Saturday, April 30, 2011
Good morning Boothers,
I'm hoping the arrival of May is just as exciting for you as it is for our family. We're done with March winds and especially our extended April showers, and we're ready to move on to some May flowers - or at the very least, some planting!
Our first farmers market opens this week, an exciting event for our children that they've waited for for some time. My oldest misses commisserating with the characters she's met: the Pepper Guy who always sneaks her some plants or peppers for her dad, the grandmotherly type who gives her jelly bean prayers, the mom who somehow brings her three daughters to sell organic produce, baked goods and other endeavors.
We're excited about our market time, and hope you are too.
Which brings me to my question: I'm considering setting up a Saturday monring farmers market carnival to share what's growing in your area and great recipes you've stumbled on during the week. Please post if you're interested in participating, and we'll get started!
Friday, April 29, 2011
This year marks my second Mother's Day, and my world has changed since my son Joshua was born. It's funny how motherhood has changed my perspective. I used to care about the environment because I enjoy spending time in nature and I wanted to preserve it for future generations. For a long time those "future generations" were theoretical, but that all changed when my son was born. I suddenly had a real-life, 9 lb. 8 oz. member of that future generation right in my own two arms, a reminder every day to care for our planet.
When I think about the legacy I want to leave for my son, I see a clean and safe place. Air that is clear, fresh and beckons him outdoors. Water that sparkles and calls him to swim and splash. Soil that, while dirty, is free from dangerous contaminants and calls to him to dig holes and grow a garden. Tall trees to climb, berries to pick, frogs to catch and bird that sing. Simple things, really. I want my son to love the outdoors as I love them.
It can be overwhelming to think about the long road to sustainability: the cleaning up and preventing future problems. It's much more difficult to more toward sustainability (or avoid backsliding) with a child, but my convictions are stronger. There's no time for complacency.
I can't, of course, do it alone. But I am optimistic that my efforts along with those of many other individuals, grassroots movements and large-scale organizations can and will give my son the future I imagine for him. I may not achieve all of my goals, but Joshua will know that I fought for his future.
This post is my submission to the Moms Clean Air Force Carnival: A Mother's Day Gift. What kind of world do you want for your children? Blog about it by May 8 and join the carnival!
You can also join in the Healthy Child Healthy World Mother's Day Twitter Party on May 5 at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST to share about easy, non-toxic, affordable ways to pamper moms!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Awhile back I watched a really funny episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall watches a documentary about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and then gets obsessed with going green. I tried to find a video clip of the episode to share with you all, but apparently the youtubes did not deem that episode as one that needed to be preserved for posterity. So relying on my hazy memory of a show I saw two months ago, it went something like this:
Marshall is so distracted by coming up with a green initiative for the company he works for that he isn't paying attention to his wife Lily. Finally one night she buys a six pack of beer, puts on some lingerie, and attempts to seduce her husband, but as he's kissing her, he starts glancing at the beer cans.
"Lily," he says. "What did you do with the plastic rings around the cans?"
Lily shrugs and goes back to kissing, but Marshall pushes her away. "What did you do with the plastic rings??!!"
"I threw it away," Lily says.
Marshall goes ballistic. "Don't you know about Garbage Island!!!"
Then instead of having a nice evening with his wife, he goes dumpster diving for the plastic rings in the dumpster behind his apartment.
I found this episode hilarious because I've been there. Not that particular scenario, but I've been in situations where I've been so distracted by all the trash that I can't enjoy whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing. But after the show was over, I started thinking...
Does an episode like that basically making fun of environmentalists help the green cause or hurt it? I've noticed green issues popping up on television shows all over the place lately, and often those shows take a light-hearted and even skeptical approach to what are to me very serious issues. In the case of the How I Met Your Mother episode, I'm sure many viewers were hearing about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for the first time, but at the same time, the show made it seem like people who care about recycling or protecting the earth are complete wackos.
What do you all think about green issues making an appearance on the small screen?
While you think about that, you can watch this episode of Portlandia that I also find hilarious:
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Glass Dharma, the maker of some awesome glass straws, to help stop one part of plastic litter, plastic straws. This may seem like a pretty small problem but did you know Americans throw away 138 billion straws and coffee stirrers each year? That adds up to a lot of waste.
Glass Dharma wants to stop this waste by encouraging us to bring our own straws. This may seem kind of weird but a lot of us have gotten use to bring our own bags and water bottles, why not a straw? I keep one in my purse at all times. And while this helps, I often end up with plastic straws even when I ask for no straw. This is because so often restaurants don't ask they just stick a straw in your drink.
