Saturday, August 29, 2009
Musings from The Greenhabilitator...
As I step out of the Booth for the first time, wearing my hand sewn cape made from a thrift store table cloth, I debate what the topic of my first post here should be.
I could tell you how sublimely green I am -- like how I can my own vegetables, or how my husband built our greenhouse this Spring from scrap lumber. But the truth is things never go quite according to plan in our household. You see, said greenhouse wasn't built with proper ventilation. The inside has been about eight thousand degrees all summer long, so we haven't actually been able to use it. Duh. And the animals ate our entire garden not once, but TWO times this summer. (I hope all of those hot peppers burned a hole right through them!) So my "harvest" thus far has consisted of one single green bean. The vegetables I've been canning are actually from the farmer's market.
Yes, even green superheroes fail sometimes. We get offtrack. We get busy and pick up GoGurt for our kids at the grocery store, because it's so darn convenient. We see something so stinkin' cute and buy it just because we want it! You gotta problem with that?
I've never completely fallen off the green wagon. You won't catch me guzzling bottled water or using pesticides in my garden or driving a Hummer. As people who have been through some sort of rehab will tell you though, you have to keep working at it. There's never a point where you stop and say "I'm cured!" Sometimes you even go back into rehab just to solidify your direction when you feel you might be going astray.
The same is true for the greenhabilitation of our lives. And what better way to get back to basics than with a compact? I feel as if a compact (that's not buying new things, if you're not familiar) is sort of a fast for environmentalists. Or what we used to call a "revival" when I was growing up in the bible belt. It can be almost painful at times, but it reminds you of what is really important in life, what is needed versus wanted, and it stimulates your creativity as well.
Call me crazy for doing this as we enter the holiday season but if anyone can do it it's The Greenhabilitator!
Will our superhero be able to resist the Target clearance rack? Will she plan far enough ahead to make Christmas gifts for everyone on her list? Stay tuned as The Greenhabilitator embarks on this restorative process.
Friday, August 28, 2009
The background story: my oldest and best friend's (creative, talented and all-around great) boyfriend Sean surprised her last Christmas with a photo book called, "Plastic Pollution."
...and beautiful rural areas...
...and sadly, in beautiful blue waters...
Now, most everyone these days knows that plastic bags are bad. But a picture really is worth a thousand words, isn't it? These photographs simultaneously break my heart and fill me with awe. If there is someone you know still nonchalantly using plastic bags, perhaps you'll share this link to more of Sean's photos of plastic pollution.
photo credits: Sean Green
Thursday, August 27, 2009
On a never-ending quest to diminish her footprint, the Greenhabilitator looks at everything that passes through her hands and asks one question: "How can this be done in a more eco-friendly way?"
Wielding a sewing machine and a sharp tongue, the Greenhabilitator fights back against consumerism and planned obsolescence. She holds the power to whip up hand made gifts at a moment's notice and pack waste-free lunches every day of the year.
Follow along as the Grenhabilitator works to brings back a simpler way of life for herself and her family.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
This post is basically the exact opposite of Green Bean's post where she included all those amazing pictures of her yard. Here's Green Bean's yard. Here's mine:
We just moved into this house two months ago, and although we're renting, our wonderful landlords said, "Go right ahead," when we asked if we could plant a garden. I'm a serious plan-ahead kind of girl, so okay, okay, I know its months away from Spring, but I've got to be ready!
A Few Things to Consider
Since we're renting, our housing situation is not permanent. We're not planning on moving for at least five years, but there's no guarantee our landlords won't decide to sell the place out from under us. And I can't say for sure that our own plans are set in stone. (Remember, we've already moved six times in seven years.)
So that puts some limits on our landscaping plans. I read a fabulous book called Landscaping with Fruit that suggested using blueberry bushes in a foundation planting (the area in front of a house by the front door). Great idea!...Until I discovered how many years it takes before blueberry bushes produce fruit. I need to stick with fruits and vegetables that produce within a season.
Also because we're renters, we don't want to invest too much money on the landscaping. I admit that because I love landscaping and gardening, we will probably end up spending more on the yard than smart spenders would recommend. But I'm going to try to keep it within reason.
We have the smallest yard in the history of backyards. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by far. Our lot is .09 acres, and most of that is taken up by the house. I want to have a pretty sizable garden, but I also need to leave space in the backyard for the boys to play.
