotics, hormones and steroids so that they grow bigger faster and can withstand the cramped, inhumane environment. Even some so-called "grass-fed" brands can be "finished" on grain to produce rapid weight gain before market.

La Cense Black Angus cattle are born, raised, and finished on our Montana ranch, where they graze rotationally in open pastures on the tips of tall grass. Strangely enough, this sustainable approach is somewhat revolutionary nowadays, but it's the way cattle were raised for centuries and the way they're still raised in places like Argentina, which is known for its exceptional beef.
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Friday, March 13, 2009

I've lost a week

Running the book fair at my kids' school has been a lot of fun this week, but I wasn't able to be as on top of my writing as I thought I'd be able to be (I fancy myself Superwoman, you know, but in reality...).  I'll be back to posting regularly next week. I've got a book review and a cleaning product review planned plus I'll be going to the Go Green Expo this weekend. I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about that. 

And if my thinking is correct, I've been a bit calendar challenged lately, Adam Shake from Twilight Earth will be back with another guest post so put your thinking cap on - he's always got something to say that will make you go, "hmmmmmm."

If you're gearing up for St. Patrick's Day next week, I've got a slow cooker corned beef and cabbage recipe up over at MNN. Very easy and very tasty - see picture.

Have a great weekend!
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My first organic wine review (of sorts)

I hope to get another post up later today on a book I was sent to review, but I've got this crazy week where I'm at the boys' school all week running the book fair. So I thought I'd link you to a wine review I did on MNN today on Bonterra Vineyards 2007 Zindfandel. 

I actually call it a wine review (of sorts) because it's not a regular review that talks about long finishes and gives a numerical score. It's just my thoughts on the wine.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

10 easy ways to be more sustainable with your clothing

I'm not too different than other women. I like clothes. I like to feel good about what I'm wearing. I have a certain style, and when I see something that I think is "me" I want it. Unfortunately, buying whatever I want isn't very sustainable - either environmentally or financially. My clothing buying has considerably dwindled in the past couple of years. 

Still, I need clothing (believe me, it would not be all that pretty if I did not have them). So how can I be more sustainable with my clothing and with my family's clothing? Here are ten ways to be greener with clothes.

  1. Wash your clothes less. Lots of the things we wear don't need to be washed every time we take them off. I have a rule that my boys have to wear their pj's at least three nights in a row before they can go in the hamper. We take a look at what we wear each day to see if we can get another wearing out of the before they get washed. Washing less helps the clothes to last longer and you use water and energy because you wash less.
  2. When you do wash, wash in cold water. It takes a lot of energy to heat the water that is used when you wash in warm or cold.
  3. Line dry clothing whenever possible. 
  4. Buy clothing made of organic fabrics. The making of organic cloth is much less harmful on the earth than non-organic cloth.
  5. If you can't buy all your clothes made from organic fabrics (and it's very difficult to do so - I don't), try to buy as many from natural fabrics - cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp and wool are natural. While some of these may be grown using fertilizers and pesticides, it doesn't take the additional chemicals to turn them into fabric as it does for fabrics like rayon or polyester.
  6. If your all natural clothing is no longer useful - say your jeans are so holey that you can't donate them, you can compost them. They act as "brown" additions to your compost pile. Cut them into thin strips so they will break down more quickly.
  7. Buy used - thrift stores and consignment stores help the environment because they are instrumental in getting clothing reused. You can find some really fabulous clothing for good prices, too.
  8. Accept hand me downs for your kids (and even yourself). Kids grow so quickly and need new clothes a couple of times a year. There's nothing wrong with accepting hand me downs. It can keep a lot of resources from being used in creating new clothing, and of course it will save you a bundle.
  9. Hand down or donate your old clothing. Don't let clothes sit in storage if you aren't going to use them again. Get them back out into the market so they can be used.
  10. Cancel the majority of your catalogs. I mention Catalog Choice here a lot because its such an easy way to cancel catalogs. If you have a bad habit of buying on impulse because you saw something you have to have in a catalog, cut off the source. If you don't know the items exists, you can't want it.
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Monday, March 9, 2009

Nature's Path High Fiber Cereals Review

The people at Nature's Path have sent me more cereal to try out and review - gotta love it when food just shows up on your doorstep. I had breakfast all last week courtesy of Nature's Path. Here's what they sent me:

Organic Optimum Slim - Very high fiber (11g), low fat (2g) and tasted like it. It wasn't bad. I've eaten it more than once. It's just a good high fiber cereal without a lot of sweet in it. If you're trying to lower your fat intake and increase your fiber intake - this cereal will do it while leaving you satisfied and full. But you won't walk away saying "Oh, yum!" 