This is where the group of bloggers and Glass Dharma come in, they are asking that we all write letters to our favorite restaurants asking them to change their straw policy. While it would be great if reusable options like Glass Dharma straws were put into place but if that's not possible there are paper straws or at least the restaurants can be sure to ask people before using a straw. A lot of people don't need the straw but use it because it was put in their drink so asking would help cut down the number of people getting straws.
While doing these small forms of activism can be rewarding all on their own, Glass Dharma wants to give a little extra encouragement so they are offering one free glass straw per each letter you write, up to five per person.
If you are worried about these straws, don't be. I have had some for a couple of years and haven't broken one yet and I'm not that careful. You can wash them in the dishwasher so you are sure they are clean, they also come with cleaning brushes if anything gets suck in them. And they have carrying cases for keeping your straws with you. I love mine and use at least one a day.
So why not spend a few minutes to help the planet and get a cool reward for it? To find more information and to get your free straws check out my blog- www.retrohousewifegoesgreen.com. Be sure to hurry over because the offer is only good through April 30th!
Would you carry your own straw? Do you already?
Monday, April 25, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
The bunny is back.
The last few weeks have ushered in enthusiastic discussions of the Easter Bunny, hidden eggs and coloring shells. (Which has somehow been interpreted as painting cracked eggshells with watercolors, but that is another story.)
For us, it's been a question of how much is too much. We don't want to over-temper enthusiasm, but the overcommercialization of this and just about every other holiday is a bit too much. Last year, I admit, we got off fairly easy. Small baskets held an Easter coloring book, few plastic eggs with goldfish crackers and M&Ms, and a small trinket.
Kindergarten, though, has ushered in new expectations. Some I don't quite understand, like the desire of our daughter to eat a hard-boiled egg for breakfast (she has never had one before). Thankfully, she hasn't discussed the potential for loot Easter morning.
Instead of emphasizing stuff, we're hoping to turn the focus on family and experiences. While I think they're too young to attend the intricate evening Holy Week services, we're trying in other ways. Making Hot Cross buns on Good Friday and Resurrection Rolls for Easter dinner. Dying Easter eggs for the first time, and if the weather holds (and as I write this, it's pretty tentative), going to an egg hunt and children's celebration at a local church. Not to mention a visit from Mama and Papa.
Hopefully what my children will remember about childhood Easters is the family time and the stuff we did, not the stuff they got.
How does your family mark the Easter season? Are you able to turn the attention from the idea of "stuff?" What will your "Easter Bunny" bring this season?
Friday, April 22, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
I've been asked to run a booth for the Earth Day event of an elementary school in the area. The organizer said she doesn't care what topic I focus on, but the main goal is to inspire kids and their families to go green. I plan to put together some kind of display or game of things kids can do to go green, but I need your help. So here's my question:
What are some things elementary age kids can do to go green?
Thanks for your help!
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A month or so ago, a Facebook friend raved about a new book she was reading - The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. I must confess that I, of literary love and former English major, haven't read a book in eons. Too busy with the kids, their school, with the new house, the new garden, and yet, for some reason, this book appealed. I reserved a copy at my local library and figured if I never got around to reading it, I'd only be out the $.75 reservation fee.
The Dirty Life chronicles the autobiographical of a jaded New York City reporter who falls in love with a rural farmer and with farming. The author, Kristin, met her husband Mark on a Pennsylvania farm and later relocates with him to carve out a fruitful farm on virtually abandoned land in upstate New York. The book tracks the first rocky (literally) year in which the couple conceived of the idea of creating a full-diet CSA from their farm. They hoped to offer vegetables, meat, maple syrup, dried beans and more to their patrons - all by using horses instead of tractors. Learning on the fly and from borrowed books, Kristin and Mark soon find themselves knee-deep in herds of cattle, dairy cows, piglets, and horses pulling an Amish-plow.
Reminiscent of Animal Vegetable Miracle, this book too uncovers how hard farming can be, true losses, frustration, and the miracle of a successful crop. Indeed, I read this book as quickly - if not more so - than Barbara Kingsolver's book as Kristin Kimball is not only a fabulous storyteller but also an artisan with words, drawing the reader into the beauty and pain of her situation. More than Animal Vegetable Miracle, though, The Dirty Life resonates with authenticity. This book does not document a year's experiment but a leap of faith, a forever.
Kristin paints her husband, Mark, the true farmer of the pair, with an honest brush. She presents his oddities, his unusual beliefs fairly. Mark, at one point, tells her that he has a "magic circle" that takes care of him. That he does the right thing and it is done to him. In truth, his life does seem to have worked that way and I borrowed a bit of that belief when I handed out eggs to neighbors last week.