The top picture is where I plan to put the garden beds because it's the sunniest part of our lot. I'm thinking three beds that measure 2' X 8' - is two feet too narrow? I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but our backyard is a small hill, so the beds will have to be terraced with space between for standing. I can also put in some plants close to the fence, but that spot gets a little less sun because of the shade from the fence.
There's a lot of space on the front steps for some containers, and I could add some hooks to the porch roof for hanging plants. Has anyone tried those Topsy Turvy tomatoes?
I thought this side yard would make a good spot for a fruit bed, but it's a secondary priority to getting the backyard garden in. Our landlords used this spot for extra parking space, so I'm sure the soil needs lots of work.
This is the other side of our backyard. It gets less sun because of two trees in our neighbor's yard that pleasantly shade the house. I'm thinking flowers and grasses around the porch, but this is also less of a priority than the garden beds.
Okay, all you gardeners out there. Please help! If this was your yard, what would you do? What plants would you choose? Where would you put them? How can I make my yard pretty but still functional?
I need your guidance!
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Thirsty? Eco Child's Play reveals that SIGG has fessed up: their "water-based epoxy liner, long rumored (but never confirmed) to contain BPA, indeed had BPA all along." They've since switched to a BPA-free liner, but it's oh so frustrating to find out that even the "good" companies lie.
Fight the heat with 32 Unique Homemade Popsicle Recipes from Tree Hugging Family (from the traditional like "fudge pops" to the I'm-not-sure-my-kids-would-eat-that like "sweet potato pops"). Or work with the heat to make fruit leather on the dashboard of your car with this recipe from Bring on the Lloyds.
My favorite way to combat the heat is to grab a good book and get comfy in the rocking chair under the ceiling fan on my screened-in porch. Note that if you try this, make sure that your children are napping or properly supervised by someone else as the humidity is likely to induce a mid-afternoon siesta. But if you can keep yourself awake, you might want to give one of the new books on my to-read list a try:
- Grist interviews the author of the new book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.
- Mindful Momma recommends The Big Green Cookbook.
- Everyone's talking about Vanessa Farquharson's new book Sleeping Naked Is Green.
Photo by lepiaf.geo
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
My husband and I have moved six times in the seven and a half years of our marriage, and I'm sick, sick, sick of moving. Every move has its annoying qualities, but this one has been particularly annoying because I focused so much during the last year on greening our life, and I feel like in many ways I'm starting all over. Except that I can't remember what it was I did in the first place.
I'm a big fan of itemized lists with little boxes for checking, so I decided that what I need is a "green moving list." And since JessTrev is in the middle of a move and a Green Phone Booth reader (Cath) commented on my last post that she will be moving soon also, I thought I'd make this list available to all of you as well.
The list here includes comments and tips, but you can also click on the title below to get to a printable Google doc version.
___Declutter. (Don't wait until the last minute to do this or you'll just end up tossing everything in the trash can. Plan ahead and you can unload most of your unwanted belongings on Craigslist, Freecycle, the thrift store, and lucky friends. Dispose of what's left responsibly at your recycling center and hazardous waste site.)
___Locate sources of boxes and packing supplies. (Did you know you can find listings for used boxes on Craigslist and Freecycle? Uhaul also has a Box Exchange forum, or you could rent plastic bins from a green moving company such as this.)
___Hire an eco-friendly mover if using one.
___Clean old place with nontoxic cleaners.
___Register with the Direct Market Association's Mail Preference Service.
___Register with Catalog Choice.
___Register with ProQuo.
___Give away your used boxes or recycle them if they're too far gone.
___Set up a recycling center in your new house.
___Start a compost pile or bin.
___Check your new area's recycling guidelines.
___Locate your recycling center, yard waste center, and hazardous waste drop-off location.
___Check out the farmer's market. (Look on Local Harvest.)
___Find local sources of humanely raised, hormone-free beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and dairy. (Try Eat Wild.)
