Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dreamin Green

Upon the metaphorical eve of moving back into the house I really want to sell, I found myself thinking of ways to make-do until the time comes when the real estate actually has value again. I am daydreaming of new counter-tops, building in a quaint but oh-so useful garden, and of course, I dream of cheap heat and low electric bills. There I go dreamin' Green again. 

And so, I found myself browsing, drooling on a great place to start Greening your life: Real Goods. 

I found these great dryer balls, that help your clothes dry in less time, saving you more GREEN, while making your laundry so fluffy-fresh. 

I would love to be hardcore-green and line dry everything, but honestly, I'm just not home enough to do that. And while I like the smell of line-dried clothes, the itchy stiffness is something I can do without. Hence, the compromise. I think of it as baby-steps toward being a more responsible person. 

I also found solar outdoor cascading fountains, solar-powered LED spot lights, and even a beginning bee-keeping kit-- though I must confess, I did not order the last one. I'm sure bees have their place in pollinating to their hearts content, but I don't think I could bring myself to KEEP them. At least not yet. 

I'll continue to post about my ongoing house remodel... especially if I can find ways to repurpose, conserve or otherwise get Greener. Until then...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Less Dishwashing, More benefit for the Planet

As a full-time working mother, with two children (and a husband who counts in this instance) I absolutely dread doing the dishes. My kids are the worst about getting out a cup, using it for five minutes, putting it in the sink-- only to get another clean cup out of the cupboard twenty minutes later.

So I have to admit, I'm guilty of going the Plastic Cup route. Why wash when you can toss? I felt extremely guilty about adding to my already huge trash collection though. And then I found something great...and it cut the amount of dishes I have to wash AND is a great deal friendlier to the environment.

I found a replacement for my plastic cups, which cost no more than what I spend on plastic cups in the grocery store.

has a wonderful collection of green products-- ranging from decorative solar lanscape lighting to Nat-Ur Compostable cups. It is these cups that I am so glad I found.

Nat-UR products are made from Cereplast Compostables resins which are annually renewable, ecologically sound substitutes for petroleum-based plastic products. Nat -UR products replace nearly 100% of the petroleum dependent additives used in traditional plastics with bio-based materials such as corn, wheat, tapioca and potato starches.

These nifty cups are certified biodegradable and fully compostable, so if you have a compost pile brewing for garden uses (which I'm working on to benefit my crappy soil this spring) you can just add them to the compost pile and your veggies will thank you later.

The come in a variety of sizes. A pack of 50 of these in 16oz costs just $8.50. I don't know about you, but I used to pay $2 for a pack of 12 at my local grocery store-- that's the same price for a greatly improved product!

If you'd like more information on these cups, just click the picture of the cups or the Buy Green logo above.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Become a Locovore: and other lessons from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

As a follow up to my Greener Way to Read post, I wanted to let you know about a book I downloaded to my Amazon Kindle, and loved so much because it is more than just a book. It is all at once a reference for living, a recipe book, a starting point for those considering living more earth-friendly and a memoir.

This great book I am speaking of is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) by Barbara Kingsolver.

At the crux of this book, renowned Novelist Kingsolver chronicles the year that her family decided to eat 100% locally. They ate only the food they could grow or buy from other local farmers. They did this for a number of reasons: to see if they could do it, to eat healthier food free of preservatives and grown in soil they knew, to try and cut down the amount of fossil fuels burnt in relation to the delivery of their food (the statistics regarding how much fuel can be saved if every american family ate one "locally grown" meal per week is astounding!), and to support the local farmers and growers instead of faceless corporations and Government-sponsored conglomerates.

And added benefit is that the whole experience heightend the family's repsect of nature, they learned how to subsist solely by their own merits, and became closer through the whole year. The youngest daughter even created her own Egg-selling business as a way to handle the extra eggs her faithful hens had laid!