If you need another reason to pick up this romp of a book consider this. The Dirty Life offers a peek into the new agriculture. Just five years ago, foodies everywhere bemoaned the fact that the average farmer was in his or her sixties. No more. Last month, the New York Times hailed the coming of a new generation of farmers. This new generation is determined to right the wrongs of industrial farming. To go organic, on a small scale. They're in, they're the next big thing, and The Dirty Life showcases - whether meant to or not - life as a hipster farmer. If only they would have named their farm RadicchioHead instead of Essex Farm . . .
Oh well, pick up a copy anyway and fall in love with farming!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Not all greenies love Earth Day, some are turned off by the greenwashing that goes on now. I personally love it. Sure I get annoyed at the endless emails I get about companies using Earth Day to promote their not so green products but I try and overlook that.
I think one reason I love Earth Day is because I live in a part of the country (Oklahoma) that doesn't always take to kindly to environmentalist. However, around Earth Day there are green events everywhere and I don't seem so weird, haha. Like today, I went to the annual Earth Day meeting for the local recycling coalition. There was a speaker that talked about the water issues in my town. Thursday there is an Earth Day/Water Fest at the local college as well as an eco art show.
So are you like me and love Earth Day or is the greenwashing just to much for you?
Photo credits: NASA Goddard Photo and Video
Monday, April 18, 2011
A Greenmom Visits the Big City...
It’s kind of funny, but I’ve never before really considered what being a “suburbanite” meant to my identity as a human being. I mean, obviously I know that’s what I am, it’s a significant part of my whole blogger-ness, it’s what I am familiar with and write about. But after spending three whirlwind days in midtown Manhattan, and really looking at it through my suburban Greenmom lens, it’s making me think a lot harder than I ever have before. (I’ll do a more intensive “What I Did Over The Weekend” post on my own blog in the next few days.)
I grew up in the suburbs. I went to college in the city, but my graduate work was in a small town, and once I moved to the Chicago area to work I pretty much lived in the burbs and worked all over the place. Then I married, and my husband and I, you guessed it, bought a house in the suburbs. So it’s pretty much who I am and what I know.
There’s a fairly large portion of the green-living movement that views suburban living as absolutely antithetical to sustainable living. (Many of them work for Grist.org.) They may be right. Many of these same people see urban living as the solution to our climate change and sustainability woes, not just from the point of view of “by definition urban areas are where the most people are and thus the highest climate impact thus they must be part of the solution” but with the impression that cities (walkable and well-transit-ed communities) are the best way for people to collectively and individually reduce their climate footprint.
So, I wonder, is it true? Do cities rule and suburbs drool?
I’m not sure.
One reason for my skepticism may be that the kinds of “cities” these urbanites are talking about are not generally found in the U.S. –Europe, Australia, Canada maybe, but not really the States. So I maybe just haven’t seen those kinds of cities. I also am a suburbanite who generally has been able to work close to my home or even do significant telecommuting, rather than being someone who attempts to commute to the city. I totally get how that is anything but a sustainable way of life, although I also get that it’s unavoidable for a lot of people as things are now. I think a lot of cities are moving in a good direction— Increasing pedestrian-only spaces (like New York’s Times Square), increasing food accessibility in places like Chicago and Philly, even Wal-Mart’s new rooftop garden plans…this is good stuff. (I just used the words “Wal-mart” and “good” in the same sentence, didn’t I? Look! Up in the sky! Is that a winged pig I’m seeing up there? J)
But…I still don’t want to live in the city. I don’t like high-density-people-places. I like space, and I like room for plants in places other than roofs and the three foot space between one building and the next. I like asymmetry. I like being able to bike places. I like my sprawl disorganized garden. I like my corner grocery stores, our farm market, and being able to stop pretty much anywhere I would need to on my way home from work. Sure, it’d be better if I were walking and biking to work every day, but when one 10 mile roundtrip commute covers work, children’s pickup, library, groceries, post office, bank, and the occasional splurge on Chinese takeout, and I have to do almost no other driving, is that really so bad?
Sustainable urban development is getting tons of press right now…but what about sustainable sub-urban development? It’s happening in some places—Montgomery County, Maryland, where I grew up, is in fact focusing a lot on “Smart growth” and creating sustainable, walkable communities. This is awesome, in my opinion…but I’d love to see more. And not just new development, but ways to make where we already live work for us--it's true for cars, it's true for homes--what you already have will almost always be more sustainable and less carbon-intensive than throwing it out and starting over.
Isn’t there something between high-density urban communities and living in a yurt spinning my own wool from my dairy sheep and eating canned veggies from my edible garden, something that can qualify as a “sustainable” lifestyle?