___Locate the nearest eco-friendly grocery store or co-op. (Check the Eat Well Guide.)
___Research CSAs. (Look on Local Harvest.)
___Locate restaurants that use locally grown foods. (Check the Eat Well Guide.)
___Map out a spot for your vegetable garden.
___Put up a clothesline if you don't already have one.
___Set up power strips to keep your vampires under control.
___Put in CFLs and/or LEDs.
___Install a programmable thermostat if you don't have one.
___Check for and seal air leaks around windows, doors, outlets, entrances to attics and crawlspaces, and in attics and basements.
___Add insulation where necessary.
___Put a bottle in the toilet.
___Replace showerheads with low-flow varieties.
___Install aerators in your faucets.
___Install water barrels.
___Look up your new house on Walk Score.
___Check out your new city's public transportation options.
___Meet your neighbors.
___Start a swap network.
___Locate your thrift stores and consignment stores.
___Join Freecycle in your new area.
___Locate your parks, libraries, and museums.
___Locate your local green groups and get involved.
If you have any other suggestions, be sure to let me know, and I'll add them to the Google doc.
photo by NeitherFanboy
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
My eyes flicker open.
Monday, August 17, 2009
- 1 large zippered 3-ring binder
- 1 3-ring 1" binder (for reading class)
- 1 3-ring 1" soft cover binder (for science)
- 1 pencil pouch
- 9 spiral notebooks
- 1 3 subject notebook with pocket dividers (for English)
- 1 ruler with centimeters & inches
- 1 box of colored pencils or markers
- 1 compass
- 4 plain blue pocket folders
- 1 protractor
- 2 black pens
- 1 pair scissors
- 2 blue pens
- 1 eraser
- 2 fine point black markers
- 2 glue sticks
- 1 box of regular pencils
- 1 calculator
- 2 large boxes of Kleenex
- 2 highlighters - different colors
- 1 plain green pocket folder - choir
- 1 plain pocket folder - general music
- 1 roll 3/4" Scotch tape
- 1 pad of 100 Post-it notes 3"x3"
- 1 3 subject notebook for both years of Spanish
I cringe when the chitlins return home from the summer with their new backpacks stuffed to the gills with all new supplies. The contents of their cheap crappy ass backpacks (that never last past the first week without some major malfunction) never coincide with the list put out by the school. The list is available online, the school mails it out, and every store known to man has it prominently displayed as soon as you walk in the door. She can read, can't she? Come on!! Could you get it right just for one year, please?! After nine years you think one would get the hang of it. Geesh.
As if that is not irking enough, the amount of resources being wasted drives me up the wall! Every time I hear the zipper on that backpack open for the first time it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. *shivering*
There are so many supplies from previous years stashed in totes in the basement that I could start my own Back to School store. I have stocked my craft room completely from purchases made by Ew, created a kids craft/activity area in the basement from other Ew leftovers, and still have totes full of Ew's wasted money. She is always complaining they do not have any money. Why then does she spend needlessly?
The chitlins both have large zippered 3-ring binders from last year and previous years that are well enough to reuse this year. We have amassed a pile of half used notebooks. We even have notebooks that are untouched from previous years! I have used all the folders I can for household organizing and still have enough to supply the chitlins for the school year.
One shelf in my workroom contains nothing but 3-ring binders. There are no less than half a dozen plastic rulers floating around the house. The markers/ colored pencils/ crayons got so out of control I started giving them to the school art room and daycares. Pens and pencils. Oy ve! Do we really need to buy more pens and pencils?! I think I can find two black and two blue in there somewhere. A protractor is a protractor; as a compass is a compass. Do you really need a new one every year? Same with calculators. I have yet to see one go bad in a year. In fact, I have yet to see one quit, period.
As adults we do not go out and buy all new office supplies just because it is a new year. So, why then with our children? When will it become acceptable to wear the same clothes as last year? Use all of the paper in a notebook before starting another one? Reuse a backpack/binder/folder? Keep the same protractor/compass/calculator throughout your school career? Use markers/colored pencils/crayons until they are gone? These things should be encouraged not looked down upon.
People are quick to judge and have tendencies to slap on the poor label if someone buys secondhand, mends, repurposes, doesn't have the new latest and greatest. I will revel the day when it is thought shameful to show up for the first day of class wearing the fashions of the moment, sporting a new backpack chock full of pristine bleached white paper, plastic mechanical pencils, a cool new calculator with whatever cartoon/pop star is hot at the moment sprawled across it, glossy folders touting the same, pens, fresh post it notes, and a pvc lunchbox containing a disposable prepackaged lunchable.