Organic Flax Plus Pumpkin Raisin Crunch - If you're looking for a cereal that you will walk away saying "Oh, yum!" to, this is the one. The raisins help to give it a sweetness and the pumpkin seeds add a little something unexpected. I really liked this. Enough that I'll be buying it again (unless Nature's Path wants to send me a year's supply....). A little more fat than the Optimum Slim (4g - still not bad) and a little less fiber (9g - still very respectable), but a lot more flavor.

Organic Instant Hot Oatmeal - Simply rolled oats and sea salt. A good amount of fiber (6g) and more fat than I would have thought for plain oats (3.5g) but after a little research, I found out that is common in oatmeals. All in all, it's oatmeal - you can jazz it up with raisins, brown sugar, maple syrup - whatever you want and make a good, hot breakfast. 

See my previous review of some of Nature's Path Kid's Cereals, here.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Great green ideas for children's birthday parties

Here's another great post that comes to us via Lynn and Corey at Celebrate Green. I particularly like the part about taking the focus off gifts - both for the birthday kid and the party guests. I've often contemplating starting a website called! 

Here's what Lynn and Corey have to say.

Celebrating an eco-friendly birthday can be loads of fun and cost next to nothing. All it takes is a little thought and planning.

Once you and your child (assuming she's old enough), have chosen a theme, look at each aspect of the event: decor, food, activities and gifts, and ask yourself the following questions. (We're talking about children's birthdays here, but the same principles apply no matter the age of the honoree.)

1. Can I reuse or re-purpose items I already own for decor? Avoid purchasing paper goods like tablecloths, even napkins. If you're crafty, take a plain white sheet and color in animals, pirates, tea cups or whatever matches your theme, or visit a thrift store and see if they have some fabric that could be used. The most practical solution for napkins is washcloths. If you don't have enough, you can pick up a dozen for less than $10 in many discount stores. These can be used as every day napkins until they totally deteriorate at which time they transform nicely into dust rags.

For table decorations, check your house, especially your child's room, assuming it's her party. Among her toys, we bet you can find enough items related to the party theme to create a unique tablescape. If she's old enough, she can set it up on her own.

There's no need for conventional balloons which, unless disposed of properly, can be a threat to wildlife and also post a choking hazard to children. Instead,
make a few pinatas with recycled paper and fill them with some healthy treats or treasures.

2. What can we eat that everyone will enjoy but that's healthier than the usual birthday fare? Avoid planning a full meal. Much of the food goes to waste as kids are notoriously picky or just too excited to eat. Instead, lay a table with a choice of healthier snacks (depending on children's ages), like raisins, peanut butter (be sure to ask parents beforehand whether their children are free of allergies), fruit, 100% fruit leathers, or organic "bars." Instead of juice or soda, put out pitchers of cold filtered water, homemade lemonade, or if it's a winter birthday, how about making
real organic hot chocolate?

When it comes to the cake, save money and create something healthier by
making one yourself. It's not that difficult or time consuming. If you have a small group, donning chef hats and making the cake can be a fun part of the celebration.

Another option for do-it-yourself fun is cookie baking and decorating. Individually decorated cookies make great no-waste party favors.

Be sure to set out a container for composting leftovers.

3. Do we really have to haul the gang to an amusement park, restaurant or skating rink to enjoy a memorable party? The answer is absolutely not! Think about what your kids love doing daily. For instance, one four-year-old we know lives and breathes hide 'n seek. Why shouldn't her party involve several variations on the game? Not only can all the partygoers play, but how about hide 'n seek with some gifts, both for the birthday girl and the guests? Or why not hide and seek for objects instead of people?

If your child loves animals, call your local 4H club and see if a teenager will bring a rabbit or other animal for the children to learn about and pet.

We're betting that no matter what your child enjoys, he'll love integrating activities based on his passion into the party.

Neither of ideas the above costs a penny. And remember that when you focus on the child instead of the event, magic can happen.