Shouting out to Booth readers again—where do you live? What’s it like? I think it’s fairly clear that the word “suburban” is one that calls out particular images to a lot of people which may not match; our nice little Illinois suburb with the farm-stand a quarter mile away probably bears very little resemblance to California’s sprawl or the Metro-accessible Washington D.C. suburbs.
What do you think of all this? Can our suburbs become sustainable? What would have to happen or change to make it possible?
--Jenn the Greenmom (who would actually love to go hang out in that yurt for a while...)
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
In which SustainaMom spreads wanderlust among the children….
Santa Claus brought my son a real-life adventure book this past Christmas. My son is 4, so he tossed it aside and went for the toys with wheels, but I think this book holds a great deal of promise for us over the next 7 years….
When I first opened the book to a suggestion that we visit a landfill, I thought that many GPB readers would love the ideas in this book as much as I do!
Joanne O’Sullivan’s 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12 will bring a world of possibilities into focus within your community. It inspires parents to find the wonder in local places with their kids.
The book is unique in that it suggests types of places to visit. Examples that are particularly appealing to green parents include a migration path, a working farm or a wind farm. (Other suggested sites relate to arts, science, history and sports.)
Interestingly, #37 is a farmers’ market and #60 is a first-rate secondhand store.
The book includes interesting talking points as well as suggestions for finding local spots. The last 20 pages of the book feature lists of specific places across North America to correspond with some of the 101 suggestions.
If you’re dreading the “I’m bored!” chorus this summer or feel uninspired when it comes to exploring with your kiddos, check out the ideas in this book.
What one type of place would you put on the must-see list for kids?
Disclaimer & Credit: I do not know Joanne O’Sullivan. I have not received any incentive to write this blog post. Santa Claus brought this book to our house with no conditions attached to its delivery. I did, however, first read about this book in a post at Field Trips with Sue & I’m grateful that Sue shared the info with her readers!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The temps hit the upper 80s yesterday here in Raleigh, and while I was hanging with my kiddos at the playground, my feet started screaming, "Get me out of these shoes!" This is the time of year when I toss the boots and sneakers to the back of the closet and switch to full time sandal-wearing.
I enjoy many things about living la vida verde, but shoe shopping is not one of them. The used shoe selection at my local Goodwill basically sucks, but buying new shoes requires hours of research and debate: what are they made of, where are they made, who made them, how long will they last, how much do they cost...Here are a few brands I've been looking at, but I'm really interested to hear what kinds of sandals you greenies have bought and why you love them.
Two years ago, I bought a pair of Simple Shoes flip-flops on clearance for an amazing deal. They are cute and comfortable...and pick up every piece of dirt they come in contact with. After two years, they're so dirty, it's embarrassing to wear them beyond my own backyard. Simple Shoes current line of flip-flops look like they'd stay clean, but they also look identical to the kind I could get for $25 cheaper at Old Navy.
Before beginning my green journey, I was definitely a $5 flip-flop kind of girl, so I've been kind of interested in these Okabashi shoes and their $15 price tag. They're made in Atlanta, GA, contain recycled material, and are recyclable by sending them back to the company, but they're made of plastic, and I have this thing about plastic shoes being the ugliest shoes ever invented. (All you Crocs lovers can shoot me now.)
Nowadays, I wouldn't mind paying more than $5 if I felt like I was investing in a real quality pair of shoes. I've had my eye on these handmade-in-New-York Aurora Shoes for awhile now, but maybe vegan shoes from MooShoes would be a better choice than leather and it's environmental issues. Or maybe I should check out some of the "green" apparel companies like Patagonia or Keen.
Or maybe I just need to make my own sandals.
What recommendations do you all have for a sandal-loving greenie?
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
USA Today posted an article on the topic of early puberty. The article discussed how girls are developing much faster with about 15% of American girls begin puberty by age 7. This is very alarming and has the medical community searching for answers. While things like obesity have been shown to play a role, studies have also shown that chemicals known as endocrine disruptors maybe to blame.
Your endocrine system is a system of glands. These glands secrete different hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones regulate things like growth and development, metabolism, and mood. Endocrine disruptors are just what they sound like, chemicals that disrupt your endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors can be found in all kinds of things from plastics to pesticides. Some that you may have heard of are bishenol A (BPA), phthalates, Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
There are some simple ways to reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals. Here are just a few.
- If you must use plastic look for BPA-free. However, studies are now showing even BPA-free plastics may contain endocrine disruptors.
- Don't use plastics in the microwave or with hot food. Heat causes the harmful chemicals to leach more toxins into your food.