My dream school supply list:
- PVC free binder
- pencil pouch repurposed from scrap fabric (outgrown clothes)
- recycled notebooks, half used notebooks from previous years, assignments done on backsides of previously used paper
- recycled ruler, or one passed down from an older sibling
- eco-friendly markers, eco-friendly colored pencils, or ones you already have lying around
- metal compass & protractor, or ones someone else no longer needs
- recycled folders, or last year's still in good shape
- recycled pencils, not pens
- no calculator, learn mental math
- reusable cloth handkerchief
- pieces of scrap paper cut into 3"x3" squares bound with a paper clip
- and a backpack built to last
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Frau Robin kept building, and we, now aware of her presence and important task, kept observing. She finished her construction project. We noticed the addition of one egg, perfect in shape and color. And then, there was another, just like it.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The day I discovered green blogs, I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. Here were people who were working on the same goals and were passionate about the same subjects as I was! I felt so lucky to have found them and so grateful that they were sharing their lives online.
But after a few months of reading, I began to feel a new, uncomfortable feeling: green envy. Those bloggers seemed to have all the latest green technologies and toys. Their houses were decorated with beautiful sustainable materials. They wore eco-friendly clothing and drove energy efficient cars. Their children played with handmade toys made from natural materials, and they would have never let their babies drink from a plastic bottle.
I began to feel like an olive green gal blogging in a crayon box filled with forest greens. I can't afford all that stuff - green or not! And if I'm not buying all those "green" products, does that make me less green?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away millions of tons of trash a year, including 71.6 million tons of paper, 31.6 million tons of yard waste, 15.3 million tons of metal, 14.4 million tons of plastic, and 13.2 million tons of food scraps, 12.5 million tons of glass, and 20.8 million tons of miscellaneous items.
And that's just the end result of all of our waste. Annie Leonard reminds us in The Story of Stuff that "for every one garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream just to make the junk in that one garbage can you put out on the curb. So even if we could recycle 100 percent of the waste coming out of our households, it doesn’t get to the core of the problem."
So maybe I can't afford all those shiny new green toys. But by making do with what I have, I prevent more waste from being produced during manufacturing, and I avoid adding something else to the landfill.
Going green can be expensive - at least in some ways - but sometimes the greenest path is also the cheapest. And once I realized that, my green envy subsided, and I was able to get creative with what I have.
Here are some of the ways I'm making do:
If I were a gazillionaire environmentalist, I would drive a Tesla. Oh, beautiful, beautiful car, why do you tease me with your sleek design and fuel efficiency? Alas, I will never be able to afford a Tesla, and it will be awhile before we can buy a Prius, so for now I'm making do by driving less and walking more.
I'm renting, so I can't upgrade my appliances to the Energy Star variety (not that I could afford to anyway), so I'm making do with my energy sucker of a dryer by line drying all of our clothes. And since we don't have a clothesline outdoors, I make do by line drying our clothes on hangers hung on shower rods. It's not the most attractive method, but it gets the job done.
Someday, I'd love a house with solar panels and one of those miniature wind turbines on my roof. But for now, I'm making do by slaying our vampires, being conscious of our overall energy use, and using less A/C and more ceiling fans.
Since we just moved to this house a month ago, I've had the golden opportunity to design without a dime. Instead of buying new stuff to fit the house, I'm making do by decorating with what I have. And honestly, seeing how great all my stuff looks in this new location has made me fall in love with old purchases all over again.
I'd love to toss out all of those plastic electronic toys we've picked up over the years and replace them with some beautiful wood and handmade options. But since my kids can't understand the concept of "taking care of your things" and therefore cannot be the owners of expensive toys, we're making do by getting crafty with our garbage. So far we've made castles out of plastic flower pots and some cereal box houses to go with the wooden little people we painted.
I could go on and on here. Our computer needs replacing. Our couches are wearing thin. We've had the same towels since we got married. And I can't count how many times I've been asked, "When are you going to get a new TV?" I would love to upgrade my entire home to a newer, greener model with a beautiful sustainable garden, a hybrid in the driveway, and solar panels on the roof, and maybe eventually, over time, I will. But for now, I'm making do.