Smattered throughout the book are numerous recipes offering both unique meals and healthy alternatives (that don't taste like you're eating healthy). There is even a whole section on making your own cheeses. Anybody that has ever tasted fresh mozzerella knows that the store bought, dried out, over-packaged mozzerrella just can't hold a candle to the fresh, homeade heaven called Mozzerella. And it is not nearly as hard to do as one might think.

I read the book this past summer, barely in time to get a few seeds growing, so inspired was I.

What I can tell you is that I managed to grow a few baby eggplants. I say baby, becasue they were nowhere near the size of the monsters you can pick up at any grocery store. They were shinier on the outside (what you are supposed to go by as the "when to pick" criteria) and the difference in taste was AMAZING. Fresher, more tender, tastier. I picked one, sliced it into circles, batter dipped it and fried it. I almost made myself sick, I ate so much of it.

Needless to say, I already have some seeds waiting for spring, and after I finish this post, I can be found sitting on my couch with a Park Seed catalog and my drawing pad (planning my garden, dontcha know!)

Kingsolver is right, store bought veggies can't hold a candle to something grown in the dirt in your own backyard. Sprinkled in this book, though not enough to be overbearing or irritating, are various economic, social and health benefits of putting local foods at the center of your family's table, and Kingsolver's husband is a wealth of relevant information as well.

Parts of it read like a how-to guide: Choosing and raising livestock, gardening and harvesting, supporting local farmer's markets, turkey sex, heirloom and endangered livestock breeds, and planning for the winter season ahead of time. You name it, and Kingsolver probably has something to say about it in this book.

Anyone interested in doing things a little better for yourself or your family should find this an interesting read, and one you're sure to keep around to refer to occasionally. And I really haven't given this book justice for the space I have.

For more information:

Park Seed Seeds

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Greener way to Read

I'm a self-proclaimed bibliophile. Of course, I don't have to proclaim it, one just need to see my house-- baskets, bookshelves and cardboard boxes full of box nestled in various corners of my humble abode speak volumes on my Literal addiction all on their own. And like any addiction, loving to read does have it's down falls.

I've at least got a forests-worth of trees laying dead about my house, and that doesn't count the hundreds of books I've donated to a library over my lifetime. While I love the smell of a book, and the whisper it makes upon opening, all those dead trees sure do collect a lot of dust. And lets not forget the costs associated with a heft book habit. Driving to browse the bookstore is a chore, as the nearest Barnes and Noble is an hour away = gas money and time. Impatient as I am, I often feel guilty about paying the price of a new hardback, but I also don't want to have to wait for the paperback edition to be released. So I often spend the money, only to read the book in one night, and have the Twenty-dollar dead tree hanging around my life looking like a very expensive dust collector. Or worse yet, I buy the book and don't like it enough to even finish it.

And then I had an "Ah-hah" moment. Angels sang, dim became bright and I started thinking GREENER. and that led me to something I truly love, and is also good for the environment. I'm talking an e-reader device. Now before you roll your eyes, let me qualify that this one is good. So good that I have complete strangers stopping to ask what it is that I'm reading.

"It's the Amazon Kindle," I say.
"Is there a book on there?" they say.

And then I tell them why I got the device:

1. No more dead trees on my behalf.
2. No more expensive dust collectors taking up space in my house.
3. No more driving to the store wasting time and gas.
4. No more expensive book purchases.

And then I tell them why I love it:

1. The Kindle device has its own wireless connection-- free and provided by Amazons Whispernet. I can browse Amazon from virtually anywhere, anytime, for subjects, titles, authors-- you name it.

2. I can get a preview of a book delivered straight to my Kindle with virtually no wait-- letting me read a full chapter or two to see if I want to buy the book for and average cost of $9.99 (less than half the price of a hardback book these days!) This is cool if you have a broad interest in subject matter because you can read good chunks of books without having to buy something. I could see how this might be useful for students researching for school.

3. I can organize my books, and keep a HUGE amount of media on my Kindle. I have yet to reach capacity. Even then, if I feel like cleaning it out, I can use the content manager to remove it from my Kindle, and it will be stored on my Amazon Kindle account for as long as I want it there.