- When buying products avoid ones with fragrances. If you like scents be sure to look for pure essential oils. Fragrances often contain phthalates.
- Don't use pesticides. Pesticides are harmful to you and the planet. Look for natural ways to deal with bugs.
- Avoid PVC products. These products contain phthalates and a stabilizer, which is often lead.
Photo credit: gjofili
Monday, April 11, 2011
--A suburban Greenmom has an unexpected encounter with a different kind of green-eyed monster…
Okay, this is sort of weird. And I'm not sure why I'm feeling like this.
Later this week, the chorus I sing with is going on tour. Which is supremely cool. The timing could be better, and I’ll miss my family desperately for the three days we’re gone--but on the other hand, three days in NYC with my singing girlfriends (and guy friends too, but they won’t be who I’m hanging out in bars with) without meals to cook and kids to get to school, and getting paid to do it, is hard to complain about, you know?
But there’s this weird little nagging voice in my head that is making me a little twitchy. It’s an easy voice to ignore, but what twitches me is the realization that it’s speaking at all.
The main question this twitchy little voice is asking: “If your urban polished ‘normal’ girlfriends knew the weird little green things you do every day, would they think you’re weird?’”
I’m not that bizarre. And in day to day life I present as fairly normal. And most of the slightly left-of-normal stuff I do—culturing my own yogurt, cleaning the toilet with vinegar and baking soda, buying 90% of my clothes and shoes secondhand from ebay or Goodwill, smearing yogurt and coffee grounds mixed with honey onto my face (OMG, you must try this!) to tighten and moisturize it—I do in the privacy of my own home, and even when I blog about it no one has to actually witness it. But. In lot of ways, especially where personal hygiene stuff is concerned, I’m probably a little…weird.
I don’t wear makeup, unless I absolutely have to. A little tinted lip gloss is all, even on stage (it’s a chorus of 100, for Heaven’s sake.) I don’t put product in my hair, except for a little hairspray to hold it in place when it’s falling in my eyes or more in need of a washing than I’d like.
And as far as that goes—I only shower every other day. On the other days I get clean, of course, but I don’t go full-body under the spray and I don’t wash my hair.
My deodorant is a mixture of cornstarch, baking soda, and essential oils that I pat under les pits every morning. It has not let me down yet. And I use the exact same little jar of powder to dry-shampoo my hair on the off-days, just to keep a little more oil from appearing.
My facial moisturizer is a little bottle of grapeseed oil from my kitchen, with some essential oils added. My body lotion is in a little re-used jar, also homemade in my kitchen blender.
I’ve started doing the raw green smoothies thing for breakfast. (I’ll post on this at some point too…)
When I get a cough or headache, I reach for the herbal teas and homeopathic remedies and little jars of homemade herbal tincture.
I am fairly militant about bottled water—I’ll go without rather than open a plastic bottle.
I think on some level this is tapping into my grade-school-on-up desire to have people Not Think I’m Weird. Which is silly, because, honestly, I am sort of Weird and always have been, and a big part of my growing up and finding my place in the world has been about embracing who I am and not apologizing for it. But maybe because I will actually have a roommate (whom I totally like, by the way, she’s awesome) for three days, or maybe shadowed by my 25th year HS reunion coming up this fall, I’m finding myself on some weird under-level wondering “will this make people not like me any more?” I’m thinking, “Will they think I’m judging them because I do things differently, and thus preemptively roll their eyes and blow me off?” I’m hearing those Mean Girl voices from eighth grade going, “OMG, she’s so weird—do you know what she puts on her armpits every morning?” It’s completely irrational, I know my singing girlfriends better than that, but…the voice lingers.
Dopey. But I need to name it, process it, and move on. And of course, now there’s the double helping of shame—because at the same time as I’m feeling embarrassed at some of my off-the-wall green behaviors, I’m also now embarrassed to admit to the Green Sisterhood that I have this shame at all. Which also needs naming and processing. And hopefully, purging.
So, can I throw it out to y’all now? Anyone have any experience with this, any similar little nagging voices? Am I the only one who has dealt with this?
--Jenn the Greenmom
Who probably won’t be hanging out in bars too much anyway, we’ll be working too hard and I’ll be too exhausted. But it’s fun to think about…
Sunday, April 10, 2011
- Storage solutions: They aren't what you think: Going Green Mama shares some creative ideas for storage.
- Dirt: The Conscious Shopper reviews the documentary Dirt! The Movie.
- Meatless Monday: Another edition in our Meatless Monday series of posts.
- One Small Change: A guest post from Andy of One Small Change.
- Week 1 of Earth Month: EnviRambo shares some of the earth month events she was involved with last year.