4. How do we take the focus off gifts? At the same time parents may decry our nation's emphasis on overconsumption, they equate a great birthday (or Christmas or Halloween for that matter), with giving and receiving lots of stuff. But more people are beginning to believe that children's birthday parties, especially the gift giving parts, have gotten out of control. Parents and children alike, are starting to look at the whole gift giving idea in a new light. Some parents are asking for gently used or homemade (by the guest, not the parent)items. Others are opting out of asking other children to bring gifts to parties, while keeping family gift giving intact. Many have started donating to charities in the child's name, or a combination of these ideas. For a terrific list of alternatives, visit

The birthday child isn't the only one who is showered with gifts, though. At many events, tiny guests return home laden with so many items, you'd think it was their birthday! Downsizing prizes and party favors is not difficult. Every game does not have to have a winner who is rewarded with a trinket. How about making a craft project the centerpiece of the party, with the children taking home what they make? Even better,donate the projects to a children's hospital.

Birthday parties should be fun for everyone and there is no reason to create waste and shower anyone with carloads of stuff. Instead, aim to create a memorable event that focuses on simple pleasures.

For more simply green children's birthday ideas, check out this
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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Meet Becky Striepe

The people that I write with on various blogs and the people who I connect with through social networking sites are always so friendly and passionate about what they are doing. Even though I sit in my office alone most days, I have people out there that I chat with in various ways throughout the day that help me feel a little less lonely. And, no surprise, the vast majority of them are working on making this world a little greener.

I thought it would be fun to interview some of my fellow writers and environmentalists. My first interview is with Becky Striepe, a writer and an eco-friendly crafter. She's very talented with a needle and thread and makes fabulous reusable Lunch Kits (see picture below), pillows, cup gloves and other useful stuff.

Everyone, meet Becky.

What got you started on you green journey?
When I was in middle school, my folks bought me the book 50 Simple Things You Can do to Save the Earth. It's a really quick read, really empowering. I went through our cabinets pulling out spray cans that used CFCs, pestered mom and pop into recycling, and got them to aerate the showerheads and faucets in our house. It basically changed how I thought about the world around me.

What's one thing that anyone can do to make a difference for the environment?
Eat less meat and dairy. Even if you just replace a few meals a week with vegan ones, it can make a huge difference, and you don't have to feel deprived. It's just a matter of finding veggie meals that you dig.

Tell us some GOOD, green news.
I've been reading about and watching videos from
Power Shift 2009, and it makes me all misty eyed in a good way. Seeing throngs of citizens and even politicians just - getting it, caring, standing up to make a difference - it's inspiring. It makes me feel hopeful in a way that I haven't in a long time. Maybe ever.

You're a vegan, right? Why? Would you be so kind as to point us carnivores to a vegan recipe you think we could enjoy? (no tofu, please)
I am! My eating habits have sort of evolved over the past decade or so. I went totally vegetarian at 16 and that's when I discovered the amazing Molly Katzen, author of the
Moosewood Cookbook. That book really taught me how to think about cooking. Her recipes are all so fun and whimsical! They're full of substitutions and ideas for mixing things up. She was my first cooking hero, after my pops.

I gave up eggs and dairy only four years ago. At first it was for health reasons. I had insanely high cholesterol, despite exercising a lot. They wanted me to go on meds! At 25! There was just no way I was doing that. I cut eggs and dairy products out completely and three months later my cholesterol was normal. In learning about how to eat in this new way, though, I read. A lot. And the more I learned about how eggs and milk products get from farm to table, the less I wanted any part in it. Along the way, I picked up some more cooking heroes, like Isa Chandra Moskowitz from the
Post Punk Kitchen and Jennifer McCann from Vegan Lunchbox.

It's so hard to choose one vegan recipe. How about a lovely
Southwest White Bean Stew?

My go to for converting non-believers, though, is the noble cupcake. I can't recommend Isa Chandra's book
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World enough. Even if you have no interest in veganism, these cupcakes will rock your socks. I promise!

Do you have a favorite quote?
When I went shopping for my wedding dress, my friend Liz gave me a little piece of paper to carry with me. It said, "DON'T PANIC." That just feels like all around good advice. Panicking never helped anyone.

Where can we find you on the web?

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