4. I can get blog feed, e-newsletters and major periodicals delivered right to my Kindle for very low subscription fees.

5. I can type and edit my own documents sending them back and forth to my kindle account on Amazon.

6. I don't have to plan a trip to the bookstore, or wait for a book to arrive by mail. If I get in the mood to read, I browse, choose and within a few minutes I'm nose-deep in my favorite form of escapism.

Needless to say, I wasn't surprised in the least when Oprah recently was quoted as saying how much she loved the Kindle device. But I had to smile, because I loved it first :-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

(eCo)nscious Market is a self-proclaimed "For-Benefit" online commerce site based in Boulder, Colorado. They tout that their products are the finest ecologically and socially responsible products available, and the company donates a minimum of 10% of every purchase to a non-profit organizations. The even go so far as to let the buyer "hand-pick" the program that receives the donation funded by their purchase.

A sampling of organizations that are listed on the eConscious Market include:

-Urban Sprouts: uses school gardens to help youth engage in school, eat better, and connect with the environment and each other.

-The Jane Goodall Institutes works to protect chimpanzees and their habitats, supports community-centered development projects in ecologically-significant areas, and engages youth in making a positive difference.

-The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

-Global Culture of Women Project, Celebrating the global voice of women ~ a beautiful revolution.

-Bead for Life, eradicates extreme poverty by creating bridges - Ugandan women make jewelry out of recycled paper and Americans open their homes and hearts to buy and sell the beads.

And that's just a tidbit of the charities benefiting every time someone shops. And the best part of it all? You won't feel bad for shopping, and the merchandise on this site is amazing.

I fell in love with sooo many things here, that if it weren't for the money of mine making its way to charity right now, I just might be feeling the lightness in my wallet :-)


This Large Stingray cuff, made of 100% recycled materials.

Or this Vy & Elle Portfolio crafted from Recycled billboards.

Or their cool line of 100% recycled notebooks. I AM a sucker for office supplies, I know.

So if you have a few minutes and are feeling charitable-- buy yourself a gift that gives to others too!

Conserve & Preserve

In the past, I used to be one of those people that aschewed “Tree-huggers”. I blame it on the era in which I was raised. I would hear the grown ups talking about this group, or that one, and how they were taking away our rights and lively-hoods by their loud campaigning and alarmist reports.

In many, this sense of disdain for organized environmental groups lingers. For example, yesterday I send out an email throughout my company to announce I now had a bin for aluminum cans to be recycled, and if anyone would like to contribute I’d be happy to take ALL the cans they could throw at me to the collection center at the local SPCA (who gets a meager stipend from the recycling company, thus benefiting the environment AND the local stray animals). Not too long after that, I get at least three similar comments within a twenty-minute period. “What, are you becoming a tree-hugger now?” and “Don’t tell me your an eco-nut” were the gist of things.

My response? A genuine smile and a reply akin to “I drink the soda and just don’t feel right throwing them away. It takes no more effort for me to haul them to the recycling center than to the landfill. It just makes sense.” Sneaky right? Combating age old prejuidices with logic is very hard to argue against. No emotion, just plain old common sense.

So, realizing the tides are turning, I decided to do a little research about some of the tried and true environmental organizations, starting with the Sierra Club which has been around since 1892.

Founded by John Muir, noted naturalist and author, the Sierra Club has been working for decades with the following goals in mind:

1. Explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth.
2. Practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources.
3. Educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.
4. Use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

With over 1.3 million members and supporters, I’d say that the Sierra Club has the power of the people standing firmly behind their ideologies. Even now, the Sierra Club is hard at work to re-power America using smart energy initiatives, protecting endangered species and the land they depend upon, funding campaigns and research into global warming, clean water initiatives and soooooo much more. You really should hop over to their website and take a gander at all of the information, interactive maps and resources they have to offer.

Remember, no emotionality needed, just pure and simple common sense.

Interested? Go on over and take a look around!
Sierra Club