- Are those boobies really yours? Are you sure?: The Greenhabilitator tackles the controversial subject of patenting genes.
- Taking the Plunge for a Carbonless Commute: Jenn the Greenmom gives bike commuting a try.
- Freedom: The Raven ponders what things that we think are keeping us secure are actually holding us back from being liberated.
- Acceptance through Awareness: EnviRambo acknowledges that she sometimes measures people with a green yardstick when she should be looking at the positive.
- Of Schools and Cilantro: Green Bean volunteers at her son's school teaching kids how to cook vegetables.
- Doing for Yourself: EcoBurban decides to take time for herself.
- The Wherefore of the Eggs: JessTrev sings the praises of farm fresh eggs.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
The long and short of it is that I hated looking at the island in our cul-de-sac. The grass was worn. The pavers at the mailboxes were half-buried. One of the trees was well on its way to The Great Beyond. What's a Green She-ro to do but to dig in?
I planned ahead for this project. When the leaves from the deciduous tree in the island fell two Falls ago, I gathered the TruffulaBoyz, equipped us with rakes, and started scoopin'. Eight trashcans-full later, my compost bins were overflowing, and the street was clean.
Fast-forward to last Fall: I gathered signatures of from all of the neighbors, marched the paperwork over to the homesowners' association office, and submitted my "architectural change" proposal for the circle.
Two neighbors offered to cut down the dying tree, and made short work of the task.
Come October, I dug my holes in the compacted soil, amended the soil with lugged-over pails of by-then finished compost, and lovingly transplanted perennials I'd been cultivating in
And, then... the landscapers came through with their rakes and blowers, and beat me to that year's crop of leaves. What was worse, they raked and scraped up my carefully-planted specimens! The horror! I tried not to think about the planting tragedy all winter long, hoping that Mother Nature would have looked favorably on any remaining roots.
With the (finally) warming weather of Spring, the boyz and I ventured out to the circle. Miraculously, we spotted bits of green. They were very small bits, but bits all the same. Hurrah!
|Hopefully, this will keep plants safe and little feet out.|
I quickly shepherded my gang home, pulled out paper, crayons, and page protectors, and devised some signs: "Plants at work! Please help us grow." Just as quickly, we headed back out with hammer, twine, and the signs, hoping to fashion "fence posts" around our precious plants from found twigs.
While we were improvising our fence, a neighbor offered us some real stakes. Now, hammering them in began in earnest. I'm happy to report that exactly zero fingers were injured in the process -- all of the hammer strokes were aimed true. Whew!
And to the neighbor who waved as she drove out, and then stopped her car to roll down the window and comment: Thanks, it was nice to see you, too. Yes, children do play in this circle area. No, they will not automatically destroy the plantings. The solution of choice is for them to get
|Autumn Joy Sedum pushing through the mulch.|
|A clump of violets - not weeds, but edging plants! :-)|
Thursday, April 7, 2011
I had to hit Home Depot a couple days ago for a toilet plunger. (Yup, if your eight year old puts enough recycled toilet paper down a toilet, it will very nearly overflow!) After pulling into the parking lot, I was greeted by this beauty.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Eco Yogini listed her top five eco-loves in a post on Sunday, and I thought it would be fun to play along.
To me, any time spent outdoors is meditative and relaxing, but unlike other outdoor activities that I enjoy, gardening literally reaps rewards. If only I could outwit the squirrel that's terrorizing my garden!
We live less than two miles away from my boys' school, so several times a week, I walk to pick them up. At first, I walked grudgingly, feeling obligated to avoid the car but resentful of the time it took out of my day. At some point, my attitude shifted, and now I absolutely adore that walk. I love the exercise, the long talks with my boys without distractions, and the time spent outside. During the winter, we got out of the habit of walking, and after awhile even my boys started asking, "When are we going to walk again?"
Cleaning with baking soda and vinegar
As a mother of young children, I love being able to clean without worrying about what my boys are touching or inhaling. Before I learned about baking soda and vinegar, I cleaned during nap time. Now I clean with my kids right beside me, often handing them a spray bottle and rag.
Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, and Collards
My family didn't eat a lot of vegetables when I was growing up, and we definitely didn't eat greens. The first year that we joined a CSA, I suddenly found myself drowning in bags of greens. I had no idea there were so many kinds! Over the years, I've not only learned to cook them, but my whole family loves them. (But please hold the mustard greens.) Our current favorite way to eat our greens is by blending them with fruit in a smoothie. If I leave the spinach out of our morning smoothie, my three-year-old complains, "Aaah, I want to get strong!"
After two years of using a Keeper, I wonder now how I ever used pads and tampons. Ew!
Monday, April 4, 2011
A suburban greenmom longs for a spring-scrubbed home but dreads the process of getting there...
Okay, I have to be perfectly honest here. Reading posts from all my garden-greeny friends who are already harvesting stuff from their gardens is making me want to throw lingering icicles at y’all. Because I live just outside
But today…today it was 70 degrees out and for the first time we got to open all our windows. First the first time we let the stale winter air out of our house, let some new spring air in. It felt amazing.
Unfortunately, right on the heels of this lovely airing-out—the realization that spring cleaning is going to have to happen soon.
My husband and I are not great housekeepers. Pretty bad, actually. We both have this tendency to procrastinate and procrastinate until the job is much worse than it otherwise would have been. In general, I’m the one who keeps the daily clutter as manageable as possible, and when it’s time for the serious every-other-week cleanings (er…okay, I’ll be honest, we don’t do the serious cleanings every other week, more like every other month) he’s best at stuff like floors and tubs and stuff like that. And we do our weekly “clean before the sitter comes so she won’t think we live like pigs” blow-through before choir practice on Wednesday nights.
But. We’re going to have to take a whole weekend, and fairly soon, to really clean this house. To move every blessed thing off the kitchen surfaces and scrub the heck out of them. To attack the creeping tub-grime. To empty and scrub the refrigerator, and refill it again with the actual food and compost or throw out the science projects. To move the actual furniture and vacuum the living room. And bedrooms. The shelves. The books. The surfaces.
This will be our first year trying to do this since my discovering natural cleaning products—by which I mean, vinegar and baking soda. Unfortunately my husband does not share my admiration for the stuff, and his idea of “green” cleaners are anything with the word “natural” in the name. And he genuinely believes that having separate bottled purchases for the toilet, the counter, even the kitchen versus the bathroom, will make things get cleaner. Which all results in a combination of way more bottles and containers than we have room for, many of which contain a bunch of chemical nasties. (This is not me complaining, by the way—I have a husband who shares the cleaning with me, and I fully realize he’s worth his weight in gold.)
I on the other hand have a spray bottle full of a mixture of white vinegar and water, with a few drops each of lemon and lavender essential oils to help with cleaning and reduce the smell (which I don’t mind but which hubby hates). I use it for pretty much everything.
Still, I’m fairly new at this, and I get the sense that a lot of Booth readers have more tricks up your sleeves than I do. I was just shy of giddy to discover this site with 1001 uses for distilled white vinegar, and even giddier to realize that I already know several hundred of them. (Now to be clear, I haven’t taken a count to see if they actually come up to 1001…y’all knock yourselves out if you wish, and report back. J)
So vinegar, or baking soda, or that wonderful bubbly mixture of vinegar and baking soda, will form the backbone of my cleaning supplies. Addition of good antifungal and antibacterial essential oils (like tea tree, lemon, eucalyptus, and maybe lavender because it smells so yummy) to boost their effectiveness. But beyond that I’m not sure where to go, or if I’ll even need to go anywhere.
Crunchy Betty, my heroine of the blogoverse, has been on this whole soap nut kick lately. And like so many things Betty, she’s presented it in a way that has me both cowering a little in intimidation (as in, “what, just toss them in the laundry? It can’t possibly be that easy, I’m sure I’d screw it up”) and dying to give them a try…but I haven’t gone there yet. It’s next on my list, though—I love her idea of cooking the saponins out of the nuts and then freezing the soapnut-liquid in ice cube trays; that’s just brilliant. One would have to keep it separate from the frozen concentrated chicken broth cubes, I guess, but labeling would take care of that, right?
She also mentions coconut oil as a good household cleaner, for things like furniture and bronze polish.
There’s a motherlode of natural cleaning products found here, too, at Eco-cycle, including one for non-toxic silver polish. Which means I might actually get Great-Aunt Mary’s gorgeous but horribly tarnished silver coffee service looking pretty again…and honestly, I’m going to need to start now to convince the family (especially my kids) that once the current box of Swiffers (bought a couple of years ago, before greenlightenment) runs out, we don’t need to buy more of them and can use other kinds of dustrags.
Of course, finding the time to actually do all this will be much harder than finding the cleaning supplies, especially now that the cleaning supplies are so much easier to come by. But does anyone have any large and fabulous ideas (or small gnarly ones) I haven’t thought of yet? Anything that would give this over-busy two-jobs-adults short-attention-span-theater children family an easier time of spring cleaning?
--Jenn the Greenmom
Sunday, April 3, 2011
- Meatless Monday at the Booth: The Greenhabilitator kicks off last year's meatless Mondays challenge.
- Earth Month: EnviRambo worked hard last year during the month of April.
- Tips for Meatless Eating from an Almost Vegetarian: The Conscious Shopper shares some ideas for transitioning to a less meat-centric diet.
- Will spring cleaning make spring finally arrive?: The Greenhabilitator shares some natural cleaning recipes.
- What's good for the goose is good for the gander: Truffula reviews the book Simplicity Parenting.
- The play's the thing: The Raven takes time away from thinking about green things so she can watch her son in a play.
- Punishment for Putting the Automakers in the Naughty Chair: EcoWonder shows how the bailout related to local businesses.
- Sunday Linklove: from JessTrev
- Free yourself!: EnviRambo sets up a free table in front of her house.
- Green to Dream: Green Bean and her community unite their green efforts to raise money for their school.
- A Green Recessionista's Home: EcoWonder shares what her home looks like due to the recession and green living.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Like the year I gave up Diet Coke, and the world kept a wide bearth from this caffeine addict. Or the year I said the rosay on a daily basis - forcing me to refocus on my relationship with God and giving up, of all things, my time. And this year? Breaking a bad habit that I've beaten myself up for years: junk food. Again, all seem like very small steps on the outset, but breaking well entrenched bad habits and birthing more positive choices have been my focus.
Making more positive choices have been the focus of a few articles I've stumbled across lately, one that's even created some controversy in our diocese's newspaper. It's about going green for Lent and whether that's a real spiritual choice or just lip service.
After an artice ran in the paper about a group that was promoting an entire Lenten study focusing on the environment, letters lit up questioning whether that was truly what Lent - and the preparations of our hearts - was about. The web has various interdenominational themes on going green for Lent, including a 40-day carbon fast (another version here) and a "Green Lent" Bible study that melds scriptural verses with small positive actions.
Granted, I come from the standpoint that caring for God's creation is part of our charge in life. But I admit I wasn't certain at first about a focus on reducing our impact on this world as a driver during Lent.
Turning Lent into an impetus for changing habits, however small and entrenched, is never a bad thing. It's obvious it can change your relationship to this world. How it impacts your relationship with God, though, is between you and Him.
Our present crises – be they economic, food-related, environmental or social – are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are travelling together. Specifically, they call for a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity, with new rules and forms of engagement, one which focuses confidently and courageously on strategies that actually work, while decisively rejecting those that have failed.
Wishing you a fruitful spring,
Going Green Mama
Friday, April 1, 2011
I was very worried last week when I saw a well-meaning woman give this advice to a pregnant friend: "No seafood!" Fish and shellfish are good for everybody, especially pregnant women and children, because they contain good fats that are essential for brain development. Mercury is a concern for some fish, since mercury bioaccumulates and can cross the placenta, but that doesn't mean all seafood is off limits.
Mercury in the environment comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, and the EPA is working to make amendments to the Clean Air Act to limit mercury emissions. I support that legislation, but I'm not going to skip seafood in the mean time! I love seafood and I try to eat low on the food chain, since mercury and other toxins will be lowest. Since I'm a biology teacher and my husband's family has a shellfishing business that provides us with fresh-caught fish and shellfish, I know where our seafood fits on the food chain. However, you don't need these kinds of connections to know what fish to avoid.
The environmental defense fund has this handy Seafood Selector guide to help you choose which fish is best for you. You can look up specific seafood to find out which are "Eco-Best," "Eco-OK," and "Eco-Worst" for a variety of reasons, including overfishing, farming issues and mercury. They even have a printable Sushi Pocket Guide for sushi lovers!
I'm happy to see that my husband's farmed clams are rated Eco-Best, and my personal favorite sea scallops are Eco-OK. Blue fin tuna, shark, and farmed salmon round out the Eco-Worst list. Albacore tuna, which I craved when I was pregnant (and earned me the nickname "Big Tuna" from my brothers), is also Eco-Best, if it comes from the US or Canada.
Since we enjoy fishing, I also check out guidelines from our state's DEP for recommendations on fish native to our area, with advice specific to our local environment. I try to serve seafood at least once each week, and much more often in the summer, so it's great to know I'm making the right choices.
While there are some fish that we all should avoid, there are plenty of safe options for pregnant and breastfeeding moms and children. Don't cut out all the healthy aspects of seafood in an effort to avoid mercury. And why not join the Moms Clean Air Force in supporting the New Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to help preserving the safety of seafood for our children!
*Disclosure: The Moms Clean Air Force is giving me an honorarium for my time writing, promoting and participating in events in support of clean air and the Clean Air Act. I believe that this is one of the best ways I personally can contribute to positive environmental change on a large scale.